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The Forum > Article Comments > Doha trade talks fan the flames of crisis > Comments

Doha trade talks fan the flames of crisis : Comments

By Adam Wolfenden, published 12/12/2008

If Australia, the G20 and APEC are serious about addressing the financial crisis they need to look beyond their neo-liberal economic text books.

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Much of this talk of the need for increased trade will seem quaint when transport fuels force us into greater local self sufficiency. Free trade is recited as a kind of religious mantra no matter what perverse effects it creates. For example I have suggested that Australia's coal exports be carbon taxed or subjected to a declining annual cap. That idea has been howled down as contrary to some trade agreement or other. Good people to have around in an emergency, the globalizers. When I suggested instead of live cattle being exported to Asia that the customers move here instead there was no answer. All of the alleged benefits of free trade need to be examined to see where they ultimately end up.
Posted by Taswegian, Friday, 12 December 2008 9:20:54 AM
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A very good article. However, I must take issue with the claim that “These recent calls for a conclusion of the round, however, seem to miss the fundamental problems associated with the free market ideology that plagues the financial system and also governs international trade.” Let’s put aside the financial system.

Most opponents of neo-liberalism (or “economic rationalism” as it is called in Australia, although less so these days) take this ideology (not a scientific theory) at face value but it does not account for actual policy. What accounts for policy is what Adam Smith called “the vile maxim” of the “masters of mankind” namely “everything for ourselves and nothing for other people.” Neo-liberalism is just the ideology that has been used to justify an assault by corporate Australia against the broader population. It would be expected that the purposes of a Labor Party would be to provide institutional protection against such an assault. However, the ALP (and the ACTU under Kelty) has facilitated such an assault.

This capitulation has become so extreme that even the “socialist” Lindsay Tanner insists on being a minister for “de-regulation.” Julia Gillard, from the soft left and former luminary of the “socialist forum”, informed us during her IR Bill second reading speech that to return to conciliation and arbitration would be a manifestation of “yesterday’s battles” given “globalisation” (i.e. a version of globalisation couched in the corporate assault against the population) and Fabian Society guru Evan Thornley, the wunderkind of the Victorian ALP, tells us that the struggle between capital and labour is also “yesterday’s battles” (Gillard’s favourite phrase) for now is the time to choose between capital and management. Labour is neither here nor there.

In the face of this corporate assault the ALP (like social democratic parties almost everywhere) has decided upon unconditional surrender. Bonhoeffer stood on principle and resisted a more extreme assault previously. Yet Rudd has the temerity to hold him up as an example
Posted by Markob, Friday, 12 December 2008 9:43:39 AM
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Underlying this article and the posts in support is the facile and non-viable assumption shown in this sentence: "A new economic relationship is needed at a local and global level."

Let us suppose that all your premises are granted. Capitalism is an irrational, destructive and unfair system that causes food shortages and financial crisis. Government plays no part in causing these problems, but may be presumed to be superior in knowledge, goodness and capacity. What is needed is a system to provide for people's need, not people's greed.

Okay. So let's suppose that we grant to government the full power needed to fix the problems. Just so there can be no failure from delegating the power to silly persons, let's suppose it's all delegated to you. You now have the full power to re-mould the world closer to your heart's desire.

Now the problem that you have to solve is this. We have the different lands and waters of earth: the mountains, plains, deserts, oceans and urban areas. And we have six billion people distributed where they are, and going about their business. They all have to be fed, clothed and housed.

Who is going to decide what to produce, and how, and using what, and with whom, and when, and where? Who specifically is to co-operate with whom, for what? How are we to know whether a particular action will yield a benefit, or a loss.

How will the people decide what to do? How will you communicate your directions to six billion people? If you or your wise delegates don't manage to get to them, should they just sit there and wait
Posted by Diocletian, Friday, 12 December 2008 11:07:29 AM
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But if they are to take action using their own bodies which are now presumptively at your disposal, and their labour, and the fruits of their labour, then how can they avoid private property? When they try to figure out whether a certain action will yield more or less food, or clothing, or shelter, how will they avoid using concepts of profit and loss, of assets and liabilities? If they have to wait for production to mature, how will they avoid using the concept of interest on capital?

The concept that would be required to replace human action based on private property, is a world dictator with godlike vision and total power. But how is this function to be provided in the real world?

How will you avoid the deaths by starvation of hundreds of millions of people, and the destruction of the human society that you are trying to improve?

On the other hand, if you leave some private property in place, permitting them a limited scope of profit and loss, and only override their stupidity and greed with your superior knowledge, capacity, and goodness when you decide the greater good requires it, then how will you distinguish the fair price in any one of billions of transactions, from the market price? How is that problem different from the starting problem? How are you going to solve the same problems of calculation by partial control that you could not solve in your totalitarian capacity?

Answers please? No personal argument, no misrepresentations, no assuming what is in issue, no appeal to absent authority. Just the answers.
Posted by Diocletian, Friday, 12 December 2008 11:07:59 AM
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