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As If It’s All Written With Crayons

Here’s a letter to a long-time Café patron:

Mr. Mark Smith

Mr. Smith:

You criticize me for “disregarding President Trump’s justification for tariffs as bargaining chips to free trade up in the future.”

With respect, while Trump has occasionally asserted that his protectionism is an ingenious means of paving a path to a world with zero tariffs – and while some of his apologists persistently peddle a similar line – Trump has far more frequently spoken quite differently. The vast majority of his statements about trade reveal him to be a cartoonish protectionist. He repeatedly reaffirms his mistaken belief that trade is zero-sum, that countries economically compete against each other, and that U.S. trade deficits are evidence that America is “losing” at trade. Trump is not a man to be trusted to shepherd us to a future of freer trade.

I leave you with this gem of wisdom from my colleague Bryan Caplan – a gem that will help you to understand why I put no stock in Daniel McCarthy’s, Steve Moore’s, or anyone else’s efforts to justify Trump’s punitive taxation of Americans who buy imports: “We would laugh if a professor spent hours poring over a failing exam scrawled in crayon, searching for its elusive wisdom. Why should we take the effort to rationalize misguided policies any more seriously?”*

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

* Bryan Caplan, The Myth of the Rational Voter (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007), p. 205.