The World Trade Organization
The End of Geography?
|Representative Jack Metcalf|
During 1969 C.P. Kindleberger wrote that "the nation-state is just about through as an economic unit." He added that the U.S. Congress and right-wing know-nothings in all countries were unaware of this. He added: "The world is too small...Two-hundred- thousand ton tank and ore carries... and airbuses, and the like will not permit sovereign independence of the nation-state in economic affairs."
Before that Emile Durkheim stated: "The corporations are to become the elementary division of the state, the fundamental political unit. They will efface the distinction between public and private, dissect the democratic citizenry into discrete functional groupings which are no longer capable of joint political action." Durkheim went so far as to proclaim that through corporations scientific rationality it "will achieve its rightful standing as the creator of collective reality."
There is little question that part of these two statements are accurate; America has seen its national sovereignty slowly diffused over a growing number of International Governing Organizations. The WTO is just the latest in a long line of such developments that began right after World War Two. But as the protest in Seattle against the WTO Ministerial Meeting made clear, the democratic citizenry seemed well prepared for joint political action. Though it has been pointed out that many, if not the majority, of protestors did not know what the WTO was, and much of the protest itself entirely missed the mark regarding WTO culpability in many areas proclaimed, this remains but a question of education. And it is the responsibility of the citizens' representatives to begin that process.
We may not entirely agree with the former head of the Anti-Trust Division of the U.S. Justice Department Thurman Arnold (1938-1943) when he stated that the United States had
" ...developed two coordinate governing classes: the one, called ‘business,' building cities, manufacturing and distributing goods, and holding complete and autocratic power over the livelihood of millions; the other, called ‘government,' concerned with preaching and exemplification of spiritual ideals, so caught in a mass of theory, that when it wished to move in a practical world it had to do so by means of a sub rosa political machine.
...but surely the advocate of corporate governance today, housed quietly and efficiently within the corridors of power at the WTO, OECD, IMF and the World Bank...clearly believe."
Corporatism as ideology, and it is an ideology; as John Ralston Saul recently referred to it as, a hijacking of first, our terms such as individualism and then a hijacking of western civilization, the result being (the portrait of) a society addicted to ideologies - a civilization tightly held at this moment in the embrace of a dominant ideology: corporatism.
As we find our citizenry affected by this ideology and its consequences (consumerism) "the overall effects on the individual are passivity and conformity in those areas that matter and non-conformity in those which don't." We do know more than ever before just how we got here. The WTO is a creature of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) which began in 1948 its quest for a global regime of economic interdependence. But by 1972 some members of Congress saw the handwriting on the wall, and it was a forgery. Senator Long, while Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee made these comments to Dr. Henry Kissinger regarding the completion and prepared signing of the Kennedy Round of the GATT accords.
"If we trade away American jobs and farmers' incomes for some vague concept of a new international order, the American people will demand from their elected representatives a new order of their own, which puts their jobs, their security and their incomes above the priorities of those who dealt them a bad deal."
But we know that few listened and twenty years later the former Chairman of the International Trade Commission argued that it was the Kennedy Round that began the slow decline in American's living standards. Citing statistics in his point regarding the loss of manufacturing jobs and the like he concluded with what must be seen as a warning.
"The...Uruguay Round and the promise of the North American Trade Agreement all may mesmerize and motivate Washington policy makers. But in the American heartland those initiatives translate as further efforts to promote international order at the expense of existing American jobs."
We are still not listening. Certainly the ideologists of Corporatism can not hear us; they in fact are pressing the same ideological stratagem in the journals that matter like "Foreign Affairs" and the books coming out of the elite think-tanks and non-governmental organizations. One such author, Anne-Marie Slaughter proclaimed her rather self-important opinion that state sovereignty was little more than a status symbol and something to be attained now through ‘transgovernmental' participation. That would be presumably achieved through the WTO for instance?
Stephan Krasner in the volume "International Rules" goes into more detail by explaining global regimes as functional attributes of world order: environmental regimes, financial regimes and of course trade regimes.
"In a world of sovereign states the basic function of regimes is to coordinate state behavior to achieve desired outcomes in particular issue-areas....If, as many have argued, there is a general movement toward a world of complex interdependence then the number of areas in which regimes can matter is growing."
