I just finished reading my university’s copy of Douglas Irwin – Against The Tide and ordering a copy from Amazon. This stellar text is an intellectual history of the idea of free trade. Irwin masterfully traces the origins of the doctrine back to the ancient Greeks and illustrates its evolution up to the present. In describing how philosophers and economists thought about trade prior to Adam Smith, Irwin highlights numerous fascinating thinkers that many have forgotten. Of particular interest is Henry Martyn, who made an exceptionally advanced analytical case for free trade in 1701. And in tracing the history of free trade since Smith’s breakthrough work, Irwin aptly summarizes the most important debates with the clarity and insight afforded by contemporary analysis.
Paul Krugman found the text “full of new insights and unexpected delights.” I recommend it without hesitation.