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Wealth & Economics > Free trade - a panacea or a debatable economic theory?

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message 1: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 15760 comments I don't know whether it's a tendency, but after the 2008 financial crisis, which many believe is far from being over, the tone of economic studies has changed from dithyrambs how wonderfully excellent everything works to acutely critical how erroneous some of the fundamental principles underlying modern capitalist system are.
No doubt, the contemporary situ influences the mood and evaluation.
As I believe everything can be and should be questioned and, inspired by Brexit discussions here, I thought free trade may deserve an additional look into.
Free, barrierless trade is something WTO and major economic organizations and unions fervently promote, while, if to believe Wikipedia:
"... most governments still impose some protectionist policies that are intended to support local employment, such as applying tariffs to imports or subsidies to exports."
I think there are much more supporters of the free trade, but there are quite a lot of arguments against it, which wikipedia summarized for us:
"a general argument against free trade is that it is colonialism or imperialism in disguise. The moral category is wide, including concerns of destroying infant industries and undermining long-run economic development, income inequality, environmental degradation, supporting child labor and sweatshops, race to the bottom, wage slavery, accentuating poverty in poor countries, harming national defense, and forcing cultural change.
Economic arguments against free trade criticize the assumptions or conclusions of economic theories. Sociopolitical arguments against free trade cite social and political effects that economic arguments do not capture, such as political stability, national security, human rights and environmental protection."
The free trade is supposed to benefit consumers by opening the market to global competition, but is there a toll in something else? What do you think?


message 2: by J.J. (new)

J.J. Mainor | 2281 comments I forgot where I discussed this or which group or whatever, but here it is simplistically. What free trade does in theory is to allow a country to outsource the low wage labor so that it can direct its population toward service and white-collar jobs. In theory, we're supposed to take advantage of the educational opportunities so that we take jobs that are "above base factory work."

We in the US have this disconnect where we expect everyone to make a "decent" or "living" wage, but we don't want to pay more for the goods and services created/provided from those traditionally low wage jobs.

The discussion today focuses on Wal Mart and McDonalds, but it used to be the farm workers - the migrant labor making essentially pennies to pick lettuce. People in principal think farm workers are underpaid, yet the current discussion on the so-called food-deserts brings up the point that produce is already priced where the poor can't afford fruits and vegetables. It's not something we want to hear, but if we pay everyone on the farm $15/hr to pick lettuce or tomatoes, produce prices are going to rise to where the middle-class can't afford vegetables.

The same mind-set goes into factory production. Free trade to some extent pushes that uncomfortable truth out of mind by sending that work to the 3rd world where the cost of living allows people to live off what the markets wants to pay for their labor. As long as we don't examine too closely what that "life" looks like, free trade is more palatable.


message 3: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11519 comments As with many things, there are pros and cons. The pros are obvious. The worst of the cons is that those with assets tend to buy the cheapest labour, while at the same time in your own country, the people demand certain social benefits, which add costs. So the net result is a flight of jobs to the cheaper zones, and at the same time a fragmentation of society and very enhanced inequality. Italy depends on what you want.


message 4: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 15760 comments Ian wrote: "the net result is a flight of jobs to the cheaper zones, and at the same time a fragmentation of society and very enhanced inequality. ..."

J.J. wrote: "What free trade does in theory is to allow a country to outsource the low wage labor so that it can direct its population toward service and white-collar jobs.
Free trade to some extent pushes that uncomfortable truth out of mind by sending that work to the 3rd world where the cost of living allows people to live off what the markets wants to pay for their labor. ..."


I'm not sure it was designed for this purpose, but that's definitely one of its practical consequences. There are few underlying concepts, which include inter alia enhanced competition, lower prices for the consumer and so on.
I, for example, live in a country with lots of barriers, especially in food industry, and, just to give an example, I need to pay sometimes 10 times (!!) more for honey than in some Eastern European countries or 3 times more for a similar yogurt sold in German supermarket. Annoying, for such a drastic difference is largely attributable to a closed market and lack of competition.

