Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Don Bourdeaux soundly rebuts the argument the free trade should be restricted to prevent people who worked hard "played by the rules" from losing their jobs. The rebuttal is mostly a pragmatic argument. (If we guaranteed jobs for all rule-keepers....) Yet, after reading the argument, my gut reaction is a moral uneasiness about desert. When limiting one's moral considerations to desert, the fact that free commerce advances a society's overall prosperity is ignored. The unease is the same as that I experience when considering a hypothetical good farmer who is also a good man losing his crop to a storm.

For those who know a bit of Reformed theology, I'm a five-point Calvinist, but of the five points, total depravity has always been the hardest for me to accept. From introspection I realize that the doctrine certainly applies to me, and abstractly I can use this this data and various arguments to conclude that the same is true of every other person. In practice, I know a lot of nice people; appearances deceive my emotions. It's also possible my emotional reaction confuses desert with my own preferences: I want nice people to do well, so I want nice people to deserve good.

I'm not sure what applications the above meandering ruminations have outside my own head, but at least one is that political slogans about protecting "people who work hard and play by the rules" have a deep appeal. It's no wonder so many don't like free trade.


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