Tuesday, May 10, 2005

USA Inc.

Jomama is the latest libertarian blogger to remind folks of the Orwellian doublespeak surrounding the issue of free trade, and provides a link to a good article about it from The New American. Some choice excerpts from Thomas Eddlem's piece:
If the trade agreements do not promote free trade, why would individuals who claim the banner of free trade lobby to pass the agreements? The business answer to that question comes down to money and influence. The most fervent lobbyists favoring phony "free trade" treaties in recent years have not been purist armchair libertarian philosophers, but huge Wall Street-linked behemoths — such as Boeing, Archer Daniels Midland, and Monsanto — and establishment organizations such as the Business Roundtable, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Trilateral Commission.

Consider the case of one "free trade" advocate, the Boeing Company. Boeing heavily lobbies Congress for free trade arrangements, but it does not do so in the interest of true free trade. It lobbies to increase its own sales abroad — often at the expense of both free trade principles and the interests of the U.S. taxpayer.

While the corporate executives at companies like Boeing hype the monetary benefits of free trade to get so-called free trade agreements passed — so that they can dig inside the federal trough of government subsidies — other groups, masked as business organizations, push "free trade" under the guise of acting in the public interest. One group that supposedly acts in the "public interest" is the Business Roundtable (BRT). The BRT is an exclusive organization of 150 CEOs from some of the largest corporations in the United States, and its motivations are far from establishing pure laissez-faire.

The BRT has utilized free trade rhetoric to promote numerous pieces of phony free trade legislation under the banner of lifting government regulations and restrictions on trade. On behalf of the Business Roundtable, TRW Inc. Chairman Joseph Gorman gave congressional testimony in support of Fast Track legislation. Passage of this legislation gave strength to "free trade" initiatives because it gave the president the ability to negotiate trade agreements (all but bypassing the "advice" of Congress, as is constitutionally mandated) and provided that the agreements submitted by the president had to be voted up or down without any amendments. On March 17, 1997, Gorman stated: "There are always advocates of imposing trade barriers to 'protect' jobs. Unless we are willing to reconsider the failed theories of isolated and planned economies, we know that jobs are created by the reality of the marketplace.... Protectionism is not the way to help our workers, our citizens, nor our economy."

The BRT's rhetoric about free trade is just that — rhetoric. When it suits the bottom line of the international financiers who make up its membership, the BRT issues free trade rhetoric. But when government intervention suits their bottom line, the BRT lobbies heavily for government intervention.

Many of our politicians believe laissez-faire doesn't work, even though they disingenuously and repeatedly cite the imperative of free trade. Unwilling to allow the market to correct itself, they refuse to permit any of our trading partners to suffer an economic setback, and they use U.S. taxpayer dollars to bail them out — draining the American economy.

More criticism of the proposed CAFTA comes from Kevin Carson, who wrote the following comment in response to this Democratic Freedom post about CAFTA:
I disagree that it's a step in the right direction. So-called "free trade agreements" have about as much to do with actual free trade, as the Ministry of Truth had to do with actual truth. They actually increase statism in some ways, giving more government-enforced privilege to neo-mercantilist corporations. For example, CAFTA's pro-"privatization" (translated from Neoliberal to English, that's "looting") provisions to hand over taxpayer-built assets to big business at giveaway prices; or so-called "intellectual property" provisions that enforce the TNCs' monopoly on modern production technology.

Another point--genuine free trade would not mean "increased trade," but reduced trade. You engage in more of an activity when the costs of doing so are artificially cheap. Present levels of international trade are the result of government subsidies to the costs and risks of international trade; if all those costs were internalized by those doing business (what used to be called a free market), foreign trade would be a lot less profitable. We'd all (West and TW both) be buying stuff made a lot closer to home. And that's not such a bad thing. More trade doesn't mean more prosperity, if it's carried out on the basis of unequal exchange and exploitation. If you lose by a transaction, the more transactions you engage in the more you lose.

What we need is the real free trade of Cobden, not Hamiltonianism falsely called "free trade."

And I'll guarantee you one thing--any Third World leader who attempts a Georgist land reform as part of a genuine free trade policy will be classed as a "terrorist" so fast his eyeballs swim, and targeted for overthrow just like Chavez. CAFTA is "free trade" as defined by the pigs who put Suharto and Pinochet in power.

Not too long ago, I came across a typical leftie who had no doubt that what Corporate America had mind was indeed free trade. In his mind, their trading agenda is free because it gives transnational corporations free reign to pursue profit at the expense of people both here and abroad. Even if you cut the guy some slack for noticing how such trade agreements do favor the interests of politically connected corporations by giving them plenty of privledges, closer examination of such agreements show that they fail miserably in terms of promoting completely voluntary trade that is free from government intervention of any kind. That is the kind of trade that can be referred to as the real deal when it comes to free trade, not the phony baloney mercantilist garbage that is referred to as "free trade" in true Orwellian fashion. Being an advocate of genuine free trade involves principled adherence to getting government out of the marketplace and allowing for voluntary transactions to flourish without hindrance, and there isn't a single politician or CEO on Earth that is interested in following principles.

I'm glad that jomama used the term "USA Inc." in reference to our government, since it reminded me of an interesting essay I read about a year ago. It had a web page of it's own at the time, but it appears to be down now, so I'll instead provide a link to where it appears on the Bureaucrash website. It's called Can You Name The Largest Corporation, and it's not about Wally-Mart or Killer Coke.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember that piece! It is a classic, and well worth reminding folks of ... Thanks, freeman. :-)

7:35 AM  

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