This article is an absolutely false !
John Jozsa

Hallo John,

As you read in the title and in the first paragraph, this article tried to examine/“imagine” how Milton Friedman would react to Trump’s potential tariffs, according to his book Free to Choose. If “this article is an absolute false”, feel free to comment where, in your opinion, Friedman would have a different aspect. Besides, it is just my interpretation according to his book. Only he could say for sure his aspect. The others we can just suppose.

First, because the taxing of imports is mandated by the US Constitution. Article 1, Section 8. The president , every president, is swore to enforce it.

Friedman presented his ideology. He presented how he regarded that the economy would work better. He could even disagree with one article of the Constitution, it does not mean that he would suggest that this article should not be applied. But i read carefully the Article 1, Section 8 and i honestly am not sure where the taxing of imports is mandated. “The congress shall have power to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes”. If that’s what you referred to, i am not sure whether tariffs are mandatory. But anyway i am not really specialist of the constitution so i do believe what you said. Apart from that, however, according to one article of the New York Times that i recently read, there is a 3,5% average tariff in the United States. That means that if Milton Friedman would oppose to the additional tariffs that Trump wants to impose, that would not be against the “mandated taxing of imports” of the constitution since the imports have already been taxed. But if there is also a section in the constitution that imposes a tariff higher than 3,5%, then the legislation until now was already against the constitution.

Second, it is a totally dishonest statement, that when import duty taxes are applied, the consumer loses the right of free choice of purchase. Absolute false ! Will have the right to purchase any product from anywhere in the world, just have to pay the price, that is the taxes.

Friedman did not say that if tariffs are imposed on a product, the product is totally banned. He claimed that if there are too high tariffs so that the cheaper imported products’ price reaches the price of the native product, then the consumer loses the freedom to choose between the cheaper or the more expensive. Of course the consumer should also pay the taxes, but Friedman opposed to high additional tariffs that would try to “protect” the native product and would prevent the consumers from choosing between the cheap imported and the expensive native product. And the price, in my personal opinion, is NOT only the taxes. It is some other things plus the taxes. So, if the state deliberately puts through tariffs more taxes to one cheap product so that it reaches the price of another, expensive one, then the customer indeed loses the freedom to choose between the cheaper or the more expensive. But, in my opinion, if that would be better for the total economy, then the state should do it.

But if you also want my personal aspect on all this idea of protectionism, i personally disagree with Friedman’s whole idea that the free-trade market favors all the countries. I believe that the free-trade favors the countries whose economy is competitive and their products are value for money. Of course, the less competitive sectors of the economy would be harmed, but the total result will be positive. On the contrary, it is probably better for economies that are weak and non-competitive to impose high tariffs on the imported products, otherwise too much currency would be constantly exported. But i personally believe that this measure will NOT bring prosperity. It will just reduce the damage in the economy until the reasons that the economy is weak are fixed.

I also agree with you that it is very sad that in other countries the wages are so low or even children work for the production of these products. I personally doubt that stopping buying from those countries would increase the standard of living of those people, but that’s also just my opinion.

To return to Friedman’s point of view, since his ideology was the main point of the article, i am almost sure what he would believe about that. He would want each citizen to have individually the freedom to decide if that is immoral or not. You regard “absolutely immoral” to buy a cheap product that has been produced like that and thus you never buy products from those countries. Someone else may not regard it immoral and may want to buy that product. Someone else could regard it immoral but could want to buy that product because he is very poor and he can’t survive otherwise. Someone else rich could regard it immoral, but could still want to buy the cheap one, because he would be stingy. That’s how Friedman saw all that. He preferred each person individually to decide rather than the central state decide for the 100% of the citizens.

Closing, i would like to add something else. Most times, non-politicians economists-“philosophers” such as Friedman or Marx or whatever are dogmatic. Most times, each economic choice has some benefits and some drawbacks. Apparently imposing tariffs would have both negative and positive results in the american economy. The main question for the politicians is to find the best possible combination. And in particular, they have to decide how high the already existing tariffs should be. Higher? Less? The same?

Thank you.

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