WTO reveals itself as the anti free-market organization it is:
May 27, 2002 7:22 AM   Subscribe

WTO reveals itself as the anti free-market organization it is: disbands, and forms the new "Trade Regulation Organization" -- Anti-WTO anti-capitalist activists bewildered.
posted by dagny (22 comments total)
 
Yes, it's a spoof.
posted by dagny at 7:26 AM on May 27, 2002


Sigh. I visited gatt.org and got fooled by that same stupid press release last week. As you imply, the site is owned by activists. wto.org is the real WTO homepage.

What I don't understand is why my peers who are rooting for a thing such as this would go and try to trick people (with false hopes) into thinking that it had occurred. I got really frustrated/heart-broken when I realized I was a rube.
posted by Marquis at 7:28 AM on May 27, 2002


For what it's worth it fooled some other people too.
posted by johnny novak at 8:00 AM on May 27, 2002


Oh, I adore the Yes Men and RTMark. Been following their particular brand of political activism for years, watching, cheering and even contributing with glee.

They've done some really groovy stuff, like managing the Etoy vs. Etoys fight, as well as going after a number of other companies that have tried to use their tax-free corporate status to crush small arts and personal sites. My personal favorite is still the giant gold phallus presented in Finland as a way to control workers...with corp execs cheering it on and the real media bought into the concept. heheheheh. I say, Yay unto them!
posted by dejah420 at 8:16 AM on May 27, 2002


It fooled some Canucks, too.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:22 AM on May 27, 2002


Dammit -- don't scare me like that, Dagny!
posted by davidmsc at 9:36 AM on May 27, 2002


:( jerks.
posted by rhyax at 11:26 AM on May 27, 2002


Nothing is as charming as adolescent self-righteousness. What clever little children they are. They even fooled some adults. I'll bet they're just jumping up and down and clapping their little hands with glee.
posted by MidasMulligan at 12:57 PM on May 27, 2002


Its cute, but they didn't have to spam me. I got this in an email a few days ago. Its not that hilarious and its not nice to know they're not above buying spam lists for their stupid joke.
posted by skallas at 1:28 PM on May 27, 2002


What's the deal, Midas? Did Anti-WTO protestors kill your father when you were a small child?
(And then tie you down down and surgically remove the "compassion" section from your brain?)
posted by hincandenza at 1:55 PM on May 27, 2002


hincandenza, don't joke about that -- that's how Batman started. Midas just might translate that terrible boyhood tragedy into a crime-fighting superhero: MidasMan!
posted by davidmsc at 8:54 AM on May 28, 2002


What's the deal, Midas? Did Anti-WTO protestors kill your father when you were a small child?
(And then tie you down down and surgically remove the "compassion" section from your brain?)


No. What anti-WTO protesters have done is made it more difficult for the developing world (that they claim to be speaking for) to rise out of poverty. False "Compassion" is babbling lovely, empty words claiming to "care" for the "poor", and "human rights". True compassion is understanding that most of the earth's poor want is not your pity - but the jobs that trade agreements bring. However, as is normal, anyone that actually says the protesters HURT the poor is taken to task, and accused of having no "compassion".

It is very easy to generate witty little satire. Negotiating trade agreements - which takes a lot of education, years of study and experience, and the ability to work through thousands of small details with people from around the world who all have different, conflicting perspectives - now that is tough ... and is not a task that frivilous street puppeteers are remotely able to understand - let alone actually accomplish.

Most of the protesters are clueless (in fact, I'd be willing to bet 95% have never come anywhere close to an actual 3rd world country) - and have no idea how much damage they cause to the genuinely destitute of the world.

Rest safe in the illusion that you are filled with humanity and compassion. Fortunately for the world's poor, the people that can actually introduce decent food and clothes into the lives of the poor continue to meet, and continue to craft trade agreements - and cannot be stopped by those who can feed them nothing but empty words and "compassion".
posted by MidasMulligan at 2:06 PM on May 28, 2002


What anti-WTO protesters have done is made it more difficult for the developing world (that they claim to be speaking for) to rise out of poverty.

Unsurprisingly, this is pure horseshit, on top of being unintentionally hilarious. Midas, when you're not dismissing demonstrators as irrelevant, you're claiming that they make it more difficult for the developing world. Make up your mind.

