Economics

Free Trade, Without Apologies

The benefits of unfettered global capitalism

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International trade has been one of the most powerful forces for prosperity in the history of the world. But a lot of Democrats, including the one occupying the Oval Office, treat it as a mixed blessing at best, requiring reparations for the alleged victims.

That's the source of the fight between the president and congressional Republicans over two things the White House wants: free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama and renewal of assistance to workers whose jobs disappear because of foreign competition.

Republicans are agreeable to the trade deals. But the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which doles out funds for extended unemployment benefits, job training, and relocation, is another story entirely.

They think it amounts to largely wasting billions of dollars. They see no reason to hold free trade hostage to this boondoggle. And they're right.

The argument for the program is that trade has many beneficiaries and a small number of victims, who ought to be compensated for their trouble. Most of us get richer from buying and selling in the international marketplace, and this program takes some of that extra wealth and spreads it around to the unlucky few who are worse off.

But the logic has never stood up well to inspection. If a steelworker in Pennsylvania loses his job because of competition from Texas, he is just as unemployed as one whose competition comes from Brazil. Yet the latter gets special help and the former gets none.

Capitalism is a dynamic system producing ceaseless change. Lots of people have been laid off because of big forces beyond their control—from the financial crisis to the housing bust to the price of fuel.

They get considerable help in the form of unemployment insurance (which has been extended to up to 99 weeks for the current troubles). Why are those affected by trade entitled to additional consideration?

The answer is political, not economic. To get lawmakers distrustful of global commerce to go along with trade agreements, presidents had to give them this program as compensation.

But as compensation, it falls lamentably short. The purpose is to assure that jobless workers find well-paid new employment. In reality, it's no big favor to the recipients. The surprise is that for all the money spent ($1.3 billion this year), the program's impact is undetectable.

In a new study published in the journal Contemporary Economic Policy, American University economists Kara Reynolds and John Palatucci found "no statistical evidence that the TAA program improves the average employment outcome of beneficiaries over a comparison group." It makes zero difference.

Tying a renewal of this program to the new trade deals, which originated in the Bush administration, is particularly bizarre. It assumes that such agreements make some American workers at a disadvantage. The truth is that U.S. trade deals invariably require other governments to do the real heavy lifting.

We're already largely open to imports. It's the rest of the world that isn't.

At the moment, for example, farm products entering South Korea are subject to duties of 54 percent on average—compared to the typical U.S. rate of 9 percent. American-made cars face an 8 percent levy in South Korea; Korean cars shipped to the U.S. get off with 2.5 percent.

These tariffs would either be abolished immediately or phased out over time, bringing both sides down to zero. We scrap low tariffs on their goods—while the Koreans get rid of high ones on ours. How could that be harmful to American industries and workers?

Likewise with Colombia. Few Colombian goods pay any U.S. import duties at all, but our exports to Colombia get taxed at an average rate of 12 percent. Free trade means both sides go to zero. Panama? Same basic story.

The value of free trade agreements deals is twofold. The first is to open up foreign markets to our exporters, who are projected to reap big sales gains from the new access. The second is to lower the cost of imports to consumers, which also tends to lower the price of goods made here at home.

We could treat open commerce as a proven way to raise the living standards of all Americans, instead of pretending it's a dangerous foreign plot. But for many politicians, that's an impossible adjustment.

COPYRIGHT 2011 CREATORS.COM

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  1. We could treat open commerce as a proven way to raise the living standards of all Americans, instead of pretending it’s a dangerous foreign plot. But for many politicians, that’s an impossible adjustment.

    On the right you’ve got “DEY TUUK UHR JEERBS” people. On the left you’ve got people who literally think that there’s a winner and a loser in voluntary trade, because wealth is zero sum; therefore, anyone getting richer is necessarily making someone else poorer. Of course, that’s why democracy’s so grand! You don’t get to make the good decisions for yourself: you get to convince everyone else, regardless of how ignorant or dogmatic, to allow you to make good decisions for yourself.

    1. Capitalism IS a zero-sum game. It’s just not civilized.

      1. Sing it, brother Tony! Tell them Christ-fags!

      2. So Marx was wrong after all?

        1. NEVER question our Lord and Saviour, Karl Marx.

  2. And how do we get China, Korea, Japan, et al, to drop their tariffs? The passive voice in the last paragraph sheds no light.

    1. The loser is the one with the tariffs, the longer any nation (America, Korea, China etc.) keeps up its tariffs, the more it distorts the industry it is trying to protect. The losers are the Korean and Chinese workers who earn less for their work, the winners are those that get to buy the goods subsidised by those workers.

