Peace and Free Trade

by Don Boudreaux on October 18, 2011

in Civil Society, Complexity & Emergence, Cooperation, History, The Profit Motive, Trade

Here’s a letter to the Washington Post:

Reporting on the commendable efforts of the Business Council for Peace to bring young developing-country entrepreneurs to America for training, Thomas Heath appropriately opens with this paragraph: “There’s a line from the late television series ‘The West Wing’ that has stuck with me over the years.  It went something like, ‘Trade between countries prevents wars'” (“Value Added: An exchange program for entrepreneurs,” Oct. 17).

Here, fiction is fact.

In his 2006 book Global Capitalism, Harvard University’s Jeffry Frieden notes that “As one of [FDR’s Secretary of State Cordell] Hull’s supporters put it, ‘If soldiers are not to cross international borders, goods must do so.'”*  This wise proponent of Hull’s free-trade proclivities was one Otto Maller, a man otherwise lost to history.

It’s imperative to understand that this positive relationship between peace and free trade that Mr. Maller expressed so succinctly has long been emphasized by free-trade’s most prominent champions – as evidenced, for example, by many of the newly published letters of Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850) that show him to have been as tireless and principled a campaigner for peace as he was for free trade.**

Donald J. Boudreaux

* p. 255.

** F. Bastiat, The Man and the Statesman, Jacques de Guenin, David Hart, & Dennis O’Keefe, eds. (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2011).

(HT to Cato’s David Boaz for alerting me to the Heath column.)

UPDATE: David Hart sends me this 2009 post by Paul Walker, who goes to the source that Jeffry Frieden uses for the above quotation; I see from Paul’s research that Frieden misspelled (and, hence, I misspelled) Otto’s name: he is Otto T. Mallery (not “Maller”).  Paul has more info.


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