This weekend, as we celebrate the anniversary of our country's birth, we should also consider the effects of globalization on democracy.
Mark Richie, of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, defines globalization as the process, currently proceeding at breakneck speed, which allows corporations to freely move their money, factories and products around the planet. These corporations search for cheaper labor and raw materials, wealthier markets and governments willing to ignore, or abandon, consumer, labor and environmental-protection laws. As an ideology, globalization is largely unfettered by patriotism or by ethical or moral considerations. Simply put, it is the process by which corporations intend to rule the world.
Globalization is pursued with near religious zeal by its true believers who are mostly top-level corporate managers (and their political and PR lackeys). They believe that to maximize their growth and financial returns, all barriers to trade must be removed. Local decision-making, for example, becomes a barrier. Although globalization's supporters believe that it is inevitable, they spend lots of money to lobby Congress in support of GATT, NAFTA, the WTO, "Fast Track" authority and other tools of globalization.
The main purpose of these tools is to provide corporations almost complete freedom, without allegiance to anything other than higher profits. Decisions that were once made democratically in this country are now made by global bodies comprised of corporate representatives and unelected bureaucrats. One dear price of corporate freedom is our loss of control over critical environmental, social and economic issues.
Globalization's proponents believe that it makes sense for us to get our fruit from Chile and Indonesia, our clothes from Bangladesh and Vietnam and our toys from China and Korea, for example.
Events as seemingly unrelated to each other as the Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas, Mexico and the auto worker strikes in France and Flint, Michigan are the early reactions of ordinary people to the pain of globalization. Even a true believer, such as the dean of the Yale School of Organization and Management writes that the globalization process will be "brutal." And, he's talking to the elite. Resource depletion, climate change, and environmental destruction are also results of globalization's quest for ever more growth.
Supporters tend to paint all its opponents as isolationists. This is a classic straw man - a weak argument put forth to gain an easy, showy victory.
Mr. Ritchie provides a more wholesome alternative - globalism. He defines globalism as, "the belief that we share one fragile planet the survival of which requires mutual respect and careful treatment of the earth and of all its people. Globalism, like all values and ethical beliefs, requires active practice in our day-to-day lives. Communications to foster understanding, sharing of needed resources on the basis of equity and sustainability, and mutual aid in times of need are three central features of activities that undergird globalism."
Over two hundred years ago, the Boston Tea Party was a pivotal event in our road to freedom. Angry colonists dumped chests of tea into Boston Harbor. The English Parliament had granted exclusive distribution rights for the tea from England's overflowing warehouses to the East India Company, an early transnational corporation, which was going to land those chests by force. The tea was so cheap that many merchants here would be put out of business by that global corporation.
Limiting the power of corporations and the collusion between corporations and government were very important to the founders of this country. But, gradually, with the immortal patience of the corporate structure, these entities have assumed the status of wealthy supercitizens in this country, influencing government much more than private citizens can.
The most revolutionary thing we can do this July Fourth is to become more firmly local. We can learn how to live in this region, using its resources to supply our needs. Shop, invest and produce locally. Your garden is a great place to start.
Happy Fourth of July
This is Bill Duesing, Living on the Earth
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