TTIP and globalism

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One of the most common objections I hear to Simpol’s call for global governance, is that it will damage national sovereignty. There are numerous arguments that one might put against this, but one issue stands out as absolute proof of the necessity of global democractic governance.

That issue is TTIP – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. This ‘free trade’ agreement, which is currently being negotiated, has not made nearly as much news as it deserves to. This is probably because it is being discussed behind closed doors. It is also, as with all such agreements, going to be ludicrously long and tediously complex for the average reader. But the one very important detail that has emerged, is that corporations may be able to sue governments for lost profits, in the instance that governments make decision which damage said profits.

So, for a commonly given example, if a government were to ban fracking, multinational corporations can sue them for the profits they think they would have made from that fracking. All of this happens through supra-national ‘arbitration tribunals’. Now all sorts of arguments are being made on both sides as to the relative benefits and costs of TTIP. However, what stands out, for me, is the supra-national arbitration process. This fatally undermines the argument given at the beginning of this piece.

You see, the truth is, that global governance is already happening. Governments know it and are powerless to stop it, or even to apply the brakes. Corporations know it too. The decisions are being made, the rules are being decided and it’s all happening behind closed doors.

The decision we, the people, have to make is not whether or not we want global governance. That ship has sailed. We have only to decide whether or not that global governance will be democratic.

If we do, then we have an awful lot of catching up to do and fast! I can only recommend that readers begin at Simpol.org.

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Party Politics: Meaninglessness in a globalised world

By John Bunzl, Simpol founder

With politicians of all parties bemoaning the public’s deepening disinterest in party politics and trying to devise ever more elaborate wheezes to entice them back to the ballot box, almost no one seems to have noticed that globalisation itself is quietly setting the narrow parameters within which national political discourse has become confined.

Today, financial markets represent a largely borderless world with trillions of dollars able to move from one end of the global to another in a matter of seconds. Likewise, it’s relatively easy for major corporations to switch or outsource their production to wherever in the world offers the lowest costs and the highest profits.

The ability of capital to move freely and globally by and large has the effect of forcing all governments to enact only those policies designed to enhance (or defend) their nation’s ability to attract capital, investment and jobs. For without them, their economy will go into decline. It follows, then, that whichever party we elect has no choice but to follow substantially the same market- and business-friendly policy agenda; that is, what might be called the “national competitiveness” agenda – the modern-day version of pursuing the national interest.

That’s why, in whatever country we may live, we find left-of-center parties adopting policies traditionally espoused by right-of-center parties. It’s why New Labour’s Tony Blair was often said to be the best Conservative leader since Margaret Thatcher. Or, as the former Conservative prime minister, John Major, himself once put it, “I went swimming leaving my clothes on the bank and when I came back Tony Blair was wearing them” (The Week, 29 October, 1999).

Hence globalisation, for all its good and bad points, has also resulted in all political factions, once they come to power, having no choice but to pursue substantially the same policies. Party politics, consequently, has become substantially devoid of meaning. It shouldn’t surprise us, then, that lower voter turnouts, and the general pervading cynicism about politics, are the inevitable outcome. These effects are the ingredients of what the famous philosopher, Jurgen Habermas, calls a “legitimation crisis”; a breakdown in the adequacy of the existing worldview and its governance systems to command allegiance amongst the population as a whole.

Globalisation, in other words, has rendered much of what citizenship means meaningless. And so, for anyone to try to address politics only at a national level is, in this day and age, to miss the “bleeding rhino head in the room”; that thinking about politics and governance now needs to move decisively up to the global level. Our thinking about politics needs to move, in other words, from nation-centric to world-centric.

The ossification and emptiness of today’s political discourse is one symptom, in effect, of the present global crisis brought on by globalisation; a crisis which, in a broader view of things, is telling us that the present most senior organs of governance in the world – nation-sates – are now no longer capable of governing adequately; that they are reaching the end of their evolutionary lives and now need to be “transcended and included” by a still-higher level of governance. As philosopher, Ken Wilber, concurs, “The modern nation-state, founded upon initial rationality, has run into its own internal contradictions or limitations, and can only be released by a vision-logic/planetary transformation” (Sex Ecology Spirituality, p. 192).

