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The Arrogance of Seekers of Special Privilege

Here’s a letter to Cafe Hayek reader Richard Williams (who is not my former Mercatus Center colleague by the same name). This Mr. Williams accuses me of “recklessly contributing to the destruction of the American economy”:

Mr. Williams:

In your e-mail you justify Trump’s retaliatory tariffs by asserting that “it’s our government’s responsibility to do all it can to open foreign markets, and particularly one as big as China” for you and other American producers who wish to export.

So you believe that if Beijing reduces your income by obstructing your ability to trade with the Chinese people as you choose, then it’s our government’s responsibility to reduce your fellow Americans’ incomes by obstructing their ability to trade with the Chinese people as they choose. Put differently, you believe that it’s our government’s responsibility to do all that it can to maintain your income, even if doing so requires that our government forcibly reduce your fellow-citizens’ incomes.

I ask: Why do you believe it to be right for Uncle Sam to do to American consumers what you insist is wrong for Beijing to do to Chinese consumers? What entitles you to have Uncle Sam hold your fellow citizens as economic hostages for your benefit until and unless Beijing releases its citizens from an identical economic bondage?

In short, why do you suppose that your economic well-being is more important than is that of your fellow Americans?

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


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