I Get Letters!

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days when one publishes and makes one's email address available,
one is likely to receive posts of all kinds, very positive and pleased,
even grateful, or, alternatively, courteously negative as well as
out and out hostile and insulting.

plethora of recent pieces on job outsourcing, job losses, CEO pay,
free trade policy and such, from my normative political economic
perspective – rather than one of positive economic science
– has done much to attract comments. Some of these are brief
but a few are quite bulky and offer either reasonably interesting
arguments or nasty tirades. A number of them are a little bit in-between,
giving some reasons, albeit couched in a good measure of vitriol.
Such a one I wish to share today, so here it goes:

Sir, I have
just finished reading your article on protectionism, and I feel
that you are trivializing a very serious subject that is much
deeper than you make it seem. I feel that you have very little
respect for the people who toil with their hands, and you are
obviously not one of those persons. I am Canadian, and I am not
afraid to spend a couple of dollars extra on a purchase if it
means keeping jobs in North America. I hope you are not including
me when you refer to involuntary slaves to the cost of making
a purchase. What customers are you referring to anyway because
the owners of big business will not be able to sell their product
to the masses if they are all making three dollars a day! I wonder
if you have researched the ultimate goals of the world trade organization
because I found it quite frightening. When you are considered
a resource, and not a person in your country it makes me want
to puke. I hope you are not endorsing free trade by the way because
it won’t fly. Respectfully.

there – I have been told. I didn't get inspired to do much
arguing here, didn't wish to quibble about various non-sequiturs,
even, although I welcome such opportunities. Doing less teaching
these days than earlier in my career and thus meeting fewer academic
colleagues with whom to debate various topics, I welcome it when
I get the chance "to use it – lest I soon lose it"!
But this post did not spur me to extend myself much intellectually.
Instead I proceeded along the following lines:

I don't see
why you are so proud of yourself for making decisions that clearly
impact negatively on people far worse off than any Canadian or
American or Western European workers. Protectionism impoverishes
millions abroad, in Third World countries, who could be competing
with you and your North American pals but are prevented from doing
so by those like you who believe they are so virtuous when in
fact they are steeped in the worst sort of chauvinism and prejudice
in favor of members of your tribe. Those other human beings you
so cavalierly dismiss from the human race have every right to
compete with you and your fellows in North America but no, you
will not let them. Well, I have no respect for your wish to keep
jobs where you live. What makes you and your neighbors so special
that they ought to receive this illicit, nasty protection against
those who are now disenfranchised? Not a thing. Sincerely.

this response is not perhaps my intellectually most formidable treatment
of the topic of outsourcing but it does add a dimension to the argument
against protectionism that I have neglected: It notes how anti-humanitarian
protectionist positions tend to be, how they indulge in rank tribalism
and chauvinism. Suddenly, it seems, all those people with their
altruistic excuses for various domestic public policies have shown
their true colors. It has nothing to do with love of others but
with unabashed, crass vested interest and the refusal to adjust.

suppose, though, when one has grown up in North America to expect
human community life to be a Hobbesian war-of-all-against-all –
or various groups against various other groups – it is no surprise
that serious concern for the genuine well-being of all, something
that only freedom is most likely to ensure, is very far from one's
mind and, indeed, one's heart.

11, 2004

Machan [send
him mail
] holds
the Freedom Communications Professorship of Free Enterprise and
Business Ethics at the Argyros School of Business & Economics, Chapman
University, CA. A Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford
University, he is author of 20+ books, most pertinently, The
Business of Commerce: Examining an Honorable Profession
co-authored with James Chesher.

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