Now that Steve Bannon is back at Breitbart, armchair empiricism suggests that certain themes are being pushed. Even if he has nothing to do with Breitbart’s position on trade with China, it’s worth mentioning. Breitbart author Frances Martel is saying that trade with China is not right, not proper, not moral: “…the real reason America cannot morally justify trade with China: its decades of history committing flagrant human rights abuses…”
There are deeper moral questions involved. Let’s grant that certain Chinese citizens violate certain human rights. Should moral decisions like trading with either the violating citizens of that government or the particular persons responsible for the human rights violations be made by you and you alone, or should they be made for you by the U.S. government? The power of the U.S. government can stop you from trading with Chinese citizens. Donald Trump has written “The United States is considering, in addition to other options, stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea.” Is it right that the U.S. has this power, or should you and you alone have the decision rights to trade with someone or not to trade?
If the U.S. government stops you from trading, is that a moral act? Is it right or is it wrong? Who has the right to decide with whom you trade? Do you have it or does your government have it? You have it prior to any possibility that the government has it. Your rights as a person flow directly from your self-ownership, which means your natural control over your own life, liberty and property; and your very existence and self-ownership are natural facts prior to any government. The government could only have control over your decisions with whom to trade if you assigned or delegated that right to the government. Did you? Did you appoint or instruct Donald Trump to perform this decision for you?
Clearly, you made no such assignment of your right. Others will argue that in some mysterious collective manner, through an election procedure and a Constitution, both of which are also out of your hands and thrust upon you, you have legitimized this power that Trump is considering. Clearly, that argument has no merit. There is no way to infer your delegation of this power, even if you voted. If you authorized or endorsed this government power, where is the proof of it? When and how did you do it? Is your birth in the country evidence of it? Did reaching the age of 16 or 18 or 21 accomplish this transfer? Did going to public school do it? Did your parents do it for you? If you voted for the lesser of two evils, did that participation in the system mean that you had transferred rights to the government? Which ones? Which ones did you retain and which ones did you assign?
Some will argue that you’ve approved this power implicitly by living and staying in the country. Is it true that living in a given place means that you consent to the powers of the government that rules that place? Tell that to the American colonists who carried out a revolution against King George and the British rule. But, we are told, that’s a strained analogy because you are not actively rebelling with force of arms against the government. True enough, but if we do not participate in an armed revolution against our government, does that mean we consent to it? Does our voice raised against the government count for nothing? Does argument not suffice to express a lack of consent?
A government only has a right to decide whom you trade with if you’ve assigned that right to that government. If you haven’t done so, then the government has usurped that power. It has seized that power unlawfully, and that is exactly what has happened. The power that Trump and other presidents are using or may use to stop us from trading with whomever we may wish to is a usurpation. It is a power taken from us by force. It is an aggression. If the government stops you from trading with citizens of China or North Korea or Russia, it’s immoral because it’s an exercise of a usurped power.
The problem of usurpation by our government is much, much, much worse than this case. There is a huge structure of purely domestic powers being exercised by our government that are usurpations. Manufacturing and commerce are not accomplished by free markets within this country. The provision of health services is not through free markets. One industry after another is subject to usurped government powers. Can you run any business or develop any piece of land or real estate without running headlong into a panoply of labor laws and environmental laws? Trade is restricted in countless ways that have removed your rights. Government usurpations are the order of the day. They are called “laws” and “regulations”.