Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Leader of the Free World Torpedoes Freedom

Tibor R. Machan

Cologne, Germany. As The New York Times reported the other day-- United States was among three of the most powerful economies of the world, China and India being the others, to ground to a halt the effort at the World Trade Organization (which recently met met in Geneva, Switzerland), to eliminate or at least lower farm subsidies so as to open markets that could then admit as serious participants citizens of poor countries the economies of which are only going to improve of their farm products can be sold globally. It is truly disgusting and embarrassing that America is among the countries where protectionism is a major political force.

For decades, even centuries, America was dubbed "the leader of the free world." Just what did that mean? The meaning of "freedom" in this designation is supposed to be that America`s citizens enjoy and fervently support individual freedom for all human beings. As Thomas Jefferson and many other Founders proposed, the Declaration of Independence was a commitment to the equal right to liberty, among other rights, not just of those who would live in the new country. That liberty was deemed a basic human rights, unalienable, that all human beings possess and was to be secured, in time, for all. The government of the United States of American was instituted to secure these rights but all people across the world had them whether they were respected and protected or not by their various governments.

A clear, unambiguous implication of the right to liberty is to engage in peaceful trade with any willing fellow human being. If you want to sell a horse or car or apartment house and find someone who comes to terms with you, the right to liberty means that no one may prevent the deal from taking place. If anyone does, the person is a criminal, plain and simple.

But protectionism is precisely the official prevention of free trade. Farmers from Africa or anywhere else have grain or some other produce for sale and find others who are willing to pay what they ask for it but the government, urged on by domestic farmers who don`t want the competition, coercively prevent the trade from taking place.

That the Peoples Republic of China would take part in such a criminal policy is perhaps understandable, seeing that the country is basically a fascist state, run by a bunch of pragmatic rulers who have no commitment to individual rights, such as to everyone`s unalienable right to liberty. India, while nominally a democracy, is not a liberal democracy and thus also lacks commitment to individual rights. It comes a bit closer by virtue of its partial embrace of the principle of democratic political participation but that`s by no means enough.

In the case of the United States of America its government`s opposition to abolishing protectionism is out and out hypocrisy. A free country that prevents its citizens from engaging in unhindered trade with willing people abroad is, well, a contradiction in terms. America`s negotiators at the WTO should make an open declaration of having jettisoned the principles of the Declaration and the Bill of Rights in favor of the system of mercantilism, commerce dictated by the central government in behalf of various parties who are the favorites of the rulers! That is the very system that the Founders attempted to overthrow, the system Adam Smith criticised so powerfully in his The Wealth of Nations--published, incidentally, in 1776.

On top of it all, the current American administration keeps insisting that freedom is good for all people, including those in the Middle East, such as Iraq, so much so that young men and women ought to be sent to risk and give their lives so that this freedom could be realized abroad. But at the same time members of this same administration willingly comply with segments of the American citizenry who have zero interest in human liberty, especially the human liberty of millions of farmers abroad whose very livelihood directly depends on their right to liberty being respected and protected.

It is very difficult, under the circumstances, to take anything seriously that the American government declares in the name of the struggle for liberty. All those men and women who are asked to stand up for liberty are being deceived. It seems what they are protecting is the special perverse interests of American farmers and other protected groups.

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