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To the liberal, free trade in goods and services and free movement of capital and labor are integrally linked to liberal politics. Trump's "America First" protectionism is inseparable from his diseased politics.But this is a dangerous misconception. Liberal opinion on these matters is based on two widespread beliefs: that free trade is good for all partners (so that countries that embrace it outperform those that restrict imports and limit contact with the rest of the world), and that freedom to trade goods and export capital is part of the constitution of liberty. The scientific case for free trade rests on David Ricardo's far more subtle, counterintuitive doctrine of comparative advantage.Assuming that some production of a naturally disadvantaged good (like wine in Scotland) is possible, Ricardo demonstrated that total welfare is increased if countries with absolute disadvantages specialize in producing goods in which they are least disadvantaged.Ricardo also believed that land, capital and labor – what economists call the "factors of production" – were intrinsic to a country and could not be moved round the world like actual commodities.The ability of companies to allocate jobs globally changes the nature of the discussion about the "gains from trade".Even economists who concede the losses that come with globalization reject protectionism as an answer.
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