domingo, 25 de enero de 2009

Made in Spain


Esta semana el ministro de Industria, Miguel Sebastián nos ha conminado a los españoles a consumir productos españoles para crear empleo. Este que dicen es el mejor ministro del Gobierno (cómo serán los demás), nos dice que "en lugar de irse a esquiar a los Alpes, que se vayan a Sierra Nevada". Vaya, porque yo pensaba ir a esquiar a los Alpes en Semana Santa. Ahora ya no sé qué hacer, si seguir con mis planes aún a riesgo de quedar como un antipatriota o hacer lo que me conviene. Por ejemplo, en Avoriaz en la frontera entre Francia y Suiza, con un dominio esquiable de 650 kilómetros, el forfait cuesta 30€ por día, mientras que en Baqueira Beret, la mejor estación española con 108 kilómetros de pistas, el forfait cuesta 41€ cada día. Y los precios de los alojamientos son similares. No sé qué hacer.


Supongo que Sebastián no querrá que Gordon Brown le diga a los millones de ingleses que vienen a veranear a España que se queden en Inglaterra a beber su Guiness en lugar de venir a España. Esperemos que los ingleses no dejen de venir o se arruinará nuestra industria turística.


Y es que esto del proteccionismo es peligroso y como se ha dicho ya muchas veces, aunque nuestros políticos no se enteren, uno de los agravantes de la crisis del 29 fue el proteccionismo que se instauró en los Estados Unidos y que contribuyó a la contracción de la demanda mundial.


Me recuerda un librito que leí hace algunos años llamado The Choice, de Russell Roberts. En el libro, David Ricardo baja a la Tierra del Purgatorio a demostrarle al director de una fábrica de televisores por qué es mejor no proteger ese sector, aunque se pierdan algunos empleos a corto plazo. En el capítulo 3 se trasladan al año 2005 desde el año 1960 y esto es lo que ven:


“Where are we?” asked Ed.
“My friend, we are in the parking lot of a movie theater in your hometown of Star, Illinois, in the year 2005.”
“Why would a movie theater need such a large parking lot?”
“There are 16 theaters here, and they need a lot of space.”
“Sixteen theaters! What happened to the Bijou?”
“The Bijou, downtown? I’m afraid it was torn down in the name of something called ‘urban renewal.’ ”
“That’s too bad. Can we see the Stellar Television factory?”
“I’m afraid it’s gone, Ed.”
“Gone!” cried Ed, leaning against a Honda Accord for emotional support.
“I’m afraid so. In fact, this multiplex—the modern name for a collection of theaters—stands on the very spot where your plant once stood.”
“I’ll be damned, why—”
“Ed, watch your language.You may get your wish.”
“Sorry. Is anyone making televisions in the United States anymore?”
“They are. In fact, they’re doing it with lower labor and raw material costs than you did in your best year.”
“Must be Motorola.They always gave me a good fight.”
“Motorola made its last television in 1974.”
“Then who is it?”
“I’ll show you.We’ll have to leave Star for a bit. But that shouldn’t be any problem for the people Upstairs.”
“Where are we now, Dave?”
“Rahway, New Jersey.”
“Where’s the television factory?”
“You’re looking at it.”
“But the sign says ‘Merck and Co., Inc.,A Pharmaceutical Company.’
Doesn’t that mean they make drugs?”
“Indeed they do, Ed. They send some of those drugs to Japan. In return, Japan sends America televisions. There are two ways to make a television set—the direct way, and the roundabout way.The direct way is to build a factory like yours in Star and combine raw materials with
people and machines to produce televisions.With the roundabout way of making televisions, you make televisions by making something else, such as drugs, and trading the drugs for televisions. Japan’s drug industry isn’t able to efficiently create and supply all of Japan’s demand for drugs, so Japan imports drugs and exports televisions.What you see appears to be
a drug manufacturer. But they also produce televisions for Americans to enjoy by exporting some of their production.”
“But Merck doesn’t send drugs to Japan for televisions. They send drugs to Japan for money.”
“That is how matters appear. But Merck accepts Japanese currency for their drugs only because some American wants to use that currency to buy something from Japan such as televisions. If no one wanted to buy Japanese products, then Merck would have to use that currency as wallpaper. They wouldn’t sell drugs to Japan.”
“Couldn’t they exchange the yen for dollars at a bank?”
“They can, as matters turn out. But matters turn out that way only because someone with dollars wants to buy something made in Japan and needs yen to do it. Otherwise, no one would give up dollars for yen, and the bank would not be in the business of currency exchange. You see Americans buying televisions and giving the Japanese dollars. And Japanese buying drugs with yen. But actually, Americans are swapping drugs
for televisions.The currencies merely facilitate the transaction.” Ed looked at me warily.
“What happens when Japan increases its supply of domestically produced drugs?”
“Maybe they will, or maybe they won’t. Japan can’t make everything. Well, they can, but they can’t make everything equally well. Like every nation, their resources are limited. By their resources, I don’t mean just raw materials; I mean their people, and the number of hours in a day, and how hard people wish to work. It’s impossible for Japan to make everything better than anyone else in the world. And even if they could, it wouldn’t be wise for them to do so.”
“Why not?”
“Even if they could, they would do even better by specializing in a few things rather than trying to do everything.Take yourself. I know you won the typing contest at Star High your senior year. Set the all-time record, didn’t you?”
“I did.”
“Yet as president of Stellar Television, don’t you have your own secretary?”
“Of course.”
“But you are a better typist than she is.Why did you hire her?”
“Because my time is better spent running the plant.”
“Exactly. Your time is scarce. So even though you type much more quickly than Miss Evers, it would be foolish for you to do the typing.The same is true of Japan.As a nation, they specialize in producing televisions and import drugs even though they could train their television engineers to be chemists. America, in turn, wants both life-saving drugs and televisions. It produces both in the most efficient way possible: by making drugs, keeping some for domestic consumption, and sending the rest to Japan for televisions.”