Contribution No.2 to the debate on FREE TRADE :
(Quoted from an article in Land and Liberty, Spring 2000) By Godfrey Dunkley
Awakened by a burglar alarm sounding, one realises that a neighbour’s house is possibly being burgled. The gangs of burglars often come in smart vehicles that do not raise suspicion. This once common occurrence in a quiet neighbourhood has been significantly reduced since a neighbourhood watch was formed.
Recent events in Seattle by demonstrators from many walks of life and different communities sounded the alarm on plans being made behind closed doors by the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
The WTO are believed to be planning total freedom of trade that cannot be limited by any individual nation, no matter what the consequences may be to local trade, production, employment or ecology.
What is known about the people who plan in secrecy? Are they answerable under any particular nation’s laws? Are they bound by any accepted business ethics or morality that may restrain their thinking and behaviour?
Henry George advocated free trade and gave a well-reasoned case for it. The International Union for Land Value Taxation and Free Trade has free trade as one of its basic principles. However, is this not of necessity coupled to the full application of Land Value Taxation (LVT) and the abolition of indirect taxation and taxes on production?
Free trade in slaves had to be abolished by national and international laws! But colonialism changed the process of taking slaves to the workplace, to taking the workplace to the economic slaves!
Harold McMillan’s “Winds of Change” and the dismantling of empires transferred political control to the newly independent colonies and replaced it by a still tighter grip over their economies. The main advantage was that responsibility for the inevitable economic failure was transferred from the colonial powers to the “inefficient” local governments who were destined to reap the bad crop planted by first world powers and sometimes ruthless profit-driven international conglomerates. The colonial powers were able to walk away with “clean hands”.
Subsistence farming has been largely replaced by lucrative cash crop farming, until the local skills for survival have been lost. This was often followed by over production, a glut in world markets and the bottom falling out of prices. In most cases when prices drop the farmer cannot afford to feed his family nor can they live on the cash.
History is full of examples of the above: During the Irish potato famine, wheat was being exported to England but the farmers could not afford to buy it. The East African groundnut scheme replaced much subsistence farming and then collapsed. Working in rubber, cocoa or coffee plantations the labourers receive a pittance compared to the world prices and so become economic slaves. The recent military coupe in Ivory Coast was triggered by the slump in cocoa prices. Who can live on cocoa?
Free trade in international currency has made unearned fortunes for some and “robbed” an equivalent amount from others, frequently impoverished nations.
Alternatively, free trade backed by international LVT on all land and natural resources including the air-waves and landing rights, coupled with ecological taxes on extraction and waste control could well improve the general standard of living. This would also require high ethical standards and international laws.
However, free trade as appears to be planned by the WTO could be a recipe for world disaster. No country will be able to protect their industry or farming from unfair dumping nor their ecology from malpractice. Patenting of existing natural crops together with genetic engineering is designed to place control in the hands of a few and make some wealthy at the expense of others. Genetic engineering could replace proven hardy crops by others that are not self-reproducing. This could result, in time, in world starvation.
No, free trade cannot be tolerated without total transparency and coupled with international LVT. Otherwise, what is to stop specific parties with vested interests from acting under the umbrella of the WTO? What can stop those who seek total power as never before experienced, from acting for individual profit rather than the good of the whole?
We in the International Union should seriously consider removing the words “Free Trade” from our name until such time as the other requirements are achieved. (Not in my lifetime!)
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