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The Corporations Do Declare “Don’t Throw Us Into that Briar Patch!”

Here’s a letter that I sent last week to the New York Times:

Dear Editor:

Attempts by Pres. Trump, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and the administration’s pundit-apologists to justify their rejection of free trade in favor of managed trade are a litany of fallacies (“Trump’s Trade Deals Raise, Rather Than Remove, Economic Barriers,” Dec. 17).

The most egregious of these fallacies is that “political paeans to free trade have largely been cover for multinational companies.” In reality, champions of free trade – from Adam Smith forward – have emphasized the importance of unobstructed international competition in holding companies accountable to consumers. Cover for multinational companies comes in the form, not of free trade, but of tariffs. Free trade alone subjects these companies to maximum competitive pressures to operate in the public interest, while tariffs allow them to profit by snubbing the public interest.

You show me a tariff, and I’ll show you one or more large corporations – such as the steel companies that once hired Mr. Lighthizer as a political-string puller – that lobbied hard for it.

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