October 19, 2003

Collapse In Cancun

Doug Henwood--perhaps the last honest true leftist writing about the economy who knows how to count--wonders whether he is on the side of the angels:

Collapse in Cancun: Collapse in Cancún | by DOUG HENWOOD [posted online on October 10, 2003]

The mid-September failure of the World Trade Organization's ministerial conference in Cancún was widely cheered on the left. A Global Exchange (GX) press release described it as a "failure...for the giant transnational corporations that are manipulating the trade agenda to engineer a power grab that will dramatically reduce the strength of democratically elected government."... I love the movement behind those protests and consider myself part of it. I was in Seattle in December 1999 and contributed to this magazine's coverage. It was one of the most exhilarating weeks of my life.... But after the wreckage at Cancún, we need to think about a few things....

[T]he WTO was never really the institution its critics said it was. From the outset, it wasn't really dominated by big capital in the rich countries. It's a one-country, one-vote system, like the UN's General Assembly.... What might a weaker WTO mean? There was no sign of disappointment coming from the Bush Administration.... Zoellick hopes to induce a regime of what he calls "competitive liberalization," with countries eager for access to US markets fighting among themselves to please Washington. The US government is happy to negotiate separate deals with individual countries; it's always going to be the stronger party in any bilateral conversation.... One of the organizers of the Cancún demonstrations told me people in the streets knew that what they were doing would strengthen the United States['s negotiating positions], but they wanted to damage the WTO....

[C]ontradictions within the coalition.... Big capital may want to grab power from elected governments, but it's.... odd to set governments (good) against the WTO (bad)... trade ministers themselves are representatives of those elected governments. If those governments can't be trusted to do good things through the WTO, why should they be trusted to do good things on their own?...

Not all governments are thoroughly awful; there are even a few good ones, like--one still hopes despite IMF- and market-friendly policies--Lula's in Brazil.... Brazil was one of the leaders of the Group of 21... the alliance that challenged the rich countries and brought the talks to deadlock... objected to US and European Union insistence on liberalizing investment and government procurement rules and to the rich countries' refusal to reduce their agricultural subsidy programs....

No doubt Zoellick would not be pleased to see Brazil and its twenty-one colleagues pressing their case within the WTO; better that it be marginalized by the game of competitive liberalization. One of the 22's demands was that richer countries reduce their domestic farm subsidies and open up to G22 agricultural exports. At the same time, farmers in South Korea, a relatively rich country, were among the most vigorous of the protesters, with some activists praising the suicide of Lee Kyung-hae, who raised cattle on a small, snowy mountain plot. The only thing that kept the farm going was trade barriers; once Seoul opened up to Australian beef imports, the enterprise was doomed. Rice and other crops are grown on similarly difficult land; crops are expensive and often of low quality. Only vigorous protection makes such agriculture viable. But those are exactly the kinds of barriers the G22 want dismantled. Yet in protest discourse, the Korean farmers and the G22 were treated as part of the same struggle....

Which raises a question: What is progressive about using public resources to support farming on cold, snowy, mountainous land? Isn't the benefit of trade exactly to address something like this? South Korea isn't an impoverished country whose population is dominated by a peasantry that would be ruined by opening up to food imports--it makes cars and cell phones. Why shouldn't South Korea import food?...

The movement that had its coming-out party in Seattle rarely speaks about the economic arrangements it would like to see. It's quick to say "No!" (a reflex I'm pretty accomplished at myself). It's often quick to invoke language defending national sovereignty and self-reliance when we should really be looking for a more egalitarian and cooperative world, of which trade can be an important part. It's too quick to read international economic relations as part of a general "race to the bottom" that doesn't really exist. Wages in the United States are higher than when NAFTA took effect, and incomes have also been rising in Western Europe and much of Asia, regions that are deeply involved in world trade. The most troubled part of the world is Africa, a continent that is substantially underrepresented in global trade and capital flows. That's not at all to say that freer trade is always better; it is to say that we need to think and talk more carefully about these things.

