TRADE SHOULD BE FAIR, NOT FREE: Globalization Okay, but Corporate Globalization Undemocratic

By Chomsky, Noam | CCPA Monitor, March 2006 | Go to article overview
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TRADE SHOULD BE FAIR, NOT FREE: Globalization Okay, but Corporate Globalization Undemocratic


Chomsky, Noam, CCPA Monitor


For the record, I am in favour of globalization. That has been true of the left and the labour movement since their modern origins. That's why so many unions are called "internationals;" why there were several abortive attempts to form more internationals; and why I've always taken for granted, and repeatedly written, that the global justice movements of the past few years, meeting annually in Porto Alegre, Mumbai, Caracas, and elsewhere (and now having spawned many regional social forums) are perhaps the seeds of a real international. That is, globalization that prioritizes the rights of people-real people of flesh and blood.

Indeed, the most enthusiastic proponents of globalization are those who meet at the World Social Forum and related events. I don't know of anyone opposed to globalization-meaning international integration, economic and otherwise-except, perhaps, for some dedicated hermits.

So, at some level, workers and companies agree: everyone favours globalization, in the technical sense of the word, but not in the doctrinal sense that has been appropriated by advocates of the investor-rights style of integration that is built into the so-called "free trade agreements," with their complex mixture of liberalization, protectionism, and the undermining of popular democratic control over policy.

The question is what form globalization should take. No one has the right to appropriate the term for their own particular choice on this matter.

Globalization that does not prioritize the rights of people will very likely degenerate into a form of tyranny, perhaps oligarchic and oligopolistic, based on concentrations of tightly-linked stateprivate power, largely unaccountable to the public.

I don't understand how people can talk about "free trade" with a straight face. Apart from the transparent violations of free trade built into the World Trade Organization (WTO) rules-monopolistic pricing guarantees, for example, that go far beyond anything to be found in economic history-what does it mean for countries that rely crucially on the dynamic state sector for economic development to enter into "free trade agreements?"

There is so much deception in the way the issues are formulated that it's impossible to proceed without unravelling an intricate web of doctrinal mythology.

I agree with the 18th-century economic philosopher Adam Smith that the free movement of people is a core component of free trade. As for free movement of capital, that is a totally different matter. Unlike persons of flesh and blood, capital has no rights, at least by Enlightenment/classical liberal standards. As soon as we bring up the matter of free movement of capital, we have to face the fact that, although in principle all people are at least equal in rights in a just society, talk of capital conceals the reality: we are speaking of the owners of capital, whose power is vastly unequal.

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TRADE SHOULD BE FAIR, NOT FREE: Globalization Okay, but Corporate Globalization Undemocratic
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