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Food for a farcical thought


Human Rights Reader 309


1. For the fulfillment of human rights (HR), the obstacles to be overcome are actually way beyond what the core of economic globalization, i.e., the free market, can overcome and offer. This is why, using our solid knowledge of HR, we need to find the way(s) to penetrate the policy making levels of the political sphere controlled by the ruling political class, now for too long championing free market economics.


2. For market fundamentalists*, the market is a very precious entity; it is considered ethically valuable for them due to its ‘fundamental virtues’. But freewheeling, permissive markets have nothing virtuous about them! Look at what they do to human rights! If nothing else, but in the name of HR, we thus must draw the inevitably obvious conclusions and tame and regulate such permissiveness.  We are not helpless before the forces of the market!  (P. Krugman)

*: Facetiously, a market fundamentalist’s credo says: It may come that it rains, because umbrellas are being manufactured. (Albino. Gomez)


3. The IMF has been at the core of globalization. It is a reactive institution; its tendency is more to react to the last problem rather than to anticipate the next one.  Politics matters, and the IMF ignores this inexorable fact of social life to its own detriment. It is notorious for pushing the ‘user pays’ model –in the process wrecking public provision and the very notion of inalienable HR. It, together with the WTO, became de-facto global trade arbiters in 1995. (F+D, 48:2, June 2011) As a result, at least since then, we live in a world  of both emerging markets… and submerged or drowning markets. Why? Because the free market system itself is a gap-widening machine.


4. What the latest global economic crisis has done is to finally undermine the economists’ belief in the infallibility of markets though. To begin with, the fundamental mistake has been believing that actors in the market will essentially discipline themselves. But you and I know the various individual market actors are not always rational, but rather greedy –and if you add to that the ‘herd instinct behavior’ of investors you can understand how the system can and did go off the rails. Now economists realize that the sacrosanct efficiency of markets is questionable, is a myth. So, more enforceable regulations must be put in place since we no longer believe that its actors will get it right themselves. (L. Tyson)


5. Also at the core of globalization have been modern corporations who, in the process, have become not only key manipulators of the ruling political class, but also conscious ‘ignorers’ of HR. What they are about is thus clearly beyond mere money making. But they hide this cleverly and deceptively.**

**: Take, for instance, corporate-social-responsibility: It is not only an oxymoron as skeptics rightfully claim (i.e., a phrase in which two words of contradictory meaning are used together for special effect), but also is an established approach designed to create additional value for businesses and their shareholders; it is little more than a public relations strategy to improve their brand image. (J. L. Sturchio)


6. In poor countries, the general movement towards privatization (the great neoliberal credo also at the core of globalization) was hastened by the infamous IMF structural adjustment programs. The sharp focus on profitability associated with privatization works not to meet consumer needs, but is rather a mechanism for the private sector to seek out opportunities to ‘game the system’. For example, for-profit health providers often engage on ‘cost shifting’, i.e., on zeroing-in on high return services for paying patients while pushing costly cases over to the public sector. Only organizations with the strongest of ethics of professional service can provide high quality for-profit services in health. But such an ethic cannot be wished into existence and it rarely works perfectly –does it? It is almost impossible to maintain a service ethic while at the same time using managerial controls to increase efficiency and profits. (F&D, 48:4, Dec. 2011).


7. Neoliberalism as the ideology of globalization, with its non-democratic and, at best, HR-indifferent values, is driving our global institutions. We recognize being trapped in this ideology and in the ensuing seemingly unshakable belief that the market has the answer to most things and hence must have the answers to our global social (health, education, HR and other) problems. With its ‘growth fetichism’, neolibealism brings with it HR violations (sometimes on a massive scale), on top of bringing with it increasing inequalities and thus class divisions.*** Trapped in these beliefs, governments are more and more prone to serve corporations rather than act independently and democratically. For instance, the idea of health care, of nutrition and of education systems as social institutions are lost. As a consequence, HR principles fall through the cracks. (G. Mooney)

***: As measured by the Gini coefficient, wealth (what you own) is far more unequally distributed than income (what you earn). The inclusion of wealth in studies of health or any other disparities will result in a more accurate picture of social (class) stratification and thus better informed social policy considerations (N. Nowatzki)


8. A hundred and sixty plus years ago, Marx concluded that capitalism would self-destruct. ****     A century or so later, Keynes then gave us the notion of ‘animal spirits’ as the driving engine of capitalism.  Today we are still trying ‘to wash the face of capitalism’. But have we not just been tinkering with the prevailing economic order…thus “happily turns the World of Capitalism”?  (A. Rabilotta) And where has this led us?  It is now financial capitalism, that makes money with money or with papers it calls money, that has replaced productive (industrial) capitalism. (A. Gomez) Result of this? Among many other evils, capitalism has failed to let the peoples of the world have decent living standards.

****: Actually, the globalized capitalist world that emerged in the 1990s is incredibly similar to the world anticipated by Marx in the Communist Manifesto of 1848. (E. Hobsbawm)


9. What else is at the core of globalization? Globalization also creates odious debt (the national debt incurred by a regime for purposes that do not serve the best interests of the nation and that should not be enforceable; such debt is considered to be personal debts of the regime that incurred them and not debts of the state). ***** Take for example the EU: it is prescribing IMF-type remedies that are creating a European odious debt trap forcing EU members to pay banks first, imposing public spending cuts and increasing their very people’s indebtedness, as well as violating a host of their fundamental human rights –technically a case of retrogression in HR.

*****: Globally, between 1970 and 2007 the developing countries’ external debt increased 48-fold. By 2007 they had repaid 102 times what they owed in 1970. Between 1985 and 2007 they paid out the equivalent of 7.5 Marshall Plans – $759 billion net. In 2007 their payments on external public debt were $190 billion; development aid was only $104 billion.


10. Odious debt is thus not a national obligation, just the dictator’s or corrupt ruler’s personal debt. (E. Toussaint) Fighting for debt cancellation necessarily leads to questioning the capitalist system. Countries cannot cancel odious debt without defeating capitalism. (D. Milet) Why? Because foreign debt has its root causes in the prevailing world economic order. It therefore is a political problem that requires a total rethinking of the prevailing economic order. What we really must confront is the root causes that brought about the debt problem to begin with.


11. Since the solution is to modify the order that generated the untenable indebtedness, the way to get at the root causes is to openly demand ‘citizens audits’ of the debt. In these audits, civil society investigates how the loans originated, how transparent that process was and then what was actually done with the funds the loans brought into the country, i.e., where they actually ended up. The government has to be pushed to open up to these inquiries; it is a citizens right. (CETIM) Such audits are very much in the spirit of the HR framework!


12. Believing that the-current-way-is-the-only-way is, quite simply and literally, killing a whole lot of people. What we have is policy-induced scarcities, they are not natural scarcities, and they are there because people think they have no choice. (J. Love)  But do they?


Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City



-There is an important point to be made here. The welfare state was not a present to workers from either governments or enterprises. It came about in the period 1930-1970 (depending on countries) from powerful social struggles that succeeded in renegotiating the conditions of income distribution. As a result, a social peace was achieved that allowed concentrating in producing, consuming and living in a neighborly environment. (M. Castells) The HR significance and implications of this cannot be overemphasized enough.

– You may have read this already: Teasingly, some say that, in the USA, there is no proletariat because the McDonald Chain has hamburgoised the working class.



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