Free Trade Helps The Environment (and people)

I just signed this petition. It expresses opposition to “green protectionism.”

One of the terrible ideas likely to be considered at the UN convention on climate change next month is to use trade sanctions to enforce environmental compliance. I can understand that most eco-alarmists are, like voters, rationally ignorant of the quality of their expressed preferences because the status they gain by their signaling outweighs the likely consequences of their marginal contribution to the debate.

But, sometimes, the policies are so stupid and dangerous that I find it hard to sympathize with their advocates. Inhibiting trade is such an instance.

Trade increases wealth. Not just for the already wealthy, but (more importantly) for the terribly impoverished as well. It saves lives, promotes peace, and it helps the environment. If you want people to care about the environment enough to trade-off some of their wealth, then you should want to hasten the growth of their economies. The historical evidence on this is very clear.

Here are some quotes from the petition signers:

“Economists don’t agree reliably. When they do, listen up: In international trade, freer is fairer and smarter.

Free trade has the authority of Adam Smith, classical economics, neoclassical economics, Keynesian economics, and basically all economics. The International Policy Network is doing a great service in advancing the wisdom and humanity of free trade.”

Daniel Klein, Professor of Economics, George Mason University

“The proof of the enormous economic benefits of free trade is all around us, not least in the impoverished third world that has already benefited mightily from so-called globalization. It is immoral and irresponsible, or just plain stupid, that politicians, and the special interests they protect, would sacrifice this humanitarian improvement in welfare for their own short-lived personal gain. The Freedom to Trade Campaign has the potential to do far more good for the world than all the foreign aid ever devised.”

Henry Manne, Dean Emeritus George Mason University School of Law.

“We have it in our paper [sic] to turn the present recession into a depression. One good way to do that is to succumb to the crude politics and base impulses of nationalism and racism that underlie the demand for protectionism. A better alternative is to support and extend economic interchange across borders, motivated both by the liberal values of tolerance, choice and openness and by a wealth of empirical evidence demonstrating the relationship between trade and economic growth.”

Jeffrey Smith, Department of Economics, University of Michigan

“International free trade is about more than ensuring that consumers can get the most value for their spending dollar, as important as that is during a recession when incomes are strained. Trade builds trust and understanding among people regardless of their physical location. Greater interdependence makes war less likely. These are values we always should cherish, but especially when economic uncertainty provides fertile soil for those who would drive us against each other. Now more than ever, free trade is best.”

Dr. Eric Crampton, Senior Lecturer, Department of Economics, University of Canterbury

Sign the thing.

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