- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 15, 2001

Free-trade agreement should be publicly debated

In his April 11 Op-Ed column, "Clouds on the free trade horizon," Peter Hadekel expresses his concern that the "real dangers" in the drafting of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) agreement would be "caving in to demands" of international organizations promoting measures that protect the environment, labor and human rights. These, however, are the very areas over which the clouds are hanging.

The FTAA was drafted without any public debate, and it is the hope of Mr. Hadekel and others that the agreement be ratified on a fast-track authority similar to the one that ratified the North American Free Trade Agreement, which silences the voices of most people and poses a real threat to democracy, not only in countries where it is still fragile, but in all countries of the Americas.

The supporters of FTAA claim that the agreement will strengthen democracy, create prosperity by means of economic growth and promote human rights. The experience of the implementation of similar agreements has not realized these goals or fostered the common good.

The effects of free market economic policies on the populations of many countries has instead resulted in displaced persons, destruction of local cultures and economies, the exploitation of women and children, unemployment, diminishing salaries, worsening working conditions, violation of basic workers´ rights and destruction of the environment.

Without a public debate on the agreement, including the experiences of international labor and human rights organizations, there is no guarantee that there will be provisions for the protection of cultures, of the rights of workers and the environment.

Many of the unnamed groups that Mr. Hadekel fears are the ones working directly with those who will be most adversely affected by the agreement.

If he and others are interested in economic growth, trade and development, and strengthening democracy, they would welcome the fullest public debate, including participation of all those affected by the agreement.


Silver Spring

Plucking weeds of information from the marketplace of ideas

I chuckled when I read the letter to the editor "Drug laws create youth drug market" (April 1). My goodness. That letter surely had some statements that defied logic, research and history. It is interesting that the author works for a foundation considered by many to be one of the biggest promoters of drug legalization.

Just as there is a tobacco lobby that has misrepresented the hazards of tobacco cigarettes, there is a well-funded marijuana lobby working to place marijuana cigarettes on store shelves. Everyone knows that smoking is hazardous to one´s health and that marijuana contains more carcinogens than tobacco.

The use of marijuana goes up as the perception of harm goes down. Although the majority of the American people, medical doctors, researchers and lawmakers agree that marijuana should not be legalized, children pay close attention to the arguments of the legalizers. Many young people believe marijuana is harmless. It is not. It is a dangerous psychoactive weed with more than 450 different chemicals that can cause a myriad of physical and emotional problems.

Weeds are not "medicine." People must quit confusing marijuana with its active ingredient, THC. Don´t be fooled by the simplistic arguments of drug legalizers, who tend not to let facts get in their way.

It doesn´t take a rocket scientist to know that any policy making drugs more readily available will lead to increased drug use and increased tragedy and violence. Easing legal restrictions on marijuana could put millions of children at risk.


Founder, Illinois Drug Education Alliance

Founder, Drug Watch International (www.drugwatch.org)

Editor, Drug Watch World News

Carlinsville, Ill.

Global fog of carbon dioxide

Regarding John Leos Op-Ed article "Global fog with political fallout" (April 7), it seems there is plenty of room for a middle path.

Certainly, the Kyoto process was a steamroller, an intergovernmental, prearranged agenda with no tolerance for differing points of view. But just as certainly, when a piece of the Antarctic shelf the size of Delaware breaks loose, this cannot be good news for owners of beachfront property.

The failure to arrive at this middle ground seems largely due to the willingness of both extremes to issue statements that have no basis in fact. No evidence has been offered, for example, that would indicate that average temperatures here on Earth will increase by 10 degrees Fahrenheit in this coming decade. But there is plenty to indicate that temperatures are steadily increasing and that this is already causing serious changes in weather patterns and the global climate.

And at the other end, there is no reasoning as to why reducing our greenhouse emissions, including reduction of our dependence on fossil fuels, during the next 11 years will require "carbon taxes" or drive energy costs out of sight. More likely, taking such action would reduce real-term energy costs, bring about new industries and create jobs.

Over nearly 30 years, our program has proved that this is possible. Around the world, we´re showing that atmospheric carbon levels can be permanently reduced, at acceptable costs, in ways that provide jobs and protect, rather than degrade, the environment.

Disappointed by the failed planning of intergovernmental programs, as exemplified by the Kyoto conference, to come up with workable ideas, U.S. business is discovering that it is possible to operate in the environmentally and socially responsible manner expected by their employees and customers and, in doing so, actually improve the bottom line.


Founder, Trees for the Future

Silver Spring

Thin standard of truth on the tariff

I would have liked to have seen how Jude Wanniski ("The golden standard of redemption," Commentary Forum, April 8) "discovered that the cause of the 1929 Wall Street crash was the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act." Why? Because the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act was not passed until 1930. The shortsighted, beggar-thy-neighbor Smoot-Hawley tariff definitely contributed to the severity of the Great Depression that followed the 1929 crash, but it did not cause it.

The immediate cause of the crash was the bursting of the stock market speculative bubble. In 1928, the Federal Reserve Board in Washington wanted to take some direct action to limit the purchase of stocks on margin but did not act because of the strong opposition of the president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, Benjamin Strong. Tougher action by the Fed in 1928 or early 1929 might have broken the speculative bubble earlier, but, to be fair, the Fed did not have explicit authority to set margin requirements until passage of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934.

Whether the Fed cut interest rates quickly enough after the October 1929 crash is a matter of some debate, but most economists (except for gold bugs such as Mr. Wanniski) believe that the Fed´s action to raise interest rates during the gold crisis of 1931 in order to prevent the outflow of gold was exactly what the economy did not need.

Of course, the Fed should not receive all or even most of the blame for the crash and the Great Depression, and I agree with Mr. Wanniski that the fiscal and tariff policies of both the Hoover and the first Roosevelt administrations deserve their share of the blame.


Adjunct professor of international political economy

Catholic University of America


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