Shipping containers.

The Import of Exports

Many people wonder whether exports, which aim to satisfy the needs of distant foreign consumers, belong at the center of a country's development strategy. But this is the wrong question: in a market economy, fulfilling the needs of others is the source of our own livelihood.

CAMBRIDGE – Should a country’s development strategy pay special attention to exports? After all, exports have nothing to do with satisfying their people’s basic needs, such as education, health care, housing, power, water, telecoms, security, the rule of law, and recreation. So why give precedence to satisfying the needs of distant foreign consumers?

That, in a nutshell, is what many opponents of free trade and economic globalization – as well as many on the right who believe that all industries should be treated equally – want to know. But there are no right answers to wrong questions. It is precisely because governments care about their own people that they should focus on exports.

To see this, consider what a market economy is all about. Some, including Pope Francis, would say that it is about greed – a system in which everybody cares only about herself.

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