… is from page 44 of Deirdre McCloskey’s superb 1990 book, If You’re So Smart: The Narrative of Economic Expertise :
The sporting metaphor, in other words, is not a good theme for the British economy in the late nineteenth century. Its forty-five million souls were not trying to score points on Germany or the United States. They were trying to earn a living and gain the pearly gates, on their own, making individual choices daily with no collective goal in mind.
DBx: Yes. Yes. Yes.
Of course what was true for the British economy in the late nineteenth century was true also for that economy a century earlier and remains true more than a century later. It is true also for the United States, for Germany, for Japan, and, yes, even for today’s China. Individual governments might compete against each other for any number of different and mostly foolish prizes. But economies never compete against each other. To understand economics is to understand the absurdity of the belief that such competition is real.
And so count on it: whenever you encounter a sports metaphor or analogy used to describe international trade, be aware that you are encountering the words of someone who either doesn’t know what he is talking about or is intentionally attempting to dupe you into allowing him or his client to pick your pocket.