If you read the papers these days, you'll see an abuse of the term "free trade." More or less, the assumption is that "free trade" means "no duties on imports" --unless those imports are "unfair" or dumped. It turns out, however, that the old economists meant exactly the opposite thing was free trade.
No kidding; when Bastiat mentions "free trade," he simply means that the power of the state is not used to prohibit certain items from being imported, and that duties are calculated to generate revenue, not to prevent items from being imported. Examples from Bastiat include French laws to prohibit the importation of British cloth, and duties designed to make Belgian iron cost more then French iron.
The moral argument behind this is simple; the circumstances of another nation, be it blessing or foolishness, do not require us to curse ourselves by refusing to accept the blessings that we are offered from abroad. At the same time, if a tariff is the most efficient means of raising revenue, by all means use it.
The bitter irony here, of course, is that supposed "free trade" agreements like NAFTA and GATT prohibit a revenue tariff, but endorse the use of heavy duties to prevent "dumping." With 28000 pages or so in GATT, would we expect any different?
Personally, I favor a return to free trade with a 15% revenue tariff on all items entering our country, accompanied by elimination of corporate welfare and a huge cut in income taxes. Good luck getting modern "free traders" to agree to such a scheme, though.
A Blast From the Past… - This post is from back on January 19, 2010. I think it’s still as relevant today as it was nearly four years ago now: Several Things on My Mind There proba...
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