The Great Vehicle of the Civil Commons
The epistemic problem is that the dominant economic doctrine is incapable of recognizing the fatal inner logic that has developed within its life-blind categories and practices. The ruling disorder cannot be seen.
It can no more be seen from within the ruling value programme than slavery, private property in women, caste subjugation, and eco-genocide as God’s will can be seen within theirs. The symptoms of systemic disorder have become recognized, but those in the employ of the money-sequence system are legion – tabloid columnists, chambers of commerce, bankers, editorial boards, corporate think-tanks, financed politicians, policy servants, conglomerate boardrooms, stock and bond sales forces, speculators, developers, economists, and now even scientists and public administrators.
The ruinous depredations by the system are thus not resolved, but exploited as new markets to serve. For sad example, the 2012 United Nations Rio+20 process to ‘prevent environmental destruction’ is run by the very private corporate interests responsible for the destruction. The preparatory Green Economy Report launched by the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) has an investment banker, Pavan Sukhdev, as its lead author. Resolution of the ongoing global ecocide is, therefore, to position collapsing natural systems, cycles and habitats as money assets within new transnational corporate and bank money-sequences. In place of binding laws to protect life-capital bases are more money-sequence opportunities. Recall the words of the Wall Street chief economist, Willem Buiter: ‘Water is the single most important physical commodity based asset class.’1
FINDING THE COMMON LIFE-GROUND: THE CASE OF FRANCE AND EUROPE
The deadly immune deficiency of states today is they do not recognize the carcinogenic nature of the transnational money-sequence system. Rather they competitively subsidize, enforce and extend it. France may provide the best example within NATO of a society standing up, at least for the moment. In January 2010, even right-wing President Nicholas Sarkozy challenged ‘free market capitalism’ at the World Economic Forum, calling for ‘tighter banking regulations and executive pay limits’. ‘Finance, free trade and competition are only means, not ends’, he said as if reading from text I have written. ‘From the moment we accepted the idea that the market was always right and that no other opposing factors need to be taken into account, globalizations kidded out of control.’
One knew when reading this that Sarkozy would soon be sacrificed to the Market God. And he soon was for other reasons. As we see ahead, the global media also went to work on President Clinton for other reasons when he said, ‘we must level up, not down’, as well as rising presidential candidate Governor Elliot Spitzer when he led other states towards declaring the big banks’ shark credit-card interest rates as illegal.
But the real issues last through the mass media airbrushes. Seventeen years earlier in France, a similar turning point seemed to be reached when the people roiled in the streets in the millions over weeks of pension, wage, and jobs cuts while no-one in the press noticed what they were protesting about – all cuts in their future means of life. Amidst an unemployment rate of 14 per cent, the social-protest movement was reported to ‘arise out of nowhere’ even as it became a general strike. As now, buried in the official memory hole, the attack on people’s means of life to pay private bankers was the ‘national austerity budget’ in 1995 too. For six months, more and more citizens joined the France protest sweeping across the country. When the uprising was finally noticed in the global press, it was reduced to ‘December strikes by disgruntled civil servants’ – just as mass city-strikes and protests across the ocean were also to small fractions of their turnouts.2 Nothing is more gagged than social uprising for shared life-means and goods.
The mass social movement of the French people (emphasis added) ‘focused increasingly on the question of whether a future determined by transnational economic forces is the only perspective, or whether the future of French society can still be determined according to other parameters’. Observe that ‘the economic’ is reversed in meaning to make the alternative non-economic. Yet the eminent journalist co-operative Le Monde could still not find the life-ground. The ‘uprising’ is assigned to the past as ‘the cultivation of a nostalgia’. Then, as if deeper recognition stirs, the uprising begins to be understood as against the stripping of society’s very life:
Striking railway workers and non strikers alike cultivate a nostalgia for a way of life that is under threat. However modest that way of life may be, it is made up of a well-established social order, a source of better health, more leisure and well-being. That is the nub of the crisis, because this world is crumbling, and order is collapsing. (emphases added)3
A few months later, on March 20, 1996, the Government of France issued a wake-up Memorandum to its European Economic Community partners. It called for ‘emergency initiatives’ on resolving Europe’s unprecedented post-1945 unemployment rise, over seven times its rate in the 1960s. At the same time, it sought discussion on Europe’s formerly high minimum workplace standards which were falling precipitately as the continent’s over-supply of labour climbed. ‘When 18 million people are out of work’, the Memorandum read, ‘and more than 50 million are threatened by social exclusion, the European Union’s duty is to respond.’4 But the government of Britain opposed any response at all. It declared intervention as an ‘interference in the market’ and, contradicting itself, ‘an abandonment of national autonomy’.5
Observe that ‘the market’ which a priori indifferent to all life-bases is absurdly identified as the people’s ‘autonomy’. Observe that not even the ‘social exclusion of 50 million people’ registers as a policy issue. Just as ‘freedom’ attaches only to money-sequences across borders, so ‘national autonomy’ is the right to ignore tens of millions of people deprived of their human dignity and livelihoods.
This underlying struggle was again at the hidden heart of the European Union’s struggle to ensure its Social Chapter against the transnational money-sequencers of London’s ‘financial district’ which control the English state. When the France-wide demonstrations finally ended, and the neo-liberal programme of the Anglo states held sway, the prognosis seemed dim. In April of 1997, the President of France, Jacques Chirac, overtly backtracked from earlier concern about the unemployed and socially excluded, and now proclaimed the value of money as the ultimate yardstick of the worth of France. ‘The French people’, he declared, ‘must express themselves clearly on the scale and speed of change over the next five years] if we want to affirm ourselves as a great economic and political power equal to the dollar and the yen.’6
Aroused by the deadly marker Chirac now exposed, I wrote the following to the Guardian Weekly which would not again publish such meaning:
What is the way to ensure that all of Europe stays in step? It is to have a single money-regime whose terms dictate that all nations strip down their social sectors to better serve corporate stockholders.
What is a people and a country when all that exists is to serve the sequence of money becoming more money for those with money?
France’s President Jacques Chirac declares the new destiny of nations in a stirring annunciation of the new order. ‘The French people’, he proclaims, ‘must express themselves clearly on the scale and speed of change over the next five years if we want to affirm ourselves as a great economic and political power equal to the dollar and the yen.’
When a leading cultural centre of the world announces its final purpose as an increased power of its money, we know that a moral insanity has invaded the heart of civilization.7
Equating the Economy to Transnational Money-Sequencing: The European Union and its Crisis
The outcome of the French people’s and the European Union’s struggles was, within two years, victory of the Socialist Party in the national elections of France in June of 1997 against press forecasts, and the support of the Social Chapter by Britain after another national election returned the ‘New Labour’ Party to office. Reality beyond the corporate money system seemed to be returning. But the identification of Europe with its transnational money power overriding sovereign legislatures themselves became the official first premise of Europe, and it lies at generative core of the European crisis since as we will see.
Today the failure of the transnational money-sequence rule is proclaimed the failure of Europe itself. The sovereign status and life of European peoples is erased from meaning. Instead there are non-stop warnings of ‘the end of Europe’ if Greece, Spain, Italy and the Union do not keep paying hundreds of billions to the private bank system dispossessing their peoples. A fallen euro bill – hardly a decade old – is dinned into all heads as the sky falling. The half-century of real economic development out of far worse ruins by public investment and human capital in the greatest productive social advance in history is thus blinkered out. History, real economy, productive civilization, and the lives of Europe’s peoples disappear to keep the guaranteed new debt servicing to private bank money-sequences going instead.
Structural Blindness of the Global Market Paradigm: The Case of the World Bank in Conflict
In the wider world, the World Bank has long led the dispossession along with the IMF, incredibly both creatures of the United Nations while being ruled by the US Treasury. Workers’ well-being, people’s villages, indigenous peoples or ancient ecosystems count for nothing in the ruling thought-system. Any life-standards in trade treaties to protect them are ruled out a priori. In its own words, ‘The World Bank firmly rejects the principle of linking free trade and investment agreements between wealthy nations and newly industrializing countries to compliance with workers’ rights.’8 It also demands ‘wage flexibility’ with the usual hidden meaning that workers be employed for whatever wages are still available. The Bank has further declared against ‘non-wage benefits’ which ‘distort market competition’.9 All these positions express the ruling carcinogenic imperative – to override life-needs to grow private money-sequences as the common good.
But the World Bank, feeling the growing heat of resistance, positioned itself like the IMF. It began to claim the very objectives of ‘poverty amelioration’ and ‘equitable policy’ it had overridden in fact. It even proclaimed (emphases added) that structural reforms ‘will only be sustainable if they reduce poverty and the distribution of income is made more equitable’. ‘Governments must’, it continues, ‘construct a framework for labour policy that … supports collective bargaining in the formal sector, [and] provides safeguards for the vulnerable.’10 The World Bank’s statements were as usual big lies in result.11 But they indicated a social-life fightback underway that had to be recognized and indicated an internal conflict arising. The World Bank’s researchers even went on to propose another form of social wealth calculation: ‘a new system that measures the wealth of the world’s nations by integrating economic, social and environmental factors … [including] the economic value of land, water, timber, sub-soil assets, … water systems … education, nutrition and health care’.12 The World Bank thus entered the deep-structural value war it still does not comprehend. Everything long ignored by the corporate money-sequences predating land, water, forests, and sub-soil resources, defunding education, stripping out nutriments from foods, and privatizing health care for the rich – in short destroying common natural and social life-support systems – was now being welcomed into the reigning system in what appeared to be a striking turn to the better.
