Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Takedown of Hazlitt's "Free Trade Is Good" Horse-hockey

Vox simply demolishes a number of Hazlitt's claims about 'free trade.'  Here are a couple of (unfairly de-contexted) items:

...Perhaps it is not Hazlitt's fault that he didn't understand the global reserve currency effect at the time he was writing his book in 1946, (although as an advocate of the gold standard, he should have at least been aware of the obvious implications), but that doesn't change the fact that his conclusion is simply false. Barring retaliatory protectionist measures that actually ban the purchase of American goods, it is absolutely ludicrous to claim that foreigners will be unable to purchase American goods due to a lack of dollar exchange.

...Hazlitt correctly notes that it is wrong to consider the effects of a tariff from a crude perspective that lumps all producers and consumers into separate units of competing interests. But he is manifestly wrong to claim that tariffs harm all consumers, because consumers are also workers and the small cost of the tariff to the consumer-worker is more than mitigated by its benefit to him.

 ...It is simply laughable, to assert as nakedly as Hazlitt does, that "a tariff is irrelevant to the question of employment". History has clearly demonstrated is that the effects on employment are not merely temporary ones that result from sudden changes in the tariff, and indeed, the negative long-term effects of free trade on employment has become one of the primary economic arguments for protectionism. Both the logic and the empirical evidence weigh heavily against Hazlitt here...

...Hazlitt not only fails to provide any support for his claim that tariffs do not provide employment, raise wages or protect the American standard of living, his claim is demonstrably false in economic, logical and empirical terms. His argument is outdated, is based primarily on naked assertions, and is undermined by more than sixty years of historical evidence directly contradicting the lofty promises of the free trade doctrine he champions here...

Other than that, Hazlitt's a good writer.

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