Social Protectionism

Rakesh Bhandari bhandari at phoenix.Princeton.EDU
Thu Mar 16 15:06:21 PST 2000

> [mbs] Perhaps but I doubt it, and you have yet to demonstrate
> it with any substance.

Your doubts are on the basis of what evidence? Assuming that you have some concern that there are no consequences like those from the Harkin Bill, what makes you think social protection on a larger scale will work? (You may want to consult the Challenge, Journal of Economic Issue, Critique of Anthropology and Spivak pieces I mentioned about the Harkin Bill and import bans on child labor products). And what substantial evidence have you provided that social protection won't be abused?

I would say it's easier because
> trade speaks to a broader political sentiment. Labor
> law is seen as narrowly for unions, more or less.

> foreign trade is seen as threatening jobs whether they
> are unionized or not, as well as pertaining to the overall
> national economic health. Now there is some moonshine in
> the latter notion, but its political salience does not
> suffer much for it.

Yes in a slow global growth environnment, the number of above poverty wage jobs are too few-- meaning that no matter their geographical distribution on a global scale, global unemployment will tend to mount in absolute terms. Governments aren't stepping in with massive fiscal expansions. Interest rates won't be pushed to zero, much less below that. So what are you going to do? Protect "our" jobs by threats of social protection at home and forced liberalization abroad? And if we do this, won't others do the same? And then what? Of course the US capitalist state may accede to social protection as a way of stemming pressure for more fiscal expansion, so the AFL CIO may win some ground here at the expense of inciting trade war and global depression.

> [mbs] Here again we can casually toss out proposals that
> cost a bunch of resources without considering whether
> such posturing will get anywhere, in comparison to
> alternative uses for the funds. We may think
> general economic resources are unlimited, but
> the labor movement's resources clearly are
> limited.

Of course funds are limited. That's why Sweeney shouldn't be flushing them down the toilet with pie in the sky schemes to get that august body of the WTO to protect the global proletariat.

Yours, Rakesh

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