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Bonus Quotation of the Day…

… is from Dan Ikenson’s splendid essay, from earlier this year, titled “Trade on Trial, Again“:

The benefits of trade are dispersed and accrue over time, while the adjustment costs tend to be concentrated and immediate. To synthesize Schumpeter and Bastiat, the “destruction” caused by trade is “seen,” while the “creation” of its benefits goes “unseen.” We note and lament the effects of the clothing factory that shutters because it couldn’t compete with lower-priced imports. The lost factory jobs, the nearby businesses on Main Street that fail, and the blighted landscape are all obvious. What is not so easily noticed is the increased spending power of the divorced mother who has to feed and clothe her three children. Not only can she buy cheaper clothing, but she has more resources to save or spend on other goods and services, which undergirds growth elsewhere in the economy.


Let’s not mince words: the talk about trade by both major-party candidates in the United States today, as well as by many lesser politicians in each of those parties, is unadulteratedly stupid.  This stupid talk is not a matter of dispute over values.  Nor does this stupid talk reflect reasoned disagreement over economic theory or the empirical record.  Instead, the talk – by Clinton and, especially, by the egregious Trump – is simply, indisputably, atrociously stupid.  Its only ‘merit’ is that it appeals to voters’ economic ignorance.  This talk is the economic equivalent of, say, claims by both major-party candidates that the practice of physicians setting broken bones using modern medical practice is a scourge that has to stop, and be replaced by masked, half-naked witch-doctors dancing and stomping wildly upon patients’ broken bones while sticking pins into rag dolls in order to repair those broken bones.

Any candidate who would say such a thing would be immediately and correctly recognized to be spectacularly unfit for office – to be an ignoramus, a buffoon, and a danger to the republic.  Yet when candidates say the economic equivalent (in effect, ‘The best trade deals are ones that commit us to produce lots of stuff for foreigners and prevent us from receiving very much in return!’), they are treated as if what they say is worthy of respect.  But it’s not worthy of respect, for it’s not only wrong, it’s idiotic and stupid – and a danger to the republic.