Saturday, 21 June 2014

Sneaky Treaties And The Little Guy: Why We Need To Know What's Going On

Ridiculous but true: there is a raft of trade agreements being negotiated in secret by trade organisations and those branches of our governments that are actually allowed to see them. We are not allowed to know anything about them and anyone who questions them is dismissed as radical and accused of spreading misinformation. First we need to ask ourselves why this is happening, how it would affect us and what we can do about it.

Why is this happening?

Well, it all began with the Powell Memorandum, a terrifying document circulated by a far-right corporate lawyer in 1971, in which he urged the national and local Chambers of Commerce to pretty much take over the country by seizing control of the media (job done), educational facilities, and the courts.
But most of the essential freedoms remain: private ownership, private profit, labor unions, collective bargaining, consumer choice, and a market economy in which competition largely determines price, quality and variety of the goods and services provided the consumer.

Well much of that is gone, now.

How does this affect us?

Labour unions have been widely discredited and their collective bargaining power treated with distrust in corporate circles. Market economies in which artificial constraints such as cartels, monopolies (and variants thereof), hoarding and IPR largely determine prices, quality, and the variety of goods and services provided. Powell must have thought they'd know where to stop. I reckon he'd be horrified if he could see where we're at now. Anyway, he started it.

As the experience of the socialist and totalitarian states demonstrates, the contraction and denial of economic freedom is followed inevitably by governmental restrictions on other cherished rights. It is this message, above all others, that must be carried home to the American people.

This is why many of them visibly jump if you walk up to them and say the word "Socialist." Well we're experiencing the denial of economic freedom now as austerity continues, the IPR net tightens on us. By rights, the Trade Descriptions Act should ban any retailer or promotional outlet from saying, "Own it now on DVD," because you don't own "it" at all, you only own the DVD, not the digital content. Try exercising your ownership rights by inviting your neighbours to watch the movie of your choice at a fiver a head. Cops at the door in 3...2...1... Nobody does anything about the lies these people tell. You don't own it.

But in right-wing Crazyland there is nothing wrong with this pictures because they are the ones doing it. Freedom? We don't need no steenking freedom! I bash these people and their philosophies for a reason. Corporate power grabs baaaad. And we've got more of them coming. TTIP/TAFTA, the current one being negotiated between America and Europe, CETA, the one between Europe and Canada, and this new atrocity TISA. The worst thing about them is the possibility that corporations could sue governments for lost profits if the people stop them polluting, etc. Gabriel Resources is in the process of considering a lawsuit with Romania over this via investor-state resolutions clauses in a trade agreement with them. If hospitals and schools are strapped for cash before we get reamed for billions via investor-state disputes, imagine how broke they'll be afterwards. NOW can you see the problem?

What can we do about it?

Various transparency groups have been working to bring these things to light. Techdirt, Public Citizen, and Wikileaks are your best sources of information. Follow Glyn Moody on Twitter. Educate yourself or you'll know nothing. Keep an eye on what the official channels are saying, too. Get involved; write to your MP, sign petitions, and take part in protests where appropriate. The bigger the fuss we kick up, the more victories we win. Remember 4th July 2012? I sure as hell do. People often complain that they've had enough of protesting, etc., and nothing seems to change. That's because the corporate interests are a lot more determined to take away our freedoms than we are to fight for it. Your freedom is worth only as much as you're prepared to put into keeping it. So what are you going to do?

Hopefully, you'll get involved with the movement against secrecy in trade agreements so we can all have a say in what's being done in our name. Or you could pretend to be German, in favour of this crap, and take the bribe money being offered to promote it. You decide — while you still have the freedom to do so.

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