Imports are Benefits; Exports are Costs

by Don Boudreaux on September 12, 2009

in Seen and Unseen, Trade

In the post immediately below I address Seekingexports’s suggestion that I am somehow being disingenuous by not sending letters-to-the-editor demanding that Uncle Sam retaliate against market restrictions and manipulations by foreign governments.

Here, though, I take a different approach to Seekingexports’s comment.  His (or her) comment in full is this:

Why does Mr. Boudreaux give sanction to Chinese officals that erect ever changing non-tariff barriers that are so effective? This is a de-facto manipulation of the beleivers in free trade–I will not buy his party line. The tire issue is pocket lint in comparison to goods and services blocked by Non-Tariff Barriers. Where is the commentary and letters that address these barriers? Are these barriers to complex and nonclassical to warrant even lip service?

Suppose you’ve long been exchanging your baby-sitting services with your neighbor in return for his lawn-mowing services.  Each week, approximately three hours that you spend sitting with your neighbor’s brood of brats is repaid by two hours your neighbor spends mowing your lawn.

Then one day your neighbor informs you that he’s about to incur a huge debt to hire a fabulously expensive child psychologist who will quickly teach his children some skills in how to better care for themselves — so your neighbor will now need you to sit with his young’uns only one hour each week rather than three.  But, your neighbor quickly adds, he’ll continue to mow your lawn just as before.

You think to yourself that your neighbor is nuts.  Incurring massive debt to hire a child psychologist who claims to be able to train toddlers to watch over themselves??  You conclude that your neighbor has done himself no favors — indeed, that your neighbor has harmed his family, especially over the long run.  You even worry that, when your neighbor must start repaying this debt, he’ll have less time to mow your lawn in the future.  But being a decent human being, you mind your own business and say very little.

So here’s a question for Seekingexports: Would you be wise, in this situation, to ‘retaliate’ against your neighbor by telling him that, until he restores you to three hours of babysitting weekly, you will limit him to only one hour of mowing your lawn each week?

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