On the other hand and as another example, once the barriers were removed the entire textile industry 'emigrated' to cheaper countries, factories closed, employees fired. And most likely the same t-shirts are now manufactured in much less 'comfortable' for employees conditions for a much lower wages

Is there a proper balance between the benefits and drawbacks or win-win is impossible?


message 5: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11519 comments Nik, I think the problem is you have to define what winning means. Your complaint about the pride of honey also means the local honey producer is winning, even if you are not. Similarly, if you want the free trade and the cheaper honey, should the beneficiaries pay the textile workers their loss? One current problem in the world is, I think, that the politicians are working according to an economic theory that allegedly produces more benefits, but it does not require the beneficiaries to pay for the losers, largely because the politicians also come from the "winners' class".


message 6: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 15760 comments Ian wrote: "Nik, I think the problem is you have to define what winning means. ..."

Let's try together.
'Free trade' in my understanding is not a purpose in itself and is an economic doctrine that is designed to benefit whom? The consumers? Certainly. But these consumers are also employees at some factories/firms/businesses. Does free trade benefit employees? Probably not, because it incentivizes constant movement of production facilities to a cheaper locale. The proprietors? Debatable. Usually local industries are against absence of any kind of protection. Free trade causes local manufacturers go global, meaning moving their manufacturing facilities to cheapers countries and expanding their trade to new and desirably more expensive markets, or die. Countries? Also debatable, for it causes, for example, the constant game of keeping local currency low to benefit its own exporters and then a country with worst conditions and lowest wages hosts most of production and 'wins' exports, but its residents are exploited and barely enjoy the benefits.
Can such a system be developed to benefit most of the participants, i.e. consumers, employees, proprietors/manufacturers, countries and minimize the circle of 'losers'?
What if we decide that a factory must leave an 'anchor' operational in its domicile?
There is regulation that prohibits foreign corruption practices, even if it's abroad. There are restrictions on 'blood diamonds' trade.
What if the companies are obligated to provide for normal conditions for their foreign employees - maybe not exactly the same but proportional to their local ones?
Maybe it's an extreme example and not that related to 'free trade', but when you sometimes hear the 'toll' of some of the goods, it's kinda hard to enjoy them:
http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-3301...


message 7: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11519 comments The stated advantages of free trade are that each society can concentrate on what it is good at, or concentrate on its competitive advantage, with the net result that all goods become cheaper. The population can concentrate on what they are good at, and hence everyone is better off.

The problems would seem to include the fact that one party may have a competitive advantage in price by not paying its workers as much, and not bothering about health and safety issues, and now those that do suffer. It also assumes people can enter and leave a field at will. Hardly likely. In my opinion, the benefits are uneven, and favour those accidentally in the right industry for their country, and it favours the money men.


message 8: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 15760 comments Ian wrote: "In my opinion, the benefits are uneven, and favour those accidentally in the right industry for their country, and it favours the money men. ..."

That's for one and it can be classified maybe as a moral aspect. But the drawbacks are numerous. For the example, the entire concept is based on the assumption that the countries hosting ever migrating industries would want to trade... What if they don't at some point? Geopolitical developments are such that you never know how quickly something deemed unshakeable can deteriorate.
Suadi Arabia, for example, demonstrated pretty well that it can do with the oil prices practically what they want. We've seen how low the prices can go. If tomorrow OPEC decides not to export oil (and they can afford it for a long enough time), I'm not sure the price per barrel will stop at 1,000 USD .
Similarly any market dependent on a small amount of players, geographically concentrated, becomes very vulnerable...


message 9: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11519 comments The strategic impact can be awful. If there is something you depend on, and you stop making it or producing it, and instead depend on importing it, if the source suddenly goes into an opposition bloc, or even goes to war against you, you are in some sort of a pickle.

