Pie in the Protectionist’s Face

Here is a great letter to the editor by Don Boudreaux:


29 September 2009

Editor, The Washington Times

Dear Editor:

Protectionist William Hawkins accuses Adam Smith of being “dreadfully wrong” to insist that the ultimate goal of economic activity is consumption rather than production (Letters, Sept. 27).

Alas, the dreadfully wrong one is Mr. Hawkins.  He confuses means with ends.  Flour, sugar, apples, an oven, and labor are necessary ingredients for baking an apple pie, but these means are valuable in this use only if someone wants to consume the pie.  If no one wants to eat apple pie, then using these ingredients to produce the pie would be wasteful.

Adam Smith correctly understood that the desire to consume is what justifies production.  If Mr. Hawkins were correct that the ultimate goal of economic activity is production, then he should be just as pleased to have a fresh-from-the-oven sawdust-and-earthworm pie for dessert as he is to have an apple pie.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030


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