More Trade Stuff

Greg Mankiw details the broad consensus among economists against outsourcing regulations, tariffs, and farm subsidies. Which raises the question of why this (social) scientific consensus should be treated any differently from that on global warming. I’d love to hear a lefty “fair trader” try to answer that with any consistency.
In other trade news, read this Robert Samuelson column. It’s the best takedown yet of the scary economic populism demonstrated by the Democratic class of 2006.

1 thought on “More Trade Stuff

  1. Which raises the question of why this (social) scientific consensus should be treated any differently from that on global warming. I’d love to hear a lefty “fair trader” try to answer that with any consistency.
    I agree with economists on free trade and I agree with meteorologists about global warming. But I have to concede that scientists tend to be biased in favor of their own field. This is blown far out of proportion, and ultimately blown in the wrong direction, but ideological conservatives and Republicans. It is not that scientists habitually suffer from political bias and group-think — it is more subtle than that. What is true is that the scientists on all sides in any given field have an incentive to believe that their field is important. So they will tend to play up principles that make their field look important. On the other hand, they tend to play up very credible principles, since they are after all experts in their field.
    So economists play up free trade partly just because free trade is an economic activity. They may miss non-economic reasons to limit trade. For example, many economists were skeptical of trade sanctions against apartheid South Africa. I would suppose that these trade sanctions helped end apartheid, although I don’t really know. Obviously the real issue was politics and not economics.
    Likewise meteorologists are going to play up global warming and medical biochemists are going to play up stem cell research. Most of what either group says isn’t wrong, but it is also not the whole truth. It is easy for outsiders to overreact to their exclamations. On the other hand, they would say, with some justification, that it is their duty to do the exclaiming and that apathy is the greater problem.
    You can examine the phenomenon with the more settled issue of whether smoking is bad for you. Of course no one should smoke cigarettes, and doctors have a duty to tell everyone so. They have so much to say that many people have an exaggerated perception of the health risks of smoking. You could even blame doctors for abetting these exaggerations. Unfortunately, even people who think that smoking is worse than it really is, often still smoke.

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