Posts Tagged ‘free trade’
December 11th, 2015 at 3:36 pm
Beware of Misinformation and Deceptive Tactics by Free Trade and Intellectual Property Opponents
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CFIF steadfastly supports both free trade and strong intellectual property (IP) protections.  Each has played an invaluable role in making America the most innovative and prosperous nation in human history, and each is important if we hope to maintain that primacy through the 21st century.

In that spirit, we hope to ultimately support the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) after our own reasoned analysis.

Even the cleanest trade agreements tend to be complex,  and the TPP is no exception.  Along with so many other conservative and libertarian organizations, we are therefore carefully examining the TPP’s provisions in determining whether to ultimately support the agreement.

Making that determination in an intelligent and good faith manner, however, requires that the debate remain grounded in accurate, reliable and pertinent information.  But opponents of free trade and strong IP protections have undertaken a campaign to confuse and frighten the electorate through distortion.

An organization named IP Watch offers a perfect example of such tactics, with a recent piece about the TPP’s dispute resolution provisions known as the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) process.  IP Watch contends that, by virtue of the ISDS, “foreign corporations [will have] a huge advantage in IP disputes – private arbitrations that can override courts and statutes, effectively rewriting a nation’s IP laws,” but the simple reality is that ISDS provisions are common to international agreements and unremarkable.

Simply put, an ISDS process allows companies doing business abroad to protect themselves against unfair treatment such as discrimination and government seizure of their property, known as “expropriation.”  Over 3,000 international agreements include a process to resolve these problems, but many stubborn opponents of free trade and IP rights oppose these dispute resolution mechanisms, which are designed to give American companies similar protections to those enjoyed by foreign companies doing business in the U.S.

For its part, the TPP includes countries around the Pacific Rim, collectively  accounting for about 40% of all global trade, and like the 3,000 other international agreements referenced above, it includes an ISDS process to level the playing field for American companies doing business overseas.   Additionally, like so many other previous trade agreements, the TPP broadly exempts IP from the ISDS process unless the IP was expropriated and the expropriation violates the IP provisions of either the TPP or the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Those opposed to free trade or strong IP rights, however, don’t like the idea that companies possess that option to protect themselves, particularly companies that rely on IP protections.   Their attack on the ISDS process as it applies to IP is an opportunistic and cynical attempt to achieve their larger aim, the erosion of IP protections for creators and innovators.

Further, in practice it’s not easy to win an ISDS case.  First, an investor must prove that there was either direct expropriation (the government forcibly comes in and seizes the property, claiming now to be the legal owner of it), or indirect expropriation (the same effect as direct expropriation but without the outright seizure).  That is drawn from U.S. law, and the U.S. Constitution itself,  per the Fifth Amendment provision that, “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”  Moreover, the particular standards in the TPP for proving whether there has been an “expropriation” (e.g., “taking”) are drawn directly from a Supreme Court ruling on the Fifth Amendment in Penn Central Transportation Co. v. New York City (1978).

Accordingly, it should alarm readers of IP Watch that the anti-trade, anti-IP crowd has thus gone so far as to malign concepts contained in the Bill of Rights itself.

In addition to demonstrating an expropriation of IP rights, the TPP requires a company to prove that the government action violated the IP provisions of either the TPP or the WTO.  And those rules are the product of agreement by the governments of nations of all perspectives from across the globe, and constitute the basic levels of protection for IP.

That’s why companies bring so few cases.  Tellingly, only 13 cases have ever been brought to conclusion against the United States, and we won all of them.

There’s another factor that must be considered as well.  Namely, if you are an American company doing business abroad, where you rely on the local authorities for police protection and hope for fair treatment by the government and judges, how eager would you be to start a lawsuit against the whole country?  You, your board of directors and your shareholders would think long and hard about that one.

The ISDS process is a fair and appropriate one, but realistically, companies are only going to resort to it when their backs are truly against the wall.

