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The Emerging New World Order – Part 2. The End of Sovereignty
In part one I wrote, ” …in every country the people who run the State have largely decided they no longer wish to serve the people but prefer instead to serve the interests of a Global Over-Class”. I believe we are in the midst of an historical shift in the alignment of loyalty and political power, away from democracy. I want to make it clear I do not believe the new arrangement of political and economic power was the clear goal of some hidden cabal. I think each change had an ideological drive behind it but, to begin with at least, each change was largely opportunistic and piecemeal. These pieces have, however, added up. And as time has gone by and the different pieces have accumulated, I think some wealthy and powerful people as well as some who were ideologically driven, have seen the chance to make something they desired out of the pieces. I think those who never liked democracy-for-the-masses, but preferred something that was more like the Roman senate – a place for the sons and daughters of the already wealthy and powerful families to ensure they remained wealthy and powerful – I think those people have seen an historical chance to further their vision of the future they desire and, particularly in the last twenty or so years, have actively schemed and pushed for it. Some of them have lobbied for it from Wall Street and the City, others of the same elite have written laws for it when they were in Congress and Parliament. And always they have found affordable lackeys among our political class.
Of course no one is going to admit to this. No one wants it to be clear that this is what is happening. So what our leaders have needed for some time, is a way of serving their new masters, while claiming to be still serving us; a way of saying,”The best, if not the only, way for the State to help you, the nation/people, is for us to first help these other people.”
The Trickle Down ‘theory’ was an early attempt . But Trickle Down was always too clearly a political sound-bite rather than a grand theory. What was really needed was a new vision of what the ‘Greater Good’ should look like and a theory of how to get there. And critically it had to be something that, it could be claimed, Nations could not deliver. Not only not deliver but were actively standing in the way of. There had to be a shining future which the old order of Nation States was preventing us from reaching. And this idea has, I think, surfaced again and again in different guises, certainly since WW1, but more and more prominently in the last three decades. The idea that Nations and nationalism are standing in the way of the progress and prosperity that only a free and unfettered global market can offer, and that the State must remedy this, by limiting the power and sovereignty of their Nations is, I suggest, one of the most powerful ideas of our age and is now maturing into the ideology and politics the Global Over-class has been seeking.
A brief history of how the State sold out the Nation
In the aftermath of WW1 the League of Nations was created because, it was said, nations left to their own nationalistic devices could not keep the peace. The League’s stated goals were nearly all political and very little mention was made of finance or trade. Perhaps if the League had prospered it might have been adopted by the then rising power of global finance and history might have been very different. Instead the Great Depression happened and the power of global finance was set back. The regulations brought in to prevent another systemic Banking Crisis held back the unfettered growth of finance for two generations. Only finally undone at the end of the century.
After WW2, however, the idea of supra-national governance, and the inadaquacy of nationalistic governments, rose again this time with the creation of, among other things, the IMF, World Bank, and the United Nations. This time the agenda of the supra-national powers was much more focussed on finance and trade. As US Secretary of State from 1933-44, Cordel Hull put it,
[U]nhampered trade dovetailed with peace; high tariffs, trade barriers, and unfair economic competition, with war….
Trade barriers and ‘unfair economic competition’ were the creations of national governments, free trade was, therefore, the remedy and was to be championed by the supra-national, impartial IMF and World Bank. Of course in reality the IMF and WB were not impartial. Whatever their stated purpose, the IMF and WB were tools of one ideology only , the freemarket , and were the post-war means by which the powerful nations crow-barred open the economy of any poorer nation that fell into their grasp. The attack on sovereignty had begun.
But it was little noticed in the West. In part because people were too busy being comfortable and in part because the UN was the part of Bretton Woods we saw most of in the West. The UN didn’t have an ideology – so the publicity went – other than universal declarations of human rights. It was all about aid for the starving and the rule of law. Sheltered behind this public face, however, the IMF, in particular was in every way different. It was completey ideological. And its ideology was narrowly free-market. It had the mandate and the power to force governments to alter their policies in favour of open markets and international western companies.
