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September 10, 2000
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It's odd that people reacting against globalisation should try to stop the forum meeting in Melbourne this week. It is working to solve the problems they are protesting against, warns the Swiss intellectual who is founder and president of the World Economic Forum.
posted by murray_kester (29 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
It is working to solve the problems they are protesting against

That's funny. I was under the impression they are the ones working to create the problems.

From their own PR:

"The World Economic Forum has played a leading role in the economic globalisation process... at the beginning of the eighties it played a major role in launching the Uruguay trade negotiations [which led to the creation of the WTO]. The foundation has made a contribution to the process and negotiation of financial services liberalisation."

QED.

Oh, but the WEF says it does good things too. Really? I challenge anyone to name one concrete human rights or environmental proposal to have come out of a WEF meeting in the last three decades.

Indeed, whenever such a proposal is put forward by an academic or an NGO, members of the WEF waste no time lobbying against it. Take the Tobin Tax Initiative. It is clearly a win-win proposal, benefiting both third world nations and western investors, and has wide support from prominent mainstream economists such as Lawrence Summers (Secretary of the Treasury) and Joseph Stiglitz (former chief economist at the World Bank). Unfortunately, although support by economists, individual investors, and people in the third world was impressive, it was financially insufficient to outweigh the lobbying efforts of the large investment firms, who profit from irrational, economically destructive currency speculation.

The WEF is a networking club for fat cats, nothing more. As such, it has done much to make this world a more violent and polluted place, and absolutely nothing to improve things.
posted by johnb at 5:43 PM on September 10, 2000


Perhaps the protestors wish to make sure their concerns are heard, rather than blindly trusting the WEF attendees to do so for them.
posted by feckless at 7:28 PM on September 10, 2000


This sort of behavior does not win S11 any friends - a policeman
was injured and an ambulance officer was roughed up
and the keys to his ambulance were stolen in confrontations between the protesters and security officials, officials said.




posted by murray_kester at 7:41 PM on September 10, 2000


>This sort of behavior does not win S11 any friends

You must have a rather dim view of your fellow Australians, murray_kester. The fact is, if you dislike violence, you should love s11, which is demonstrably committed to nonviolent protest. And I daresay more people are aware of this fact than you might imagine.
posted by johnb at 8:40 PM on September 10, 2000


I am sure you are right, John. As always it's the few that spoil it for the many. There is said to be 10,000 people at the gathering today. Driving past the protesters on my way to work this morning, I saw many of them decked out in colorful gear and about 20 or so people carrying a rainbow colored dragon made of crete paper. I am certain that 99% of the S11 folk are decent people who abhor violent protest - the point I was trying to make is that beating people up (whether it's the police or the protesters) is just counter-productive.
posted by murray_kester at 8:54 PM on September 10, 2000


Of course it is, which is why vested interests have always encouraged disruptors, sometimes even paid them. The FBI used to plant people in US anti-war groups who would always be the ones suggesting violence.
posted by dhartung at 11:57 PM on September 10, 2000


The case of Earth First! is certainly instructive in that regard. The FBI plant was the one who goaded the radical environmentalists into trying to take destructive action. Mother Jones did a scathing expose on it back in the day.
posted by wiremommy at 12:20 AM on September 11, 2000


Does anyone doubt that this is taking place right now? Can anyone support this kind of behavior?
posted by sudama at 12:30 AM on September 11, 2000


Speaking of police infiltration, has anyone posted this Reuters article yet?

"State police undercover agents posing as demonstrators infiltrated activist groups planning the protests at the Republican National Convention, search-warrant documents made public yesterday showed. The undercover operation was detailed in legal documents filed Aug. 1 by Philadelphia police seeking search warrants for a raid that day on a so-called "puppet warehouse" at 4100 Haverford Ave. in West Philadelphia. The documents were under a court seal until yesterday....During the convention, Police Commissioner John F. Timoney repeatedly denied that police had engaged in infiltration. "We had not infiltrated any group," he said the day after police raided the warehouse that had become one of several gathering spots for demonstrators during the convention. A spokeswoman for the commissioner said yesterday that he would have no comment...."

"When protest becomes effective, governments become repressive." -- Tom Hayden
posted by johnb at 1:16 AM on September 11, 2000


That sounds very much like the techniques polices used against activist groups in Washington recently, citing fire code violations to shut down their HQ.

