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The Selling of "Free Trade": NAFTA, Washington, and the Subversion of American Democracy Paperback – October 16, 2001

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 412 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; First Edition, With a New Afterword edition (October 16, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520231783
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520231788
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.9 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,721,886 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Though the political machinations behind the North American Free Trade Agreement may not automatically quicken the pulse, longtime Harper's publisher MacArthur has worked the story into a spirited and engrossing case study of low-wage American workers brazenly sacrificed for a corporate-sponsored "turbo capitalism." Engineered by big business lobbyists and carried out in the national media by pitchman extraordinaire Lee Iacocca, the push for NAFTA, in MacArthur's opinion, offers a view "deep into the heart of political mendacity and collusion as it is practiced in Washington." Using the controversial closure of New York City's Swingline staple plant as a touchstone for the more abstract "intellectual trade wars" to follow, MacArthur examines the campaign waged by a Democratic coalition battling Ross Perot's famous sound bite on the loss of NAFTA-related jobs: "There will be a giant sucking sound going south." The book makes for grimly hilarious reading as it chronicles the intense saga of NAFTA's eventual ratification, notably when describing the elaborate process of vote buying embarked upon by pro-NAFTA forces. In one case, as MacArthur reports it, Rep. Bill Brewster, an Oklahoma Democrat on the board of the National Rifle Association, surrendered his vote via cell phone in exchange for a duck-hunting date with President Clinton. Throughout, MacArthur keeps his eye on the immigrant factory workers who ultimately pay NAFTA's price, and reports on the desultory border culture of maquiladora factories such as the brand-new Swingline plant in Nogales. The ultimate effects of NAFTA may still be debatable, but MacArthur's conclusion seems beyond dispute: "It's politics, stupid." (Apr.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The subtitle of this book reveals much about the author's position on the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)Da seriously flawed law that was passed after a fast and loose sales pitch that skirted the rules of our political system. It begins and ends with a tale that shows the human side of the consequences of NAFTA: jobs leaving Queens, NY, and appearing in Nogales, Mexico. Between these two chapters, the author, president and publisher of Harper's magazine, presents his explanation for how and why NAFTA became law. He conducted extensive interviews with nearly all the major actors in this drama and is critical of the motives and actions of the players on both sides of the issue. However, he levels his most severe criticisms at the Democrats who were crucial in getting NAFTA through Congress, even when some of them publicly opposed it. While the book is a bit polemical at times, it is very well written and should be accessible to a wide range of readers. For large public libraries.DThomas J. Baldino, Wilkes Univ., Wilkes-Barre, PA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

JOHN R. MACARTHUR is the president and publisher of Harper's Magazine. An award-winning journalist, he has previously written for The New York Times, United Press International, The Chicago Sun-Times, and The Wall Street Journal. He is also the author of the acclaimed books You Can't Be President: The Outrageous Barriers to Democracy in America, The Selling of Free Trade: NAFTA, Washington, and the Subversion of American Democracy, and Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War. He lives in New York City.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy Raymondjack on March 23, 2001
Format: Hardcover
After reading through the negative reviews below, I can't help but notice that they miss the point. This book is not an anti-globalization rant or a leftie-luddite treatise. What MacArthur has done is document the inner workings of an important "trade agreement," demonstrating that the triumph of the market is not an inevitable historical trend. Rather, the grand sweep of "globalization" is a project, a designed task, pushed through with real and purposive power. The job of pundits, CEOs, PR firms and politicians is to make the rank and file feel like the collapse of non-economic imperatives is the natural unfolding of history.
MacArthur's book documents the kinds of things that citizens should be aware of as they happen, not ten years later in a searing expose. We need to shine a searchlight on our government right now, to uncover the backroom deals and smarmy PR snow-jobs that presently constitute the real substance of American politics. MacArthur's book shows us what to look for.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Rolf Dobelli HALL OF FAME on April 19, 2001
Format: Hardcover
John MacArthur, editor of Harper's Magazine, is a persistent, resourceful, and thorough reporter with an unapologetic opinion about the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). MacArthur makes no attempt to disguise his disdain for the trade pact, which he describes as a measure designed to institutionalize U.S. exploitation of Mexican workers, or for the politicians, businessmen and lobbyists who supported it. In researching this book, MacArthur interviewed many of the key national and international players who helped create NAFTA and found rare interviews with others. He illustrates the debate by presenting an analysis of NAFTA's impact on workers at a U.S factory, and on the Mexicans who replace them. Ironically, he paints such an effective portrait of the inner workings of the Mexican maquiladoras factories that U.S. business leaders reading this book might be further enticed to relocate. The finest feature of the book is its exhaustive treatment of the law-making process, and its lucid judgment of the Washington establishment. We [...] recommend this book to students of politics or international trade, business leaders interested in gaining insight into the anti-globalization movement, and to anyone trying to get a bill passed in the U.S. Congress.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By karl b. on February 13, 2001
Format: Hardcover
MacArthur begins his book from the venerable Swingline Staple Company of Queens, NY, with profiles of employees, union activists, owners over the last 30 years. Not so long a period, but starting at a time when a lattice of low technology manufacturing still ringed the great metropolis and bustled in the lower regions of Manhattan. They provided a modest but sustaining salary and a route to the ladders of American society for generations of immigrants. By the end of that period those societal understandings had given way to a much different order. Swingline moved its operations to the dollar an hour wages and shanty towns of Nogales, Mexico, channeling back product to an American market they were no longer willing to support with their payroll.
The author exposes the shell (or shill) game that took over the debate of North American Free Trade. Politicians as diverse as Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton cynically assured the electorate that open trade heralded an era of unequaled prosperity and opportunity, propelled by such vacant aphorisms as the 'information economy' or the 'new realities' of global business. The agenda was marketed as 'inevitable'. The neoliberal lobby managed to bamboozle a skeptical public and buy the political establishment. By 1994 this well financed machine had bribed or bullied its way to passage of NAFTA in all three countries. A full-scale reorganization of continental industry ensued, with an attendant labour disenfranchisement, deindustrialization and currency sabotage.
The corrupt Salinas regime exemplified the motives of the Free Traders. Mexico's acceptance of their wealthy northern neighbors' largesse of 'investment' was extorted in part by their inability to pay the usurious loans of the IMF and foreign banks.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By DJC on October 2, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book had no recommendations, no dust jacket, and no introduction to the qualifications of the author. The only reason I picked it up out of the library was because I am currenty a student of International Business and Global Economics.Our group assigment is to pursue a debate upon free trade in general, for the opposition.

For it's treatment of trade theory, especially Smith and Ricardo,I thought MacArthur picked up a salient point...why in the modern world of technology and global trade are thinking individuals (for example...academics?) silently allowing a group of self-interested multi-national corporations to devour and destroy what took western societies, not just capitalists, hundreds of years to attain?

Namely, a worker-protected environment, minimum wage laws, and government regulations to prevent exploitation of labour? Vanishing due to greed. The same old greed that could be scientifically theorized upon more than two hundred years

ago, during the ages of mercantilism and comparative advantage.

Why no new theories on how to maintain worker rights?

MacArthur identifies the players in American politics, the benefits assumed and trade among all dealers in the free trade debate, and spends as much time as is necessary to capture the attention of the reader. Canada and Mexico are mere pawns here in a game the Americans play much better than many nations.

Thus clear causes and effects of the support of free trade in these other nations should be reviewed in numerous other texts.

The points he picks up the best include the clauses in chapter eleven preventing privatisation of Mexican-held American assets, the collusion of the mass media, the deification of Salinas, etc.
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