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ReOrient: Global Economy in the Asian Age
Andre Gunder Frank
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|COMMENT ON KEITH GRIFFIN'S ''ECONOMIC GLOBALIZATION AND INSTITUTIONS OF GLOBAL
GOVERNANCE'' TO BE PUBLISHED IN DEVELOPMENT AND CHANGE
I have been invited by the editor to comment on this interesting article. Therefore, I shall go through the text from beginning to end and make my comments on those statements by the author on which I think I have something to add. In so doing, I will say things below that my long time friend Keith Griffin may both agree and disagree with.
The first sentence refers to eighteenth century visions about economy and polity. But to the extent that they were so, they were not publicly announced until the last one tenth of the century; and they were limited to a very small proportion of the world and its people. Even there, very few people believed in them. They spread a bit more in the nineteenth century, but not much.
The second sentence says that the industrial revolution was the forerunner of material prosperity. If so, it must have run a long time ahead; since that prosperity has still not arrived for most of the world's people; and that is why the author feels impelled to write this article. The end of the first paragraph and the next one rather confuse the issue. It was and still is the state that has generated nationalism, and not the other way around; and the existence of the kind of state and its boundaries to which the author refers is only very recent. On the other hand, the economy has been global since 1492 and Afro-Eurasian wide for several millennia before that. No polity has never been global, nor even remotely geographically large as the economy; and none such seems to have been either possible or needed. Perhaps that remains the case still today.
The eight examples of US unilateralism and disregard for existing global institutions could be multiplied many-fold. The reference to lack of UN authorization for US military action should not be read as though any such might have occurred. Regarding Iraq, it was falsely claimed to have existed for the previous US war against that poor country. The then UN Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar noted publicly that it was a US, not a UN war. Indeed, it was in direct violation of at least seven separate articles [ among them 2, 27, 41, 42, 43, 51] of the UN Charter. At the time, I wrote that it was the beginning of the ''Third World War." It was the third in two senses, after the first and second and now against the Third World. Since then that WAR has continued against Yugoslavia [miscalled the Kosovo War], against Afghanistan, and now again against Iraq; and who knows where next. However contrary to all the hype, the US won none of them militarily. Moreover also contrary to wide-spread opinion, these wars were manifestation not US strength, but of its weakness. Otherwise the US would have felt no need even to go to war. Moreover, the US has won NO war since 1918, and the founding of the Soviet Union made even that victory in ''war to end all war'' questionable. [ The Second World War was won by the Soviet Union, the Korean one was a draw, the Vietnam War was lost by the US].
The reference to the US refusal to approve the ICC International Criminal Court and be vastly amplified, regarding both the ICC itself and other institutions. First the US insisted on having ICC jurisdiction watered down to virtually nothing at the Rome negotiations, and then only then did it refuse to sign on even that. But the US has also refused to vote for or sign EVERY other international institution and measure for the protection of human rights except the 1948-49 Geneva accords - which it signed with a half century delay and has wantonly violated in every one of its offensive wars. Griffin mentions only land mines and chemical weapons, but the US ''champion of human rights'' has also opposed at least a dozen more. The author inveighs against increasing protectionism on at least two fronts, the movement of low skill people and that of high tech ideas. But that protectionism is not general and instead its extent and type is relative to the interests of minorities in the rich countries. Therefore, greater liberalization is not necessarily better but also depends on where, how and when it would benefit who's interests. The US push to liberalize its access to services poses a threat to education and health care around the world. The push for a TRIPS Agreement on Intellectual ''Property'' is a two edged sword. It would protect US and other Industrial countries' patents, but would allow them to take out patents on age-old knowledge and practices in the Third World and then permit ''free trade'' to sell them back there under patent monopoly prices.
The author discusses agricultural protection later in another context, but it clearly also belongs in this discussion. Moreover, it illustrates my point. Agriculture is protected almost everywhere. But its most anti-social place and extent is in the richest economies of North America, Western Europe and Japan. Anti-social both for the inhabitants of these regions or countries and for every one else in the world. That is especially so in those poorer parts of the world that cannot compete with this protected agriculture of the rich. They cannot do so in the protected markets of the North nor even in their own markets in the South when they are invaded by heavily subsidized exports from the North. The agricultural trade agreement between China and the US, that the former signed as a condition of the latter's approval of the former's WTO membership threatens a world-wide catastrophe if subsidized American grains put hundreds of millions of Chinese peasants out of business. So the good or bad consequences of protection or its reduction depends on who is protecting what for and against whom. As already noted, the same goes for TRIPS. I congratulate the author and my also friend Bob Sutcliffe on what they say about Gini coefficient mal-distribution of income, but alas thereon I have nothing to add of my own that everybody does not already also know, except perhaps the following: The argument about all- or multi-purpose international institutions or specific sectoral ones also cannot stand as the general rules the author recommends. Applauding the rule of law and international institutions instead of "might is right' receives my hand clapping only if might does not also rule these institutions and apply law discriminatorily in the interests of the rich and powerful. Alas, the latter is the rule domestically and internationally; or both gini coefficients would not be as they are.
