Protectionism- A LONG debate with kenpruitt666

Recently I’ve engaged in a very lengthy debate with a fellow WordPress blogger, kenpruitt666. His blog is very well written, and I have no doubt that his writings are full of intellectual rigour and professionalism. It’s clear that he’s a very intelligent chap, even if we don’t agree on this issue.

Surprisingly enough, I’m willing to concede that I’m losing the debate. This I do without bitter feelings, because I don’t underestimate the capabilities of my opponent. He truly is a tough nut to crack. You can see his blog here: http://kenpruitt666.wordpress.com/2013/06/20/debunking-more-republican-protectionist-nonsense/

I really do encourage you to check it out.

However, for the sake of banter, I’m going to release one last reply. This is because I feel one long blast is needed, and should be made in the form of a post rather than a comment.

I’ll start by stating that consumer benefit doesn’t hold us all in the thrall you claim it does. A business will satisfy consumers only to the point when it is shrewd business to do so. There is only so far they Will go, and you can be sure that the little they do, is only done under the knowledge that what they give you will be well worth their while.

This argument applies to the whole market system. A business will hire ten employees, because it needs them to do things which they cannot presently handle. It is not in their interests to provide them with any added benefits beyond what is normally expected of them by culture or law. At the slightest chance (allowing for individual conditions) they will sack as many as possible, and replace them with technology. That is- businesses only employ people until they stop having to, and market forces even urge them to replace jobs with technology. This cycle, is of course self-defeating, as those sacked employees will now be unable to contribute to the economy, and eventually the effect will be negative on the employer. Businesses are only moral when it suits them, and only provide you with what you need so far as it suits them.

What I want you, and others, to understand is that the market system is not perfect. Human beings are affected by other things than a simple drive for profit, and we must change our system to accommodate that, or we will continue to live in a world which we can be certain doesn’t work for the benefit of the majority.

Secondly- you seem to think that there are some perfectly free economies, and that we should all aspire to be like them. There is no such thing as the free market, there never had been, never will be. It is always necessary for the government to step in at some point, in at least a small way, and the writings of a billion intellectuals won’t change that simple fact.

Protectionism is done to save jobs. Would you have the government turn a blind eye when a key industry in their nation is being wiped out by foreign competition? To stand idly back whilst thousands of jobs are lost and millions of workers pushed into poverty? The role of the government is to protect its people, and that includes protection from foreign markets.

You seem to think that if the government does that, and simply ignores the chaos down below, that the invisible hand of the market will sort things out for the better in the end. Don’t even get me started on ‘the invisible hand of the market’. It’s not a thing. It doesn’t exist, and if it does then it certainly doesn’t work in the interests of you or I. Markets don’t hold the key, governments do. Because one is elected and the other isn’t. One is worn to protect a nation and its people whilst the other is based on the fickle, short-term motives of billionaires and financiers.

If country A and country B both engage in protectionism against the other, in small doses, each will conserve its own jobs. The countries will each come closer to self-reliance, and that can only be a good thing. Who knows what the future will bring? But countries will need to stand on their own at some point. That is not to say that I don’t support global initiatives. Indeed, they are the only way to instigate change. But that should come through the UN, not McDonald’s.

You go on to say that production will shift from other industries to the protected industries, through some complex economic mechanism which you know I won’t understand. But that is precisely the point! Governments will protect certain industries for a while, because they want to grow those industries, because they know what is best for their country, unlike the volatile international markets. I’m not suggesting -no one is suggesting- that countries can shield themselves from the world for ever and ever, but developing countries must do so for a short while, whilst they prepare their economy to compete.

You also say that: “other industries pay for one industry’s protection”. They will, for a short while. Protectionism is not a permanent or perfect measure. It is not the answer to everything, but neither is market economics. But the point is that sometimes it’s necessary, because one industry needs special attention from its government at that particular time. Other industries may suffer in a small way for a short time, but they can cope with slightly raised prices for a few months. Eventually those tariffs will come off, but the protected industry will be better able to compete and the whole economy will be better off for those few months of raised prices.

“Angola gets low-cost technology from America, and America gets low-cost agriculture from Angola. Both parties benefit. If Angola believed that they weren’t better off as a result of the trade, they would either renegotiate or they wouldn’t trade at all”

I’m sorry. It took a few moments for me to calm my breathing after reading that. As I stated, technology has better value than agricultural products. America has the right environment to produce technology, because it had employed protectionism for a few hundred years. Angola is not permitted to do so by the IMF, and is forced to continue to focus on agricultural products.

The price of laptops on the world market is far higher than that of sugar, for example. It is far higher, and also less volatile, because there is less speculative financial gambling on it.

