02/13/2018

Dave Chappelle Understands Free Trade Better Than Most Politicians

Allan Golombek, Foundation for Economic Education

Dave Chappelle is a great comedian. But he may be an even better economist. He certainly understands free trade a lot better than some of the people who are currently in charge of directing U.S. trade policy.

In a recent comedy routine, Chappelle provided a succinct explanation of why it makes more sense for the United States to import some goods from China rather than try to pursue a protectionist trade policy aimed at producing everything domestically.

Chappelle summarized President Trump’s position vis-à-vis China: “I’m gonna go to China, and I’m gonna get these jobs from China and bring ‘em back to America.” Chappelle then interrupted his Trump soliloquy, asking: “For what, so iPhones can be $9,000? Leave that job in China where it belongs … I wanna wear Nikes, I don’t wanna make those things. Stop trying to give us Chinese jobs.”

Chappelle’s words of wisdom should be inscribed on plaques to be placed on the wall in the White House, the office of the US Trade Representative, and the Department of Commerce — and the trade ministries of some other countries. The reason people buy imported goods is because they feel they are getting a better deal for their money than if the product was made domestically.

Would it make sense for us all to make our own footwear, assemble our own smartphones, grow our own food, and — for that matter — build our own homes? If we tried to do that, where would we get the time and energy to treat cancer, create new technologies and medications, or give Pilates lessons? If we had to make our own iPhones and Nikes, would we be able to afford to buy them? And what would we have to give up to be able to?

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