Home > Uncategorized > Doubting the benefits of trade: a somewhat fuzzy discussion.

Doubting the benefits of trade: a somewhat fuzzy discussion.

There is a somewhat fuzzy discussion going on about exports, imports and the economy: are (net) exports (imports) good for Australia a country, or not. Look here. And here. It is a complicated question, which made Steve Keen state: “I don’t want to see, and obviously won’t tolerate, further arguments about exports as costs and imports as benefits. I want to see a detailed double-entry bookkeeping exploration of the monetary (and capacity-utilization/real GDP/physical) implications of trade surpluses and deficits“. The good news: such systems are available. No need to invent them. ‘Supply and use’ tables which also keep track of physical flows are alive and kicking, see graph, source here. Same for input-output models, here a bit on the influence of exports on German employment.


The bad news, they are actual not double bookkeeping but manifold bookkeeping efforts: a selling company, a buying company, the bank of the selling company and the banks of the buying company as well as a ‘nature’ account which keeps track of different non-monetary flows of natural inputs and outputs. Here, I will concentrate on the physical implications.

To state this in normal langauge: if you’re an oil exporter, the argument that exports could have been used for domestic consumption and are a cost is silly (the argument that stocks of oil are depleted however isn’t). But the argument isn’t silly in the case that grain is exported during a famine. This might add to the income of some people – but others literally starve. The classical example is Ireland where, in the winter of 1846/1847 400.000 people died while food was exported until the spring of 1847. Note that in this case it is not about net exports or imports: every sack of grain not exported would have ameliorated the domestic situation. Returning to the money economy: exports can of course also be needed

  • to earn foreign currency
  • to enable companies and economies to reap benefits of scale (the Rotterdam harbour, Danish windmill production).
  • And an increase in the current account surplus might also lead to an increase of employment, as long as this increase is not caused
    • by price developments (oil)
    • or by an increase of labour extensive exports while labour intensive products are imported.
    • it is however totally possible that a country with a sizeable current account surplus also has high unemployment. Germany until 2017 is a case in point.
    • An increase in foreign earnings can however easily be thwarted by an inflow of foreign credit which, later, has to be paid back (possibly when your own money is devaluated). This is very complicated, I advise readers to read Brad Setser about this. My own stance on this is influenced by the very short time it took (a couple of years) for many countries in eastern and southern Europe to go from sustainable current account deficits of 3 or 4% of GDP to deficits of 10, 15 or even 20% of GDP – deficits which of course have a counterpart in unsustainable surpluses in countries like Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark.
    • Aside of this: an individual company might need a foreign customer to survive.

Basically, input-output tables enable economists to gauge the influence of (important) sectoral exports or imports on the economy. Which does require knowledge about the labour intensity of exports and imports – information which is, however, available. There is not need for fuzzines. And, important: we do have to look at the dynamic side. How do exports, and imports, influence an economy over time. Last point: I assume all participants in these kinds of discussion agree that we don’t need German style current account surpluses in combination with an economy close to full employment is unsustainable and not the way to go ahead.


  1. May 28, 2018 at 10:40 am

    In essence, all these discussions about the benefits of international trade are vitiated by a lack of understanding on both sides with respect to what is the actual basis of international trade, and what is the proper rule for international specialisation. This explains the fuzziness of the debate.

    Curiously, both sides are misled by the support or rejection of the same concept: the alleged law or principle of comparative advantage. This principle originated from a misinterpretation of Ricardo’s famous numerical example, consisting in the following: from Ricardo’s indication that the making of the cloth would have required less labour in Portugal than in England, it has been erroneously inferred that the Portuguese cloth had to have a lower cost of production than the English cloth. The fact is, though, that the English cloth was cheaper to produce than the Portuguese cloth. Thus, Portugal had no production cost advantage over England in cloth making.

