People who live in different countries are divided by a political boundary, but boundaries are accidents of history or the results of politicians' arbitrary decisions. Political boundaries are economically irrelevant. When left free, people trade across them as naturally as they do across state lines. Trade is trade. Buyer and seller both benefit. "Thank you." "Thank you ."
If you're worried about a trade deficit with, say, China, imagine that China became the 51st state. We'd immediately forget all about that so-called deficit. Who cares if New York runs a trade deficit with Pennsylvania? As Adam Smith wrote, "Nothing . . . can be more absurd than this whole doctrine of the balance of trade."
Sheldon Richman expands on these ideas in The Freeman magazine, writing, "In reality, then, there are no imports and exports. There is only what I make and what everyone else makes. ... Few people would want to live just on what they themselves could make."
Once we choose trade over self-sufficiency, we're just arguing about how big the free-trade zone should be. Since trade is always mutually beneficial, the answer is: The bigger the free-trade zone the better.
Worldwide is best of all.
Next week I'll report on the orgy of hand wringing and commerce-hatred fed by media reports of this month's new "record price" of gasoline. By the way, it's not a record.