Your Lying Eyes

Dedicated to uncovering the truth that stands naked before your lying eyes.

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13 November 2005

Memo to Self: Get A Life

I've gotten involved in a little debate on free trade in the comments section of Econlog, the blog of economists Bryan Caplan and Arnold Kling.
I've always been a free-trader (as a good conservative should) but I feel something is amiss of late....Read more... When the Japanese launched their assault on our auto industry 30 years ago, Detroit was under siege from clearly superior manufacturing. But now, there just seems to be nothing special going on except cheaper labor - and there's an unlimited supply of that.
What's worse is now we're tapping into China and India, and these people can do brainy work, not just weaving rugs or packing fish. So our college graduates are tending bars while we send skilled jobs overseas.
But what really amazes me is the attitude free-traders take towards the suggestion that, as Americans, the welfare of our fellow Americans should be our top priority - "repulsive" and "repugnant" were the most common reactions I got.
So I have one plea for those advancing the (perfectly legitimate) free-trade argument: State clearly whether you support free-trade for the good of the world, or for the good of America. If the latter, then we can dispense with all the accusations of nativism and xenophobia, because then we all want the same thing - it's just a question of how best to get there. If the former, then at least we all know where you stand.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I'm not American Mr "Lying Eyes" (This must be a new nick for Steve Sailer, as this is a metaphor he loves. One would think that all we need is a pair of eyes to see the truth. Oh, and a brain, a neural system. And 2500 years of accumulation of knowledge. Etc.). So I guess if trade was good for America and yet "bad" for my country (assuming we know what "bad" is), then you'd support it. But that's the trouble, isn't it. Unlike say "war" - and contrary to conservatives dearest sophistry of equating everything in life with war - economics means "mutual cooperation" since I cannot be sold your good at gun point so I both have to have money and be convinced (by "free competition") that your goods are worth buying. Ah, but I forgot, you have a stronger air fleet; I guess that should be convincing enough.

Normal humans will readily concede that since for trade to exist between different countries, it should be good for everyone in the end - hence for the world. But naturally, as I am not saying "the world is Anglo-Saxon's oyster" I guess that makes me "anti-American", or "bomb thrower" or something.

Yes, that's a very sharp insight. If free trade is not "good" for America (good meaning what? America selling more than it buys? Doesn't that mean someone else buying more than it sells?) than to hell with it.

If freedom is not good for me - for instance if another man gets that girl I love because, heck, he has the "freedom" to compete with me (the uppity bastard), that means we're only for freedom so far as it serves our purposes.

Your Framers, so-called, would be proud of your patriotism and your genius, sir. Way to go. Americans are adorable when they treat the rest of the world as dirt - they look so sexy when they do reason so impeccably as yourself.

Non-Anglo-bomb-throwing-mortal(who, like Americans, wants to have a life by freely trading with others)

November 14, 2005 8:39 AM  
Blogger ziel said...

Mr. Anonymous: I certainly don't wish to see you or anyone in your country mis-treated. But I would bet that when it comes to trade, you want what's best for your fellow countrymen. Well that's all I want. I'm sure you would be very upset if your government signed a trade agreement with America that meant that Americans would get richer while your country got poorer - I feel the same way. That's how good international agreements get made - when each country tries to get what's best for its citizens. That
way we can have an agreement that benefits everyone. Free trade usually does help everyone. For example, we import lots of fruit from Chile during our winter when we can't grow very much fruit - that helps Chile because they get to sell more fruit than if they could only sell to themselves, and it helps us because we get to eat tasty fruit in the winter, something we couldn't do 20 years ago.
But then suppose we started to import fruit from China in summer because Chinese farmers work so much cheaper than our farmers? That might not be such a good idea because we don't need fruit from other countries in the summer, we can grow plenty of our own. Sure we get to pay less for fruit, but is that worth putting all those farmers out of business? These are the kinds of questions each country needs to consider. When it comes to things like airplanes and technology, it gets even more important because that stuff is important for national security. But the problem we have now is that many of our economists like to dismiss these concerns and simply think that free-trade is good no matter what.
Again, I don't wish your country harm. I hope we can have trade that will benefit your country and my country. But the only way that can happen is if both countries put their own citizens' well being first.

