Bryan Caplan  

Free Trade Petition

Who Said It?... Who Said It? Larry Summers...
My old friend and mentor Tom Palmer urged me to sign this petition in defense of free trade with these words: "It is super important -- to me, but I think to everyone else, too."  The highlight of the petition:
But the fact that protectionism destroys wealth is not its worst consequence.  Protectionism destroys peace.  That is justification enough for all people of good will, all friends of civilization, to speak out loudly and forcefully against economic nationalism, an ideology of conflict, based on ignorance and carried into practice by protectionism.
Of course, I think attributing protectionism to ignorance is overly charitable...

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COMMENTS (8 to date)
Jack Spade writes:

It would be really awesome if this petition did some good, but I doubt it will.

Maniel writes:

Protectionism is just one instance of special-interests competing with the general interest. Whether it be corporate subsidies, unions, tariffs, bailouts, entitlements, or earmarks, special-interests generally rely on government to do the wrong thing.

Socal Bill writes:

I believe Bastiat said something like, "If goods stop crossing borders, armies will."

[Please read about the historical attribution of this much-quoted remark at "Who Said It?" by Don Boudreaux on Cafe Hayek. The remark is every bit as clever no matter who said it, but attributing it falsely to Bastiat only reinforces awkwardwardness and bad scholarship that gets perpetuated online. So far, it looks like it should be attributed to someone in FDR's time who said the opposite but using similar words--maybe a supporter of Sec. of State Cordell Hull--who said "If soldiers are not to cross international borders, goods must do so."--Econlib Ed.]

Socal Bill writes:

I stand corrected. Still attempting to learn and have a long way to go.

David W. writes:

Protectionism destroys peace? I'm sure I read that Germany's largest trading partner in 1940 was France, and in 1941 it was the USSR; those trading relationships certainly didn't prevent WWII. I'm sure we could come up with lots of other examples; generally your neighbors are both the easiest to trade with and the easiest to invade.

Granted, I'm not a fan of tariffs, but they're not quite *that* evil. Wars are much bigger than tariffs.

Charlie writes:

Wasn't this the thesis that Norman Angell put forth about the first great period of globalization, the one right befor world war I. I'm still sympathetic to the view, but I wouldn't insist that I knew it was true.

DavidS writes:

I'm sorry to see this old chestnut dug up again. Pick any current world conflict, and you'll have a very hard time blaming it on protectionism.

There's a list of current conflicts at:

With the possible exception of the Andean nations, where our refusal to legalize the importation of cocaine is certainly at the root of the conflicts, there is not a single dispute on the list, not one, that can credibly be blamed on trade policy.

Tyranny causes war. Ethnic and religious conflicts cause war. Groundless hatred causes war. Protectionism causes economic inefficiencies. There is no evidence at all that it now causes, will cause or has ever been a significant cause of war.

Donald W. writes:

Unfortunately there is also the other side of the story...No jobs because a communist country has all the cheap labor needed and always will. And one corporation after the other going there. No protectionism is a must in today culture.

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