Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Free Trade: Primitive Accumulation of Capital

I have said it before and will say it again, capitalism is merchants with private armies. The modern market state that is evolving under globalization is no different.

Seventeenth Century Origins of Free Trade

During the early modern period (1500-1700), there was intense conflict among European states. Chartered trade companies acted as warrior merchants, especially the Dutch East India Company and the British East India Company. Armed trade was refined into a ruthless art by the Republic of the United Provinces of the Netherlands. At the same time, some kingdoms — for example, France and Spain — attempted to control their economies (Mercantilism) for strategic reasons. Moral philosophers, meanwhile, were critical of trade itself. Unlike Islam which was largely hospitable toward trade and merchants, Christian theology and Church edicts were hostile; they condemned commerce as abetting fraud, promoting avarice, and encouraging worldly gains. Theologians became more liberal as the centuries passed, but the status of merchants who merely traded goods and produced nothing was not high. At best there was theological ambivalence about commerce. Free trade did not have an easy birth in these circumstances.

Ironic ain't it that the very historical forces opposed to Free Trade are now it's greatest proponents. Of course that is because of the development of the ultimate Protestant State; the American Empire. While Europe remains dominated by Catholicism, even in its Anglican and Lutheran forms.

The Fraternal Origins of Working Class Organizations In the Transition from Feudalism to Capitalism

As for Islam and Free Trade see my article Ibn Khaldun 14th Century Arab Libertarian

Instead of sabre rattling the Americans might want to use Free Trade, any trade in fact, with economically isolated Iran to get them to quit their sabre rattling.

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1 comment:

Kevin Carson said...

Nice post, but I'd put "free trade" in quotes. The fact that the mercantilist behavior of the Dutch and English in the XVII century, the Navigation Acts, and all Cromwell's shit in Ireland so closely parallelled the neoliberal policies of the World Bank and WTO, shows if anything how little modern-day neoliberalism has to do with free markets.