Anti-trade and anti-IP interest groups and advocates will likely continue to publish misinformation about the TPP and its IP chapter in an attempt to scuttle the deal.  Indeed, activists are openly advertising that they will try to incite people, even though the TPP’s IP provisions are all drawn from U.S. law and have been in other trade agreements for years.

Hopefully, however, the preceding points help cut through the click-bait and hyperventilation that characterizes their rhetoric, so reasonable people can draw their own conclusions about the TPP based on fact and principle.

August 28th, 2015 at 9:51 am
Rubio: Beat China via Free Trade and Passing Trans-Pacific Partnership, Not Self-Destructive Protectionism
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In confronting the growing challenge of China, as with Japan in the 1980s and other challengers in the past, the easy and simplistic response is to advocate protectionism.  But America remains the most prosperous and innovative nation in human history on the basis of free trade, not protectionism.  If closing borders to trade was the path to prosperity, then North Korea would be a global exemplar.

On that chord, Senator Marco Rubio (R – Florida), set to give a much-anticipated foreign policy speech on the campaign trail today, offers a refreshing commentary in today’s Wall Street Journal entitled “How My Presidency Would Deal With China.”  In his piece, Rubio advocates free trade and passing the Trans-Pacific Partnership as effective tools for confronting China, resisting the cheap and easy protectionist platitudes:

My second goal is protecting the U.S. economy.  For years, China has subsidized exports, devalued its currency, restricted imports and stolen technology on a massive scale.  As president, I would respond not through aggressive retaliation, which would hurt the U.S. as much as China, but by greater commitment and firmer insistence on free markets and free trade.  This means immediately moving forward with the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade agreements.”

Protectionism and irrational alarm over trade balance only serve to undermine American growth.  After all, the 1930s Great Depression in the U.S. witnessed trade surpluses in 102 of that decade’s 120 months.  The better answer is to maintain America’s standing as a nation of free trade, through which we will overcome today’s challenges just as we have previous decades’ similar challenges.

June 4th, 2015 at 3:19 pm
New Study: The Economic Case for Crude Oil Exports is Clear
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This week, Dr. Margo Thorning, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist for the American Council for Capital Formation (ACCF), and William Shughart, former Federal Trade Commission (FTC) economist and professor of economics at the Jon. M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University, convincingly set out the economic case for finally allowing the export of U.S crude oil in a study entitled, “The Economic Case for Lifting the Crude Oil Export Ban.”

In their paper, the two notable economists analyze multiple macroeconomic studies by highly-respected public policy think tanks, including the Brookings Institution, IHS, the Aspen Institute and ICF International.  All reached the same conclusion:  Removing the crude oil export ban will bring measurable economic advantages to our economy and our nation.

And what are those economic advantages?  First, allowing oil exports will  create high-paying jobs, increased economic investment, higher gross domestic product (GDP) and downward pressure on fuel prices.  Specifically, the Brookings Institution study analyzed by Thorning and Shughart found that lifting the ban will reduce unemployment by an annual average of 200,000-400,000 jobs between 2015 and 2020. For its part, ICF predicted gains of up to 300,000 new jobs by 2020.

Accordingly, continuing to observe our outdated and restrictive crude export policy, we are demonstrating a blatant disregard for economic growth and expansion, particularly in the jobs sector.

Along with the significant economic benefits, we also possess an opportunity to strengthen ties with our trading partners in the global market, upholding the very free trade principles we encourage other countries to practice.

Additionally, the new paper highlights the contradictory nature of the U.S. prohibiting crude oil exports while professing to the world that we practice free trade. Crude oil is no different than other domestically produced products bought and sold daily in the global economy, and removing the ban and instituting a more truly free market boosts our credibility as a nation that practices capitalism and open trade.

Simply put, changing our outdated energy policy on crude exports would be a sound economic approach that takes advantage of our current domestic energy abundance. The U.S. would benefit on the economic front and position ourselves to become a top player in the global energy market while more truly embracing a free trade doctrine.

That’s a win-win for our economy and the American people.

