Abstract and Keywords
Free trade has long been accepted as a central component and coordinating element of international commerce and exchange. Adam Smith and later David Ricardo described the policy as enhancing economic efficiency, maximizing wealth, and promoting harmonious international relations. Ricardian theories of comparative advantage claimed that all nations could share the benefits of free trade. Despite the great theoretical advances of Smith, Ricardo, and the classical economists who followed them, free trade has always been contested, and there have been consistent challenges to its intellectual hegemony. Yet most alternative policy proscriptions have foundered in the face of the ideological strength of free trade, which retains strong associations with wealth creation and economic efficiency. The free trade idea’s success owes much to the intellectual rigor of Smith and Ricardo; and although it has been refined and adapted, it remains the theoretical foundation of modern internationalist conceptions of open markets’ benefits.
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