No attempt will be made here to prove or disprove arguments for free trade. The question will rather be of what value to governments, in deciding action, are the trade policy theories now current. It will be shown that it is not surprising that governments, who have to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions, do not find the arguments for free trade so persuasive as to commit themselves to them without thought of retreat. For the purposes of this book that is enough, though there are some who might feel that in adopting so moderate an objective I am throwing away a handful of aces. Trade theory is in bad repute, even among many economists. The attempted quantifications of the costs and benefits are among the least persuasive parts of the argument. It is the liberal economists themselves, starting with Adam Smith, who as much as anyone have mined their own arguments and muddied them with qualifications.
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