Of course, the political and emotional urge behind the "No!" is the desire to protect people and nature from the traumas that typically come with capitalist development. But erecting barriers to trade may be the wrong strategy. Instead of tariffs and import restrictions, which can pit workers in rich countries against those in poorer ones (is it OK to put a Brazilian steelworker out of work to preserve an American job?), why not generous income support and retraining? Why not shift the focus from protecting the job to protecting the worker?

At one level, I want to tell Doug that although he is very welcome, he is about four years late to this particular party. Back when he was having his exhilarating time in Seattle, the protesters included:

  1. Hollywood workers who objected because NAFTA did not prohibit the Canadian government from subsidizing Canadian culture.
  2. NGOs that argued that Mexico's urban poor should under no circumstances be allowed to buy cheaper tortillas made from Iowa corn.
  3. U.S. steelworkers who argued that Brazilian steelworkers needed to lose their jobs, now.

With no vision of what a better world would look like, the "anti-globalization" movement was from its birth doomed to become the puppet of whatever particular bunch of special interests catches their fancy--whether it is U.S. steelworkers who want Brazilians and Koreans to lose their jobs, subsidized Korean farmers who want to keep Filipinos and Indonesians poor, Louisianians who are upset by imports of Vietnamese catfish, or whoever.

Posted by DeLong at October 19, 2003 08:51 PM | TrackBack


The biggest problem with the "anti-globalization" movement is that it lets itself be defined in terms of what it's not. If you define yourself in the negative, you're fundamentally giving someone else control of your definition. "Steel imports? That's globalization at work!"

As a Progressive myself, I think we need to start seriously articulating a positive alternative message, not a negative one. Tell people what kind of world we want and how to get it in concrete, practical terms.

That's one of the things I liked about "Natural Capitalism" by Hawken, Lovins & Lovins. Lots of practical, positively-stated ideas, which have positive ROI not in "warm fuzzy" terms but in actual cash.

Posted by: Chris Hanson on October 19, 2003 09:53 PM

Excellent Points!! The press does a poor job reporting on what is a very complicated issue with a lot of sides- no wonder there is so much confusion out there. Probably most of the protesters are not certain of what they are protesting, and may in fact be protesting disparate things (re- the Korean suicide vs. Brazilian farmers). Everybody knows what it is they don't like but they all don't like something different.

Within Lula's Brazilian Worker's Party there is a huge shake up going on because the radical wing is still opposed to cooperating with the WTO and WMF, whereas Lula and the rulers are giving way to a more centrist practical agenda. Rightly enough, the dissenters point out that only several years ago Lula himself spoke out against all of the types of policies which he is now following. The dissenters have been expelled from the party. Now that is globalization for you...

Posted by: non economist on October 19, 2003 10:29 PM

A-men Chris.

One must give policymakers something to work with, not 'nots'.


Posted by: Dano on October 19, 2003 11:21 PM

Now everybody knows that politicians promise all things to all people. This is why they are necessarily fraudulent and corrupt. But politicians gain their power by organizing and responding to constituency bases- (leaving aside the self-selection of characters that enter into big league politics, a notion that is the very opposite of "thinning the herd"). Hence it is worthwhile attending to what in the claims of politicians is misdirection and what is direction; this is a first level of analysis/evaluation. And, of course, they are attending to constituencies that are just as capable of being as impossibly contradictory as they are- woe betide, that human beings should be split and ambivalent creatures! But rather than taking one's distance from the ignorant rabble and retreating into a superior indifference, or simply trying to override this contradictoriness by fiat, perhaps one should ask what are the sources of conflicts and what are the programmatic ideas that could bring about the resolution of conflicts. For this is the authentic vocation of politics, the resolution of conflict: such resolution is what brings about common ground and a larger appreciation of the common good, though, to be sure, there will never be a shortage of further conflicts.

