Second Thoughts on Free Trade

January 6th, 2004

To the Editor,

The reluctance to admit that “free trade” may actually be in conflict with American economic ideology, stems from its confusion with the concept of capitalism. America has not been practicing capitalism in its rush to regulate the marketplace in favor of vendors at the expense of consumers. True capitalism is a “trickle-up” phenomenon. Consumer dollars reward providers of the best goods and services, enabling their expansion and naturally eliminating poorly run enterprises.

However, consumers have few choices due to trade associations which conspire to restrict the availability of products to the mediocre and permit unsustainable or undesirable production practices to continue. “Free trade” rules defend high profits at the expense of labor, the environment and hides the hazards of unsafe/untested products through “trade secret” laws and legislated indemnifications. We have nullified the purpose in having product labels and consumers do not know enough about corporate management practices to decide whom to reward with their custom.

In our ignorance and with the progressive impoverishment of the domestic labor force, low prices become the only factor used in purchasing decisions by the masses, engendering a “Wal-mart” culture. Tax shelters/breaks, deregulation and government subsidies sustain the unsustainable and the unconscionable. Hazardous products, exploitation of cheap labor here and abroad, unsafe working conditions, deceptive prospectuses and an ignorant consumer have left capitalism writhing in the dust.

Demand full disclosure of all vendor practices and the downside of “free trade” rules will disappear by popular demand.

Barbara Rubin

Categories: NY Times

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