November 14, 2005 1:28 PM  
Blogger ziel said...

And no, this is not a Steve Sailer affiliated sight - though certainly I am influenced by his writings. The name Your Lying Eyes just came to me out of the blue - I just couldn't decide whether to call it that or "Shocked, Shocked!"

November 14, 2005 2:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a very "conservative" point you make, Mr. ziel.

Why should one's government/state sign an agreement to displace one's native workers from their jobs?

Yes, that's deep economic insight.

Those who have the faintest idea about "free trade" (genuinely "free" one, which requires no "regulations"), however, find this argument rather shaky.

First of all, I fail to see why governments/states have to stick their noses into trade by signing agreements declaring they shall regulate how "free" trade is to be conducted, who should produce/consume and/or import/export how much of what. What exactly is "free" about this trade?

Second, if we both agree that economics has a strict logic and has consequences regardless of our "sentiments", then guilt manipulation isn't very helpful. Any trade activity, by its very nature which involves competition, may - and eventually will - put some people at some point out of his job. That is the whole point of competition - as constrasted to "salvation army" charity work.

What's even more preposterous, you see this as a "loss", which means you absolutely reject the logic of free trade (I assume you treat "free trade" as a term that applies only internationally. In reality, it is another name for "free market economy" in a generalized sense.)

Company A in your country may outcompete company B as a result of which company B may have to close down, or modify its product, or move to another sector. The whole point of a "free market" economy is to allocate scarce resources to those that manage to produce the best results with it. Do you, as a buyer of products think, if I buy car A, then I better buy all the other cars too produced by my country, or else I may put them out of business?

But in fact, this is the way an economy advances. Competition is the most efficient way through which we decide who should produce using how much resources. You can bet tens of millions of people have kept losing their jobs - and finding new ones in their place - as we advanced in division of labor.

That is because "resource competition" in economics does not mean a zero-sum game: hunting pigs in a jungle and producing genetically modified oranges are two diametrically opposite activities since the former involves "consuming" what is only found in nature whereas the latter "producing" what is not found in nature. That is why interpreting economic competition as war, or a football game, or a track race, etc., is entirely wrong.

But you and your conservative fellows still believe in the old romantic myth of "self sufficiency". Ah yes, the rugged-individual (like the Marlboro man?), the rough and tough cowboy who doesn't need anybody. He needs no stinking doctors, lawyers, physicits, etc. to survive. Perhaps we should all roll back our modern day division of labor, and learn to be "self-sufficient" again.

If a banana republic produces cheaper bananas than your countrymen - whom you "patriotically" assume that because they are your cousins should be entitled to be paid more than the citizens of that darned banana republic - who is going to decide whether they should be free to export their produce into your country? Either consumers, who will naturally prefer the cheaper produce, or the "patriotic conservatives" who say "look, we have to draw the line somewhere; we cannot let our countrymen be outcompeted by those banana republicans"? I presume you prefer the commie method: let the producers decide.

Which beats the whole purpose of the "free market" system.

But naturally, being a conservative, you are a Statist. You don't believe in the sovereignty of the individual, the consumer, the private citizen. You too believe the State should stick his bloody nose into the lives of everyone to tell them how they should lead their lives. Since there is no such beast as the State, that means all the "good" men - whom I'm sure are all angels devoid of any interest, have no families, friends, social or professional circles whose interests and views they'll naturally prefer to strangers, and only want, in their humble belief of being genius daddies who know best for everyone, to patriotically man the positions in the State apparatus to herd the sheep that happens to be their countrymen.

Free trade - or free market economics - is a lost cause, I know. We could argue this for weeks, and I can bet my whole salary that I won't be able to change your view. Because you are, you see, a "patriot". This is how "patriots" think: they say "Nepotism is natural, good, healthy, and to hell with all you aliens. My country and my cousins right or wrong. I won't do the dishonorable thing of cooperating with you through sissy trade, and instead I'll send my army if necessary to *honorably* impose my 'national interests' to you, and I don't need your stinking opinion to decide what my national interest is".

