Monday, February 26, 2007

"The Goal Is Freedom"

Sheldon Richman of the Foundation for Economic Education and their journal, The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty, had an excellent editorial on why trade deficits are meaningless concerns.

Few people would want to live just on what they themselves could make. Frederic Bastiat pointed out that each of us daily uses products we couldn't make in isolation in a thousand years. ... This is just another way of saying that the case for free trade is conceded the moment someone eschews self-sufficiency. After that, we're just haggling over the size of the trade area.

Here's the relevant example for our own business:

[When] we say something is "Made in China" ... [perhaps it is] not what we think we are saying.

[Australian economist Shudha Shenoy] emphasizes that Chinese workers do the final assembly of many products, but final assembly is but the tip of the iceberg of production. When you look at the full manufacturing process, you find a system of worldwide cooperation. Most of the materials and machines the Chinese use in assembly were made somewhere else: sewing machines in Japan, Korea, and the United States; dyes in Germany; button-making machinery in the United States, Taiwan, and Hong Kong; zippers in Japan; spinning and weaving machinery in the United Kingdom; raw cotton in Uzbekistan, Egypt; and the United States (subsidized by the government); cotton gins in the United States; and steel in Japan and Korea.

Once assembled, the goods have to be moved to the docks for transport to the United States. The trucks that do the moving are made in Japan. The ships and containers are made in Korea, Japan, America, and Britain. The shipping services are Greek and Norwegian.

"When you read a label which says 'made in China,' it is not made in China," Shenoy says. "It is made by the world economy, by the globe as a whole. ...It is impossible to make anything in one country. And that is why, as Mises pointed out, the market economy does not respect political frontiers. Its field is the world."

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