The TTPA competition

In finite games the object is to win, and Western societies are riddled with the ideology of competition. Competition, we are told, will bring about all good things: survival of the fittest, the incentive to work hard, economic growth, a cure for cancer and environmental salvation. Of course pure competition is an illusion as there are always rules, and these rules function to promote certain outcomes. Ronald Regan, for example, required solar energy to “compete” with oil for market share, at a time when the entire infrastructure of the USA supported the oil industry (as it largely still does). These days we talk of free trade agreements as if the removal of tariffs and other barriers to “free” trade provide a “level playing field” that promotes “genuine” competition across nations, producing greater efficiency and that magical elixir: increased material wealth for all.

Earlier this month, New Zealand signed the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement with 11 other Asian or Pacific Rim countries. According to John Key, New Zealand’s prime minister, the removal of tariffs will earn us “at least $2.7 billion a year by 2030… that’s more jobs, higher incomes and a better standard of living for New Zealanders.” The official position of the US government is that it will increase “Made in America exports” and “support well-paying American jobs”; and Australia’s Minister of Trade is quoted as saying it will be of “enormous benefit to Australia,” making “Australia’s mining-driven economy more competitive, create jobs and boost living standards.” 

One might be excused for wondering how a more competitive structure turns every player into a winner, but there you go. When an idol has got a hold, as competition has on us, rationality, or even common sense, do not follow in its wake.

To receive blog posts by email click here