The question remains, however: Is it only to exploit the collapse of natural and social life-support systems for more corporate profit with a brand change for public relations? If we examine the transnational corporate performance in terms of the real economy, life-capital bases, and production of universally necessary life-goods, it can be recognized as malignant in nature for two basic reasons:
- The most fundamental life-requirements and necessities do not compute, but are ignored and overridden;
- The non-profit method that has achieved every human advance from social hygiene to internet commons is ruled out a priori.
The paradigm shift required must reset to what is ruled out. It seemed as if this might happen in starting phase when ‘an environmental accounting unit’ was sent by the World Bank to Pinochet-marketized Chile to survey its big business of converting old-growth forests owned by the public into rubble and private money profits as fast as possible. It now seemed clear that some account must be taken of society’s life-capital bases before they are all plundered, absolutely correct. Chile was a symbolic start. But war was declared by Chile’s privately clear-cutting corporations immediately. It denounced any such environmental accounting as an ‘invasion’. In the usual reverse logic of the system, the corporations’ pillage of vast ancient forest commons was not an ‘invasion’ but absurdly ‘the economy’.13 The home of 650,000 Mapuche people and Chile’s ecological and resource treasure were blinkered out as of no value in principle.
What did the World Bank do? It folded to the destruction of the real economy as ‘the economy’; the leader of the environmental accountant team was removed; and the accounting unit was suspended. What happened in Chile also happened more significantly to the Chair of the Economic Council of Advisors to the US President when he tried to introduce a ‘Green GDP account’ which ‘would reflect the depletion of our resources and the degradation of our environment’. But ‘the coal industry knew what it would mean – and it used its enormous influence in Congress to threaten to cut off funding for those engaged in this attempt to define Green GDP, and not just for this project’. The president was Bill Clinton and the proposer was Joseph Stiglitz.14
We see here the incapacity of the reigning paradigm not only to recognize its disorder. We observe a transnational war against any attempt to keep accounts of publicly owned natural resources being looted – society’s greatest sovereign wealth through generational time. The meaning is clear. Only with life-capital bases and categories of judgement can people know what is going on, what is to be defended, and what is the public’s to use for the public benefit. Yet this common life-capital of peoples is not allowed to be known.
A Republican Leader Recognizes the Cancer System
Even within the US Republican Party – whose legislation to dismantle the country’s Environmental Protection Agency was turned back by an aroused public in 1995–96 – there can be signs of life-recovery. Once upon a time, the Republican Party’s most resonant speech-writer and a presidential candidate stood up. He attacked the very bearers of the money-sequences who financed the Republican Party. With Americans being fired from secure jobs at the rate of 2–3 million every year, and profit and stock markets soaring to ever higher record levels of capital gains during the same period, the need to recognize and respond to the threat to society’s life was sensed.
Ronald Reagan’s own wordsmith, Patrick Buchanan, declared: ‘A cancer is eating away at the economy.’15 He ignored his boss’s part in it, but analysed American society as in impending internal war: ‘All the knights and barons will be riding into the castle and pulling up the drawbridge, because they’re coming. All the peasants are coming with pitchforks after them.’16 As if the mask had been stripped for a moment from the transnational money-sequences draining the decent jobs and life of the US to maximize borderless private profits, aspiring president Bob Dole recognized the same pattern in glimpses: ‘Corporate profits are setting records, and so are corporate layoffs … Big corporations are getting tax-breaks they can’t justify.’17
‘The interests of the corporate chieftains … and Wall Street profits’, Buchanan further declared before the corporate media withdrew their spotlight, ‘no longer coincide with America’s’.18 It was predictable that any such emergence of immune recognition within the political party representing the disease-pattern would be repressed to sustain its occupation of the social host. But then again the cancer was recognized by the Dean of the Business Faculty of Yale two years later.19
No more was to heard from either, any more than it was discussed when the diagnosis was first advanced by me in a special public health issue of one of America’s leading public affairs journals in 1995.20 Many more thinking people know the meaning in private now, but it remains unspeakable in official culture. This is how the immune disorder of society continues. On macro as well as micro levels, the channels of communication to the surrounding life-community are closed to whatever defines the ruling disorder.
Decoding the Civil Commons Ground Beneath Parties and Money-Sequence Positions
A question here arises of ‘incentives’. What was the right-wing Buchanan motivated by when he confronted of the money-sequence lords of the Republican Party itself – the party that Bush Jr, later declared as ‘the constituency of the rich and very rich’. The infra-political answer is identification with the members of one’s society and the common life-ground they share. In fact, not even a corporate ad can succeed without appealing to this underlying common ground before it is converted to a commodity ad.
A few weeks after Buchanan’s public recognition of ‘the cancer eating away at the economy’, the Harvard economist and Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, declared: ‘The majority of Americans are losing out in global competition, but it is inevitable and irreversible in the new economic order.’21 One winces at the TINA on the left, but it too was turned. Having observed a continuous fall of wages in times of record profits and stock market gains, and the loss of 2–3 million US workers’ jobs annually since, Reich began to discover his life-bearings. He too described ‘a war’ of unemployment and declining wages on workers. Again the media muzzled the meaning, even though it was the US Secretary of Labor speaking. No media ‘love of conflict in high places’ occurred here. But Reich made an implicit call for the assertion of society’s common life-interest against the invasion by reorganizing legislation:
As corporations have focussed more and more intensely on increasing shareholders’ returns and less and less on improving the standards of living of their workers, it should be no surprise that the stock market has soared while pink slips have proliferated and the pay checks of most employees have gone nowhere. Do not blame corporations and their executives. If we want them to put greater emphasis on the interests of their workers and communities, societies must reorganize them to do so.22
Consider Reich’s last two sentences (emphasis added): We are not to blame corporations or their executives. We ‘must reorganize them’. There are two important issues Reich raises to unpack. The first is that corporations and their executives have little or no choice in continuous assaults on workers’ lives and on communities to maximize money profits. Reich thus advises to go behind the front-men to the life-destructive programme that needs to be reorganized. The meaning is not pursued, but is in the rest of this study. The meaning is that behind the corporate CEOs dismantling social and environmental life-fabrics, the under 1 per cent, there is a determining structure of no-choice which selects for the dispossession of society’s life and the great majority with it. This is the unspoken subtext, but explains what Reich means when he argues that society ‘must reorganize’ corporations and their executives to put greater emphasis on the interests of working people and their communities. The implication is that the common life-interests of working people and their communities must be built into the corporations’ decision-programme whether they accept it or not.
We know now what has happened since. The Clinton administration itself abolished the financial regulations of Wall Street which led to the financial collapse of 2008. But the deeper question crosses political phenomena. What is Reich, like Buchanan from the opposed party, moved by in a public recognition which may ruin each’s career? And to what does each appeal to adopt this risky position? Recall it is the unemployed or insecurely employed – people who could never pay back or reward them – that both high-ranking Republicans and Democrats speak out for most. In the paradigm of the market where all that is done is done for self-interest, and for the narrow interest of money gain, neither action can begin to be understood. From the standpoint of the shared life-ground we all stand on and live from, the actions are expressions of what is not named in received moral philosophy or the social sciences, what is now called the civil commons.
Reich resigned from his office several months after, penning a book from the freer life-space he was now in, fittingly entitled Locked in the Cabinet.23 One cannot say that his 2009 book Supercapitalism advances understanding. He remarkably assumes capitalism is still doing its job to ‘enlarge the economic pie’ but lacks ‘democratic governance’. The stunted notion of ‘the economic’ as disconnected from natural and social life-support systems remains unexamined.24
The Great Sickness Marches On with No Paradigm Shift Conceived
George Soros has long been the world’s leading currency speculator, famous for appropriating $10 billion in money-demand over ten days of buying and selling British pounds. While he is thus an exemplar of the global dyseconomy, he also sees beyond the demands of the ruling money-sequence system to the need to reorganize it. Soros writes (emphasis added):
Commercial bank… seek to maximize their profits within the framework of existing regulations and they cannot afford to pay too much attention to the systemic effects. Even if a bank decided to abstain, there are many others anxious to take its place. Thus even those who realized the international lending boom was unsound found themselves obliged to participate or lose their places. There is an important lesson to be learned: participants are not in a position to prevent a bust … the lesson to be learned here is that financial markets need to be supervised. Only some kind of intervention … can prevent boom/bust sequences from getting out of hand.25
Yet the system remains locked in, and no life-coherent paradigm is conceived to supersede it. Currency and derivative speculations expend over 70 times as much money demand per day as investment in the production of goods and services. Economies have stripped populations of up to 80 per cent of the value of their wages with no co-ordinate of life-need entering any step of the process. Private money seeking to be maximally more continues 24-hours-around-the-clock dispossessing tens of millions, and credit or programmes for real economy investment is lower than ever. It has ‘dried up’ to enable the carcinogenic routes of no-function speculation on margins and futures – like food prices and water shortages – even if mass hunger, malnutrition and disease follow from the disorder.
