Derb on free trade

He says:

Of the doctrine of free will, Doctor Johnson observed that all theory is against it but all experience for it. Ian Fletcher’s book inspires a converse reflection on free trade: all theory is for it, all experience against it.

For sure nearly all economic theoreticians favor absolute free trade: 93 percent, according to Ian Fletcher. His book persuades me they are wrong. Check it out.

I’ve also become a skeptic of free trade after being a rabid proponent of free trade for better than a decade.

I still think the theory of free trade is correct. In a free market, free trade is by far the best policy.

Unfortunately, the prerequisite is almost never met: we don’t live in a free market.

In reality, free trade does cost people jobs. The newly unemployed go on welfare, spend endless time in subsidized re-education programs, or sell subprime mortgages. Given the infinite number of possible consequences, it’s pretty much impossible to know which policy is best. At this point, I have more sympathy with people who are willing to admit that they don’t really know.


15 Responses to Derb on free trade

  1. Borepatch says:


    I’m also less persuaded that Economists know what they’re doing these days.

  2. Matt says:

    1. In a free domestic market, free international trade is provably optimal. (You concede this above.)

    2. In a less-than-free domestic market, the theoretically optimal international trade strategy is not known with certainty. (This appears to be your central point, and I will gladly concede it.)

    3. Regardless of the freedom or lack thereof in the domestic market, no policy of international trade restriction yet attempted in the real world has been without significant negative side effects. Few have achieved their nominal goals, even in spite of the price paid.

    4. Any attempt to restrict international trade will be designed, codified, and enforced by the same crowd of people responsible for keeping the domestic market less than free and perpetuating all the negative consequences of that which you list.

    Ergo, free international trade, despite not being provably optimal (and in fact, probably having an alternative which, if magically deployed on present conditions, would be preferable), seems nevertheless the best choice among those likely to be available to us.

    Government by angels is not an option. Given that we must, where governed at all, be governed not only by men, but by the sort of men who seek careers in government, the sensible course seems obviously to be the course that limits the control that government has over areas which we both agree that no one entirely understands.

  3. Jehu says:

    If most free traders were not also in favor of destroying the demographic hegemony of me and mine, I’d like them better. As it stands, because they’re my enemies (by definition, see statement 1), I’m against anything that raises their status and/or prestige in society. Trade isn’t an existential issue, demographic hegemony is.

  4. Damn Jehu, “demographic hegemony is an existential issue” is the best racist rhetoric I’ve heard in a long time.

    That sounds like a backhanded compliment, but isn’t one.

  5. Jehu says:

    I’m glad you like it. I try to make my memes as virulent as possible, so they’ll spread. My goal is to convince as many white folks of Euro extraction as possible that it is ok to work to advance their group interest, regardless of any insults tossed at them by a hostile elite. My secondary goal is to strip the elite of any moral legitimacy in the eyes of the non-elite of white Euro extraction. Toward that goal, a simple formulation:
    1) You have demographic hegemony presently
    2) Said hegemony is threatened by the machinations of your elites
    3) Losing demographic hegemony sucks (with a range of how much it sucks from various South American countries all the way to Zimbabwe/Rhodesia and South Africa to what has happened in a lot of cases to other market dominant minorities).
    4) Therefore the elites are your enemies and any moral arguments they make should be redirected to the circular file
    4a) It is not necessary, or even relevant whether they are also hypocrites—frankly a charge of hypocrisy generally only has legs when you control the cultural battlespace–I’ve met few people who weren’t already predisposed to loathe, say, Al Gore, who were persuaded to do so by his gigantic carbon footprint, or Geithner by his egregious tax evasion. Plus, you can find sincere useful idiots in a pinch anyway. Your defense of your interests should in no way be limited by your opponent’s sincerity or ‘good faith’ or lack thereof. That said, it can be a useful club at time to give your allies an excuse in their minds for loathing their enemies beyond a basic existential concern.

  6. Jehu,

    I think you’re right to sharpen your memes. Have you read The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing? “Demographic hegemony is an existential issue” belongs up there in the race rhetoric pantheon. It’s tautological yet terrifying in its historical confirmations.

    The other thing that seems to attract the most blogosphere attention, besides self help, are crisp displays of dominance. I.e., debate well played.

    I think Vox Day is the best current example of this.


  7. So to make things explicit, my ideal race rhetoric warrior would:
    1. Deliver sharpened memes
    2. Backed by genuine intellectualism
    3. Defended with parsimonious dominance against all challengers

  8. Jehu says:

    I’ve been banging the demographic hegemony drum for some time. A simple message, well supported by history, repeated often. A quick google on it (demographic hegemony) will return most of my thoughts on it, although I don’t claim credit for originating the term (I think it came from some Israeli think tank regarding the demographic sword of Damocles hanging over Israel originally). I’m pretty certain Vox Day gets it on demographic hegemony. My take is that an awful lot of people know this truth in their gut, but are afraid to speak it with their lips, and believe that they are far more marginal than they are, and forced into a kind of preference falsification a la Timur Kuran. One of the aspects of such widespread preference falsification is the vulnerability to a catastrophic cascade, one I hope to help provoke.
    Here’s another meme I’m trying to push hard:
    If someone makes a moral argument as to why you should sacrifice your rational group or self interest for some universal principle, 9 times in 10, he’s bamboozling you into serving HIS self interest. The other time in ten, he’s sincere but his efforts will end in a enormous effusion of blood.

  9. Jehu,

    I agree on the potential for cascade. And I still think “Demographic hegemony is an existential issue” is one of the most elegant ways to get it into people’s minds. It avoids the shibboleths of both race and old-style morality while retaining self evidence and core value impact.

  10. Jehu says:

    I’ll have to boost that formulation of my thesis on my ‘play mix’ so to speak. Feel free to appropriate it for yourself as well. I care far more for propagation of the memes I’m spreading than whether I’m ‘credited’ for them :-).

  11. Jehu,

    Glad to hear it. I’d already shamelessly stolen it before you generously gave permission 🙂

    It seems you don’t have a blog? I’d like to get in touch via email, to bounce ideas from time to time. It’s joseph.dantes at google’s mail system dot com (geeemail).

  12. Jehu says:

    I do have a blog, although it’s mostly just a few of my theological musings. I’ll put up an asychrononous blowback thread on it though with open comments.

  13. aretae says:

    International Trade is provably equivalent to making a labor-saving machine, unless you’re making national greatness arguments.

    Any argument against free trade is exactly as true of an argument against labor-saving machines.

    Japan is effectively a machine that converts corn into automobiles. If you don’t like machines that convert corn into automobiles…you probably shouldn’t like trade. If you do like machines that save labor, you should like International Trade. It’s really really simple.

    • Alrenous says:

      Yes, all the theory is for it.

      But Foseti’s point is that in an environment of minimum wages, licensing et cetera the reaction to trade does not appear to be the same as for a labour-saving machine, and has never been proven to be so.

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