Yes, this most certainly is patriotism. The most civilized attitude among men.

About a dozen men in my extended family for a few generations have been soldiers - that is, people who produce nothing, despise trade, and basically feed on government dough, or "taxpayer money" in common parlance. I can smell a patriot from a mile away, believe me. They cannot possibly see trade as by nature a mutual interdependence - like everything else in social existence is: family, community, school, profession and career, friends and family, etc. Nothing frustrates them as much as not being able to kick the other party in the face and impose one's will on him. Trade is "sissy" for them, and I presume for you.

The truth, according to patriots, is peace and civility is also for sissies. The world is a crappy place, and only fools believe in good things. (The whole more-realistic-than-thou routine, you can fill in the details yourself.) Life is miserable, ugly, beastly, civilization is only a thin veneer beneath which there are only animal urges which have to be kept under a lid or they'll destroy us, etc.

It's a great theory, and it inspired many crappy and apology-for-thought ideologies - like Marxism and Freudianism. The truth is a bit subtler. As evolutionary psychologists have begun to realize, our whole wiring is based on avoiding conflict (since it's too expensive and destructive) and seeking cooperation. If seeking ways to create civilizational edifices was not part of our nature, we wouldn't have bothered with it - the alligator, the eagle, the boar, or the cobra didn't; look what nasty lives they have to lead.

There are two ways of getting something from someone, Mr. ziel: i) the way of the "warrior", which is an air-brushed terminology for "bully" or "invader", who will invade, pound you into the ground and grab what it wants: the way of the thug or despot - the highest form of parasitism among primates; ii) the way of the "trader": that is, using your wits, specialization, industry and division of labor, and exchanging the fruits of your labor.

If your labor's fruits is more expensive than your competitors, too bad but you're not using resources as efficiently. And yes, "cheap labor" is also "efficiency" since "cheap" is a word we use to rank price on a scale, and therefore is relative. If you're too "precious" or "overpriced" to produce something for twice what I'm ready to, you're inefficient, sorry. And families from your country have every right to purchase my lower-priced produce, and they certainly have no bloody obligation to subsidize their overpriced cousins just because a bunch of bullies who condiser themselves more patriotic than others, or a bunch of cry-babies who've gotten too used to their good life of being paid $25/hr for tightening screws on a production line, think so.

And no amount of Buchananite guilt manipulation (I don't hate foreigners, I only love my country and my brothers more - sob sob) will change this. You've grown too fat. Time to exercise a little and lose all that excess weight.

Finally, but most importantly, I always wondered why you "common gooders" who push your agenda either as "country, faith, and values" rhetoric (in Buchananite fashion) or as "statistics" (in Sailerite fashion) don't bother to ask this question to yourselves: since you're so sure there's this fellow named "common" and since he is good, why worry about him? Can't he take care of himself if he is so common? Why must there be government-mandated policies for him to survive, to emerge, or to express himself? Can't that charming fellow and his family express their patriotic choices in the market by buying whatever they want? I mean, if the US had lifted all trade regulations (WTO, NAFTA, CAFTA and all such nonsense included) and opened its ports wide open, and if Osama bin Laden had decided to go into camel-skin coat production, nothing would make the US consumer buy his products, right? So, then, the "common good" must be in good hands.

How is it that "country" and "citizens" are two different entities? Exactly who represents "country", and at which point in delta time his words in effect neutralize those of the "citizens"?

But, and that is the crux of this issue, when a bunch of patriots, in their passion to help their country with their testosterone-addled brains, issue regulations or place quotas or lift trade barriers or raise tariffs, since govenment is a monopoly on force I have no choice but to follow those regulations or I'm jailed. Even if I find say a German software company which produces a type of program better for less - and a large-scale purchasing of whose products may displace a bunch of American programmers.

In what way is it patriotic for you to impose *your* choices, *your* assessment of what is good for the "commonality", on me, sir?

Loathsome libertarian

November 14, 2005 5:34 PM  
Anonymous Ben said...

We could argue this for weeks, and I can bet my whole salary that I won't be able to change your view.

Perhaps this is because you are not trying to be persuasive?

November 27, 2005 2:34 PM  
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