Thomas Jefferson once aptly stated that “I think all the world would gain by setting commerce at perfect liberty.” Milton Friedman amplified upon that theme by saying that “No people in history have raised themselves up out of poverty except through a system of free enterprise and private property rights.” As a practical reality, few programs contribute more to prosperity (and peace) than liberty in free trade. Why? Because trade allows each country to accent what it does best. In addition, and this critical issue is often overlooked, free trade also provides products at a much lower price to the consumers in each country. Our Founding Fathers recognized these principles when they prohibited the establishment of any protective trade barriers among the states. Imagine the results had they not had this foresight. The same principles apply among countries.
So how does free trade contribute to peace? Trade brings buyers and sellers closer together, with the result that countries are much less likely to shoot their customers. In fact, throughout history hostilities were often suspended so that trade could be consummated. And, of course, trade facilitates the interchange of information and ideas, which also promotes peace. Yes, trade restrictions can be used to accomplish non-economic purposes, like encouraging other governments to honor human rights or punishing military aggression. But in that regard, we should always remember that this unnatural action should be used sparingly, because it imposes a cost upon everyone concerned.
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Judge Jim Gray (Ret.)