And as to how citizens may discover a completely new way to engage with politics which is truly transnational (i.e. world-centric) and which transcends the old party-political divides, there is now a solution available; a solution called the Simultaneous Policy (Simpol) http://www.simpol.org. As Wilber points out, “The central idea of Simpol is very powerful; that is, the notion of how to link votes in one country with votes in another – how to link political action in one country with action in another. International competition is built-in to the nation-state system at its current level of development, and so the issue is not environmental concerns, but how to get humans to agree on environmental concerns. This is really fascinating and very hopeful. In my opinion this is the crucial issue for the 21st century”.

Impressions and reflections – A journey into London, occupylsx and beyond

Just a collection of thoughts and ideas really, no real order or narrative purpose…

As I traveled by train into London bridge today I was struck by the juxtaposition of the council tower blocks on by the rail line and the gleaming towers of Canary Wharf, Citi and HSBC in the middle distance… talk about the 99%!

I was also, in the way I do on trains, idly contemplating the improbability of clouds – so insubstantial and yet so seemingly solid, looking for all the world like objects of mass hanging there in defiance of gravity. Reminds me what a miraculous world we live in and thus what we are actually doing all this for.

From London Bridge train station I walk a way through the city down eventually to Liverpool st station. As I walked I saw the eloquent grandeur of the Bank of England set against the brutal simplicity of the finance towers. Made me think about form vs function and what that means for us as people…

Made my way from Liverpool st to St Pauls and paid a visit to the occupy london site. Mostly quiet whilst I was there, but watched a band play tunes and a sit down discussion taking place. Even when quiet there’s an energy about the place. Couldn’t stay long there, but hope it develops more into something really special.

From there another tube train to westminster. Had a look at the houses of parliament in the evening sunshine. They really are a cathedral to democracy. What a shame we’ve let things get so bad!

Walked over the bridge and along past the aquarium and the London Eye. Over the golden jubilee bridges. Couldn’t help thinking even in the brief (but drenching) rain shower that London can be stunningly beautiful. What a city of contrasts it is! Something of a microcosm of the wider world if you ask me…

So an interesting day and a lot to think about… 🙂

Governor of the Bank of England explains why global cooperation is needed

By John Bunzl, Simpol founder and trustee

Friends,

Those of you in the UK may have heard the interview yesterday with Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, explaining how the problems in the global economy and financial system cannot be tackled by any nation alone. The interesting part starts about 2 min 35 in at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-15203847

The problem for nation-states, it seems to me however, is that there exists
no framework for practical cooperation; no commonly understood method for
how nations (and peoples) can work together to bring cooperation about. This
is why I believe it’s so important that we keep spreading the Simpol
concept, or any others we may feel are up to the global governance task.

The more it’s talked about, the more it becomes an actual possibility. In
that way, we’ll overcome the deeply-held idea that “it’ll never happen”.

In hope.

John
 

David Cameron at the Conservative Party Conference

By Mark Horler, Simpol supporter, blogger and networking officer.

It seems only fair, having looked at Miliband’s performance at the Labour conference, to do the same for Mr Cameron in Manchester.

After his opening remarks, Cameron began his speech proper with the following statement:

“people have very clear instructions for this government: lead us out of this economic mess, do it in a way that is fair and right – and, as you do it, please build something worthwhile for us and our children. Clear instructions, clear objectives and, for me, a clear understanding that in these difficult times it is leadership we need…”

To be honest I find it hard to know where to start with this. So I’ll take it one remark at a time:

  • Lead us out of this economic mess – That’s some chutzpah there! The two main parties have been telling the same economic story for years. The main problem though is that this statement takes as a given that it is even possible for this government (or any national government acting alone) to take us out of this economic mess. This economic mess is global – it’s story is one of globalisation, ever increasing corporate power and commensurately decreasing democratic power via national governments. To get out of this economic mess requires truly radical global reforms – reforms which are well out of reach for any one national government!
  • Do it in a way that is fair and right – There are all sorts of progressive movement organisations that have been, for the past year, noting and publicly decrying the total lack of fairness in austerity programs both in Britain and elsewhere in the world. It has been shown over and again that austerity programs increase inequality and hit the most vulnerable hardest. Yet they do nothing to challenge the global status quo that is the real root of our problems.
  • As you do it, please build something worthwhile for us and our children – well, this just takes the biscuit doesn’t it?! The way we live now we are putting every single future generation across the world at risk. We are putting our future as a civilisation and perhaps even as a species at risk. Somehow I don’t think cutting budgets in one country is enough!
  • for me, a clear understanding that in these difficult times it is leadership we need – Is it? Is it really? Or is it time we realised that nation centric governments acting alone and competitively with no real power or policy in an increasingly desperate world is just not enough anymore. Isn’t it actually time we saw that governments are being overrun by the pressure of destructive international competition. Is it not time that we, the people, take back the power, make our own agenda across the world and drive our governments to implement that People’s Agenda? The huge numbers of protests springing up across the world from – western democracies to the Arab spring – suggest that it is indeed very much time for those realisations and actions to take place. It is consensus and cooperation and direct global democracy we need – not more of the same failing system!

