The Free Trade Myth

There are four things you need to keep in mind if you are an ardent free trader:

  1. The arguments justifying free trade have always been entirely theoretical, not empirical. In this way, they are no different than the incorrect pre-scientific logical conclusions that were subsequently proven to be false by modern science. At the time they were formulated, inexpensive shipping, the free movement of capital, and the mass movement of labor were unknown.
  2. The USA historically enjoyed its fastest periods of economic growth under protectionist, restricted-immigration periods.
  3. The post-WWII growth was not the result of any trade or economic policies, but a positive application of Broken Window theory. Every other industrial nation had its industrial capacity smashed, so the US benefited from an intrinsic infrastructural advantage for around 25 years.
  4. Free trade levels all prices throughout the market. That’s why a cashier in Miami gets paid about the same amount as a cashier in Portland. Even if free trade increases the overall amount of global economic growth, in doing so, it necessarily reduces wages and standards of living in the wealthier nations to bring them more in line with the wages and standards of living in the poorest nations.

More from Vox, here.


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