• "God invented war so Americans could learn geography" -- Mark Twain.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Monsanto's Niebelung

Obama is in the United Kingdom pushing the idea that he is tickled pink by Little Prince George and that Britain’s exit from the European Common Market would be a disaster

A disaster to what?  Well... “it could be” — he says —five to ten years before Britain could negotiate its own trade deal apart from any trade deal with the Common Market.

The trade deal Obama has in mind is the TTIP  the Atlantic version of the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Obama’s tinsel tongue pushes both trade deals as a win win situation in which everyone trades even more furiously than they do now and everyone makes money, money, money. Good, good, good. Happy, happy, happy.

Obama lies. There is already plenty of trade between the United States, Europe and Asia. When Obama says that the trade deals will open up “market access” what he means is that various regional or national laws concerning the environment, health, safety and labor conditions will be swept away making it easier for predatory corporations to sell their goods.

To give a simple example. In order to protect the bee population and its own citizens from cancer, the E.U. passes a law forbidding the sale of products produced with Roundup. As a result, ecocidal Monsanto-Wheat cannot be sold in Europe.  The TTIP “frees up” trade by trashing Europe’s health and environmental regulations.

Not only does the TTIP do away with the regulation, to make sure Monsanto gets to peddle its poison, the treaty would also do away with citizen’s rights to challenge regulations in European courts.  The treaty will restrict judicial and legislative action and transfer actual judicial and ministerial governance to secret, corporate-run “arbitration” boards which would be more aptly called Corporate Courts & Councils.

It was recently pointed out by Robert Reich that neither of the trade treaties have anything to do with actual trade.   As a point of detail, Reich is right. But he misses the overall picture.  The trade deals are the ultimate reductio ad absurdum of liberalism.

The word “liberal” was invoked by the bourgeois revolutionists of the 18th and 19th centuries because the essence of their advocated political-economy was to “free up” trade from so-called “feudal encumbrances.”  Of course feudal encumbrances was just a popular whipping goat. What really irked the capitalist class was a wide range of customs, laws, policies that subordinated the act of acquisition and money making to “higher” civic, moral and national goals.  Let trade proceed unrestrained governed only by the invisible hand of what the market will bear!  So what if children haul coal for pence a day, exchange value is the unum bonum

No State shall...pass any Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts

By the end of the 19th century even the most politically conservative realized that this trumpeting of moneyed egotism was an anti-social dead end.  Under various names and guises anti-liberal programmes of “regulating” the economy once again came into vogue.

With regard to civil authority, Leo XIII (1891), boldly breaking through the confines imposed by Liberalism, fearlessly taught that government must not be thought a mere guardian of law and of good order, but rather must put forth every effort so that "through the entire scheme of laws and institutions . . . both public and individual well-being may develop spontaneously out of the very structure and administration of the State." Just freedom of action must, of course, be left both to individual citizens and to families, yet only on condition that the common good be preserved and wrong to any individual be abolished. The function of the rulers of the State, moreover, is to watch over the community and its parts; but in protecting private individuals in their rights, chief consideration ought to be given to the weak and the poor. "For the nation, as it were, of the rich is guarded by its own defenses and is in less need of governmental protection, whereas the suffering multitude, without the means to protect itself relies especially on the protection of the State. Wherefore, since wageworkers are numbered among the great mass of the needy, the State must include them under its special care and foresight." -- Pope Pius XI, Quadressimo Anno  (1931)

What was realized was that the “right of contract” did not enshrine arms-length equality but, on the contrary, enforced gradually increasing inequality. If in any given exchange one party got the benefit of the bargain, the other must necessarily bear its loss.  On the second exchange those two parties are no longer negotiating from positions of equality but from legally enshrined positions of inequality, so that

To he who hath more shall be given; to he who hath not even that which he hath shall be taken away.

What made the hand invisible was that the inequality inherent capitalist accumulation was often shifted, displaced, hidden or simply bullshitted away from particularized view.  Many small exchanges are indeed barters where one useful item is traded for another. Even where money is used as a medium the completion of an exchange of useful items is merely deferred.  But money does not grow on trees.  Where the objective of the transaction is to make a profit, not simply to exchange things of particular use, the increased value acquired simply cannot come from an exchange of equal values.  Some party has to bear a decreased return.

The vicious canard of capitalism is that “freedom of contract” almost eo instante translates into “servitude of obligation.”  The happy bonhomie at loan signing quickly turns into snarling shylockery  when a payment is missed.    This was in fact well understood which is why the cited constitutional provision and similar provisions in various civil codes are phrased not in terms of "freedom" but of "obligation."

Neo-liberalism takes the game further.  Contractual rights no longer mean the right to insist upon the payment of an obligation, but rather the right to exact an annualized or expected profit.  This is what the law of patents and copyright have  turned into.  A supposedly civil society, inter pares, has been turned into a scrambling mass of debtors, renters, licensees, beholden to algorithms for their daily needs.   This is what the CEO of Nestlé means when he says, “there is no right to public water.

Obama’s vaunted trade deals turn the Rule of Nestlé into global law.  Free trade means your right to be obligated in perpetuity.   The provisions of the trade treaties have been kept secret and their enactment has been fast tracked because what they actually do is establish global corporate economic despotism.  Rule by the same “folks” (an Obambi-word) that have brought you fracking, deforestation, desertification, polluted waters, global warming, mass-extinction, animal torture and cruelty, dis-employment, sub-subsistence wages,  guaranteed life-time debt-servitude, child labor, medical bankruptcy, and, in general, the dystopian hell that lies on the horizon.
And like a pedo-predator sweet talking a little child, Obama has the cunning and gall to tell young folks to “be optimistic.”

©WCG, 2016