We in America have larger wealth prospects when Chinese sellers line up at our door. In open markets where people buy and sell voluntarily, both parties to the transactions are made wealthier and happier. Otherwise, trade would not take place.
Should we place a turnstile at our ports of entry and set an entry fee? Should we build a wall around the entire country and keep out sellers who wish to offer us goods that we seek to purchase? Of course not.
In my most recent column for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, I offer some probing questions of the sort that economists ought to ask. A slice (with apologies to David Friedman and Steve Landsburg):
• Suppose an American invents a machine called an “amaizer” that inexpensively turns corn into cars. When corn is put into this machine today, brand new automobiles roll out of this machine tomorrow. Most of us would enthusiastically applaud the amaizer’s inventor for his or her genius, and for bestowing on society an immense benefit. Why, then, do many of us panic about the operation of a machine called a “cargo ship” that inexpensively performs the same feat as the amaizer? After all, we Americans put corn into cargo ships today and watch brand new automobiles roll out of them tomorrow. How does a cargo ship’s transformation of corn into cars differ from that of the amaizer?
• Many Americans regard as unfair the need for U.S. auto producers to compete against foreign auto producers who manufacture cars at much lower costs. Do these Americans, then, also regard as unfair the need for U.S. auto producers to compete against Americans who sell used cars? After all, the cost of manufacturing used cars is far less than that of manufacturing new cars. Should Trump encourage more employment in U.S. auto plants by imposing tariffs on purchases of used cars?