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Can the Left reclaim free trade? Radical liberalism could still make a comeback

'This is what we believe.' Getty Images.


May 13, 2024   5 mins

For the past half century, the Right has been the self-appointed guardian of the free market. In one of her first acts as Conservative leader in 1975, Margaret Thatcher strode into a meeting and banged a copy of Friedrich Hayek’s The Constitution of Liberty on the table. “This,” she declared, “is what we believe.” In 1991, Republican President George H.W. Bush, amid his push for the North American Free Trade Agreement, awarded the 92-year-old Hayek a Presidential Medal of Freedom. “How magnificent it must be,” he said, “[for Hayek] to witness his ideas validated before the eyes of the world.”

More recently, however, Hayek’s economic ideals have lost their glow in Right-wing circles. Even former Prime Minister Liz Truss, the “free-market fairy godmother”, appears to be faltering, as populist politicians from Donald Trump to Giorgia Meloni retreat to the comforts of economic nationalism.

At a time like this, it’s worth remembering that the free market wasn’t always betrothed to the Right. In the early days, its advocates could instead be found on the internationalist Left, particularly among the leaders of the transatlantic anti-imperial and peace movements. In 1846, Britain’s Left-wing free traders set a precedent by overturning the protectionist Corn Laws. Overnight, Britain became the first modern free-trade nation.

For Left-leaning intellectuals in the 19th century, global free trade was a moral necessity that augured millenarian visions of a world without want or war. It meant cheap food and a world at peace. Richard Cobden, Britain’s foremost free-trade prophet, believed that free trade would work by “drawing men together, thrusting aside the antagonism of race, and creed, and language, and uniting us in the bonds of eternal peace”. He predicted that: “The desire and the motive for large and mighty empires; for gigantic armies and great navies
 will die away
 when man becomes one family and freely exchanges the fruits of his labour with his brother man.”

“The free market wasn’t always betrothed to the Right.”

His vision even convinced Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who, residing in Britain in the 1840s, gave it their cautious approval. They believed that free trade would unite the world’s workers and that it represented the next progressive capitalist step on the path towards socialist revolution. Protectionism, by contrast, was regressive.

Cobden and his fellows assumed that Britain’s inspirational Corn Law reforms would set the world ablaze, initiating a peaceful and prosperous free-trade era. He was sure that industrialising imperial powers would soon follow Britain’s liberal lead. And yet, despite his best efforts, economic nationalism persisted for some time beyond the enlightened borders of Britain. The onset of a global economic depression in 1873 sent Britain’s imperial rivals — most notably the United States, Germany, France, Russia, and Japan — cowering behind ever-higher tariff walls.

As protectionist monopolies and trusts grew in Europe, so did the frenzy for colonisation. Conservative protectionist politicians in the late-19th century were on the lookout for new markets in the hope of exporting surplus capital and exploiting raw materials. The result was the European Scramble for Africa and the carving up of Chinese markets.

Left-wing free traders — a motley international crew of liberal radicals, feminists, Christians and socialists — redoubled their efforts. And in 1879, the liberal radical US political philosopher Henry George published Progress and Poverty, which quickly became an international bestseller. George called for a “single tax” on the estimated value of land that would provide all the revenue that a government required and thereby eliminate all other forms of taxation, including tariffs. As a bonus, the single tax also promised to break up land monopolies the world over. Absolute free trade, prosperity and peace would surely follow.

The single tax movement spread from the US to Britain to the Asia Pacific and Latin America. “The Land Song” became a rip-roaring tune for Edwardian Liberals. Leo Tolstoy believed George’s single tax on land would “usher in an epoch” and dismantle Russian serfdom. Meanwhile, single tax “colonies” were formed across the globe. Lizzie Magie, a turn-of-the-century feminist radical residing in a single tax colony in Arden, Delaware, even invented a board game to teach about the evils of land monopoly: Monopoly.

With the dawn of the 20th century, socialist internationalists increasingly worked alongside their liberal radical capitalist comrades to overturn the protectionist imperial order. Political parties including the Labour Party in Britain, the Socialist Party of America and Germany’s Social Democratic Party explicitly endorsed free trade. And influential German Marxist theorists such as Eduard Bernstein and Karl Kautsky found themselves in agreement with socialist internationalists such as Japan’s Toyohiko Kagawa, Britain’s Bertrand Russell and Crystal Eastman in the USA.

