Free Trade Doesn'T Work

Free Trade Doesn'T Work

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by Ian Fletcher

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Are you wondering how Americans can compete with nations like China? Are you wondering how, if they can offshore call centers, computer programming, and accounting, there will be any good jobs left they can't offshore? Are you wondering how America can keep importing and running up debt without going bankrupt? Are you wondering how America can be a powerful nation


Are you wondering how Americans can compete with nations like China? Are you wondering how, if they can offshore call centers, computer programming, and accounting, there will be any good jobs left they can't offshore? Are you wondering how America can keep importing and running up debt without going bankrupt? Are you wondering how America can be a powerful nation without an industrial base? Are you wondering why the politicians keep denying all of these problems? Are you wondering whether the economics you learned in school and hear on TV is really valid? Are you wondering who you can trust? This very readable book is aimed at both ordinary concerned citizens and people with a bit of sophistication about economics. It is a systematic examination of why free trade is slowly bleeding America's economy to death and what can be done about it. It explains in detail why the standard economic arguments free traders use all the time are false, and what kind of economic ideas - well within the grasp of the average American - justify protectionism instead. It examines the history and politics of free trade and explains how America came to adopt its present disastrous free trade policy. It looks at the breakdown of specific industries and how we can rebuild them and bring millions of high-paying jobs back to this country. It examines what's wrong with NAFTA, CAFTA, the WTO, and the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership. It is sharply critical of the current establishment, but from a bipartisan point of view, so it should satisfy progressives, conservatives, and everyone in between. Unlike many past critiques of free trade, it is economically-literate; it also explains New Trade Theory, the hot new area of economics that critiques free trade.

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U.S. Business & Industry Council
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6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.78(d)

