An Economy Without Borders

I have been thinking about the issue of outsourcing, foreign labor, etc…and I don’t understand what the big deal is. Borders between countries are political, purely political and nothing more. Borders are irrelevant to our economy. The world is one huge “latticework” as Rothbard said, and it doesn’t matter if one place is called “China” and another “America.” It is all about division of labor and allocating our scarce resources, time, and labor to the most valued ends. I’m going to employ some reductio ad absurdum now…

Here is what we often here people say: By buying things from other countries, jobs are lost in this country. We become weaker and they become stronger. Someday they’re going to come take us over! (Okay, that last sentence is a valid point, it is highly likely that someone is going to want to “take us over” someday, but it won’t be because of Walmart or because they build cheaper, better items.)

So why not say: By buying things from other people (reducing the country to the individual), jobs (labor opportunities) are lost in my home. I become weaker by buying from the grocery store, and soon the grocery store will come take my house and make me their slave. (Okay, I am exaggerating a little.)

By having to grow my own wheat, mill it, make it into bread using machines and equipment I’ve made, by having to build my own house with trees from my land and using tools I’ve made from the iron ore that happens to be on my property, by having to grow my own cotton and flax and make my own spinning wheels, etc…to make my own clothing I am a stronger person. That situation is good because it gives me more labor and laboring is always good, no matter that I could be allocating it to a more efficient end, the labor is the most important thing.

That’s really what this whole nationalist argument about tariffs, China and outsourcing is about. And folks, I’m sorry to say this, but that’s just plain Marxist. Yes, it is, all of you who point to the White House and say, “Marxist!” and “Buy American!” in the same breath. Marx was all about jobs. Marx was all about creating more labor. The more labor we must do, the better. Never mind that someone else is better at building houses and I could hire them to do it while I wrote books because I’m better at writing. That is irrelevant. What is important is that I am working. To hire someone else would be to take away my job!

So maybe this will give you another perspective on the whole nationalist thing.

Note: I don’t mean to criticize someone who wants to become self-sufficient, there are very good reasons for doing that, but those reasons are not economic but probably religious, political, etc…it makes very little economic sense to become self-sufficient. If your goal is not to most efficiently allocate your labor but rather to survive a catastrophe or whatever, then going self-sufficient is a good way to achieve that end.

I also don’t mean to criticize those who want to buy only or primarily American goods. That is your choice. You ought to have the freedom to do that. You value the support you are giving to American companies more than the dollar saved by buying a cheaper Chinese good. That’s fine. But don’t force anyone else to do it. I won’t force you to buy Chinese goods, and you don’t have the right to force me to buy American. I respect those who want to be patriotic and all. I just want to say, 1) it doesn’t make economic sense to not use the division of labor more efficiently and 2) no one has the right to tell me what country to buy from.

That’s all 🙂

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