Christmas Tree Protectionism

Whether it’s for cheap steel or cheap tires, Americans are supposed to be afraid of trade with China because it provides us with products we want at low prices. But to the damage allegedly inflicted on our economy by those who would save us money, must we now add…artificial Christmas trees?
According to a November 27 story in Breitbart News, Chinese companies dominate the domestic market, and their fake trees are ‘driving’ Christmas tree-growers in Oregon out of business. The number of fake trees sold in the U. S. ‘more than doubled’ from 2010 to 2016 (my wife and I contributed to that statistic, purchasing our beloved tree in 2014) while the number of Christmas trees cut and sold dropped by twenty-six percent. The number of ‘active growers’ dropped by thirty percent. All of which is supposed to alarm us.
There’s no reason to be concerned. Demand for real trees is declining in favor of artificial trees because more consumers prefer their convenience, quality, and price. Breitbart claims this is a ‘vicious cycle,’ but it’s just a reflection of consumer desire.
Consumers in the U. S. are buying fake trees because they are cheaper, and because they believe fake trees to be healthier and safer. In a market economy we each decide to the best of our ability which products and services we require; that’s an important part of life in a free society. Oregon tree-growers will suffer the ill-effects of this trend, but players in the market voluntarily take that risk (for which they rightly deserve any reward). Consumers save money, which can then be spent on other things we desire, and our homes have fewer allergens. Perhaps even fewer fires.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on December 26, 2017.