USS Clueless - Globalization goes both ways

Stardate 20011227.0802

(On Screen): When you see the demonstrations (and riots) against Globalization, what they're complaining about is that imports of products from outside a country can displace local industry and put local workers out of business. Which is true.

But the argument in favor is that in the long run it is better for all products to be made where they can be made best and most efficiently, because in the long run more people will benefit more overall because of it. In zones where relatively free trade has existed, that has been the result: old industries were often displaced or even shut down, but new ones arose to replace them and overall everyone did much better.

But it does cause short term displacement and short term pain; people do lose their jobs. The argument is whether that price is too high a one to pay. The demonstrators think it is; I disagree.

But if we, as a nation, are going to embrace the economic policy of globalization (also known as "free trade") then we have to realize that it goes both ways. Sometimes the industries which will be displaced will be ours. The clothing industry has been facing that one for years; the US hardly makes clothes any more. We import all of that. By the same token, shoes are no longer made here. The US doesn't make televisions, or most low-grade consumer electronics.

And when those changes took place, there was screaming, and demands for protection of those industries. But while there may have been some efforts in those directions, they were mostly resisted -- and we now have a very low unemployment rate (even during this time of recession) and a very high per-capita GDP.

So when I read that catfish producers in the Mississippi delta are complaining about the fact that their product is being displaced by fish from Viet Nam, I have a hard time feeling sympathetic. That's what happens.

At least they're not actually trying to limit imports. Instead, they're requiring labeling changes; the Viet Nam fish has to be called "Basa" or "Basa catfish". (Next they'll require that all the native catfish be delivered with an American Flag sticker, just so that we all know it's patriotically-produced-product.)

After the Philippine "People Power" revolution kicked out Marcos, a group of American congresspeople went to visit Cory Aquino and asked her what the US could to help? Aid? Loans? She responded that she didn't want any of those things. What she wanted was for the US to open its sugar market and stop limiting Philippine imports. Alas, it didn't happen. (Because of [Image] Archer Daniels Midland, but that's a different story.) But it should have because she was right..

The best way for us to create a peaceful world is to increase prosperity everywhere. The best way to get nations to participate in free trade is to let them benefit from it. The best way to help the people of the Third World is to give them jobs, so they can support themselves. Sometimes that means that the US will export jobs. That is good; we should do so even though it causes short term pain here. We'll find something else to work on. Viet Nam is a desperately poor nation and it needs to come up with things to sell overseas; if we can help them by eating their fish and drinking their coffee (another cash-crop they've started producing in quantity) then all the better.

include   +force_include   -force_exclude


no graphics

Log archives
Best log entries
Other articles