22.7.03

THE IOWA CAR CROP. Atlantic Blog fact-checks the New York Times on trade policy. Clearly everyone has forgotten federal supervision of transportation rates, where the Supreme Court once had to hold that a live chicken, or a dead chicken, is still a chicken. (The issue was whether dead chickens, because someone had killed them, qualified as manufactured goods subject to rate regulation, rather than as agricultural products eligible to travel under negotiated rates not otherwise regulated.) The punch line: any trade protection is a decision to screw some producers in order that others might do better. Consumers who are unable to buy from the screwed producers suffer, as do consumers who pay more to the protected producers. The subject line refers to a metaphor I've seen several experts use. It refers to producing cars in a cornfield: harvest the corn, rail it to the port, load it in a ship, ship sails over the horizon, ship returns later with cars in the hold. Protect the manufacturers of cars in a car factory, screw the manufacturers of cars in cornfields. The harm to the consumers is left as an exercise.

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