Oil is an interesting example. If we are to stop climate change getting any worse, we need alternative sources of energy, in which case oil might become essentially worthless, but that does not look like happening any time soon.


message 10: by Nikolai (new)

Nikolai Razouvaev (nrwriter) From about mid-19th century, most countries in Europe, and North America, have transformed themselves (at different rates) into planned, command economies of various kinds with big, out of control governments. This transformation brought an unheard of before bloodshed and suffering, still going on today, escalating even, erosion of freedom and despotism. The degree of despotism is different in each geographical location, that is, a Soviet model is different to a German or American one, but the difference is only a matter of degree here and there. Sometimes you're better off in a Soviet model than in any other, or the other way around depending on what you're up to and what kind of person you are.

I don't think it's even possible to compare a free trade, free market society with what we've got today everywhere in the world without first suspending rationality and knowledge of history. It's like asking someone: Would you like to be a slave or a free man? And you go, Whah? Are you out of your mind?


message 11: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11519 comments Nikolai wrote: "From about mid-19th century, most countries in Europe, and North America, have transformed themselves (at different rates) into planned, command economies of various kinds with big, out of control ..."

I am not so sure there has been increased bloodshed from the mid nineteenth century, other than through technology giving more scope to kill masses. Leaving aside those inside the pax Romana when it was functioning, Europe has been a long standing festering sore of bloodshed and inequality. There would be generations during the hundred years war that never knew peace. The problem then was that gross inequality developed, and I think that even today's troubles go back to that. The few who owned the resources and hence the money have been very busy preserving their advantages. The US was different, in a way, except that once the robber barons got really rich, they started to behave like the European rich. In principle, the free market offers a route by which the rest can catch up, except the established have this habit of doing things which take away the masses' opportunities.

In my view, the Adam Smith/David Ricardo model of economic theory fails because people cannot enter or leave the market freely. The underlying problems lie with established wealth, a strange urge to desire power over others, and, of course, greed.


message 12: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 15760 comments Ian wrote: "Oil is an interesting example. If we are to stop climate change getting any worse, we need alternative sources of energy, in which case oil might become essentially worthless, but that does not look like happening any time soon..."

There is a sense of artificiality in how slowly the oil gives way to an alternative energy. Maybe the process of oil superseding the steam was longer, but on a relative scale the reluctance and inertia are manifesting .....


message 13: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 15760 comments Nikolai wrote: "The degree of despotism is different in each geographical location ..."

Ian wrote: "In principle, the free market offers a route by which the rest can catch up, except the established have this habit of doing things which take away the masses' opportunities.

In my view, the Adam Smith/David Ricardo model of economic theory fails because people cannot enter or leave the market freely. The underlying problems lie with established wealth, a strange urge to desire power over others, and, of course, greed...."


I think the economic equality, when a society is based on private property, is just an empty slogan. Similarly, the equality of chances is just a myth in a practical sense, because the chances to become rich from a low starting position are pretty much like winning the lottery: 1 in a few dozen million. Yeah, everybody knows few slum dog billionaires stories (and heard of those winning the lottery), but no one knows the stories of millions of slum dogs remaining in the slums. You can't give a private jet to each, nor even an Armani suit. I personally can put up with inequality, as in a sense a competitiveness (and one may argue if the money is the right goal) I think reflects better our nature than collectivism. At that, I believe there should be strong mechanisms redistributing wealth and closing the gaps (which will never close), so the less successful in money -making (but nonetheless decent, by all means, people) would have a helping hand, if needed, and those at the top would be prevented from monopolizing and destroying competition, market whatever.
Doing business and the desire to get ahead, to succeed brings lots of achievements and is an important driver of progress, however when reaching the top self-preservation kicks in and any potential 'threat' is crushed. Facebook buying Whatsapp is an "innocent', but nevertheless an example. And having the means is too tempting not to use them for anything: to spend on lobbying/bribing or for employing any other questionable tactics to stay on top of the heap and possibly reach even higher....


message 14: by Jimmy (new)

Jimmy Unions don't support "free trade." They support protectionist policies such as tariffs.

