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Review Essay

The Unheard Nerds

How Economists Can Talk So Policymakers Will Listen

In This Review

Advice and Dissent: Why America Suffers When Politics and Economics Collide
Advice and Dissent: Why America Suffers When Politics and Economics Collide
By Alan Blinder
Basic Books, 2018, 368 pp. Purchase

An uncomfortable truth for American economists is that they have limited influence on economic policy. Take trade, for example. Anyone who has studied introductory economics knows that free trade benefits countries in the long run, by allowing them to specialize in producing the goods and services in which they have a comparative advantage. Economists are in near-universal agreement about this point, although most also agree that it is important to help workers who lose their jobs in the short run because of trade. 

Yet free trade has never been very popular in Washington. The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has imposed costly tariffs on imports from Canada, China, Mexico, and the EU, but such restrictions are not a mere idiosyncrasy of Trump. President Ronald Reagan introduced quotas on Japanese auto imports in 1981, and the North American Free Trade Agreement faced opposition from both Democrats and Republicans when it

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