The Ethical Argument for Free Trade—Daniel Hannan on Brexit

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Daniel Hannan is one of Brexit's biggest champions. A Member of the European Parliament and a leading Euroskeptic, Hannan's advocacy of withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union has earned him international attention. While critics regarded the "Vote Leave" campaign as a dangerous retreat from globalization, Hannan has made consistent, libertarian arguments for withdrawal as a path towards greater democracy and free markets.

Noting the E.U.'s sluggish economic growth rates and its failure to establish free trade agreements with China and India, Hannan believes the U.K. should take charge of its own economic destiny. "I want people to be making the ethical argument for free trade as the supreme instrument of poverty alleviation, of conflict resolution and of social justice," Hannan says. He adds, "It's the multinationals that thrive on the distortions and the tariffs and the quotas, he says. "And it's the poor who will benefit most from their removal."

Hannan pushes back against the charge of Brexit as a symptom of xenophobia. Following the Brexit win, he says, poll numbers demonstrate that voters were most concerned with sovereignty. "All of the polls were very clear that the biggest issue was democracy. Immigration was a very distant second," he says. "People wanted a sense of control and I think that's a perfectly legitimate thing."

With Brexit not taking effect until 2019 and the terms of withdrawal not yet negotiated, the United Kingdom's future has rarely seemed so uncertain. In two year's time, the U.K. will have the opportunity to decide on its own policies of trade and immigration. Hannan is confident his country will do the right thing.

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Interview by Nick Gillespie. Edited by Alex Manning. Camera by Meredith Bragg and Jim Epstein.

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  1. Hannan has made consistent, libertarian arguments for withdrawal as a path towards greater democracy and free markets.

    There is no other reason for #Brexit than racism and hostility to foreigners. And I’m including the Scots-Irish in that equation.

    1. Scots-Irish are racist AND hostile foreigners? I’m not sure here.

      1. I’m Scots-Irish, come from a long line of Scots-Irish, and have lived nearly all my life surrounded by others of Scots-Irish descent and i can tell you, both can certainly be true. I’m not sure what else can be said about a people who would invent NASCAR.

        1. For Thanksgiving, Citizen X put little kilts on all the baked potatoes.

      2. Note that Scots-Irish aren’t actually Irish.

        They’re merely Scottish people that resided in Northern Ireland for a wee bit before moving onto the US.

        1. But the scots came from Ireland and pushed out the picts.

          -jcr

    2. So for the U.K. To be more ‘free’, the process requires 2 parts;
      1) Leave the E.U.
      2) Adopt more free-trade policies

      Now that Step 1 is happening, what if Step 2 doesn’t happen?
      You get less trade, less flow of human capital? I can only hope for the best .. not sure if I’m as confident that the country will do the right thing.

  2. Someone please explain to me exactly what globalization means and its supposed benefits. I hear the term tossed around a lot but much like ‘social justice’ no one ever defines it.

    1. Wider movement of people and goods.

      It’s not absolutely free movement but freer movement than was permitted 30 years ago.

    2. Globalization is comparative advantage leveraged over the whole planet. It means you can go to Walmart and buy a dress shirt for 10 bucks from Indonesia. If you’re a poor schmuck in rural America, it’s means you can afford to buy new clothes every now and then. If you’re a union laborer in textiles in America, it’s an existential threat to your way of life.

      1. Where’s the robot union on this?

      2. It also means DeutcheBank and Citi can expand their regulatory capture across multiple governments and trade zones to make all the horrible parts of corporatism and regulatory capture that much worse. Its not all Adam Smith and 1776.

        1. This is what I took Suthen’s question to imply.

          How is ‘globalization’ distinct from laissez faire or capitalism? Or why is paying poor people in Pakistan to make cheap t-shirts to sell in Peoria ‘globalization’ while the trade of labor and goods that has been conducted across the oceans for anywhere from 2 to 6 centuries prior is ‘not globaization’.

