Rethinking Free Trade and Philosophic Malpractice
Even I make some errors every now and then; I mean, nobody knows everything. So without further ado, upon a greater understanding than I had previously, I would like to correct two issues in prior posts.
In my post “Free Trade with Dictatorships: Could Donald Trump be Right?”, I stand by everything I said except for one point: that governments of free countries should put surcharges on underpriced goods coming from dictatorships. Instead, I believe that free trade should truly be completely free except for matters of national security (such as military secrets, etc.). This does not, however, mean that I think it is moral to trade with dictatorships, for all the reasons I gave in my post. I agree with Dr. Harry Binswanger, a professional philosopher, who in his article “Buy American is Un-American” says that a rational person would not trade with a dictatorship. The truth is, though, that American companies trade all the time with dictatorships, particularly China. So, if tariffs surcharges and other trade barriers are off limits, what’s to stop Americans from engaging in immoral trading practices?
The answer should be no surprise, because after all this is Branehart talking; teaching people how to think in the abstract properly. That would solve the problem by enabling them to figure out the consequences of trading with countries like China. They would then realize when considering the totality of what they’re doing in the grand scheme of things, Chinese trade isn’t the bargain they think it is and they’d refrain from doing it.
When people don’t know how to think in the abstract about something all they can do is deal with concrete issues in front of their noses along with a few easy abstract issues that aren’t too far removed from the concretes. Anything less obvious than that, forget it. For example regarding Chinese trade, all they can work with is what’s plain as day; the low prices of Chinese goods. They see these prices and think, wow! Our profit margins will be great selling this stuff. They can’t deal with abstract issues like the wage slavery of Chinese workers by an oppressive government, or the threat that enriching that government through trade poses to American security, or the American companies that would be driven out of business by underpriced goods.
Upon realizing what they are doing in context, however, many American businessmen I believe, would reconsider dealing with China. But teaching them how to figure this out is a job ultimately for our intellectuals, not bureaucrats. It isn’t the government’s job to protect us from ourselves – just to protect us from others out to violate our rights.
As for my comments, holding intellectuals legally accountable for spreading dangerous philosophical ideas such as Kant’s at the end of my post “The History of Thinking in Western History”, I’m torn. I believe that professors who espouse ideas that are destructive- are committing malpractice. I also believe I may have been proposing less than the best way of dealing with the issue.
Suing people merely for what they say is problematic on two counts: first, there is the old sticks and stones saying about words, and the corollary of it in the doctrine of freedom of speech. (Having said that, though, I admit that if a professor has accepted tuition or fees from someone and then said something destructive, the idea of getting a refund is tempting.) Second, reacting by suing shows fear of what the professor is doing, as if it were a threat – something of far greater significance than bad ideas without action deserve. If anything, bad ideas without action should be laughed at, not cowered from.
Given this maybe what should be done is to critique bad professors’ ideas and expose them for being as destructive as they are. Any intellectual who says in so many words that the mind is impotent to understand reality, as did Kant, Plotinus or Augustine is nothing but a misery monger and no champion of happiness. As such, he has nothing of value to tell anyone; after all, even if something he says is true and valuable, can you trust him? Such people are nihilists out to destroy happiness because it takes the mind’s understanding of reality to produce values for happiness. By declaring the mind impotent, then, they are thereby declaring all that comes from it impossible.
There is something moot about this whole issue, however, because the vast majority of intellectuals today are firmly in the Kant camp and would never give intellectual support to someone trying to sue their colleagues for malpractice for preaching what they agree with. The trick then is to train a new generation of intellectuals who support ideas that will lead to happiness rather than misery. If those intellectuals end up taking over academia, the issue will take care of itself.