Cotton, the WTO, and You Tube

I want to share 3 links I uncovered over the past 6 months, 2 of them this week, one thanks to Kara, about the World Trade Organization, how it works, and what Google wants to do with it.

First, an NPR Planet Money podcast about Cotton. The Planet Money team is trying to buy cotton from a cotton farmer, and they get caught up a whirlwind of intentional politics, economics, and enforcement.

Second, if you think cotton is the only industry where this has happens, this re-cap peice from Arstechnica last March sets the record straight about the myriad of WTO claims against the US, which we have ignored or paid off.

Some commentary before we move on. Farm subsidy are awful, economically, you shouldn’t need me to explain that. So we should comply with the WTO decision on cotton. The Antigua ruling about on-line gambling is likewise an easy choice, we should repeal the law and come into compliance. On-line gambling remains legal in Nevada even under the current law, and horse racing exemption make the current policy inconsistent at best. Cuban sanctions should have been lifted long ago, along with all their associated cruft. Now, the music issue, its strange. I think its the Europeans who are wrong on this count, but our radio payment system also needs an overhaul for other reasons. But the real reason why we want a better record for complying with the WTO is because of China, Turkey, and Pakistan.

All of those countries engage in internet censorship. Specifically they have blocked in the past. This Arstechnica piece describes how Google, owner of You Tube, sees that as a very specific trade embargo. If I were the WTO, and based on the Antigua case I would accept that argument and rule against those countries for censorship as it ruled against us. That, if the WTO rulings were enforceable, would be a really great way to force China and the Islamic world to stop censorship, something that sweet talking about human rights has not accomplished in the least.

It all comes down to the Rodrik Hypothesis, which I increasingly see reason to beleive may be accurate. It states roughly that:

Economic globalization, political democracy, and the nation-state are mutually irreconcilable. We can have at most two at one time. Democracy is compatible with national sovereignty only if we restrict globalization. If we push for globalization while retaining the nation-state, we must jettison democracy. And if we want democracy along with globalization, we must shove the nation-state aside and strive for greater international governance.

In this case, as with most that I am prone to like, we are going the globalization + democray route by getting rid of the nation-state. Making the WTO rules enforceable over the sovereignty of the nation-state has the essential action of eliminating what makes a nation-state a nation-state.

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