FARMER?S QUEST FOR SURVIVAL
Tyler James Abbott
9 January 2001
The American people are extremely fortunate. Two hundred years ago, their Founding Fathers used the Constitution to prohibit American government officials from ever enacting trade and immigration restrictions between the respective states of the Union. This meant that the farmers of any state could buy and sell goods and services with the farmers of any other state, without tariffs or import restrictions. It also meant that farmers of one state could travel or move to another state without permission, passport, or other restriction. Most American politicians today honestly believe that free trade and open immigration are harmful to a society. If today?s government officials were not prohibited by the Constitution from enacting trade and immigration controls between the respective states, life in the U. S. would be dramatically different. Each state would have several import restrictions, tariffs, and immigration controls to protect the farmers from ?foreign farmers? and ?foreign farmer goods? from other parts of the country.
The only way to guarantee the future health of U.S. agriculture trade is to expand the access of American farmers to overseas markets. Free-trade initiatives that increase agricultural exports would lead to an increase in farm income and export-related jobs.
Imagine what life in the U.S. would be like without free trade. For example, the state of Georgia would impose import quotas on goods from Florida. Why, because there is a trade imbalance between the two states? That is, Georgians are purchasing more from Floridians than Floridians are purchasing from Georgians. There would be trade negotiations between the governors of the two states, as they tried to negotiate the trade imbalance between their respective states. If the negotiations failed, a trade war between Georgia and Florida would be sure to follow.
Fortunately, due to the wisdom and foresight of Americans two hundred years ago, American politicians and bureaucrats today cannot impose these types of restrictions. Make no mistake about it, the only reason they are not imposed is because the Constitution does now allow their imposition. Without these constitutional restrictions, American politicians and bureaucrats, being firmly committed to the idea of trade and being so subject to the pressures, influences, and financial contributions of special-interest groups, and believing that trade and restrictions are the key to economic prosperity and would riddle American society with them.
It is impossible to overstate the importance and benefits Americans have in living in what is the largest free-trade zone in the world. We travel across state boundaries and never see a customs or immigration official. In fact, the usual way we know we are in a different state is that we see a road sign that says, ?Welcome to the state of California? or whichever state you are entering. We buy and sell goods across state lines without ever concerning ourselves with whether we are violating some type of tariff or import or export control, or with whether we are alleviating or aggravating some trade imbalance with another state.
And it is this principle, the principle of free trade and open immigration within the fifty states, that is one of the major reasons that the American people have, and have had the highest standard of living in history.
The standards of living for farmers can rise through the simple act of exchange. For example, suppose you are a farmer and have ten oranges and I am a farmer who has ten apples. I value one of your oranges more than my tenth apple; and you value one of my apples more than your tenth orange. We trade one apple for one orange. Our standard of living has improved through the mere act of exchange. Thus, the more people are free to trade, the higher the standards of living tend to be.
And the same principle applies internationally when farmers are free to trade and travel, whether it is with farmers of another state, another city, or another nation, they are able to improve their standards of living.
Then, why have American government officials, despite their apparent devotion to freedom, imposed a strangulating set of import restrictions and tariffs on the goods and services coming into the U.S.?
The reason lies in politics and special-interest groups. Consider the following example. Suppose a crate of Japanese apples is priced at $50.00. A crate of American apples, let us say, sells for the same price. You, as a consumer, decide that you like the quality of the Japanese better. You decide to buy the Japanese apples.
American apple farmers scream bloody murder to the U.S. government. ?Force John to buy from American apple farmers.? Government officials bow under the pressure. They do not force John to buy the crate of American apples. But they say to John: ?If you buy the crate of Japanese apples, you pay $50.00 to Japan and a $10.00 tax to the U.S. government.? If John buys the crate of American apples, his standard of living, from his perspective, is not as high as it could have been. If he buys the crate of Japanese apples, the government has, in effect, legally stolen the sum of $10.00 from him; and his standard of living has dropped by $10.00. One would probably be thinking what?s $10.00, but that?s $10.00 every time you buy a crate of apples, and that?s just a crate of apples!
The worst part of it is that the people who pay the biggest price for tariffs and import restrictions are the poor farmers, because these taxes are regressive, that is their weight falls disproportionately greater on poor people. In other words, the same government that professes to have such a big concern for the poor with its welfare state, impoverishes the poor through trade restrictions for the sake of wealthy special-interest groups.
The ultimate argument against trade controls however, lies not in economic terms, that is that free trade results in higher standards of living. The real argument lies in moral principles. A person has the right to do what he wants with his own money. He has a right to buy anything he wishes from whoever wishes to sell to him. He has a right to sell what belongs to him to whoever wishes to buy it. Individuals have a right to travel and trade, whether domestically or internationally, without interference from government officials.
What should the trade policy of the United States and for that matter, all other nations be? To unilaterally drop (without negotiations, agreements, or treaties) all trade and immigration controls. This would mean that Americans, upon returning from an overseas trip, would return to the U.S. in the same way they return to Dallas from San Francisco, without ever waiting in a line to see a customs official. It would also mean that people all over the world could simply get on a plane and travel to Minneapolis or New York or Memphis, also without ever having to see a customs official. It would mean that farmers all over the world could buy from farmers and sell to Americans the same way that Texan farmers buy and sell to Virginian farmers.
Trade restrictions are one of the most abominable features of American society today. They have brought impoverishment to millions of poor farmers, both domestic and foreign. And they violate one of the most fundamental precepts of a free society, the right to do what you want with your money and your life. The times call for leadership and the American people should lead the world by forcing their government officials to unilaterally lift all trade controls and ultimately, by constitutionally prohibiting American government officials from ever imposing them again.