Lip service to democracy
 
By:
Pierre Lemieux
Date:
05/08/2001


Lip service to democracy
Keynes saw globalization as a world without passports. The Quebec Summit plans a hemispheric cartel whose main export is statism

Pierre Lemieux
National Post

The whole process of Summits of the Americas -- the one in Quebec City being the third -- is not only about the project of a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). It is also about creating a bicontinental cartel of 34 states to prevent competition among governments and to better control their citizens.

The process officially started with the 1994 Miami Summit. Besides the FTAA idea, the Declaration of Miami contained a host of projects opposed to letting individuals trade freely. The Declaration espoused the shibboleths of "social justice" and "sustainable development." The heads of state planned to "invest in people" -- to increase their shares in us, as it were.

The Plan of Action issued after the 1994 Summit talked about "universal access to education," "equitable access to basic health services," "strengthening the role of women in society," and a host of other politically correct, and coercive, state agendas. Note this one: "Governments will ... [e]nact legislation to permit the freezing and forfeiture of the proceeds of money laundering and consider the sharing of forfeited assets among governments [and] ... [e]ncourage financial institutions to report large and suspicious transactions to appropriate authorities and develop effective procedures that would allow the collection of relevant information from financial institutions." Such legislation was already on the books in the United States, but still had to fall on the hapless Canadians' heads.

Four years later, the 1998 Declaration of Santiago put new emphasis on previously defined goals such as "progress towards social justice" under the so-called Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or "greater support to micro and small enterprises." New statist objectives were added, such as the will to "strengthen banking supervision in the Hemisphere," and "promote core labour standards recognized by the International Labour Organization (ILO)." Among the new ideas for exporting statism were "internal rules that regulate contributions to electoral campaigns" -- a continental gag.

With all this, politicians and bureaucrats must have thought they had co-opted so-called "civil society" -- i.e., government-subsidized activists. The Quebec City Summit showed that they were mistaken.

The Declaration of Quebec City still contains the worthy goal of "trade, without subsidies or unfair practices, along with an increasing stream of productive investments and greater economic integration," but the participants strengthened their non-trade, or anti-trade, agendas. The Plan of Action updated at the Quebec City Summit, now 43 pages long, calls for "the effective application of core labour standards," "corporate social responsibility," and different forms of continental redistribution.

The Quebec City Plan of Action even added tobacco and alcohol to the evils to be fought by our democratically crowned rulers. Governments, the document states, will "[p]articipate actively in the negotiation of a proposed [World Health Organization] Framework Convention on Tobacco Control; develop and adopt policies and programs to reduce the consumption of tobacco products, especially as it affects children; share best practices and lessons learned in the development of programs designed to raise public awareness, particularly for adolescents, about the health risks associated with tobacco, alcohol and drugs."

Is the goal to establish free trade, or to enforce minimal standards of tyranny? Do we want jet fighters, under CIA information, to shoot down suspected smugglers' planes -- as just happened in Peru to a plane carrying innocent missionaries? Is a trade agreement likely to contain as many managed-trade, as opposed to free-trade, elements, worth the cost of a reinforced bicontinental cartel of states?

Lip service to democracy does not diminish the danger, but only makes it more acceptable. "Their Excellencies," as the democratic presidents and prime ministers are called at summit meetings, attach different meanings to the term "democracy" that seldom relate to our traditional individual liberties. For Jean Chrétien, it means, at best, the tyranny of the majority and, at worst, the British parliamentary system, where a little king is elected every four or five years. For many South American heads of state, it often means subsidies from the North.

John Maynard Keynes marvelled that, before the First World War, "[t]he inhabitant of London could order by telephone, sipping his morning tea in bed, the various products of the whole earth ... he could at the same time and by the same means adventure his wealth in the natural resources and new enterprise of any quarter of the world ... he could secure forthwith, if he wished, cheap and comfortable means of transit to any country or climate without passport or other formality ..." We are still far from the no-passport world celebrated by Keynes. And we will not get closer to this ideal by establishing state cartels which, under the pretense of free trade, aim at monitoring and managing people's lives.

Pierre Lemieux is an economist and visiting professor at the Université du Québec à Hull. E-mail: pierre_lemieux@ uqah.uquebec.ca


Source:
National Post
URL:
http://www.nationalpost.com/financialpost/fpcomment/story.html?f=/stories/20010508/555393.html
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