Wednesday, May 06, 2015

"Free Trade" agreement is just another Leftist con: It increases restrictions, not freedom

The U.S. Congress is being asked to give President Barack Obama full "fast track" negotiating authority for the Trans Pacific Partnership, supposedly a free trade agreement with 11 other mostly wealthy Pacific nations. Yet when you examine the Wiki-leaked version of TPP which is all we have, it is far more notable for the draconian intellectual property provisions than for any truly significant easing of trade barriers. I would argue that such tight intellectual property rights are an historic aberration, incompatible with a truly free market, so that TPP would overall raise barriers against free market exchange rather than lowering them. If it is to be economically beneficial, TPP needs a truly free-market negotiator at the U.S. end – which means it should wait until 2017.

Like all regional trade treaties, TPP is in principle an unsatisfactory substitute for the real thing, which is a truly global free trade agreement along the lines of the moribund Doha round, hanging fire since 2001. Regional treaties allow countries to raise non-tariff barriers against non-members and erect innumerable incompatible international product standards which form barriers to truly free world trade. In TPP's case there are some genuine advances, such as opening up Japanese agriculture (if that indeed happens). However trade among the TPP partners is mostly free with low tariff barriers already, since several of the TPP members already have free trade agreements with the United States.

Even for proponents of the TPP such as the U.S. Congressional Research Service, its projected benefits for the United States are concentrated entirely in services, and relate largely to intellectual property. While the CRS in a March 2015 study expected net benefits for the U.S. of $36 billion annually, it expected manufacturing industries to lose $44 billion annually and agriculture/mining merely to break even in spite of projected Japanese market opening. The entire benefit, $79 billion annually, was expected to come in the service sector. Interestingly, TPP was expected to have a net negative effect of 0.6% on U.S. median wages by 2025.

While the U.S. financial services sector expects considerable benefits from further trade opening to TPP countries, those benefits are not strictly within TPP, being negotiated separately. Thus the great benefit of TPP, the entire point to its existence as far as U.S. interests are concerned, comes in the intellectual property area. Here the treaty takes the provisions of the United States' 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and imposes them (or in some cases, more draconian versions of them) on other TPP members. This extends copyrights to life plus 70 years for individual owners and either 95 or 120 years for corporate owners. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, TPP would also place additional liabilities on Internet intermediaries, escalate protections for digital locks, enact a "three-step test" language putting restrictions on fair use and adopt criminal sanctions even for non-commercial copyright infringement.

Some of those provisions may be modified in the final TPP agreement, and the technical arguments for others are complex. Nevertheless it is clear that TPP represents a tightening of copyright law and extension of patent law even beyond the expansive current U.S. practice.  As such, it's worth reminding ourselves of how copyright and patent law can be abused to restrict free markets and build crony capitalist monopolies.



Baltimore and The blindness of the Ivory Tower

In the May 1 edition of the Washington Post, an opinion article by overly-credentialed professor of the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton Danielle Allen, “Why the dispossessed riot,” calls for “sloughing off” the current understanding of what freedom means and embracing a new, more enlightened “democratic one.” Stripped of all the academic jargon and tortured philosophic constructions, Allen comes down solidly in favor of a secular, government-centric, authoritarian understanding of “freedom” that would make Huxley and Orwell knowingly wince.

Allen attempts to explain and justify the riots in Baltimore as the outward expression of an alienation from the political system, a normal reaction to what she refers to as domination — quoting extensively from Princeton University professor Philip Pettit — not just by the police but by a system in which the disenfranchised have no ability to impact any decisions affecting their lives.

“To have freedom from domination requires more than just protection of the basic liberty to choose your religion, political party, associations and employment,” Allen writes, adding “it also requires an equal share of control over the institutions — the laws, policies, procedures…”

This same theory has been echoed by an army of apologists for the looters and rioters, be they in Baltimore or Ferguson or the next city to flare up. Yet Allen never stops to consider how it is the rioters came to be so dispossessed in the first place.

