Landsburg on compensating the losers from trade

From the NY Times:

Some people suggest, however, that it makes sense to isolate the moral effects of a single new trading opportunity or free trade agreement. Surely we have fellow citizens who are hurt by those agreements, at least in the limited sense that they’d be better off in a world where trade flourishes, except in this one instance. What do we owe those fellow citizens?

One way to think about that is to ask what your moral instincts tell you in analogous situations. Suppose, after years of buying shampoo at your local pharmacy, you discover you can order the same shampoo for less money on the Web. Do you have an obligation to compensate your pharmacist? If you move to a cheaper apartment, should you compensate your landlord? When you eat at McDonald’s, should you compensate the owners of the diner next door? Public policy should not be designed to advance moral instincts that we all reject every day of our lives.

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Widely applicable

This argument applies not only to international trade, but to everything. It is a far-reaching argument. The consistent application of moral intuitions from our everyday lives to wider questions is a radical step, if taken.

More at MR

Tim Harford, Dani Rodrik and Tyler Cowen debate the subject here.