Long ago, Soros publicly declared in an Atlantic article in 1997 (emphases added), ‘I now fear that the untrammelled intensification of laissez-faire capitalism and the spread of market values into all areas of life is endangering our open and democratic society. The main enemy of the open society, I believe, is no longer the communist but the capitalist threat.’26 But it made no difference. No disease system corrects itself. The disease must first be diagnosed, and life-coherent policy specified to stem it. Yet Soros, and Reich and Buchanan, are agents of a transnational social immune system in formation inchoately standing for the common life-interest which is the civil commons. And the real economy of life-capital bases and goods provision through generational time is what the civil commons stands for as economic.
Soros may go furthest in referring to ‘income redistribution’ and ‘social institutions’ to safeguard ‘common interests on the global level such as preservation of the environment and the prevention of war’;27 ‘society has lost its anchor’, he rightly says. Yet in fact, this anchor is much deeper than these parameters define, and far beneath the daily dream constructions of the mass media and political divisions.
THE HIDDEN WORLD OF THE CIVIL COMMONS: DEFINING THE LOST GROUND AND CHOICE-SPACE OF HUMAN SOCIETY AND WORLD CIVILIZATION
The civil commons is the ultimately organizing idea of what is best in ‘civil society’, ‘the commons’, ‘progressive movement’, ‘the left’, ‘the community’, ‘unions’ and ‘co-operatives’. But the deep and universal meaning has long escaped recognition – the ultimate criterion by which all other social formations are evaluated as good or bad, sustainable or not.
The civil commons = any and all social constructs that enable universal access to life-goods.
Substantiated by prior criteria of life-goods and the life-capital bases, the civil commons principle provides an ultimate ground and compass of individual and social value across issues. None of the other standard categories has this capacity. All are capable of opposite interpretations with no second-order standard to resolve them. The civil commons principle sets this standard.
Consider ‘unions’, for example. They have been of historic importance in establishing universal life-norms for society – health care, unemployment insurance, pensions, minimum wages, labour and safety standards. No other historical body can claim as many achievements of civil community. That the transnational money-sequence disorder has waged a one-direction war to annihilation against the lead body of universally life-enabling organization demonstrates its systemic malignancy. But as always the malignant programme masks itself in opposite meanings like ‘individual freedom’ and ‘right to work’.
On the other hand, unions themselves can go in the direction of locked-in special privileges and demands that suffocate life in the name of higher interests. Without the second-order criterion to steer by, inversions of meaning and value rule on all sides. The civil community principle re-grounds and directs through the maze. Its life-ground and axiom are foolproof.
The same or even greater problems are generated by the other primary categories of progressive life-organization. Without a higher-order principle to steer by, we have no moral compass. Every one of ‘the left’, ‘co-operatives’, ‘community’, ‘solidarity’, and ‘commons’ can mean opposite things. Without ultimate life-standard to tell good from bad in the practices of each, the Tower of Babel grows.
The reason the civil community principle always works is because it directly grounds in enabling the life-capacities of all. No proxies like ‘technological development ‘ or ‘market competition’ or ‘socialism’ can do so without the higher-order principle to direct them. This is why they can end up doing the reverse of their appearance. The civil commons principle resolves all these problems because it is based in the ultimate value of all values, that more coherently inclusive life is always better for selves and communities alike. It applies universally without bounds of culture or individual difference. In particular, it supersedes the now ubiquitous ‘commons’ used across right and left discourses with vague and clashing meanings.
It might be objected that this concept is utopian and of little use in the real world where divisions rule and enabling life across selves, classes and cultures is the last thing people are motivated by. Yet as we see in depth ahead, civil commons have already long been the basis of real economy, moral progress and social development beneath conscious recognition.
The ruling paradigm is opposite. It confines meaning and value to atomic selves, private commodities and self-maximizing money-sequences with no life-value or ground. It blinkers out common life-capital bases on which our every moment depends – the shared languages we speak, the water sources we drink from, the life-protective laws we depend on, and the common knowledges we live from. Astonishingly the ultimate human substructure has long lacked even a name. With people swept up in the velocities and volumes of multiplying money-demand sequences and commodities, the underlying connective life-meaning and base of humanity is lost to understanding.
Decoding the Civil Commons Base of Human Evolution
Let us look at a simple form of the civil commons at a cultural distance:
During the long dry seasons in the far north west of Kenya, the people of the Turkwel River keep themselves alive by feeding their goats on the pods of the acacia trees growing on its banks. Every clump of trees is controlled by a committee of elders, who decide who should be allowed to use them and for how long. Anyone coming into the area who wants to feed his goats on the pods has to negotiate with the elders. Depending on the size of the pod crop they will allow him in or tell him to move on. If anyone overexploits the pods or tries to browse his animals without negotiating with the elders first he will be driven off with sticks: if he does it repeatedly he may be killed. The acacia woods are a common: a resource owned by many families. Like all the commons of the Turkana people, they are controlled with fierce determination.28
In the last 30 years, the civil commons of the Turkwei has been destroyed along with countless other such stewardship economies. The reason I say civil commons is to mark the life-and-death distinction between ‘the commons’ as nature-given resource which is not regulated to serve life, and the natural and human-made goods of life which are so regulated. In the case of the Turkwei commons, enemy tribes, the Kenyan government, UN agencies and minds like Garrett Hardin, author of the famous Tragedy of the Commons, could not discern the civil commons at work protecting and enabling the reproduction of a shared life-resource of the community for the continued access of all members to live from. The pattern was at bottom much the same as the privatization-for-money-profit waves that have come in the last 30 years to unravel the social life-organization defining the species’ paramount survival advantage and moral evolution.
Since the underlying civil commons cannot be seen, ‘the commons’ has been ideologically inverted into an unmediated common resource to be privatized for profit – a process moving from the barbaric clearances of English and native lands to expropriations of people’s communal lands after decolonization.29 This ‘unbridled plunder’ of the world’s commons has included the systematic despoliation of the forests, oceans, rivers, aquifers, species and soils.30
So it is of ultimate importance to distinguish between ‘the commons’ as free to enclose and exploit for profit and ‘the civil commons’ which protects these life-capital bases to ensure continued access to their goods. This distinction has been suppressed for centuries. The village ‘commons’ of England before enclosed by agribusiness were more regulated than the acacia trees of the Turkwel River. There were strict customs to ensure both that the natural resources were preserved, and that there was continued access of all members of the community to them (for example, the rule that a commoner could only turn out as many head of livestock to the shared pasture as were kept in the household corral over the winter). This is the nature of the civil commons in its earlier forms. What is missed by ‘commons’ simpliciter is the essence of the matter – the evolving ‘civil’ construct protecting common life-capital by community rules.
We can see from this baseline distinction that what was once the ‘commons’ of nature becomes ‘civil commons’ as it is preserved and humanized by life-protective norms – the almost lost subject of humanity’s evolution and historical development. Insofar as there are effective laws against environmental pollutants that destroy the ‘global commons’ of the atmosphere or oceans, humanity’s evolution continues and historical moral subject is recovered. Insofar as there are not such effective norms, and there are not, humanity’s evolution and history fails and the real economy is undermined at its unseen life-bases.
At this point, we might pose a question which assists understanding of this lost life-ground and defining collective agency across time. What is the underlying unifying code of all these diverse and basic phenomena in our daily and historical lives?
the nature of language
the air we breathe
the common fire
universal health plans
the world wide web
international campaigns against US war crimes
sidewalks and forest paths
sports and sports fields
the open science movement
the Chinese concept of jen
the Jubilee of Leviticus
effective pollution controls
city squares and sidewalks
Buddha’s principle of interdependent origination
the rule of life-protective law
universal hygiene practices
footpaths and bicycle trails
the global atmosphere
maximum work hours and minimum wages
the ancient village commons before enclosures
the unnamed goal of the Occupy Movement
What is in common among these diverse weaves and regions of social life across historical periods, cultures and life-purpose is that all, one way or another, regulate for universal access of community members to life-goods without which life-capacities are reduced or destroyed.
What is, conversely, the common enemy of all is the transnational money-sequence system which threatens most or all by privatization, defunding, and despoliation.
What exposes the civil commons baseline of the human condition to perpetual ruin is that this ultimate substructure of enabling human life has no recognized meaning or name.