There are two points to consider, however, before swallowing the Allen explanation. First, our nation was not founded and does not rest on “government.” From the beginning, the radical nature of the American Revolution was that each individual was free and “endowed by their Creator” to live their lives as they felt best. Each person possessed in themselves the absolute right and power to govern themselves. Allen disagrees totally. In her book, Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality, she stated, “human equality requires that each of us have access to the single most important tool available for securing our happiness: government.”

Government, for Allen, is the omnipotent presence from which all bounty flows. Her understanding of the relationship of the individual to government is 100 percent opposite to what the Founders meant and what most Americans believe. In her view, each person is subservient to government; government is not the servant of the people. She further rejects the warning of the tyranny of the majority. Under her model, equality in determining the rules, government, gives everyone a “stake” and that is enough to justify the imposition of the will of the majority on everyone.

Second, Allen contends that respect for the rule of law can only really be embraced if her “democratic” view of civic engagement is allowed to take root and flourish. But having now entered into an era where the constitutional rule of law is treated with open disdain by the White House and the bureaucracy — with a president who proclaims, “Where Congress won’t act, I will” — we already see the dangerous and destructive impact. How such a view can lead to the very domination warned against from the government.

Allen and her allies and friends should consider another small piece of history in thinking how to proceed. In the first years of the Jamestown settlement, a quasi-communist system was established. Everyone was guaranteed a share of the food that was produced, and there was a general agreement of equal sharing of all goods. In those early years, the settlement came close to starving to death. The entire colony came very near extinction. The following years, the elders took a different approach. If you didn’t work, you didn’t eat. Each person was responsible for themselves and their family. No communal anything. The result, of course, was soon a settlement that grew and prospered.

Happiness, spiritual or material, does not come from government. Government takes; it does not create. Civil society — what we call social capital — as embodied in volunteer organizations, churches and places of worship, community involvement and self-help associations, these are the building blocks of a successful community. That is the true civic virtue. Government has nothing to do with it and cannot stop it if the people commit.

So the issue of riots and depressed communities will not be addressed by looking for a scapegoat, or blaming one group of people whom you secretly envy, or desperately looking for someone to constantly pet your ego through self-esteem exercises. The solutions will be found in each individual finding that inner strength to live free and take the responsibility for their actions, both the good and the bad, and contributing voluntarily to the betterment of the community.

This does not require a redefinition of our understanding of freedom to some collectivist theory from the Ivory Tower. It merely asks each of us to do the difficult thing of living as free, adult men and women, without looking for excuses, or handouts, or dodges. By eliminating dependency.

A possibility even Allen’s quoted Philip Pettit reluctantly acknowledged in his 1999 book, Republicanism: A Theory of Freedom and Government,  when he wrote, “Suppose it is established that state welfare encourages dependency among welfare recipients… and that such dependency undermines the capacity of recipients to achieve non-domination. That would have important implications for the way in which welfare… ought to be made available… and would push [government] towards minimalist policies.”

To not see that 50 years of social experimentation has left the intended beneficiaries far worse off than they were — now dependent, dispossessed, and powerless — is intentional blindness, a blindness so severe only Ivy League deep-thinkers could accomplish it.



Baltimore Riots Result in Tremendous Economic Loss

 Rioters poured into the streets of Baltimore early this week in “protest,” injuring around a hundred officers, destroying businesses and looting. Sadly, many of these victims won’t see justice. Business shutdowns and property damage have resulted in tremendous economic loss. Wednesday’s Baltimore Orioles game at Camden Yards was the first one played in Major League Baseball history where all the fans were locked out. The Left assails conservatives for ostensibly not caring about the plight of impoverished minorities, yet this week’s rioters were on a mission to inflict exceptional economic damage — and they did.

The 1992 Los Angeles riots are estimated to have cost $3.8 billion over a decade, and some believe the Baltimore riots will cost hundreds of millions of dollars, if not more. A #JusticeForFreddieGray protest is planned for this afternoon. If participants truly want to make a difference, they will call for an end to the thuggish behavior victimizing an untold number of innocent people. If Gray truly is innocent, engaging in criminal behavior — what they’re supposedly protesting against — is no way to honor his life.



