Haggling Over the Size of the Free Trade Area
Sheldon Richman notes that, if we simply ignore the arbitrary lines on a map, which hold “little practical consequence for people’s economic activities,”
there are no imports and exports. There is only what I make and what everyone else makes. Frederic Bastiat pointed out that each of us daily uses products we couldn’t make in isolation in a thousand years. Talk about poor, solitary, nasty, brutish, and short! “What makes this phenomenon stranger still is that the same thing holds true for all men,” Bastiat wrote. “Every one of the members of society has consumed a million times more than he could have produced; yet no one has robbed anyone else.”
This is just another way of saying that the case for free trade is conceded the moment someone eschews self-sufficiency. After that, we’re just haggling over the size of the trade area.
The lines on the map have tremendous political consequences, of course, because we use them to delineate national sovereignty. Foreign troops crossing our border might be problematic, depending on the nature of their visit; foreign goods crossing our border are almost always a good thing.