Interactive Map – WorldPopulationHistory.org

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Found here: http://worldpopulationhistory.org/

WorldPopulationHistory.org, an interactive site that lets you explore the peopling of our planet from multiple perspectives – historical, environmental, social and political. It is about the 2,000-year journey of human civilization and the possible paths ahead to the middle of this century.

The genesis of this project was World Population, a simple, yet powerful, video animation of “dots on a map” representing population changes through time. First produced by Population Connection (Zero Population Growth at that time) over 40 years ago, the video became a popular teaching resource. This spawned new editions that have been viewed in classrooms, museums and boardrooms worldwide. The new 2015 version is viewable here in six languages and contains the latest population projections.

But, what if, you could go beyond the video animation to discover more about the trends that have shaped population growth? What if you could zoom into the population map to learn more about the places illuminated by dots? What if you could select different overlays for the map to see the impacts of human lifestyles over time? What if you could then join an online conversation about what you’ve learned? We thought that would be really cool, so we created WorldPopulationHistory.org.

2014 Crash Course: The History of a Year

Merely a selection of sources.
Yours to use for writing, teaching, etc.

images

Top Sources for Review:

  1. What America was tweeting about in 2014, Mic.com & Echelon Insights

    http://mic.com/articles/107368/these-were-the-most-important-news-events-of-2014-according-to-twitter?utm_source=Mic+Check&utm_campaign=2f94831a3a-Mic_Report_12_30_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_51f2320b33-2f94831a3a-284973837

  2. By the Numbers: How the World Changed in 2014, The Atlantic

    http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/12/2014-by-the-numbers-year-review/383953/

  3. The 2014 Year in Review, Gallup.com

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/180332/2014-year-review-gallup-com.aspx?utm_source=tagrss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=syndication

  4. 10 Most Important Environmental Stories of 2014, Earth Island Journal

    http://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/elist/eListRead/the_most_important_environmental_stories_of_2014

  5. Eleven Stunning Graphs from 2014 That You Should See, Medium.com

    https://medium.com/@plotlygraphs/eleven-stunning-graphs-from-2014-that-you-should-see-8d2ee4596935

  6. 17 Things We Learned About Income Inequality in 2014, The Atlantic

    http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/12/17-things-we-learned-about-income-inequality-in-2014/383917/

  7. The Best Longreads of 2014, Various Authors

    http://kottke.org/14/12/the-best-longreads-of-2014

  8. 2014 The Year in Pictures, The New York Times

    http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/12/28/sunday-review/2014-year-in-pictures.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=a-lede-package-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&slide=2014-yip-january-slide-KTWD&_r=0&name=yearinpictures

  9. (Photo Gallery) 2014: The Year in Protest, Takepart.com

    http://www.takepart.com/photos/2014-year-protest

  10.  (Charts) The Year in Management Told in 20 Charts, Harvard Business Review

    https://hbr.org/2014/12/the-year-in-management-told-in-20-charts

Lists by Publisher:

The Kicker 2014 Year in 10, GoKicker.com

http://gokicker.com/2014/12/26/kicker-2014-year-in-10-winners/

The Very Best Mashable Reads of 2014, Mashable.com

http://mashable.com/2014/12/07/must-reads-2014/?utm_campaign=Mash-Prod-RSS-Feedburner-All-Partial&utm_cid=Mash-Prod-RSS-Feedburner-All-Partial&utm_medium=feed&utm_source=rss

Best Books of 2014: Editors’ Picks, Council on Foreign Relations & various sources

http://www.foreignaffairs.com/features/collections/the-best-books-of-2014-editors-picks?cid=rss-rss_xml-the_best_books_of_editors_pick-000000

14 Must Reads of 2014, Council on Foreign Relations & various sources

http://www.cfr.org/global/14-must-reads-2014/p35877?cid=rss-fullfeed-14_must_reads_of_2014-122414

The Best of 2014, Foreign Affairs Editors

http://www.foreignaffairs.com/discussions/news-and-events/the-best-of-2014-foreign-affairs-editors-select-top-content-of-t?cid=rss-rss_xml-the_best_of_foreign_affairs_ed-000000

