By Arnold Kling
The New York Times turned Russ Roberts loose, along with some other economists, on the Republican Presidential debate. One of Roberts’ comments:
Mr. Romney is asked if he still supports trade even though we’ve lost 5 million jobs to foreign trade since 1989. Mr. Romney should say, “That’s fewer new jobs than the economy produces in THREE MONTHS. Foreign trade can’t be the source of our economic challenges.” Unfortunately, Mr. Romney answers like a good mercantilist, an economic position that was first put forward in the 14th century and has been out of favor among economists since 1776 when Adam Smith shot it down. (John McCain–this would be a good place to mention that book you did before).
Trade is good, Mr. Romney explains, because we get to sell stuff to foreigners. He claims that the average American family benefits $9,000 a year from EXPORTS because so many Americans work in the export sector. Weird number. Weird idea. Only a minority of Americans work in the export sector so using the average is a meaningless measure of how the TYPICAL American benefits. The only reason to trade with the rest of the world is to be able to IMPORT. The only reason you export is because foreigners want something for what they send us.
It would be fun to see Roberts debate the candidates face to face. Maybe they’ll agree to appear on a podcast…