Is the Sun an Unfair Trading Partner?

I've written before that nations don't have economies.

For that reason, it is almost silly to talk about a nation's "trade deficit."

Think about it this way...

If you buy a trinket from your neighbor Joe, you don't care what your neighbor does with the money. He can hoard it under a mattress, save it in a bank, invest it, or spend it. He earned it, and it is none of your business what he does with it. He is under NO obligation to purchase something from you in return. You earn your living, and Joe earns his.

Now, what if you buy the trinket, not from Joe, but from Chen, who lives in China?

There really is only one difference. Chen will probably exchange your dollars for yuans at a Chinese bank. That bank, under control of the Chinese State's central bank, will use these dollars the same way Joe would. It could "hoard" the dollars, invest them, or spend them. What they do with those dollars are none of your business.

The U.S. "trade deficit" is the culmination of hundreds of millions of individual choices.

You should be free to purchase anything from throughout the world, yet you are under NO obligation to sell anything to people in other countries. Many times, this would be impossible anyway. For example, you may be a barber. You can't export a haircut, and yet you SHOULD be free to purchase imports from other countries.

Often, people object that other countries use "unfair" trade practices to increase their exports. But that is not OUR problem. Instead, it's OUR benefit!

If China deliberately undervalues its exports to make them cheap in the United States, that only hurts the Chinese people, who are robbed of the total value of their production.

A government hurting its own people? Well, that's not exactly a new or unique problem! But China's domestic politics are still none of your concern.

And it certainly shouldn't be the concern of Washington D.C. This so-called "dumping" of cheap imports into the U.S. market is a BLESSING for the American people, NOT a "problem."

The great 19th Century French economic writer Frederic Bastiat illustrates this point in The Candlestick Makers' Petition. This satirical piece argued that French candlestick makers got "unfair" competition from the sun, which "works under conditions so far superior to our own for the production of light that he is flooding the domestic market with it at an incredibly low price; for the moment he appears, our sales cease, all the consumers turn to him, and a branch of French industry whose ramifications are innumerable is all at once reduced to complete stagnation."

The petition was for France to pass a law "requiring the closing of all windows, dormers, skylights, inside and outside shutters, curtains, casements, bull's-eyes, deadlights, and blinds — in short, all openings, holes, chinks, and fissures through which the light of the sun is wont to enter houses, to the detriment of the fair industries with which, we are proud to say, we have endowed the country, a country that cannot, without betraying ingratitude, abandon us today to so unequal a combat."

Of course, any reasonable person knows that the Sun is a blessing and NOT a trade "competitor." Likewise, it is a blessing to Canada that Florida can produce oranges so cheaply. Importation is MUCH cheaper than attempting to grow oranges in Canada.

FOR THE SAME REASON, it is a blessing that countries with lower labor costs can produce more goods at less cost than the U.S. can. The American people benefit from lower prices, and they can use the savings for further spending, or for savings and investments which create more jobs and wealth.