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Bad Analogy

Here’s a letter to one of my regular correspondents:

Mr. Nolan McKinney

Mr. McKinney:

You’re very impressed with Walt Greenway’s comment (on Mark Perry’s blog) that countries have tariffs “[f]or the same reasons you probably have locks on the doors to your house: to decide what and who to let in and under what conditions you will allow entry.”

I’m very unimpressed.

Precisely because I am indeed able and willing – in fact, eager – to decide for myself what and who to let in to my house and under what conditions, I don’t need a third party to make such decisions for me. Tariffs diminish my ability to make such decisions. Tariffs are a means used by third parties to override my choices with their commands.

To use Mr. Greenway’s analogy, tariffs are locks imperiously put on my doors against my will by state officials and to which only they, and not I, have the keys.

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

UPDATE: After reading the above letter, Warren Smith e-mailed me to say that he certainly would not want to lock Santa Claus out of his house!