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萨缪尔森也胡说!  

2009-03-04 19:03:18|  分类: 默认分类 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Is comparative advantage obsolete?

在一次访谈中,Hillary Clinton 提到了萨缪尔森,她说,我们生活在一个全新的世界里:

在20世纪的大部分时间里,我们从贸易中得益不少。贸易,帮助美国人提高了生活水平,帮助美国人创造了工作。而且,我可同意萨缪尔森了,他可是个非常著名的经济学家,最近,他谈到,而且,还写了一篇文章。讨论的是:过去所理解的比较优势,可能并不能描述21世纪所遇到的情形。
我想,希拉里提到的就是Journal of Economic Perspectives上萨缪尔森的那篇文章。

希拉里的书单,让人产生敬意。但是,我希望她的顾问们,也把那些反对的意见,告诉她。譬如,下面的一段文字,就是此种情况。 Mankiw and Swagel (不收费):

萨缪尔森误导Salvo反对外包(下略)

Paul Samuelson's (Misdirected) Salvo against Outsourcing


Outsourcingsurged back into the news in the period just before the election [of2004]. In part, this reflected the intense focus on the issue indemocratic campaign ads in the battleground industrial states such asOhio. An additional focus of coverage on outsourcing followed aSeptember 9, 2004 article in the New York Times that reported on aremarkable new paper by Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Samuelsonthat purported to cover outsourcing. The article in the Times informedreaders that:

Inan interview last week, Mr. Samuelson said he wrote the article to "setthe record straight" because "the mainstream defenses of globalizationwere much too simple a statement of the problem." Mr. Samuelson, whocalls himself a "centrist Democrat," said his analysis did not comewith a recipe of policy steps, and he emphasized that it was not meantas a justification for protectionist measures.
BusinessWeek (December 6, 2004) well summarized many people’s (mis)interpretation of the Samuelson article:

Sounprecedented, so colossal, and so fast is this change [in the worldeconomy] that eminent economists such as Paul A. Samuelson arebeginning to question the basic tenets of free-trade theory. Is itpossible that David Ricardo's economic analysis doesn't work for the21st century? Can the theory of comparative advantage operate whenChina and India compete not only with low-cost labor but also withhighly educated, highly skilled workers who have access to broadbandand the Internet? What is the U.S. supposed to specialize in when Asiacompetes across the board in manufacturing and services in both low-endand high-tech jobs? Is the future prosperity of America in jeopardy?

BusinessWeekanswered the final question in the negative, but many with the oppositeview embraced Samuelson’s contribution as intellectual support, withoutunderstanding what it really said. The headline of the PittsburghPost-Gazette on September 23, 2004 put the reaction succinctly:“Nobelist Samuelson says Outsourcing May Not Be a Plus.”

Samuelson’spaper, which was eventually published in the Summer 2004 issue of theJournal of Economic Perspectives, showed that technical progress in adeveloping country such as China had the potential to reduce welfare inthe United States. As the above quotations illustrate, outside theeconomics profession, this work was viewed as providing a rebuttal tothose who had claimed that trade, globalization, outsourcing, andrelated phenomena would benefit Americans. The idea that this was arebuttal appears to have been spurred by Professor Samuelson himself indiscussions with journalists (as recounted in turn to us). The actualpoint of the paper, however, was that changes in China that led to less tradewould lower U.S. welfare—a development that came about because theUnited States was losing some of the benefits it derived from freetrade in the first place!

As explained by Bhagwati, Panagariya,and Srinivasan (2004) and in more detail by Panagariya on his website,Samuelson’s paper involved three stages. First, starting from autarky,China and the United States open up to trade and experience the usualbenefits of trade based on comparative advantage. Second, China has aproductivity gain in its export good, which improves the U.S. terms oftrade and further benefits the United States. Samuelson’s third stage(or second “Act” as he put it) involves a Chinese productivity gain inits import good. This narrows the differences between the countries andthus reduces the scope for trade, potentially so much that all tradedisappears. As trade diminishes, so too do the gains from trade.

AsPanagariya points out, the potential for productivity changes to reducethe gains from trade has long been understood (Panagariya has HarryJohnson teaching this at the University of Chicago in the 1950’s). Theharm in Samuelson’s setup comes from having less trade, not more. Thisis light-years removed from the usual concerns of people aboutglobalization giving rise to too much economic integration, not toolittle. Dixit and Grossman (2005) further point out that the U.S. termsof trade if anything have improved since 1990, rendering moot evenSamuelson’s theoretical scenario. And in any case, all of this hasnothing to do with outsourcing, despite strained interpretations ofsuch by Samuelson.

The underlying substance was largely lost inmedia discussions of Samuelson’s paper. One possible reason is that theJournal of Economic Perspectives published Samuelson’s cryptic paper byitself and then the explanation and gentle rebuttal by Bhagwati,Panagariya, and Srinivasan only later, in the Fall 2004 issue. Thisissue of the journal, however, came out after the November election,when media attention to outsourcing had fallen off from thepre-election peak.


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