To most people in the United States, today’s dominant system seems like a given, just part of the milieu. Most people don’t give it a second thought. We’re like fish in water who have never known anything else. Or rather, we are like frogs in a pot of water on the stove, not noticing that the water is getting hotter and hotter and will eventually kill us. We have moved from a “mixed economy” in the decades following World War II to a system that benefits the wealthy few at the expense of the majority of people, communities, and the natural world. This system is very bad news for the climate, for those vulnerable people who suffer first and worst from the effects of climate change, and for future generations.
How is all this related to so-called “free trade”? The very corporations that write many of the laws here at home are creating trade agreements with new rules to consolidate their power. The egregious Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is just one such effort. There are many more. Through the global trade regime, corporations are able to challenge democratically enacted laws, including climate-friendly policies that require local sourcing or “green jobs” for locals, that create moratorium on fracking or other environmentally harmful practices, or that restrict the extraction or export of “dirty fuels.”
For details about how trade agreements impact the movement toward a peaceful, just, and sustainable world, read This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, by Naomi Klein. (See info about a local book study below.) You can also read my book, Shaking the Gates of Hell: Faith-Led Resistance to Corporate Globalization, which covers similar themes. Below is an excerpt from Chapter 12, “The Unholy Trinity: The IMF, World Bank, and WTO,” which explains how this global free market system is being further institutionalized:
“You would think that governments and multilateral institutions such as the IMF, World Bank, and WTO, would be moving in a more constructive direction, but many people both within and outside of these institutions believe that the current course is already set and is inevitable. Why, for instance, is the United States government not using its vast financial resources to create a better life for the majority of its people or for people around the world? Why does it support policies that trap people in generations of debt? Why does it allow domestic laws that protect people and the environment to be overturned?
“Clearly, the United States and other nations see their interests as tied to corporate interests. As corporate power increases, however, the power of government decreases, until governments, the lucky ones, end up riding on corporate coattails. But corporations, once they are truly globalized, have no loyalty at all, except to the bottom line. They are not even loyal to their “home” governments. They can even change nationalities at will.
“Though the rhetoric of the IMF and World Bank has been about development and raising the standard of living, the actual effects of these multilateral bureaucracies has been to integrate poor nations into a world economy dominated by global corporations and powerful nations. They have used structural adjustment policies (SAPS) to “pry open” the economies of developing nations, creating complete dependency.
“How can global corporations further pry open the U.S. economy and the economies of other industrialized nations? How can they finish what they started during the Reagan Revolution in the 1980s? How can they bypass the messiness of the democratic process altogether while gutting regulatory agencies and eliminating troublesome laws that interfere with corporate profits? How can they perpetuate the “smoke and mirrors” illusion that nation-states have power, while eliminating the very laws that governments use to protect the rights and well-being of their people? How can they privatize the potentially lucrative public-services sector, including publicly funded hospitals, schools, libraries, prisons, utilities, water services, and social services, and offer these and all other services up for sale to the highest bidder? How can they ensure that wealthy, industrialized nations will ultimately be as dependent upon the global system that they dominate as are poor and indebted nations? How can they bring structural adjustment policies home? How can global corporations extend their power and consolidate their dominance over people, their governments, and the earth itself? The answer: they create trade agreements and global bureaucracies that convince governments to do this for them, institutions like NAFTA and the WTO, which essentially take the matter out of government hands.”
As of now, there are many things that we can do to challenge and transform this global system. In order to be effective, we must understand what is at stake and where the power for change resides. I will lead a 5-session community book study on Naomi Klein’s book beginning Monday, April 6. To RSVP and to find out more, “join” the book study on this This Changes Everything on the Nevada County Climate Change Coalition Facebook page or contact me here.
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Read Sharon’s previous blogs on climate change here. Order Sharon’s CD– Climate Change: What Do We Know? What Can We Do? or download a free MP3 version. Other blog postings about climate change can be found here. Find related actions at Earth Justice Ministries website or Earth Justice Ministries Facebook page.