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Economic Suicidists

Here’s another letter to Ricky Miller:

Mr. Miller:

Unhappy with my unhappiness with economic nationalism, you accuse me of being in an “ivory tower” (how tiresome) from which I’m unable to “feel ordinary Americans’ yearning that government finally put them first, ahead of global elites and slave wage workers in third world countries.”


Please read carefully: the case for a policy of unilateral free trade is emphatically not a case that sacrifices the interests of domestic citizens to that of “global elites” and lower-wage workers in other countries. It is not now such a case; it has never been such a case. Unilateral free trade in the United States would make us ordinary Americans more prosperous than we are or would ever be under any practicable protectionist measures.

Indeed, if he knew economics a true economic nationalist – someone who is utterly indifferent to the welfare of foreigners, but who cares deeply about the welfare of his fellow citizens – would be no less committed to a policy of unilateral free trade than is the most radical libertarian globalist. An economically informed economic nationalist would understand that protectionist policies peddled as potions to promote economic nationalism are, in fact, policies that always poison the national economy and, very often, sacrifice the welfare of fellow citizens to that of foreigners.

Ironically, the people out there working most energetically to enrich foreigners at our expense are Pres. Trump and other protectionists who seek to have us Americans produce more output for non-Americans to consume and, in exchange, for us to receive from foreigners less output for us to consume.

A far more accurate label than “economic nationalists” for Pres. Trump and his protectionist supporters is “economic suicidists.”

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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