The Spectacle Blog

Why Trade and War Are Different

By on 10.13.10 | 5:59PM

Pundits and politicians love to talk about trade wars. But it's a bad analogy. A successful military war at least results in victory for one side. A successful trade war hurts the aggressor at least as much as the aggressed.

Don Boudreaux uses a reductio ad absurdum to make that crystal clear:

Leader of Absurditoptia (A): I say, leader of Stupidia - we demand that you stop occupying that contested strip of land.  If you refuse, we'll have no choice but to shoot our own citizens.

Leader of Stupidia (S): You don't scare us!  That land is ours.  And if you do kill some of your own people, make no mistake that we will immediately - and just as cruelly - commence to killing our own people.  Courage is our national motto!

The whole exchange is worth a read.

To paraphrase Steven Landsburg, trade is what happens when someone has something you want, and you refuse to simply hit him over the head and take it. Instead, you give him something you don't want that he values even more in exchange. Trade is the ultimate act of peace. It should be encouraged, not restricted.

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