Debate Magazine

Killer Arguments Against Free Trade, Not (1)

Posted on the 16 November 2017 by Markwadsworth @Mark_Wadsworth

PaulC156 left a comment here:
Not sure exactly what you disagree with or how N Korea gets a mention.
I do not argue above for or against free trade but simply refer to historical reality.
Britain absolutely was not remotely free trade until they achieved economic dominance well into its industrialisation period circa 1840's. Prior to that it was the most protectionist of nations. Even then it returned to protectionism in the 1870's! Alexander Hamilton came to typify the US approach to free trade in the 18th C. Protect nascent industries (tariffs, quotas) until they are strong enough to outcompete foreign producers. That policy stood until the second half of the 20thC. 

As for Korea, South Korea is typical ditto Japan and modern day China. Massive state led investments allied with protection was the story for all these countries whilst they were industrialising. Still the case in China. S. Korea only liberalised in the 80's well after its industries were well established.
Ho hum.
1. North Korea is very relevant because it has just about the least free trade in the world, and its economy is pretty much on its arse as a result.
2. I certainly wouldn't hold up British Empire as a model of free trade, pretty much the opposite as far as 'everybody else' was concerned. Ditto USA.
3. As to the ASEAN countries, let's agree for the sake of this argument that they protected they 'nascent industries' until they were ready to compete on a world stage. (With those countries, the distinction between government and private, or between society and economy is pretty blurred - are businesses partly state-owned or do business leaders control the government? If Prussia was an army with a country, South Korea is a vast conglomerate with a country. The ASEAN countries also seem to have a sense of national cohesion that allows this. So to say that 'the government protected its domestic industries' is a bit like saying that 'businesses looked after themselves' which is perfectly acceptable.)
But hey, even so, I'd hardly call the UK a developing country, so the justification simply does not arise.

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