Monday, April 2, 2007

For Russians only! (amv)

Yesterday, Russia made a further step on the 'Road to Serfdom' (to use Hayek's famous term). From now on foreigners are not allowed to offer any goods and services, including their labour force, on Russian retail markets (and bazaars). This legislation is implemented to protect Russian suppliers from (mostly Chinese) competition. Putin's administration seems to consider economics a subfield of power politics, i.e., as a zero-sum game. In such a game you can grow richer and more powerfull only in making others poorer and worse off. Others have to pay for your success. From this perspective, it seems legitimate to harm the Chinese to serve your people. But trade is not a zero-sum game. It increases general welfare. Thus, any attempt to hamper trade harms Chinese and Russians! How? After the low cost-suppliers are barred from the market, suppliers with a higher cost structure will try to step in. But as far as the nominal income of Russian consumers does not increase (and there is, ceteris paribus, no reason for this to happen), the higher cost-driven prices of Russian suppliers implies either a reduction of real incomes, or a shift in demand towards other goods and services. In either case, most of the Russian suppliers who asked for intervention will never face any improvement. Thus, the attempt to protect Russians will actually harm Russians, both, as consumers and as producers. Well done, Mr. Putin!