Free Trade

About this Collection

One of the key concepts of economic freedom is free trade, which is the idea that there should be no restriction in the right and ability of individuals to exchange the products of their labor and industry with other people.

Key People

Titles & Essays

The Comedy of Protection (1906)

Yves Guyot (author)

Guyot provides a history of French tariff policy from the time of Colbert and a discussion of its effects on particular industries such as textiles and food. He then discusses protection in the US and Germany and refutes many…

Commerce Defended (1808)

James Mill (author)

This is a critique of both the idea that only agriculture is truly a productive activity and government war-time policy which resulted in rising food prices and taxes which had a deleterious impact on the poor.

The Corn Laws. Speech of R. Cobden

Richard Cobden (author)

A cheap mass produced pamphlet of Cobden’s speech distributed by the Anti-Corn Law League.

A Discourse of Trade

Nicholas Barbon (author)

Barbon’s A Discourse of Trade, is one of the best-known early tracts for freedom of trade, it also discusses topics as varied as the nature of value, the role of fashion in economic life, the importance of moral dispositions such as…

Economic Freedom and Interventionism

Ludwig von Mises (author)

Economic Freedom and Interventionism is a primer of the thought of Ludwig von Mises and an anthology of his writings. This volume contains forty-seven articles edited by Mises scholar Bettina Bien Greaves. Among them are Mises’s…

Economic Harmonies (FEE ed.)

Frédéric Bastiat (author)

This is the translation by the Foundation for Economic Education of Bastiat’s longest and best known work Economic Harmonies. A new translation of this work by Liberty Fund is in progress. See the Summary of the Bastiat Project for…

Economic Sophisms (FEE ed.)

Frédéric Bastiat (author)

The Foundation for Economic Education’s translation of Bastiat’s series of short essays in which he tries to correct common misunderstandings about the free market.

England, Ireland, and America

Richard Cobden (author)

An early piece by Cobden on foreign policy and free trade written under the pseudonym of “A Manchester Manufacturer.”

Essay on the Nature of Trade in general (Higgs ed.)

Richard Cantillon (author)

Cantillon wrote one major work, Essay on the Nature of Trade in General, which was regarded by Jevons and Hayek as an important early contribution to the theory of marginal utility. It lay forgotten for over 100 years until Jevons…

An Essay of the Impolicy of a Bounty on the Exportation of Grain (1804)

James Mill (author)

Mill provides a brief history of the Corn Laws and argues for their abolition.

Free Trade and Other Fundamental Doctrines of the Manchester School

Francis W. Hirst (editor)

A collection of speeches and articles illustrating the broad range of views of the British classical liberals and free traders of the 19th century known as the Manchester School. They cover foreign policy, free trade, the repeal of…

Free Trade: America’s Opportunity

Leland B. Yeager (author)

A brief and succinct defense of free trade.

THE READING ROOM

Josiah Child, John Locke, and the Value of Hands

By: Eric Mack

Here is what may be regarded as a footnote to Eric Schliesser’s Reading Room essay, “The Encyclopedie, Trade, and the Jews” (1/25/2022) -- in particular, to Schliesser’s discussion of the late seventeenth century economic thinker,…
The League. (1843-1846).

National Anti-Corn Law League (editor)

The organ of the National Anti-Corn-Law League was based in London and appeared between 1843 and 1846. It closed when the League achieved its goal of abolishing the Corn Laws in 1846. It was perhaps the first lobby group to use…

A Lecture on Free Trade, in connexion with the Corn Laws

Thomas Hodgskin (author)

An example of one of Hodgskin’s popular lectures to a working class audience, this time on the benefits of free trade.

Liberalism: The Classical Tradition (1927) (LF ed.)

Ludwig von Mises (author)

The great Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises provides a concise and tightly-argued one volume defense of classical liberalism, focusing on the core concepts of private property, limited government, peace, and the free market.

Liberty Matters: Richard Cobden: Ideas and Strategies in Organizing the Free-Trade Movement in Britain (Jan. 2015)

Stephen Davies (author)

This online discussion is part of the series “Liberty Matters: A Forum for the Discussion of Matters pertaining to Liberty.” Here we examine the career of Richard Cobden and in particular the way that he pioneered forms of advocacy…

Oeuvres complètes de Frédéric Bastiat, 1st ed. vol. 2 Le libre-échange

Frédéric Bastiat (author)

Vol.2 of the 1st edition of Bastiat’s works contains his writings and speeches on the free trade movement.