May 29th, 2015 at 11:03 am
Pass Free Trade Legislation, But Ignore Calls to Insert “Fair Use” Provisions That Weaken American IP Protections
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We at CFIF strongly advocate both free trade and intellectual property (IP) protection.  Although typically distinct policy questions, they are currently intertwined as Congress finally and fortunately moves toward passing free trade legislation.

The pending legislation rightly demands that trading partners recognize American IP rights, but that has naturally drawn fire from some of the usual suspects (e.g., Google, the Internet Association, et al.) who tend to oppose stronger IP rights because those protections tend to run contrary to their own particular business interests.  Specifically, those interests seek to include copyright limitations in free trade bills, including mandatory “Fair Use” exceptions.

That would be a bad idea.

Among other problems, those voices misstate domestic law in suggesting that “generally, an Internet company in the U.S. is not held liable for the conduct or content of third parties who use its platform.”  While existing law provides a level of immunity for Internet companies, such immunity is limited and does not excuse violations in numerous circumstances, including:  (1) when the interactive computer service materially contributes to the illegal content; (2) when the interactive computer service itself engages in fraud/misrepresentation; (3) when the interactive computer service engages in, or aids and abets, criminal activity; or (4) if the illegal activity violates IP laws.  Accordingly, omitting discussion of an Internet company’s liability for copyright infringement is particularly and intentionally misleading.  American law regarding the liability of intermediaries is infinitely more complicated, and intermediaries may face liability under a variety of circumstances, including where they induce the infringement of third persons (the Grokster standard), and in other circumstances in which they meet the standards of contributory infringement or vicarious liability.  Additionally, “safe harbors” under applicable law remain conditioned on a number of affirmative acts on the part of intermediaries, such as promptly taking action once they learn of infringing content (rather than merely upon receiving formal notice), maintaining policies with regard to repeat violators and adoption of standard technical measures designed to prevent infringement.

Thus, domestic law does not extend some blanket, general exemption from liability for Internet companies with regard to the conduct of third parties, and the scope of liability in the U.S. continues to evolve, both from a judicial standpoint and a legislative one.  Furthermore, Congress is presently considering the appropriate contours of the safe harbors established in the 20-year-old DMCA, with many members expressing concerns about the levels of piracy that prevail, and the fact that “notice and takedown” has been largely ineffective in reducing piracy levels, with a particularly devastating impact on individual creators and actors who can ill afford to pursue takedowns only to have the same content immediately re-uploaded.  Accordingly, it remains unclear exactly what liability regime the US should be seeking to export.  But it’s absolutely clear that American interest in foreign markets remains primarily in promoting greater discipline and accountability to reduce piracy levels that deprive the US billions of dollars in earnings.

Furthermore, U.S. trade agreements already include provisions relating to exceptions and limitations.  They also already recite the relevant provisions of international law that define the scope of permissible exceptions and limitations.  Those binding provisions are contained in a variety of agreements, including the Berne Convention, TRIPS, the WIPO Treaties (WCT and WPPT), and each of our free trade agreements.  Other nations have employed different means to achieve what they believe is a proper balance between protection and limitations, but remain they bound by the provisions of international law.  A particularly wide variance exists in how common law and civil law nations approach exceptions and limitations.  More specifically, courts in civil law countries are not permitted to interpret general provisions, and legal standards that require the weighing of different factors are a poor fit.  As a result, legal provisions such as Fair Use are ill-suited to the jurisprudence of most countries across the globe.

Moreover, as the world’s leading producer and exporter of copyright protected materials, the U.S. maintains a tremendous economic interest in ensuring the effective protection of copyright works.  While all parties strongly endorse balanced copyright protection that both protects works and provides reasonable flexibility, the biggest problem in foreign markets is lack of discipline, and not overboard protection.

It is critical that Congress passes free trade legislation currently on its agenda, and those who seek to exploit it as a device to weaken American IP protections must be rejected.