False "Compassion" is babbling lovely, empty words claiming to "care" for the "poor", and "human rights". True compassion is understanding that most of the earth's poor want is not your pity - but the jobs that trade agreements bring.

And true comprehension of the realities of global trade has to do with the fact that labor standards, political modernization, and open markets must go together. Free markets by themselves simply do not lead better living standards when workers have no mechanism for involvement in the system. Your treating the situation as an "either, or" is a false choice, right out of the chamber of commerce playbook.

The "world's poor" that you assume to speak for have been demonstrating against undemocratic international financial instiutions for years. For you to imply that they want to be dominated by western trade rules thought up by secretive WTO commissions is ridiculous, unsupportable, and bespeaks poor research on your part.
posted by Ty Webb at 2:44 PM on May 28, 2002


Unsurprisingly, this is pure horseshit, on top of being unintentionally hilarious. Midas, when you're not dismissing demonstrators as irrelevant, you're claiming that they make it more difficult for the developing world. Make up your mind.

Of course this is the normal, expected response. I've seen the protesters - and heard the absurdly simplistic solutions to extremely complex problems that constitute most of what they say. I've also been in trade negotiations (in fact, my wife authored some of the NATFA). And I've been in places that were truly destitute ... and seen the powerful look of hope that appears in people's eyes when there is even a remote chance that a multinational might move some piece of it's operations in.

And lest you believe you've caught me in some clever contradiction - let me be more specific about the effects of protesters. They cannot affect the general trend towards multinational trade agreements. They can, at times, disrupt meetings, and destroy local projects.

And true comprehension of the realities of global trade has to do with the fact that labor standards, political modernization, and open markets must go together. Free markets by themselves simply do not lead better living standards when workers have no mechanism for involvement in the system. Your treating the situation as an "either, or" is a false choice, right out of the chamber of commerce playbook.

"True" comprehension of the realities of global trade also means acknowledging that multinationals, capitalists, government leaders, "activists", and hundreds of players with all manner of perspectives are always at the table. Believe it or not (and virtually no protesters do), labor standards, environmental standards, and many of the issues protesters go on and on about are regularly brought up. Protesters are the ones that view things simplistically as "either/or". It is very easy to call all multinationals evil, all capitalists corrupt, and insist that you have the right to determine "labor standards". But you aren't going to take large risks and create the jobs. Protesters merely want to determine how those who do so will act, while taking none of the risks, and expending none of the effort.

Kill the WTO - will it kill trade? No. Will it stop companies from making deals with governments - national and local - to set up shop? No. The WTO is a means of creating a transnational structure, it is a table at which multiple interested parties sit - from the most radical right to the most radical left. NO ONE gets everything they want. Achievements are ALWAYS partial. You have to talk to - and acknowledge the legitimacy of - people with perspectives that go against everything you were born and raised with.

It is very easy to slam the WTO and trade negotiations. You can always come up with hundreds of anecdotes. However - both the far left protesters that play with puppets and scrawl slogans on Starbucks, and the far right opponents (of the Ross Perot/Pat Buchanan sort) both have similarly simplistic worldviews. They are "either/or" in nature.

The "world's poor" that you assume to speak for have been demonstrating against undemocratic international financial institutions for years. For you to imply that they want to be dominated by western trade rules thought up by secretive WTO commissions is ridiculous, unsupportable, and bespeaks poor research on your part.

The "world's poor" that you claim to speak on behalf of have also benefited in a thousand ways from those institutions.

The best man at my wedding - an even more evil capitalist than I am - invests in mining operations around the world. He's only been shot at once. Interesting story. His company opened mining operations somewhere in Peru (this was a few years ago). The poverty in the region was intense - infant mortality ridiculous. The company literally built an entire village for the workers. Houses, plumbing, basic medical care, and regular salaries. The people desiring to work there vastly outnumbered the jobs. Once operations began, those that didn't have jobs started sneaking into the mines at night and stealing gold. The company hired mercenaries to keep them out. A year or so after operations had begun, some "activists" from the US discovered the "injustice" going on there. There arranged serious protests - and found many willing "demonstrators" ... they were the ones that didn't get the jobs, and had been prevented from making the midnight excursions. Of course in the press this plays as the evil multinational stealing land over the fierce objections of those poor local "demonstrators". The locals that did - for the first time in their lives - have regular paychecks, medicine for their children, and all the other evils of "western trade rules " were, of course, never mentioned, never flown to the US to make appearances at protests, never had their stories told on activist websites.

