The Globalization of Ideas Enriches the World


The Globalization of Ideas Enriches the World

19 Mar 2024

It is well known that access to goods and services that would not otherwise be available is a benefit of international trade. Even those who would restrict trade do not completely deny this. Their preferred trade restrictions are usually founded on other premises. However, the additional benefits of international trade are not as well known. Often overlooked, especially, is the reality that goods and services do not travel alone across international borders. They are frequently accompanied by new ways of thinking and new ways of transforming thoughts into new technologies, new products, and new ways of reworking and maintaining human civilization. Ideas are not static. Ideas are not motionless. Ideas travel. And ideas travel with trade. Indeed, the spread of ideas is one of the foremost benefits derived from trade and from other aspects of economic globalization. A good is consumed. A service is used. Direct benefits are derived; but, as a result, fewer goods and services remain. The rivalry for goods and services "underlies the scarcity that is at the heart of most of economics," as Stanford economist Chad Jones says in a VoxEU column about Paul Romer's ideas. In contrast, ideas are nonrivalrous; as more people use an idea, there is no less of it to go around. As Jones has explained, once an idea exists, it is "technologically feasible for any number of people to use" it "simultaneously." Ideas widen and expand. They do not disappear because they travel.


James Bacchus

Published in
United States of America