The spirit of free-trade excludes the spirit of war, conquest and domination.

Frédéric Bastiat
Complete Works, Volume 2, pages 260 to 273 (in French)
August 22nd, 1847

This speech in Lyons is not dated in the Complete Works but seems to have been pronounced on August 7th. It compares the consequences of the protectionnist regime to those of free-trade. One of the main themes is about the bellicose aspects of protectionism. Indeed, as soon as its objective is to amass gold in the country, it aims at selling as much as possible abroad and buy as little as possible from abroad (to maximise the positive trade balance dear to mercantilists). Frédéric Bastiat warns us that if it were a legitimate objective, all nations should pursue it with the consequence of isolating themselves from each other. This is indeed what is observed and the reason for colonialism, which aims at increasing the “domestic” market, or later the expansion of the “Lebensraum”. The inevitable consequence is to increase military might of the ones and the others in order to conquer new markets and keep those already conquered.

To the extent that protectionism is bellicose, the opposite approach leads to the opposite results. Free trade, “which is doing more than defeat an enemy, which makes a friend of him” is therefore a vehicle for peace. We can note that, after three Franco-German wars in 1870, 1914 and 1939, this was the initial reason to create the ECSC (European Coal and Steel Community) which progressively morphed into the EU (European Union), a free-trade zone for goods, services, capital and people – with some undeniable success.

I find it extraordinary that we managed to create experimentally a free-trade zone of that size in Europe with peace as an objective and result but keep on denying its beneficial effects. The United States of America constitute another example of a vast free-trade zone that allowed to maintain peace within. Despite these successes, both the EU and the USA keep on worrying about the dangers of free-trade beyond their existing borders instead of trying to make them fall.

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