I have no pony in this horse race, but am on the sideline eating popcorn enjoying the show, extremely amused. I share much in common with both of these men, but have major differences with each of them.
Gary "Crotchety PhD in History and economics expert and don't you forget it" North takes on Vox "I want the world to know I am more talented than God" Day, in a battle of intellectual titans:
These two "Christian Austrian libertarians" are going at it over free trade. One is a Christian libertarian up to the point when OT law as interpreted by men, is canonized as constitutional law. The other, is what I call a sub-Christian and is libertarian only up to the point national interests are involved.
You can read the debates here, here, here,
In a nutshell, North argues from a philosophical and libertarian position on free trade, while Vox presents all the empirical evidence denying North's case.
Gary North is fundamentally right, both morally, and philosophically. The problem with defending North's position against the empirical is that the US has a federal reserve which can print an infinite supply of fiat currency at the stroke of a keyboard, and there is little corrective means to fix the imbalance of trade that a fiat electronic currency facilitates. I mean, if you have a proper monetary standard, and you export a NET $$ for goods, you will have a decrease in your nation's monetary supply, and deflationary pressure to correct the imbalance (too few $$ chasing too many domestic goods). Prices will drop in your country causing domestic goods to become more cost affordable, and a falling price level makes US goods more affordable to foreign buyers....(imports should fall, and exports should rise). If you export a NET excess of goods and take another country's $$ or Pounds, or Pesos, you will increase your money supply and experience inflationary pressure ( too many $$ chasing too few goods). This will cause a general price level increase. What if you don't want "Pounds", or "Pesos"? Convert them to gold; your country is on a gold standard, and there is always gold on the market for purchase for a country's currency at a market exchange. The point is: the market determines the price level of that exchange.
So as Vox argues, we have a goods/goods imbalance
which is bad (contrary a goods/goods balance
which I guess is good so long as they are capital goods), but as North argues, a goods/goods balance is not that different from a goods/(goods+capital) balance. . For North, arguing from a philosophical libertarian point of view, this balance (imbalance if you come from Vox's perspective), is done so voluntarily without coercion (I beg to differ). Vox wants coercion at the point of badge and gun to "level the playing field" in the direction of US national interest....so we can (I suppose) either kill the commerce altogether, or somehow tip this in "our" favor (ha ha). With this in mind, Vox can show all day and all night long how the trade imbalance and debt is undermining the US (destruction of manufacturing jobs, and the like). But keep in mind it's the Federal Reserve running the puppet theater. It encourages all the consumption spending on cheap consumer goods with cheap available credit coming from overseas. if, I think, the US bought mostly capital goods and a true supply and demand of money reflected the trade imbalance, Vox would be much more hard-pressed to come up with the data. Afterall, what would all those capital goods we purchased would be going towards making the US us more productive. And if one admits however you define money, it does have limited supply, there is a supply and demand curve to it. The Federal Reserve distorts this reality by papering over whatever deficit we run, while supplying all the fuel for the fire of consumer demand on non-capital goods.
Another analogous debate is seen with regards to immigration. If it weren't for all the government coerced wage floors, free education, health care galore available to illegals (not to mention price cuts on tuition for college), we probably would not have the immigration problem and we probably would not be arguing over building fences and deporting illegals, because as we have seen, as the US economy goes into the crapper, Illegals tend to move OUT of the US, helping to solve the illegal problem.
Its the wages, the freebees, and the government induced opportunities that keep them coming. So until we have a free market on currency (have ended the federal reserve) , on wages (no minimum wage), and no longer support a public dole, the empirical argument shows a fence should be built at great cost to the US taxpayer (when those dollars cold be used for more productive purposes) to keep out the riff-raff.
And while we do not have a free market nor free trade, with full-blown government intervention in every facet of the US economy, (much like the fence that needs to be built to divide Mexico, and the US), Vox wins the empirical
argument. But in the end, if the cures he and Pat Buchanan imposes are implemented, they will only shrink the world wide market to sell into, destroy opportunity, jobs, and create national isolationism hostility, and probably war. After all, as Vox admits, nations are in competition, and we all know what competition between nations mean when things don't go their way. I guess its guns and badges as Gary North concludes is exactly what Vox wants.
On an aside: I work for a company that sells more than 50% of its product to overseas customers (ICs that are purchased for industrial applications to improve productivity). So if Vox/Pat Buchanan types wins the argument and tariffs are adopted by the US, how long before retaliatory tariffs are answered in kind, what will become of my company's sales? Multiply that by other companies who do similar business overseas, and what will become of their sales? Will our sales grow? or shrink? Historically, how did tariffs impact the civil war? How does economic isolationism impact countries and human rights like China. Vox loses it on these kinds of arguments, and basically implies when Gary North shifts the field of play by looking at tariffs from a multi-dimensional perspective, North somehow misrepresents the pro-tariff crowds and is "lying". Sorry Vox, I don't buy it. And Vox failed to answer the charge except to say to the foreign competition "bring it on" Nothing good comes from this loss of liberty (voluntary exchange), but war, deprivation of human rights, fraud and coercion, and as North states, the badge and the gun.