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Protectionists’ Arguments Are Invariably Weak

Here’s a letter to Newsweek:


David McCall and W. Brook Hamilton allege that the low aluminum prices we Americans enjoy as a result of Beijing and other governments subsidizing foreign aluminum producers are unjust because these subsidies harm workers in American aluminum plants (“Trade Cheaters Are Killing America’s Aluminum Industry Jobs,” March 27).

But even granting validity to Messrs. McCall’s and Hamilton’s invalid insistence on judging trade by its effect on workers, these authors’ case for restricting Americans’ access to foreign aluminum not only fails, it backfires. Indeed, the authors themselves blow up their case by boasting that aluminum is used by U.S. manufacturers of “appliances, cars, patio furniture, window frames, and many other items.” Because the number of American workers in these numerous aluminum-using industries is multiple times larger than is the 30,000 Americans employed to produce aluminum, foreign subsidies that lower the prices Americans pay for aluminum stimulate far more employment in aluminum-using industries than they destroy in aluminum-producing ones.

Rather than complain about foreign subsidization of aluminum production, we should instead send crates loaded with Dom Perignon and Beluga caviar to Beijing and other capitals as warm ‘thank you’s for the generous gifts they bestow on us.

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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