Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Scoring the Great Trade Debate, pt. 3

This will be the final post regarding the morality of trade and avowed protectionist Ian Fletcher.  Mr. Fletcher has done a blog post on why he believes that protectionism's immorality doesn't matter (or something).  That's available here.  Feel free to check it out and see if you think (a) it correctly summarizes my views (it doesn't), or (b) he makes any new points beyond those expressed in his original email to me or below (he doesn't).  Or, you can just check out the final email exchange below and be done with Mr. Fletcher, as I now am (particularly after he blogged on the latest absurd "jobs study" from the long-since-debunked  Economic Policy Institute with a straight-face).

Oh, and just for reference, the US Constitution is available here.


From: Scott Lincicome
Sent: Tuesday, March 23, 2010 8:21 PM
To: Ian Fletcher
Subject: Re: Our Debate

Dear Mr. Fletcher,

I'm not quite sure that you read my email in its entirety, or at least not thoroughly. When I said, "yes, even where the Constitution expressly warrants the authority to tax/regulate," I thought I made clear that the immorality of protectionism is not remedied by mere mention of governmental authority in the Constitution. Maybe I didn't. Fortunately, your quick response below precisely proves my earlier points. Maybe some quick examples might just hit things home for you.

By your logic below, the government has the unlimited authority to take from every man that which is not specifically enumerated in the Constitution, using any authority granted to the government, unless one proves that it is not "economical" to do so. Leaving aside the Founders views on natural, or "unalienable," rights (as expressed in the Declaration of Independence), or a small matter of the 9th Amendment ("The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."), or the fact that the Constitution explicitly establishes Americans' rights to their property (5th Amdt), please allow me to quickly point out the immorality and logical absurdity of your statist position:
If the government can, as you advocate below, use protectionism (authorized by Art. I, Sec. 8) to forcibly transfer, to any extent it sees fit, the private property (i.e., money) of goods consumers to goods producers, unless (and only unless) someone proves such wealth redistribution to be uneconomical, government also can impose a 100% income tax (Art. 1, Sec. 8; and the 16th Amdt) on a certain class of people, unless proven to be uneconomical. The government need not justify the morality and economics of such taxation - such forcible theft of a man's rightful earnings. Instead, the target of that taxation must prove why the government cannot confiscate all of his income, arguing not the morality of the government's position, but only its lack of economic soundness.
I don't know about you, but that's a position that I think most legal scholars, and Americans, wouldn't support.  But hey, maybe that's just me and the rest of us libertarians (although I highly doubt it).

Best regards,

From: Ian Fletcher
Sent: Monday, March 22, 2010 10:49 PM
To: Scott Lincicome
Subject: Re: Our Debate

Thanks for your tender regard for my privacy, but you seem to have managed to print only your side of the controversy! I hereby give you my permission to print my side.

I see no mention in the Constitution of the "inalienable rights" to which you refer. It is common for libertarians to claim that the Constitution mandates their ideology, but we may observe, in the case of trade at least, that Article I, Section 8 explicitly grants Congress the power to regulate trade with foreign nations.

As for your ducking debate because of your busy work schedule, your busyness does not seem to stop your from commenting at great length when you don't have to face a forum designed to provide an even-handed debate.

Best Regards,
Ian Fletcher


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