Free Trade - Opposition

Opposition

For more details on this topic, see Free trade debate.

The relative costs, benefits and beneficiaries of free trade are debated by academics, governments and interest groups.

Arguments for protectionism fall into the economic category (trade hurts the economy) or the moral category (the effects of trade might help the economy, but have ill effects in other areas); a general argument against free trade is that it is colonialism or imperialism in disguise. The moral category is wide, including concerns of destroying infant industries and undermining long run economic development, income inequality, environmental degradation, supporting child labor and sweatshops, race to the bottom, wage slavery, accentuating poverty in poor countries, harming national defense, and forcing cultural change.

Economic arguments against free trade criticize the assumptions or conclusions of economic theories. Sociopolitical arguments against free trade cite social and political effects that economic arguments do not capture, such as political stability, national security, human rights and environmental protection.

Free trade is often opposed by domestic industries that would have their profits and market share reduced by lower prices for imported goods. For example, if United States tariffs on imported sugar were reduced, U.S. sugar producers would receive lower prices and profits, while U.S. sugar consumers would spend less for the same amount of sugar because of those same lower prices. The economic theory of David Ricardo holds that consumers would necessarily gain more than producers would lose. Since each of those few domestic sugar producers would lose a lot while each of a great number of consumers would gain only a little, domestic producers are more likely to mobilize against the lifting of tariffs. More generally, producers often favor domestic subsidies and tariffs on imports in their home countries, while objecting to subsidies and tariffs in their export markets.


Real Wages vs Trade as a Percent of GDP

Socialists frequently oppose free trade on the ground that it allows maximum exploitation of workers by capital. For example, Karl Marx wrote in The Communist Manifesto, "The bourgeoisie... has set up that single, unconscionable freedom – tree Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation." Nonetheless, Marx favored free trade solely because he felt that it would hasten the social revolution. To those who oppose socialism, this becomes an argument against free trade.

"Free trade" is opposed by many anti-globalization groups, based on their assertion that free trade agreements generally do not increase the economic freedom of the poor or the working class, and frequently make them poorer. Where the foreign supplier allows de facto exploitation of labor, domestic free-labor is unfairly forced to compete with the foreign exploited labor, and thus the domestic "working class would gradually be forced down to the level of helotry." To this extent, free trade is seen as nothing more than an end-run around laws that protect individual liberty, such as the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution (outlawing slavery and indentured servitude).

It is important to distinguish between arguments against free trade theory, and free trade agreements as applied. Some opponents of NAFTA see the agreement as being materially harmful to the common people, but some of the arguments are actually against the particulars of government-managed trade, rather than against free trade per se. For example, it is argued that it would be wrong to let subsidized corn from the U.S. into Mexico freely under NAFTA at prices well below production cost (dumping) because of its ruinous effects to Mexican farmers. Of course, such subsidies violate free trade theory, so this argument is not actually against the principle of free trade, but rather its selective implementation.

Read more about this topic:  Free Trade

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Famous quotes containing the word opposition:

    A man with your experience in affairs must have seen cause to appreciate the futility of opposition to the moral sentiment. However feeble the sufferer and however great the oppressor, it is in the nature of things that the blow should recoil upon the aggressor. For God is in the sentiment, and it cannot be withstood.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882)

    Human life in common is only made possible when a majority comes together which is stronger than any separate individual and which remains united against all separate individuals. The power of this community is then set up as “right” in opposition to the power of the individual, which is condemned as “brute force.”
    Sigmund Freud (1856–1939)

    It is human agitation, with all the vulgarity of needs small and great, with its flagrant disgust for the police who repress it, it is the agitation of all men ... that alone determines revolutionary mental forms, in opposition to bourgeois mental forms.
    Georges Bataille (1897–1962)