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The truth of free trade is that it’s fiction

Dear Jim,

We didn’t agree to Kyoto precisely because of what you point out. But I will put it a different way. American corporations and investors, the very people who tell us all about the good of the free market and free enterprise, do business with a country that does not trade it’s money on the open market, has a planned economy, and pollutes all over their own people and the world.

It’s not free trade–that’s a fiction for the American worker. Americans also don’t mind because we get cheap stuff.

The U.S. did not sign onto Kyoto because American corporations and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce–the very people who seek to undermine labor in general, and organized labor in specific–successfully lobbied against it. They argued, quite truthfully, that Kyoto would have made products for American companies more expensive, hurting the American consumer.

What they didn’t say except in their board rooms and at strategy meetings was that Kyoto, and more recently Copenhagen, would have increased the costs of doing business in China,thus increasing costs, mkaing labor at home more attractive, and forcing people to think more closely about the way they consume things.

Because Chinese stuff is so cheap

1. due to money-exchange and labor controls
2. lax environmental standards
3. favorable legislation that encourages moving production
4. and, coupled with American disdain for far-away lands where people allegedly mistreat one another

we have products we don’t think about consuming because they are so cheap.

In the meantime, we all get screwed.

I’m not saying we should not trade with China. We should. But it should be done the way we traded with Germany and Japan, and ultimately, South Korea and Taiwan after the war–on more or less equal footing.

On the other hand, I’m one of those radical guys who thinks that if we are not taking our unions across borders, encouraging and helping people in developing countries to create a counterbalance to capital interests that can now move money and information freely across borders, then we might be getting good wages in the short term. But we are screwing ourselves in the neo-capitalist economy.

Yours,
Patrick

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