Straight Talk on Trade: Ideas for a Sane World Economy

In This Review

Straight Talk on Trade: Ideas for a Sane World Economy
By Dani Rodrik
Princeton University Press, 2017
336 pp.

Rodrik explores what he considers the valid reasons behind today’s populist backlash against globalization in the United States, European countries, and elsewhere. In the thoughtful, ruminative essays collected and woven together here, he explains the deep tension between economic integration at the international level and democratic decision-making at the national level. Globalization can influence government decisions that affect a society’s character and economy to the clear disadvantage of some groups, a process that creates resentment and anger on the part of those who lose out. Such decisions, in Rodrik’s view, should not be dictated by a sometimes unwarranted faith in the efficiency of markets or the financial system. He distinguishes between liberal democracies and other countries and argues that the same trade rules should not apply to both groups: for example, democracies should be permitted to restrict imports from nondemocracies to compensate for the latter group’s lack of environmental or labor rules, which allows for lower costs and prices. The United States and European countries, meanwhile, should not try to foist their values on other countries through trade agreements.