Most Popular Features and Essays of 2014, Lifehacker.com

http://lifehacker.com/most-popular-features-and-essays-of-2014-1671909445

(Comic) 2014 in Review, This Modern World by Tom Tomorrow

Part 1: http://images.dailykos.com/images/121067/lightbox/TMW2014-12-24color.png?1419185290
Part 2: http://images.dailykos.com/images/121987/lightbox/TMW2014-12-31color.png?1419787651

10 Must-Read Reddit AMAs of 2014, Mashable.com

http://mashable.com/2014/12/28/best-reddit-amas-2014/?utm_campaign=Mash-Prod-RSS-Feedburner-All-Partial&utm_cid=Mash-Prod-RSS-Feedburner-All-Partial&utm_medium=feed&utm_source=rss

Notable Articles:

The Torture Report, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2014/images/12/09/sscistudy1.pdf

14 From ’14: Quick Takes on the Midterm Elections, University of Virginia Center for Politics

http://www.centerforpolitics.org/crystalball/articles/14-from-14-quick-takes-on-the-midterm/

All We Need is the Will to Change, The Atlantic

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/11/pessimistic-un-climate-change-report-also-offers-an-out/382262/

The Fortune Global 500 Isn’t All That Global, Harvard Business Review

 http://hbr.org/2014/11/the-fortune-global-500-isnt-all-that-global/

Investment Management Director Offers Top 10 Lessons Learned in 2014, Above the Law

http://abovethelaw.com/2014/12/investment-management-director-offers-top-10-lessons-learned-in-2014/

Megan Smith Thinks Every Child Should Be Able to Code, The Atlantic

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/10/us-cto-every-child-should-be-able-to-code/382089/

Why This War?, Antiwar.com

http://original.antiwar.com/justin/2014/10/09/why-this-war-2/

Ultimate Maps Post…and one chart

Countless Maps to teach us about our world!

Hyacinth Mascarenhas: 21 Images of Where Children Sleep Around the World Paints a Powerful Picture of Inequality

AMAZING FULL STORY WITH IMAGES HERE: http://www.policymic.com/articles/75173/21-images-of-where-children-sleep-around-the-world-paints-a-powerful-picture-of-inequality
21, images, of, where, children, sleep, around, the, world, paints, a, powerful, picture, of, inequality,
21 Images of Where Children Sleep Around the World Paints a Powerful Picture of Inequality
Image Credit: MyModernNet

“As a child, that’s your little space within the house,” said James Mollison, a Kenyan-born, England-raised, Venice-based photographer whose 2011 photo book, Where Children Sleep draws attention to a child’s “material and cultural circumstances” and offers a remarkable view on class, poverty, and the diversity of children around the world.

After spending more than three years traveling the world from Senegal to Tokyo, Mollison’s series include portraits of children in front of a white background accompanied by a single snapshot of their bedrooms, leaving the later to speak volumes about their the social and cultural circumstances that contribute to their lifestyle.

“I hope the book gives a a glimpse into the lives some children are living in very diverse situations around the world; a chance to reflect on the inequality that exists, and realize just how lucky most of us in the developed world are,” said Mollison.

Documenting his series in a book called Where Children Sleep, these striking images range from a mattress outside Rome to a bedroom filled with crowns and sashes. The book was, interestingly enough, written and designed for 9 to 13 year olds to learn about and better understand the diversity and disparity among children in the world. However, it has also proven to be an important photography series for adults. It’s not just as an empathy tool; it’s an insightful commentary on poverty, privilege, and human rights.

Pope Francis Denounces Trickle-Down Economics

Originally found here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2013/11/26/pope-francis-denounces-trickle-down-economics/

VATICAN: POPE FRANCESCO MEETS CARDINALS

Original Text: Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium of the Holy Father Fancis

Washington Post Article Commentary:

Pope Francis has released a sharply worded take on capitalism and the world’s treatment of its poor, criticizing “trickle-down” economic policies in no uncertain terms.

