Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Free Trade

The rise of economic nationalists Trump and Sanders has coincided with, and maybe even been fed by, new economic research that shows free trade really has been bad for many American workers. The economic models used to promote free trade back in the 1990s assumed that workers displaced by trade would find new jobs in areas helped by trade, but that hasn't really happened. Instead, displaced workers have been hanging around their home towns doing nothing in particular, and inequality has continued to worsen. But is that the last word?
Global trade has certainly hurt many American workers. But it's also been the driving force behind historic declines in poverty. Chinese imports may have cost the U.S. as many as 2.4 million jobs from 1999 to 2011. But during roughly that same period of time, the World Bank notes that China lifted 290 million people out of extreme poverty.
I can see why Trump doesn't care. But shouldn't a socialist like Sanders worry about the global poor? Realistically, trade with richer nations is the only way that hundreds of millions of people in poor nations will ever escape poverty. Should we write them off in the name of a better deal for American workers and a more unified, less unequal homeland? Personally I think it is wrong that the elite get such big benefits from globalization while workers in the U.S., Britain, and other places suffer. But I would rectify that by high taxes on the rich and a more generous welfare state, not trade barriers against poor workers in Asia and Latin America.

1 comment:

G. Verloren said...

Sanders isn't actually a socialist, though - he just hides behind a thin veneer crudely fashioned to vaguely resemble one.

Despite the hollow rhetoric he tosses out to appeal to the impressionable white yuppies whose votes he hopes to win, he still knows which side his bread is buttered on and to whom he is truly beholden. He dares not propose taxation on the wealthiest elements of our society because as a career politician he's quite deeply indebted to them. So much for being "anti-establishment".

So unable to suggest we tax the rich, he's only left to choose between supporting the domestic poor at home, and supporting their foreign counterparts abroad. And faced with such a decision, he much prefer the more politically expedient option to the ethically superior one.