For you to imply that "the people", the world's poor, are uniformly against western multinationals, is as ridiculous and unsupportable as you claim I am being.

Maybe you'd best consider, for a moment, that you are as subject to the black & white worldview you so often claim I have. Maybe consider that I don't babble thousands of words about "compassion", but I do give a shit about my fellow human beings, and am convinced - through experience - that there is a difference between theoretical compassion and pragmatic compassion. The lives of the world's poor require numerous things to be improved. Some are essential and core, while others are tertiary. Multinationals and capitalists are essential - protesters are tertiary. That is, you can shout and scream that workers should be paid $20.00 a day instead of $15.00 a day (never mind that even $15.00 in many regions makes a worker functionally rich) ... and you may claim that in doing so you are "helping" the "poor". But to "help" them, you are dependent upon the company you curse as an evil exploiter to have expended the effort and taken the risk of moving there in the first place. Very few of the protesters have actually opened a factory, or paid a wage to those they claim to want to help.

You should - just once - see the face of woman whose child survived in a third world country due to western medicine provided by a factory, or a family that for the first time received a paycheck - small as it is by our standards - regularly. Are some capitalists crude and evil and full of ill intentions? Damn straight. Of course they are. So are some protesters. But from what I've seen ... on the whole ... the ones doing the hard (and frankly, for the most part, incredibly tedious) work of hammering out trade agreements at a WTO negotiating table are far more likely to help achieve pragmatic improvements in the world's day to day existence than the protesters that chant bumper-sticker slogans during the morning's protest, call the WTO and all multinationals evil, and then go home filled with a self-righteous sense of their "compassion".
posted by MidasMulligan at 4:39 PM on May 28, 2002


Midas,
Once again, the only way you can continue to spout your baloney is to set it up against a straw-protester of your own making, whose outlook is sufficiently simple for you to demolish with your equally simplistic free marketism. I have never claimed that all corporations are evil, but it seems I have to remind you of this every time I respond to one of your pathetically dogmatic rants.

They cannot affect the general trend towards multinational trade agreements.

Perhaps, but they can and are affecting the democratization of the systems which oversee multinational trade agreements, which despite your constant and dishonest mischaracterizations of them, is what many of them wanted all along. To understand this you'd need a slightly more subtle mind than you apparently currently possess.

It is very easy to slam the WTO and trade negotiations. You can always come up with hundreds of anecdotes.

and you do, in fact, if you read over your last post you'll that anecdotes are almost entirely what it's composed of.

The "world's poor" that you claim to speak on behalf of have also benefited in a thousand ways from those institutions.

No, I didn't claim to speak for anyone, I pointed to the fact that they'd been demonstrating for years. Not that I'd expect you to have much respect for facts, as they would make life difficult for your little Randian fairyland.

Unlike you, I see no need to publish my resume on Mefi (yeah, your wife worked on NAFTA, tell us about it again...) I've been involved myself in discussions on global trade, specifically at the World Bank in DC, which is why I can write with confidence that the protesters have made a difference in a number of ways, and you are simply a poor begrudged soul who refuses to wake up and smell global reality.

Also unlike you, I would never presume to suggest that those with whom I disagree have no real compassion. I'll leave that to those whose arguments are out of gas.

Bottom line: trade is one requirement for developing countries to raise their living standards; it is not the only requirement, nor is it the most important.
posted by Ty Webb at 5:20 PM on May 28, 2002


[Pssst ... this is long even by my standards ... but probably worth reading ... since we're probably the only ones left reading this damn thread ...]

Once again, the only way you can continue to spout your baloney is to set it up against a straw-protester of your own making, whose outlook is sufficiently simple for you to demolish with your equally simplistic free marketism. I have never claimed that all corporations are evil, but it seems I have to remind you of this every time I respond to one of your pathetically dogmatic rants.

