Wednesday, July 27, 2016

There ain't no such thing as a free trade

Those of us who have been balanced between conservatism — mostly, alas, neoconservatism — and libertarianism are knee-jerk in favor of free trade. We've been marinated in it. And it's really not an either-or thing. Mostly, we don't want yard sales regulated, but concede the need for a little regulation here and there for other kinds of trade. Oddly, though, many of us do want standards and things for domestically-traded strawberries and cars, but want such things traded freely between countries with no standards at all — that's what 'free trade' means, after all, no standards, regulations, or fetters of any kind. And we've been trained, both by deep libertarian thinkers and neocon pimps to consider it a triumph when a head of lettuce costs a few cents less and to look the other way when the local factory closes.

I've become very skeptical of such things of late, because I don't know quite what they use for fertilizer in Mexico or what they consider 'safe' in countries we buy our cars from, not to mention the nature of thousands of other such consumer goods.

And I'm glad to find out that Dr. Pournelle is skeptical, too. This is from Bayou Renaissance Man [link]:

Jerry Pournelle on free trade

Dr. Jerry Pournelle, one of the doyens of science fiction, has commented on his blog(one of the oldest in existence) about the issue of free trade.

One reason Conservatives are advised by Conservative leaders to disagree with Trump is his position on Free Trade. The problem for me is that I do not see Free Trade, particularly laissez faire Free Trade, as necessarily Conservative at all.

The advantages of Free Trade are lower prices for stuff. That means they are more cheaply produced. As the economist David Ricardo wrote, there is a principle of comparative advantage that coupled with free trade guarantees maximum profits for when there are no trade restrictions, and impediments to free trade are supposed to be mutually disadvantageous.

But do understand, what is conserved is lower prices. Nor social stability. Not communities. Not family life. Indeed those are often disrupted; it’s part of the economic model. Under free trade theory, it’s better to have free trade than community preservation, better to have ghost towns of people displaced because their jobs have been shipped overseas; better to have Detroit as a wasteland than a thriving dynamic industrial society turning out tail finned Cadillacs and insolent chariots and supporting workers represented by rapacious unions in conflict with pitiless corporate executives.

. . .

What was conserved by turning Detroit into a wasteland? How was that conservative? Wouldn’t it be more conservative to argue that if everyone pays a little more for stuff made here, by people who work here, we are better off than having it made south of the border and inviting our people to go work there at their prevailing wages?

There's more at the link.  Scroll down the page until you come to the relevant section.

Plenty of food for thought there.  I'm on the fence about free trade.  There are undoubted international advantages, but not so many national advantages.  The question is, where do our priorities lie?  Being an 'international sort of person', and an immigrant to the USA, I used to come down on the side of international advantage.  Now, having had time to assess the results of more than half a century of free trade and internationalization . . . I'm not nearly so sure that was a good idea - at least, not for Americans.

Quibcag: Girls from Neon Genesis Evangelion (Japanese新世紀エヴァンゲリオン HepburnShin Seiki Evangerion?, literally  stand around on the ruins from same.


  1. I don't know quite what they use for fertilizer in Mexico
    The drug cartels seem to have a soylent green variant.

    I grew up and lived for a long time in the Detroit area. Windsor, ON was probably more of a suburb than Warren, Southfield, Livonia, or Deaborn was. We'd use the bridge or tunnel to have lunch, shop at The Bay or other well known stores. There was a slight flavor difference but it was the same culture.

    With NAFTA adding Mexico into the mix, then 9/11 we have less free trade now.

    Before, no one bothered about an automotive plant opening across the border in Ontario instead of Flint. But Mexico is a different thing entirely.

    It is one thing to have select "free trade" across the English diaspora - US, UK, NZ, CA, AU - and another thing entirely to try to do it with Zimbabwe - or China.

    When you are trading between two incompatible cultures, you aren't merely doing regulatory arbitrage, you are doing moral arbitrage.

  2. We always have had communities displaced. What do you think "ghost towns" are? Or up along the New England coast, those quaint little resort towns used to be thriving seaports, until ships got too big for their harbors, the whaling dried up, and their economies went straight down the toilet. If they hadn't re-invented themselves, they'd look like Innsmouth. Matter of fact, HPL based Innsmouth (at least the description) on real New England outports of his time that hadn't been "discovered" by the tourist trade.

  3. Displaced communities and ghost towns are not a sign of prosperity dickhead. We're not talking about towns that sprung up from wildcatters or gold miners, these are Middle American towns we need as a tax base. The only reason shitholes full of dopes like Obama's "sons" eat is because of Middle America. If we have to dump something, I'd rather dump the trash of Obama's failed race back to their jungle homelands, and force march Mexican peons back to their failed state South of the Rio Grande. This isn't up for debate or negotiation, poindexter. I like Civilization and I'm not gonna let America become Brazil so some shitheads in Silicon Valley can make another Billion in fake stock value.