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More on the "Harm" from Trade

Posted By Don Boudreaux On January 8, 2007 @ 4:52 pm In Trade | Comments Disabled

People who are skeptical of international trade — or who remain "open-minded" on the matter — because, as they say, trade has both "winners" and "losers," take far too parochial a perspective.  I tried in this earlier post [1] to explain why I think that the longer the time period taken account of, the greater the proportion of the population that is helped by trade and the lower is the proportion hurt by it.

Here, though, is a different angle: arguing that trade has "losers" is simply another way of saying that competition has "losers."  Anyone who questions the merits of trade because they can identify persons harmed by it is someone who questions the merits of competition.

Unlike in my earlier post, I am here not drawing an analogy.  Literally, to oppose or to question trade because some people "lose" from it is to oppose or to question competition.  That is, the observed "loses" are just as accurately described as "loses" from competition as "loses" from trade.

Perhaps the point of this post is trivial, but I think that it’s important because it’s much more difficult, rhetorically, to object to competition than it is to object to trade.  Compared to the number of people who now nod in agreement whenever some talking-head thunders in stentorian tones that "trade" harms the economy, many fewer would nod in agreement if this same thundering pundit (or politician) asserted that "competition" harms the economy.  Compared to the number of people who think it wise and sensible when the pundit suggests that trade be limited as a means of fostering prosperity, fewer people would think it wise and sensible if this pundit instead suggested, explicitly, that competition be limited as a means of fostering prosperity.

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[1] this earlier post: http://cafehayek.com/2007/01/trade_and_roman.html

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