While the UN rushed aid to the starving, the IMF forced poor nations to get rid of tariffs that tried to nurture local farmers paving the way for global agribusiness. Local economies were laid bare on every hillside where global capital picked their carcasses clean. But because it was happening over there, few of us over here gave a damn. And if anyone was tempted to see any of it as an attack on sovereignty, it was given other names, such as ‘liberalization’. We weren’t attacking the sovereignty of poor peoples, we were helping them.
Their governments, we told ourselves, were corrupt and had no vision beyond a tribal nationalism. We, on the other hand, being wealthy white people, could save them. Let our companies in and we’ll lend you the money to save yourselves from nationalism and poverty. Above the entrance to the freemarket future we may as well have put a sign which read, “Shuld Macht Frei”. But we still did not think this was ever going to be our future.
We might have been less sanguine had we been more aware of what the poor relation of the Bretton Woods era, the GATT, would one day bring us.The General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) was created in 1947 with the purpose of regulating international trade mainly by reducing “tariffs and other trade barriers”. Those other trade barriers were anything from subsidies for local industries, to environmental requirements and labour laws. In 1995 the GATT hatched the World Trade Organization (WTO). What made the GATT and WTO quite different from the IMF and WB is that it was no longer just a matter of policy as it had been with the IMF, it was now about rolling back specific laws and tariffs. AND you didn’t have to fall into debt to find yourself subject to their rule. Your government simply had to sign away some sovereignties and “voila”, your government had made you subject to rules and a world governing body you had not elected and had no power over at all. The power in the WTO very obvioulsy and clearly lay with the corporations, their lobbyists and their experts.
Thus while the IMF and WB trampled mainly on poor nations the WTO had power over any nation including the wealthy. And it was no longer purely at the level of trade policy and politics, it now opened to corporations an avenue for them to object to and challenge specific sovereign laws and tariffs. The rules of the GATT and the WTO were specifically created in order to supercede any nation’s and region’s laws where they concerned trade.
While the Conservative (Tory) party here in Britain, would rail about Europe ‘stealing away our sovereignty’, the truth was that those same Tory politicians had been delighted, in 1995, to sign away far more sovereignty to GATT. The difference for them was that Europe was seen as still harbouring some vaguely Socialist ideas about environment and employment rights, while the WTO very specifically did not recognize such things and in fact regarded them as exactly the sort of barriers to trade it was there to get rid of. Such was and is the hypocrisy of the Tories, and now UKIP (UK Independence Party), about sovereignty and Europe. Labour was at least consistent in happily handing over soverignty to anyone and everyone. And the faithful western main-stream media never bothered to say a word nor to offer even an analysis let alone a critique.
Throughout the 90′s and noughties the GATT and the WTO were the primary means whereby corporate interests in one country were able to stop or roll back any rules and regulations they didn’t like, in any other country. Suddenly westerners who had never before felt threatened by international capitslism, woke up. There were suddenly ‘anti capitalist’ protests in rich nations. People who had never bothered about what capitalism did in poor nations were suddenly outraged. Now things were being done to them in their country and that was wrong! Of course there had always been those who had fought against what was done in the developing world. I don’t meant to suggest there weren’t. I am just noting how suddenly their numbers were swelled when they realized it could happen here, to them.
BUT it was still the case under the WTO rules that corporate interests could only roll back sovereign national rules and laws via their own national governments. The companies of a country could complain to their government about a foreign law or tariff but it had to be their own government, their State, which went to the WTO and filed a complaint. Thus although more corporate than the earlier IMF and WB, the WTO is still tied to the power of the State.
Which bring us nearly up to date. The last and by far the most dangerous part of the State’s dismantling of national sovereignty, although it has its roots back in the 1970′s, has really only taken off in the last 5 years and has only in the last few months received much attention in the main stream media.
Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs)
If the WTO is the State acting on behalf of corporations, then Bilateral Investment Treaties and their rules for “Investor-State Dispute Settlement” give corporations the power to challenge and over-rule nations directly. They are entirely non-democratic and stand completely outside of national based law and even outside of most of international law. They are therefore a major crystalization of the shift in power from the Nation to the Corporation and of course it has been the State which has facilitated this transfer of power.