Yet it was still an uphill battle. In his bestselling book, The Great Illusion (1910), British journalist Norman Angell sought in vain to warn nationalistic politicians and businessmen that, because the world had become so interdependent, nobody could win from war, not even the so-called victors. When the First World War inevitably broke out, Left-wing free traders blamed it on the rise of economic nationalism and colonial expansion since the 1870s.

The horrors of war galvanised support for free trade, partly through the international women’s peace movement. As these “mothers of the world” saw it, women and children suffered most during trade wars and military conflicts. Their aim was therefore to democratise foreign policymaking further to curb men’s tendency towards economic nationalism and war. And they supported free trade because it meant that women and children would no longer go hungry. For them, free trade meant food security.

Take Jane Addams, the Chicago social reformer and figurehead of the interwar women’s peace movement, who had witnessed horrific scenes of starvation during her tour of south-eastern Europe in 1921, three years after the Great War had ended.  She noted how “food resources which were produced in Europe itself and should have been available” weren’t because “a covert war was being carried on” through “import duties and protective tariffs”, as these small European states erroneously “imitated the great Allies with their protectionist policies, with their colonial monopolies and preferences”.

The winds of change finally began to blow once a free trader, Tennessee’s Cordell Hull — “Richard Cobden reincarnated” — became Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Secretary of State and went about liberalising US and world trade during the Thirties and Forties. He believed that a free-trade world could only be effectively maintained by subordinating national sovereignty, thereby keeping nations from falling into the same economic nationalist trap that had led to two world wars and a worsening global depression. With the support of his Left-wing globalist allies, he laid the groundwork for the United Nations and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT, 1947), which became the World Trade Organisation in 1995.

After Hull left the US state department, the Left-wing free traders became outsiders once again. They quickly lost their influence over the GATT, which during the Cold War became more beholden to the profit-seeking demands of multinational corporations than to the workers and consumers of the world. And their envisaged Pax Economica, seemingly within their grasp in the late Forties, looked ridiculous against the Manichean backdrop of the Cold War.

Over time, conservative Western governments grew more receptive to freeing global markets. But rather than enlisting the help of Left-wing free traders, they turned instead to anti-communist economic thinkers such as Milton Friedman and Hayek. With paranoid cold warriors seeing “red” everywhere, democracy from the Left came to be seen as an impediment to free trade, rather than its accompaniment. This led to a series of Western-backed coups d’état and military interventions in the name of defending free-market capitalism.

Bertrand Russell, British socialist free trader, philosopher, and peace worker, perhaps portended the fate of the Left-wing free-trade movement a century ago when he wrote: “It seems to be the fate of idealists to obtain what they have struggled for in a form which destroys their ideals.” Yet perhaps, with Right-wing populists trampling over free-trade ideals, the time is ripe for a comeback.

Fragments of the movement remain hidden in plain sight. They can still be found within regional integration projects including the EU and the African Continental Free Trade Area, and in Fair Trade’s moralistic global vision that prioritises economic justice over corporate profits. But today’s Left-wing internationalists cannot hope to forge a new Pax Economica without first reclaiming their history from the ideological citadels of the Right.


Marc-William Palen is a lecturer in imperial history at the University of Exeter. His book is Pax Economica: Left-Wing Visions of a Free Trade World.

MWPalen

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Bret Larson
Bret Larson
14 days ago

Seems to me free trade would have to be defined before you should comment about it. As far as I’m concerned, there is no free trade unless individuals own their labour. Which can’t be said for all of the totalitarian governments.

ChilblainEdwardOlmos
ChilblainEdwardOlmos
14 days ago

”Free” Trade. Brought you by all the Technocrats necessary


Economic Neoliberalism? Yeah because it worked out so well for the working class. No. Thanks.

T Bone
T Bone
14 days ago

I can’t even process this article. How exactly could International Socialism promote free trade? Socialism is community ownership over the means of production. Even if you built a borderless “open society” the trade in a Socialist Global Economy would still need to be regulated and gains redistributed by the Global Government.

I’m guessing the article was so abstract and light on details because its all Utopian nonsense. Are we to believe that the Global Government would be run by Libertarians? Or will it just run so smoothly that the redistribution will magically fix itself without force?

