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Earned Success, by All Means

Here’s a letter to National Review:

Michael Barone argues that the case for free trade is weaker than ECON 101 teaches (“Free Trade’s Effect on ‘Earned Success,’” Feb. 10).  We’re told that the reason ECON 101 fails on this front is that it allegedly ignores the important fact that, when people lose jobs to imports, they lose the satisfaction they get from “earned success.”

I here overlook the errors lurking in Mr. Barone’s image of ECON 101 and instead ask: what kind of “earned success” do workers experience from holding jobs that exist only as a result of protectionism?

If – as this talk of “earned success” implies – success yields satisfaction only when it is earned, then workers whose jobs exist because of protectionism can enjoy no such satisfaction, for success that exists because of protectionism isn’t earned; it’s stolen.  Therefore, to ensure that as many workers as possible enjoy as much satisfaction as possible from a sense of success that is truly earned, ECON 101’s case for free trade should be implemented without qualification or delay.

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

(I thank Matěj Šuster for the pointer to Barone’s article.)