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  #1  
Old 10-17-2002, 08:39 AM
pohjonen pohjonen is offline
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Why is isolationism a bad thing?

With the exception of Buchanan, it seems to be a given among all pundits and politicians that America should not be isolationist in its policies but I don't understand why and would like to be educated. Granted, Japan did ultimately drag us into WWII, but we all know how that turned out. Why must we involve ourselves in squabbles all over the world? Why must we export our goods and services and import same from other countries? With the exception of coffee, bananas, pineapples and oil, don't we have all of the resources we need within our own borders? If we couldn't get oil, wouldn't we find an alternative very quickly, and if this was disruptive and expensive at first, wouldn't we be better off in the long run? And if we really are the "breadbasket" of the world, could we not trade food for these things? We have enormous natural resources, abundant agricultural land, the best economic system (or so they say), an educated work force, and a host of creative entepreneurs. WHY is it necessary to import most things at all?

Why do we "enable" countries with "bad" economic policies and governments by giving them the funds to keep them alive when they would most likely collapse on their own if we just kept our noses out?

I'm not a genius, but I'm not dummy either. Any enlightenment gained would be greatly appreciated.

Pohjonen
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  #2  
Old 10-17-2002, 09:22 AM
Gorgon Heap Gorgon Heap is offline
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Well, to answer the OP, isolationism is bad not only because of cultural stagnation (though you may argue that in our "melding pot" that isn't an issue, you'd be sorely mistaken) and there comes a terrible sense of haughtyness: Look at the Chinese.

As for your questions ...

Why do we bother with other countries' troubles? Not simply 'cause we can (unless your G.W. Bush, I'm certain that's why he does it) but because after the World Wars and our becoming the leading superpower, we (theoritically) have to take the moral high road and lead by exhample.

And then there are the economic issues.

Why do we trade so much with other countries? Ever heard of the "global economy"? American cash keeps the markets going. American importing keeps other nations vying for the rights to our money and competing against eachother - both good for the world economy.

I'm certain others will expound more on this subject ...
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  #3  
Old 10-17-2002, 09:46 AM
kniz kniz is offline
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Why don't you plant a garden and exchange a few things with your neighbors and forget about everything else?
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Granted, Japan did ultimately drag us into WWII, but we all know how that turned out.
And I don't understand your point (unless it is an attempt to disarm one major argument against isolationism). It turned out that our policy of isolationism was part of the problem.
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  #4  
Old 10-17-2002, 10:07 AM
pohjonen pohjonen is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by kniz
Why don't you plant a garden and exchange a few things with your neighbors and forget about everything else?

And I don't understand your point (unless it is an attempt to disarm one major argument against isolationism). It turned out that our policy of isolationism was part of the problem.
Is this reply supposed to be enlightening to the discussion at hand in some way?

Still awaiting a meaningful response...
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  #5  
Old 10-17-2002, 10:23 AM
pohjonen pohjonen is offline
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Perhaps I should make clear that I have no cherished opinions on this discussion. Isolationism may very well be a terrible policy. I am merely trying to comprehend WHY this would be so. It just isn't OBVIOUS to me.
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  #6  
Old 10-17-2002, 10:27 AM
Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor is offline
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Well, the $0.25 answer is :Ignoring problems won't make them go away.
A more contentious reply would be: Isolationism is interperted by tyrants as weakness, vacillation, or a serious lack of political will.

Japan attacked us in WW2 in part because they believed we would not fight. Dittto with 91 Iraq.
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"He is an abomination of science that curdles the milk of all honest men!"~~One Dr Chouteh, possibly commenting on Bosda Di'Chi.Or not.
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  #7  
Old 10-17-2002, 10:33 AM
photopat photopat is offline
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My opinion, no cites for anything:
I think Gorgon gave a pretty good answer. Economically the U.S. is important to other countries as an exporter and importer. We are a "superpower" and as the saying goes "with great power goes great responsibility."

That's not to say the U.S. should get involved in every dispute around the world. Far from it. It means that we need to be ready to help those people who are threatened by hostile powers, who don't have the means to adequately defend themselves in those situations, and who ask for our help.

