I fear this article, and ones not unlike it, will thrill parts of the left, but you only have to read the first paragraph to know that this is going to end in a circular firing squad with the writer as victim.
Yes, the past decades have witnessed an explosion of trade and trade-related agreements, doing and codifying, just as Karl Marx predicted, the invasion of capitalist and market relations into every nook and cranny of life, throughout the world, with no regard or veneration whatsoever for any tradition that stands in the way of commerce. Does the writer prefer a return to the era of direct and indirect military intervention, and puppet dictator--torturers, and direct colonial rule, to the "trade agreement" regimes? I doubt it. He ends up finding some real cheer in the unmediated evil of globalization, however. Following a shadow of the old Trotskyist "the worse the better" ultra leftist tendency, he sees virtue in globalization's destruction of something he scorns even more than globalization: the "labor aristocracy" -- in a word, the "patriotic" leadership of the trade unions in trade disputes and imperial wars, but also, derivatively, the "middle class" aspirations of the American working class. That's how it becomes a circular firing squad.
Countries -- and lenders -- who made "bad loans" need to negotiate those debts. How will loans ever be repaid without regulated trade? How else will the infrastructure and labor force investments/preparation necessary to obtain the gains from trade be accomplished, without the loans? They can't do without the loans because they have no native capital to sustain ANY independence. Further, the loans, especially if they are privately sourced, which most are, cannot be simply "erased". Public institutions can forgive debt as long as their currency is strong. Private, or predominantly private, institutions have much less ability. Note the inability of the EU finance ministers to negotiate down the Greek debt, without risking failure of the lending institutions. Ultimately, the only global solution is for rich countries to pay the poor countries to reinvest and become richer themselves. The same is true for the diverse effects from globalization INSIDE a country. The winners in trade pay the losers to retrain and become winners in the rising rather than receding economic sectors. Unemployment insurance for West Virginians is paid by economic powerhouse California. We are a long way from the global regime necessary to, in effect, introduce elements of a global social democracy. But the trade agreements are an emergent process that must end in the strategic embrace -- of all who do the work of the world.
Globalization -- indeed all trade and all development under capitalism -- creates constant change and turbulence in markets, and winners and losers, at all levels. Yet trade is also a vast source of potential growth. Without growth, without rapid wealth creation, the ravages of inequality cannot be overcome, or even survived. Absent growth civil and international wars are all but certain. And the outcomes of wars are never certain. The authors below suggest that had "periphery" nations "been allowed" to "go their own way" at the dawn of the imperial age, there could be some escape from.....what?.....global capitalism?
I believe the answer, as economists like Jared Bernstein, Dani Rodrik, and others have been writing, lies in a "strategic embrace" of globalization -- and in cultural and economic internationalism -- instead of the "Just Say No" stance of many left and labor organizations. Trumps victory and ascendancy is a classic example of the Fascist opening that protectionism on trade affords. A strategic embrace recognizes the fundamental forces and benefits of trade, but takes into account the powerful importance of flexible institutional and social support to sustain development especially in emerging economies. In a word, different economies NEED different degrees and kinds of socialism -- public investment and regulation and taxation -- even to position themselves to effectively participate in a global market economy and global trade.
Many "fair trade" proposals in progressive writing focus on putting labor, environmental, and other institutional "rules" into agreements to restrain the huge, and sometimes unexpected, impacts of a sharp shift in trade incentives and scale effects. The problem is there is little or no way -- certainly no equitable way --to adjudicate grievances under such rules. However, Congress and the President, and the Courts may not have to power to impose a cure for Colombian para-military murders of labor leaders But they DO have the power to insure that gains from trade are distributed equitably in THIS country. This can be accomplished in any number of ways including transaction taxation, capital gains taxation, expanded public investment, and the expansion, instead of restriction, of collective bargaining rights across all occupations -- a la Denmark.
Calling the agreements purely corporate is a misleading dodge. Every trade agreement is signed by a government, even if 90 % of all activity governed by it is conducted by businesses, both buyers and sellers, producers and consumers. As agreements spread, whether they are good or bad, whether they generate any real trade, or not, whether they create more harm than benefit, so does international law emerge. These agreements, get voted on, as opposed to other, less formal bargains. The trade deals may be dirty in many respects. But they are cleaner and more transparent than the cold-war "agreements". A new consensus on trade is clearly needed. the Current regimes are aggravating global inequality in dangerous ways. the rise of Fascist movements and their fake populist fronts is a sign that the gains from trade are NOT being shared equitably, nor are the side effects being addressed.
Globalization and the End of the Labor Aristocracy, Part 2
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