Thursday, November 04, 2004

No harm at all?

Bodreaux is defending free trade too much. As he points out, even the "convinced free traders" admit that "some people are harmed by free trade". But Don is in denial. Says he, you can be disadvantaged by free trade, but surely your children or grandchildren will benefit from it. Oh, c'mon. I love free trade, but I'm not a utopist, and that's why I love Bhagwati's stuff. I recall (I believe I got the impression from Landsburg's "Armchair Economist") that some economists once ridicule environmentalists by saying that people maximize their own utility, not their children's. That's one. Two, who can make sure if our future grandchildren will like a particular spot to be forest as it is now or to be a huge shopping mall? By that, Steve should ask Don: who can make sure if your grandchildren perceives the gains from trade the same way as you do? (To answer that challenge, you may want to use Thaler and Sunstein's "Libertarian Paternalism" in May 2003 AEA P&P -- subscription required)

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