Friday, October 21, 2011
Git Yo Hand Outta My POCKET!
I should be more incredulous at the idea of people telling me who I should and should not offer my money to. I know two people who are examples of those who seem to think that they know best who should be hired and for what. When they tell me this, my response should be much more severe than it is.
One person, who we’ll call “Kevin,” thought it was wrong that I might have once hired a person who was, perhaps, not a United States citizen. I say perhaps because I didn't ask, and I didn't care. For all I know for certain, he could have been born in Kansas City. I say that he probably wasn't a US citizen because five things I DO know for certain are that this individual did not speak English, had very, very dark skin, had the square head and jaw of a Mayan warrior, his first name was Heremenegildo, and fifth, he could lay tile like a ceramic-slinging Bruce Lee on amphetamines.
Like I said, based on these five things he probably (almost certainly?) wasn't a citizen, but I didn't bother checking, because again, I didn't care. He did a fantastic job, and I wish I could find him for another.
Another person I know, I'll call him “Mike,” seems to think that it is wrong that I bought a Toyota Tacoma. Twice. I don't know for sure, but he seems to think that he has the moral high ground because he bought an American made Ford Diesel truck. Twice. I don't know if he is aware that every vehicle I have ever owned has been made by either Toyota or Honda. He seems to think that we should have a 25% tariff on all goods from China and my Toyota truck should have cost me one hundred thousand dollars.
At the time I hear these things, I know they are wrong, but my response is measured, calculated, and based on superficial grounds. I made it clear to him that this was rather isolationist, and he eventually agreed, and I got him to admit that in the end, he would be happy if our economy just consisted of dollars, goods and services chasing each other and circulating within the confines of the United States only, with no imports or exports.
That was my response I heard what he thinks I should have paid for my truck, but the proper answer to such a thing is, "What right to you have to tell me that?"
I could go on and on about the practical, but more superficial, reasons why tariffs don't work the way the people who devise them think they will and how they have all kinds of unintended consequences. I could say that throughout the history of economics this has been the case, and if only I could show him that history, he would see the truth.
But there is a more fundamental reason to argue against tariffs. Tariffs are fundamentally, morally wrong. It is not moral to demand a tariff for any product or service, and it is morally corrupt for a government to enforce such a tariff. You cannot steer people's decisions the way you want. This is true not just for the practical reason that people tend not to be steered in exactly direction you intend them to go, but because it is ethically wrong to try to steer them in the first place.
It is not right to make people's choices for them. It is not justified, no matter how good your intentions are, to control people's purchases. Just because you're doing something that looks a little nicer than pointing a gun in their face and saying, "choose this, or else" doesn't mean you aren't using force to control the economy. It would be better if you put the gun in their face because at least that would be more honest.
This is a basic, fundamental part of a free economy, because it relates very closely to property rights. You cannot tell people where they spend their money and how much they spend, because money is property used in exchange for something else. It is fundamental to a truly free society. And true economic freedom is not just freedom within a very narrowly, arbitrarily defined box of whatever happens to be made in the United States, or Arizona, or Maricopa County. Economic freedom is freedom within the whole universe of available choices. Telling me I have economic freedom to choose within all products made in America is just telling me I have freedom to do whatever I want within four walls of a prison cell. How big that prison cell is is arbitrary, but it is still a prison.
Don’t get me wrong: I love America, I love being an American, and I DO believe in American exceptionalism. But I also believe, like Harry Binswanger, that “Buy American” is un-American.
If I have a hole to dig in my back yard, and I choose to hire someone for the job, it is MY job to offer. Not anyone else's. Not “Kevin,” not “Mike,” not my nosy next door neighbor, and not the local labor police. If I choose to give that job to a Mexican national, that is my right as a free human being to do so. The corollary to that statement is that the Mexican national did not "steal American jobs" by accepting my employment. The job did not belong to any American in the first place. It belongs to ME, and I can choose whoever I want and pay whatever I want for it. Jobs do not exist in outer space ready for the plucking out of the sky, for the taking of whoever feels they have the right to them. Jobs exist because an employer created them, and has them to offer to whomever will accept the terms, and if such a condition exists, both parties mutually benefit, and are grateful for it. No one has the right to claim the job as theirs until the agreement is mutual.
For someone else to disapprove of my choice of cars and to attempt to arbitrate the decision through tariffs, i.e. the use of government force, is to be the nosy next door neighbor, who is unhappy with my choice of hole digger, because he thinks I should have given it to the American, not the Mexican. The government and the neighbor are outsiders. They are third parties who have no right to tell me who I hire because it is my property to make what choices I see fit, whether I choose to do it myself, hire an American, a Mexican, a purple dinosaur from Mars, or even to not dig the hole at all. This is no different than choosing a Japanese auto worker to make my truck for me over a UAW laborer at Ford.
Anyone who took the time to think about what would happen if the US shut down all of its importing and exporting operations and who knew anything at all about economics would realize that is a bad, bad idea. There are too many things that people have outside the US that are beneficial to us, that cannot be made, grown, or mined in this country, and not at the same cost. Further, there are too many things we make here and sell overseas that provide a living to Americans. To think that we can shut this off and put a wall around the US is simply short sighted and naive. “Mike” seems to think that this would make Ford Motor Company better off, and the US would be better for it as well.
Anyone who employed just a moderate amount of thought should see this, but these are superficial grounds. The fundamentals are more important to understand, and once you grasp them, it is much easier to choose your values. I value freedom. I value prosperity. Therefore, I value a dynamic, global market economy full of people doing what they do best, trading that thing with all others, to the benefit of all.