      With a globalised economy the argument that these tariffs will allow them to create a monopoly once they dominate is invalid, no single country can dominate any industry. The cold hard reality is that Chinese/Korean workers are simply better than American workers, they work harder, smarter and have less “the world owes me” attitude. You should be glad they set up those tariffs, otherwise America would be in even bigger trouble.

      1. “”””With a globalised economy the argument that these tariffs will allow them to create a monopoly once they dominate is invalid, no single country can dominate any industry.””

        If you combine workers who only get $5 a day with access to machinery and processes which increase productivity then why can’t a single country dominate an industry? All they have to do is keep their prices and costs below the other competitors and they win. And if you happen to control the communist party of a country which can forcibly keep wages and other costs low you win while making sure that the profits go to the crony elite.

        The Chinese have lots of low wage workers and they have gotten lots of access to modern machinery and processes of other economies, so tell me what is to stop them from dominating industries?

        1. Because China is already facing competition from other countries, and there are cases of production moving to those countries, and China is facing wage increases pressures from its “cheap” labour.

          As I already stated, if they keep their prices below others artificially, then the will end up damaging themselves the most. There is no “they win” in trading it is not a zero sum game. China is not getting richer at the expense of others, it is getting richer because their economy is freer now than ever before, it still has a long way to go, but compared to the Mao horror years, the economy is positively Laissez Faire in comparison.

          1. They have been facing competition from other countries ever since they stated on their export drive and they have been winning. And by winning I mean that the elite communists and their crony capitalists have solidified their hold on power while at the same time getting access to trillions in foreign exchange

            As to their increased wage pressure, I read the stories, woopie, they are going from $5 a day to $6 a day and most of that is being taken away by inflation. They still have total control of government, the police, the army, they still own all land in China, and control all labor. Sounds like they have the means to keep dominating industries for a long time to come.

            Sure eventually their whole dictatorship will crash to the ground but eventually we are all dead too so that does not help the real capitalist whose business is ruined by Chinese government subsidized “free trade” or the workers in other countries who don’t want to compete with foreign slave labor.

            1. Perhaps you care to list a few industries that China dominates, I doubt you will find a single one that is not facing stiff competition from other places.

              China has no slave labour, you might find some horror story about some workers being locked up somewhere, but you can just as easily find such stories elsewhere. The majority of Chinese workers work at the jobs because it is an improvement in their lives. Not trading with China means those at the very bottom will suffer, the elites never do. Shutting off China from the world would be the best guarantee for the CCP to maintain its power.

              Americas two political parties also have total control on all the levers of power, does that imply I need to stop trading with America ?

              1. You mean those other places where crony capitalists and government owned business keep worker wages low and drive independent business from the market. Seems strange that your free market competition involves all sorts of countries where crony/government business dominates and where independent business are restricted and workers have no rights.

                Which countries are you going to proclaim as free market, communist Vietnam, corrupt India, mercantilist Korea?

                1. Governments will always dominate most countries. One should be able to trade with anyone anywhere, no matter how bad the government those people are living under.

                  Shutting off a country because they are not free market, will basically mean that one cannot trade with anyone, because corrupt politicians are everywhere.

                  As others already have stated here, not trading with somebody because they have the misfortune of having being born in a dictatorship, not only is unfair to that person, it means they will never be able to evolve into a freer society in the first place.

                  1. But are you trading with them or are you trading with the government or government crony corporation?

                    If during Stalin’s time you bought Gulag made goods, are you trading with the workers of the gulag or are you just trading with Stalin?

      2. they work harder, smarter and have less “the world owes me” attitude,

        You say that in a way that suggests the you don’t think the world does owe me anything.

    2. Yes, Old Man…

      We shouldn’t stop throwing boulders into our harbors until the Chinese stop too.

      1. Your metaphor doesn’t make sense, but the basic logic does- one doesn’t drop tariffs generally unless all its major trading partners do as well.

        Tariffs are an interesting alternative to income and value-added takes, and have the benefit of being consonant with the proper role of a federal government. I’d like to see more discussion of that.

        1. “Your metaphor doesn’t make sense,”
          Yes, it does

          “but the basic logic does- one doesn’t drop tariffs generally unless all its major trading partners do as well.”
          We should. No reason to copy bad habits.

        2. God, poor Adam Smith, there are more mercantilists alive today than when he wrote the Wealth of Nations!

          Old man, my metaphor is perfect; tarrifs reduce trade in (and out) of the harbors of one nation, exactly as if the government in a great Keynesian shovel-ready project, had dumped boulders reducing the flow of traffic in and out of the harbor.

