Free Trade and Imaginary Lines Called Borders
Don Boudreaux, Cafe Hayek:
Practically speaking, there is free trade throughout the United States. My family and I (in VA) routinely buy wine from California and Oregon, oranges and lemons from Florida, computer software from Washington state, maple syrup from Vermont, peaches from South Carolina, television newscasts from New York and Atlanta, lumber from Alabama, spicy sauces from Louisiana, crabs from Maryland. The list is long.
And yet no one, not even Lou Dobbs, insists that the Boudreaux family would be richer if only the government in Richmond could find a successful way around the U.S. Constitution and managed to slap stiff tariffs on California wine, Florida citrus fruits, cajun seasoning from Louisiana, and you name it.
Surely the burden of persuasion is on those who would insist that each American would be more prosperous if only his or her state were better able to restrict trade with citizens of other states. If this burden of persuasion cannot be met, then the case for free international trade is pretty solidly established.
Anyone skeptical of free trade must explain why political borders are economically relevant. With the exception of pointing to (mostly rather vague and poorly considered) national-defense issues, protectionists have never managed -- and I dare say never will manage -- to impart genuine economic relevance to political borders.
Because all reasonably prosperous countries today impose no, or only very few, internal restrictions on trade, two facts stand: (1) free trade is in fact quite common, and (2) free trade is beneficial.
MP: Here's another way to look at it: Since there is no economic reason to restrict goods from crossing imaginary lines called "city limits," "county lines" or "state borders," and we allow free trade among the 50 U.S. states and their counties and cities, there is also no economic reason to restrict goods from crossing imaginary lines called "national borders."