    See here for the proof: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3095473

    Once this becomes clear, it is possible to restate the relative cheapness of foreign commodities as the actual basis of most international exchanges. The related rule for international specialisation is to acquire the cheaper foreign commodities whenever they cost less to buy than to produce locally. This is the actual rule for specialisation proposed by Adam Smith and David Ricardo. All countries benefit from following this rule.

    • May 31, 2018 at 9:28 pm

      “… from Ricardo’s indication that the making of the cloth would have required less labour in Portugal than in England …”.

      Reading Ricardo’s chapter 7, he appears to be discussing a hypothetical possibility, not facts.

      I hope other bloggers have noticed Merijn’s “here” links to Bill Mitchell’s argument and Steve Keen’s riposte. Bill is great on nominal vs real incomes. Steve baulked, like me, at Bill’s

      “Giving some real thing away is a cost. Getting some real thing is a benefit.”

      The giving may involve a material cost, but following Craig’s “fuzzy” line, the making may be instructive and satisfying, while the giving may raise your self-esteem and/or win you friends.

      As said below, the getting MAY be a benefit; there again it might not. Given financiers’ ability to manipulate exchange rates, any benefit is certainly questionable.

      And to those who might say “this is not macro-economics”, why not? It applies whatever the commodity, and modal logic (involving possibilities rather than facts) applies whenever one is considering future policies.

  2. May 28, 2018 at 12:49 pm

    Yes, in general terms, the most realistic models within economics (which is relatively speaking, a new discipline) have been based on a simple equation: garbage in, garbage out.

    On the German question, Germany is the homeland of the Euro, its full employment (when empty) can be restored all over again by populist ideologies, equipped with modern German technologies, new forms of slave labour, and, of course, labelled “Made in Germany” to ensure that trusted worldwide, all is sold without further questioning.
    One, as always, feels sorry for the German poor, the authentic, native or imported.
    The new German ruler should remember her own roots. The rest of us should invite her to join us in watching “Goodbye Lenin” – in German, so no English language translators (Trump and his/her fellow new English- speaking mates aside) are really needed. She is without a doubt a lady made of steal, and does share the same gender with her European neighbour, so hopefully while watching this lovely film together, Trump will not “grope” her. And if he must act on his insatiable male instinct, we can no doubt find many “grateful” Turkish bodyguards to save us all.

    • Robert Locke
      May 28, 2018 at 9:20 pm

      I wish you knew more about Germany. I’ve lived here 30 years of my adult life, sent my children through the German school system up through the masters, borrowed money to buy houses, and written a lot about Gernan education and management systems. Germany is one of the best European countries in which to live, that is why I, an American, and my wife, who is Polish, live here in this small city of Goerlitz. Don’t let your concerns about the Euro cloud your judgement. The economic system of financial investor capitalists that bought into the Euro is US and UK in origins. I’ve been tracking it for years, and German resistance to it in its local savings banks.

  3. Craig
    May 28, 2018 at 8:15 pm

    Over all I tend to come down on Keen’s point of view on this issue, but again, the entire debate takes place squarely within the current paradigm of Debt Only when if the new paradigm of Direct and Reciprocal Monetary Gifting were implemented neither the dominating mercantilist/export platform nor the manipulative reserve currency strategy of national economies would be necessary…because domestic economies would create sufficiently abundant individual incomes to maintain free flowingness….without having to resort to such.

    Furthermore, if nations didn’t have to worry about the negative monetary effects of unemployment due to a universal dividend and retail discount/rebate policies guaranteeing a satisfactory lifestyle, then they could industrialize/re-industrialize and therefore have even more robust and self sufficient domestic economies. And of course with abundant demand there would undoubtedly be much more employment…than if demand was left scarce anyway.

  4. Helen Sakho
    May 29, 2018 at 12:06 am

    Robert, I assure you (very sadly) that I do know a lot about the situation you described and I do appreciate and share your concerns and your own situation.
    You have my full personal and academic sympathies and support. Rest assured.

