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 Richmans' Trade and Taxes Blog

Tariffs to Balance Trade Do Not Violate Free Trade Policy
Raymond Richman, 8/20/2018

The media are all hyped up about trade wars. Where were they when the trade deficits showed up endlessly in the USA Gross Domestic Product accounts and slowed economic growth? They still do not mention them except to deride Pres. Trump when he mentions it. John Maynard Keynes, the famous economist, long a free trader, made an exception when depressed conditions existed in the markets for labor, writing that the trouble with free trade was the assumption “that if you throw men out of work in one direction you re-employ them in another. As soon as that link in the chain is broken the whole of the free trade argument breaks down.” He argued that labor would resist a cut in money wages. But they would accept a cut in real wages brought about as a result of rising import prices. However, he feared that the tariffs would become permanent. This problem is solved by imposing variable tariffs which diminish automatically as trade become balanced. We argue that balanced trade with rest of the world should be that appropriate goal.

Balanced trade is easy to achieve, not by tariffs on particular products, which invited counter measures by our trading partners but by scaled tariffs, single-country-variable tariffs, that work like devaluing a currency, the traditional method of achieving balanced trade. Our problem is with only a handful of countries. Countries that have huge chronic trade surpluses with the U.S. which in 2017 included China $ 375.6 billion, Japan $68.9 billion, the European Union $151.4 billion (including Germany $63.7 billion), and Mexico $70 billion. Balancing trade with those few countries would reduce our trade deficit over 80%. ...


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Legalize All Drugs and Tax Them As We Do Alcohol.
Raymond Richman, 8/16/2018

Nearly all of our domestic violence is caused by laws “prohibiting” citizens from what is popularly considered evil conduct: consuming drugs.  The U.S. government has spent more than $1 trillion on its war on drugs. In 2015 alone $36 billion was spent on the war on drugs and about an estimated $40 billion as the cost of imprisoned drug-offenders. In 2017, federal, state and local revenues from taxes on alcoholic beverages amounted to $10 billion. Revenues from taxes on the production and sale of drugs could easily be double that. ...


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Bretton Woods and Balanced Trade
Jesse Richman, 8/13/2018

In a recent piece in Project Syndicate, Roger Farmer gets some things right and some things wrong in assessment of the link between globalization, populism, and trade.  What he gets right, first, is the significance of the end of the Bretton Woods system of exchange rates in shaping the modern era.  

"After World War II, the world adopted the Bretton Woods system, whereby countries maintained fixed exchange rates against the dollar, and capital was largely immobile at the international level. When tourists from the United Kingdom traveled to France, Italy, or Spain, they faced restrictions on how many francs, lire, or pesetas they could buy; and international investment was constrained by a pervasive system of capital controls."

And then the decline of the Bretton Woods controls as the harbinger of what has come since:

"With the breakdown of the Bretton Woods system in 1971, the world embarked on a bold new adventure in globalization. The result was a massive reduction in global inequality, as capital flowed to places where wage levels were a tiny fraction of those in Western democracies."

But his next rhetorical move assumes an answer in economic theory that does not exist: 


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  • [An] extensive argument for balanced trade, and a program to achieve balanced trade is presented in Trading Away Our Future, by Raymond Richman, Howard Richman and Jesse Richman. “A minimum standard for ensuring that trade does benefit all is that trade should be relatively in balance.” [Balanced Trade entry]

    Journal of Economic Literature:

  • [Trading Away Our Future] Examines the costs and benefits of U.S. trade and tax policies. Discusses why trade deficits matter; root of the trade deficit; the “ostrich” and “eagles” attitudes; how to balance trade; taxation of capital gains; the real estate tax; the corporate income tax; solving the low savings problem; how to protect one’s assets; and a program for a strong America....

    Atlantic Economic Journal:

  • In Trading Away Our Future   Richman ... advocates the immediate adoption of a set of public policy proposal designed to reduce the trade deficit and increase domestic savings.... the set of public policy proposals is a wake-up call... [February 17, 2009 review by T.H. Cate]