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Here’s My Preference: Mind Your Own Business

Here’s a letter to the persistent “proud Trump man,” Nolan McKinney:

Mr. McKinney:

Dismissing my open letter to Sen. Josh Hawley as “globalist bull__t” you defend the senator. Your defense boils down to this: that which separates Sen. Hawley and other protectionists from me and other free traders is simply preferences. Protectionists, such as the senator, prefer to have Americans “not so addicted to imports” while we “globalists have no problem with this addiction.”

Well now.

First, I don’t share your low opinion of our fellow Americans. Unlike you, I believe that they generally choose their commercial relationships wisely rather than, as you imply, recklessly.

Second, there is in play here more than a difference in preferences. Also in play is ignorance of reality. The point of my letter to Hawley is to expose as mythical the protectionist belief that international trade is unique at destroying jobs. Any and all economic changes, including but hardly limited to changes in the pattern of international trade, destroy some jobs as they create others. This factual reality is lost on Hawley and those who cheer his twitter ejaculations.

Third, I don’t mind Hawley and his fans having preferences that differ from my own. What I do mind – intensely – are their attempts to compel the rest of us to live as if we share those preferences. If the likes of Josh Hawley, Oren Cass, Donald Trump, Peter Navarro, and Sherrod Brown prefer not to trade with the Chinese, that’s fine. I don’t object. They are free to not do so. But they have no business coercing the rest of us to avoid such trading opportunities. They should mind their own business.

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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