Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Alleged Gap Between Free Trade & Economic Embargoes

A common libertarian attack on conservative foreign policy in North America consists of opposition to our government’s authority to impose economic sanctions on foreign states. Any restrictions on the potential trade partners of free citizens, advocates of this position contend, contradicts our freedom to trade value for value with other individuals while being guided by our own rational self-interest. Although I find the term to be dangerously imprecise, I will proceed by calling this perspective “libertarian isolationism” in the absence of – or in my ignorance of – a more appropriate label.

The core of libertarian isolationism is the relativistic insistence that countries against which we are not currently fighting a (“legitimate”) war are beyond the scope of our rational judgment or of our government’s mandate to interfere with. Besides implicitly equivocating between moral social structures and tyrannical ones, this perspective is tantamount to denying the existence of threats, and therefore enemies, abroad.

Those international actors whose policies are defined by the use of physical force against individuals – any individuals – of the Canadian state must be considered our enemies. This principle applies equally to threats of physical force (e.g. a state that is allied with an enemy, a state whose policy is war with our ally, or a state whose malevolent intentions regarding our country and its citizens can otherwise be established by valid evidence) as it does to actual instances of the initiation of coercion.

The principal fallacy of the isolationist view is that it drops the context of the purpose of government: the protection of individual rights from criminal infringements thereupon by both internal and external sources. A truly consistent policy of free trade forbids permitting violators or would-be violators of the basic condition required for free trade – individual liberty – to grow stronger and better equipped through trade with domestic entities.

We consider it proper to oppose the establishment of trade relationships between domestic business entities and the mafia. Why ought we to exempt foreign gangs who pose any threat whatsoever to our safety from that same standard?

Trading with enemy states represents a blatant violation of the individual rights of our people. It is of paramount importance that we do not allow isolationists to invoke freedom to criticize embargoes when the protection of liberty is the very reason that economic sanctions are justified.

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