Now I think what ties together the "anti-globalization" protesters, for all their contradictory agendas, is a common sense of powerlessness, of human agency being overridden by concentrated forces that ignore and contemn diffuse and disparate publics. Protest, to be sure, contains its own paradox: either the powerful bastards are sheer bastards, in which case protest can be of no avail, or the bastards aren't such bastards, in which case the cause of protest is superfluous. But the strategy of protest is not sheer foolishness, for all that such movements may attract the perpetually adolescent, insofar as it really aims at a third party, the formation of public opinion. By acting on the demand for strong legitimation- (Hannah Arendt vs. Max Weber)- one can create such strong legitimation, such that even those who are immune from such considerations can not but fail to respond. One can retreat into the certainty of one's equations, insisting that the quantities are, in fact, as one says that they are- though what has been left out of the equations?- and complain of the ignorant malevolence of the rabble, just as one complains of the machinations of the politicians. But, say what you will, the "antiglobalization" movement, such as it is, regardless of the current state of play of the various and sundry issues, is not, in principle, opposed to globalization. For what is at stake is the creation of an international public sphere. Yes, this is impossibly grandiose, but then so is the notion of democracy. (John Austin:" 'Democracy' is one of those words that, when someone uses it, one can not be sure exactly what they mean.")

Posted by: john c. halasz on October 20, 2003 02:11 AM

>"...With no vision of what a better world would look like, the "anti-globalization" movement was from its birth doomed..."

AAAAAHH HAAAAH Haaaaaw haaaaa haaah, ahem, Don't make me laugh so hard Brad, the tears blur my "vision"....

>"...My aim is to start a dialogue about the core problem of capitalism. The symptoms range from bloated CEO pay, sweatshops, and speculative excess to stagnant wages, corporate welfare, and environmental indifference.

>All spring from a single source: the mandate to maximize returns to shareholders. In major public corporations -- where there is little reason to so favor shareholders -- this mandate amounts to property bias, which is akin to racial or gender bias.

>It arises from the unconscious belief that property owners, or wealth holders, matter more than others. The system upholding this belief I call economic aristocracy.

>Civilization has crossed a great divide in history, from monarchy to democracy. But we have democratized only government, not economics. Property bias keeps our corporate worldview rooted in the predemocratic age. To change this, we begin by seeing it..."


Exploring the Myth of the Free Market

By Marjorie Kelly

The "free market" is very nearly a state religion in the United States today. "Free trade" is nearly as sacrosanct. Supposedly everyone is: "free" to compete equally in the free market. But what’s quietly ignored is a little thing called "property rights," which might more properly be called the "rights of wealth holders." These are the only human rights the free market respects.

We see these rights protected in trade agreements, for example, when Mexico is told to stop nationalizing industries, before it is considered a fit partner for trade. Or we see the World Trade Association insisting nations change intellectual property laws, to protect corporate patents.

The free-trade regime insists wealth be protected. But it equally insists the environment not be protected. That jobs not be protected, nor worker health, nor the right to organize. When labor and environmental concerns seek equal protection, it’s called "interference" in the free market. These rights are supposedly protected by the "invisible hand," which leads free markets to work out to the benefit of all.

Yes, well. Perhaps it’s time to notice how deeply wealth rights are integrated into free market thinking, so that these special privileges have become nearly invisible. We might make them more visible with a little exercise — a small flight of fancy...


The Best of All Possible Economies(?)

That’s supposedly what we’ve had. Voltaire would have laughed.

The "Goldilocks" economy is one description I’ve often read of the so-called "perfect" economy we enjoyed for many years, with stock prices reaching fairy-tale heights even as unemployment remained low. It was neither too hot nor too cold: not too much inflation, not too much recession. The stock market has since fallen to earth, and recession may be looming, if Alan Greenspan’s fears are right. But for a lot of folks, we never had a perfect economy to begin with.

Unemployment has been low, but according to the Economic Policy Institute, close to 30 percent of all employees are making a poverty-level wage. That’s nearly one in three full-time employees, unable to feed and clothe their families on what they make.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, between 1997 and 1999 the bottom two-fifths of earners saw their income decline, while the richest 1 percent saw their income more than double.