January 16th, 2014 at 4:12 pm
Free Trade Negotiations Offer Opportunity to Improve Intellectual Property Protections
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In our Liberty Update this week, we highlight the new 2014 Index of Economic Freedom, which itself highlights the critical importance of property rights and free trade in generating prosperity.  The facts, and that correlation, are simply beyond dispute.

On that note, current Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) free-trade agreement negotiations provide a critical opportunity to upgrade intellectual property (IP) protections that have gradually become outdated since the landmark North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed two decades ago.  That was the expert conclusion of Mark T. Elliot, Executive Vice President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center, in testimony this week before the House of Representatives at a hearing entitled “NAFTA at Twenty:  Accomplishments, Challenges, and the Way Forward.”

At the time of signing, NAFTA intended to create the best levels of IP protection and enforcement…  It was a testament to how important IP was viewed by Mexico, Canada, and the United States.  However, as this was signed twenty years ago, this level of IP protection is now a very low bar in 2014.  In 2012, the Chamber released an International IP Index, a comprehensive review of the intellectual property environment in 11 key markets based on existing international standards and best practices.  The United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia all perform well in the Index…  Mexico and Canada, however, rank closer to the likes of Russia, Malaysia, and China.

In Mexico, however, we continue to see progress… and the business community has been working productively with the Mexican government.  In contrast, Canada’s relative low score is a result of wide-ranging IP problems including:  enforcement, weak on membership and poor ratification of international treaties, and significant problems with patent and copyright laws.  Canada is the largest trading partner for the United States… [making] it all the more bewildering to the business community at how substandard Canada’s IP system is.”

When NAFTA was signed, it was an idea ahead of its time.  And as former Clinton Administration Chief of Staff Thomas “Mack” McLarty noted a recent Wall Street Journal commentary, the results have been spectacular:

U.S. trade with Mexico and Canada has tripled to more than $1 trillion a year, supporting millions of American jobs.  The U.S. exported more last year to Mexico than to Brazil, Russia, India and China combined; and more to Canada, with 35 million people, than to the European Union, with 500 million…  NAFTA also opened the door for free trade agreements across Latin America, a catalyst for economic and political reforms.  Mexico was transformed from one of the most closed economies in the world to one of the most open, and it subsequently threw off decades of one-party rule.   Today, U.S. products make up 40% of the contents of goods imported here from Mexico (compared with 4% in goods imported from China).  An integrated market boosts exports and imports, and helps keep good jobs at home.”

Today, we face a perfect opportunity to improve upon NAFTA’s good thing.   As Mr. Elliot testified:

2014 will present many opportunities for the United States, Canada, and Mexico to further improve their IP environments…  In particular, all three countries are participants in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement negotiations.  The TPP is being negotiated between 12 different countries, and it is essential that it include robust standards for IP protection, using the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement as a model and providing 12 years of regulatory data protection for biologic products.  We encourage the U.S., Canadian, Mexican, and all TPP negotiators to uphold their positions and protect IP from the efforts to weaken existing laws and norms.  The TPP provides the U.S., Canada, and Mexico the opportunity to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in support of strong IP protections, innovation, and access to the creations and inventions of the 21st century.  A TPP agreement that includes a high-standard IP chapter is good for jobs and good for international trade.  The TPP will also allow Canada to raise its IP standards, promote innovation, and bolster its growing economy.  2014 should be the year when the North American neighbors work together to improve each other’s IP environments and the IP environments of countries around the world.”

Free trade and strong IP rights are critical components of economic freedom, which the latest Index of Economic Freedom shows is causally related to a nation’s prosperity.  America, Canada, Mexico and the other negotiating nations face an important opportunity in 2014 to improve upon both, which will boost our prosperity at a time when we desperately need it.

September 3rd, 2013 at 1:17 pm
It’s good that people are taller, but it’s great that people are fatter

The average European man has grown 4.33 inches taller in the past 100 years, according to a new study produced by the University of Essex and the Australian National University in Canberra. Researchers cite a previously demonstrated link between decreased infant mortality and increased height as one reason for the growth spurt. The study’s author, Timothy Hatton, also says smaller family sizes are related to an increase in height, as are improved food availability and disease reduction.

