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What’s the Optimal Number of Cargo-Ship Sinkings?

Here’s yet another letter to the fanatical protectionist Nolan McKinney, who was “offended” by this earlier blog post of mine:

Mr. McKinney:

You accuse me of “bad comical, illogical, unjustified extremism.” My alleged offense is that I write that Bastiat was correct to argue that, if the protectionist belief were true that the ultimate benefit of trade lies in how much a nation exports, then a nation would be enriched no more if its outbound cargo-ladened ships arrive safely at their destinations than if, before arriving at their destinations, all of those ships are sunk in mid-ocean.

So you tell me: given that you and other protectionists don’t wish to sink all cargo-laden ships – for that would, as you say, evince fanatical extremism – just how many of these ships do you think it would be economically optimal to sink? 10 percent of them? 25 percent? 55.862 percent? Or perhaps you’d create a commission to determine on a monthly basis the optimal number of cargo-ship sinkings?

Those guilty of bad comedy and injustice aren’t free traders; instead, they’re protectionists. Only protectionists cling to the laughably illogical notion that greater abundance leads to less abundance, and that from less abundance flows more abundance. And only protectionists believe it to be just to drum up sales for a handful of domestic producers by forcibly preventing peaceful exchange between consenting adults.

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