I think the issue now is whether or not to support trade "deals." That would include the current debate over TPP, The Trans Pacific Partnership. I'm inclined to be supportive, but I am waiting for the details to come out. The key is to write in provisions that regulate labor and environmental laws for every country signing on. We should learn from past mistakes. If that deal fails, I believe we will regret it. China will fill in the vacuum.


message 15: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 15760 comments Jimmy wrote: "The key is to write in provisions that regulate labor and environmental laws for every country signing on. We should learn from past mistakes..."

Agree. Free trade is still a dominant policy, but since its weaknesses became obvious, there is no reason why they shouldn't be addressed to the fullest possible extent in more recent multilateral agreements, like TPP..


message 16: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11519 comments The problem I see with having "fair returns for social contribution" is who decides what is fair? Unions want higher wages for workers, while bosses vote their own pay. The problem with taxing the very high earners in a crippling way is, what do you do about those who have short bursts of high income? The classic example is a sports star who might get huge payments for three years, then pays for the rest of his life with a decaying body. I personally have no issue with someone earning very large incomes from their own efforts, but I am less keen on CEOs voting themselves large salaries for rather mediocre efforts.

The TPP is an interesting deal. In New Zealand, we were all kept in the dark, then suddenly it is announced that "here it is - comments please". Apparently there is something like 6500 pages of turgid legalese to get through. Who has time for that?


message 17: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 15760 comments Ian wrote: "The problem with taxing the very high earners in a crippling way is, what do you do about those who have short bursts of high income? ..."

I'm not sure I'm for it. I'm not talking about tax even. If it's about a cap on enrichment, that we've discussed earlier - my idea was more like self anti-trust, say if one exceeds a very high personal wealth ceiling of 500mil or 1B even, s/he needs to get rid of the excess through donating or lending the excess.
I argue that for a person the difference between having 1B or 20B is not essential - it's still the highest, unbeatable, extreme luxury level (they made it, they are on top of the world), while we as the society comprising of millions of people, would benefit from having 100K multi-millionaires engaged in severe competition between each other more than just from 1k billionaires, who currently rule the most of the global economy and where self-preservation motive is far more dominant over constructive/progressive one....


message 18: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11519 comments Nik, first I doubt the billionaires are sitting on billions of dollars, aside possibly from those who started tax avoidance and can't get out off what they have created. The money is inevitably invested, and in many cases this is itself a problem because it is invested in mature entities. The problem with the very rich is not their wealth, but the economic power it brings with it. A footballer or a pop singer may be very rich, but what they do with their money is essentially harmless. However, for all the charity work of Gates and co, the fact is there is also a desire that their businesses prosper to the extent that competition can only come from someone of the same size. Up to a point, this can be good - the consumer does not want to be saddled with a whole lot of equipment that soon is made unusable because it is not supported (although it happens, no matter what - I have a collection of old computers from 1986, and apart from sentiment, they are useless.) I am not sure what the answer to that is, and I am not sure how valid is my thought to archive a lot of my work through publishing ebooks.

From my personal point of view, I do not see that having 1 billion has any more merit than some number of million. All you can really want is a house, a vehicle for each form of transport, support for hobbies, and a few other accessories. I am unsure of what the top could be reasonably, but it is far short of a billion dollars.


message 19: by Nik (last edited Jul 06, 2016 05:14AM) (new)

Nik Krasno | 15760 comments Ian wrote: "Nik, first I doubt the billionaires are sitting on billions of dollars, aside possibly from those who started tax avoidance and can't get out off what they have created. The money is inevitably inv..."


