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The Forum > Article Comments > The primitive country? > Comments

The primitive country? : Comments

By Marko Beljac, published 23/9/2011

Free trade, judged on its own terms, is an abject policy failure.

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Welcome back Marko; i wondered why you had not been on OLO for a while.
Posted by Chris Lewis, Friday, 23 September 2011 8:05:48 AM
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However the fatal flaw in the author's argument is that the arguments for free trade do not rely on the proposition that it will turn "the mere shipment of mineral and energy resources to other countries", into "elaborately transformed manufactures".

As the rest of the article hinges on that false premise, the entire argument fails.

Indeed the arguments of free trade are precisely that its benefits do not depend on schemes dreamt up in Social Engineering Central by which the clever ones presume to tell everyone else what their values should be.

"So, when we speak of "choice" it is important that we realise that it is the choice of the elite that is being referred to."

If that is so, then there will be no need to use force - policy - to stop the masses of ordinary people from acting on their own preferences, will there? Yet what else does your argument advocate but policy exactly for those reasons?

The author joins the ranks of all the critics of free trade who have based their arguments on attacking straw men.
Posted by Peter Hume, Friday, 23 September 2011 9:59:21 AM
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Great article, setting forth a bold and emminently constructive challenge to our political, scientific, educational, industrial, commercial (including mining), banking and labour visionaries - if there are any out there - and ultimately to the whole of Oz, to demand a far better and more inclusive social contract, for the ultimate assurance of our future prosperity and sustainability.

Regaining the "clever country" model (if we ever really achieved it in the first place) is going to be a helluva slog, but one both achievable and vital to our future competitiveness and lifestyle assurance. It is of course certain that our future "lifestyle" will have to be far different to the grandiose affluence of current aspiration, but it certainly doesn't have to be one of want or of subservience to exogenous commercial dictates - if we can take the author's suggestions seriously enough, and act soon enough.

From the article:
<"We should be investing big in theoretical biology in order to better tap into the emerging biology driven economy of the future. We should be committing ourselves to being at the cutting edge of the ecologically sustainable industries, transport systems and energy sources that are mandatory for the wellbeing of civilisation."> Ever so true, and so logical!

Food, energy and biological security = survival and sufficiency, and even enjoyment - and these are increasingly reliant on "futuristic" technologies and industries. Key word here = "industries". Knowledge for its own sake = brain-drain. Higher education and research are vital, but we have to value-add, to re-gear and invest in technologically advanced industry or we lose any advantage and all competitiveness.

The world is in a fiscal mess, and we are being dragged down with the rest, and unnecessarily so. Time to cut the apron strings, to stop being led by the nose. Our current resource boom may provide our last chance to shape our future, we just have to concentrate on OUR future, and if we bloody a few noses doing it, so be it! Our time is nigh, and this opportunity won't come again, you can bet on that.
Posted by Saltpetre, Friday, 23 September 2011 2:25:49 PM
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More misty-eyed hankering for a time that never existed, by an academic who chooses to substitute book-learning and cut'n'paste economic theory for the nasty stuff of real life.

So many questions. So few attempts to answer them.

"the whole purpose of the free market economic reforms... was to change Australia's position in the global division of labour from that of a provider of primary commodities to a provider of "elaborately transformed manufactures."

There is no doubt that Mr Keating was big fan if ETM as a component of our export economy. But to make this the "whole purpose of the free market economic reforms" is pure balderdash.

For a while, we did in fact have a mini-boom in elaborately transformed manufacturing. In 1993, the man himself was able to boast...

"We are growing new companies—clever manufacturing companies, born entirely of the export culture created in the last decade... They are exporting elaborately transformed manufactures... Last year exports of elaborately transformed manufactures to Europe rose by more than 20 per cent; to South East Asia by 17 per cent; to East Asia by more than 40 per cent. The opportunities for Australian companies in Asia and the Pacific are boundless"

And in 1997, ANU's John Ravenhill observed:

"By 1994, ASEAN had overtaken New Zealand as the single largest market for Australia’s exports of elaborately transformed manufacture"

And in an ABC interview in 1998, Max Walsh pointed out that

"Our performance in terms of elaborately transformed manufacturing goods has been quite spectacular and we have the advantage of living in the computerised age where the big, long production runs which we associated with the manufacturing industry are more and more something of the past. There's a lot more room for short-run, specific, custom-made manufacturing in the manufacturing field"

So the argument that it was those nasty old "free market economic reforms" falls spectacularly at the first fence.

Might I tentatively suggest that we were simply overtaken by swifter, keener and more astute overseas companies?

It happens.
Posted by Pericles, Friday, 23 September 2011 3:17:26 PM
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Australia is becoming increasingly disconnected with its core base at all ground levels both morally and commercially.

In the sphere of education its claim of "Best" fang-dangles any real context for innovation where access and equity is a pivotal issue. The ANU is among the most serious colportage.

For all the slogans of becoming an inclusive, knowledge nation it is disappointing to be traveling so far backward, that the elite and those who can afford to be politically correct run the show on all fronts of total significance.

As serious is the way the arts is being portrayed. Funding cuts, disconnective policies flag exclusive stalwart hero status with unbalanced velocity. A knife through our everyday values and social and economic fabric.

As harder times hit, we will pay for this.

Another front is the non-linkage between departments of Employment, [Centerlink & DEEWR] and Higher Education facilities. For many older Australians, myself included we are left in the lurch where poor labeled recording of data from Centerlinks [disabling, garbled, highly discriminating Job Capacity Tests] negates the reality of a citizens true circumstance. On testing why, the investigation reveals only one excuse. Top managers say they can't record the truth because the issue is about "funding". Hence mismatched data and more lies are attached to any one persons file. The departments, managers have long-arms. They are untrustworthy, non-transparent, dissociated, disjointed, disengaged where government policies are ill-thought-out when it comes to what is possible, less you are a client who is prepared to start again from scratch with first year studies on yet another degree, rather then building on what's already been achieved.

Bottom of the Ladder approaches. Structural unemployment therefore is the only stream gaining momentum and continuity when the focus of poor productivity hits the scales.

With so many holes in the bucket, one wonders how well equipped Australia will be to face a shrinking world economy, over-burdened with politics and less productive inclusive engagement seen then ever before in our history inside a world of virtually driven social media?
Posted by miacat, Friday, 23 September 2011 3:35:39 PM
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The whole argument of free trade is irrelevant.
I have just heard on Insiders Wayne Swan talking about the world's
financial problems. It is clear that the whole government/financial
world is looking at money and credit manipulation to get them out
of the problems the world is seeing.

Not one them it appears is aware of the real problem .
It is not money that runs the world it is energy !
It is because we are up against the limits of energy that is the cause
of low or zero growth. The cost of energy has eaten the GDP.

Free Trade will end as everything becomes local.
Time for the economists and money men to wake up.
Posted by Bazz, Sunday, 25 September 2011 9:45:10 AM
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