The Origin and Through-Line of the Civil Commons in Socially Constructed Language and Rules
Let us begin at the human ground of the civil commons with its model, its prime medium, and its universal organizer of thought and action – human language itself. We do not know its origin in fact, but it is certain that it has been the primary survival trait of humanity across societies and cultures. Human beings always develop in the individual or the community by the ability to communicate by names all relevant creatures, plants and minerals – food to eat, water and game sources, tool resources, pathways of travel, places to stay or not, names of individual members, identification of what is harmful, and so on. At the same time, socially constructed rules govern all of them – from the subject-predicate grammar of words to the human-made regulators of foods, distribution, access to life-means, hunting or productive activities, required relationships among all community members and age groups, treatment of the sick, injured or dead, defence of the community against external and internal threats and aggression, and so on through every domain of humanity’s reproduction and development.
Socially constructed symbol systems and the rules by which community and members live are thus humanity’s most important distinguishing features, evolving above instinctual repertoires and immediate identity with the body. These are the two defining characteristics of humanity prior to all others, and their consequence is that humanity lives on another ontological plane of signs, concepts and rules within which human beings live beyond the limits of material organism and conditions. They are, in economic terms, the ultimate life-capital bases of humanity that can themselves be upgraded by the measure to which they progressively enable the thought, felt being and action of a people in the world, or degrade them to more useless conflicts, ignorance and incoherence with human and natural life-requirements. This is the unseen choice space of collective human well-being versus ill-being, life-coherent or incoherent power.
The symbolic and rule-governed beast can be thus godlike or diabolical. It all depends on whether their symbolic and rule-governed world is consistent with the requirements of its common life-ground and humanity’s life-capacities, or systematically violates both. This symbolic and rule-governed world, for good or ill, precedes and outlives the individuals who participate in their fields of life-value and meaning. This world evolves beyond death’s limits, and – defining any human advance – enables more coherently inclusive possibilities of life, the long obscured criterion of human flourishing across individuals and cultures. Of course, the road is long in this advance or retardation, and the English ‘commons’ of centuries ago was not advanced beyond the parish level. As E.P. Thompson observes, a ‘bounded, circular, jealously possessive consciousness of the parish’ confined it – the narrow civil commons trapped inside its immediate life-identity of the local, like the animal is at the level of its body. When people are romantic about the local today, they do not recognize how long a journey to wider life-community it is.31
The civil commons itself is the ultimate subject of this process. Deep individuation of human capacities expresses its forward direction while disabling demands and useless violence express its sickness or decline. The economy is the organization of society to provide for and distribute the means of life required that would otherwise be absent – the base of society’s development without which individuals cannot survive or flourish. This includes, especially, knowledge capital that enables understanding of the regulating principles of human and natural phenomena, the moving line of ‘coherently inclusive possibilities’ of human life that survives its bearers across millennia. The individual is the creative expression of this common life-ground.
In contemporary ‘economics’, only private price, exchange and profit are perceived with more money-value for self as the goal. In this life-vacuum, ‘there is no such thing as society’. This makes for disconnect from the common life-ground, and mathematical sequences frozen into self-referential strings express it. Many think beyond the system, but may not yet realise the symbolic and rule-governed human world out of which humanity develops becomes richer and more useful the more people have and use the symbols and rules in common. Language and its creations are life-capital that can be shared without deficit or exhaustion, and only develop to the extent that they are.
The Destruction of Knowledge and Creation Sharing by the Transnational Money-Sequence System
The ruling money-sequence system has an opposite driver. It is structured to eliminate what is in common in nature and in society to make private profit – including sharing knowledge which is the secret to its advance. As creators and published writers know today, the now-reigning corporate copyright and patent system imposes ever higher prices to access their symbolic knowledge and creations to which the copy righters have contributed nothing. The creators, the referees of the articles, the universities who employ them, and the public which funds them receive not a cent. On the contrary, the universities and public libraries which have been the life-capital bases of the works are impoverished by the money-sequence charges on their learning communities to access their own creations.
This is how the carcinogenic system advances through the civil commons of knowledge and evolved culture. All the while the transnational corporations who have bought the journals charge $2,500 up to the creators of learned texts to release them into the creative commons of the internet – the most dynamic common life-capital of contemporary civilization. The transnational money-sequences with no life or knowledge function thus predate higher education and research all the way down. Capacity to advance and disseminate learning without price and profit is simultaneously defunded. Defining constitutional objectives are overridden by corporate bureaucracies as if they did not exist. Students are made debt-slaves to private banks, and money-sequence takeover of the campus runs through research labs to junk food concessions and toilet commercials. Meanwhile presidents become millionaires and multiply a servant bureaucracy in administering the full-spectrum occupation.
The Civil Commons as Basis of Human Discovery and Development
In contrast, the classical American entrepreneur Benjamin Franklin lived by knowledge commons. His Franklin Stove and other innovations were not patented. This was because he believed that no invention from which other people could benefit should be denied them – just as he had benefited from science, knowledge and Franklin in this way is an exemplar of the civil commons, understanding the community of knowledge as the shared core of human society and its development. Local presidents as CEOs, instead, live rich off the rent of knowledge made by others.
We can deduce the law of civil commons superiority. Their creations become ever greater in life-value the more universally accessible they are. Conversely, their private hijack by corporate money-sequences destroys their powers in proportion to the narrowness of expropriation. At the same time, global for-profit expropriation of the civil commons of knowledge is proclaimed the bearer of ‘freedom and innovation’ even as no significant human discovery from the ancient philosophers to modern medical science has been for private profit in its discovery.
Yet this civil commons by which humanity develops is invisible through the ruling categories, and so the expropriation of advancing human discovery and blocking of its dissemination continues. On the other hand, the civil commons of symbols and discovery now move across the globe in seconds by the international electronic network of the ‘world wide web’ to which creators increasingly contribute their works. This technology of free dissemination is itself led by the process of civil commons discovery known as ‘shareware’, despite the pervasive representation of it as for-profit innovation. Just as reverse projection is the operation of projecting evils of the system onto opponents, so this system claims all goods as its own.
In reality the technology was structured as a civil commons resource from the beginning – researchers independent of price, patent and profit seeking and communicating discovery for its own sake. Thus non-rent scientists in public universities led the world of internet discovery. As Douglas Rushkoff puts it long after the original ARPANET, ‘the fact remains that every single major development in online technology and communication came as shareware. Since big business took the wheel, we haven’t seen anything significant.’32 Rushkoff summarizes: ‘While shareware developers create problems to address universal needs, businesses develop programmes in order to create needs.’33
This principle can be generalized as the defining difference between the civil commons and the money-sequence system. The civil commons is advanced by those seeking to provide life-goods for as many as possible through generational time. The corporate system contrives conditions where prices must be paid to profit few within as many cycles of obsolescence as can be contrived.
The long-term scale capacities regulated by public service goal without continuous short-term profit-takes produce superior not only in health, education and e-services but all the way down. Consider, for example, the acidic and nutrient-poor cerrado of North-East Brazil. It was long effectively useless for any life-productive purpose until the non-profit government-funded research institution Embrapa (Empresa Brasilerai de Pesquisa Agropecuria, Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation) – now the leading tropical agricultural research institution in the world deploying non-privatized seed varieties from India and Africa – intervened. It created for no proprietary patent an industrial-scale solution that has turned the cerrado into an agricultural powerhouse now producing 70 per cent of Brazil’s huge agricultural product.
The agricultural research institution has not been restricted to industrial scale either. It has also created a no-till agriculture method – this time from a Japanese Taoist smallholder – which now produces over 50 per cent of its grains (only 2.6 per cent in 1990).34 In the US and Canada, in contrast, the massively subsidized private corporate giants create no such results but only rising negative externalities, while providing no support funding for organic and long-term agriculture (as Wes Jackson of the non-profit Land Institute developing perennial crops will testify, and as organic-food scientists in Canada will corroborate). At the same time, long leading public health and higher research systems are systematically defunded and privatized to documented inferior life and cost outcomes across the world.
In the end, we might pose a question at the highest level of general principle. Is there any for-profit system which shows superior efficiency, performance, or innovation to any civil commons formation in provision of life-goods? The answer is no, and the reasons are:
- life-coherent management and purpose;
- no continuous profit costs;
- reliable and defined benefits;
- economies of scale at the public level.
The Civil Commons Nature of the Great Spiritual Meanings
The civil commons meaning has been suppressed even at the religious level. Yet the principles of the classical Chinese notions of jen, the second commandment of Jesus, the Tao-te harmony, the Hindu atman, and Buddha’s ‘law of dependent origination’ are all variations on it – to enable universal access to life-goods through the vision of an all-encompassing common life which excludes none.
Jen is that ‘which cannot bear the suffering of another’, the central idea of classical Confucianism which entails the all inclusive common life, including other creatures, as one’s wider body.
‘Love thy neighbour as thyself’, the core idea of Christianity, requires the identification of the other as the self to universalize life-care, and is also the key to understanding the Old Testament prophets of Judaism and Islam.
