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September 11, 2016


First, a bit of history – When the idea of self-government (democracy) first surfaced in ancient Athens, both rich and poor citizens regularly met at the agora and elsewhere to discuss their problems and seek solutions to them in an open and public environment where everyone had a say. The will of the people as expressed by a majority vote was the deciding factor in how government was to be run. Elections where all excepting women and slaves had a vote (unknown in a time of kings and dictators) were introduced. The “demos” were well served by this new means of self-governing albeit women were excluded from the process – as they were in this country until the 20th century – but unfortunately, it didn’t last long as Roman legions put an end to this experiment among one of the Greek city-states, and indeed put an end to all of the Greek city-states that warred among themselves and were thus easy prey in their weakened condition and could not repel armies from Rome. “Civilization” returned to forms of dictatorship, kings and queens, and even later popes (who asserted their rights to govern and/or the right to veto governors as God-given and not subject to the puny whims of mere man).

Our Founding Fathers came up with this democratic idea of governing after casting off the dictatorial policies of King George via a revolution, but our some three million people strung out along the Atlantic seaboard at the time obviously could not meet at an agora to decide matters of state, so we came up with representative government, i.e., we elect people to carry out the “will of the people.” With some 330 million people within our borders these days, meeting at an “agora” or anyplace else would be quite difficult, but our representatives regularly meet in Congress, presumably to decide matters of state on behalf of the people they represent.

But do they? Does the Congress meet to carry out the “will of the people,” or does it meet to carry out the will of corporations and the moneyed interests whose campaign contributions and promises to employ such representatives after the latter’s public service with million dollar salaries and other perks frequently make for votes not “on behalf of the people they represent,” but rather amount to votes adverse to the public interest? If so, then it is fair to say that members of Congress themselves (along with corporations, banks and libertarian mobs) are complicit in the destruction of American democracy. This perversion of the democratic process is being carried out in broad daylight. Why are we allowing this to happen? There are no Roman legions in sight; popes are religious and not political figures, so what gives? Are we not interested in preserving our most precious asset, our democracy?

As an example, our representative are asked to approve a prospective trade agreement on our behalf and in our names known as the TPP. Our representatives will not tell us what is in the “pact,” and have passed a law which gives themselves an up or down (with no amendments) vote on an agreement to be made in the name of the people but without knowledge of the people as to what is in it. This amounts to blindly buying something without inspecting it (a “pig in a poke”) and is about as far from the Greek agora discussions among those of us who will be affected as I can imagine. The process is itself anti-democratic, irrespective of what the proposed pact contains.

Fortunately, we do know some of the substance of the proposal, and it is not good. Our sovereignty is at stake. Under such proposed pact, we will have given up some of our ability to self-govern to international tribunals who will be enabled by its terms to sue us if their profits are less from operations in this country than they thought they should be (which effectively amounts to their making our laws, rules and regulations under the guise of “trade”). This blatant disregard for our right to self-rule is, of course, a corporate front which gives American multinational corporations similar rights to sue countries and subdivisions thereof where they have operations. Someone tell me how this comports with the “will of the people” in whose name such atrocities are negotiated under the pretense of “the public interest.”

The TPP, notes Stiglitz in his book, is just one of the new initiatives designed to harness globalization for the benefit of the few. They are crafted behind closed doors by political leaders (the Administration, Congress, banking and corporate lawyers and lobbyists) with no public input (or even knowledge since our “representatives” have decided not to let the people they represent in on what is going on). As with the case of the euro and the failure of the Eurozone to first seek structural political integration before agreeing to economic integration at a global level, the TPP is a train wreck waiting to happen. It is a corporate plan to make money at the cost of our democracy and (as yet unknown) cost to our economy,  such as risks to employment levels, deepening wage inequality etc.

We are told by those who favor the TPP that it will be good for our economy, our global economic stance etc. Where have I heard that before, and how have some of the trade agreements we have made worked out for America and its people? I think that such agreements (especially ones in which their terms are secret) are made to favor the corporate and banking interests that sponsor them and are oblivious to the consequences to you and me in their myopic pursuit of profit. As you may have guessed by now, I am opposed to adoption of the TPP or any other such trade proposal made in secret.

NAFTA as it has played out has been both good and bad, but on balance, I think we would have been better off without it what with Ford assembly plants virtually in sight of the Rio Grande on the south side of the river etc., and we already had a robust trading partner with Canada before NAFTA, so what have we the people gained by its adoption, for example, in re Canadian lumber and Mexican produce? Very little that could not have been done via trade agreements with both countries on a bi-lateral level.

NAFTA, unlike TPP, does have the virtue of leaving our sovereignty unimpaired. The TPP (or what we know of it) combines the worst of all worlds, and when, if ever, we the people find out what is in the total package that was negotiated on behalf of corporate and banking America, I feel certain that we will have additional complaints. As of now, I can’t know that, but considering that such a pact is being negotiated primarily in the interests of the corporate and banking sector and that we the people have different priorities (wage equality, raising and educating our children etc.), I think it is a good guess, especially with the secrecy involved.

What is it that they don’t want us to know? Who do our “representatives” REALLY represent? With no Roman legions, do we fall from within? Do we need to have a nationwide meeting (including women this time) in an agora, say, in the Salt Lake flats of Utah to redefine the role of our “representatives” in representing the interests of “We the people,” or do we just watch as our democracy and sovereignty are subsumed by corporate and banking interests? Your call.      GERALD     E


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