Thursday, February 19, 2004

The truth on Trade: With the economy still in the doldrums and Americans are still losing jobs, the timing is right for politicians especially on the left to start talk about protectionism. Coming from Flint, Michigan, I know a thing or two about this. Back in the 80s when General Motors was laying off workers left and right, many people blamed the economic woes on the Japanese. I can understand the desire to protect American jobs. I have seen the devastation that laysoffs bring up front. Flint today is still coming to grips with the downsizing of the auto industry.

However, I have a hard time saying that the answer to the job loss that is occuring now is to punish any company that outsources jobs overseas. The Star Tribune has a good editorial on this issue.

While it might seem to feel good to prevent companies from moving overseas, I wonder about how these jobs that do move to developing countries like India help the poor rise up out of poverty. Do we want to deny them the chance to better themselves.

My own view on this is not protectionism on the one hand or simply allowing the market to work it course while people lose their jobs. I think there is a middle path. What should be done is to allow markets to work as they should, but for governments to come in and provide a safety net to buffet against the harsh winds of capitalism. The free market is a wonderful system that can benefit all, but it can also be unfair. Government should step in and provide things to help people deal with the changes. That means when a community loses jobs to China or India, the government should provide things like generous unemployment benefits, free education to train displaced workers, health care for the newly unemployed and other items that can bring some stability to a family's life. I know that some on the far-right will cry "socialism" because the government is stepping, but those idiots think snow plows are a socialist plot. I think that instead of closing borders, we should open them up and let the market work, but let government do what it does best as well: promoting the general welfare for the populace.


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