James Champlin: An Early Advocate for Free Trade

by Laurence M. Vance

[This article was adapted from a talk delivered at the 2016 Austrian Economics Research Conference at the Mises Institute.]

Although most economists today generally see the benefits of free trade, such is not the case in the political realm. Leftists who are beholden to labor unions, for example, support protectionist measures to keep the votes coming from their their largest constituencies. Meanwhile, Conservatives are a mixed bag, and the “best” conservatives are often the worst when it comes to free trade.

Conservative Critics of Free Trade

Paul Craig Roberts has called free trade “a no-think cult that permits a greedy few to destroy America’s economic position for their own gain.” He claims that “the known necessary conditions for free trade to be mutually beneficial do not hold in today’s environment where factors of production are as mobile, if not more so, than traded goods.”

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