How important is the open exchange of goods to the spreading of prosperity? This important: Since 1950, world trade in goods has expanded from $600 billion (in 2015 dollars) to $18.9 trillion in 2013. That's a more than 30-fold increase, during a period in which global population grew less than three-fold. This massive increase in trade was kicked off in 1948 by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which began the liberalization process of lowering tariff and non-tariff barriers. As a result, autarkic national economies became more integrated and intertwined with one another. The World Bank reports that openness to trade—the ratio of a country's trade (exports plus imports) to its gross domestic product (GDP)—has more than doubled on average since 1950.
Immigration has also contributed significantly to economic growth and higher wages. Today some 200 million people, about 3 percent of the world's population, live outside their countries of birth. According to the Partnership for a New American Economy, 28 percent of all U.S. companies started in 2011 had immigrant founders—despite immigrants comprising roughly 13 percent of the population. In addition, some 40 percent of Fortune 500 firms were founded by immigrants or their children.
All of this open movement of people and stuff across borders pays off in many measurable ways, writes Ron Bailey. Some are obvious, some more surprising.