… is from pages vii-viii of Chapman University’s Bas Van Der Vossen’s and Georgetown University’s Jason Brennan’s 2018 book, In Defense of Openness (footnote deleted and tiny typo corrected):
Many people reject the idea that society should be open, respecting the freedom of people to move themselves, their goods, and business in and out of society. They think that immigration and trade are bad, especially immigration from and trade with less developed countries.
These people ignore the overwhelming consensus of economists right and left to the contrary. They ignore hundreds of years of research showing otherwise. In their eyes, drawing an imaginary line on a map magically transforms mutually advantageous trades of goods and services into dangerous games of poker, where one side’s gain comes at the other side’s loss.
DBx: It is no good response to the above to point out that taxation, regulatory, trade, and other government policies differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. People who respond by pointing out this reality do so as if it is self-evident that such a response carries the day. Yet it doesn’t.
Even within many national political jurisdictions – for example, within the United States – provincial, state, and local government policies differ from each other without undermining the case for complete freedom of trade among the residents of those national jurisdictions. The fact that the government of Virginia taxes its citizens’ incomes and that the government of New Hampshire doesn’t use such a tax does nothing to justify – either economically or ethically – the government of either state restricting its citizens’ freedom to trade with citizens of the other state.
(I do not doubt, by the way, that were the U.S. Constitution not so consistently interpreted to prevent each state and local government from having its own “trade policy,” this difference in income-tax treatment would be successfully used by special-interest-group producers in each state to justify imposing restrictions on trade with the other state. Special interests in Virginia would assert that New Hampshire’s failure to tax incomes gives producers and workers there an unfair advantage over producers and workers in Virginia – and how can Virginians possibly compete on such an “unlevel playing field?!” At the same time, special interests in New Hampshire would assert that Virginia’s insistence on taxing its citizens’ incomes is such an unjust imposition of burdens on poor Virginians that New Hampshire is duty-bound to punish the government of Virginia by erecting obstructions to the sale of Virginia-produced goods and services in New Hampshire.)
But even for people separated by no political borders whatsoever there are differences amongst them of the sort that are used by protectionists as excuses for trade restrictions. I, for example, – coming as I did from a relatively poor family (by American standards) – had to pay most of my own way through college. Other than paying for my first semester, my parents contributed not a cent toward my tuition. So should I impose on myself restrictions on my trade with those many of my fellow Fairfaxians whose parents or grandparents paid for – “subsidized” – their entire college educations? Am I disadvantaged by trading with my neighbors who do not have to recoup in their current incomes the cost of their college educations?
Or perhaps most of my fellow Fairfaxians are at a disadvantage by freely trading with me. After all, my parents did struggle to pay my tuition for a Catholic-school education K through 12 – primary and secondary education much better, I assure you, not only than that which I would have gotten from the Jefferson Parish, LA, government schools, but also better than what typical students in Fairfax County, VA, government schools get.
Also, what if my neighbor doesn’t believe in the value of a college education and so refuses to send her children to college – thereby not buying from me what I sell (college education, through George Mason University)? Should I respond by refusing to trade with her if she offers to me goods or services at prices that I find attractive? Of course not.
Oh, if any of you who are reading this post have sympathies for politicians such as Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, do not suppose that the above remarks are aimed exclusively at – or apply exclusively to – Trump and his supporters. These remarks apply equally to the likes of Sanders, Warren, and their supporters, for they – on the economic-openness front – differ remarkably little from Trump and his supporters.