Open Letter to Ph.D. Economists on Tariffs

I am writing to you in behalf of a committee organizing an open letter to protest Mr. Trump’s proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum, in particular and his protectionist policies in general. The committee consists of me, Walter Block, Loyola University New Orleans, Deirdre McCloskey, Emerita, University of Illinois at Chicago, Michael Munger, Duke University and Vernon Smith, Chapman University (Nobel Prize in Economics, 2002).

1028 economists signed an open letter in opposition to the Smoot-Hawley tariff of 1930, and it is our hope that we can mobilize more signatures than that to oppose President Trump’s proposed steel and aluminum and general promotion of tariffs. We do not fool ourselves into thinking such a letter will cancel this administration’s protectionism any more than the anti Smoot-Hawley letter stopped that pernicious policy. Mr. Trump seems adamant regarding this disastrous policy of his. But, we do not know what else to do as members of our profession other than to put ourselves on the record that we, at least, disapprove of this interference with international trade. On the other hand, Bush reversed his mercantilist executive action in a year, and this time congress is making sounds of acting to limit Trump’s executive power. If we can’t change the world we at least make it plain that we won’t let it change us. So, please, consider signing on to the following open letter petition:

“The more radical of us favor a US unilateral declaration of free trade with all other nations, regardless of their own tariff and quota policies. This was the position favored by such luminaries as Milton Friedman. The less radical of our number support international trade agreements such as Nafta, Cafta, EU, WTO TPP and GATT as a means of trade liberalization. But all of us disapprove of Donald Trump’s present protectionist initiatives. We take note of the fact that one of the reasons for the economic success of the US is that it constitutes a gigantic internal free trade zone. What is obviously true for this large microeconomic example cannot be utterly false for the entire world.”

If you are willing to list your name alongside those of this committee, please respond, giving me your present academic affiliation and the date and place of your Ph.D. Please use this format: Walter E. Block Ph.D. Columbia University, 1972; Professor of Economics at Loyola University New Orleans

Hopefully, we will amass more than 1028 names. The committee intends to publicize this letter and all signatories when in its view sufficient support is garnered. Please forward this letter to all eligible people you know and ask them to join me in this initiative.


2:56 pm on April 29, 2018