Goldilocks seems not quite the right fairy tale for such a state of affairs. I would suggest a better parable for our times is Voltaire’s satiric novel Candide. Published in 1759, it is from the same cultural milieu as Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, published 17 years later. The two had much in common, for Smith’s idea of an invisible hand, guiding everything to work out for the best, was a sister theory to the idea lampooned by Voltaire: that theirs was the "best of all possible worlds...."


Deciphering The Hidden Language of Finance: Wall Street as a Colonial Power

By Marjorie Kelly

Author, The Divine Right of Capital

I remember as a kid playing cowboys and Indians with the neighbors, and being forced one day to be the Indian: I ran home crying. Indians were the bad guys, and nobody wanted to be one. The media taught us this: not in so many words, but in the subtext of countless cowboy and Indian shows.

There's a new batch of cowboys and Indians today in the financial media. They're called "stockholders" (the good guys) and "employees" (the bad guys). You can see this subtext when the stock market goes up, and the business pages trumpet it as good news. When wages go up, it's a warning sign of inflation.

Stockholders are the heroes of business. Every day, we read the Wall Street Journal, not the Main Street Journal. We hear on the radio the movement of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, not the Dow Jones Wage Average. Wages are kept secret. By definition they are a "cost," and costs are to be as low as possible. Profits for shareholders are to be as high as possible. That's because shareholders are "insiders" — only they vote in corporate governance. Employees are outsiders, who are disenfranchised.

Shareholders earn their profits by "investing," but in fact little direct investing in companies goes on. The stock market works like a used car market. When you buy a 1997 Ford, the money doesn't go to Ford but to the previous owner. Ford gets the buyer's money only when it sells a new car. Similarly, corporations get stockholder money only when they sell new stock, which mature companies rarely do. According to the Federal Reserve and SEC, 99 percent of stock is "used stock;" 99 out of 100 "invested" dollars trade in the speculative market, and never reach corporations.

Still, stockholders are good guys because they're "owners" of corporations. They have dropped nearly all ownership functions -- they don't manage corporations, work at them, fund them, or accept liability for them. But since they're owners, it's fine that they extract corporate wealth forever.

It's the stock market that "creates" this wealth, financial media tell us. In truth, employees create it, while stockholders pocket it.

You'll never hear it from the financial press, but absentee corporate ownership is insidious. It makes Wall Street a colonial occupying power, maintaining its legitimacy by turning employees into outsiders in their own workplaces.

Historian Edward Said noted, the fundamental tool of an imperialist order is turning the natives into outsiders in their own land. "For the native," he wrote in Culture and Imperialism, "the history of colonial servitude is inaugurated by loss of the locality to the outsider."

Stories are at the heart of how we view the world, Said wrote. For "the power to narrate, or to block other narratives from forming," defines culture. The financial media control the narrative of business, and implicit in that narrative is the notion employee income must be kept down. Not surprisingly, nearly 30 percent of workers today make a poverty-level wage.

We don't hear that. Instead we read that half of all people own stock. In truth, most own paltry amounts, and this "wealth" is eclipsed by growing debt loads. The stark fact is, the 1 percent wealthiest own half of all stock. Their income doubled between 1997 and 1999, while many earners saw income decline..."


Posted by: Mike on October 20, 2003 03:38 AM

The Iowa corn point would be stronger if Iowa corn wasn't so massively subsidised.
Bankrupting some Mexican farmers and preventing further investment by others for benefits that might possibly be passed on to Mexico's now expanded band of urban poor might be a reasonable trade off if the non-cash impact is not significant, the worsening trade deficit doesn't precipitate a crisis and the Peso never struggles again.
However Mexico then becomes dependent upon US subsidies. Those subsidies are decided upon without reference to the Mexican people. By the same token that they are supposedly good for some Mexicans, they are bad for most Americans.

So the Mexicans are now dependent upon Americans behaving against their own self interest. Hooray! On current form, not such a bad bet but surely Mexicans might be excused for being nervous about it.

