Biblical Perspectives on Free Trade Policy

  • Mary Kay Copeland
  • Cora Barnhart


The concept of free trade is more than 200 years old with economists Adam Smith and Abbé de Condillac both arguing in 1776 the merits of trade that was free from government regulation and constraints. From that point forward, mainstream economists have maintained that economies unencumbered by government impediments, such as tariffs and quotas, function more efficiently and effectively. Free trade in practice, however, does not always benefit every party involved, particularly in the absence of competition. This analysis: a) defines free trade; b) examines the support for and challenges to the economic strategy from both a theoretical economic, and allegedly more practical, perspective; and c) compares the global worldview on free trade to biblical perspectives to determine whether there is biblical support for this economic policy. To evaluate the biblical perspectives on free trade, this paper considers broad biblical concepts that encompass the issues of regulation versus liberalization of trade policy. The paper specifically focuses on biblical directives to care for vulnerable populations, such as women in developing countries and foreign laborers, when it examines the impact of free trade . It concludes that for free trade to be biblical, participants must commit to and honor biblical principles, including caring for those in need, paying a reasonable wage, and serving God with the wealth and profits accumulated. Adhering to these principles can mitigate the negative consequences that are sometimes associated with free trade.