Tuesday, February 27, 2007
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James Galbraith confuses me
The facts are clear: NAFTA is a done deal, and China is a success story we have to live with. Progressives need a trade narrative that moves past these two issues. Broadly, this means accepting manufactured imports and dropping the idea that we can control--or that it matters much--who assembles television sets or stitches shirts. Standards to guard against flagrant abuses such as child and prison labor are fine, but it's an illusion to think they will, or should, dent the flow of goods from China. A progressive trade agenda should focus, instead, on building stronger world markets for our exports, and in ways that do not trample on the needs and rights of poor people in poor countries. That should provide plenty of room for future fights with free-trade absolutists.Um... actually, no, Galbraith's formulation doesn't leave a lot of room for future fights -- not that there's anything wrong with that!! I wish all progressives shared the Galbraith position.
The problem is that there is plenty of room for division within Galbraith's forumlation of the progressive trade agenda: "building stronger world markets for our exports, and in ways that do not trample on the needs and rights of poor people in poor countries." The former requires enforcing intellectual property rights, because they are at the root of much of what the United States currently exports. Progressives, however, would no doubt argue that the latter requires dropping IPR enforcement altogether.
Given the current standards of trade discourse, however, I should shut up and just encourage all progressives to read Galbraith.posted by Dan on 02.27.07 at 10:57 AM
I'm sorry...why would "progressives" argue that "not trampl[ing] on the needs and rights of poor people in poor countries" requires "requires dropping IPR enforcement altogether"?
This seems to be an assertion without either empirical evidence or theoretical underpinning.posted by: Arr-squared on 02.27.07 at 10:57 AM [permalink]
Even with perfect enforcement of IP rights, the US can not continue for long unless we start expanding the range of products that we export. In case no one has noticed, other countries have movie industries, best-selling authors, and software companies too. Even Hollywood is making movies in other countries in some cases just to save money. I can't help but point out that that's how GM's long slide began.
We need to find a way to make US workers competitive, or else a weak dollar will do it for us. If it comes to that, our standard of living will go in the toilet.posted by: OpenBorderMan on 02.27.07 at 10:57 AM [permalink]
The losers from trade still get to vote, and that is why you have Senator Sherrod Brown. Look for more of the same in 2008.
After losing their jobs, healthcare, pensions and homes why would the losers gather in front of Wal-Mart and sing the glories of free trade?
If we don't share the pie the battle is going to get ugly.posted by: save_the_rustbelt on 02.27.07 at 10:57 AM [permalink]
""Progressives need a trade narrative""
Leftists seeking a narrative. How deep! How typical!
"and in ways that do not trample on the needs and rights of poor people in poor countries."
And what about the people in the ol' USA?posted by: Karl on 02.27.07 at 10:57 AM [permalink]
Sorry, I forgot the best sentence:
""Broadly, this means accepting manufactured imports and dropping the idea that we can control--or that it matters much--who assembles television sets or stitches shirts.""
There it is, "progressive" disengagement with the welfare of the American worker, it doesn't "matter much" to them.
Of course once can control trade, and this leftist renders the question moot by saying it doesn't "matter much. The elite white urban/academe alienation from the American people I figure began in discourse when it was realized the masses wouldn't obey their dictats, that's when identification with foreign peoples began. First precedent - third-worldism.
While I do not necessarily disagree with forcing other countries to adopt our ideas about what IP should be protected, regardless of their own views or cultural traditions concerning the sharing of information, I do think that as a logical matter, one of Drezner's claims is a blatant misinterpretation of Galbraith.
Umm... no. There is nothing inconsistent about not demanding that other countries adopt precisely our ideas about intellectual property rights (especially when the theory of comparative advantage is not exactly as applicable with IP and IP really represents the manufacture of artificial scarcity in order to incentivize initial production) and promoting our exports of other products. Thus, Drezner's claim that foisting our particular conceptions of ideal intellectual property rights on other countries is required in order to promote exports is just logically fallacious.
Viscus, Drezner's claim doesn't follow logically from Galbraith's, but it is plausible.
We depend on IP law to extract money from the rest of the world, because that's what we've found to do. It makes no sense that we could pay a middle-class wage and enforce environmental laws, and still compete head-to-head with countries that pay poverty wages and that handle their industrial poisons the cheapest way.
We might possibly win with advanced automation. Perhaps with some up-front costs we could outcompete low wages with robots that don't have to be paid at all. That wouldn't help our labor force, though.
The US middle-class standard of living is not supportable. There was a time we were using half the world's resources. We're still using around a quarter. How can we possibly be productive enough to pay for that? We can't. Certainly not on top of paying for our military.
We have a whole lot of americans who want to stay middle class. They can't. It's their own problem, the rich aren't trying to "help" them. It's like when the automobiles came in and replaced the horses. People got nostalgic for the horses who converted large masses of hay into roadapples, but it didn't slow them down about sending their horses to the glue factories. Rich people will do just fine in the new world order, they'll just have to get used to living in a third-world pyramidal income sructure.
If we could make the rest of the world keep paying us for IP rights, or for military protection, or something, then our middle class might do OK. Or if we got cheap alternate energy. Or something completely unexpected. But barring some way to extract wealth from other countries to match our consumption, or some new technology that isn't yet on the horizon, it's hopeless. Drezner makes sense to extend Galbraith's argument in that direction.
The spelling of Galbraith's name seems to have confused you in this post's title.posted by: Tom T. on 02.27.07 at 10:57 AM [permalink]
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