    • Robert Locke
      May 29, 2018 at 11:37 am

      Helen, I’m not some individual, but somebody living in German society, trying to understand it from a European viewpoint, who taught German, French, and British history in the US for thirty years before he came here to retire. At a symposium on International management in 1991, after I gave a paper two people approach me, independent from each other, one French, another Geraman, and said the same thing. “you really understand Germany (France), don’t you. Yes I do, from long years of living and studying two countries in which I was interested. In 1982, the President of the Ameerican Historical Association, in his Presidential Address about how well the work of American historians who write about France is appreciated by French historians, cited my work, French Legitimists and the Politics of Moral Order in the Early Third Republic. It is a considerable achievement to gain the respect of the native historians when you, a foreigner, write about their country. That rarely happens.

      That doesn’t stop people in Anglosaxon economics from writing “authoritatively” about other countries about which they know little and care even less. What do nonGermans care about German communities that are swamped by immigrants, who have no interest in Germany and German culture. It would be easier for Germans to welcome them if they did. I see this lack of interaction every day in Goerlitz, on the streets shopping, in the parks sitting on the bench. Alienated migrants, upset Germans. What we hear is a lot of crap blaming the Germans for not wanting to have the migrants upset their communities. My daughter, German educated, is married to a Morocaan and lives with him and my grandson Salim, in California. I do my best to greet Muslim migrants in the parks of Goerlitz, but it is hard to do, especially for an American, living in Germany, where anti-Americanism is rife. Graciousness is not one of the traits one thinks about when living with Germans, but kindness is. Ken writes a lot about the complexity of culture clash, which is what is going on in Germany. So lets have a little more sympathy for the Germans who are trying to deal with the consequences in their communities of the breakdown in Civilizations in the Middle East, brought about by murderous great power interventions.

  5. Calgacus
    May 29, 2018 at 9:21 pm

    merijntknibbe:It is a complicated question:

    No, it isn’t. Not the main questions being discussed at billyblog. They are extremely simple, could hardly be less fuzzy. One side is speaking bizarrely, one side, Bill Mitchell, MMT is saying something utterly trivial, that is implicit to the concept “export”. I think you may understand things too well to realize the craziness of the non-MMT side.

    If you don’t think exports are a cost, and imports are a benefit, you simply are not speaking in English. You differ with every businessman, every importer, every exporter in the history of the world.

    Steve Keen now says: I do not deny the proposition that “Giving some real thing away is a cost. Getting some real thing is a benefit”: that’s obvious in a materialist world.


    But also:
    What I do deny is that this proposition has any relevance to either macroeconomics or trade theory.

    This is even crazier! It is really, really, really, really important to not randomly change the meaning of very basic, common words and then pretend you didn’t. It is absurd to deny the “relevance” of words and concepts (“give”, “get”, “cost”, “benefit”, “trade”, “export”, “import”) you constantly use and must use to treat the “complicated questions”, and the propositions implicit in their use.

    You have to understand and clearly describe the simple questions and concepts to even pose or explore the complicated questions of macroeconomics and trade theory . If you do the simple stuff really right, then the complicated stuff usually become a piece of cake, for there is nothing as hard as the simple, easy, basic stuff.

    This raises one of my major issues with MMT: advocates know their own economic logic very well, but they seem to have little knowledge of compatible precursors to their views.

    Well, I posted links to 3 old books from 1946-1951 at billyblog that discuss these points.

    Robert Lee Gulick- Imports: The Gain From Trade- Carnegie Endowment (1946)

    Frank Graham, Abba Lerner- Planning & Paying for Full Employment- Princeton (1946)

    Abba Lerner- Economics of Employment- McGraw-Hill (1951)

    In an age of economic extremes, from dire depression to true full employment, from countries in ruins to great inflationary threats- basically all economists and thinkers back then, as these books note –

    (a) agreed that exports are a cost, imports are a benefit (always, by definition, with no qualifiers)
    (b) that it is was important to say these things – look at the title of the first book! Because people overthink things, make things more complicated than they really are, and “shift the blame onto others” . Here by misuse of language and concentrating on the complicated to the point that the simple, obvious and always true is forgotten and denied.

