Nelson Mandela on Globalisation

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In the light of the secret negotiations which are taking place to create a TransPacific Partnership (TPP) and the TransAtlantic Free Trade Agreement (US-EU FTA, TAFTA), it is salutary to read Nelson Mandela’s assessment of globalisation, both as it has developed, and as it should have been created.  His speech printed below was made on receiving the Freedom Award From the National Civil Rights Museum in November 2000

Speech on receiving the Freedom Award from the National Civil Rights Museum, November 2000

http://db.nelsonmandela.org/speeches/pub_view.asp?pg=item&ItemID=NMS919&txtstr=22%20November


To stand here tonight as the recipient of the Freedom Award presented by the National Civil Rights Museum humbles and inspires us.What is regarded as having been achieved by me in the struggle for freedom and human rights is in fact the result of the collective efforts of hundreds and thousands of colleagues and comrades in the leadership of organisations I have worked in and with.It is, even more importantly, the result of the sacrifices, resolve and courage of millions and millions of so-called ordinary men, women and youth most of whom shall never even achieve a mention in the annals of history. One cannot but be humble for being singled out to be honoured for such a collective achievement.For a South African to be honoured here tonight in this place and by this body inspires as it reminds us again of the indivisibility of human freedom. Where the freedom and rights of people in one part of the world are violated we are all demeaned and diminished as human beings. Our freedom cannot be complete while others in the world are not free. Your award inspires us to continue the struggle for freedom and human rights. It reminds that the long walk to freedom is not yet over.Those of us who lived through most of the twentieth century can tell what high hopes for universal freedom were entertained in that century. The world fought two great wars that promised to end all wars and to end tyranny. The process of decolonisation, ending European dominance over the entire planet, got underway. World bodies were established to ensure a free and equitable world.The progress humankind achieved in the field of science and technology outstripped the accumulative achievements of all preceding generations. We were able to utilise the resources of nature and to produce far in excess of what was required to feed, clothe, shelter and care for the entire population of the world.

Yet we closed that century and entered the new millennium with the largest part of the human population still far from enjoying those fruits of freedom of which the Universal Declaration of Human Rights speaks. Tyranny, oppression and abuse of human rights still rule in too many parts of the world for us to relent in the struggle for freedom.

Even in parts of the world where political freedom has been attained or where it has applied for long, the material fruits of a decent living have not always or universally accompanied that freedom.

The single most demeaning feature of our modern world is the persistence of massive poverty. The majority of the world’s population languishes in conditions of abject poverty and deprivation. This is in spite of the fact that we have the capacity to take care of all the world’s people. This is in spite of the opulence and privilege in which large sectors of the world live.

The divide between the rich and the poor, those who have plenty and those who suffer penury, is even widening in our contemporary world. And nothing threatens our collective freedom more than the persistence of this divide. None of us can sleep comfortably while our brother or sister goes hungry, cold, unsheltered, ignorant and ill.

We often talk about the globalisation of our world, referring to our world as a global village. Too often those descriptions refer solely to the free movement of goods and capital across the traditional barriers of national boundaries. Not often enough do we emphasise the globalisation of responsibility. In this world where modern information and communications technology has put all of us in easy reach of one another, we do again share the responsibility for being the proverbial keeper of our brother or sister.

Where globalisation means, as it so often does, that the rich and powerful now have new means to further enrich and empower themselves at the cost of the poorer and weaker, we have a responsibility to protest in the name of universal freedom. Globalisation opens up the marvellous opportunities for human beings across the globe to share with one another, and to share with greater equity in the advances of science, technology and industries. To allow it to have the opposite effect is to threaten freedom in the longer term.

The right of a person to vote freely in democratic elections, to express him or herself without hindrance, to gather and associate as one wishes, to move freely in one’s land – these are precious freedoms that lift the human spirit and give expression to our God-given rights.

We must, however, at the same time as we cherish them remain constantly aware that those freedoms get devalued if they are for too long devoid of that dignity that comes with a decent quality of living.

That is the challenge to the freedom fighters of the twenty first century – the alleviation and eradication of poverty. Abject poverty is demeaning, is an assault on the dignity of those that suffer it. In the end it demeans us all. It makes the freedom of all of us less meaningful.

I thank you for this great honour. I wish you well in your work. May this century indeed be the one in which we achieve universal freedom and the universal enjoyment of those rights our glorious charters speak of.

