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Protectionism Is Malignant

Here’s yet another letter to “proud Trump man” Nolan McKinney:

Mr. McKinney:

Unhappy with my criticism of Warren Platts, you ask in your most-recent e-mail: “What difference does it make HOW high wage jobs are created. If tariffs create more high wage jobs they ARE good policy.”

You’re mistaken on at least two counts.

First, tariffs ‘create’ high-wage jobs by destroying higher-wage jobs. Tariffs divert demand artificially to protected activities that are made profitable only by being shielded from competition. This demand is diverted away from activities that, without the tariffs, would prove to be more productive than are the activities protected by tariffs.

Second, your and Mr. Platts’s logic implies the following: Because oncologists are paid high wages, we Americans would be enriched if government arranged for more of us to be afflicted with cancer. If you would, as I hope, oppose a U.S. government policy meant to enrich Americans by afflicting us with cancer – that is, by afflicting us with an artificial scarcity of good health – you should oppose also a U.S. government policy meant to enrich Americans by afflicting us with artificial scarcities of the likes of steel, automobiles, sugar, and other goods and services that foreigners are willing to sell to us at prices below the costs that we must incur to produce these things ourselves.

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