The Real Results of Free Trade and Economic Rationalism: You are Wetware

Mark Hodgetts
4 min readApr 9, 2018

It was Plato who so accurately stated that the first function of a State is to protect its citizens.

It is a measure that modern western nations no longer are held to account for as they pursue the vested interests of multinational corporations with a blind lemming like capacity that will allow no contrary point of view.

They cling to free trade as the talismanic cure-all prescribed by economic think tanks and corrupt politicians as the solution to the world’s economic problems.

As with most mass delusions, it is all smoke and mirrors.

This is what free trade really delivers.

This is a textile factory in my hometown. It used to employ hundreds of people. It ran day and night shifts, manufacturing women’s hosiery.

The factory was more than a factory it was part of the community’s beating heart. What we once called ordinary salt of the earth types worked there. They formed a community that left fingerprints throughout the township. Sporting teams and social groups bore the company name. Families worked there. They earned solid wages and spent their earnings in the local economy.

Sewing machinery chattered away constantly. Products were packed locally and shipped across the country. Travelling sales people sought and obtained orders from retail outlets. Office staff maintained ledgers and performed administration tasks.

They belonged. You just can’t measure the benefits that this textile factory delivered in dollars and cents.

When dollars and cents are the sole arbiters of decision making, we’re pretty much screwed.

The textile factory closed when tariffs protecting the textile industry were abolished.

Australians were told that it was “inefficient” to have trade barriers, that a vibrant economy was dependent upon global competitiveness.

This is what global competitiveness delivers.

Empty deserted buildings adorned with mindless graffiti are home to vermin and feral animals. A section that was alleged to contain a local crystal meth lab mysteriously burned to the ground a couple of years ago. Once manicured gardens have fallen into disrepair and have become a dumping ground for assorted household trash from ranging from rotting food and stinking disposable nappies right through to kitchen appliances that have reached their use by date.

What was once a vibrant hub of local economic activity is a festering ulcer eating away at the very heart of the local community.

We are told that this is a fair price to pay — that the benefits of free trade lie in other areas of the economy — the finance sector (Now there’s a surprise) and agriculture (I’m not so sure about that).

People, simply have to adjust, retrain and move to where the work is. This is economic rationalism stripped down to its naked ambitious self-serving greedy self. People are simply cogs in the machine — wetware that must adapt to circumstances or be discarded and thrown away.

It seems that somewhere, somehow we let the economic tail wag the dog.

The economy is meant to serve the people. Right now, the people are there to serve the economy.

We let that happen. We believed the talking heads on TV and radio that told us that protection was a scourge on the local economy and that the benefits would flow to us all when free trade was implemented.

My town is still waiting. So is much of rural Australia. The Rustbelt of the United States has been struggling under the weight of NAFTA for the past 20 years.

Free Trade is the economic equivalent of Jonestown Kool-Aid. We are all being forced to consume it even though we know it’s killing us.

It’s time for nations to assert their sovereignty and put the lives of their citizens ahead of numbers on balance sheets.

A trade war between the United States and China may end in providing surprise benefits to the USA’s shrinking middle class. We can certainly hope so. We need our soul back

My name is Mark Hodgetts. I’m a freelance writer, eking out a crust writing content for businesses. I’d much prefer to write more articles like this. You can support me to achieve that goal by following me on

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Originally published at on April 9, 2018.



Mark Hodgetts

Freelance writer, musician, non — aligned political junkie, all round pain in the arse