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Discussion Panel: Making Global Markets Work for American Workers

Paper Session

Friday, Jan. 3, 2020 2:30 PM - 4:30 PM (PDT)

Manchester Grand Hyatt, Harbor E
Hosted By: Labor and Employment Relations Association
  • Chair: Katheryn Russ, University of California-Davis

Everybody Wins, Except for Most of Us

Josh Bivens
Economic Policy Institute


A key contribution is simply to translate the costs of globalization for workers on the losing end into easily understandable terms: dollars per worker (or household). This book finds that the annual losses to a full-time median-wage earner in 2006 total approximately $1,400. For a typical household with two earners, the loss is more than $2,500. These losses are as high or higher than other economic costs commonly presented as much more damaging to American families, such as the cost of health care, spikes in gasoline and fuel oil prices, the cost of a child's four-year college education, or the funds needed to remedy a possible shortfall in the future of Social Security. To deal with a harm as large and widespread as that imposed by globalization, we need to think much more ambitiously about public policy that re-links aggregate and individual prosperity, a policy that uses all the levers available: social insurance, public investment, fairer economic rules, and redistribution when other tools fail to provide egalitarian outcomes. Further, despite much protestation to the contrary, the globalization status quo is at least as stingy to the poor trading partners of the United States as it is to American workers. There is no real danger to progressive goals in calling for its complete upending.

So far we have been content to allow globalization without compensation to proceed apace. This complacency has already hurt us, and the damage will only grow in the future.

Open: The Progressive Case for Free Trade, Immigration, and Global Capital

Kimberly Clausing
Reed College


Americans, especially those with middle and lower incomes, face stark economic challenges. But these problems do not require us to retreat from the global economy. On the contrary, an open economy overwhelmingly helps. International trade makes countries richer, raises living standards, benefits consumers, and brings nations together. Global capital mobility helps both borrowers and lenders. International business improves efficiency and fosters innovation. And immigration remains one of America's greatest strengths, as newcomers play an essential role in economic growth, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Closing the door to the benefits of an open economy would cause untold damage. Instead, Clausing outlines a progressive agenda to manage globalization more effectively, presenting strategies to equip workers for a modern economy, improve tax policy, and establish a better partnership between labor and the business community.

Straight Talk on Trade: Ideas for a Sane World Economy

Dani Rodrik
Harvard University


Rodrik takes globalization's cheerleaders to task, not for emphasizing economics over other values, but for practicing bad economics and ignoring the discipline's own nuances that should have called for caution. He makes a case for a pluralist world economy where nation-states retain sufficient autonomy to fashion their own social contracts and develop economic strategies tailored to their needs. Rather than calling for closed borders or defending protectionists, Rodrik shows how we can restore a sensible balance between national and global governance. Ranging over the recent experiences of advanced countries, the eurozone, and developing nations, Rodrik charts a way forward with new ideas about how to reconcile today's inequitable economic and technological trends with liberal democracy and social inclusion. Deftly navigating the tensions among globalization, national sovereignty, and democracy, Straight Talk on Trade presents an indispensable commentary on today's world economy and its dilemmas, and offers a visionary framework at a critical time when we need it most.
Jason Furman
Harvard University
JEL Classifications
  • F1 - Trade