But we are not here speaking of changes within an existing regime whereby elected representatives of free people make adjustments to new technologies, new ideas and further the betterment of their people; the first duty of elected representatives is to look out for their constituency. The WTO is not changes within the existing regime but an entirely new regime. It has assumed an unprecedented degree of American sovereignty over the economic regime of the nation and, the world. Then who are the sovereigns? Is it the people, the "nation" in nation-state? I do not believe so. I would argue that who governs rules; who rules is sovereign. And the people of America and their elected representatives do not rule nor govern at the WTO but corporate diplomats (a word decidedly oxymoronic).
Who are these new Sovereigns? Maybe we can get a clearer picture by looking at what the WTO is in place to accomplish. I took interest in an article in "Foreign Affairs," - "A New Trade Order" (Vol. 72, No. 1), by Cowhey and Aronson.
"Foreign investment flows are only about 10 percent of the size of the world trade flows each year, but intra-firm trade (for example, sales by Ford Europe to Ford USA) now accounts for up to an astonishing 40 percent of all U.S. trade."
This complex interdependence we hear of every day inside the beltway, is nothing short of miraculous according to the policy makers who are mesmerized by all this. But clearly the interdependence is less between the people of the "nation" states then between the "corporations" of the Corporate-States.
Richard O'Brien in his book titled "Global Financial Integration: The End Of Geography" states the case this way.
"The firm is far less wedded to the idea of geography. Ownership is more and more international and global, divorced from national definitions...If one marketplace can no longer provide a service or an attractive location to carry out transactions, then the firm will actively seek another home. At the level of the firm, therefore, there are plenty of choices of geography."
O'Brien seems unduly excited when he adds, the "glorious end-of-geography prospect for the close of this century is the emergence of a seamless global financial market...Barriers will be gone, service will be global, the world economy will benefit and so too, presumably, the consumer..." Presumably? Counter to this ideological slant, and it is ideological, O'Brien notes the
Fact that governments are the very embodiment of geography, representing the nation-state. The end of geography is, in many respects, all about the end or diminution of sovereignty.
In a rare find a French author published a book titled "The End of Democracy." Jean-Marie Guehenno, has served in a number of posts for the French government including their Ambassador to the European Union." He suggests this period we live in is an Imperial Age.
"The imperial age is an age of the diffuse and continuous violence. There will no longer be any territory to defend, but only order - operating methods - to protect. And this abstract security is infinitely more difficult to ensure than that of a world in which geography commanded history. Neither rivers nor oceans protect the delicate mechanisms of the imperial age from a menace as multiform as the empire itself."
The Empire itself? Whose Empire? In whose interests? Political analyst Craig B Hulet, in his book titled "Global Triage: Imperium in Imperio" refers to this new global regime as Imperium in Imperio, or power within a power: a State within a state. His theory proposes that these new sovereigns are nothing short of this: "they represent the power not of the natural persons which make up the nations' peoples, nor of their elected representatives, but the power of the legal paper-person recognized in law - the corporations themselves are, then, the new sovereigns. And in their efforts to be treated in law as equals to the citizens of each separate State, they call this National Treatment, they would travel the sea and wherever they land ashore they would be citizens here and there! Not even the Privateers of old would have dared impose this will upon nation-states."
Can we claim to know today what this rapid progress of global transformation will portend for democracy here at home? We understand the great benefits of past progress; we are not Luddites here we know what refrigeration can do for the child in a poor country; what clean water means everywhere to everyone; what free communications has already achieved. But are we going to unwittingly sacrifice our sovereignty on the alter of this new god, "Progress." Is it progress if a cannibal uses a knife and fork?
Can we claim to know today what this rapid progress of global transformation will portend for national sovereignty here at home? We protect our way of life; our children's future; our workers jobs; our security at home, by measures often not unlike our airports are protected from pistols on planes: But self-interested ideologies, private greed and private power? Bad ideas escape our mental detectors.
We seem to be radically short of leadership where this active participation in the process of diffusing America's power over to, and into, the private global monopoly-capitalist regime - today pursued without questioning its basis at all.
An Empire represented by not just the WTO, but clearly this new regime is the core ideological success for Corporatism...
