Paul Lachine

Free Trade Ad Nauseam

So much has been written, by so many, against the muddled ideas that have now overwhelmed good sense on trade policy in the US government that one wonders whether there is anything left to say. Unfortunately, there is.

NEW YORK – So much has been written, by so many, against the muddled ideas that have now overwhelmed good sense on trade policy in the United States government that one wonders whether there is anything left to say. Yet it is worth recalling what Pierre-Joseph Proudhon reportedly told the Russian intellectual Alexander Herzen: “And do you imagine that once a thing has been said, it is enough?....It has to be dinned into people, it has to be repeated over and over again.”

What we need now is a primer on the major misconceptions in the hope that, unlike Gresham’s Law, which says that bad money drives out good money, good economics will drive out bad economics. Four, in particular need to be corrected.

The first misconception is that exports create jobs, while imports do not – a fallacy that the great trade economist Harry Johnson traced to mercantilism, and which the US has resurrected. In fact, in a world where parts and components come from everywhere, interference with imports imperils competitiveness. The success of parcel-delivery companies, for example, depends on imports, which must be brought from the borders inland, as well as on exports.

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