Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Out of Sight by Erik Loomis: Needs a Hero

During a twitter fight that involved me, a socialist, and a libertarian, I was recommended to buy two separate books - this book by Erik Loomis and William Easterly’s “The Tyranny of Experts”. Because of course the best time to buy books is based on recommendations in twitter fights.

Overall, the information is good here. I am one of those Pro-Free Trade Marxists you hear about all the time because if I had a religion it would be based on the last lines of the Manifesto: Workers of the World, Unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains (depending on the translation, I know). So I have watched nativists with puzzlement because those manufacturing jobs are not coming back. So on one hand it’s good that there are opportunities for employment in the developing world. On the other hand my they’re exploitative and on another or the same hand, my they are dangerous. So what we need is some check to that labor cost arbitrage that international corporations are capable of. There needs to be supranational bodies with some real teeth and trade agreements need to be transparent and enforceable with real consequences to make sure that the labor that we offshore is not the kind that necessitates suicide nets on the factories. Unfortunately the agreements have left a lot of areas wanting and the UN agencies for labor are relatively invisible.

What Loomis does well is catalogue the problems. The strength is showing the danger that we have pushed away from our shores and in how those dangers were once on our shores. Once corporations became larger and more powerful than nations, those labor laws disappeared and OSHA lost its grip. Where the book fails is finding solutions. The proposals compared to the scope of the problem seem like small steps. Not to diminish organizing and consciousness raising, but Loomis is stuck in the paradigm of making capitalism the best possible, not moving to the next economic system. You know, whatever that may be. Where it also goes wrong is that it feels at times just like a litany of bad things. A blurb compares the book to the Jungle, and it feels most like Zinn’s “A People’s History,” but there is no real compelling narrative or characters to draw you through. Zinn used the characters in his book to tell the story he wanted. It worked well in sections on the villainy of Columbus and the heroism of Eugene Debs, both which I remember twenty years after picking it up. There are no heroes here, anti- or regular, and that makes the book a slog. Which is weird because it is less than 200 pages long.