          Most people recognize that spoiling a harbor is an act of irredeemable vandalism. But levy a tax that has precisely the same effect, and people think that the enterprise is beneficial…

    3. Why do we need to do that?

  3. We’re already largely open to imports. It’s the rest of the world that isn’t.

    Er, yeah….

    These tariffs would either be abolished immediately or phased out over time, bringing both sides down to zero. We scrap low tariffs on their goods?while the Koreans get rid of high ones on ours. How could that be harmful to American industries and workers?

    This argument makes no sense unless you’re assuming the cost of comparable American goods and Korean goods are equal absent the tariffs. Due to the lower cost of Korean labor, Korean goods are already cheaper than American produced ones, even if there were no tariffs on either side. Therefore the elimination of tariffs on both sides would do little to make American goods more competitive in Korea, while putting American manufacturers at an even greater disadvantage domestically. It’s not like it takes a rocket scientist to figure this one out. Perhaps you can argue that this is a desirable state of affairs for other reasons, but to argue it isn’t harmful to domestic industries and workers is ridiculous.

    Happy Independence Day!

    1. Oh slappy, is there no end to your stupidity?

      The fact is that including Korean people & firms in our economy is always a benefit due to a pheonomenon known as Ricardo’s Law of Comparative Advantage

      This Walter Block lecture covers it nicely.

      I should allay your fears about Walter Block’s fitness to live in the U.S. Though he has no patents, and hasn’t won a Nobel Prize, he did run a business in his youth.

      1. Learn how to read. I’m perfectly aware of the law of comparative advantage. I pointed out that there may be other arguments for the state of affairs, but benefits to American manufacturers wasn’t one of them.

        Also, the law of comparative advantage assumes that each country specializes in producing a good more cheaply than the other. So, Korea can produce cars more cheaply than America, and sells them here. Very good. What is America producing that Korea is buying?

        1. Except that American manufacturers are manufacturing more and more each year.

          And even if they weren’t, perhaps they are like me; I used to work for a steel mill, now I’m in financial services. It’s almost like people can change jobs!

          Moreover, slappy, as far as what Koreans are buying from the U.S., I’m sure that they are buying heavy manufacturing equipment that is used in factories.

          Even if they weren’t buying anything though, it wouldn’t be a problem.

          After all, what is the supermarket buying from you, slappy, to compensate you for all the money you get buying cheap food from them?

          1. Except that American manufacturers are manufacturing more and more each year.

            Yes, but you’re leaving out what they’re manufacturing, which is low-margin items that generally aren’t exported, such as consumables. Which is why while we may be manufacturing more, manufacturing as a percentage of our GDP is declining.

            And even if they weren’t, perhaps they are like me; I used to work for a steel mill, now I’m in financial services. It’s almost like people can change jobs!

            So we’re all going to be earning our livings selling esoteric financial instruments to each other?

            Moreover, slappy, as far as what Koreans are buying from the U.S., I’m sure that they are buying heavy manufacturing equipment that is used in factories.

            Indeed they are! Unfortunately, they’re buying most of it from Germany, not from us. Come to think of it, we’re buying most of our heavy manufacturing equipment from Germany, too. Oddly enough, Germany is one of the few Western economies showing substantial growth. Wonder how that happened?

            1. You’re not getting responses anymore because you’ve essentially revealed yourself as a mercantilist. Just thought I’d let you know.

              Also, considering that economics is apparently a field of study for dumb people (let’s ignore that people like Murray Rothbard double majored in mathematics like many economists), you must be significantly to the left of the bell curve because you’ve completely failed to understanding anything we’ve been telling you.

    2. but to argue it isn’t harmful beneficial to domestic low-skilled manual labor industries and workers consumers is ridiculous.

      1. To consume, you have to have money. To have money, most people need to work. Given that now that we’ve outsourced a substantial amount of our manufacturing, we now have about 10% unemployment, the last I checked. As a consequence, consumer spending is down. So, who are these consumers that are benefiting? Looks like our consumers don’t have much money to spend consuming.

        Oops!

        1. Poor slappy,

          He doesn’t realize that companies in the U.S. are manufacturing more and more every decade.

          The fact that these companies need fewer and fewer workers to achieve this, freeing up labor to be used in other life-improving ways is not a negative but a positive.

          Of course, to people like slappy, who share Obama’s desire to prop up less efficient enterprises rather than allow them to be broken up this is absolutely horrible.

          That 10% unemployment has everything to do with the government creating regime uncertainty, regulatory uncertainty and various distortions that discourage entrepreneurs and businesses from taking risks on new ventures.

          1. He doesn’t realize that companies in the U.S. are manufacturing more and more every decade.

            See above.

            The fact that these companies need fewer and fewer workers to achieve this, freeing up labor to be used in other life-improving ways is not a negative but a positive.

