Deconstructing the argument for free trade: A case study of the role of economists in policy debates

Economics and Philosophy 28 (1):1-30 (2012)
Abstract
This paper argues that, in light of the apparent settled nature of economists’ judgement on the issue of trade liberalization, the profession has stopped thinking critically about the question and, as a consequence, makes poor-quality arguments justifying their consensus. To develop support for this claim, the paper first recounts what economic analysis can say about trade liberalization. Then it analyses the quality of the arguments that economists make in support of free trade. The paper argues that the standard argument made by economists in favour of free trade is either incoherent or implicitly imposes philosophical value judgements about what is good for a nation or society, or it makes leaps of empirical faith about how the world works. The paper concludes with suggestions for better arguments
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