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
14 days ago
Reply to  T Bone

In the glorious socialist utopia of the future, everything will be free, including the markets.

Martin M
Martin M
14 days ago
Reply to  T Bone

“
 when man becomes one family and freely exchanges the fruits of his labour with his brother man.”
I think the above quote is telling. The writer was speaking in an era before Socialism had been tried, and there was still a utopian view that it was somehow a good thing.

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
13 days ago
Reply to  T Bone

Isn’t the Marxist logic that global free trade would be a step along the way towards capitalism destroying itself and being replaced?

T Bone
T Bone
13 days ago

Something like that. Marxism predicts a “transformation” to “Sustainable internationalism” which first requires prosperity followed by death/decay and rebirth into a simplistic circular economy.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
14 days ago

“Fragments of the [free trade] movement remain hidden in plain sight. They can still be found within regional integration projects including the EU…”

Don’t make me laugh! The EU is synonymous with protectionism.

j watson
j watson
14 days ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

The biggest free trade organisation in the World – 27 countries- means your point over-simplistic and suspect you knew that. But it does have barriers beyond.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
14 days ago
Reply to  j watson

I suspect you’re also aware of the protectionism within the EU of (for instance) French farmers, at the expense of the rest, but choose to ignore it.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
14 days ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

100%. What nonsense. The Tories have utterly washed their hands of ‘nasty’ Thatcherite ideology since Cameron. They bow the knee to the Leftist EU/Blair Progressive State and since the Fool Johnson conform to its failed High Tax, F Business, Big State, Money Tree Model. The EU Biden Trump and Le Pen all are aggressive protectionists. Free Trade? I think not.

0 0
0 0
14 days ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

Small differences among a bunch of nro-liberals. Maggie was as protectionist as any.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
14 days ago
Reply to  0 0

As any?? Really? She opened up all our industries to global capital. She argued for the Single market which smashed our own and every national labour market. Look at the water firms. The tech companies gobbled by US and Japanese. The football clubs! She believed in the nation state, capitalism, low incentivising taxes, enterprise and a small administrative state. Not one C21st Tory believes in this anymore.

Paul MacDonnell
Paul MacDonnell
14 days ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

Internally the EU is, amongst other things, a free-trade area in goods.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
14 days ago

In what sense is protectionist subsidising of certain industries (e.g. farming) “free trade”? Even with the article citing the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846, it appears nothing has been learnt. Free trade? You’ve been duped.

0 0
0 0
14 days ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

EU trade policy is an adjunct to the main objective of a pan European free market. No excuse for ignoring that post Brexit.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
14 days ago

Lot of problems here. First off, cherry picking ideas from a bunch of respected historical figures and oversimplifying their views to make it appear as though all these people agree with your position is a lazy way to make a point, but it has the advantage of making the author appear knowledgeable and tends to divert attention from the author’s own ideas, or lack thereof. It’s a common theme in these times of high demand for round the clock media coverage. You just can’t generate as much content as there is without a large portion of it being absolute drek, and to be clear, this isn’t absolute drek, but it’s not up to the standard of UH’s better writers. I can’t entirely fault them. It’s a publication with new content daily. Mary, Kathleen, Thomas, Julie, etc. can’t write every article after all and good writing isn’t something that can be rushed. I’d wager mediocre writers have more to fear from AI than the working class. Should be interesting to see how many of them make a political turn towards populism (which isn’t exclusively left or right) after they experience what it’s like to be replaced by a cheaper alternative. Perhaps it will help them walk a mile in the shoes of the workers whose jobs were shipped to China and are now performed by slave labor in an economy whose participation negates the possibility of ‘free trade’ in the sense intended by nearly all the people named by this author.