I apologize that the preceeding history took so long and that I have therefore still not written about BITs. I just felt the context of what came before and what still today makes up a large part of the over-ruling of the Nation was important enough to do properly. I promise I will write about BITs in part 3. I hope you’ll bear with me .
In every country I can think of, the sovereignty and wealth of the Nation, which was once the embodiment of the power and will of the people, is being butchered and sold to the highest bidder. Everywhere, the Nation and the people within it, are under attack. Not from without by terrorists but from within. Because in every country the people who run the State have largely decided they no longer wish to serve the people but prefer instead to serve the interests of a Global Over-Class.
Of course we are not encouraged to see this clearly or if we do, certainly not to speak of it to others. And many of those we might try to talk to, do not want to hear.
Many of us prefer instead to find what warmth we can in the false and threadbare beliefs fed to us by the quisling elite of the State and their close friends and allies in a rigged and corrupted ‘free’ market. Together they tell us that whole functions of our nation which we built and treasure, are no longer viable because they are at odds with the ‘realities’ of a global economy. The more ideological of them proclaim that the state, whenever and wherever it tries to do good, will always and by necessity do harm. The more ‘realist’ among them tell us that once inalienable liberties, must now be curtailed or suspended in the name of defending the ‘nation’ from outside enemies. And yet I want to argue it is now, not ever us or the nation that is being defended or empowered. It is always and everywhere a small elite who own and control both the State and the Markets who are being defended.
In my view, we are, in most industrialized countries, watching the machinery of the State being used to betray the Nation in favour of global finance and the elite who own it. It is a familiar betrayal in the third world. One we have all watched with sordid complacently as the wealth of nation after nation is gutted for the benefit of the few. The disease is now with us.
I want to make it clear, as I have before, that I am neither libertarian nor anarchist and therefore have no ideological distrust of the State. In my opinion, there have been times and places, when the machinery of the State did animate and represent some of the wishes of the at least some of the people – of the Nation. There have been instances when the State was, in many, though certainly not in all ways, the means by which the great ideal, of government of the people, by the people, for the people, was made real. The creation of the National Health Service in Great Britain is one shining example.
I think that great ideal of government by and for the people is being butchered – for profit. The Nation-State is dying, because any given arrangement of power can be corrupted and will be, by those who benefit from it most – those who hold its powers – in this case the powers of the State – IF people cringingly let them. And that it what we are doing.
We are allowing the elite of the State, to convince us that we are ‘all in it together’, and to claim that our interests and their interests are still one and the same. But they are not. And we must come to see this clearly – and soon. As long as we deny the truth, that they are not standing ‘with us’, and do not have our best interests at heart – until we can face these self evident but chilling truths, then we are never going to see them for what they have become nor see their actions for what they are.
I think it is critical that we disentangle in our minds the State and the interests of those who control it, from those of what I am calling the Nation. The State and the Nation are not the same. They are, in fact, at war.
The Propaganda War
Our problem and their advantage is that it is deeply ingrained in us to see the State and the Nation as almost interchangeable. The very name, ‘The Nation State’ inclines us to believe that the State and Nation are one and therefore that any action taken by the State, no matter how harsh or unfair it might seem to us, must necessarily be for our good. It allows those who control the State to hide their narrow selfish interests behind a smokescreen of talk about the Nation.
This intentional confusion of Nation and State is everywhere in reporting about global finance and trade.
Battle lines drawn for EU-US trade talks
Cried a recent headline in the Telegraph. To me, it reads intentionally like an old fashioned report of a war. Wars of any sort are fantastically useful for the elite of the State because wars, better than anything else, encourage people to collapse the State and the Nation together in their minds. Faced with an external enemy it is the State and those who guide it, who marshal our defenses and face the enemy. And so we are encouraged to assume that when the EU and the US meet it will be ‘our side’ fighting for us, against theirs. But will it?
