Saturday, November 24, 2007

Trade Policy

With the holiday shopping season upon us, the issue of buying products from abroad, particurlarly from China, is in the spotlight. This brings up the broader issue of how much government involvement there should be in international trade, consistent with free market principals.

The rule of law is essential to the free market. Capitalism is the ability to enter into voluntary transactions and associations in the absence of force. It is a legitimate function of government to enable this environment. In the case of forced labor, the transaction is not voluntary or free from coercision. The beneficiary of the labor is a thief. Knowingly entering into a series of transactions that involves the use of force makes one an accessory and equally guilty of theft. It is not in the capitalist's interest, no matter what country they reside in, to tolerate theft. A policy that prohibited trade that involves individuals forced to engage in involuntary transactions is appropriate.

In the case of tainted goods, any party to the transaction that knowingly sells a defective or tainted product should be held accountable both criminally and civilly. The issue here is truth in advertising. One can't voluntarily enter a transaction if one party is giving the other false or materially incomplete information without their knowledge. Deception is aggression and can also, not be tolerated. We tend to treat Fraud as a "white-collar" crime and less serious than more physical crimes. Fraud is, in fact, an act of violence and just as harmful to a free society as physical violence. This is another principal that should be borderless in the minds of capitalists.

A code of behavior that is not necessarily embodied in the laws of government is called ethics. The ethics of capitalism should be clearly spelled out, promoted and defined by capitalists (before someone else defines them). The absence of self-regulation brings government regulation. It is in the capitalist's best interest to expose and confront unethical behavior and hold the responsible party(s) accountable. Communication is vital. The institutionalization of the essential fundamentals of capitalism cannot take place if the masses don't know what those fundamentals are. Freedom, honesty and accountability are among the core principals that should be portrayed as inseparable from capitalism and free markets.

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