Secondly, proper communication depends upon the precise definitions of words, and this author uses ‘right’ and ‘left’ quite a lot, and those words often have subtly different meanings in different nations, regions, and political environments. Further, the meaning changes over time. The terms themselves originated during the French Revolution when the more radical revolutionaries tended to sit on the right hand side of the hall. They weren’t anything like modern liberals. They didn’t clamor for social safety nets, lament the plight of poor oppressed minorities, or demand equal rights for all. No, they were radical in the sense they didn’t think the king should be all powerful. Some of them even suggested, *gasp*, there should be no king, an idea that was quite as radical then as the church of free traders would have you believe *gasp* tariffs are today. The modern political spectrum with socialism on the left and nationalism/fascism/conservatism is an invention of the mid-20th century when socialism didn’t have a century of failure on its resume to make people skeptical, so it was all the rage among the radicals, revolutionaries, and reformers of that era, even though it had been around for over a century already and shared the ‘left’ with many other radical groups which wouldn’t seem the least bit radical today because they advocated things like the rights of people to establish unions, universal suffrage, etc. One can hardly cross a national border without the right/left political dynamic radically changing. It’s often said that a solid conservative Tory in the UK would be a moderate Democrat in the US, and with a few caveats, that’s fairly accurate. The modern meaning, however, still retains a trace of its heritage, as people think of the ‘left’ as being reformers, radicals, agents of change.

This brings us to number three, where the two above problems intersect.This author combines the name dropping I mentioned in the first paragraph with the fuzzy meaning of the terms left and right to vastly distort the views of the figures he names. The most obviously nonsensical example he uses is Karl Marx, the father of socialism. Marx favored free trade partially because he didn’t believe that socialism could exist in isolation. He didn’t think one country could be socialist in a world that wasn’t. He meant for the entire world to transition to socialism as the next stage of human economic development, and at this point, it’s pretty clear he was pretty far off the mark there. If the man had lived to be two hundred, I rather expect he’d have amended his theory quite a bit in light of the history since, yet this author wants us to believe Marx was a free trader as much as Macron or Trudeau. I call baloney. It makes no sense to imply Marx would support or endorse free trade as the concept exists today. Given the degree to which international trade is driven by billionaires and multinational corporations and given the multitude of ways they exploit their workers to divert greater shares of profits to themselves, I’m fairly sure Marx would actually view this era’s concept of free trade just as dimly as the most fervent populist agitator.
On top of the sloppy tactics, the author negates his own argument quite clearly by stating in no uncertain terms why his idealized, oversimplified, historical ‘left’ lost control of the narrative and saw free trade morph into the engine of exploitation and dehumanization it is today. He just casually states that the ‘left’ idealists lost control of GATT to the multinational corporations whose profit seeking is, and I agree, a huge part of the problem here. Of course they did. That’s the nature of people. They lie, cheat, steal, and take advantage of each other when they can and then rationalize it afterwards. Not all of them of course, maybe not even most of them, but some do, and in a natural state, the most ruthless and ambitious people will always rise to positions of power and use that power to their own advantage unless there is some formal social system or authority to prevent them from doing so, a system like a government, or a religion, or a set of cultural values. When national governments and peoples vied with one another over land, technology, money, etc., corporations were a tool to leverage national power. The first corporations, such as the British East India company who ruled India, should have been a pretty good clue what could go wrong. By most accounts, they were far more brutal and exploitative than was the British Raj which followed after the government intervened in a violent rebellion. The corporations should never have been let off the leash that bound them to national governments, national cultures, and national interests. Now the genie is out of the bottle, and putting it back will be a long and difficult process, possibly the defining political struggle of this century.
What I suspect this author is hoping for is a method of retaining the aspects of globalism he personally likes while discarding what he doesn’t. He likes free movement and open borders. He wants all people to be ‘equal’. He wants a world without war and conflict. He’s fully bought into the current intellectual fad of viewing racism and discrimination as some sort of plague to be eradicated from humanity rather than as a basic and inevitable consequence of human tribal instincts. He’d just like to get rid of the exploitative and viciously competitive corporations, whose only law is the law of the jungle, which doesn’t care about equality or poverty of much of anything else actually. That sounds nice, but it’s pie in the sky. There is no such panacea, just as there is no such thing as a perpetual motion machine and no way to travel faster than light.
The fact is that this struggle doesn’t fit into the right/left structure we’re accustomed to, nor any of the others that preceded it either. It’s not about the cold war or socialism vs. capitalism. It’s not about reform vs. tradition, progressive vs. conservative, or any of that. We’re playing a different game entirely. The struggle is populism vs. globalism. The word populism is derived from the latin, populi, the people. I would define it as a distillation of the principle of John Locke that the proper origin of governmental power is the consent of the governed, a consent expressed through voting, either directly or through elected representatives. The idea is that the people are the source of power and their consent must be obtained. Ever notice how so many populist causes center around ‘consent’? Consent to be tracked and monitored by companies, consent to medical treatment including vaccines. We elect representatives and establish laws and constitutions to establish the boundaries and terms of that consent. Any system, any authority, any power, not directly answerable to that system of consent is, by definition, a threat to the people’s natural right to rule themselves. That is the problem with globalism. Until and unless people and technology progress to the point where people around the world consent in some way to a global system of government, populism will remain incompatible with globalism. Because people clearly have not given any such consent, nor are they likely to, globalism is incompatible with populism. Globalism as it presently exists is an attempt to force a condition of rule upon people without their consent, and given the last few hundred years of history, it’s understandable people might object to a return to the bad old days where kings, aristocrats, and priests held all the power and made most of the choices. It’s that simple. It’s not a left/right issue and trying to force it into that rubric is a fool’s errand. The one and only reason populism is currently a phenomenon of the ‘right’ is that there are several principles of globalism that just so happen to appeal to the personal sensibilities of those on the political left, notably limiting climate change, open borders, anti-racism, and anti-militarism.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
14 days ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Magnificent post.