In the first lengthy writing of his papacy — also known as an “apostolic exhortation” — Francis says such economic theories naively rely on the goodness of those in charge and create a “tyranny” of the markets.

“In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world,” the pope wrote. “This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.”

 

While popes have often warned against the negative impact of the markets, Francis’s verbiage is note-worthy because of its use of the phrase “trickle-down” — a term that came into popular usage as a description for former president Ronald Reagan’s economic policies. While the term is often used pejoratively, it describes an economic theory that remains popular with conservatives in the United States today.

The theory holds that policies benefiting the wealthiest segment of society will also help the poor, by allowing money to “trickle down” from the top income levels into the lower ones. Critics, including President Obama, say the policies, usually focused on tax cuts and credits that primarily benefit upper-income Americans, concentrate wealth in the highest income levels and that the benefits rarely trickle down to the extent proponents suggest.

In his exhortation, the pope also attacked economic inequality, suggesting Christians have a duty to combat it to comply with the Ten Commandments — specifically the prohibition on killing.

“Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality,” the pope wrote. “Such an economy kills.”

The pope also likened the worship of money to the biblical golden calf.

“We have created new idols,” Francis wrote. “The worship of the ancient golden calf … has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose.”

The pope also attacks “consumerism”: “It is evident that unbridled consumerism combined with inequality proves doubly damaging to the social fabric.”

Surviving Climate Change: Is a Green Energy Revolution on the Global Agenda? By Michael T. Klare

Originally posted at: http://aep.typepad.com/american_empire_project/2013/11/surviving-climate-change.html

A week after the most powerful “super typhoon” ever recorded pummeled the Philippines, killing thousands in a single province, and three weeks after the northern Chinese city of Harbin suffered a devastating “airpocalypse,” suffocating the city with coal-plant pollution, government leaders beware!  Although individual events like these cannot be attributed with absolute certainty to increased fossil fuel use and climate change, they are the type of disasters that, scientists tell us, will become a pervasive part of life on a planet being transformed by the massive consumption of carbon-based fuels.  If, as is now the case, governments across the planet back an extension of the carbon age and ever increasing reliance on “unconventional” fossil fuels like tar sands and shale gas, we should all expect trouble.  In fact, we should expect mass upheavals leading to a green energy revolution.

None of us can predict the future, but when it comes to a mass rebellion against the perpetrators of global destruction, we can see a glimmer of the coming upheaval in events of the present moment.  Take a look and you will see that the assorted environmental protests that have long bedeviled politicians are gaining in strength and support.  With an awareness of climate change growing and as intensifying floodsfiresdroughts, and storms become an inescapable feature of daily life across the planet, more people are joining environmental groups and engaging in increasingly bold protest actions.  Sooner or later, government leaders are likely to face multiple eruptions of mass public anger and may, in the end, be forced to make radical adjustments in energy policy or risk being swept aside.

In fact, it is possible to imagine such a green energy revolution erupting in one part of the world and spreading like wildfire to others.  Because climate change is going to inflict increasingly severe harm on human populations, the impulse to rebel is only likely to gain in strength across the planet.  While circumstances may vary, the ultimate goal of these uprisings will be to terminate the reign of fossil fuels while emphasizing investment in and reliance upon renewable forms of energy.  And a success in any one location is bound to invite imitation in others.

A wave of serial eruptions of this sort would not be without precedent.  In the early years of twentieth-first century, for example, one government after another in disparate parts of the former Soviet Union was swept away in what were called the “color revolutions” — populist upheavals against old-style authoritarian regimes.  These included the “Rose Revolution” in Georgia (2003), the “Orange Revolution” in Ukraine (2004), and the “Pink” or “Tulip Revolution” in Kyrgyzstan (2005).  In 2011, a similar wave of protests erupted in North Africa, culminating in what we call the Arab Spring.

