…of Pat Buchanan. Some thoughts:
True, the United States imports a lot of stuff, particularly stuff made by low-wage, low-skilled workers. Everybody’s got a comparative advantage, and sweatshops aren’t ours. I can live with that. But here’s a shocker: The majority of the stuff we import is not consumer goods. The majority of what we import is stuff we use for manufacturing. As Daniel Ikenson reports, as recently as 2006, 55 percent of our imports were industrial components, i.e. stuff that goes into our factories as inputs and comes out as products. Ikenson: “Meanwhile, U.S. factories remain the world’s most prolific, accounting for more than 20 percent of the world’s added manufacturing value. By comparison, Chinese plants account for about 8 percent. And manufacturing is thriving in large measure because of international trade. Manufacturing exports and imports hit records in 2006.”
These kinds of arguments aren’t academic. When implemented as policy, protectionism can destroy, or prevent the creation of, trillions of dollars worth of wealth. It was one of the few areas of policy that Bill Clinton got right.