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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: U.S. Sermon On Markets Is Hypocrisy




The U.S. government has spent millions of dollars urging Russians to place their faith in the market. Don't let the government set prices, America has argued f leave it to the market. Don't let the government arbitrarily set currency exchange rates, which only fosters a street trade in dollars f leave it to the market. Don't protect inefficient industries with subsidies f throw them to the mercies of the market.


Russia has more or less complied. It has been a wrenching and painful adjustment.


One small achievement of recent years, however, is that giant Soviet-built steel plants f Magnitogorsk, Novolipetsk, and Cherepovets, which together employ about 130,000 f have started to sell more steel. U.S. and European companies buy it up by the ton.


As Russian producers have gained, U.S. steel companies have lost, however, and thousands have been laid off.


Now, as the ruble devaluation further cheapens Russian steel, U.S. steel manufacturers have had enough, and the U.S. government is on the verge of invoking "anti-dumping" laws.


These dubious laws have already been brought to bear against other competitive Russian exports, such as fertilizers and textiles. If not for these laws, Russia would have sold more of its manufactured goods. U.S. buyers would have gained, and today Russia would be a richer country.


To invoke anti-dumping laws, the United States will have to decide that Russia is not charging "a fair price" for its steel. A fair price in theory means that the Russian state is not somehow subsidizing the cost of the steel; in practice, it means whatever the U.S. government wants it to mean.


The desire to protect American jobs is understandable. And there is a case to be made that the U.S. government f tender of the world's largest economy f ought to penalize countries where cheap goods are produced in slave-like conditions, or at great environmental cost. These are compelling arguments f unless Americans and Europeans like the idea of, for example, competing against goods made by foreign workers who go unpaid for months at a time. Why should being callous be a competitive advantage?


But that's not what the United States is contemplating now. Instead of forcing the world to raise its environmental and labor standards, the United States is just demanding they raise ? their prices.


So as it arrogantly preaches the market in its rawest form, it quietly practices a cowardly brand of government price-fixing and industry coddling.


For all of those Americans wringing their hands over Bill Clinton's morals, here indeed is an issue of national character worth contemplating.