On Free Trade and 'Making America Great Again'
We live in a world of control freaks, unfortunately, those who have an insatiable craving to control the world around them, to control people and activities which are really beyond their control.
The control freaks use various forms of aggression and intervention via government authority and force to attempt to achieve their goals of controlling.
And it isn't just controlling behavior, but covetousness in which the aggressors use the armed force of government to take from others, not just taking wealth or property directly but also taking less visible commodities such as time and opportunity. Minimum wage laws, for instance, take opportunities away from prospective entry-level workers, and government's unjust tax laws cause people to waste time filling out complicated forms for no good reason.
And there are those who want to intrude into the trades and purchasing activities of businesses and consumers.
But when we hear mainstream media outlets and economists refer to "free trade," most of them are not talking about actual free trade, but mainly government-controlled trade. Most if not all the international trade agreements and regulations we have today contain provisions which benefit crony special interests and the politically connected, at the expense of the rest of us. That is not "free trade," not in the least.
You see, in contrast to the phony free trade deals of today, real free trade is just that: free trade. Freedom from the aggression, intrusions, invasions, interferences, interventions, and trespasses of others, including governments.
When the chains of the State are cut, free market capitalism flourishes, regardless of nationalistic sentiments.
Free trade and free markets involve voluntary action and voluntary exchange, and respect for private property rights. It does not involve the illicit collusions of governments.
So here, for instance, is an example of free trade: a businessman in the U.S. calls a company in Germany that makes a certain kind of product the American businessman believes to be beneficial to his business and his customers. He orders the German product for his business, perhaps thousands of them. The products are delivered. He puts them to use. And that's it.
No bureaucrat's permission. No "treaties" to follow to determine that the product was not made by "slave labor" or "sweat shops" or child laborers, or that the product was made out of x% this and y% that. The contract there is between the American businessman and the German company. No third party intrusions. At least that is how I view free trade and free markets.
There is a moral reason for unobstructed, unmolested free trade, for traders, producers and consumers having the freedom to decide for themselves on a free and open market what products or services are best for them and at whatever price.
And having the freedom to do business with whatever company or trade with whomever one wants to trade anywhere in the world seems to be a freedom in line with private property rights, voluntary association, and freedom of contract. That way of life is the moral, civilized way of life.
That's the American way. (At least in theory, according to what the Founders envisioned for their freed country.)
Now, when third parties view a trade as "unfair," they certainly have a right to express their disagreement. But they don't have a right to impose their will on the consumers. When third parties interfere with the market and private individuals' production and consumption decisions, those interferences are intrusions.
In a society which respects real free trade, when government bureaucrats and their enforcers interfere with or intrude into the peaceful trades and exchanges among people, that should be considered just as criminal an act as if mere private people were committing those aggressions. The "authority" of government bureaus or presidents would not exempt those bureaucrats from the law which forbids stealing, defrauding or aggressing against the persons or property of others.
Some presidential candidates such as Donald Trump want to "make America great again." But how can someone make America "great" when he wants to empower the government to intrude itself into the people's economic matters? Government-imposed managed trade (a.k.a. "fair" trade) rules, governments imposing punishments on companies locating abroad, etc. -- those kinds of intrusions have contributed to making America less great over the past century.
So what really made America great was its freedom. Remember that? By the 20th Century activists and bureaucrats started imposing one restriction and punishment after another which continue to this day.
In an America with freedom (perhaps at some point in the future), private entrepreneurs, consumers and traders establish transactions and contracts with others anywhere in the world and it's no one else's business. Americans with Mexicans, businessmen with laborers or consumers, Americans with Chinese, Japanese, Venezuelans, and so on. No bureaucratic intrusions. No control freaks sticking their big noses where they don't belong.
NAFTA (The Orwellian North American "Free Trade" Agreement) and other such agreements do not involve free trade. Those are government agreements which create anti-market bureaucracies, arcane rules and regulations, and corporate cartels. Such schemes cause economic distortions resulting in higher prices for consumers and job losses for workers. Donald Trump can no better concoct such deals to "work for Americans" than can Barack Obama come up with an "affordable care act" that works for medical patients.
Now, in a scenario in which Americans' trade matters were freed, if another country's ruling bureaucrats have restrictions against their own people, then so be it. That, in fact, would actually shine a brighter light onto those foreigners' unfree situation and one would hope they would make some changes for themselves there.
Freedom of voluntary contract would be the basis of true economic freedom and prosperity, in which the only rules are: Don't steal, don't commit fraud and don't use physical aggression against others' persons and property. People are presumed innocent and otherwise left alone, and that's it.
The same kind of freedom can apply to the people's medical care, by the way -- and no, there wouldn't be "people dying in the streets" with a return to the free market medical care of the old days. Sadly, the kind of British-style nationalized health care or single payer scheme that Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders want to impose on us really has been causing people to be dying in the British hospitals. I'll never understand why so many people want to emulate Soviet medical care.
Although as Trump would say, it's not "single payer," it's "heart."
Yeah, but look what's happening to all the victims of those thinking with their hearts. Not good.
Unfortunately, the presidential candidates may have a "make America great again" theme, yet they seem to be infected with a destructive anti-capitalistic mentality. Politicians (and their crony business partners in crime) will never make America great again with the very socialist bureaucratic authoritarianism that caused America's greatness to sour in the first place.
But we who love freedom, free trade and free markets, will nevertheless continue to try to get the word out, especially when history has shown that what really made America great in the past were freedom, free trade, and free markets.
Scott Lazarowitz is a libertarian writer and commentator. Please visit his blog.