    This was the generation that build the tools, the bookkeeping systems, the input output tables etc. I think it is worth listening to them.

    • May 30, 2018 at 5:23 am

      I think that the distinction between costs and benefits with regard to exports and imports is not helpful at all.
      David Ricardo nailed it when he wrote the following:
      “I cannot agree in the distinction here taken, that the advantage in commerce is derived to all countries from what they receive, and not from what they send out. They in fact never receive any thing without sending something to pay for it, and it is the exchange which is beneficial. It is no exchange unless a commodity be given as well as received. I do not see how such a transaction can be separated into two parts and how it can be justly said that one part only is beneficial. What we get in exchange for our commodity really constitutes the price or value for which we sell it” (Vol. IX, p. 128).

    • May 30, 2018 at 9:20 am

      Calgacus, Merijn is right: it is a complicated question (though not answer).

      In response to Jorge, what Ricardo is NOT seeing is middlemen separating transactions into two parts, with they rather than countries benefitting from the resultant exchanges. Or perhaps he was just trying to prevent other people from seeing that.

      Calgacus, let me explain how I came to this understanding. I was programming computers, wishing to import and export data. The name of the relevant library procedure were OUT and IN. I was totally confused by this until I realised that IN was outputting from a reader or memory into the central processor, which sent results OUT to a printer or memory. What I had naively expected was my inputting data to the computer, but this convention was more scientific in that it required one to look inside the computer to see how it worked.

      “Basically all economists and thinkers back then” (even Marx) were followers of Ricardo, and either naively or deliberately got it wrong. For a couple of centuries free trading middlemen enslaved workers, while free trading moneymen milked the economy by alternating booms and slumps – to the point of almost killing the cow that supplied them with the honeyed milk. So a more intelligent Keynes recommended caring for the cow; but children have short memories and adults long ones, so idiots are back in charge and killing the cow very much back on the agenda.

      Agreeing “that exports are a cost, imports are a benefit (always, by definition, with no qualifiers)”, they have forgotten the first lesson of computing: “garbage in, garbage out”. We are importing containers, but what is in them? Britain imported Dutch elm disease along with foreign timber. Was it a benefit that it lost all its rich heritage of elm trees? The EU has imported Anglo-American economic theory encouraging financial speculators to incite childish idiots to tear it apart. Is that beneficial?

      You really think that “people overthink things, make things more complicated than they really are”, Calgacus? That it is sufficient to believe what it says on the box? I really don’t agree. The words ‘import’ and ‘export’ tell us nothing about the value of what is imported and exported. Advocating opening the box to see what is inside is not “complicating” the issue but pointing to the least that can be done – the minimum “complexity” of operations necessary – to distinguish what is beneficial from what is potentially destructive garbage.

    • Calgacus
      June 2, 2018 at 10:57 pm

      Jorge Morales, Dave Taylor: All of the points you make are treated in the discussion at billyblog and those old books. The point that if you really want to confuse yourself and your friends, then change the meaning of basic words and misapply basic concepts. And misread what other people say (MMT, Lerner, Graham, Gulick etc etc) when they speak correctly using the accepted meanings. Most of the criticism above is of that sort. One criticism that is not confused, but that is considered in the discussion is the stuff about dutch elm. In that discussion I noted that of course the usual phrase concerns goods, to be complete you should say “exporting bads are a benefit, importing bads are a cost.” But as Bill Mitchell notes, that tautology, that truism “doesn’t equate, as I have been reading the last few weeks, in a conclusion that MMT’s preference is for a nation to have a current account deficit.” MMTers & predecessors are much more careful than critics who vastly overgeneralize what MMT says.

      Dave Taylor:You really think that “people overthink things, make things more complicated than they really are”, Calgacus?

      Absolutely. Undersimplification, not oversimplification are the intellectual vices of the age, based on the idea that nothing is simple, that all the simple ideas were discovered long ago etc. It is based on enormous amnesia, enormous ignorance of history. The simple, most trivial things are usually the hardest and take the longest to discover and understand. That doesn’t mean they aren’t simple and trivial.

