Free Traders Should Be More Careful When Defending Trade Deficits

In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, Harvard economist Robert Barro understandably took aim at President Trump’s faulty mercantilist criticism of free international trade. In contrast to Trump’s view, Barro argued that imports are “things we want” whereas exports are “the price we have to pay” to obtain them. Although Barro’s statements are a useful way to get novices to think about trade, they can be misleading, and in this case actually did lead a WSJ editor to write something incorrect. All too often, in their zeal to defuse hysteria over America’s trade deficit, free-trade economists prove too much, using

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