The price of sugar goes up and down, and so do the lives of those who farm it. If Angola is to develop, it needs to move on to higher cost industries like technology manufacturing. You claim to be the economic big-balls, and yet you don’t recognise that, the simplest economic truth, which I learnt in Year 7 in Geography.

Those small farmers in Angola, struggling to get buy from the small proceeds of their sugar, can only offer up their year’s work to the mercy of the financial markets, and hope to be lucky that day. You cannot possibly say that both sides are benefiting there. It is well-known that some products are worth more than others.

You also seem to think that Angola can simply ‘renegotiate’ whenever they feel like it. Obviously they can’t. The IMF gives loans to Angola, to cover payments for loans they took out thirty years previously. In return for those loans, they are forced to adopt ‘good economic policy’. They are forced to privatise publicly owned services. To get rid of their central bank. To de-regulate every market in sight. And also, to strip their borders of any protection that might be there.

Soon, international capital flows arrive in Angola. Things seem to be going well, for a short time. Businesses are springing up everywhere, most of them foreign-owned, and employing the locals. Home firms have been swept away, but who cares? The foreign firms do the job just as well.

But then comes the hurricane. It strips the land, decimating settlements and destroying property. In a flurry of nervous activity, the foreign investors are suddenly not so supportive as they had been. They instantly withdraw their capital, and now the country has an economic as well as natural disaster to contend with.

Development in the Third World, cannot come from foreign investment. If so, then international trade will become a lopsided, totally unbalanced thing, as it already is in most parts of the world.

Third World countries don’t have any power. They can’t simply re-negotiate trade. They take whatever scraps we throw them. And something must be done about that if we are to ever live in a fairer world. We need to stop kicking away the ladder from developing countries, preeching free trade whilst we employ the harshest protection against them.

“You don’t seem to understand that if domestic industry is adequately satisfying the wants/demands of the consumers, foreign industry can have little to no impact on domestic industry. The reason foreign industry puts domestic industry out of business is precisely because domestic industry is inefficient; they are not satisfying the wants/demands of the consumers as adequately as they should be or as adequately as others can. The consumer is no worse off, and in fact, foreign investment creates new jobs, new processes of production, and improves the lives of the foreign population as a whole. The only thing which would keep this from happening is government policy/political instability of a given territory.”

When a country first starts developing, it is sure to have inefficiency. It is sure to displease consumers in some way or another. But how much do you really think consumers care? Consumer satisfaction is not the be-all and end-all, as I explained at the beginning. Consumers will have to put up with it if they are ever going to feel the benefits of their country’s development. What’s good for consumers is not always good for a country, in fact, it rarely is. Slightly higher prices are no reason to excuse decimating local businesses.

“If a domestic government has indeed liberalized their markets, then the foreign firm will get nothing from the government. No subsidies (tax breaks are NOT subsidies), no bailouts, no special favors, nothing. He will get the opportunity to do business within the private sector, and that’s it. So you needn’t worry about foreign firms getting something from domestic governments if they liberalize their markets.”

I don’t mean subsidies, I mean tax breaks, and a degradation of worker’s rights and working conditions. And lastly, it is not a myth. It has happened in numerous occasions. When the tsunami struck Thailand, they weren’t so badly effected, precisely because they had developed using protectionism, and had a stable economic base to work from.

My arguments are no more full of fallacies than yours are.

Its been an interesting discussion, kenpruitt666, and thank you for playing. You are welcome to post comments below, but I’m done with this argument, and your thoughts will receive no reply.

 

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Privatising RBS is the dumbest idea going

Recently I wrote about the need for the government to have a greater stake, say or control in the banking industry. And, just to spite me, the Chancellor has gone straight against my advice.

You see, he belongs to a certain ilk of wealthy idiots who religiously follow neo-liberalism, the teachings of Thatcher. They are, in effect, her disciples. Now, when David Cameron said that ‘we are all Thatcherites now’, he meant that in a good way, but in the real world, the effects of neo-liberalism are most certainly not good.

When a British Chancellor privatises the little stake he has in a key industry, especially at a time of economic doldrums, he sacrifices our last chance for a recovery without a people’s revolution.

We needed RBS to invest in small businesses and communities, not carry on as the irresponsible, ghastly lumbering giant of vice that it was before the crash. I was always one of those who proposed that the Chancellor use any technique possible to bring the banks to heel, and to use them as vehicles of prosperity, but instead, he is handing it over to the not-so ‘safe-hands’ of the Trans National Capitalist Class.

Why shouldn’t we look to them? After all, it’s not as if they were the ones that caused the crash in the first place, by gambling away billions of pounds of working people’s money, in a sickening carnival of casino capitalism.

I want George Osbourne to know that I take this as a personal slight, and I will not forget, nor forgive this insult.

