Do Economists Protest?

With all the anti-APEC protests taking place in Sydney this week, it’s a pity that there isn’t something to give a bit of balance. After all, one of APEC’s greatest achievements is to get all developed members to commit to free trade by 2010, and developing members to commit to free trade by 2020. That’s completely free trade, mind – not some clubbish free-trade-with-my-friends-only arrangement. Whether countries actually reach the Bogor goals is another question, but I still think APEC deserves credit for being the venue through which they committed to it. Understanding why living standards in Asia have grown faster than in Latin America and Africa is a complex question, but most people think that lower tariffs have played a role.

That said, I wonder whether there will be any good pro-free trade protests in Sydney this week. I’m reminded of the economics PhD students who went to the World Trade Organisation meetings in Seattle in 1999 with chants of “Whaddawewant? Free Trade, Whendawewannit? Now.”

Update: The Liberty and Democracy Party are planning a pro-free trade event on 8 September. Details here (update here). Their blog is unnecessarily critical of the left, and I hope that on the day they’ll welcome progressive free traders to their midst. After all, as someone once pointed out, it was Labor who implemented the three biggest tariff cuts in Australia’s history (1973, 1988 and 1991).

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14 Responses to Do Economists Protest?

  1. Damien Eldridge says:

    Personally, I don’t think that political commitments are worth the paper they are printed on. As the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words. There are way too many examples of broken commitments. At the international level, there are the Toronto GHG emission reduction targets and, in all likelihood, the Kyoto GHG emission reduction targets for at least some countries. At the domestic level on the ALP side, there is Bob Hawke’s foolish statement on child poverty. At the domestic level on the coalition side, there are those non-core promises.

  2. Damien – Alas, if only. People remember the broken promises. But the vast majority of election promises – most of which are silly are should be broken – are in fact delivered. After being stung by the reaction to post-1996 broken ‘non-core’ promises, Howard and his office pedantically pursued Ministers and and their offices to ensure every promise was kept.

  3. Sinclair Davidson says:

    Australia commit to free trade? Surely not, AQIS (and Australian Biosecurity) will continue long after 2010. Australia’s last line of defense against free trade is glorified on Channel Seven ‘Border Security’.

  4. Sacha says:

    Oz, the link didn’t work.

  5. Oz says:

    I’ll just post the text instead.

    In September 2007 Sydney will host the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. APEC is an inter-government forum which aims to facilitate economic growth and prosperity, cooperation, trade and investment within the Asia-Pacific region.

    APEC 2007 is expected to be a large focal point for street protests by various left wing and socialist groups who object to free trade. With government leaders from across the region attending (including President Bush from the USA). It is also expected to be a high profile media event.

    The LDP supports free trade and the material prosperity that it brings as well as the freedom it promotes. As such the LDP will be holding a peaceful rally in Sydney on the 8th of September to show support for the ideals of free trade. All party members and supporters of free trade are invited to attend.

    The itnery for the day is as follows:-

    Saturday 8th September 2007

    9:00am – Meet at the corner of York and Market Street on street level above the post office. This is across the intersection from the North-West corner of the Queen Victoria Building (QVB). There will be a short briefing with any last minute updates.

    9:20am – Make our way as a group toward Hyde Park.

    10:00am – 11:30am – Take our message of freedom to the people.

    Suggestions for the day:-

    * Allow extra travel time because the city will be hectic. Take public transport because there will be multiple road closures. If coming by train then it may be easier to get off at Wynyard and then walk from there toward the QVB because Town Hall will at that point in time probably be very congested with lots of socialists.
    * Dress comfortably with good footwear because we will be walking and standing much of the time. You may want to bring a drink bottle.
    * Feel free to bring a sign to promote free trade, low taxes and/or small government.
    * Bring a friend or just bring yourself.

    Remember to check back on the blog here for any updates as we get closer to the event. And if you are thinking of coming it would be nice if you left a comment below so we can get some sense of numbers.

    I look forward to seeing you all on the day.

    Discussion here or on the LDP blog:-

  6. Leon says:

    Can’t wait for some photos!

  7. pommygranate says:

    All those in favour of free trade warmly welcomed, ‘progressive’ or ‘reactionary’ 🙂

    We will be serving FreeTrade coffee from the lowest cost producer and Bagels from the most competitively priced local shop.

  8. Terje (say tay-a) says:


    As pommy indicated the LDP will welcome all supporters of free trade. You don’t need to be a member of the LDP. Although anybody interested in initiating any violence is not welcome.

    Please note: for security reasons the assembly point may change so check back at our blog prior to the event if you wish to attend.


  9. From Andrew’s last comment, it may be necessary to make one thing clear — the LDP does not support the Liberals or Howard. We will not be preferencing the Liberals (we will preference against the sitting member) and LDP members are split on who they plan on preferencing personally.

    On my reckoning, Hawke was the most libertarian leader we’ve had in the past 40 years and Howard is the second most socialist (behind Whitlam). Craig Emerson (ALP) is one of the best politicians going around at the moment and I voted for Latham in 2004.

    So if you’re an ALP sympathiser who believes in trade — you are certainly welcome.

  10. Terje (say tay-a) says:

    Details of the revised assembly point are now available:-

    If you are left wing and you support free trade and you are non-violent and you are happy to stand along side the LDP on this issue please feel free to join us. We can argue about tax policy later in the day. 😉

    My original LDP blog article regarding this event was not critical of the left. It merely noted that many of the anti-trade protesters are left-wing. Several key people in the LDP originally hark from the left although clearly the right identify more readily with some of our economic views.

  11. Terje (say tay-a) says:

    Do Economists Protest?

    This reminds me of the Smoot Hawley tariff act (the consequences of which Wall Street predicted on Black Tuesday, October 29th 1929). This was a massive dose of protectionism and subsequently a major cause of the Great Depression. A protest petition was compiled at the time warning against such an initiative. 1000 economists signed that petition and it was then sent to Herbert Hoover in the spring of 1930, it urged him to veto Smoot-Hawley. Instead he sign it into law. The human impact was horrendeous.

  12. Smoot Hawley the cause of the Great Depression! Really see Barry Eichengreen’s work on this furphy. If you want to find critics of left protectionism in Australia try the ‘socialists’, what about Rick Kuhn and Tom Bramble, or going back further Mick Considine?

  13. Terje (say tay-a) says:

    The following link has a little bit of a review on how the protest went along with a picture.

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