This past weekend students all over campus could be heard lamenting that Hurricane Isabel wasn’t coming our way. Most of these people, obviously, are recent to South Florida and have no personal history with hurricane landfall. But those of us who have lived here for most or all of our lives are bestowed with the wisdom of experience: once a major storm hits you at home, you’ll never wish for a hurricane again.
Hurricane Andrew, of August 16 – 28, 1992, was a small, category 4 hurricane spawned near the Cape Verde islands, which wrought record economic ruin along a course through the northwestern Bahamas, the southern Florida peninsula, and south-central Louisiana. Damage just in the U.S. was estimated to be between $25 billion to $45 billion, making Andrew the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history. Floridians filed more than 725,000 insurance claims related to Hurricane Andrew. The tropical cyclone struck southern Dade County, Florida, especially hard, with violent winds and storm surges. The forces of Andrew resulted in at least 15 deaths and up to one-quarter million people left temporarily homeless. Amazingly, the loss of life was remarkably low considering the destruction caused by this hurricane. And look at what Isabel’s done. “N.C. urges 100,000 to flee Outer Banks; military exits Atlantic bases” . . . do you really want to see these headlines in Miami? So what, say you, a hurricane will be cool, and school will be cancelled, and people, looking for any excuse, will get drunk. But this lighthearted attitude could leave you unprepared. Don’t, we repeat, do not try to swim in Lake Osceola; that’s been tried.
The Problem with the FTAA
On November 17th a huge group of protestors estimated from between 20,000 to 100,000 will descend on Miami in order to disrupt the FTAA meetings taking place here. We will undoubtedly see the same themes of anti-globalization and opposition to free trade that we’ve seen in Seattle and beyond. What these protestors leave out in their tirades about global capitalism, though, is the undeniable proof that globalization does work, and has worked for some time in the favor of those who implemented it totally.
The largest and most successful free trade area in the world is the European Union. The member countries have ceded part of their national sovereignty and lowered all barriers to trade. This has led to a boom in economic activity within the European Union that has benefited everyone inside the borders of the 15 member nations. Regressive anti-globalization protestors often cite NAFTA as an example of globalization and free trade gone wrong, but NAFTA is nothing like the successful European Union. At least not yet. NAFTA still maintains barriers to trade in the form of tariffs and quotas in order to help the member nations slowly adjust to freer trade (until 2010, at least). NAFTA also does not have the institutions or political components of the EU, which make it so successful and allow for the supranational powers of the organization. In other words, it is not because of NAFTA being too open and not having enough restrictions that people are not fully benefiting from trade; it is because NAFTA is not open enough that people are suffering. The countries involved are involved in too little globalization, not too much.
The only way for the FTAA to be successful is for it to follow the shining example of the European Union and completely involve all its member nations in a political as well as economic process. Only this way will the inequalities so often cited by protestors be fully and successfully addressed, and only this way can the benefits of participating in the global economy be shared more equally. Regressing to a time where trade was regulated and controlled by states as the protestors want would only lead to economic hardships for everyone, including the underdeveloped countries they claim they are trying to protect.