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Protectionism, Free Trade And War


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I have a question.

Does protectionism automatically increase the risk of war ?

It is a 'given' of much of the discussion about the relative merits of Protectionism and Free Trade that the former is a 'bad thing' because it leads to conflict and war while the latter is consistent with peace and harmony. The examples cited to support this argument are usually taken from the 1930s and the run upto World War 2. Most debates ignore the rather inconvenient truth that World War 1 broke out in a global economy where Free Trade was the norm.

My thoughts were turned to this subject after reading Lawrence Keeleys book War Before Civilisation which pointed out the rather interesting fact that primitive societies that traded with each other frequently were far more likely to wage war on each other than those that did not. Keeleys analysis of war in these tribal environments showed that in many respects the phenomenon was not that different from that conducted between modern states. This has left me wondering whether the same triggers might apply. If this is true then our fetish with Free Trade makes a future global war more not less likely. It is often argued that it was the presence of nuclear weapons by both super powers that prevented the Cold War from escalating into a World War. I an now left pondering whether it might also have been due to the fact that the Communist and Capitalist blocks actually did not trade that much. Certainly the evidence suggests that since unfettered Free Trade became more dominant post the Soviet collapse that war had become more common. Does this mean a future global war is now more likely ?.

Any thoughts.?

Edited by stormymonday_2011
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I have a question.

Does protectionism automatically increase the risk of war ?

It is a 'given' of much of the discussion about the relative merits of Protectionism and Free Trade that the former is a 'bad thing' because it leads to conflict and war while the latter is consistent with peace and harmony. The examples cited to support this argument are usually taken from the 1930s and the run upto World War 2. Most debates ignore the rather inconvenient truth that World War 1 broke out in a global economy where Free Trade was the norm.

My thoughts were turned to this subject after reading Lawrence Keeleys book War Before Civilisation which pointed out the rather interesting fact that primitive societies that traded with each other frequently were far more likely to wage war on each other than those that did not. Keeleys analysis of war in these tribal environments showed that in many respects the phenomenon was not that different from that conducted between modern states. This has left me wondering whether the same triggers might apply. If this is true then our fetish with Free Trade makes a future global war more not less likely. It is often argued that it was the presence of nuclear weapons by both super powers that prevented the Cold War from escalating into a World War. I an now left pondering whether it might also have been due to the fact that the Communist and Capitalist blocks actually did not trade that much. Certainly the evidence suggests that since unfettered Free Trade became more dominant post the Soviet collapse that war had become more common. Does this mean a future global war is now more likely ?.

Any thoughts.?

Interesting, I consider that the evidence through anthropology of mankind trading or raging war is distinctly a patriarchal phenomena. This as matriarchal societies are far less likely to roam, principally. The social changes from modern to postmodern status, also elude to a backlash, or reversion towards more tried & practised doctrines of control, i.e. war & central economic policy!

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protectionism is generally considered bad because it makes people poorer.

free trade or trade without barriers is preferred because trading makes people richer (both of the parties that trade)

That depends on the person in question. Competing with third world companies abroad and masses of immigrants at home does not make the manual worker richer. it makes him unemployed.

Think in terms of cross border trade flows. If you import, then you must export something of equal value. Yet if you produce at home, there is no cross border flow, thus production is essentially free. No matter how low priced the foreign goods, they are still more expensive than free. It is because we have such home over-capacity that we should introduce a policy of home production.

Of course this is going to be opposed by the corporate world. They wish to be bigger, spanning borders. So big that they are outside the control of any government. Unlimited power and greed for the execs.

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There's another kind of free trade, the one the history books are full of.

That's where you force other countries to buy stuff (like opium) at the point of a gun, and steal all their raw materials in a "trade" where you decide how much to pay, and how much they sell.

I'd say that's generally what free trade means. It's coercive. Directly someone says they don't want to sell to you any more, you get war.

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  • 4 months later...

There's another kind of free trade, the one the history books are full of.

That's where you force other countries to buy stuff (like opium) at the point of a gun, and steal all their raw materials in a "trade" where you decide how much to pay, and how much they sell.

I'd say that's generally what free trade means. It's coercive. Directly someone says they don't want to sell to you any more, you get war.

that's what some governments have done and called it "free trade".

that doesn't mean it is free trade as most people would understand the term.

there is a good maxim, but I don't remember who said it "If goods do not cross borders, then soldiers will"

I think that the more we depend on each other for our wealth and well being, and the more we know about each other through ties of trade and travel, then the less likely we are to go to war.

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That depends on the person in question. Competing with third world companies abroad and masses of immigrants at home does not make the manual worker richer. it makes him unemployed.

Think in terms of cross border trade flows. If you import, then you must export something of equal value. Yet if you produce at home, there is no cross border flow, thus production is essentially free. No matter how low priced the foreign goods, they are still more expensive than free. It is because we have such home over-capacity that we should introduce a policy of home production.

Of course this is going to be opposed by the corporate world. They wish to be bigger, spanning borders. So big that they are outside the control of any government. Unlimited power and greed for the execs.

Spot on.

One needs to ask the questions 'free for whom' and 'cui bono'.

Marx was right on this, but it doesn't prevent the nutters repeating it as some sort of 'truth'.

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