The Tao is all that exists as body or space, in a harmony of 10,000 functions which the human function is to understand and be (compare to the ecological economy analysed ahead).
The atman is the boundless thought within from which all manifests and connects as the divine cosmic unity of which each is an expression.
The law of interdependent origination, the first principle of Buddhism, holds that there is no condition that exists that does not depend on all other conditions for it to come into and be sustained in being.
The defining principle of the civil commons – to protect and enable universal access to life-goods – follows from each of these first principles as the unifying meaning of how to live in social life-organization. Yet what distinguishes the civil commons principle is that its ideal to be realized is already in the process of actualization over centuries. It is the opposite of utopian. Universal literacy, for example, is an ideal not realized, but admits of measurable degrees of realization to the point now that ever higher majorities towards 100 per cent can read and write at some level. When this achievement is compared to a situation not so long ago when hardly any members of any society could read or write, we see how dynamically progressive non-profit civil community can be. It is in such progression that we find real social development.
The Civil Commons Usurped: The Lost Moral Compass of the Contemporary State
Yet the unseen war against the civil commons is to eliminate them or price them for profit. Thus almost all of the contemporary constructions of the civil commons are under attack by this life-blind system – universal health care, health and occupational safety standards, public education, city streetscapes, parks, pollution regulations, consumer law protections, sanitation infrastructures, old-age pensions, city plans, unemployment insurance, social assistance, and environmental regulations. They are all defunded, axed and privatized to convert these public life-capital bases into private money-sequences.
Thus too across the globe, effective regulatory controls on what is dumped into, assaulted by or extracted from the air we breathe, the water bodies around us, the atmosphere our climatic temperature, rainfall and winds issue from, the forests which hold the earth together and provide habitat and carbon dioxide consumption, the ecosystem processes which recycle life-remains to life again, the retreating soil covers our food is grown from, the marine habitats that bear the food of entire continents and ageless ecologies of diverse life – in short, the life-ground of humanity and all species – are in one way or another sacrificed to grow private money-sequences.
Effective regulatory regimes, the civil commons as social immune function, are required to preserve every one of these conditions of life from depredation and destruction. In modern form they are impartially monitored, inspected, and enforced life-standards by a well-funded public authority. But not one of these carrying capacities of life is not under systemic attack. In Canada, long a leader in civil commons development, the ruling oil and money party has installed a leadership which has abolished or defunded every environmental regulation, agency, monitor, and information service it can within the budget process.
Yet as masking phrases of ‘government savings’, ‘necessary efficiencies’, ‘voluntary compliance’, ‘industry-led standards’, ‘pollution credit exchange systems’, ‘freedom from state interference’, and so on, are prescribed, we need to ask a question. Would we ever accept these justifications for violent assaults, poisonings, dumping wastes, and mass destruction of life by other than corporate persons?
The Undeclared War of Corporate States versus Civil Life-Standards from 1991 On
Along with ‘free trade’ treaty fiats, transnational money-sequence rule has been led by the debt squeezing of 70 countries from Latin America to Asia, and Eastern Europe between 1992 and 1998. A ruling formula has been debt-imposed reform of domestic mining and forestry laws to force them open them to foreign companies with long leases, vast concessions, tax breaks, rights to evict communities, and exemption from prior laws.
At the same time, the new World Trade Organization (WTO), a mutation of the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), prescribed from December 1993 on that no society could refuse any commodity across its borders on grounds of its ‘process’ of production or potential harm to social memberships. Thus it became illegal to prevent the mass marketing of toxic products through one’s society or to negotiate for the terms of access to domestic markets and natural resources under new ‘free trade obligations’ – that is, foreign corporate rights to do so with no other rights recognized in any article. Thus lethal US chemical addictions called ‘tobacco products’ targeting children and women became mandatory to allow; dolphin-laced tuna products could not be blocked for environmental reasons; it was unlawful to label genetically engineered soya as genetically altered; it was now a prosecutable crime for peasants to plant without royalty payments seeds of their own crops pirate-patented by transnational corporations; it was a violation of trade obligations for government to refuse to buy oil or other products made or extracted by slave labour (for example, from Burma under the SLORC military dictatorship). All these cases are in fact WTO, tribunal rulings with heavy penalties for non-compliance, and none has been retracted.
We can see that from a life-grounded and civil commons framework of meaning that the post-1940 evolution of responsible economic government has been effectively abolished by transnational regulations to protect foreign bank and corporate control and profit alone. These omnibus world fiats have combined to institute these transnational corporate rights as absolute and overriding, backed by draconian financial and trade penalties or international embargo of any government that does not obey them. At the same time all the degenerate trends identified in the first chapter have corresponded in their emergence and growth to this aggressively invasive and overwhelming transnational money-sequence regime. The meaning of a globalizing money-sequence cancer is taboo, but it is difficult not to join the dots once diagnosis is made.
Throughout the arrangements have been effectively kept secret. Their terms have been undebatable in legislatures presented with all-or-nothing treaty law in mind-boggling details of foreign corporate rights across borders. An emerging global civil commons nonetheless emerged. Through the new civil commons avenue of the internet, through street demonstrations across the globe, and through a growing social immune recognition across borders, a ‘Multilateral Agreement on Investment’ (MAI) merged to cement the terms further and deeper. In 1998, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly against the treaty as ‘leaving populations unprotected’, and without any regulatory commitment to ‘sustainable economic growth, employment, healthy social relations, protection of the environment … and cultural policies’.35 The resistance was pooh-poohed and condemned as anathema. We may recall the words of the President of the US Council for International Business on the prior North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which had been foisted on North America against the majority will of citizens. ‘We will oppose any and all measures to create or even imply binding obligations for governments or business related to the environment or labor.’36
No life-standards were, in short, to be permitted in the ‘New World Order’ although the last century’s history had been defined by the social struggle for them. The historical evolution of nations was to be expunged for ‘free trade’, decoded, transnational corporate money-sequence rights as absolute. As the Dutch State Secretary Van Dok said on the MAI, ‘The European Parliament has nothing to say about it.’37 The Secretary-General of the OECD, Donald Johnston, said all the concerns for people and the environment raised were ‘nonsense’.38 Nonetheless, civil commons linked across borders in wave after wave of resistance, which continues today across the cities of Europe at the next level of the full-spectrum money-sequence occupation.
The Chiapas uprising against NAFTA from January 1994 made Mexico ungovernable, the mass strikes of the French people against austerity market budgets over 15 years, indigenous and oil-worker alliances in Ecuador and Nigeria that expelled two of the world’s most powerful corporations, Texaco and Shell, from their lands, the 1997 general strike against structural adjustment programmes in Korea that unseated the government and preceded the Asian meltdown, the refusal of Indian women and farmer peasants to accept the ownership of their seeds by WTO fiat, the fall of the Indian Congress government and the arrest of its leader for corruption who had tried to impose it – all of these are uprisings from the civil commons against the global market programme already occurring before 2000.
US President Bill Clinton, in June of 1998, gave brief signs of leadership against the world war of corporate occupation. He recognized for the first time by any head of state ‘the race to the bottom’ of transnational corporate cost cutting that was depredating societies and environments. He even said there should be ‘environmental protections’ and ‘labor standards’. ‘We should be levelling up,’ he said to the WTO, ‘not levelling down.’ Clinton’s statement was greeted ‘with a resounding silence’.39 Instead, a three-year affair with Monica Lewinsky suddenly stole all attention of the corporate media. No-one made the link to what Clinton had just said. No-one made the link ten years later either when Eliot Spitzer’s sex life suddenly became headline news when he was organizing the prohibition of credit-card bank sharking.
The Lawless Reversal of Civilization, the Cure in Law, and the Big Lie of Free Trade
More deeply unrecognized in public was the fact that most of the universal life-standards being annihilated were already in place as international covenant and laws. The greatest civil commons achievement ever at the international level had been won by 1950. Universal laws to protect human rights and regulate the conduct of nations across borders evolved out of the sacrificial pyre of tens of millions of people of the Second World War. These norms of conduct were agreed to by governments, signed as solemn covenants, contested in their normative content by no state on the public record, and in principle protect all citizens and citizen bodies without exception. They are, again, the elements of the evolved substructure of the civil commons and its social immune resources that underlie the world occupation. But all have been ignored and overridden and wholly excluded from transnational trade treaties. Their regulations with no democratic legitimacy whatever and coined by corporate trade lawyers in camera – tens of thousands of them in the WTO, NAFTA, and bilateral treaties – all conform to the meta principle that the rights of transnational capital to profit override in conflict any legislation of public or elected authority or covenants of human rights or ecological life-support systems.
Much-touted ‘side agreements’ on ‘labour and the environment’ have no binding article. The concept of ‘protection of human animal or plant life or health’ now occurs in certain NAFTA articles (that is, Articles 709–24, 902–13), but again no protection is binding. This is the standard public relations mask of the occupation. As with IMF pronouncements, the rule is that if opposition does not go away with media smears, clubs and gas, then proclaim the concerns of the protestors as new cover for the same bank and corporate rights as absolute. Say ‘poverty amelioration’, ‘environmental protection’, or whatever sells – as long as it sets no binding condition on the transnational money-sequencing to more as world rule.
