April 07, 2005

Detente on Trade?

Okay. Usually I think I'm fairly clear when I write, but then, almost all unclear writers think that. So, since I've heard rumors that my earlier post on trade was unclear, I tried to revise it a bit. I still think the two big points are basically good ones. First, that trade just isn't that big of a deal, and both its downsides and benefits tend to be vastly overrated. So the Democratic infighting over trade doesn't need to be so bitter.

The second point is also important: when many lefties call for higher standards, they're not necessarily arguing in "bad faith". As I like to note, most union workers are employed in high-skill export industries—so there's a genuine interest in promoting trade. The difference between fair trade and protectionism is real and important. Thinking about it more, though, I may have overstated the case in my original post: certainly there are some misguided protectionists who think a) the downsides to free trade are massive, and b) therefore it should be opposed at every turn. And leaders like Howard Dean are badly, badly confused on this issue. But Howard Dean's usually confused! So I think it's perfectly realistic to try to forge a working dialogue with these people. In part, this will take some better faith effort from free traders as well, who do tend to bash protectionists for opposing trade treaties but then stay curiously silent when, say, worker retraining programs get slashed. Distrust on both sides seems to be a bigger issue here than the impossibility of staking out a compromise position.

Anyway, read the original, updated post for these arguments at greater length, and I'll try to have more later.
-- Brad Plumer 2:57 PM || ||