Suppose there’s a complex public policy proposal being debated and you want to know where you should stand. However, you really don’t want to devote a huge amount of time to diving into all the details. There are just so many hours in the day, after all.
One possibility is to simply see what people on your side of the tribal divide think about it. But that’s surprisingly unreliable. A better approach is to take a look at who’s opposed to the proposal. That’s what Paul Krugman does today regarding the final draft of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement:
What I know so far: pharma is mad because the extension of property rights in biologics is much shorter than it wanted, tobacco is mad because it has been carved out of the dispute settlement deal, and Rs in general are mad because the labor protection stuff is stronger than expected….I find myself thinking of Grossman and Helpman’s work on the political economy of free trade agreements, in which they conclude, based on a highly stylized but nonetheless interesting model of special interest politics, that
An FTA is most likely to be politically viable exactly when it would be socially harmful.
The TPP looks better than it did, which infuriates much of Congress.
Krugman describes himself as a “lukewarm opponent” of TPP who now needs to do some more homework. I’d probably call myself a lukewarm supporter. One reason is that the dispute resolution provisions, which provoked a lot of anger on the left, never struck me as either unusual or all that objectionable in practice. The IP stuff bothered me more, and that’s been improved a bit in the final draft. It’s still not great, but it’s not quite as horrible as before. So you can probably now count me as a slightly stronger supporter.
But I wonder what Republicans will do? They’re the ones who are ideologically on the side of trade agreements, and they’ve spent a lot of time berating President Obama for not putting more effort into trade deals. But with campaign season heating up, it’s become more toxic than ever to support any initiative of Obama’s. Plus Donald Trump is busily working his supporters into a lather about TPP. I wouldn’t be surprised to see quite a few defections from the Republican ranks.