Are we already in the post-democratic era?

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Is TPP the post-democracy blue-print for the EU-US Free Trade Agreement?  The implications are outlined.

Before Christmas, I was alarmed to hear Nick Clegg and then David Cameron ‘rather too casually’ mention their support for an EU-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA).  It now seems that such negotiations have in fact, been going on in secret for over a year.. and secrecy is the name of the game.  The posted video clip below, discusses the nature of the massive Trans Pacific Pact or Free Trade Agreement (TPP) which Obama has been pushing for, throughout his first administration (1) There is every reason to believe that these alarming negotiations will be the blue-print for an EU-US FTA, and therefore, could act as a pre-warning for the UK/EU populace.

Since the 10-year-old Doha round of global trade talks deadlocked, the EU and the United States have been trying to sign as many bilateral free-trade deals as they can to lock in (2), to access fast-growing economies, especially in Asia (see Cameron’s smarminess in India).  But, according to Reuters, the debt crisis in Europe and elusive American growth are pushing both sides to consider knocking down the final barriers to trade. (3)  Together, the bloc and the United States account for about half the world’s economic output and nearly a third of world trade.  It is significant that the libertarian US think-tank, Cato asks the question whether some of the concepts contained in the draft EU-US FTA are appropriate for a binding international agreement on free trade  or do they turn trade agreements into a kind of global constitution?’ (4)

And that is the major problem with these Free Trade Agreements. They just don’t seem to be very much about trade.

And I have to say ‘seem’ because although 600 corporates have been participating in the negotiations, even members of Congress are not allowed to see either the draft or final negotiated TPP settlements.

Why would that be?  Why are the negotiations secret?  Lori Wallach in the video clip, says that the US Chair, in a moment of plain speaking, told a Reuters reporter that the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) was impossible to finalise because there were so many objections when they published the plans.  In other words, because the general public and politicians opposed their sovereignty being transferred to the corporates, they’ve decided not to tell them about the TPP!

According to Congressman Denis Kucinich, the leaked information on TPP indicates that it is NAFTA ‘on steroids’.  So if countries objected to NAFTA what will we feel about an EU-US FTA?

Furthermore, I would put no money on the European Parliament, let alone Parliament, being allowed access to even see the EU-US FTA negotiations.  Neither the MPs or the MEPs were allowed to know the details when the EU signed up to the 1994 GATS treaty (5) and that treaty contained all the seeds of privatizing the NHS, social security and education that we are now seeing implemented by the Tory/LDs, and across the EU.  This one would lock us in to even more stringent requirements.

The worrying aspects of the leaked TPP documents concern the outsourcing of jobs, the outlawing of domestic legislation protecting workers, human rights, food safety and the environment.  There is a particular focus working against generic medicines, on behalf of the pharmaceutical companies that rank amongst the most profitable US and UK firms – for example patents could be extended ensuring more expensive drug therapies.  A version of SOPA could be introduced by the backdoor, limiting internet freedom and internet privacy rights.  It would also shield foreign capital from domestic laws, essentially deregulating finance even further, at a point when there are calls for greater not less regulation.

But overarching all of this, is the transfer of sovereignty from nations to private corporate tribunals (6) who will be empowered to compel governments to change their laws or pay unlimited fines.  Foreign companies will essentially not be bound by domestic laws.

This begs the question as to how much of the Tory/LD programme and the changes being forced on EZ countries, under the guise of ‘austerity’ were/are, in fact, in preparation for compliance with the proposed EU-US FTA? (7)

Human rights, environmental protection and employment rights could all be contested and overturned by private corporate tribunals.  The post-democratic age will have been enshrined in binding legislation… and all of it will be done in secret! (8)

Ordinary people may have won the battle in Seattle in 1999 but globally, we’re losing the war in 2013 and just like the GATS, most of us probably won’t even realise that its happening until too late.

“For all the endless empty chatter about democracy, today, the world is run by three of the most secretive institutions in the world: the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization. All three of which, in turn, are dominated by the U.S.’

http://escholarship.org/uc/item/56w0s261#page-5

Inside Story Americas – Will the Pacific trade deal protect workers?

Published on Dec 5, 2012

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The 15th round of negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) began in New Zealand this week. Critics say trade is only a small part of what is being discussed. So why is the TPPA so secretive? Guests: Lori Wallach, Celeste Drake.

(1) https://think-left.org/2012/08/29/the-unfree-flow-of-information-and-cyberspace/

 Dean Baker writes in the Guardian that the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, a pact that the United States is negotiating with Australia, Canada, Japan and eight other countries in the Pacific region) ‘is an effort to use the holy grail of free trade to impose conditions and override domestic laws in a way that would be almost impossible if the proposed measures had to go through the normal legislative process. The expectation is that by lining up powerful corporate interests, the governments will be able to ram this new “free trade” pact through legislatures on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.’ 

(2)  https://think-left.org/2011/09/16/the-very-design-of-neoliberal-principles-is-a-direct-attack-on-democracy-and-workers-rights/

(3)  http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/17/us-eu-usa-trade-idUSBRE89G0KT20121017

(4)  http://www.cato.org/blog/proposed-us-eu-fta-good-bad-ugly

(5)  https://think-left.org/2011/07/21/red-labour-must-address-the-elephant-in-the-room/

(6)  https://think-left.org/2012/03/16/the-top-10-flaws-of-neoclassical-economics/

9. Neoclassical Economics ignores perpetual increasing scale.

As a result of perpetual exponential growth, institutions in the system continually get bigger and bigger. We saw this as the economic system made towns, counties, and states irrelevant through the last century, and we are now seeing it as mega banks and corporations are now making national governments irrelevant. People are now living as tiny cogs in a machine of incomprehensible scale. Everything in life has been monetized, so things that don’t generate bank credit get devalued (spirituality, psychology, rest, joy, play, etc).

