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The Democrats Were Once the Party of Free Trade

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:

Whether or not former congressman Jim Bacchus is correct in advising his fellow Democrats that “Free Trade Is Your Destiny” (Dec. 4), this much is certain: until just a few decades ago free trade was the Democrats’ legacy.

Among history’s most eloquent Democratic politicians is the now-forgotten, but once celebrated, Rep. William Bourke Cockran (D-NY) – a man who inspired Winston Churchill not only to become a better orator but also a stronger champion of free trade. In a July 1903 speech delivered to the Liberal Club in London, Cockran observed that “[p]rotection can have no other object than the plunder of the vast body of consumers for the benefit of a few producers…. Any scheme of benevolence by Government, whether it be called protection to domestic labor, subsidies to home industries, fair trade, or retaliation against a foreign enemy for alleged maltreatment of domestic producers, always masks a scheme of plunder.”*

We can only hope that the House’s incoming Democratic majority would take Cockran’s observation to heart.

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

* Excerpts from this speech can be found here.


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