In reality it will be unelected, largely un-named trade representatives supported and surrounded by a legion of lawyers, advisors and lobbyists, nearly all of whom will be recently seconded from or still in the pay of global corporations, who will meet behind closed doors to negotiate in secret. Whose interests will they be fighting for?
They, with the help of a largely supine and grovelling media, will claim to be there for you. They will be decked out in flags and called by the names of our nations or national groupings, such as the EU. But the truth will be otherwise. Behind the national name plate a largely unseen machinery will be almost entirely corporate. Both sides will be there to seek advantage, not for you the people, not for the nations whose flags they use as camouflage , but for the corporations who pay them. The US delegation will seek advantage for US based global corporations and the EU delegation will seek advanage for EU based global corporations. Both sides will be hailed victorious. The real question – very carefully never ever raised by the compliant media – will be who lost? And the answer, studiously unreported, will be the ordinary people of both sides.
The object of the whole endeavour is to roll back soveriegn protections and powers in favour of an ‘unregulated’, unfettered, free market. How can I make such a sweeping claim? Because we have seen the results of over 200 previous Free Trade Agreements which these same people have negotiated and agreed previously. Just think of NAFTA.
If you think those agreements have benefited you, rather than, as I claim, the global corporations parasitical upon your nation and mine , then show me the proof. Don’t trot out platitudes about increased GDP without showing me who owns that GDP. Don’t bore me with text-book clap trap about how much corporations contribute unless you show me how much tax those corporations actually pay versus how much they quite legally move off-shore to low tax or no tax havens. Show me figures. I challenge you.
In part two I will return to this, and to explain what Bilateral trade Agreements are and what extrordinary and completely anti-democratic new power the State has given to corporations to over-rule Nations and to sue them for democratic decisions corporations do not like.
For now lets move from trade and finance to the actions of the machinery of State itself.
The NSA: Is It American, or British?
Is the title of a recent paper written by Edward Spannaus at Executive Intelligence Review.
What makes the author think the NSA’s primary loyalty is to either, other than simply being used to thinking they must be? The NSA and its UK counterpart, GCHQ, exist in thoir respective nations but is it really sensible to assume they feel loyal to the people who live there? And yet the author and his paper, like so many who are trying to understand what is going on around us, are stuck in the logic of what I think is now a world gone by.
If you were to ask someone from the NSA or GCHQ who they worked for would they immediately say, ‘the people’ or would they say ‘the NSA’ or ‘GCHQ’?
All those organs of power whose names and acronyms we are familiar with exist officially as servants of the… well of the what? Of the People? Of the Nation? Or of the State? Once power is created, it does not have to remain loyal to its creators. Any organization will come over time, as ambition eclipses morality, to regard its own survival and rise to greater power as paramount. Its original purpose will be drowned in a rising tide of inward looking ambition and greed for power.
It is my contention that we have become so used to the word and the idea of ‘the Nation-State’ that we have forgotten it is a compound of two very different things.
One more example, as quoted at Zerohedge,
Melissa Harris-Perry, from the otherwise progressive cable channel MSNBC, critized Snowden’s behavior as “compromising national security.”
But is it really National Security Mr Snowden compromised or State Security? When someone appeals to ‘National Security’ the unspoken assumption is that they are talking about your security and mine. We, after all, are ‘the Nation’. But I wonder if Mr Snowden might be more accurately described as having compromised the State’s security rather than the Nation’s. Which doesn’t sound nearly as good, does it? State security has a ring of the Stasi about it. And for good reason. Protecting the interests and security of the State is quite different from protecting the interests of the people who make up the Nation. One is about protecting you and me. The other is more about protecting the position, power and wealth of those who make up the State and its various organs of power. State security is about the security of the jobs and social postion of those who are ‘the State’. It is about the security of a particuar arrangement of power and those who benefit from that arrangement. Which one does the NSA or GCHQ serve? Which did Mr Snowden really compromise by revealing the extent of the NSA’s and GCHQ’s indiscriminate and unlawful spying upon ordinary and innocent citizens?
