[Marxism] Re: Bhagwati's defense of Mankiw

Julio Huato juliohuato at hotmail.com
Mon Feb 16 19:51:05 MST 2004

Mine Doyran wrote:

>The point is "not" that Bhagwati is racist or dishonest. The point is that 
>he is a free market ideolog "blind" to the consequences of globalization 
>for third world workers.

Okay, that's YOUR point.  MY point is that the view of Bhagwati as an 
"ideolog" is a caricature of his arguments.  We don't have to buy his views, 
but if we're going to criticize them, we should deal with them fairly.  
What's the point of dumping trash on people if we cannot defeat their 

>No where in Bhagwati you will find references to basic social justice 
>concepts: workers, exploitation, labor rights, unions, etc.

Bhagwati has criticized strongly the hypocrisy of the rich countries in 
dealing with labor standards (unionization, labor rights, child labor, 
minimum wage, etc.) both domestically and abroad.  I don't think Bhagwati 
should be given a free pass on "free trade," but I don't want to ignore what 
he actually stands for.  Here's a bit of him, to illustrate my point:

"One definite result of pushing for labor (and purely 
domestic-pollution-related environmental) standards at the WTO has been the 
near unanimity of opinion in the developing countries that the real aim of 
the rich countries' trade unions and governments is to deter competition -- 
that is, intrusionism.  Thus, these demands are widely seen as protectionism 
hiding behind a moral mask.  In short, the moral case is devalued by the 
context and the means by which it is pursued.  It is therefore seriously 
compromised and impaired. [...]

"You see it in the self-protecting and other-directed de facto selectivity 
of the trade-sanctionable issues that the rich countries want to put into 
the Social Clause at the WTO.  Here, the talk has now shifted to putting 
into it the 'core' labor standards that have been agreed to at UN meetings 
such as the Social Summit in Copenhagen.  But think about the matter a 
little and you see the calculation behind what is actually being proposed.  
Not all these core standards are to be taken as matters to be implemented on 
fast-track.  For instance, gender discrimination is not on the fast-track 
for implementation.  If it was, nearly all trade would cease.  So where do 
the rich nations want fast-track rapid-fire action?  You guessed it right: 
on child labor.  Why?  Because that is where the poor countries can be 
confidently expected to be the defendants, while the rich nations can 
equally confidently expect to be the plaintiffs.

"Did I hear anyone say that the many sweatshops in the garment district 
downtown from where I teach in New York, or the much-documented 
quasi-slavery conditions for migrant labor in American agriculture in 
Georgia and Mississippi should also be among the issues highlighted for 
fast-track action in the Social Clause?  The silence is deafening."

Footnote: "I might add also that, even on unionization and the rights to 
bargain collectively and so forth, U.S. policymakers are supremely unaware 
that their own violations are enormous.  These violations of worker's human 
rights have been splendidly documented in a recent report brought out by 
Human Rights Watch, Unfair Advantage: Worker's Freedom of Association in the 
United States under International Human Rights Standards (New York: Human 
Rights Watch, 2000).

In another section, Bhagwati wrote:

"[T]he United States itself is massively in violation of these very rights: 
a fact that only an informed specialized agency can be expected to 

He then quotes approvingly from the Human Rights Watch's report:

"Millions of workers are expressly barred from the law's protection of the 
right to organize.  The U.S. legal doctrine allowing employers to 
permanently replace workers whose right to strike effectively nullifies the 
right.  Mutual support among workers and unions recognized in most of the 
world as legitimate expressions of solidarity is harshly proscribed under 
U.S. law as illegal secondary boycotts.

"Many workers who try to form and join trade unions to bargain with their 
employers are spied on, harassed, pressured, threatened, suspended, fired or 
deported or otherwise victimized in reprisal for their exercise of the right 
to freedom of association."

J. Bhagwati, Free Trade Today, Princeton University Press, 2002.


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