"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>Chapter Seven: Participatory World
This is the chapter seven of Occupy Vision, which is the second volume of the three volume set titled Fanfare for the Future. You can find out more about Occupy Theory, Occupy Vision, and Occupy Strategy, as well as how to purchase the books in print or for ebook reading, at Z's book page for them – which is at:
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"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>Section One: Internationalism
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”> line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>"War does not determine who is right, only who is left."
- Bertrand Russell line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”> "Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek but a means by which we arrive at that goal."
- Martin Luther King Jr.
What do anti-globalization activists propose to put in place instead of the institutions of capitalist globalization, including, most prominently, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization?
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank were established after World War II. The IMF was meant to provide means to combat financial disruptions adversely impacting countries and people around the world. It initially used negotiation and pressure to stabilize currencies and to help countries avoid economy-disrupting financial machinations and confusion.
The World Bank was meant to facilitate long-term investment in underdeveloped countries and to expand and strengthen their economies. It was set up to lend major investment money at low interest rates to correct for the lack of local capacity.
Within then-existing market relations, these limited IMF and World Bank goals were progressive. Over time, however, and accelerating dramatically in the 1980s, the agenda of these institutions changed. Instead of facilitating stable exchange rates and helping countries protect themselves against financial fluctuations, the IMF began bashing any and all obstacles to capital flow and unfettered profit seeking, despite being the opposite of its mandate.
Instead of facilitating investment on behalf of local poor economies, the World Bank became a tool of the IMF, providing and withholding loans as carrot or stick to compel open corporate access. It financed projects not with an eye to accruing benefits for the recipient country, but with far more attention to accruing benefits to major multinationals.
In addition, the World Trade Organization (WTO) that was first proposed in the early postwar period actually came into being only decades later, in the mid 1990s. Its agenda became to regulate trade on behalf of ever-greater advantages for the already rich and powerful.
Beyond imposing on third world countries low wages and high pollution, the idea emerged that the rich could also weaken all governments and agencies that might defend workers, consumers, or the environment – not only in the third world, but everywhere. Why not, wondered the truly powerful, remove any efforts to limit trade due to the implications of labor, ecology, social or cultural, or developmental – leaving as the only legal criteria of trade’s regulation whether there are immediate, short-term profits to be made? If national or local laws impede trade – say an environmental, health, or labor law – why not have a new organization of world trade to adjudicate disputes and render an entirely predictable pro-corporate verdict in all cases? The WTO was thus added to the IMF/World Bank team to trump governments and populations on behalf of corporate profits.
The full story about these three centrally important global institutions is longer than this brief synopsis can present, but improvements are not hard to conceive.
First, why not have – instead of the IMF, the World Bank, and the WTO – an International Asset Agency, a Global Investment Assistance Agency, and a World Trade Agency. These three new (not merely reformed) institutions would work to attain equity, solidarity, diversity, self-management, and ecological balance in international financial exchange, investment, development, trade, and cultural exchange.
They would try to ensure that the benefits of trade and investments accrue disproportionately to the weaker and poorer parties involved, not to the already rich and more powerful.
They would not prioritize commercial considerations over all other values, but would prioritize national aims, cultural identity, and equitable development.
They would not require domestic laws, rules, and regulations designed to further worker, consumer, environmental, health, safety, human rights, animal protection – or other non-profit centered interests – be reduced or eliminated, but they would work to enhance all these, rewarding those who attain such aims most successfully.
They would not undermine democracy by shrinking the choices available to democratically controlled governments, but would work to subordinate the desires of multinationals and large economies to the survival, growth, and diversification of smaller units.
They would not promote global trade at the expense of local economic development and policies, but vice versa.
They would not force Third World countries to open their markets to rich multinationals and abandon efforts to protect infant domestic industries, but would facilitate the reverse.
They would not block countries from acting in response to potential risks to human health or the environment, but would help identify health, environmental, and other risks, and assist countries in guarding against their ill effects.
Instead of downgrading international health, environmental, and other standards to a low level through a process called “downward harmonization,” they would work to upgrade standards by means of a new “upward equalization.”
The new institutions would not limit governments’ ability to use their purchasing dollars for human rights, environmental, worker rights, and other non-commercial purposes, but would advise and facilitate doing just that.
They would not disallow countries to treat products differently based on how they were produced – irrespective of whether they were made with brutalized child labor, with workers exposed to toxins, or with no regard for species protection – but would instead facilitate just such differentiations.
Instead of bankers and bureaucrats carrying out policies of presidents to affect the lives of the very many, these new institutions would be open, democratic, transparent, participatory, and bottom up, with local, popular, and democratic accountability.
These new institutions would promote and organize international cooperation to restrain out-of-control global corporations, capital, and markets by regulating them so people in local communities could control their own economic lives.