            Yes. Like contributing to our 10% unemployment rate, for example.

            Of course, to people like slappy, who share Obama’s desire to prop up less efficient enterprises rather than allow them to be broken up this is absolutely horrible.

            The point is, these “less efficient” functions aren’t being obsoleted, they’re simply being performed elsewhere. The situation is not analogous to products like candles and buggy-whips being obsoleted and replaced by innovative new products. Televisions and computers are still being manufactured, but they are no longer being manufactured here. What is replacing them domestically?

            That 10% unemployment has everything to do with the government creating regime uncertainty, regulatory uncertainty and various distortions that discourage entrepreneurs and businesses from taking risks on new ventures.

            Examples?

            1. Why don’t any of you people understand the law of comparative advantage? It’s taught in high schools around the country as is universally accepted in every mainstream school of economic thought. This isn’t rocket science, people; producing what is relatively cheaper for you to produce allows for a more efficient utilization of resources and thus a higher standard of living.

              1. Considering that we’re currently leveraging the law of comparative advantage to the max, would you care to explain why our standard of living is declining?

                Economics is hardly an exact science. You can’t saw a country in half and test the effects of a policy in a controlled experiment. All you can do is observe what has already occurred and try to extrapolate general principles from it.

                Note that the predictions of most economists has more often than not turned out to be wrong. You couldn’t do much worse taking economic advice from an astrologer.

                1. Considering that we’re currently leveraging the law of comparative advantage to the max, would you care to explain why our standard of living is declining?

                  Considering that real wages are rising and have been rising for decades, I’d have to say that you don’t really know what you’re talking about.

                  Economics is hardly an exact science. You can’t saw a country in half and test the effects of a policy in a controlled experiment. All you can do is observe what has already occurred and try to extrapolate general principles from it.

                  I don’t have time to disprove methodological positivism to you; needless to say it is the catalyst for almost every incorrect economic theory plaguing the science today.

                  Note that the predictions of most economists has more often than not turned out to be wrong. You couldn’t do much worse taking economic advice from an astrologer.

                  Your concerns and the answers to them are shared by almost everyone on this board who have seriously studied economics.

                  1. Your concerns and the answers to them are shared by almost everyone on this board who have seriously studied economics.

                    That’s a Good Thing, because they bloody well aren’t getting answered now!

                    Considering most of the people who “seriously studied” economics, like every other social science major, are the ones who were too dim-witted to get into a hard science or engineering major, I’m not exactly greatly comforted by their pronouncements. Sorry!

                    1. That’s a Good Thing, because they bloody well aren’t getting answered now!

                      People are answering your concerns about trade with logically cohesive laws deducted using methodological individualism; you’re just either unwilling or unable to accept these basic principles like comparative advantage.

                      Considering most of the people who “seriously studied” economics, like every other social science major, are the ones who were too dim-witted to get into a hard science or engineering major, I’m not exactly greatly comforted by their pronouncements. Sorry!

                      Why did you instantly jump to the conclusion that I was referring to studying it in an academic setting? I meant analyzing it on their free time over a great many years.

                      Nice pot shot at the social sciences, by the way. Based on what you’ve posted about history and economics, are you sure that you’re not the one who’s too dense to understand those fields of study?

  4. On the left you’ve got people who literally think that there’s a winner and a loser in voluntary trade

    Maybe they got “tooken” in a childhood baseball card trade and never recovered.

  5. Free trade is fine, as long as everyone is forced to do it fairly*.

    * Fair as defined by a third party.

  6. I don’t want cheap gear.

    I want pieces of paper with a dead foreign dictator’s face on it.

  7. The question is, how do you define free trade? Is trade with a corporation owned by the state or owned by insider crony’s of the state actually free trade. Is trade with the US Post Office free trade? Is trade with Dubai Ports which is 100 owned by the Dubai government free trade. And should free traders take into consideration the fact that by trading with a government owned or government crony corporation they are not engaged in real free trade which is the trade between free people.

  8. Krugabenomics

    Why should anyone believe that handing even more money to corporations, no strings attached, would lead to faster job creation?

    Allowing kkkorporations to retain earnings from voluntary transactions is exactly the same as handing it to them.

    And- why isn’t government confiscation and redistribution thought of as “trickle down” economics?

    1. Krugman has become the epitome of a fascist.

      His articles increasingly remind me of Mussolini’s fundamental principle of politics:

      All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.

  9. More on “repatriation” of profits:

    A similar tax holiday was offered in 2004, with a similar sales pitch. And it was a total failure. Companies did indeed take advantage of the amnesty to move a lot of money back to the United States. But they used that money to pay dividends, pay down debt, buy up other companies, buy back their own stock ? pretty much everything except increasing investment and creating jobs. Indeed, there’s no evidence that the 2004 tax holiday did anything at all to stimulate the economy.

