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For any unconvinced that demonstrations
February 5, 2002 8:01 AM   Subscribe

For any unconvinced that demonstrations against corporate greed are called for, take a look at this documentary about a section of NAFTA which allows corporations to sue governments (in private tribunals) for having laws which get in the way of their profits. One current example is a canadian company suing the US gov't for an environmental law which bans their product.
posted by mdn (50 comments total)

 
This has been discussed on MeFi previously.
posted by revbrian at 8:16 AM on February 5, 2002


Sorry about that! Posted when I should have previewed. The comments are here & here.
posted by revbrian at 8:22 AM on February 5, 2002


The only people that would be convinced by such a patently lopsided view are those who don't need any further convincing. What I notice about all three links is that while they all contain "further resources", and many links to other views of the same opinions ... not a single one of them actually contains a link to the NAFTA itself. They apparently would much rather you simply accept their interpretations of it without bothering yourself with the actual document ... which containbs some interesting points. For instance, from the evil Chapter 11:

Article 1114: Environmental Measures

1. Nothing in this Chapter shall be construed to prevent a
Party from adopting, maintaining, or enforcing any measure, otherwise consistent with this Chapter, that it considers appropriate to ensure that investment activity in its territory is undertaken in a manner sensitive to environmental concerns.


Countries can maintain their own environmental standards.

"2. The Parties recognize that it is inappropriate to encourage investment by relaxing domestic health, safety or environmental measures. Accordingly, a Party should not waive or otherwise derogate from, or offer to waive or otherwise derogate from, such measures as an encouragement for the establishment, acquisition,
expansion, or retention in its territory of an investment of an investor. If a Party considers that another Party has offered such an encouragement, it may request consultations with the other Party and the two Parties shall consult with a view to avoiding any such encouragement."


Not only that, countries are not allowed to compete for an investment by lowering their environmental standards to be more competitive.

International trade is always a balance between various factors. Countries do want the ability, for instance, to set environmental standards. By the same token, they understand that environmental standards can be used as a means of anti-competitive behavior. In general, what you'll see (if, that is, you actually read the NAFTA) is that most provisions do not say a country must lower standards - either labor or environmental - but rather that whatever standards are applied must be applied equally to all parties of the agreement.

Then again, I'm probably just about as evil as it's possible to get. My wife helped author parts of the NAFTA.
posted by MidasMulligan at 8:47 AM on February 5, 2002


I also think profits are bad. I mean, why would we want to give companies an incentive to innovate, or to provide new and better quality products? I prefer NO profits, so that we can all live like refugees, in tiny grass huts with nothing but the clothes on our backs.

No matter that it is only the WEALTHY nations which are actually concerned with things like quality of environment (clean air and water, the most important environmental issues). The countries without profitable corporations (read: Third World) are too busy trying not to starve to actually be concerned about the environment.
posted by insomnyuk at 8:52 AM on February 5, 2002


MM, does she know charlene? :)
posted by kliuless at 8:53 AM on February 5, 2002


So tell us, Midas, what happens when British Columbia privatizes its automobile insurance company. The public is going to see the re-introduction of price based on age, instead of driving skill (ie. young males will be paying through the nose, even if they've never been at fault); and we're going to see the elimination of co-operative road improvements (ICBC currently helps fund improvements to high-accident intersections and stretches of road).

It's easy enough to imagine that our political compass is going to swing back to a more socially-responsible party, which would then want to re-instate public automobile insurance.

Will that be allowed under NAFTA? I don't think so.

What about the privatization of BC Hydroelectricity? Once BC Hydro is no longer mandated to provide electricity to this province's citizens at a commission-controlled price, how are we going to reclaim that right? Under NAFTA, I believe we're screwed to the wall: once we give it up, we ain't *ever* getting it back.

What about the privatization of our health care system? Once we start using an American HMO model -- a heathcare system that is, on a per-capita basis, more expensive than even Canada's currently inefficient social healthcare system! -- will we ever be able to turn back the clock?

Nope.

NAFTA is going to fuck over Canada. All that we've worked for over the past hundred years, in the form of a socially-responsible model for essential services and government, is being systematically destroyed.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:59 AM on February 5, 2002


3rd world polluters ?

I can't believe anyone would suggest that. It's the industrialized countries that pollute. Cars, garbage.

But I think it's unfair to put this at the foot of countries. It's corporations that worry about their image in North America & Europe, and don't give a shit in the rest of the world (or most of it). Remember Bhopal ?
posted by Mondo at 9:12 AM on February 5, 2002


There's NAFTA Chapter 11 in theory, quoted above. (Everything's fine, nothing to see here, move along...)

Then there's NAFTA Chapter 11 in practice.
posted by Ty Webb at 9:15 AM on February 5, 2002


bad capitalist! no martini!
posted by panopticon at 9:23 AM on February 5, 2002


i'm with you, insomnyuk. grass huts, short skirts, chopping coconuts 20 hours a week ...

sounds like paradise.

and you're absolutely right about the Third World. damn polluters. why can't they start driving gas-powered autos and eating beef like the rest us of civilized peoples?
posted by mrgrimm at 9:27 AM on February 5, 2002


3rd world polluters ?