Oeuvres complètes de Frédéric Bastiat, 1st ed. vol. 3 Cobden et la ligue

Frédéric Bastiat (author)

Vol.3 of the 1st edition of Bastiat’s works contains a long introduction by Bastiat on the English Anti-Corn Law League’s agitation for free trade and then Bastiat’s translation of a selection of speeches and newspaper articles by…

THE READING ROOM

OLL’s April Birthday: Hugo Grotius (10 April 1583 – 28 August 1645)

By: Peter Carl Mentzel

April’s OLL Birthday essay is in honor of the Dutch political philosopher Hugo de Groot, Latinized as Grotius. Sometimes referred to as “the father of Natural Law,” his writings can be seen as marking the origins of Natural Law…
Planning for Freedom: Let the Market System Work. A Collection of Essays and Addresses

Ludwig von Mises (author)

In this anthology, Mises offers an articulate and accessible introduction to and critique of two topics he considers especially important: inflation and government interventionism.

A Policy of Free Exchange

Thomas Mackay (editor)

The companion volume to A Plea for Liberty which continued the argument against the Fabian Socialists and for a policy of strict non-intervention in the economy by the government.

The Principles of Free Trade

Condy Raguet (author)

A collection of essays written in the early 1830s as part of a campaign in favor of free trade. The second edition of 1840 contains the minutes of a Free Trade Convention held in Philadelphia in 1831 as well as a dedication to…

Protection or Free Trade

Henry George (author)

George was not just an advocate of the single tax on the unimproved value of land, but also a strong defender of free trade, as this work demonstrates.

Read the Liberty Classic on this title from Econlib

Protectionism: the -ism which teaches that waste makes wealth

William Graham Sumner (author)

A clear and strong case for free trade against proctectionism. The chapter of the fallacies of protectionism is very thorough.

Russia

Richard Cobden (author)

Another early work on foreign policy and trade by Richard Cobden written under the pseudonym of “A Manchester Manufacturer.”

Speeches on Questions of Public Policy. Vol. 1 Free Trade and Finance

Goldwin Smith (introduction)

Volume 1 of a two volume collection of Cobden’s speeches on Free Trade, Finance, War, Foreign Policy, and Parliamentary Reform.

Taxation and Work: A Series of Treatises on the Tariff and the Currency

Edward Atkinson (author)

Atkinson applies the free trade ideas of Bastiat and Cobden to the American situation. He criticizes the tradition of Hamilton, debunks the idea that protection improves the economic condition of ordinary workers, argues that free…

THE READING ROOM

The Encyclopedie, Trade, and the Jews

By: Eric Schliesser

In volume 3 of the original edition of the Encyclopédie, edited by Denis Diderot and Jean Le Rond d’Alembert, is an entry, ‘Trading Company’ (French: Compagnie de Commerce), written by Véron de Forbonnais (1722-1800), a leading…

THE READING ROOM

The Free Sea: Hugo Grotius and the Right to Trade

By: Eric Mack

In early 1603 an armed merchant ship of the Dutch East India Company (the VOC) attacked and captured the Portuguese ship Sta. Catarina in the Straits of Singapore. The south-east Asian spices and products carried by that ship were…

THE READING ROOM

The Magic of Merchants in The Arabian Nights

By: Garth Bond

In a previous visit to the Reading Room, I made a case for The Arabian Nights as an anti-epic embodying the commercial values of medieval and early modern Islamic silk road merchants. Today, I want to talk a bit about the actual…
Three Lectures on the Transmission of Precious Metals

Nassau William Senior (author)

In a rather grumpy “advertisement” Senior tells us that he rather unwillingly had to give a formal lecture as Professor of Political Economy at Oxford University and have it published. The books contains a lecture on the transmission…

The Three Prize Essays on Agriculture and the Corn Law

National Anti-Corn Law League (editor)

This is a collection of essays published by the National Anti-Corn Law League. It consists of three prize winning essays on the Corn Laws and a collection of other Anti-Corn Law League propaganda. It was issued as a presentation copy…

What Next and Next?

Richard Cobden (author)

Cobden reflects on how the Crimean War can best be ended without humiliating Russia and helping her be integrated into the world market again.

