Saturday, September 24, 2011

Free Trade Agreements and Libertarianism

So this is an issue that I think all Libertarians should consider (along with targeted tax breaks).  I guess it comes down to how idealistic we are versus how pragmatic we are as Libertarians.

I saw this link, but the speech itself is not really what poses the question.

The question is, from a Libertarian perspective, are free trade agreements a good or a bad thing?  The good side is fairly obvious.  Free trade is a good thing.  It encourages competition, and reinforces the rights of business owners (both here and abroad) to practice their business as they wish to.

The bad side is a little more complex.  Yes, free trade is a good thing.  Financially, and for the individuals in the countries involved, or American businesspeople who do business with them, this is obviously a very Libertarian step.

On the other hand, the idea of individual bilateral free trade agreements is very anti-Libertarian, anti-free market, and anti-capitalistic.  Instead of removing regulation and leveling the playing field, it creates an even more stark, government-induced contrast between the restrictions different sets of business owners face.

It creates two classes of international countries, and with them, two classes of American businesses.  That is, those businesses who choose to do business with countries we have free trade with, and businesses who choose to do business with other countries.

In short, if lower government regulation is what we think of as Libertarian ideals, then I guess these agreements are a gift.

If, on the other hand, less government involvement in our individual and business lives is what we see as Libertarian, this is terrible.  I would rather have more regulations, but have them be simple, and consistent, than have no restrictions for some countries, but a government web of individualized agreements with other nations.  Am I a bad Libertarian?

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