Sunday, November 09, 2008

When free traders talk like this...

You know ag exports are in for a rough time.  Larry Summers, a possible choice for Treasury Secretary, was a big fan of DE-regulation and lauded the economic activity of the wild, untamed derivatives markets, for one example.  But he's had a epiphany recently.
Second, an increased focus of international economic diplomacy should be to prevent harmful regulatory competition. In many areas it is appropriate that regulations differ between countries in response to local circumstances. But there is a reason why progressives in the early part of the 20th century sought to have the federal government take over many kinds of regulatory responsibility. They were concerned that competition for business across states, and their ease of being able to move, would lead to a race to the bottom. Financial regulation is only one example of where the mantra of needing to be “internationally competitive” has been invoked too often as a reason to cut back on regulation. There has not been enough serious consideration of the alternative – global co-operation to raise standards. While labour standards arguments have at times been invoked as a cover for protectionism, and this must be avoided, it is entirely appropriate that US policymakers seek to ensure that greater global integration does not become an excuse for eroding labour rights.  To benefit the interests of US citizens and command broad political support, US international economic policy will need to focus on the issues in which the largest number of Americans have the greatest stake. A decoupling of the interests of businesses and nations may be inevitable; a decoupling of international economic policies and the interests of American workers is not. [More]

Just the hint of considering the impact on individual workers is startling, coming from someone whose major goal was simply to increase wealth (and let the winners and losers divide it up as best they can). That free traders are seeking, finally to understand how job losses are evaluated on the micro-economic (me and you) scale instead of seeing "workers" as interchangeable inputs, reveals how weak their traditional arguments now seem to many.

Even though they were mathematically correct, it would seem the unequal distribution of benefits and costs was more important than they had calculated.  If Summers is any example, they are listening now.

It is this backlash that has propelled political windshear here and abroad, and the new suspicion of trade impact will only make ag trade improvement more daunting.

The problem this portends for farms like mine (cash grain) is the very real possibility of an abrupt demand fall, as economies stagnate and trade slows. How to cope with the impact on our farm occupies much of my thinking time.  And they aren't fun thoughts.

1 comment:

concerned citizen said...

Over the past year I've been hearing variations on this recurring theme from agencies that govern our lives. I don't know if people realize how this will effect them in the long run. The new technology is designed to micro analyze us throughout our day.