Let's End Blackboard Buccaneering

by Don Boudreaux on September 29, 2004

in Trade

I haven’t yet read the hot-off-the-press skeptical musings on free trade of Paul Samuelson (Summer 2004 issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives.) But columnist Robert Kuttner has read it, and wrote glowingly of Samuelson’s essay in today’s Boston Globe. Here’s Kuttner’s commentary. Below is my letter to the Globe in response.

29 September 2004

Editor, The Boston Globe
P.O. Box 2378
Boston, MA 02107-2378

Dear Editor:

Robert Kuttner is correct that Paul Samuelson’s recent doubts about free trade “can’t be ignored” (“Rethinking Free Trade,” Sept. 29th). But they can and should be dismissed, for at least two reasons.

First, Samuelson offers no remedies for the problems allegedly caused by free trade – probably because he knows that protectionism in practice is driven by destructive special-interest lobbying. When the “cure” is worse than the disease, it’s best to suffer the disease.

Second, the possible harms that Samuelson identifies are merely theoretical. But his theory is belied by data, which overwhelming show that free trade is beneficial. Jagdish Bhagwati – the unquestioned Dean of trade economists – presents this data in his new book In Defense of Globalization. I recommend it to Mr. Kuttner and Professor Samuelson.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux
Chairman, Department of Economics
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030

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