    Putting money in people’s hands (well, they’re not really people, they’re investors) has no effect on the economy?

    Somebody needs a new model.

    1. Agreed. How can putting money in people’s hands be bad for the economy?

      Even taken at face value that statement you quoted nonsense. So what if people aren’t using the money in “the right way.” IT’S THEIR MONEY. To argue otherwise – to say that we can’t let them keep more of their own money because they won’t use it to do what we want them to do with it – smacks of collectivism. The only way you can truly believe that is to believe that ultimately all wealth belongs to the government.

      Just as all of these bureaucrats are befuddled today by “large stockpiles of cash” the problem isn’t with the people who have the money, the problem is with the politicians whose job is to create the right environment for growth. These dipshits we have now think that the economy – and productive people within it – are just golden geese who will keep on keeping on no matter what and that they can just expand their own power and rulemaking without consequence. HAHAHAHAHAHA

  10. All they have to do is keep their prices and costs below the other competitors and they win.

    I’m not seeing a downside to this.

    1. They do it with government force and that government gets the resources to expand its ability to both maintain power and to expand to force others.

      1. In Seoul, you mean?

        So tell me again what’s the downside to me and my fellow consumers living here in the U.S.?

        If you start going down that “bu- bu- but those people just aren’t FREE!!!!” road you start authorizing our own government to make judgments and take actions that start to impinge on YOUR freedom and expand the powers of the state here to fight the “others” who are oppressing those poor people you want to trade with.

        The best way to help those other people is to just go ahead and engage with them as much as possible, not to try to hurt them or punish them for having bad leaders.

        1. The expansion of personal freedom in the PRC has a pretty significant correlation with the degree that China has been engaged in the global market.

          1. It is not personnel freedom, it is government license. The government allows them to do things, they have no right to it. They even allow things that are illegal like moving from one part of the country to the next, but if you piss off anyone in government then that will be enforced

            They have no right to own land.
            They have no right to move without government permission
            They have no right to work without government permission
            They have no right to organize either as businesses, workers or citizens without government permission
            They have no right to free speech
            They have no right to religion or any belief that the communist party outlaws.

            1. We should be more like them, DJF.

        2. “””‘So tell me again what’s the downside to me and my fellow consumers living here in the U.S.?”””

          First, while you may be a mere consumer, most people are actually producers as well and having to compete against slaves, serfs and other unfree people is against my interest.

          Under your policy, you would have no problem with the slave trade, since as long as it does not negatively effect consumers living in the US then its OK and should not be illegal. So if I was to enslave people, make them work, steal the product of their labor and then sell it, then that is free trade.

          How about stolen goods, if I steal it from others and sell it in the US then that is ok as well since the consumers are better off?

          Or how about if I am the British East Indies Company (BEIC) and I use my insider connections with the British government to import tea into the American colonies without paying a import tax while my competitors have to pay the tax then that is good as well since it is all about the immediate benfit of lower prices and the long term downside of helping the BEIC dominate America like it did in India should be ignored?

          1. Until you can actually prove that China is running their economy on slavery, or that Chinese companies are forcing Americans to buy their goods, equating the Chinese to the British government ruling the American colonies is not a good comparison.

            1. The British East Indies Company did not force anyone to buy their tea in America, they just made it cheaper because of their insider crony connections with the British government.

              1. Taxing somebody for some item they do not want is no different to forcing them to buy it. Until the Chinese tax you for goods you do not want, trying to invoke the Boston tea party is laughable.

                1. They did not “Taxing somebody for some item they do not want”. They removed the tea tax from tea imported by the British East Indies Company so they could sell tea at a lower price then other importers. It was government crony capitalism where the government gives special deals to special corporations. There is plenty of that going on in China and involves both nominally private corporations and certainly government owned corporations who both import goods into the USA. The British government was subsidizing British East Indies Company tea to drive the competitors out of business.

              2. hmmm,….replace BEIC with modern day G.E. and thier damn cfl litebulbs…..it all makes sense!!

          2. I think you are missing the point; people should be free to choose who they do business with. So, if you want to boycott all of the above parties, you are welcome to. On the other hand, if your neighbor Shelby is boycotting the slavers but wants to do business with the East India company, you have no right to use force to prevent him.

            I should point out that there is a continuum between purchasing coal mined from a North Korean slave labor camp and buying coal from a government subsidized West Virginian mine. Where on that continuum the line is drawn is up to that individuals conscience. For some, that might mean living autarchically given that almost nothing we purchase isn’t somehow benefiting from one subsidy or another. For others it means that they buy from North Korea with not a twinge of their conscience.

