Peter Navarro, an economist with the titles “Assistant to the President” and “Director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy” in the White House, has been one of the very few figures with any academic credibility willing to support this administration’s “trade wars.” Recent revelations about the inclusion of a fictional source in his writings on the subject will surely harm that credibility.
President Donald J. Trump’s controversial tariffs, and the trade wars they have set off, have received very little by way of academic defense. The opinion of most scholars of world trade is that tariffs have very little to recommend them, and that if they get out of hand (as with the infamous Smoot-Hawley tariff law of 1930) they can prove catastrophic.
An investigation conducted by The Chronicle of Higher Education has found that there is no such person as “Ron Vara.” Vara is a supposed source for information that Dr. Navarro has drawn upon in six books, with ominous titles such as Death by China. (That particular title comes from a book Navarro co-authored with Greg Autry.)
The Thing to Know:
Upon being confronted by CHE, Autry admitted that “Vara” was not real. But he defended “Vara’s” presence in that book, and Navarro’s other work, as “a little bit of fun.” It should be understood that inventing imaginary characters, acknowledged as such nowhere in the text, is of course not proper procedure, much less “fun,” in academic (non-fiction) publishing.