Re: 'invested', I can't generalize here, because the situ is not homogenous. Partially, big money is hidden - sits at Cayman islands, Seychelles and other exotic locations as liquid or less so investment in deposits, funds, etc, applicable particularly to those coming from former USSR and maybe to many others. I don't think we can call it invested as they are just keeping their value and accruing a small interest.
Gates, for example, slowly sells his shares in Microsoft and as of today, he's not even the biggest shareholder anymore. I guess he sells it for cash and I'm not sure how much of it he re-invests. But he's the guy supporting prima facie donation of wealth in his Giving pledge initiative.
There are guys, maybe like Zuckerberg (I don't know) that his wealth is just Facebook's shares, so you maybe can call it - 'invested'.
From what I know, many separate personal and 'business' capital. Take developers, for example. Also don't want to generalize, but it's considered a sort of a 'bad taste' to use out-of-the-pocket money to finance the construction. They use the necessary minimum and leverage it heavily by bank loans. Sure, in theory they can use all their money to leverage and invest in 10 different projects, but it's still 24 hours a day and your ability to allocate management attention is limited to a finite number of projects. The surplus sits somewhere.

Ian wrote: "the consumer does not want to be saddled with a whole lot of equipment that soon is made unusable because it is not supported...."

Microsoft is not a small entity by any scale, nevertheless simply stopped supporting XP

Ian wrote: "All you can really want is a house, a vehicle for each form of transport, support for hobbies, and a few other accessories. I am unsure of what the top could be reasonably, but it is far short of a billion dollars...."

Agree with you 100%, but I don't want to advocate a Procrustean bed according to my own understanding of well-being. Somebody wants to own a 100mil yacht - fine, let him/her, s/he deserves it, if s/he's such a brilliant businessman/woman. I've equally no problem with Travolta flying private boeing. I'm just saying, that if the effect of 'capturing', 'harmful self-preservation' choking competition at the very top exists, this particular aspect shall be addressed.

And with the tax - it's rediculous sometimes. Don't know how true this is, but a story published in a reputable business magazine claimed that one of the billioniares chose to live on the yacht and spend most of the time in international neutral waters, just to claim he has no domicile and thus he's not a tax resident of any country... I want his brilliant efforts elsewhere. Everybody can yell at some beggar at the street - go do something useful. I don't feel with billionaires it should be different. Many move to live abroad - just to pay less taxes in the country, where they made their fortune.


message 20: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 15760 comments We might see a diminishing of a free trade and return of protectionism for some time, but what do you think about it?


message 21: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11519 comments The problem with free trade is that while it is far more desirable in economic theory, it tends to even out living standards to the lowest common denominator. By that, I mean the country that imposes better environmental standards tends to suffer at the hands of those that do not. Similarly with wages, and then it favours the plutocrats who start with the most money.


message 22: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 15760 comments This was a pre-trade wars thread, so it's interesting to hear what people think, now that the free trade, protectionism and all the rest became an item again?


message 23: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 6035 comments I'm for fair trade.


message 24: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin Protectionism never worked in the past, only caused economic depressions or recessions, with no winners. Fair trade any time!


message 25: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11519 comments It is unfair to blame protectionism for recessions. There was nothing protectionist about 2007, or for that matter the two recessions that occurred at approximately decade intervals before. The cause of the depressions in 1928 and the 1890s had nothing much to do with protectionism either. In each case it was basic greed from the capitalist class.

The great advantage of free trade is that everyone has an improved standard of living. However, the disadvantage is that those with the best start prevail and wealth tends to accumulate in small pockets. Another disadvantage is that invariably some nations cheat. I find it interesting that Americans criticize China for not respecting IP. Yes, that is wrong, and as someone who has made his living creating it, I don't like that attitude either, but remember the US in the 19th century was not a great respecter of IP.


message 26: by J.J. (new)

J.J. Mainor | 2281 comments Ian wrote: "I find it interesting that Americans criticize China for not respecting IP. Yes, that is wrong, and as someone who has made his living creating it, I don't like that attitude either, but remember the US in the 19th century was not a great respecter of IP. ..."

