Draft of an Alternative Program for the Global Economy

Jeremy Brecher, Tim Costello, and Brendan Smith


This is based on the authors’ new book GLOBALIZATION FROM BELOW: THE POWER

OF SOLIDARITY (Cambridge: South End Press, 2000. http://www.southendpress.org/


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

essential functions.


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

those needs.


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.


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