T Bone
T Bone
13 days ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Nice response, Steve. I didn’t have the energy to evaluate and dissect so many glaring weaknesses in the article.

I agree that Populism and Globalism may be the two major dividing lines right now although I would argue that there are others that may be more important. Within both Globalism and Populism you get Libertarians, Pragmatic Protectionists and Collectivist types.

Most of the writers here tend to be Populists and as a relatively traditional US Conservative, I’m sympathetic to their cause. But they also tend to be Collectivists favoring something that resembles an egalitarian National Socialism out of the Rousseau school. I can’t get behind that. No Socialist economy at scale has ever promoted freedom. While Left Populists like Fazi seemingly promote open, tolerant societies without suppression or boot on the face, I don’t see how any form of scaled Socialism couldn’t descend into tyranny.

In a mostly “Capitalist” or free market society, one still has the option to be a Socialist. In a Socialist society, the opportunity to pursue one’s ambitions or speak freely has to be curtailed if it threatens economic imbalance or the greater goals for the collective whole.

This is all just a long way of saying that I agree with you about the dividing lines but I don’t know that they’re primary. I have much more in common with the global ambitions of Libertarians like Friedman and Hayek than opponents of the highly obscure, flexible boogeyman called “Neoliberalism.”

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
13 days ago
Reply to  T Bone

Well, I agree, but this is my own personal issue. I don’t mean to devalue traditional right/left political debates. I just happen to be fairly open minded politically on what you’d call traditional left/right spectrum. When I was younger, I considered myself fairly moderate, not a liberal or a conservative. When I take those political surveys online that tell you your political orientation, mine usually comes out with something like libertarian socialist which most people understandably see as almost oxymoronic because socialism has invariably devolved into some sort of totalitarianism, the opposite of libertarianism. What it comes down to is my extreme cynicism. As I said, I believe it’s a fact of nature that in an uncontrolled natural system, the most ruthless, selfish, ambitious, and aggressive people will invariably seize power unless prevented from doing so. Systems like governments, religions, and even down to the level of tribal customs establish boundaries, which are necessary. As much as we disagree, nearly everybody agrees there has to be some form of law and order in society and some recognized authority to enforce it. The problems as I see them are structural rather than ideological. Most of our classical liberal governments have aged and the powerful have discovered ways to leverage and control them, in a word, elite capture. My preferred solution would come in several parts. The first and critical step is to restore national sovereignty over international corporations and such. This is where I part ways with hardline conservatives. Private property cannot be completely independent of or superior to governmental authority, for basically the reasons I stated. In that respect at least, I must finally side with Hobbes. The government is sovereign over the lands of the nation and private property exists within and must be finally subject to that authority. In that respect, and only in that respect, I suppose you could call me a ‘collectivist’, but I would say only because it’s an imperfect world and there’s no such thing as ideal solutions. It’s pragmatism over principle for me in this case. Private property that exists independent of the authority of any government is effectively an equal authority and an independent power, and in an era where most of us believe in some form of representative democratic/republican government, there can’t be a great power that isn’t subject to the will of the people. At the very least, we need size limits on corporations and limitations on the lobbying power of individuals. The money of men like Soros, Gates, Musk, the Koch brothers, etc. is subverting the popular will in a pretty obvious way and it has to be checked in some way. Once national sovereignty is restored, we can get on with the business of traditional political debate, and I can go back to being a mostly passive observer and a moderate.

