Tag: globalization

The US Can Help BMW Grow But Trump Is Hurting the Process

By Owen Heimsoth | United States

Recently, tariffs have become pretty big in the news. Just yesterday, BMW announced measures to add production in China, likely a response to President Donald Trump’s tariffs on automobile products from the EU.

Donald Trump’s actions clearly oppose the values of free trade. Because of this, he is hurting our ability to grow cars in Iowa.

Yeah, that sounds weird, but let me use a popular argument relating to free trade that many economists use.

How to Grow a BMW

There are two ways in which we can produce cars. We can either manufacture them in Detroit or grow them in the Midwest.

The first plan of action is a well-known, huge part of our economy, but so is growing the automobiles. I’ll explain how the process works.

In late April, our farmers start planting their soybeans and watch them begin to grow. A few months later they begin to harvest their crops and put them on ships. Those ships float over the horizon to the east. We trade our soybeans with many countries throughout the world, and a couple months later, the ships come back with BMW’s on them.

This is how free trade works. It does not take an expert to see this; I reckon an eight-year-old may understand the benefits. We have soybeans. We want cars. The rest is history.

This would be simple, but Trump is doing his best to make it much, much harder.

In recent months, Trump has put tariffs on automobile imports from the EU. As a result, China has placed retaliatory tariffs on US soybeans. What has been the result?

The US can’t export their soybeans cheap to China, a huge manufacturer of automobiles. Also, EU tariffs have hurt automobile trades with the contingency.

Now, German automobile companies such as BMW are putting their factories in China and helping raise the price for automobile consumers in the US. This is also counterintuitive because we are failing to curb Chinese influence in the global market, something that Donald Trump aimed to do.

And now we can’t grow BMW’s in the Midwest.

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America Needs To Let Go of Zero-Sum Thinking

By Craig Axford | United States

If only the world could be neatly divided between winners and losers, and complex issues reduced to arithmetic that can quickly be done on the back of a napkin. But, alas, our problems are rarely that simple, and not solvable with zero-sum thinking.

Zero-sum thinking is a theory that suggests that one person’s gain is another person’s loss. It is a pitiful philosophy that casts aside human collaboration and compassion. Zero-sum thinking implies a finite amount of resources in the world, and an antagonistic nature to social relations. In many ways, society has moved beyond this primitive way of thought.

Donald Trump, however, sees the planet in just those terms. He’s convinced millions of Americans that anyone who thinks global challenges can’t be addressed in 280 characters or less is needlessly complicating things in an effort to bamboozle everyone else. Through this purely additive and subtractive lens, immigrants are merely sucking scarce resources from the wallets of one group so that they can be added to their own. Likewise, trade is only beneficial when the words balance or surplus are attached to it. The presence of a trade deficit signals Americans are being taken advantage of, so government intervention in the form of tariffs is necessary to initiate an adjustment.

This zero-sum thinking is taken directly from the traditional playbook of nationalists and racists. If you don’t think so, it shouldn’t take more than a day or two on Twitter reading white nationalists’ responses to critics of the zero-tolerance policy Trump imposed at the US/Mexico border to convince you. One unapologetic white supremacist just kept stating over and over again in broken record fashion that my opposition to the policy necessarily meant I wanted to “displace white people,” or worse, “hated” them. By the time I finally blocked him it was clear he thought I was a traitor to my race.

In his mind, any decline in America’s white majority meant whites were losing. My suggestion that the only race we needed to worry about was the human race went nowhere. He, like too many others, had used zero-sum thinking to separate humanity into separate locks that only allowed boats to rise by drawing precious water away from others that needed it to keep their own floating high.

Astronauts consistently wax poetic when they speak of viewing our home from space. Sooner or later they all mention the profound change in perspective that they get from seeing the world without artificial lines. Our capacity for abstraction, like our fondness for forming strong group identities, casts a shadow over our minds. No other species has so far come up with the idea of creating so many obstacles to inhibit their own movement. Eventually, I’m convinced, we’ll see the wisdom of taking down our walls and opening up our checkpoints, but, it seems that day is somewhere beyond 2020.

