Saturday, February 14, 2009

Jack Layton, I want a Divorce.

I never thought this day would come, but I am divorcing myself from the NDP for as long as they hold protectionist policies.  What I'm speaking of is Jack Layton's demands that the government put in place protections to assist/save our business.  Yes, it sounds good and sounds like something that would win support but it's absolutely the worst thing that could be done to the economy at this moment.  Perhaps (as former Liberal Minister of Finance, Paul Martin recently said) economic stimulus will not end the recession, but at least it will keep some aspects of the economy turning until things correct themselves.  That kind of intervention, I'm okay with (in theory, not necessarily with all of the expenditures themselves) but putting up tariffs to help our local business would backfire.

If we were to do so, there is every chance that the United States would respond in kind and they can afford to starve us out and there is little we could do about it.  Much of our history as country has been marked by trade relations with the United States.  As a country, we should know full well what U.S trade restrictions feel like to our economy.  Picture the softwood lumber issue magnified by a million and felt in every town and city in the country.  

I know that our overall trade with the U.S is dropping, yes indeed it has gone down from somewhere like 90% (nearly) to less than 80% (77% I recently read), but even if the trade with the U.S was only 10% of our total exports, it would cripple us if we were to face tariffs.  We simply cannot take any action that might result in a U.S retaliation.

Beyond that, open trade is good for business.  For those of you confused, the reasons that I'm against NAFTA, deep integration (SPP), the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank is not because I'm against open trade, but exactly because of it.  

NAFTA and the ongoing Security and Prosperity Partnership talks are instruments of U.S domination on the continent.  The WTO, IMF and WB are instruments of G 7 control over the rest of the planet.  These deals, frameworks and agencies are not instruments of free/fair trade and open borders, they are just as imperialistic as the Roman armies were.  

So, I believe that if markets were actually really open, the poor wouldn't be so poor.  Developing countries would be developing faster and non- developing countries (LDC level 4 and especially 5) would have started developing a long time ago.  How often do you see "made in Somalia" on a package?  Yes, we rape their land, take their produce for cheap (often through farms owned by a company based in a G-8 country (or China) and force their people into semi slavery.  Yes, their country does get a little money for the rape of their land, but not nearly as much as if they were allowed to sell manufactured products.  

In closing, I believe in fair trade.  It's good to have fewer trade barriers and protections.  There is a role for some protectionism for poor countries, certainly so.  But for Canada to impose a "Buy Canadian" Jack Layton scheme would, as Gordon Brown recently stated: would be "the road to ruin".  

I can't support a party with such a policy.  I might still vote for them, but I'm dropping the T-shirt (kidding, never had one).  


Anonymous said...

Nothing in there I disagree with. You are thinking clearly. That why I hold no party membership, although I do have my favorites.

Craig Williamson said...

I have to point out that I totally misrepresented Paul Martin's statements. He said that stimulus is not enough and we need to go shopping for opportunities abroad. My thought is that the stimulus package will at least help for a while, though I may be wrong on that. I'm certainly not an economist.

R. Who are your favourites? I can't imagine he or she being from a major party.

Anonymous said...

I like the broad principles of both the American and Canadian Libertarian parties. Ron Paul is a personality I like although I believe he is off base on some thinking in the international sphere. I also think transnational corporations, as well as government,are a danger to liberty.

As you know Libertarians are like snowflakes and the spectrum is expansive. Basically, any power relationship, except that of parents (and I am speaking of moral parents) to their children is problematic in my mind. It seems clear that for a truly free society to emerge, that society must be a moral and ethical one. I am afraid that horse has left the barn, but I still don't want interference from bigheads from either side of the political divide telling me how to live my life or taxing away my income for causes I don't agree with.

Craig Williamson said...

What sort of morals and ethics? How could they be determined? I've been conditioned, as we all have been to accept societal norms and standards as being both moral and ethical but in a Libertarian perspective, wouldn't the reduction in the state remove some of the reinforcement of those broadly held societal norms and values? Would not some other power structure emerge that would replace that which the state provides? I have no idea which one it would be in the Canadian context, but couldn't radical religion possibly come to fill that void? In my mind, the state has become so powerful in part because of the whithering of religion. People need some sort of structure to tell them how to live and to spank them back into place when they slip out.

