Indeed, the “free trade” advocates of today have a philosophy that fits right in with the plantation owners of the 1840’s. Were they a foreign country in our times the “free traders” would no doubt decide, “If they can get the cotton cheaper, then let’s do business.” The world’s largest plantation today is Communist China.
You can’t have honest free trade with an un-free nation. They can’t hold up their end. Think about what “free trade” is and you will see what I mean. A free market is one in which people have free choices to engage or not engage in an economic activity. It is also one in which people have a free flow of information so that they can make those choices rationally, and not from ignorance.
So how does that happen with a nation whose government will not let the common citizen leave the country of their own accord? That’s a captive labor market, not a free one. How does one have free trade with a nation whose media is state controlled and communications are censored? If the factory down the road is poisoning its workers and polluting your village, will the media tell you about it, or will they stay silent because of bribes or because the government is “partners” in the business? How can a worker decide, “I will not work at that factory unless they pay me more because of the poor safety record it has” if no such information is available?
People in Communist China cannot make free choices about whether or not to seek a better life elsewhere, nor can they make informed decisions about their choice of work within China. Therefore, while they have rip-roaring capitalism in China, China is not a free market. It’s the world’s largest concentration camp. It is the equivalent of a plantation owner claiming a free market because of the way he sells his cotton and buys and sells his slaves. It’s a free market for him, but not his workforce.
In an honest free market the costs of a good or service are born by those who benefit from the good or service and not transmitted to others. A thief selling hot stereo equipment to a fence represents a free market transaction, but not an honest free market transaction, because costs are born by the original owner of the stereo even though he does not get benefit from the exchange.
Another example of profiting at the expense of others: factories in China dump pollutants into the ocean, and into rivers. They shift the costs of their mess unto the rest of their country, while keeping the profits. Cost-shifting is a sophisticated form of theft. In the store where I work, all of the cloth sofas are made in the USA, almost all of the leather ones are from China. Why? Because we can compete on a level playing field, but processing leather is messy and there are a lot of chemicals involved. Here, we make factories clean up their mess. In China, they can just cost-shift it. “Free trade”, as the global corporate media is defining it, is making slaves of us all.