A Game of No Rules

2018, Economics  -   6 Comments

Global trade has long been a hot button political issue, but it's reached a fever pitch in recent times. President Donald Trump has urged for free trade between nations, and imposed a series of controversial tariffs that have lead to immense economic insecurity. The promise of equal and reciprocal trade relations sounds appealing on its surface, but is there really such a thing as free trade? The DW Documentary series explores this complex question in A Game of No Rules.

In this modern age, we've been told that isolationism is the enemy of prosperity. But have we been sold a false premise? The film travels to the United States, Germany, Switzerland and Cameroon to test this elusive economic theory.

A cycling factory in Germany has benefited tremendously by flirting with protectionism. Punitive tariffs keep the Chinese from dominating the global bicycle market. Now, China, Taiwan and Germany share the construction and assembly duties on each bicycle sold from the German factory. In the United States, where protectionism is not yet an accepted practice, even the traditional American brands are manufactured entirely in China.

The filmmakers also explore construction and agricultural industries including flooring tiles, onions and chickens. They make visits to wealthy and poor communities alike to discover the disparities that arise from globalization. In addition to the real-world business owners, farmers and factory workers, the film also offers a panel of economic experts who provide valuable historical context to our current trade climate.

Of course, looming over every frame of the film is the threat of a global trade war. As detailed in the film, protectionist policies might serve a useful function at times, but they can also lead to disastrous consequences. After the Great Depression, the United States and Germany both shuttered themselves from global trade through exceedingly high tariffs. The volume of trade dropped by nearly two-thirds, and ultimately ended with the Second World War and the formation of the World Trade Organization.

By delving into identifiable industries and focusing on each affected player within them, A Game of No Rules provides a clear and instructive portrait of global trade.

Directed by: Tilman Achtnich
Ratings: 7.00/10from 35 users.

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6 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Cord Barnes

    As someone preparing to do graduate work in public economics, and who engages with policy issues in one of my current positions, I watched this with an open mind but with a critical eye. This documentary makes some good points, however by definition, manufacturing and agriculture are front line casualties of free trade. It does make sense in the case of many of these countries’ markets to impose punitive tariffs or to have a degree of protectionist policies in place. But those countries don’t necessarily have the economic, financial, or socioeconomic infrastructure in place to have booming financial, construction, service, administration, educational, etc etc sectors. In a country like the USA, where daily life tends to draw culturally on so many things (electronics, cars, tables, cabinets, stoves, smartphones, computers) it is not realistic to assume that American manufacturers can produce at physical or affordable capacity to sustain the demand. For that to happen, the American economy would have to regress. Even if lawyers, doctors, and computer scientists decided to start working on assembling lines or milking cows, US employment standards, epa considerations (which contrary to some beliefs are actually useful for making sure Flint isn’t happening in every state), consumer protections would likely hike up the prices to unsustainable levels. 19th and 20th century Americans went that route and it allowed the economy to develop into what it is today. But they did that in the middle of depressions, before there was indoor plumbing, and when the alternative was to sit at home with crumbs to eat every day. In those times, I’m not convinced that an 18 hour workday, with only two bathroom breaks and a 15 minute lunch was a raw deal in exchange for not sleeping out in the wilderness. Countries don’t go from financial and technology centered economies to agricultural and manufacturing ones. Not without some catastrophic impetus.

  2. Devil Travels

    Free trade only works for commodities of limited local supply. But it is foolish for someone to voice the promotion of free trade while imposing restrictions to such freedom. Why people keep falling for that political oxymoron is baffling.

  3. Aashish Rai

    Very insightful.

  4. Tim

    And when Donald Trump brings up these same exact points and takes similar protective steps as Germany and other countries, in an attempt to regain lost American jobs and domestic manufacturing industries, he is universally lambasted as a protectionist villain steering the world to another Great Depression.

    1. Devil Travels

      more like a protectionist hypocrite. Donald Trump, as said in this documentary, wants to have his cake and eat it, too.

  5. Jakob

    Great doc. But the leave out an important point regarding the US. Why is it that US is such an important marked for all European anc Chinese companies? The answer is of cause that you can sell a lot in the US. But then the next question becomes: where does the US get all its purchasing power from? And the answer is: By lending money from China. So the rest of the world is now "hooked" on the US being able to keep borrowing money so it can buy more stuff from the rest of world.