The Democratic National Convention (DNC) kicked off with the resignation of their chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Apparently she worked unethically, if not illegally, to undermine Bernie Sanders and support Hillary Clinton. Bernie Sanders supporters protested the rigged primary for good reason and were not quick to fall in line behind Hillary. There was little new substance in the convention speeches. They loved abortion, climate change, a $15 an hour minimum wage, gun control, and surely I’m forgetting something, but “At this point what difference does it make?” I was surprised to learn that they did not entirely love free trade. You may recall that President Obama negotiated the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement and demanded that congress fast track approval without reading it. So why are Democrats signaling a lack of enthusiasm? Could it be they are channeling their inner Donald?
Donald Trump has been outspoken on trade agreements and has said they were poorly negotiated and should be renegotiated. Trump feels that Americans are being taken advantage of through free trade. Free trade supporters counter that the good outweighs the bad. But, does it? What is the truth of the matter?
To be fair, it should be noted that there are two kinds of free trade. There is free trade among individuals and businesses, and there is free trade among nations. Free trade among individuals and businesses is a right that should not be interfered with through government action. Individuals are capable of looking out for their own interests and the interests of their family, without oversight, and will negotiate for their interests accordingly.
Free trade among nations is quite another matter. Nations have other interests to consider, for example, the economy, the national defense, the environment, and natural resources to name a few. When you take into consideration national issues, it easy to see that unrestricted free trade may not be in the best interest of the nation. Would a free trade agreement that requires an adversarial nation to supply critical military equipment be in the best interest of the receiving nation? Such may be the case with regards to China. Shouldn’t nations put their strategic needs ahead of the needs for trade?
It may surprise some to realize the United States has not been a free trade nation historically. Our forefathers thought it wise to nurture and protect our national resources. It is through this nurturing that our resources matured and developed into the strongest economic force on earth. It has only been in recent years that free trade has been a consideration. But it is already obvious that free trade has a weakening effect on the nation. The loss of jobs, the lowering of wages, the disparity in wealth distribution, all provide an indication that free trade is not in our collective best interest. However, nothing points to our weakness more poignantly than the requirement that our astronauts hitch a ride with the Russians to the space station. It has not been that long since we were in a space race with the Russians – a race we won when we landed on the moon. Now after these many years, we find our victory was traded away like some useless swap-meet bauble, and we are left begging outside the Kremlin, while a winking Lenin and Stalin are toasting a vodka to our health.
Perhaps the quote credited by many to Vladimir Lenin says it best: “The capitalist will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.”
Until next time…