« Attack! | Main | Annals of Good Reporting »

December 07, 2007

Dani Rodrik is a National Treasure

He writes:

Trade was good for me. Was it good for you too?

You say it left you feeling really sore and that I did not even say a proper goodbye (let alone pay you for my share of dinner)? Well, I don't really care. I enjoyed it so much that we must have been both better off in aggregate. So we have to keep doing it. And in any case, if we stop you are likely to find some other way of hurting yourself.

Italics mine. That's a scarily accurate reflection of how trade is often thought about, though rarely spoken about. That's no surprise, though. It just so happens that those who tend to do the speaking on trade are those at the top of the distributional pyramid, and they hardly notice that their great gains aren't necessarily being matched. After all, the bad lover in Rodrik's example is rarely so self-conscious as to realize that what was good for him was not good for her. And he's even less likely to ask.

December 7, 2007 | Permalink


Well, to (ahem) thrust the metaphor a little farther down the garden path, one could argue that the aggrieved partner in that relationship might not exactly have given her consent to the encounter.

Posted by: The Confidence Man | Dec 7, 2007 1:22:07 PM

Dani Rodrik is a National Treasure
Well then... There's two economistical people whose opinion I value who think that.

Ezra & Andrew Leonard at 'How the World Works'//Salon

Posted by: has_te | Dec 7, 2007 2:21:33 PM

Hmmm--usually, it's not the parties TRADING that are objecting. It's the parties that would otherwise have been traded with.

So--I think trade is more like the 2 good lovers all happy, and the bad lover, who was dumped, complaining.

Posted by: SamChevre | Dec 7, 2007 3:03:49 PM

Gee. If trade is like that, then the problem will solve itself. Who is stupid enough to continue trading when they don't think it's in their own interest? And a bad reputation will inhibit opportunities for future deals.

What you really object to is that some people are benefiting in such a way that will inconvenience others.

A policy that lets us all seek beneficial relationships, and leave bad ones, is better than one that allows noisy fools to interfere.

Posted by: Gil | Dec 7, 2007 9:49:52 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.