-As relates to the abuse of power, take the issue of transnational corporations (e.g., ‘Big Food’): As evident from their trade associations and non-governmental front organizations, they work as a voracious pack. (Geoffrey Cannon)
-These same TNCs often employ unethical marketing techniques that have been described as ‘social pornography’.

Power? In the global architecture that includes trade and investment, it is key power asymmetries that influence how trade and other economic rules are made, implemented and adjudicated (Ted Schrecker)

-Any surprise here? Labor laws, pension laws, corporate laws and tax laws have been and are also crafted by those at the top.
-Furthermore, do not overlook the fact that wages are not somehow ‘naturally’ low in the South –they have been made low by design. Wages are an effect of power. (Jason Hickel)
-Once you see all the above, you cannot unsee anymore… (Arundhati Roy).

1. Among other, power operates
• through the control of resources,
• through funds used to finance political activity,
• through the design of institutions that favor certain interests (what has been called the ‘mobilization of bias’), and
• through what has been called the two faces of power, i.e., by involving not only visible interactions in which one party prevails over another (e.g., elections, court cases), but involving situations in which power also operates invisibly (e.g., keeping some issues off the policy agenda, perhaps because of anticipated reactions). (T. Schrecker)

2. Why are people rendered rich indifferent to power asymmetries in their own countries? Because they benefit from supporting policies that maintain or increase power imbalances. (The US income distribution is significantly more unequal than the German, i.e., there are many more people rendered extremely rich in the US than in Germany). (Branko Milanovic)

3. Governments, public interest civil society and multilateral organizations must thus rethink the purpose of trade (and trade agreements), so that they foster wellbeing rather than serving to promote and re-enforce powerful investment interests. (T. Schrecker) As Gore Vidal put it: “It is not enough to succeed. In the process, others do fail”.

Ignorance? People must be trained to keep on-and-on lifting the fallen and creating proactive grassroots organizations (Shula Koenig)

4. This massive job never stops as populations grow –and ignorance about human rights (HR) prevails. Just producing documents (like this Reader) may well be necessary, but is indeed not sufficient; activism cannot stop there. Significant actions need to start out there.

5. In these matters, there is no tomorrow, because tomorrow quickly becomes yesterday. And ignoring HR depletes the masses of hope and creativity. Yes, we need to fill-in the details for accomplishing this vision and mission; yes, we will make mistakes, yes we will learn from one another. But we cannot make HR an added side issue. It is a central one to address including the big task of overcoming bureaucratic inertia and resistance.

The root problem(s)

We tend to forget (or are made to forget) that economics is only one piece of our broader, social, political and HR problem. (Neil Irwin)

6. The actual assumption, that the neoliberal business model can resolve social problems* –and is superior to redistributive, collectively deliberated policies and actions developed by elected governments– rests on the belief that the free market model is the best suited approach to take-on these tasks, despite ample evidence to the contrary. At best, business models engage in charity. We nevertheless note that the belief that charitable giving can change the world for the better in the long-run is just another variant of the decidedly undemocratic doctrine that those rendered rich swear-by. Applauding and encouraging the largesse of elites will not at all contribute to create equitable, sustainable societies. In short, a plutocratic governance system with authoritarian features is becoming entrenched –a system we, HR activists, are actively fighting against. (Anne-Emanuelle Birn, Judith Richter, U.S. Philanthrocapitalism and the Global Health Agenda: The Rockefeller and Gates Foundations, Past and Present. http://www.peah.it/2017/05/4019/ )
*: Neoliberalism is taken to mean an economic model that combines the promotion of privatization, fiscal austerity, deregulation, free trade, and reductions in government spending in order to increase the role of the private sector, and reduce the role of the state, in the economy and society. As a model, neoliberalism can be said to include all the above features. Market-based policies can be said to include some of these policies at different times, so are not really a model. (HealthpovertyAction) Not being facetious, Deng Xiaoping was the founder of ‘market socialism’ (with Chinese characteristics), which is not pure (but close to ) capitalism …Note that is written in ideograms, the writing of the feudal Middle Empire. (Louis Casado)