I have walked past a lot of the protesters. I have seen their one-liner slogans, their bumper stickers. Heard their simplistic chants. I've seen the graffiti they've sprayed on businesses. I've seen the posters they carry that simply say "WTO = World Terror Organization", etc., etc. You personally may have never claimed all corporations are evil. Many of the protesters, however, most definitely do. You may say I'm setting up a "straw-protester", but it is not fictional - I am describing a picture that most of the world can see very clearly on their TV sets whenever a protest is televised. Don't blame me for noticing that a lot of them most definitely do make utter, simplistic fools of themselves whenever they get near a TV camera. And by the way, I have never claimed that free markets alone will solve all the world's problems (and apparently you need to caricature me in the same way as you accuse me of with protesters, because you continue to accuse me of this every single time you respond to me).

Perhaps, but they can and are affecting the democratization of the systems which oversee multinational trade agreements, which despite your constant and dishonest mischaracterizations of them, is what many of them wanted all along. To understand this you'd need a slightly more subtle mind than you apparently currently possess.

Oh good, a personal attack. In claiming I "mischaracterize", you're naturally implying (though not stating) that your "characterization" of them is correct. Some of them may simply want the small, incremental shifts in attitude that you speak of. Some may understand the full nuances of trade negotiations - that no one - not the protesters or the multinationals - ever makes more than incremental change to agreements involving dozens of nations and hundreds of players. Apparently, however, your mind has reached some height of subtlety that makes it capable of ignoring the fact that a lot of the protesters are quite young, in it for the kicks as much as the cause, are utterly clueless about what it would take to genuinely solve problems, and do think they are "making a difference" when they spray paint a wall or torch a McDonalds.

and you do, in fact, if you read over your last post you'll that anecdotes are almost entirely what it's composed of.

I used one experience of a friend of mine as an example - showed two different views of a situation. One of them the view of a situation commonly seen in the media, in which valiant protesters fight the big evil company. The other, a more nuanced, "subtle" - and truthful - view of the same situation. You will, however, never see an investigative journalist dig deep to expose the good that a company has brought to a region. Where's the Pulitzer in that?

The "world's poor" that you claim to speak on behalf of have also benefited in a thousand ways from those institutions.

No, I didn't claim to speak for anyone, I pointed to the fact that they'd been demonstrating for years. Not that I'd expect you to have much respect for facts, as they would make life difficult for your little Randian fairyland.


Oh good, another personal insult. Once again, apparently in your quest to create a "straw-Randian", you want to both completely ignore the points I made, and completely ignore any "facts" that oppose your point. You may not have personally claimed to speak for anyone - but the fellow that took the first gratuitous shot (ah, yes, I lack compassion) clearly implied that he did. and a lot of the protesters claim that they do (and before you accuse me of setting up a straw-protestor, go to some of their websites, where they'll explicitly state that they are giving a "voice" to the poor, or weak, or downtrodden of the world). Yes, there have been demonstrations for years. Did I dispute that? (Answer: No.) I pointed out that the poor have also (look up the word "also") been benefiting for years. Again, however, you'll see all sorts of media coverage of demonstrations ... but very little coverage of the benefits. It leads to an extremely false impression. But apparently you are comfortable in that fairyland.

Unlike you, I see no need to publish my resume on Mefi (yeah, your wife worked on NAFTA, tell us about it again...) I've been involved myself in discussions on global trade, specifically at the World Bank in DC, which is why I can write with confidence that the protesters have made a difference in a number of ways, and you are simply a poor begrudged soul who refuses to wake up and smell global reality.

I publish my "resume" because I'm trying to make a point. When I talk about what it takes to really help the world, to genuinely improve the lot of the "poor", and raise the standards of the third world ... I am speaking as one who has seen what negotiations are composed of, and what negotiators wrestle with (and the way WTO negotiators are portrayed by the protesters is often deeply flawed), as one who has been to the third world, and understands a lot of the nuances of the value system that operates when you exist at bare subsistence (and a lot of the protesters do not understand this). Terribly sorry if you think that is irrelevant, but it is also what let's me state with confidence that protesters have hurt, as well as helped the poor, and hindered, as well as supported, many of things the poor themselves identify as life-enriching ... and that you are simply a bitter man with a vendetta against anyone that sounds remotely like Ayn Rand.

