Saturday, January 22, 2011

McMORE McMISERABLE McMEGAN. I hate to get back to her so soon, but commenter Josefina directed me to this American Public Media Marketplace program featuring Megan McArdle, where she said this about the U.S.-China economic relations:
McArdle: I think that, you know, as China has gotten more successful and more powerful, you're just naturally going to see both from American businessmen and American politicians more hostility towards China, and indeed more hostility from them to us [? - ed.] and I think the sort of corollary to that is that, you know, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend," and as people worry more about the fate of, you know, competition from businesses outside of the United States, they're going to feel a little friendlier toward the businesses inside the United States, and I think that may be part of what we're seeing.
Ummm… okay. Then:
Host: But let me ask you this though, Megan -- isn't it true that we're sort of in this whole mess together, the Chinese and us, and we can spout off rhetoric and we can have Congress saying this about currency valuations and all that but, fundamentally, they have to love us and we have to love them.

McArdle: Y'know, I think this is one of the hardest concepts to explain in economics, no matter how often I say to people, "Why are you upset that the Chinese want to give us excessively cheap goods?" This is like a free gift from them to us*. And we should be like, thank you, happy birthday!

[chortles all around]

Heidi Moore: We have nowhere to put them!

Host: That's right, we're running out of storage space.

McArdle: That's definitely true in my house!

[Chortle, chortle, chortle]

But people really don't see it that way. They see it as these greedy foreigners conspiring to come and take our jobs. They don't look at the other side, which is that, when the Chinese come in and they're more productive, they enable us to have more goods for less work. Politicians aren't good at explaining it, they're not even necessarily good at understanding it, and that's led to a lot of tension on both sides.
Amazing, American politicians are not good at explaining why Chinese slaves making goods for 10 cents an hour, and bringing those goods at a low tariff to U.S. markets, are good for a job-starved American economy! Those politicians must be pretty dense -- McMegan gets it done with funsies and libertarian charm.

That whole "both sides" thing keeps coming up; Moore says "if we really step back and look, we haven't been good to China, either, and they haven't been good to us…" and then talks about how "we are not always in the right." In other contexts, trying to see both sides in a dispute between the U.S. and an unfriendly foreign power gets you accused of treason. But it's different when you're talking about arrangements by which rich middlemen stand to gain from the diminished bargaining power of American workers.

And they call us rootless cosmopolitans!

UPDATE. Susan of Texas informs in comments that McArdle addresses this issue in her own comments section. The whole thing is priceless, but here are two excerpts:
We'll leave aside the notion that lifting Chinese and Indian workers out of dire poverty is a despicable and disloyal act.
Again the idea that we Americans are just being greedy with our copious jobs, and need to be taught to share! I thought McArdle had off-loaded this particular brand of bullshit to Katherine Mangu-Ward.
The firms that move often feel forced to move because of competition from firms in lower-wage areas where the taxes and regulations aren't so onerous.
Taxes and regulations! Somehow I knew it would come to that. If citizens chafe at being told by libertarians that they deserve to lose their jobs to the Chinese because, unlike us, the plucky Sinos have the moxie to work for a handful of rice and exemption from beatings, maybe they'll go for it if it's restated as the fault of Big Gummint.

*UPDATE 2. Fixed two mis-transcribed prepositions here which made McArdle look even worse than she was.

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