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Free Trade, Unconditional and Unilateral

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:

Steve Forbes, Arthur Laffer, Fred Smith, and Stephen Moore are correct that a world of zero tariffs would be ideal (“Mr. President, It’s Time for Zero Tariffs,” Oct. 18). But they err in advising that U.S. tariffs be cut to zero only on condition that other governments cut their tariffs to zero. Instead, the U.S. should do what Hong Kong has done, to its enormous benefit, for most of the past century, and what it continues to do: carry out a policy of free trade unconditionally and unilaterally.

Because in economics the only justifications for protectionism are so narrow and recondite as to have no real-world applicability – and because in ethics the justifications for protectionism are completely nonexistent – there is no reason why we Americans must wait for other governments to stop imposing artificial scarcities upon their citizens before our government stops imposing artificial scarcities upon 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

UPDATE: After reading the above letter, my Mercatus Center colleague Dan Griswold e-mailed to me this observation:

I recently looked at Hong Kong’s 6-digit tariff schedule—5,360 lines of nothing but zeros. It was a beautiful sight to behold!