Saturday, January 30, 2010

Free Trade Deals Unlikely Right Now

I have written before about the importance of free trade to our economic recovery.  However the current political climate is not amenable to making trade freer.  Unemployment and labor unions are preventing any progress which ironically might hurt them in the long run.  Mark Drajem wrote an excellent article on the difficulties which you can read here.

Do you think free trade is a good idea right now and is there any way to make it more politically feasible?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Answer to the Salt Riddle

If you did not get a chance to read the previous entry about salt and its historical importance, read it here.
I appreciate all the reader contributions.  It is the readers who make this blog successful and the comments create a fantastic forum for discussion and I urge you to subscribe, continue commenting, and take part in the discussion.

The answer after the break.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Some Quick Thoughts on Salt

In ancient Hebrew and Arabic, the words for war and peace derive from the words for salt and bread.  It is well known salt was incredibly important in the pre-modern world.  Roman soldiers jealously guarded the salt fields near Palestine and controlled the caravan routes that brought this commodity westward.  In fact, Roman soldiers were partially paid in salt which is where we get the word 'soldier' from the Latin sal dare (to give salt) and the word 'salary.'  In the Middle Ages, nations such as England built their foreign policies around the imperative of securing southern sea-salt supplies.  The phrase "to be worth one's salt" and the compliment "salt of the earth" arose out of the high value of salt.

Of course in modern times, though it is still incredibly important, salt is substantially cheaper because of its abundant supply.   My question is: What commodity today has such importance and high value in day to day life?  There is an obvious answer.  But there is also another resource that may be in short supply sooner than we think that could drastically affect the global economy...Comment with your guesses and thoughts!

Read the answer here

Friday, January 22, 2010

Biopiracy is the Next Big Issue

Charges of biopiracy -- the illegal use of one nation's natural resources for the economic gain of another are often extreme and are therefore relatively easy to reconcile.  But what happens when pharmaceuticals are involved and people's lives hang in the balance.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Bribery and Corruption

In many countries, bribery and corruption are part of the business lifestyle. “Greasing the wheels” is expected for government services.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Culture Clue #4

North Americans begin getting to know people by asking a lot of questions. In Latin America, it is safer to talk about local or regional topics.  Personal questions are often interpreted as prying.

What are your experiences in this regard.  I would love some comments.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

US Trade Policies Disadvantaged Companies

Ironically, it was the leadership role of the U.S. after World War II that led to the shift in trade positions. American policymakers have long seen the U.S. as the leading country in world power and trade. This opinion brought with it a sense of obligation to assist other countries with their trade efforts.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Retailers "Scream" Discrimination

This little story from 2002 illustrates the harms of trade restrictions:
For years, retailers from Wal-Mart and Target to tiny fancy-goods outlets have counted on low-cost imports from China to scare up sales at Halloween. A cheap polyester ghoul robe, along with a "Scream" mask retails for less than $20.  Classed as "flimsy festive articles," party-goods suppliers imported them duty free -- until U.S. Halloween giant, Rubie's Costume Company, got them reclassified as "fancy dress apparel."