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Trade’s Greatest Benefit

In the August 17th edition of the Washington Post is a letter that I wrote to highlight the most important benefit of freer trade and the greater global economic integration that it promotes: increased prospects for peace.

Regarding the Aug. 13 news article “China to N. Korea: You’re on your own if you attack U.S.”:

Would Beijing have issued the same warning 50 years ago? While the answer is uncertain, it’s plausible to suppose that Beijing back then would have been less likely than today to warn a communist ally not to start a war with the United States. If the United States suffers severe damage from nuclear (or even conventional) weapons, China today has far more to lose than it did under Mao Zedong. Unlike China under Mao, the Chinese today have legions of commercial customers and suppliers in the United States. And a pretty good rule of business is “Don’t kill your customers.” Don’t even be complicit in such killing.

Perhaps we are today reaping one of the unsung benefits of freer trade and the international economic integration that it promotes: a greater reluctance of trading partners to go to war with each other. Maybe, just maybe, the United States’ much-derided economic integration with China will not only continue to enrich the people of both countries materially, but also — and far more importantly — prevent senseless slaughter.

Donald J. Boudreaux, Fairfax


Apologies to my dear friend Tom Palmer from whom I snatch the line about not killing your customers.