TANSTAAFL

Any time the discussion of free trade comes up, inevitably someone objects on grounds similar to this commentator over at Cafe Hayek:

[L]ibertarians willfully ignor[e] the real pain of those whose lives are badly damaged or even destroyed by economic changes…

I object to the claim we “willfully ignor[e] the real pain of those whose lives are badly damaged or even destroyed by economic changes.”

First off, libertarians are not the only ones who hold the view that free trade is beneficial to society. The overwhelming majority of economists (96%) across both sides of the asile do (http://www.igmchicago.org/igm-economic…/poll-results…). The other 4% don’t disagree; they are just unsure. That alone is very telling.

But, and more importantly, I’ve never met a single economist, libertarian or otherwise, who pretends trade or innovation has no pain associated with it. I know Don has never said so. I know I never said so. I know Krugman and Friedman and Mises and DeLong and Stiglitz never said so. Every change comes with “winners” and “losers.”  Every action has opportunity cost, and trade is no different.