Friday, November 21, 2008

An addendum

The earlier entry really didn’t sit well with me after I posted it – it felt sloppy and even a little intellectually dirty – and sure enough, within moments University of Calgary PhD candidate Herb Simms took me (back) to school on, well, everything.

When the markets collapsed in the 30s governments responded with protectionism which made the situation far far worse. People also tend to forget the last 6+ years of a bull market made people a lot of money. Markets correct, that's life. While free trade is certainly no panacea for the current market situation, reactionary protectionism will certainly make it worse.

Also comparing banking deregulation-such as the revoking of the Glasman Stengal act done as Clinton left office-to opening up more markets is the worst kind of a red-herring. Apples and oranges.

The idea of a viral pandemic in capitalism is a position, not a fact. Many espousing such an idea don't like what they call capitalism when everyone is making money, they don't like it when people are losing money. They are simply antagonistic to what they see as an exploitive system. This is seems to be the far more ideological position; it never changes. However, so far the alternatives to people making their own investment and purchasing choices suck.

Free market, like democracy is an ideal never really actualized in reality and means many things to different people. So it is hard to take much of the hysterical criticism seriously.

I hadn’t meant to suggest protectionism was a solution – I only hold mercantilist positions ironically. That said, the idea I was working with – the vacuous notion of “fair trade” – reveals itself to be so nebulous it borders on meaninglessness after it's given 30 seconds of thought. Who knew! I guess this is what I get for trying to pass for a wishy-washy pseudo-leftist by critiquing APEC trade policy before my morning irish coffee.

And yes, upon further consideration equating financial deregulation with lowering trade barriers is blatantly disingenuous and I’m actually really embarrassed it happened. Open mouth, insert foot, etc. They’re not even close to the same thing; one pertains to the regulatory framework governing activity within one particular market the other relates to the actual creation of a market to regulate (or not, whatever floats your boat). It was low-hanging fruit and I took it, yuck.

Using ‘ideological’ in the vulgate sense that is being bandied about by CBC/CTV pundits is another mistake. It’s true that my personal perspective – I’d self-identify as a ‘critic’ of capitalism but in all honesty ‘antagonistic’ fits just as well – is ideological, but only inasmuch as anyone’s perspective on social phenomena is ideological. Neo-liberal thought is only a component element in the diverse branches of thought within the fundamental ideology of capitalism and everything associated with it. And obviously I’ve spent too much time in an ideological echo chamber – the only real way to gain any semblance of ‘objective truth’ about any situation is to have a dialogue and debate between conflicting ideological viewpoints.

In this sense, my issues with free trade and all related points of contention is less with Neo-liberalism vs. Protectionism in policy decisions and more with the fundamental underpinnings of capitalism and all that jazz. Which is probably worth an elucidation but that will be in another post I think, this is kind of long.

But your last point is probably the most spot on – it is hard to take hysterical criticism of anything seriously. I suppose then that I should take this opportunity to stop the hysterics and start thinking/writing more analytically and reasonably.

And I guess also stopping by the department to talk with Herb Simms more often, apparently!

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