We must act on Syria

As previous readers may know, I think that decisive foreign policy is needed now more than ever on behalf of the West. Not in pursuit of pointless wars which cost much and achieve little, but in defense of rebels which are fighting a losing battle for democracy and freedom.

The Syrian rebels represent an oppressed majority, that of Sunni muslims within the country of Syria. Muslims generally fit into one of these two categories, I am given to understand. Generally, the Sunni sect tend to be less extreme, and less hostile to Western powers.

The Assad regime is firmly rooted in and supported by the Alawite ethnic sect, which is Shia to the core. It is supported by Shia Iran, and by Shia Hezbollah. The recently pledged support of those two parties have been a great blow to the efforts of the rebels.

And now, President Putin of Russia has officially claimed support for the Assad regime. This leads for a mountain of opposition to the fledgling freedom fighters, who are already badly trained, armed, equipped and organised.

There are more army deserters each day, motivated largely by their appalled reactions to the atrocities they are forced to commit, which then flock mainly to the Free Syrian Army. Which is just one of many fragments of the rebel movement, of which the main players are these:

National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces

Set up in November 2012, as the rebels realised that they had better put up a united front. to the world. According to its website, these are its guiding principles:

  • Absolute national sovereignty and independence for Syria
  • Preservation of the unity of the Syrian people
  • Preservation of the unity of the country and its cities
  • Overthrowing the Syrian regime, dismantling the security forces, and holding responsible parties accountable for crimes against the Syrian people
  • Not to engage in any dialogue or negotiations with the regime
  • Uphold our commitment for a civil, democratic Syria.

Syrian National Council (SNC)

Formed in 2011. These are its principles:

  • Working to overthrow the regime using all legal means
  • Affirming national unity among all components of Syrian society and rejecting all calls for ethnic strife
  • Safeguarding the non-violent character of the Syrian revolution
  • Protecting national independence and sovereignty, and rejecting foreign military intervention

National Co-ordination Committee (NCC)

This is an organisation which is very much opposed to foreign intervention, which apparently is ‘as bad as tyranny’. It is open to dialogue with the government, and is committed to a non-violent approach.

Free Syrian Army (FSA)

Formed in August 2011 by army deserters, it ranks are mainly formed of deserters. It claims to field 40,00 soldiers, but in reality is more likely to have 10,000.

No doubt there are other, smaller fractional groups which are more extreme, but surely there is a way to deal with them. Why not arm, equip and fund the groups which are likely to offer a future for Syria, whilst ignoring those which fuel extremism? They will surely wither and die from lack of support.

It’s a risky move, I don’t deny, but when Russia, Iran and Hezbollah ally themselves against an embattled and fractured democracy movement, it is surely our duty to support the rebels. The reason for it being risky is that it may lead to an increased conflict between Sunni and Shia sects, which will then spread to the rest of the region.

But I ask you, is that worse than a middle-eastern future dominated by hardline Shia dictators? If we act now then we could make a difference.

Further Reading:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-15798218

http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/subdivisions/sunnishia_1.shtml

http://www.bostonreview.net/blog/dangerous-illusion-alawite-regime

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-19331551

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-22847540

Historical references in A Song of Ice and Fire

A Song of Ice and Fire is an epic fantasy series in which the nobility struggle for political control of a mythical land named Westeros. It’s stunningly complex plots and entwined storylines have made it the favourite of many fans, not least myself.

Although I haven’t yet read the books, although I will soon enough, I have watched the first three series of the television series, which was generally very well done by HBO, and have just watched the last episode today. I found it rather anti-climactic, but after the hellstorm that was The Rains of Castamere, what could have topped it? I must resign myself to a while year of boredom, whilst those clever chaps develop a whole new season to take my breath away with its humanity and betrayal.

However, in the pursuit of another thing to occupy myself with, I have decided to bore you with a list of links of between Song of Ice and Fire characters and historical figures.

The first, I would argue, would be a comparison of Cersei Lannister to Margaret of Anjou. Cersei resents her father, the richest man in the kingdom, from marrying her off to the king, Robert Baratheon. The children that she gave to Robert were in fact born out of incest between her and her brother. Robert was a whoring drunkard, and not suited to ruling.

It is said that her love of her children is her ‘only redeeming quality’, and such can be said of Margaret of Anjou. She was married to the incompetent king Henry VI, whose regular bouts of insanity rendered him unable to rule his kingdom, which she had to do in his stead.

When the House of York seemed to threaten the future kingship of her son, Edward of Westminster, she reacts with violent force, as does Cersei when Eddard Stark starts to raise suspicions about the legitimacy of her children.