            Now as to the producers being ‘harmed’, I should point out that nobody is owed your business. If you were doing business with them but choose to do business with an alternate vendor, you haven’t harmed them.

            1. I agree, everything is a continuum but I think that lines should be drawn. No one is an island and even the most free market of people have difficulty preventing the government interfering with their lives. But on the other hand I find it very difficult to think that a government owned corporation which does business with a government crony business while receiving low cost loans from the FED or World Bank has anything to do with free markets or free trade and so it should not be so classified.

              Under your system, then the government should not have any laws against selling stolen goods since it would restrict free trade and peoples right to buy stolen goods. I don’t think that stolen goods are free trade and you should not be able to hide behind free market rhetoric to sell them. Do you disagree?

              1. What goods have the Chinese stolen, that they are selling to you. Your entire argument assumes that the Chinese steal, and that they are slaves, neither is true.

                I could just as easily argue that Americans have plundered Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan etc. And therefore you are a thief and thus people should not be allowed to do business with you, I am sure you would like that.

                1. “””‘I could just as easily argue that Americans have plundered Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan etc””‘

                  No, you could not, the US has spent far more money in Iraq, Libya and certainly Afghanistan then it has gotten out of any of those places. I am against all those wars but not for the reason that they were plundered, it was the US treasury and taxpayer who is plundered.

                  “”””Your entire argument assumes that the Chinese steal, and that they are slaves, neither is true.”””‘

                  The Chinese government and its crony capitalists have certainly stolen from the independent businesses and workers in China. How else for example do you explain that the Chinese government owns all land in China?

                  1. Just because the US spent more money than they have gotten out of those places, does not that they are now absolved from the fact that they stole things from those lands.

                    American politicians have most certainly taken money from one group of businesses and given it to other non independent businesses, GM and big banks are a good example. Which would imply that people should not be allowed to trade with you.

                    1. “””Just because the US spent more money than they have gotten out of those places, does not that they are now absolved from the fact that they stole things from those lands.””

                      Such as what? What was stolen? Afghanistan has nothing worth much except opium and they sell that. Iraq has oil, and they sell that too. While the US is only bombing Libya so its destroying stuff but not stealing stuff. You can criticize the US for destroying stuff but not for stealing stuff. The US empire is not smart enough to steal, it destroys and then wastes taxpayer money rebuilding what they destroyed.

                      But if the country you are in decides to embargo the US over its stupid wars then go for it. Its a judgment call on what level of warmongering triggers it but at some level it is perfectly good to do so. Say for example the US went and stole the livers out of living Iraqis and sold them, I think that its ok to embargo the US over that. What about you, do you think your government should embargo the US over the policy of stealing tens of thousands of livers from living Iraqis? Should at least your country block the import of Iraqis livers stolen by Americans or does that interfer with free trade?

                    2. I do not support punishing people for what their governments do, I am simply showing the absurdity (and immorality) of collective punishment, the idea you are supporting not me.

                      Free markets ultimately are about individuals not nations, who I want to do business with is my choice, not governments. To imply buying Chinese goods is supporting slavery is insulting to China.

                    3. “”””To imply buying Chinese goods is supporting slavery is insulting to China.”‘

                      Oh, wow, I insulted a communist dictatorship and its running dog crony capitalists? And since you are such an individualist then how can you claim that anything can insult “China” since by following your individualist ideals there is no such thing as China but merely a bunch of people who want to trade in an area named China

                    4. In a democracy the people are responsible for what their government does, so why shouldn’t they be punished?

              2. Under your system, then the government should not have any laws against selling stolen goods since it would restrict free trade and peoples right to buy stolen goods.

                Being an anarchist, I don’t think there should be any laws against selling stolen goods as people commonly understand them.

                That does not mean, however, that I think selling stolen goods are hunky dory.

                The problem of what to do with crime under an anarchic political order is complex and too novel to do justice.

                However, the way to handle such issues would be through law-suits and through boycott campaigns. I for one would refuse to buy something that I knew to be stolen, and would not do business with a person who had a history of thieving. I am pretty sure that most people would do the same. If not, we have more problems than any law can handle.

  11. “The best way to help those other people is to just go ahead and engage with them as much as possible, not to try to hurt them or punish them for having bad leaders.”

    Probably preaching to the choir, but sorta like ending the Cuban embargo?

    1. Yep. Or North Korea.

      I used to be of the USA! USA! mind, but the more I think about these things, the more I realize that a lot of what we call “national interest” or “realpolitik” is just a purposeful deception by politicians who want to empower themselves.

