Free Trade – for a more just world!
– Motor of a more humane world – provides peace – is fair trade –
– helps the weak – strengthens the individual – is the best foreign aid –
– facilitates more participation – promotes prosperity – is a process of progress –
Economists have known that international trade enhances the wealth of trading nations since the publication of Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations in 1776. In fact, probably no other topic commands as much agreement among economists today.
The nineteenth-century victory of free trade over Mercantilism and Protectionism represented one of the great triumphs in the history of classical liberalism. It was the achievement of the Scottish Moral Philosophers and those that are now referred to as the “Classical Economists” in demonstrating the spontaneous order and coordination arising from a free, competitive market system.
Looking forward, let’s hope that the economic progress we’ve experienced over the last half century continues, unimpeded by consumer-impoverishing trade policies that would prevent or restrict American consumers from having access to goods manufactured at the “lowest-cost method of production” – whether that’s across the street or on the other side of the world.
Frédéric Bastiat famously claimed that “if goods don’t cross borders, soldiers will.” Bastiat argued that free trade between countries could reduce international conflict because trade forges connections between nations and gives each country an incentive to avoid war with its trading partners. If every nation were an economic island, the lack of positive interaction created by trade could leave more room for conflict. Two hundred years after Bastiat, libertarians take this idea as gospel. Unfortunately, not everyone does.
Free trade is an answer to and ticket out of economic or cultural poverty and stagnation especially for traditionally economically disadvantaged groups in this country like African-Americans, Native Americans, and Latinos. It is arrogant and paternalistic for governments to intervene in the contractual and economical affairs of competent parties who are engaging in commerce
The positive economic case for free trade is straightforward. Here I distill it into ten – well, as you’ll see, really eleven – elemental points.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are somehow benefitting your local economy or doing something that’s morally superior. You’re just doing what globalized markets with a range of alternatives allow you to do: deciding what elements of your economic activity matter to you and choosing accordingly. Restricting those alternatives, whether through well-intentioned progressive “economic localism” or the darker, reactionary forces of “economic nationalism,” harms people, and often those who can ill-afford worsening poverty.