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Free Trade Doesn't Work: What Should Replace It and Why, 2011 Edition Hardcover – April 5, 2011

4.7 out of 5 stars 57 customer reviews

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An articulate and conscientious critique of free trade that should be read by anyone with serious interest in the subject. --Kirkus Discoveries --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Ian Fletcher is an author and historian.

Luttwak is Senior Fellow at the Georgetown University Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 348 pages
  • Publisher: U.S. Business & Industry Council; 2nd edition (April 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0578082667
  • ISBN-13: 978-0578082660
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,864,110 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ian Fletcher is Senior Economist of the Coalition for a Prosperous America, a 2.7-million member organization dedicated to fixing America's trade policies and comprising representatives from business, agriculture, and labor. He was previously a Research Fellow with the U.S. Business and Industry Council, a Washington think tank. Before that, he was an economist in private practice, mostly serving hedge funds and private equity firms. Educated at Columbia University and the University of Chicago, he lives in San Francisco. Details about his book Free Trade Doesn't Work may be found at freetradedoesntwork.com.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Paperback
Ian Fletcher, economist, is an Adjunct Fellow at the San Francisco office of U.S. Business and Industry Council, with a specialty in protectionism and industrial policy. Fletcher believes that America's financial mess and our festering trade crisis were both caused by bad policies that mainstream economists told us were OK. His writing is data driven, uses common sense, is interesting, and eschews arcane mathematics. The 'bad news' is that overcoming free trade will be an uphill fight - 97% of economists support it.

Iif only 'free trade' doctrine was the provenance of university mathematics departments, it wouldn't last five minutes. Elementary math is enough to discredit the underlying thinking. Unfortunately, in the past two decades the U.S. has accumulated a $6 trillion trade deficit following its prescriptives. University of Maryland economist Peter Morici estimates the U.S. economy is about 12% lower than it would be absent these trade deficits.

Fletcher contends that many free trade supporters are simply Ayn Rand cultists (eg. Alan Greenspan) or libertarian ideologues (eg. Milton Friedman - anti Social Security, Medicare, postal service, public education, welfare) passing those views off as economics. Fletcher's "Free Trade Doesn't Work" reports that the logic supporting comparative advantage/free trade makes ten erroneous assumptions, invalidating its conclusions. My slightly modified version:

1)Immobile Capital: David Ricardo, originator of the theory of comparative advantage that underlies free trade, wrote that free trade would be limited because investors would not want to entrust their capital with a strange government and new laws. Thus, it would remain 'in-country.' Probably true in 1817 when Ricardo wrote this. No longer - U.S.
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3 Comments 34 of 41 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
Mr. Fletcher hits the impact of America's free trade initiatives in the guts! He is spot on with the analysis of and the effects of how we have mismanaged our economy which of course has landed us where we are today.

The US has played the free trade game without reciprocation and as a result has stripped our manufacturing capacity and our ability to rebound from our current economic malaise. Thanks Ian, for a great evaluation of where we are and how we must manage going forward.
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Format: Paperback
Paul Samuelson, second only to John Maynard Keynes in stature among twentieth century economists, once conceded that there are many more arguments against free international trade than for it. Yet he never publicized the contrarian arguments. Now, at long last, the job has been done for him. Ian Fletcher's new book FREE TRADE DOESN'T WORK: WHAT SHOULD REPLACE IT AND WHY? offers a compendium of such arguments.

Fletcher devotes but a single chapter to the (currently decisive) argument in favor of free trade. It is purely theoretical, consisting of little more than David Ricardo's long over-rated "principle of comparative advantage," reduced by modern scholarship to a mathematical theorem. The gory details may be found at [...] The mathematics don't make the theorem true. They only make it AS TRUE as the assumptions from which it is deduced. Fletcher lists seven "hidden assumptions" that appear both necessary and sufficient to invalidate Ricardo's conclusion that free trade is, at all times and in all places, advantageous to the practicing nations.

The beauty of Ricardo's principle is that it absolves policy makers of any need to determine the facts of the matter. If free trade policy were indeed universally advantageous, no nation would have any incentive to practice anything else. Fletcher devotes the bulk of his book to the many powerful incentives that now cause -- and have long caused -- most nations to adopt quite different policies. In the process, he debunks a multitude of claims traditionally made by the advocates of free trade:

* NAFTA was sold on the claim that it would create 200,000 US jobs before the ink was dry. In fact it promptly exported many more than that, while depressing wages in the ones left behind.
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