PAUL SOLMAN: Well, what, though, would Adam Smith make of the current globalization debate?I call this strategy the Weimarica method: Just print more money a la post-WWI Germany and see what happens. Next up is his viewpoint on how things are in America in the aftermath of globalization. His argument is--I kid you not--"things aren't yet as bad as invasion-era Lebanon":
P.J. O'ROURKE: Well, there are two things that he would immediately say about current globalization debate, is that some of it is morally reasonable and some of it is practically ridiculous.
The practically ridiculous part would be about balancing trade. Any trade that is voluntarily made is mutually beneficial, by definition, and, indeed, is balanced, by definition.
It doesn't matter how many televisions and computers and pieces of stereo equipment the Chinese send to us, even if they're sending them to us only in return for some funny, little, green pieces of paper. That is a balanced trade. They got what they wanted: the green pieces of paper. We got what we wanted: the plush toys, the computers, the stereo components.
PAUL SOLMAN: But wait a second. But we're running a trade deficit.
P.J. O'ROURKE: No, there is no such thing. There's no such thing as a trade deficit. We've merely traded our currency, which is a sort of government IOU, for their goods...
Let's just say P.J. O'Rourke's work will not be on IPE reading lists anytime soon and leave it there! (PS: Here's the Human League's "Lebanon" for 80's fans.)
PAUL SOLMAN: But it's not the last 40 or 50 years that people who worry about globalization are referring to. It's the last 20 years, say. It's Toledo today versus Toledo in '85, I guess. It's the stagnation that has occurred as globalization has speeded up.
P.J. O'ROURKE: I don't see evidence of America being a poorer country than it was 20 years ago. I've seen impoverished devastation. I've seen places where things had been good and now they were very bad. I covered the Lebanese civil war, for instance. I could see a place that had once been prosperous and now was impoverished. I'm not seeing that in America.