It is rather ungracious of me, I know, because only today I received a friendly comment from a Mr. John Gardner who appreciated reading a blog that was not rude about Mitt Romney - and now I am going to be rude about Mitt Romney! Sorry, but "truth will out". And no-one spells out economic truths better than Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek. I have not heard the presidential debates in full, only the excerpts on TV and the written commentary. However, one thing I keep picking up like a monotonous rhythm, is an anti-Chinese shtick which is decidely alarming because it comes regularly from both candidates! Once again, it seems, we are hearing the dim, dumb clamour of fear and loathing from the Great American Public (GAP) and it is being played upon by Obama and Romney, each attempting to wave the flag higher and more vigorously than their opponent.
Obama may be forgiven because he is, at heart, just another political shyster, this time one hiding behind what I suspect is a totally fraudulent academic record which provides him with a veneer of intellectualism - to the brain dead, that is! Romney, on the other hand, knows better, or should do, and thus his efforts to outbid Obama on how "tough" he's going to be with China is fraud of the highest, or lowest, calibre. As Boudreaux puts it, much better than me:
Each man insists that America’s economy can be harmed by inexpensive imports – in other words, harmed by opportunities for voluntary exchanges that lower Americans’ cost of living.
By promising to raise taxes on Americans who buy Chinese-made goods, Mr. Romney again promised to break his campaign promise to not raise taxes. That he is unaware of the contradiction isn’t promising.
Thus, the GAP (just like their British counterparts from time to time) are encouraged to support a politician who will increase their cost of living by banning cheap imports! I mean, would you vote for such a thing ? Oh! You did once - sucker! - how old were you?
Mr. Obama is no better. He bragged that he “saved a thousand jobs” with his “tough” trade action that – by raising taxes on Americans who buy Chinese-made tires – ensured “that China was not flooding our domestic market with cheap tires.”
By this logic, the President’s policy is inexcusably lame. If creating more jobs in U.S. tire factories justifies forcing consumers to pay higher prices for tires, the Obama administration should also outlaw the sale of used tires (which, like low-priced imports, are “flooding our domestic market”). Indeed, the president should seek legislation mandating that all rubber used to make tires be non-vulcanized. The resulting decline in tire durability will create even more jobs in U.S. tire factories by “protecting” our market from being “flooded” with cheap tire durability – that is, with tires that last for tens of thousands of miles before needing to be replaced.
If it was just economics (or 'freakonomics' more like) perhaps we might forgive them but their swaggeringly aggressive attitude goes dangerously beyond cheap Chinese imports. They are whipping up a war scenario. This time, to the surprise of my readers, I will quote no less an authority than Prof Paul Krugman, er, this is the earlier Paul Krugman, the one who appeared to possess considerable intelligence until he put it down somewhere and forgot it:
I believe that if the rhetoric that portrays international trade as a struggle continues to dominate the discourse, then policy debate will in the end be dominated by men like [protectionist author of The Trap, Sir James] Goldsmith, who are willing to take that rhetoric to its logical conclusion. That is, trade will be treated as war, and the current system of relatively open world markets will disintegrate because nobody but a few professors believes in the ideology of free trade.
And that will be a shame, because for all their faults the professors are right. The conflict among nations that so many policy intellectuals imagine prevails is an illusion; but it is an illusion that can destroy the reality of mutual gains from trade.
That comes courtesy, yet again, of Cafe Hayek and is a quote from a 1995 essay by Paul Krugman.
In my poor, meagre opinion, Sino-American relations are going to be absolutely critical during the first half of the 21st century. The sort of huckster boasting and bragging engaged in by both candidates will be watched with close attention in Beijing and may come back to haunt them - and us!