It’s not for Simpol to judge any party on national issues – Simpol deals only with global issues. But the statements being made by Cameron (and others across government, Labour and Lib Dem parties) are inextricably tied up with – yet strangely silent on – global issues.

It’s time for us to do it for ourselves. Join Simpol; join our open, free and participative global democracy. Join us in really making the difference to get our WORLD working… together.

Mainstream Dreaming – The Nightmare and the Dream part 2

We’ve established that we need to articulate The Nightmare and then The Dream. Once we’ve done that we can answer the most crucial question – how do we move the dream into the mainstream?

So, without further ado, let’s get to it:

The Nightmare:

This one is easy and complex at the same time. The simple answer is that The Nightmare is now. We need only watch the news and study the available information to see it all around us. It’s climate change and environmental degradation, it’s poverty, it’s injustice, it’s war, it’s the failing of democracy, it’s unbridled competition and corporatocracy, it’s inequality… I could go on.

But all of these things are not The Nightmare to us personally. For the most part, living as we do in a well off western democracy, these concerns are (or seem) remote to us. In the face of the day-to-day business of just getting on with life, we might struggle to see the bigger picture.

Nightmares are not impersonal – we don’t generally have nightmares about a debt based banking system, about the loss of bluefin tuna or about whether our vote really counts at the elections. Perhaps we should, but we don’t. In fact our nightmares are intensely personal and usually about us. So we need to be able to see or feel the effect on us personally of these problems. Perhaps that might seem selfish to some, but it is a feature of human existence and, for reasons I will go into in a moment, it is about empathy which is inherently unselfish.

We might well be able to see some effects immediately in this personal sense. We can all well imagine losing our jobs and, subsequently, our homes due to the ongoing recession/financial crisis. We should not have to try to hard to imagine being unable to find food to feed our families.

But some are more remote and for these we must use our empathy and imagination. We have all seen the news footage of flooding in Bangladesh and the horrors it brings, but this is, for most of us, remote. But is it too much of a stretch to imagine a news report showing the flooding of London, of New York, of New Orleans come to that? Can we imagine the newsreader saying that the flooding is due to rising sea levels brought about by climate change? I think we can and we can feel much more keenly that sorrow and that horror as a result.

Likewise we have all seen the news reels of brutal tyrants and the wars both that they cause and that are fought against them. Again these are most likely remote to us. But is it so hard to see that our democracy is failing? When we see our cherished public institutions and commons being sold to the highest bidder? More pressingly still, can we imagine what it would be like to see our own children sent off to war? For some people, this is not something that requires imagination at all.

Even if we can feel it and see it though which, in truth, most people can, what can we possibly do about it? The sheer amount of sadness, horror, brutality and greed in the world introduces, for many people a kind of paralysis.

It is this paralysis that is truly The Nightmare. Indeed many people will have had the personal nightmare where they are trying to run from something but their legs won’t move or they get stuck. It has been said that these chase dreams reflect our fear of certain situations and, in the case of getting stuck, an inability to escape the situation or the consequences of our actions.

On the global scale it is the very same nightmare. The sheer extent of the problems and our inability to respond to them (and this is where the failing of democracy is critical) leaves us trying to run from the problems but being stuck in paralysis. As the world we’ve built comes crashing down around us we discover that we have nowhere left to run or hide and so we – intellectually and politically – curl up in a ball and hope for the best. (It may, incidentally, not be a coincidence in light of this that so many disaster movies – think 2012 – have found their way into the Hollywood mainstream; or indeed that conspiracy theories seem ever more numerous).

So if paralysis is The Nightmare, what is The Dream? Well, again, the answer is as simple and as complex as The Nightmare.

The Dream:

The Dream is the opposite of The Nightmare. It is the world that could be, that should be instead of the world that is.

