Security Threats and Trade Barriers
"As defence, however, is much more important than opulence..."
In 1776, even as Adam Smith was championing the ideals of a free market economy, he recognized that the interests of national security far outweighed the principles of free trade. More then two centuries later, that sentiment proves to still be accurate and in use. Since the early 1900s, the United States has used this precept to defend its position on trade barriers to hostile nations, and through the majority of the century, that predominantly referred to the Soviet Union and its allies.
Just as Adam Smith supported the Navigation Acts in Great Britain to protect the navy (their chief means of defense; Smith 1776: 464), the United States has gone to great lengths to protect their chief means of defense: the technologically advanced electronics and machinery areas. The motive for these measures has not changed over the centuries. The desire to maintain superiority over other nations and to retain the ability to defend the sovereignty of the nation have remained an important aspect of both foreign and trade policy. It is the trade policy that we are most concerned with in this paper.
It is the desire of the United States to preserve the technological superiority that we have enjoyed for so long. After all, if no other nation equals our level of technology, then it greatly reduces any threat from another nation simply because we can counter anything they may threaten us with. However, if it is not possible to retain such a lead in technology (and it is not, at least not for long), then it becomes necessary to retain the ability to deal with all subsequent security threats in an efficient manner. Smith advocated, and the United States has implemented, the use of export barriers to make sure that crucial goods or intelligence vital to national security does not leave the country or fall into the hands of our enemies.
Though the Cold War is over, and the threat that has loomed over the United States and the rest of the world that depended on the United States for military support for the better part of this century has largely been eradicated, does not mean that there are no longer any security threats to the United States. The United States remains cautious in regards to the unstable status that Russia frequently seems to be in, as well as security threats from other nations like Iraq, and to some degree China.