Police seem to be going above and beyond thier role to stifle protesters. The small number of fanactics that end up causing the violence seems enough to warrent hysteria when reguarding protests, anti-social teenages, and whatever the crisis of the moment is.
posted by john at 8:30 AM on September 11, 2000


The small number of fanactics that end up causing the violence

I seem to remember hearing a report of a protest at a genetics conference where 10% of the protesters arrested turned out to be police infiltrators. Anyone remember the details, and whether this is true or just another urban legend I picked up somewhere?

-Mars
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:05 AM on September 11, 2000


What's so surprising about it. Have you seen any rational, level-headed, adult, reasonable decision making being done by the "anti-globalization" front.

I used to be idealistic too. Then I decided to join the real world and conduct myself in a civil and decent way. There are just some things over which I can have absolutely no control. ALL I can do is make the best individual decisions I can make individually.

IMHO.
posted by humboldt32 at 10:35 AM on September 11, 2000


Ok, I'll ask this one this time: Who wants to clue me in to the alternative to a global rules-based trading organization? Let's assume all the protests go exactly the way the anti-free trade movement wants, the WTO collapses, etc. Then what? Why won't the economy collapse and the world go to hell?

(I'm dying to hear what terms Johnb will use to patronizingly label me as a tool of the corporate media.)
posted by norm at 11:33 AM on September 11, 2000


How about a global rules-based trading organization that's based on democracy?
posted by alan at 11:48 AM on September 11, 2000


But alan, every company gets a vote. What more do you want?
posted by dhartung at 11:54 AM on September 11, 2000


>>Let's assume all the protests go exactly the way the anti-free trade movement wants.<<

It isn't really possible for things to go "the way the movement wants." This movement is a conglomeration, made of such a hodge-podge of varied one-issue interests - today, it included Trotskyists, anarchists, students, gay rights activists, environmentalists and even Falun Gong supporters - that if they ever were to get any sort of break their way, the "movement" would almost instantaneously fall apart as everyone started fighting for their One Issue Uber Alles. The only thing they have in common is that they hate the status quo, whatever that is. Without the status quo, they'd collapse. And what would jump in to fill the vacuum? More status quo, most likely. The status quo is what the vast majority of people want.

>>the WTO collapses, etc. Then what?<<

Probably nothing. True "globalization" has been going on for over a century. It's only relatively recently that specific organizations like the WTO have sprung up with any sort of power to facilitate such things. If the WTO were to fall apart, it would probably slow the progress down a bit, that's all.
posted by aaron at 12:06 PM on September 11, 2000



>Who wants to clue me in to the alternative to a global rules-based trading organization?

You seem to think we're opposed to a "global rules-based trading organization." Perhaps that's your misconception. What we want is a global orgainzation whose rules not only protect profits but also the environment and human rights. So, you ask, why not simply reform the WTO? Answer: we would if you could, but the WTO is an undemocratic institution, effectively unaccountable to the demands of nonshareholders. Got it?

So what's the alternative? One suggestion would be a "World Economic Parliament", with democratically elected representatives, as well as a "World Economic and Environmental Court", to resolve trade related disputes. This approach is described in detail in CAIS (A Common Agreement on Investment and Society).

The point is, when you globalize capital without globalizing democratic institutions, the vast majority of the world's people get screwed. After decades of increasing liberalization, we now have more than enough evidence of this.

Let's assume all the protests go exactly the way the anti-free trade movement wants, the WTO collapses, etc. Then what? Why won't the economy collapse and the world go to hell?

First of all, remember: the corporations are the ones opposed to free trade, not the protestors. The protestors are protesting corporate managed trade, and they have no problem with (e.g.) an open-borders immigration policy.

Secondly, remember that the WTO is only a few years old, and has done nothing to improve the global economy in those few years, to put it mildly. If it were to collapse, that would be a very positive development.

>(I'm dying to hear what terms Johnb will use to patronizingly label me as a tool of the corporate media.)

I wouldn't want to beat a dead horse :)
posted by johnb at 12:25 PM on September 11, 2000


It isn't really possible for things to go "the way the movement wants." This movement is a conglomeration, made of such a hodge-podge of varied one-issue interests - today, it included Trotskyists, anarchists, students, gay rights activists, environmentalists and even Falun Gong supporters - that if they ever were to get any sort of break their way, the "movement" would almost instantaneously fall apart as everyone started fighting for their One Issue Uber Alles. The only thing they have in common is that they hate the status quo, whatever that is. Without the status quo, they'd collapse.

Aaron, the "one uniting issue" is called democracy - heard of it? Different kinds of people can be in favor of it, yes?

