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Brown Out

Here’s a letter to the Washington Post:

E.J. Dionne encourages Pres. Obama to follow the lead of Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) (“Sherrod Brown’s lessons for Obama,” Oct. 11).  Mr. Dionne admires Sen. Brown’s “uncompromising advocacy on behalf of workers.”

This admiration is misplaced.  Sen. Brown’s fanatical hostility to trade – what Mr. Dionne calls his “toughness on trade” – emphatically harms most workers.  It does so by raising workers’ costs of living (the whole point of tariffs is to raise prices); by destroying jobs that are supported by free trade (foreigners sell to us only because they want to buy from us, or to invest in our economy); and by stifling economic growth (protecting today’s jobs from competition necessarily obstructs the economy’s capacity to create tomorrow’s jobs – hardly “progressive”!).

But because the scattered many who are harmed by protectionism are far less visible than are the concentrated few who benefit, Sen. Brown easily dupes a columnist who judges each policy only by its surface effects into regarding the senator as heroic – into admiring as “toughness” what in fact is simply Sen. Brown’s abhorrent bullying of consumers into spending their money as he, Sherrod Brown, selfishly and arrogantly demands that it be spent.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030


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