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What real free trade is

By Staff | Nov 13, 2009

To the editor:

David Kruse, in complaining about Obama’s protectionist policies, is joining the multitudes who don’t know what free trade is. Real free trade is not trade managed by federal bureaucrats beholden to political contributors.

Free trade would be anyone in the United States being allowed to trade in any way with anyone they want. It wouldn’t take a government treaty with thousands of pages. It would take no paper whatsoever.

To David Kruse, who would deny the American people the right to buy Brazilian ethanol at market prices, government-managed trade serves his purpose as a stakeholder in an ethanol plant.

Multiply this fact times the thousands of special interests, besides Kruse, influencing politicians in Washington and you can see why free trade could never exist as long as there is a piece of government paper describing the conditions under which it operates.

Kruse mentions Colombia as an ally against Venezuela. We have nothing against the people of Venezuela. We might not like Hugo Chavez, but for us to intervene in the affairs of these countries can’t be called free trade either.

It is not our business and creates enemies among farmers and business people there that are harmed by our policies.

It drives them to support tyrants like Chavez in opposition to Americans perceived as the villain driving down their prices or limiting their choices in the marketplace.

In contrast, the people in countries we trade freely with become our friends and then adopt, on their own, the ways we value.

One concern of the proponents of free trade agreements is that we would be treated unfairly by the governments of countries who, like our own, want to restrict trade. There are two reasons this is wrong-headed.

First, those other countries are not ours to rule. We expect the same respect from them. As noted above, our intervention serves to strengthen tyrants and cause resentment. Second, when foreign governments mistreat their citizens, like our government is doing in taxing Chinese tire imports, the people feel the damage in their pocketbooks and eventually change their government’s policy.

If a series of FTAs like Doha could boost world trade by $130 billion, just think what real free trade could do. In a world where all people do what they do best in voluntary exchange for the same from others, living standards will improve for all, not just the well connected.

Government-managed trade is an impediment to that.

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