Many unseen — but very real — fellow citizens

posted by
December 21, 2016
Cafe Hayek
by Don Boudreaux  
Posted in Commentary

"Nothing that you say to someone who loses his or her job to changing market conditions is likely to satisfy that person. The personal almost always trumps the abstract. The seen hides the unseen. The proximate overwhelms the distant. The present is real while the future is still to be created. This reality, however, does not diminish the importance of defending free trade honestly, unconditionally, and without apology." (12/20/16)  
  • dL

    If we mute or trim our defense of free trade out of understandable sympathy with the unemployed worker who we see, we are complicit in supporting a system – protectionism – that not only destroys the jobs of workers who we don’t see (but who are, and whose sufferings are, every bit as real as the worker who we do see), but also will deny to our children and grandchildren a future that is as prosperous and as peaceful as possible.

    “The seen” is quite clear that we do not have free trade. There is no need here to resort to the “unseen.” While I agree that protectionism as a response to someone losing their job is bullshit, it is also equally bullshit to be tossing around free market platitudes when there is no free market to applaud. It’s analogous to the typical proggie reponse when one points out egregious government failure: “well that’s too bad, but the state is the price we pay for civilization.”

    Another thing. This stuff about trade being about a future prosperity for “our grandchildren” is nonsense. A does not trade with B for a better future for A’s future grandchild. A trades with B to improve A’s present condition. Trade is about the here and now, the present. These so-called “classical liberals” make a future prosperity case for “multi-lateral free trade agreements,” and when the promised prosperity doesn’t really materialize, they sit around and write about the people being too stupid to see it. Not exactly the stuff of “libertarian education.” The only education value one really gets from digesting it is the realization how much the classical liberals sound like the progressives if you merely replace “government” with the “market.”

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