Gary M. Galles - Contributor
Galles is a professor of econmics at Pepperdine University. [go
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the Apostle of Free Trade
on Richard Cobden...
[Gary M. Galles] 6/3/04
June 3 is
the bicentennial of the birth of Richard Cobden, known as “the
Apostle of Free Trade.” He was the person
who spearheaded the campaign against the protectionist English
Corn Laws, leading to their repeal in 1846, which then spread
to liberalized trade through much of Europe. His role was so
pivotal that it has been said the free market owes its existence
Cobden saw that free trade was the key to material prosperity.
But more than prosperity, he emphasized the moral superiority
of free trade over the injustice of protectionism, by which one
group used government power to harm others. He also saw free
trade, which comprises only voluntary arrangements, as the basis
of peace. And, in fact, that period of liberalized trade was
one of the most peaceful periods in history.
Powell described that era’s connection between
free trade and peace:
prevailed, in large part, because non-intervention became
of foreign policy...There was unprecedented
freedom of movement for people, goods, and capital...Trade
expanded, strengthening the stake that nations had in the
of one another as customers and suppliers. While free trade
was never a guarantee of peace, it reduced the danger of
than any public policy ever had.”
In an era of occasional trade liberalization, seasoned with
a great deal of protectionism for politically powerful groups,
we can benefit from Richard Cobden's insights today as much as
in the 19th century.
The progress of freedom depends more upon the maintenance of
peace, the spread of trade, and the diffusion of education, than
upon the labors of cabinets and foreign offices.
from one man’s pocket, and allows
him to compensate himself by taking an equivalent from another
man’s pocket, and if that goes on in a circle through the
whole community, it is only a clumsy process of robbing all to
enrich none, and simply has this effect, that it ties up the
hands of industry in all directions.
Holding one of the principles of eternal justice to be the inalienable
right of every man freely to exchange the result of his labor
for the productions of other people, and maintaining the practice
of protecting one part of the community at the expense of all
other classes to be unsound and unjustifiable...carry out to
the fullest extent...the true and peaceful principles of Free
Trade, by removing all existing obstacles to the unrestricted
employment of industry and capital.
Free trade is a principle which recognizes the paramount importance
of individual action.
Peace will come to earth when the people have more to do with
each other and governments less.
[We] advocated Free Trade, not merely on account of the material
wealth which it would bring to the community, but for the far
loftier motive of securing permanent peace between nations.
...our principle...would bring peace and harmony among the nations.
I see in the Free-Trade principle that which shall act on the
moral world as the principle of gravitation in the universe,
drawing men together, thrusting aside the antagonism of race,
and creed, and language, and uniting us in the bonds of eternal
peace...when man becomes one family, and freely exchanges the
fruits of one's labor with his brother man...the speculative
philosopher of a thousand years hence will date the greatest
revolution that ever happened in the world's history from the
triumph of the principle...
Richard Cobden knew that the heart of free trade was freedom;
freedom that produced justice by preventing government sponsored
theft by one group from others. He knew that free trade broke
down the powers of privilege and barriers that hindered the
economic progress of vast numbers of people, and replaced them
with a system of mutually beneficial relations among participants.
In a world still far from such an ideal, we should remember
that wisdom from “the Apostle of Free Trade." CRO
2004 Gary M. Galles