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Transferring Jobs

Usually sure-footed, Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson stumbles when it comes to U.S. trade with China.  In today’s column – “China’s new world order demands stronger U.S. response” – he writes that Beijing’s policy of subsidizing exporters harms America because it “transfers American jobs” to China.

While these subsidies undoubtedly harm the Chinese people, they no more harm Americans than would the invention of a dirt-cheap miracle pill that cures all ailments in everyone under the age of 90.

The invention of such a pill, of course, would ‘harm’ health-care workers.  And it would “transfer jobs” in the same way that subsidized products from China “transfer jobs” – namely, to other productive uses in America.  By enabling people worldwide to satisfy all health-care needs using almost no labor, this pill would release American workers from health-care industries, making them available to produce other goods and services that would otherwise be too costly to produce.

Subsidized Chinese exports have exactly the same effect in America as would the invention of this pill.

Unless Samuelson believes that the invention of such a pill would harm Americans over the long run, he should quit worrying that Americans are harmed by Chinese export subsidies.

Protectionism truly is dopey strange.