Like these earlier upheavals, a “green revolution” is unlikely to arise from a highly structured political campaign with clearly identified leaders.   In all likelihood, it will erupt spontaneously, after a cascade of climate-change induced disasters provokes an outpouring of public fury.  Once ignited, however, it will undoubtedly ratchet up the pressure for governments to seek broad-ranging, systemic transformations of their energy and climate policies.  In this sense, any such upheaval — whatever form it takes — will prove “revolutionary” by seeking policy shifts of such magnitude as to challenge the survival of incumbent governments or force them to enact measures with transformative implications.

Foreshadowings of such a process can already be found around the globe.  Take the mass environmental protests that erupted in Turkey this June.  Though sparked by a far smaller concern than planetary devastation via climate change, for a time they actually posed a significant threat to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his governing party.  Although his forces eventually succeeded in crushing the protests — leaving four dead, 8,000 injured, and 11 blinded by tear-gas canisters — his reputation as a moderate Islamist was badly damaged by the episode.

Like so many surprising upheavals on this planet, the Turkish uprising had the most modest of beginnings: on May 27th, a handful of environmental activists blocked bulldozers sent by the government to level Gezi Park, a tiny oasis of greenery in the heart of Istanbul, and prepare the way for the construction of an upscale mall.  The government responded to this small-scale, non-violent action by sending in riot police and clearing the area, a move that enraged many Turks and prompted tens of thousands of them to occupy nearby Taksim Square.  This move, in turn, led to an even more brutal police crackdown and then to huge demonstrations in Istanbul and around the country.  In the end, mass protests erupted in 70 cities, the largest display of anti-government sentiment since Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party came to power in 2002.

This was, in the most literal sense possible, a “green” revolution, ignited by the government’s assault on the last piece of greenery in central Istanbul.  But once the police intervened in full strength, it became a wide-ranging rebuke to Erdogan’s authoritarian impulses and his drive to remake the city as a neo-Ottoman showplace — replete with fancy malls and high-priced condominiums — while eliminating poor neighborhoods and freewheeling public spaces like Taksim Square.  “It’s all about superiority, and ruling over the people like sultans,” declared one protestor.  It’s not just about the trees in Gezi Park,said another: “We are here to stand up against those who are trying to make a profit from our land.”

The Ningbo Rebellion

The same trajectory of events — a small-scale environmental protest evolving into a full-scale challenge to governmental authority — can be seen in other mass protests of recent years.

Take a Chinese example: in October 2012, students and middle class people joined with poor farmers to protest the construction of an $8.8 billion petrochemical facility in Ningbo, a city of 3.4 million people south of Shanghai.  In a country where environmental pollution has reached nearly unprecedented levels, these protests were touched off by fears that the plant, to be built by the state-owned energy company Sinopec with local government support, would produce paraxylene, a toxic substance used in plastics, paints, and cleaning solvents.

Here, too, the initial spark that led to the protests was small-scale.  On October 22nd, some 200 farmers obstructed a road near the district government’s office in an attempt to block the plant’s construction.  After the police were called in to clear the blockade, students from nearby Ningbo University joined the protests.  Using social media, the protestors quickly enlisted support from middle-class residents of the city who converged in their thousands on downtown Ningbo.  When riot police moved in to break up the crowds, the protestors fought back, attacking police cars and throwing bricks and water bottles.  While the police eventually gained the upper hand after several days of pitched battles, the Chinese government concluded that mass action of this sort, occurring in the heart of a major city and featuring an alliance of students, farmers, and young professionals, was too great a threat.  After five days of fighting, the government gave in, announcing the cancellation of the petrochemical project.

The Ningbo demonstrations were hardly the first such upheavals to erupt in China.  They did, however, highlight a growing governmental vulnerability to mass environmental protest.  For decades, the reigning Chinese Communist Party has justified its monopolistic hold on power by citing its success in generating rapid economic growth.  But that growth means the use of ever more fossil fuels and petrochemicals, which, in turn, means increased carbon emissions and disastrous atmospheric pollution, including one “airpocalypse” after another.

