Your Lying Eyes

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26 February 2006

Free-Traders Admit That They're Wrong

Well, not exactly, but they are now making arguments that would guarantee their political defeat. No longer do they, in the face of unrelievedly bad news for America on the trade front, argue that free-trade is good for the country; they now argue that it's good for the world - and who cares about the country! Arnold Kling refers to such quaint concerns - like whether it's good for America - as "Economic Nationalism." In his latest post on this theme, Arnold's fellow traveler Don Boudreaux pretty much lets the cat out of the bag with this comment:
Suppose someone calculates trade statistics for the town that Arnold lives in, and suppose that those statistics show that that town has a trade surplus...why should Arnold care more about the nation than he cares about his town? What is so right, so obvious, or so noble about someone who lives in Maryland giving as much weight to the fortunes of people in Oregon and Florida as he gives to the fortunes of people in his local community?
See where this is going - here's the coup de grace:
And what's so wrong about someone who gives as much weight to the fortunes of strangers living in foreign lands as he gives to the fortunes of strangers living in his own country?
I wonder how many pro-free-trade politicians realize the un-American turn free-trade arguments have taken? Are they aware that the viewpoints espoused by the "thinkers" who have given them academic cover in supporting free trade now profess to be unconcerned about its impact on the Americans they represent? But then again, as with immigration or our continued military involvement in Iraq, the worse something is for the U.S. the less likely are politicians to oppose it.


Blogger Dennis Dale said...

What strange times indeed, when our fellow capitalists seek to shame us for the most modest self-interest. Now, if they should buy a used Volvo from their liberal birkenstock brethren they can just leave the "Think globally, act locally" bumper sticker right where it is.

February 26, 2006 7:46 PM  
Blogger ziel said...

They think it's good to be purely self-interested, but to be interested in one's country is just beyond the pale!

February 27, 2006 8:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's tough to deal with the global trade issue without raising the ugly issue(and I mean the stores themselves) of WalMart. No single retail entity is doing more to screw up our global free trade situation.
The ugly American (have you been to a WalMart lately) is only interested in the lowest price and pays little attention to the fact that the majority, I don't know specific stats, of their "stuff" is manufactured in the China and other countries under conditions that would make Kathie Lee Gifford's sneaker controversy from a few years ago pale in comparison.
The buying public needs to be educated about the long term cost of buying low priced, foreign produced junk but that is a tough sell. No American company can compete with slave or communist driven labor but what will be the end result?
We need a combination of pulic awareness and some sort of realistic price controls (import taxes)to allow American companies remain competetive. This has gone way beyond the issue of producing quality goods at reasonable prices, as was the issue that vaulted Toyota & Honda past Ford & GM, and has evolved into a quality of life and a survival of American manufacturing issue.
If we lose manufacturing, what do we have left? My Help Desk calls are answered in India, my "American" cars are being made in Mexico and my t-shirts come from China (under the guise of Taiwan). Thank god for American beer and cigarettes. At least I know I'm contributing to our home grown manufacturing base, and in a bigger way than my spouse supports.

February 27, 2006 8:13 PM  
Blogger ziel said...

I think free trade has to be added to the list of things we tried and didn't work out. I don't know how we extricate ourselves from existing treaties, but we need to start imposing tariffs or other controls. The standard of living of Wal-Mart's customers is going to take a pretty big hit, but they might get some decent work out of it at least.

February 28, 2006 12:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been banned from the econ blog for using the word "obtuse".

Yeah, right.

February 28, 2006 12:33 PM  
Blogger ziel said...

For those guys "obtuse" is a compliment - other less savory adjectives come to mind (of which 'disingenuous' is the kindest).

February 28, 2006 7:24 PM  
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