Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- David Boyle discusses how the principle of free trade - once intended to empower consumers against monopolies - is instead being used to lock in corporate control:
(T)he original idea of free trade was not a simple licence to do whatever you wanted, if you were rich and powerful enough. It was designed as a means of liberation – so that the small could challenge the big, the poor could challenge the rich with the power of a new approach, an alternative provider, an imaginative, liberating shift. It was an antidote to the old pattern that employers could control not just what you were paid, but also what you paid for the things you needed to live.

But recent decades have seen this central liberal economic doctrine become its own opposite – permission for the rich to ride roughshod over the poor, an apologia for monopoly and an extractive discipline that prevents the all-important challenge from below. It became instead a potential tool of enslavement.
Friedman argued that intellectual property was a kind of property, and must be defended as such, rather than – as it actually is – a temporary suspension of free trade to encourage innovation. That is why draft agreements such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which purport to be about free trade, are actually about defending investments and trademarks.

Even more seriously, Friedman argued that monopoly didn’t matter, and – if it did happen – it was the fault of the government for over-regulating.

The first error led to the great heresy of neoliberalism, that corporations should be treated like human beings in legal terms. The second was a rejection of the most fundamental element in liberal economics, a defence against the over-concentration of market power. It was the very opposite of liberal free trade.

It explains why the dead hand of neoliberal orthodoxy has ignored monopolies as a problem as they grow in power over our lives, as we fall into the tyrannical clutches of companies we are virtually forced to buy from...
- Dylan Matthews writes about the state of poverty around the world - including the observation that poverty levels are essentially a matter of choice in the developed world where it can readily be ended through redistribution. Owen Jones highlights why the UK has every reason to be embarrassed about the needless obstacles it's putting in the way of children, while David Tran comments on the difficulties of trying to build a life in the absence of any margin for error. And Gil McGowan points out how an increased minimum wage results in real benefits for people getting by on low incomes.

- Meanwhile, Kristy Kirkup reports that the Libs' idea of complying with an order to stop discriminating against First Nations children has been to add precisely nothing to a budgeting process started when the Cons were still in power.

- Wendy Levinson comments on the growing recognition that parts of our health care system are biased toward unnecessary testing and treatment.

- Michael Vonn points out that C-51's draconian anti-speech provisions may make it far more difficult to carry out any meaningful work against radicalization. And Andrew Mitrovica talks to Paul Cavalluzzo about the glaring flaws in both C-51 and C-22.

- Finally, Gerry Caplan recognizes that Justin Trudeau's media honeymoon is coming to an end. And Steve Paikin points out that Ontario's NDP may soon have its best opportunity in ages in a provincial election campaign.

1 comment:

  1. I think David Boyle is completely wrong. The original idea of free trade was to stop other countries from using protectionism to build up their local industry, so that Britain could maintain its lead as by far the most industrialized country on earth. It was a "soft" method which went hand in hand with the harder approaches used where Britain had more control. Where England actually ruled, whether in India or the Caribbean, there were widespread prohibitions on any sort of industry that might in any way compete with British production or substitute for imports from Britain.

    So, yes, the original idea of free trade *was* a simple license to do whatever you wanted, if you were rich and powerful enough . . . and British. It was an exercise in "taking away the ladder", in very much the same spirit as the modern deals even if the details of how it is to be done differ. It may be nice that Boyle is saying bad things about neoliberalism, but it's in the service of an ahistorical whitewash of liberalism and pre-neoliberal capital in general. It gets weirder; he locates the personification of the corporation in neoliberalism, when corporate personhood has been at issue in American law since the 1880s, and has surely been around elsewhere far longer.
    Not a good article.