What is Unseen

by Don Boudreaux on November 1, 2010

in Complexity & Emergence, Data, Reality Is Not Optional, The Economy, Trade

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:

Carl Bialik laments that “there isn’t much research on how to link trade to jobs” – as in which, and how many, particular jobs are ‘destroyed’ and ‘created’ by Americans trading with the Chinese (“Flawed Math Seen in Unemployment Tied to China,” Oct. 30).

True.  But this lack of hard data is unavoidable, for it reflects the very nature of a modern economy.  Each American, as both consumer and producer, is connected to hundreds of millions of other persons across the nation and the globe in a web of commercial relationships so vast, intricate, and nuanced that it is impossible to trace out and quantify in detail how changes in one part of this web affect other parts of the web.

Moreover, changes within this global web of commercial relationships are incessant, with changes in consumers’ demands for imports being simply one among a gazillion changes that occur each year.

It’s no more lamentable that we lack hard data on the exact number of jobs ‘destroyed’ and ‘created’ by increased consumer demands for Chinese goods than it is lamentable that we lack hard data on the exact number of jobs ‘destroyed’ and ‘created’ by increased consumer demands for low-carb foods, e-books, Viagra, or by any of the other countless changes that relentlessly churn our dynamic economy.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux

It bears repeating again and again: there is nothing economically special about international trade as compared to intranational trade – save, of course, for the sorry fact that politicians and rent-seeking producers find it easy to demagogue for their own greedy, narrow purposes.

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