      Consider Aristotle’s distinction between the things that are simple to us (meaning what I would call “obvious to us”) and those which are simple in themselves. The great mathematician Andre Weil noted how any mathematician knows that saying something is trivial is not at all saying it is obvious. An even greater thinker, Alexander Grothendieck, said – praising himself when someone criticised an idea of his as trivial – said that of course that idea is trivial, all of my ideas are entirely trivial.

      • Craig
        June 2, 2018 at 11:23 pm


        “Undersimplification, not oversimplification are the intellectual vices of the age, based on the idea that nothing is simple, that all the simple ideas were discovered long ago etc. It is based on enormous amnesia, enormous ignorance of history. The simple, most trivial things are usually the hardest and take the longest to discover and understand. That doesn’t mean they aren’t simple and trivial.”

        With the slight disagreement that “trivial” should be “seemingly trivial” ….you and Aristotle are absolutely right, and that is precisely why the when, where and why of the policies of the new monetary and economic paradigm have been missed by all of the otherwise brilliant economic thinkers including Keen, Hudson and the major figures of MMT.

      • Craig
        June 3, 2018 at 1:56 am

        The universal dividend and the two discount/rebate policies will finally make fiat money systems work for all agents and resolve the major problems of financialization, chronic inflation, disequilibrium, debt deflation and austerity. The fears and “realities of Life” seemingly inherent in the old paradigm will get swept away by the new paradigm and its zeitgeist. That’s the history of human progress and paradigm changes.

      • June 3, 2018 at 2:45 pm

        Calgacus, re “You really think that “people overthink things, make things more complicated than they really are”, and your response: “Absolutely. Undersimplification … based on the idea that nothing is simple, that all the simple ideas were discovered long ago etc”, and your starting point: “if you really want to confuse yourself and your friends, then change the meaning of basic words and misapply basic concepts”.

        My point is that all the simple (in the sense of minimally complex) ideas WERE discovered long ago, but LONG AGO Hume changed the meaning of the basic word ‘motion’ from a physical phenomenon to things, i.e. observations of positions: reducing the meaning of the process word ADD from a parallelogram of directed forces to arithmetical addition. Oversimplification of a process word has had the paradoxical effect of making the real problem insoluble, resulting in complication (unfollowably tangled reasoning and therefore ‘overthinking’) instead of “simple complexity” (multiplicity systematically ordered by a simple (e.g. algorithmic as in arabic numbering) process.

        Demonstrably, Hume’s oversimplification can be reversed if the logic is dynamic (i.e. is not just a statement of observed relationships but actually forms the relationships observed). MODERN data processing was impossible before Algol68 took account of language level as well as numbers, producing an architecture in which the multi-user, multi-purpose operating system was distinct from the programs it was managing, and distinct programs likewise could be structured as a basic program repeatedly calling sub-programs only as required.

      • Craig
        June 3, 2018 at 5:53 pm

        Curiously, you are correct also Dave. New paradigm perception is not only a kind of ultimately integrative experience it’s also a looking glass straddling one because it brings a full and expanded consciousness to both the old and new paradigms. In fact a new conscious experience is a component part of new paradigm perception….very much analogous to the data processing example you presented that integrates thought and action, i.e. statics and dynamics. And of course that is exactly what the discount/rebate policies of the new paradigm do.

  6. May 30, 2018 at 9:46 am

    Dave, Ricardo was well aware of the middlemen. But you don’t take it from me. Read chapter 7 of the Principles and you will encounter references to merchants, like this one:

    “Every transaction in commerce is an independent transaction. Whilst a merchant can buy cloth in England for £45 and sell it with the usual profit in Portugal, he will continue to export it from England. His business is simply to purchase English cloth, and to pay for it by a bill of exchange, which he purchases with Portuguese money. It is to him of no importance what becomes of this money: he has discharged his debt by the remittance of the bill” (Vol. 1, p. 138).

