Should you support “free trade”

Libertarians talk a lot about supporting free trade.

It’s easy to justify free trade in the abstract.

In reality supporting free trade mean support free trade agreements. You’d think it would take about 4 sentences to agree to trade freely. Instead, it seems to take thousands of pages. If you support free trade should you support these ridiculous agreements?

Are all these discussions about supporting free trade therefore meaningless in practice?

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5 Responses to Should you support “free trade”

  1. heyheywhatcanisay says:

    What is your basis for claiming that to support free trade you need to support NAFTA or a NAFTA-like agreement? If NAFTA were truly a trilateral free trade agreement, you wouldn’t have things like the Canada-US softwood lumber dispute, and you certainly wouldn’t have countries within the trading bloc imposing tariffs on each other.

    NAFTA seems more intent on promoting “fair trade” than “free trade”, as you can see by all the disagreements on what constitutes dumping, when countervailing duty is allowed, etc. These are all impediments to free trade, and an attempt to make the concept more palatable for voters.

  2. aretae says:

    The left libertarians, anarchists, and most of the extreme folks I know think that your conjecture is true. “Free trade” and free trade are unrelated.

    Standard libertarians…and especially my favorite smart academic libertarian leaning GMU and Volokh Conspiracy types all argue that free trade agreements like NAFTA require thousands of pages in order to allow the special interests to maintain their absurd local for a little while, as a political truth. Fact is: All tariffs will decrease by 10% of 2010 values a year until 2020 at which point they will be permanently abolished doesn’t leave room for the special interests to get favors and the sugar lobby to keep the tariff on Brazilian sugar until 2025. Regardless the weakness of the sugar delay, it’s a massive positive elsewhere.

    As usual, I oscillate between the moderate academic libertarians and the firebrand anarchists, and my position is in between.

  3. Genius says:

    I’ve never met a libertarian who thinks that NAFTA, GATT and whatever else mean free trade, or that drafting a real free trade agreement would take more space than what’s available on the back of an envelope. But ~50% of the libertarians I’ve met prefer incremental or “freer” trade.

  4. […] more on “free trade”, see here, here, here, here, here, here and […]

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