The U.S. government had to decide whether X-Men are human.
Our story starts with the U.S. Customs office. Included in a very long list of items that enter the U.S. are “dolls” and “toys.” According to Customs officials, any figure that clearly represents a human being is a doll; if not, then it is a toy. Importers care about the difference because the tariff on dolls (12%) is much higher than toys (6.8%).
And that takes us to Marvel Comics. While we all can agree that Barbie is a doll, what about action figures? The U.S. Customs office said action figures are dolls; Marvel disagreed. This Radio Lab podcast wonderfully describes the issues.
Marvel won its case in court. Similarly, because Luke Skywalker could resist the force and was captured by a Wampa, a court also said he was a toy. By contrast, G.I. Joe was declared a doll.
The Economic Lesson
When looking at tariffs, as economists, we should check the cost of the jobs that were saved. This 2002 Dallas Fed report concluded that each year, a tariff on sugar costs consumers $1,868 million in higher prices. More specifically, each one of the 2261 jobs that was saved costs $826,104 annually.
An economic question: Explain why tariffs generate considerable support even when their cost is high.