Tibor R. Machan
Both Democratic contenders are NAFTA foes. And their complaints aren’t thevalid ones, of which there are plenty--NAFTA is to free trade what mildarthritis is to good health. But NAFTA is a step in the right direction,which is to open all the borders and remove all tariffs and duties andother impediments to the free flow of commerce around the world.So what’s the fuss all about? Mobility and foresight, that’s what. A freemarket requires some measure of willingness to move and to do this inseveral respects and one must also prepare oneself to move from professionto profession, job to job, vocation to vocation, place to place, etc.,even when this is only a precaution. That is because a free purchasingpublic can choose different products and services, from one purchase tothe next (although often people do remain loyal to some vendors, such asinsurance providers, grocery stores, canned chicken soup producers, and soforth). But no one is required to stay with the same store, be it abarbershop, car dealer, spa, or drug store. The free market makes possiblethe greatest degree of freedom of association. Even in a less than freemarket this is mostly the case, especially for employees who are atliberty to change jobs if a better one comes their way. (Employers are nowseverely restricted in our mixed economy regarding whom they may divorcein the work force! This fact is a severe block to economic health inEurope and elsewhere.)A free market, of course, does not guarantee job security--nothing can dothat apart from a gun held to one that coerces one work (as in a laborcamp) and that only for a little while. But because a free marketconstantly generates jobs--it promotes economic development whichtranslates to more and better jobs--no jobs are lost; people do need to beflexible, adaptable, willing to change, just as they do when they act ascustomers in that same market place.What the two Democratic candidates capitalize on is that a great manypeople want to have it both ways--they want their jobs to remain in placeeven while they go shopping and change their preferences all the time andthus cause job mobility. Change and permanence--most people want them bothbut at different locations in the market place. As buyers, change is whatmost people choose; as employees and even employers, they want permanence(except when innovations make things easier).In Ohio, for just one example, there needs to be adjustments made to howpeople earn a living because other people, abroad, are now offeringservices and goods that compete with what Ohioans have been producing.This, of course, has also freed many people to create jobs in other partsof the economy because of their use of the moneys they saved throughbuying services and produces at lower prices than before. Even when theybuy from producers abroad, they make jobs here because (a) those producersabroad buy and invest in the U. S. A. and (b) Americans spend savings onnew products and services which are made in their own country.Once again the ruse comes from what that genius 19th century Frencheconomists, Claude Frédéric Bastiat observed, namely that the market isteaming with both, what is seen and what is not seen. People tend mainlyto react to what is seen and forget about the unseen, including when itcomes to the impact of free trade and of the best elements of NAFTA. And, of course, virtually all politicians, those interested mostly inobtaining power over other people, will capitalize on this fact. Insteadof educating the citizens about the true nature of a free market, theytake advantage of the misunderstanding about the free market that stillpervades our culture, given how dismal economic education tends to be fornearly all high school and even college students. Most members of the media aren’t helping either, since what they like tofocus upon is people’s complaints, not on conveying the facts ofeconomics. But, as the man said, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance!