Social Protectionism

Rakesh Bhandari bhandari at Princeton.EDU
Tue Mar 7 08:53:51 PST 2000

Enrique, what I found intereting in the Friedman editorial is what I put between asterisks--the demand that all fabric, thread and yard (and probably machinery too) must be imported from the US if tarriffs are to be reduced. Classic colonialism, no?! Friedman thinks this will add such transportation costs to African production that it won't be sufficiently profitable to compete on the global market--so no new investments in sewing factories will be made. Well of course with those added transportation costs it would require a lot of wage repression to make it work. So the US threatens social protection in the name of wage standards to keep Africa out (though of course the imports would be largely non competing with US production) unless it accedes to domination by US capital which will then mean it can only compete on the basis of ever lower wages. It's not so paradoxical once we realize that the valorization of imperialist capital is what drives all this politics to which UNITE simply gives some legitimacy. That is, Friedman puts all the blame on UNITE, the junior partner in all this; I understand it as an expression of imperialism. I don't see Friedman drawing this conclusion.

>Is there any
>evidence that moving textile production abroad has resulted in lower textile
>prices for consumers in the US?

Seems not to be true. But relocation abroad is not only driven by hourly wage advantages; there is also freedom from safety, overtime and environmental standards, plus the subsidies the companies enjoy.

>It's a bit disturbing to see Rakesh agreeing with a propagandist moron like

Marx's defense of free trade is pretty disturbing too. Maybe he was pulling toes. I don't know. But one of the central claims of the new unionism is its progressive internationalism. I have been seeking to delegitimize it on this front, which has led me to use bits and pieces of the analyses by free trade progagandists. Right after Slaughter in the latest New Politics, Peter Rachleff relates a very distrurbing and detailed account of AFL CIO complicity in the crushing of recent strike by railroad workers in Mexico.

Yours, Rakesh

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