And what would jump in to fill the vacuum? More status quo, most likely.

This strikes me as an unintelligible remark.

The status quo is what the vast majority of people want.

Wow, you have absolutely no moral qualms about making shit up, do you? Or, if you're right, let's see the survey data.

posted by johnb at 12:39 PM on September 11, 2000


(quoted):"First of all, remember: the corporations are the ones opposed to free trade, not the protestors."

Please explain this. I have read this doublespeak from you too many times to not understand it. What free trade do you advocate? Also, see my Shiva post elsewhere. You refer to the "we don't oppose free trade" argument all the time. I call bullshit. Most of the movement is squarely against free trade (farmers, labor, etc.).

"Secondly, remember that the WTO is only a few years old, and has done nothing to improve the global economy in those few years, to put it mildly. If it were to collapse, that would be a very positive development."

1. Due to the WTO, the majority of the tariffs are gone. Do you need a historical primer as to the effect of tariff policies?
2. How quickly will the countries of the world act to re-establish tariffs if the WTO is either abolished or becomes irrelevant?
3. Who do you suppose will set the rules without a global rules-based trade organization? Let's face it -- the only groups with global reach and global organization ARE THE MULTINATIONAL CORPORATIONS.

Ok, and as for the "global democratic pie in the sky economic forum?" PLEASE. Join the real world. Look, what warrant do you possibly have for claiming democracy as an ideal method for global governance on any issue? I barely can support an American representative republic. Each country has the same opportunity to send delegates to the WTO that we do. It's up to their governments to make sure their interests are represented.

Thanks for keeping your patronizing ad hominems to a minimum. . . . .
posted by norm at 12:49 PM on September 11, 2000


Wow, johnb's resorting to out-and-out personal attacks. I must be on the right track.

Democracy is what we have now. The majority, who are not you, like the way things are. In a democracy, there is a losing side. You are on it. And it seems this fact is making you very angry. Perhaps one day you will not be on the losing side. But I doubt it.

Survey data: Voting results for the last 225 years.
posted by aaron at 2:21 PM on September 11, 2000



Aaron: democracy is NOT what we have now. We have a democratic republic. We are permitted to vote for representatives who are supposed to act on our behalf. However, in the process of getting elected, these representatives become beholden to people & organizations which have the money and power to help them get elected. "Our" representatives thus use that money and power to convince us to vote for them, then they represent the interests of those who gave them money and power rather than representing the voters. However, their representation of moneyed and powerful interests is kept as quiet as possible, so that voters will continue to fall for the rhetoric that they are participating in a "democratic" process.

DUH.

As for why the WTO sucks, haven't we been over this before? The WTO is accountable to NO ONE and they have the power to overturn ANY trade-related law if the WTO decides it's a "barrier to free trade". In other words, if tomorrow the WTO decides that meat inspection and labeling is a barrier to free trade (because sellers of substandard meat can't freely compete with sellers of quality meat due to labelling), they can overturn the laws. Consumers will get E coli infections and die, but "free trade" will be upheld.

Sound unlikely? Think again. Through NAFTA, the US ban on carcinogenic asbestos was overturned and asbestos is being used again. Asbestos contamination is killing an estimated 1,000 Americans per year. (Source: Ted Rall.)

If we value what influence we do have in our democratic republic, we can't dismiss the WTO as just "a rules organization" that's part of the "status quo". It's not-- it's new, it's dangerous, it answers to no elected body and it renders government subservient to corporate interests, not just in function, but in fact.
posted by wiremommy at 3:41 PM on September 11, 2000


wiremommy:



de·moc·ra·cy (n., pl. de·moc·ra·cies.) - 1. Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.

DUH.
posted by aaron at 5:08 PM on September 11, 2000



1. Due to the WTO, the majority of the tariffs are gone. Do you need a historical primer as to the effect of tariff policies?

Due to the WTO, quite a few significant environmental protection & labor regulations are gone as well. Do you need a historical primer as to what happens when businesses are not obliged to pay attention to human health and safety?

2. How quickly will the countries of the world act to re-establish tariffs if the WTO is either abolished or becomes irrelevant?

Not very quickly, since the idea is not to abolish the WTO and leave a vacuum, but to establish a democratic institution in its place. Such an organisation would be responsible to concerns about human life, the environment, social justice, and other things slightly more important to the world at large than the bottom line of some multinational.

