- Capitalism and Alternatives -


Posted by: bill on December 14, 1999 at 10:36:15:

Following are some paragraphs from the latest Rachel's Weekly. One of the better columns I've read.


"...No one can stop globalization from happening. However,
governments could take many steps to reduce the harmful
consequences for human societies.[3] Unfortunately the people who
created the WTO are ideologically opposed to any government
involvement. They have their own utopian vision, a globalized
economy unencumbered by government restrictions -- global free
trade. Economists have a name for such an economy: LAISSEZ FAIRE.
In a LAISSEZ FAIRE economy, the owners of capital are free to
make all the important decisions -- they decide what to make, how
to make it, where to get the raw materials, whom to employ (under
what conditions and at what wages), and where to sell their
products or services. In a LAISSEZ FAIRE economy, the role of
government is limited to enforcing property rights, assuring a
stable currency, providing a system of justice for resolving
disputes, and maintaining a military apparatus to enforce civil
and international peace.

Government has one other key role in a LAISSEZ FAIRE economy: to
maintain such an economy, government must relentlessly thwart
democratic tendencies among the governed. (For example, When
President Reagan destroyed the Air Traffic Controllers union in
1981, he was using the powers of government to bolster a wannabe
LAISSEZ FAIRE regime.) If governments don't relentlessly oppose
democratic tendencies, people will soon direct their government
to (for example) limit the length of the workday, guarantee their
right to form a trade union, insist that everyone deserves health
care, and set minimum wages, all of which doom laissez faire.
This is why laissez faire economies are incompatible with
political democracy: laissez faire economies do not arise
spontaneously and can only be sustained if the state aggressively
suppresses democratic tendencies.

In sum, the WTO isn't mainly about trade. It is mainly about
establishing the kind of economy, worldwide, in which the owning
class gets to make all important decisions without interference
from governments or from anyone else. Today the key institution
of the owning class is the corporation, so the aim of the WTO is
to ensure that corporations are empowered to make all the
important decisions without interference.

To put it another way, the main work of the WTO isn't promoting
world trade -- it is getting rid of rules made by governments,
rules that restrict the freedom of corporations to make decisions
affecting production and labor. Government rules are described as
"restrictions on trade" but this "trade" language is a euphemism
for "restrictions on corporate freedom." To summarize, then, the
WTO isn't chiefly concerned with trade -- it is chiefly concerned
with "Who gets to decide?" When governments are weakened,
corporations are strengthened. The WTO was set up to weaken


And a further tid-bit -

"The EU agreed to buy 8% of all its bananas from Caribbean
countries. These banana sales are crucial to the economies of
some of the Caribbean nations involved. For example, in the
Windward Island nations of St. Lucia, Dominica, St. Vincent and
the Grenadines, 94% of all banana exports go to the EU and
bananas account for 63% to 91% of all export earnings. Caribbean
bananas are grown on small family farms set on hilly terrain, so
they are more costly than bananas grown by low-wage labor on huge
Central American plantations.

The Chiquita company -- a U.S. firm which produces no bananas in
the U.S. but employs thousands of people at rock-bottom wages on
plantations in Colombia, Costa Rica, Honduras and Panama --
supplies 50% of the EU's banana imports each year. But Chiquita
wanted even more market share, so the corporation donated
$500,000 to the U.S. Democratic Party. A few days later the
Clinton/Gore administration filed a complaint with the WTO on
behalf of Chiquita.

St. Lucia and St. Vincent did not have local experts they could
send to Geneva, Switzerland to argue their case before the WTO,
so they hired outside counsel to represent them. The WTO ruled
that only official government representatives -- not hired
experts -- could appear before WTO tribunals. So St. Lucia and
St. Vincent were unrepresented in the WTO proceedings.

To no one's surprise, the WTO ruled in favor of the U.S. The EU
initially refused to comply with the WTO ruling, insisting it had
a right and a moral duty to aid its former colonies by providing
a market for their bananas.

Chiquita then donated $350,000 to the Republican Party and the
Republican-dominated Congress prepared legislation to impose
tariffs on goods imported from the EU as punishment for refusing
to comply with the WTO's ruling. Not to be outdone by the
Republicans in currying favor with corporations, the Clinton/-
Gore administration then pressured the EU into revoking its
Lome Convention preferences for Caribbean bananas.


As usual - profits over people. With sustenance from banannas gone - care to bet which crop will be cultivated?

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