Free Trade Theories: Threat to the American Worker?

Essay by puggleCollege, UndergraduateD+, February 2007

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One of the most heatedly debated issues that are facing the American industries today is the topic concerning free trade vs. protectionism. Adam Smith's book, "Wealth of Nations," was published over 200 years ago in 1776. And yet today, economists still argue over the legitimacy of his words. Lobbyists and Unions argue that free trade has become a liability that is threatening to overtake U.S. security in sectors such as the job market, manufacturing, and technology. Many see protectionism as the only viable solution to defend against the free trade predicament but economists almost all agree that free trade is beneficial to economy whereas protectionism is detrimental. The difference in views between economists and the common worker is that economists see the movement and costs behind the economic flow whereas the common worker is only able to see the direct and most publicized effect of free trade. Free trade may be the cause of much controversy briefly, but if free trade is upheld, it is ultimately beneficial for all economies and workers as well.

Adam Smith, known as the father of classical economy, argued free markets and free trade produced richer nations and wealthier economies. If trade was uninhibited by government regulations and protections, individuals acting out of pure-self interest would maximize the total wealth of the nations through a Darwin-esque "survival-of-the-fittest." His theory stated that through specialization, all countries would prosper because specialization of a product would lead to lower costs and better products. The costs would be lower because the countries would only specialize in products or operations that they could produce faster and cheaper than other countries. The products would eventually be produced better because as a country produces more and more of the same product, they will develop a better way to produce and improve upon...