If we wish to hold on to the fiction that the NSA and GCHQ work for their respective Nations then how do we explain that the people we elect, even very senior members of the State, even within the government of the day, had NO idea what the NSA or GCHQ were doing? Certainly the NSA and GCHQ were financed by us, and draw their original legitimacy from us, but they no longer answer to those who we elect. So who do they answer to? To what are they loyal and to whom do they report?
Think of how different ‘One Nation under God’ sounds from “One State under God”.
My point is that we are so used to thinking of the State – our elected officials and the machinery that carries out their wishes, as being part of the Nation, loyal to it and us, that we are not seeing clearly that this relationship has ended. I am not saying that the old relationship between Nation/People, State and Market has altogether gone. It has not. Not everyone in the State has forsaken their old loyalties. We are in a moment of transition. But I am saying we need to see the new relationship more clearly, if we possibly can, because only then can we defend ourselves.
We are at war, we need to know who our real enemies are and take up arms against them.
The New World Order
While everyone agrees you cannot stuff a square peg into a round hole, when it comes to the new and unfamiliar, humans have a dreadful habit of trying. I think this is particularly true at the moment. The world is changing, a new order of things is taking shape around us but we are loathed to see it because we insist on trying to see everything through the lens of the previous world order.
The old order was laid out from left to right: Communist to Libertarian. From those who felt the State was there to guarantee certain protections and provide a minimum of welfare and service, over to those who felt any intervention from the State was no more than an abuse of power by a group of self serving insiders. Largely this is still the range of thought and opinion. Those on the Left see the Free Market as the greatest danger to liberty, welfare, justice and fairness, and regard the State as our best protection against it. While on the Right the fears are exactly the same but the State is now the great danger and the market the best protection. Each side regards the other as hopelessly, even criminally, misguided. Each side sees the other advocating that which will bring disaster.
Into this sterile and suffocating tweedledumness a new ideology and power has grown. It is neither Libertarian nor Left, but has been called both. The Libertarians have seen how eagerly and constantly this new politics intervenes in and distorts the market and cries “Socialism”. Which, it has to be said, makes anyone who knows anything about Socialism gasp with amazement. Nevertheless you can read this ‘it’s socialism’ opinion in most of the right wing press and on most blogs where Libertarians comment, such as ZeroHedge or The Ticker.
On the other hand the Left sees the way the new politics intervenes on behalf of and protects the interests of the wealthy (The financial class and global corporations) doing nothing about tax avoidance, nothing to regulate the banks, insisting instead that the only answer is more free market, less regulation and austerity to be borne by those least able to bear it – and sees clear evidence that this new politics is right wing and libertarian.
Both sides seems only able to see things in terms of the labels and world view they are used to and as a consequence see nearly nothing at all. The truth, I suggest, is that we are at a moment when an entire cultural form is ending. At such times it is not one part or another, government or market, which corrupts and breaks, which betrays the values it was meant to embody and ceases to do the job for which it was created, it is all parts at once. All parts of our society have become corrupted.
We must move beyond the politics of the last century, seeking to blame all ills on a corrupt and captured State or alternatively on a corrupt, captured and rigged market. BOTH are true. Both are corrupt. Neither is working for us. A new elite exists in every nation, has control over every State but which has no loyalty to the Nation of people in which it exists any more than a tape worm is loyal to the creature in whose body it feeds and grows.
The New World Order has its own ideology which does not fit happily on the old left to right axis.
The new ideology is not fully formed yet, but already it is clear that it is not Libertarian because unlike Libertarianism, the new ideology believes the State should be very powerful and large and should intervene. But neither is it Socialist, because unlike the Left the new ideology believes those interventions should be on behalf of the wealthy not the poor.
It’s a new world. We need to see it anew.
In Part Two I will look in more detail at what I merely introduced almost in passing in this introduction: the new and rapidly mutating and evolving ideology in the world of Finance, in particular at Bilateral Investment Treaties which are the real danger point inside the Trade Agreements currently being negotaited. And the mutation of the security and Intelligence world into something that spies upon Nations rather than working for them, in the serivce of a new ‘Greater Good’.