Robin Hanson has a neat post up today:
- Trade dominance (Overcoming Bias)
Noting the level of hysterical China-bashing in the WaPo and NYT — and presumably other papers of
making up the record — Hanson remarks upon the fact that localism often consists of cutting off one’s nose in a particularly brutal way to spite one’s face:
Often, hostility to foreigners appears as opposition to letting locals buy stuff from foreigners. Yet sometimes it also appears as opposition to letting locals sell stuff to foreigners
Robin doesn’t see a particularly plausible reason for this:
Presumably this stupidity is due to some sort of psychology, but what? Why object to both buying and selling to foreigners? Can people really think both sides are hurt by a trade?
However, I’m cheeky enough to apply Hanson’s Razor to one of Hanson’s posts.
Trade indicates trust. If I buy from you, it’s because I trust you to deliver the goods (or services) upon which we’ve agreed without trying to cheat me. If you sell to me, it’s because you trust me to deliver the payment upon which we’ve agreed without trying to cheat you. As Voltaire wrote:
Go into the London Stock Exchange—a more respectable place than many a court—and you will see representatives from all nations gathered together for the utility of men. Here Jew, Mohammedan and Christian deal with each other as though they were all of the same faith, and only apply the word infidel to people who go bankrupt. Here the Presbyterian trusts the Anabaptist and the Anglican accepts a promise from the Quaker.
So if I trade with someone from China — either buying or selling — it signals a certain degree of trust. Hostility to trade signals hostility to trust — these people can’t be trusted, you shouldn’t trade with them. Simple as that.