LANGUAGE, COMMUNITY, NATURE AND THE FUTURE ENDANGERED
By Marc Batko
Without the social contract, we become wolves to one another. Rousseau's idea is replaced by Hobbes' "natural order". The might is right delusion and the warrior mentality (cf. Walter Wink, The Powers That Be, 1998) replace Kant's vision of eternal peace and the UN's passion to outlaw war.
Market freedom and social balance must be balanced like majority rule and minority protection. Legitimacy does not fall from the sky but depends on this balance.
The state has a social nature and cannot only be a power- and security state. The state has functions beyond rewarding the rich and waging war, being an errand boy for multinational corporations. The state ought to protect freedom of conscience and help those caught under the wheel (cf. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics and Letters and Papers from Prison). The state ought to cushion those rejected or exploited by the market economy.
The state in plutocracy is reduced to defending the interests of the very rich. Freedom is reduced to property rights and contract rights. People serve the economy and nonstop consumerism while the economy ought to serve humankind.
The state zealous for equality, democracy and universal involvement encourages active citizenship, the exchange of rules, the wonders of plural worlds and cultural vitality, the sharing of power and interdependence. Democracy includes economic democracy. Worker rights to dignity include rights to union representation. Human rights do not end at the factory door. Crime in the suites should be prosecuted, not only crime in the str4eets.
The following statistics on galloping inequality comes from "Globalization and Employment" by Christian Christen. The top 1% in 1997 own 38% of national wealth in the US; 2.7 million have as much assets as 100 million. The CEO-factory difference has expanded from 42:1 to 419:1 from 1980 to 1997.
The US economy is a bubble- and debt capitalism. The enormous gains from rationalization and higher productivity have not been shared. The rights of financiers and investors trump the rights of consumers and workers. This displacement is enforced by the trade agreements, NAFTA, GATT and the GATS and by the powerful international institutions the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization. Corporations play off communities and states and traumatize the world with the cries "Global competition" and "Privatize". Foreign capital finances American consumerism at the gigantic rate of $2.3 million a minute (cf. "The Fairy Tale of the Upswing" by Winfried Wolf on www.portland.indymedia.org.).
Our struggle is with the neoliberal myth or ideology that the unfettered market is total, absolute, self-healing and without alternative. As Joseph Stiglitz. Winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize for economics and author of The Shadows of Globalization and The Roaring Nineties explained, our present economic system is more an ideology than a discipline of economics.
The Washington Consensus based on privatization, deregulation and liberalizing markets is opposed today by a post-Washington consensus. The Global South pleads for economic and environmental justice, for sovereignty and future-friendly long-term priorities. Nature is not a free good, external or sink but a partner and mother, a teacher and healer. Like children, nature has rights in itself and must be preserved from destruction and commodification.
Protecting nature protects the economy. Jobs can be created in environmental protection as well as in the infrastructure of education, health care and affordable housing. Pollution could be taxed rather than labor. The state could use its system of taxation and incentives to encourage future-friendly development. We could mend the holes in our pockets and discover the stories in ourselves instead of repressing systemic/structural hemorrhages (military obsolescence and corporate environment), scapegoating the weak and gazing at office buildings.
Increasing purchasing power creates full employment. Subsidies to corporations lead to deficits. Tax evasion by corporations whether through tax havens (there are now 300,000 corporations in the Cayman Islands!), correspondence banks or financial acrobatics lead to state bankruptcy where libraries and swimming pools become unaffordable and golf courses, a so-called economic necessity, replace nature.
People and communities have sovereignty over the commons, the land, water, food, education, health care and airwaves. The commons may not be left to the market economy and the state.
Another world is possible and another economy is necessary. Open arms rather than a clenched fist could symbolize a human future.