I'm astonished that otherwise reputable economists continue to promote free trade dogma.
Free-trader enthusiasts consistently decry the horrors of tariffs, yet throughout U.S. industrialization (early 1800's to WWII), in fact, until Ronald Reagan's administration in 1980, we had broad protective tariffs on manufactured products as high as 48% and frequently averaging in the 30% range. And during this stretch of 150 years or so we saw consistent, profitable expansion of U.S. manufacturing, despite depressions, recessions, and a civil war intermittently impeding growth.
Since Reagan's income tax and tariff cuts, we've liquidated our industrial base for quick profits, dismantled the middle class and the unions that fostered it, eroded wages for wage-earners, and cemented in place an uber-wealthy, capitalized oligarchy. Our post-manufacturing banker class continues to sell out un-capitalized, wage-earners for a quick buck importing cheap junk from overseas and outsourcing design, manufacturing and service jobs. (John Jacob Astor would have been proud.) What's left? Retail, tourism (hawking Chinese t-shirts, hotel hospitality, rental desk clerks, etc.), health care, food service, and...wait for it...landscaping and gardening at the expansive homes of affluent bankers.
If free trade were such a godsend, would we not be seeing some real benefits, aside from cheap imported junk and profitable job outsourcing, by now? Benefits such as sustained and broad prosperity? Appealing employment opportunities? Health care for everyone? Education for everyone? Something besides cheap junk and a proliferation of rich bankers propped up by tax dollars?
Here's a revealing and contradictory take on free trade:
Thom Hartmann's review of Ha-Joon Chang's 'Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism'
Here's a Senator from South Carolina who recognizes the flaws in free trade: The Failures of Free Trade
The sooner wage-earning Americans wise up to the baloney we're being fed by our caviar-nipping, banking brethren, the better.
Here's a bit longer thing I wrote in response to comments on this and another post: Domestic Manufacturing vs. Free Trade
Here's a bracing rundown of NAFTA's caustic effects from Robert E. Scott at the Economic Policy Institute (www.epi.org): The high price of ‘free’ trade
Former Senator Fritz Hollings seems to concur:
We Are in Real Trouble
Politics Like Cancer
Here's a nice roundup of NY Times articles on NAFTA: http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/n/north_american_free_trade_agreement/index.html
If you don't read all of the above, read this at least:
Free Trade Accord at Age 10: The Growing Pains Are Clear
And here's a nice little Wiki history of tariffs in the United States: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tariff_in_American_history