International Trade Agreements

Every decision the state makes is wrong. At least in the sense that it is wrong to presume to have the authority to make decisions that rightfully belong to others and then enforce those decisions. The state, all states, have lost that authority (some never had it to begin with) by exercising power beyond that which was delegated by the consent of those over whom that power is exercised. This is at least almost always to be expected.

“We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.” — DC 121:39

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” — Lord Acton

In at least one case, the founding and fundamental principles of a state were set out clearly and in writing and, had it not been for the truisms quoted above, if adhered to, would have justified the decisions of that state. I refer to the individuals rights to life liberty and property, the protection of which was the only authority granted the original United States in its founding document. But that authority has long since passed away due to its abuse by those charged with its faithful discharge.

That leaves all modern states as no better than rival criminal gangs engaged in a turf war with each other and all of us as complicit lackeys or innocent victims in that war.

But that doesn’t mean that no state decisions can have favourable consequences. When a court makes a ruling that diminishes the power of the state over the individual, or when political exigencies induce political leaders to enter international trade agreements with the effect of reducing or constraining their state’s power over individuals, then one can take some satisfaction in the anticipated increase in personal freedom, despite the illegitimacy of the agencies involved.

So called “free trade agreements” are among those state decisions with some favourable consequences. The reduction and elimination of tariffs and similar barriers to trade between individuals and non-statist corporations is good. It expands personal liberty. It creates wealth and therefore jobs – though not every job in every sector of every state’s economy. But that is not the goal of anyone but a bigot*. It also reduces costs for both businesses and consumers and opens larger markets and opportunities for new and expanding businesses.

By including restrictions on non-tariff trade barriers it also reduces state interference in the economy in ways that are not primarily related to trade such as so-called environmental protection and labour standards. It also curtails corporate handouts and bias in awarding contracts thus allowing a freer market to rationally allocate capital thus maximizing wealth creation and a consequent increase in general prosperity. More dying businesses are allowed to fail without government draining capital from new and thriving businesses just to keep the old ones alive until at least after the next election.

The critique that this all translates into unemployment, pollution, and poor working conditions is just a case of willful blindness as it is the state, not individuals, that has been responsible for unemployment, poor working conditions and pollution.

So to the extent that these agreements reduce the power of the state, we ought to root for them. NAFTA, CETA, and the TPP included. Some of the nefarious aspects of these agreements such as involving the sharing of information among states about their citizens, whether by inclusion in the main agreement or in side deals secret or otherwise, are of less significance as we will always be at war with the state over privacy and personal liberty. We just need to remain aware, act smart, and disengage having as little interaction with the state as possible.

It is unfortunate, though not surprising, that the very signatory states to these agreements, routinely circumvent them. The United States is notoriously non-compliant with its obligations under NAFTA and enforcement mechanisms are woefully inadequate. But what more can be expected from criminal gangs. Surely not that they would obey their own laws. Under statist theory and practice obedience to law is a concept to be used to maintain the state’s power over individuals, not to restrict it.

* A job does not “belong” to anyone. It is a contract between the employer and the employee by which the former pays money to the latter in return for the latter’s services. Both the amount of money and the nature of the services must be mutually agreed upon for the contract to exist. Those who support laws that compel employers to contract only with employees in a specified location are bigots because they are using violence (state laws enforced by the police and judicial system) to favour some people (usually relatively well-off people in developed countries) over others (usually poor people in less developed countries). These same people usually also support sending foreign aid to these other countries to ease their guilt. Some of my best friends are bigots. I wish they’d stop.