The most eloquent promoters of unencumbered world trade were Richard Cobden and John Bright , the 19th-century “Little Englander” anti-imperialists and peace advocates. No one has an excuse for conflating free worldwide commerce – including the movement of workers, that is, immigration – with either empire or elitist rule through multinational bureaucracies birthed by politicians. As Cobden said,
They who propose to influence by force the traffic of the world, forget that affairs of trade, like matters of conscience, change their very nature if touched by the hand of violence; for as faith, if forced, would no longer be religion, but hypocrisy, so commerce becomes robbery if coerced by warlike armaments.
Antiglobalism and anticosmopolitanism might flow purely from economic ignorance, but it is hard to believe that’s all it is for many people. Too often these attitudes suggest what Bryan Caplan calls “anti-foreign bias” combined with “antimarket bias.”
But while no legislative body would order the law of gravity to be suspended during, say, rocket launches, they are perfectly happy – King Canute-like – to order the law of supply and demand to stop operating to suit their political convenience. And political reporters—most of them as ignorant of economics as those born blind are of art—are perfectly happy to ignore the fact that that is what they are doing.
Cato scholars offer their thoughts on how to improve NAFTA . (HT Bryan Riley)
From 1987: Roger Garrison reviews Ludwig Lachmann’s 1986 book, The Market as an Economic Process . (Thanks to Walter Grinder for the link.)
Nick Cowen tackles Jeff Friedman, Nancy MacLean, and Public Choice . Here’s Nick’s conclusion:
The features of some goods that make them comparatively (though seldom perfectly) well supplied in private markets is precisely what makes them harder to provide efficiently (and honestly) through the political process. The same considerations that make market failure a potential problem also suggest problems with the state regulatory alternative. Homo economicus need not be a starting assumption to get public choice off the ground. The only assumption is that if homo economicus is relevant to understanding behaviour in a sector under market rules, it is presumptively still relevant under democratic or administrative rules.
This is the essence of public choice. It requires no controversial assumptions about the nature of politics, just the character of incentives for the provision of some sorts of goods.