...reluctance to be honest about trade has cost economists their credibility with the public.I've seen multiple references to Dani Rodrik's Straight Talk on Trade, which deserves the notice.
Commentary on Brexit often revisited Michael Gove's "people... have had enough of experts." Before getting too nasty with my own thoughts, some of Rodrick's work:
It has long been an unspoken rule of public engagement for economists that they should champion trade and not dwell too much on the fine print. This has produced a curious situation. The standard models of trade with which economists work typically yield sharp distributional effects: income losses by certain groups of producers or worker categories are the flip side of the “gains from trade.” And economists have long known that market failures – including poorly functioning labor markets, credit market imperfections, knowledge or environmental externalities, and monopolies – can interfere with reaping those gains.This is not the only topic where academia's economists lack the respect for their audience to be candid, or the diligence to develop and defend an opinion of their own.
They have also known that the economic benefits of trade agreements that reach beyond borders to shape domestic regulations – as with the tightening of patent rules or the harmonization of health and safety requirements – are fundamentally ambiguous.
Nonetheless, economists can be counted on to parrot the wonders of comparative advantage and free trade whenever trade agreements come up... They have endorsed the propaganda portraying today’s trade deals as “free trade agreements,” even though Adam Smith and David Ricardo would turn over in their graves if they read the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
This reluctance to be honest about trade has cost economists their credibility with the public. Worse still, it has fed their opponents’ narrative. Economists’ failure to provide the full picture on trade, with all of the necessary distinctions and caveats, has made it easier to tar trade, often wrongly, with all sorts of ill effects.