The subject of this course is the theory, policy, political economy and history of the international organization of trade. The field of international trade ranges from abstract theoretical modeling to policy controversies. In this course we will examine both—we will take care to explore neoclassical and heterodox trade theory, while also paying attention to important empirical, political economy and policy issues. Following the examination of trade theory we will explore contemporary debates in international trade.
In keeping with the above, this course will examine the normative theories that inform contemporary global economic policy debate. Time permitting, we will examine the normative positions mentioned above—welfarism (and utilitarianism), libertarianism, egalitarianism, and objectivism/relativism—and their role in neoclassical, Marxian, Austrian, postmodern and institutionalist economic theory. Though this course will emphasize abstract theory, we will explore in passing the linkages between these normative perspectives and contemporary global economic policy debate.
Over the course of their careers, graduates of schools of international affairs acquire professional positions in which they enjoy substantial authority and influence over the lives of others, an in which they encounter difficult ethical dilemmas that stem in part from their roles they perform and the expertise they enjoy. And yet, schools of international affairs typically do not offer courses on professional ethics in general, or on the professional ethical challenges that await those who will enter the world of international affairs in particular. This course is intended to begin to fill this gap in professional training.
This course will explore the normative/ethical theories that underlie the most pressing debates today in global economic policymaking. Most people know that economists typically endorse the policy of “free trade,” or the outcome of “economic growth.” Indeed, economists advocate these so often that it seems self-evident that these are obviously desirable. But why is this so? We will examine the role of ethical commitments even in “positive science” (the explanation of what is). The course then will turn to and focus intensively on mainstream, neoclassical economic theory (the predominant approach to economics today). Following a brief overview of neoclassical theory, we will explore its ethical foundations (utilitarianism/welfarism) and the way in which these foundations affect its policy prescriptions. Then we will examine critiques of utilitarianism/welfarism, before turning to alternative ethical foundations for economics. We will see how these alternatives often yield very different sets of policy conclusions on today’s most important economic policy debates. In this connection we will explore libertarianism on the one hand and egalitarianism on the other.