What I said is that 3rd world countries, given their economic conditions, generally do not have clean air and water, and they don't have the resources to pursue these things. Perhaps individual corporations do not care too much about the environment, but the fact is that commerce is not going away, and the only chance for there to be business that is both profitable and environmentally friendly is in the wealthy nations. Unless you want to live in one of the former Soviet states, where there was no wealth and PLENTY of industrial pollution. (Acid Rain, anyone?)

The quality of environment in the USA is much better today than it was a hundred years ago, and today many third world economies are where we were industrially 100 years ago. Give them time.
posted by insomnyuk at 9:29 AM on February 5, 2002


" ... NAFTA is going to fuck over Canada. All that we've worked for over the past hundred years, in the form of a socially-responsible model for essential services and government, is being systematically destroyed..."

It is being "destroyed" by Canadians however, so the "we" is apparently not a majority ... aren't y'all a democracy?

Canada, the US, and Mexico have all seen swings back and forth between "left" and "right". Nothing in NAFTA requires law to stay static. What it does say is that whatever laws are applied must be applied equitably to all parties.

I might mention that this agreement, like all trade agreements, is entirely voluntary ... and entered into with the expectation that it is mutually beneficial. Should Canada at any time believe that the benefits from the NAFTA (which you don't seem to mention) outweigh the restrictions you perceive it to impose, well:

Article 2204: Withdrawal

A Party may withdraw from this Agreement six months after it provides written notice of withdrawal to the other Parties. If a Party withdraws, the Agreement shall remain in force for the remaining Parties.

posted by MidasMulligan at 9:41 AM on February 5, 2002


What does Mrs. Mulligan make of the Methanex suit, which supposedly cites Article 1110: Expropriation and Compensation in Chapter 11 of NAFTA?

Also, if you have time, I'd like to hear your take on this article in The Nation by William Greider.
posted by dglynn at 9:42 AM on February 5, 2002


" ... Also, if you have time, I'd like to hear your take on this article in The Nation by William Greider..."

Pithy little quotes from Epstein - great proof that one side of the equation has it's own interests. Of course, there are every bit as many quotes from environmental and labor organizations that would also state - explicitly and with as much pride as Epstein - that they'd like to kill all trade agreements. Unions would obviously have much more power over companies if they could effectively prevent companies from doing business anywhere else.
posted by MidasMulligan at 10:24 AM on February 5, 2002


" ... What does Mrs. Mulligan make of the Methanex suit, which supposedly cites Article 1110: Expropriation and Compensation in Chapter 11 of NAFTA? ..."

Don't know about that one, but I do know something about Metalclad - and can only say that seeing how it is being portrayed here is just bizzare, and is just about as distorted a view of it as it would be possible to construct. will write later ...
posted by MidasMulligan at 10:27 AM on February 5, 2002


Midas: no, we're not currently a democracy. We have dictators in power at both the provincial and federal level.

In BC, there are *two* opposition members in a legislature of 76 seats. We are being ruled by "Sieg Heil!" Gordon Campbell, who has just eviscerated years of painfully negotiated public service contracts.

In Canada, there are 301 seats in Parliament; the opposition is evenly split into two minor parties with no ability to work cooperatively to oppose the ruling party. We are being ruled by "[shrug]" Jean Chretian, who is dedicated to ensuring his continued rule.

Article 2204 is bullshit. In theory, a country can withdraw. In practice, it's not an option.

The bottom line is that NAFTA exists to benefit large corporations, not "the people."
posted by five fresh fish at 10:27 AM on February 5, 2002


The countries without profitable corporations (read: Third World) are too busy trying not to starve to actually be concerned about the environment.


insomnyuk, the saddest think is that you seem to live in another planet, in the 1st World Planet, of course. It is as if you weren't here, like whatever you do can't change anything it's happening "there".


Sorry if I'm cryptic, but I am disturbed by the coolness of your comment.


posted by samelborp at 10:48 AM on February 5, 2002


MidasMulligan - you say the free trade agreements are entirely voluntary, as if any of us can just walk away from them. As if I'm standing at the ballot box, thinking "I know what, I'll vote for Candidate X because s/he will withdraw my country from the Multinational Agreement on Investment".

What an unrealistic and ridiculous suggestion - "entirely voluntary"! The MAI was drawn up by the same corporations that pay off the politicians who run our world. Furthermore, very few people even know of the existence of these agreements, let alone what they stand for. And our first concerns as citizens are: Why don't the trains run on time? Why isn't there a hospital bed for my grandmother? There's never going to be enough public antipathy towards the MAI to make any country withdraw from it.

But that doesn't make it right. It's a moral question first and foremost: are governments there to protect individuals or corporations? Should a company have the same rights as a person? Should a company be able to sue a democratically-elected government?
posted by skylar at 11:06 AM on February 5, 2002


The quality of environment in the USA is much better today than it was a hundred years ago, and today many third world economies are where we were industrially 100 years ago.

Please point to the peer-reviewed studies that demonstrate that the quality of the environment, nationwide, is "much better" today than it was 100 years ago...and 150 years ago...and 200 years ago.

Give them time.

I really can't wait for what our saviors in business will achieve for us next. How about a Union Carbide, a Three Mile Island, new housing developments, and a 7-11 in every corner of wastelands like, say, oh...the Serengetti.