Also unlike you, I would never presume to suggest that those with whom I disagree have no real compassion. I'll leave that to those whose arguments are out of gas.

Perhaps you wouldn't, you're relatively moderate ... a good deal of the protesters, however, most assuredly would. And before you accuse me yet again of making something up, please do just scroll upward in this thread (I fear, however, that it may cause your argument to run out of gas).

Bottom line: trade is one requirement for developing countries to raise their living standards; it is not the only requirement, nor is it the most important.

You can view the world, and the sum of your perceptions and experiences, and legitimately come to that conclusion. I actually agree. Trade, per se, is not the most important. Business itself, in my opinion, is the most important. And trade, and multilateral trade agreements, are powerful supporters of business. And for a lot of the third world, trade most definitely is the most important thing. A primitive tribe living on the edge of starvation will never - in it's lifetime - develop it's own medical infrastructure capable of developing the sorts of inoculations and nutritional supplements that greatly reduce infant mortality. It can buy such things from the developed world ... if there is something to buy it with. I do believe that trade, and corporations, add immensely more real benefits to the lives of the poor than the protesters do ... and while I don't expect you to agree, if you cannot see how this conclusion could be arrived at equally legitimately - out of personal knowledge of what goes on in multinationals and trade negotiations, and out of personal experience in the third world ... then you are not as "Subtle" a mind as you claim to be.

[PS. Forgive a short interlude ... but what the hell ... A Personal note. Actually, as much fun as it is to trade personal little digs with you, I quite respect you for the moderate, pragmatic approach you seem to have to a lot of issues, and suspect that at the end of the day our positions may be closer our rhetoric would make them appear. I do apologize if I occasionally respond to you as though you were the norm of anti-WTO people ... you are not. Please do understand that I have become accustomed to being smashed in the face by cheap shots from that lot - ... the post that generated my response is far more the norm than you are ... i.e., "What's the deal, Midas? Did Anti-WTO protestors kill your father when you were a small child? (And then tie you down down and surgically remove the "compassion" section from your brain?)". I actually think we are both closer to the center than either that extreme, or the Buchanan extreme. I suspect we both understand that corporations, and trade organizations, are absolutely essential to the increased well-being of the poorest in the world. Neither extreme acknowledges that. You do take me to task for never mentioning that elements other than trade and free markets are required ... but I don't mention that because on this list it generally seems as though a balance is needed ... there are plenty of people talking about all the curbs and restrictions required to keep big evil businesses from beating up the poor. There are virtually no voices that will challenge that one-sided view, and advocate just as strongly that big business has had powerfully positive effects as well. So the perspective I present is not necessarily my entire viewpoint. I never speak in terms of "compassion", and do not claim I am working to make the world a better place. But I have created a lot of jobs over the years, some of them in pretty bleak places ... in fact, I'm about to leave the big company I currently work for to start my life's third business ... part of which will have to do with outsourcing IT to programmers in the former Soviet Union. I'm not trying to save the poor, I'm going to try to make a shitload of money. I'll invest my own money, and probably get my ass shot at when I go over there (unless I manage to pay off everyone that I need to bribe). And I won't speak a word of "compassion" to anyone. I'll hire them because I can make money ... and they'll work for me because I'll pay them what to them is close to an upper class salary. As an aftereffect, I believe I'll do more good for them and their families than a boatload of trade protesters ever will. And when they become my employees, they belong to my family ... which means no one fucks with them - in a past company I even smuggled employees out of a country that was exploding in revolt. And this is not just me - it would probably surprise many on this board how many multinationals do give a shit, and do genuinely want the health and happiness (and productivity) of their workers. The press is very quick to point out when private sector executives make handshake deals with government officials ... how often, however, do you hear about how often those relationships are used by those companies to benefit their local employees?

