A közgazdasági modellek elsöprő többsége érvel a szabadkereskedelem mellet, többségében jóléti érvekkel operálva, melyek alapja a komparatív előnyök tétele, és a keresleti-kínálati modellek elemzése. Valóban ennyire egyszerű a helyzet. Ezt a kérdést feszegeti két írás.
Az egyik (Robert Driskill’s Deconstructing the Argument for Free Trade) a hagyományos érvek hiányosságaira hívja fel a figyelmet. Néhány érdekes megjegyzés:
My point is not that the economics profession is not on the side of angels in the policy debate over trade liberalization–although I will argue that a more careful argument should lead to a more nuanced view–but that the argument is poorly made. This reflects negatively on the credibility of the economics profession as a whole: critical thinkers might believe all economic arguments are as poorly supported as is the one in support of free trade; others might believe economists are mere propagandists and handmaidens in service of some philosophical or political goal. Furthermore, it obscures some key ideas that should be part of a persuasive argument in support of free trade. And finally, it has confused many people into false beliefs about what economic analysis really says about the effects of international trade.
A másik (Dean Baker: Trade and inequality: The role of economists) a közgazdászok közpolitikai szerepvállalását igyekszik bemutatni.
Economists have come to play an enormously important role in public policy debates. There use of their expertise to effectively act as priests, telling the less informed public what the impact of their various policy proposals will be on the economy’s future performance. Economists often tell the public that its preferred policy path will not have the intended effect, and may actually lead to outcomes that are the opposite of what is intended.
Since economists, or at least the mainstream of the economics profession, are accorded enormous respect by the major media outlets, any politician who challenges the prognostications from this group is likely to be ridiculed in the media. This ridicule is generally sufficient to derail the career of any politician who does not already possess an independent and determined base of support and/or a vast amount of wealth that she can use to sustain her political career.
As a result of their ability to influence the media, economists can be incredibly important in steering public policy, often in directions that may not be supported by most of the country. Trade policy provides an excellent example of a case in which the mainstream of economics profession has been adamant in pushing economic policies that clearly do not have the support of the bulk of the public.
To sum up, economists have been extraordinarily dishonest in their interventions in public debates over trade policy. They have not been straightforward on the implications of standard trade models.
First, they have acted to conceal the fact that a substantial group of workers, quite likely a majority of the workforce, can be expected to be losers from the recent path of trade liberalization. This is not an accidental outcome; it is literally the mechanism through which the economy experiences gains from trade. The vast majority of these workers will not actually lose their jobs as a direct result of trade. Rather they will receive lower wages in the same jobs. If no compensation is paid from winners to losers, then a large segment of the work force can be expected to be losers from the current trade agenda.
The second key point that has been largely concealed from public debate is that the gains from trade liberalization in a regime where the losers are compensated cannot be assumed. To cover lost tariff revenue and raise revenue to pay compensation to losers, it is necessary to raise other taxes. These taxes are by definition distortionary, and it is quite possible that the distortions created by these taxes are larger than the efficiency gains from reducing trade barriers. Since any compensation program will necessarily be imperfectly targeted, and incur administrative costs in addition to the compensation paid out, it is quite likely that the taxes necessary to pay for such a program will exceed the efficiency gains from trade liberalization.
Finally, economists have been very wiling to ignore the trade barriers that protect the wages of highly educated professionals. For the most part, obstacles to trade in highly paid professional services do not even get discussed in the context of trade debates, even though the potential gains from reducing barriers in this area are likely to swamp the gains from removing the remaining barriers in merchandise trade. In this case, the effect of trade liberalization would be equalizing, since it would push down the wages of the most highly paid workers.