Tag Archives: international trade

Country of Origin Labels Are False Advertising

Don Boudreaux makes good sense on why country of origin labels only tell part of the story of where a product comes from:

Yes, Mr. Hoch’s socks say “Made in Swaziland,” but who developed the computer software to operate the loom that wove the cloth used to make his socks?  Who designed the loom itself?  Who figured out how to transform crude oil into the elastic in the socks?  Who devised the method for pooling risks so that the Swaziland factory is profitably insured against fire and that the cargo ship carrying his socks to America is profitably insured against sinking?

Don concludes:

In fact, Mr. Hoch’s socks – and nearly everything else that he consumes – should be labeled “Made on earth,” for they truly are global phenomena.

Read the whole thing. Keep it in mind the next time someone grouses —falsely — that America doesn’t make anything anymore, or that Americans buy too many goods from foreigners.

Regulation of the Day 68: Ironing Tables

ironing table

Regulation begets rent-seeking. When government assumes the power to regulate imports, domestic firms will lobby to use that fact to their advantage.

Case in point: Home Products International (HPI), an American company, makes ironing tables. So does Hardware, a Chinese company. I personally have no idea which firm makes the better ironing table. That’s for consumers to decide.

Or at least it should be for consumers to decide. But it doesn’t always work that way in practice. HPI seems to have already made that decision for us.

At HPI’s request, the International Trade Administration will continue to add anti-dumping duties to the price of the Chinese-made ironing tables. That way HPI doesn’t have to worry as much about competing. Sorry, consumers.

Is this fair? Of course not. But all too often, it is how regulation works.

Regulation of the Day 50: Tires from China

Consumers have been buying a lot of tires made in China lately. Naturally, U.S.-based tire manufacturers are upset at their competitors’ success. Fortunately, there are two ways for the aggrieved American firms to ease their troubled minds:

1: Make better tires for less money. Give consumers a reason to buy American tires rather than Chinese. Compete, in other words.

2: Don’t compete. Too much hard work. Instead, persuade some politicians to place a 35 percent protective tariff on competitors’ tires. Price them out of the market. Then keep making the same old tires that people don’t want. If the tariff is large enough, you may even be able to raise your prices, even without raising quality.

This is a choice between raising the bar and lowering it. Unfortunately, U.S. tire firms and allied politicians have chosen to lower it. China, by putting up its own barriers to retaliate, is lowering the bar even further.

The really audacious part is that tire tariff supporters think they are really helping the economy. Raising that bar. Saving American jobs!

There is something very unsettling about the notion that an American job is intrinsically more valuable than a Chinese job. We are all human beings, are we not?

This is an ugly, ugly mindset. And it is one that politicians and tire companies have explicitly adopted. The burden is on them to explain why they think people who live in one country are more deserving of economic opportunity than people who live in another.