In general the principle of the World Trade Organization, the primary principle, and related treaties, is that sovereignty and democratic rights have to be subordinated to the rights of investors. In practice that means the rights of the huge immortal persons, the private tyrannies to which people must be subordinated. These are among the issues that led to the remarkable events in Seattle. But in some ways, a lot of ways, the conflict between popular sovereignty and private power was illuminated more sharply a couple of months after Seattle, in Montreal, where an ambiguous settlement was reached on the so-called “biosafety protocol.” There the issue was very clearly drawn. Quoting the New York Times, a compromise was reached “after intense negotiations that often pitted the United States against almost everyone else” over what’s called “the precautionary principle.” What’s that? Well the chief negotiator for the European Union described it this way: “Countries must be able to have the freedom, the sovereign right, to take precautionary measures with regard” to genetically altered seed, microbes, animals, crops that they fear might be harmful. The United States, however, insisted on World Trade Organization rules. Those rules are that an import can be banned only on the basis of scientific evidence.
Notice what’s at stake here. The question that’s at stake is whether people have the right to refuse to be experimental subjects. So, to personalize it, suppose the biology department at the university were to walk in and tell you, “You folks have to be experimental subjects in an experiment we’re carrying out, where we’re going to stick electrodes in your brain and see what happens. You can refuse, but only if you provide scientific evidence that it’s going to harm you.” Usually you can’t provide scientific evidence. The question is, do you have a right to refuse? Under World Trade Organization rules, you don’t. You have to be experimental subjects. It’s a form of what Edward Herman has called “producer sovereignty.” The producer reigns; consumers have to somehow defend themselves. That works domestically, too, as he pointed out. It’s not the responsibility, say, of chemical and pesticide industries to prove that what they’re putting into the environment is safe. It’s the responsibility of the public to prove scientifically that it’s unsafe, and they have to do this through underfunded public agencies that are susceptible to industry influence through lobbying and other pressures.
That was the issue at Montreal, and a kind of ambiguous settlement was reached. Notice, to be clear, there was no issue of principle. You can see that by just looking at the lineup. The United States was on one side, and it was joined, in fact, by some other countries with a stake in biotechnology and high-tech agro-export, and on the other side was everybody else-those who didn’t expect to profit by the experiment. That was the lineup, and that tells you exactly how much principle was involved. For similar reasons, the European Union favors high tariffs on agricultural products, just as the United States did 40 years ago, but no longer-and not because the principles have changed; just because power has changed.
There is an overriding principle. The principle is that the powerful and the privileged have to be able to do what they want (of course, pleading high motives).
"And one of the signs of the decline of the market is advertisement. So if you have a real market you don’t advertise: you just give information. For example, there are corners of the economy that do run like markets—for example stock markets. If you have ten shares of General Motors that you want to sell, you don’t put up an ad on television with a sexy model holding up the ten shares saying “ask your broker if this is good for you; it’s good for me,” or something like that. What you do is you sell it at the market price. If you had a market for cars, toothpaste, or whatever, lifestyle drugs, you would do the same thing. GM would put up a brief notice saying here’s the information about our models. Well, you’ve seen television ads, so I don’t have to tell you how it works. The idea is to delude and deceive people with imagery."
"By the way, I am not criticizing corporate executives individually. If one of them tried to use corporate fund to improve working conditions in Indonesia, he’d be out on his ear in three seconds. In fact, it would probably be illegal.
A corporate executive’s responsibility is to his stockholders - to maximize profit, market share and power. If he can do that by paying starvation wages to women who’ll die in a couple of years because their working conditions are so horrible, he’s just doing his job. It’s the job that should be questioned."
"The main way in which aid can “serve our interests” is as an indirect public subsidy for U.S.-based corporations, a fact well understood by business leaders. In the case of India, representatives of the Business Council for International Understanding—a properly Orwellian title—testified before Congress in February 1966 on their problems and achievements. India would “probably prefer to import technicians and know-how rather than foreign corporations,” they noted, but “Such is not possible; therefore India accepts foreign capital as a necessary evil."
"By the 1920s, England could not compete with more efficient Japanese industry. It therefore called the game off, returning to the practices that allowed it to develop in the first place. The empire was effectively closed to Japanese trade; Dutch and Americans followed suit. These were among the steps on the road to the Pacific phase of World War II, and among those ignored in the 50th anniversary commemorations.
The Reaganites followed much the same course in the face of Japanese competition half a century later. Had they permitted the market forces they worshiped in public to function, there would be no
steel or automobile manufacturing in the United States today; nor semiconductors, massively parallel computing, and much else. The Reagan Administration simply closed the market to Japanese competition while pouring in public funds, measures expanded under Clinton."
The United States, in particular, has always been extreme in rejecting market discipline. That is how it developed from the beginning, including textiles, steel, energy, chemicals, computers and electronics, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, agribusiness, and so on, gaining enormous wealth and power instead of pursuing its comparative advantage in exporting furs, in accord with the stern principles of economic rationality.
Nor did the American developmental state break new ground. Britain had followed a similar course, only turning to free trade after 150 years of protectionism had given it such enormous advantages that a ‘level playing field’ seemed a fairly safe bet, even then relying on the fact that 40 per cent of its exports could go to the Third World (1800–1938). It is not easy to find an exception, from the origins of Europe’s industrial revolution, when Daniel Defoe, expressing the common perception in
1728, warned that England faced an uphill struggle in attempting to compete with ‘China, India and other Eastern countries’. The problem was that they have ‘the most extended Manufacture, and the greatest variety in the World; and their Manufactures push themselves upon the World, by the meer Stress of their Cheapness’. They also may have had the highest real wages in the world at the time and the best conditions for working class organisation, so the most detailed recent scholarship indicates, contrary to long-standing beliefs. ‘Britain itself would have been deindustrialized by the cheapness of Indian calicoes if protectionist policies had not been adopted’, the same work concludes.
