Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Philanthropy of Financiers: excerpt 7

Robinson's critique, sharp as it was, spoke of countries; the true MNC was only a toddler - Ricardo himself thought cross-border capital flows would never account for much, as this quaint passage shows: experience, however, shows that the fancied or real insecurity of capital, when not under the immediate control of its owner, together with the natural disinclination which every man has to quit the country of his birth and connections, and intrust himself, with all his habits fixed, to a strange government and new laws, check the emigration of capital - these feelings, which I should be sorry to see weakened, induce most men of property to be satisfied with a low rate of profits in their own country, rather than seek a more advantageous employment for their wealth in foreign nations -- obviously, today's business cosmopolitans are a long way from Ricardo's sentimental patriots, and today's MNC a long way from Ricardo's national firm.

the World Bank estimates that a third or more of world trade consists of transfers within the 350 largest MNCs - the shipment of microprocessors, say, from IBM Germany to IBM France - few of Mexico's top importers and exporters are Mexican firms; the top 10 list is populated by Chrysler, GM, Volkswagen, Kimberly Clark, Hewlett-Packard, Ericsson, Renault, Xerox, and IBM, who ship parts in and finished products out - a study by the Conference Board of Canada, a business-sponsored research group, observed that "intra-firm trade is an integral part of the Canadian economy, and is one of the main links between the Canadian and US economies - add trade among the 350 and you have the critical mass of international commerce - (that isn't to say that the 350 are monopolists; competition in most industries is quite intense -- though competition is suspended when a chance to cut wages, like NAFTA, arises) - free trade agreements mean giving these MNCs freer rein, protecting their property against impediment and seizure.

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