Economist Donald Boudreaux has a way with words, but sometimes he uses them as grenades rather than cinnamon rolls. He got upset with Florida Rep. Tom Rooney‘s remarks when he tried to justify tariffs and dressing his arguments up to look “conservative.” This is what ticked Boudreaux off:
Like most conservatives, I don’t like subsidies or government intervention in markets. But I do like U.S. sugar policy, which, according to some, runs counter to these core conservative ideals.
America’s sugar policy has my support and the support of so many other conservatives because it’s the best line of defense we have against an OPEC-like market that threatens our food security and 142,000 U.S. jobs…
The policy we have chosen — placing tariffs on imported sugar — guarantees imports into the U.S. market (America is the world’s biggest sugar importer) but keeps subsidized foreign oversupplies from bankrupting U.S. producers. And, it operates without a federal budget outlay, which means it doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime.
True, this policy isn’t perfect. But it’s necessary. Until Brazil and other countries stop distorting the market with excessive subsidies, our no-cost policy is the least intrusive way to keep 142,000 Americans off unemployment rolls and prevent America from becoming dependent on the OPEC of sugar.
First, I checked Rooney’s voting record vis-à-vis the Constitution and it’s a forgettable 73. What that rating tells me is that this guy needs help. He is muddled in his thinking, but perhaps he is worth saving rather than savaging. Boudreaux thinks otherwise. Look at his use of words as hammers:
Proclaiming in the Daily Caller that you oppose “government intervention in markets” immediately before you launch into pleas for government intervention in markets (in your case for sugar) does not succeed in saving you from the charge of hypocrisy.
In other words: “You’re a freakin’ hypocrite! And you call yourself a conservative! Go to your room!”
Now that’s persuasive! But Boudreaux is just getting warmed up (he’s already steamed, as you can tell):
Even less successful on this score is the first excuse you offer for Uncle Sam’s continuing refusal to allow us Americans to import as much sugar as we wish – namely, “it’s the best line of defense we have against an OPEC-like market.”
Boudreaux is right. This is nonsense. But what is he trying to do here? Persuade Rooney that he’s an idiot? Hmmm.
The world price of sugar today – the price charged by the alleged cartel from whom you wish to protect us – is, as it has been for some time, about half of the price of sugar in the U.S.
This fact reveals that the sugar producers with genuine OPEC-like monopoly power are not the ones that Uncle Sam must forcibly prevent us from patronizing (foreign growers), but, rather, American growers whose gluttonous special privileges are created by the very program that you seek to justify with your Orwellian sophistry.
Now he’s Orwellian. And a sophist to boot! That’s a nice touch.
I mention this only to make this point. If our objective is to correct people’s thinking on important matters like tariffs, I wonder just how effective it is to launch factoid missiles and ad hominem pejoratives like grenades into the enemy’s camp?
Perhaps a different approach is called for. How about something along the lines of:
I noted in your letter that you believe sugar tariffs protect American jobs. And I agree with you.
May I ask you a question: Is this the best way to go about it? Have you considered what the sugar market would look like without them? Would there be other beneficiaries besides workers if tariffs were removed?
You get the idea. I’m just saying…