The Commerce Department (whose idea was that?) routinely reports on the U.S. trade deficit–that is, the amount by which the dollar value of American imports exceeds the dollar value of American exports. China’s trade surplus with the United States is of special concern to many people. Yet as Adam Smith wisely said, “Nothing . . . can be more absurd than this whole doctrine of the balance of trade.” Indeed, writes Sheldon Richman, concern about imports and exports really is ridiculous. What is an export? What is an import? These words are defined in reference to political boundaries of only one kind: national boundaries. If there were no such boundaries, there would be no exports or imports. But political boundaries are just that. They are not economic boundaries. To the extent that they can, people go about their business as though those boundaries weren’t there.