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Conservative Inadvertently Praises the Economics of Communism

Here’s an e-mail to a new – and very upset – correspondent:

Mr. Vernon Northrup

Mr. Northrup:

Pointing out that “conservatives always understood the economic dangers of communism” you conclude that “President Trump rightly fears trade with China given [that] it’s communist.”

Overlook the indisputable fact that the Chinese have become major players in the global economy only since, and only insofar as, markets there have been liberalized.  Maoist China – a far more ‘pure’ communist society than is today’s China – was an utter economic failure.

Instead, focus on the fact that what conservatives (and libertarians) have long recognized about the economics of communism is that it’s completely unworkable; it’s an economic system of institutionalized massive inefficiencies.  And the price for this calamitous system is paid by those who live under it.  Communism doesn’t harm, except in the most indirect and relatively minuscule way, those of us in market-oriented societies.  Therefore, for you to use what remains of China’s communism as justification for Trump to obstruct Americans’ freedom to trade with the Chinese people is for you unwittingly to hold an opinion of the economic consequences of communism that is exactly the opposite of the opinion held by the conservatives whom you presumably admire.

American conservatives (and libertarians) feared communism being adopted in America because they understood that it’s an unworkable economic system.  These conservatives (and libertarians) sensibly did not fear what you apparently fear – namely, that communism is such a remarkably efficient economic system that no American producers can possibly hope to compete successfully against communist rivals.

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


Many are the people who today shout “They’re communists!” as justification for Uncle Sam to prevent Americans from trading freely with the Chinese, yet very few of these shouters bother to think seriously about just what it is they’re shouting.