Wednesday, January 16, 2008

'What to Expect When You’re Free Trading'

Here is a good Op-Ed by Steven E. Landsburg published in The New York Times.

I wish he went into more detail, but he still underlines the main conflict in “protecting” American jobs; that no matter which way you cut it, if the government is involved, it involves force.

Sadly, because of the general ignorance of basic economics, no candidate can go on the record and say that it’s not worth it, and wrong besides, to keep American jobs at the cost of freedom and greater prosperity; not that any candidate would say this, even if they could.

Very few recognize that “keeping jobs” involves forcing decisions out of people, decisions that they would presumably not prefer; after all, the only reason the government would need to protect a job would be if it no longer provide the best value to other people.

When politicians talk about “protecting America’s workers” they are talking about holding up a market that people no longer desire, or useful has expired.

In New Jersey, there is a law that says that person cannot pup their own gas (I don’t know if this is still on the books.) This was instituted under the same backwards logic as the protectionist policies above. What few realize is: sure, you have more jobs at gas stations, but at the price of more expensive gasoline.

Most people, given the choice, would prefer to save money and pump their own gas; but by law they can’t.

By spending money on a service they didn’t want, they take money away from where it should have gone; that is, precisely where that person wanted it to go based on there own desires.

Little controls like this add up, and eventually, billons are lost in investments that never happened, or products that were never bought; industries that were never born.

Imagine what would have happened to this country if the government tried to protect carriage makers, at the cost of the automobile or the train; or the steam engine, at the cost of internal combustion; or tried to protect domestic electronic manufactures from foreign competition, at the cost of satellite and pharmaceutical research (and they ARE connected.)

What’s ironic is that these policies produce little of the benefits they promise, and many times result in a lower standard of living.

I hope people realize this before the government controls all our decisions in the name of “protecting America’s workers.”

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