As I promised in my update to the first article, what does free trade have to do with the intolerant minority?

The very first example that Taleb discusses in his article is the ubiquity of the kosher food choices. The upshot is that between logistical simplicity, the unwillingness of one party to accept alternatives, and the desire of most to not rock the boat for reasonable-seeming requests, very quickly one choice begins to pervade or override the others.

He also discusses this in the light of  Islamic immigration. Remember my comment about three percent and the American revolution?

Now consider this manifestation of the dictatorship of the minority. In the United Kingdom, where the (practicing) Muslim population is only three to four percent, a very high number of the meat we find is halal. Close to seventy percent of lamb imports from New Zealand are halal. Close to ten percent of the chain Subway carry halal-only stores (meaning no pork), in spite of the high costs from the loss of business of nonpork stores.

If I walk into a jewish deli I know I won’t get ham – but the other stuff will be delicious. That said, they certainly don’t stop me from buying ham, bacon, or pork sausage somewhere else, or stop other places from selling it.

Islam – what Taleb would differentiate as sunni Islam – is different. Time after time it’s been noted that the pattern is to be all nice-nice with the neighbors until enough numbers exist to demand “reasonable” concessions. At first, they sortof are, but none of them truly are for the intention is not to reach a compromise, but to keep taking a mile after being given that inch. Eventually they are the majority and they begin subjugating those around them.

Arguably, in Europe and the States, we’re in the middle of phase two, as unreasonable behavior is already being tested, and approaching (as the paragraph quoted shows) phase three in some areas. Note the recent proselytization at a nativity play, and the Christmas terrorism attacks.

So what about free trade?

Well, long before @voxday had his debate on free trade, I’d already come to one disturbing conclusion (given what I had previously believed). Leaving aside the need to promote virtue, customer-first, and long-term planning in corporations for longevity rather than “just enough to increase quarterly profits”, free trade, at least between countries, could only exist if the two countries were operating on an even keel. “Free trade” with China, for example, is no such thing because we are competing against people who are working for much lower wages, not too far removed from slave labor. The factories with little or no environmental safeguards for pollution (and I’m talking the real thing – cuyahoga river or EPA spill level – not what most greenies point and scream at to shut down factories and nuke plants). All of this means that workers in the US are not competing on a level playing field, and trade without balancing tarrifs has resulted in losing manufacturing jobs as companies chasing quarterly profits forget their long term viability and internal “tribal” knowledge of how the things they sell work offload them overseas.

And China is also known for bringing in manufacturing jobs for other companies so they can learn the processes involved, then taking that knowledge to compete directly with their benefactors at prices US-based manufactures cannot compete with. It’s been known long enough to be a major plot point of Crichton’s “Airframe”.

Both the loss of tribal knowledge, and the aforementioned espionage, are reasons why I don’t think Apple is wise to open up a research facility in China. One other sign that their ability to make the best computer they can dream up has been compromised by their convergence.

Additionally, China, and previously Japan, extended no such unrestricted benefits to us.

While international trade negotiations aren’t as complex as entire populations making their decisions, it is still the least “tolerant”, the one most willing to walk away from a deal, who holds a massive amount of power from that very fact to push deals and behavior in their favor.

It’s high time we stopped tolerating one-sided trade practices in the hopes of having “free” trade, and misnaming it such to sell it.