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    Made in China: Free trade helps all

    11/25/2007

    Did you grow your own sugar? Did you build your own laptop? Maybe, but odds are you didn't. You almost certainly traded money for sugar and your laptop.

    We buy things because we don't have the time, resources or know-how to make them ourselves. Heck, sometimes, we're just too lazy, (thank God for Domino's Pizza). A sensible person will always buy a product if it's cheaper than making it himself.

    This is why countries trade as well. A nation will buy goods from another if it is cheaper than making them at home.

    I like free trade. You should, too. Free trade generally benefits everyone involved, especially consumers (i.e.: YOU). Don't take my word for it. Crack open any introductory economics textbook and you'll read the same thing.

    Don't think the only up side to free trade is cheap Chinese DVD players. Free trade produces all sorts of nifty side effects, including higher income, higher standards of living and more open government.

    Of course, there are some losers in the free trade game, but those are few in comparison to the winners, which include almost all of the 300 million American consumers.

    Some people want to rain on the free trade parade. Unions groups like the AFL-CIO fervently oppose free trade. They use scare tactics and propaganda to convince their members that free trade will hurt America and its trading partners.

    Most politicians have played right into these half-truths. Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has said free trade causes "pain for working families," while benefiting multinational corporations.

    You see, both Bernie and the unions are "protectionists." They think free trade is bad and we should protect our nation's jobs from getting shipped overseas. Sorry, Bernie, but you're only half right.

    Free trade doesn't magically create jobs, nor does it put every factory employee out of work permanently. It transfers workers from low-paying jobs to higher-paying jobs. What’s so bad about that?

    To use an oft-repeated example: If a lawyer can type faster than an average secretary, it doesn't mean he should be both a lawyer and a secretary. Rather, he should invest his time in the more lucrative endeavor. Bottom Line? Just because you CAN make a product yourself doesn't mean you SHOULD.

    However, in today's economy, all sorts of things can be traded, including labor. Workers in countries like India gladly work for less than those in the U.S.

    Uh-oh, is Bernie right? Do we really need to protect ourselves against cheap Indian labor?

    Not hardly. What we should do to challenge new competitors like India and China is to remember those qualities that got us where we are, like innovation and entrepreneurship. Putting our head in the proverbial sand is the worst action we could take.

    Politicians and unions only oppose free trade to protect their own interests. Curbing trade hurts American consumers while not attaining any larger goal. Instead, our policy should be to free citizens from burdening government restraints. This, not protectionism, will keep the U.S. on top of the economic heap.