Free Trade and the International Union
[A statement to the global Georgist community, 28
If you are a consistent Georgist, you have to exlain your advocacy of
"fair" trade as "free trade with LVT" -- so what's
the problem with advocating free trade and making it clear that the
achievement of this (like so much else) is contingent on LVT at the
rate of 100%?
Ours is a holistic transformation of the system. We will not succeed,
by cherrypicking the bits of the puzzle that happen to suit us,
opportunistically -- as a means of pulling the wool over people's
Freedom of the individual is treated as suspect: socialists, and
variants thereof, link that notion to laissez faire. Do we eschew
advocacy of individualism because others might (choose to)
misunderstand what you mean by it? I don't think so.
Free trade is one form of freedom of the individual. When I exchange
goods at my streetcorner market, I am engaging in free trade. Ditto
between countries. If the results are imperfect, we must identify them
- not remain silent about them.
In fact, by remaining silent on free trade, we abandon a powerful
argument in favour of 100% LVT. Why weaken our advocacy of Georgist
fiscal policy by wilfully ignoring one of the major reasons why we
MUST have it -- to secure freedom of the individual, and of his/her
community, and nation?
Opponents can smell out the weaknesses in the opposition's case. So
we won't get away with remaining silent on free trade. All we do is
concede the cause of freedom to those who, not understanding the
preconditions for freedom, are allowed to promote their version of "fair
trade". By default (on our part) this enables them to promote
their imperfect version of freedom ... which, if they are successful,
we then have to try and unpick; setting back the freedom agenda by yet
more years/obstacles. Why take this protracted, circuitous route to
explaining free trade -- i.e., why leave the trade issue to others,
which then becomes yet another battleground for us to fight on?
One of the big global debates is about the terms of trade.
Globalisation - that's what it's all about: the ability to trade even
more freely in integrated markets. Instead of ducking the issue, we
should advocate free trade - and explain why
(i) "fair" trade damages those who need free
access to global markets shorn of the monopolistic encumbrances that
now exist; and
(ii) those who advocate fair trade would achieve their goals by
advocating LVT/free trade.
I accept that the case I am advocating is for the maximalist reform
-- i.e., the Georgist agenda (100% LVT).
I understand that the advocates of the minimalist fiscal reform might
just as well not bother with the free trade issue; after all, they are
not advocating the Georgist agenda, so why confuse their position with
the case for freedom?
But Georgists have no choice but to campaign for freedom - the
essential precondition for which is equal access to the net gains from
the efficient use of land; and free trade is one of the preconditions
for maximising those net gains.
If we concede the trade issue to others, we do not escape the
obligation to then attack the "fair trade" platform as
creating a new permutation of disadvantages for millions of people who
are excluded from the "fair" elements of trade.
"Fair trade" is emotive rhetoric against the big
corporations. That emotion is not going to deliver policies based on
clarity of thought and principled reforms. Georgists have to get their
fighting tackle in order - and that does not mean perverting language
(and minds) even further.
There is no reason why anyone cannot campaign for a variant of land
taxation sans free trade. But that means they need to do so via
non-Georgist organisations. The IU is a dedicated Georgist
organisation, so there is no question (in my mind, at any rate) of
pulling our punches on free trade.
If there is a problem with selling LVT, it is that we have failed to
convey the full flavour of the philosophy: i.e., too many of us have
retreated to the minimalist case. If we need to engineer changes in
our promotional efforts, that needs to be back in favour of the
Georgist paradigm: which, in slogan terms, is -- Free Land, Free
Trade, Free People.