100 Economics Question of the Day: An Intermittent Blog: More notes toward a review of Pietra Rivoli's The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

More notes toward a review of Pietra Rivoli's The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy

There are 75 uses of the phrase "free trade" in Pietra Rivoli's The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy. However:

Nearly one-third of those (22) are in the notes and Appendices, where (other) economists use the phrase

One is uses in quotes, derisively. Several others are used similarly, though without the specific quotation marks.

Several are part of a phrase, e.g., North America Free Trade Association (NAFTA)


So, ultimately, in a 272-page book discussing "the Markets, Power and Politics of World Trade," the phrase appears roughly 1.5 times every ten pages.

Several of those appearances are bunched, but certainly the most notable comes--and, yes, I regret having surrendered both the book and the PDF back to the libraries from whence they came--over 200 pages into the book, where Rivoli declares what we have been able to detect from her previous shadings and biases: she firmly believes that "the idea of free trade" is dominant.

The problem the reader will have with this assertion is that the idea's power is such that, as Ms. Rivoli demonstrates throughout this book, it is continually avoided. Rather like the Platonic Cave, "free trade" comes across as something that is discussed in the abstract, but never realised.

One might fairly conclude that those who claim to be advocates of free trade are defining trade to be free only so long as the market clears at the price they desire.

(to be continued)

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