For now, we must begin to reacquaint ourselves with ideas like reciprocity. Human relations are best when they are a game in which all the players are striving to make sure everyone wins rather than a scramble for scarce resources that can only be fully enjoyed by a precious few. There is no one on this planet that does not have something to share. There is no one from whom we cannot learn something we do not know. When that wisdom is shared, the one offering it does not lose it so that we might have it. It becomes the property of even more people than was the case before. Knowledge multiplies. The more it does so the more likely we are to find solutions that work to the benefit of everybody.

Seen in this light, the question we should be asking ourselves is not what those crossing into the United States seeking a better life for themselves and their children will cost us, but what they have to offer that we have not yet identified. Cultures only clash when minds are closed. They are better suited for blending. Contact creates richer more dynamic experiences for those willing to overcome their fear of the unknown. No culture will last forever no matter how fiercely we defend it, but culture itself will be around as long as people still walk the earth. It describes a process rather than a destination.

Eventually, the current crisis will pass, hopefully without bloodshed. Regardless, we already have a pretty good idea who the winners will ultimately be. Those individuals and societies that are open to new experiences and fully embrace the ideal of reciprocity will be the ones that gain the most. Those who recognize that every newcomer comes with a gift and do not cling excessively to a particular identity are the ones best positioned to enrich their own lives and the lives of others in return. It’s not that life isn’t a struggle. It is. But in the struggle to survive cooperation has consistently proven itself to be the best strategy. The wider the circle of cooperation the better. That’s how our species got this far.

Follow Craig on Twitter or read him on 71Republic.com

Other stories by Craig that you may enjoy:

The EU is Flawed, but Not How I Previously Believed

By Owen Heimsoth | United States

Over the past several months, my beliefs on foreign policy have drastically changed. In fact, I wrote this article critiquing a proposed United Europe. Don’t get me wrong, I am still opposed to this idea, but for different reasons.

My opinion on the European Union and general foreign policy has basically taken a one-hundred-eighty-degree turn. I have become sharply more internationalist and pro-globalism. This has been caused by a careful mixture of more research on global affairs, and also life experience.

Quite simply, I made several straw-man arguments in this anti-EU article.

First up was an argument about a potential cultural collision.

Each country in the EU has its own culture. Obviously, some of the better run governments are run in homogeneous countries. In this situation, there are twenty-three different cultures and histories that are to be mashed together. This would become a melting pot bigger than the United States. This doesn’t even include the cultures of different regions of a country.

First off, there is no statistical proof that homogeneous governments are so-called “better off.” In fact, the USA is the melting pot of the world, yet has the highest GDP out there. Culture mixing exposes others to new ideas and teaches those to be more accepting of others. Yes, there may be some cultural clash, but Europeans are also raised having more multiculturalism than Americans like myself.

Next up, I argued that language would become an issue. This ignores the fact that most Europeans, especially those in the West, speak two or more languages.

My last major argument was about religion and the three countries in the EU that have a state-endorsed religion.

Religion would also come into play. There are three countries in the EU that have a recognized state religion-The UK, Denmark, and Greece. There are also multiple countries in the EU that favor a religion but doesn’t list it as official. In the formation of the “United States of Europe,” religions would clash and states would likely leave because of this. State secularism would have to be adopted and many countries would be opposed to this.

This is ignoring the fact that people are increasingly staying away from religion. Actually, being non-religious is the second most popular affiliation in both the UK and in Denmark. This lack of religion is becoming more popular among young citizens.

To finish my article, I argued about 2 failures of the EU. I noted EU-imposed austerity measures as a problem causing the debt crisis, but this is just factually incorrect and simply not the cause of the crisis.

The EU, of course, is not without fault. In fact, there are a number of key issues with it. That being said, straw-man arguments against the union are very common. Despite clear flaws, all government deserve a proper and fair evaluation. By doing so, we can begin to focus on the problems that do exist and further liberty worldwide.

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While People Are Busy Tearing Down Walls, Some Governments Still Insist On Building Them

By Craig Axford | United States

We’ve always been a mobile species. Religious beliefs, art, technology, and genes have for tens of thousands of years consistently overcome the physical, linguistic, and tribal barriers in their way.

