Argument: Free trade upholds the freedom of individuals to engage in trade

Issue Report: Free trade


  • Laurence M. Vance. “The Moral Case for Free Trade”. February 4, 2004 – “The case for free trade is not based on fair trade, trade agreements, international trade theory, factors of production, absolute advantage, comparative advantage, or efficiency. These arguments miss the real issue. There is a far more philosophical defense of free trade that has been neglected: freedom. The moral case for free trade is based, not on how efficient or beneficial free trade is, but on freedom itself. Free trade simply means that every citizen of every country is free to trade with any citizen of any country.”
Now, let me briefly bring up the second thought I want to leave you with: that free trade is not merely an economic concept; it is a human right, a natural right.
People should have the right to exchange the sweat of their brows, the products of their hands and their minds, with whomever they wish. I should be free to trade with my corner dry cleaner, a Balinese shirt maker, a Cuban cigar roller, a Japanese lap-top manufacturer. The right to trade is, I believe, one of our inalienable rights, along with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that the Declaration of Independence talks about. The government should be able to get between me and the person I want to trade with only if that trade threatens the interest of national security–if we are at war, or close to it.
Unfortunately, the Constitution itself seems at odds with this sentiment.
It specifically allows Congress to lay imposts and excises, that is, tariffs, and to regulate commerce with foreign nations. It’s easy to understand that tariffs were far more important back in the 18th century, when they were the main source of government revenue. But it’s hard to deny that there is some natural, or human, rights interest in trade.”