Point is, whenever I articulate the philosophy that (I believe) has done a significant amount of good for a number of people the protesters claim to speak for, I am accused of having had "compassion" removed from my brain. Now the usual cheap shot from some of the youngsters here certainly doesn't bother me - in fact I'm on this board, and a dozen or so others (with various personas) precisely because folks have mindsets very different from my own (plus, it's fun to stir the soup now and then). You however, have always struck me as somewhat different. You've clearly read a good deal, and genuinely thought about it ... and seem to be one that truly tries to resolve the disparities between the world of neat ideology and the world of messy human behaviour. I have great respect for that effort - even if you reach conclusions different than my own. There. Enough mushy stuff. We can go back to the fencing ...].

You twit. :).
posted by MidasMulligan at 8:52 PM on May 28, 2002


Wow, that was a tome. I think we are, in fact, a bit more centrist than we let on. Hopefully no one is reading this to find that out. I'll deny everything.

Briefly:

I actually agree. Trade, per se, is not the most important. Business itself, in my opinion, is the most important.


(Actually, it's music...) But if we're going to go all the way into first principles, then security is the most important. Business and trade are great ways to provide people with the means for security and comfort and health, and government is necessary to maintain a system of law under which business and trade can fairly operate. It's not a question of gov't vs. business, just one of balance.

In my experience with protests, the majority of demonstrators simply want the people in developing countries to have access to the rules that govern their lives. You have seen a few nitwits shouting simplistic slogans, I have seen them too. I have also seen camera crew after camera crew run past groups of people who could've given them nuanced analyses of trade issues to catch a few moments of some sophomore Marxist asshole ranting about dissent and the global order. Again, in my experience such assholes are the minority; they understand neither the issues nor the principles of non-violent demonstration. Unfortunately they make for great pictures.

It's interesting that you bring up the former USSR. I visited there several times, my dad worked there for three years as part of a relief and development NGO. Russia is a perfect example of modernization done wrong. I personally know a restaurateur who had to flee the country with only the clothes on his back because of mob threats. You've got a few people making a lot of money, with even more waiting to be made, but no rule of law in place or dependable system to decide those laws. The cart was put before the horse, in a sense; economic modernization was attempted before political modernization. In cases such as this, and China, and Burma, to name a few others, increased trade actually acts as a disincentive to modernization; the few countries where the neoliberal export-led growth model has actually worked are countries where political modernization has come before, or at least tracked with, economic modernization.

But political modernization, as compared to economic, takes a long time, and long term security/benefit is something that simply isn't factored into stock prices. A healthy, participatory democracy is the single best environment for business to thrive in the long term, ironically many multinationals fight tooth and claw against moves to create just that environment, not because they are bad but because they have a responsibility to their shareholders to make money NOW, and because if they don't, some other company will.
posted by Ty Webb at 9:58 PM on May 28, 2002


I'll absolutely deny it too :). I've got my fanatic, free-marketer, evil capitalist reputation to uphold!

(And I agree w/ you about music. Ever see "Air America"? Mel Gibson holds that the true test of any political system is how how great it's Saturday nights are ...).

Again, in my experience such assholes are the minority; they understand neither the issues nor the principles of non-violent demonstration. Unfortunately they make for great pictures.

This could be true (frankly, I just don't know). Certainly a faction of the protesters has the intention to simply get press coverage at any cost. The Ruckus people go to training camps ... and very little time is spent training them to express complex issues in a clear, coherent form. Much time is spent training them on how to attract attention through outrageous acts. If that is only a small faction, then (IMO) the protest movement really needs to start policing it's own. As you know - if you've walked the halls of the WB - the political and NGO leaders that attend trade meetings are keenly attuned to their constituencies. The protesters had a friend in Clinton (for instance), in fact, he was arguing, in Seattle, to bring more of that viewpoint to the table. The disastrous street weirdness that happened, however, politically humiliated him. The "outrageous" faction, I think, believes that it is their ideas that are to challenging to the powers that be. I don't think it is - it is their behaviour. The people at trade negotiations and global economic forums follow strict protocols (or else they'd simply get nothing done). These people have always had a wide variety of viewpoints present (environmental and labor leaders are commonly invited to the WEF) - but why would they want to increase the reputation of those who would use such an invitation to put on an "action", or curse other participants as evil? Political and business leaders, on the whole, are not challenged by ideas ... or at least are quite used to being at tables that contain a wide variety of ideas they disagree with. Anyway.


