McCain again defended free trade during a town hall meeting at Youngstown State University, but added that other countries have violated the principle at the expense of the U.S. interests. "We have to insist on fair and open competition," McCain told a man who protested Chinese "dumping" of cheap steel, crippling steel communities such as Youngstown.McCain dangerously mixes the notion of "fair" trade with free trade, showing that he still doesn't really get it. Let's say China's not being fair, that they are "dumping" goods in the U.S., and not allowing U.S. goods in. Conventional wisdom, and McCain is wholly conventional here, says the U.S. is being hurt while China prospers. But, as so often happens, conventional wisdom is anything but wise.
The more goods and services you can buy, the more well off you are. So if China sells stuff to us super-cheap, we can buy more stuff, and we're better off. It also leaves us more money left over to buy other stuff, including American made stuff, like dvds of Hollywood movies, dinner at Applebees, Amish-made furniture, etc.
On the other hand, if China is really selling things below cost, then they are losing money, and their ability to buy goods and services is declining. And if they are really keeping American made goods out of China, then they're just depriving themselves of access to quality goods.
In other words, if China doesn't play fair, America gets richer while China gets poorer.
Unfortunately, too many people still think the basis of the good life is jobs, rather than goods and services. Jobs are merely the means to the end of acquiring lots of goods and services. It's an odd misconception to have, when you consider that most people's vision of paradise is having everything we need without having to work. Just think, if China really did "dump" goods on America, giving us everything we need for free, it would destroy millions of jobs--but we'd be that much closer to paradise.