The article argues that free trade is required by any plausible conception of justice. Free trade is supported by a host of consequentialist and deontological reasons. Empirically, trade increases global and national wealth, and in particular helps the poor. Morally, those who benefit from protectionist laws are not deserving beneficiaries of wealth redistribution. Both economic theory and evidence amply warrant the view that trade is beneficial. Protectionism by rich countries is harmful, not only to those countries' consumers, but to producers in poor countries. Given this, and given the fact that protectionism is almost always the result of political pressure by inefficient producers, there is no plausible moral reason to support it. Protectionism by poor countries is equally harmful. Relying on the institutionalist literature, the article shows that protectionism is yet another bad institution that contributes to economic stagnation in those countries. The article considers and rejects two criticisms of free trade: the problem of stolen goods, and the pauper-labor argument.
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