Draft of an Alternative Program for the Global Economy
[Note: This is based on the authors' new book GLOBALIZATION FROM BELOW: THE POWER OF SOLIDARITY (Cambridge: South End Press, 2000. http://www.southendpress.org/ 800/533-8478.
Visit the authors' web site at www.villageorpillage.org]
on the Battle of Seattle, Newsweek wrote, "One of the most important
lessons of Seattle is that there are now two visions of globalization on offer,
one led by commerce, one by social activism." Globalization from below's
vision has been articulated in scores of international statements and above all
in the movement's own actions. The following summary is designed to provide a
win-win framework for the many constituencies converging into globalization from
below, providing ways that their needs, concerns, and interests can be
complementary rather than contradictory.
Level labor, environmental, social, and human rights conditions upward.
Globalization from above is creating a race to the bottom, an economic war of
all against all in which each workforce, community, and country is forced to
compete by offering lower labor, social, environmental, and human rights
conditions. The result is impoverishment, inequality, volatility, degradation of
democracy, and environmental destruction. Halting the race to the bottom
requires raising labor, environmental, social, and human rights conditions for
those at the bottom. Such upward leveling can start with specific struggles to
raise conditions for those who are being driven downward. Ultimately, minimum
environmental, labor, social, and human rights standards must be incorporated in
national and international law. Such standards protect communities and countries
from the pressure to compete by sacrificing their rights and environment. Rising
conditions for those at the bottom can also expand employment and markets and
generate a virtuous circle of economic growth.
Democratize institutions at every level from local to global. Globalization from
above has restricted the power of self-government for people all over the world.
At the heart of globalization from below lies democratization—making
institutions accountable to those they affect.
Make decisions as close as possible to those they affect. The movement for
globalization from below should aim to construct a multilevel global economy. In
accordance with the subsidiarity principle, power and initiative should be
concentrated at as low a level as possible, with higher-level regulation
established where and only where necessary. This approach envisions relatively
self-reliant, self-governing communities, states, provinces, countries, and
regions, with global regulation only sufficient to protect the environment,
redistribute resources, block the race to the bottom, and perform other
Equalize global wealth and power. The current gap between the global rich and
poor is unacceptable; it is unconscionable to act as if it can be a permanent
feature of the global economy. It is equally unacceptable to assume that the
rich countries of the world can call all the shots regarding the global
economy's future. Policy at every level should prioritize economic advancement
of the most oppressed and exploited people, including women, immigrants, racial
and ethnic minorities, and indigenous peoples. It should increase power,
capability, resources, and income for those at the bottom.
Convert the global economy to environmental sustainability. The world is in the
midst of a global environmental catastrophe. Ill-conceived economic activity is
disrupting the basic balances of climate and ecology on which human life
depends. Globalization is rapidly accelerating that ongoing catastrophe. The
sources of environmental destruction lie primarily in the wrongly developed
countries of the North and in the activities of global corporations in the
South. The only way to reverse this catastrophe is to halt the present dynamic
of globalization and meet human needs by technologies and social practices that
progressively reduce the negative impact of the economy on the environment.
Create prosperity by meeting human and environmental needs. Today, an estimated
1 billion people are unemployed. Millions are forced to leave rural areas and
migrate to cities or around the world seeking work. Meanwhile, the world's
vast need for goods and services to alleviate poverty and to reconstruct society
on an environmentally sustainable basis goes unmet. A goal of economic policy at
every level must be to create a new kind of full employment based on meeting
Protect against global boom and bust. The era of globalization has been an era
of volatility. Its repeated crises have destroyed local and national economies
overnight and driven hundreds of millions of people into poverty. An unregulated
global economy has led to huge flows of speculative funds that can swamp
national economies. No one country can control these forces on its own. Yet
neoliberal economics and the major economic powers have resisted any changes
that might restrict the freedom of capital. Economic security for ordinary
people requires just such restrictions.