News from the Secretary

News from the Secretary By Larry Gabriel Are you a protectionist?

With Canadian cows coming over the border and the President signing the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), protectionism is dominating the news.

Nobody is entirely right or wrong on such things. People love the sound of �free trade�, but it does not exist. People love protectionist efforts, but they don�t work for long.

I like the concept of free trade. However, there is no free lunch or free anything else in this world for that matter. Even our fundamental freedoms have some limits.

Our �free trade� agreements are certainly not �free� of restrictions, conditions, exceptions and loopholes that only a pack of lawyers could decipher, and even they will not agree on what the words mean.

Rural people tend to be a little protectionist. It comes naturally as a part of the self-reliance for which we are famous. We sometimes feel that we built this place and don�t need any outsiders coming in and changing it.

I am a protectionist when it comes to my family, my ranch, and the traditional values of our nation. But some things cannot be protected.

We protect our children foremost, but there comes a day when we find out it is not really possible to protect them, and they are better off if we turn them loose.

The same thing happens when one of our children latches onto a small wild animal. Sooner or later they have to let it go for its own sake.

Treaties require only the approval of the United States Senate and the President. When Senators were appointed by state legislatures, a state could fire a Senator for not following directions. We had some indirect say in the matter then.

When it comes to international trade agreements (like NAFTA and CAFTA) the states today have very little to say about their terms. We can still do things to protect our people from a direct threat to their safety, but we are not allowed to block international trade just for economic protection.

We can make some noises about economic impacts, but the people who write these things don�t listen to that. They are focused on a bigger agenda. They are looking at the financial health of world trade. (It is called �Agenda 21� in case you care to look it up.)

People try to protect all sorts of things. Some want to save the mountains. Some want to save old trees. Some want to save patches of wilderness. Some want to save animals. Some want to save small farms. Some want to save small towns.

The want list is endless, but the result is always the same: protectionism is a wonderful thing for as long as it works, which is usually not very long.

The only thing we can truly protect is our value system. If we do that, change may come but we will adapt to it, and the things that really matter will remain the same.

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