International Free Trade and World PeaceWhen analyzing trade’s effect on state behavior, it is not the mere existence of trade between countries that should be central, rather, the nature of trade that is crucial. This distinction will be explored by studying the arguments of key economic and political thinkers of both the 18th and 20th centuries. The general nature of trade, the role of national government regarding trade and security, trade’s capacity to befriend belligerent nations, and finally, the influence of international economic institutions will be explored. In an attempt to present a fairly broad range of sources, this study features the ideas of four influential authors from two time periods and continents: from the 18th Century, Adam Smith and Alexander Hamilton, and from the 20th Century, John Maynard Keynes and Secretary of State Cordell Hull.
My thesis is that the four authors examined actually agreed with one another on the connection between free trade and peace, despite the discordant resonance of their arguments. Due to the nature of trade in Hamilton and Smith’s time, their assertions that trade had ambiguous, if not adverse effects on state behavior is equivalent to Hull’s statement that trade under the auspices of international organizations ensured peace. Almost all trade, up until the foundation of post-W.W.II international economic bodies, was practiced in an opaque, unfair, and mercantilist manner. Both Keynes and Hull, who argue that trade is pacific, lived in a rapidly liberalizing environment where international organizations were gaining legitimacy and influence. Thus, the conclusion of all four authors can be modified to state that trade is pacific only when it is conducted in an open, fre…
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