Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Free Trade Makes Humans Human

In today's New York times John Tierney offers some fascinating commentary on Matt Ridley's book, The Rational Optimist. Link here.

When Ridley asks what makes humans human, he answers that it is free trade. Perhaps it began with an exchange of sea shells, but it has produced human society as we know it. Whether it is trade in goods and services or free trade in ideas, it has also been responsible for the great progress the human species has enjoyed over the past millennia.

Perhaps nothing can stop it, but progress can certainly be slowed down. If "we stifle innovation and trade, the way China and other empires did in the past," then we will certainly inhibit human progress.

Can it happen?

In Tierney's words: "...European countries are already banning technologies based on the precautionary principle requiring advance proof that they are risk-free. Americans are turning more protectionist and requiring byzantine restrictions like carbon tariffs. Globalization is denounced by affluent Westerners preaching a return to self-sufficiency."

One would be hard put to argue with that. But one would also be derelict if one did not point out that the enemies of free trade and free markets today mostly inhabit the left wing of the political spectrum.

1 comment:

Frank S. Robinson said...

Anyone interested in Ridley's "Optimism" book should also consider my own prior 2009 book, THE CASE FOR RATIONAL OPTIMISM, which thoroughly discusses the same points, but actually tackles the entire range of the pessimist litany. See http://www.fsrcoin.com/k.htm