Conservatism in a Nutshell – The Benefits of Trade

One Foundational belief of conservatism is the benefit of trade. I don’t say “the free market” because that then causes pointless arguments about what constitutes a “free market,” and the incorrect though oft repeated statement that “there’s no such thing as a free market” (oh really? – ever heard of a black market? It’s entirely devoid of regulation, a truly “free” market.)

So we’ll stick with “trade.” Trade occurs naturally. It is a natural human inclination. Trade is mutually beneficial. It has to be or it will not occur, absent coercion or fraud. Both parties benefit, and this is critical, both are better off than they would otherwise be.

Let’s say we’re in a classroom. I have two pencils, but no paper. You have two sheets of paper, but no pencil. We each trade one of our goods for the other. Now we are both better off, not just because we have something we didn’t have before, but because that something now allows us to take notes, to be productive, to accomplish a task.

Not only are we each individually better off, but the world is better off, because it now has two citizens which are better educated and more productive than they would otherwise be.

The division of labor and specialization allows people to do what they are best at. Adam Smith’s example was of a native who was particularly good at making spears. Rather than hunt for his food, which he was no good at, he stayed home and made spears, at which he excelled. Those who were good at hunting could hunt and then trade meat for spears. The spears are better quality because they are made by a master. Hunting takes less time because it is done by an expert.

Not only are both better off, because by doing what they do best they can trade their surplus for necessities and have free time as well, but “society” is better off because their ability to focus on what they do best creates higher quality and surplus goods which can then be traded to others in the community.

The division of labor and innovation allows humankind to enjoy an ever increasing supply of goods and material comfort. Charity does not exist in societies of subsistence living, charity exists in societies of abundance, and abundance can only be created by trade.