The birth of the nation-state and the emergence of stronger notions of sovereignty have done nothing to change this. In fact, thanks to modern technology millions of people each and every day literally fly over the obstacles governments have erected to inhibit freedom of movement. The customs agents awaiting them at the airport are too outnumbered to prevent more than a handful of the masses passing through their checkpoints from entering. Once they’re in, it’s extremely difficult and costly to track down and remove an individual that’s not willing to leave.

The state’s ability to regulate the flow of ideas is even more limited. Most of us share at least a few thoughts each day on the World Wide Web, making them available to virtually anyone with a computer or cell phone that cares to look for them and read them. Short of denying access to the Internet altogether, there’s nothing any government can do to completely obstruct the flow of ideas. Guttenberg’s printing press is now practically as antiquated as the quill pen, and only slightly more relevant. Traditional books are valued more for qualitative than practical reasons these days. We could get by with our laptops and Kindles if we had to.

. . .

The other day I visited a museum located next to Salt Lake City’s main library. Among the several exhibits was one dedicated to the history of flight. Like most museums, this one strove to maximize the information it shared with visitors by covering its walls with displays and boldly painted paragraphs containing relevant facts. On a panel beneath the wing of an old World War II plane suspended overhead the curators communicated in large dark letters the fact that the Salt Lake City International Airport saw more than 24 million people fly in and out of it in 2017. It struck me as remarkable how unremarkable I found this bit of trivia.

I, like virtually all of us, have grown rather accustomed to living on a small planet. For two of the first three months of this year I worked at a convenience store not far from the Salt Lake City Airport. I estimate that at least 5 to 10 percent of those coming in for gas or to buy some coffee were foreigners. A hundred years ago a resident of this part of the world wouldn’t see as many visitors from out of state in a week as I did Australians, Mexicans, Canadians, Germans, English, Chinese, Indians, and citizens of various African countries each day.

. . .

In 2015 my wife and I became grandparents. We received word of our granddaughter’s birth while living in Victoria, British Columbia. The wonderful news flew at the speed of light through wires that crossed the United States, but it did not originate there. The announcement came from Mexico.

Though my wife and I are both native to the US, and our daughter was born and raised in Utah, we were living in Canada when our granddaughter arrived, and our daughter was residing near Mexico City. She had moved south to be with her boyfriend shortly before we moved north. There’s a good chance that within five to ten years my family will consist of citizens of Canada, Mexico, and the United States. We already have two of those three covered. We’re working diligently on the third.

As you can imagine, each member of my family has an opinion on immigration. We’ve each experienced the ups and downs that come with unintended errors on forms that immigration officers are trained to sniff out and punish with rejection. There have been trips to an embassy as well as anxious last minute rushes to acquire documents needed to renew a visa expiring at midnight that we thought we had dealt with.

None of the paperwork, fees, or other inconveniences we’ve encountered have deterred any of us. In fact, I’ve grown to rather like straddling two sides of the border while a good chunk of my heart lingers in Mexico. Feeling like a citizen of the world pales in comparison to actually living like one.

There are those who claim that what opponents of border walls and other tough immigration policies actually favor is open borders. I can’t speak for everyone that opposes hardline immigration proposals, but I can say without reservation that in my case the people making these statements are right. I remember being able to drive into Canada or Mexico with nothing more than a driver’s license, and I wouldn’t mind returning to those days again.

The war on immigration, like the war on drugs, has been an abysmal failure. It will continue to be a failure no matter how many walls are built or Border Patrol agents are hired. Donald Trump could send the entire United States Marine Corps to the Mexican border without it having much of an impact. People would continue to do exactly what most of them are doing now: fly over the international boundary without even noticing there’s a wall and approximately 17,000 agents 30,000 feet below whose job it is to stop them from entering the country. Open borders aren’t a liberal wet dream. They are, for all practical purposes, already a reality.

Consider the Salt Lake International Airport again. It’s no JFK or LAX. It is a Delta Airlines hub, but even so, it’s still just an average airport serving a mid-size inland metropolitan area located on the south end of a dead sea. Of the 24 million passengers that came and went from Salt Lake’s airport in 2017, nearly 1 million of them were arriving or departing international passengers.Probably at least two or three million more were either boarding or disembarking domestic flights to or from a larger airport that got the honor of listing them in its international passenger statistics.