Thank god for the gift$ of big busine$$. Most of us thought they were just out to make a buck any way they can. Who could have known they were really heart-on-their-sleeves do-gooders, really just out to make a better world for all of us?
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 11:07 AM on February 5, 2002


I understand the concern here, but why should we assume that corporations should act in any fashion other than to garner profit? That is their mode and modus. Now, an argument could be made that short-term profit-taking leads many corporations to do things that are detrimental, but overall we really shouldn't be so surprised when corporations act like, well, corporations. And often as not, corporations act in many ways like big teams - because that's really what they are. Corporations aren't Easter Island monoliths run by aliens, they're made up of people, and exist (after returning dividends to their investors) to benefit those people. Corporations, so long as the people who run them are rational, will act rationally. Maybe not perfectly, but rationally. The real problem is not solely that of companies' acting like brigands, nor is it free trade, which will definitely help poorer nations attract capital and bring up their standard of living, but the cozy relationship between the government and the corporations. I'm not a big fan of government in general, but corporate regulation is one of the areas where I feel that government is necessary, primarily to ensure that all corporations proceed fron an equal standpoint, basic environmental regulations are adhered to (pick up your jaws, everyone it's unseemly - I do favor some environmental regulation), and information standards are codified and promulgated (ie FASB). But when the regulators are in bed with the regulated (sound vaguely familiar?), screwjobs occur. If you want to make corporations behave better, look toward their oversight.

I challenge those who don't like corporations, come up with something better. Corporations are natural; humans pack for nearly any endeavor of significance; why should business be any different? There is nothing inherently wrong with business. Most of the time, anti-corporatism is thinly-veiled aestheticsim - a matter of taste. If you don't like a company's products, behavior or mission, exercise your ultimate right as a consumer and don't patronize them. Better yet, patronize their competition. In the meantime, corporations who break the law should - and will - be punished. But a few corporations acting badly (and, it should be noted, earning public enmity and governmental punishment) is no reason to go khmer rouge.

*Fes machetes off a big rotty chunk of fresh trollbait, throws it into middle of circle, runs away*
posted by UncleFes at 11:20 AM on February 5, 2002


The best way to bring a corporation you don't like to heel? Join it, advance to a directing position, and change it.

It's not impossible.
posted by UncleFes at 11:24 AM on February 5, 2002


j. bradford delong wrote an interesting article entitled, the corporation as a command economy.
posted by kliuless at 11:25 AM on February 5, 2002


" ...Thank god for the gift$ of big busine$$. Most of us thought they were just out to make a buck any way they can. Who could have known they were really heart-on-their-sleeves do-gooders, really just out to make a better world for all of us?..."

So I presume you've written and posted this comment using a computer you designed, fabricated, and assembled yourself, plugged into a power source that comes from a bike you are pedalling, and hooked up the internet with wires someone forged for free, made from copper someone mined for no income, using technology created by people with engineering Ph.D's who worked purely out of the goodness of their hearts.

Even further, I pre$ume you work for free (it certainly can't be that you work for your$self, for your own $selfi$h benefit, as that is the $in you accuse corporations of).
posted by MidasMulligan at 12:26 PM on February 5, 2002


What an unrealistic and ridiculous suggestion - "entirely voluntary"! The MAI was drawn up by the same corporations that pay off the politicians who run our world. Furthermore, very few people even know of the existence of these agreements, let alone what they stand for.

Aaahhh ... I get it, I thought we were talking about trade. You are talking about a much bigger issue - in your view, democratically elected representative governments themselves are not an expression of the population. The governments of all three countries are apparently wholly owned subsidieries of corporations, and just mouthpieces for their special interests (which interests are, naturally, in utter opposition to the interests of "the people").

Naturally, instead of representative democracy, you're suggesting - er, what was that again ... you know, the system that is so much better? I must have missed it ....
posted by MidasMulligan at 12:44 PM on February 5, 2002


As for the peer reviewed evidence, I'll get back to you on that after class, fold_and_mutilate.
posted by insomnyuk at 12:51 PM on February 5, 2002


insomnyuk, the saddest think is that you seem to live in another planet, in the 1st World Planet, of course. It is as if you weren't here, like whatever you do can't change anything it's happening "there".

Sorry if I'm cryptic, but I am disturbed by the coolness of your comment.


I am disturbed by the poor grammar and logic of YOUR comment. Please explain what you mean, figuring out cryptic statements is not my forte.
posted by insomnyuk at 12:54 PM on February 5, 2002


So I presume you've written and posted this comment using a computer you designed, fabricated... using technology created by people with engineering Ph.D's who worked purely out of the goodness of their hearts.

Christ on a crutch, Midas, change the disc already. No matter how vigorously you keep humping this point (most recently here) it doesn't get any more relevant. Using products manufactured by corporations does not delegitimize protest against the way those corporations do business, which includes the inordinate influence those corporations have in government.

The governments of all three countries are apparently wholly owned subsidieries of corporations, and just mouthpieces for their special interests (which interests are, naturally, in utter opposition to the interests of "the people").

