Walter E. Williams

The bottom line is that what's fair or unfair is an elusive concept and the same applies to trade. Last summer, I purchased a 2010 LS 460 Lexus, through a U.S. intermediary, from a Japanese producer for $70,000. Here's my question to you: Was that a fair or unfair trade? I was free to keep my $70,000 or purchase the car. The Japanese producer was free to keep his Lexus or sell me the car. As it turned out, I gave up my $70,000 and took possession of the car, and the Japanese producer gave up possession of the car and took possession of my money. The exchange occurred because I saw myself as being better off and so did the Japanese producer. I think it was both free and fair trade, and I'd like an American mercantilist to explain to me how it wasn't.

Mercantilists have absolutely no argument when we recognize that trade is mostly between individuals. Mercantilists pretend that trade occurs between nations such as U.S. trading with England or Japan to appeal to our jingoism. First, does the U.S. trade with Japan and England? In other words, is it members of the U.S. Congress trading with their counterparts in the Japanese Diet or the English Parliament? That's nonsense. Trade occurs between individuals in one country, through intermediaries, with individuals in another country.

Who might protest that my trade with the Lexus manufacturer was unfair? If you said an American car manufacturer and their union workers, go to the head of the class. They would like Congress to restrict foreign trade so that they can sell their cars at a pleasing price and their workers earn a pleasing wage. As a matter of fact, it's never American consumers who complain about cheaper prices. It's always American producers and their unions who do the complaining. That ought to tell us something.


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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