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The Struggle Never Ends

Here’s a letter to a new Cafe Hayek reader who reports being “very disappointed” at the material he finds at this blog.

Mr. Rick Haley

Mr. Haley:

You insist that my support for free trade is “indeed dogmatic.”  According to you, “practical people not tied to free trade dogma understand that trade sometimes is good and that it’s bad other times.”

With respect, you dogmatically refuse to recognize that human society is filled with many types of actions the consequences of which are so consistent and predictable that simple and unbending rules regarding these actions are appropriate.  For example, consider the action of jumping without a parachute from the roofs of skyscrapers.  Would you call me “dogmatic” if I advised all non-suicidal people to avoid this action always and without exception?

Perhaps more relevantly, consider the choices that you and your family make about which goods and services you produce yourself or buy from your neighbors (for example, hiring your neighbor’s teenage son to mow your lawn) and which you purchase from across the borders of your neighborhood (for example, buying pork from the supermarket rather than you or your neighbors raising and slaughtering pigs yourselves).  Am I “dogmatic” if I conclude that your neighbor should never be allowed to use force to interfere with your decisions on this front?  Is it “dogma” that prompts me to insist that your neighbor is never justified in forcing you to hire his son to mow your lawn or forcing you to buy the used-car that he has for sale rather than the new car for sale at the Ford dealership across town?  Am I a dogmatist if I argue that it’s always wrong for your neighbor to force you to pay to him a penalty whenever you make some purchase that he disapproves of from outside of your neighborhood?

If you agree that your neighbor is never justified in interfering in these ways in your and your family’s economic decisions, then you should rethink your charge that the unconditional case for free trade is “dogmatic.”  Central to this case for free trade is the recognition that the boundaries that mark off each nation are no more economically relevant than are the boundaries that mark off a U.S. state, a county, a city, a neighborhood, or an individual homestead.

As an economist, I support free trade unequivocally and unconditionally because I understand that in all but the rarest and most bizarre and hypothetical of circumstances free trade increases the size of the economic pie.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030


And as a human being I support free trade unequivocally and unconditionally because it is never right for Jones forcibly or fraudulently to obstruct Smith’s peaceful choices.


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