Campaigns/Elections

Globalization and Its Discontents

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A little good cheer from The Guardian's Bill Emmott on the future of free trade, during this primary season of anti-NAFTA trash-talking:

A year ago, the prime candidate for a protectionist backlash was the fount of globalisation itself, the United States. If anyone had said then that in the midst of the American presidential election the country would be suffering a recession caused by a financial crisis, most economists would have predicted a big upsurge in protectionism during the campaign. It is time to admit that this hasn't happened. America is not becoming isolationist. In fact, globalisation is not under any serious threat at all, from either side of the Atlantic.

And when Obama wins the nomination, there's good reason to hope the trade issue will fade to a mere whisper:

John McCain, the Republican candidate, is a firm advocate of free trade, so Obama might choose to sound protectionist in order to emphasise the difference between them. But that is unlikely; since McCain is a clear, lifelong free trader, Obama needs to sound only a little critical on trade to differentiate himself.

That sounds about right to me. (There are those, of course, who question just how free-tradealicious McCain really is, but he's sounding pretty good these days.)

For the pessimistic take, go here.

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  1. Politicians that know nothing of economics but might actually listen to economists? Unfathomable.

  2. Obama’s, and even Clinton’s, “anti-trade” speeches were always vastly at odds with the policy prescriptions that followed them.

    “The corporations are shipping your jobs overseas! Chinese manufacturers are ruining your city! It’s the People vs. the Powerful!

    So you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to instruct our trade representative to push for side deals involving minimal environmental and labor standards, while purusing additional trade deals aimed at lowering protectionist barriers.

    Boo-yah! Stay out of my way; I’m like an angry bull up in here!”

  3. Joe,

    You’re a madman. A madman I tell you!

  4. Joe,

    I can picture you with a Fanzi jacket on and a skank on each arm.

  5. My only goal is to die before the United States becomes China’s outsourcing bitch.

  6. Watch out, Naga! I’m out of control! In that Regis Philbin sort of way.

    (Is your name a Shogun reference?)

  7. McCain is “free trade” as long as free trade means using trade wars to starve peasants in wahtever country doesn’t want to enslave its people to IMF and the World Bank bonds in order to boost military industrial complex earnings.

    Yes this is such loving free trade. Only old fashioned idiots think free-trade would simply involve firing some beuracrats in the export- import department.

  8. joe! You dishonored Lord Toranaga! Commit seppuku at once!

  9. joe,

    I think Naga Sadow is a Sith dude, if I remember my man-months of playing Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic correctly.

  10. I’m confused — are we talking about “free trade” or are we talking about “corporate-controlled ‘free trade'” that jams dubious U.S. “intellectual property” laws down the throats of third world nations, ala NAFTA?

    I know that may seem an academic debate for some, but banning the use of cheaper, generic prescription drugs, for instance, as trade agreements like CAFTA and NAFTA do, has real world impacts. Forcing impoverished people to purchase U.S. drug company’s overpriced chemicals when cheaper, generic drugs are available is not my idea of free trade.

    I just wish the folks at Cato and Reason would get the difference (drink?).

  11. Since this is a discussion about the positions of politicians, I would assume we are talking about free trade as a metric on various possible trade regimes, determined on a continuum from no trade allowed to all trade allowed.

    People who vote for regimes with better scores on that continuum are pro-free trade. People who vote for regimes with lesser scores on that continuum are anti-free trade.

    For example, if a bill drops all tariffs to zero while some intellectual property bones are thrown in for entertainment or pharmaceutical corporate interests, the net gain in freedom of trade is very high. Would it be higher save for the exceptions? Of course it would. Is it better than not passing the bill? Of course it is.

  12. I suspect the Democratic House and Senate will be more “anti-free-trade” than a President Obama will be.

  13. If you are seeking the Democratic nomination, you blame free trade for all of your blue collar base’s woes. If you later govern like that, the economy goes in the shitter and you are a one term president.

    Like Bill Clinton did, Obama will insist on some inconsequential window dressing and proceed down the path of rationality.

  14. “If you are seeking the Democratic nomination, you blame free trade for all of your blue collar base’s woes.”

    Indeed.

    So far, Obama’s WV and OH advertising has been focused solely on 1) making the greedy gas companies pay penalties for their windfall profits, and 2) taking tax breaks away from companies that send their jobs overseas to China and giving them to companies that keep them in America where they belong.

  15. Anjin-san | May 20, 2008, 1:11pm | #

    joe! You dishonored Lord Toranaga! Commit seppuku at once!

    May I shave my head and become a nun?

