The Devil’s Dictionary: Free-Trade

“Free-trade, n. The unrestricted interchange of commodities between nations—not, it must be observed, between states or provinces of the same nation. That is an entirely different thing, so we are assured by those who oppose free-trade, although wherein the difference consists is not altogether clear to anybody else. To all but those with the better light it seems that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for any part of the goose, and if a number of states are profited by exclusion of foreign products, each would be benefited (and therefore all prosper) by exclusion of the products of the others. To these benighted persons, too, it appears as if high duties on imports are beneficial, their absolute exclusion by law would be more beneficial; and that the former commercial isolation of Japan and China must have been productive of the happiest results to their logical inhabitants, with the courage of their opinions. What defect the Protectionist sees in that system he has never had goodness to explain—not even their great chief, the unspeakable scoundrel whose ingenious malevolence invented that peerless villainy, the custom house.”

Excerpted from: Bierce, Ambrose. David E. Schultz and S.J. Joshi, eds. The Unabridged Devil’s Dictionary. Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 2000.

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