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Answer to Prof. D. J. Boudreaux’s Questions for Trump’s Supporters
Raymond Richman, 9/7/2016

As an economist and a Trump supporter, I hasten to answer Prof. Boudreaux’s “Some questions for Trump’s supporters” (Trib-Review, 9/7/2016). Prof. Boudreaux is Professor of Economics at George Mason University.

First, he sets up a straw man that Trump is against immigration. He asks: "Do you believe that America would be a better place today had your ancestors been kept from immigrating?" Trump and this supporter of Trump are against illegal immigration and the immigration of Muslims who may become terrorists. So what is the question to be answered? Prof. Boudreaux as a respected professor who in asking a question should avoid innuendos that Trump is against legal immigration. He should at least have hie facts straight.

Second question, “If Mr. Trump is correct that NAFTA was a boom to Mexicans but a bust for Americans, why do you worry that Mexicans, in the absence of a “big beautiful wall,” will continue to flock to America in search of work and prosperity.” Because the Mexican boom does not benefit all Mexicans, just as American “prosperity” has left millions of American workers, both black and white but disproportionately black, without jobs or the hope of securing a job. So, many Mexicans and Central Americans who come to the U.S. via Mexico will continue to seek to migrate illegally to the U.S.

Third, Boudreaux asserts that Americans benefit from Chinese low prices. Some do, but many don’t. Some Chinese goods are sold in America at low prices, but the price of an Apple cell-phone imported from China is as high as it would be if it were made here. Competition from other cell-phone manufacturers limits the price Apple can charge here.  Boudreaux does not mention the devastating effects that our trade deficits have had on our levels of manufacturing and employment. He seems to be unaware that the U. S. Department of Commerce statistics on national output show  that  our trade deficits with the rest of the world are a subtraction from Gross Domestic Product. The rate of economic growth would have been double during the past two decades had our trade with the rest of the world been in balance. The trade deficits have caused our economy to stagnate and caused the loss of jobs of millions of workers in manufacturing.

Fourth, Boudreaux writes, “Can you explain why – in a world with nearly 200 countries – we should expect with fair trade, that the Mexicans will each year buy from us exactly the same dollar amount amount of goods and services that we buy from them, and that the Chinese will do likewise?” Trump has not said that trade has to be balanced with every country and of course it does not need to be. We say that trade should be balanced with the 200 countries. Our trade deficits are huge with China, Japan, Germany, Korea, and Mexico. We need to start somewhere to balance trade. Should we start with the countries with whom we have a surplus? Of course not.

More serious than the foolish questions Prof. Boudreaux has asked are his omissions, no mention of the consequences of chronic trade deficits, no mention of the mercantilist practices used by some countries to achieve trade surpluses, which Adam Smith in the 18th century and John Maynard Keynes in the 20th century called appropriately “beggar-one’s-neighbor” policies, no mention of the use of non-tariff trade barriers, no mention of the incentives created by the free trade agreements for U.S. companies to close their factories in the U.S. and move their production overseas.

Prof. Boudreaux shows himself to be a partisan free trader and not very knowledgeable about the real economics of international trade.

. . . . . . . .

The writer is Prof. of Public and International Affairs at The University of Pittsburgh holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Chicago.

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  • [An] extensive argument for balanced trade, and a program to achieve balanced trade is presented in Trading Away Our Future, by Raymond Richman, Howard Richman and Jesse Richman. “A minimum standard for ensuring that trade does benefit all is that trade should be relatively in balance.” [Balanced Trade entry]

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