Category Archives: Correspondence

Antitrust Is Political

Antitrust regulation is just as politicized as other forms of regulation. Arizona attorney general Mark Brnovich’s just-announced investigation into investors whose politics he doesn’t like is just the latest example, as I point out in a letter that ran in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal:

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich has opened an antitrust investigation into investment funds centered around environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals. He argues that they are financing a coordinated political agenda (“ESG May Be an Antitrust Violation,” op-ed, March 7). First Amendment concerns and the heavy legal lift of proving collusion aside, this investigation is wrongheaded for two reasons.

First, two wrongs don’t make a right. Mr. Brnovich is right that many ESG funds are politicized. But the remedy is not antitrust enforcement, which itself is politicized—not to mention slow, ineffective, and prone to regulatory capture.

Second, it is unwise to give new ideas to the Federal Trade Commission’s Lina Khan, Sens. Josh Hawley and Amy Klobuchar, and others looking to expand antitrust regulation. Antitrust mission creep has already crept too far.

Ryan Young

Competitive Enterprise Institute


The letter is here. Brnovich’s original column is here.


Can Regional Trade Agreements Replace the WTO?

Trade policy is in a bad place right now, with two consecutive protectionist administrations in the U.S. and the World Trade Organization (WTO) possibly damaged beyond repair. The Hudson Institute’s Thomas J. Duesterberg recently argued in The Wall Street Journal that one solution would be a pivot to regional trade agreements. While that’s not the worst idea on paper, I sent the following letter to the editor pointing out that it wouldn’t work in practice:

Thomas J. Duesterberg rightfully worries that the World Trade Organization may be damaged beyond repair (“The WTO’s Fast Track to Irrelevance,” op-ed, Nov. 29). A trade organization has enough on its plate without having to deal with trade-unrelated issues such as labor, human rights, and climate. But Duesterberg’s solution of expanded regional trade agreements would likely have the same problems.

Trade-unrelated provisions are part and parcel of trade agreements these days, as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement’s 2,000-page length shows. The solution is to confine trade agreements to trade and treat separate issues separately. Until that root problem is addressed, trade policy will remain ugly, whether negotiations happen at the WTO or regionally.

Ryan Young

Senior Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute


A Quick Note to WordPress

This website is powered by WordPress, which has provided an excellent hosting service for many years. This is a note I sent their customer service regarding an upcoming change to their editing interface. 

Please do not force migration to the new editor. The blocks system is non-intuitive and has no obvious reason for existence, because paragraphs.

Blocks are prone to accidental unwanted formatting changes at the click of a mouse, with no intuitive way to undo them. This has caused me to delete entire draft posts and have to start again from scratch.

The pop-up menus for each and every new paragraph/block are not only unnecessary, they obstruct other text in the post. This is more than a little annoying.

The new editor also works poorly with copy-and-pastes from Microsoft Word, requiring time-consuming re-editing for spacing issues–a special kind of tedium for longer posts.

Do not want. Please terminate the individual who came up with blocks and set fire to their home.

From the Archives: Technology and Jobs

While cleaning out some of my old archives, I found a letter my colleague Ryan Radia and I sent to the New York Times in 2010. I don’t believe it was published, so I share it now:

Editor, New York Times:

Catherine Rampell’s September 7 article “Once a Dynamo, the Tech Sector Is Slow to Hire,” mourns the decline of data processing jobs. Much of the decline is due to automation of previously tedious tasks.

May we suggest one way to get those jobs back: ban the use of computers for data processing. Imagine how much information flows through today’s global economy in an average day. Computers handle most of the load. That takes away millions of jobs.

The effects would reverberate far beyond the tech sector. The paper, pen, and pencil industries would boom.

Companies are dead-set on doing more with less. True, that creates more jobs in the long run by freeing up resources — and employees — for new opportunities. But if only they would consider doing less with more, they could create more data processing jobs.

Ryan Young and Ryan Radia
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Washington, D.C.

The great economist Joseph Schumpeter coined the term “creative destruction” to describe entrepreneurs’ ongoing quest to do more with less, rather than the opposite.

Ex-Im Bank as Revenue Generator?

Here’s a letter I wrote to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that appears in today’s paper:

 The Post-Gazette’s editorial board calls on Congress to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank because the agency supposedly nets the government a profit (“Save the Ex-Im Bank: A Frugal Congress Must Keep a Revenue Generator”).

This is misleading for two reasons.

First, Ex-Im’s self-reported profits are largely the result of creative accounting practices. A recent Congressional Budget Office study using industry-standard fair-value accounting rules (“Fair-Value Estimates of the Cost of Selected Federal Credit Programs for 2015-2024,” May 2014) found that Ex-Im loses an average of $200 million per year.

Second, even if Ex-Im did make a $675 million profit last year, this is less than two-tenths of 1 percent of last year’s $483 billion budget deficit.

If Ex-Im’s goal is to raise revenue, it is spectacularly ineffective.

Congress should let this corruption-enabling program expire and turn its attention elsewhere.

