Wednesday, 3 June 2015

10YearsAgo: Free trade makes strange bedfellows

Somebody reminded me over the weekend that I've been blogging for over ten years now -- which is sort of sad, and also sort of an achievement.The strange thing in all that time is that while names and faces change, the arguments are often the same old arguments. Consider this post from out of the archives, from ten years ago this week ...

No Right Turn is more eloquent than Rod Donald when it comes to arguing against Helen Clark's free trade deal with China:
As for the wider issue of whether we should be pursuing free trade with a totalitarian shithole like China, the rest of Clark's statement - that if were only to trade with countries with similar values, it would be a very short list - has some merit, but only some. Because what's at issue is not the full western liberal democratic package, but the bare minimum we should expect from any country - things like not torturing people, not detaining them arbitrarily, and not driving tanks over them whenever they criticise the government, all of which China wantonly violates. And while it does show some welcome signs of moving in the right direction, it is still far from meeting even those minimum standards.
Fair points, all of them. Despite many enormously hopeful signs, China is still by no means a paragon of freedom. All the signs are however that it in moving in that direction. Where Russia went for political freedom while ignoring economic freedom, China is focussing first on economic liberation. As Mises Institute's Lew Rockwell said back in 1997,
This has resulted in a historic economic boom of double-digit annual growth, unprecedented freedom and prosperity for huge elements of the population, and a dramatic decline in government power. Within the lifetimes of every middle-aged person, the country has moved from mass starvation and terror to accommodating huge commercial centres that rival Houston and Montreal. The Chinese authorities can call it communism if they want to, but the system rising there is more Mises than Marx.
As Rockwell argues here, (yes, he can sometimes talk sense), trade with other countries is a tool of liberation. Can anyone doubt that if America had lifted its trade embargo to Cuba twenty years ago old busy whiskers Fidel would by now have joined Ferdinand Marcos in the graveyard of gone-and-almost-forgotten former leaders of totalitarian shitholes.

Trade with China is good for us, and it can be good for the Chinese. As Rockwell says "The anti-China crowd is proposing to punish the Chinese people for the infractions of the Chinese government." If NRT really wants to encourage more of those "welcome signs of moving in the right direction" that he and I both see, he should join me in welcoming this deal.

In the meantime and for once, I'm on the side of Helen Clark and NoRightTurn is [possibly] on the other.

Freedom sometimes makes for strange bedfellows.

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