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March 7, 2002

Free markets, when they’re convenient Matt Welch is urging his readers to look at Virginia Postrel’s recent round of posts on the Bush administration’s terrible steel-tariff decision. Well, you should read Postrel too, but Welch’s own summary is worth writing on the sky:
Dubya has clearly cottoned on to the notion that history/God has foisted upon him the humbling duty of fighting terrorism. Fair enough, though the religious stuff is starting to creep me out. Here92s my question: besides nuclear war & all, what are the most devastating potential after-effects of Sept. 11? I would say the erection of trade barriers ranks among them. In a time of recession, war, tightening borders and a thriving anti-globalization movement, it is not hard to imagine anti-trade sentiment spilling out from the Buchanan/Nader margins into the mainstream. Bush has the raw power and alleged moral certitude to avoid this kind of embarrassing, short-sighted bullshit, but he chose not to. Slashing trade barriers in the G-8 countries is the single fastest way for poor & desperate countries to become rich & hopeful, period. Why do they hate us? Maybe it92s because, from time to time, we92re full of shit, and abuse our dominant global position for short-term political gain.
[02:09 PM]
Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Free markets, when they're convenient:

TC ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2002, 03:28 PM:

And we're supposed to combat dumping how?aaThe prevailing sentiment among dissenters on the tariff plan is that the U.S. is fearfully avoiding the industry shake up that is necessary to become competive again in the open market. My sense of history may be a bit askew, but what happened to the American steel industry in the early 1980s? I remeber consolidation, closing of plants, bankruptcies, mergers, buy outs, and the loss of 10s of thousands of jobs.aaI don't defend the Bush plan, it should have either not been enacted or enacted in such a way that it would have actually done some good, instead of the window dressing of the current plan.aaSlashing trade barriers is also a way to create millions of unemployed in industrial nations who can't compete with poor & desperate nations who would and do pay their employees a few miserable dollars a day.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2002, 05:43 PM:

Nick Denton has some excellent comments on this, too, here.

Gary Farber ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2002, 06:24 PM:

"I remeber consolidation, closing of plants, bankruptcies, mergers, buy outs, and the loss of 10s of thousands of jobs." aaThis is a bad thing? Why? How many American jobs were lost? How many jobs elsewhere were gained? Are Americans more worthy of jobs than other humans? aa"Slashing trade barriers is also a way to create millions of unemployed in industrial nations who can't compete with poor & desperate nations who would and do pay their employees a few miserable dollars a day."aaYes, better they have no dollars per day?aaCall me a wacky liberal, but I have the weird idea that it's a good thing to give people jobs, and let them buy food amd clothing and shelter. In other countries, even. I dunno, possibly we shojld just let those people in "poor and desperate nations" die. What a jolly idea that would be. After all, people in industrial nations deserve to make ten times what those others do due to position of birth, eh? By all means, heredity entitles us to wave to people as they starve. We should congratulate them if they acheive solidarity with a North American union, and, well, if they drop dead, it's in a good cause. aaOr maybe not.

Perry de Havilland ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2002, 09:06 PM:

For Teddy Carrolla1. Direct effects: More expensive US steel means more expensive US products that use steel. More expensive products means less people buy them. That means less people get employed by the people who both make and sell the products that use the more expensive steel.aa2. Indirect effects: All the nations which export steel to the USA will raise tariff barriers to US goods in retaliation. That means more expensive US goods overseas so less people buy them. Therefore less people are employed to make them in the USA.aaAnd all because an inefficient industry which employs 150,000 people out of a US pop of 260 million. And by the way, one of those 'poor and desperate nations' that exports steel to the USA is Germany, who have the sort of steel industry the US should have.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2002, 09:40 PM:

Wow, Nick Denton is working up a really fine head of steam on this issue:aa

a[M]y friend Ken Layne doesn't see why he should write about steel tariffs. If this was just about steel tariffs, I would agree. Steel: boring. Steel tariffs: yawn. But, Ken, it isn't about steel. This is about winning, not just the War, but this cold and temporary peace. You've moved on? No one cares about the developing world? When a corrupt reactor boss in bankrupt Ukraine sells plutonium to resentful Arabs harbored by impoverished Pakistanis, then they'll care.a