I'm going to derail the thread a bit, and if you don't like it, well you opened the door :D

The US in the 19th century certainly was guilty of taking ideas from Europe, but then again, we built on those ideas, we made our own contributions to the Industrial Revolution. We've had our own fair share of inventors who contributed to the intellectual development of society. You could argue we took the Industrial Revolution and made it our own.

The question with China, are they doing the same? Is there invention and development going on to build off what they're taking, or are they strictly stealing ideas and waiting for the rest of the world to develop the next one?


message 27: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11519 comments Agreed J.J. that the US is now the leading technology development country in the world. As for China, we don't know what they will contribute, but they are "cultivating" a great number of new scientists and engineers, and some of their engineering feats within China are quite spectacular. My guess is with the Chinese efforts at pushing education they will make big advances. The one thing that I am less sure of is whether the Chinese education system is too rigid, and it may not develop imagination for the really big advances, but I guess we shall have to wait and see.

One unknown is what effect trade wars will have on the development of new technology. If we assume trade becomes more restricted, it may be difficult to find the money or the incentive to take the big risks in going for really new stuff.


message 28: by Michel (last edited Aug 03, 2018 06:54AM) (new)

Michel Poulin Well, if we examine the Chinese military arsenal, what we find is a vast collection of copied designs from either Russia, France or the USA. There is little that we could truly call indigenous in their designs. That shows that, still today, the Chinese leaders have opted mostly for the easy road: acquire a few original models or stealing their designs, then reverse-copy, with a few local changes and improvements sprinkled around. Sometimes, the copying job is well done, other times the Chinese didn't do so well and either misunderstood a design or failed to notice a design flaw in a model they were reverse-engineering. You just need to review side-by-side pictures of Russian, French or American planes, vehicles and weapons systems on one side, and their Chinese equivalent on the other side. Don't let yourself fooled by the Chinese designations, by the way. As for warships, the general designs are sometimes local, but sub-components are often copies of foreign designs, like in the case of the 100mm single gun turrets found on some Chinese frigates and destroyers, which are near exact copies of the French Creusot-Loire 100mm gun turret. And I could go on for a long while. So, I would say that the Chinese are taking the easy road up to now and showing little inventiveness in their own designs.


message 29: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 6035 comments Coincidentally, I just read an article about a software company that suspected data was being stolen. They called in some experts who determined that a large amount of data was being exported from a computer but, since employees were allowed to bring in their own computers, the source couldn't be identified. So they physically traced the connection wire and ended up in a closet where a young Chinese intern sat. After inspecting her computer, they found that she was exporting large amounts of company data to China. The article went on to say that there's no way to protect sensitive data, since people working within the company, even programmers hired by the company, may be spying.


message 30: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11519 comments Embedding in the organization is the best place put a spy. I am not convinced an intern should be given access to sensitive data anyway, but a young Chinese one should have restricted access, if a job in the first place.


message 31: by J.J. (new)

J.J. Mainor | 2281 comments Scout wrote: "Coincidentally, I just read an article about a software company that suspected data was being stolen. They called in some experts who determined that a large amount of data was being exported from ..."

Our local news ran a story recently about a Chinese student allowing people to photograph the research on the invisibility cloak being developed at Duke University and taking it back to China. And because university research is meant to be open, he may not have actually done anything illegal...


message 32: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11519 comments I saw an article where an American office had sensitive information copied and stolen then handed over to Russians. While that may be bad, the diplomatic office was in Moscow and the person who was acting as a spy was a Russian citizen, born and always living in Moscow. Um, shouldn't there have been more care with sensitive information?


message 33: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin The problem in embassies is that, if you are in a country that doesn't speak the same language as that of the diplomats' country, you will never have enough diplomatic staff that speaks the local language fluently to fill all the positions. You thus are forced to use to a varying degree local employees, typically used as drivers, secretaries, translators and janitors, any of whom could be agents of the local intelligence services.


message 34: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11519 comments Michel wrote: "The problem in embassies is that, if you are in a country that doesn't speak the same language as that of the diplomats' country, you will never have enough diplomatic staff that speaks the local l..."

