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October 11, 2011

Our Lexicon: Intervention, Non-Intervention, and Trade Isolation

Statists respond in a strange way if you argue that the U.S. shouldn’t intervene with military violence in the affairs of other nations. What you may call non-interventionism they will call isolationism.

  • But doesn’t this make it appear that the statists view military violence as a way of relating to the world?
  • And isn’t it more accurate to say that military interventionism is the point at which relations have somehow failed?

Even if we assumed, contrary to the evidence, that politicians use military violence wisely, and only intervene to protect the victimized weak against the predatory strong, it doesn’t follow that such violence qualifies as a high form of international relations. Instead, it represents, at best, merely a necessary evil. But . . .

Has a country really isolated itself if it refuses to take on such a burden? For instance . . .

Is Switzerland isolated from the world simply because it refuses to take sides in the world’s disputes?

Of course not. Instead, Switzerland is a crossroads of travel and commerce.

Here are the key points . . .

  • Military violence is NOT a form of relationship
  • Trade IS a form of relationship

To support free trade is to favor relationship and reject isolation. Conversely, to reject free trade is to favor isolation.

Likewise, the rejection of military violence allows us to focus on superior forms of relationship, such as peaceful trade. And the latter may foster the former. In other words, the more we trade peacefully the less need we may have for military violence, even as a necessary evil of last resort.

Seen this way, non-intervention and free trade tend to go together, as do military intervention and trade isolationism. The famous economist Frederic Bastiat expressed the connection very well many years ago; “When goods cross borders armies tend to stay at home.”

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