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Cultural Protectionism

How Random Babbling Becomes Corporate Policy

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Cultural Protectionism

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Subject: CEI's C:spin-The New Protectionism
Date: Thu, 8 Jan 2004 11:38:23 -0500
From: "Richard Morrison" <rmorrison@cei.org>

CEI C:\Spin



This issue: The New Protectionism



By Neil Hrab

Warren Brooks Fellow

CEI

1/07/2004



By all indications, 2004 should be a banner year for America’s movie, TV show and music producers. DVD players continue to become more popular around the world, and this increases chances for consumers everywhere to enjoy recordings of American TV programs, rock videos and films. The International Recording Media Association projects projects global production of DVDs could grow from 2.7 billion discs in 2003 to 7 billion discs by 2008. If that forecast holds true, that means that before the first decade of the 21st century is up, American movie studios, singers and others could be earning as much as $70 billion per year from global DVD sales alone.

Most Americans see the billions of dollars in entertainment that the US exports each year as a benign form of free exchange. Foreign consumers can buy copies of American motion pictures, concerts, etc., and absorb American culture without having to leave home. The money they spend supports American jobs and bolsters the US’ balance of trade. Everybody wins.

But a growing number of foreign governments, in developed and Third World countries alike, don’t see this as a win-win situation. While consumers everywhere from Tokyo to Timbuktu may lap up American popular culture, many of their rulers and leaders see it as an annoying form of cultural pollution. As one former Canadian prime minister put it, “images of America are so [globally] pervasive…that it is almost as if instead of the world immigrating to America, America has immigrated to the world, allowing people to aspire to be Americans even in their distant cultures.” It's hard to see the harm in individuals deciding, of their own free will, to adopt aspects of American popular culture (fashion, slang, etc.), depending on their preferences -- but let that pass for now.

One proposed solution for this alleged American cultural onslaught has emerged. Through an inter-governmental body called the International Network for Cultural Policy International Network for Cultural Policy (INCP). This alliance wants to pass a global treaty that would declare “cultural goods and services” to be “distinct” from “ordinary goods and services,” with a “specific nature” that must be “respected.” That doesn’t sound very threatening, but such a treaty could hurt America’s ability to export its cultural products.

Once INCP’s hypothetical treaty is passed, it would guarantee that trade in cultural products be exempted from global free trade talks. This, in turn, would allow foreign governments to start imposing measures reducing consumer access to American entertainment products. (Many American allies throughout Europe, as well as Canada and Mexico, already have such measures on the books.) The passage of a global cultural protectionist treaty would make thus it impossible for the U.S. to press for further liberalization in global cultural exports in future trade talks. The treaty would act as a shield for protectionist actions wrapped in stealthy rhetoric about preserving “cultural diversity.” If all goes according to plan, INCP aims to open negotiations on the treaty in March 2004 and secure its adoption no later than the autumn of 2005.

The Bush Administration has been quiet about INCP’s quest for global cultural protectionism. The longer the U.S. delays its response, the more it feeds the cultural protectionist camp’s hope that it can use weight of numbers to force Washington to accept its specious arguments. In order to cure INCP of this illusion, Washington must commit itself to global free trade in cultural and entertainment products, and vow not to support any initiative that undermines this goal. Time is running out.



C:\SPIN is produced by the Competitive Enterprise Institute

This is terribly interesting. For those of you that don't bother to read the cut, let me summaraize. There's an organization (INCP), that wants to exclude "cultural" products from any free trade talks. Why? They want to be able to put import restrictions on american entertainment, to prevent the Americanization of their culture. This article, from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, obviously wants to rail against this. I'm mixed. I already don't like global free trade because of the people in control- large, exploitative corporations. Also, American culture is structured in such a way that makes it virulent. People from all over the world come into contact with American Culture, and rapidly americanize- or they polarize against it. I can understand the desire for cultural protectionism. People like their traditions...

Still, the citizens also should be free to americanize, as much as I loathe the idea.

Something to think about...
  • The question is when do you begin to make laws for "people's protection from themselves" - smoking is a great example. It's bad for you and everyone knows this, but tons of people do it anyways. Should we make it illegal simply because it's bad for people? What if they want to do it anyways? This is a more extreme example than American entertainment... but let's face it, much of American entertainment is cotton candy: sugary fluff with no substance, and easy to consume. I can see why it has the memetic strength it does. I can also see not wanting it in your country, like kudzu it gets everywhere.

    Not that this was all that coherent, but just kinda my mashup of thoughts on the matter.
  • It's just hard, because I hate American culture, the same way I hate the thought of making a meal of cotton candy daily. The thought of it spreading further upsets me. Yet, simultaneously, I can't, in good conscience, tell them, "No, you can't have it."

    I guess we'll just have to build strong counter-memes and hope they can take over.
    • The problem with trying to make a better counter-meme is that American culture is easy and accessible. It's hard to create something as universal that people will want. Junk food tastes good or no one would eat it.

      ...not to say that I disagree with you. Just that there needs to be some serious forethought if we're going to try to engineer something better.
  • I'm glad I took metaphorge's reccomendation. I like you.
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