Saturday, October 6, 2012

Freedom from Want 6: The Environment, the Poor

In my latest reading of Freedom from Want: American Liberalism and the Global Economy, Gresser critiques the notion that freer trade harms the environment, as well as argues that protectionism can harm the poor.

Regarding the environment, Gresser disagrees with the idea that the World Trade Organization is completely insensitive to environmental concerns, for he refers to a WTO decision that would protect a turtle in waters that were used for fishing and shrimping.  Gresser also argues that freer trade could perhaps get the U.S. to become more efficient in producing ethanol.  Gresser contends that the U.S. ethanol business remains an infant after twenty-five years.  But suppose we started to import cheap ethanol from Brazil, Gresser says.  Maybe then we'd get our act together on ethanol, resulting in "cleaner air and lower emissions" (page 156)!

Regarding the poor, Gresser argues that protectionism hurts people in Cambodia, since it discourages Americans from buying its products.  What will these vulnerable foreign workers do, if Americans don't buy their products and their company goes out of business?  Moreover, Gresser contends that protectionism hurts poor single parents in the U.S., since they depend on cheaper imported goods (i.e., shoes, clothing), and protectionism would drive up the cost of those goods.

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