…that finds it shocking that the following was written in the “leading trade theory textbook,”
When they were first proposed, market failure arguments for protection seemed to undermine much of the case for free trade. After all, who would want to argue that the real economies we live in are free from market failures? In poorer nations, in particular, market imperfections seem to be legion. For example, unemployment and massive differences between rural and urban wage rates are present in may less-developed countries.
— p. 227.
To be clear, this is part of a single paragraph, and by no means represents the entire book. The book is very good, and if you’re looking for a textbook introduction to trade theory and international monetary policy, I definitely recommend it. And, no, it’s not anti-free trade, although not everything would be found in a hypothetical analogous textbook by Mises or Rothbard (e.g. optimal tariff theory, market failure arguments for tariffs, et cetera — and my intention isn’t to disparage the latter two authors, especially since I’d mostly agree with them).
However, in my opinion, that’s a shocking statement. There are market failures. The market often fails to coordinate. But, to blame poverty and mass unemployment in the developing world on market failure seems disingenuous, and I mean that word with all of its implications. Many of these problems are caused by failures of those countries’ political institutions, and this shouldn’t be controversial. Economists have blamed bad policy on poor economic performance since the birth of the discipline. More formal and more recent research on institutions has expanded on our intuitions. Market failure probably explains very little of poverty in the developing world. What those economies need are freer markets.