Thursday, June 08, 2006

Just Wondering

Is a big US trade deficit really bad? Are foreign workers willing to work for low wages really unfairly stealing away US jobs?

Doesn’t a US trade deficit imply that we are buying more foreign goods than foreigners are buying US goods? Why is it a bad thing when foreigners are sending us more valuable stuff than we are sending them? It sounds like a good deal for us.

Wouldn't it be even better if we didn't have to send foreigners anything in return for their goods? That would mean that we were getting their goods for free. It would also make our trade deficit bigger.

If foreigners decide to exchange their dollars for US goods, doesn’t that reduce our trade deficit by making us work for them?

Are foreign workers who receive low wages being taken advantage of? Is it immoral to buy goods made with cheap foreign labor? What if foreign workers are better off with these jobs than without them?

It must be that foreign workers are better off with jobs exported from the US. Otherwise, they wouldn’t take them. Does fairness to foreign workers require not providing them with jobs that they want and that make them better off?

Is such outsourcing really unfair, even if some displaced US workers end up with lower paying jobs? Suppose these US workers, perhaps through political pressure, have been preventing firms from using cheaper foreign labor. Isn’t the fair value of their labor what foreign workers charge? In this case, aren’t domestic workers forcing US consumers to pay more than fair value for their labor and for the goods produced with it? Isn’t this coercion and theft? Isn’t it disingenuous to argue that fairness requires that coercion and theft be allowed to continue? Doesn’t fairness require that those who steal return to their victims what was stolen and that those who would steal be prevented from doing so?

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