I'm proud to rely on foreigners for my good lifestyle
Friday, April 23, 2010 11:07 AM
I am not sure why Tom Vesey, normally a very sensible commentator, should fall for the line that our reliance on foreigners is humiliating.
Valued import: Every Bermudian driver relies on cars made by foreigners for their vehicle, like these U.S. Fords manufactured in the U.K. *MCT photo
Senator Burch is also of the same mind in saying that by "sticking up for Bermudians" he must necessarily stick it to foreigners.
This is one of the oldest and most false of economic delusions and I thought it had been laid to rest as long ago as 1776, when Adam Smith published the Wealth of Nations.
But foolish politicians do not think straight when national boundaries are mentioned. Indeed, those with the malevolent opinions of Senator Burch have never been able to think.
Let us take any group of 10 Bermudians. I'll give $1,000 to anyone who can prove they do not have to rely on foreigners for their high standard of living.
I use an American computer, with components like the keyboard made of metals imported from other nations such as Jamaica.
I drink coffee from Guatemala and my mug is probably from England.
I wear shirts manufactured in Pakistan and shoes from Taiwan.
My car, a Ford (a U.S. corporation), was manufactured in England but its components, such as tyres, came from elsewhere, probably Brazil or Malaysia.
When I have lunch, my bread probably originated from wheat in the Canadian prairies, with cheese from Switzerland.
If I have a glass of wine it will probably be from Chile, France or New Zealand.
On my CD player I play a recording of the Three Tenors - one from Italy, one from Mexico and the other from Spain - who singing arias from French, German and Italian operas.
I could go on but I think you get the point. Damn foreigners, you simply cannot get away from them.
If I lost just one of these good things, my life would be poorer and less pleasant.
The question really is, why do these Americans, Brits, Italians and so on bother about supplying me with the above products?
Greed or self-interest would be the answer. I doubt if one in a million of the people involved in producing what I use has much idea where Bermuda is or that I even exist.
However, I pay for what I consume using U.S. dollars, which I earn by selling my services to foreigners.
They love my dollars, I love their coffee.
All Bermudians are in the same boat, except those who exist wholly on Bermuda fish or homegrown carrots - and there are not many of them.
The bigger question is, why should I be humiliated about relying on foreigners when I am totally reliant on strangers for my very existence?
I am reasonably well educated with degrees in economics, law and other commercial subjects but I am unable to carry out a whole bunch of day-to-day activities so necessary for me to keep body and soul together.
I am wholly dependent on foreigners - but I am not humiliated, I am liberated by being able to harness their skills and talents to enhance my life.
I cannot cook, would be a hopeless farmer, am tone deaf, cannot fix a car or change a wheel, cannot figure out how my computer works, could not make a golf ball, need to consult a foreign doctor from time to time and I have a whole host of other deficiencies.
I am wholly dependent on other people, mainly foreigners, for my lifestyle.
If I was castaway on a desert island I would be dead within a week.
Yet despite my thousands of shortcomings - or my lack of knowledge - my standard of living is, and has been for many years, one of the highest in the world. So what is my secret?
The answer is two-fold - the division of labour and foreign trade. Look them up in an economics dictionary if you are interested in what they mean.
Without these two key features of modern life, no one in the world, especially Bermudians, would be able to live what we now consider to be a normal life.
We would be, in effect, savages whose life would be short, nasty and brutal.
But then we would be really happy and proud because we would not have the humiliation of being reliant on foreigners.