24 November 2016

Some thoughts on the TPP and CETA

Trade is not a just end.  It can be a just means.

(Just like profit; profit is a just means and a sound measure but it's not a just end.  Those who have enough can't justly seek to take more from those whose sufficiency of means is questionable, but that's just what profit as an end accomplishes.)

Long supply chains give much more effect to divisions of labour and regional specialization (and thus highly developed bodies of practice), but they also absorb a lot of capital.  This can be looked at as a nefarious attempt to extract more rents for capital; it can also be looked at as a sort of pre-savings-glut issue, where you have to do something with accumulated capital and making production more profitable (which is not very different from "more efficient") is the obvious thing to do with it.  (You know how Apple has to become a bank because once you've got a hundred billion dollars you can't really invest it?  Like that.  You have to become part of the system to make use of that pile of capital.)

Only here we are in the late period of the Oil Empire; well into the decline.  Once the long supply chains start failing due to capital insufficiency -- there's no controlling feedback; the pursuit of trade and profit as supposed distinct good things in and of themselves goes on until it breaks somewhere -- they can't be re-established because the smaller economy after the crash can't afford them.

It makes me wonder how many people it really takes to run the modern economy; I very much doubt it's less than a billion and it might be two.  So no one nation-state begins to have the option of autarky at this tech level.  It makes me wonder how you figure out what the optimal supply chain length is, too.

No comments: