Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Quote of the day: James Bovard on free trade vs. free trade agreements

One would presume that an honest trade agreement would simply require little more than a handshake between the political leaders of the nations involved. If trade is free, then what is there to quibble about? But that would defeat the entire purpose of using free trade agreements to give preferences to favored nations and favored industries.

Free trade is not complex; it does not require an army of hair-splitting bureaucrats to achieve. Free trade agreements, on the other hand, usually outweigh the Bible and have more trick clauses than a Hollywood movie deal. (The U.S.-Australia FTA is nine hundred pages of wheedling, hemming, and hawing.)

Free trade minimizes the power of rulers to decimate the purchasing power of citizens. Free trade agreements allow politicians and bureaucrats to pick winners and losers with arcane formulas that guarantee that trade lawyers will never go hungry.

Free trade allows consumers and businesses to benefit from the best goods the world can produce at the lowest prices. Free trade agreements with a single nation divert trade. They give favored treatment to the producers whose governments sign deals with Washington and put the producers of all other nations at a disadvantage.

FTAs allow political clout to trump economic comparative advantage. FTAs seek to shift trade in whatever direction is most profitable to the politicians making the deals, rather than let trade flow from the decisions of producers and consumers.

Free trade agreements make borders more imposing and onerous for every nation except the one that politicians favor. Free trade aims to make national borders invisible for commerce.

The notion of "free trade"—but only with nationalities that American politicians bless—is a charade. This is like proclaiming freedom of the press, and then adding that people can buy books only from publishers specifically approved by the U.S. Congress.
— James Bovard, The Bush Betrayal, pp. 57-8

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sagan book club follow up

Well, due to a problem with the email software, an old email from the Sagan Appreciation Society that contained a plug for last December's SHSNY Book Club for Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan's Acquiring Genomes was sent out just a few days ago; since the next book club meeting in the series, devoted to Michael Specter's Denialism, is coming up this Thursday (after that it's John Brockman’s This Will Change Everything on March 18 and Rebecca Goldstein’s 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction on April 27), it reminded me that I've been meaning to post a brief follow up to my original post. As it turned out, nobody showed up specifically for the Carl Sagan connection, and as it happened, the discussion didn't wind up being about how the book ties into Carl's work in any detail, mostly centering on the differences between Lynn Margulis's theories of evolution and the more orthodox neo-Darwinist approach. However, Sagan fans are welcome at book club meetings (SHSNY can be contacted for specific questions), and I'd be happy to meet up at other events as well.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Paul Goodman essay contest

There's an essay contest, partially sponsored by the magazine Dissent, currently running (until May 1, 2010) dedicated to the much-neglected social critic Paul Goodman.

Contact featured on DVD Verdict

a screen grab of the DVD Verdict website showing their link to the Cosmos review

As the screen grab above shows, DVD Verdict is currently featuring a link to their review of Contact (the original DVD, not the Blu-Ray edition which they've also reviewed, but oddly, they haven't reviewed Cosmos) on the front page as part of their "Today in Verdict History" feature. And hey, Nick Sagan gets mentioned in their review of the seventh season of Star Trek: The Next Generation! "We discover that Nick Sagan, who wrote the Picard/Crusher episode 'Attached,' is the son of Carl Sagan. Not only that, but young Nick's recorded voice was sent into space aboard one of NASA's Voyager probes in the 1970s, bearing a greeting from the children of Earth."