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Producers have No Ethical Right to a Minimum Volume of Sales

Here’s yet another attempt to explain that producers have no rights to markets:

Mr. Nolan McKinney

Mr. McKinney:

You are mistaken to suggest that the Chinese harm Americans in an ethically relevant way by not buying more from us.

I’d benefit economically if Harvard and Princeton bid for me to serve on their economics faculties. Yet they don’t do so. Do Harvard and Princeton thereby harm me in a way that is ethically relevant? No. And this ‘no’ answer doesn’t change if I whine about how unfair it is that economists at those schools stubbornly – and to their own detriment – refuse to take seriously the work of economists, such as myself, with Hayekian sympathies. I have no ethical claim on anyone hiring me or otherwise buying what I offer for sale. And what’s true for me is, of course, true for every other American.

Despite the fact that some American producers would indeed benefit economically if they weren’t obstructed by the Chinese government from selling more, these producers nevertheless have no right whatsoever to this greater volume of sales. Therefore, it is unethical for the U.S. government to inflict economic damage on American consumers for the purpose of opening up markets in China for American producers.

The world overflows with all manner of possibilities of some of us being made economically better off if others of us acted differently. I’d be better off if all people who aren’t professors of economics never retired. Likewise, I’d be better off if all of the suppliers from whom I purchase things hated leisure and insisted on working 24/7/365. I’d be better off also if the state mandated that every man and woman, without exception, take at least five collegiate-level economics courses every year. Alas, none of these easily imagined possibilities for my economic betterment is a reality. Yet because I have no right to the betterment that I’d enjoy if one or more of these possibilities became reality, I would be deeply in the wrong to align myself with the state to force people to change their production and consumption activities in these ways that would benefit me.

Uncle Sam behaves unethically whenever it obstructs some Americans’ peaceful economic choices for the purpose of improving other Americans’ prospects of selling more. Period. End of story.

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