RE: WTO the rampage! (fwd)

Josef Dietl (
Fri, 10 Dec 1999 15:56:11 +0100


thank you for your reply. I fully agree that, once we leave the ground of
economics, there are a lot of moral philosophy discussions to be pursued. I
also agree that if people are fighting for self-interest, they should say
so. Many governments, at least in contemporary Europe, are (and probably
have to be) more open to the tangible argument of domestic unemployment as
they are to the philosophical arguments of free trade or environmentalism.
At structural (!) unemployment rates between 10% and 20% and most cosmetics
already applied to the statistics, they may not have much choice, as hard as
it may be for other parts of the world.
So, all that remains undisputed, but there is a question of implementation:
the "economic part" of my argument: globalization creates a "valley", a span
of time during which companies are able to benefit from it, but individuals
are not, because labour markets collectively compete for the attention of
multinationals, but multinationals are not yet involved in price wars in
these countries. As this valley may well last for the duration of an average
work-life in the so-called civilized world, I wonder whether there are ways
to reduce this valley in duration or intensity.

In other words: I'm not arguing the moral right to a well-paying job,
because the term "well-paying job" is defined only relative to the regional
standards and costs of living. When I use the term "relative" below, I mean
to say "relative to their regional standards and costs of living". And
"well-paid" is more than I'd fairly expect, "normal" is probably more up to
the job. Normal means: it is possible within the regionally usual working
hours for the parents to earn enough money to provide food, shelter,
clothing, health care for their families and for their own future to feed
them to the end of their life expectancy.

That said, I think everybody has a right to
- a "fair chance"
- to get a relatively normally paid job.

[This cries for a definition of "fair chance". What about the following:
without leaving his natural habitat and move into other language /
significantly different climate / fundamentally different cultural zones.
Requiring additional or different education is OK within reasonable
limitations. Trying to "upgrade" a steel worker to university professor is
IMHO not reasonable and marks the "black end" of the scale, giving everyone
the job he has learned at age 16 is the "white end". Everythig in the middle
is up for discussion.]

It is the local relativity that is temporarily but significantly distorted
by globalization. I know that working for US$1 a day is perfectly reasonable
in some regions on this planet, but I also know that the unemployment that
would result from naive opening of the markets in some first world countries
(Europe...) can create huge national political tension, affecting foreign
policy as well.

I agree, Ernie, that much of that is people's own fault: rejecting job
offers that would require to move home within the limitations above, or
negligence to pursue education opportunities is their own fault, like plenty
of other, similar examples of bone-headedness. But ...

Now into the religious bit of the debate (in other words: please add "IMHO"
to every sentence): I do not believe (sic) that we should try to achieve
that through a trade among the poor. The right mentioned above is not
negotiable and not tradable. I don't see why the poorest in the "civilized
world" have to become poorer again (even if only temporarily) for the
benefit of the poor somewhere else, when both in the "civilized world" and
"somewhere else" there is a relatively small (relatively small here means:
few people if compared to the number of "poor" people by the above
definition in their own country) group of people holding the majority of the
capital. As a rule of thumb, access to capital is distributed by an 80-20
rule: 80% of the capital are controlled by 20% of the people, give or take
(obviously) up to 20% on both counts. You have acknowledged this fact among
others in your message yourself, but you may disagree on the argument at
large. Do you?

The social tension growing for example in Europe may well spoil the process
as a whole (among other undesirable side effects like generally nurturing
extremism etc.), so the integration of their needs is vital to making the
process as a whole work: For the benefit of people in the "third world",
people in the "civilized world", governments and companies.

Any ideas on that one? I have been talking about education and motivation to
pursue it, willingness to move home and access to capital (in other words,
contemplating redistribution by other means). Implementation suggestions,


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Ernest N. Prabhakar []
> Sent: Thursday, December 09, 1999 7:22 PM
> To: Josef Dietl; Dan Kohn;; Fork
> (E-mail)
> Cc: Alexander Blakely (E-mail); Mary O'Dell (E-mail); Mark Kuperberg
> (E-mail)
> Subject: Re: WTO the rampage! (fwd)
> > Now, to contribute to the real discussion: The main effect of
> globalization,
> > and one of the driving forces of its opponents in Europe (some,
> but not all
> > of them sitting on "rust-belt" jobs) is that free trade and transfer of
> > knowledge is not only about equal distribution of wealth on the
> planet: it
> > is also widening the gap between the rich and the poor in national
> > economies - you could say, it is also about the equal distribution of
> > poverty. Exaggerated, what I'm saying is not that the third
> world countries
> > suffer from globalization: the first world countries do.
> >
> Well, that is precisely my point. I believe in globalization because it
> offers a tremendous opportunity to those who are desperately poor and have
> very few options. Optimizing globally (as it were), that is worth the
> effect of displacing the "relatively poor" of the West from well-paid but
> low-skill jobs.
> If people are just arguing self-interest, then they should do that. But I
> don't think they deserve the title of liberal, at least from my naive
> understanding of liberalism. Really they're just a different form of
> nationalists.
> In the end it comes down to moral philosophy. Do people have a "moral
> right" to a well-paying job for unskilled labor? Or is it
> better to create
> incentives for people to become educated and increase their
> skills, even if
> it means some people will not be able to meet that challenge?
> Is humanity
> measured by material accumulation, or how we handle difficult problems?
> And maybe I'm oversimplifying, but it seems to me that poverty in the U.S.
> is more of a social problem, rather than a fundamentally economic one. I
> have had friends who would count as jobless and homeless. By and large,
> the real problem seems to be some sort of social/psychological breakdown -
> single parenthood, mental illness, addiction, lack of access to capital,
> inadequate ability to hold a job, etc. I fully agree that these are real
> problems -- and often not their own fault -- which need to be addressed.
> However, that is quite a different thing that the lack of a functioning
> economy, which is the plight of the poor in much of the world.
> There, the
> problem is to jump-start the entire economy, not just help displaced
> individuals integrate into the existing economy. I would think the moral
> high ground is to let the WTO do the former, and focus on non-economic
> solutions to the latter.
> -- Ernie P.
> ------------
> Ernest Prabhakar <>
> Darwin Product Manager, Apple Computer, Inc.