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March 8, 2002

Issues of steel, blogs of Kleenex I’ve already mentioned this twice in the comments section attached to yesterday’s post about steel tariffs (“Free Markets, When They’re Convenient”), but longtime blogger Nick Denton is posting a series of remarkably impassioned and punchy comments about the issue. Start here and scroll upward.

Denton swings wide a couple of times; the question of whether other bloggers are undercovering this issue, and why this might be, is less interesting than the issue itself. (Although Denton does land a couple of solid shots on Instapundit’s bow.) But that’s all secondary to his cri de coeur:

The steel tariffs, and continuing barriers to imports of textiles and agricultural products, are a tax on the developing world. Steel is one of the few sectors in which countries such as Russia and Ukraine can compete. Pakistan, Egypt and others depend on textiles to earn hard currency. Agricultural products are the only hope for much of Africa.

So what do the US and Europe do? They tax precisely the industries that underpin development. Free trade, to western policymakers, is free trade in those industries that the West already dominates.

Fine to question the efficacy of foreign aid; fine to mock the anti-globalizers; fine to write off African countries as basket cases; fine to blame Middle Eastern governments for corruption. But realize one thing: compromise on free trade, and there is nothing left of US foreign policy but force. No moral high ground, no hope for the developing world, no security but the illusory confidence in military superiority.

How the hell can the US administration lecture the developing world on the virtues of free markets if it is unwilling to take on its own steel and textile lobbies? If aid is ineffective, and trade doesn’t play well in West Virginia, what is left of US policy towards the developing world? Sell them Disney and remaindered drugs, and crush the towel-heads every decade when they rise up.

There’s also this. [08:55 AM]
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