Regulation of the Day 50: Tires from China

Consumers have been buying a lot of tires made in China lately. Naturally, U.S.-based tire manufacturers are upset at their competitors’ success. Fortunately, there are two ways for the aggrieved American firms to ease their troubled minds:

1: Make better tires for less money. Give consumers a reason to buy American tires rather than Chinese. Compete, in other words.

2: Don’t compete. Too much hard work. Instead, persuade some politicians to place a 35 percent protective tariff on competitors’ tires. Price them out of the market. Then keep making the same old tires that people don’t want. If the tariff is large enough, you may even be able to raise your prices, even without raising quality.

This is a choice between raising the bar and lowering it. Unfortunately, U.S. tire firms and allied politicians have chosen to lower it. China, by putting up its own barriers to retaliate, is lowering the bar even further.

The really audacious part is that tire tariff supporters think they are really helping the economy. Raising that bar. Saving American jobs!

There is something very unsettling about the notion that an American job is intrinsically more valuable than a Chinese job. We are all human beings, are we not?

This is an ugly, ugly mindset. And it is one that politicians and tire companies have explicitly adopted. The burden is on them to explain why they think people who live in one country are more deserving of economic opportunity than people who live in another.