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Free Traders Respect Ordinary People

Here’s a letter to the editor of NetRightDaily (which is published by a group with the misleading name “Americans for Limited Government”):

Seeking to reassure Trumpkins and Sandersnistas that their faith in protectionism is justified, Robert Romano pokes fun at those of us who argue that greater quantities of low-priced imports are a boon for ordinary Americans (“Why the establishment hates you,” July 8).  Alas, while some people might find his humor amusing, only the economically uninformed will find Mr. Romano’s economics persuasive.

Please note that, contrary to Mr. Romano’s accusation, free traders do not believe that ordinary people who support protectionism are “irrational”; rather, we believe that they are merely uninformed about economics.  In fact, we free traders have far more confidence in the rationality and abilities of ordinary people than do protectionists such as Messrs. Romano, Sanders, and Trump – who believe that ordinary people are helpless, stupid, cowardly clods possessing neither gumption nor enough self-respect to live and work unless protected by the state from foreign competition.

Unlike Mr. Romano and other protectionists, we free traders believe that ordinary people are quite competent to spend their own money, and that they do not deserve, whenever they choose to buy goods assembled abroad, to be punished by elites in Washington with additional taxes.  We believe that ordinary men and women today are as capable as were their ancestors in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries of adjusting to the economic changes that are inherent in all free-market economies.  We believe that among ordinary people are countless entrepreneurs who create new firms and new products – and new economic opportunities for workers – whenever increases in imports release domestic resources from their previous employments.  And we believe that ordinary people, when spoken to with respect by the economically informed, are able to see through the logical fallacies, falsehoods, half-truths, historical ignorance, and downright economic illiteracy that constitute apologies for protectionism such as Mr. Romano’s.

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


The number of logical, economic, and historical fallacies that Robert Romano packs into his essay is impressive.  Unusually pressing family obligations prevent me from now taking on each of these fallacies individually (although many past posts here at Cafe Hayek are ones that take on previous incarnations of these fallacies).  But I’ll likely save Romano’s essay and use it as a test for students in a future international-economics or international-economic-policy course.  I’ll reprint the essay and ask my students to identify each fallacy and then explain why it’s a fallacy.  It’ll be a very long exam!


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