When Will They (We) Ever Learn?

June 7, 2017

With fond apologies to Pete Seeger, who wrote the song, and to the many, many others who sang it.

In 1776 Adam Smith wrote a book called The Wealth of Nations, which pushed the idea that the free market was the best market. His timing was perfect. We Americans were just beginning to prove that people could govern themselves.

We have, to a great extent, proved the value of a free market ever since.

OTOH, we often forget what we have built. We decide that we need a market that “protects” us from competition.

The simple truth is that we should buy from others—next door or across great distances—anything we can acquire more cheaply than we can provide it ourselves. Thus, we can compete by devoting ourselves to what we can do more cheaply than others.

Once again, we seem to have forgotten how well this works. We are now—yet again—speaking of tariffs, limitations on immigrants, and a jillion other things as if we never heard of the free market.

“When Will We Ever Learn” that we can’t prosper by building a wall around our country and selling things to each other?