PERSPECTIVErnSelling the Golden Cordrnby Thomas FlemingrnFree trade, according to the usual pundits, is an issue that dividesrnthe right. The usual pundits are, as usual, wrong.rnFree trade, which has never been more than an undocumentedrnalien on the right, is an ideal that does unite much of the left.rnIt is a point on which socialism converges with both individualismrnand globalism—three roads that lead to world government.rnThis late in the 20th century, even libertarians have no excusernfor not seeing the resemblance between international socialismrnand the multinational corporate state that is emerging,rnbut free-traders, as opposed to those who advocate free marketsrnand low tariffs (among whom I count myself), are a set of truernbelievers ever}’ bit as impervious to argument and evidence asrnany cultist who thinks he knows God’s first name or takes hisrnscriptures from a fantasy novel.rnLike most hot political issues in the United States, the traderndebate is carried on with more posturing than argument. As inrnthe debate over abortion or guns or immigration, one side misrepresentsrnthe problem and relies primarily on an argumentrnfrom misdefinition; if you can believe the left, abortion is notrninfanticide, only a pregnancy termination; the Second Amendmentrnwas written only to arm the National Guard; and Americarnis uniquely a nation of immigrants whose citizens have nornright to control their borders or determine their future. Therernare people calling themselves conservative who want to kill babies,rndisarm the population, and swamp the country with 25-30rnmillion immigrants a decade. As citizens, they have a right torntheir opinion, but they will take the first step toward credibilityrnwhen they are willing to speak honestiy about their aims.rnThe same sort of dishonesty goes on in the tiade debate. Thernproponents of NAFTA and GATT insist they are supporters ofrnsomething they call free trade, and they castigate their opponentsrnas advocates of protection. In fact, the issue is not aboutrnfree tiade at all. Free tiade is a myth, a will-o’-the-wisp in thernminds of economists, who are the least practical men on earth.rnThe dishonesty begins with calling economics a science (or arnsocial science—a contradiction in terms), implying that it is notrnmerely a systematic body of knowledge, like, say, the rules ofrnprosody, but an exact science like physics. As Richard Neuhausrnused to say, theology is an exact science. Economics is onlyrnplaying with numbers. Whatever else economics might be, it isrnnot a discourse about the proper ends of human existence.rnEconomists have much to say about the most “efficient”rnmeans of reaching a goal, but they have nothing of any value tornsay about either the goals themselves or the route we choose tornreach them. If I choose to go to San Francisco, it is none ofrntheir business if I decide to drive rather than fly, or if I hunt andrnpeck my way, from friend to friend, wasting time, money, andrngas. Nations have their own goals, their own peculiar characters,rnand if the French were to decide to ban Coca Cola or Hollywoodrnfilms, I cannot imagine a useful comment that anrneconomist might offer on their decision, although it is amazingrnhow easily these scientific economists slip from questions of “is”rnto matters of “ought.”rnEvery scholar is a prisoner of his discipline, and manyrneconomists think they can explain virtually everything in humanrnlife by their abstiact and simplistic analyses. I, on the otherrnhand, am a philologist, a stiident of language, and thereforernI think that the first step in solving a problem is to define termsrncorrectly. We all have some idea of what trade is; you havernsomething to sell that I want, and we strike a deal over thernlO/CHRONICLESrnrnrn