I was, at first, going to respond to this clumsily ironic hyperbole, but I think I'll let its weak construction speak for itself.
posted by Ty Webb at 12:55 PM on February 5, 2002


It's not impossible. Although it helps if your name is already on the building.
posted by Vek at 1:08 PM on February 5, 2002


It helps, sure. But not impossible. The more people that do it, the better the chances of success. There are far more influential executives than there are names on buildings.
posted by UncleFes at 1:19 PM on February 5, 2002


Apologies for the semi-double post. I will say 10 hail mathowies in penance, yes?

I understand the concern here, but why should we assume that corporations should act in any fashion other than to garner profit? That is their mode and modus...we really shouldn't be so surprised when corporations act like, well, corporations.

As you said, corporations are made of people. Your argument is "boys will be boys". That is weak.

The corporation dynamic is not forever static, and in my opinion, we should be encouraging it to change. At the moment, it's all about the game, winning the most points (read: $$$), beating the other guys, etc. But it's not a game. It affects real things, some of which are irreversible. The ideas of duty, responsibility, honor, care and consideration should be more central to the organization. Which fits fine with decent profits and long term viability of a company - it's just when people get greedy and short-sighted that we have problems.
posted by mdn at 2:14 PM on February 5, 2002


Unless you want to outsource the problem of defending your rights (that means paying somebody to defend you)
you must act yourself.

You got the Enron scandal and some of you have lost money ; you're calling you lawyer (if you have any) to defend your position. That's expensive, so you now have less money. If you win in court, maybe Enron doesn't have enough money to pay all the amount it owes you.
So you have lost more money and precious time.

Given that the chances of recovering lost money/lost time is close to 0 (not always true, but very often happens) the most rational thing to do is:

1) scam all the gullible idiots out there of all their money and recover partially your costs. But that's not that easy

2) forget about your lost money, go seize some property bypassing all the system entirely. That's a crime, but if enough people do that at the same time the whole system will collapse. That would probably lead us to anarchy or a fascist government. Not good.

The only reasonable alternative is BOYCOTT. BOYCOTT. For the less-literates it means "DON'T BUY from the offending company". Expecially from monopolistic companies.

If you really badly need the stuff you should boycott

1) first look if there isn't really an alternative
2) then ask other people to buy the stuff with you. Don't worry, it doesn't take an army of people to do that. Just three persons asking to buy the same good can command a lower price. Bargain like hell, don't listen to the store owner excuses. Just go to another store.

Yeah it takes time and time is money ; but many corporations are already taking all your money away in a thousand way : by boycott and quantity-buying bargaining you'll bring them to their knees, guaranteed. And it's perfectly legal. And if the corporation complains "that's illegal" than you can just start a real revolution, because that means you're in a corporate-fascist country.

posted by elpapacito at 2:19 PM on February 5, 2002


"...Christ on a crutch, Midas, change the disc already. No matter how vigorously you keep humping this point (most recently here) it doesn't get any more relevant. Using products manufactured by corporations does not delegitimize protest against the way those corporations do business, which includes the inordinate influence those corporations have in government..."

Gee thanks for pointing out the last time I mentioned it. And I'll keep mentioning it ... because it does, to some degree, "delegitimatize" the protests. There are immense benefits that come from the way corporations "do business", benefits taken so completely for granted that few even realize they are there and that corporations had to make them, including benefits that protesters make significant use of in their daily lives.

I'm sure it's damned uncomfortable and inconvenient for you to deal with having it mentioned, but for quite some time protesters have gotten away with the shocking inconsistancy of complaining about how those benefits are created, while at the same time taking full advantage of the benefits themselves.

Keep protesting about the evils of big business ... but whenever I hear about the Justice Department writing legal briefs meant to hurt Microsoft using Word on a Windows platform, whenever I see the idiots marching in protest outside a Gap wearing Gap kakhis, whenever I hear people writing tirades about hazardous waste landfills in houses full of products whose manufacturing produced hazardous waste ... damn right I'll mention it. Damn right it delegitimatizes those protests.

There is an easy way to put any corporation out of business: DON'T BUY THEIR STUFF.

"...I was, at first, going to respond to this clumsily ironic hyperbole, but I think I'll let its weak construction speak for itself..."

I know the feeling ... at first it occured to me to deconstruct your puerile attempt to dismiss and disparage anything that might even vaguely challenge one of the core beliefs of the protesting fringes (left or right ... obviously if governments don't agree with us, it must be because they've been bought off by corporations, it certainly couldn't be that our views are only held by a minority of voters in a democracy ... and even if it is, it's because the masses haven't reached our enlightened point of view ... being the sheep that they are). But I suppose I'll take your guidance and just let it appear for what it is.
posted by MidasMulligan at 2:19 PM on February 5, 2002


I'm sure it's damned uncomfortable and inconvenient for you to deal with having it mentioned, but for quite some time protesters have gotten away with the shocking inconsistancy of complaining about how those benefits are created, while at the same time taking full advantage of the benefits themselves.

No, in fact it's usually one of the first things that's mentioned in any story relating to the protesters. It's the lazy writer's way to appear droll or insightful. But you know all about that...

There are immense benefits that come from the way corporations "do business", benefits taken so completely for granted that few even realize they are there

Thank goodness you're here to clue us all in!

There is an easy way to put any corporation out of business: DON'T BUY THEIR STUFF.

