Kal Draws is a video series put on by The Economist. Each of these cartoons takes a basic economic concept and attempts to illustrate it in a minute or two. Here is their cartoon on trade, take a look for yourself.
Not everyone needs to master economics to have a meaningful opinion about economics. So when a popular economic news source tries to pass off extremely biased and uninformative media as accurate information on basic econ terminology, it’s embarrassing.
There is some good information here. It’s true, trade does benefit countries. Theory and practice tells us that by specializing in the production of goods in which a country has a comparative advantage, in each country can be made better off. However, the cartoon becomes problematic about a minute in. Barriers to trade can be beneficial for a variety of reasons. Perhaps there are quality or health concerns regarding the trade of goods between countries, like the spread of disease or unacceptable labor practices in foreign countries. Sometimes a country will use certain policies to promote domestic industries, which could not compete against already established international companies without barriers to trade in the early stages of production. Economists call these “infant industries” and, without protection policies, countries could not hope to enter certain industries, particularly ones that require high costs or large amounts of capital in the beginning.
Certainly for a video whose purpose is to be informative, bringing out large missiles is unnecessary and gives people the wrong idea. It’s jumping to conclusions and seems to be used as a tools to promote an extreme opinion on the importance of free trade. The truth is that very few counties can look into their past and say that have always operated in a barrier-less market. Even fewer can say that they haven’t benefited from barriers to trade at some point. It is unfair now that we ask countries to operate in an open market especially when those who typically benefit the most are the most developed economies.
Trade is not the free market capitalist world this video makes it out to be and the first reaction to barriers to trade is not war, nor should we be telling people that they are. Smaller countries with lower minimum wages are not “stealing our jobs” and chances are they are receiving the short end of the stick. Even in a horribly biased video such as this, one can’t help but notice that the adult white business man has a ton of stuff and the poor asian child has, wait for it, a shriveled plant. And the child is portrayed as the enemy for selling t-shirts.
The argument of barriers to trade are not about whether trade barriers should exist or not. They do very much exist and will probably continue to exist for a long time. The debate is about the degree to which they should exist and in which industries they are appropriate. Notice that they are a matter of opinion and expressing that in a so called explanation of basic terms is an embarrassment to education.
If these cartoons were intended as satire for economists, then they could be funny. If you have a dark sense of humor and like to joke about war. The fact that individuals may find this and take it literally though worries me for the future of America.
Loggers, don’t be fooled. Know bias when you see it.