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Free Trade Doesn't Work 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Old_Timer_37 More than 1 year ago
Are you concerned about economics or global trade? If so, buy, read, study and refer to "Free Trade Doesn't Work: what should replace it and why" by Ian Fletcher. It ranks in my top five books on economics. It's that good! The title makes bold claims; the content delivers. In his effective 267 pages of text, Ian Fletcher dissects and often demolished fundamental teachings about the benefits and risks of trade and replaces them with evidence based updates. He then recommends a practical alternative based on clear objectives. He wastes no time on polemics or blame as he provides easily understood and well documented evidence sprinkled with stimulating analogies to support his thesis. He displays a refreshing and sensible appreciation of how we got ourselves into the economic mess we're in and why so few economists speak out against conventional wisdom, even though most of them probably know better. His clear and simple explanations of complicated issues remind me of an old axiom: "The better you understand something, the more simply you can explain it." Free Trade Doesn't Work has three sections: The Problem in which we are mired, The Real Economics of Trade in which evidence and history contradict the prevalent mythology and The Solution a relatively simple but politically controversial alternative to Free-Trade that has been successfully practiced in disguised forms by the Japanese and Chinese, among others. The Solution section begins by answering a critical question: what is necessary in the way of industry and infrastructure for a nation to produce and sustain economic growth? An operational answer to this question provides a concrete objective to achieve and maintain and something with which to measure the success or failure of economic policies. Classical economists and free-traders have not answered this question, as Fletcher demonstrates; therefore we have been stumbling blindly into an uncertain future. The gist of his answer is: growth is produced by an adequately diverse, interactive, symbiotic, robust, cohesive, adaptive community of resources and systems within a nation which drives increasing complexity and the creative destruction of less valuable alternatives. The next question Fletcher answers is: what practical and sustainable trade policies would foster the desired outcome? His answer is deceptively simple: a flat tax on all imported goods and services. He calls it a Natural Strategic Tariff. I cannot do justice to the systematic way in which he supports this solution or to the powerful and subtle ways it would maintain our economic vigor or to his cogent arguments against more selective forms of protectionism. They are all worth careful study. When I first read his solution, I was skeptical. However, I've come to agree with him after analyzing alternatives, run through what-if scenarios and reviewing how other nations, like China and Japan, have successfully used it in thinly disguised ways. The only nit I can pick with his solution is its name, because transportation costs, relative health and safety requirements, and currency manipulations are also parts of every nation's Natural Strategic Tariff; some being negative tariffs which a flat tax must more than compensate for on average.
alonzoAN More than 1 year ago
Ian Fletcher's book on free trade is the best I've read, and there good ones out there, pro and con - e.g. by Sherrod Brown, Ravi Batra, Ha-Joon Chang, Jagdish Baghwati, Harry Shutt, et al. To my mind Fletcher's is far superior. He provides a detailed and pellucid treatment of what free trade is and how it works, or, more precisely, why it does not work for ordinary folks. The presentation of what free trade is acquaints the reader to free trade in terms that could have been used by an articulate defender of free trade: FT is not presented as a straw man but is rather explained in its strongest form. Thereafter Fletcher proceeds to present a detailed critique of the main arguments of FT's defenders, replete with clear and helpful examples, and with no cant or rhetoric. Fletcher has made rigorous economic-analytical thinking accessible to an intelligent non-economist. -- I recommend this book to the general reader interested in one of the major economic issues of the time, to professional economists and to teachers.
DarrenVA More than 1 year ago
This is supposed to be a great book, and I'd like to read it on my Nook. Only problem is that the Kindle version is $8, and the Nook version is $15. Absolutely wrong. I'm rating it specifically for the Nook version here as 1 star. Please be fair and bring this price down to $7.95 as well. I'll remove this rating and spend the $8 to buy it at the reasonable and fair price. No reason that a nook book and kindle book should have that kind of price disparity. I assume the publisher is the one who decides this? I'm not trying to affect the overall rating of this book since its clearly a 4 or 5 star book, but only commenting on the ebook version of this book. UPDATE: Spoke to author about this, and price will be revised! Bravo! Looking forward to reading the book on my Nook, and appreciate the author's quick response. Changed to 4 stars.
jimcase More than 1 year ago
At long last, the case against free international trade has been reduced to book length. Ian Fletcher's FREE TRADE DOESN'T WORK: What Should Replace It and Why collects the more convincing arguments against that ostensibly enlightened policy together in one place. In contrast to the case in favor, which is almost entirely theoretical, the case against free trade is primarily fact-based. Clever thought it is, the theory just doesn't fit the facts! Fletcher devotes a single chapter to the standard argument in favor of free trade, which turns on Ricardo's "principle of comparative advantage." Modern scholarship has reduced that principle to a concise mathematical theorem, as described at Fletcher lists seven "hidden assumptions" that appear to invalidate the conclusion that free trade is-at all times and in all places-advantageous to the entire community of trading nations. Extensive though it is, his list is incomplete. The real beauty of Ricardo's principle is, in Fletcher's opinion, that it absolves policy makers of any need to consult-or even be aware of-the facts of international trade. If free trade were anything like the universally advantageous policy described in textbooks, no nation would have any reason to cast about for alternatives. Fletcher devotes the bulk of his book to the reasons why most nations, instead of embracing free trade, avoid it like the plague. In the process, he debunks a multitude of traditional claims: ? NAFTA was sold on the claim that it would create 200,000 US jobs overnight. In fact, it promptly destroyed far more than that, while depressing wages in those it left behind. ? Claim: The British Empire prospered after adopting free trade in 1860. In fact, the British economy soon withered. ? Claim: Free trade is "tried and true." In fact, trade restrictions are as old as trade itself. Free Trade has seldom been tried, and has usually (with a few notable exceptions) been quickly abandoned. Fletcher's book should be read by absolutely everyone involved, or in danger of becoming involved, in the policy process.
Bill_Bullard More than 1 year ago
For decades U.S. cattle ranchers supported free trade, believing it would strengthen their industry by opening new and more profitable global beef markets. However, after the implementation of free trade agreements with 17 separate countries, the U.S. cattle industry is contracting at an alarming rate. Already, over half a million cattle ranches have exited the industry just since the 1980s, and imports from developing and developed countries alike are now beginning to supplant our domestic production. This outcome is opposite what we expected. And now, our nation's long-term food safety and food security likely hanges in the balance of what we decide to do regarding the establishment of a national trade policy. Ian Fletcher's book explains why free trade is not the panacea everyone thought, and it provides ample evidence to show that the principal assumptions underpinning our free trade policies are fundamentally unsound. Fletcher's book is as much an insightful critique of free trade as it is a warning that free trade must be rethought.
