A Negative-Sum Game?

Proponents of the free-market often point out that it is a positive-sum endeavor. Both parties have the potential for benefitting in a voluntary exchange. Specialization, division of labor, and enhanced productivity increase the standard of living for all.

Some opponents of the free-market see it as a fixed-sum game. When one party benefits, another party inevitably loses.

Last week, Micha, Brian, and I ended up arguing with a fierce protectionist of a curious persuasion: he believed that free trade was not merely a fixed-sum game, but rather a negative-sum game. On the one hand, he argued that American employees loses when jobs "go" overseas. And rather than trotting out the usual argument that these American employees lose while foreign workers gain, he argues that foreign workers also lose by being "enslaved".

In other words, free trade - two parties exchanging goods - results in a loss for both sides. I just thought it was something original from a protectionist.

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