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WTO Think-In

The WTO isn't going to roll over, so Seattle's longer-term consquences (at bottom, the only things that matter) are not yet visible. It's optimistic and innocent to believe that rich nations will give up their exuberant consumption of imported goods or to posit that Western countries will improve efficiency quickly, without it costing jobs and profits. Some "sustainability" economists have suggested the WTO enforce pricing that builds environmental and social costs into products and services. But this would be political death, especially in countries that have not really benefited from the current economic boom. Remove, for instance, water and other subsidies in the US and the price of lettuce would double. It's the poor who would go without.

With the collapse of Left thinking (including postmodern Marxist academic exegisis), there is no credible alternative proposal to the WTO's claims that, while inequities and problems exist, "all boats will eventually rise." I hope the demonstrations will stimulate some deeper and more creative theorizing about how to redress social, economic, and environmental inequities. For people to think outside local, even national, boundaries; to embrace a long view; or perhaps to become altruistic, requires compelling ideas/theories, especially if they are to provide an alternative to the American version of unbridled capitalism?individual success in the shortest possible time.

Fixing the WTO requires rethinking how industrial nations interact with less industrial or nonindustrial nations. One idea: create sufficient subsidies and incentives to stimulate advanced economies to provide the technical tools and skills that result in sustainability and allow goods and services to be affordable in the poorer nations. If the industrialized nations do not create these stimuli, then levels of environmental degradation in emerging countries, added to what we are currently doing in the industrial world, will take us deep into the perils of "overshoot."