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Be Skeptical

Here’s another letter to Ricky Miller:

Mr. Miller:

Noting correctly the “unusual difficulty” of ordinary people to judge national-defense “threats, opportunities and how industry trends are affecting our military readiness,” you conclude incorrectly that “We’ve got no choice except to trust government leaders whenever they present tariffs as required for our national defense.”

Precisely because ordinary people cannot straightforwardly monitor the truthfulness of politicians’ claims that this or that industry is “essential” to national defense, it’s easy for politicians to lie about such matters with impunity. This ease of lying, in combination with politicians’ always-great temptation to protect powerful producers from competition, should make us all especially wary of assertions that this domestic industry or that domestically produced product is so essential to national defense that tariffs are justified.

To assert that we should be especially unquestioning of claims the truthfulness of which is singularly difficult to monitor is backwards. Assertions of the military necessity of tariffs deserve unusually intense, rather than lax, skepticism and scrutiny.

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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