≡ Menu

Exports are Great! (Except When They’re Not)

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:

To the letter writers (March 17) who demand that Uncle Sam continue the 40-year-old folly of banning the export of oil, Adam Smith would have had something to say: “The prohibition of exportation limits the improvement and cultivation of the country to what the supply of its own inhabitants requires. The freedom of exportation enables it to extend cultivation for the supply of foreign nations.”*

In other words, Holman Jenkins is correct: the oil-export ban keeps the American oil industry less efficient – and, hence, less productive – than it would be without the ban. The growth in the prosperity of people around the globe, including Americans, is thereby slowed.

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

* Adam Smith, An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1981 [1776]), Book IV, Ch. 5, p. 537.


It would be amusing if it weren’t so destructive of prosperity and such an assault on freedom that protectionists routinely, if absurdly, insist that there’s something especially desirable about exports yet also, as in this case, occasionally – and with equal absurdity – insist that the country is made poorer by certain exports.