Currency Manipulation

One of the critiques of any trade deal of late is that there should be penalties for countries guilty of "currency manipulation."  The concern is that countries will devalue their currency in an effort to make their own exports cheaper to other nations while making it harder for other countries to export back to them.  As an example, if the Chinese were to do something that cuts the value of the Yuan in half vs. the dollar, their products look very cheap to American consumers while American-produced goods suddenly look a lot more expensive to Chinese consumers.

I have two brief responses to this:

  1. I find it hilarious that anyone in the United States government, which has a Federal Reserve that has added nearly $2 trillion to its balance sheet in the service of cramming down the value of the dollar, can with a straight face accuse other nations of currency manipulation.  In practice in today's QEconomy, currency manipulation means another country is doing exactly what we are doing, but just doing it faster.
  2. As an American consumer, to such currency manipulation by other countries I say, Bring it On!  If China wants to hammer its own citizens with higher prices and lower purchasing power just to subsidize lower prices for me, I am happy to let them do it.  Yes, a few specific politically-connected export businesses lose revenues, but trying to prop them up is pure cronyism.  Which is one reason I think Elizabeth Warren is a total hypocrite.  The constituency of the poor and lower middle class she presumes to speak for are the exact folks who shop at Walmart and need very price break on everyday goods they can get.  Senator Warren's preferences for protectionist trade policies and a weak dollar will hurt these folks the most.


  1. Ward Chartier:

    Politicians, pundits, too many members of the media, and anybody with poor critical thinking skills are quick to extol the intelligence of candidates for public office. Much better to recognize the rare candidates who are wise. With a wry smile, I'll note that those who are wise tend to not seek public office.

  2. Matthew Slyfield:

    "With a wry smile, I'll note that those who are wise tend to not seek public office."

    While acknowledging the difference between intelligence and wisdom, I wish to note that just as the wise tend to avoid public office, so too do the genuinely intelligent.

  3. Don:

    I find it interesting that people will credulously read and article on "Chinese Currency Manipulation", then pull out their scissors to clip a coupon on the same page.

    It would be nice if schools taught a little less Political Correctness and a little more Logical Consistency (but then, I repeat myself).

  4. Don:

    'Only two sorts of men run for political office: scoundrels and fools.' - purportedly (but probably not) Socrates

  5. Andrew_M_Garland:

    It is difficult to understand why China is subsidizing the US by using their resources to deliver inexpensive goods to us, even less expensive then a free market in China would deliver. The first thought is that China must be attacking us in some way. In fact, China's government is taxing its own people, and we are getting a side benefit.

    The Chinese leadership has totalitarian control. They are arranging profits for themselves at the expense of their population. This is similar to the US government arranging profits for politicians and crony capitalists at the expense of the US population.

    The Chinese government operates its entire export industry. The Chinese leadership can arrange a steady flow of exports by making them somewhat cheaper than they would otherwise be. They can skim value from this flow more easily than they can raise internal taxes. This skimming is hidden, while taxes are obvious.

    So, should US consumers hurt themselves and the Chinese by boycotting, banning, or imposing tariffs on Chinese goods? The practical argument is that this is very hard to do. These imports benefit consumers, after all.

    The moral argument is not clear. The Chinese people are getting an unfavorable deal, but a much better one than if they exported less. Their work is becoming more valuable to their leaders and to themselves, and this gives them more power in Chinese society.

    China's government is acting just like the US government. I think our US leadership subsidizes companies, taxes imports, and subsidizes exports because it can skim campaign contributions from the companies which benefit, although the general public suffers. Skimming also shows up in US government "investments" like Solyndra. Government wants to arrange a steady flow of "investment" into companies owned by cronies, despite the overall losses.

    Both the US and Chinese governments are intent on skimming value from their populations. It is an odd side effect that each government is willing to help other countries as needed to establish and maintain the skim.