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On the “National-Security Exception” to a Policy of Free Trade

In my latest AIER column, I summarize just some of the many reasons to be skeptical of the so-called “national-security exception” to the case for a policy of free trade. Here are my concluding paragraphs:

Here’s a fourth reason to reject the national-security exception to the case for free trade. It’s the reason most important of all: trade itself promotes peace by weaving the peoples of different countries into one international economy.

Every trade restriction disunites the peoples of different countries. It makes them less invested in each other’s welfare than they would otherwise be. As trade restrictions multiply, the people of one country come to depend less on the people of another country as suppliers and as customers. The bonds of understanding created and strengthened by peaceful commerce weaken. The lost trade opportunities from a shooting war between the two countries fall while the risks of misunderstanding between the two countries rise.

The very best system of national defense, therefore, is one that reduces the prospect of war. It is one that diminishes the need to actually send into battle war machines and manpower. So anyone sincerely committed to a program of using trade policy as a means of strengthening national defense supports as an indispensable cornerstone of that policy free trade.