Postcards from the Bleeding Edge
Friday, November 23, 2007

  That giant sucking sound that Perot spoke of...

I honestly don't know if NAFTA was good or bad for the US. I opposed it, in part because I hate the newspeak - "free trade" is not free trade in that instance, but "managed trade".

This article tells how it was bad, and how Clinton, in "forgetting" NAFTA, might be making a mistake.

Multiple, talented, engineer friends of mine eventually lost their jobs to Mexico. Others moved to Texas to be closer to the action. However, many, many engineers that I know also lost jobs to India and Russia, and even more just lost their jobs after 2000, due to the economy. Blaming another country for their troubles, and mine, strikes me as possibly statistically insignificant, but I don't know. What kinds of jobs moved? What kind of jobs were created in the US? Who profited? Who didn't? What industries grew? What ones consolidated or shrank?

I do have an opinion on one thing - that once manufacturing moves overseas, all other sorts of jobs eventually follow - we move basic labor, then engineering, then management, ultimately leaving just sales and marketing in the US. Basic R&D suffers due to the disconnected distances involved between people on the shop floor and in the ivory towers, and ultimately innovation slows down, at least for a time.

I'm now looking for statistics that show successes for NAFTA just to get a balanced viewpoint.

I started worrying about CAFTA after it was too late, but I opposed Costa Rica ratifying CAFTA for different reasons. 1) It required that the signing countries buy into America's draconian IP laws. I, personally, don't want to live under those laws, anymore, they make my life as a programmer and musician too difficult. 2) Speaking scientifically, it would have been useful for a country in that area to not be a signatory, as a control in the experiment. And 3) (most important) - it was the first time a trade pact like that had ever gone to a popular vote.

I dislike extra-governmental organizations like the WTO, etc, because of their secrecy and lack of transparency. I'd like to see the machinations of those orgs more deeply exposed.

Up until the last weeks of the referendum in Costa Rica (after the pro-CAFTA forces had been exposed as planning to use illegal means), Costa Rican approval of CAFTA was running at well below 40%. Somehow, by voting day, it passed (barely).

Ron Paul, so far as I know, is the only candidate running that remains deeply skeptical of the effects of managed trade agreements like CAFTA and NAFTA. I have to think more on this and hope that perhaps my readers can supply more data.

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Comments:
Although software engineers in the US defense industry are required to be US citizens, it is interesting to note that a very large number of them are first-generation US citizens.
I see two primary factors at work in this:
* many US engineers changed careers in the early 2000s when their jobs went off-shore, and
* the first-generation citizens accept the significantly lower salaries that companies prefer to pay for obvious reasons.
Although it is true that most of the engineers who oversee quality and top-secret issues are not in the above category, they are decidedly a small minority when it comes to the head count.
A software engineering college undergraduate once asked me which language he should learn for the marketplace. Although he meant computer-language, I gave him the most useful answer: Mandarin.
 
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David Täht writes about politics, space, copyright, the internet, audio software, operating systems and surfing.


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