    The mere presence of the middlemen has no effect on the benefits of international trade for a particular country.

    • May 30, 2018 at 3:19 pm

      Jorge, of course Ricardo understood the presence of middlemen; my point was his obscuring the consequences, probably deliberately. Your quote here confirms it. No mention of middle men in the monetary payment process (not necessarily compatriots of the producers), to whom it is “of no importance what becomes of this money”. Under British capitalist law a trader “has discharged his debt by the remittance of the bill”, but in fact the debt of Britain to Portugal is not really discharged until the merchant’s piece of paper has enabled the Portugese to [re]produce lives and goods of equivalent value. Because of the mercantile and financial monetary profit-taking it cannot do this without technical changes depressing prices to the producers, i.e. non-monetary costs to the environment and community of workers.

      The mere presence of middlemen, in short, has this “effect on the benefits of international trade for a particular country”. It affects what they import and export, they choice being determined not by what is of benefit to the country – what the people of the country need – but what is of financial benefit to cosmopolitan traders, who like Ricardo multiply their wealth by monetary speculation and renting out/trading shares of other people’s homes and livelihoods.

      Please excuse the rant, and thanks for the opportunity!

      • May 30, 2018 at 7:12 pm

        Dave, you just have to continue reading to encounter the reference to the financial middlemen.

        “If the markets be favorable for the exportation of wine from Portugal to England, the exporter of the wine will be a seller of a bill, which will be purchased either by the importer of the cloth, or by the person who sold him his bill; and thus without the necessity of money passing from either country, the exporters in each country will be paid for their goods. Without having any direct transaction with each other, the money paid in Portugal by the importer of cloth will be paid to the Portuguese exporter of wine; and in England by the negotiation of the same bill, the exporter of the cloth will be authorized to receive its value from the importer of wine” (Vol. 1, pp. 138-139).

        In case you are wondering what Ricardo meant by favourable market conditions for the exportation of wine from Portugal to England: “Thus, cloth cannot be imported into Portugal, unless it sell there for more gold than it cost in the country from which it was imported; and wine cannot be imported into England, unless it will sell for more there than it cost in Portugal” (p. 137).

        This voluntary exchange is evidently beneficial for the consumers in both countries. It is also beneficial for both countries because the respective imports would have cost each country more to make than to buy.

      • May 31, 2018 at 8:33 am

        Yes, Jorge, but critically, note how RIcardo now makes no mention of profits, nor of the workers who are supplying the goods. You should read the accounts of some observers of the contemporary scene: on the agricultural side William Cobbett, who encountered the Ricardos during his “Rural Rides”, and on contemporary conditions in the cloth-making factories, Walter Greenwood’s “Lancashire”.

        Of course exchange of what is surplus and/or different in the produce of each country may be beneficial, but that does not justify the production of surplus for export at the expense of necessities for home use. Nor does it necessarily apply to the flora and fauna of the countries: think not only of Dutch elm disease in Britain but of rabbits in Australia.

    • Calgacus
      June 6, 2018 at 5:05 am


      I cannot agree in the distinction here taken, that the advantage in commerce is derived to all countries from what they receive, and not from what they send out. They in fact never receive any thing without sending something to pay for it, and it is the exchange which is beneficial. It is no exchange unless a commodity be given as well as received. I do not see how such a transaction can be separated into two parts and how it can be justly said that one part only is beneficial. What we get in exchange for our commodity really constitutes the price or value for which we sell it

      Jorge Morales Meoqui: Ricardo is either talking nonsense or agreeing with the phrase in dispute.
      “it is the exchange which is beneficial.”
      Nope. It is what each party gets through the exchange that is beneficial to them. Otherwise, why don’t traders exchange item A for item B and then throw them into the ocean or burn them to spare the bother of lugging them home? After all, they just got the benefit – the exchange. [Nobody, no MMTer or 1946 FFer disagrees that trade / exchange can be and usually is mutually beneficial, makes both parties better off than otherwise, that the middlemen mostly don’t matter. I agree with you and Ricardo not Dave, who I don’t really understand here.]

