Friday, November 22, 2013

The Privatization of the World

Each day brings fresh revelations of aberrant human behavior on the part of the 1%, followed by on-line petitions, demonstrations and appeals to intelligence or good conscience. At some point, activists must come to the realization that their actions cannot bring meaningful results because the behaviors they wish to correct are not exceptions but part of an overarching new normal.
Take for example the intensive lobbying on the part of American private prison companies to increase sentences for non-violent crimes.  The privatization of activities that were hitherto the purview of government, or were regulated by government, or were at least required to conform to national or international laws, are part of a massive, coordinated, plan to harness all human activity for the benefit of a few. Governments to whom petitions are addressed provide merely a semblance of control. 

The twentieth century saw the birth of fascism, an extreme form of capitalism in which the state is allied with a corporate oligarchy.  Hitler and Mussolini were defeated in World War II, but having discovered the goose that lays the golden egg, i.e., state-sponsored private enterprise, corporations have become so powerful that they no longer need a dictator to protect their activities. What President Eisenhower dubbed the military/industrial complex is now a many-headed hydra. Under the Reagan administration, it added finance, then George Bush continued Richard Nixon’s attack on legality by inventing the ‘unitary executive’; finally, under law professor Barack Obama the Imperial Presidency morphed into 21st century fascism, whose aim far outstrips that of Hitler’s crowd. They merely wanted to ‘rule’ the world: the one percent would privatize all activity in every conceivable area of human endeavor across the entire planet for profit.

The impossibility of achieving this through military means  was clear almost as soon as Saddam Hussein’s statue was toppled, so while coping as best they could with the Pandora’s box of occupation, the Neo-Cons launched the Tea-Party to disrupt government at home, while crafting a diabolical plan to pimp the world using seemingly peaceful means. We’ll probably never know whether the 2008 financial debacle was a conspiracy, but one thing is certain: it created economic mayhem in our closest economic rival, Europe, which also offered its workers benefits that Americans might someday demand for themselves. Forced to implement ever greater austerity measures that have turned the welfare state upside down, stocking popular revolt, governments were finally offered a way out: their signatures on overarching treaties with the United States that would put paid to solidarity. The one intended to harness the Pacific community to America’s aims is called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the one that will discipline Europe is the Trans-Atlantic Free trade Agreement (TAFTA). Drafted with major inputs from transnational corporations, they spell out the means by which the goals of the international 1% are to be implemented.

As I wrote in The Fatal Loneliness of American  Exceptionalism, “for centuries, the Atlantic and Pacific oceans kept the United States isolated from the give and take between neighbors on other continents. America remained alone and proud of it, interacting with other nations only to ensure that they served our needs, bought our products and agreed with our definition of freedom.“ Now, as the BRICS countries, led by China and Russia, increasingly threaten America’s lone superpower status,  it has codified these obligations.

Here are some slightly edited excerpts from an October paper on TAFTA by Global Research:
“There is growing concern that the negotiations could open Europe’s floodgates to GMOs and shale gas (fracking),  threaten digital and labor rights and empower corporations to legally challenge a wide range of regula-tions which they dislike.
Recognition by the EU and the US of each others’ rules and regulations could reduce regulation to the lowest common denominator. The US wants all so-called barriers to trade, including controversial regulations protecting agriculture, food and data privacy, to be removed. The leaders of the Senate Finance Committee, in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, made it clear that any agreement must reduce EU restrictions on genetically modified crops, chlorinated chickens and hormone-treated beef.
The European public does not want these things. Europeans want powerful corporations to be held to account and their practices regulated by elected representatives whom they trust to protect the public good. Under pretext of a legally binding treaty, TAFTA (would allow) corporations to impose unpopular and dangerous policies rejected by the democratic process.
Corporate demands include an ambitious liberalization of agricultural trade barriers with as few exceptions as possible. The lobbying group Food and Drink Europe, representing the largest food companies, Unilever, Kraft, NestlĂ©, etc. supported by feed and grain giants Cargill, Bunge, ADM, the agribusiness lobby COPA-COGECA, and the biotech industry on both sides of the Atlantic, are pushing for acceptance of low levels of unapproved genetically modified crops.  
The report also warns that the agreement could open the floodgates to multi-million Euro lawsuits from corporations who could challenge a country’s laws if they affect their bottom line. 
According to Pia Eberhardt, trade campaigner with Corporate Europe Observatory and author of A Transatlantic Corporate Bill of Rights :
“The proposed investor rights show what the transatlantic trade deal is really about: It’s a power grab by corporations to rein in democracy and handcuff governments that seek to regulate in the public interest. It’s only a matter of time before European citizens start paying the price in higher taxes and diminished social protection.
“Where is the democracy surrounding this proposed TAFTA? Where is ordinary people’s protection from the ‘free’ market corporate-financial cabals that ultimately drive global economic policy and geo-political strategies? TAFTA is little more than a corporate power grab that pretends to promote growth, freedom, harmony and job creation.”
And French political activist Michel Collon adds:
“Under the treaty it would be illegal to tax financial trans-actions, prevent banks from speculating with depositors’ money, limit the size of companies, regulate imports and exports of oil and natural gas in order the protect the environment. Government power over education, health and public services would be curtailed, Big Pharma would be able to block generic drugs, internet providers could legally spy on us, trash content and even deprive us of access.”
As part of a worldwide plan, these agreements are not only detrimental to American workers. Unfortunately, even independent news sources cannot bring themselves to tell them that their foreign counterparts are in the same leaky boat as they are, therefore depriving them of jobs will not be a solution. As environmental threats pile onto economic uncertainty, it is more important than ever for Americans to widen their access to news: France 24 gives daily, detailed coverage of events in Europe, Africa and the Far East, while RT devotes considerable air-time to under-reported American news, international finance, the BRICS countries, and Latin America. Together they reveal the rich tapestry of a world that Americans only hear about when their leaders decide they ‘require’ intervention, but whose reality informs what happens to them.  
In 2000, the Andean peasants of Bolivia successfully defeated attempts by international water companies to tax their life-giving resource, ultimately bringing Evo Morales to the presidency. The question now is whether together, the citizens of the world, coming from widely different cultures and political traditions, will be able to defeat the ultimate threat to freedom and solidarity: the total privatization of their lives for profit.  The first step is to resist the temptation to focus on individual aberrations. This drains energy from the one big fight that determines all the rest: that against the international military/industrial/financial complex.  
Americans need to realize that on-line petitions are mere irritants to the system - the externalities of doing business. Recent revolts in places as different as Turkey and Brazil against the consumer society indicate a much greater level of awareness of what is at stake than exists currently in the United States. Americans are still divided over a health care reform that is still far from universal coverage, while the rest of the world considers it an aberration for education and health to be privatized.  This dichotomy shows that the best investment American activists can make of their time and efforts is to join with their counterparts in Europe and Asia to scuttle TAFTA and TPP.  If implemented, these two treaties will form the legal and structural basis for even more aberrant power behavior in every area of human life, therefore priority should be given to defeating them, rather than opposing  the individual ways in which the power structure sells humanity down the river.