Q&A with Patrice Franko '80

By Matt Zencey

Patrice Franko '80. Photo by Fred FieldPatrice Franko '80 is Grossman Professor of Economics and Global Studies at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, where she has taught since 1986. At Bucknell, she studied with Professor Emeritus Stephen Stamos, international relations, with whom she has co-authored the newly published textbook The Puzzle of 21st Century Globalization: An Economics Primer.

Q: You write in your book, "Globalization is a high stakes game creating winners and losers." Who wins and who loses and why?

A: Trade at its heart is about efficiency. We all trade in our lives. I get help from the person who cleans my house, tends the garden and keeps me sane. I have a trade deficit with her, but her work frees me up to do what I do best. The pain from trade comes when jobs disappear. With globalization, linked by high technology, suddenly workers compete not just with those in their state or country, but globally. The global workforce has quadrupled. We can have radiologists reading X-rays over in India. In making steel, you combine robots and technology, and steel workers lose jobs. Our real revolution right now is in robotization. So the fundamental question is, as a society how do we come together to deal with these cataclysmic changes? We are bad at it. What we really want to think about is efficient, reciprocal trade that gives us the gains to help those who get left behind by globalization and technological change.

Q: Some folks point to Germany as an example of how to do trade right — it has strong export industries, a trade surplus and a strong social safety net for workers who lose out.

A: I think the German example is an important one. Some of the solution is [aiding workers'] relocation, some of it is a strong social safety net, some of it is skills training. And that's all going to take a different kind of financing to pay for it. I don't see any magic bullet. But elites are beginning to see it is in their self-interest for us to work on recreating, reimagining, the American dream.

Q: Some critics say we shouldn't be pursuing free trade; we should be pursuing fair trade — layering in environmental and labor concerns, and avoiding a race to the bottom.

A: Absolutely. The best way of promoting fair trade is to negotiate it. I believe the negotiation process can be more open, more inclusive. Trade involves complicated diplomacy. But is it better just to build a wall because it's hard to do more open trade negotiations? I don't think so.

Q: In my day, not too many economists talked about sustainability and "the carrying capacity of the earth." In doing so, are you an outlier in the field?

A: I don't think so anymore. [At Bucknell] Steve Stamos was one of the first teaching environmental economics. Now, many economic courses will bring up the environmental consequences. And if they don't, our students get us on it. Because they care about the race to the bottom, the environment and labor issues.

Q: Care to share any thoughts about your Bucknell experience?

A: It's very clearly at the center of my life. It's why I do what I do. In my classroom, I very much model the kind of Bucknell education I got. In addition to Steve, people like John Murphy from the English department really, really pushed us to think critically and creatively. So that's the kind of professor I try to be with my students.

Q: Fill in the blank: "Maine winters are …"

A: No worse than Bucknell winters! (laughs) I find them glorious. We live on Great Pond, where On Golden Pond was written, and it freezes over. I can cross-country ski into snowmobile tracks on the lake. Hard to beat.

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