This is simplistic to the point of disingenuousness.

it occured to me to deconstruct your puerile attempt to dismiss and disparage anything that might even vaguely challenge one of the core beliefs of the protesting fringes

Maybe you could point out where I wrote anything resembling this?
posted by Ty Webb at 2:32 PM on February 5, 2002


Using products manufactured by corporations does not delegitimize protest against the way those corporations do business, which includes the inordinate influence those corporations have in government.

I'm amazed that people can say with a straight face that there is no contradiction in protesting abuses of corporate power while at the same time continuing to let corporations use their money to do the things they are protesting. I mean, the least you can do if you're trying to solve a problem is to do as little as possible to contribute to it yourself. That is so self-evident and obvious, I don't see why anyone would bother to argue otherwise.

I would be much more impressed with the "movement" if more of its adherents actually thought through the implications of their ideology and made more than a token attempt to behave like they believed it wholeheartedly. Actions speak louder than words. If you say you want to change the world, but aren't willing to suffer even modest inconvenience to achieve your aim, what your actions are saying about your cause is that it is not very important. If you keep insisting it is actually important, really and truly, you open yourself up to charges of hypocrisy and self-righteousness, and nobody will take you seriously. Which -- surprise! -- is exactly where the anti-corporate movement finds itself.

You wouldn't call a guy who eats pork a Jew even if he said he was. Why should I call someone who gives money to corporations an "anti-corporate activist?" With enemies like that, the corporations barely need friends.
posted by kindall at 3:04 PM on February 5, 2002


Your argument is "boys will be boys".

Sort of. I'm saying that some think that corporations should automatically act outside of their narrow agenda without reason, and then are angry when they don't. That's silly. Corporations are profit-driven organizations. They need a reason to forgo profits - a larger good that can be defined. In light of their shareholders' demands for dividends and the public's demands for competitive commercial activity, they have acted exactly as we should expect them to act - aggressively, in some cases rapaciously.

At the moment, it's all about the game, winning the most points (read: $$$), beating the other guys, etc

Yes! Vigorous competition is how capitalism provides the best goods/services at the lowest prices to the mass of consumers. That is how jobs are created, people earn increasing salaries, taxes are generated, things are accomplished. Without the game, there would be no innovation, no improvement, and no impetus to do so.

The ideas of duty, responsibility, honor, care and consideration should be more central to the organization.

I agree. But they are necessarily secondary - contributory, but secondary - to generation of profit. Otherwise, the corporation will eventually fail UNLESS the consuming public and the shareholder become sophisticated enough to see these qualities as the desirables they are. They are not natural to a corporation. Hence the need for a highly effective but disinterested referee.

by boycott and quantity-buying bargaining you'll bring them to their knees, guaranteed.

As a rational consumer, you are expected to do exactly this. It is how the market forces corporations to cater to their needs, which is what corporations are supposed to be doing in the first place.

In the end, I think for the most part we all agree on the central point of mdn's FPP - that the subsection of NAFTA that allows corporations to sue over lost business due to oversight is bad law. But can't that part be fixed without destroying the Agreement as a whole?

::Fes dabs lightly at sweaty forehead with several pages ripped from Macroeconomics for Dummies, it having been a LONG time since he looked at a Laffer curve, and concepts like responsibility and honor are difficult to argue against, even for an experienced devil's advocate::
posted by UncleFes at 3:10 PM on February 5, 2002


I just feel the desire to toss into this debate the following tidbit: As of last week, there are now more Subway restaurants in the United States than there are McDonald's. They also have locations in 73 other countries, and are expanding internationally at a much faster rate than McDonald's is. So please, at your next WTO protest, make sure to bring effigies of Jared to burn, not Ronald, and you'll want to be throwing your bricks through the windows of fast-food shops with the tacky green, yellow and white paint jobs. Enjoy.
posted by aaron at 3:15 PM on February 5, 2002


don't forget jollibee! :)
posted by kliuless at 3:22 PM on February 5, 2002


Unclefess: let's add just another bit to this discussion ; it's far from being closed but discussing it more doesn't hurt.

You use the word "game" in your last comment. You proably realize life is not a "game" at all ..and being market part of today life, it shouldn't be considered as game or played as a "game".

But let's suppose, for the shake of macro and micro economics that the market behaves like the written rules of "macroeconomy for dummies", or at least that it follows that rules to some degree.

Let's take an important part of life which is personal health. If you're unhealthy you have many chances of being completely throwed out of the game, without pity. The fact that being unhealthy ruins your chance to play the game is well proven..see cancer,aids,any other disabilitating condition.

Don't you think it would be fair to help the poor one who fell ill ? And let him recover so he can play the game again :) ? It would be. From an egoistic point of view, I want that to be true because I don't want to die , I want to "play".

But apparently, current healthcare system is more and more being privatized because that will give money to do much research. But didn't we agree that corporations are hungry for profits ? Research is only a way to get more profits, but it's too uncertain, results aren't reliable or achieved in a short-term.

So hospitals rely on private insurances.And private insurance wants profit. Private insurance will try to give you less and less money, or to make you pay higher premiums.

But if you fall ill you can't work, so no more money. Quickly you've got a ton of debts (assuming that some bank will give u credit). You may switch to public healthsystem, but it's budget is usually axed because "we want less taxes" (corporate and individuals screaming for that).

