The 12th Day of Christmas: Frank Chodorov on free trade as the harbinger of goodwill among men and peace on earth (1940)

Frank Chodorov

The American radical individualist Frank Chodorov (1887-1966) notes that trade is “the harbinger of goodwill among men, and peace on earth”:

It is the business of the government which prepares you for war to teach you to hate. It is the business of the government which prepares you for war to teach you not to trade with certain peoples because they have bad “ideologies.” It is the business of the government which prepares you for war to prevent information coming to you which might predispose you kindly toward the people whom you will be called upon to kill. It is the business of war to break down that free exchange of goods, services, and ideas which is indigenous to all civilizations at all times….

Trade, internal or international, is the harbinger of goodwill among men, and peace on earth. The opposite of trade is isolation, and isolation is a mark of decadence, of a return to a caveman economy. If it is good for America to isolate itself from other countries, economically and culturally, it is good for New York to isolate itself from Connecticut, for Manhattan to isolate itself from the Bronx, for every man to isolate himself from his neighbor. Just as individuals specialize in occupations, so do nations, and usually the specializations are determined by superior natural resources or the development of special skills. It is no reflection on the United States that Australian wool has been a staple longer than that grown on American sheep. But it is a reflection on American intelligence that America makes it difficult for us to get this better wool, just as it is a reflection on the intelligence of Australians that they impose on themselves difficulties in the getting of our superior automobiles.

This quotation is part of a series for “The Twelve Days of Christmas” on the theme of “Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good will towards men” [Luke 2:14]

On the eve of US entry in WW2 in December 1941 Frank Chodorov made an important distinction between “the business of the government” and “that free exchange of goods, services, and ideas which is indigenous to all civilizations at all times”. A major trigger for the war against Japan was the embargo placed upon some of its key imports by Britain, the Netherlands, and the U.S., in other words, the breakdown of free trade and the use of trade restrictions as an instrument of war. According to Chodorov it is the business of government to prevent the natural inclination to trade with others by teaching its citizens to hate the citizens of other countries and to restrict the flow of information which might show that the enemy shares our common humanity. The “warriors” who fight these wars do not understand that free trade is “synonymous with civilization” because “their speciality is destruction” not production and they are essentially parasites who live off the productive activity of others who produce the goods and pay the taxes. Turning to the Gospel of Saint Luke II, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good will towards men” Chodorov concluded that free trade is “the harbinger of goodwill among men, and peace on earth”.