The result is that corporate money-sequence rights continue to trump all before or after the masking rhetoric. Thus even when the 2011 Doha Round to keep extending the corporate-rights rule of the world was stopped by opposition from rising China, India and Brazil, still the same corporate-rights system has kept growing. It now spreads by continual one-sided bilateral treaties between, mainly, the US and weaker clients – with the EU imitating the US in what Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff referred to as ‘the cannibalization of emerging markets’ at the BRICS Summit in June 2012.
Yet at the same time what these trade agreements have shown is that there can be enforceable international law binding across borders if they are enforced by trade penalties that must be complied with as a condition of retaining access to other societies’ markets. Articles have been codified in the fine detail, international dispute-resolution mechanisms have been instituted, and multilateral rulings have been prescribed and enforced across borders of formerly alien social systems. Despite the blindness to the requirements of planetary and human life by the ruling trade regimes, they have shown there is a successful method of international enforcement of law. Corporations and states which now override life-protective international laws, covenants and agreements with impunity could be obliged to comply with them by trade and financial sanctions for non-compliance. This is why the ruling corporate-state powers are so anxious to keep life-standards altogether out of trade treaties. They know they can work – with schedules of accession the European Union has demonstrated can be operational across differently developed counties.
If we bear in mind the previous century of developing national and international standards for the protection of human, social and environmental life, we can put the Great Sickness in wider-lensed perspective. The world already has in place ‘solemnly pledged’ laws to protect peoples against militant special interests claiming right to rule the world. This emergent normative order of life-protection has been cast in law across states and has been paid for in the blood of tens of millions – the Nuremburg Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Conventions for Prevention of Torture, the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the Elimination of all Forms of Racism, and the Political Rights of Women as a body of codified international law. It also has the 1974 Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States which declares the ‘inalienable right’ of governments ‘to regulate and supervise the activities of transnational corporations’.
No ‘world armies’ or ‘interference in the internal affairs of other nations’ are required to enforce these laws. Implementation requires only the binding recognition of these life-protective regulators in international trade agreements. Just as the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer has entered into NAFTA obligations, so other codified international agreements can protect human and environmental life rather than continuing to be overridden by a lawless corporate regime unaccountable to anything but private money-sequences becoming more. It is symptomatic of the global cancer system that this real meaning of ‘international community’ and ‘norms of civilized nations’ has been abolished. Even laws on the most heinous international crimes – war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, mass murder, systematic torture and slave labour – are erased in the new transnational corporate trade treaties. No crime against humanity can be grounds for refusing foreign corporate commodities and capital into domestic markets. Slave and child labour, 80-hour weeks, or torture and murder of union and community organizers cannot be grounds for refusing them ‘national treatment’ and ‘free entry’ into domestic economies. Refusal to allow criminally produced commodities or money-capital takeovers by the corporations involved is prohibited as ‘trade restrictive’. ‘Process of production’ is immune from ‘discrimination’.
Yet to ‘aid and abet’ a crime means, under law, any ‘act which facilitates the commission of the offence’. Why then is facilitation, encouragement and profit from international crimes of the gravest kind under law – genocide, murder, torture, slave labour, gross and indiscriminate violation of human rights – perpetrated in the global corporate system with impunity? Why are Shell Oil’s invasionary plunder of Ogonil and, crimes by US corporations, including war crimes, for example in Iraq and Afghanistan, and backing of genocidal crimes against indigenous peoples in resource-rich regions, not even raised as the gravest crimes under law? Not even the recourse of refusal to do business with the corporate-person criminals allowed. Thus not even a major corporation’s proven profitable complicity with mass murder can justify any society refusing its commodities or buyouts with the profits! That has already been decided by unaccountable, unelected and closed-meeting trade tribunals.
What is new is that societies and peoples now have no right to even refuse under this transnational tyranny the very money-sequences and products feeding on supreme crimes.
Even if societies democratically organize legislation to boycott such products or stop deep environmental damages, their elected governments may be fined hundreds of millions of dollars by these appointed tribunals under undebated trade treaty – with corporate lawsuits against elected governments multiplying exponentially since the 1990s.
Not even slavery-made products can be ‘discriminated against’ in this transnational money-sequence despotism. Nobel laureate and elected leader of Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi, when told of the British Foreign Minister’s standard claim that only ‘through commercial contracts with democratic nations such as Britain can democracy develop’, replied (emphases added): ‘Not in the least bit, because the so-called market economy is only open to some. Investors will only help a small elite to get richer and richer. This works against the very idea of democracy.’40 The Dalai Lama has also seen through the mask. In October of 1992 in personal audience, he mourned: ‘The Chinese government is destroying my country, killing my people, and still Western countries make only greater trade relations with China.’ The problem here is not ‘human nature’, but the lawlessness of a transnational money-sequence tyranny for which no other rights exist.
In considering the rule of law overridden by the global corporate system, reflect on the nature of a ‘crime against humanity’ as defined in criminal codes:
‘Crime against humanity’ means murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, persecution or any other inhumane act or omission that is committed against any civilian population or any identifiable group of persons, whether or not it constitutes a contravention of the law in force at the time and in the place of its commission, and at that time and in that place, constitutes a contravention of customary international law or is criminal according to the general principles of law recognized by the community of nations.41
Which one of these crimes against humanity has not been committed with the complicity or direct commission by the world’s richest oil and mining corporations in the ‘New World Order’? At the same time, long-recognized labour rights are freely overridden and reversed. What exactly is being overrun here? Underlying all the evolved laws and norms of life-protection which have been usurped by the new corporate-rights treaties is the unifying principle of life-defence. Workers’ movements and unions have over generations achieved a system of life-protection – leading the building of the modern civil commons in universal health care, education, pensions, unemployment income security, and minimum wages. No civilized modern society can exist without any one of them. But all are reversed by the mutant transnational money-sequence system to grow and multiply itself.
This is not because universal and recognized norms of life-defence have not been developed and agreed to across national boundaries and continents. In fact, there is a whole body of life-protective international law already formed in fine detail. The cancer system is told by the fact that it overrides life-protective law and life-support systems everywhere to grow itself. In consequence, poisonous air and lethally hazardous substances, 17-hour days and disease-producing conditions, life-endangering demands, child and forced labour and threat of death for union organizing are normalized as ‘least trade restrictive’. In such ways too, wage share and real incomes for workers have fallen across the world for two decades, and undernourishment, malnourishment and starvation afflict rising billions of people in extremes between obesity and deprivation – all concealed by aggregate money figures and an ‘poverty-level’ divider of above or below the money equivalent of a cup of coffee a day. No life or life-capital bases compute. To ensure enforcement against resistance, 100 corporations compete to sell instruments of torture to sustain the oppression.42
The Ultimate Choice: Standing for Society’s Life Against the Transnational Money-Sequence Occupation
The European Union long resisted by real and monitored human rights of ‘the right to medical assistance’, ‘the right to social security’, and ‘the right to protection against poverty’. Because the law of selection of global market money-sequences is to reduce life-costs towards zero, however, all protections of life are overridden. By 2000 in the European Union (in which there was 1 per cent unemployment before the Great Reversal), there were by mid-1995 over 50 million workers without secure jobs and 2 million more thrown into long-term unemployment every year as the corporate money-sequences haemorrhaged out from social hosts having protective regulations towards those with none.43 The invasive pattern crosses decades – ever more Europeans drop below the poverty line, children are hungrier by the millions, and youth unemployment skyrockets.44
Human society’s life-destruction continues as predictably as disease does until stopped. A global resistance slowly thus builds across cultures against the financial bleeding system across borders. The Occupy Movement since 2011 preceded by the Arab Spring has moved across 87 countries and hundreds of cities across continents. But still these highly publicized uprisings have lacked direction and policy alternative. They need not even in the street. A Quebec Spring led student and citizen resistance for months on end in 2012, and won. With clear policy bearings beyond the parochial movement of the francophone elite for a separate nation, the mass uprising of students was joined by hundreds of thousands of citizens to draw the line against ‘the neo-liberal violence of the state’ – not just against students by a 76 per cent tuition hike and citizens by prohibition of crowds without government permission, but to protect ‘women, the elderly, the poor and indigenous lands’ to ‘stand for everyone against the cutbacks and commodification of social services and collective rights’. Unlike Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring with no named policy and laws to be changed, it defeated the government when it called an election on poll indicators it would win against the uprising.
At the same time, France elected a Socialist Party President whose programme to begin was reversal of the tax giveaways to the banks, stock options and dividends, bonuses, big business, petrol stock holders, and corporate-executive salaries in the public sector – all initially expressing the principles of social recovery of this study. Next door, Spain with 50 per cent youth unemployment, has been rocked for months on end by its indignados movement occupying squares and resisting home foreclosures. Yet its prior ‘socialist’ government (PSS) led tax reduction and thus dispossession of the public sector, cut workers’ pay and pensions and thus reduced aggregate demand, left the banks bringing the crisis untouched, and imposed the biggest cuts of public investment in Spanish history. Rather than the progressive public party fighting the transnational money-sequence tyranny, it enforced it.