  16. I don’t understand the premise of this post.

    “…most economists would have predicted a big upsurge in protectionism during the campaign. It is time to admit that this hasn’t happened. ”

    Uh, it hasn’t? Sure seems like them folks running for office talk a lot about it. Maybe they’re lying maybe they’ll back off after elected i don’t know, but it sure seems like being anti-free trade is increasingly popular.

  17. Hai! Lord Toranaga agrees, provided that you have congress with his pet monkey on demand.

  18. Hrmph.

    I used to look forward to Monkey Tuesdays.

  19. It’s helpful to remember that “free trade” refers to individuals, not governments. When politics enters the equation the “free” part of free trade exits. The problem is that most Americans cannot comprehend the concept of trade without a referee. They’ve bought into the false notion of trade being a game with arbitrarily applied rules and penalties. They want “a level playing field.” They think Mexicans are taking “their” jobs. They’re convinced that gasoline prices are “too high.” In short, they’re economic illiterates, and they’ll be electing our next president. Huzzah!

  20. joe,

    It’s either hump or death. Hump or death. You have ten seconds to decide. Hump-death, hump-death, hump-death–your time is running out!!!

  21. Uh…your shoelace is untied, sama!

  22. Why won’t you love Lord Toranaga’s monkey, joe?

  23. What’s love got to do, got to do with it?

    What’s love, but a second-hand emotion?

    What’s love got to do, got to do with it?

    Who needs a heart, when a fictional samurai orders you to shtupp his monkey?

  24. Fictional? You have offended Lord Toranaga! Seppuku is too good for you! And you are not worthy of my monkey!

  25. joe, just shock the monkey, and all will be well.

  26. What Katherine Mangu-Ward doesn’t know is discussed here.

    Tip for Reason contributors: to avoid embarrassment, search at my site before posting anything on these general issues.

  27. There are those, of course, who question just how free-tradealicious McCain really is, but he’s sounding pretty good these days.

    Any time a Republican discusses free trade, it’s like a group of trained chimps farting the 1812 Overture. Even if they get all the notes right, it’s not the same song, and it smells bad.

  28. So, we’re supposed to hope Obama is lying about being for less free trade?

    The best case scenario is a politician lying to us?

  29. The problems with globalism are manifold. First, it will contribute to the utter destruction of the environment, as this centralized government will like America before it make token concessions every year without addressing the real problem. Second, it will strengthen corporations across continents and in every voting market possible, causing them to be more powerful than ever before. Third, it will standardize cultures, languages, medias and heritage across the globe, normalizing humanity into a conformity to an average.

  30. America is not becoming isolationist.

    Oh, I dunno. I’m hearing all kinds of isolationist noises on foreign policy.

    Unless, of course, there is no conceivable national interest, then these neo-isolationists start talking crazy shit, like invading Burma.

    In fact, globalisation is not under any serious threat at all, from either side of the Atlantic.

    Once again, I dunno. The only real action taken on foreign trade this year was shitcanning an incremental step in that direction (the Colombia agreement).

  31. Globalism depends on abundant cheap energy and potable water – which are both finite resources. Globalism is about to enter the mother of all bear markets. The sick US dollar is the first sign of death – spiraling commodity prices is the next.

  32. So, we’re supposed to hope Obama is lying about being for less free trade?

    He’s never said any such thing.

    It would be wiser to go to the horse’s mouth, than simply swallow every characterization a politicians’ enemies provide about his politics.

  33. Globalism depends on abundant cheap energy and potable water – which are both finite resources. Globalism is about to enter the mother of all bear markets. The sick US dollar is the first sign of death – spiraling commodity prices is the next.

    Why does this sound like I’ve heard it all before?

    Oh that’s right, leftist ecological doomcrying never goes out of style, does it? You did forget the part about running out of food though. What would a G&D* prediction be without that?

    Deja vu all over again.

    *Gloom and Doom.

  34. Oh that’s right, leftist ecological doomcrying never goes out of style, does it?

    You mean, as opposed to libertarian panic about the impending collapse of the dollar? We’re going to be pushing wheelbarrows full of fiat currency to buy a loaf of bread, I tell you! Stock up on rifles and canned goods, and watch out for FEMA!

  35. You mean, as opposed to libertarian panic about the impending collapse of the dollar? We’re going to be pushing wheelbarrows full of fiat currency to buy a loaf of bread, I tell you! Stock up on rifles and canned goods, and watch out for FEMA!

    Something I have warned others about, I dunno, ZERO times. Doomcriers are all a little bit histrionic. See threads on gay marriage and reasonable abortion restrictions for further edification.

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