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Special to the web. © Copyright 2008, Left Business Observer.

Just linkage: The power of positive sanctions

International Trade and Labor Standards: A Proposal for Linkage
Christian Barry and Sanjay G. Reddy
(Columbia University Press, New York: 2008)

by Michael Pollak

This is an important book. It could change how people think. It could even affect the world—and even if it does neither, it’s kind of a dazzling argument just by itself. But because it is dense and maieutic, I’m afraid that very few people will read it if they aren’t persuaded beforehand that it will be worth their effort. So my goal in this review will be to summarize the authors’ argument in bold strokes in order to make people curious enough to read it in its full form.

The problem linkage is supposed to solve

Many books have been written on the question of whether globalization is good or bad. This book starts with this question of moral evaluation but takes it in a new direction. Having read seemingly every polemic on the subject, the authors claim they have distilled out the common evaluative principle shared by all sides. This they call Proposition O (as in the Objective): international economic system A is morally better than system B if it better improves the lot of the least advantaged (and worse if it makes them worse off).

Globalization has been created in large part by a cumulative succession of international agreements. As soon as we initial one, we start the round of negotiations on its successor. It has become an article o