Ordinarily I don't respond to inflammatory, uninformed and mean-sounding articles, letters-to-the-editor and like communications. But, lest half-truth becomes the "Big Lie" I rise Ä but briefly Ä to that alarm posed by Kirpal Johnson ("GATT is all about money" Dec. 1).
1. In the first place, though "free trade" is not always "fair trade," the world has had enough experience (and sanity) since the close of the 17th century, particularly since the abolition of the infamous Corn Laws in England in 1846, to opt for an expression of market tendencies, when possible, over Merchantilism.
2. The GATT and its predecessors, running all the way back to the creation of the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act of 1934 by the Franklin Roosevelt administration under the leadership of Cordell Hull, while imperfect, have made possible Ä along with Mr. Johnson's ". nefarious World Bank and International Monetary Fund" an economic, yet political and social environment, where a vast majority of the world's citizenry can be wealthier Ä even happier.
3. Indeed, economic maldistribution, environmental pollution, health and safety hazards, etc. always pose as problems when change occurs. Particularly have these issues been more noticeable in the past 50 years during the technological, biological and chemical "revolutions" we have witnessed. Yet a releasing of the genie does not preordain bad outcomes, as implied by Johnson and like alarmists. Mankind and its institutions still hold the upper hand, have the final word.
4. If one looks at the record, those countries with higher economic development and freer commerce generally have better records on environment, health and human welfare. Closed societies such as modern Iran are certainly not to be emulated; not as a country, nor as regional model for the world. Poor, nontrading countries are worse models.
5. It is always easy to use scapegoats and emotional terminology such as "nonelected, nondemocratic bureaucrats" (how did she miss the term "mindless"?) to divert attention. Again, it is not free trade, nor the WTO, which comprise the problem; it is the objectives and will of those behind national institutions (not international) that pose the real obstacle.
6. As a final dig at Mr. Johnson, I bet the sum of a Powerball lottery ticket that he hasn't experienced life as a subsistence farmer. If so, he wouldn't lament them being affected "adversely." Let me hurry to explain. My origins were in subsistence farming. I spent the first part of my life as a "peasant type." I would venture that at least 90 percent of all such people, like myself, would choose to be released from the drudgery and boredom of rural, as well as urban, squalor. One avenue Ä not the only one Ä is through economic progress and unfettered commerce, with due care and regulation as to minimum health, safety and environmental considerations. Human beings have made this one world; we must now figure out how to sustain ourselves at the current and/or higher levels of welfare. The alternatives are factionalism and a Bosnian future for all. Hooray! Now that the U.S. has had the wisdom and self-interest to approve the GATT.
Jimmye S. Hillman
Agricultural and Resource Economics Professor Emeritus
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