So at the end you die, because you're left-out of the game.
posted by elpapacito at 3:42 PM on February 5, 2002


*looks at mdn and unclefes, shaking head*

behave you two, and wait for me to get home from work and explain how you're both right and both wrong.

Now, if you'll excuse me the cow beckons.
posted by jonmc at 3:45 PM on February 5, 2002


"... I'm sure it's damned uncomfortable and inconvenient for you to deal with having it mentioned, but for quite some time protesters have gotten away with the shocking inconsistency of complaining about how those benefits are created, while at the same time taking full advantage of the benefits themselves.

No, in fact it's usually one of the first things that's mentioned in any story relating to the protesters. It's the lazy writer's way to appear droll or insightful. But you know all about that..."


Well done. I see you've still managed to completely avoid the actual issue by talking about the fact that it’s an issue. Quite a common means lazy protesters use to escape responsibility for their actions I suppose. You've certainly mastered it.

"...There is an easy way to put any corporation out of business: DON'T BUY THEIR STUFF.

This is simplistic to the point of disingenuousness..."


Well, er, no, it is usually protesters that are simplistic to the point of disingenuousness. ("Make food! Not bombs!" "World Evil Forum!"). Again, you've avoided the point by merely labeling the point. Persons 1 through 15,000 may arrive at the opinion that the Gap is a bad company, and they should change the way they do business or people should not buy their clothes. Persons 15,001 - 15,000,000 may not have that opinion, may not care what the opinion of the protesters is, and simply shop at the Gap. You are right, if the 15,000 stopped buying Gap clothes, the Gap might not even notice ... because the number of people that agree with the protesters is a tiny minority.

So what's a protester to do when they exercise their right to protest, discover that the rest of the country also has free will, and simply doesn't think the protester's point is significant enough to stop shopping at the Gap? They can try to influence their government's trade talks, influence national or state laws, or try to mount a boycott against the Gap. But what if nothing happens, and large numbers of people continue to happily buy clothes at the Gap? Well obviously in the case of trade agreements or legislation, the fault has to be that governments are just corrupt, and completely owned by big companies. In the case of the boycott, it must be that people need their "awareness" raised, being, as they are, completely docile and sheep-like because of the corporate media machine.

This is the essence of simplistic childishness: The 5 year old's belief that the world revolves around them ... it simply flat out can't be that huge numbers of people consider something that is deeply important to them irrelevant. If they did consider it relevant, they'd buy something other than Gap clothes ... and the Gap would notice immediately. Protesters themselves, however, that don't consider their own points valid enough to change their own behavior should not expect anything other than fully justified mocking.

The unavoidable truth of this world is that every dollar everyone spends, votes. Corporations understand this. Chase executives do all their banking at Chase. Ford executives all drive Fords. Bill Gates is not running Linux at home.

As Hunter Thompson once said, "It don't mean nothin' 'till you prove it all night". Small groups of minority viewpoints, with many unfocussed complaints and terribly simplistic alternatives, stamping their feet, carrying signs, and attempting to avoid the fact that they often don't take their points seriously enough to change their own lives, will never have a chance against the focussed intensity of corporations. And they shouldn't.
posted by MidasMulligan at 4:03 PM on February 5, 2002


Midas: I agree on all your points, but I'd add the healthcare point. It's not like that a dollar spent on your health votes, because as you probably know, you don't have much to choose. You either "vote" for some party or die, or as I say writing to unclefess, you're left out of the game till you eventually die or live a miserable life.

And you didn't choose to be ill, you became ill. And that's expecially true when you become ill because of your work.
posted by elpapacito at 4:34 PM on February 5, 2002


Ok the cow has set me free and I'm home with a cold Saranac Amber by my side, so as promised, I 'm going to applaud and chide you both.
First, of all fes, you are correct that corporations exist to make a profit, above all else. However, human beings, above all else , act in their own interests as well, which is why we have laws and cultural standards to rein them in. Since corporations are collections of people(more or less) they need to be regulated as well. The debate is as to how much.
Also, yes some of the issues raised by the anti-capitalism debate are aesthetic, but others are most definitely not. The enviornmental issuses, for instance, and questions about health care and trade policies re: labor.
Or the biggest question of all-What effect does the concentration of power in relatively few hands have on democracy and freedom around the world?
You say that people can use their purchasing dollars as votes. This is true. However, the recent spate of mergers and acquisitons is affectively limiting the choices people can make and thus limiting their ability to "vote."
Not to mention, while the average joe or jane may be concerned about what harm the products and services may do around the world, most people simply do not have the time to dig up all the information they need to make informed choices.
Which is where folks like mdn(and other of the more thoughtful globalism critics) come in. They can make people aware of the issues and give them the info to make up their own minds.Unfortunately good ol' "corporate greed" is just too vague a target. Raging against greed is like raging against rain, rage all you want you'll still get wet. Companies, like people, need to be judged on a case by case basis and issues need to be clearly delineated.
And greed or at least the good old profit motive has been responsible for many of our greatest advances. For instance when Bell invented the telephone his first thought was probably,

"Wow, this is cool!"

His second thought was probably,

"I'm gonna be rich!"

