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How to Gain Support for Trade: Stop Rigging It to Redistribute Upward

How to Gain Support for Trade: Stop Rigging It to Redistribute Upward

Dean Baker

The NYT had an article presenting the comments of several people genuflecting over the lack of public support for current trade policy (wrongly referred to as "free trade"). The obvious reason for this lack of support, which is overlooked by those cited in the article, is that the intention and the outcome of trade policy has been to redistribute income upward.


No, Dean, I do not believe our ‘elites’ are learning, at least not in a way that will begin to even the playing field. If anything, they are probably learning new and better ways to pull the wool over our eyes - again.


They are not capable of learning otherwise they would not have engineered the Wall Street Crash.

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Thanks Dean for all you do and write. Yes, instead of a “trickle-down” system that flows (supposedly) from vast wealth to the 99%, we should view a “trickle-up” reality as most beneficial for society as a whole.


Lets make education more affordable for professionals especially in medical field. It is no wonder we don’t have enough for the senior generation. I’ve heard for 10 years that we would have a shortage of gerontologist and now I’m a elder boomer and we have a shortage. But of specialist? Regular GP doctors sometimes don’t make enough to pay back their student loans soon enough to be able to buy a home, have a family so they specialize in frivolous specialties and how can you blame them.

Exporting jobs is only half of the story when it comes to CETA., TPP and other regulatory capture schemes disguised as “trade deals”.

Transferring judicial authority from sovereign governments to corporations (24 of TPP’s 30 chapters, for example) will harm us all at least as much and likely more than exporting jobs will.

Take DAPL for example. If one or more of these “trade deals” were in place, corporate tribunals would award damages for the permits required for the pipeline and sue for any disruption to construction of the pipeline. Loss of ANTICIPATED profits and consequential damages would be awarded the pipeline company, effectively eliminating permit regulations.

Note that in 30 years of managing hundreds of contracts values from hundreds to millions of dollars I have never seen a contract where either party’s attorney would allow consequential damages or loss of anticipated profits to be included in the contract, primarily because it is too easy to inflate such numbers with no means of proof available. 21st century “trade deals” unfortunately enable both when corporations sue governments.


Baker may be correct that support could be gained for trade by not rigging the system to distribute upward. But the reason that we will never find that out is that system as Baker uses it here refers to that very rigging. Baker himself may feel that some tweaking of the rules one way or another to level monies or incomes or whatever might make the requisite adjustment in some roughly adequate way. But that impression comes from glossing over the central role of abusive inequality as a driver in this particular system.

A system in which decisions are made to increase profit is a system in which decisions are not specifically made to increase wealth or fulfil needs, though some overlap in these for some people some of the time with respect to some things will exist. It will not work for all people because profit itself is the extraction of money or the counters for some certain sort of status for some people from other people. Wealth, like food or a house, still has a value when one has enough because these are things that we value by their intrinsic nature. The value of money is extrinsic and semiotic, much as the value of anything else may become insofar as it is regarded as a commodity and as the value measured is value-as-commodity: it is worth what it is worth because of scarcity, not plenty.

So the system works to create scarcity in one place and not another, so of course we talk about equality. And the system counts its operations not by need fulfilled but by “economic activity” or money thrown about, and so we have to talk about waste. However, the people in charge of a system that operates in this way will always be those who waste resources to enforce inequality: that’s how the system works, and it will be run by people who work it.

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One thing to realize is that if we totally stop doing trade deals other nations will continue to reach agreements and we will tend to lose out.

No need to “stop doing trade deals”, simply make them actual trade deals rather than regulatory capture disguised as trade deals.


Though it is not the thing that will turn the tide, it still is important to take the language back. Free trade agreements in modern times have been anything but about true free trade. It’s a misnomer as much as the patriot act (which was and is downright unconstitutional) and so when discussing this, we need to stop calling it “free trade”. The has to be a better more accurate phrase for it.

How about, corporate protectionist treaty? Ok,…not great, you come up with a better one!

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Some “corporate protectionist” stuff is going to have to be part of any treaty, but lots of other worker protectionist stuff must be strongly included. To my way of thinking, the trickiest part is to avoid giving corporations even more power.

Great info.


I happen to like and generally agree with Krugman. The article you link to has one Krugman quote: “Paul Krugman told his New York Times readers that they should support “open world markets…mainly because market access is so important to poor countries.”
I agree with that statement. I think world trade is a very good thing. The important things, I think, are to avoid giving corporations more power and to give workers more power. No, they are not easily done.

Actually Dean, I think the question is: “Is our elites learning?”

Certainly some places and nations have many problems. Blaming “market access” for this or that situation is not always a fair point. There are many situations where market access has been wonderful. For instance, there are poor rural areas all over the world where one tiny solar powered battery charger has given farmers access to a cell phone and the knowledge to discover who and where they can sell their produce for the highest price.

Maybe you can live in a world without coffee. I do not want to do that. Not having the freedom to look beyond our borders would truly suck.

You can never bring these facts to a GOP rhetorical word fest…It would collide with their perceived conservative utopia of free market bullshit…Truth=facts are forbidden fruit when making them rah rah rah rallies about all the benefits of free trade …and open markets…BS…

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That’s not all cool. Fuck you.

Of course corporations are all about profits. That is their mandate. Trade deals (no matter what euphemism is used to describe them) are potentially good things. Since money means power, it is difficult to make truly excellent deals. However, if we make no deals, our nation will become less wealthy as the rest of the world tends to leave us behind. Class warfare has and will always happen. There are a great many ways to empower workers and the middle class. I like ideas such as Piketty’s worldwide wealth tax and a guaranteed income for all citizens.