Posted by: Jack on October 20, 2003 04:56 AM

Mike, what if I set up a site called www.divinerightoflabor.com, in which I protested that our society suffers from "labor bias." As evidence, I would cite the fact that workers can quit companies when they want, apply for whatever jobs they want, go on strike, etc. After all, I'd say, isn't this unfair? There are other "stakeholders" in the labor market besides workers alone. Workers can quit their jobs, and pack off and go to the highest-bidding employer, whenever they want! Shouldn't shareholders in their employing companies and the larger community have a say in this, if not total control over workers, at least SOME say in whether they'd be allowed to quit their jobs, or how large raises they'd be allowed to demand? It's only fair!

(Note: I agree with some points on that site: the points that the media drums up widespread American ownership of the economy that doesn't really exist except for among a tiny elite. But that site doesn't really address -- at least, not what I've seen of it, from what I've looked at -- the logic of why shareholders should, de jure, at least, control corporations in the first place!)

When I read about the anti-globalization movement, I think their interests are not so disparate as you may think. We would say so, because when we say "interests," we think "if everyone had their own agenda implemented, wouldn't many people poorer? Aren't the G22 aligned protestors trying do something that would make the Korean farmer-protestors poorer?"

Well, yes, but I couldn't help thinking, at this point, about Brad's review of Brink Lindsey's "Against the Dead Hand." The dichotomy Lindsey, if I remember correctly, analyzes, is between "liberty and prosperity," and "identity and stability." The protestors are on the side, generally, of identity and stability.

And, while I think most people here -- left and right -- are on the side of liberty and prosperity, in the grand scheme of the universe, there's no guarantee that we're right.

By seeing the agenda of the protestors as contradictory, we might be missing their real point. We think they're contradicting themselves because they're doing things that would make themselves poorer. They might reject the premise that material wealth and freedom is the path to human fulfillment in the first place.

While I don't think it's likely, I think it's conceivable that a, poor, oppressive, and tribal world could be inhabited by more fulfilled people than a prosperous, free, and united one. Sure, the Missourians, relatively cut off from the rest of the world and fighting border skirmishes with those loathsome, demonic Illinoisans, might not have access to as many creature comforts as most of us today, but they might have a gauranteed purpose in life, and a sense of community that ensures that no one within the tribe is left out by a mere accident of unimportance.

One might object that I'm merely spouting off a noble savage/occidentalist myth, that bourgeois values ultimately lead to a hallow, empty life, and that living a truly fulfilling life is based on a sense of identity, a simple life, and fellowship with like people. True, but one must contrast this with the implicit myth of our side: that more material wealth will give us more fulfillment, that greater freedom to choose our own destinies will make it more likely that we'll end up in a destiny which we'll be happy with and find fulfilling. I think that both of these myths might have a bit of truth in them, and I find the latter myth -- the myth that freedom and prosperity are good -- more appealing than the rather scary myth that having one's destiny predetermined by one's society is more guaranteed to lead one to happiness than having all those pesky choices, but just because I like it more doesn't mean it's right.

Posted by: Julian Elson on October 20, 2003 06:23 AM

"what if I set up a site called www.divinerightoflabor.com, in which I protested that our society suffers from 'labor bias.' As evidence, I would cite the fact that workers can quit companies when they want, apply for whatever jobs they want, go on strike,"

Well I don't know what Mike would say but I might be tempted to point out that there is another powerful group in the market, with different interests than the labor group (as it is commonly understood) and with pretty evenly matched powers (even greater in some cases).

In the original article quoted it seemed that the balance to stockholders were employees, but that stockholders got all the good stuff and the employees got all the bad stuff, and I might expect you to better argue against that(which was a very small part of Mike's post, but which your analogy seemed to focus on - at least at first) rather than going off into some fantastic meditation on savage tribes of the strawmen era.

Posted by: bryan on October 20, 2003 06:47 AM

It's true, I wanted to focus on quining the premises of the pro-globalization (not the premises that globalization will lead to greater freedom and prosperity, but the premises that freedom and prosperity are more valuable than those things given up, at least in part, through globalization: identity and stability.) After all, if I wanted to answer every point that Mike copied off of his website of the day, I'd never make on-topic posts! If there's a part of the post I regret, it was responding to Mike's divinerightofcapital post, not my fantastic meditation on the tribes of the strawman era.