It is eminently clear that the US has dominated all international institutions and applies international law only in the interest of its own richest and most powerful domestic interests. But the latter do so as well with US domestic law and institutions. Else the US would not be the world champion of incarceration; nor would the 2 million incarcerated not be so disproportionately black and hispanic. But the same holds equally for both multi-purpose and single-sector international institutions. An illustration is the fact that the US gets the treatment of particular issues moved around from one institution to another in accord with what its government believes to be the venue that best serves its interests for any one issue at any one time. There is no telling today what and where that may be tomorrow, so that leaving whales to the Whaling Commission and child labor to the ILO cannot be a blanket formula. It depends. The Multilateral Agreement on Investments MAI has been moved around from one venue to the next as soon as it was blocked in a previous one. To say that surely everyone objects to slavery must be counter-factual. Since slavery exists, even in New York City and Los Angeles, it must be welcomed by some. The rich and powerful certainly have not objected enough to slavery. How much of it there is seems uncertain. I have seen numbers of 20 million, 27 million and 200 million. Even the low numbers for the world today would seem to exceed those of the slavery times of the past. That is only one of countless indications that parliamentary institutions and elections fall far short of serving the needs of democracy or democratic needs. Were that not so, there would have been no such mobilization as that in Seattle, to which reference is made, or the ever greater follow ups in Prague, Genoa, Quebec, etc.; nor the subsequent re-location of such meetings to isolated places that democratic objection cannot reach. Nor would the ''Spirit of Porto Alegre'' whose movement of social movements around the world announce that '' Better World IS Possible."
The reference to the most basic public good of all, peace and security, is well taken. But the terrible lack of it goes far beyond the present discussion. War and civil war have been endemic in the twentieth century as in none before. The international law built up over several centuries and the international institutions created after the first and second world wars have only been MIS-used by the rich and powerful when they were useful to them or broken and discarded altogether when they are not. No one has done so more wantonly than the present Bush administration in the US, as I argue in my "Coup d'Etat in Washington" and other pieces like ''Cuo Bono: Who Benefited from September 11, 2001?" in the New World Order section of my web-site at csf.colorado.edu/agfrank/. But recall that the NATO War Against Yugoslavia was waged by 18 member states with no consultation of any kind either of the UN or of even a single one of their own parliaments or Congress. The War Against Yugoslavia that the author MIS-calls 'in Kosovo'' did NOT establish the primacy of human rights over sovereignty. It was the trampling on human rights to '' protect" or ''save' them. But that is exactly what Hitler also said as he marched into Czechoslovakia to ''save'' the Sudenten Germansand when he was the last prior one to bomb Belgrad.. And the Blair/Bush claim to be saving civilization in Afghanistan and Iraq also mimmicks the US Vietnam War adage of ''we must destroy it to save it." They have destroyed civilization's most precious public good, peace and the laws and institutions to promote and guarantee it. No questions asked or allowed. Instead ''The Law of the West"" has become the US Vigilante posse ''Law of the West'' we all know from Spaghetti Westerns.
The discussion of global political and economic - or without the and - institutions is OK. But one person, one vote in them IS entirely utopian. Even the EU is marred by its infamous ''democratic deficit.'' The UN, Bretton Woods Institutions, and international courts do not even pretend to be democratic in even a one state-, let alone one person-one vote sense. Reform of the UN and especially of its Security Council, and the creation of a Third'Peoples' NGO chamber has been under discussion for decades. But in the meantime as already noted, the US has destroyed the UN. Its Economic and Social Council was emasculated from the very beginning when its issues were transferred to the Bank and Fund instead, instead of their being brought under the umbrella of the UN and its Council as had once been contemplated. UNCTAD in Geneva and the UN Industrial Organization in Vienna, where Third World countries have voting majorities, were still-born without any power whatsoever, because the US insisted that the development and financial aspects of their concerns should be properly dealt with by the World Bank and the IMF - where the US has the overwhelming say and veto power at the least. De facto, the IMF is simply an arm of the US Treasury, as the former Vice-President of the World Bank, economics Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz now publicly admits. So the IMF forms part of a world central bank, which is the US Treasury [not the Federal Reserve] that controls the supply of world money, the US dollar. IT or the FR print it or not at will and thereby allow Americans to buy up the rest of the world for the mere cost of printing 100 dollar bills and Treasury Certificates [ earlier on Europeans and Americans at least had to have someone else dig up gold and silver for them to do the same]. In that sense, the US is a PAPER TIGER now even more than when Mao called it that, since its power and place in the world depend entirely on its paper dollar as the world currency and the Pentagon, each of which supports but is also the Achilles heel of the other, as I argue in a so entitled paper, also on my web-site. As to the International Courts at the Hague, if they do not act as agents of the US State Department their jurisdiction is denied. But mostly these courts, and especially the Special one for Yugoslavia, DO act as arms of the US State Department. Were it not so, not only Milosevic but all the more so others would also be in the dock there who violated international law and the Geneva conventions in the territory of the former Yugoslavia, as per its jurisdiction. And that would include at the head of the list the heads of government, Foreign and [Orwellian] Defense ministers and NATO chiefs, whom several groups of international lawyers demanded to be indicted there. The then Chief of Prosecution said she would look into it but was then named to the Supreme Court of Canada by its Prime Minister and would be indictee. Her replacement De la Ponte answered that there is nothing even to look into. So the real war makers do so with 100 percent impunity, despite the personal responsibility principles established at Nuremberg and now enshrined in the ICC, which the US first emasculated, then refused to ratify, and now seeks even further to weaken by blackmailing other would be signatories with economic sanctions. The final irony is that the NATO Commander in the War Against Yugoslavia, General Wesley Clark, instead of sitting next to Milosevic in the dock at the Hague, is now running for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States as the ''Peace'' candidate! As to global governance, we may lack global institutions to govern global markets as Griffin rightly notes, but we have plenty of global institution that are governed BY the global market/s and the dominant players in it. Global democratic institutions are a long way away, and I fear that my friend Griffin's proposals will not bring us much closer.
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||ReOrient: Global Economy in the Asian Age
||Essays on NATO and Kosovo, 1999||On-line Essays
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