It’s safe to say that about 1 in 5 of these passengers, if not more, were actually citizens of a foreign country as opposed to Americans travelling overseas. That’s nearly 200,000 foreigners a year with a direct flight into the Salt Lake City area, along with probably at least another 500,000 or so arriving in Utah via a domestic connection. Multiply these numbers many times over for airports in states like California and New York, then multiply many times over again for the rest of the country. At the end of all your multiplication you’ll have some idea how many foreigners enter the US every year just through its airports. That customs and immigration officials fail to catch more than a small fraction of those likely to overstay their visas for one reason or another is quite understandable once one begins to wrap their arms around the shear magnitude of human movement now taking place on a daily basis throughout the United States and around the planet.

. . .

In 2013 the US Census Bureau issued a press release. In it they reported that one in five US marriages included at least one partner that wan’t native to the United States. Most of these partners (61%) had acquired US citizenship.

I’m not sure how many marriages in Mexico involve at least one partner that’s originally from another country, though I’ve already mentioned one case with which I’m personally familiar. According to one recent CNN story, “roughly 1 million US citizens live in Mexico.” A new US News article mentions a 2013 study prepared by Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography that found “a stunning 91.2 percent of Americans in the country don’t have their papers in order.” It seems the US isn’t the only nation with an illegal immigration problem.

In spite of all the data regarding a global population increasingly on the move — often without much regard for national immigration laws — there will still be those that insist open borders are impractical. To be sure, the bureaucratic and physical barriers currently separating many nations will not come down all at once. It would be foolish to suggest they should. As is the case within the European Union, open borders will initially be a fact of life only between nations that share a common border or region with one another.

With that concession to incrementalism out of the way, the trends clearly show that it’s those opposed to open borders that are likely to end up on the wrong side of history. Technology is enabling humanity to fulfill its lust for travel like never before. For more and more of us the capacity to easily visit other countries is already being taken to the next level. More than 9 million Americans are currently living abroad, approximately 4 million more than in 1999. Millions of students around the world now routinely incorporate at least some time at a foreign school into their higher education. For tens of millions of couples, to say nothing of their children and immediate relatives, multinational families are a fact of life. Governments will ultimately have little choice but to accommodate these realities.

I don’t know if the border wall between the US and Mexico will be torn down like its Berlin predecessor was, or will simply comply with the second law of thermodynamics and rust slowly away into the desert soil like an old broken down car abandoned along some forgotten dirt road. Regardless, I’m confident one of these or some similar fate eventually awaits it. Because technology facilitates it and people want it, freedom of movement is here to stay. Though media coverage often makes it appear as though xenophobia is on the march, the data reveal just the opposite to be the case. The nation-state may not be going quietly into that good night, but it’s still going.

You can also follow Craig on Twitter or read him on Medium.com.

Other recent articles by Craig Axford that you may enjoy:

Sovereignty Ain’t What It Used To Be

By Craig Axford | United States

Sovereignty is commonly thought to be synonymous with freedom. The people living within any given border should be able to determine their own destiny. Who could possibly argue otherwise, especially in this day and age?

But nations, like individuals, are not islands. And like their citizens, countries have always had a tendency to overestimate the amount of control they had in any given situation.

Sovereignty is a concept born in an era when travel and communication were equally slow. If it took a few weeks for a letter to cross the Atlantic, it took just as long for a person to do so. Not so anymore. Communications travel at light speed and the Atlantic is now fondly referred to as “the pond.”

While instantaneous communication and the ability to be on the other side of the planet in little more than the time it takes the earth to complete one rotation was beyond even the wildest dreams of yesterday’s monarchs, the idea that gases emitted in China or the United States could threaten the very existence of remote islands in the South Pacific would have seemed literally impossible to them.

Yet in spite of these technological and environmental transformations, the year 2016 seems, at first glance, to have been an excellent year for the notion of sovereignty. The citizens of the United Kingdom narrowly voted yes to becoming an island figuratively as well as literally. A few months later, the candidate that won the presidency believed that a wall on America’s southern border could function the same way in the age of automobiles and airplanes that walls often did, at least for a while, during the Crusades and the Ming Dynasty.