But still...

But still...

I suspect that in most corporations, employee compensation is a much bigger part of expenses than shareholder dividends. This is true, for one thing, in our national accounts, where labor income accounts for about 70-75% of the total national income (yes, yes, that does include CEOs who receive compensation packages that are in the tens of millions).

Employees are bad and stockholders are good, because stockholders don't have to go to the trouble of actually managing the company, merely owning it?

Well, a stockholder had to pay for her stock, right? That's money that could have been used for current consumption, or stashing in a FDIC insured bank, or anything, really. Of course, the fact that a sacrifice is being made does not alone entitle the stockholder to rewards, but by buying, she also invests in the economy. True, usually she buys from another stockholder, not a company, but in that case, she transfers her wealth to the other stockholder, who gives her the right to the company's profits.

Suppose that we had it another way: that no one could buy stock not issued directly by a company, directly investing in it, or sell stock to anyone except the company, buying back its own stock. Who would benefit from such a restriction? Why would it be more just?

As for the fact that labor is prevented from abusing its power through the countervailing force of capital, yes, I agree. Currently, the balance of power is tilted toward corporation, a situation which I think would best be rectified, probably through more extensive unionization and worker activism, and a political system less biased toward the wealthy. (how do we get there, practically? I don't know, but it doesn't sound less realistic to me than abolishing property rights!) However, leaving aside the specifics of the situation regarding the balance of power between workers and firms, one might make the same argument about capital, that there is already, as with labor, a countervailing force to balance its power out, so there's no need to implement the types of proposals as those seen on www.divinerightofcapital.com.

(Note: in case you misunderstood, my idea of www.divinerightoflabor.com was not a serious critique of labor's "excessive privilege" in our society. It was an attempted reductio ad absurdum of www.divinerightofcaptial.com and the arguments presented therein.)

Posted by: Julian Elson on October 20, 2003 08:10 AM

>"Mike, what if I set up a site called www.divinerightoflabor.com...

>Julian Elson at October 20, 2003 06:23 AM

Julian, the first thing I'd say is, "Knock yourself out. It's a free country."

The SECOND thing I'd say is:

Kelly isn't advocating 'abolishing property rights', Julian. Read the book. Do the math.

There's a 'slow train' coming, Julian. Better get yourself the hell out of the way....

Bob Dylan (1979)

Sometimes I feel so low-down and disgusted
Can't help but wonder what's happenin' to my companions,
Are they lost or are they found, have they counted the cost it'll take to bring
All their earthly principles they're gonna have to abandon?
There's a slow, slow train comin' up around the bend.

I had a woman down in Alabama,
She was a backwoods girl, but she sure was realistic,
She said, "Boy, without a doubt, have to quit your mess and straighten out,
You could die down here, be just another accident statistic."
There's a slow, slow train comin' up around the bend.

All that foreign oil controlling American soil,
Look around you, it's just bound to make you embarrassed.
Sheiks walkin' around like kings, wearing fancy jewels and nose rings,
Deciding America's future from Amsterdam to Paris
And there's a slow, slow train comin' up around the bend.

Man's ego is inflated, his laws are outdated, they don't apply no more,
You can't rely no more to be standin' around waitin'
In the home of the brave, Jefferson turnin' over in his grave,
Fools glorifying themselves, trying to manipulate Satan
And there's a slow, slow train comin' up around the bend.

Big-time negotiators, false healers and woman haters,
Masters of the bluff and masters of the proposition
But the enemy I see wears a cloak of decency,
All non-believers and men stealers talkin' in the name of religion
And there's a slow, slow train comin' up around the bend.

People starving and thirsting, grain elevators are bursting
Oh, you know it costs more to store the food than it do to give it.
They say lose your inhibitions, follow your own ambitions,
They talk about a life of brotherly love, show me someone who knows how to
live it. There's a slow, slow train comin' up around the bend.

