Next is a 2019 letter to a high-school student in California who applied to George Mason University:
Thanks for your e-mail. I’m honored that you read Café Hayek, and I’d very much love to have you one day as a student in my classes!
Your question is excellent: ‘What is the one deepest mistake made by persons who fight against free trade?’
Ethically, it is to suppose that some people, specifically government officials or those who are in today’s political majority, have a right to interfere with the peaceful commercial choices of other people. I believe that such interference is predatory despite its being cloaked in officialdom’s costume.
Economically, the single deepest mistake committed by opponents of free trade is difficult to identify, because they commit so very many mistakes. But obliged to choose just one, I offer this mistake: Protectionists see only the specific jobs and businesses that international trade ‘destroys.’ Protectionists are blind to the specific jobs and businesses that international trade creates.
Donald J. Boudreaux
Now comes my response to a 2016 letter by a college student who I later learned attended Duke:
Mr. J :
You dismiss as ‘wrong on its face’ my conclusion that ‘If you really want to fight poverty, fight to end minimum wages.’ You insist that ‘the minimum wage gives needed income boosts to those who need them most.’
Yet how does pricing the lowest-skilled workers out of jobs boost their incomes? Do you think, for example, that the incomes of landlords who rent small efficiency apartments would be boosted if government required them to charge minimum rents, rents much closer to those charged for upscale apartments? Do you think that the incomes of people who sell used cars would be boosted if government required them to charge minimum car prices, prices much closer to those paid for new cars? Do you think that the incomes of franchisees who operate economy motels such as Motel 6 and Days Inn would be boosted if government forced them to charge minimum room rates, room rates much closer to those charged by Hilton and Hyatt? Do you think that the incomes of long-distance bus operators would be boosted if government compelled them to charge minimum bus fares, fares much closer to those charged by airlines?
Do you suppose that the incomes of young, unknown, upstart novelists would be boosted if government ordered that they be paid, for their accepted manuscripts, minimum advances and royalties closer to those paid to the likes of Stephen King and J.K. Rowling?
If you suspect that these examples of minimum prices and fees would harm the sellers that they would ostensibly help, then you should see that my argument that minimum wages harm rather than help low-skilled workers is not wrong on its face.
Donald J. Boudreaux