But here we are just a couple of months into 2018, and already it’s clear that the premises given in support of the “solutions” offered by the winning side in both the UK and US elections were false. With each passing day calls for another referendum on Brexit grow louder as it dawns on all concerned that integration with Europe will continue whether the UK is a member of the European Union or not. Though voters in the UK remain split on the issue, Brexit negotiators are spinning their wheels trying to figure out how to square the circle that is retaining all the advantages of the European market without paying any dues in exchange for receiving them. All that Brexit looks likely to accomplish is a UK left without a seat at the EU table while still having to play largely by EU rules. So much for greater sovereignty on that front.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond cities, states, and much of the business community are thumbing their noses at Washington D.C.’s efforts to back out of the Paris climate accord and not a single shovel’s worth of dirt has been turned on the construction of a southern border wall. In spite of all the noise being generated by the current administration, what if any substantive long-term changes it has really inaugurated remains to be seen.

Indeed, it’s entirely possible that one of Trump’s signature campaign promises, saving the coal industry, is, in fact, being undermined as a consequence of his actions. Politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum. The federal government’s abandonment of the Paris climate deal has caused many local and state governments to move even more aggressively on global warming than they otherwise would have as politicians rush to pledge their jurisdictions will still meet (or exceed) the Paris targets. Many of these governments are passing stronger regulations and enhancing incentives for renewable energy development beyond anything the federal government was ever likely to seriously consider. As a result, the date for the coal industry’s funeral has, I suspect, inadvertently been moved up rather than set back by the current administration’s decision.

. . .

Sovereignty is a word that is strongly identified with both individual and national control or freedom. Though not an explicitly guaranteed individual right, as a concept it is woven into our cultural DNA none-the-less. Consider the debate regarding a woman’s right to choose. Implicit in this argument is the claim that a woman is sovereign over her own body, at least up to the point the fetus becomes viable.

When it comes to the nation-state, political autonomy becomes the key defining feature of sovereignty. It is for this reason that international institutions and treaties are often viewed cautiously by lawmakers and citizens alike. Though a country may be benefiting from greater peaceful cooperation with one or more other countries via these types of arrangements, the nation is ceding some of its independence through the creation of a legal agreement that transcends its borders in order to win this benefit.

As technology brought nations closer together in time, if not in space, facilitating faster communication, travel and trade in the process, sovereignty began to increasingly give way to international agreements. The pace of this change is only quickening. As it became apparent that industrialization and the globalization of the economy that followed in its wake wasn’t all upside, global agreements were likewise often the only viable means to address these issues, however imperfectly.

This trend toward multinational agreements and institutions with broader mandates than anyone participating state shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. The United States saw a similar decline in individual state power as transportation and industrialization increasingly generated products, services, and byproducts (i.e. pollution) that crossed state boundaries. This increased the federal government’s portfolio at the expense of state and local governments often relegated to implementing federal mandates rather than developing their own.

It is only as the federal government has increasingly abdicated its responsibility in this regard that many states and communities have begun taking it upon themselves to change minimum wage laws or implement their own tough environmental standards. But even as they do so, manufacturing companies in particular still find it more efficient to produce a single product that meets the toughest state requirements out there — usually California — rather than producing a different product for each individual regulated market. As a result, as long as California enjoys the right to impose tougher emissions standards than the federal government requires, no matter what state you buy your car in odds are it will meet California’s stringent standards. So even in a system that is, at least for the time-being, devolving into a more balkanized condition globalization still carries the day.

States rights in a globalized world, it turns out, just means states take on the role of the federal government when the federal government isn’t functioning. States are even reaching agreements with Canadian provinces now, and sending delegations to China to negotiate trade deals. Decentralization, it turns out, has little to no impact on globalization as such. What it does accomplish is an increase in the number of players with seats at the table, and many of these players represent governments more accessible to the people than the federal government has historically been. So, in a strange twist, conservatives may end up winning the argument regarding the democratic virtue of states rights while being wrong about what enhanced state and local government power mean for their agenda.

. . .

The America First mantra isn’t new. American foreign policy, especially in its own hemisphere, has with very few exceptions always been about putting itself first. As anyone familiar with the history of the term Banana Republic knows, the US has rarely concerned itself much with raising the standard of living of those within the region. It is largely for this reason it now finds itself with an immigration problem.

