Yet Another Person Who Insists On Putting Other People’s Money Where His Mouth Is

by Don Boudreaux on February 10, 2016

in Other People's Money, Seen and Unseen, Trade

Here’s a letter to someone who says that he was in a class that I taught at Clemson University in the mid-1990s.  I don’t remember him.

Mr. Bobby Hester

Dear Mr. Hester:

You accuse me of “paying no attention to the losses … caused to U.S. workers by the Chinese.”  You add that “only somebody like Donald Trump would protect Americans from that damage.”

With respect, you’re mistaken.  First, the losses “caused to U.S. workers” are caused, not by the Chinese, but by your fellow Americans who choose to purchase imports from China.  The Chinese merely offer deals that your fellow citizens judge to be good; the Chinese do not compel Americans to accept these deals.  What you and Mr. Trump in fact propose to do is to threaten to inflict violence on Americans who would otherwise choose to spend their money as they prefer rather than as you and Mr. Trump think they should spend their money.  What right have you or Mr. Trump to tell other people how to spend their money?  Do you really believe that the American economy will be strengthened over time if its firms and workers are protected from competition?  And do you honestly suppose that such orders from Washington will “make America great again”?

Second, if you truly want to protect yourself from the risks of your fellow Americans choosing to spend less of their money buying whatever it is that you produce, you don’t need Mr. Trump’s help.  You already have the power to protect yourself from your fellow Americans’ economic choices.  Buy a plot of land on which to grow your own food, make your own clothing, and build your own housing – all with absolutely nothing imported from abroad.  Indeed, consume nothing that is produced using any materials or labor from outside of your immediate vicinity.  Thus protected from economic change, you’ll then live as people lived for millennia upon millennia before the extensive division of labor and trading networks emerged and began to enrich ordinary people.

Do not tell me that my suggestion is impractical, for the only reason it is impractical is that, if you were to follow it, you and your family would become desperately poor by being cut off from the global economy that alone is responsible for your current prosperity.  You have no right to lay claim to the fruits of that global prosperity if you refuse to play by the rules that make that prosperity possible – rules that include allowing consumers to spend their money as they wish and allowing entrepreneurs, regardless of nationality, to compete for those consumer dollars.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
and
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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