Bastiat in Fairfax?
By Bryan Caplan
My chairman Don Boudreaux continues to hone his sense of economic ridicule:
If, unlike me, you accept the logic of Ms. Lee’s argument that it’s wrong to let American consumers buy goods made by workers who toiled under government-regulatory standards that are less strict than those that American workes currently toil under, why limit the restrictions she endorses to other countries? Why not bring in the time dimension as well?
Why not prevent Americans from buying things such as antique furniture or vintage automobiles or houses constructed before World War II?
If the argument against buying things produced by allegedly exploited labor is chiefly a moral one — an argument that such things are tainted by exploitation and, hence, are unfit morally for human consumption — then things made in the past by U.S. workers are tainted because workers in the past didn’t toil under the same “protections” that workers today toil under.
The same conclusion is reached if the argument rests principally upon the proposition that it’s unfair for workers today, whose employers are commanded to offer greater amounts of workplace protection than were employers in the past, to compete with products produced by exploited workers. Why should today’s house-construction workers have to compete with houses produced by their exploited brethren of 75 or 100 years ago?
Reading this, I have to conclude that Don Boudreaux is doing more than any other living economist to channel the spirit of Bastiat, the greatest of all economic educators. The Master would be proud.