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January 2006
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Buckley, Bolivia, and free trade

Count on William F. Buckley, Jr. to give an interesting perspective on our Latin American drug policies. He notes that Morales, a socialist who has called for an end to US crop eradication in Bolivia, knows how to use the free trade argument against us.

Morales shapes his complaint in language similar to that which has been used by the father of the movement against socialism, Milton Friedman — the language of free trade. Whose problem is it that many Americans use cocaine? And that they desire it intensely enough to give it a street price sufficient to support Bolivian producers at every level — the agricultural workers, the refiners and the exporters?
The point is in part cynical, because Morales knows perfectly well that human weakness will always produce a demand for toxic substances, if they provide intense pleasures en route to devastation. But he is shrewd enough to pick up on the point of free trade — even though it is a part of the neoliberalism he has otherwise denounced. What right does the U.S. government have to convert its concern for weak-minded Americans into a veto power on Bolivian agriculture?
[…] one country’s right to protect its own citizens against another country’s products does not automatically grant the right to forbid that country the freedom to produce them. […]
Mr. Morales is … threatening to revise policy on libertarian grounds. Let the United States meet its own problems in any way it chooses. But do not let it rely on a venerable, 500-year-old nation to undertake its dirty work.

Buckley observes that if the United States wants to continue to pursue its policies in countries like Bolivia, it’ll be through the free market — we’ll have to pay premium prices in foreign/military aid to do so. (But then, our Congress has never had much problem with that.)

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