That desire to get rich and get richer has led thousands of great minds to create numerous advances. It's no accident that capitalist nations lead the world in technological advances.
So where does that leave us? I dunno. If I had an answer I'd be thanking the Nobel Academy instead I'm here talking to you guys. Maybe that's why I hang out here perhaps someone will come up with an answer that satisfies both sides of this important debate.
posted by jonmc at 7:19 PM on February 5, 2002


But what if nothing happens, and large numbers of people continue to happily buy clothes at the Gap?

Actually, something has happened: Gap has begun to pay more attention to labor standards as a direct result of the protests and the attendant negative publicity. They still have a long way to go, and I expect that protesters intend to keep up the pressure.

Well obviously in the case of trade agreements or legislation, the fault has to be that governments are just corrupt, and completely owned by big companies.

More clumsy hyperbole. The crowd eats it up. (applause, cheering, throwing of chicken bones)

Protesters themselves, however, that don't consider their own points valid enough to change their own behavior should not expect anything other than fully justified mocking.

Just because you spot one pair of Nikes in the crowd doesn't delegitimize the overall argument, regardless of whether or not you agree with or understand it. If it did, Nike wouldn't be changing their act.

Small groups of minority viewpoints, with many unfocussed complaints and terribly simplistic alternatives, stamping their feet, carrying signs, and attempting to avoid the fact that they often don't take their points seriously enough to change their own lives, will never have a chance against the focussed intensity of corporations. And they shouldn't.

Your point depends upon a ridiculously broad generalization and ascribed motives which you cannot substantiate. You seemed to have dreamed up an "archetypal anti-corporate protester" based on obviously little information, and now you flail away in defense of whatever it is you think they threaten. Relax.
posted by Ty Webb at 8:26 PM on February 5, 2002


"...Actually, something has happened: Gap has begun to pay more attention to labor standards as a direct result of the protests and the attendant negative publicity. They still have a long way to go, and I expect that protesters intend to keep up the pressure..."

Well, I'm certain that they are sleeping much easier at Gap Headquarters tonight knowing that, while they still have a long way to go, they've at least begun the process of pleasing you. It is deeply important to them.

"...More clumsy hyperbole. The crowd eats it up. (applause, cheering, throwing of chicken bones)..."

Oh good. Another cheap shot. I'm sure that one will get you laid amongst the Birkenstock crowd tonight. You certainly are great at utterly avoiding any actual issue. Some of those pithy little one-liners on the protest posters must come from you.

"...Just because you spot one pair of Nikes in the crowd doesn't delegitimize the overall argument, regardless of whether or not you agree with or understand it. If it did, Nike wouldn't be changing their act..."

While I realize actually reading my post and understanding the ideas in it is probably a tad too burdensome for the "WEF = Evil" crowd, but do try to pay attention for a moment. It is not just "one pair of Nikes" (the Gap example was an illustration, not the entire body of evidence). You, and virtually all of the protesters, are completely subsumed in the benefits created by corporations. There are places in the world where almost none of the benefits, or what you would consider evils, of modern corporations exist. I'd bet a lot of protesters would barely survive a week there.

"...Your point depends upon a ridiculously broad generalization and ascribed motives which you cannot substantiate. You seemed to have dreamed up an "archetypal anti-corporate protester" based on obviously little information, and now you flail away in defense of whatever it is you think they threaten. Relax..."

Oh no! You mean you're upset at experiencing a nearly perfect and delibrate mirroring of your own tactics? ... dreaming up a ridiculous and broadly generalized "archtypal evil corporation" - based on apparently no information whatsoever about what corporations actually are, or the value the vast majority of them deliver to your life is - and then blasting away with virtually unchallenged immunity at anyone who appears to praise them? Take a deep breath out dude. It'll be ok, you can go back to the safety of your own little righteous circle ... and again ignore the fact that it is fed, clothed, housed, and logged on because of the very corporations that you apparently believe you are fit to manage.
posted by MidasMulligan at 9:56 PM on February 5, 2002


Golly gosh, I've always found my Birkenstocks synonymous with unintentional bramacharya vows. Maybe it's time to chuck the sanskrit and get out a little more often.

"The focussed intensity of corporations." was a nice phrase.

This thread prompted me to go find out what "NAFTA and Chapter 11" is. Holy cow, Midas. wHAT??? reALITY CHECK, aren't you the person who lives near Ground Zero and thought NY seemed a little "fragile" somehow? The stories about NAFTA Chapter 11 reminded me of late nights as a student drinking vodka, listening to "the focussed intensity of escaped dissidents describing the Soviet system." The President put that stuff about selfishness, corporate accountability, and an axis of evil in his State of the Union for a reason. What goes around comes around. Blood is thicker than dollars, and when it's time to go die for democracy nobody's gonna wannna hear they gave their son's life to maximize Chapter 11 shareholder return.

RE: Getting away "with the shocking inconsistancy of complaining about how those benefits are created, while at the same time taking full advantage of the benefits themselves."

Bless your spelling, Midas- that's why I believe you're real. Your frustration with overprivileged protesters: I can identify with it. How many times, after a night of doors slammed in my face, have I asked myself why I bothered saving the environment for all of these turkeys? Taking full advantage of the benefits, you hit it. Yup, they took full advantage of benefits such as flying lessons and cheap plain tickets, and staged a deadly attack.

