Wednesday Night #1329 What's good for birds is good for economies

Globe & Mail Report on Business
NEIL REYNOLDS
August 10, 2007

OTTAWA – John Kenneth Galbraith was perhaps the world’s most consistent liberal economist of the 20th century. Contemptuous of free-market economics from the beginning of his adult life (when in 1931, at age 22, he abandoned Canada for the United States) to the end (when in 2006, at age 97, he died), Mr. Galbraith never wavered in his conviction that the need for social reform – to lessen poverty, income inequality and corporate crime – surpassed the need for economic efficiency. Yet he never wavered in his conviction that economic globalization was an essential advance to a better world.
“Unlike many on the left, Galbraith drew conclusions that rejected neither the process of globalization nor the leadership of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank,” observes biographer Richard Parker in John Kenneth Galbraith: His Life, His Politics, His Economics. “The deepest lessons of the 20th century were to him incontrovertible. More global integration of economies, cultures and political systems offered many more benefits to mankind than the violent nationalisms that had helped to cause two world wars and that had taken the lives of more than 100 million human beings.”
For Mr. Galbraith, the essence of liberalism was intrinsically global – as, indeed, it had been for Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (“Workers of the world, unite”). For Mr. Galbraith, globalization simply expanded and extended co-operation among countries, which was precisely the definition used by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in his remarks last year in Cancun when he joined Mexican President Vicente Fox and U.S. President George W. Bush at the second summit of the trilateral Security and Prosperity Partnership.
Montebello is a fitting place for the third of these co-operation summits, which convenes in nine days. A luxury resort built by Canadian Pacific Railway, Montebello is now operated by Fairmont Hotels, a company created out of a former CPR subsidiary and a hotel chain that had its own illustrious origin in the United States – in a grand hotel built in San Francisco by the Fair family with gold-rush money. Destroyed in the earthquake of 1906 and rebuilt, the Fairmont became the site of the post-World War II conference that gave birth to the United Nations. Calgary-based Canadian Pacific is deeply integrated into the U.S. economy – and operates in Mexico through partnerships with Mexican railways. In its own way, Montebello is a textbook example of continental co-operation.
The dogmatic nationalists who wave banners and chant slogans at these three-nation summits insist that the Security and Prosperity Partnership is a subversive instrument now used, sinister step by sinister step, to turn North America into a single country ruled by U.S. multinational companies. But economic integration in no way necessitates political integration. It does necessitate cross-border co-operation. It is one of the goals of the three countries, among hundreds, to make it easier for North American freight trains to cross the two national borders that now separate them economically and politically.
You can call the elimination of economic waste at the borders “integration” – or even, as the Council of Canadians puts it, “deep integration.” You can also call it co-operation. The SPP’s administrative secretariat publishes all of the goals of the partnership, every one of them, and periodically reports on progress (or lack of it). These goals all reflect practical problems that are the inevitable consequences of economic separatism. There isn’t a whiff of sinister in the lot of them. Here are a very few examples of SPP objectives set by the three co-operative commonwealths of North America:
–Develop compatible standards in the manufacture of auto parts.
–Establish common specifications for containers used to transport dangerous goods.
–Take steps to combat the North American trade in counterfeit and pirated goods.
–Pursue greater market access for natural health products in North America.
–Develop common labels for textile products.
–Set compatible standards for the manufacture of pleasure craft.
–Expand scientific collaboration among the three countries on energy – specifically, among other subjects, on the sequestration of carbon dioxide, on the use of carbon dioxide in the recovery of oil, on clean-coal technology and on renewable energy sources.
–Establish ways to identify invasive alien species in North American waterways.
–Develop and sign a declaration of intent on the conservation of North American birds and their habitat.
For the record, this last goal has been met. Canada, Mexico and the U.S. have signed the formal declaration, which commits them “to act across international boundaries to achieve integrated conservation of native North American birds.”
Birds, after all, have economies, too – the continental commerce of the skies.
They favour deep integration. Mr. Galbraith would almost certainly have approved.

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