Monday, March 12, 2012

the many virtues of free trade

Dani Rodrik is arguing against a straw man.

Everyone cares about procedural justice, free trade advocates included. There are very good reasons that have solely to do with procedural justice, rather than efficiency, to favor free trade. (Bryan Caplan posted on this last week.)

It's much more deplorable to allow policies that keep millions of people in extreme poverty than to insist on free trade policies that may, in the short run, hurt some poor Americans, who will still be better off than those millions. The burden of proof is on those who wish to restrict freedom, and they would have to argue otherwise to meet that burden.

If you care about expanding the worldwide pie, you should probably favor free immigration and trade. If you only care about expanding the American-wide pie, you should probably still favor free immigration and trade. If you only care about procedural justice, you should favor free immigration and trade. If you only care about reducing worldwide inequality, you should favor free immigration and trade.

If you only care about reducing American inequality, then fine, you may be able to argue against free immigration and trade. But I don't see how wanting that, in particular, is much more morally defensible than wanting any other arbitrary thing.

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