The Lying Game

Will the next presidential election be won by a lie?

Truth has long since been replaced by “narratives” on the American Left. Rather than discuss genuine issues and objective facts, progressives prefer to make up a politically effective story. It doesn’t matter whether the story is false, as long as it sways the public’s emotions and wins the day. The ends justify the means.

This “lying game” strategy often shows up in politically sensitive scientific debates. In honor of Earth Week, let’s look at one of the patron saints of environmentalism, Rachel Carson. Carson wanted to eliminate DDT, the most effective pesticide for fighting one of the greatest plagues faced by humanity, malaria, because it was weakening the shells of bird’s eggs. So Carson falsified data to convince the public that DDT was carcinogenic. Carson brought about a global ban on DDT, probably saving a few birds, but at the cost of allowing malaria to blind or kill millions of people in the Third World. Carson may not have set out to kill people, but only Mao, Stalin and Hitler are responsible for more deaths during the twentieth century. Yet instead of condemning her, we name schools after her.

Another false environmentalist narrative is the global warming hoax. A few decades back, environmentalist “scientists” started devising computer models that predicted manmade calamity — Manhattan submerged by rising Atlantic waters — within, oh, 10 or 15 years ago. Turns out the models were rigged, the data were falsified, and in fact there has been no measurable warming for nearly 20 years. Most troubling of all, the lying scientists colluded to ruin the careers of honest scientists who tried to tell the truth.

Many other examples could be cited, ranging from the war on fracking to the fetus being just a “clump of cells” to denying the abortion/breast cancer link to the sexual revolution itself, which was triggered by the fraudulent research of Alfred Kinsey. In fact, it’s difficult to come up with a progressive scientific cause that isn’t founded on lies.

It’s in politics, however, that the lying game reaches its fullest bloom. The Michael Brown narrative, hyped by the media and exploited by race hustlers to infuriate black voters, turned out to be a lie. Likewise the supposed campus rape epidemic, in which gang rapes by fraternity boys and lacrosse players turned out to be figments of feminists' imagination. Over the past few years, there has been a series of highly publicized incidents in which instances of victimization turned out to have been committed by the victims themselves.

The American Left has come to condone and accept untruth as an appropriate way to conduct their affairs. They are abetted by a media that actively covers up their scandals, while exaggerating the faults of their opposition.

Often, the liberal media use euphemisms to put their spin on events. A case in point is CNN commentator Marc Lamont Hill of the Huffington Post urging viewers on Monday night to view the mass violence in Baltimore as “not a riot” but “uprisings” of African-Americans who have been “dying in the streets for months, years, decades, centuries” because of “police terrorism.” Later, he added incongruently, “I think we should be strategic in how we riot.”

Political campaigns have always been infested by lies, but in recent years entire campaigns have been founded on artfully crafted lies. We’ve witnessed candidate after candidate campaign on, and often win on, deliberate lies about their backgrounds, their values, and what they plan to do in office. In the minds of these candidates, the ends — political power — justify the means.

A preacher recently observed in a sermon about lying that “accepting the notion that the ends justify the means leads to a climate where lying becomes the norm.” According to sociologist Robert Nisbet, “What sociologists are prone to call social disintegration is really nothing more than the spectacle of a rising number of individuals playing fast and loose with other individuals in relationships of trust and responsibility.” Our culture’s embrace of lying indicates moral breakdown on a profound level, in which people have begun to satisfy their selfish impulses without regard for the consequences inflicted on others.

Can any society hang together in such an amoral climate?

In the next election, America needs to choose a leader of integrity who can be trusted to stand against our nation’s moral decline and social disintegration.

The Bible warns us, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when a wicked man rules, the people groan.” (Proverbs 29:2) In 2016, will Americans choose a righteous leader, or will we be seduced by a liar spinning a false narrative? If we allow ourselves to be seduced again, we can expect our groaning to continue for at least four more years.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


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