Let’s put it out there with suitable portions of provocation: free trade has never actually taken place. There is an uncomfortable, skirmish-ridden middle ground, where states compete for primacy over surplus and deficits, where the notion of prosperity is language deferred, not to citizens, but corporations who are often backed for pursuing technological remits.
The debate about US President Donald Trump’s tariffs belies a fundamental point: the surrender of the state to non-elected entities which claim privileges over and above citizens and electors; the illusion that lifting citizens out of poverty demands an absence of government interference in favour of corporate industriousness. What tends to happen, if anything, is a blurring.
Even as zeal filled free trade racketeers have insisted on its virtues, governments continue, in varying degrees, to corrupt and distort that the very trade they supposedly claim to be unshackled. The news cycle here is key.
The short memories encouraged by that news cycle ignore the snarky engagement that characterised the opposition by three US airlines – American, United and Delta – to the $52 billion government subsidies received by Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad. The logic here was simple and counter-intuitive to the free trade doctrinaire: by actually supplying such subsidies, the governments of the Gulf States were ensuring that their carriers could outperform their rivals. This was state interference to…