Are we wired to think trade is bad? No.
It turns out our mental capacity is not bound by childhood development and we are not bound by our preferred learning styles. Nor are we bound to believe the rhetoric we are fed during political cycles.
So here are four antidotes to the onslaught of negativity around trade.
Stretch your thinking about trade.
A raft of recent scientific research now indicates that our brains continue to adapt to new experiences and information. Neuroplasticity is the process of building new neural pathways that change the physical structure and functional organization of our brains throughout our lives.
The writers of whatisneuroplasticity.com compare this process to finding a clear signal on the radio. You cut through the static by dialing the tuning knob a digit at a time to bring the station in with as little distortion as possible. We’ll work to cut through the distortions in the public discourse on trade one story at a time.
Be mindful of your surroundings.
A team led by Harvard scientists made news a few years ago when they demonstrated that just eight weeks of mindful meditation can produce structural brain changes significant enough to be visible in an MRI scan. As a result, mind and body exercises are no longer the domain of monks and aging hippies. We are all trying to take ten minutes of headspace, breathe deeply, and “notice” our stressors as we let them float by like clouds.
It might not surprise you that Silicon Valley giants including Apple, Google, and Yahoo have integrated meditation spaces into the workplace, but meditation has also caught fire in more traditional C-suites and corporate wellness programs. Aetna insurance estimates its mindfulness program has saved the company about $2000 per employee in annual healthcare costs while gaining about $3000 per employee in productivity.
On the trade front, we seek to bring a different kind of mindfulness to the discussion. We will examine the personal dimensions of trade. The individuals and organizations who make and consume things give trade its character and definition, not the policies we debate. The stories in Journeys will connect and remind us to be mindful of these surroundings.
Use your left and right brain.
It’s a myth that people are dominantly analytical (left brained) or creative (right brained). The two hemispheres of the brain communicate extensively and routinely. They don’t work in isolation, which is fortunate because when impairment occurs in functionality in one side of the brain, the other hemisphere can learn to take over.
Therefore, we won’t insult your intelligence by approaching the topic of trade from either the left or the right. And we won’t assume that either political faction is better than another to design future trade policies.
Engage in the discussion.
As we delve into the dynamics of modern trade, we endeavor to explore with an open mind the world of trade negotiations, the nature of global commercial transactions, the impact of policies on the individuals and enterprises actually doing the trading, and the relationship between trade policies and daily life. Our experiences differ whether we live in rural or urban areas, in developing or developed countries, and whether we are poor, middle class, or wealthy. We’ll seek contributions that reflect different perspectives.
The way to keep us honest in our desire to make this platform valuable to our readership is to engage in the discussion. Share your questions, your ideas, your expertise, your concerns, and your stories. In this way, we can all expand the vistas of forward trade thinking.
Andrea Durkin is the Editor-in-Chief of TradeVistas and Founder of Sparkplug, LLC. She is a nonresident Senior Fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and an adjunct fellow with CSIS. Ms. Durkin previously served as a U.S. Government trade negotiator and has proudly taught International Trade for the last fourteen years as an Adjunct Associate Professor at Georgetown University’s Master of Science in Foreign Service program.