Haggling Over the Size of the Free Trade Area

Sheldon Richman notes that, if we simply ignore the arbitrary lines on a map, which hold “little practical consequence for people’s economic activities,”

there are no imports and exports. There is only what I make and what everyone else makes. Frederic Bastiat pointed out that each of us daily uses products we couldn’t make in isolation in a thousand years. Talk about poor, solitary, nasty, brutish, and short! “What makes this phenomenon stranger still is that the same thing holds true for all men,” Bastiat wrote. “Every one of the members of society has consumed a million times more than he could have produced; yet no one has robbed anyone else.”

This is just another way of saying that the case for free trade is conceded the moment someone eschews self-sufficiency. After that, we’re just haggling over the size of the trade area.

The lines on the map have tremendous political consequences, of course, because we use them to delineate national sovereignty. Foreign troops crossing our border might be problematic, depending on the nature of their visit; foreign goods crossing our border are almost always a good thing.

via Glen Whitman via Pejman Yousefzadeh

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    One way of looking at goods vs. folks is on the basis of pull vs. push. While pull forces do induce people to cross borders in search of work, from the point-of-view of people within the target country they are pushing their way in. That’s not true of goods.

  2. RJN says:

    We are a debtor nation. We are a debtor nation because we ship our jobs in manufacturing, and our technology, outside of our borders.

    We borrow horrific scads of money every year so that we can buy the products of other peoples labor, and, in the bargain, degrade ourselves and see our national strength dissolve.

    We are a debtor nation and we are cheating our younger citizens. Tell your kids that the U. S. has to borrow $800 billion every year from foreigners so that teachers and government employees can have plasma tvs.

  3. James Joyner says:

    We are a debtor nation because we ship our jobs in manufacturing, and our technology, outside of our borders.

    No, we’re a debtor nation because our govt. spends more than it brings in through taxation. Our GDP dwarfs that of any other country on the planet.

    Tell your kids that the U. S. has to borrow $800 billion every year from foreigners so that teachers and government employees can have plasma tvs.

    I don’t see the connection. The money we’re borrowing ain’t going to buy plasma TVs. Indeed, very few teachers work for the federal govt. at all, so it certainly isn’t going to them. And while some govt employees make a lot of money, that’s not really where the money’s going. We’re spending it on giant defense contracts, pork projects out in the districts, various corporate and middle class subsidies, and so forth. None of which has much to do with the mobility of labor.

  4. RJN says:

    The unemployed, or the underemployed, can’t pay much in taxes. We have potential high earning, high taxed individuals sitting on their hands or working for $12 an hour because we have shipped 3 million manufacturing jobs overseas. More jobs are on the way out of the country.

    We won’t recover from this. You all know it, it certainly isn’t a secret I have been keeping from you; we are into a transition to a post Christian, Socialist, degraded state.

    When women are told that they should comprise half of the engineering students you know we are on the ropes.

    Love you guys. Stay happy.