David John Marotta’s claim in a recent article (“Is ‘buy American’ un-American?” Aspen Daily News, April 21) based on Adam Smith’s principal of comparative advantage, that there is “no economic justification for regional self-sufficiency,” fails to recognize the primary foundation of Smith’s economic theory: the principal of supply and demand. There is a consumer demand for locally produced food products, and as long as such a demand exists so will the economic justification. However, Marotta would have us believe that such a demand is misguided and therefore detrimental to the macro economic system. This being the case, I suggest Marotta re-read “Wealth of Nations,” which clearly implies that the free market will quickly shrug off such external qualitative judgments.
If we are to delve into qualitative statements, the above demand is based upon the consumer awareness of the hidden health and environmental costs of a heavily subsidized, fossil-fuel based, chemically cultivated, and genetically modified industrialized agricultural system. It is a demand based upon the failure of the macro-economic agricultural system to provide consumer confidence in the sustainability of its methods and its failure to produce a product that a growing number of consumers want.
Further, David fails to understand that the principal of comparative advantage only exists among equally autonomous nations. One country rich in natural resources may supply another of greater industrial processing capability. But, this arrangement only qualifies as “comparative advantage” if each nation is permitted to freely negotiate the terms of trade. In the real world this does not happen; multinational corporations take ownership of both resource and the production thereof, and the impoverished host nation has little control over such arrangements. Opening up cheap labor markets via the destruction of local economies is hardly a “comparative advantage,” it is hegemony.