Wednesday, March 4, 2009

George vs. Today


"Harmony, liberal intercourse with all Nations, are recommended by policy, humanity and interest. But even our Commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand: neither seeking nor granting exclusive favours or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of Commerce, but forcing nothing; establishing with Powers so disposed; in order to give trade a stable course."

--George Washington, Farewell Address, 19 September 1796

Kent comments:

If you manage to wade through the 18th century lingo – charming as it is – something striking and wonderful jumps from this statement.  Notice the phrase, “but forcing nothing.”  Washington is talking about international trade.  How would this be accomplished?  According to Mr. Washington, “neither seeking nor granting exclusive favours or preferences.”

Imagine modern government doing anything like this!  In other words, allowing people to trade with whom and how they see fit.  What would Mr. Washington say about trade barriers, subsidies, and policies?  It seems very clear that he would say, “Away with all those, and let freedom ring!”  (Or something like that.)

But today, a very different sort of person inhabits the office Mr. Washington once so carefully guarded.

Freedom:  what a novel concept, what a rare condition, what a beautiful arrangement.  We had it, but we gave it up in favor of what we thought would be security.

Pity us fools.

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