Until recently, most Chinese seemed to accept such conditions as the inevitable consequences of growth, but it seems that tolerance of environmental degradation is rapidly diminishing.  As a result, the party finds itself in a terrible bind: it can slow development as a step toward cleaning up the environment, incurring a risk of growing economic discontent, or it can continue its growth-at-all-costs policy, and find itself embroiled in a firestorm of Ningbo-style environmental protests.

This dilemma — the environment versus the economy — has proven to be at the heart of similar mass eruptions elsewhere on the planet.

After Fukushima

Two of the largest protests of this sort were sparked by the reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants on March 11, 2011, after a massive tsunami struck northern Japan.  In both of these actions — the first in Germany, the second in Japan — the future of nuclear power and the survival of governments were placed in doubt.

The biggest protests occurred in Germany.  On March 26th, 15 days after the Fukushima explosions, an estimated 250,000 people participated in anti-nuclear demonstrations across the country — 100,000 in Berlin, and up to 40,000 each in Hamburg, Munich, and Cologne.  “Today’s demonstrations are just the prelude to a new, strong, anti-nuclear movement,” declared Jochen Stay, a protest leader.  “We’re not going to let up until the plants are finally mothballed.”

At issue was the fate of Germany’s remaining nuclear power plants.  Although touted as an attractive alternative to fossil fuels, nuclear power is seen by most Germans as a dangerous and unwelcome energy option.  Several months prior to Fukushima, German Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted that Germany would keep its 17 operating reactors until 2040, allowing a smooth transition from the country’s historic reliance on coal to renewable energy for generating electricity.  Immediately after Fukushima, she ordered a temporary shutdown of Germany’s seven oldest reactors for safety inspections but refused to close the others, provoking an outpouring of protest.

Witnessing the scale of the demonstrations, and after suffering an electoral defeat in the key state of Baden-Württemberg, Merkel evidently came to the conclusion that clinging to her position would be the equivalent of political suicide.  On May 30th, she announced that the seven reactors undergoing inspections would be closed permanently and the remaining 10 would be phased out by 2022, almost 20 years earlier than in her original plan.

By all accounts, the decision to phase out nuclear power almost two decades early will have significant repercussions for the German economy.  Shutting down the reactors and replacing them with wind and solar energy will cost an estimated $735 billion and take several decades, producing soaring electricity bills and periodic energy shortages.  However, such is the strength of anti-nuclear sentiment in Germany that Merkel felt she had no choice but to close the reactors anyway.

The anti-nuclear protests in Japan occurred considerably later, but were no less momentous.  On July 16, 2012, 16 months after the Fukushima disaster, an estimated 170,000 people assembled in Tokyo to protest a government plan to restart the country’s nuclear reactors, idled after the disaster.  This was not only Japan’s largest antinuclear demonstration in many years, but the largest of any sort to occur in recent memory.

For the government, the July 16th action was particularly significant. Prior to Fukushima, most Japanese had embraced the country’s growing reliance on nuclear power, putting their trust in the government to ensure its safety.  After Fukushima and the disastrous attempts of the reactors’ owner, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), to deal with the situation, public support for nuclear power plummeted.  As it became increasingly evident that the government had mishandled the crisis, people lost faith in its ability to exercise effective control over the nuclear industry.  Repeated promises that nuclear reactors could be made safe lost all credibility when it became known that government officials had long collaborated with TEPCO executives in covering up safety concerns at Fukushima and, once the meltdowns occurred, inconcealing information about the true scale of the disaster and its medical implications.

The July 16th protest and others like it should be seen as a public vote against the government’s energy policy and oversight capabilities.  “Japanese have not spoken out against the national government,” said one protestor, a 29-year-old homemaker who brought her one-year-old son.  “Now, we have to speak out, or the government will endanger us all.”

Skepticism about the government, rare for twenty-first-century Japan, has proved a major obstacle to its desire to restart the country’s 50 idled reactors.  While most Japanese oppose nuclear power, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe remains determined to get the rectors running again in order to reduce Japan’s heavy reliance on imported energy and promote economic growth.  “I think it is impossible to promise zero [nuclear power plants] at this stage,” he declaredthis October.  “From the government’s standpoint, [nuclear plants] are extremely important for a stable energy supply and economic activities.”

