The Corner

Economy & Business

Uncommon Knowledge: A Soldier in the Trade Wars

 

Professor Douglas Irwin defends the benefits of free trade and explains why protectionism, high tariffs, and currency wars could cause economic problems. Irwin explains the misconceptions around trade surpluses and deficits and the historical consequences and benefits of trade. He talks about an absolute versus comparative advantage with trade and why and how a trade deficit with China still benefits the United States. Irwin refers to Adam Smith’s view of trade in explaining the absolute advantage of trade. Smith argued for unregulated foreign trade, reasoning that if one country can produce a good, for example, steel, at lower costs than another country, and if a different country can produce another good, for example, an iPhone, at lower costs, then it is beneficial to both parties/countries to exchange those goods. This has become known as the absolute advantage argument for both international and domestic trade.

Peter Robinson — Peter M. Robinson is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

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