What Do Economists Actually Know?


Turns out, not as much as you — and they — would like to think

A journalist once asked me how many jobs NAFTA had created or destroyed. I told him I had no reliable idea. Certainly jobs had been lost when factories closed and moved to Mexico but other jobs had been gained because Americans now had more resources and increased their demand for products that would not be easy to identify. Why not? Because thousands and thousands of jobs are created every month and it is very difficult, perhaps impossible to know which ones are related to NAFTA allowing Americans to buy less expensive goods from Mexico. I also told him that I believed that trade neither destroyed nor created jobs on net. It’s main impact was to change the kinds of jobs and what they paid.

The journalist got annoyed. “You’re a professional economist. You’re ducking my question.” I disagreed. I am answering your question, I told him. You just don’t like the answer.

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