My old and respected friend Keith Burgess Jackson says that free trade has been a disaster for the U.S. I would like to look briefly at some ways in which that is true and some ways in which it is not true.
What I imagine Keith has in mind is the peaceful and largely self-sufficient existence America had in the 50s. In Australia too the 50s are often remembered as a golden age and it was a time when Australia had extensive tariffs that blocked a lot of foreign trade. One of the attractive aspects of that era was diversity (in the non-Leftist sense, among whom it seems to mean "blacks"). Practically everything was made in the home country so there were a great variety of occupations at work and that offered a wide range of opportunities for job-seekers.
Now whole industries have crossed the ocean to China so the industrial scene is much less variegated than it was and America is heavily dependant on other countries for many important things -- not forgetting oil.
I am actually old enough to have a clear memory of the 50s and I sometimes wish that we could go back there. Life was simpler and everything was more "human". People did things rather than machines doing them. When you rang up a firm you were always answered by a person rather than some infernal answering machine which asks you to press buttons. That must seem like an impossible dream to some young people today.
The other side of the argument is however very simply expressed: lower costs. I bought myself a "3 in one" the other day (printer, scanner and photocopying machine all in one). I remember when such machines first came out that they were selling for around $900. The one I just bought cost me $29 -- and it works brilliantly. It is of course made in China to an American design. And I am mightily pleased at the increased convenience my new machine has given me.
And look at the much-reviled Wal-Mart, China's major American outlet. It has bought all sorts of goods to within the purchasing power of poorer Americans because of the low prices it asks.
So are all those low prices worthwhile? I think they are, despite my happy memories of a different past. Low prices affect us all every day, one way or another.
Posted by John Ray. For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. For a daily survey of Australian politics, see AUSTRALIAN POLITICS Also, don't forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me (John Ray) here