... You may not have noticed, but last week was promoted as something called “Imports Work Week.” The celebrate the importance of imports in the U.S., a group of business associations led by the National Retail Federation (NRF) has released a study showing the many ways that imports benefit American consumers and businesses alike.
Cheaper prices are the most obvious benefit. “In the past decade, the price of television sets sold in the United States has dropped 87 percent. Computers have gone down 75 percent, toys 43 percent and dishes and flatware by a third,” the NRF’s Jon Gold explains in a blog post. “Why? The answer is easy – imports."
But the benefits don’t stop there, according to the study, which runs down how imports also help farmers, mom-and-pop businesses, working-class Americans, and even U.S. manufacturers. Here are a few of the groups that should love what imports do for them, per the report:
• Imports improve American families’ standard of living. They help families make ends meet by ensuring a wide selection of budget-friendly goods, like electronics we use to communicate and many clothes and shoes we wear, and improve the year-round supply of such staples as fresh fruits and vegetables.
• Imports support more than 16 million American jobs. A large number of these import-related jobs are union jobs, held by minorities and women, and are located across the United States.
• More than half the firms involved in direct importing are small businesses, employing fewer than 50 workers.
• American manufacturers and farmers rely on imports including raw materials and intermediate goods to lower their production costs and stay competitive in domestic and international markets. Factories and farms purchase more than 60 percent of U.S. imports. ...
Protectionism is one of the most persistent misunderstandings I encounter when talking about economics. What person wants to make everything the use ... car, computer, house, clothes, etc. ... or become an expert on any number of topics to live self-sufficiently ... medicine, climate, chemistry, biology, etc. At the micro-level of our personal lives, we intuitively understand that specializing in our work and then engaging in exchange with neighbors who specialize in their work benefits everyone involved. We seem to get that benefits multiply if we expand exchange beyond our neighborhood, to our city, state, region, and country. But somehow when expand the idea beyond national boarders, this understanding flies out the window.
Some will say their concern is international trade is unfair because workers in other countries get paid lower wages. But they are also far less productive. Given a relatively free market, as workers’ productivity increases, so does their wages. And while there are certainly some exploitive circumstances around the world, multinational corporations and their satellites typically offer some of the highest wages and have the most sought after jobs. There are challenges when societies of different degrees of development interact but I don't perceive that this is really the issue behind much protectionist thinking. Rather it is the abstract belief that our country will be better off our country made everything we consume, a standard we do not apply to our state, city, neighborhood, or family. And this is particularly problematic for the many who say they want justice for the poor but want to exclude the foriegn poor from networks of growing productivity and exchange.