BETWEEN THE LINES: Free trade is a misnomer

Often in life we accept what is told to us by the so-called experts and politicians without question. This can have serious consequences.

Take foreign-trade policy, for instance. For the past several decades, the American public has accepted the line that free trade is good for both importers and exporters.

At first blush, it certainly appeared to be, for it allowed us to purchase goods at lower prices. Unfortunately, it led to a serious trade deficit, especially with China. This resulted in dollars leaving the United States for other countries. They used it to buy U.S. debt (bonds) and buildings and other infrastructure along with corporations.

The end result is we have lost millions of manufacturing jobs through outsourcing. The U.S. has turned to the service industries for its salvation. It would be the high-tech industry that would bring us to the promised land. However, the world did not idly sit by. Over many decades, foreign students have come to our universities and taken what they learned back to their native countries.

The U.S. is lagging in math and science scores compared with other nations. I suggest those interested in delving more into the intricate details of foreign trade read "Why Free Trade Doesn’t Work" by Ian Fletcher.

The United States has no monopoly on technological innovation. The long-term effects of our trade imbalance, coupled with our growing national debt, will inevitably lower our standard of living. The only politician with the courage to tell the truth, Rep. Ron Paul, has been branded either a fool or a heretic by the media.

The congressman from Lake Jackson has views on some issues that might be controversial, such as his stance on drugs. But since the 1970s, he has done his homework and read the economic literature. We are going to learn in the very near future the land of the free and the home of the brave is not bulletproof.

We have allowed the creative efforts of past generations to be sold off to foreigners, while leaving a substantial debt to be paid off by future generations.

The president — whether a Democrat or a Republican — Congress or the Federal Reserve will be helpless to prevent the inevitable economic contraction resulting from the coming deflation. The current economic models used by the majority of economists today fail to account for debt, a fatal mistake.

Unfortunately, we will have to learn our lesson the hard way. The length and the depth of the decline are yet to be determined. When it occurs, we will be in dire need of leadership that addresses reality, not trite campaign slogans designed to get votes.

Hopefully, one of the benefits of austere times will be a return to God and the principles espoused by our Founding Fathers. Difficult times provide an opportunity for people to reflect on the things that matter most.

The apostle Paul gave some sound advice to the church in Ephesus which we would be smart to follow: “Be very careful then, how you live — not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of every opportunity.”

Only time will reveal the future choices we will make.

Laughlin is a Christian Libertarian. He is an economist, teacher, father, husband and most recently a grandfather. He has written a weekly column for The Tribune for 13 years. He and his wife Gina reside in Meadowlakes. To contact him, email He is an independent columnist, not a staff member, and his views do not necessarily reflect those of The Tribune or its parent company.

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