The Free Trade Hypocrisy

It is a very common clever device that when anyone has attained the summit of greatness, he kicks away the ladder by which he has climbed up, in order to deprive others of the means of climbing up after him. In this lies the secret of the cosmopolitical doctrine of Adam Smith, and of the cosmopolitical tendencies of his great contemporary William Pitt, and of all his successors in the British Government administrations.

Any nation which by means of protective duties and restrictions on navigation has raised her manufacturing power and her navigation to such a degree of development that no other nation can sustain free competition with her, can do nothing wiser than to throw away these ladders of her greatness, to preach to other nations the benefits of free trade, and to declare in penitent tones that she has hitherto wandered in the paths of error, and has now for the first time succeeded in discovering the truth.

When Friedrich List wrote these paragraphs in The National System of Political Economy in the 19th century, the U.S. was a newly industrializing nation. Today, it is at the pinnacle of technological achievements. Here are the hard truths about national economic development: climbing your way up requires unorthodox tools; staying on top takes hypocrisy to deny latecomers those very same tools.

Your Place in the Digital Economy

In five years’ time, I predict that you’ll see Uber rides in which both drivers and passengers are not humans.

It’s easy to see on the driver side: Uber has already announced that it is testing self-driving cars. On the┬ápassenger side, you’ll soon see decentralised autonomous investment funds running on blockchains, not controlled by humans. For funds holding Uber shares, their algorithms will decide that it’s good for Uber’s share value by ordering Uber rides using some of their funds.

Imagine the profitability of such kind of rides: no passenger liability insurance, driver benefits, air-conditioning, and all other costs associated with human beings. It’s a win-win for both Uber and the autonomous investment funds.

Welcome to the digital economy.