458. GLOBALIZATION PUTS THE FREEDOM OF PRIVATE BUSINESS ABOVE THE FREEDOM OF PEOPLE AND THEIR HUMAN RIGHTS. HUMAN BEINGS BECOME HUMAN RESOURCES.

Globalization is obviously rewarding already acquired capital, not human beings

1. Those left out from the benefits of globalization look up at the winners, whom they see succeed simply because they are well connected to the system. This results in the globalization-of-resentment-and-frustration that, in a few years, has led to the rise of the right wing parties in many countries. Once upon a time, the left was the banner-bearer of the fight for calls for justice in facing the winners. Now it is importantly the right!

2. Globalization has lost its shine, true –but not its power. Now, the debate is about how to de-globalize, and what is worrying is that the alternate, dangerous debate is not about how to bring the process to the service of humankind and human rights (HR), but how to expand populism, fundamentalism, nationalism and xenophobia.

3. International organizations like the IMF and the World Bank –that have been claiming for two decades that the market is the only basis for progress, and that once a totally free market is in place, the common man and woman would be the beneficiaries– have switched and reversed gears. Now they are talking about the need for the state to be again the arbiter for regulations and social inclusion. This, because they have found out that social injustice is a brake, not only for democracy, but also for economic progress. Nevertheless, despite all the mea-culpas, they are rather late in the day. (…and still no meaningful word about HR!) The genie is out of the bottle, and the powers-that-be do not even try to put it back in the bottle. Utter hypocrisy, vested interests, and the lack of vision have regrettably replaced policy –and the reactions are being felt. (from Roberto Savio)

The consequences of neoliberal globalization cannot be ignored anymore

-Is optimism about the outlook of neoliberalism the opium of the people? (Milan Kundera)

4. Neoliberalism has a focus on individuals and, in doing so, ignores societies. All over the world, people have lost the protective mechanisms they have lived with –even their rights. Employment increasingly fails to sustain livelihoods. Wages are too low and people cannot count on affordable health care, schools, water and energy anymore. Much less can they prepare for the future. All this, because we have already learned in the past decades that privatized public services are mostly not affordable and go against the grain of HR.

5. The left should not allow itself to retreat to the local level and leave global business take over greater political power in the meantime –as the people in Davos want it. Destroying public services is destroying society, social relationships, solidarity, collective values and HR. Preserving and promoting public services and common goods, at all levels, is promoting citizenship and the sovereignty of people. Organized citizens, with their trade unions and other social movements, can and will take care of these services. (Francine Mestrum)

6. Bottom line here, globalization per-se is not the problem. The true culprits are the winners who pull the strings of globalization yielding poor public policies that breed corporate rent seeking, inadequate health care* and stagnant wages. (Nobel laureate Angus Deaton)
*: In many countries, the future has been mortgaged by high public and private debt that keeps countries from investing in future growth and particularly putting more resources towards health, education and the environment. (Camilla Lund) In this respect, fiscal choices are simply a matter of politics. (Christoff Rosenberg, F+D, IMF, March 2018)

In the era of globalization, ubiquitous slick corporate social responsibility campaigns keep claiming the benefits that corporations bring to the general public.

7. The contention has arisen that, rather than using corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a means of ‘being good’, corporations adopt it merely as a means of ‘looking good’, while not, in any way, questioning their own basic ethical, political and HR stances. Corporate generosity is epic in proportions –or at least that is how it is portrayed to us… Indeed, on an individual level, it is hard to find fault with those rich people who have given away vast swaths of their wealth to charitable causes (even ‘in the name of HR!’), or those corporations that champion socially responsible programs. What CSR and philanthrocapitalism actually achieve more broadly is the-social-justification-of-extreme-wealth-inequality, rather than any kind of antidote to it. We need to note here that, despite the apparent proliferation of ‘giving’ promised by philanthrocapitalism, the so-called golden age of philanthropy is also an age of expanding inequality. In the end, it is capitalism that is at the heart of philanthrocapitalism, and the modern corporation that is at the heart of corporate social responsibility, with even well-meaning endeavors serving to justify a system that is rigged in favor of the rich. This brand of philanthropy involves an openness that deliberately collapses the distinction between public and private interests, in order to justify increasingly concentrated levels of private gain. The worst excesses of neoliberal capitalism are morally justified by the actions of the very people who benefit from those excesses. Wealth redistribution is placed in the hands of the wealthy, and social responsibility in the hands of those who have exploited society for personal and corporate gain. Such is a society where CEOs are no longer content to do business; they must control public goods as well. (Peter Bloom and Carl Rhodes)