7. Citizens or consumers? Until 30 years ago, we were considered citizens; now we are considered consumers. Despite the fact that historically, and for political reasons, our rights as citizens were never fully upheld, nowadays, for economic reasons, our consumer rights are not upheld either. (Albino Gomez)

Related miscellanea

8. The language of banks is money; they pay fines when they are caught misbehaving; although it is just money, this is where it hurts them most: in their pockets… Then they go right back to their tricks hoping the next time they get away with it. (Deutsche Welle)

9. Those rendered super rich save (off-shore?), because they cannot think of other things to do with their money. This hurts the economy by wealth not being put to work. (J. Bradford DeLong)

10. Religions have many common traits. The economy –that also has elements of superstition– also has at its disposal apostles and some gods –or false idols. (For some, Milton Friedman can probably be the God of this superstition called ‘the neoliberal economy’). (L. Casado)

11. There is no higher God in neoliberalism than growth. No sacrifice too big for its craving altar. As long as you keep your curve exponential, all your sins will be forgotten at the finish line.

Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City


“They got to live before they can afford to die” (John Steinbeck)

Can people accept that the conditions so many people live-under are results, not causes? Is it because the causes ‘lie deep’? The causes are a hunger in the stomach, multiplied a million times; a hunger in a single soul, multiplied a million times; having painfully stepped out of hunger and then inexorably slipped back. Every stepping out is proof that the spirit has not died, e.g., strikes do not stop while the great owners live; every beaten strike or act of resistance is proof that the spirit has not died. When slipping back, things people must have are lost, crops are reckoned, families are driven from the land…and they resist. If you, who own the things people must have, could only understand this. If you could go from what look like separate outcomes to the deep causes. If you could know that Marx, Jefferson, Lenin were results not causes, humanity may survive. Needed is the never discouraged stimulus to action.
Crops lost are counted in dollars since land is valued by its ‘principal plus interests’, since crops are bought and sold before they are planted. Then when crops fail, drought and flood are no longer little deaths within life, but losses of money….until people are farmers no more; little shop keepers of crops, little manufacturers who must sell before they can make a living are no more. Then those farmers who were not good shopkeepers lose their land to ‘good’ shopkeepers. No matter how clever how loving a man may be with earth and growing things, he cannot survive if he is not also a good shopkeeper. And as time goes on, the businessmen have the farms and the farms grow larger, but there are fewer of them.
Now farming becomes an industry, and all the time the farms grow larger and the owners fewer. And the crops change; trees take the place of grain fields. And it comes about that owners no longer work on their farms. They farm on paper; and they forget the land, the smell, the feel of it, and remember only that they own it, remember only what they gain and lose by it. The owners then hate the dispossessed who dare to strike. And in the towns the storekeepers hate them as well, because the strikers have no money to spend. The town men and lenders also hate them, because there is nothing to gain from them; they have nothing. And the laboring people hate them too, because a hungry man must work and if he must work, if he has to work, the wage payer automatically gives him less for his work, and then no one can get more.
And the little screaming fact that sounds all through history is that repression works, but only to strengthen and knit together the repressed. The great owners ignore the cries of history. Every effort of the great owners is directed at repression; spies are sent to catch the murmurings of revolt so that it may be stamped out.
And the little farmers who lost their land, taken by the great owners and the banks, they move into town for a while until they exhaust their credit, exhaust their friends, exhaust their relatives. And then they are pushed out to the highways and the roads are crowded with men starving for work. Although the granaries may be full, the children of the poor grow up rachitic with swelled belies. The great companies do not know that the line between hunger and anger is a thin line. And money that could have gone to wages goes to tear gas and guns, for agents and spies. The anger begins to ferment. (John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath)

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