HECKSCHER-OHLIN LOGIC….Via Henry Farrell, Kevin O’Rourke comments on the rejection of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty in a recent Irish referendum. It turns out that the well off overwhelmingly voted in favor of the treaty while the working class overwhelmingly voted against it:
There are at least two ways of interpreting such patterns. The first would hold that well educated voters are more politically sophisticated and better able to understand the issues involved in a complex amendment to the institutional underpinnings of the European Union. The second interpretation is that, on the contrary, both rich and poor are capable of correctly discerning where their economic interests lie, and vote accordingly. The argument would be that globalisation generally, and European integration more narrowly, has overwhelmingly favoured skilled workers, at least in affluent countries such as France, Ireland and the Netherlands. Unskilled workers, by contrast, feel under threat from Romanian (or Asian) competition, or immigration from Eastern Europe and further afield. And while those of us who are more fortunate might regret it, it is hardly surprising that — in accordance with Heckscher-Ohlin logic — they vote accordingly….My bet is that the gap between middle-class and working-class voting patterns has a lot more to do with different interests, real or perceived, than with supposed differences in political sophistication.
I’m generally in favor of liberalized trade myself, but the odds are high that this has nothing to do with my ever-so-nuanced and sophisticated understanding of the underlying economics. It’s far more likely that it’s because liberalized trade benefits me considerably while holding out no serious risk of doing me any harm. Ditto for Tom Friedman. Blue collar schlubs aren’t the only ones who vote in accordance with Heckscher-Ohlin logic.