On the Other Hand...

America First

by Jim Davies

Scorned as "reactionaries" or "isolationists", savvy or wealthy figures like Pat Buchanan and Ross Perot are demanding our attention with their insistence that Americans stop caring so much about the rest of the world and start solving our own problems first. Are they right?

Yes and no. It's amazing to me that these clever performers can so easily appeal to the gut-reaction of so many people, and get away in their polemic with nary a reference to the fact that we have brains as well as guts. It's really a heavy-duty insult to the intelligence of every American.

Foreign Aid, No!

Taxpayer-funded assistance to foreign countries is dead wrong and wholly unconstitutional (government is given no authority there to do it, hence is forbidden to do it), and manifestly harms the wellbeing of Americans. Money is taken out of our pockets and placed in someone else's; we become their slaves.

Worse, the "someone else" is normally not some set of individuals suffering under the heel of their own government, but those very governments themselves! The money you and I earn is confiscated by Uncle, and handed to the tin-god ruler of Ruritania for him to build himself a palace... or worse, a Welfare State in Ruritania. It goes on all the time.

Example: Brazil. The wanton destruction of the Amazon rain forest is not being done by Brazilian businessmen out of their own resources in the hope of profit, as we are led to believe, but out of government money laundered through the World Bank (read, the US Taxpayer.) Pull the plug on that worldwide Socialist Planning and Investment Service, and the Amazon would be developed piecemeal, bit at a time, wasting nothing, using capital generated by profits and invested with the utmost care by their owners with full regard to asset preservation.

Example: Japan, Korea and Western Europe. I lump these together because the type of aid being given at our expense is military, not cash. The Feds do (at present) have a proper function to defend Americans, but NONE to defend anyone else; not Kuwait, not Israel. And yet two thirds of our bloated military budget goes to defend prosperous countries like those.

The only visible benefit of this intervention by the Feds is that they, the Pols, get to enjoy exercising power abroad as well as at home. That's it!

The cost - the massive drain on the resources you and I produce - is obviously damaging us very heavily and it has to end. Military aid alone to foreign governments costs $200 billion a year, or $2,000 per year per household, on average. Could YOURS make good use of a $2,000/year tax cut? - Mine too.

Foreign Trade, Yes!

Just as individual Americans are plainly damaged by all governmental foreign intervention, done at our expense, we are each immeasurably enriched by non- governmental, unfettered foreign trade. Only, it's less obvious. We have to think about it a bit, and understand how wealth is generated, and prices kept low; and apparently Perot, Buchanan & Co think we're too dumb to do that.

It works this way. Suppose there are two stores in Town. Both sell a similar range of products, but the people at Store A work hard to keep it open for more convenient shopping hours, keep the place tidy, and charge less. Store B fails to do any of that. Over time, which store is going to do better? Okay, that's a no-brainer. Competition delivers better goods at lower prices, it's Econ 101.

But wait! The owner of Store B has powerful friends in the Town Government, and persuades them to write a few laws. The traffic around Store A poses a danger to pedestrians, emits too much exhaust that fouls the air, etc.; and look! it's taking business away from Store B and that means a loss of jobs and what do you know, the people who lose those jobs do vote, and guess who they will vote for at the next election. You know the way they work. Don't you?

So the Selectmen put obstacles in the way, requiring Store A to build costly new traffic-control systems and pay unemployment taxes. Suddenly, the owner can no longer show a price advantage. And who loses? You and I, his customers.

Now translate all that into terms of international trade. I'm a Ruritanian, and I can produce a barrel of good oil cheaper than the Texans can. Can I offer it for sale here in the US? - not if the Texans have anything to say about it! Not without import tarriffs and other costly barriers, designed to cancel out the price advantage. Who loses? - you guessed it. All of us, who buy oil and gas. There is no case in recorded history where unimpeded, free international trade depressed the living standards of an importing country. Cheaper goods mean money saved, perhaps thousands of dollars a year per family. In YOUR pocket.

But the converse is certainly true. I hold no brief for Al Gore, but when he held up that photo of Mr Smoot and Mr Hartley last Fall, he was exactly right: more than any other two men, those bird-brained politicos were responsible for the appalling suffering of the worldwide Great Depression. "Protectionism" d-o-e-s n-o-t w-o-r-k. It's been proven, time and time and time again.

Free trade is common sense; everybody does what he's best at, so everyone wins. Free trade in the long run even benefits the inefficient producer! For three decades Volkswagens and Toyotas poured in to the US, to satisfy a popular demand for cheap, small cars. They should have gotten the message far sooner, but eventually Detroit awoke: they smartened up their act, and are now competing well on price, size and quality. Foreign trade was the stimulus.

The common factor in opposing foreign aid but applauding foreign trade is - freedom. And I can't see but one group on today's horizon that has gotten its brain in gear on them both; and they are the Libertarians.

© Copyright Jim Davies 1999

Jim Davies lives in New Hampshire,
and enjoys contemplating which way is up.

The above is Edition # 35

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