We are deeply convinced that free-trade creates the harmony of interests and peace between nations.

Frédéric Bastiat
Complete Works, Volume 2, pages 194 to 200 (in French)
January 15th, 1848

In this article, Frédéric Bastiat worries about a new policy consisting in arming Great Britain while the corn laws have just been abolished. He reminds us that, if it is useful to dispose of a defensive army, the aim of an offensive army is to increase colonial power. As soon as colonies are allowed to trade freely with the entire world, there is no reason for other nations to try and conquer them, which would only increase the costs without offering any commercial benefit (remember that colonies were a way to increase the size of domestic markets in a mercantilist world by guaranteeing access to ressources). If ressources are available through free-trade, there is no reason to launch wars of conquest.

Thus, there is a contradiction for England to increase its military might at a moment of falling trade barriers (unless one fears an invasion, which at the time seemed rather incongruous). This is what Frédéric Bastiat exposes here.

Today’s quote appears in the introduction to this article and is of interest in reminding that the first incentive for free trade is not to lead to prosperity (which is the second incentive, albeit not a negligible one) but to create peace between nations.

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