Bjorn Lomborg sings the praises of the wide range of benefits, economic and ethical, of free trade. (I pick one small nit: although common, it is incorrect to say that “there are costs to free trade,” for to do so is to mistakenly imply that there are costs uniquely associated with free trade. What economically informed people, such as Lomborg, mean when they say that there are costs to free trade is nothing more than that market competition and consumer sovereignty cause some people to lose jobs and some businesses to lose profits. Because some people lose jobs and profits whenever there is any change in the pattern of consumer spending – and because market competition generates continual change in the pattern of consumer spending – there is nothing at all unique about changes in the pattern of consumer spending generated by competition that comes from foreigners compared to that which comes from fellow citizens.)
As the above parenthetical remark suggests, the way we talk – the words we use – matter a great deal; words’ consequences are real and not merely nominal. This reality plays a role in Steve Horwitz’s latest column.