News of the increase in average height has been met with cheers by American media. After all, it reflects a significant improvement in health — at least among European males, the focus of the study. Oddly, the media refused to celebrate last year when a British medical journal reported that obesity is now a bigger health crisis globally than hunger.

Malnutrition and other hunger-related illnesses have killed more people throughout human history than any other cause. Now, thanks to the development of high-yield, disease-resistant crops, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides — not to mention the increase in capitalism and free trade throughout the world — there is more than enough food to feed every person on Earth. Hunger and malnutrition today are almost exclusively a result of failed government food distribution policies.

The increase in height brought on by lower infant mortality rates and smaller families is exciting news. But it pales in comparison to the fact that, because of cheap, easily available food made possible through private innovation and market forces, humans throughout the world are now living longer and healthier than ever before.

And that obesity epidemic? Well, it turns out that it has been greatly exaggerated.

The average European man has grown 4.33 inches taller in the past 100 years, according to a new study produced by the University of Essex and the Australian National University in Canberra. Researchers cite a previously demonstrated link between decreased infant mortality and increased height as one reason for the growth spurt. The study’s author, Timothy Hatton, also says smaller family sizes are related to an increase in height, as are improved food availability and disease reduction.
News of the increase in average height has been met with cheers by American media. After all, it reflects a significant improvement in health — at least among European males, the focus of the study. Oddly, the media refused to celebrate last year when a British medical journal reported that obesity is now a bigger health crisis globally than hunger.
Malnutrition and other hunger-related illnesses have killed more people throughout human history than any other cause. Now, thanks to increase in the development of high-yield, disease-resistant crops, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides — not to mention the increase of capitalism and free trade throughout the world — there is more than enough food to feed every person on Earth. Hunger and malnutrition today are almost exclusively a result of failed government food distribution policies.
The increase in height brought on by lower infant mortality rates and smaller families is exciting news. But it pales in comparison to the fact that, because of cheap, easily available food made possible through private innovation and market forces, humans throughout the world are now living longer and healthier than ever before.
And that obesity epidemic? Well, it turns out that it has been greatly exaggerated.
May 14th, 2012 at 4:45 pm
Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations Offer Important IP Opportunity
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At this moment in Dallas, Texas, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations have resumed, with important implications for intellectual property (IP).

According to the U.S. Commerce Department, 75 domestic industries it identifies as “IP-intensive” account for 40 million jobs, approximately 28% of our total employment.  Industries reliant upon IP also account for $5 trillion – some 35% – of total American gross domestic product (GDP), 61% of U.S. merchandise exports and pay wages 42% higher than non-IP employers.

It is therefore critical that TPP negotiators establish a solid foundation for IP protection as they move toward finalization.

The TPP currently consists of eight Pacific trading partners in addition to the U.S. – Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Chile and Peru.  In 2010 alone, America exported $89 billion in goods to those nations, making the TPP one of our largest collective export markets.  The express goal of the TPP charter is “to establish a comprehensive, next-generation regional agreement that liberalizes trade and investment and addresses new and traditional trade issues and 21st-century challenges.”  And with other Pacific region nations Japan, Canada and Mexico expressing interest in joining the TPP, the agreement currently under negotiation can set the foundation for future trade practices across the Pacific realm.

To its credit, the U.S. stands as a worldwide leader in demanding strong IP standards in agreements such as this, as reflected by domestic laws and international accords such as the one completed just last year with Korea.  Similarly, with pressure on to finalize TPP negotiations, we must ensure strong IP protections in the final agreement.  Doing so will prove beneficial in terms of protecting American jobs against theft and counterfeit, protecting American consumers against potentially dangerous products, reducing the threat to American creativity and innovation posed by copyright infringement, promoting future innovation, protecting American competitiveness against those who seek to steal our ideas and creations and setting clear rules for worldwide commerce.

If successful, we can set a sound foundation of IP protection, which will prove critical for American innovation, jobs, exports and continued prosperity in an increasingly Pacific-dominated 21st century.