Across the ocean, a prolonged student and public uprising in Chile (also still in motion as I write) fights the neo-liberal billionaire leadership of the country which has not caught up with the Latin American turn to responsible government for the common life-interest. It began in 2011 against the financialization of higher education and student debt servitude to banks – a lightning rod of youth uprising across the world. Yet like Quebec students later, it has moved to wider policy bearings of nationalization of the main public resource of copper deposits, the reduction of military spending, and higher taxation on the corporate rich.
Syriza in Greece is another variation on the ultimate choice of sovereign peoples. From marginal obscurity, it now vies for presidential power by this same meta policy shift. It recognizes the cancerous reduction of life and life-standards – 20 per cent reduction in average income, two-thirds of the population insecure, and a growing 40 per cent impoverished. It prescribes effective taxation of high incomes and wealth, the reclamation of public life-capital resources, freezing of EU banker-forced reductions of salaries and social expenditure, and overcoming of structural poverty. But the underlying financial disorder and remains obscured – the necessity for a public banking system to enable the required public investment for recovery.
Everywhere we look, in short, the unseen ultimate choice space of public sovereignty goes one way or the other. In this meta choice space lies the cross-roads of contemporary civilization.
The earlier turning point for historical development of the West occurred in response to fascism in its earlier form. World depression, war, mass destitution and genocide were overcome by the greatest civil commons advance in history. A global shift towards universal life-protective laws and life-enabling social programmes took hold from the transnational Resistance and 1945 victory on. The US then briefly led liberation forces. The civil commons principle was not only evident in Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms against the ‘spirit of fascism still at home and abroad’, but in subsequent universal agreements and covenants of the new and corporate-free United Nations grounding in life-rights.
In the 1960s the doors opened wider to a rising sense of the community of all life. The unprecedented movement across borders brought masses – threatened with dogs, mounted police, beating and caging – to remove invading US forces from Vietnam. The civil community across borders then arose again to stop the long-term invasion of Iraq from 1991 to 2003 in a sustained genocidal war for its rich oilfields and reversal of its Middle-East model of socialist infrastructure that predated the long CIA asset of Saddam Hussein.
An ever deeper global movement builds today against the post-1990 transnational money-sequence system that lies behind the rising planetary disorder. But what needs explanation in the new Resistance is not discussed – the historically unprecedented cross-cultural identification with the loss of life and life-condition of people of other races, histories, kinship genes, and even other species with no self-interest of money, position or power to be gained by it. When millions of people carry through as if their own lives were at stake, we experience a civil community evolving beneath and across on a global level.
In sign of the silent sea-shift developing, corporate media ads try to tap in to the felt life-community in every ad. But on the ground, the upsurging universal life-concern incites geo-strategic strike-back. The history of the world from the 1980 Reagan-turn on has shown a reversal of the rising community of life by all the invasive behaviours of the Great Sickness – lawless corporate rights, mass disemployment, fractioned taxes on the rich, social cutback, regulation stripping, natural capital looting, wars against the poor, and dispossession of the majority of their livelihoods and life-security in tidal private money-sequence flows growing themselves. At least Nazis loved the natural world around them.
People Will Not Accept It If They Know: Re-Grounding in the Life-Principled Base of All Human Advance
The growing life-stand against the carcinogenic occupation is grounded in the roots of human being. If people observe or know of the brutal destruction of vital life-ranges where no compensating gain in or security of others’ life can explain, they rebel from within. This is because of the evolved structure of thought which puts them ‘in common’ with the lost life and the life that remains. All people know this ‘civil commons within’, and it is not a spiritual conceit. It is a general fact that is so self-evident underneath acknowledgement that murderous state and corporate agents will go to any lengths to provide cover-ups, rationalizations, silencing of witnesses, and full ads to keep people from this heart–mind connection.
Because the received theories of motivation cannot compute such life-bonding across divisions, it becomes a revolutionary act to recover what is there. An unseen law of human life-identification is at work. If anyone sees life has been maimed or killed with no other life secured by it, and to the extent of life so destroyed, a corresponding reaction against it is aroused. While there is much historical evidence of people’s indifference or even stimulation by such assaults, this is what defines them as ‘inhuman’. All historical evidence of the civil commons evolution shows that concerns for fellow life-community extend ever wider past the family or the region to the nation and outwards, the true meaning of civilization.
It is not the identification of the local community against other such communities misdescribed by E.P. Thompson and others as ‘moral community’. Moral principles are universalizable, or they not moral. The civil commons is universalizable by definition. Peace and environmental movements are expressions of it. Perhaps its first form of universal life-defence is the Jubilee Year marked in Leviticus freeing all slaves and bonded servants, returning lost land, and forgiving all debts (Chapter 25). Again we can observe the civil commons in action – universal access to life-goods for people independent of their capacity to pay. When people are hungry without food, sick without means, old or unemployed without support, civil community values ensure they have the means of life they lack.
Eventually the civil commons principle is expressed in the world movement of ‘socialism’ as Albert Einstein and others have understood it, ‘the end of humanity’s predatory phase’. Yet this forward development of human community can be and now has been reversed by the global system of money-privileged selves in competition for limitlessly more by means of public resource and jurisdiction capture. Collapsing natural and social life-support systems inexorably follow. All this is called ‘harsh reality’, the ‘way things are’, ‘human nature’, and most absurdly, ‘the economy’. In historical reality, a developed society provides for means of human life for all in the form of free education, income security, universal health care, old-age pensions, and so on, through the long-developed infrastructure of civilization.
This is humanity’s lost moral anchor of the civil commons and life-capital stability on which all depends. This is why after the defeat of Nazism the United Nations’ International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was worked on for over 20 years to institute the recovery of civilization’s lost life-bearings after history’s deadliest war. This binding international law expresses the grammar of the civil commons – the guarantee to all citizens of access to universal human life-goods by real human rights agreed to by ‘the community of nations’, as distinguished from attacks on weaker countries by NATO armed forces in the name of ‘the international community’. The real human rights protected are the rights of ‘everyone to an adequate standard of living’, ‘just and favourable conditions of work’, ‘safe and healthy working conditions’, the right of all to ‘social security including social insurance’, and to ‘environmental and industrial hygiene’. These are the life-coordinates of binding international law that the transnational money-sequence system overruns by its carcinogenic nature. In short, we find in this solemn covenant of nations the underpinning principles of any free civilization and real economy – the civil commons principle of universal access to life-goods, the need principle of that without which life-capacity is reduced, and the life-capital principle of producing more life-wealth without loss.
The codified international norms of judgement have a legal literature of building precedents and sustaining norms which express the labour of centuries of struggle by working people and civil community in defining human rights as binding law across formerly warring peoples. But beneath the radar of international news, the media, G-20 spectacles, and UN-corporate pronouncements, the progressively instituted rights of the global covenant have been under full-spectrum reversal since 1991 by the globalizing system of transnational money-sequence rights. In its place is an increasingly globalized life-insecurity called ‘market competitiveness’: decoded, reducing universal life-rights and means to competitively serve money-sequencing to more by conglomerates of expropriation and demand growing through world life-organization at all levels.
We see it most clearly in the reversal of ‘distribution of world food supplies in relation to human need’. As documented in these pages, the world food supply has been stripped of nutriments for profit, and distribution is by private money right under forced ‘market reforms’. Revealingly every nation destabilized or invaded by the US has revealingly has had basic food supplements for its people outside the corporate market (for example, from Cuba to Iraq to Libya to Syria). More broadly, the human rights of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights have been scrubbed from the memory of post-1980 international institutions and discourses although its obligations are binding and definitive of post-war civilization.45 It is now warred against in every article without notice.
Cited in http://worldbusiness.org/privatizing-water-taxing-through-the-tap/. Citibank chief economist Buiter added: ‘dwarfing oil, copper, agricultural commodities and precious metals’.
I am indebted to Howard Woodhouse of the University of Saskatchewan who reported these facts to me from France where he was on sabbatical during 1995. In transglobal correspondence, a strike demonstration to protest against the provincial government’s stripping of education, social assistance and environmental protection budgets brought out the largest crowd of supporters of a workers’ demonstration in Canadian history, 250,000 people. It was reported widely in the media as 75,000, removing approximately 175,000 people from the protest.
‘From Abroad’, Times Higher Educational Supplement, January 19, 1996, p. 19.
‘France is in Two Moods over Strike’. Le Monde report in Guardian Weekly, December 24, 1995, p. 9.
Tom Bueckle, ‘Jobs Divide European Union Leaders’, International Herald Tribune, March 29, 1996, p. 1.
