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Trump’s West Wing Is Clogged with Ignorance about Trade

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:

Nancy McLernon correctly notes that allowing foreign dredgers to compete in the United States would open U.S. harbors and ports wider – and do so at lower costs (“Protecting U.S. Dredgers Kills Jobs,” April 17).  Alas, making our ports more accessible to ocean-going cargo ships runs counter to the Trump administration’s protectionism.  As economists too numerous to name have pointed out over the centuries, tariffs are economically identical to clogged harbors and ports.

Mr. Trump and his trade advisors would protest that they want to keep U.S. harbors and ports unobstructed so that Americans can load onto cargo ships ever-increasing quantities of goods for export.  They want to obstruct only imports.  But they do not understand that, just as poorly dredged harbors obstruct equally the passage of both outgoing and incoming ships, protective tariffs have the same dual effect.  By reducing the dollars that foreigners earn on their imports to us, tariffs reduce the dollars that foreigners spend buying exports from us.

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