Thursday, April 23, 2015

A noble transaction embiggens the smallest mind

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde speaking at a trade conference in Washington DC; as with all her speeches, she can't resist the just-so quote --

Let me conclude by quoting one of the sharpest thinkers of his generation. Two hundred years ago, the French philosopher Montesquieu said – and I will give you the French version first: “Le commerce guérit des préjugés destructeurs: et; c’est presque une règle générale que, partout où il y a des mœurs douces, il y a du commerce; et; que, partout où il y a du commerce, il y a des mœurs douces.” 

“Trade is the best cure for prejudice. It is an almost general rule that, wherever there is good citizenship, there is trade, and that, wherever there is trade, there is good citizenship.” 

The most destructive economic prejudice is trade protectionism.

Sacre bleu! She's taking the 200 year old expression mœurs douces, which is typically translated as gentle or agreeable manners, and rendered it as "good citizenship." She's taken Montesquieu's careful discussion of associated changes in societies over time and between each other, and made it into a policy statement that anyone who's against further trade liberalization is like a pre-industrial brute. And she's ignored the rest of his discussion about how trade damages individual relations by forcing more and more interactions between people into a form of exchange.

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