Tuesday 27th of June 2017

Daniel Altman writes May 19, 2106 at Foreign Policy:

When it comes to the impact of global trade, the dismal science has done a dismal job explaining how to help workers hurt by globalization.

I would like to apologize to every American who has lost a job or a livelihood because of globalization. Economics has failed you. It has failed you because of ideology, politics, and laziness. It has failed you because its teachings are woefully incomplete, and its greatest exponents have done almost nothing to complete them.

There are “positive” questions in economics that have mathematical answers — things that simply must be true — and then there are “normative” questions that amount to value judgments on points of policy. In economics classes, we teach the former and usually stop short when faced with the latter. This leaves a hole in any discussion of economic policy; students acquire first principles but rarely consider real-world applications, because to do so would presuppose a social or political point of view.

In the case of free trade and globalization, this omission has been disastrous. All first-year students of economics learn the theory of comparative advantage and gains from trade. They see a mathematical proof showing that when two countries trade goods or services, the benefits to the winners outweigh the costs to the losers. They are assured, correctly, that this result allows everyone to be made better off — or at least no worse off — by trade.

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