The debate over the proposed North American Free Trade Agreement has taken on an astonishing salience in American politics. Not since the Smoot-Hawley tariff has trade legislation produced such a bitter polarization of opinion.
The intensity of this debate cannot be understood in terms of the real content or likely consequences of the agreement, nor is the debate's outcome likely to turn on any serious examination of the evidence. It is as hopeless to try to argue with many of NAFTA's opponents as it would have been to try to convince William Jennings Bryan's followers that free silver was not the answer to farmers' problems.
Indeed, the parallel is quite close. The populism of the 1890s represented a desperate attempt to defend agricultural America against deep economic forces that were changing it into an industrial nation. The choice of a monetary standard had very little to do with the real
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