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Est. April 5, 2002
September 08, 2016 - Issue 665

Peoples of the World
Are Rejecting
Economic Globalization


"They have seen their natural resources taken,
their lands taken, and the economies of their
countries devastated. They have benefited little
from the 'development' that is offered by the
rich nations that have declared they
have come to 'help them.'"

Earlier this year, Larry Summers wondered in print about why nations around the world are revolting against globalization of their economies and, especially, citizens of the U.S. against the TransPacific Partnership (TPP).

Summers is considered by some to be a primary “architect” of the modern U.S. economic system, which collapsed in 2008, destroying some $13 trillion in wealth, by U.S. General Accounting Office calculations.

During the Bill Clinton Administration, he served in the U.S. Treasury Department, when Robert Rubin was Treasury Secretary. At the end of the 1990s, he served as secretary of the department. During his time in setting up the financial system, he supported repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, which allowed creation of banks that were too big to fail, and he opposed regulation of derivatives. Later, he served as president of Harvard University, during which tenure Harvard’s endowment fund lost $2 billion. Investments in that case involved derivatives.

Summers was well positioned and well educated to understand broad-spectrum finance, economics, and the functioning (or non-functioning) of economies around the world, yet, earlier this summer, he seemed to be just beginning to understand why there is such opposition to the attempts by the rich nations and their corporations to rule the world completely. They are doing a pretty good job of ruling much of the world, right now.

That’s why it was a bit of surprise that, in a Washington Post op-ed during the summer, he noted the “revolt” against globalizaton and declared that the lawmakers and corporations must listen to the people who are in revolt. If he had been paying attention for the past few decades, he would have noticed that the people have been in opposition to globalization for many years. They may not know the details of their exploitation, but they surely know when they are being exploited.

Problems with globalization, for the U.S., at least, started big-time with the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) by President Bill Clinton. It was supposed to make trade among the three nations, Canada, Mexico, and the U.S., much easier. An immediate problem that sprang up in the first year was that Canada lost 500,000 jobs to the lower-wage country to its south. If the U.S. had lost jobs in the same ratio, it would have lost 5 million jobs. What happened to Mexican workers, small farmers, and mom-and-pop businesses was economic devastation and the immigration of Mexicans and others from the south has become grist for right-wing politicians who rail against “illegal immigrants.” What did they expect? Faced with hunger and starvation, people would travel many miles to find work to feed their families and they have.

To a great extent, the same story could be told around the world, in nations that are considered “developing,” which means that they are often unstable, corrupt, and weak, although they have natural resources that are sought by the rich (or “developed”) nations. Those rich nations have enough power to have their way with the majority of the approximately 200 nations in the world. For a long time, even if their leaders do not care about the direction of their countries under globalization, the people have learned the hard lessons of it.

They have seen their natural resources taken, their lands taken, and the economies of their countries devastated. They have benefited little from the “development” that is offered by the rich nations that have declared they have come to “help them.” Summers declared in his Post op-ed that the people must be “listened to.” What he doesn’t seem to understand is that the people of the various nations have come to realize that they are victims, not the recipients of a hand up in their development. Thus, the revolt against globalization. He seems now to understand, at least to a small extent, that the people of each country want to control their own fate. Right now, they have little or no control.

In this way, people of developing nations, through a kind of organic process, have come to reject the false help that rich nations have offered, too often at the end of a gun. Summers uses as an example the exit of Great Britain from the European Union (EU) and the current presidential election season in the U.S. The Brits have expressed the desire to retain their sovereignty from the EU is how he sees the Brexit vote. In the U.S., the presidential candidates of the two major parties are two of the least favored and least respected in memory, but that’s what has happened in the declining stage of American democracy. The American people have seen what “free trade” and globalization of the world economy have done to their lives and they want it to come to an end.

In globalization, there is an attempt to “harmonize” economies, societies, and nations of the world. Carried to its logical conclusion, its aim generally is to tend toward ending economic, social, and political diversity. In human societies, diminishing diversity will tend to diminish the richness of those societies and the Earth, itself. That’s what globalization is about and the “revolt” against it, as observed by Larry Summers, is something that is deeply understood by people around the world (an organic process, if you will), even if they don’t understand the “free trade” deals in detail. Rather, their understanding is more profound and whole than Summers can understand, even though he acknowledges and warns that governments need to start listening to their people. Globalization can be likened to the mass extinction that the Earth is now experiencing, the greatest mass extinction since the demise of the dinosaurs and the giant mammalian life that existed in those eras. The same effort to “globalize” the world’s economies into one-size-fits-all is doomed to fail because the transnational corporations that have pushed globalization, facilitated by their minions in the rich nations’ congresses and parliaments, are essentially creating the climate for the same kind of mass extinction that killed the dinosaurs and other creatures of an earlier time.

Today, the human species, which can think ahead and reason, so we are led to believe, is in the same kind of situation as those ancient giant creatures. The Earth is in the same condition as it was so long ago. The current mass extinction has raised no alarms among the powers-that-be. Again, it is left to the people to begin to make the needed changes, difficult to do without money and power. But, in recent years, they have shown that, when the people stick together, they can accomplish much to mitigate the damage done by rampant industry and business.

If there is one thing that can make the changes needed, it is biodiversity, understood to mean the variety and abundance of millions of species of life, plant and animal, which allow all to live somewhat in harmony. Biodiversity allows the human species to live without too much effort or suffering. But humans, being the “thinking” creatures that they are, have set the balances awry and do not as a whole intend to do much about it, as long as there is profit to be made in upsetting the balances that give us life. Biodiversity must be maintained or Earth does not function well and the result is sickness, drought, famines, starvation, floods, and fire, to mention a few.

So it is with globalization. Diversity is what makes the human world most interesting and it is one thing that can save it from collapse or destruction. Humans and their societies must be seen in their contexts, which include their local environment and its place in the world’s environment. We’re losing that diversity, day by day, as transnational corporations and foreign governments take more and more of a poor nation’s resources, turn indigenous and peasant peoples from their lands, disrupt social and economic structures of whole nations, and, in the end, even destroy human cultures. When they are destroyed, they are not likely to be seen again, but for most of the exploiters, these people and their cultures mean nothing, It’s profits that count.

“Big corporations and Wall Street are enthusiastic about the TPP (TransPacific Partnership), a deal that includes countries responsible for 40 percent of the global economy. The TPP would give giant corporations even more patent protection overseas.” Robert Reich, U.S. secretary of labor in the Bill Clinton Administration, wrote in an August e-mail sent out to urge massive citizen opposition to the TPP. It is through trade deals like the TPP that allow the rich nations to control the rest of the world. Considering that the rich nations have control or very heavy influence over much of the rest of the world, controlling another 40 percent of the global economy through the TPP is music to the ears of the powerful. But more power and more consolidation means diminishing diversity in all things, and means extreme danger.

It’s hard to know what was in Summers’ mind when he warned about globalization, but he clearly is viewing the current state of affairs with some alarm, and rightly so. For someone like him, though, it’s a little late, because he was in a position to slow down the loss of diversity or lead the U.S. in another direction years ago. He didn’t do it when he might have had influence in helping to prevent the sorry condition of the U.S. and the world.

The people are telling their governments everywhere how to mitigate the damage that is being visited by globalization and the loss of diversity among nations and peoples. Unfortunately, the bulk of today’s politicians and economists and corporations who are where Summers was two decades ago are not listening. They have yet to have their epiphany, if they are capable of reaching that level of consciousness. Humankind and the planet do not have any time to wait. Columnist, John Funiciello, is a long-time former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Contact Mr. Funiciello and BC.




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