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What If No Ship Were Larger than a Kayak? What Prosperity We’d Enjoy Then!

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:

In the 15th century China’s Ming rulers sealed that nation off from ocean-going trade – a policy that included cutting off the tongues of master shipbuilders to ensure that knowledge of how to build sea-worthy freighters would never be passed along.  The resulting blow to China’s economic dynamism and growth was cataclysmic.

While China’s policy today of banning super-sized freighters from Chinese ports is far less extreme, the effect will be in the same direction (“Beijing Wields Big Stick Against Megaships,” Nov. 14).  To protect a politically powerful clique (in this case, state-controlled shippers), Beijing obstructs the Chinese people’s economic integration with the rest of the world and, thereby, keeps their standard of living lower than it would otherwise be.

And a great irony is that, by artificially reducing the volume of freight handled at Chinese ports daily, this policy necessarily diminishes Chinese exports.  This depressing effect will go unnoticed by American protectionists, such as Senators Lindsey Graham and Chuck Schumer, as they persistently screech out accusations that Beijing artificially stimulates Chinese exports.


Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030


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