In an increasingly globalized world, relying on BC era technology like walls to stop or regulate migration isn’t going to work. Indeed, even in the centuries before Christ, walls weren’t ultimately all that effective at keeping people from moving from one city or region to the next.

Perhaps, after thousands of years of wall building AND continuous migration, it’s time we try another approach: making the areas people are migrating from more appealing to the people living in them. Instead of investing billions on walls and rounding up El Salvadorans, Hondurans, Mexicans, etc., alienating actual or potential allies in the process, how about investing billions to make these regions more livable? What if we began incentivizing better governance and more equitable wealth distribution in these countries? In other words, what if we helped transform countries like El Salvador into places the people born there generally wanted to spend their lives in? The same, of course, goes for Europe with regard to its migration problems from the Middle East and Africa.

This is going to mean another blow to national sovereignty I’m afraid, and that’s going to be hard for a lot of people to swallow. It’s going to mean loosening the flow of goods, services, and capital to other parts of the globe rather than restricting it. It will mean treating poorer developing nations as equals on the international stage instead of as reservoirs of raw materials and cheap labor. And any such proposal will inevitably be greeted with a lot of fear-mongering about the impact of such a policy on the American worker from those ideologically committed to linear zero-sum thinking.

It’s way past time we reject that kind of thinking, however. We need to adopt a greater tolerance for the flow of people back and forth, not less. If the poorer regions of the globe are going to become more prosperous, then the free flow of ideas is going to be as important, if not more so, as increased infusions of resources. Ideas move in heads as well as across wires. Until their own institutions are better established, these countries will continue to rely heavily on foreign schools and remittances from expats working in the developed world. Restricting access to these centers of learning and sources of income will only make it more difficult for less developed nations to break the cycle of poverty and poor governance that incentivizes immigration to wealthier parts of the world in the first place.

The approach to immigration I’m arguing on behalf of here is going to require a change of attitude across the entire political spectrum. It will require the right to drop its xenophobia. On the left, it means abandoning knee-jerk charges of neocolonialism every time a former imperial/colonial power attempts to do something in the developing world. Both xenophobia and historically motivated resistance to greater involvement in particular regions are isolationist impulses that fail to grasp reality. The question must always be how best to operate in this dynamic interconnected world we find ourselves in, not whether to do so.

Of course, ideally, it will always be the local people making the decisions and doing most of the hard work of transforming their country into a place where they will want to raise their children. Certainly, they must always have at minimum an equal seat at the table. But it will be necessary for the developed world to not just get off their backs, but also aggressively invest in their effort. Whatever strings are attached to this investment will need to have enough slack to absorb false starts as well as adapt to unintended consequences or other unforeseen events. This is the kind of patience that the more affluent nations have sadly not been known for exhibiting much in the past. Giving the developing world the freedom to make mistakes is difficult, but making mistakes is an integral part of the learning and development process that can’t simply be swept away by top-down planners parachuting in from the developed world.

. . .

With each passing year, the superpowers of the past find themselves more diminished. The world has become too complex and connected for them to police it on their own. The influence of nations like the US and UK will increasingly be felt in the form of resources and by (hopefully) modeling good governance. Military power or other means of dictating terms to the rest of the world was never ideal and will only be decreasingly practical moving forward. In fact, I think we’ve passed a tipping point. It’s now the case, Donald Trump’s rhetoric notwithstanding, that it is the US which more often than not must concede to the demands the world is placing upon it.

From climate change to immigration, our major problems are global, not local or regional in scale. The list of things the US can manage on its own, or even in cooperation just with its allies, is short and shrinking fast. Ecological and economic crises are not like fixing potholes, or even building highways. They can spread quickly like a contagion, impacting corners of the world few of us have ever heard of let alone visited. Likewise, contagions we never anticipated can originate in those corners and infect us as well. Governance has become global and diffuse, involving NGOs and businesses as much as it does heads of state. That there are few politicians willing to say it or voters eager to hear it doesn’t make this any less true. Even local governments must now play some part on the international stage. The sooner we end our denial about this new reality, the better. Sovereignty ain’t what it used to be, and it never will be again.

Follow Craig on Twitter @CraigAxford or read more of Craig’s articles on Medium

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