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Quotes

Free Trade

Adam Smith argues that retaliation in a trade war can sometimes force the offending country to lower its tariffs, but more often than not the reverse happens (1776)

Adam Smith

Economics

Adam Smith on Good Wine and Free Trade

Adam Smith

Free Trade

Adam Smith on the “liberal system” of free trade (1776)

Adam Smith

Free Trade

Bastiat on the most universally useful freedom, namely to work and to trade (1847)

Frédéric Bastiat

Free Trade

Bastiat on the spirit of free trade as a reform of the mind itself (1847)

Frédéric Bastiat

Free Trade

Condy Raguet argues that governments cannot create wealth by means of legislation and that individuals are better judges of the best way to use their capital and labor than governments (1835)

Condy Raguet

Free Trade

David Hume on how the prosperity of one’s neighbors increases one’s own prosperity (1777)

David Hume

Economics

Forrest McDonald argues that the Founding Fathers envisaged a new economic order based upon Lockean notions of private property and the creation of the largest contiguous area of free trade in the world (2006)

Forrest McDonald

Economics

Friedrich List and Manufacturing Power

Friedrich List

Free Trade

Guyot on the protectionist tyranny (1906)

Yves Guyot

Free Trade

Harriet Martineau condemns tariffs as a “vicious aristocratic principle” designed to harm the ordinary working man and woman (1861)

Harriet Martineau

Free Trade

Henry George on a “free trade America” as the real city set on a hill (1886)

Henry George

Free Trade

Henry George on how trade sanctions hurt domestic consumers (1886)

Henry George

Free Trade

Henry George on the scramble to get government favors known as trade “protection” (1886)

Henry George

War & Peace

James Mill likens the expence and economic stagnation brought about by war to a “pestilential wind” which ravages the country (1808)

James Mill

Property Rights

James Mill on the natural disposition to accumulate property (1808)

James Mill

Class

James Mill on the ruling Few and the subject Many (1835)

James Mill

Free Trade

Jane Haldimand Marcet, in a popular tale written for ordinary readers, shows the benefits to workers of foreign trade, especially at Christmas time (1833)

Jane Haldimand Marcet

Free Trade

John Taylor on how a republic can “fleece its citizens” just as well as a monarchy (1822)

John Taylor

Free Trade

Lord Kames argued that neither the King nor Parliament had the right to grant monopolies because they harmed the interests of the people (1778)

Henry Home, Lord Kames

Money & Banking

Ludwig von Mises shows the inevitability of economic slumps after a period of credit expansion (1951)

Ludwig von Mises

Free Trade

Mises on how the “boon” of a tariff privilege is soon dissipated (1949)

Ludwig von Mises

Free Trade

Molinari calls the idea of using tariffs to promote a nation’s economy “a monstrosity” (1852)

Gustave de Molinari

Free Trade

Nicholas Barbon on the mutual benefits of free trade even in luxury goods (“wants of the mind”) (1690)

Nicholas Barbon

Free Trade

Richard Cobden on how free trade would unite mankind in the bonds of peace (1850)

Richard Cobden

Class

Richard Cobden outlines his strategy of encouraging more people to acquire land and thus the right to vote in order to defeat the “landed oligarchy” who ruled England and imposed the “iniquity” of the Corn Laws (1845)

Richard Cobden

Free Trade

Richard Cobden’s “I have a dream” speech about a world in which free trade is the governing principle (1846)

Richard Cobden

War & Peace

The 10th Day of Christmas: Richard Cobden on public opinion and peace on earth (c. 1865)

Richard Cobden

Free Trade

The 9th Day of Christmas: Condy Raguet on the anti-Christian character of protection and the need for peace on earth (1832)

Condy Raguet

Economics

Voltaire on the Benefits which Trade and Economic Abundance bring to People living in the Present Age (1736)

Voltaire

Taxation

William Cobbett denounces the destruction of liberty during and after the Napoleonic Wars (1817)

William Cobbett

Free Trade

William Graham Sumner on free trade as another aspect of individual liberty (1888)

William Graham Sumner

The State

William Graham Sumner on the “do-nothing” state vs. ”the meddling” state (1888)

William Graham Sumner

Free Trade

William Grampp shows how closely connected Richard Cobden’s desire for free trade was to his desire for peace (1960)

William Dyer Grampp