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Wrong about free trade

At the dawn of globalization, the academic theory sweeping the salons of Washington, Brussels and Beijing was that the world would be a better place if trade was so arranged that those countries who could make the best and lowest-cost products could sell their wares without the traditional barriers protecting home industries. My own Economics 101 professor at Georgetown had a day job at the International Monetary Fund. He was a true believer in free trade. At the Foreign Service School, Econ 101 was a mandatory class, and Bill Clinton — a few years behind me — would have taken the course. As president he then kicked off the NAFTA Treaty with Mexico and Canada. George W. Bush — go Bulldogs! — ushered China into the World Trade Organization.

The Ph.Ds are right! Turns out Walmart can sell toasters for less, and futons from Wayfair are as well made as futons from Wisconsin. Supply chains become even more sophisticated, taking a bolt from country A, a nut from country B to assemble a widget in country C. Just-in-time inventory did away with warehouses. Prices go down, not up. Inflation is dead. The Federal Reserve Bank rejoices!

Reality sets in. Tariffs reemerge as local industries and workers complain. The COVID-19 pandemic lays bare the geopolitical risk of foreign manufacture. We’ve needed swabs from China and semiconductors from Taiwan, both countries at each other’s throat. The freighter Ever Given becomes stuck in Egyptian mud. Container ships lay bottlenecked off the Port of Long Beach. Think of them now as super expensive warehouses.

Here’s the final exam question: How can the academic community be so wrong about free trade after they promised a generation of students they were so right? Please discuss.

Tom Deegan

Orono

Something to learn from Boston

Along the banks of the Charles River in Boston there is an art-deco structure called the Hatch Shell. The shell was built in 1939 and has held concerts by the Boston Pops and free weekend concerts all summer. The structure sits in a large grassy area on the Charles River Esplanade with the river in the background.

Now don’t get me wrong here, I am not touting the virtues of Boston, only the fact that money can be made and I am sure it is in large quantities when people gather there to listen to music. When there is no music and thus no money changing hands the river and the esplanade offer a lovely outdoor setting for walking the dog or enjoying family picnics as well as views of the Hatch shell. Not so in Bangor.

Bangor could have and should have learned a lot from Boston. Bangor had a beautiful waterfront park available to the public, both rich and poor, residents and visitors. Every time I drive by that horrible fence intended to reduce the sounds coming from the ugly stage, I am saddened by what those few in search of a fast buck have done to what used to be a beautiful waterfront park. I believe the city sold out its residents when they allowed the destruction of this rare and beautiful piece of property. The city of Bangor could still produce income by looking at what other towns have done. Boston is a good example.

Leo H. Mazerall Jr.

Stockton Springs

Actions not just words

We need to mobilize to recover from disaster, not just the devastation of the pandemic but the devastation of our civic life that has been under assault for decades. The erosion of civic virtue and civility has accelerated along with the rise of the 24/7 “infotainers” posing as journalists and endlessly scrolling social media feeds spewing a relentless cacophony of dog whistle doublespeak designed to rally outrage and clicks to buy bunker supplies, but not to solve anything.

To heal and rebuild our communities, we need actions and not just words. We need to get our hands dirty and give up partisan posturing, virtue signaling and ideological purity. We need community service not lip service.

We need Rep. Morgan Rielly’s bill, LD 1010, and the Maine Service Fellows program to help keep our young people in the state as they build deep community connections while tackling our most persistent challenges of workforce development, housing and keeping seniors in their homes, access to health services to improve recovery and substance use prevention.

I was an AmeriCorps VISTA member for two years and can attest that a commitment to service changes lives. Not just the lives in the community you serve, but your own life. I agree with Gen. Stanley McChrystal that “serving together to solve public problems will build attachment to community and country, understanding among people who might otherwise be skeptical of one another and a new generation of leaders who can get things done.”

Orion Breen

Pownal