          To wit, I think he, you, and I are of a mind that it really is a buzzword used to generate warm-fuzzies in the minds of people who think things like “Oh, good! Increased globalization!”

        2. Re: Brett L.

          It also means DeutcheBank and Citi can expand their regulatory capture across multiple governments

          Not that it has anything to do with international trade, which is how the economically ignorant use the word: to mean international trade, instead of world government.

      3. Generally means less local control. Possibly a positive for trade. Most people don’t like the loss of local political power.

        1. This is my worry, the loss of national sovereignty. I am all for free trade but I am hesitant to let the chinese, russians, venezuelans and the rogues gallery at the UN decide US domestic policy. My impression is that they want a world wide version of the EU; nameless, faceless, unelected bureaucrats making decisions about the personal lives of Americans. Fuck that. It is elitism writ-large and in the end the world would look like Cuba today.

          1. It is good to see people like Daniel Hannan make it clear that less restricted/freer trade is not the same thing as setting up supernational bureaucracies and quasi-governments.

            But it is important to remember that the disease which creates these bodies takes root at home as well: the desire to control one’s fellow man.

      4. If you’re a union laborer in textiles in America, it’s an existential threat to your way of life.

        Saying that trade is the existential threat presumes that the union and the EPA set up a sustainable way of life in the first place. Spoiler alert: they did not.

        1. I am pretty hostile to unions. But I do actually recognize the trauma that middle-aged, factory workers experience when their jobs go offshore. And yet, recognizing that trauma doesn’t mean that I sympathize that much for them. Foreseeable consequences and all that.

          1. I don’t feel much empathy for people who spat in the faces of their fellow men who just wanted to work and called them “scabs”.

            Even the “nice” union workers benefited from inflated wages paid on the backs of the unemployed.

    3. Well, there is what globalism actually means, and what globalism is intended to mean based on its usage as a slur.

      Globalism is actually just about acknowledging and leveraging the economics of an interconnected planet.

      Globalism used as a slur is basically to call someone an anti-American traitor without saying so directly. “Why, you don’t favor employing American workers to make American steel at artificially high prices in a protected economy? What are you, some sort of globalist?”

      1. Why do you favor punishing Indonesians for selling 50 year old Disney movies at any price? What are you some sort of pro-TPP globalist?

    4. Re: Suthenboy,

      Someone please explain to me exactly what globalization means and its supposed benefits. I hear the term tossed around a lot but much like ‘social justice’ no one ever defines it.

      As a political idea, it means global governance.

      Unfortunately, anti-trade ideologues on the right and left and center and everywhere where basic economics as knowledge has not reached (like in caves and on mountain forests and old and abandoned steel foundries) “Globalism” is used instead of “international trade” and always with a tone of derision.

      1. Note that “international trade” is not always “free trade”. Why, exactly, do we need multi-thousand page documents to implement free trade? It seems like a much shorter document could be set up to (a) bar all tariffs and duties and (b) agree how to arbitrate disputes What is the EU’s stance on “dumping” GMO foodstuffs, and why do they get to tell poor African countries that their wheat can’t be sold in competiton with European wheat? Is that globalism or not? After all the EU is an international organization.

        1. “Why, exactly, do we need multi-thousand page documents to implement free trade?”

          Because it isnt about free trade. There is a reason Obumbles negotiates his trade agreement in secret and why we still don’t k now everything that is in it.

          1. There is a reason Obumbles civil/foreign service bureaucrats negotiate[d] [their] trade agreement in secret

            Obama had little if anything to do with it, except of course signing off on it. It’s not one man’s hubris that wrote the thing; it’s the hubris of men and women who face no consequences for undermining the republic and consider themselves possessed of the divine right to rule.

            1. I agree with kbolino. There is a good reason why all treaties had to be approved by a group of people who stand for re-election every six years. In aggregate, people who enter the civil and foreign service tend to view government as perfectable tool to bring about a better world. To hold that view, you have to devalue the “knowledge problem”. Maybe not to the levels of the original Soviets, but in some form or fashion they believe that exchange is perfectable, too.

