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Regularly forgotten amid all the false compassion for the individuals supposedly “left behind” by free trade is why individuals work in the first place. They work in order to import, whether from across the street, or from the other side of the world. Working is all about the getting.
That’s why open trade always and everywhere benefits every worker, regardless of locale. Open trade means that workers enjoy the world’s competition for their money, which means workers are the beneficiaries of competition that not only enhances product quality, but that also leads to lower and lower prices for all those who pursue remunerative labor. Free trade means regular raises for workers regardless of whether their paychecks increase, stay the same, or even shrink.
To the above, the frequent response is that free trade has consequences for workers whereby global competition renders formerly remunerative jobs less lucrative, or wipes them out altogether. Ok, but all technological advance is about erasure of formerly necessary work. If it were just about maintenance of existing jobs, the U.S. and other countries could mimic the former Soviet Union and abolish technology so that the jobs of tomorrow will be the same as the ones today. If so, the world, much like the former Soviet Union, would be very poor. Never forget that before technological advances that saved on labor, the only work available was on the farm. All toil was focused on feeding oneself. No sane person would desire a return to what was a very bleak past in which wealth was wholly a function of one’s ability in the fields.
All of this speaks to the greatest aspect of free trade: it’s the path to individual specialization. When global competition for customers brings down the cost of everything, rising disposable income leads to new wants in the marketplace being discovered, and with these new wants, new forms of work rise up as a necessary way of fulfilling the needs of consumers who desire all sorts of goods and services as a reward for their work. Free trade leads to lower prices, which lead to greater individual specialization, and by extension much greater productivity. When we’re more and more able to do the work most commensurate with our unique skills, our productivity surges.
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