Trumping Trump

by Don Boudreaux on February 10, 2016

in Myths and Fallacies, Trade

One of the silver linings around the dark cloud of rampant economic ignorance is that such ignorance brings out the best in sensible people who attempt to counter it.  Here are lines from two e-mails sent to me within the past few days, as well as from a comment here at Cafe Hayek.  The first is from the excellent Hillsdale College economist Gary Wolfram:

I like where Trump says we will “win trade with China”.

Hard not to win when you trade.

Gary, of course, is correct.  What Trump’s policies would in fact do is to create losses for Americans by denying the great majority of Americans the opportunities to spend their own money as effectively as they can as each of them, individually, judges the matter.  (Trump’s talk of “winning” at trade reflects a truth mentioned recently by Bob Higgs on Facebook: the level of public understanding of trade remains primitive – pre- Adam Smith.  I’ll add that no Trump supporter has any business sneering at or ridiculing the many economic misunderstandings of Bernie Sanders and Sanders’s fans, for Trump and Trump’s fans are no less economically ignorant.)

…..

And here’s the substance of an e-mail from Stuart Anderson:

In the recent debate, Donald Trump said New Hampshire has been “virtually wiped out” by trade with Mexico. I checked and the unemployment rate in New Hampshire is 3.1 percent. And I imagine everyone in New Hampshire also has access to food, water, and shelter and is walking around with smartphones that would have been considered science fiction two or three decades ago.

The incessantly repeated myth that ordinary Americans have stagnated economically for the past 40 years – a myth screeched especially loudly and frequently by pundits on the left, such as Paul Krugman and Robert Reich (but not exclusively: Edmund Phelps repeats this myth in his 2013 book Mass Flourishing) – is surely helping to fuel the inferno of ignorance that is Donald Trump’s candidacy.

….

Finally, here’s Bobby Valentine’s comment on this post – a post in which I report that a Trump supporter accused me of “paying no attention to the losses … caused to U.S. workers by the Chinese.”  Mr. Valentine re-words the accusation slightly; it is a line that I wish I’d thought of to use in my letter:

“paying no attention to the gains… caused to U.S. consumers by the Chinese.”

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