The only step remaining, according the Harvard Professor Paul Krugman, is the finalization of a completed Multilateral Agreement on Investment, which failed at OECD. According to OECD the agreement's actual success may come through (not a treaty this time) but arrangements within corporate governance itself, quietly being hashed out at the IMF and World Bank as well as OECD. We are not yet the United Corporations of America! Or are we??
The WTO needs to be scrutinized carefully, debated, hearings and public participation where possible.
We can of course, as author Christopher Lasch notes, peer inward at ourselves as well, when he argued
"The history of the twentieth century suggests that totalitarian regimes are highly unstable, evolving toward some type of bureaucracy that fits neither the classic fascist nor the socialist model. None of this means that the future will be safe for democracy, only that the threat to democracy comes less from totalitarian or collective movements abroad than from the erosion its psychological, cultural, and spiritual foundations from within."
Are we not witness to, though, the growth of a global bureaucracy being created, not out of totalitarian or collectivist movements, but from autocratic corporations which hold so many lives in their balance? And where shall we redress our grievances when the regime completes its global transformation? When the people of each Nation and their State find they can no longer identify their rulers, their true rulers? When it is no longer their State which rules?
The most recent U.N. Development Report documents how globalization has increased inequality between and within nations while bringing them together as never before.
Some are referring to this Globalization's Dark Side, like Jay Mazur recently in Foreign Affairs.
"A world in which the assets of the 200 richest people are greater than the combined income of the more than 2 billion people at the other end of the economic ladder should give everyone pause. Such islands of concentrated wealth in the sea of misery have historically been a prelude to upheaval... The vast majority of trade and investment takes place between industrial nations, dominated by global corporations that control a third of world exports. Of the 100 largest economies in the world, 51 are corporations." (Vol. 79, No. 1 January/February 2000)
With further mergers and acquisitions the future, with no end in sight, those of us that are awake must speak up now.
Or is it that we just can not see at all; believing in our current speculative bubble, which nobody credible believes can be sustained for much longer, we missed the growing anger, fear and frustration or our people; believing in the myths our policy priests pass on, we missed the dissatisfaction of our workers; believing in the god "progress" we have lost our vision.
Another warning, this time from Ethan Kapstein in his article "Workers and the World Economy." (Foreign Affairs: Vol. 75, No. 3):
"While the world stands at a critical time in post war history, it has a group of leaders who appear unwilling, like their predecessors in the 1930's, to provide the international leadership to meet economic dislocations. Worse, many of them and their economic advisors do not seem to recognize the profound troubles affecting their societies. Like the German elite in Weimar, they dismiss mounting worker dissatisfaction, fringe political movements, and the plight of the unemployed and working poor as marginal concerns compared with the unquestioned importance of a sound currency and balanced budget. Leaders need to recognize their policy failures of the last twenty years and respond accordingly. If they do not, there are others waiting in the wings who will, perhaps on less pleasant terms."
We ought to be looking very closely at where the new sovereigns intend to take us. We need to discuss the end they have in sight. It is our responsibility and duty.
Most everyone today agrees that socialism is not a threat. Many feel communism, even in China, is not a threat, indeed, there are few real security threats to America that could compare to even our recent past. Be that as it may, when we speak of the global market economy, free enterprise, massage the terms to merge with managed competition and planning authorities, all the while suggesting we have met the hidden hand and it is good, we need to also recall what Adam Smith said but is rarely quoted upon:
"Masters are always and everywhere in a sort of tacit, but constant and uniform, combination, not to raise the wages of labor above their actual rate. To violate this combination is everywhere a most unpopular action, and a sort of reproach to a master among his neighbors and equals. We seldom, indeed, hear of this combination, because it is usual, and one may say, the natural state of things.... Masters, too sometimes enter into particular combinations to sink wages of labor even below this rate. These are always conducted with the utmost silence and secrecy, till the moment of execution... "
And now precisely, whose responsibility is it to keep an eye on the Masters?
I urge my collegues, Republicans and Democrats, left and right on the political spectrum, to boldly restore the oversight role of Congress with one stroke, and join my collegues and I in supporting HJRes. 90 in restoring the sovereignty of these United States.