Walter E. Williams

I've written a nationally syndicated column for nearly 25 years. Columns critical of Social Security and handouts to farmers used to bring the angry self-serving mail. Now it's international trade. Let me address some of the issues raised.

First, it's misleading to say that the United States trades with Japan, China or England. Does one really think that the U.S. Congress trades with England's Parliament or the Japanese Diet? When I purchased my Lexus, I dealt with a Japanese producer through an intermediary, the auto dealer. To my knowledge, the U.S. Congress and the Japanese Diet had little to do with the transaction, save attempts to sabotage it through regulations and taxes.

Now the question: What moral standard justifies third party use of force to prevent an American from exchanging with whomever he pleases, whether that person lives in Montana, Mexico or Japan? Some might rejoin: Through trade restrictions, other countries don't permit their citizens to trade freely. That's true, but should we support the notion that, for example, since the Japanese government doesn't permit its citizens to be free the American government should retaliate by denying its citizens the right to trade freely? Is your answer yes or no?

Here's another thought to ponder upon. Because of restrictions on the importation of rice, so as to benefit rich Japanese farmers, Japanese citizens pay four times the world price for rice. Should Congress retaliate by creating restrictions forcing Americans to pay four times the world price for rice or some other commodity? Yes, or no?

One writer lamented that there's a deal in the works to permit Vietnam to sell millions of cotton shirts and slacks to Americans. "But we never hear about what Vietnam will buy from us." Let's look at this: When a Vietnam producer sells an American a shirt, he gets dollars in return. What's he going to do with those dollars: hide them in a mattress, paper the wall with them or just cherish them? It'd be great if foreigners did that; we'd have near heaven on earth. We'd simply put a few Americans to work printing dollars, and the rest of us could live lives of Riley whilst the rest of the world labored and shipped us Lexus, Mercedes, caviar, steel, clothing and other life-comforting goodies all in exchange for these wonderful little slips of paper called dollars.

Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
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