Letter: US is a bad model

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Letter: US is a bad model

Sir: As a visiting American, I was disappointed that Tony Blair advocates an "American model" for economic progress. I hope Western Europe can learn from our mistakes, rather than imitate them.

In the early 1970s, it took one middle-class American salary to support a couple in middle-class American style. Now it takes two. It is now easier for a couple to find the necessary two (or three!) jobs than in 1992. This is certainly an improvement. But calling it an "economic boom" and being satisfied is a product of America's notoriously short memory.

One of the ways we did it to ourselves is with free trade, which is derived from a conservative notion of Utopia in which the average American makes as much as the average Mexican.

When the US is in a recession and elections are coming up, it is necessary to abandon the purity of economic doctrine and do something useful. (George Bush forgot that in 1992, and lost the election.) This limits how much damage doctrinaire economists can do - in America. Russians, Koreans, and Indonesians do not vote in American elections. Washington's economists can wreak havoc on helpless victims in foreign countries as ruthlessly as Stalin instituted collective farms.

Unlike most of Washington's victims, Western Europe has the economic strength to resist. I hope you do so.

Free trade is no longer an economic policy in America; it is a religious principle, an end in itself. I regret to say that you cannot expect America to talk sense about economics, any more than you can expert a Christian Scientist to be sensible about medical care.

Good luck in the banana war. I hope Western Europe can set its own course and find ways for technical progress to yield wealth and leisure, not unemployment.

RICHARD BRANDSHAFT

Vancouver, Washington, USA

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