Competitive Enterprise Institute
Washington, D.C.

The writer is author of the study “Ten Reasons to Abolish the Export-Import Bank.”

The Ex-Im Bank’s Unilateral Disarmament Fallacy

One of the weakest arguments against free trade is the “unilateral disarmament” fallacy–that a country should refuse to liberalize its trade policies until other countries liberalize theirs. If your opponent uses it, you almost automatically win the debate. The Export-Import Bank’s defenders must be getting desperate, because they are now having to resort to the unilateral disarmament fallacy. Here’s a letter to the editor I sent to the Cleveland Plains-Dealer setting the record straight:

Editor, Cleveland Plains-Dealer:

George Landrith’s argument that the U.S. should subsidize certain businesses because other countries subsidize some of their businesses is equivalent to saying the U.S. government should stop ripping off its citizens only when foreign governments stop ripping off their own citizens (“Why keep the Ex-Im Bank? Unilateral economic disarmament is as unsound as unilateral defensive disarmament,” August 10).

The Export-Import Bank’s special favors make U.S. businesses less competitive by rewarding political connections over customer service, and have led to 74 corruption allegations during the last five years. If other countries want such problems, fine. But the U.S. can, and should, do better by closing the Ex-Im Bank this fall, regardless of what other countries do.

Ryan Young
Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute
Author of the study, “Ten Reasons to Abolish the Export-Import Bank.”

The Founding Free Traders

Here’s a letter I sent to the Racine Journal Times, my hometown paper:

Alderman Dan Sharkozy’s July 11 op-ed argues that the founding fathers built trade protectionism into the Constitution. He is mistaken. The Constitution, by banning trade restrictions between the states, created what was at the time the world’s largest free trade zone. This was on purpose.

Imagine if the only outside products that Racine’s consumers were allowed to buy must come from Kenosha. Or if companies like S.C. Johnson were allowed to export to Kenosha, or nowhere at all. Even Pat Buchanan would have to admit that these trade barriers would be less than helpful to Racine’s economy. Our forebears were similarly forbidden from importing or exporting most goods from anywhere but Britain; hence a certain revolution we just celebrated on July 4.

Adam Smith, who unlike Pat Buchanan was an economist, wrote of our natural “tendency to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another.” The desire to forcibly stop people from doing so because they speak different languages or look different from each other comes from a morality that one can only hope remains foreign.

Ryan Young

Fellow in Regulatory Studies, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Washington, D.C.

Racine native, Walden III alumnus

A Theory on NFL Draft Picks

As an NFL owner (I own one share of Green Bay Packers stock), I like to keep an eye on my team. So I regularly read Vic Ketchman’s daily Ask Vic column on the team website. One of my questions appeared in today’s column (Mike Spofford is temporarily filling in while Vic takes some time off):

Ryan from Arlington, VA

Mike, here’s a theory on why the league keeps its formula for awarding supplemental picks secret: It prevents GMs from gaming the system by making transactions based in part on how it would affect potential supplemental picks. Plausible?


Read the whole thing here. Among other things, I learned that Aaron Rodgers has thrown only one interception in his entire career that has been returned for a touchdown — the fewest in the league during that span (Tom Brady has thrown two).

Hoover Didn’t Cut Spending

Most people, including Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson, believe that Herbert Hoover’s laissez-faire budget cuts worsened the Great Depression. I have a letter in today’s paper pointing out that that isn’t true:

Harold Meyerson’s Feb. 27 op-ed column, “The perils of austerity,” claimed that Herbert Hoover cut spending. Hoover actually increased nominal spending by 48 percent in just four years. When he took office, the federal budget was $3.1 billion. His last budget, fiscal 1933, was $4.6 billion. Since there was roughly 10 percent annual deflation during that time, Hoover doubled federal spending in real terms. Even inside the Beltway, that does not qualify as a cut, let alone austerity. Mr. Meyerson should look elsewhere for arguments against sequestration.

Ryan Young, Washington
The writer is a fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

For more on how Hoover’s reputation is almost exactly opposite the policies he actually enacted, see Steve Horwitz’s excellent paper, “Herbert Hoover: Father of the New Deal.”

The State of American Manufacturing

Here’s a letter I recently sent to the New York Times:

Gregory Cowles’ June 29 “Inside the List” item on Dave Eggers’ new book contains a factual mistake. Mr. Eggers claims that American manufacturing is in decline; it isn’t. Output is actually near a record high.*

And that record wasn’t set in the 1950s or the 1970s. It was set in 2008. As the economy continues to slowly recover, America’s manufacturers will soon break their own record for sheer output. In other words, U.S. manufacturing is quite healthy.

It is also good news that it takes far fewer workers to produce this deluge of goods than it used to. Freed by machines from having to toil on a factory floor, today’s children can grow up to instead be almost anything they want. The state of American manufacturing today should warm the hearts of young parents everywhere –as well as Mr. Eggers.

Ryan Young
Fellow in Regulatory Studies
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Washington, D.C.

*Data available from the St. Louis Federal Reserve’s FRED database,