The other structural reforms I would suggest are more theoretical and aspirational and mostly apply to the USA exclusively. I think greater localism would ameliorate many of our problems. If local governments had more power over more issues the people would feel closer to government and feel more of a sense of ownership of the policies, rather than feeling powerless and angry. I also would like to see technology used to expand the roll of direct democracy. I am a big fan of the Roe vs. Wade decision being repealed because it allowed the will of the people to be known through direct democracy, state level referendums. Seeing abortion bans fail even in ultraconservative places is a powerful message that we would never have gotten while there was a Supreme Court decision that had effectively usurped the legislative process. We could do a lot more in that respect, such as establish a system for regular opinion polling that is regulated by law and is as reliable as an election, just so there can be very little doubt where the people stand on various issues. We could have more binding referendums as well. This goes hand in hand with transferring federal power back to the states. The UK is a much smaller nation so localism and federalism aren’t quite as necessary and already has mechanisms in place for direct referendums at the national level. As I mentioned in a comment a few days ago, I consider the Brexit vote a triumph of democracy and self-determination, and it would have still been one regardless of the outcome. We need more of that please.

I absolutely concede this would wreck the global economy, but I think we’re well past the point that can be avoided anyway. It needs to be wrecked and it’s going to be wrecked one way or the other. It’s a nasty medicine but it’s the medicine we unfortunately need. I expect things to get a lot worse before they start to get better. Even if we don’t bite the bullet and change our economic and political policies, I am of the opinion that the decision will be made for us by hostile nations who are operating under more traditionally nationalist principles. The globalist world was always predicated on American military superiority, and that’s simply no longer the reality. Technology has made the US carrier groups vulnerable and ineffective. We have just recently failed to defend freedom of the seas from a few thousand rebels living in tents in a time with no other major naval commitments. The basis for global trade is crumbling before our eyes and we’re not preparing as we should. As far as I’m concerned, the clock is already ticking. It’s a question of when, not if, China makes some sort of play for Taiwan, whether a blockade or a full scale invasion. At that point, We’ll be looking at either a second great depression, a third world war, or both. This is why, to me, the populism vs. globalism is far more important than politics as usual. It isn’t that other issues are irrelevant or unimportant, it’s that this issue is simply unavoidable and we’ll have to face it whether we’re ready or not.
Hopefully this also adds some specificity and clarity to my opposition to ‘flexible’ Neoliberalism as well. If I’m a collectivist, it’s for practical, not personal or sentimental, reasons, and I have no patience for the sentimentalism that defines much of the political left. I consider Rousseau in the running for the title of ‘worst human being ever’.

T Bone
T Bone
13 days ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

You said alot there and I agree with the overwhelming majority of it. For the sake of dialogue, I’ll push back on two things.

I think when you are referring to “private property” that you’re referring to corporate holdings on sovereign land. That part gets a little confusing because I’m not sure if you’re saying that governments should have the right to seize, control and direct corporate assets to make sure the corporation is serving the interest of the Nation? If it is, I would argue that’s a huge portion of the problem that we have right now with “Stakeholder Capitalism.”

With “stakeholders” the corporation is effectively subordinating the interest of shareholders to the whims of interest groups which are commonly governments. Now, its true that stakeholders are not always governments or even the government where the corporation is domiciled but often they are. If you look at the “Inflation Reduction Act” which is basically a climate bill, it’s compelling corporations to adapt their fleets in the interest of government emission targets. So the impact is that the National Government is reducing the supply of automobiles which in turn causes a negative cyclical effect on consumer prices (inflation). Oh the irony. Most respectable economists also expect this “transition” to reduce manufacturing jobs in the future.

My point is that I would rather have the ruthless, robber barons maximizing abundance than curbing production to facilitate a sovereign objective. And maybe, there are cases where the National objective would be better for more people but I think those examples would be few and far in between. I would rather have business experts running business to maximize profits than bureacrats telling business how to operate.

