Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search

 

Opinion: From The Right - Return Of The Luddites

Return of the Luddites
By Phillip Rennie

There are many issues on which I can sympathise with the left, and understand their point of view. The topic of free trade is not one such issue.

I have yet to see any credible economist agree with the paranoid, nationalistic rants of the motley group of anti-APEC and anti-WTO protesters. Their argument that global free trade destroys local jobs and hurts people is based on exactly the same reasoning as the luddites. Taking their logic to it’s natural extent, we should ban all motorcars because they’ve done enormous damage to the horse and cart industry in New Zealand.

In reality, everyone benefits from free trade. You would think this would be obvious- New Zealand as a country is totally built on trade. Of course large companies benefit – so what? So do NZ farmers selling meat and dairy products overseas. So do factory workers in Indonesia who suddenly find their product is in greater demand. So do Filipino rice farmers whose rice has previously been banned in other countries through agricultural barriers. Shoppers get the benefit of greater choice, cheaper goods, more money in their pockets and higher standards of living.

Anti-free trade activists believe in banning things and state control of the economy. They preach economic censorship – the government should tell people what to buy, what to produce, how much of it, and how it is distributed. This is bad for two main reasons. Firstly, it doesn’t work. You only need to look at countries like China and Cuba and compare their standard of living to ours. In North Korea, trade and interaction with the outside world is prohibited. How well is food distributed in this People’s Paradise? The answer is, millions of people are starving to death through famine, corruption and ruthless suppression.

This leads on to the second reason why suppressing trade is bad. If its OK for the government to direct you towards what clothes to buy, and what food to eat, then it’s only a small step for them to start exercising more insidious power over your life. Dreamy socialists hate hearing this – they argue that its possible to exercise economic dictatorship without social dictatorship, as long as you have kindly benevolent leaders. This is wrong. Their philosophy of socialism inevitably leads to suppression, fascism and dictatorship.

Of course there’s pain in the short term as artificial barriers to trade are removed. It’s a painful transfer from producing what the government tells you to produce to what consumers actually want you to produce. The WTO is seeking to remove barriers such as tariffs, quotas and subsidies. These are basically handouts to businesses that don’t need them, or they keep people in useless, unproductive and inefficient industries. This is the aim of the WTO and other meetings like APEC: to enable countries to look beyond any short term losses to the long-term gains in efficiency and wealth.

This is why New Zealand’s role is so important. We’ve done the hard work, and we are enjoying lots of the benefits. We don’t pour money into things like farm supports and Think Big power plants – we produce things that the rest of the world actually wants to buy. As a result we have higher employment and a far better standard of living from ten years ago. As other countries remove their supports, we have a huge amount to gain. If the USA relaxes its butter tariffs by one percent for example, our farmers gain hundreds of millions of dollars in extra earnings. This means more jobs and sustainable wealth for New Zealand.

The free exchange of ideas, information, products and services between borders is something to be celebrated, not feared. It’s part of the worldwide movement towards freedom and democracy. If groups like the Green party still insist on being self-sufficient, they are quite free to go and live on a desert island and see how easy it is.

But the most ironic thing about these anti-WTO protesters is that they are the same people who called for economic sanctions against South Africa in the eighties, and who criticize sanctions against Iraq. Yet they want us to voluntarily impose sanctions upon ourselves and the rest of the world? Go figure.


© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

There Is A Field: Reimagining Biodiversity In Aotearoa

We are in a moment of existential peril, with interconnected climate and biodiversity crises converging on a global scale to drive most life on Earth to the brink of extinction. However, our current worldview and political paradigm renders us incapable of responding adequately due to its disconnected and divisive default settings.

These massive challenges can, however, be reframed as a once in a lifetime opportunity to fundamentally change how humanity relates to nature and to each other. Read on The Dig>>

The Dig: Scoop’s Engaged Journalism Platform Launches
The Scoop Ecosystem has grown bigger with the launch of The Dig - a new public interest, in-depth, Engaged Journalism platform. More>>

 

Unscoped Or Missed Damage: Resolution For Canterbury Owners Of On-Sold Homes

People with over-cap on-sold* properties in Canterbury can now apply for a Government payment so they can get on and repair their homes. More>>

ALSO:

Hamilton-Auckland: First Urban Growth Partnership Signed

New Zealand’s first urban growth partnership between the Government, local councils and mana whenua was signed at a meeting of mayors, chairs and ministers in Hampton Downs today. More>>

ALSO:

Vote On Action Next Week: Secondary Principals Walk From Negotiations

“Unfortunately we consider there is no further value in continuing negotiations at this point. The government has not been able to table an offer that will be acceptable to our members.” More>>

Patrol Car Stolen, Glocks Taken: Manhunt In Gore

The driver rammed the patrol car before fleeing on foot with Police chasing, also on foot. The man has then circled back around, stolen the patrol vehicle, which had the keys left in it, and rammed another Police car... Two Police-issued Glock pistols were stolen. More>>

ALSO:

"Shocking And Dangerous": Accused Mosque Shooter's Prison Letter Posted Online

The man accused of the Christchurch mosque attacks has sent seven letters from prison and had two others withheld, Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis says. Corrections has now blocked the accused gunman from sending or receiving mail... More>>

ALSO:

Standing On List Only: Paula Bennett To Run National’s Election Campaign

The National Party is pleased to announce the appointment of Paula Bennett as our Campaign Chair for the 2020 General Election, President Peter Goodfellow says. More>>

Waiver For State Care Inquiry: Historic Abuse Survivors 'Can Speak Freely'

Abuse in state care survivors can take part in the forthcoming Royal Commission proceedings without being bound by any confidentiality obligations to Crown agencies under their historic claim settlements, Minister of State Services Chris Hipkins said. More>>

ALSO:

Trail Trial: Sexual Violence Court Reduces Lead-Up Times And Trauma

An evaluation of New Zealand’s first sexual violence court has confirmed that the approach taken in the judge-led pilot considerably reduces the time that cases take to reach trial. More>>

 
 
 
 
 

LATEST HEADLINES

  • PARLIAMENT
  • POLITICS
  • REGIONAL
 
 

InfoPages News Channels