Why Is "Free Trade" Conventional Wisdom?
Legislative Director, Society for Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA)
Posted: May 29, 2010 03:03 PM
Trade is good; all trade is good; more trade is better than less trade; maximum possible trade. This rhetorical progression has propelled policy discussion about US trade policy for at least two decades.
Ian Fletcher's new book, Free Trade Doesn't Work: What Should Replace It and Why, takes a step back and asks an important question. Why have we chosen the freest possible trade as our policy goal? Surely, we should be more interested in the promised outcomes of free trade: mutual gain and improved standard of living for communities in America and abroad.
In remarkably readable prose, caustically funny in places, Fletcher challenges the prevailing wisdom that additional free trade agreements and greater global economic integration are inevitable and desirable. He starts by carefully cataloging the highly idealized conditions that must apply before the benefits promised by free trade will accrue. As he rigorously demonstrates, free trade theory is a very poor description of global commerce as it is practiced today.
Policymakers in China, Japan, Europe and elsewhere, who are not bound by free trade orthodoxy, can choose policy options that take advantage of our ideological blind spots. Our policy weaknesses thus become their opportunities. more