Despite such sentiments, Abe is finding it extremely difficult to garner support for his plans, and it is doubtful that significant numbers of those reactors will be coming online anytime soon.

The Explosions Ahead

What these episodes tell us is that people around the world are becoming ever more concerned about energy policy as it affects their lives and are prepared — often on short notice — to engage in mass protests.  At the same time, governments globally, with rare exceptions, are deeply wedded to existing energy policies.  These almost invariably turn them into targets, no matter what the original spark for mass opposition.  As the results of climate change become ever more disruptive, government officials will find themselves repeatedly choosing between long-held energy plans and the possibility of losing their grip on power.

Because few governments are as yet prepared to launch the sorts of efforts that might even begin to effectively address the peril of climate change, they will increasingly be seen as obstacles to essential action and so as entities that need to be removed.  In short, climate rebellion — spontaneous protests that may at any moment evolve into unquenchable mass movements — is on the horizon.  Faced with such rebellions, recalcitrant governments will respond with some combination of accommodation to popular demands and harsh repression.

Many governments will be at risk from such developments, but the Chinese leadership appears to be especially vulnerable.  The ruling party has staked its future viability on an endless carbon-fueled growth agenda that is steadily destroying the country’s environment.  It has already faced half-a-dozen environmental upheavals like the one in Ningbo, and has responded to them byagreeing to protestors’ demands or by employing brute force.  The question is: How long can this go on?

Environmental conditions are bound to worsen, especially as China continues to rely on coal for home heating and electrical power, and yet there is no indication that the ruling Communist Party is prepared to take the radical steps required to significantly reduce domestic coal consumption.  This translates into the possibility of mass protests erupting at any time and on a potentially unprecedented scale.  And these, in turn, could bring the Party’s very survival into question — a scenario guaranteed to produce immense anxiety among the country’s top leaders.

And what about the United States?  At this point, it would be ludicrous to say that, as a result of popular disturbances, the nation’s political leadership is at any risk of being swept away or even forced to take serious steps to scale back reliance on fossil fuels.  There are, however, certainly signs of a growing nationwide campaign against aspects of fossil fuel reliance, including vigorous protests against hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

For environmental activist and writer Bill McKibben, all this adds up to an incipient mass movement against the continued consumption of fossil fuels.  “In the last few years,” he has written, this movement “has blocked the construction of dozens of coal-fired power plants, fought the oil industry to a draw on the Keystone pipeline, convinced a wide swath of American institutions to divest themselves of their fossil fuel stocks, and challenged practices like mountaintop-removal coal mining and fracking for natural gas.”  It may not have achieved the success of the drive for gay marriage, he observed, but it “continues to grow quickly, and it’s starting to claim some victories.”

If it’s still too early to gauge the future of this anti-carbon movement, it does seem, at least, to be gaining momentum.  In the 2013 elections, for example, three cities in energy-rich Colorado — Boulder, Fort Collins, and Lafayette —voted to ban or place moratoriums on fracking within their boundaries, while protests against Keystone XL and similar projects are on the rise.

Nobody can say that a green energy revolution is a sure thing, but who can deny that energy-oriented environmental protests in the U.S. and elsewhere have the potential to expand into something far greater?  Like China, the United States will experience genuine damage from climate change and its unwavering commitment to fossil fuels in the years ahead.  Americans are not, for the most part, passive people.  Expect them, like the Chinese, to respond to these perils with increased ire and a determination to alter government policy.

So don’t be surprised if that green energy revolution erupts in your neighborhood as part of humanity’s response to the greatest danger we’ve ever faced.  If governments won’t take the lead on an imperiled planet, someone will.

Michael T. Klare is a professor of peace and conflict studies at Hampshire College and the author, most recently, of The Race for What’s Left.  A documentary movie version of his book Blood and Oil is available from the Media Education Foundation.

