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Jun 23, 2007 4:10 pm


Free Trade Imperialism



Here's something left-libertarians need to attend to: Deepak Lal of UCLA is touting a program of unilateral free trade AND unabashed U.S. worldwide empire. His book In Praise of Empires: Globalization and Order seems to be his most complete statement on this.

Here are some quotes from his article"Empire and Order" in the March/April issue of Historically Speaking (apparently not online):
[T]oday there is again an imperial power that has an economic and military predominance unseen since the fall of Rome. The United States is indubitably an empire. It is more than a hegemon, as it seeks control over not only foreign but also aspects of domestic policy in other countries. But it an informal and indirect empire.... It is an empire that has taken over from the British the burden of maintaining a Pax to allow free trade and commerce to flourish. This Pax brings mutual gains. The U.S., like the British in the 19th century, has borne much of the costs of providing this global public good, not because of altruism but because the mutual gains from a global, liberal economic order benefit America and foster its economic well being....
Cross-posted at Free Association.

But the American imperium faces disorder in two broad regions of the world: first, the vast region spanning the Islamic world in the Middle East and Central Asia, and second, the continent of Africa. September 11 showed how failed states can provide a safe haven for terrorists who can directly threaten life and property in the American homeland. The maintenance of international order thus means ensuring that there is also domestic order in states that, if they fail, could become terrorist havens....

The United States has created the military structures to project its power, but it has failed to build the complementary imperial administrative structure required to run an empire....

Equally disturbing is the desire of all the participants in U.S. foreign policy to wrap themselves in the Wilsonian mantle. It seems that Americans find it difficult to give up their moral self-image of the shining city on the hill....

The major problem for the U.S. imperium is to keep its moralists at home.... But for the near future, despite its faults, the American imperium is here to stay. And it remains our best hope to maintain global order, as the British did in the 19th century.
In other words, if we want order, it's time America took off the gloves. No more Mr. Nice Guy, world.
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Sheldon Richman - 6/25/2007

I agree. He takes the hard-line unilateral free-trade line. He condemns trade reciprocity and hates talk of second-best trade agreements. But he thinks a U.S. global empire is necessary for worldwide order and economic growth. I too am worried about the association of those two ideas.


Mark Brady - 6/24/2007

I haven't seen a copy of Deepak Lal's most recent book, Reviving the Invisible Hand: The Case for Classical Liberalism in the Twenty-First Century (Princeton University Press, 2006) but I fear that the book will generate confusion in the minds of readers between what I believe are two antithetical ideologies: classical liberalism and imperialism.


Sheldon Richman - 6/24/2007

David Gordon has a good review of Lal here: http://tinyurl.com/39vnhn

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