I wonder a great deal about people’s misunderstanding of trade. For example, I wonder…
… why, on certain occasions, support for protectionist policies in the United States can be easily drummed up by asserting that some foreign government is intent on artificially restricting Americans’ ability to import goods and services, such as medical supplies. Why do Americans turn for a ‘solution’ to this problem to their own government – a government that has done, and continues to do, far more than has any foreign government to artificially restrict Americans’ ability to import goods and services?
… why, on other occasions, support for protectionist policies in the U.S. can be easily drummed up by asserting that some foreign government is intent on artificially enhancing Americans’ ability to import goods and services, such as commercial aircraft. Why is there no understanding that this complaint is inconsistent with the complaint just above? And more generally, why does anyone believe that we Americans are harmed by foreigners arranging for us to have access to a greater abundance of goods and services?
… why so many Americans believe that they will be made poorer if people in poor countries, through trade, become richer. Why do so many of my fellow Americans believe that the increased ability of foreigners to produce and offer to sell to us high-quality goods and services threatens our prosperity? Do these same Americans believe that their prosperity is threatened if greater numbers of other Americans, say, get better education that enables them – these other Americans – to produce and offer to sell to their fellow Americans high-quality goods and services? Why should we believe that we are benefitted through trade by the enrichment of human beings across town, but that we are harmed through trade by the enrichment of human beings across the ocean?
… why so many Americans fail to understand that international trade cannot make Americans more dependent upon foreigners without making foreigners more dependent upon Americans. Why don’t more people realize that foreigners engage in commerce with Americans in order to get goods and services in exchange from Americans? Asked differently, why do so many people presume that foreigners are stubbornly intent on giving to Americans gifts?