"Globalization" means free trade and various deregulations that supposedly put downward pressure on American wages because of imports from low-wage countries. Goolsbee, however, says globalization is responsible for "a small fraction" of today's income disparities. He says "60 to 70 percent of the economy faces virtually no international competition." America's 18.5 million government employees have little to fear from free trade; neither do auto mechanics, dentists and many others.
Goolsbee's rough estimate is that technology -- meaning all that the phrase "information economy" denotes -- accounts for more than 80 percent of the increase in earnings disparities, whereas trade accounts for much less than 20 percent. This is something congressional Democrats need to hear from a Democratic economist as they resist trade agreements with South Korea and such minor economic powers as Peru, Panama and Colombia.
As regards China, Goolsbee -- who favors a tougher approach, especially through the World Trade Organization -- notes that all imports are only 16.7 percent of the U.S. economy and imports from China are a small portion of all imports. Those from China amount to 2.2 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product. Mexico, he says, is genuinely stressed by China, whose exported products "overlap" with nearly two-thirds of Mexico's. China's exports overlap with 5 percent to 10 percent of America's economy. Rising imports from China predominantly replace those from other lower-skilled countries. Were China to be pressured into revaluing its currency in isolation, Goolsbee says, America would not start making the kind of toys it has been importing from China -- America would import toys from Vietnam.
Economics is the only academic discipline that in recent decades has moved in the direction that America and much of the world has moved, to the right. Goolsbee no doubt has lots of dubious ideas -- he is, after all, a Democrat -- about how government can creatively fiddle with the market's allocation of wealth and opportunity. But he seems to be the sort of person -- amiable, empirical and reasonable -- you would want at the elbow of a Democratic president, if such there must be.