Assessing an agreement like TPPA is an exercise in the economy of thinking. It is next to impossible for someone without background in economy (and a lot of time on their hands!) to fully analyse such a complex multi-layered document and understand all its implications. When facing challenges like this I personally use intellectual shortcuts which provide a reasonable idea where things are at without me having to spend an inordinate amount of time on studying the issue.
I first look at the big picture – by that I mean mainly where the proposal is placed in the spectrum spanning between individual freedom and government control. Since I naturally support “freedom friendly” solutions this in itself is a good indication what a more detailed study of the issue would reveal. An alternative expression of the above polarity is defined by how a proposal relates to the concept of income redistribution, where I tend to favour “you own your income” side of the argument. It is very clear that TPPA, being a free-trade agreement, eliminates government regulation which is a tick in my book.
Then I try to analyse the overall, aggregated impact of a proposal on all sides involved – a size-of-pie type assessment. It is tempting to think that life is a zero-sums game but quite often the decisions we make have either overwhelmingly positive or largely negative consequences. Restrictions to free trade have a detrimental impact on the global economy because the goods end up produced not where it is economically justified but rather where consumers manage to protect their national industries with tariffs. I guess the Icelanders could grow grapes but they would be more expensive than the ones imported from Greece. Icelandic grape-growers would benefit from tariffs but their compatriots would all be out of pocket (along with the Greeks) which means more losers than winners in this particular scenario. Applying similar logic, TPPA gets a second tick.
But it would be arrogant for me to rely solely on my own judgement, particularly when analysing processes I do not fully comprehend. Since every man and his dog have a view on TPPA which ones can one trust? Well, I have identified one particular source of opinions which has historically been in polar opposition to my own convictions – it is the official stance of the NZ Greens Party. On issues ranging from minimum wage and oil exploration to whaling the Greens pronouncements have always gone against what I consider common sense so it stands to reason that their view on TPPA should also be the opposite of mine. This is a third tick.
It would be great to have time and intellectual capacity to get to the bottom of every issue before forming an opinion on it but this is simply not realistic. Life throws up challenges every day and one needs to respond to them with limited information at one’s disposal. I, for one, like TPPA.