Quad Quotes

Ask The Expert

    With the presidential race, the North American Free Trade Agreement has become a rallying point for those who see international trade deals as bad for American workers. Is NAFTA in the national interest?

    NAFTA did not make it substantially easier to manufacture goods in Mexico and ship them to the United States. Mexico had long welcomed U.S. transplants; the United States had few barriers to the import of goods they produced. NAFTA did make it more attrac tive to invest in Mexico, but mostly to provide services such as telecommunications and insurance, areas in which more investment in Mexico would not mean fewer jobs in the United States.

    On the other hand, the extraordinary estimates of jobs created by NAFTA were based on questionable economics such as projecting an ever-increasing trade surplus or counting only the effects on exports and not of increased imports. With an economy one-twe ntieth the size of the United States, Mexico is simply not a huge market for final goods. There was never any possibility that opening the Mexican market would create a boom in the United States.

    In 1993, the Congressional Budget Office predicted that NAFTA would have a positive but very small effect on the U.S. economy, a net gain of no more than one-quarter of 1 percent of gross domestic product. The evidence to date bears out the very modest e conomic estimates of NAFTA's impacts. Certainly, there has been no massive job creation. Whatever the positive effects of NAFTA, they are lost in the effects of the dramatic drop in the value of the peso at the end of 1994. The lower peso stunted Mexican demand for U.S. goods and transformed the already shrinking trade surplus into a deficit.

    On the other hand, there has been no dramatic loss of jobs either. The Labor Department has certified that in the first two years of NAFTA only 42,221 workers were eligible for benefits because they lost their jobs for reasons related to NAFTA--not a tri vial number, but a relative drop in the bucket for an economy in which a couple of million workers lose their jobs every year for one reason or another.

    NAFTA was, first, a ratification by the United States of an economic strategy chosen by Mexico quite independent of the agreement. The Mexican government already had begun to reform and open its economy. NAFTA committed Mexico to maintain that trajectory . The United States' embrace of NAFTA represented a judgment that these changes would lead to a healthier Mexico in the long run.

    Second, NAFTA was an opportunity to redefine the relationships among the countries of North America, particularly that between the United States and Mexico, long an asymmetric mix of American insensitivity and Mexican hypersensitivity. NAFTA represented an acknowledgment that the economics and societies of North America are increasingly intertwined, and a determination to begin to address our common agenda.

    Frederick W. Mayer
    assistant professor of public policy at the Sanford Institute
    (from an opinion piece circulated by the Scripps Howard News Service)

Heard Around Campus

    "It's just impossible to get around. There's no reasonably easy way for me to walk from my dorm to the main quad without ice skates and ski poles."

    Trinity senior Kathy Mills,
    quoted in The Chronicle,
    on the aftermath of the "Blizzard of '96"

    "We must stop thinking of society as a plurality of unnoticed minorities instead of a diverse human race. We, as a population, must stop categorizing ourselves and each other."

    Elizabeth Minnich,
    professor of philosophy and women's studies at Union Institute,
    speaking at a February conference, "Gender and the Higher Education Classroom:
    Maximizing the Learning Environment,"
    at the Sanford Institute

    "It is easier to get involved in good conversation here than on the rest of campus. People often yell questions across the room to someone they know on the other side. I don't know of anywhere else on campus where that kind of thing happens."

    Trinity senior and Duke Coffeehouse employee Chris Johnson
    about the East Campus' new java joint

    "It is highly likely we will have to make some decisions to reduce programs to support those with a higher priority."

    Provost John Strohbehn,
    on cutbacks expected in Duke academic divisions,
    quoted in The Chronicle

Reading List

    To honor the arrival of spring, we asked a couple of specialists in things green to name some titles sure to appeal to us dirt dabblers.

    According to William Culberson, director of the Sarah P. Duke Gardens and Hugo L. Blomquist botany professor emeritus,"The best single-volume how-to book on plant culture is the American Horticulture Society's Encyclopedia of Gardening. For an enjoyable a ccount of the evolution of styles in landscape architecture, try Christopher Thacker's The History of Gardens." And to reward yourself after the planting and weeding are done, some good books to read in the garden are "Second Nature by Michael Pollan and anything to do with gardens by Vita Sackville-West."

    Allen Lacy '56, Ph.D. '62, the horticulturist and gardening-book author who also publishes a quarterly newsletter, Homeground, praises Kim Tripp and J.C. Raulston's The Year in Trees: Superb Woody Plants for Four-Season Gardens, "for it points the way fo r homeowners to fill their landscapes with new and interesting plants whose beauty surpasses the standard of ho-hum junipers and forsythias from local garden centers." For Lacy, the best reading is what he terms "American gardening classics: anything by E lizabeth Lawrence [available from Duke Press] or Louise Beebe Wilder, Eleanor Perenyi's Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden, and Katherine S. White's Onward and Upward in the Garden."

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