Well, my baby went to Illinois with some bad-talkin' boy she could destroy
A real suicide case, but there was nothin' I could do to stop it,
I don't care about economy, I don't care about astronomy
But it sure do bother me to see my loved ones turning into puppets,
There's a slow, slow train comin' up around the bend.

Posted by: Mike on October 20, 2003 09:23 AM

Yeah, the Iowa corn/Mexican tariffs example is a pretty bad one. Oxfam International claims that that WTO definition doesn't classify grants to producers as an export subsidy, thus allowing American corn producers to dump below-production-cost corn on the Mexican market:


I'm not familiar with the details about corn exports, but American agricultural policy with regards to corn certainly involves huge, market-distorting price supports for corn growers.

Posted by: Steve on October 20, 2003 09:39 AM

There was a long discussion over on Daniel Davies site about how its really hard to see US farm subsidies as anything other than free money for the third world:


Posted by: Jason McCullough on October 20, 2003 10:15 AM

There are signs of changes of thinking from fairly prominent "anti-globalizers", who seem to be moving towards a position that "the only thing worse than the WTO is no WTO". As an example, see George Monbiot at

Posted by: Tom Slee on October 20, 2003 10:31 AM

Power to the people

The May Day demonstration, like those at Seattle and Quebec, is not about smashing capitalism, but about demanding a say in the future of the planet, says the architect of a growing New Protest movement

The globalisation debate - Observer special

Kevin Danaher
Sunday April 29, 2001
The Observer

When it comes to rebellion on the streets, I must confess a prejudice. In a pitched battle between children armed with banners and spray paint against highly trained police and military personnel with a large array of deadly weapons, I tend to side with the kids.
As a child, I was taught about an instance of property destruction known as the Boston Tea Party and it made a positive impression on me.

At recent street protests in Quebec and in the late-1999 Seattle protests against the World Trade Organisation, this 50-year-old was out on the streets with the young people. I was very impressed by their analysis, their courage, their creativity and their heartfelt desire to protect other species from the human onslaught.

Why would these young people be rebellious? Maybe it's due to things such as seeing the major biological systems of the planet collapsing while an oil company cowboy in the White House pulls the US government out of the mild Kyoto Accords because it might disrupt the profits of his benefactors. Contrary to media suggestion, the youth-led movement for global economic transformation is not 'anti-globalisation'.

There are really two varieties of globalisation: élite globalisation (which we oppose) and grassroots globalisation (which we promote). The top-down globalisation is characterised by a constant drive to maximise profits for globe-spanning corporations. It forces countries to 'open up' their national economies to large corporations, reduce social services, privatise state functions, deregulate the economy, be 'efficient' and competitive, and submit everything and everyone to the rule of 'market forces'. Because markets move resources only in the direction of those with money, social inequality has reached grotesque levels.

The United Nations Development Programme reports that the richest 20 per cent of the world's people account for 86 per cent of global consumption and the poorest 80 per cent of the world's population struggle to survive on just 14 per cent of total consumption spending. This is why tens of thousands of children die needlessly every day, because resources distributed by market forces automatically bypass the poor.

But there is another kind of globalisation that centres on life values: protecting human rights and the environment. Grassroots globalisation comprises many large and growing movements: the fair trade movement, micro-enterprise lending networks, the movement for social and ecological labelling, sister cities and sister schools, citizen diplomacy, trade union solidarity across borders, worker-owned co-ops, international family farm networks, and many others.

While these constituents of grassroots globalisation lack the money and government influence possessed by the corporations, they showed at the WTO protests in Seattle that they are able to mobilise enough people to halt the corporate agenda in its tracks, at least, temporarily.

There is a big question confronting us as we enter the twenty-first century, which is: will money values dominate life values or will the life cycle dominate the money cycle? The great spiritual leaders of all cultures have been clear that the best path in life does not consist of amassing material goods. Jesus used violence only once, against a specific occupation - not Roman soldiers or tax collectors - but bankers...


