Hornberger's Blog

Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
Here's the RSS feed or subscribe to our FFF Email Update to receive Hornberger’s Blog daily.

Trade Deficit Blues


Ever since the Christmas holidays, I have been unable to sleep. Every night I pace the floors in anxiety. The cause of my concerns? My purchase of a Christmas present for myself — an easy chair. No, it’s not guilt over my new comfort that is causing my distress. Rather it’s the fact that there is now an imbalance of trade between me and the company from which I purchased the chair.

You see, all my life I’ve been taught that an imbalance of trade is something really bad, something to be dreaded. So, here I went and spent hundreds of dollars on an easy chair from a retail company here in Virginia. Yet, at no time since then has that company purchased anything from me. We now have a serious imbalance of trade and there doesn’t seem to be any possibility that such imbalance is going to be rectified anytime soon.

In fact, if truth be told, that’s not the only reason I am now so nervous. While obsessing over the trade deficit between me and that chair company, I concluded that there must be an imbalance of trade between Virginia and Florida. Now, mind you, I don’t know which state is on the favorable end of the trade imbalance and which is on the unfavorable end. I just am certain that there has as to be an imbalance of trade between the two states.

My hunch is that given the popularity of Disney World, it is Florida that is winning out. But since I am an American, I’m concerned for whichever state happens to be on the losing end of the trade deficit, even if it’s Florida. Something has to be done to rectify the trade imbalance between our respective states. Isn’t it possible that the state on the losing end could be drained of all its wealth if the trade imbalance between the two states is allowed to worsen?

In fact, I’m shocked that the mainstream media doesn’t even report on the trade imbalance between Virginia and Florida on the front page of the newspaper. They seem to recognize how serious and how dangerous an international trade imbalance can be. After all, they never cease reminding us of the horrible dangers to America arising from the trade deficit with China.

I do find it interesting that the mainstream media never seems to be too concerned about those countries with which the United States has a favorable balance of trade. You’d think the media would be concerned about the people in those countries. But I suppose that since the mainstream media is composed of Americans, they’re only concerned with countries that are beating us, not the countries that we are defeating, in the never-ending trade war between nations.

Needless to say, all of above is written in the spirit of ridicule. The so-called trade imbalance is one of the most ridiculous notions that have ever been conceived. I don’t really pace the floors over the fact that the chair store and I have a trade imbalance, and I couldn’t care less about the trade imbalance between Virginia and Florida. For that matter, I couldn’t care less about the trade imbalance between China and the United States, or the trade imbalance between the United States and any other country, favorable or unfavorable. I just don’t care about trade imbalances.

Suppose the federal agency that reports trade data were to be abolished and that Americans were no longer kept apprised of the trade statistics between China and the United States. It would be the best thing that could ever happen. No longer would statist economists, public officials, and the mainstream media lose sleep over the trade deficit between the two countries. No longer would they be pacing the floors, night after night, worrying about what to do about the trade deficit.

Without all that trade data, the attitude toward trade between nations would be the same as it is between me and the chair company or between Virginia and Florida. No one would care. People would simply live their lives as they ordinarily do, making their purchases and conducting their businesses. Neither China nor the United States would fall into economic collapse over a trade deficit any more than Virginia or Florida (or any other states) fall into economic collapse owing to their trade deficit.

What really matters is the concept of economic liberty. Americans (and everyone else) should be free to buy whatever they want from whomever they want and spend or invest their money anywhere they want. It’s their money, after all. It doesn’t belong to the state or to society.

Forget the trade deficit between me and that chair company, between Virginia and Florida and between every other state, and between the United States and every other country. Forget international trade negotiations and treaties. Instead, just unilaterally repeal and dismantle every restriction on the freedom of the American people to dispose of their own money the way they wish. It doesn’t matter whether trade between individuals, states, or nations balances or not. All that matters is the fundamental, natural, God-given right of people to freely trade with others anywhere in the world.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.