Also, at the beginning of the 21st, it's virtually impossible to be isolated anymore. We export so much more than durable goods after all. Our entertainment industry, the web, general communications; all these things have become vital parts of the world economy and if we as a country try to isolate ourselves politically we will still be deep in the mix socially. I personally don't see how the two concepts can coexist.
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  #8  
Old 10-17-2002, 11:31 AM
SuaSponte SuaSponte is offline
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Re: Why is isolationism a bad thing?

Quote:
Originally posted by pohjonen
Why must we involve ourselves in squabbles all over the world?
Because at least some of those squabbles affect us.

Quote:
Why must we export our goods and services and import same from other countries?
Let's start with exports. Let's say we stop exporting goods and services. Well, you see, there isn't enough demand in the U.S. for all the goods and services we produce. We would be left with overcapacity. All the people whose job it is to produce goods and provide services for foreign countries would be out of a job. With knock-on effects, the result would likely be considerably worse than the Great Depression. Worse yet, it would be extremely hard to get out of the depression - because we wouldn't earn any money for sale of our goods and services to foreigners.

Quote:
With the exception of coffee, bananas, pineapples and oil, don't we have all of the resources we need within our own borders?
There are a considerable number of products that could be added to that list, but that's not important. The important thing is that, whether or not the US also produces the goods, the products we import are cheaper - otherwise we wouldn't import them (for simplicity's sake, I'm ignoring comparative trade advantage). Eliminate all the imports of things that the US also produces and the result is that prices rise hugely - first, because the U.S. can't produce them as cheaply, and second, with the supply greatly reduced, the price will rise.
Again, the result is the Greater Depression - and if you add to that at the same time all those people thrown out of work because they no longer can produce goods for export, and you are probably looking at wide-spread starvation in the U.S.

Quote:
If we couldn't get oil, wouldn't we find an alternative very quickly, and if this was disruptive and expensive at first, wouldn't we be better off in the long run?
Um, if you want to disrupt the entire economy by removing a basic input, it is generally considered prudent to actually have the replacement ready to go. Imagine getting rid of horses before the automobile was invented.

Quote:
And if we really are the "breadbasket" of the world, could we not trade food for these things? We have enormous natural resources, abundant agricultural land, the best economic system (or so they say), an educated work force, and a host of creative entepreneurs. WHY is it necessary to import most things at all?
I don't understand your "trade food' comment. It means that you have no problem with exports, just the type of exports. And that makes no sense. As for the rest, you are basically saying "we're rich. Why do we need anything from the rest of the world?" How do you think we got rich? A large part of the way was by exporting things we could produce more cheaply than the rest of the world and importing things that the rest of the world could produce more cheaply than we could.

Quote:
Why do we "enable" countries with "bad" economic policies and governments by giving them the funds to keep them alive when they would most likely collapse on their own if we just kept our noses out?
U.S. levels of foreign aid are such that extremely few, if any, countries would collapse if we cut them off. In any event, the reason is that we don't want said countries to collapse. If they collapse, export markets would disappear, imports would be cut off, and the U.S. economy would lose money.

My answers above are somewhat simplified, but the basic point is that it is better for the well-being of the American economy, and the average American, for the U.S. to export and import goods rather than attempting autarky. This export and import requires the U.S. to take out an insurance policy, in the form of a military, to help ensure than exports and imports are not disrupted, but the costs of the military do not outweigh the benefits of international trade.

Sua
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  #9  
Old 10-17-2002, 11:53 AM
kniz kniz is offline
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Quote:
With the exception of coffee, bananas, pineapples and oil, don't we have all of the resources we need within our own borders?...And if we really are the "breadbasket" of the world, could we not trade food for these things? We have enormous natural resources, abundant agricultural land, the best economic system (or so they say), an educated work force, and a host of creative entepreneurs. WHY is it necessary to import most things at all?
Quote:
Our entertainment industry, the web, general communications; all these things have become vital parts of the world economy.
Your idea seems to be that we could export food, entertainment, general communications, etc. and not import anything. That does not seem to be a true version of isolationism and it certainly doesn't meet the meaning of trade.