(7)  https://think-left.org/2012/06/15/brinkmanship-and-the-euro-crisis/

(8)  https://think-left.org/2012/03/05/transnational-corporations-have-not-let-a-good-crisis-go-to-waste/

 

 

 

 

‘Positive thinking’ is a convenient tool for controlling the minds of the masses.

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Barbara Ehrenreich’s book ‘Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World’ was inspired by her anger at being told that she needed to have ‘positive thinking’ to rid herself of her tumour. As an immunologist, she knew only too well the scientific realities about her cancer… and she was rightly disgusted by the punitive assumption that failure to be cured would implicitly be her own fault for failing to be sufficiently ‘positive’.

This led her to consider the ramifications of ‘positive thinking’ and ultimately the use of the “American Dream’ as a tool for controlling the minds of the masses.

Tumours are a source of happiness. Accepting the laws of physics – or not – is a matter of personal choice. And getting the things you want is primarily a question of imagining what it will be like when they are yours (and perhaps berating God for not having provided them yet). This sort of patent idiocy would be disturbing enough if it lurked only on the wilder fringes of life in America, but, as Barbara Ehrenreich explains in her affronted, surprisingly cheering attack on positive thinking, mainstream culture is also riddled with its destructive tenets. Everything from health care to the global financial system has been infested.
http://www.newstatesman.com/books/2010/01/positive-thinking-ehrenreich

‘Positive thinking’ conveniently shifts the burden of responsibility onto the individual, and it is a tool that has been employed skilfully by the Tory/LD coalition, with help from the media.  The most obvious case, is in the denial of there being 5 times as many unemployed as there are job vacancies… and that is without taking into consideration the uneven geographical distribution of jobs.  In some areas, the ratio is 25+ unemployed people for every vacancy.  Yet the government spins persistently about benefit scroungers, shoddy state education, the ‘wrong’ attitude… and variously punishes the ‘workshy’ for not ‘thinking positively’ enough to find a non-existent job.

Essentially, the focus is placed on the inherent characteristics, or capabilities, of the individual, and is deflected away from any external conditions.  In psychology, this comes under the heading of attribution theory.  It is suggested that the observer is more ‘comfortable’ believing that the subject slipped on a banana skin because they are inately clumsy, rather than to face the potential risk that they too might inadvertently slip on an unseen banana skin.  Hence ‘benefit scrounger’ is a powerful piece of spin which taps into a feature of the human psyche.  It is preferable to believe that others are unemployed because they are workshy, rather than face personal fears about the impact of the double-dip recession and economic meltdown.

Another highly pernicious example of the misuse of attribution theory, is in the redefinition of illness which underpins the Welfare Reform bill.  The Biopyschosocial model proposes:

… disease is the only objective, medically diagnosable pathology. Sickness is a temporary phenomenon. Illness is a behaviour – ‘all the things people say and do that express and communicate their feelings of being unwell’ (p39). The degree of illness behaviour is dependent not upon an underlying pathology but on ‘individual attitudes and beliefs’, as well as ‘the social context and culture in which it occurs’. Halligan and Wade are more explicit: ‘Personal choice plays an important part in the genesis or maintenance of illness’.

In other words, disease has concrete, physical aspects that can be demonstrated by medical tests.  Sickness is something like a cold which is self-limiting and from which you recover.  But ‘illness’ is a sort of psychological delusion mediated by the individual’s worldview and a ‘wanting to believe themselves to be ill’. Hence, the problem of being ‘ill’ is firmly located in the individual, and their beliefs and behaviour become the focus of moral judgment and action ie. scroungers, benefit cheats, malingerers, lacking in moral fibre, ‘learned helplessness’ and other such punitive terms.(1)

Thus, many of those with disability and long-term chronic illness are considered to be simply lacking ‘positive thinking’… and, therefore, the horrors of a Work Capability Assessment is justified by government. (2)  However, the reality is that this is a cynical means to reduce the benefits bill and put the UK on route to a two-tier US style of insurance-based welfare provision.

Barbara Ehrenreich suggests that the ‘American dream’ is the reason that ordinary Americans have not challenged the ‘upward redistribution of wealth by cutting taxes for the wealthiest, and in subtle ways, raising them for the poorest and for the middle class…  It’s a grab. It’s—I’m waiting for people to get really, really angry about it. I think one thing that has held back Americans is the idea that you’re going to get rich, too, you know? That magically, “Hey, I might be one of those multimillionaires next,” so that I don’t want to tax rich people.’  Barbara Ehrenreich: America’s Tragic Decline — Resistance Bursts Out All Over the World, While We Do Nothing to Fight Corporate Takeover August 8, 2011

To paraphrase Gramsci … in order to resist the mind control, we need to try and see the world as it really is – not as we want or fear it, to be.  Barbara Ehrenreich concurs by reiterating that we need ‘Realism’ not the magic of ‘Positive Thinking’.

RSA Animate – Smile or Die

Uploaded by theRSAorg on Mar 17, 2010
Acclaimed journalist, author and political activist Barbara Ehrenreich explores the darker side of positive thinking.

(1) https://think-left.org/2011/08/04/welfare-reform-and-mecfs/

(2) https://think-left.org/2011/11/22/welfare-reform-and-the-us-insurance-giant-unum/