      Ricardo is saying that he cannot say things that he is in fact saying :
      I do not see how such a transaction can be separated into two parts and how it can be justly said that one part only is beneficial.
      He just did separate the transaction into two parts- when he uses the word “exchange” (defined as “giving one thing and receiving another” from a quick google), or even “transaction”, when he uses the words “what they receive”, “what they send out” etc. It is like saying “This sentence is not in English.”, The statement falsifies itself.

      What we get in exchange for our commodity really constitutes the price or value for which we sell it.
      Sure, but that is either irrelevant – or just another way of saying “exports are costs, imports are benefits”! What Ricardo is wrongly objecting to is a more fine-grained analysis that underlies his analysis, but does not contradict it. Or he just doesn’t understand that these others are saying exactly what he is saying. All that MMTers and the books I linked are trying to do is to restate the extremely obvious, things you have to be insane to disagree with, as crazy as disagreeing with “exports are exports”. One of those book’s editors, Frank Graham elsewhere encapsulated a definition of economic thinking by Keynes, as “economic thinking” = “tautological transformation”. That’s exactly what this is.

      Why do MMTers et al restate the obvious, tell people what they already know?
      Two reasons [other reasons are given in those books]:
      (i) they have sophistimicated arguments and conclusions that are based on these as premises and they are trying to go slowly and be careful. That’s how mathematicians work, for instance.
      (ii) In the past month, I have come across people arguing (a) that deflation is inflationary (b) that prosperity causes (or is) depression and (c) two separate authors, a columnist and an economist saying that if the government spends a lot of new money on new jobs in a poor area – this will make all the local businesses go broke.

      The problem with economics is that everyone really does understand it – almost all of it – much too well. So people talk about it and think about it at warp speed and never slow down. And so they dispense with thinking about the extremely obvious tautologies and then proceed to argue things like a, b, c above at warp speed – and never notice that their arguments and conclusions would make kindergarteners giggle.

  7. Helen Sakho
    May 31, 2018 at 3:17 am

    Robert, would you please look up my detailed comments and recommendations to the current French rulers on Morocco posted here (somewhere on this blog) just days ago?And, if you so wish, a detailed, true story under my name (migration stories.wordpress.com) which is dedicated to my Moroccan students some years ago? I taught as a volunteer lecturer…
    I mention these bits as they are open knowledge on the net, and shall stop at that.

    • Robert Locke
      May 31, 2018 at 6:22 am

      You comment to my concerns about Germany, with comments about Morocco. When I have an interest and knowledge about Morocco (meaning of history and arabic) I’ll goggle you. Without it I won’t, because I don’t trust social science.

  8. June 5, 2018 at 10:58 am

    This may be a disappointment to economists, but trade whether domestic or international is uncertain both in form and results. In this it is the same as all other aspects of human society. Trade is more than just an exchange of goods for goods, or money for goods. It is mostly a cultural event involving political motivations including control of people and regions of the world, religious and philosophical beliefs, personal goals and fears of those directly involved in the trading, and of course science and technology both in providing the means for trades and merchandise that is traded. There is but one constant about trade in human history – it always benefits the rich and powerful members of society and punishes the non-wealthy and non-powerful. In Feudal Europe grain planted, tended, and harvested by slaves was turned into silk for the lord’s family, iron for the lord’s weapons, furnishings for the lord’s castle, spices for the lord’s meals, and better farming implements (e.g., iron-tipped plows) to increase the harvest to expand all of these. The initiation of science and democracy lead to a counter tendency. An effort to share the benefits of trade more widely. That movement has expanded and declined periodically over the last 400 years. Capitalist theories created several stylized versions of trade involving markets that were and are inconsistent with many aspects of historical trade arrangements. Economists attempted to create markets consistent with these theories. Most failed.

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