Against the Tide: An Intellectual History of Free Trade

Douglas A. Irwin, Author
Douglas A. Irwin, Author Princeton University Press $75 (274p) ISBN 978-0-691-01138-7
Reviewed on: 04/01/1996
Release date: 04/01/1996
Paperback - 280 pages - 978-0-691-05896-2
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Few economic debates have raised more emotion over the last two centuries than that between the champions of free trade and the advocates of protectionism. Irwin chronicles this controversy in great detail from the demise of mercantilism in the 17th century and the beginnings of free-trade ideology with Adam Smith to the present. As Free Trade was an essentially British invention, most of the book's cast of characters are of that nationality, Irwin also traces the thinking of John Maynard Keynes, who, after being an ardent advocate of free trade, went through a reversal to become a supporter of protectionism. ""Free trade, combined with great mobility of wage rates, is a tenable intellectual position,"" he wrote, but ""it presents a problem of justice so long as many types of money [wages] income are protected by contract and cannot be made mobile."" The debate is still very much alive today--from EEC to NAFTA, to the campaign rhetoric in this year's presidential primaries. Although Irwin takes an historical approach, he clearly a supporter of free trade. Irwin is a professor of Business Economics at the and is affiliated with the American Enterprise Institute, both of which are bastions of supply-side theory, which is free trade in its purest form. The book will be most readable for those with more than a passing knowledge of economics. (July)
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