Is the priority to expand world trade or to build on the resilience of communities?

DF Times obit

Fleming, second left, discussing the working of an experimental rocket stove – to capture heat with clean combustion – at Transition Town Louth, Lincolnshire (The Times)

In Lean Logic, David Fleming asks:

“Is the priority to expand world trade, to push ahead with the global market, or to build on the resilience of communities, to protect them from the turbulence of the global market and to improve their food security?

“The former head of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Mike Moore, writes persuasively about the benefits of free trade in A World Without Walls; (2003). He shows that the lowering of trade barriers has stimulated growth, that the countries that have been the most open to trade have enjoyed the most economic progress and the greatest rise in the incomes of the poor. And, as former prime minister of New Zealand, he has the experience of making that country a pioneer of free-market agriculture, with benign effects across the economy. How, then, can there be doubts when he argues that the anti-globalisation movement, if successful, would bring catastrophic consequences, not just for the poor in developing economies, but for all of us?

“Can Mr Moore and the anti-globalisation protestors really be talking about the same thing?”

He continues with the opposing argument which states that globalisation, in the form of free trade, opening up small-scale production in the non-industrialised countries to competition from multinationals:

  • leads to unemployment and dispossession;
  • makes agriculture dependent on imported energy;
  • devastates soils, ecosystems and communities;
  • raises incomes in part by destroying local subsistence and forcing people into the cash economy;
  • and is supported by the governments of the affected countries
  • not least because of the debts into which they have been lured.

And concludes:

“Food security, with higher overall yields and greater diversity, less damage to the soil and higher real local incomes, would be more fruitfully sought by helping farmers to make the best use of their own skills applied to local conditions”.

Lean logic DF titleBoth sides beg the question: they are each correct if their premises are accepted: if the priority is to expand world trade, to push ahead with the global market, Mr Moore’s conclusions naturally follow; if it is to build on the resilience of communities, to protect them from the turbulence of the global market, and to improve their food security, his critics are correct.

The begged question is the one thing they should be talking about.