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The Deals We Make

January 22, 2010

In the work An Essay on Man, Alexander Pope writes, “The proper study of Mankind is Man.”  Extending this thought to a federal level, the business of the United States Government is the United States.  As simple as that theme sounds, the treaties and trade agreements we establish gives our government issues beyond the United States to consider.

Isolationism is not in the best interest of the United States; neither is a long-term tie that becomes outdated or has a broad scope.  With the complexity of the world today, both treaties and trade agreements need to be focused and short-lived.  As President Jefferson put it, “Observations on the expediency of making short treaties are most sound.  Our situation is too changing and too improving to render an unchangeable treaty expedient for us,” over two-hundred years later his words hold true.

Of course, other nations will not like a short time frame on our agreements.  It is in their interest to bind us for as long as possible.  While the same may hold true for our binding them, it works against our tradition of freedom of choice and the exercise of free trade with others not included in the agreement.  If we have free trade with only a few nations, we simply push the bar of exclusion out and remain isolationist in nature.  After all, free trade implies the ability to trade with anyone you wish.

Even long-standing treaties concerning national defense need review.  After World War II, we formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).  The alliance provides mutual protection against aggression.  The primary source of that aggression, the Soviet Union, no longer exists and European countries are now member of the European Union.  They no longer require a mutual defense agreement with the United States.  NATO, as a whole, is now a quasi-United Nations that deals with multinational issues other than self-defense.  The question is do we need NATO?  Is it redundant?

Treaties and agreements that deal with true international issues better serve us then ones that focus on a particular group or nation.  Issues like freedom of commerce on the high seas and climate change, issues that cross national boarders as easily as the wind.  No agreement with other nations should be long-standing or without review.  In the end, the United States needs only one country with “Most Favored Nation”  status –  the United States.

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