Sunday, 4 September 2016

Quote of the day - on Trumpish economics and free trade

Shared from Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek - the riposte to Peter Navarro, Trump's economics advisor from George Selgin, Professor of Economics at the University of Georgia:

Thank goodness that, being more enlightened than in the past, we no longer will tolerate, much less provide a public forum to, such uncouth bigots as still persist in accusing the Jews of trying to take over our economy and subvert our way of life by lending us money on better terms than our fellow gentiles can offer. No sir. We have advanced well beyond that. We now devote op-ed space in the New York Times to uncouth bigots who blame the Chinese for trying to take over our economy and subvert our way of life by selling goods to us for less than what our own manufacturers can offer.

There are two things I take from this 'neo-mercantilism': the first is that, from my experience at least, there are plenty of Trump supporters who still cling to that old Jews taking over the world shtick - this, as it happens, is something they share with a lot of Jeremy Corbyn supporters (up to the substituting of the word Jew with Rothschild or Zionist).

Secondly, we have got trapped in popular myth-making over imports. Popular opinion thinks it is a bad thing for places somewhere else in the world who can make stuff cheaper than us to be allowed to sell that stuff to us. The argument is wrapped up in stuff about protecting jobs, supporting "emerging industries", and supporting business. The idea of trade has become some sort of international sales push where we try to flog loads of our stuff to foreigners on the back of things called "trade deals". The idea that open trade is mutually beneficial seems to have been lost in our discussions. No-one is saying that trade isn't something negotiated by governments but something freely entered into by individual people and companies.

More than anything else, it is this lie- that trade is a zero-sum game at which we can win or lose - that allows for the malign politics of isolation, protectionism and import-substitution. As a result Trump, Farage, Corbyn and Le Pen are able to exploit a population stuffed by all the media with nationalist myths of sinister foreigners doing us out of our fair share. If we lose the idea of trade - open, free and fair - we risk moving to a new dark age where international power goes to the men with the biggest sticks and where the ordinary consumer pays more for lower quality goods because those men haven't finished waving those sticks yet.


1 comment:

Sackerson said...

Perhaps you'll accept the wisdom of a billionaire, instead? See this 1994 interview with Sir James Goldsmith, where he makes it quite clear that GATT (et seq.) is about tipping the balance against labour and in favour of capital, with consequential weakening of the social fabric.