Ron_Baiman More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent book on a very important topic. The U.S. economy is hemorrhaging high quality export industry jobs at an astounding rate and a major causal factor is the mistaken and destructive "free trade" doctrine, the legitimating factor behind "free trade policy". Almost half of our manufacturing workforce has disappeared since 1987 and more than a third of large factories just since 2001. Not coincidentally 2001 is the year China joined the WTO. Our country is in a deep hole that desperately requires new thinking and new policies. This book summarizes the theory, the policy, and the history of "free trade" and provides a well-argued alternative that is described with insight, clarity, and in a vibrant and captivating style. The book is divided into three parts: the Problem, the Real Economics of Trade, and the Solution. In the Problem section, Fletcher describes the US situation and goes over and tears apart the standard arguments for free trade and some of the wishful "remedies" to the U.S. trade problem such as more "education" and "post industrialism". In the second part, he provides a masterful analysis of core ideas of "comparative advantage" and why this does not justify free trade. The final section of the book provides a wealth of information on actual trade policy and real world trade that leads into a first rate summary of recent theoretical advances in "real trade" theory (as opposed to the largely ideological and mythological "free trade" doctrine). He than proposes and argues for a politically and economically practical alternative: a "natural strategic tariff" that would in many ways level the playing field between US and foreign exporters in the most important dynamic manufacturing and service export sectors. Fletcher proposes that any regressive tax effects of a Strategic Tariff be neutralized through rebates to low-income consumers. I would go farther and propose that revenue from the tariff be used to raise wages and environmental and social standards in developing countries along the lines of a "solidarity trade" policy as proposed for example in Baiman "Unequal Exchange Without a Labor Theory of Prices: On the Need for a Global Marshall Plan and a Solidarity Trading Regime," Review of Radical Political Economics 2006, 38(1). I would have also liked Fletcher to include a reference to the fact that not only does Ricardian comparative advantage lead to woefully misguided trade policies, it is also mathematically erroneous on its own terms as a argument for "free trade". In fact for Ricardo's parable to work England would have to put a tariff on Portuguese wine - see Baiman "The Infeasibility of Free Trade in Classical Theory: Ricardo's Comparative Advantage Parable has no Solution," forthcoming in Review of Political Economy 2010 22(2). For a comprehensive review of: a) Large scale permanent living jobs program, with complementary, b) trade policies, and c) industrial policies, see "Toward a New Political Economy for the U.S." on the Chicago Political Economy Group (CPEG) website: [...]. However, though he doesn't go as far as I would have liked in some areas, I couldn't agree more with the basic point of the book that free trade doesn't work and that something must be done to re-balance world trade. Fletcher's vision is informed by a Schumpeterian &am
DCW More than 1 year ago
Ian Fletcher's book pierces the veil that has surround free trade for far too long. As we look over the shattered economic landscape of the United States and we ask, where did all the jobs go, where did all the farmers go, why is a rich country like ours so deep in debt, we need only look at the neoliberal trade and financial policies of the last 25 years to understand the cause. Oddly, a super strain of group think has infected our policy makers and economists, making it seemingly impossible to acknowledge that free trade doesn't work. Finally, someone has broken the silence. Ian Fletcher has written a thorough critique of what is wrong with free trade and how we can begin to fix the mess it has made.
TPN More than 1 year ago
Mr. Fletcher has provided a compelling argument against the widely held belief that Free Trade is good for America and the rest of the world. The book is extremely informative and offers valuable historical perspective, including why past attempts at free trade have failed. Easy to read and comprehend, it's a great resource in the current debate of globalization and its threat to U.S. sovereignty. Mr. Fletcher has illustrated that Free Trade (as practiced) has dire consequences which are clearly contributing to the current financial crisis and how failure to implement corrective actions will result in further decline of the U.S. standard of living. Additionally, the book explains exactly how those negative consequences have and will impact our trading partners. This is a timely book and should be read be everyone, not only in Washington but all of the leaders of those multi-national free trading companies who have been oblivious to the long term effects of the failed U.S. trade strategy.
TomMullikin More than 1 year ago
Fletcher points to the ideal of "free trade" and proclaims it is not wearing any clothes! Instead of following along with the crowd, Fletcher systematically presents the failures of an unrestrained trade system and offers up a balanced discussion of what a managed trade system could accomplish in its place. His discussion of the World Trade Organization's goals, and of China's open defiance of the spirit of WTO rules, is refreshingly honest and timely. A direct move toward managed and open global trade is what America needs from its economic emperors, and this book is an important step in that direction!
mckeever More than 1 year ago
I had the pleasure of reading some of FREE TRADE DOESN'T WORK and discussing it with Ian Fletcher in the pre publication form. One of my interests for years has been the flawed theory of trade used to justify the free trade mantra and some of the real world effects that belief has brought. Mr. Fletcher has brilliantly addressed both the theoretical flaws and the real world problems brought by Free Trade in the current published form. This book is a must read for policy makers in every country, especially the USA. Its arguments will set the tone for national economic policy for years to come. Mr. Fletcher has combined sound economic theory with real world readability - an unusual feat for which he is to be congratulated. This book has my wholhearted endorsement for any person interested in the subject - especially those who still believe in Free Trade as the best policy. Mike P. McKeever January 25, 2010
John_R_Davis More than 1 year ago
Mr. Fletcher has presented clearly and accurately what has caused the loss of jobs, industries, home foreclosures, bank failures and the recession. He also explaines what we need to do to reverse our nations decline. An important book for all.
MBOIrish More than 1 year ago
An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations written by Adam Smith and published in 1776 spawned economic debate and deliberation for hundreds of years. This ranged from David Richardo's work which laid the foundation for broad acceptance of free trade to Karl Marx's communism which collapsed first. Today China,India and other economies which are neither free trade based not communist are roaring past any country embracing free trade. Ian Fletcher's Free Trade Doesn't Work explains the economic foundation of what does work from theory to practice in the real world. Any sertious discussion of economics or development of national economic strategy henceforth needs to consider Ian's work. We have our bible.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Free Trade Doesn't Work is one of the most serious and well researched books on real world issues in international trade. Economists, politicians and policy makers will need to address the critiques of this book in order to formulate any coherent trade policy going forward.