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Sunday, September 22, 2019

Bastiat’s Candlemakers’ Petition, Updated

Such a law is merely the logical conclusion of your trade policy.

Photo by Karsten Würth (@karsten.wuerth) on Unsplash

Mr. President,

We, the producers of lighting products, would like to congratulate you. You are on the right track. You have little regard for abundance and low prices. You concern yourselves mainly with the fate of the producers. You wish to free them from foreign competition, that is, to reserve the domestic market for domestic industry.

The Sun Is the Real Rival

And what is wrong with that? America is so large and can produce so much that she can be self-sufficient. Who cares about abstract theories like comparative advantage and opportunity cost? We hope you keep your audacious tariff war against China and other countries going strong and long. Their unjustly low wages and lower production costs are destroying good American jobs and are destroying whole neighborhoods.

Even fierce adversaries of yours like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren agree—they would push their own policies much further than you do. Surely you don’t want them to steal your ideas. Don’t mind the sharp decrease in soy exports to China; like your predecessor’s war on coal, workers just need to learn to code and voilà!We ask you to pass a law requiring the closing of all openings through which the light of the sun is wont to enter houses. In the meantime, just keep throwing money down the drain to compensate their losses, and call them “patriots” so they know you have their back.

This is why we are sending you this petition. We are suffering from the ruinous competition of a rival who apparently works under conditions so far superior to our own for the production of light that he is flooding the domestic market with it at an incredibly low price. For the moment he appears, our sales cease, all the consumers turn to him, and a branch of American industry whose ramifications are innumerable is all at once reduced to complete stagnation.

This rival, which is none other than the Sun, is waging war on us so mercilessly we suspect he is being stirred up against us by perfidious Chinese (or is it Russian?) agents, set to ruin America. We ask you to be so good as to pass a law requiring the closing of all windows, dormers, skylights, inside and outside shutters, curtains, casements, bull’s-eyes, deadlights, and blinds—in short, all openings, holes, chinks, and fissures through which the light of the sun is wont to enter houses, to the detriment of the fair industries with which, we are proud to say, we have endowed the country, a country that cannot, without betraying ingratitude, abandon us today to so unequal a combat.

Taking Trump’s Tariffs to Their Logical Conclusion

Such a law is merely the logical conclusion of your trade policy. When a product—coal, iron, wheat, or textiles—comes to us from abroad, and when we can acquire it for less labor than if we produced it ourselves, the difference is a gratuitous gift that is conferred upon us. The size of this gift is proportionate to the extent of this difference. It is a quarter, a half, or three-quarters of the value of the product if the foreigner asks of us only three-quarters, one-half, or one-quarter as high a price. It is as complete as it can be when the donor, like the sun in providing us with light, asks nothing from us.

We do hope, Mr. President, that your next Twitter rant will be as energetic in denouncing the Sun as you are in denouncing China.

The question—and we pose it formally—is whether what you desire for America is the benefit of consumption free of charge or the alleged advantages of onerous production. Make your choice, but be logical; for as long as you ban, as you do, foreign coal, iron, wheat, and textiles in proportion as their price approaches zero, how inconsistent it would be to admit the light of the sun, whose price is zero all day long!

We do hope, Mr. President, that you will at least consider our demands and that your next Twitter rant will be as energetic in denouncing the Sun, this sneaky and ruthless enemy, as you are in denouncing China and other ruthless competitors to American workers.


The Light-Producing Association of America and Elsewhere

This is a creative work derived from Bastiat’s famous “The Candlemakers’ Petition.”