For your information, my original post was serious despite the fact you didn't want to answer the question. Our country trying to go it alone is very much the same as you trying to live without dealing with other communities besides your own.

There is information on the web, which will help you learn more about isolationism, such as this comparison between Bulgaria and The Netherlands:
Quote:
To be a player, a country must have state-of-art communications and a world view. The age of isolation, typified for so long by Latin America, is over. In a world economy, those with skills will be looking further afield for opportunities, as the declining population of Bulgaria so well demonstrates. Every migrant takes with him or her, the cost of their training and the potential they have for making changes at home. 700,000 such people have packed and gone recently from Bulgaria. To be a player, world languages are also vital, and nobody has geared up to this reality better than the Dutch. Instead of nervously worrying about what will happen to their culture-like one of their neighbors-they have added a world culture to their own, and they remain very much Dutch, with a resilient publishing industry and culture. They are also the second largest investors in US real estate. But, they always had a world view, having been a small, but significant imperial power. Bulgaria, on the other hand, most of the time, a highly controlled player on the edge of some other giant: the northwest corner of the Ottoman empire, the southwest corner of the Soviet "empire" and, soon the southeastern corner of the new European Union.
Also the beginning of that article says:
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"No man is an island," so said the English poet John Donne. These days, no country is an island eitherónot even the island states. There are changes taking place in our world that will make it a very different place. And, as Alvin Toffler remarked, almost thirty years ago, in his work Future Shock, the pace of change has been accelerating rapidly and we are in danger of being overwhelmed by it.
Oh, and how about knowing how WWII came out, especially in relation to Japan?
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  #10  
Old 10-17-2002, 11:57 AM
Collounsbury
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Re: Why is isolationism a bad thing?

Quote:
Originally posted by pohjonen
Why must we involve ourselves in squabbles all over the world?
Cost of doing business. Global interests. It is also good policy to not too narrowly act on one's interests - rather like corporations giving and grant making, some of which directly support sales, other of which help establish good will. Good will is exceedingly important in lowering opportunity costs. Ask Monsanto in re its Agribio business.

The same goes, by analogy and by emperical evidence, to international relations.
Quote:
Why must we export our goods and services and import same from other countries? With the exception of coffee, bananas, pineapples and oil, don't we have all of the resources we need within our own borders?
It is more efficient to do so.

As to the 2nd, no by no stretch of the imagination. Even in cases where the natural resources, to take an example, are available, it is a good for the economy to go for lower cost sources (e.g. in re extraction cost or higher purity = lower refining cost).

Further, the United States is a massive net importer of capital - that wonderful resource that allows future production. Without foreign trade we are not going to get massive amounts of foreign capital, which subsidize the American consumer's lack of savings. W/o foreign savings, the economy grinds to a screeching halt, starved of the life blood of capital. Doomsday scenario reallly (an unlikely to occur barring some disastrous policy
Quote:
If we couldn't get oil, wouldn't we find an alternative very quickly, and if this was disruptive and expensive at first, wouldn't we be better off in the long run?
No, no alternatives are readily available at a reasonable cost, pricing in the massive transition costs involved in infrastructural changes. Longer term transition would probably be good, for stability purposes but again, that requires a sophisticated policy - and as well likely access to alternative, lowest cost resources (intellectual etc.) around the world, including, once again, capital.

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And if we really are the "breadbasket" of the world, could we not trade food for these things?
Ah, barter.
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We have enormous natural resources, abundant agricultural land, the best economic system (or so they say), an educated work force, and a host of creative entepreneurs. WHY is it necessary to import most things at all?
Comparative advantage, it is more efficient and cheaper to do so. Redeploying the workforce to less efficient uses would make the US substantially worse off.

Quote:
Why do we "enable" countries with "bad" economic policies and governments by giving them the funds to keep them alive when they would most likely collapse on their own if we just kept our noses out?
Ex-Egypt, I doubt one could characterize US aide as doing anything of the sort, in and of itself.

Quote:
I'm not a genius, but I'm not dummy either. Any enlightenment gained would be greatly appreciated.
Read Krugman.

I also read a positive review of Open World: the Truth about Globalisation, Legrain, Philippe. in the Economist. Also read the Economist.
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