Beat the Press

Dean Baker's commentary on economic reporting


The Washington Post’s Front Page Editorial on Mexican Elections

The lead headline of the Washington Post this morning was “Mexico Vote Tally Gives Free-Trader a Narrow Victory.” Wrong! Felipe Calderon, the candidate who is now ahead in the vote tally to be Mexico’s next president is not a free-trader. He has supported increasing copyright and patent protection and shown no special interest in removing protectionist barriers that obstruct free trade in the services of highly paid professionals (e.g. doctors, lawyers, accountants).

The Washington Post does not own the term “free-trade.” If they want to identify Calderon by his trade position, they can call him pro-NAFTA. It is more accurate and saves 2 letters.


  • At 12:20 PM, Anonymous S Brennan said…

    Jeeze Dean,

    Doesn't NAFTA stand for;

    North America FREE TRADE Agreement?

    I agree with your overall point that nobody actually believes in "free trade", it's really just a brand name that the elites across the globe came up with to sell a new form of slavery to the working poor.

  • At 2:32 PM, Anonymous Dale said…

    NAFTA may include the phrase "free trade" but it is just a collection of rules and regulations shaping trade in certain ways.

    The "free" part is primarily to trick the feeble minded into support. Who is against freedom, after all?

  • At 3:47 PM, Anonymous Adam said…

    Hm, who is it that says that the only true part about 'NAFTA' is 'North American', as it's not free trade (or anything close), and it's not an agreement if we take the population's views seriously? I always liked that.

  • At 5:16 PM, Blogger Dr. Tax in Sacramento said…

    Have you been smoking funny cigarettes? SInce when is an effort to reduce copyright infringement not in support of free trade. Are you simply whining because MALO (the correct way to spell his initials) lost? Calderon is clearly the free trader among the candidates that ran for president.

  • At 7:32 PM, Blogger Dean Baker said…

    ah, Dr. Tax, no doubt a derivative of the evil Dr. No.
    Welcome to my blog.

    you see, copyrights a government imposed monopoly -- the direct antithesis of free trade. Those who patronize my blog know and appreciate this fact.

    Yes, copyrights do serve a social purpose (they provide incentives for innovation and creative work), but all forms of protectionism serve a social purpose -- that doesn't change the fact that they are still forms of protectionism.

    If we want to get beyond name-calling, the real question is whether copyrights are the most efficient way to support innovation and creative work. I would argue that they are not (see some of the papers in the intellectual property section of the CEPR website,, but that is the debate that we should be having. "Free trader and "protectionist" is just silly name-calling.

  • At 9:28 PM, Anonymous adam said…

    Okay, I understand that some people (mistakingly) believe that copyrights are necessary to spur innovation, but how can anyone think that copyright is part of "free trade"? I know Dean's already covered this, but still, it just boggles my mind.

    Or maybe he was being sarcastic. If so, my bad.

  • At 8:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Enforcing copywrite laws and cracking down on piracy would likely result in an increase in software and music to Mexico as legal products somewhat displace pirated ones. Lower non-tariff barries is a form of freer trade.

    And no country that I'm aware of his promoting liberalizing medical and legal service so it seems unfair to hold Calderon to that standard before he is seen as a 'free trader' especially compared to other candidates.

  • At 5:25 PM, Anonymous said…

    As an old headline writer, I agree that "pro-NAFTA" is two letters shorter than "free trader." But if you count units, "pro-NAFTA" by my count takes up more space because of the capital letters. Note: I don't write this to elevate a "quibble" into a "quarrel" (about the same space in lower case). -- Mal Schechter


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