Opinion

INS trumps ECO in explaining free trade

Why is it that people use basic concepts of microeconomics to counter “vague notions?” How completely ironic is that?

When I was a freshman, I used to talk to business majors on my hall about the Free Trade Area of the Americas summit, and they were always very condescending – they’d say things like “I can’t have this discussion with you, you don’t understand – and you won’t until you take Economics 211 and 212.” As if basic supply and demand and trade were too esoteric to be able to explain. I went into microeconomics already having learned about “free” trade (and neoliberalism, and Statutory Accounting Principles, etc.). I already understood that people don’t usually do what’s in everyone’s best interests: graphs never trump self-interest, and power is a huge factor in economic relationships – and I had major trouble getting past my doubts/realism.

It’s possible that my doubts stem from things my teacher said, such as, “Land, or natural resources, are those resources we obtain by the grace of God” or “Marginal, fixed, and variable costs, or as I like to call them, The Trinity.” I swear I am not making this up.

I will always remember my textbook’s justification of “free trade” – a dialogue between a farmer and a rancher. It included gem quotes such as “farmer, my friend, have I got a deal for you!” and “I don’t know.that sounds too good to be true,” then “Oh, but it is! Here – I’ve summarized my proposal for you in a simple table.”

Hopefully I’m not breaking the honor code at all here, but let me let all of you microeconomics students in on a little secret. About 90 percent of the time when they ask you for a graph, what you do is you draw an ‘X’ on a graph. Label one line “supply” and label the other one “demand.” Put “price” on the x-axis, then “amount” or whatever on the y-axis – and if there is government involvement, just scrawl, “Oh God, not that!” across the whole graph. You’re set – that’s pretty much the point.

Anyway, I’ve finally found a division of economics that makes sense: International Political Economy. It takes into account, for instance, how relationships of power affect economic decisions – while one point on the graph may be better for both parties, if I’m more powerful than you and we’re making a deal (such as free trade agreements), you’re going to agree to my terms (no subsidies except for agriculture subsidies – which is the only market third world countries would have an advantage in anyway). Or on a smaller scale, it explains why UNICCO employees signed waivers they didn’t understand. It also explains why collective bargaining is so important – it helps equalize relationships of power in the workplace, so that employees have the leverage to get fair compensation and decent working conditions.

So all of you who have taken ECO 211 and/or 212 and think you therefore have all the answers, and that we “progressives” are so naive for thinking that people’s lives shouldn’t be determined by two-dimensional economic oversimplifications: take International Political Economy (INS 537) and get back to me.

Bethany Quinn is a senior majoring in Latin American Studies and Photography. She may be contacted at b.quinn2@umiami.edu.

September 12, 2006

Reporters

The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

Miami baseball coach Gino DiMare didn’t want his Hurricanes this past Sunday looking ahead to the we ...

When UM spring practice begins in a month, here’s one of many things the coaches need to determine: ...

Jaiden Francois already had a reputation as one of South Florida’s top defensive backs for the Class ...

It could be a fruitful year for the Miami Hurricanes in the 2019 NFL Draft. NFL Draft analyst Mel Ki ...

A quick six-pack off UM coach Manny Diaz’s conversation with Joe Zagacki and Don Bailey Jr. on WQAM’ ...

Students are invited to participate in the second annual Students of Color Symposium this weekend, f ...

The University of Miami connects scholarship recipients with the donors who helped make their educat ...

From eliminating waste to reusable containers, there are simple steps you can take to make UM more s ...

UM public health experts try to help tackle Venezuela’s ongoing health care crisis. ...

The Ring Theatre’s contemporary reworking of Molière’s “The Misanthrope” showcases the skills of UM’ ...

The University of Miami got off to a dream start at the ACC Swimming & Diving Championships Wedn ...

The sophomore first baseman smashed two homers to help power Canes to 4-0 start. ...

The University of Miami track and field team is set to compete at the 2019 ACC Indoor Track and Fiel ...

The Hurricanes will wrap up a four-game homestand with a midweek game against FAU on Wednesday at 6 ...

The No. 14 Miami women's basketball team is set to cap its longest road stretch of the season T ...

TMH Twitter
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.