I thank you.

Hat-tip Prue Plumridge and Occupy London for an inspiring reminder of the politics of Nelson Mandela 1918-2013.

Why should we be very concerned about the current US/EU Free Trade Agreement?

Wealth Inequality in the UK

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Following yesterday’s post on wealth inequality in the US –

Facts – On The Filthiest Rich

– it is only right to draw attention to some UK statistics.  Fortunately, Michael Meacher MP has just posted a useful guide:

According to the Sunday Times Rich List, published each year in April, the richest 1,000 Britons who constitute just 0.003% of the population have increased their wealth in the last year alone by £35bn, and by a stunning £190bn over the 4 years since the crash.   Within the top 2% of the population HMRC records that there were 4,000 persons paid more than £1 million a year in 1999, but this became 10,000 by 2010 and then a huge rise to 18,000 by 2013.

By contrast the latest figures show that average wages in Britain have fallen after the crash in real terms (i.e. taking account of inflation) by 9% and are still falling.   If current trends continue, and that is what Osborne intends, then by 2018 the average family will be £6,660 worse off than it was in mid 2007 just before the bankers brought the system down.   Even more disturbing, the Resolution Foundation has estimated that the economic downturn in the UK has pushed another 1.4 million employees below the living wage (£8.45 an hour in London and £7.55 elsewhere in the country) widely regarded as necessary for a basic standard of living in Britain.   Altogether the study ‘Low Pay Britain 2013′ found that no less than a fifth of all employees – 4.8 million Britons – now earn below this living wage.   So far from falling since the height of the recession in 2009, this number paid below this minimum has actually grown by this year by over 40%.

As Michael Meacher says the US, which is the most unequal country in the Western world, is now becoming even more so…  but a similar pattern is emerging in the UK.  The richest 400 Americans have a collective fortune which is greater than the collective wealth of the bottom 50% of ordinary Americans; a collective fortune slightly bigger than the Russian economy and valued at £1.4 trillion.  Note that is just 400 individuals!

The video clip ‘Wealth Inequality in America’ demonstrates the point… and where George Osborne intends the UK to head (NB warning of some dubious assertions about socialism):

Wealth Inequality In America

The Truth about the ‘Free-Market’

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Robert Reich, the American political economist, wrote this on his facebook page and it is too good not to share:

 

One of the most insidiously deceptive ideas is that the ‘free market’ is natural and inevitable, existing outside and beyond government — so whatever inequality or insecurity it generates is beyond our control.  By this view, if some people aren’t paid enough to live on, the market has determined they aren’t worth enough.  If others rake in billions, they must be worth it.  If millions of Americans remain unemployed or their paychecks are shrinking or they work two or three part-time jobs with no idea what they’ll earn next month or next week, that’s too bad; it’s just the outcome of the market.  According to this logic, government shouldn’t intrude on the free market — through minimum wages, high taxes on top earners, public spending to get people back to work, regulations on business, or anything else — because the “free market” knows best and government always messes things up.

In reality, the ‘free market’ is a bunch of rules about

(1) what can be owned and traded (the genome?  slaves?  nuclear materials?  babies?  votes?)

(2) on what terms (equal access to the internet?  the right to organize unions?  corporate monopolies?  the length of patent protection? )

(3) under what conditions (poisonous drugs?  unsafe foods?  deceptive Ponzi schemes?  uninsured derivatives?)

(4) what’s private and what’s public (police?  roads?  clean air and clean water?  healthcare?  good schools?  parks and playgrounds?)

and (5) how to pay for what (taxes,  user fees,  individual pricing?).

In other words, markets don’t exist in a state of nature; they’re human creations.  Governments don’t intrude on free markets; governments organize and maintain markets.  Markets aren’t “free” of rules; the rules define them.  The rules can be designed to maximize efficiency (given the current distribution of resources), or growth (depending on what we’re willing to sacrifice to obtain that growth), or fairness (depending on our ideas about a decent society).  They can even be designed to entrench and enhance the wealth of a few at the top, and keep almost everyone else comparatively poor and economically insecure.

If our democracy was working as it should, elected representatives, agency heads, and courts would be making the rules roughly according to what most of us want the rules to be.  Instead, the rules are being made mainly by those with the power and resources to buy the politicians, regulatory heads, and even the courts (and the lawyers who appear before them).  Not incidentally, these are the same people who want you and most others to believe in the fiction of an immutable “free market.”