The second point of contention would be “Direct Democracy.” I completely agree with you on local control. I think local control mostly resolves the issue of needing frequent ballot measures (which are often poorly worded and vague). I would rather control just be vested locally and maintain a form of Representative government. If you have constant ballot measures it produces an environment of perpetual politics so the people voting are going to highly informed and politically motivated. The rest likely don’t understand what they’re voting on.

As far as abortion goes, it seems pretty straight forward to me. If someone feels that strongly about abortion-on-demand than they should live in a place with laws they like. What I’m seeing is progressive minded people fleeing their blue states to park themselves in red states but bringing their politics with them. Its not monolithic but most people bundle their political priorities. The pro-choice crowd tends to be more in favor of active social government on a variety of issues. They also tend to be more permissive in general so lawlessness and encampments become a risk. There are many red state cities on the verge of becoming more like Portland. Boise jumps out at me. Austin and Nashville are turning into bastions of progressivism.

I guess if blue states want to play around with direct democracy and things like ranked choice voting they’re welcome to do so…but I’d prefer my red state just stick to the basics of Representative government and limited politicking.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
13 days ago
Reply to  T Bone

As I said, I part ways with conservatives on corporate property. I consider corporations as they currently exist to be contrary to the principles of free trade as they insulate investors from personal risk and prevent individuals from ever being held personally responsible for corporate actions. This protection encourages excessive size which in turn leads to market power, oligopoly, and monopoly, which are anticompetitive. I concede there are efficiencies of scale that could never be realized if the size of organizations was more limited, but I maintain that the efficiency gained through increased competition would offset these losses and would accumulate more evenly between all stakeholders, that is consumers and workers would see a greater percentage of profits whatever they are and corporations would be unable to capture such large percentages of revenue streams, and I guarantee you percentage capture of revenue streams is a standard metric for just about every MNC. Again, it’s elite capture. The plutocrats have taken over the financial system and the corporate systems and they are using that power to subvert democracy. I have to part ways with you somewhat here. For all their imperfections I prefer elected governments, not robber barons, have the final authority. If the government behaves badly the people can change it through the political process. If a company that controls a critical resource raises the price to unreasonable levels, as in point of fact has happened as in the case of insulin and various life saving drugs, what recourse do people have? Violence? Theft? They look to government because somebody has to infervene or we slide towards the law of the jungle. Basic civilization will break down without some accepted way to resolve these conflicts, and somebody has to have the final say. The people should have the greatest say. That’s why we have elected governments and not kings and emperors. It isn’t ideal or perfect and I am as suspicious of government power as any, but in a world of imperfect solutions, it’s the least bad, and as with corporations, the smaller the better.

T Bone
T Bone
11 days ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

I tried to respond a couple times but the button wasn’t working. Next time, Steve!

Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
13 days ago
Reply to  T Bone

”  I don’t see how any form of scaled Socialism couldn’t descend into tyranny.”
Spot on, the inevitability of where socialism leads us, across Europe we have embraced socialism and our economies are reflecting it.
Slowly but surely are economies stagnate and our quality of life declines.
However the ‘right’ are on the ascendency … hang on to your hats!

John Riordan
John Riordan
14 days ago

“As these “mothers of the world” saw it, women and children suffered most during trade wars and military conflicts.”

Well, the problem with that is that the people who really suffer the most – men – are dead, so can’t argue.

As to the rest, the present state of the political Left is so much further away from being able to defend free trade than the Right that it would take a miracle or a major shock to make it possible. Left-wing internationalism is presently on a mission to outlaw cheap energy and establish global government, and since energy is the primary feedstock in all production and distribution, making it more expensive has much the same effect as closing trade routes and forcing people back to localised consumption – in other words subsistence, or poverty.

And more to the point, the environmentally-obsessed Left is championing such at thing as an “authentic” return to a preindustrial ideal, so even as the economic disaster in question would be happening to the rest of us, they’d be telling themselves that the plan is working. It is not possible to oppose such lunatics with arguments in favour of free trade.

El Uro
El Uro
14 days ago
Reply to  John Riordan

even as the economic disaster in question would be happening to the rest of us, they’d be telling themselves that the plan is working – Sorry, but that what they want

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
13 days ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Not all the men are dead. Some are just maimed, crippled, or so traumatized they can barely leave their homes. Some can’t function in normal society and end up homeless. Let’s ask them who really ‘suffers’ from war, yes?