I agree, and having them as drivers is very useful since they are more likely to know their way around, and who wants to take janitors, but all the same, there should be a way to keep them from the sensitive information


message 35: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin Ian wrote: "Michel wrote: "The problem in embassies is that, if you are in a country that doesn't speak the same language as that of the diplomats' country, you will never have enough diplomatic staff that spe..."

There are ways to keep those local employees away from sensitive information, but diplomats are selected and trained to be individuals with good interpersonal skills and pleasant personalities. They tend to be nice, trusting people. A trained intelligence agent will often have little problem going around them. There is also the old 'pillow talk' trick: would you, as an old single man, refuse the advances of a tall and beautiful Russian blonde or redhead who works as a secretary in your embassy and brings you your coffee at your desk every morning?


message 36: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11519 comments Ha Michel, the personal problem. My answer is, of course I would. Of course there is no way of testing that statement, so I can make it without fear of being contradicted :-)

I was once in Moscow in the old USSR and went to our embassy more than once. The building was "layered". One part was for anyone, one part was for diplomats and visiting officials (which I was one) and one part I never entered and that, presumably, would be where sensitive info was. It should be possible, but of course a determined spy will probably find a way until caught.


message 37: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 15760 comments Michel wrote: "would you, as an old single man, refuse the advances of a tall and beautiful Russian blonde or redhead..."

Can't possibly imagine Ian discriminating them on the basis of hair dye or as opposed to hairless -:)


message 38: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin It is amazing to see what most men would do for sex with a beautiful woman. Empires fell because of lust.


message 39: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 15760 comments That is true.
Now though with the growing gay community, women must've lost the monopoly for inspiration -:)


message 40: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 6035 comments So true, Nik. I've been reading a couple of novels by Jason Matthews, most notable for his Red Sparrow novel. He's an ex-CIA agent. I've learned a lot about how spies operate, and sex is usually involved in obtaining secrets that would otherwise involve torture. When will you guys learn? My guess is never :-)


message 41: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11519 comments Actually, Scout, there are other ways spies operate than sex and torture :-)


message 42: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 6035 comments Well, yes, but they're not as interesting :-)


message 43: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11519 comments Interest in sex - I can buy that :-) But torture???


message 44: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 6035 comments Violence seems to attract a wide audience these days.


message 45: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11519 comments Indeed it does.


message 46: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11519 comments Getting back to the titled topic, what does everyone think about the deteriorating situation with Turkey. I gather the US is imposing 50% tariffs on Turkish steel imports to the US, and threatening serious banking sanctions. The Turkish lira is diving, and while I imagine a few Greeks will be pleased, this does not seem to be good for the world. Russia, according to Medvedev, considers this as some sort of economic war. The question then is, even if free trade is considered desirable, have we got to a point where it is unlikely to occur widely?


message 47: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin Again, Trump is underestimating his opponent in terms of will and determination. He will only succeed in pushing Turkey towards Russia. Real free trade is not really at play here: it is simply Trump trying to look tough in front of his base and acting without thinking ahead at the possible consequences. The idea that this guy has access to the nuclear button scares me.


message 48: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 6035 comments People/countries resist change. The tariff situation is in flux. Nothing is set in stone, and things can change. Sometimes you have to hit the donkey on the head to get its attention.


message 49: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11519 comments I am with Michel on this one. Trump is being silly over Turkey. He is somehow trying to diss one of his very few real muslim allies and why do that?


message 50: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 15760 comments But Trump's reaction has a cause - a detention of an American pastor that US demands to release. A completely different case, but on a general note how is that for example different from Magnitsky act, adopted in Obama's time? Why should US be concerned with the death of a Russian account in a Russian prison?
On the parallel, we see similar deteriorating dynamics in Saudi- Canada relations.
And, btw, isn't Erdogan in similar hostile situ with Merkel and other European leaders?


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