America not losing ground on commerce
Alan Tonelson and Peter Kim's recent Perspective, ``U.S. losing ground, even in U.S.'' [Feb. 5, Page 6] bore a curious headline. Since the Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis has been reporting continuous industrial growth, even in the last year of the 2000-2002 recession - including sales, value added, capital investment and average worker income - why would Tonelson and Kim think the U.S. is hurting?
The mystery was solved when they revealed that ``losing ground'' to them meant seeing that imports had gained ground against exports in selected industrial sectors. If one subscribed to mercantilism as a measure of industrial health, these comments might have some merit. However, mercantilism is a 16th century theory that has been rejected by most modern economists - from Adam Smith to Milton Friedman.
If all we need to ensure prosperity is to slam the door on imports, the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act would have resulted in an economic boom. Instead, the U.S. and most of its trade partners sank into the Great Depression, as international trade nearly ground to a halt.
It seems strange, but some people apparently have trouble understanding that protectionism only begets more protectionism. U.S. manufacturing is a great deal more than the surplus balance of trade that it does or does not generate. Germany perennially exports roughly one-third more than it imports - but it also has an economy that has grown less than 1-2 percent since 2000, a small fraction of the U.S.' economic growth. Clearly, our free market has been sorting out efficiencies and advantages far better than the German ``managed'' economic model.
Companies do buy from overseas if it is to their benefit. Is this really more harmful than buying from a supplier in another state? Yes, this creates constant change, and change is often as painful as it is beneficial. Nevertheless, I don't think we really want the government to be picking economic winners and losers. Its track record is miserable at doing so and, worse, it inevitably leads to corruption.
Roger F. Jones
Franklin International LLC
Key to success: Work with the stakeholders
I read your editorial titled ``Green may be good for all in the long run'' [Grace Notes, Feb. 19, Page 6]. I applaud you for bringing the critical stakeholders together to discuss issues so each can gain understanding of the other's point of view.
NatureWorks LLC has been in numerous dialogues around the world with stakeholder groups during the last several years while working to commercialize NatureWorks' polymer. We have found that being open to the input and criticism from stakeholders - who traditionally have not been part of the commercial process for plastic resin manufacturers - can help us develop a much more robust and sustainable business in the long run.
In the process of seeking to understand their positions, we can also help them understand ours. While we may not agree in the end, it helps move the conversation from sound bites to dialogue.