Oedipus Hex

Oedipus Hex

Oedipus Hex

Recent posts from our readers forum.
April 19 2000 11:30 PM

Oedipus Hex

Subject: "Free Trade" Is an Oxymoron

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Date: Thu Apr 13  19:20:15

As the authors of the Washington Lost, we appreciate Timothy Noah taking the time to read what we wrote. It was cold Wednesday morning at 4 a.m. as we stood around deciding whether to go all the way out to Takoma Park, where Mr. Noah picked it up, and we're now glad we did.

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We are dismayed that Mr. Noah seems to misunderstand the issues involved in the protests against the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Most important is the matter of what is generally called "free trade" and "protectionism." We would make two points about this.

1) The debate over globalization is generally portrayed as one between those who support free trade and those who support protectionism. This is inaccurate. There is no organized constituency anywhere that supports genuine free trade. Rather, this is a debate over what will be protected—the interests of the world's largest corporations and richest individuals, or those of regular people. This may sound surprising, since people such as Mr. Noah constantly invoke their belief in what they call "free trade." However, it would be more accurate to describe their beliefs as "free trade for you, powerful government protection for me."

2) No nation—not one—has ever successfully industrialized under the "free trade" conditions imposed on developing nations by the IMF, World Bank and World Trade Organization. This includes England, the United States, France, Germany, Japan and South Korea. Is it possible that perhaps, someday, some country will industrialize under these conditions? Perhaps. It is also possible that we, the authors of the Washington Lost, are jointly going to marry Madonna. We just wouldn't recommend that anyone sit around waiting for it to happen. Likewise, we don't recommend forcing other countries to do things we would never have accepted for ourselves. Here in America, we protected our infant industries, subsidized others, ignored intellectual property claims, and defaulted on our foreign debt more than once.

One final matter: It is extremely strange to claim that the "anarchism [of the Marx brothers] lacked any political dimension," unless Groucho isn't considered part of the family. At a time when this posed a real risk to participants' careers, Groucho was a member of the "Committee for the First Amendment," which was established to counter attacks on Hollywood by the House Un-American Activities Committee.

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[To read an unedited version of this letter, or to reply, click here and scroll to the bottom.]

Subject: Anti-Capitalists Aren't Necessarily Anarchists

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Date: Sun Apr 16  10:10:48

While I'm not one of the protesters and I question some of their motives, any paranoia they exhibit about the press is justified by articles like David Plotz's. Repeatedly, Plotz refers to these people as "anarchists," which they aren't at all. They're protesting the World Bank, so while they're obviously not fans of capitalism, they've given no indication that they're after some sort of anarchic state. They're peacefully and lawfully protesting an organization that they're not a fan of—that's not anarchy, that's active participation in the democratic process.

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Subject: The Real "History Lesson" Behind Elián

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From: Ananda Gupta

Date: Mon Apr 10  20:54:32

I don't think the Cuban-American protestors would maintain that Elián González should be an exception to immigration laws. Rather, they might be using Elián as a symbol, to represent the worst of the bad scenarios those laws produce. In that sense the protestors are objecting at large to the laws that obstruct escape from a repressive, totalitarian regime. Moreover, David Greenberg's suspicion that the protestors only have an "Elián exception" in mind is just that—a suspicion. I have a suspicion that if the year were 1980 and Elián González were named, say, Mark Mathabane, having just made it out of South Africa into the hands of a (hypothetical) community of black South Africa expatriates, Greenberg would not be so quick to label them as soulmates of 1960s segregationists. But that's just a suspicion.

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Subject: Our Oedipal Election

From: Munguza

Date: Mon Apr 17  18:56:22

This exploration of Al Gore's psyche suggests an interesting dimension to both front-runners. George W. Bush and Gore are like the reluctant children of mobsters who are expected to follow in the family business, but clearly have grown up in a different culture from their parents. They seem instinctively disinclined to grand public service, but like Al Pacino in The Godfather keep getting pulled back in. Both Gore and Bush went through intense periods of fecklessness and indulgence that likely were rebellions against inescapable and terrifying expectations. Bush seems like a guy who would be happier with Ted Turner's job than the presidency; Gore would thrive as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission if only the family would let him. As a result, both lack a natural statesmanlike confidence and are probably the most "consultant-ed" presidential candidates in history. It gives one pause to think that our two front-runners really might not even want the job.

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