An Open Letter to my Libertarian Friends (and Gary Johnson)
Jordan Paul

Free Trade

Probably free trade would be a good thing. However, unilateral free trade is a lot like unilateral disarmament.

“World peace would be a good thing for the whole world, and we could put the resources we put into military stuff into creating wealth. We would all be better off. So we should entirely disband the US Army and Navy and Marines and Air Force. Shut down the Pentagon. Sell the aircraft carriers for scrap. The money we would save would create tremendous wealth.” 
Could we persuade US voters to go along with this?

Disarmament would allow tremendous wealth. We spend somewhere between 4% and 9% of GDP on our military. The number you get depends on how many indirect costs are included. If we could put extra resources into growing the economy, so that GDP grew 4% faster? In 18 years the economy would be twice the size it otherwise would. But maybe we would not be able to defend our wealth. We could not protect our oilfields in the middle east, or our copper mines in south america, or our coffee plantations various places. We could not protect our factories in Mexico or the Philippines or Malaysia. If we could not protect our essential resources from the Saudi and Chilean and Mexican and Philippine and Malaysian governments, maybe we would not be so rich after all.

Free trade is an ideal just like world peace. It might be a very good thing but we need our competitors to do it too.

TPP at first sight looks like a way to force governments to accept free trade. But it is not so easy. Every government action can provide a hidden subsidy or tax on some business. We can’t litigate them all. The richest corporations that provide the best bribes and do the most litigation would get things their way. Which is a big part of the problem now, isn’t it?