Don Boudreaux – Will Someone Please Develop an App to Protect Us From Protectionists?

The number of traditional manufactured products now being made obsolete by apps is staggering.  Rolodexes, radios, cameras, wristwatches, alarm clocks, calculators, compact discs, DVDs, carpenters’ levels, tape-measures, tape recorders, blood-pressure monitors, cardiographs, flashlights, photo albums, file cabinets, as well as paper and ink for the likes of maps and calendars and notepads and books and envelopes and airline and newspapers – these are among the many items whose manufacture is rapidly being rendered unnecessary by inexpensive apps.


apps (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

My wife Mary is about to purchase a new iPhone. [I tried to point Mary to a Windows Phone, but it was too late! -Ed.] One of the decisions she will have to make is which apps she will want to download to make her life easier. Good luck with that!

The point economist Boudreaux is trying to make in his letter to the Washington Post is that apps make life easier, or cheaper, or more convenient. And if that’s so – Mary will soon find out – then why would protectionists like Senator Sherrod Brown want to protect us from lower prices being offered by foreigners? This is old-school thinking: we need to protect jobs, even if they don’t deserve it!

Boudreaux is great at asking good questions, usually rhetorically. I don’t expect his targets spend a lot of time responding with answers:

Does Sen. Brown believe that apps – many of which can be downloaded for free (!) – harm America’s economy?  Does he hurl accusations at app developers?  Does he wish to punitively tax Americans who download apps?  If not, why does he imagine that America’s needs protection from Chinese actions that bestow the very same blessings on America’s economy as those bestowed by app developers – namely, a lowering of Americans’ costs of acquiring the services of manufactured goods?

There are some things apps can’t do. This from Boudreaux’s comments section:

Well, [some] sections of manufacturing are safe, I have found that my phone does not perform well as a soup ladle, a chef’s knife, coffee grinder, corkscrew, air pump for tires, makes […] poor sponge in the bath, and I have pointed it at regressives and hit delete but they remain there.

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