In the end, though, globalization is not just about economic growth. It is about freedom — the freedom to travel, the freedom to buy and sell, the freedom to work, and the freedom to hire and fire.
Anti-globalization is not just anti-trade or anti-immigration — it is the gateway drug to big government. Milton Friedman pointed out that “Interferences with international trade appear innocuous; they can get the support of people who are otherwise apprehensive of interference by government into economic affairs; many a business man even regards them as part of the ‘American Way of Life’; yet there are few interferences which are capable of spreading so far and ultimately being so destructive of free enterprise.”
In the end, though, globalization is not just about economic growth. It is about freedom — the freedom to travel, the freedom to buy and sell, the freedom to work, and the freedom to hire and fire. It treats every person not as a member of some tribe, but as an individual, with the same natural rights as every other person.
As Frédéric Bastiat, one of the earliest classical-liberal economists, warned:
Exchange, like property, is a natural right. Every citizen who has produced or acquired a product should have the option of applying it immediately to his own use or of transferring it to whoever on the face of the earth agrees to give him in exchange the object of his desires. To deprive him of this option when he has committed no act contrary to public order and good morals, and solely to satisfy the convenience of another citizen, is to legitimize an act of plunder and to violate the law of justice.
Perhaps that focus on individual rights is one reason why studies show that the free flow of goods, people, capital, and ideas, as an overview from the Council of Economic Advisers noted, “helps reduce discrimination and furthers social inclusion. Research has documented a decrease in discrimination-based wage gaps based on gender, race, and immigration status in the aftermath of increased trade. Research also confirms that greater openness to trade, as measured by lower tariff rates, is correlated with better human-rights conditions.”
America is a great nation, the world’s leading economic power. As such, we should welcome a world in which there are few if any barriers. We don’t need to cower behind walls or fear international competition. If we can do more to help those left behind, let’s do so. If we can increase our competitiveness by cutting taxes and regulations, it is long past time. And we should recognize, as Ronald Reagan did, that “The freer the flow of world trade, the stronger the tides for human progress and peace among nations.”