Free trade is a crucial economic policy in the program to expand the growth of freedom and to restrict collectivism. Mises recognized the threat of all arguments for protectionism in that they help to expand the power of the state by moving the state further in the direction of collectivism and central planning.
“Where there is free trade, foreign competition would even in the short run frustrate the aims sought by the various measures of government intervention with domestic business. When the domestic market is not to some extent insulated from foreign markets, there can be no question of government control. The further a nation goes on the road toward public regulation and regimentation, the more it is pushed toward economic isolation. International division of labor becomes suspect because it hinders the full use of national sovereignty. The trend toward autarky is essentially a trend of domestic economic policies; it is the outcome of the endeavor to make the state paramount in economic matters.” – Ludwig von Mises, Omnipotent Government
If we would be free; if we would support liberty, then we have to recognize that the individual has the legal and moral right to attempt to sell any position he owns to anyone else without any interference from armed, uniformed goons representing the state. Further, the individual may sell to people on the other side of some invisible, imaginary line that divides political units called nation-states. This, obviously, means that we must support free trade. Not the policies that statists sometimes call “free trade” when the policy is really managed trade or central planning; but real unhindered free trade. Liberty lovers have to support free trade among people regardless of what state they happen to be in.
If we own ourselves and our property then we have control of our property since that is what “ownership” means. So we have the legal and moral right to sell our property unhindered by the criminal gang called the US government. The statist, on the other hand, begins all discussions about the economy from the perspective of “civil government.” He claims the monopoly of coercion called the state and all voluntary institutions (society) are indivisible and the same thing. The statist claims that all of us are but parts of the machine and we must all look to the collective first. This is utter poppycock of course; we libertarians look at all things from the viewpoint of the free individual. The individual exists and is the basic unit of humanity.
“It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a ‘dismal science.’ But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance.” ~ Murray N. Rothbard
But free trade is not just a matter of individual rights; it is also a matter of peace and prosperity. It has been well known for generations that people who trade with one another make each other more wealthy and that leads to neither one wanting to upset the good deal. It is far better to trade with your neighbours that it is to go to war with them. One of the great failings of the 20th century was the United States believing that the people of the middle east would not sell the US the oil that they had — unless the US used its military might to force them to do so. Utter madness!
The philosophy of protectionism is a philosophy of war. ~ Ludwig von Mises
The people of the middle east were saddled with dictators propped up by the US all so the US could be assured of a supply of oil when that oil was going to be sold on the world market regardless. It boggles the mind that the people of the United States are so economically ignorant that they believed their rulers when told that only the military could ensure the oil that they needed.