Chang vs. Jeter vs. Ridley! To The Death!
Matt Ridley's new book The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves reminds us that even though many people are professing the end of days because of the sub-prime mortgage crisis, high gas prices, a stagnant economy, rising food prices, and climate change, that people are still living better than at any other time in human history, and he argues that this is because of specialization and free-trade-- and credits David Ricardo for realizing this-- and this system of eschewing self-sufficiency and instead pursuing markets and trade enables ideas to mix and mate and reproduce, which leads to a higher quality of life for everyone involved, but sometimes he oversimplifies his thesis, especially when he makes over-arching statements like this: "The message from history is so blatantly obvious-- that free trade causes mutual prosperity while protectionism causes poverty-- that it seems incredible that anybody ever thinks otherwise," and then Ridley claims that there is "not a single example" from history of a country opening its border and ending up poorer . . . which is the logical kiss of death; Ha Joon Chang provides comprehensive examples of when protectionism is necessary for a country to thrive, and John Jeter provides examples of countries who opened their borders to the forces of global markets and became impoverished . . . so I guess these guys need to arrange a time and a date and settle this debate out in the streets.