Suppose you lived in a free country—not a country freer than most unfree countries, but a truly free country. (One necessary condition of “truly free” is certainly the absence of constant government regulation and surveillance in most areas of life.) You would prefer the whole world to be as free as you are, if only because it would give you more trading opportunities, interesting relations, and international mobility. But the worst situation for you would be if your country, in the sense of its residents including you, became as unfree as others in the world. In other words, let the other states in the world regulate and control, but do not wish that on the country where you live.

In the Financial Times (“The Bitter Lessons of Brexit,” January 22, 2022), columnist Martin Wolf complains about many bad economic consequences of Brexit. He correctly laments that the nirvana promises of the Brexit advocates have not been realized. But he suggests that the single European market was useful because it was submitted to a single set of top-down regulations, which British businesses still have to follow anyway if they want to sell their wares on the continent short of moving there.

Indeed, what a mess: trading one meddling government for another! Instead of pursuing unilateral free trade (imitating what its old territory, Hong Kong, used to do), the UK government is playing the protectionist-dirigiste game. On this, Mr. Wofe is silent.

Let the UK government abolish most regulations. Stop regulating and controlling your own subjects. Let them buy where they want and sell where they can. British exporters will naturally have to adapt to EU regulations if selling to regulated customers on the continent is worth the cost. Forget about the myths around the “balance of payment” (which, by the way, as noted by Wolf, has deteriorated since Brexit for trade in goods with the EU). Let them foreigners regulate and be regulated as they want or as they can support. You don’t build a free country by plagiarizing the unfree. Just let your subjects be free. “Dammit!” as Javier Milei would add.

For reasons well explained by public-choice theory, this is not what the UK government is doing or is likely to do. But if Mr. Wolf realized that efficient trade—trade that follows what diversified consumers want—does not require top-down regulations, he could perhaps contribute to cutting the Gordian knot of dirigisme.