They would promote trade that reduces the threat of financial volatility and meltdown, expands democracy at every level from the local to the global, defends and enriches human rights for all people, respects and fosters environmental sustainability worldwide, and facilitates economic advancement of the most oppressed and exploited groups.
They would encourage domestic economic growth and development, not domestic austerity in the interest of export-led growth.
They would encourage the major industrial countries to coordinate their economic policies, currency exchange rates, and short-term capital flows in the public interest.
They would establish standards for the regulation of financial institutions by national and international regulatory authorities, encouraging the shift of financial resources from speculation to useful and sustainable development.
They would establish taxes on foreign currency transactions to reduce destabilizing, short-term, cross-border financial flows and to provide pools of funds for investment in long-term environmentally and socially sustainable development in poor communities and countries.
They would create public international investment funds to meet human and environmental needs and ensure adequate global demand by channeling funds into sustainable long-term investment.
And they would develop international institutions to perform functions of monetary regulation inadequately performed by national central banks, such as a system of internationally coordinated minimum reserve requirements on the consolidated global balance sheets of all financial firms.
These new institutions would also work to get wealthy countries to write off the debts of impoverished countries and to create a permanent insolvency mechanism for adjusting debts of highly indebted nations.
They would use regulatory institutions to help establish public control and citizen sovereignty over global corporations and to curtail corporate evasion of local, state, and national law, such as by establishing a binding Code of Conduct for Transnational Corporations that includes regulation of labor, environmental, investment, and social behavior.
Beyond all the above, anti-globalization activists also advocate a recognition that international relations should not derive from centralized but rather from bottom-up institutions. The structures mentioned above should gain their credibility and power from an array of arrangements, structures, and ties enacted at the level of citizens, neighborhoods, states, nations and groups of nations on which they rest. And these more grassroots structures, alliances, and bodies defining debate and setting agendas should, like the three described earlier, also be transparent, participatory and democratic, and guided by a mandate that prioritizes equity, solidarity, diversity, self-management, and ecological sustainability and balance.
The overall idea is simple. The problem isn’t international relations, per se. Anti-corporate globalization activists are, in fact, internationalist. The problem is that capitalist globalization alters international relations to further benefit the rich and powerful.
In contrast, activists want to alter relations to relatively weaken the rich and powerful and empower and improve the conditions of the poor and weak. Anti-corporate globalization activists know what we want internationally – global justice in place of capitalist globalization. But there is still a vision problem for anti-globalization activists, even after we describe alternative global economic institutions. Everyone knows that international norms and structures don’t drop from the sky. Once in existence they impose severe constraints on domestic arrangements and choices, but global relations sit on top of, and are propelled and enforced by, the dictates of domestic economies and institutions.
The IMF, World Bank, and WTO impose capitalist institutions such as markets and corporations on countries around the world, of course. But the existence of markets and corporations in countries around the world likewise propels capitalist globalization.
So when anti-globalization activists offer a vision for a people-serving and democracy-enhancing internationalism in place of capitalist globalization, we are proposing to place a very good International Asset Agency, Global Investment Assistance Agency, and Global Trade Agency – plus a foundation of more grassroots democratic and transparent institutions – on top of the very bad domestic economies we currently endure. The problem is that the persisting domestic structures inside our countries would continually work against the new international structures we construct on top of them. Persisting corporations and multinationals would not positively augment and enforce our preferred new international structures, but would, at best, temporarily succumb to pressures to install them and then perpetually exert pressures to return to their more rapacious ways.
So when people ask anti-globalization activists “what are you for?” They actually aren’t asking only what are we for internationally. They also mean, what are we for in place of capitalism?
If we have capitalism, they reason, there will inevitably be tremendous pressures for capitalist globalization and against anti-capitalist innovations. The new IAA, GIAA, and GTA sound nice, but even if we put them in place, the domestic economies of countries around the world would push to undo them.
Capitalist globalization is, after all, domestic markets, corporations, and class structure on a large scale. To really replace capitalist globalization and not just mitigate its effects, we would have to replace capitalism, too. Reducing or ameliorating corporate globalization via the proposed new international institutions shouldn’t be an end in itself, but should be part of a larger project to transform the underlying root capitalist structures as well.
If we have no alternative to markets and corporations, many feel, our gains would be temporary. This assessment is widely held and fuels the reactionary slogan that “there is no alternative.”
To combat this mentality and underlying reality we need an alternative vision regarding international agencies and global economics, such as the proposed new institutions discussed above, but also an alternative vision regarding markets, corporations, and domestic economies, which is, of course, participatory economics.
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>Section Two: Looking Outward
Parsoc and International Relationsline-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>"I do not want the peace which passeth understanding,
I want the understanding which bringeth peace."
- Helen Keller? line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>"You may encounter many defeats, ?but you must not be defeated."
- Maya Angeliou