You've got a few people making a lot of money, with even more waiting to be made, but no rule of law in place or dependable system to decide those laws. The cart was put before the horse, in a sense; economic modernization was attempted before political modernization. In cases such as this, and China, and Burma, to name a few others, increased trade actually acts as a disincentive to modernization; the few countries where the neoliberal export-led growth model has actually worked are countries where political modernization has come before, or at least tracked with, economic modernization.

Well, I'm just not sure about this. I do understand your point (and it is shared by a lot of people) ... but to some degree it seems like a chicken-and-egg problem. The Soviet Union was (and still is) a disaster. However, it also is not possible to modernize a political system first - you can't have a pluralistic democratic political system running side by side with a command economy (it's rarely ever been seen - other than a couple of times in South America, and always with disastrous results).

My thinking lately is that both economic and political systems arise out of much deeper systems of social interaction ... out of the way people perceive and interact at the individual level during the course of day to day life. How they perceive, and exchange, and use, power, and value, and status, and honor ... etc., etc., etc. A particular range of beliefs and behaviours is necessary for either economic or political liberalization to happen. With the correct social foundation, both will arise almost naturally. Without it, neither can be sustained.

(Ever read Fukuyama's book "Trust"? Extremely interesting ... he examines that single concept - trust - in a number of different societies ... where it is perceived quite differently ... and traces links between how trust is conceived of at the personal level, and how the economic and political systems governing the country are organized around it ...).
posted by MidasMulligan at 8:14 AM on May 29, 2002


A particular range of beliefs and behaviours is necessary for either economic or political liberalization to happen.

I agree, and this is where a lot of the left gets hung up: the idea that people need to be 'trained' for self-government. It's seen by many as condescending. It's seen by me as obvious, and I think such training and socialization is implicit in the concept of modernization. Unfortunately, many foreign investing companies will support modernization only to the extent that it will facilitate their profits; a ruling class is put in place, the veneer of "law" is achieved, and companies then take part in what can only be called expropriation, Shell in Nigeria being a good example (though Shell has certainly started to clean up its act). "Wealth and jobs creation" are touted in company press releases, but the wealth and jobs that were created served mostly to entrench a despotic ruling elite.

The "outrageous" faction, I think, believes that it is their ideas that are to challenging to the powers that be. I don't think it is - it is their behaviour.


For the most part such demonstrations are for the benefit of the viewing/voting public, to 'raise awareness' (to use a quite overused phrase), to tell the voters that "this is something you should be paying attention to". In that respect, the demonstrations were highly successful, and this is where i think you and I disagree on the effects of the protests. You say that they hurt the world's poor, but I think that the resultant increase in democratic scrutiny of the global trade regime is a total good thing.

As for the outrageous faction, I don't know that they actually have any ideas. I do know that they've received media attention far out of proportion to their actual numbers.
posted by Ty Webb at 8:54 AM on May 29, 2002


Unfortunately, many foreign investing companies will support modernization only to the extent that it will facilitate their profits;

Yes ... but they cannot pay attention to anything else. Companies, especially large public ones, represent their investors and shareholders. In some instances, they do try to affect politics (the Shell example is a somewhat extreme one - it is more commonly politics at the local level that they have an impact upon). But largely, these days, they simply try to function within whatever the system is (IBM and McDonalds cannot make the slightest dent in Russian politics practices - even though they are big multinationals operating there). Nor is it even the business of business to bring about political modernization. However, I do believe, from personal experience, business is capable of facilitating changes. Ideas travel along with dollars. They just do.

My boss has done large (multi-billion dollar) investment deals with the Chinese (and the line between the public and private sectors in China is thin to nonexistent). He is a thinking guy, and he does, personally, hate some of the oppressive tactics the Chinese government uses to keep people in line. But he also thinks it is not his business to mess with political change in China. During the course of some of the deals, however, I was in meetings and on conference calls - that a number of Chinese business and political people participated in along with Americans and Europeans - and just in the course of the casual chit-chat that surrounds meetings, debates and discussions between the westerners about this election, or that candidate, naturally ensued. The Chinese, in other words, quietly watched groups of people holding, and articulating, passionate perspectives that no one would dare speak publicly (and in some cases, wouldn't even speak privately) in China. This exposure (in my opinion) is roughly equivalent to introducing a slow software virus into the Chinese political system. It (I believe) is far more likely to create that day to day foundation for eventual political liberalization than protests or critiques from other governments ever will (as, on the whole, the empirical evidence is that such things only serve to strengthen the position of the Chinese government) ... by demonstrating in action what democracy is, by living the freedoms it delivers. Once someone experiences that while living in an oppressive system, they are permanently changed.