‘Chirac Calls Snap Election in France’, Guardian Weekly, April 27, p. 12 (emphasis added). The President of the French Republic is himself a symptom of the schizophrenic division between the market’s money code demands and the requirements of society for the protection of the lives of its people. Chirac on December 12, 1996, asserted the opposite of what he had defended months before, blaming the French people for being too ‘conservative’ and ‘not responsible’ by resisting the pace of ‘market reforms’ (‘Chirac does a U-Turn on the French’, Guardian Weekly, January 5, 1997).
John McMurtry, ‘Europe Dances to Different Tune’, Guardian Weekly, May 18, 1997.
World Development Report 1995, Workers in an Integrating World, New York: Oxford University Press, 1996, p. 6.
‘Oxfam reports that in 1995–96, World Bank President James Wolfensohn made a firm promise to increase social sector loans to developing countries from $4 billion to $5 billion a year for three years to provide vital health-care, nutrition, education and AIDS prevention. Bank lending figures for fiscal year 1997 instead show that lending for health and education plummeted to $2.5 billion’ (Karen Hodgson, Guardian Weekly, May 24, 1998, p. 2).
Press Release, Office of the President, World Bank, ‘World Bank Develops New System to Measure the Wealth of Nations’, Washington, DC, September 18, 1995, pp. 1–9.
‘Chileans Wrangle over Resources’, The Economist, February 1996 (reproduced under this title in Globe and Mail, February 6, 1996, p. A11).
Joseph Stiglitz, The Price of Inequality, New York: W. Norton, 2012, p. 99.
Drew Fagan, ‘Gloves Off Debate Sets Stage for Crucial Southern Primary’, Guardian Weekly, March 1, 1996, p. 6.
‘Harsh Language for Party Leaders’, New York Times, February 19, 1996, p. A9.
‘For Workers, It’s Still the Economy’, USA Today, February 15, 1996, p. A10; Globe and Mail, March 22, 1996, p. A18.
Terence Corcoran, ‘What’s Wrong with Buchanan?’ Globe Report on Business, February 24, 1996, p. B2.
Jeffrey Garten in ‘Global Roulette’, Harper’s Magazine, June 1998, p. 40.
John McMurtry, ‘The Social Immune System and the Cancer Stage of Capitalism’, Social Justice, 22, No. 4 (1995), 1–25.
Robert Reich, Work of Nations, New York: Vintage Books, 1992, pp. 3, 8.
‘The Downsizing of America’, New York Times, March 8, 1996, p. A13.
Robert Reich, Locked in the Cabinet, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997.
George Soros, The Alchemy of Finance, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987, pp. 100–1.
George Soros, ‘The Capitalist Threat’, Atlantic Monthly, February 1997, p. 45.
George Monbiot, ‘The Tragedy of Enclosure’, Scientific American, January 1994.
An excellent source of concrete examples of traditional commons within ‘sustenance economies’ is Maria Mies and Vandana Shiva, Ecofeminism, London: Zed Books, 1993.
‘The unbridled plunder of the world’s forests by giant timber firms’, reports the Environment Investigation Agency of the United Nations Inter-Governmental Panel on Forests, ‘is increasing at an alarming rate … The $100 billion timber industry is running out of control … Unless swift and decisive action is taken to control the intense pressures on the world’s forests, the 20th century’s legacy will be the extermination of most of the world’s species and massive social disturbance.’ The timber trade, the UN Agency reports, is 95 per cent dominated by multinational firms who control 45 million hectares of rainforest. All log illegally as well as legally. Mitsubishi leads the ‘forest rapists’, Daishowa and Musa of Indonesia face charges of corruption. Samling of Malaysia, Hyundai of Korea, the US’s Boise Cascade, Rougier of France, Klunz and Karl Danzer of Germany and Macmillan-Bloedel of Canada are charged with systematically illegal practices. ‘Deforestation is wiping out plant and animal species, increasing soil erosion and flooding and contributing to global warming’, the UN report ‘27,000 species are made extinct each year in tropical forest alone’ (David Harrison, ‘Loggers Out of Control in Forest Chainsaw Massacre’, Observer, reproduced in the Guardian Weekly, September 15, 1996).
P. Thompson writes: ‘To be sure, this was not some generous and universalistic communal spirit … [It was] the bounded, circular, jealously possessive consciousness of the parish. The communal economy was parochial and exclusive: if Weldon’s rights were “ours”, then Brigstock men and women must be kept out’ (E.P. Thompson, Customs In Common: Studies in Traditional Popular Culture, New York: The New Press, 1993, p. 179).
Douglas Rushkoff, ‘Free Lessons In Innovation’, Guardian, April 9, 1998, p. 16.
We should note here that it is not just a question of the civil commons being morally superior to the market because its principle of goods distribution is universal not sectarian. The civil commons is also more cost efficient than the market in the production of life-goods. Rushkoff observes this superior efficiency in the development of creative online technology by shareware. Richard Titmuss has investigated and generalized this superior competence in his classic study of blood banks (Richard M. Titmuss, The Gift: From Blood to Social Policy, London: Allen and Unwin, 1971). Ralph Nader among others has observed that public-sector health care is vastly more cost efficient than for-profit market ‘health maintenance’, which in the US costs $1,000 more per capita than Canada’s public system, leaves 78 million people uninsured or grossly underinsured, and results in more deaths from medical malpractice than from traffic accidents, homicides and fires combined (Ralph Nader, ‘Stop Americanizing Canadian Medicare’, CCPA Monitor (February 1996), 16, and ‘It’s Time to End Corporate Welfare As We Know It’, Earth Island Journal, (Fall 1996), 37). David F. Noble has demonstrated that corporate training through private-sector telecommunications technology ‘greatly expands administrative costs’ with no gain but loss in efficiency of educational dissemination (‘Digital Diploma Mills: The Automation of Higher Education’ (OCUFA [Ontario Confederation of Faculty Associations] Bulletin (Spring 1998), 12–15), while I have argued that the for-profit market model and education are contradictory in principle (‘Education and the Market Model’, Journal of the Philosophy of Education, Vol. 25, No. 2 (1991), 209–18).
The Economist, August 26, 2010, http://www.economist.com/node/16886442Brazilianagriculture) is the source of the quantitative figures of this paragraph, but systematically elides the public non-profit nature of the research and its productively transformative meaning.
Resolution of the European Parliament via Rule 90(5) of Rules of Procedure, March 10, 1998. (I am indebted to Tony Clarke for this document who, in turn, received it from Gaby Kueper, Assistant to Wolfgang Kreissl-Doerfer, Green Group in the European Parliament.)
Tony Clarke, The Corporate Rule Treaty, Ottawa: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, 1997, p. 9.
The statement was made on Friday April 3 in comments to Dutch (I am indebted to an e-mail from Olivier Hoedeman for this quotation.)
‘OECD Head Unfazed By MAI Protests’, Canadian Press, May 25 Release, 1998.
J. Dionne, ‘Sidetracked on the Road to Global Growth’, Guardian Weekly, June 7, 1998, p.16.
John Pilger, ‘Burma: Brutal Facts Lay Bare a Land of Fear’, Guardian Weekly, May 12, 1996, pp. 22–3.
The poverty figures are reported in John Vidal, ‘The Global Formula For Dynamite’, Globe and Mail, June 15, 1996, p. D4. The 100 manufacturers of torture instruments, 42 American, are reported in ‘The 10 Top Censored Stories’, Utne Reader, July–August 1998, p. 16. The UN 1997 Human Development Report notes the relative as well as absolute decline of life-means for the poorest quintile of the world’s people, more than halved since 1960, from 2.3 to 2.1, while the inequality ratio to the richest quintile more than doubled, from 30:1 in 1960 to 78:1 in 1994 (David Harrison, ‘Turning a Blind Eye to Pollution’, Observer via Guardian Weekly, June 27, 1997).
Martin Walker, ‘Europe This Week’, Guardian Weekly, November 9, 1997, p. 6.
While the slow-motion European life-stripping continues with resistance most developed in France where the government of Lionel Jospin has steered the economy with life-coordinates in view (for example, a 35-hour week, a tax increase on accumulated money wealth, and retention of public-sector investment), The Economist predictably recites the mantras of the global market, the magic syllables of masking, in opposing any sequence but money protection and growth – ‘big cuts in taxes and social charges, fewer civil servants, greater labour-market flexibility, more support for free enterprise, more privatization, reforms of the welfare state … call into question the sacrosanct minimum wage … globalization … an opportunity for our renewal’. Go over the list again. It is a catechism of the global cancer, every policy a continuance and increase of less costs for life and more for money-sequence growth without limit (‘The Rally of the French Right’, The Economist, February 7, 1998, p. 51).
160 out of 193 nations are ratified parties to the Covenant which is the companion to the United Nations defining Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The US led with President Roosevelt’s ‘Four Freedoms’ as a template but then, a sign of what was to come, refused to ratify carrying other states with it in a generally lawless international behaviour driven by private transnational money-sequence rights centred in the US.