Which is all to say:  If we want to reduce the savage inequalities and insecurities that are now undermining our economy and democracy, we have the right to do so.  But we must exert the power that is supposed to be ours.

Robert Reich is currently Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley.  He is an American political economist, professor, author, and political commentator. He served in the administrations of Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter and was Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 1997.

The Rich Get Richer Explained by the Bears

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For US substitute UK .. the financial sector is not bound by national borders.

The Rich Get Richer Explained

Published on Oct 10, 2012

An explanation of the growing disparity between the poor and the rich in America.
by Omid Malekan

“Through the tax code, there has been class warfare waged, and my class has won,” Buffett told Business Wire CEO Cathy Baron Tamraz at a luncheon in honor of the company’s 50th anniversary. “It’s been a rout.”

Between 1979 and 2007, the richest one percent of Americans saw their incomes rise by 275 percent, according to a recent report by the Congressional Budget Office. The bottom fifth of Americans experience only a 20 percent jump.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/15/warren-buffett-tax-code-l_n_1095833.html

Michael Hudson describes how the financial overclass suggest a solution to increase their wealth still further:

‘As TARP Special Inspector General Neil Barofsky has described, “saving the banks” has been a euphemism for saving Wall Street from losses, not to mention criminal prosecution.’

‘The U.S. and European governments assume that the solution to clean up the financial wreckage is for economies to “borrow their way out of debt,” by creating yet a new bubble. The new article of faith is that high finance cannot lose; only the economy can be made to suffer losses, regardless of responsibility.

There is an alternative, of course. It requires overcoming today’s tunnel vision to undo the economy’s tragic detour that led to the bubble, the bailout, austerity, and economic polarization between creditors (the 1%) and the 99% in debt to them. The bank lobbyists’ narrative underlying the claim that governments need to bail out the banks at the expense of the “real” economy is that austerity will enable debts to be paid down by enough so that people can begin to borrow again. A new bubble will rescue us – and this time it will be better managed.

The counter-narrative is to recognize the financial sector comprises the Liabilities side of the economy’s balance sheet of assets and debts. As such, it has become a separate and indeed a perverse mirror image of the “real” production and consumption economy. A new debt bubble cannot succeed as a solution based on the economy “borrowing its way out of debt” in an attempt to re-inflate real estate and other asset prices. More bank lending will only impoverish the economy more, indebting the bottom 99% further to the 1%.

The dream is that borrowing can become part of increas(ing) the Magic of Compound Interest, continuing to enrich a financial overclass. But this cannot go on for long. It is a fantasy for governments to accept the financial lobbyist’s dream that the way to pull the economy out of austerity and debt deflation is to create a new bubble – to restore real estate as a speculative activity, to “create wealth” by re-inflating asset prices. It cannot be done honestly.’

Interesting use of the phrase “borrowing its way out of debt” which the UK associates with the Tory jeer against the opposition.  Of course, the Tories are meaning government borrowing and not private sector borrowing.  In fact, they are extremely keen on personal and household borrowing to pull the economy out of its hole .. as Michael Meacher reported in 2011:

Incredible as it might seem, the last straw that the Chancellor is clutching at is a huge increase in personal and household borrowing, which is already at more than £1.5 trillion—well above the level of Britain’s entire gross domestic product. Although it was falling at the last election, the OBR is now forecasting that it will reach £2.13 trillion by 2015—half as large again as Britain’s entire GDP. That is an extraordinary admission. The Government’s only way of imposing massive public expenditure cuts is by pumping up a gigantic financial bubble in the private sector, which can only end in another colossal financial crash.

 

As Michael Hudson says this is the financial lobbyist’s dream of continuing to enrich the financial overclass at the expense of the real wealth producers, the 99.9%.

http://neweconomicperspectives.org/2013/01/the-delicious-irony-of-morris-greenbergs-aig-suit-against-the-us-treasury.html#more-4415

http://www.michaelmeacher.info/weblog/2011/06/the-osborne-budget-1-year-on/#more-2527

Related Think Left post:

Neil Barofsky: How Washington Saved Wall Street and Abandoned Main Street

Plutonomy – Invasion of the Political Body Snatchers.