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Home » Archives » May 2007 » Jack of fair trades?

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05/29/2007: "Jack of fair trades?"

Jack Layton, leader of the federal NDP is reported to be pushing the government for "fair trade". What kind of fair trade would that be, Jack?

The federal government must enact strategies to ensure Canadian products are traded fairly on an international market, he said.

"If Korea wants to sell cars here, they need to take ours."

Hold on a second. How exactly would that be fair?

Since the meaning of words is so important, let's look at the dictionary for a definition. The most relevant entries from are: "free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice" and "legitimately sought, pursued, done, given, etc.; proper under the rules". The American Heritage Dictionary entry on the same page adds: "Having or exhibiting a disposition that is free of favoritism or bias; impartial" and "Just to all parties; equitable".

So, Korea expends their resources to manufacture a car and sell it in Canada because they value our money more than they value their car, and we give them our money because we value their car more than we value that amount of money. This seems perfectly "fair" to me -- everybody is getting what they want out of the exchange. How can such an exchange be made more "fair" by forcing Korea to spend their money on cars that they don't want in exchange for the privilege of selling cars here?

I think Mr. Layton is perhaps thinking of this definition, again from the American Heritage Dictionary entry: "Being in accordance with relative merit or significance". Perhaps in his eyes he sees cars that are manufactured here as having equal or higher merit or significance to cars manufactured in Korea, and wants to compel that value judgement onto the Koreans.

To an outside observer, I doubt this kind of demand would be considered as "fair". This is trade protectionism, based on faulty economics, and Mr. Layton has himself protested when it is applied to us.

I guess "fair" must really mean "my way".

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