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Thursday, February 26, 2004

Public Support for Protectionism

Jim Glassman writes on TCS that the companies Lou Dobbs singles out for "Exporting America" actually had an aggregate 72 percent return in the past 12 months, compared with 39 percent for the S&P 500. Unfortunately, Dobbs and others have been banging the protectionist drum with effect, as Julian Sanchez cites Tyler Cowen who cites a USA Today article on a study finding that, "High-income Americans have lost much of their enthusiasm for free trade as they perceive their own jobs threatened by white-collar workers in China, India and other countries, according to data from a survey of views on trade." The numbers have turned sharply:

The poll shows that among Americans making more than $100,000 a year, support for actively promoting more free trade collapsed from 57% to less than half that, 28%. There were smaller drops, averaging less than 7 percentage points, in income brackets below $70,000, where support for free trade was already weaker.

The same poll found that the share of Americans making more than $100,000 who want the push toward free trade slowed or stopped altogether nearly doubled from 17% to 33%.

That's disheartening to read for free-traders like me. Maybe Tom Friedman and his anecdotes can save us.