"For example, we have free access to information, in principle. In the case of the secret war in Laos, it was possible to ascertain the facts—much too late—by visiting the country, speaking to people in refugee camps, reading reports in the foreign press and ultimately even our own. But freedom of that sort, though important for the privileged, is socially rather meaningless. For the mass of the population of the United States, there was no possibility, in the real world, to gain access to that information, let alone to comprehend its significance. The distribution of power and
privilege effectively limits the access to information and the ability to escape the framework of doctrine imposed by ideological institutions: the mass media, the journals of opinion, the schools and universities. The same is true in every domain. In principle, we have a variety of important rights under the law. But we also know just how much these mean, in practice, to people who are unable to purchase them. We have the right of free expression, though some can shout louder than others, by reason of power, wealth, and privilege. We can defend our legal rights through the courts—insofar as we understand these rights and can afford the costs. All of this is obvious and hardly worth extended comment. In a perfectly functioning capitalist democracy, with no illegitimate abuse of power, freedom will be in effect a kind of commodity; effectively, a person will have as much of it as he can buy."
"Capitalism is a system in which the central institutions of society are in principle under autocratic control. Thus, a corporation or an industry is, if we were to think of it in political terms, fascist; that is, it has tight control at the top and strict obedience has to be established at every level — there’s a little bargaining, a little give and take, but the line of authority is perfectly straightforward. Just as I’m opposed to political fascism, I’m opposed to economic fascism. I think that until major institutions of society are under the popular control of participants and communities, it’s pointless to talk about democracy."
"A group of prominent Japanese economists recently published a multivolume review of Japan’s program of economic development since World War II. They point out that Japan rejected the neoliberal doctrines of their US advisers, choosing instead a form of industrial policy that assigned a predominant role to the state. Market mechanisms were gradually introduced by the state bureaucracy and industrial-financial conglomerates as prospects for commercial success inscreased. The rejection of orthodox economic precepts was a condition for the “Japanese miracle,” the economists conclude. The success was impressive. With virtually no resource base, Japan became the world’s biggest manufacturing economy by the 1990s and the world’s leading source of foreign investment, also accounting for half the world’s net saving and financing US deficits."
"In the 19th century, the United States had something kind of approximating a market system. Now we have nothing like a market—they may teach you [that] in economics courses, but that’s not the way it works. And one of the signs of the decline of the market is advertisement. So if you have a real market you don’t advertise: you just give information. For example, there are corners of the economy that do run like markets—for example stock markets. If you have ten shares of General Motors that you want to sell, you don’t put up an ad on television with a sexy model holding up the ten shares saying “ask your broker if this is good for you; it’s good for me,” or something like that. What you do is you sell it at the market price. If you had a market for cars, toothpaste, or whatever, lifestyle drugs, you would do the same thing. GM would put up a brief notice saying here’s the information about our models. Well, you’ve seen television ads, so I don’t have to tell you how it works. The idea is to delude and deceive people with imagery."
"Chomsky may also be the leading critic of the mythology of the natural “free” market, that cheery hymn that is pounded into our heads about how the economy is competitive, rational, efficient, and fair. As Chomsky points out, markets are almost never competitive. Most of the economy is dominated by massive corporations with tremendous control over their markets and that therefore face precious little competition of the sort described in economics textbooks and politicians’ speeches. Moreover, corporations themselves are effectively totalitarian organizations, operating along nondemocratic"
"[Capitalism’s] concept of competitive man who seeks only to maximize wealth and power, who subjects himself to market relationships, to exploitation and external authority, is anti-human and intolerable in the deepest sense"
"The public relations industry, which essentially runs the elections, is applying certain principles to undermine democracy which are the same as the principles that applies to undermine markets. The last thing that business wants is markets in the sense of economic theory. Take a course in economics, they tell you a market is based on informed consumers making rational choices. Anyone who’s ever looked at a TV ad knows that’s not true. In fact if we had a market system an ad say for General Motors would be a brief statement of the characteristics of the products for next year. That’s not what you see. You see some movie actress or a football hero or somebody driving a car up a mountain or something like that. And that’s true of all advertising. The goal is to undermine markets by creating uninformed consumers who will make irrational choices and the business world spends huge efforts on that."
Drawing upon the thinking and analyses of renowned intellectuals, this documentary sketches a portrait of neo-liberal ideology and examines the various mechanisms used to impose its dictates throughout the world. Neo-liberalism’s one-size-fits-all dogmas are well known: deregulation, reducing the role of the State, privatization, limiting inflation rather than unemployment, etc. In other words, depoliticizing the economy and putting it into the hands of the financial class. And these dogmas are gradually settling into our consciousness because they’re being broadcast across a vast and pervasive network of propaganda.
With: Noam Chomsky, Ignacio Ramonet, Normand Baillargeon, Susan George, Omar Aktouf, Oncle Bernard, Michel Chossudovsky, François Denord, François Brune, Martin Masse, Jean-Luc Migué, Filip Palda and Donald J. Boudreaux
"So you’ve seen television ads. Suppose there’s a television ad for a drug, or a car, or something. In a market society, what you would have is a description of the properties of the commodity because then you get what are called ‘informed consumers making rational choices.’ But that’s not what you get. What you get is forms of delusion because the business wants to create uninformed consumers, who make irrational choices. That is, they want to undermine markets. Which is very much like the political system. You want an electorate, which is uninformed and makes irrational choices under modern democracy, so the whole kind of ideology is so remote from reality that it’s almost impossible to discuss."