Monday, August 1, 2016

international trade treaties and jobs

Have bad trade deals destroyed jobs, and can we do better?
A friend recently posted something on this, and I replied:


I have tried to reduce my attention to the details of presidential debates
which can be very depressing at times... but I was quite surprised when Kaine actually said something "at the reality level" on TTP. In that case, he found the standards fine for jobs and labor, but had serious questions about enforcement mechanisms.  I have often wished for more attention to implementation and reality, beyond just legislation, in all the government activities I am familiar with. (Really, it is a huge crisis now, and I often wonder how much the President even knows about it.) Still, the standards being enforced are important too. 

The head of ILO for the US points out that it IS quite important if the standards they create are in fact written into trade treaties, and they ARE very interested in upgrading those standards to reflect new realities.
If we believe that international trade can make the life condition of "the work force" much better or much worse, depending on whether the treaties
account for things which need to be accounted for, then helping update standards which come from ILO could be extremely important. How else
could we address such concerns, if our concerns are real and not just empty words intended to win elections by bait and switch? 

Well, maybe by restructuring some IT, but I cannot yet see answers to some questions I already posted on that aspect; more precisely, I do not see ways to make things better, though I see ways that certain IT business plans could make things worse if they go through. Likewise, if ILO turns out to be frozen in time, and unable to make updates which are needed... it would be best to make an honest try before pushing for new arrangements. 

One of you recently posted a very elegant long piece arguing that the rise of inequality in the US can be dated to 1980, when corporations started to become more focused on  cash flow as the only metric of value driving decisions, making less allowance than before to things like labor concerns and benefits to society. That logically raises questions about what the SEC is requiring, questions which I have heard both Hillary Clinton and Charles Koch worry about loudly.  (Actually, the last time I heard this, Koch publicly asked for a meeting with Clinton to discuss their common concern, and Clinton very publicly spurned the idea of a conversation. I do not go beyond the facts on that one for now!!!) The questions about metrics for corporate decision making are closely related to questions  about GDP as a measure discussed here, and to the work of Hazel Henderson, who might perhaps even be someone worth inviting to the discussions on this. Hazel is probably very depressed right now about recent events in Brazil, where she has had powerful connections, but perhaps we also need (unfortunately) to take some lesson from that experience as well.


Maybe I should add -- by coincidence, I also was watching CNN at the time when the Moslem war hero's father pulled out the constitution. Leaving aside explicit partisan words... I was really amazed at the resonance between a lot of what he said about the constitution and elevated spiritual-level discussion of covenants and social contracts 
at our local Quaker meeting two weeks ago. Really stunning, enough to suggest to me that the spirit really was at work in a percentage of his speaking, a percentage much larger than what is usual for anyone, even the world's spiritual leaders. 

A key question: what kinds of new arrangements or social contracts could fully express the spirit of the constitution
(US or modern German) in a way which better maintains it and protects from the gross abuses we have seen n recent years?  I do not know, but will try to think about it, on-again off-again, looking for whether there IS a way to think rationally and clearly about it. I also thought on-again off-again about some basic questions about life and self-organization, seeing important new pieces every few years... enough by now to be dangerous but also enough to leave lots of gaps. 

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