Monday, November 1, 2010

"free trade civilizes, enlightens, and enriches"

Donald Boudreaux has an article on Free Trade and Globalization that talks about how free markets result in cultural diversification and, thus, a flowering of the arts. He notes that

Aristotle, Euripides, Thucydides, Grecian urns, the Parthenon, and most of what we rightly celebrate today about the learning and culture of ancient Athens would have been impossible had it not been for that city's extensive foreign commerce.

Athens opened up trade with the rest of the world, and flourished both economically and culturally. The reason for this is

The wealth, freedom, and diverse experiences of a commercial culture liberate artists and educators both to be more creative and to cater to the demands of the general population. In a poor society in which only a small elite has wealth and leisure, artists and educators cater only to the elite's desires. Art forms disliked by elites, as well as knowledge not useful to them, do not thrive. But as trade creates greater and more-widespread wealth, the range of tastes and opportunities that are available to support and influence art and education grows. With the elites no longer being the exclusive supporters of art, the artist who previously found no support for his musical compositions or his poetry might now find sufficient support from the middle classes. Likewise for the teacher who, earlier, found no market for his knowledge.

More, the proliferation of cultural diversity throughout the world -- often complained about by elites who liked having such things all to themselves -- is beneficial not just because of improved material opportunities, and not just because of cultural proliferation and improved artistic creativity, but because cultural proliferation results in an expansion of our morals, by helping up empathizes with others from around the world.

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