Friday, April 25, 2008

Bruschetta and Blue-Collar

A funny old column from Dave on Tuesday. Why did the Times even print this? Our man doesn't pretend to be an economist, and it's not an area he's shown much interest in. Nor does he pretend to be in America. He's not even watching the US election build-up over there; we all know he's over here and getting his info from a few blogs and the limited column inches even former broadsheets devote to the democratic process in faraway lands.

More to the point, who did he even write Free trade: Clinton/Obama's mistakes; The Democrats are shamelessly pandering to the fear in Pennsylvania heartlands about jobs for? Who does he intend to persuade? Why?

Could there be a clue in his opening question?

Are CNN anchors the grandest beings on the planet?

Why CNN? (This question asking gets a bit wearing, but I'm nearly done now.) Could it be that CNN "rates as America's number one cable news source" - in other words beating News Corporation's cable news? (That's it with the questions, as you were.)

It would help me a lot if certain journalists were a bit more like bloggers and linked to the stories they cite. Or at least named names, or gave dates, or something.

According to Senator Clinton's camp, although her husband was involved in getting Nafta passed, she was always iffy about it. No, say the Obamians, we have her on tape saying Nafta was good, as recently as 2004. Well, retort the Clintonites, we have Obama in the same year opining that US exports have “benefited enormously” from Nafta. “The fact is,” Mr Obama complained, “she was saying great things about Nafta until she started running for president.” And so was he, she replies.

The problem here is that all the statements above can be true. Wikipedia on NAFTA. From that, here's a page on the Center for Strategic and International Studies on a "thorough evaluation of NAFTA in all of its ramifications [by] 16 specialists" NAFTA's Impact on North America.

This volume covers many of the political, social, and nontrade changes that have accompanied NAFTA over the past 10 years, and the authors project what to expect in the next 10 in such areas as labor, education, business, and security. NAFTA has not cured all internal ills in the three countries concerned nor solved all the problems among them. Trade has flourished, but has not abolished trade disputes. Intergovernmental problems still arise between the NAFTA countries--as they do between all countries, no matter how friendly--but they are now discussed and, for the most part, have become more amenable to satisfactory compromise. This is true for such thorny issues as environmental protection and drug trafficking, and soon perhaps for migration. The authors assess NAFTA for what it is--a trade and investment agreement that has succeeded in its central purpose and in the process has brought three countries together in a variety of noneconomic areas.

In short, the authors conclude that NAFTA is basically good but it's still politically expedient to be 'iffy' about it over certain "thorny issues".

As so often, I've nearly forgotten my original purpose. This is David Aaronovitch back on the Observer.

In the summer of 2003 Lanchester revealed his own run-ins with the bruschetta orthodoxies.

And this was the same man on Tuesday.

This is what John McCain, who is not playing to the blue-collar audience quite yet, is free to argue.

Who is left for Dave to trust?

Update Sat 12:10 pm If I'm right about the CNN sneer above, we can expect Dave to weigh in against the Beeb next. At least he knows about broadcasting. God, I love the BBC.


Blogger ejh said...

An old socialist writes: would it be out of order to suggest that (according to the gospel of Dave) it is unacceptable to listen to blue-collar fears about economic insecurity, but quite important to listen to their fears about the insecurities involved in crime and race and immigration?

4/25/2008 03:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who is left that Dave can trust? Perhaps Mandy?

4/25/2008 03:46:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

Not a very coherent article, though its nice to know that Dave has no "difficulty with the argument that free trade is better than protectionism", though there are perhaps more important questions about free trade than the theory's comprehensibility to opinion journalists.

NAFTA - good for those it were good for, bad for those it were bad for. Oddly, those who have done well out of it tend to think its a good policy, while those who have been harmed by it, don't. Astonishing. So far the benefits seem to have mostly gone to capital rather than labour, which wouldn't have surprised Marx (or indeed the drafters of the treaties).

For his next column, perhaps Dave can explain why those who have lost their jobs due to NAFTA should support it. Maybe he can go to places like Pensylvania and lecture them on the subject - he could even tell them that its selfish for them to be worrying about their houses, or even their next meal, as its going to benefit a lot of poor people they have never met. For the encore he can tell them about the sacrifices he has made.

Though it would be nice if he understood that just because a country as a whole benefits economically from something, it doesn't mean that the majority of the population does. It rather depends on who captures the surplus. Or as his elementary maths class would have had it - the difference between the median and the mean.

4/25/2008 05:31:00 PM  

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