There’s no shame in free trade

Economic protectionism may look good on paper, but that doesn’t mean it’s smart policy in practice.

Jasper Johnson

While gearing up for the Michigan primary on Tuesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders took to Twitter to criticize former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s support of NAFTA, which he claims harmed Detroit. 
 
 
Though his view likely garners populist support, I think Sanders’ stance is misguided and that many voters remain uninformed about economics. Overall, free trade is nothing to balk at. 
 
 
Sanders’ speeches in Detroit explicitly demonized international trade and disturbingly pushed for economic self-sufficiency rather than globalization or trade negotiation.  It’s too bad for him there’s a lot of economic evidence and theory to debunk virtually every statement he made. 
 
 
To cite one example, we can apply the British economist David Ricardo’s “pauper labor fallacy” to Sanders’ ideas on low foreign wages. The theory discusses the benefits of national comparative advantage and disavows fears of global trade.
 
 
If there’s any valid criticism Sanders should levy, it’s not against free trade in principle but rather against minor specifics of the agreements which supposedly promote it. For example, we might object to some of the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s intellectual property protection articles or its investor-state dispute settlement procedures. 
 
 
I think many progressives are aware of Donald Trump’s brashly unreasonable foreign policy stances, so it’s strange that Sanders would choose to echo similar arguments about international trade. 
 
 
While I find Sanders’ domestic economic policies suspect, if arguable, his international economic policies are plainly ill-informed. 
 
 
Jasper Johnson welcomes comments at [email protected].