Eddard is similar to the Duke of York, in that he plays the part of a decent, honest and strong man coming down from his home in the north (where everything is much cleaner and simpler) to cleanse the incompetent and decadent southern beaurocrats. Other similarities include the death of York at the hands of the queen, whose son swore vengeance and marched south with an army, starting the long dynastic struggle for the throne known as the Wars of the Roses.

I’m sure there are other links, but I focused on these few characters because I’ve heard similarities drawn between the Wars of the Roses and a Song of Ice and Fire, I just wanted to emphasise that link. I hope it has been an interesting read.

Registering my admiration for Game of Thrones

For some time now I have been delving into the world of ‘ice-and-fire’ nerdom, and I’ve been loving it. George Martin had managed to weave such intricate story plots over the top of hundreds of others, and that is what makes the series so popular.

I haven’t read the books yet, however they are on my reading list, and I can’t wait to get there.

But first, let me just reply to a blog post that I read, ‘What did you expect’, I would like to register my admiration for the entire fictional world that Martin has created and dispel whatever they were saying.

The piece was very well written, I have no objection to the merit of that author on writing  alone, but his assumption that we only watch Game of Thrones because we like to see bad things happening to people is nonsense.

It just so happens that when stories aren’t so rosy and are more realistic, they tend to grab the attention of more people, that’s all. Just because I like the series doesn’t make me some kind of emotionally crazed monster.

However, turning back to topic, the world of ice and fire is a huge inspiration to my own epic fantasy works that I have in the making. I plan to release it when I’m forty and leave my children a substantial inheritance.

I’ve managed to pick up a few of the ideas for reflection in my own work, and I think its important that writers do that, which of course they always will. It’s very valuable to be able to recycle material and change it in our own way, which is why I have no objection to Fan Fiction, although I can see why others might.

game

The series is based around a struggle for political control of the mythical land of Westeros, the main players being the powerful noble families of Stark, Baratheon Lannister, Targaryen and Greyjoy. Not all want to sit on the throne, some only want independence from it.

In my point of view it is a good show and doesn’t deserved to be wrung out by intellectually stale bloggers.

Game of Thrones: “The Rains of Castamere”

This is a good piece of writing about the latest episode of Game of Thrones. I’ll write my own thoughs on the series tonight.

Reviews By Marika

game-of-thrones-3.09-the-rains-of-castamere-main

As I have said in an earlier post, slowly becoming an adult is distracting. Slowly becoming an adult with a social life is distracting and difficult. I only say this because I had to make time to watch “The Rains of Castamere” and that time was at about two in the morning on Monday alone in the dark after a night at the bars. I thought I was a terrible decision at the time — and my rushed morning might still think it was — but I have decided it was perfect. I was completely alone; just me and the Starks.

So much has been written about this episode and I have read more than I usually do before I write my own posts. So, I’m going to make this post more personal than usual. I loved this episode because of its focus on the Starks. The first episode I…

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Kevin McCloud: Slumming It

This was the most interesting thing I’ve ever watched at school. I won’t give particulars of the lesson because I feel that’s trespassing on at least a few boundaries, but I will describe to you the video, and its meaning.

Kevin McCloud, the architect/designer, presenter of ‘Grand Designs’, famed for his dry wit and nasal southern accent, lives with the people of Dharavi for a few days. Dharavi is a Mumbai suburb and slum.

He learns their way of life, all the while of course, being filmed. We only saw the first episode, the first in a two-part series. The video raised some interesting points with relation to how we use space in Britain, and how we have lost the sense of community that seems to be thriving in Dharavi.

Although most of the people he met had a healthy suspicion of westerners, the way in which all three generations would live so harmoniously side by side, in such cramped conditions, causes us to reflect on how they do things there and wonder what lessons we could learn.

The people have very little possessions or wealth, even so, they manage to get on with things and show the British stiff-upper lip to a greater extent than any colonial officer. They seem well adjusted to hardship, having faced it in some form or other since the day they were born. However, this merely causes them to find new and ingenious methods of overcoming those hardships.

There is an average population density of 293,000 people per square kilometer in Dharavi, and the way that they use space is amazing. At one point an entire street stops work and is transformed into a place of prayer. Two minutes later they’re up and going again.

The last thing I would want to do is glorify squalor (which Dharavi certainly has a lot of, sanitation is a terrible problem there, in the film we saw a water pipe running along side raw sewage) but it has to be said that we are lacking in a good many things which they have in abundance.

In the fifties we decided to knock down the old Victorian slums, to relocate the working classes on mass to nice little Essex suburbs were the countrymen would dilute their coarseness and turn them into gentlemen. However those post-war governments didn’t take into account the destruction of communities that had existed for half a century or more. As a result we have adults who are terrified to take teenagers to task and youngsters going to university to do hairdressing.

Of course we can’t undo those changes, what’s done is done. But someone should sit own and think what adjustments could be made to our lives to mirror theirs.