A Raspberry for Free Trade

The search for better economic policy.
Nov. 21 1997 3:30 AM

A Raspberry for Free Trade

Protectionists serve up tainted fruit and red herrings.

(Continued from Page 1)

As I pointed out in an earlier column in Slate, the growth of labor-intensive exports from Third World countries, a development possible only because those countries are able to offset their disadvantages by competing on the basis of cheap labor, has brought about a huge improvement in the human condition, even if the wages look miserably low by our standards.

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It is hard to believe that people who have spent years, even decades, writing about economics are really so fuzzy-minded that they cannot see the difference between protecting consumers from tainted produce and protecting workers from competing products. On the other hand, I doubt that they are purely cynical. It is more likely that some kind of double-think, some convenient ability to stop thinking clearly when the situation demands it, is at work. But the truth is that I don't know--and I don't think it matters.

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