Posted by: Mike on October 20, 2003 10:42 AM

Maybe there is a little confusion over whether opposing NAFTA makes a anti-globalista or just an opportunist (hard to see hollywood workers truly as the former).
Why present Henwood's comments a week late and brush it off with a non-sequitur ?
Disparate participants don't discredit an opposition movement !
Henwood's analysis was offered three weeks after the meltdown and now this three weeks later ?
Sorry, but this looks like bait for d-squared. I hope nothing but the perch take it.

Posted by: self on October 20, 2003 01:50 PM

Note to self:

"Movements" are NOT the products (nor are they the "puppets") of ANY "bunch of special interests". Nor are "movements" necessarily (or even essentially) ECONOMIC in nature.

In fact, it is closer to the truth to say that a "movement" it a process that millions (or billions) of people USE to produce a "vision" that millions (or billions) of people CAN support...

Power to the people

Kevin Danaher
Sunday April 29, 2001
The Observer


"...Paul of Tarsus said: 'The love of money is the root of all evil.' Confucius said: 'The superior person knows what is right; the inferior person knows what will sell.' Even George Soros, the billionaire financier, admits: 'Markets basically are amoral.'

Here in the United States, large sections of the public are increasingly critical of corporate rule and its consequences. A recent business magazine survey revealed that 74 per cent of the public believe big corporations have too much power, and 73 per cent believe top executives get paid too much; 95 per cent of those polled agreed with the following statement: 'US corporations should have more than one purpose. They also owe something to their workers and the communities in which they operate, and they should sometimes sacrifice some profit for the sake of making things better for their workers and communities.'

Let's be clear about the 'free market'. It is an ideological construct that does not exist in reality. All the countries that successfully industrialised did so through state intervention, with government playing an active role in directing investment, managing trade and subsidising chosen sectors of the economy.

The temple of democracy has been taken over in recent decades by the transnational money-changers. Large corporations dominate national governments and they dominate the secret global government (the World Trade Organisation, World Bank, International Monetary Fund etc) that is being constructed behind the backs of citizens. This explains why the rulers need to hide their rule-making procedures: if less than 1 per cent of the population (millionaire corporate lawyers) monopolise the rule-making process, they can't let the public know the details.

Would the policies of these global bodies be kept so secret if they were really in the public interest. Wouldn't the corporate lawyers want to debate openly with us opponents of corporate globalisation and prove their claims that we don't know what we're talking about? Yet getting these global financial bodies to debate in public is like pulling teeth.

We are now experiencing 'a constitutional moment'. Corporate interests are writing a global constitution that elevates corporate profit-making above the rights of citizens to protect their jobs and the environment. Whether the rule-making takes place in the WTO, the IMF or in planning the coming free-trade area of the Americas, the only people with a seat at the table represent transnational corporate interests.

If workers, small businesses, non-profit groups and environmentalists are not represented when the rules get written, then their interests will be subordinated to those of corporate profit-making. Look around and you will see mounting symptoms. The world economy produces more food per capita than ever before, yet we have more hungry people than ever before.

The environmental crisis is evident in eroding topsoil, poisoned ground water, melting glaciers, receding icecaps at the poles, a depleted ozone layer, the build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and unsustainable patterns of resource consumption. In turn, these crises are producing a moral crisis in which the affluent avert their eyes and pretend there is no crisis.

In the cities of rich countries around the world, in Seattle, Quebec, London, protesters rage against an economy that turns every living thing into dead money. These protests are the beginning of a movement that puts love of life above love of money. If it is true that 'nature always bats last', then the world view that seeks to ride with nature will outlast the world view that seeks to dominate it and turn it into money.


Posted by: Mike on October 20, 2003 04:05 PM

What is it with this thread and people putting stuff in quotes?

Posted by: Jason McCullough on October 20, 2003 05:13 PM

"Hollywood workers who objected because NAFTA did not prohibit the Canadian government from subsidizing Canadian culture. "

So, Hollywood productions starring American actors shot in Toronto and carefully blocking all the streetsigns and scenery so that they can pretend it's New York or Chicago is "Canadian Culture"?

God, no wonder all Canadians can ever talk about is their health care system - they really have nothing else, do they?

Posted by: jimbo on October 20, 2003 07:25 PM
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