Selling 'Protection' for Sale

The Received Theory of trade policy, based solely on terms-of-trade externalities between national governments, has become the conventional wisdom among international trade theorists. But it displays two puzzles that render that theory inconsistent with reality. Significant empirical work, however, supports aspects of the Grossman-Helpman Protection-for-Sale model, a subset of the Received Theory. This paper shows that a simple formulation of the political economy of protection, that dispenses with terms-of-trade externalities, predicts the properties that the empirical work has confirmed, and is free of the counterfactual implications of the Received Theory. The implication is that, despite its claims to the contrary, the empirical literature offers no real support for the Protection-for-Sale model or, therefore, for the Received Theory.

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