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
14 days ago

I support free trade, but the idea of trading freely with authoritarian regimes is relatively new. These regimes have an unfair advantage because they can exploit workers. By opening up trade with them, we not only disadvantage our workers, but we perpetuate the exploration of workers in authoritarian regimes.

0 0
0 0
14 days ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Hope you don’t mean the so called called authoritarizn regimes treat credit creation as a public utility. Letting productive investment respond to the interests of all instead of those who happen to hold tokens of previously created wealth is the only sound foundation of freedom and well being.

We no longer live in the world of Locke. Liberalism is today the cloak of plutocracy.

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
14 days ago

Spectacular effort here to rebrand market liberalism as left-wing, now that Labour is heading into government. If successful this will mark the completion of the takeover of the Labour movement by the liberal middle classes.
Trades Unionism is about protection of the workers above all, and raising pay and conditions is hampered while facing open competition from the poorest workers in the world. Hence the need for tariffs.
It does depend on wanting to prioritise our nation’s workers against foreigners though, and why would a ‘citizen of anywhere’ care about that?
Is Dr Palen an IEA stooge?

AC Harper
AC Harper
14 days ago

The free market and free trade are (by definition) outside restriction by Governments. Which left wing Governments would weaken their interventional nature by forgoing such restrictions?

0 0
0 0
14 days ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Or any government worth its salt.

Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
14 days ago

The experience we have of Leftists is that they protect their borders from people and goods aka China, N.Korea, Venezuela & Cuba.
When will you socialists ever get it ?

0 0
0 0
14 days ago

See just above, please.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
14 days ago

No, the future of the West is to isolate China economically and geopolitically. Otherwise, we will lose the century entirely and permanently be governed by sinister lettuces like Biden, Trudeau, Macron and (soon) Starmer.

Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
14 days ago
Reply to  Tyler Durden

The #netzero scam has played right into China’s hands, lift netzero in the West and destroy their EV industry and so much more, isolating and sanctions are not the way to go.

0 0
0 0
14 days ago

The repeal of the Corn Laws enjoys an unjustified place in our history. And one that can’t survive macroeconomic autopsy. It brought on what’s known in British agricultural history as the Great Depression, with lasting damage to that sector and deleterious effects to aggregate demand. But the insidious effects of ‘laissez faire’abandonment of government strategic economic oversight cost Britain its leading place among industrialising nations. The technologies of the second industrial revolution first came together elsewhere.

But the English middle classes were lulled into a false sense of security by lower labour costs and sales and investments abroad. Though markets abroad were freed up by gunboat diplomacy not repeal of the Corn Laws, liberal complacency continued long after evidence piled in of superior ‘national efficiency’ elsewhere. Economic liberalism, confounded in complacency with political liberty, obscured realities but could not keep them at bay. The country and the Liberal Party eventually paid a huge price.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
14 days ago
Reply to  0 0

That analysis misses the entire point.
Do you seriously think that not repealing the Corn Laws, which helped to free up markets and trade, would had led to the UK maintaining its dominance indefinitely? That’s what your analysis suggests might’ve happened. In fact, it was the two world wars that eventually changed our place in the economic world order, not the correctly repealed Corn Laws.

James Jenkin
James Jenkin
14 days ago

Sorry mate when was Trump ‘free trade’

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
14 days ago

Left-wing free trade may be the ultimate anachronism. And can someone explain what this word salad means: With the dawn of the 20th century, socialist internationalists increasingly worked alongside their liberal radical capitalist comrades to overturn the protectionist imperial order.”
That is quite the incoherent collection of isms, most of which do not play well with one another. Socialists do not work with capitalists; they “radically” oppose them. The definitions of these terms are not mysteries. What in the world?

Pip G
Pip G
13 days ago

Free International Trade is more efficient to help states by directing trade to businesses with the lowest production costs for goods needed by others.
Problems arise when it is not ‘Free’: think manipulation of currency and production by the CCP. I understand the Free Trade Group within the EU which conversely has tariff and other disincentives to deter extra-EU trade. Also trade barriers are used by governments under a Geo-Political policy e.g. tariff for US imports from China.
Free Trade is the default position, but with policy overlays.

Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
9 days ago

Socialism does not deliver freedoms, of any sort, but only control through taxation and welfarism of working people