Frihandel gör oss mer ekonomiskt rationella

Frihandel ger oss inte bara bättre och billigare produkter och utsätter näringslivet för hälsosam konkurrens, utan bidrar också till rationellare beslut. 

Traditionell ekonomisk teori utgår från att människor har full information och fattar rationella beslut baserade på den egna upplevelsen av nytta. Vitsen med denna i sig irrationella premiss är att medan det är lätt att säga att den borde modifieras är det inte så enkelt att säga exakt hur den borde modifieras.

Men det är solklart att människor inte är rationella. I viss mån är vi styrda av olika tumregler — en sorts aggregerad rationalitet. Om människan i historiens gryning skulle ha funderat för mycket exakt på vilket sätt man borde fly från den sabeltandade tigern istället för att bara sticka sin väg, skulle ingen av oss finnas.

Richard B McKenzie har varit professor vid University of California, Irvines’s Merage Business School och har skrivit “A Brain-Focused Foundation for Economic Science.”

Han menar i en artikel i WSJ att marknaden bidrar till mer rationalitet genom att aggregera beslut och handlande från miljoner personer. Om länder isolerar sig från världsmarknaden går de miste om den kunskapen. Kostnaden är alltså större än bara de omedelbara förlusterna genom högre priser.

Classical economists assume that all market participants exercise perfect decision-making prowess, finely weighing costs against benefits, discounting for time and risk, and improving production efficiency. In this model, there can be no economic gains from better decision-making. Perfect decisions simply can’t be beat.

In the past half-century, however, behavioral economists and psychologists have shown that people’s decision-making abilities are far from perfect. We are subject to hundreds of biases and fall prey to any number of fallacies—weighing sunk costs, ignoring opportunity costs, discounting future gains and losses with large errors—that economics professors preach against in their intro courses. The behavioral enthusiast Dan Ariely has described human decision making as “predictably irrational.”

One reason is that the human brain itself must contend with the limited resources contained in its three pounds of gelatinous mass. It also faces enormous demands on its highly evolved yet flawed processes. It must respond by economizing on its scarce resources.

Just to survive flight-or-fight situations, for example, the brain could not have evolved to develop perfectly rational decisions. Such decisions would require so much time that our ancestors would have been eaten long before they reached their logically flawless conclusions. By adopting imperfect heuristics that lead to some decision mistakes, the brain can free up mental resources for deployment in a broader range of decisions as well as other physiological duties. In other words, many of behaviorists’ claimed irrationalities have rational foundations, from the brain’s perspective.

This is where markets come in. While some behaviorists support government “nudges” to improve human decision making, politicians and bureaucrats often are no better at making rational decisions than ordinary citizens. Markets are a more effective mechanism for rewarding rational thinking. Persistently irrational decision makers in a competitive marketplace can be expected to misjudge costs and overlook profitable trading opportunities—and, consequently, lose access to resources.


The more rational decision makers can, by their market decisions, show their irrational counterparts how they can be more prosperous by altering their working heuristics. This means competitive processes can make remaining participants more inclined to consider opportunity costs, ignore sunk costs, and discount future opportunities more accurately.

Behavioral economists have often disregarded the role of markets in enhancing collective rationality. Market pressures can make people more rational than behaviorists have found in their research, which is often conducted on undergraduate volunteers who are given little time to evaluate options and no time to take advantage of their cohorts’ errant decisions. When economic decisions must be made under the daily, disciplining grind of the marketplace, the prevalence of unexploited profitable opportunities and wayward decisions can be expected to diminish.

Open trade can lead to more-efficient allocation of people’s internal mental resources as they devise more-rational heuristics—that is, approaches that are efficient and profitable in the global marketplace. And these trade-induced heuristics can have benefits throughout the domestic economy.

Trade restrictions intentionally curb these competitive pressures. As a result, citizens of protectionist nations don’t merely lose out on the benefits of comparative advantage; they also lose out on trade-induced improved thinking. That is hardly the way to make America great again.”


Kategorier: Frihandel