Protesting, and attacking the Chinese for civil and human rights issues causes the average Chinese citizen to actually react with loyalty to, and affirmation of, China and her government. However, simply watching a bunch of westerners openly criticizing their governments, their leaders ... having vigorous debates with one another with an utter absence of fear ... incubates an entirely new psychological model.

I personally think protesters would be quite well served if they did the work that international businessmen and businesswomen do. I didn't deal with the Chinese, (or Russians, or any other culture) without serious effort put into understanding culture and custom and psychology and business practices (i.e., months of study and coaching prior to even a first contact). To some extent, it requires being non-judgemental (and frankly, from my perspective, there is little difference between paying the city of New York for a business license, and the roughly $50 a month I'm going to pay the Russian mafia to keep my people there untouched ... except that the New york license is much more expensive ...). And honestly, I studied with the sole intention of beating competitors at negotiating tables.

However - if what a protester holds as their intention is a genuine desire to effect real change in China - they should damn well do the same homework. And so long as they don't, I think it's at least likely that the direct effects of their actions actually produce the opposite of what they want (any nation - and for various historical and cultural reasons, especially China - attacked from without, instinctively unifies), and that the aftereffects of my actions (simply approaching them as individuals with whom I want to do business - and showing them the respect that knowledge of their culture and history denotes ... while at the same time unintentionally modeling the attitudes of a man born in a free world ...) is actually doing more to support the changes the protesters say they want than the protesters themselves are doing.

Well, enough babbling.
posted by MidasMulligan at 12:37 PM on May 29, 2002


Protesting, and attacking the Chinese for civil and human rights issues causes the average Chinese citizen to actually react with loyalty to, and affirmation of, China and her government.

I don't know that you can speak for the average Chinese....some Chinese do react this way, however most indigenous democratic activists sincerely appreciate and need international support, and regret the decoupling of human rights from economic issues.

However, simply watching a bunch of westerners openly criticizing their governments, their leaders having vigorous debates with one another with an utter absence of fear ... incubates an entirely new psychological model.


Yes, both work together, but there isn't a single instance of a government democratizing solely on the basis of economic modernization, in the absence of political pressure both from within and without.
posted by Ty Webb at 1:18 PM on May 29, 2002


I just have to say, this is the first time I've seen Midas express a nuance and depth to his viewpoints; as I usually see them they tend to be more cut-and-dried carte blanche support for capitalist forces. Truth is, I probably hew closer to his viewpoints than either he or I would comfortably admit; I'm all for makin' money, and recognize as Clinton did (and the idiot left did not, like the Oregon anarchists that despoiled things here in Seattle in 1999) that politics and democratic change is by nature and design slow.

My beef consistently is only with, as Ty Webb suggest, a "cart before the horse" thinking; having more powerful established nation's entry into developing lands more as predator than helping hand. Some corporations do good, I don't deny that; but because many also do not, because a corporation can wield such immense control, we need to be very vigilant to abuses.

My core belief is that we the people allow the legal existence of the corporation to exist if it benefits us and our standard of living; we shouldn't get into the frame of mind that the corporation must exist eternally, and that it's the responsibility of people to get used to it and hope for some crumbs of grace out of the hands of those corporations. Corporations, or more generally large-scale institutions, only should exist if they are serving the interests of humanity- this is the essence of democracy. If a corporation can go into a developing nation and help that nation emerge from poverty while also making a profit, fantastic! I'm all for lifting all the worlds people out of poverty and into self-sufficiency and democracy, and I'm not so addle-pated as to think that this doesn't mean getting existing companies in there to help those people develop into a modern society.

But often the case is that the money is the sole motivating factor- even if it means dealing with and thus economically sustaining the existing despots that rule that land with a cruel iron fist.
posted by hincandenza at 8:38 PM on May 31, 2002


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