Our goals may not be that much different, but our approach certainly is. I tend to think that the state is necessary at this stage. The power of the state is certainly being undermined by international structures, but the nation state is not going to vanish any time soon. It's going to take a dramatic shift in paradigm for society to think of power outside of the nation-state, but it appears to be happening gradually. To reduce the power of the state in one country might not work for some reasons. All sorts of levels of engagement happen outside of the military scope and one nation that has a limited government would not be able to engage those with larger governments in the same way. But, perhaps the whithering of the state in favour of more global actors and laws will result in a world with fewer inteferences.

All of this taxation and big government that has become the norm happened because of a great deal of little measures. Those who say we are in a nanny state have to realize that no one ever sat down and said, "hey, let's overregulate" It just happened. someone dies from falling out of a car window, and boom, the people demand auto safety measures. Smog gives people illness, so let's pass tight new emissions standards. I don't see how this can ever be gotten past unless people simply change so completely that they no longer expect the state to do anything.

Perhaps that's what Harper is secretly doing.

Anonymous said...

ha ha...I knew typing those words, morals and ethics, it was a red flag. Let's just say common sense instead, in a society that is not sick to use the word of your old prof. I agree with you completely about the state replacing religion(look at Quebec). I think the only way a Libertarian society could really work if it was a moral one, one with Christian values if I dare say it. I don't think members of that society would have to be Christian but there would be a need to be an evolved code of charity, honesty and love that was expressed as culture. This sounds idealistic but so what. The goal should be breaking down power (state, church, corporations)when it is manifested and empowerment of individuals to live free lives.

The nanny state is like the chicken and egg question. We live in a world of exploitation, so we get more and more regulation. The result is less freedom and still more dangerous products such as tainted goods from China or peanut products from the USA.

Craig Williamson said...

But is it not human nature to be greedy? How much time would need to pass for humans to develop such a society, and can it not come from within the state? I know we've seen a state attempting perfection, Soviet Union comes to mind, and I know that we've seen it end in failure, but I have trouble seeing how these values are going to enter the culture as long as advanced capitalism is around. Perhaps the economic situation now will begin to change something. The last time this happened, something big did change. State holdings and interventions grew at that time, and they are growing now. But, exactly what will happen out of all this is hard to predict. It could be the beginning of a new way of viewing wealth creation.

Anonymous said...

I haven't had my coffee yet. But,.. more people were murdered in the USSR under Stalin than anywhere else in the 20th century. If that is not an indication of the outcome of an all powerful state than nothing is. Of course we could look at the insanity of the cultural revolution under Mao, or any other communist country if I went through the list.

My impression of the communist experiments of the 20th century is that they destroyed the humanity of their citizens. These regimes often up-rooted entire communities, under-minded the primacy of the family to that of the state, and (no accident) did their best to destroy faith in God.

Sorry, I don't believe the solution is in the state, rather the individual.

I also believe truly free markets are the natural way for humans to conduct themselves. Yes, I do think the human animal has a tendency towards evil but that is why I believe faith, spirituality, community connection are important. The capitalism we see now couples quite well with totalitarian systems. It is not what I would consider an example of a free market. The constructs of international trade, as you addressed in your essay, illustrate that.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever read Micheal Learner?

Craig Williamson said...

Have not read Michael Learner, though heard of him a few times.

What I wonder about the Communist experiment is if it could have worked in a certain context. For example, the original concept that Marx and Engels developed was to be done in an advanced capitalist state, but to this day we have not seen an advanced capitalist state go commie. Though, many of the principles of Marxism have come to pass in liberal democracies. Perhaps they'd say we already well into the development of the socialist state. From that point, the state is supposed to whither away, but as Max Weber correctly predicted, it instead became a polar night of icy darkness. I think the answer come from the individual, and as Michael Ignatieff once stated, anything but the individual is a construct. But, I think that the state has allowed for some problems to be solved. Think of how easily we change leadership. Throughout human history change in leadership has almost always equaled violence, but we do it regularly without violence.