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Wrong Ross

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross boasts that the Trump administration will escalate what you describe as its “fight against ‘dumped’ goods” (“The Coming Aluminum War,” Dec. 4).  Well.  Forget that the bureaucratic process for determining if imports are “dumped” in America is notoriously biased in favor of a finding of “dumping.”  Instead note two features of this Trumpian battle.

First, because imported goods are inanimate and come to America only because Americans choose to buy them, the administration’s fight is not against these goods but, rather, against the flesh-and-blood Americans who voluntarily purchase these goods.  As is true of all trade restrictions, this one at root is a restriction on the freedom of domestic citizens to maximize the values of their incomes.

Second, this Trumpian fight against “dumping” reveals the ignorance and inconsistency of Ross and others in Trump’s troupe of economic nationalists.  If the Chinese really are selling aluminum to us Americans at excessively low prices, then the Chinese are voluntarily redistributing wealth from themselves to us.  They’re giving us gifts!  Therefore, a lieutenant of someone who famously wants to “make America great again” and who worries that American wealth is draining into China and other foreign countries should applaud Chinese “dumping”; that person should agitate not to end dumping but to increase it.  And yet Ross does just the opposite – a fact that implies that he is either hopelessly ignorant or dangerously disingenuous.

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


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