              1. If anything, the subtitle to Obama’s Presidency should be: “Civil Service Autonomy, or: What If We Let Bureaucrats Dictate Policy in as Many Ways as Technically Possible?”

  3. Mr Hannan must be thrilled to have an interviewer who is willing to listen to what he has to say rather than to be interrupted by interviewers who insist on informing him that he is racist and opposed to free trade.

    1. Instead, he was interviewed by Nick.

    2. I’ve seen Hannan speak before and he’s damn good. I’d happily amend the US Constitution to vote for him for President here, but I guess they need him over there even more.

  4. People who voted for Brexit are worse than the Visigoths.

  5. It was something having to explain to my Progressive friends that while Brexit would put a damper on the British economy temporary, they wouldn’t become a third world country if the left the EU. Obviously, a lot of them where too frantic and scared to listen to reason.

    It’s also great that the very same people who lost their shit over Brexit, where the same people who a couple of years ago thought that the EU was this oppressive union that unfairly punished the Greeks and crapped all over their sovereignty.

    I pointed out this cognitive dissonance, and was simply waved away or told that this is different.

    1. Cognitive dissonance requires cognition.

  6. It’s also great that the very same people who lost their shit over Brexit, where the same people who a couple of years ago thought that the EU was this oppressive union that unfairly punished the Greeks and crapped all over their sovereignty.

    By telling them to pay their fucking bills.

    1. Or stop spending more than their GDP on free shit.

  7. Ugh, Shepherd Book/Det.Harris has died.

  8. The Ethical Argument for Free Trade – Daniel Hannan on Brexit

    “Sure, I want free trade but I want smart trade, which seeks to protect the American worker and American manufacturing jobs(*)” – Donald “El Trumpo” Trump

    (* Translation into English: I don’t want trade at all.)

  9. Someone please explain to me exactly what globalization means and its supposed benefits.

    A lot of different people mean a lot of different things by this term.

    Some mean “free trade”, but oddly, we never seem to get free trade, just “managed trade” which may or may not be better than what came before, especially if you measure “better” by things other than pure volume/dollars. On the whole this aspect of it is probably more libertarian, depending on the details.

    As far as the EU goes, you get less local control of government, and an entrenched, unelected bureaucracy issuing reams of regulations that you can do nothing about. This aspect of globalization is irredeemably anti-libertarian. The UN likes to play this game, too, and has been trying to get an anti-gun version of this on the books.

    There is a related strain of globalism, often showing up in managed trade agreements, that talks about “harmonization” of laws and regulations among countries. The justification is to create a level economic playing field. However, harmonization may tend toward raising regulatory burdens to create the level playing field. Hard to say, but on the whole, I don’t expect anything being delivered to us by a transnational bureaucracy to increase my freedom.

    1. This was my impression all along.

      The trade aspect really isnt difficult to fix. Simply have reciprocity with other nations. That would kill off a great deal of protectionist policy and free things up quite a bit. This has no relation to the gun issue or any other domestic policy not directly related to trade, but then thats not what they are about.

      As far as the UN wanting my guns – come try to take them, motherfuckers. Stick your solar panels up your ass while you are at it.

  10. RE: The Ethical Argument for Free Trade

    What?
    Free trade?
    With anyone you choose to trade with?
    Sounds dangerous to me.
    I mean, the little people making decisions for themselves and engaging in capitalist enterprises?
    What would our obvious betters enslaving us all say?
    What would Jill Stein say?
    What would Bernie Saunders say?
    What would Fidel Castro say if he was alive?
    What would North Korea say?
    What would all the over-educated academic airheads say?
    They would all call us capitalist pigs and dinosaurs for such activities.
    We must all conform to the standards of Marxist thought or face the nasty verbal assaults on those much wiser than us.
    (Trembles in fear.)

  11. Why can’t we get transcripts Reason?

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