The Debate Over Institutional Values
few lingering thoughts on the whole WTO event: WTO supporters, which includes
Clinton and his "liberal" media, say they are for freedom. Front-line
and armchair protesters - not to be confused with the handful of vandals that
destroyed property - say they're for freedom too. The crucial question is:
freedom for whom? If you look at how the WTO operates, you will see that it
stands for corporate license; autonomy for affluent consumers and permission for
the wealthy to levy the heavy social costs of "development" and
"globalization" on the shoulders of those least able to afford it.
and progress are not necessarily synonymous. And there's a qualitative
difference between democratic freedom - the primary concern of WTO skeptics -
and the market freedom being touted by business and thought-leaders.
freedom is the liberty of a people to have a genuine say-so in the social
decision-making process; to allow for individual creative potential to flourish
within various cultures clothes, Disney products or Zenith television sets. Why
are those who make the important distinction between market freedom and
democratic freedom ridiculed by the "liberal" media?
Boston Globe called the demonstrators "Senseless in Seattle." Those
who question the unaccountable power of the corporate-managerial class are
either stupid or violently uncivilized, or both. In condescending tones, I've
heard WTO cheerleaders try to explain David Ricardo's notion of
"comparative advantage" in free-trade, failing to note that since
capital is now mobile and labor is not, the central premise of Ricardo's
argument crumbles. They refer to "evidence" that purports to show that
"free markets" increase "living standards," as if the GDP is
actually an accurate measure of well-being; as if we've ever had a real
free-market. These neo-free-traders use words like "efficiency" and
"specialization," scrupulously avoiding ethical questions like: why
should efficiency be our foremost social value?
while they seek to impose upon the entire globe this value of
efficiency-no-matter-the-social-cost, with a straight-face, they talk about how
wrong it is to impose our "higher values" on other nations, as if
workers everywhere aren't opposed to child-labor, sweatshops, low-wages,
polluted air, unhealthy water and plunder. And they go on and on ad naseum about
The Institute for Food and Development Policy notes that "whenever a larger
economy is created, new economies of scale come into play. Large transnational
companies who use automated mass production technology to produce goods at low
per unit costs, flood local markets at prices that small, national companies
using labor intensive production practices cannot compete with.
witnessed in Mexico under NAFTA, these smaller companies go out of business and
hundreds of thousands of people are laid off as new high tech factories hire far
fewer workers. One result is fewer jobs are needed to manufacture the same
quantity of goods....Profits shift from nationally-owned companies, which tend
to re-invest locally, to transnational companies based in distant nations, who
rarely re-invest in the affected country."
top 200 global corporations employ one-half of one-percent of the global work
force. So this isn't about trade. It's about deregulated international commerce.
It's about erasing national and cultural boundaries and knocking down
"trade barriers" that prevent corporations from exploiting cheap labor
in order to produce as much as possible for as little cost as possible (ignoring
huge "externalities"), and to sell as many "goods" as
possible to as many affluent consumers as possible.
of jobs and labor standards, wasn't there full employment during slavery? More
the point, those organizing to improve living standards and work conditions in
most of these developing countries, run the risk of being repressed, tortured
and murdered by state-sponsored military thugs, principally supplied by the U.S.
"defense" industry and trained at places like the School of the
Americas. Doesn't this play an indispensable role in keeping labor cheap - the
cheap labor that giant corporations are drawn too, according to the
"laws" of the market?