The constitutional and political economy of trade protection

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This essay reviews Trade Protection in the United States (Aldershot, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd., 1995) by Charles K. Rowley, Willem Thorbecke and Richard E. Wagner. The book stimulates a radical rethinking of trade policy, with results that are applicable well beyond the political framework of the United States. The authors-all advocates of the Virginia public choice school of thought-provide a lucid explanation of the formation of trade policy and systematically explain the many paradoxes of endogenous policymaking. They assess the main players in the process of trade policy formation and rigorously explain the dynamic interaction of the various political organs involved. The authors conclude that unilateral free trade cannot be achieved through the ordinary legislative process, and make a compelling case for Constitutional reform. Given the fragility of free trade equilibria and the inadequacy of bilateral and multilateral trade treaties for a stable free trade environment, the right to trade should be constitutionally guaranteed as an individual right. Considering the relevance of the authors' conclusions in this phase of consolidation of European trade policymaking, this essay examines the proposed unilateral free trade amendment, addresses the game theoretic implications, in light of viable alternatives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-79
Number of pages13
JournalEuropean Journal of Law and Economics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1998


  • Constitutional political economy
  • Public choice
  • Trade protection


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