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Just Shoot Me

Here’s a letter to a first-time correspondent:

Mr. Vic Smith

Mr. Smith:

Thanks for your e-mail.  After reading my most-recent missive against the U.S. Export-Import Bank, you object to what you call my “naïve willingness to unilaterally disarm us in our trade war with China.”

With respect, what you (and many others) call a trade war is quite the opposite of war.  It’s peaceful trade.  And through such trade we Americans are made better off the less we export in exchange for what we import.  So to the extent that the Ex-Im Bank succeeds in its mission to artificially increase American exports, it makes us worse off by arranging for us to sacrifice for the imports we receive an unnecessarily larger amount of exports.  Put differently, the Ex-Im Bank obliges us to work harder to maintain and improve our standard of living.  How are we enriched by such an outcome?  In what universe is such an outcome a victory rather than a defeat?

Yet if you insist on using inapt military analogies, here’s a more fitting one.  The Chinese government, by using its own export-subsidizing agencies, is daily bazookaing the Chinese people.  What you propose is that the U.S. government arm itself equally well and recommence its daily bazookaing of the American people and that Uncle Sam continue to bazooka us as long as Beijing continues to bazooka the Chinese.

Politicians and bureaucrats in Washington undoubtedly profit by inflicting economic harm on the American people.  And they’ll undoubtedly continue to do so.  But at least you should stop gluing a big, bright target to your wallet while holding it up high and eagerly pleading for these officials to shoot their weapons at it.

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