The most common argument I hear against free trade and free immigration by supposed limited-government supporters is something along the lines of “because we have big government policy X, we cannot have liberal* policy Y.” For example, “we have the welfare state, so we cannot have free immigration,” or “China subsidizes their exports so we cannot have free trade with China.”
The problem with this line of thinking is it lets perfect be the enemy of good. In other words, we avoid taking concrete, albeit small, steps toward a more free world because the steps aren’t 100% ideal. But, as the old saying goes, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Liberty isn’t an end; it’s a journey. Liberty won’t be accomplished overnight with one great lurch toward freedom. The State’s encroachment on personal liberties has been slow and deliberate. The fight for liberty will be similar.
Economists are trained to think on the margin; to explore how little changes can affect things and to see how we can make things even just a little better off. Marginal steps toward liberty will help us accomplish our goals. If we wait until things are ideal, to wait for the hypothetical “perfect market” conditions, then we will remain stagnant while the State continues to encroach.
We need to keep advancing liberty on all fronts and for all people, even if the conditions are not perfect. We cannot afford to be slow.
*I, of course, am using the term “liberal” in its original form.