Punishing the Poor

On a related note to Randall's post below on development, I'd note that not all of the problems of developing countries are indigenous. I'd like to draw some attention to the moral travesty that is U.S. tariff policy. As it stands, taxes on imports in OECD countries seem practically calculated to make it difficult for developing countries to get a leg up. In the case of the US, effective tariff rates against the least developed countries are, on average, about four and a half times higher than for the world as a whole. Below the fold I've reproduced a couple of tables from a report by Ed Gresser of the Progressive Policy Institute.

A few tariff comparisons

Rates for world, LDCs, and 12 highest

The tables practically speak for themselves. The deck seems almost systematically stacked against the poorest countries. And moreover, the effects of these import taxes are disproportionately borne by the poorest consumers domestically, who have to pay higher prices for basic commodities like clothing. Does this make any sense to anyone? Is there a single human being who can look at this state of affairs as anything other than a disgrace? Is there any clearer-cut example of the politically powerful conspiring against the weak?

Here's a policy that everyone without a vested pecuniary interest ought to be able to get behind. "Progressives", if they truly care about helping the poor, ought to support the complete elimination of tariffs. Conservatives, if they really care about "national security" (especially those who supported the democritization of Iraq), ought to support such a policy too because doing so makes their country more secure in the long-term by making people around the world like the U.S. more. "American interests" (whatever those are supposed to be) are not served by systematically punishing the poor.

It wouldn't cost much, and it would produce more guarenteed benefits than any amount of foreign aid. So why don't we see more people calling loudly for the elimination of import taxes? Anyone? Beuller?

(NB: this is a rhetorical question because I already know why not, but feel free to speak the answer anyway.)

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Oh Free trade. How I cry

Oh Free trade. How I cry for you.

I cry like THIS: :bigcry:

The smilie expresses my anguish!

Unfortunately, the US and

Unfortunately, the US and European policies which would do the most on their parts to help the developing world (removing tariffs, ceasing domestic subsidies) aren't very glamorous. To recieve any political benefit (and the support of Bono and his celebrity friends) you have to Do Something, like promise lots of aid and come up with plans, "packages," and programs. And that's not mentioning the domestic political benefits of protectionism.

David: I guess "lowering

David: I guess "lowering tariffs" just doesn't rock Bono's socks off the way that a self-indulgent Live 8 concert "to end poverty" does.

Actually, a hilarious thought: a punk band bitching about the lack of free trade.


To be fair, I actually

To be fair, I actually understand that Bono has called for ending US farm subsidies:


Of course, this is not the same thing as ending tariffs, but at least the free trade rhetoric is starting to get through.

You are preaching to the

You are preaching to the choir. McBride beat me too it, some of these celebrity types are waking up to the harm caused by tariffs. Of course, I'm sure they think it was their own idea, or spawned on the left.

Now if only they'd wake up to the idea that it is socialism on the African continent that has caused the most trouble. Has anyone seen any of these types protesting against the events in Zimbabwe?

If you want a true

If you want a true representation of just how US trade deals work, take the time out to work through the effects of the US Australia FTA. You know the one... the poodle Howard's "reward" for going into Iraq.

In brief;

Australia removes all tariffs against US products immediately. There are no quotas applied to US goods into Australia.

US removes tariffs over a ten year period. Quotas on agricultural products are increased marginally over the last four years of the ten year period.

That, kind sirs, is Free Trade - US style. And Americans wonder why I am so happy that NZ did not follow suit...

Actually probligo, you

Actually probligo, you shouldn't be happy that NZ didn't follow suit. The economically correct thing to do for any nation is to cease tariffs unilaterally. Other countries' tariffs would still be hurting yours, but at least your country would stop hurting itself at the same time.