The USA in World Integration
Edited by Thomas L. Brewer and Gavin Boyd
Chapter 4: A public choice perspective on the globalizing of America
83 4. A public choice perspective on the globalizing of America Willem Thorbecke INTRODUCTION Traditional international economic models assume that the government promotes the public interest. In such a framework free trade will usually be the policy of choice. Comparative advantage and economies of scale will produce gains from trade, increasing aggregate welfare. Agents proﬁting from liberalization can compensate those losing and still retain net beneﬁts. A caveat to this analysis concerns optimum tariffs and strategic protection. The optimum tariff argument holds that if a country is large enough to inﬂuence its terms of trade, it can employ a tariff to increase welfare. The strategic protection argument holds that in the presence of increasing returns, government subsidies could enable domestic ﬁrms to produce at lower average costs and drive foreign rivals out of the market. Both optimum tariffs and strategic protection imply that one country can increase its welfare at the expense of other countries. International relations scholars of the Realist school have viewed trade protection as the attempt of one nation to gain at the expense of others. As Milner (1997) discusses, Realists hold that the state can be represented as a unitary actor. The executive is assumed to add up the gains and losses from any policy into a single ranking. He or she then makes decisions to maximize economic welfare and the national interest. Protectionism in this perspective is viewed as an attempt by a uniﬁed rational actor to beneﬁt the home...
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