Free Trade

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While reading the daily download from Free Market.net, the following sentence jumped out at me: “I believe it is time for pro-capitalists to offer a defense of big-business executives that is not undercut by … utopian illusions about the free market.”

What? Now I know that a free market has never existed, but what natural law does the idea violate that renders it utopian? This I had to read.

"Libertarian authors typically defend producers on the sweeping grounds that all non-coercive activity should be unregulated: prostitution, pornography, peddling drugs and producing software. What this defense misses is Ayn Rand’s insight that productive achievement is man’s noblest activity."

I’ll let you figure out how prostitution and producing software fall into the same category, but I would ask the author what productive achievement the hard-nosed heroine of The Fountainhead was supposed to demonstrate, if not free market prostitution?

I confess that I was a true believer in Ayn Rand from 1965 to 1975, despite the perversions wrought by the Nathaniel Branden Institute. As a novelist, she owed her faithful readers a sequel to Atlas Shrugged. Instead they got a religion. How one reconciles rejection of State coercion and endorsement of State coercion at the same time, only an Objectivist knows.

I am no economist, but I believe that what is meant by the term "free trade" or "free markets" is unrestricted trade of goods, services, and/or money between people. "Free" is not used in the sense of "without price" or in the sense of a gift, but rather is used in the sense of no restriction. The best example free trade that I know about in American life is the private garage or yard sale — I don’t know enough about flea markets or e-Bay to judge. All other trade is restricted by taxation and regulation forced upon it by political government.

I suppose we tend to view trade, or commerce, as the millions of daily transactions between producers and consumers, with an occasional nod to the vendors, like Wal-Mart, who bring us together in the marketplace. Behind the scene are the capital providers who finance the whole operation in anticipation of financial reward. Behind the scene are the entrepreneurs who bring the capital together with innovation, manufacturing facilities, labor, marketing, and distribution networks. And behind the scene are the innovators who have the bright ideas to create the products that the entrepreneur builds, that the capital providers finance, that the vendors stock on their shelves, and that we purchase.

Another name for trade is commerce. The so-called commerce clause in A.1.S.8. of the US Constitution enabled and centralized the continuation of colonial mercantilism, that is the collusion or criminal conspiracy between private commercial interests and representatives of the state monopoly of force and fraud to protect special interests from competition, and naturally to extort wealth from all citizens in taxes. This racket is as old as mankind, and has financed every political government in history. That people by and large tend to tolerate this intrusion into their daily lives, and the outright theft, is a monument to the effectiveness of the lies they are told to keep the racket going. Up to a point.

American colonists were not subjected to the punishing taxation and regulation that Americans today seem to tolerate quite easily. British mercantilism worked smoothly for the most part, and hundreds of Americans, all British subjects of course, were wealthy people of influence in the Eighteenth Century colonies, and in London and Paris. If the British Parliament had left the colonies alone, nothing would have changed, but politicians get greedy for power and money, so they put the squeeze on America, and some colonists got angry about it.

We know the result. What we may not know, or realize, is that the issues that prompted that anger were later written into the Constitution as the law of the land, and that we are living with the consequences of that law today: the political-military-industrial complex is mercantilism writ large. It’s called fascism.

All for the want of free trade? Yes. The designers of the Constitution each had a special interest stake in the outcome of this unilateral "contract" binding every man, woman, and child within its jurisdiction to its "law" for as long as it lasts. No living person may opt out, ever, or the whole fraud becomes exposed, and falls apart; think "Iron Curtain" and then investigate how you may leave your political jurisdiction with your wealth intact. You can’t.

But does that reality at the moment make free trade and free markets utopian? No, I don’t think it does. I think we could get along without coercive political government just fine. How about you?

Robert Klassen [send him mail] retired from a forty-year career in critical-care respiratory therapy. He is the author of five books, including Atlantis: A Novel about Economic Government, and Economic Government, which describe a solution to the problem of political government. Here’s his web site.

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