Since Adam Smith wrote and released his brilliant The Wealth of Nations, we’ve been told that the economy needs to globalize. “Comparative advantage,” “building a global community,” lifting up disadvantaged communities, and a host of other, equally dumb reasons are provided as reasons why.
The only one that ever made much sense was comparative advantage, the idea proposed by Smith. While a business owner shouldn’t much care about using his factories to make some village in Southeast Asia better off and should instead worry about enriching his shareholders, all of us can theoretically see the advantage to be gained from letting each community focus on producing that which it can best produce.
As Smith put it, “If a foreign country can supply us with a commodity cheaper than we ourselves can make it, better buy it of them with some part of the produce of our own industry, employed in a way in which we have some advantage.“
True enough, I suppose, in a vacuum. As anyone who has taken Econ 101 can recite, if Portugal can produce 100 bottles of wine or 40 bottles of wine and 40 units of wool, and the Scots can produce 100 units of wool or 40 bottles of wine and 40 units of wool, then everyone is better off. Theoretically, at least. Hence the push for free trade and globalization; they take advantage of all the world’s competitive advantages.
The problem is that we don’t live in a vacuum. Other, often hostile, governments have their say in the matter, as do random events.
Take pharmaceuticals, for example. Almost all of America’s production capacity for simple but lifesaving (or at least headache-ameliorating) drugs like Advil and Tylenol has been offshored to Red China. That made them cheaper, as Chinese factories “get” to use what amounts to slave labor, and can thus drive their prices ever lower.
But, and this is a significant but, what if Red China decides not to ship us the drugs our factories over there are producing because it needs them or wants to hurt us?
Well, then China gets its hundred units of lifesaving drugs and we get…whatever ephemeral benefit free trade with the New Evil Empire was supposed to provide. It’s okay that you have a splitting headache or can’t drive your fever down because…some BlackRock executive was able to line his pockets. Yay.
Oh, and this actually happened.
At the outset of the Covid pandemic (caused by China), China wouldn’t ship us the drugs and medical equipment our factories in China were producing. But Larry Fink is doing quite well, mind you, so it all works out.
And now we’re seeing the other issue with Smith’s theory: the goods themselves must actually be shipped and, if a grain of sand gets in the immensely complex global economic system, everything gets thown off balance.
If an avalanche of sand is poured into the system because of a “global pandemic” or incompetent captain sticking his ship sideways in the Suez canal, then you get pure chaos, as we’re seeing now at ports around the world, especially LA.
And what does that chaos lead to? An erasure of the benefits you were supposed to gain from globalization and maintenance of all the negatives.
Now that America’s heartland factories have been wiped out by the leftist and Conservative, Inc. politicians and theorists, we can’t produce goods we want or need, so we have to wait for the CCP’s cargo ships to dock and offload the TVs, cars, or whatever other goods were supposed to be cheap but now aren’t. Cheapos wanted to pay $600 for a TV rather than $700, so now our industrial centers are hollowed out and any little bump in the global trade system leads to Soviet-style shortages. The wages of globalism are, when trouble comes, empty shelves.
But there’s a way out: buy American!
Cars made in Detroit rather than Seoul or Tokyo don’t get stuck on cargo ships traveling across the vast Pacific. They can be shipped to you on a railroad or, if worst comes to worst, you can go pick one up from Motor City. Not ideal, perhaps, but better than delays.
Beef cattle raised in the prairies of Texas and fields of the heartland can be slaughtered and distributed from here in America. Those raised in Argentina and Brazil have to make it a long way before you can have your hamburger.
And microchips, the beating heart of the modern Industrial Revolution? If they’re made in Taiwan you have to deal with those non-unreliable cargo ships, not to mention the specter of Taiwan’s “reunification” with the mainland. If they’re made here at home, they can be produced at a foundry in Virginia, shipped by rail or carried by truck to Motor City or Silicon Valley in a few days, and popped into whatever good they’re being used for with little trouble. Chinese warplanes aren’t penetrating America’s ADIZ, after all. Oh, and they can’t sneak nasty code into American chips, whereas we have no idea what’s in those coming out of Chinese foundries. That national security threat is quite well covered in the brilliant Ghost Fleet.
Ditto all that for American crude rather than Saudi oil, American grains rather than Brazilian soybeans, and Boeing jetliners rather than Airbus passenger planes. If you buy American, the only troubles you need to worry about are America’s domestic issues, problems we’re all, at the very least, somewhat familiar with.
If any component of your desired product is made in the CCP, Thailand, or Kuwait, well then you need to rely on everything working out halfway around the world, the international supply chains not experiencing a single delay, no port or canal having an issue, and the good being shipped to you without interference from Chinese bureaucrats or Iraqi invasion.
Right now, Americans are witnessing empty shelves for the first time in a long while, if not ever. Such things are supposed to happen in the Soviet Union, not America. But they’re happening in Biden’s America.
Globalization is to blame. Those ships unable to dock would be irrelevant if we pursued a policy of economic nationalism. Chinese threats against Taiwan (a leading producer of semiconductors) or an Iraqi invasion of the Gulf would be irrelevant, from an economic perspective, if we built American microchip foundries and pumped sweet Texas crude. With economic nationalism, our shelves would be full, our jobs would be secure, and our revenues would be stable.
Sure, costs might be a bit higher, but who among us is so cheap they’d prefer to see an American out of work and a communist in Red China employed that they’d prefer to buy from the CCP than the heartland? And if such a pinko does exist, does he really deserve to call himself an American?
So, want to avoid the economic issues of the present as we progress into the now-cloudy future? Buy American and demand those businesses you support reshore their supply chains. It’s easier to manage a railroad, after all, than a network of shipping lanes that spans the world and all its random issues and threatening states.