Art Carden  

Free Trade is Awesome Because Brazilians Go To Disney World

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In early 2013, I had the privilege of speaking at a student conference in Brazil. While I was making my travel arrangements, I asked my Facebook network whether I should pay the extra $100 for Economy Comfort on the international legs of the flight. My sister (who was a missionary in Brazil for a few years) pointed out one of the likely benefits: I wouldn't be surrounded by teenagers on their way back from Disney World (though that probably wouldn't have bothered me very much).

I remembered her insight while standing in line at the airport in Rio on my way home. It reminded me of an op-ed by a Florida Congressman that makes "A conservative case for sugar tariffs" and that I now have my students read every semester (I incorporated my principles students' analysis of free trade into this response). Rooney argues that Brazil is "the OPEC of sugar" and worries about the jobs we will lose without sugar tariffs.

If those jobs in sugar cultivation disappear, people will be able to find employment elsewhere. Let's suppose we buy more sugar from Brazil and less sugar from Florida. Brazilians in the sugar industry can then use those earnings to visit Disney World, which creates new opportunities in Orlando hospitality and tourism. Sugar cultivation jobs disappear, but they're replaced with jobs building, maintaining, cleaning, and managing hotels.

Free trade with Brazilians benefits Americans. Why? Because Brazilians go to Disney World.


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COMMENTS (4 to date)
Bryan writes:

I'm very supportive of your argument here and I think at the very least people fail to account for the pros of policies like this while almost entirely ignoring the negatives of tariffs.

However, the argument is going to be that those are well-paying jobs in the sugar cultivation industry that are being replaced by minimum-wage jobs in tourism and hospitality.

John Becker writes:

Most of the jobs that would be lost in the case of a sugar tariff would be illegal immigrants anyway. I don't see why a conservative would care about those jobs.

Massimo writes:

I suspect everyone reading this blog is completely convinced that free trade of goods is a strong net benefit. Still a nice story though.

Bryan writes:

@John Becker -

I'm not even sure it matters. Jobs in things like "sugar cultivation" are often heavily romanticized, even if the pay and work is comparable to tourism.

We lament migrant, illegal-immigrant farm labor, but romanticize the farmer, who is hiring that labor. We romanticize the good-old-days of well-paying assembly line work, without remembering the wage strikes that presumably occured because all those great assembly line jobs weren't so awesome for those doing the actual work.

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