Dean Baker: Want ‘free trade’? Open the medical and drug industry to competition

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/11/support-real-free-trade-medical-costs

Agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership distribute wealth upward. Real ‘free trade’ can lower medical costs for everyone.

Free trade is like apple pie, everyone is supposed to like it. Economists have written thousands of books and articles showing how everyone can gain from reducing trade barriers. While there is much merit to this argument, little of it applies to the trade pacts that are sold as “free-trade” agreements.

These deals are about structuring trade to redistribute income upward. In addition these agreements also provide a mechanism for over-riding the democratic process in the countries that are parties to the deals. They are a tool whereby corporate interests can block health, safety, and environmental regulations that might otherwise be implemented by democratically elected officials. This is the story with both the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) now being negotiated by General Electric, Merck and other major corporations who have been invited to the table, as well as the EU-US trade agreement.

But trade agreements don’t have to be designed to make the rich richer. It is possible to envision trade deals that actually would liberalize trade.Nafta and it successors were designed to push down the wages of manufacturing workers by making it as easy as possible to set up operations overseas. This put US steelworkers and autoworkers in direct competition with the low-wage workers in the developing world, pushing down wages of manufacturing workers in the United States, and by reducing the number of manufacturing jobs, the wages of less educated workers more generally.

This is all very simple and straightforward. But suppose that instead of designing trade deals to give us cheaper manufacturing workers we designed trade deals to give us cheaper doctors. In the United States wepay our doctors almost twice as much as the average in other wealthy countries, and almost three times as much as in countries like Sweden or Norway. Suppose we structured a trade deal to get our doctors’ pay in line with pay in other wealthy countries.

If we could save an average of $100,000 per doctor, this would translate to savings of roughly $85bn a year, which would come to more than $1tn over the next decade. Throw in dentists and a few other highly paid professions and we would be talking real money. Just the savings on doctors’ pay would come to more than $12,000 for an average family of four over ten years. This dwarfs the potential gains that are projected even by supporters of the trade agreements now being negotiated.

But we can be sure that freer trade in physicians’ services will not be on the agenda in these trade deals. While the United States brings in Stem workers, nurses, and even teachers from other countries in order to keep their wages down in the United States, no one in a policy position will talk about doing the same with doctors.

The reason is very simple: doctors have lots of money and power. Roughly a third of them can be found in the top 1%, and nearly all would be in the top 3% of the income distribution.

Of course, trade can be used to bring down prices in other areas as well. The United States pays close to twice as much for its prescription drugs as people in other wealthy countries. This is the deliberate result of a patent policy that gives unchecked monopolies to drug companies for decades. In contrast, every other wealthy country couples patent monopolies with price controls, negotiated prices or some other policy that limits the extent to which drug companies can exploit their monopoly.

The United States could simply change its patent policy, but with that route being politically blocked, it could in principle use free trade to bring about the same result. With the country spending over $300bn a year on drugs at present, the potential gains here also could be well over $1tn over the course of a decade.

The industry will claim that lower drug prices will hurt the incentive to develop new drugs, but we can switch to more modern and efficient methods for financing research. By raising prices by tens or even hundreds of times above their free market price, drug patents create the same sort of distortions and waste that we would expect from tariffs of several thousand percent. It’s not hard to envision a system that leads to less waste and corruption.

There are many other areas where trade could, in principle, be used to bring about gains for large segments of the US population as well as its trading partners. Unfortunately, we are not likely to see trade agreements that will produce such broad gains. This has nothing to do with trade per se, it has due to with the fact that these trade deals are developed and negotiated by corporate interests for corporate interests.

With the drug companies sitting at the negotiating table at the TPP, does anyone think the deal will actually lower drug prices? Do we expect good rules regulating fracking when the oil and gas industries are writing them? And will the big banks working on the financial section produce good rules for regulating finance?

Yes, free trade can benefit the country as a whole. But the trade deals we will see in the next year have nothing to do with free trade, they are just one more item on the agenda for redistributing wealth upward.