October 12th, 2011 at 4:42 pm
Pelosi: Let’s Help American Workers by Cutting Them Off from the Global Economy
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In my column this week, I argued that members of Congress from both sides of the aisle are playing with fire in their attempt to prevent China’s “currency manipulation.” The problem, I contended, is actually much smaller than the damage that could be engendered by the proposed remedy; damage that could include a trade war, driving up prices throughout the American economy.

In the column’s coda, I noted:

The antidote to America’s economic ills won’t come from engaging in trade wars. It will come from reducing the debt and making Chinese credit irrelevant; strengthening incentives for entrepreneurs and job creators, and expanding exactly the kind of international trade that this proposal will derail.

Now comes news that House Minority Leader (the three sweetest words in the English language when appearing before her name) Nancy Pelosi not only wants to shut down trade via the China bill, she also wants to gut  free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea that have already been delayed by nearly half a decade. Per Politico:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi took to the floor Wednesday to urge lawmakers to abandon work on three pending free-trade agreements until they take up a bill dealing with China’s manipulation of its currency.

Both the House and Senate are expected to pass the trade deals with Colombia, Panama and South Korea with bipartisan majorities later Wednesday. But the California Democrat, who’s been critical of the pacts, said in a fiery speech that targeting currency manipulation would ultimately benefit more U.S. workers than the free-trade agreements.

At least give the erstwhile speaker credit for consistency. Passing the currency manipulation bill and blocking the free trade agreements would have exactly the same effect: keeping prices artificially high for American businesses and consumers, making it harder to sell American goods overseas, and further delaying meaningful economic recovery. Reviewing that list, it quickly becomes apparent that Nancy Pelosi is a much bigger threat to the state of the American economy than the value of the yuan.

September 23rd, 2011 at 2:07 pm
Free Trade, Worker Aid Bills Show Policy Differences

Bloomberg News reports the latest ultimatum from House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to President Barack Obama:

“We await the president’s submission of the three trade agreements sitting on his desk so the House can consider them in tandem” with the aid and preference programs, Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said in a statement yesterday. “If the president submits these agreements promptly, I’m confident that all four bills can be signed into law by mid-October.”

Apart from Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget resolution and the president’s deficit reduction proposal, there may be no better example of how different is each party’s idea of sound economic policy.

Boehner wants Obama to release three trade treaties negotiated by the Bush Administration so that Americans and their counterparts in Columbia, South Korea and Panama can start enjoying the benefits of free trade.

For his part, Obama wants to force Republicans into funding another round of unemployment benefits, this time for workers displaced by the yet-to-be-ratified agreements.  That’s right: the president wants to spend money on people who may never be fired.

First of all, it’s fallacious to assume that businesses operating at historically low worker levels will fire employees; especially since increased trade opportunities are more likely to lead to hiring increases.  Moreover, Obama fails to recognize the cost of not enacting the three free trade agreements.  For instance, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that failure to ratify the agreements will cost 380,000 jobs due to missed business opportunities.

At the heart of this dispute is the focus of each party.  Boehner and the Republicans want to spur economic growth.  Obama and the Democrats want to lock-in the growth of the entitlement state.

Boehner is right to demand action on both free trade and worker aid at the same time.  If Obama cries foul, it’s only because his childish attempt to spend more and get less was called out.

July 21st, 2011 at 4:17 pm
BBC Sets Double Standard for Global Warming Skeptics
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The Daily Express reports from the U.K. today that the BBC is taking a new approach to climate change skeptics: ignoring them outright. Here’s how the paper has it:

THE BBC was criticised by climate change sceptics yesterday after it emerged that their views will get less coverage because they differ from mainline scientific opinion.

In a report by its governing body, the BBC Trust, the corporation was urged to focus less on opponents of the “majority consensus” in its programmes.

It said coverage should not be tailored to represent a “false balance” of opinion if one side came from a minority group.

… Although he found no evidence of bias in BBC output, he suggested where there is a “scientific consensus” it should not hunt out opponents purely to balance the story.

