Mailvox: debate responses

We had a nice turnout for the Day-Murphy debate on free trade last Friday, and most of the 250+ registrants showed up for it. It generated more than a few questions, and here are some that later showed up in my email. NC wonders about the role of the state:

I greatly enjoyed the debate. Thank you broadcasting the debate and the work you put into the arguments.  I found the debate valuable as I mull over my own thoughts.

I’m curious if you have thoughts on this:  I think that your arguments depend on the existence of the state.  I compare your arguments to a similar case of discriminately acting on relationship principles; that is, if one is interacting with a sociopath, one would not act on relationship principles of openness and honesty, for the sociopath would not conform to those principles, exploiting them for advantage.  I think Trump emphasizes “good deals” over free trade because of the realities of coercive government institutions–nation-states which would violate principles of free trade like a sociopath would violate principles in a relationship.

If, after a generation of peaceful parenting, the nation-state dissolves, would not a free trade environment be the principled and logical environment of such a society?

No, my arguments depend upon the existence of the nation, not the state. If there is no coherent group of self-identified people sharing traditions, characteristics, and values, then there is no need to concern ourselves with their collective fate, as we owe nothing to them, share nothing with them, and can abandon them and ignore their interests without a thought. This, of course, is one reason why the globalist elite wants to destroy cohesive, coherent nations, for much the same reason they want to destroy the family. The individual is easily corrupted or destroyed, the nation, not so readily.

The dissolution of the nation-state on the basis of peaceful parenting does not logically lead to a free trade environment, moreover, it is about as credible as a monetary system that relies upon leprechauns distributing gold harvested at the rainbow’s end. That is pure libertarian fantasy babble, which is even less coherent than the Marxian withering away of the state leading to the worker’s paradise.

GO also thought rather well of the debate, a transcript of which will be provided to Brainstorm members:

I thoroughly enjoyed the debate. I have enjoyed Mr. Murphy’s writings over the years. I thought he mildly tried to take you on personally. You didn’t do that and stuck to the debate issue making excellent points. I also like Tom Woods. I think they both learned a lot by getting involved with you. I have begin to wonder about the rigidness of some of the Austrians. I am happy to see a challenge to them from a non-communist or socialist perspective.

I was actually quite pleased that Bob was sufficiently concerned by the arguments I presented in the Miller debate to view me as a potential threat to the conceptual status quo. This is extremely unusual, as for the most part, free traders consider their position to be utterly unassailable. As for Tom, he was not only an excellent moderator – I was very impressed by him and think he would make a great talk radio guy – but he made a very interesting comment when we met the day before the debate to make sure everyone’s system was working correctly.

He commented that the free traders had not helped strengthen their own position by failing to seriously consider the arguments on the other side. This is understandable, as for two centuries, their underlying assumptions more or less held. And it was easy to dismiss the impact of the Japanese mass-immigrating to Australia, as Mises did, so long as they weren’t actually doing it.

So, I think that even if I’m not able to convince either Bob Murphy or Tom Woods of the inimical nature of free trade, I suspect this debate may mark a step towards stronger Austrian arguments in defense of free trade. Unless, of course, I am able to convince the entire Austrian School that a rethink of its core position on the subject is required.

JK saw the same flaw in one of Bob’s arguments that I did:

Great brainstorm yet again! I was annoyed by Bob’s use of a country giving a bunch of free SUVs to the US as a reductio ad absurdum, but a country might use that strategy to destroy another country’s infrastructure, and that would definitely not enrich the country who receives the goods.

But  I would have loved to have asked him this, had I thought of it: if the receiving country is enriched by cheaper imports then surely if the other country produces all things and therefore the receiving country nothing, then that country should be infinitely enriched, no?

Well done Vox.

I wasn’t annoyed by the argument, I was amused by it. There is a very good reason dumping, or selling goods below their cost, is legally prohibited by most countries, and that is because it is correctly seen as harmful to the recipient. As I mentioned in the debate, I don’t think Bob quite grasped how damaging the welfare analogy is to his neo-Bastiat “free sunlight” argument. Free goods damage an economy in much the same way free welfare checks damage an individual; in neither case do they make the economy or the individual wealthier in the long term. Quite to the contrary, they make them dependent.

Are tropical countries where everything grows easily and the fruit just drops from the trees generally more wealthy than others? No, because the effect on the populace is not wealth-generating, but enervating.

Over the next week, I’ll attempt to respond in detail to some of the questions that were addressed to me during the debate that Tom did not pass on to me because we did not have time to address them.