One of my favorite quotations is from paragraph 17 of a speech that the great Richard Cobden delivered in London on September 28, 1843. This speech marked a remarkable moment in the history of nations, a decisive break with the mercantilism of the past and a new era of peace and free trade among nations.
Free Trade! What is it? Why, breaking down the barriers that separate nations; those barriers, behind which nestle the feelings of pride, revenge, hatred, and jealousy, which every now and then burst their bounds, and deluge whole countries with blood; those feelings which nourish the poison of war and conquest, which assert that without conquest we can have no trade, which foster that lust for conquest and dominion which sends forth your warrior chiefs to scatter devastation through other lands, and then calls them back that they may be enthroned securely in your passions, but only to harass and oppress you at home.
Among my favorite of all the Christmas cards I’ve ever received are ones that were sent out every year back in the 1980s and early 1990s by the Institute for Humane Studies. These cards read: “Peace and Free Trade.” Few sentiments are as civilized and as vital as this one! Free trade promotes peace, and peace in turn promotes trade. Peace and trade are necessary for material prosperity, and material prosperity is necessary for full, rich, productive, and meaningful lives.
No glory or enrichment comes from war; no security or prosperity comes from protectionism. Quite the opposite.
Humanity is taking too long to learn these lessons.
A version of this post appeared on Cafe Hayek