Needless to say, the BBC’s decision strikes at the heart of both scientific and journalistic integrity. These are two fields where it should be universally recognized that truth is not whatever the majority says it is. As long as the BBC is going to be playing this game, however, let’s make it a fair fight. 

Clearly, we should not expect to hear minority points of view on the following propositions, all of which are supported by the vast majority of economists: Free trade is beneficial, the minimum wage is a job-killer, and outsourcing is a positive good. Since the experts have weighed in, we’re confident that the BBC will now get to work suppressing dissenters as a matter of civic hygiene. We look forward to their objectivity.


June 28th, 2011 at 9:14 pm
Economics in One (Video) Lesson
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It’s as clear a statement of what works (and what doesn’t) in providing economic growth and well-being as you’ll find. It’s a guide to not only the rightness but the utility of freedom. And it can be viewed in the time it takes to wait for a stoplight to change. It’s the new video from the good folks (yes, we’re not afraid to say it) at the Charles Koch Foundation. The only thing wrong with this project? That there aren’t more videos like this one:

March 21st, 2011 at 9:48 pm
Obama Comes Out in Favor of Oil Exploration … in Brazil
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As developments in the Middle East and a wayward monetary policy send gas prices consistently north, President Obama — no friend of hydrocarbons he — seems to be turning over a new leaf on the topic of oil exploration. The only problem? He wants other countries to do the heavy lifting so that we can then import the black gold. An editorial in today’s Investor’s Business Daily has the POTUS dead to rights:

Now, with a seven-year offshore drilling ban in effect off of both coasts, on Alaska’s continental shelf and in much of the Gulf of Mexico — and a de facto moratorium covering the rest — Obama tells the Brazilians:

“We want to help you with the technology and support to develop these oil reserves safely. And when you’re ready to start selling, we want to be one of your best customers.”

Obama wants to develop Brazilian offshore oil to help the Brazilian economy create jobs for Brazilian workers while Americans are left unemployed in the face of skyrocketing energy prices by an administration that despises fossil fuels as a threat to the environment and wants to increase our dependency on foreign oil.

Despite some of the more emotional pleas for energy independence, there’s nothing inherently wrong with importing fuel from foreign sources. In fact, developing new oil production anywhere lowers the price everywhere. However, someone might want to tell President Obama that this maxim applies to U.S. sources as well.

November 12th, 2010 at 2:48 pm
It’s Dangerous to Have a President This Weak

Traditionally, presidents facing opposition at home go abroad to find policy and political success.  Basically, if you can’t beat them, play with someone else.  It’s an especially useful move in the latter part of a president’s second term, when lame duck status settles in and speculation about a successor mounts.

Perhaps we’re seeing that now with one-term President Barack Obama.  One thing is missing, however, from the script: a foreign policy success.

So far, the president’s 10 day Asian trip has been a disaster.  It started with a badly handled mis-impression that 34 warships costing $200 million a day were escorting the president to India.  (They weren’t.)  Then his staff was embarrassed by press handlers working for the Indian government.  Now, he’s failing to secure a crucial free trade deal with South Korea while being ostracized at the G-20 meeting for his fiscal and monetary policies.

All this may make him more likely to be defeated in his reelection campaign, but it is a terrible projection of powerlessness to the rest of the world.

November 9th, 2009 at 10:39 am
The World Loves Obama? Maybe Not in China
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Although lost amidst news of last week’s elections, the Ft. Hood shooting and Nancy Pelosi’s healthcare abomination, President Obama pays a visit to China next week.  What awaits him might not be the fawning foreign crowds to which he is accustomed in his overseas travels.

As noted by The Wall Street Journal, Obama’s behavior in office has already created friction in a nation where President George W. Bush was actually quite popular.  Whereas Bush expanded and improved trade and diplomatic relations, Obama has engaged in destructive trade protectionism over such things as low-cost tires.  Considering China’s importance as a trade partner, economic force and strategic antagonist, it is critical that Obama deal with them intelligently.  Unfortunately, so far, he appears less adept at achieving successful relations with China than he does in wooing anti-American audiences in the Middle East and socialist portions of Europe.

