Should Trade’s ‘Losers’ be Compensated?: An Exploration of the Welfare Economics of the Losses and Costs of Economic Change

24 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2021 Last revised: 10 Mar 2022

See all articles by Donald J. Boudreaux

Donald J. Boudreaux

George Mason University - Department of Economics; George Mason University - Mercatus Center

Date Written: October 21, 2021

Abstract

A commonplace claim about international trade is that it “has losers” – a claim often taken to imply that the case for a policy of free trade rests upon the assumption that trade’s “winners” will compensate its “losers.” In this paper I argue that this claim is mistaken. The mistake, specifically, is to misidentify the payment of costs of participating in the modern competitive economy as the incurrence of losses of property interests or entitlements. At stake is more than semantics. Confusing “costs” with “losses” misleading suggests that compensation for these costs is necessary to make international trade economically efficient and ethically acceptable.

Keywords: trade, welfare

JEL Classification: F1, KO

Suggested Citation

Boudreaux, Donald J., Should Trade’s ‘Losers’ be Compensated?: An Exploration of the Welfare Economics of the Losses and Costs of Economic Change (October 21, 2021). Law & Economics Center at George Mason University Scalia Law School Research Paper Series No. 22-003, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3947328 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3947328

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