It’s harmony with nature instead of climate change and environmental degradation, It’s prosperity instead of poverty, it’s justice instead of injustice, it’s peace instead of war, it’s the revitalisation of democracy, it’s cooperation and the will of the people instead of unbridled competition and corporatocracy, it’s equality instead of inequality. There are many more answers to what the dream might be and what it might lead to, some of which you can check out here and here  and at simpol.org.uk amongst many other places.

But at the personal level, as set out above, it is the opposite of paralysis – and the opposite of paralysis is action. In turn, action is a product of choice.

This then, is the answer both to what The Dream is and how to bring it into the mainstream. We must choose to see it and to feel it and to act upon it. Each and every one of us must, to extend the metaphor, get up and walk into a better future. Each of us must take global responsibility and cooperate together to implement our desire and our will for a better world for us all and for the generations that follow us.

Simpol offers each and every person the opportunity (at no cost) to be this global citizen and to make these changes. Come and join us today and let’s bring the dream into the mainstream for everyone.

Are NGOs undemocratic? I think not!

By Mark Horler, Simpol supporter and networking officer.

In this piece on spiked-online.com the author says that “for 40 years, big green NGOs have helped to denigrate democracy and stand in the way of progress.”

The article argues that NGOs were (and are) seen as being able to “provide an efficient and effective alternative to public agencies’, in both the design and delivery of international and national policies”.

This is basically describing NGOs as a privatisation of democracy, a pretty serious accusation by any standard. Do the claims stand up to scrutiny?

To decide we need first to work out what a privatisation of democracy would entail.  I would argue that we would expect to see an organisation that is democratic within itself but undemocratic in the wider societal context. Since it is privatisation, we might also reasonably expect the democracy that is available to come at a financial cost.  Can this be said to be true?

The first part is certainly true. The big NGOs are, as far as I know,  run democratically within themselves.  Since the author of the article made a point of picking on Greenpeace, let’s use them as our example too.

A search of the Greenpeace website (quite a lengthy one actually) revealed this document on Governance Structure. In it Greenpeace sets out its commitment to the principles of democracy. To cut a long story short; The Greenpeace International Board of Directors is elected by representatives from their Regional and National offices who are, in turn, elected by voting memberships.  Each regional/national office also sends a representative – a trustee – to the international AGM.

So yes, we can say that Greenpeace is democratic within itself. However it is notable that, at the bottom level, national/regional representatives are elected by paying membership. So we have established one of the conditions in that the democracy available comes at a financial cost.

It is also true to say that NGOs such as Greenpeace are not elected by the wider public and so their participation in wider societal politics could be argued to be undemocratic in that sense.

To be honest though, I don’t buy this argument. For a start, paying memberships allows NGOs like Greenpeace to be independent of government and corporate funding. In the end, the funding for their operations has to come from somewhere. To say that getting it from members rather than governments and corporations is undemocratic seems a tad obtuse to me.

What’s more, membership is not obligatory so in that sense people vote with their money; the more the NGO represents the will of the people, the more paying members it will get and the more respresentative and (arguably) democratic it becomes.

To give an example, there is an organisation called the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition (SCCC), which contains many NGOs including Greenpeace (and Simpol). SCCC, unsurprisingly enough, is focused on climate change. With all the NGOs within it totaled up, the SCCC represents over 11 million people, which is more than the number who voted Conservative at the last elections! Undemocratic? I think not!

As if that were not enough, Simpol has already established that, at the global level, democratic politics is in pretty dire condition – in fact it is abjectly failing. That’s why Simpol exists in the first place. Global governance is unable to function due to unrestrained economic competition, not because Greenpeace are trying to save the rainforest.

To decry NGOs for stepping into this breach in an attempt to avert disaster is therefore pretty foolish, if you ask me. Or perhaps it is simply hiding something. The author’s assertion that the NGOs are “standing in the way of progress” in the opening blurb perhaps tells us more than the rest of the article!

Nevertheless becoming a Simpol supporter is free and open to all. Yes, we have paying memberships too, in order to make our funding sustainable and free from government and corporate influence (just like Greenpeace). But that is simply for organisational structure. Participation in the policy creation and implementation process is and will remain open access for everybody.

Moreover it is not the Simpol organisation that decides the policies, it is our supporters and therefore our entire structure is both inwardly and outwardly democratic.

It stands to reason then, that any NGO putting its global policies into the Simpol policy process can connect to this direct democracy and thus become inwardly and outwardly democratic too.