US Perspectives on International Trade Relations
Chapter 3: Fairness in the US Commercial Policy Discourse Before the Advent of the Multilateral Trade System
3. Fairness in US commercial policy discourse before the advent of the multilateral trade system FAIRNESS IN THE US SOCIO-ECONOMIC ETHOS 3.1 The notion of fairness based on reciprocity in contribution and no freeriding, as identified in Chapter 2, has deep roots in US political tradition, culture, and discourse. Two major traditions of beliefs have dominated US life from its inception: capitalism and democracy.1 These two sets of beliefs, which integrate what is referred to as the ‘American creed’ or the ‘American ethos’, serve as the authoritative values of the nation’s political culture.2 Particularly with reference to US socio-economic ethos, capitalist values and practices are central. They include: private ownership of the means of production, the pursuit of profit by self-interested entrepreneurs, the right to unlimited gain through economic efforts, competition, a significant measure of laissez-faire, and the market-based determination of production and distribution. These values and those related to democracy, such as individual freedom (of speech, press, assembly, and worship) and equality, including the equal right for all to participate in governance activities (both by consenting to the rulers and holding them accountable), share a common origin in protest against the inequities of colonial monarchism, mercantilism, and the remnants of feudalism. Hence, freedom is central to both democracy and capitalism, which presupposes the freedom of competition and exchange between producers and consumers, buyers, and sellers. This ‘liberal tradition’, as Hartz described it, is fundamental to US history and experience: ‘… where the aristocracies, peasantries, and proletariats of Europe are missing,...
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