The Corner

Trade and Jobs

Brink Lindsey has produced an extremely sober and sensible primer on the subject. Let me mention one question that he (reasonably) does not go into, but on which his analysis reinforces my prejudice. Liberal and conservative free traders–I’m thinking specifically of Gene Sperling and George Will here–have suggested that workers who lose their jobs, or presumably see their wages go down, as a result of free trade should get either financial compensation or job training from the federal government. Let’s assume that the federal government can isolate those workers who have been adversely affected by trade, as opposed to domestic competition, technological change, and other factors. Why exactly is a person who lost his job to domestic competition less entitled to our help than one who lost it to foreign trade?

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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