If private property (considered sacred) is at risk, the fight is to death; the powerful shoot to kill (Louis Casado)

8. Yes, the private sector purports to share an ethics with us in public interest CSOs and social movements, but they also abide by the ethics of business that is accountable to investors. When in conflict, which of their ethics do you think will prevail…? Take for example well-justified popular protests. Have they not been militarized and criminalized in the name of the so-called conservative restoration? (Luis Britto) You see, openness to a fairer economy with social inclusion does not, as predictable, come about automatically. (John Tutino)

9. As I have done in earlier Readers, let me finish by quoting from the wisdom of Eduardo Galeano on these matters
• Big modern city dwellers suffer from the slavery of debt. Nobody is a person if s/he is not creditworthy. “I owe, therefore I am”.
• How can it be right that the ‘few more-and-more-fewer’ and the ‘many more-and-more-more’, in all liberty (?), accept the neoliberal system that perpetuates this state of affairs to progress?
• There is no worse colonialism than the one that conquers our hearts and turns off our reason.
• Power likes its obscene ceremonies of self-congratulation.
• It is five centuries ago that the current system was born universalizing unequal exchanges and setting a price on planet and on the human beings. Since then it converts into hunger and money everything it touches. (Eduardo Galeano, Apuntes para Fin de Siglo)

Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City
Your comments are welcome at schuftan@gmail.com
www.claudioschuftan.com

Postscript/Marginalia
-A bit of history is suitable at this point.
Already Epictetus, the Greek stoic philosopher said “wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants” Much later Max Weber told us that
rich people, at whatever level of accumulation, abstains from spending their treasured wealth. As a matter of fact, he said “The life of the capitalist will always be ascetic and austere”. There you have the spirit of capitalism according to Max Weber. The daily experiencing of poverty and misery –the evil that reigns among humans– should make us distrustful of a justification of God despite religions preaching the contrary (also M. Weber). The puritanical and ascetic face of capitalism cannot always be seen though. “We do not trust in humanity, but in selfishness”, Adam Smith said. Vilfredo Pareto, early theoretical apologist of neoliberalism (1847–1923), could thus state without blushing “If you steal 10,000, it means you are worth more that him who earns 100 through honest work”. Between stealing and not stealing, you are better off stealing, especially if –as the economics Nobel laureate Gary Becker opined– stealing is profitable. Therefore, all compassion towards fellow beings seems condemned to be considered an insanity and contrary to the interests of society as a whole (Daniel Defoe). In his essay on the Principles of Population (1798), Thomas Malthus wrote: “We can say that helping the poor actually creates the poor we help”. “For society to be happy and the people to be content even of their pitiful luck, it is necessary for the big majority stays ignorant and poor” (Bernard Mandeville). Margaret Thatcher was able to get away saying that society does not exist (“there is no such thing as society”); only individuals exist, with their passions their libidos, their self-love and their selfishness considering that from private vices emerges the public good. And last, but not least, “A well organized nation is governed by the owners of wealth”. (François-Antoine de Boissy d’Anglas, 1790) After that, the right to vote in France was linked to income level and, to be eligible to be a candidate, one had to be able to show a significant income. Only the Declaration of the Rights of Man of 1793 then brought us universal suffrage and limits to the right of property. Where do we stand today, 225 years later? (From L. Casado)

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