Rupert Read reviewed Colin Hines’ ebook, Progressive Protectionism in RESURGENCE AND ECOLOGIST May/June 2017
It calls for a change of direction: away from acquiescence in the trade treaties which shaped the deregulated world that spawned the financial crisis — and toward protection of nature, workers, localities and national sovereignty, as the key locale where democracy might resist rootless international capital.
Progressive protectionism’ is completely unlike the ‘protectionism’ of the 1930s, that sought to protect one’s own economy while undermining others; this by contrast is an internationalist protectionism, aimed, “at reducing permanently the amount of international trade”, and making countries around the world more self-reliant/resilient. ‘
Read believes that too many ‘progressives’ have sleepwalked into tacitly pro-globalisation positions incompatible with protecting what we most care about.
And partly because of this, a new political power is rising that threatens to trash the future: The Brexit vote and (in particular) the election of Donald Trump have restored the word ‘protectionism’ to the popular political vocabulary.
Hines argues that we need to take back protectionism from the Right. He means that only policies of progressive protectionism can make real the idea of “taking back control”. Read thinks that’s right. If we embrace progressive protectionism, we’ve something better to offer the voting public than they have.
The chapter on ‘free movement’ will be the most controversial of all. Hines (Ed: rightly) points out that countries such as Romania and the Philippines are being stripped bare of their medical personnel, and argues that no decent internationalist can support this sucking out of ‘the brightest and the best’ from their home countries.
We can take control of the agenda, rationally and seek to minimise such movement; for example by helping to make conditions better in home countries, tackling dangerous climate change, stopping foreign wars of aggression, encouraging ‘Site Here to Sell Here’ policies everywhere, and bringing back capital controls which helped the world prosper safely from 1947 till 1971 (and which certain countries, such as Iceland, have already brought back).
Capital controls are crucial, because they stop the threat of relocation which multinationals have used to ‘discipline’ democracies for too many years now (Ed: and capital can then be reinvested in the communities from which that capital was accrued).
Hines argues that the Treaty of Rome needs transforming into a ‘Treaty of Home’ that will allow peoples to protect what they hold dear – and Read thinks politicians on the Continent need to read his book if they are to prevent further exits, starting possibly with France. Read ends:
“This book is a necessary read. Perfect it ain’t; it’s slightly repetitive, and there are problems of substance too: most Resurgence readers will (rightly) dislike how soft Hines is on economic-growthism, and will wish that he were readier to embrace the post-growth future that is demanded by the acceptance that we are already breaching the limits to growth. But if there is to be a future, then progressive protectionism will surely be part of it. This book is crucial thought-leadership for us, away from the political dead-end of globalisationist fantasy, and toward a localisation that can transform the debate – and then the world”.
Progressive Protectionism – Park House Press, 2017; ISBN 978-0-9544751-2-3