3. Who do you suppose will set the rules without a global rules-based trade organization?

A global rules-based trade organization established and maintained via democratic processes, accountable to the people affected by its decisions. That being, of course, the objective of this anti-WTO protest movement.

Let's face it -- the only groups with global reach and global organization ARE THE MULTINATIONAL CORPORATIONS.

All the more reason to fight like hell against them. Do you really think Monsanto, Arco, GM, or any of the rest care about you, your health, your freedom, your job, or anything else besides how much money they can get from you? Why should they get to run the world? Why do you accept the idea that the tiny fraction of the world's population who run the major corporations should get to make decisions for the billions of us who don't? That's the very definition of oligarchy. Rule by the elite is a miserable way to run a country, so why do you think it would be any better a way to run the entire world?

-Mars

posted by Mars Saxman at 6:25 PM on September 11, 2000


Aaron, thanks for demonstrating how thoroughly you fail to understand the difference between a "government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives" and the way the United States democratic republic actually functions (see paragraph 1 above for a drastically simplified but still, I think, reasonably accurate summary).

Too bad everything can't be as simple as a dictionary definition, which tends to leave out small but important details like soft money, kickbacks, PACs, horse trading, pork, lobbyists...

And perhaps you could explain how your dictionary definition of democracy accommodates an entity like the WTO.

You might also want to address how your "Survey data: Voting results for the last 225 years" is woefully inaccurate, since for the better part of those 225 years the results were biased-- seeing as how the statistical sample excluded women, people of color, and non-landowners.
posted by wiremommy at 6:39 PM on September 11, 2000


P.S. Mars, you rock.
posted by wiremommy at 6:39 PM on September 11, 2000


From what I've been hearing, the enviromental concerns with WTO are warrented. I found this situation to be scary to contemplate on a global scale:

Mexico has lost a major NAFTA investor lawsuit that could have serious implications for Canada's ability to pass environmental regulations and may even affect the way that Toronto disposes of its garbage. An independent tribunal under the North American free-trade agreement ruled this week that Mexico must pay California-based Metalclad Corp. a total of $16.7-million (US) as compensation for a Mexican municipality's refusal to allow the company to run a hazardous waste dump. The decision is proof that NAFTA and the environment are at odds, and that municipalities will have a tough time turning away garbage if foreign corporations are involved, said Michelle Swenarchuk of the Canadian Environmental Law Association. "NAFTA is saying, you can have your local rules for dumping, but if a foreign company wants to dump... it can force you to pay," Ms. Swenarchuk said yesterday. "This case is a terrible example of how necessary environmental controls can become near impossible for local communities."

I have tremedous respect for protesters these days. I don't know if I could face the kind of brutal police actions that have been coming their way. I been to the hospital after a fight before and it ain't fun. I wouldn't want to know how it feels to have pepper spray in your face to spice up the pain.
posted by john at 8:06 PM on September 11, 2000


(quote from mars) "A global rules-based trade organization established and maintained via democratic
processes, accountable to the people affected by its decisions. **That being, of course, the objective of this anti-WTO protest movement.** (Stars mine)

Oh, that fiction. Will someone not answer my claim that the majority of the movement has no desire for any sort of "rules based trade organization?"

(quote ibid) "Due to the WTO, quite a few significant environmental protection & labor regulations are gone as well. Do you need a historical primer as to what happens
when businesses are not obliged to pay attention to human health and safety?"

Well, not to get TOO repugnant, but I seem to recall this thing called the industrial revolution that happened. . . that may not be the best thing in history to some, but it sure increased the scale of economy towards those that did it as opposed to those that didn't. It seems like protestors want to freeze the status quo to prevent countries that would like to develop industries from doing so. Seems a bit patronizing: "Oh, we've done this development thing before and TRUST US. You don't want to be like US." I agree that we do need the ability to make genuine environmental standards, or at the least truth in labeling requirements. It is rather imperialist to establish environmental standards on countries that have never had them simply because they aren't a postindustrial society yet, however. You don't hear the countries you want to protect cry out about lax environmental standards: only the rich can meet them.
posted by norm at 10:04 PM on September 11, 2000


Norm, you're just wrong. Stay out of this debate until you understand both sides of this issue.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 1:00 PM on January 4, 2001


Stay out of the debate? What the fuck is that? I might think you're wrong but I won't tell you to stay out of it. That's absolutely the most repugnant, unnecessary shit I've ever seen you write, Cap'n. I can't respect that. Of all the condescending, patronizing, offensive assumptions to make....
posted by norm at 1:36 PM on April 24, 2001


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