Walter E. Williams

There are only a handful of products that Americans import that cannot be produced at home and therefore create jobs for Americans. Let's look at a few of them.

We import cocoa from Ghana and coffee from African and Latin American countries. We import saffron from Spain and India and cinnamon from Sri Lanka. In fact, India produces 86 percent of the world tonnage of spices. There's absolutely no reason these products cannot be produced by Americans, and we could be cocoa, coffee and spices independent.

You say, "Williams, that's crazy! We don't have the climate and soil conditions to produce those products. Many spices, for example, require a moist tropical environment." No problem. We have the technology whereby we can simulate both the soil and weather conditions. We could build greenhouses in which to grow cinnamon trees and get our scientists to create the same soil conditions that exist in Sri Lanka. Greenhouses could also be built to simulate the climate conditions in Africa and Latin America to grow cocoa and coffee. In the case of cocoa, the greenhouses would have to be Superdome size to accommodate trees as high as 50 feet.

You say, "Williams, that's still crazy! Imagine the high costs and the higher product prices of your crazy scheme." I say, "Aha, you're getting the picture."

There are several nearly self-evident factors about our being cocoa, coffee and spices independent. Without a doubt, there would be job creation in our cocoa, coffee and spices industries, but consumers would pay a much higher price than they currently do. Therefore, nearly 300 million American consumers would be worse off, having to pay those higher prices or doing without, but those with the new jobs would be better off.

So let's be honest with ourselves. Why do we choose to import cocoa, coffee and spices rather than produce them ourselves? The answer is that it is cheaper to do so. That means we enjoy a higher standard of living than if we tried to produce them ourselves. If we can enjoy, say, coffee, at a cheaper price than producing it ourselves, we have more money left over to buy other goods. That principle not only applies to cocoa, coffee and spices. It's a general principle: If a good can be purchased more cheaply abroad, we enjoy a higher standard of living by trading than we would by producing it ourselves.


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.'
 
TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Walter Williams' column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.