      China isn’t a threat to our standard of living in the U.S., China is a threat to our hegemony and therefore to the the power of our government ergo China must be demonized.

      And, FWIW, the Cuba embargo is nothing more than sour grapes on the part of a bunch of expats who live in Florida and vote regularly.

      1. I fail to see how China is even a threat to US hegemony, unless China sets up naval bases in Canada, Mexico and Jamaica, like America has bases all over East Asia. How could China possibly threaten America ?

  12. treat it as a mixed blessing at best,

    All good things are a mixed blessing. Nothing in this world lacks a downside.

    1. titties and beer?

      1. I prefer hairy balls and Appletinis.

      2. All due respect to Zappa, i’m looking at my gut, and yes even beer has a downside. Titties on the other hand, i have to grant you have no possible downside. They are the exception that proves the rule (whatever the hell that means).

  13. Nothing in this world lacks a downside.

    Not even freedom.

  14. First, while you may be a mere consumer, most people are actually producers as well and having to compete against slaves, serfs and other unfree people is against my interest.

    It’s as if you want the government to protect your monopoly profits by imposing barriers to entry.

  15. I have a question for the protectionists.

    If protectionism is so good, why not apply protectionism between the states? Let Nevada, for example, supply all of its own food, own construction equipment, furniture, etc.

    1. People who like to use “no man is an island” argument against libertarians funny enough mostly tend to be supporters of protectianism.

      1. No man IS an island. The sooner we collectivize and get rid of this stupid notion of autonomy, the sooner we can have one-world government and the kind of smart, right-thinking people in charge of every nation.

        1. I don’t think you are the real Tony.

          1. Walks like a duck…

          2. There is no real Tony.

            1. You have to admit that it’s a pretty good imitation. If you could make it a little more whiny, it would be spot-on.

        2. D-

          That was horrible… and horrible in a way that’s much different than the real Tony is Horrible.

    2. For one thing all these states have the same general standards of law and contract while someplace like China is a communist dictatorship whose only standard is what is written on today’s decree. And even in the US we had a very big problem with the different standards regarding slavery in the states until settled by a nasty thing called the Civil War. So as soon as China has the same general standards as the US then free trade can take place but until then you are just rewarding the lowest behavior including state enforced and sanctioned state and crony capitalism.

    3. Well, for one thing, it’s not likely Nevada will be going to war with Utah at anytime soon, so Nevada is probably safe outsourcing it’s manufacturing to Utah without having to worry about an embargo in the event of a military or political conflict.

      OTOH, if the US outsources manufacturing of it’s essentials to China, a country with whom we have a more ambiguous relationship, what happens when a situation arises where our interests conflict with their’s?

      Kind of hard to bring pressure to bear on a country that has you by the balls, isn’t it?

      Self-sufficiency is independence. Independence is the freedom to act. The problem with most economic theories is that economists assume the only relationships between nations is economic. They seem to ignore that they occasionally do other things, too. Like shoot at each other, for instance.

      1. OTOH, if the US outsources manufacturing of it’s essentials to China, a country with whom we have a more ambiguous relationship, what happens when a situation arises where our interests conflict with their’s?

        They loose their massive customer base in the United States and see a substantial decrease in their standard of living?

        1. lose* Edit button please.

        2. You mean they lose *a* customer base. We aren’t their only customer. Further, who do they lose it to? Look around your house at the things made in China, and tell me how many of them you can identify an alternative supplier for. It’s been a long, long time since I saw a computer made anywhere but China.

          Second, I’ll point out that trade relationships didn’t stop two world wars, even at a very substantial decrease in standard of living.

          Believe it or not, countries have other interests besides standard of living. Sometimes those interests even take a higher priority than standard of living. It’s entirely possible for China to decide that taking an action that pisses us off will reap benefits sufficient to offset loss of our custom. Wouldn’t be the first time.

          1. I want you to identify a realistic scenario where the Chinese Communist Party, a group that is already losing support among the growing middle class in China, risks its tenuous grasp on power by destroying its own economy so it can, what, raise prices in the United States?

            I can guarantee you that the People’s Republic of China would collapse in weeks if Chairman Hu Jintao was foolish enough to flirt with autarky.

            1. I want you to identify a realistic scenario where the Chinese Communist Party, a group that is already losing support among the growing middle class in China, risks its tenuous grasp on power by destroying its own economy so it can, what, raise prices in the United States?

              First, I’d like you to show me evidence the Chinese Communist Party’s grip is “tenuous”. The last I checked, the approval of the Chinese people for their government was over 60%, which is about 3 times higher then our approval for our government.

