By Tim Warner

The arrival of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Melbourne has led to discussion about the validity of demonstrations and a debate on whether 'free trade' is a good idea. A subject that is not perhaps given its due is whether the WEF & the World Trade Organisation (WTO) have any relation to Free Trade. 

In the words of Llewellyn H.Rockwell Jr., President of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, "we'd all better off - indeed the cause of free trade would be better off - if it (the WTO) never met again." 

The WEF is a place for those with markets sewn up and with privileged positions to meet and discuss business - it is a closed market place. There is no place at such gatherings for the family business with 10 employees or the university dropout with the hare-brained notion. Bill Gates started a company in his fathers garage, but he didn’t get his break by attending the WEF. As Adam Smith stated, in a democratic society we should regard any meeting of merchants and manufacturers with suspicion, we shouldn’t have our governments encouraging the pretensions of such people and their clubs. 

Similarly the World Trade Organisation is not a guardian of Free Trade, but another Trojan Horse for Government - and 'concerned' organisations - to hijack Free Trade and make it managed trade.  

Real Free Trade is in every community’s best interest. It is not in the interest of a community to sign hundreds of bilateral agreements that take hordes of lawyers and academics to comprehend. When the United States, Canada and Mexico signed their 'free trade' agreement the conditions and exclusions took 1000 pages to document. Large businesses, and unions, wrote the exemptions to please themselves, and heaven help any new or smaller business who can't or couldn't afford lobbyists. It creates two classes of business. 

Free Trade is kept free and fair by voters who elect governments and members of parliament who understand the real benefits of Free Trade, and who regulate trade for the health and safety of their citizens only. Any other reason is a tax on each member of the population, by restricting their capacity to seek value for their wages.



People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty and justice. 

But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies, much less to render them necessary. 

   Adam Smith 
   - The Wealth of Nations (1776) 


Adam Smith, a Scottish Philosopher, wrote The Wealth of Nations in 1776. Most economists regard it as the starting point for modern economics, and as the foundation for arguments on free trade between individuals and nations. 


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