Dear Wash. Post: Spending and Trade Are Related

Editor, Washington Post

1150 15th St., NW

Washington, DC 20071

Dear Editor:

In "Three Crises In One," Robert Samuelson double-counts by identifying "the collapse of consumer spending" and "a trade crisis" caused by Americans now spending less on imports as two separate problems with today's economy (Jan. 26). When consumers reduce their spending they do so for imports as well as for domestically produced goods and services. It makes no more sense to distinguish reduced consumer demand for American-made outputs from reduced demand for foreign-made outputs than it does to distinguish reduced consumer demand for Ohio-made outputs from reduced demand for Oregon-made outputs.

Also, if – as Mr. Samuelson has long contended – Americans earlier saved too little and spent too much on imports, why is it now a problem that Americans are saving more and buying fewer imports? Despite the adjustment costs such a shift entails, shouldn't we applaud this end to what Mr. Samuelson (and so many other pundits) regards as American consumers' excessive profligacy?


Donald J. Boudreaux

Don Boudreaux is the Chairman of the Department of Economics at George Mason University and a Business & Media Institute adviser.