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Another Open Letter to Wilbur Ross

Mr. Wilbur Ross, Secretary
U.S. Department of Commerce

Mr. Ross:

You recently declared: “Since we are the world’s largest importer of steel, we’re the main victim of the overcapacity” in the global steel industry (“U.S. Sees Possible Legal Challenges to Crackdown on Steel Imports,” New York Times, June 20).

Perhaps you can explain just how our being the world’s largest buyer of steel makes us victims of the alleged overcapacity in the global steel industry.  Are car buyers who get low prices from car dealers with overflowing inventories victims?  When ideal weather results in bumper crops of wheat, corn, and apples, do the resulting low prices of food victimize supermarket shoppers?  And when improvements in technology increase the productive capacity of computer manufacturers, should those of us who buy computers complain of being victimized by the falling prices of laptops and desktops?

Apparently, your answer to these questions is yes.  So I’ve a deal for you: I’ll sell to you a single paperclip for the price of $1 million.  How can you refuse?!  By your logic, this deal is for you a magnificent bargain, for by accepting it you get to pay a great deal of money in exchange for almost nothing.

I’ll mail to you the paperclip upon my receipt of your check made out to me for the amount of $1 million, which you may send to the address below.  And as a bonus, just for you, I’ll also charge you for the shipping so that the total price you pay for the paperclip is even higher!

You are welcome!

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 Dan Griswold for alerting me to Ross’s statement.