RE: "Protesters who shop the GAP." That would be me. Look deeper. I was a foreign observer at an election where the slogan was, wear the big guy's hat and t-shirt, but vote for the opponent. Big guy's hats and shirts were everywhere. The opponent won. Standard martial arts technique, diverting the force of the opponent for your purposes.

Conclusion: Go ahead and rail against demonstrators if it makes you feel better. But you might look at it this way: 2 weeks vacation and double-income families is starting to burn out the workforce. An occasional street fair of ornamental idealists shuffling around with puppets makes the downtown take a day off every once in a while. Everyone comes back to work refreshed, and discussing the break in their routine- a team-building, bonding experience you didn't have to pay for.

As for what actually changes the world- it's the combination of direct actions and the unintended consequences thereof. And those actions might be anything at all.
posted by sheauga at 10:08 PM on February 5, 2002


MidasMulligan, you asked me what system I'd prefer to our current 'democratically elected system'? Okay, well first I'd like a system whereby people like George Bush only get into power legitimately under a fair vote - instead it was mired in controversy and arguably he didn't get the majority of the vote. Secondly in the UK I'd like proportional representation - the only way to truly represent the peoples views. Democracy comes in many flavours, many of them not particularly democratic.

Next I'd like a system of sustainable economics whereby those companies or individuals who do most damage to the environment and society not only pay higher taxes but are given a lower value on the stockmarket and in other economic ratings. So life isn't just about 'creating value' from our resources but also giving value back into society/ the environment.
posted by skylar at 1:20 AM on February 6, 2002


i'd also just like to say that in many ways the internet is the antithesis of corporation. and here we are, thanks mr. haughey! metafilter: my anticorporation :)
posted by kliuless at 5:24 AM on February 6, 2002


But didn't we agree that corporations are hungry for profits ? Research is only a way to get more profits, but it's too uncertain, results aren't reliable or achieved in a short-term.

Healthcare is a tough one, I admit. A typical “market” for it doesn’t really exist – it is not subject to the normal laws of supply/demand, and there is little “competition” between providers. I don’t know what should be done about health care. Realistically, I can’t imagine a socially just system that doesn't provide universal, and total, coverage. Conversely, we do enjoy the benefits of a health care system that generates profits – yes, at the expense of patients - and plows a great deal of them back into research. It's easy for places like Canada and Sweden to point and call American medicine callous profiteers, while at the same time enjoying the products of the research that profiteering has generated (albeit on the backs of the uninsurable, poor, and unlucky, I admit).

I’m stumped on this one. You figure out a way to do both, seriously, they’ll name high schools after you.

Since corporations are collections of people(more or less) they need to be regulated as well. The debate is as to how much... What effect does the concentration of power in relatively few hands have on democracy and freedom around the world?

Point taken. I concede that I have argued from a purely theoretical PoV, when reality is a lot messier. I suppose in the end, to solve the problems outlined here while retaining the overall benefits of Capital-C Capitalism, I would look toward decreasing the influence corporations have on those who would regulate them, and decrease the dependance of the regulators on the largess of those whom they purport to oversee. That, I believe, would go a long way toward solving problems on both sides.
posted by UncleFes at 9:06 AM on February 6, 2002


There are places in the world where almost none of the benefits, or what you would consider evils, of modern corporations exist. I'd bet a lot of protesters would barely survive a week there.

Why do you assume that the benefits and evils are the same thing? Isn't it possible for an organization to provide benefits, and still be subject to improvement? Anyway, lots of corporations provide questionable "benefits" to society - RJR, Kraft, McDonald's, for instance. Then there are certain things which may be beneficial in moderation or in certain areas, but not to the degree that the company promotes them. Starbucks may have its benefits in the midwest, where the coffee situation is deplorable, but in New York, it just makes everything more generic and takes away from the cultural flavor of the city (and lots of people have the attitude that they like the local coffee shops for sitting in for hours, but stop at starbucks to pick up the morning java on the way to work, not noticing that they're putting their local coffee shops out of business by doing this).

anyway, the point is, yes, humans are motivated by greed, but if someone can make as much money by promoting a mediocre product as in developing a life-saving drug, which will draw more people to try it? (hint: which is easier?) And as people have pointed out before, pharma companies make more money off treating baldness than they do researching relatively rare diseases.

I am disappointed by protesters who regularly buy Gap/Nike/starbucks etc, as boycotting is part of it. But education about the reasons for those preferences are also necessary. I'm not saying no one should ever buy anything brand-name if they believe corporations should change, or anything, but awareness about what you're supporting is important, and an attempt to decrease the money you give to companies you disagree with is a good idea.
posted by mdn at 10:26 AM on February 6, 2002


Well, I'm certain that they are sleeping much easier at Gap Headquarters tonight knowing that, while they still have a long way to go, they've at least begun the process of pleasing you. It is deeply important to them.

So I guess we can consider the point conceded.

Oh no! You mean you're upset at experiencing a nearly perfect and delibrate mirroring of your own tactics? ... dreaming up a ridiculous and broadly generalized "archtypal evil corporation" -

Once again, could you please point out where I wrote anything resembling this? (My earlier request still stands, as well.) I think if you examine my past comments you'll find that I have a bit more nuanced view (and appreciation) for the role that corporations play in society, whereas you consistently respond with one or another hackneyed Randism.
posted by Ty Webb at 10:35 AM on February 6, 2002


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