The Case for Unilateral Free Trade

Here is a series of back and for letters between me and a correspondent who questions the case for unilateral free trade.

Letter 1

From: J
Sent: Monday, April 30, 2018 9:41 AM
To: Walter Block
Cc:
Subject: Re: Tariffs

Walter: Excuse me for my ignorance, but how does our ending all tariffs, fix the inequities imposed by foreign companies on our products? regards, J
physicist

Letter 2

Dear J:

There are two guys sitting in a row boat. One of them shoots a hole in the floor of it. That’s the Chinese tariff. Should the other guy, the US, shoot a second hole in the boat? Will that help? No. See below for the case for a unilateral declaration of free trade with all nations, regardless of their own protectionist policies.

Block, Walter E. 2018. “Open Letter to Ph.D. Economists on Tariffs,” April 29; https://www.lewrockwell.com/lrc-blog/open-letter-to-ph-d-economists-on-tariffs/

Block, Walter E. 2018. “Open Letter to Ph.D. Economists on Tariffs, Part II.” April 29; https://www.lewrockwell.com/lrc-blog/open-letter-to-ph-d-economists-on-tariffs-part-ii/

Please read the first of these essays of mine. What to do? End all tariffs, period; the Friedman position. In my view, they are a rights violation, and, also, uneconomical.

Best regards,

Walter

Letter 3

From: J
Sent: Monday, April 30, 2018 6:32 AM
To: wblock@loyno.edu
Cc:
Subject: Tariffs

Walter: I applaud your interest in our country’ policies (e.g. here). My humble suggestion (as a scientist and citizen) is that you phrase your letter in a constructive manner. In other words, spell out what to do, not what you are against. The fact is that certain US industries are being disadvantaged by some foreign countries (e.g. China) giving politically favored treatment to their foreign counterparts. The tariff idea is an attempt (imperfect as it is) to put some balance into the situation. Indeed, there are some adverse consequences to a tariff — but there are also adverse consequences to doing nothing. My suggestion is that your letter focus on suggesting acceptable alternative ways of addressing the current inequities. regards, j, physicist

Letter 4:

From: J
Sent: Monday, April 30, 2018 10:05 AM
To: Walter Block
Cc:
Subject: Re: Tariffs
Walter:
I perfectly well understand that the second person shooting a hole in the boat, will not help. I also understand that not doing anything about the first hole in the boat will lead to a disaster too. That is my point. You are saying what is a wrong response to an existing hole.
However, I don’t see a focus on a solution that will assure us that the first hole will be immediately fixed. Again, maybe I’m simply clueless.
regards, j physicist

Letter 5:

Dear J:
The only way to fix the first (Chinese) hole in the boat is to declare war on it and all other protectionist countries; conquer them, and then remove their tariffs. In that way, they can’t shoot any holes in any boats. I don’t recommend this. Of course, the US is a protectionist country too. So, I return to my initial stance: let the US, and indeed all other countries, unilaterally declare full free trade with every other nation.
Best regards,
Walter

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9:15 pm on May 8, 2018