              Second, nobody said they were planning to raise prices. You may have noticed the Obama administration’s failure to secure any agreement with China requiring them to allow their currency to float, rather than pegging it to the dollar. Why should they negotiate? What leverage do we have with them?

              There are also other matters which might have more dramatic import. See “South China Sea”.

              I can guarantee you that the People’s Republic of China would collapse in weeks if Chairman Hu Jintao was foolish enough to flirt with autarky.

              Just like if collapsed during the Cultural Revolution in the 60s. Sure thing. The peasants that failed to revolt while they were being starved to death will certainly take to the streets for being deprived of their iPhones. Yep! That’s believable!

              1. First, I’d like you to show me evidence the Chinese Communist Party’s grip is “tenuous”. The last I checked, the approval of the Chinese people for their government was over 60%, which is about 3 times higher then our approval for our government.

                Tiananmen Square? The Olympics protests? The anti-CCP movement coordinated through the Internet? How many links do you want, exactly, because I can post hundreds of examples of civil disobedience. As a purely anecdotal one, I saw a police car get set on fire while I was touring part of Beijing.

                And statistics from authoritarian countries have always been reliable, right? People who badmouth the government in China have a tendency to get their knee caps broken or disappear in the middle of the night.

                Just like if collapsed during the Cultural Revolution in the 60s. Sure thing.

                I don’t know where you’re getting your information on the history of modern China from, because the People’s Republic really did collapse into total chaos during the Cultural Revolution. Mao Zedong had to order that the Red Guard movement be put down because it had begun to become a government onto itself.

                The peasants that failed to revolt while they were being starved to death will certainly take to the streets for being deprived of their iPhones.

                Considering how Westernized parts of China have become, especially in the SEZ’s, I have no doubt that that’s exactly what they’d do. The Communist Party is strongest in the farmland and weakest in the cities, where people are less dependent on the government.

                Second, nobody said they were planning to raise prices.

                An embargo would reduce the supply of goods coming into the United States and thus cause a rise in their price. Microeconomics 101.

                You may have noticed the Obama administration’s failure to secure any agreement with China requiring them to allow their currency to float, rather than pegging it to the dollar. Why should they negotiate? What leverage do we have with them?

                If the Chinese are idiotic enough to debase their own currency at the cost of high inflation and a lowered standard of living for their people then so be it. More cheap stuff for us.

      2. When goods cross borders, troops do not.

        1. Sure thing. Being a supplier of oil to us is what keeps us from invading the middle east….

          Oh, wait….

    4. Believe me, we’re trying!

  16. It’s very touching how altruistic your motivations for supporting free trade are. It’s good for everyone! (Eventually… of course, for the sake of enhancing the lifestyle of foreigners, our middle class has to be decimated. How generous we are!)

    1. I am SUCH a pussy.

      1. Can I sniff you, Tony? Mom won’t let me anymore.

        1. You can sniff me, shrike.

    2. The efficient utilization of resources and cheap consumer goods really does tend to bone the middle class, huh?

      1. Let’s see: in 1987 only people like Gordon Gecko could afford a cell phone, which happened to look like a brick. Today just about everyone can afford one that has a camera and internet access. Damn you free trade!

        1. Why hasn’t the magical marketplace worked to reduce the cost of basic commodities like gas and food?

          1. Inflation sucks, doesn’t it? Maybe you’d like to defect to our camp so we can have one more person to help stop it.

  17. Why are we defending South Korea while they put tariffs on our products. Time to bring our people home.

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  19. International trade can bring the common prosperity, against trade international countries may not progress

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  22. So, let me get thsis straight, american workers must “compete” against chinese workers making $12 per day. (such as a new bridge in oakland).
    You talk of leveling the playing field but it is really little league against the New York Yankees.

  23. If a steelworker in Pennsylvania loses his job because of competition from Texas, he is just as unemployed as one whose competition comes from Brazil. Yet the latter gets special help and the former gets none.

    If someone from Pennsylvania loses his job to someone from Texas, the wages lost stay in this country…AND…the worker from Pennsylvania has the viable option to move to Texas. If the job moves to Brazil, it’s gone. The money is gone. But let’s be honest here, Libertarians really don’t give a rat’s ass about who suffers and who doesn’t…just so long as they get cheap goods and services.

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  25. I agree with you in spirit. Tariffs are a barrier to trade and the US is clearly on the short end of this stick. However, wouldn’t the abolition of tariffs consequently raise taxes? I’m no economist but Bernstein, in his book A Splendid Exchange, points out that the reason the US instituted the income tax in 1913 is because tariffs were lifted. So, either we keep tariffs in place or we pass those costs onto consumers. Please correct me if my reasoning is flawed. Keep up the good work.

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