Skip to comments.The Concise Guide to Economics: Free Trade vs. Protectionism
Posted on 03/22/2004 6:24:36 AM PST by Luis Gonzalez
Economists of all schools recognize the value of free trade: greater overall production. This greater production is due to the freedom of each producer to specialize in that line where he or she has a natural advantage. The natural advantage of each trading partner results from the differences among people and locations. A major reason the U.S. economy is as productive as it is, is that there is a large geographic area of free trade (the U. S. Constitution wisely prohibits protectionist tariffs and quotas among the various states).
Adam Smith enunciated the principle that it is foolish to produce at home that which can be obtained more cheaply abroad. This is true not only literally of the home, but of the county, state, region and country as well.
This emphasizes that there is no distinction between trade and international trade in principle--one "exports" his labor to "import" goods consumed, as it is a cheaper means of obtaining goods than producing the consumed goods directly.
Despite the value of free trade there are continuous calls for disruption of an international division of labor by way of taxes on imports (tariffs) and numerical limitations on imports (quotas). Such arguments are ultimately special interest pleadings advanced for the sake of a transfer of income to the special interest at the expense of the rest of the economy.
Henry George summarized the fallacy of protectionism this way: "What protection teaches us, is to do to ourselves in time of peace what enemies seek to do to us in time of war."
A review of the seven most common protectionist arguments and their rebuttals follows:
This argument claims that some vital military goods may be unavailable from other countries in time of war and therefore a viable domestic industry is necessary for defense. A true concern with such a scenario, however, can be dealt with by means of stockpiling the needed goods. Such a stockpiling program would leave the consumer still free to shop the world and not disrupt the international division of labor. One must suspect many such arguments when those making the argument are the very firms supplying those goods. Examples in recent U. S. experience include even wool socks and steel--goods with easy substitutes and existing viable U. S. production.
Further, a program of reducing taxes and regulations would allow continued viable U. S. production. As is so often the case, any concerns should recognize the violence done to the U. S. economy by current policies and the fact that it is economically more efficient and just to reduce, not compound government interference in the market.
The fallacy of such claims is that the protection of any U. S. industry is to that same extent a detriment to other U. S. industries. Protectionism against steel imports, for example, harms American firms which use steel as an input in their production process--auto, washing machine manufacturers, all firm's transportation expenses, etc.
Though this argument has little application to the U. S. economy, it is often used for say, Chile which is heavily dependent on copper exports. The fallacy is that Chile has a strong advantage in copper production and to forcibly diversify would be to pay dearly in opportunity costs. Individual entrepreneurs should make these decisions according to their own assessments. (On an individual basis this may be like cautioning a surgeon to find other means of making a living. While this would offer protection against the risks of being unable to perform as a surgeon the lost income in pursuing say, training as a lawyer would be vast.)
There are two versions of dumping. The first is selling products abroad at lower prices than at home. But this is to be expected. Buyers are normally more loyal to domestically produced goods (all other things held constant of course) than to foreign made goods. The only way to successfully sell to foreigners is therefore with price concessions. (Because of this loyalty factor, it would be strange if dumping was not the norm.)
A second version of dumping is a subsidy to firms to sell abroad. Naturally, American firms complain about such practices by other nations. (And this is not to say that American firms receive no such subsidies--as special interests using the power of government for their own financial gain, it is common.) If other countries do subsidize their sales in the U. S. then they are making a gift to American consumers. While this is not wise for the sake of the economy doing the subsidizing, it is not right to correct the situation by punishing the American consumer with tariffs and quotas. A consitent application of a prohibition of gifts would prohibit samples! The analogy often cited in other countries resorting to this form of dumping is to consider each economy to be a man in a lifeboat. The lifeboat is the overall standard of living in the world. If one person in the lifeboat foolishly takes out a gun a fires a hole into the bottom of the boat, the last thing others should do is to retaliate likewise with additional blasts to the boat bottom! Compounding mistakes is not a solution.
|Self-aggrandizement (Self`-ag*gran"dize*ment) (?), n.
The aggrandizement of one's self.
Back to speaking for all the people I see.
She can speak for me any day of the week.
You can certainly include me in that "we". I've said it before, and I'll say it again - China and India have high trade barriers and strong protections for their economies. We don't. They are growing more rapidly than we are. This is a logical inconsistency.
Free traitin' - just UN sponsored global welfare that the US taxpayers get stuck for.
There is a little club consisting of authors of dead theories from previous centuries, and Adam Smith is a charter member. The United States was built upon the ideas of Friedrich List and not those of Smith. Had Smith's thinking been the model, we'd still be an English colony.
Do tell that to the millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans who are being financially destroyed as a direct result of "free traitin". In fact, why not go to some working-class neighborhood bar and tell them face to face?
Now who's views are elitist?
There is NO area of endeavor in this world in which Americans can compete with slave labor or people living in thatch huts. That's the basic problem.
So, your solution is for the US to govern itself like China and India.
They are shi%holes, and you want us to be shi%holes as well.
If China and India were so damned smart, they would be us...they're not. They're not because they limit their people's freedom to trade freely. They are growing because they are starting to adopt our system, and you want to counter by us adopting theirs.
But, it's a lot for you to figure that out, isn't it?
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Is this the policy Bill Clinton was following when he gave missile guidance secrets to the Chinese for campaign cash? Another part of his bargain was taking all the jobs in Japan and sending them to China, causing a collapse in Japan's economy. This was a brutal assault against our friends the Japanese, and offering our enemy, the Chinese Communists, America on a platter.
From then on it has been down hill, as American jobs are being destroyed in a free for all attitude by our government and their friends the corporations.
Pat Buchanan was certainly right about NAFTA and the horrors it would bring on this country. America gets millions of unskilled illegal workers, and jobs Americans once held are being down graded to match those unskilled workers demands. Meanwhile, the American taxpayer is going broke subsidizing these illegals and their families. I see nothing good in any of this, and it all began with so called, free trade that rewards our enemies, and destroys the American worker.
Opposition to mercantilism and state paternalism also motivated Adam Smith, father of classical economics, whose name more than any other is connected with British laissez-faire doctrines. Smith believed that individual welfare rather than national power was the correct goal; he thus advocated that trade should be free of government restrictions. When individuals were free to pursue self-interest, the invisible hand of rivalry or competition would become more effective than the state as a regulator of economic life. Smith did not believe in laissez-faire in an absolute sense; he found a place for government activity in public works, such as the building of canals and docks to facilitate trade, and in the regulation of foreign commerce to protect certain home industries.
Why don't you quit the histrionics and try posting some actual numbers?
And if offshoring is such a damned evil thing, then we should shut down all those Toyota and Honda plants here...right?
One more thing...hard for you to prove the negative financial aspects of our economic system in light of the constantly rising wages, and industrial productivity these past two hundred plus years.
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