November 17, 2016

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Human rights vs protectionism

Khin Maung Aye

The universal recognition of human rights calls for the constitutionalisation of international law and foreign policies based on human rights and principles of rule of law, limitation and separation of government powers, social justice, democratic peace and national as well as international constitutionalism (Petersmann). The eight core principles of constitutionalism must be applied in mutual levels wherever power risks being abused.
Constitutionalism is described as a bottom-up struggle for the protection of human rights as well as human dignity in the Kantian sense of maximum equal liberty for the personal development of every individual. In this regard, it is worth remembering that the WTO guarantees of freedom, non-discrimination, rule of law, compulsory adjudication of international disputes, and of a mutually beneficial division of labor are shown to be compatible with the six basic functions of human rights law.
Whatever the justifications for, or consequences of, economic protectionism, it is an inescapable fact that as a policy that denies individuals the opportunity to trade freely, it is not compatible with individual rights. Advocates of protectionism argue that tariffs and quotas protect American businesses and American jobs from foreign competition, and protecting jobs is more important than protecting individual rights (David Holeberg).
In fact, protection of individual rights is an essential precondition for the very existence of jobs as well as the only condition without which jobs are worth nothing, just as they were in former Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany or ancient Egypt. Without individual rights, jobs are nothing more than the assigned toil of slaves.
The simple truth is that domestic jobs are not protected, but in effect are destroyed by protectionism. Of course, some jobs, the jobs of the protected industries, are not lost – at least not in the short run, and thus are protected and even created. But what about all other jobs that will be lost because of the protectionist policies?
As an afterthought, think about the principle of protectionism being extended to regions/states too, since it should be important to protect jobs there. Then, following the premise of the good of protecting jobs, imagine extending protectionism to cities to protect city jobs, then to neighborhoods, and ultimately to families themselves: if nobody in the family will buy from outsiders, then a single family can have and keep all the jobs they want and do everything on their own. Wouldn’t consistent protectionism be great?

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