Free trade II: Propaganda
Posted on April 12, 2016
Here is Jonah Goldberg from a recent editorial:
“Free trade is good for most American workers and all American consumers, not just the “1 percent.” Indeed, it is largely thanks to trade that the average American worker is in the top 1 percent of earners in the world.”
So many propaganda tricks in a single sentence.
1. The premise “average American worker” includes venture capitalist who receive billions per year, which makes the average completely uninformative about actual worker experience. Also an average logically can’t be compared with individual earning percentiles.
If Goldberg had said “median American worker” the answer might be around the 90th percentile. Yes typical Americans are somewhat rich, but not that rich. And there are richer countries.
2. Fallacy of composition: free trade was indeed an excellent strategy for most Americans for two centuries. It doesn’t follow that making trade even more free now is good for most Americans. I believe it isn’t.
3. There are many distinguishing factors Goldberg never mentions in his entire column.
a. For two centuries trade rules were about commodities. Now they are about capital flows and intellectual property rights.
b. Goldberg never even mentions the obvious fact that there are winners and losers in every trade agreement, and therefore he has no proposal for protecting the loser.
c. Which reflects the fact that the US has in fact done nothing for loser in recent trade agreements.
d. Given the likelihood that income redistribution from a new trade pact is likely much greater than total income gains, a rational majority would be opposed to the pact on grounds of simple self-interest.
e. The power of the U.S. oligarchy is at a historic peak right now (though I’m not sure how it compares with the gilded age). They are in a position to capture any gains from opening up trade.
f. Goldberg never mentions the investor-state dispute resolution mechanisms, which are are a problem not just for ordinary citizens, but also for all true conservatives who care about American sovereignty.