… is from page 320 of Bob Higgs’s excellent essay “Against the Whole Concept and Construction of the Balance of International Payments ,” which appears in the Fall 2018 issue of the Independent Review:
If there were no accounting concept or set of data organized as the balance of international payments, however, such misconceptions and errors would have nowhere to hide. Trade would be seen as a means of enhancing the wealth of all the traders regardless of the country in which they reside. Nonsense about harmful deficits in the national balance of trade in goods and services (the so-called current account) would evaporate like the morning mist in the rising sun. Politicians would lose a potent rhetorical cover for their schemes to enrich their private-sector cronies (and hence themselves in political payback). The best thing that could ever happen in regard to the public’s understanding of international trade and financial flows would be for the balance of international payments to simply disappear. It is greatly to be regretted that this accounting system was not throttled in its cradle because it has fostered nothing good and a great deal that is bad.
DBx: To all the many people who hear but do not listen to the words of Trump, Navarro, Ross, Lighthizer, and the pack of pundits who cheer on Trumpian trade policy, I say this: listen to Trump & Co. and, if you do, you will recognize them to be unreconstructed, full-bore, without-nuance mercantilists of the most cartoonish variety . Their so-called “understanding” of trade policy is that it should attempt to increase as much as possible America’s exports and to decrease as much as possible America’s imports. It is a manifestation of economic ignorance of the oldest and most stubborn sort. Assertions that Trump & Co. are really sophisticated free traders with an unconventional bargaining style are absurd.