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Liberty: -- Issues -- Making Enemies

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  • Marc Brands Liberty
    Read this article and vote at: http://www.liberty-news.com/showNewsletter.php?id=200402011&src=tyg2455 Making Enemies by N. Joseph Potts Some of the worst
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 1, 2004
      Read this article and vote at:

      Making Enemies
      by N. Joseph Potts

      Some of the worst attacks on our personal freedom come in the form of
      edicts as to whom we can trade with, and whom we must make war on. This
      is referred to by the famous dictum attributed to Bastiat: "When goods
      are not allowed to cross borders, armies will." The truth of the dictum
      has been demonstrated in history, both ancient and recent, time and
      again. Restrictions on trade between nations do indeed lead to wars, and
      while it is harder to observe, freedom to trade prevents wars.

      I was listening the other day to a friend's justifications for the
      recent US attack on Iraq, which centered on the repressiveness of Saddam
      Hussein's regime there. I asked my friend, "Why must we conquer Iraq in
      order to install democracy there, but not China? Whatever happened to
      the old ChiComs of the Cold War? Did they dry up and blow away?"

      An appalled look came over my friend's face as he said, "If our imports
      from China were all suddenly stopped, our standard of living would
      plummet!" which seems pretty easy to believe given the apparent ubiquity
      of those imports.

      And I considered again, why, indeed, was it so easy to attack Iraq, but
      so hard to resolve to do the same with China? And I realized, the US
      government sponsored and enforced an embargo against Iraq that prevented
      trading with them by anyone, not just Americans. After twelve years
      (1991–2003) of that, it was easy to yield to the other temptations, real
      and contrived, to invade and conquer the economically enfeebled, not to
      say embittered, nation.

      The United States has fairly regularly imposed trade restrictions on
      countries it not much later conducted devastating wars against. It
      embargoed sales of scrap iron to Japan before the war with that country
      began in 1941, and probably worse, secretly colluded with Britain,
      China, and the Netherlands (which at the time controlled oilfields in
      Indonesia) to deny petroleum resources to Japan, a step still cited
      today in Japanese accounts of the causes of its war with the United

      Not that the United States is the only, nor the first, country to
      exhibit this pattern: in the years before Nazi Germany launched
      successive attacks against virtually all its neighbors in Europe,
      Economic Minister Hjalmar Schacht's Byzantine regulation of imports and
      exchange rates throttled trade with all its eventual victims, and the
      United States as well. Germany's need for economic independence so
      loudly trumpeted by Nazi propaganda of the day was literally created by
      these policies and matching ones among Germany's erstwhile trading

      This dynamic of stopping the trading, then starting the shooting, came
      back to my mind when defending myself against accusations (from the same
      friend) of "trading with the enemy" in willingly purchasing goods of
      French origin. I realized, my friend wanted me to add France and the
      French to the growing legions of my enemies, and that if he had his way
      with my freedom to trade, his wish could gradually, insidiously, come
      true. Of course, exhortations to "Buy American," or even "Buy Union" are
      merely extreme versions of the same program.

      Once, in a class in international economics, I was debating with a
      classmate about whether one country's protectionist tariffs could affect
      the economies of other countries that had no say in the first country's
      laws (a rather obvious "yes"). My opponent declared, "It's our business
      whom we trade with, not theirs." The opening this remark gave me was so
      delicious that I abandoned my trivial original point and seemingly
      agreed, by saying, "Yes, it is our business whom we trade with, and not
      each other's." This led into the far more-substantive discussion of why,
      how, and whether any central authority should regulate people's trade
      with each other, whether across national borders or not.

      In protectionist tariffs, it's often possible to descry just whom the
      government is picking out to be our next enemies. While simplified media
      accounts convey the impression that when the administration does
      something like implement a steel tariff, it does so equally for all
      countries of origin, this is never the case. When you come across the
      obscure details of the actual measures taken, you invariably note a
      crazy-quilt pattern of discrimination and reward that would make
      Elbridge Gerry (he of the gerrymander) proud.

      As trade with Country X mysteriously withers before the blast of a
      punitive tariff, that very country becomes more and more available to be
      our next enemy, very much as George Orwell's mysterious regime launched
      rotating wars against now Eurasia ("We have always been at war with
      Eurasia"), now another mysterious entity with which we have little
      contact and less trade.

      So, next time you hear the cry that we must stop the exportation of
      jobs, or protect infant industries, or "level the playing field," or
      other such nonsense, remember . . . you're being invited onto the road
      that leads to the state's best friend ever.


      Source: http://www.mises.org/fullarticle.asp?control=1413

      Archive: http://www.liberty-news.com/showArchiveResult.php?src=tyg2455
      - When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first
      things to be bought and sold are legislators. -- P.J. O'Rourke
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