Thursday, November 16, 2006

Protectionism and exceptions - a few questions

I'd say that I'm fairly opposed to protectionism in general, and I'd go along with Chris's position (that Shuggy amplifies well in the comments).

Two questions though.

Firstly, should there be a cultural exception to this general principle? I'd have no objection to Asian countries having a comparative advantage in, say, rice - to use an obvious example. But the US has a large, prosperous, consumerist marketplace for audiovisual content. It's a marketplace that even largely shares a common language, and one that some would say has the ability to use subtle forms of conditioning to overcome some rational choices that consumers may otherwise make. They have a comparitive advantage, and it's hard to distinguish between their approach to foreign markets and the traditional pre-digital economist's concept of 'dumping'. Should we object to the prospect of TV and cinema being dominated by US exports?

Secondly, are there cultural reasons to see 'comparative advantage' as a form of the 'objectification of Labour' on a grand scale? Whole economies just making t-shirts to use Shuggy's example. Not being a Marxist scholar, I don't have the answer here - but one of the more appealing things that I found in my limited reading of Marx was his critique of the way that mass-production reduced human creativity.

Is there a downside to workers focusing purely in one industry - even if it results in immediate and substantial material improvements in their lives?

I don't know the answer to these questions. I used to think I did though. Any comments?

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