Yet new international commodity controls are constantly being proposed. This time, we are told, they are going to avoid all the old errors. This time prices are going to be fixed that are "fair" not only for producers but for consumers. Producing and consuming nations are going to agree on just what these fair prices are, because no one will be unreasonable. Fixed prices will necessarily involve "just" allotments and allocations for production and consumption as among nations, but only cynics will anticipate any unseemly international disputes regarding these. Finally, by the greatest miracle of all, this world of superinternational controls and coercions is also going to be a world of "free" international trade!
Just what the government planners mean by free trade in this connection I am not sure, but we can be sure of some of the things they do not mean. They do not mean the freedom of ordinary people to buy and sell, lend and borrow, at whatever prices or rates they like and wherever they find it most profitable to do so. They do not mean the freedom of the plain citizen to raise as much of a given crop as he wishes, to come and go at will, to settle where he pleases, to take his capital and other belongings with him. They mean, I suspect, the freedom of bureaucrats to settle these matters for him. And they tell him that if he docilely obeys the bureaucrats he will be rewarded by a rise in his living standards. But if the planners succeed in tying up the idea of international cooperation with the idea of increased State domination and control over economic life, the international controls of the future seem only too likely to follow the pattern of the past, in which case the plain man's living standards will decline with his liberties.
The whole argument of this book may be summed up in the statement that in studying the effects of any given economic proposal we must trace not merely the immediate results but the results in the long run, not merely the primary consequences but the secondary consequences, and not merely the effects on some special group but the effects on everyone.
In the face of all this, the United States government has been engaged for years in a "foreign economic aid" program the greater part of which has consisted in outright government-to-government gifts of many billions of dollars. Here we are interested in just one aspect of htat program - the naive belif of many of its sponsors that this is a clever or even a necessary method of "increasing our exports" and so maintaining prosperity and employment. It is still another form of the delusion that a nation can get rich by giving things away.
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