The NAFTA Myth | Murray N. Rothbard

Rothbard’s essay on NAFTA, reprinted below, is available in the collection Making Economic Sense.


For some people, it seems, all you have to do to convince them of the free enterprise nature of something is to label it “market,” and so we have the spawning of such grotesque creatures as “market socialists” or “market liberals.” The word “freedom,” of course, is also a grabber, and so another way to gain adherents in an age that exalts rhetoric over substance is simply to call yourself or your proposal “free market” or “free trade.” Labels are often enough to nab the suckers.

And so, among champions of free trade, the label “North American Free Trade Agreement” (Nafta) is supposed to command unquestioning assent. “But how can you be against free trade?” It’s very easy. The folks who have brought us Nafta and presume to call it “free trade” are the same people who call government spending “investment,” taxes “contributions,” and raising taxes “deficit reduction.” Let us not forget that the Communists, too, used to call their system “freedom.”

In the first place, genuine free trade doesn’t require a treaty (or its deformed cousin, a “trade agreement”; Nafta is called a trade agreement so it can avoid the constitutional requirement of approval by two-thirds of the Senate). If the establishment truly wants free trade, all it has to do is to repeal our numerous tariffs, import quotas, anti-“dumping” laws, and other American-imposed restrictions on trade. No foreign policy or foreign maneuvering is needed.

If authentic free trade ever looms on the policy horizon, there’ll be one sure way to tell. The government/media/big-business complex will oppose it tooth and nail. We’ll see a string of op-eds “warning” about the imminent return of the 19th century. Media pundits and academics will raise all the old canards against the free market, that it’s exploitative and anarchic without government “coordination.” The establishment would react to instituting true free trade about as enthusiastically as it would to repealing the income tax. Continue reading “The NAFTA Myth | Murray N. Rothbard”