But hey – at least the denizens of Parisian salons love him.

September 23rd, 2009 at 10:20 am
Time to Speak Up on Obama Trade War
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Hello.  Good morning.  We need to use this opportunity for an urgent message to American business, large and small (and even tiny), to American agricultural interests, large and small, regardless of crop, if you are or are trying to sell overseas or buy overseas.

Your president is in the process of starting a trade war with the Chinese over imported tires.  He is doing this on behalf of a union, no big news on that.  It is, as most protectionist acts in the global village, silly and ill-advised.  In this case, the potential upside is infinitesimal and the downside, in an unusually fragile economy, similar unto the scariest Halloween movie in which victims are picked randomly and abruptly for slaughter.

You may not be paying attention now, but you better.  Trade wars cannot be contained.  Trade wars cannot be limited to the original countries involved.  Trade wars cannot be limited to specific products or commodities. You wanna talk political triangulation?  Trade wars involve hyperdextrangulation squared. 

The problem with trade wars you ignore is that one day you wake up to learn you have become collateral damage, through no fault of your own, never did one thing wrong in or to any country involved.  Doesn’t matter.  That’s what collateral damage is.  You don’t want to become collateral damage.  You don’t want to explain to your employees and farm workers and families and children that you are collateral damage.

You have three choices.  The first is to call the president and tell him to stop this nonsense before it gets out of hand.  The second is to write the president and tell him to stop this nonsense before it gets out of hand.  The third is to do nothing and play foreign trade roulette.  You do not want to take the third option.

Trust us.  We know.  We once, shall we say, had some proximity to advising on targets for collateral damage in other countries.

September 21st, 2009 at 4:47 pm
Letter to White House on Tariffs
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Jeff Flake, arguably one of the strongest supporters of the free market in Congress, has just sent a letter to the White House regarding President Obama’s recent decision to impose tariffs on Chinese imports.

Here is the link. The text is below.

The President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

I write to raise concern about your recent decision to impose tariffs on imported Chinese tires pursuant to a petition filed by the United Steelworkers of America under Section 421 of the Trade Act of 1974.

In an opinion piece highlighting the G20 summit in March of this year, you stated that “we should embrace a collective commitment to encourage open trade and investment, while resisting the protectionism that would deepen this crisis.”  Unfortunately, it is difficult to see how exercising your discretion to impose trade restrictions on imported tires from China is consistent with this sentiment.  Given the upcoming G20 summit in Pittsburgh, the timing of this decision is troubling.  Rather than showing U.S. leadership in the global effort to encourage open trade, your decision runs the risk of giving other countries the green light to take their own protectionist measures that could stall a global economic recovery.

Beyond the global implications, your decision could set in motion a troubling trend in our bilateral trade relationship with one of our strongest trading partners.  The tire tariffs represent the first time restrictions have been imposed under Section 421.  While other trade laws do not require presidential involvement, duties imposed under Section 421 reflect the direct orders of the U.S. president, which might help explain China’s reaction. It is difficult to interpret the Chinese government’s initiation of antidumping proceedings against U.S. chicken and auto product exports as independent of your actions on tires. Your decision to impose duties on Chinese tires is likely to encourage other domestic industries to file their own petitions for relief under Section 421. The potential for an endless cycle of U.S. restrictions and subsequent retaliation from China is the last thing our economic recovery needs.

Finally, it is worth noting that the domestic tire industry was conspicuously absent from the Section 421 petition.  Given the economic importance of vibrant export markets for our products, it is critical that the Administration avoid even the appearance of U.S. trade policy being based on political calculus rather than comprehensive, pragmatic, and forward-looking economic analyses.

I respectfully request that, based on these concerns, you reconsider the decision imposing protectionist tariffs on Chinese tire imports.  I appreciate your attention to this request, and please do not hesitate to contact me should you like to discuss this matter further.