SEARCH BLOG: ECONOMICS
I understand the desire of bloggers to have catchy post titles, hence the title of this post. I was actually doing a title parody of a post at Carpe Diem: People and Businesses Trade, Not Countries.
It's a simple, but overlooked point: Countries don't trade, individual American consumers make voluntary decisions to buy products produced by foreign companies (e.g. check the country of origin on the tags/labels on your clothes), and individual American businesses voluntarily buy from, and sell to, foreign firms and consumers. Most of the discussion about trade focuses on aggregate trade statistics at the "country level," like reports of a $56.5 billion U.S. trade deficit in September, a $700 billion U.S. trade deficit for 2007, a $195 trade deficit with China this year, or a $14 billion trade surplus with Netherlands this year.Of course, the title is perfectly accurate because a "country" is composed of individuals including those who run businesses... but the title is somewhat misleading when the author tries to equate actions of individuals with those of multinational corporations and governments [yes, comprised of individuals].
Like Walter Williams points out, those aggregate trade data can disguise the fact that it was individual American consumers and businesses making voluntary decisions on buying and selling products every day that result in some country-level trade deficit or surplus when trade data between the U.S. and other countries is aggregated at the end of a month, quarter or year.
Bottom Line: People trade, not countries. Therefore, any restrictions on trade in the form of protectionism hurt American people, i.e. U.S. consumers, and the workers and shareholders of U.S. businesses. A tariff on Japanese-made products is not a tariff on the country of Japan,it is really a tax on American consumers and businesses who voluntarily decide to buy products made by Japanese producers.
My responses to the article and some other comments about the article. This:
Countries don't trade, but governments facilitate trade through treaties that are either enforced or not.And this:
When you go to the store to purchase an item, you probably don't look at the country of origin. You don't look for the "made with child labor" label. You don't read the "prices kept low through currency manipulation" disclaimer. You don't read the part of the owner's manual that tells you "designed by carefully copying quality products."
Individuals do NOT engage in trade... well, 99.9999% don't... they purchase available products. Small businesses do NOT engage in trade... they purchase available products from suppliers. Large corporations with resources to specifically source as they want DO engage in trade. Governments that award contracts based on price DO engage in multinational sourcing... DO engage in trade.
For those who wish to equate purchases at a local store with arranging for large volumes of goods to be brought in from other countries for distribution, sale, or incorporation into a larger product/assembly, then I concede the concept that individuals trade. But beyond such superfluous and meaningless comparisons, the argument is specious.Further reading here.
Qi, trade does not necessarily enrich all. The Chinese, for example, have siphoned billions... perhaps trillions... of dollars from U.S. companies through intellectual theft... THEFT. You can call that trade if you wish, but counterfeiting and intellectual property theft is just another form of Barbary pirating.
Economists want to view the world through "principles" of trading and thereby lose credibility with those who truly understand the actual interchanges.
Now, if placing boundaries around what is considered acceptable is "an infringement on my freedom allowing to choose who I want to trade with," perhaps your freedom should be re-examined.
Going back to the original point; individuals make purchases or exchange their labor or knowledge for payment... a micro form of "trade" in a loose semantic way. But trade, in the sense of transactions impacting nations, is far upstream of those individual purchases which are "an infringement on my freedom allowing to choose who I want to trade with" by driving out of business through unethical practices [by our standards and laws] those local and national businesses with whom they compete.
But you might save a buck at Wal-Mart as a result.
... and individuals fire weapons and fly planes and sail ships... not governments.... Governments don't make war.