"Kicking away the ladder" – Capitalism, development, & trade poicy

Friedrich List

Reading a great book right now called Kicking Away the Ladder: Development Strategy in Historical Perspective by economist Ha-Joon Chang.

He apparently falls under the category of a “heterodox economist”, for simply founding his economic study on historical patterns, rather than hypothetical theories of market behaviors as mainstream Neoclassical economists apparently do. (Yes, been spending some time on Wikipedia).

Anywho, this Friedrich List fellow was one of the first major critics of Adam Smith, predating Karl Marx. He was convinced that Smith’s theory of capitalism wasn’t actually grounded in evidence or proof. More notably, he talks about trade agreements and how developed countries “kick away the ladder” for developing countries so that their economies aren’t able to enact the same beneficial policies that helped these already developed countries (Britain, U.S.) to mature. Protectionist laws that allow domestic businesses to incubate and thrive domestically are never allowed under (I think any) trade agreements.

So when they say “free trade” is good for every country…? Turns out that’s bull shit, and one reason is this: Businesses/enterprises in developing countries need some shelter away from strong multi-national corporations that are wayyy stronger and powerful than the vulnerable budding economies in these other nations. Britain and the U.S. did exactly this to protect themselves from other Europeans, and look how they ended up turning out. Now they’re denying developing countries the right to use the same methods that allowed them to prosper. It’s not a coincidence at all: This is the nature of Capitalism, baby. Individuals compete with other individuals over wage, companies compete over profit, and countries duke it out for market share.

Anyways, still in the middle of reading this book…Sort of in preparation for the next TPP negotiations that are happening in San Diego next week. It was recommended to me by my new partner in crime, Carolina Rossini, who is EFF’s new International IP Director. I need to understand trade agreements better if I’m gonna fight this. What’s that saying again? “To defeat your enemy, you might understand your enemy”? I know why these trade agreements are never good for the underdogs, but I need to know how and why they’re so awful. Hopefully this book will help me.