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Bargaining to Impoverish Americans

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:


Hector Barreto praises Pres. Trump’s “tough approach to trade with China” (“On China Trade, Trump Is All Business,” June 7).

Tough and skillful bargaining is indeed praiseworthy, but only if the object bargained for is beneficial. Unfortunately for most Americans, the object for which Mr. Trump is bargaining is detrimental. His goal is to increase American exports relative to American imports. But because exports are the price we pay for that which we ultimately seek through trading – namely, imports – Mr. Trump is bargaining to extract from foreigners promises to take more of what we produce and to send to us in exchange less of what they produce.

If Mr. Trump’s bargaining is successful, therefore, he’ll have arranged for us Americans to spend more of our time and resources satisfying a larger number of foreigners’ wants, all in return for a promise by foreigners to spend less of their time and resources satisfying a smaller number of our wants. This is insanity.

While ‘success’ at such bargaining will increase the sales of a handful of American producers, it will necessarily diminish the prosperity of most Americans. Mr. Trump’s “tough” bargaining means, for most Americans, tough luck.

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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