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    the mother of all welfare queens..., 2005-06-10 11:48:04 | Main | pottery-barn counter-narratives and a nation full of flip-floppers..., 2005-06-13 13:00:10

    the earth itself:

    Max makes a small point on trade agreements and gets refrigerator-like responses from the Romans: Delong beats on the Ricardian drum, which is just defending a point already condeded; and Yglesias argues that first order effects are small, a la Krugman in Diminished Expectations, and makes the strange point that "trade has less to do with trade agreements than one might think". Strange because this has been more or less the point all along, from where I've been sitting, and the sort of statement of fact that globalization movement folks have been making for some time, and who have been denounced with religious verocity for the same. Adam Hersch makes the most valiant response in the face of what amounts to stonewalling.

    Defending a conceded point of theory is just refusing to engage in the discussion, which is what we've come to expect from Delong when he's not rightly bemoaning the absence of redistributive domestic policy. Yglesias is also dodging out of the discussion by saying first that it doesn't matter much; neveryoumind the scope of lower order effects or the impact on smaller developing economies. His point about the trade agreements is amusing as it was the free trade evangalizers that made trade agreements synonymous with trade over the past 20 years, and kicked down anybody who so much as questioned what was in the agreements with hysterical cries of protectionism, making it a matter of religious orthodoxy.

    The disagreement among the strangely named "anti-globalization movement" seem by comparison really quite specific.

    It was recognized that the agreements were foremost - beyond mechanisms for the lowering of tarrif barriers and subsidy distoritions to trade, and likewise mechanisms by which to maintain them for certain parties - investment and intellectual property agreements. A simple Ricardian trade agreement would take a few pages compared to the beaurecratic monstrosities that are the big trade agreements.

    The terms of intellectual property are opposed by virtue of industrialized countries' lock on technology. The global justice movement was opposed to the protectionist racket this established for pharmecuetical companies and other assort health related technologies as regards the third world. There was also opposition to the similar protectionist racket this established for Western agribusinesses and research firms in the realm of genetically modified crops and the ability to patent the biology of developing countries. In these cases the GM were calling for freer trade, which in all fairness could be called humanitarian technology transfer, but intellectual property is a state granted monopoly for, in a long distant past, the purpose of rewarding intellectual development for the benefit of both economy and humanity.

    Additionally the GM is highly critical of Western subsidies to agri-business, noting that the trade agreements required ag-dependent economies to lower barriers for agricultural products while demanding little or no cuts in Western ag subsidies, assuring the destruction of much third world agricultural subsistence and resulting in swarms of suddenly landless peasants migrating into city slums. Here, again, the GM was for freer trade.

    The resulting surplus of landless workers leads right into criticism of the terms of investment as envisaged in said trade agreements: from the GM perspective the ag policies were just a means for creating massive pools of cheap, exploitable labor, creating opportunities for free trade zealots to vigorously applaud corporate globalization's creation of overseas sweatshops.

    Investment is a matter of capital flows and has less to do with Ricardian principles than it does with Heckscher-Ohlin theory. Most everybody acknowledges it encourages a 'race to the bottom' among unprivelidged sectors of societies when allowed to go unrestricted by human concerns, exacerbating reactionary domestic policies among affected countries.

    Financial liberalization was mostly seen as a means, via IMF structural readjustment loans and assorted World Bank policies, to induce reactionary domestic programs in developing economies and fire-sales of public assets in the name of "privatization".

    In response the GM wanted enforceable mechanisms, as was proposed and inserted in the first revisions of NAFTA for example, for core labor and environemental standards. At best we get meaningless hand offs to the ILO, a bone thrown here and there to allow "civil society" organizations to sit in on some talks. They also wanted some retention of mechanisms for slowing the rate of change in economies due to investment liberalization, giving the losers some time to adjust. These could be called "protectionist", but it also would lessen the shock to labor and thus benefit globalization by reducing lashback from the numerous free-trade losers. Yglesias's 225,000 lost jobs per year easily translates into the development of an actual protectionist movement, which, we note, has already materialized.

    On the specific issues the GMers are generally more pro-globalization than globalization's flaks - and this is before we start listing the numerous protectionist, anti-globalization policies of globalization's great presidents, who can send up import restrictions, tarrifs and other anti-trade measures with barely a whiff of condescension from the punditry. There's also no shortage of grievances over the deconstruction of the democratic nation state and the anti-democratic, opaquely secretive means by which the various trade bodies were formed and are run. Without popular inputs the system is left to the "polluting politics" (Delong) of corporate interests, which could only look apolitical if you thing big business is an impartial arbitrator of human affairs.

    Ultimately the only force working on the premise of anti-globalization for the past decade seems to be the earth itself, as it seems intent on running out of cheap transportable energy reserves and we seem intent on not replacing them. If this continues Zerzan and his primitivist ilk are going to make sane people look quite foolish.


:: posted by buermann @ 2005-06-13 11:03:05 CST | link





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