Trade relations are transitive. If America trades with Brazil and Brazil trades with Russia, then America just is trading with Russia. So if America doesn’t want to trade with Russia, it has to tell Brazil, “Either you can trade with us or you trade with Russia, but not both.” But America wants to trade with Brazil, in part because it wants to trade with Russia. Still, if a manufacturer in California is going to sell something to Russia, having to route it through Brazil instead of shipping it directly across the Pacific just seems gratuitously inefficient.

Add to that that most products are fungible. So trading with Russia just is selling it arms. Which is better, I suppose, than just giving arms to Ukraine. So we’re giving to Dick what he needs to protect himself from what we’re selling to Tom. Or, what amounts to the same thing, we’re selling to Tom what he needs to protect himself from what we’re giving to Dick.

Some people find this strange. But it’s not really. It’s what we call a ‘mixed economy’. We tax people who can produce the goods to give to people who can’t, at least right now. This is exactly as it should be. It’s just that sometimes the way we do this is, well, weird.

Categories: Everything You Wanted to Know About What's Going On in the World But Were Afraid to Ask, Social and Political Philosophy

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