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Their Actions Belie Their Words

Here’s another letter to Ricky Miller:

Mr. Miller:

You ask about the theft of Americans’ intellectual property by the Chinese. While this question is legitimate, beware of assertions that Trump’s tariffs are justified by claims of such theft.

First, as my Mercatus Center colleague Dan Griswold and I explain in this recent paper, the extent of such theft is exaggerated. Also, imposing punitive tariffs on American purchases of imports from China to combat what offenses there really are is a poor remedy. Better remedies are available, yet the Trump administration largely ignores these.

Second, it’s difficult to take seriously Trump’s and other U.S. government officials’ declarations of concern that such theft threatens U.S. economic growth. After all, these people are among those in Washington who are utterly unconcerned about Uncle Sam’s gargantuan and growth-stifling fiscal indebtedness.

Why should we believe that, regarding IP theft, the likes of Pres. Trump and Sen. Schumer are truly worried about the drag that such theft might have on the future productivity of the American economy when these very same individuals – unwilling to balance the government’s budget during one of the longest sustained economic booms in American history – give no sign at all of being worried about the enormous drag on economic growth that is the inevitable consequence of their feckless and reckless fiscal profligacy?

Whatever damage might be inflicted on our economy by foreigners’ theft of American IP, that damage pales in comparison with the damage that is surely inflicted on our economy by our own “leaders” who spend the incomes of future taxpayers today with a rashness matched only by its wastefulness.

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