By What Authority
The impact of Globalization on modern society
Richard Grossman (May 2001)
Note: A student from Rand Afrikaans University in the Republic of South Africa wrote to Richard Grossman as part of a class project on "." Here is Grossman's response, instructive beyond Rand Afrikaans U.
I write in reply to your email questions of 15 May:
What is your personal definition of globalization? What do you feel is the greatest positive/negative aspect of globalization?
Corporate operatives have made the word "globalization" a potent weapon in their campaigns to consolidate power, authority and wealth; to frame and control public debate; and to divide-and-conquer opponents.
When corporate operatives — including writers in the corporate-owned press, corporate-drenched politicians and intellectuals-for-hire — use this word, they mean one thing for public consumption, and quite another thing for their internal plotting.
Public consumption: they work hard to have people believe globalization refers to a world characterized by greater and friendlier interactions among peoples and nations, where folks are happily trading with one another, exchanging ideas, sharing quaint customs, traveling to and fro, equally enjoying the boundless prosperity which comes from "lifting barriers" to free and full expression of human wants, human aspirations and money flow. They want people to link "globalization" with some vague ideas of constant progress, eradication of poverty, planetary justice.
Within corporate boardrooms and thinktanks, inside USA government sanctums: globalization describes a privatization of the world. It is about the global corporatization of practically everything: from goods and services to water, air, health care and education; from ideas and histories to art, genes and body parts. It is about the "rule of law" — and therefore the military power of the United States of America (and its so-called "allies" in assorted multi-nation alliances like NATO, WTO, etc.) - doing the bidding of the propertied few and their giant corporations.
Globalization also is about the homogenization of everything from biology to law and jurisprudential principles; from food to films to language to sales and consumption.
Globalization, therefore, is about the corporatization of all life. It is about crushing people's dreams of communities, regions and nations across the world of one day governing themselves. Globalization is about the end to the idea of human rights...the end to the idea of species rights, place rights-accompanied by the commodification of everything under the sun (from water to soil to space, to, of course, the sun itself).
As lawyers and propagandists well know, those who do the defining and the naming control discussion, control ideas, control rules and laws. They therefore dictate when and where police, courts and the armed forces bring their coercive power to bear. In the United States, the rule of law has enabled men of property to govern through their giant corporations. It has directed legal violence against women and men holding ideas different from what corporate operatives had in mind.
There's nothing unique here: segregation and Jim Crow laws in the United States, along with apartheid laws in the Union of South Africa, arrayed the rule of law - and hence the armed force of government — against people of color.
It is regrettable that people and civic organizations around the world opposing corporate+government efforts to control and homogenize the Cosmos use the word "globalization" and words like "free trade."
A new abomination in this part of the world is what corporate+government advocates are calling a "Free Trade Agreement of the Americas." But this is not an agreement about "free trade." It is a corporate property rights agreement...a corporate governance agreement. And so every time an opponent publishes a book or pamphlet denouncing this agreement and calls it a "free trade" issue, corporate operatives win a great victory.
Every time opponents say that the appropriate response to "free trade" is "fair trade," they reinforce the corporate idea that this controversy is about "trade," and not about dictatorship by the few who run global corporations.
Let us reject all corporate language — which is, after all, the language of deception and sales. We can speak clearly and simply about how laws advantaging corporate interests over human rights are fundamentally illegitimate, unjust, anti-democratic. This would make it easier for people everywhere to see that each time agglomerations of property organized as corporations increase their authority under law, they exterminate people's rights.
If we frame issues in the context of democracy and legitimacy, people will be better able to put corporate operatives and pimping politicians on the defensive. People would be helping one another see that communities and nations have many choices when fashioning the rules for living in harmony with one another, with other species, and with the Earth.
As for me and my work with the Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy (POCLAD): I do not use the word "globalization" except to define it as I did above. I do not define myself as "anti-globalization." I do talk about the "global corporatization" being imposed by a very small minority, and encourage activist efforts which nurture democracy, self-governance, biological and cultural diversity.
I favor greater contact and interaction among people of the world. I favor democracy and self-governance, public ownership of the commons and clear public authority over necessities like energy, water, education, health care, food, etc. I believe that people in different communities and nations should be able to trade with one another. But I do not believe that any community or nation or corporation should have the authority under law to dictate rules to other communities and other nations.
People around the world are increasingly being instructed that public decisionmaking is less "efficient" than corporations' private decrees (gussied up as "market decisions"). But surely there is ample evidence that public decisionmaking invariably leads to wiser and fairer results than fiats by self-appointed big shots of commerce, finance, industry and bellicosity.
In the United States, corporations wield greater rights under law than people do. Corporations successfully claim constitutional rights of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. They use the protection of government to deny these rights to their employees.
Corporations also successfully claim constitutional rights of due process and equal protection of the law. But these rights were written into our constitution by radical activists seeking to enable all human beings to be part of the "self-governing people" so that they could use elections, lawmaking, jurisprudence and education to prevent tyrants from running the country.
To grant constitutional rights to property organized as corporations is to establish a rule of law which makes it easy for the few to tyrannize the many.
[It is my understanding that the constitution of the Union of South Africa — probably one of the most freedom-inspiring and human liberty - protecting constitution in the world — explicitly grants citizenship rights — and therefore constitutional powers — to corporations. Is this true?] 1
Today my country, your country and the Earth face a corporate holocaust against human and Earthly rights. I call their efforts a holocaust because when giant corporations wield human rights backed by constitutions and the law (and therefore enforced by police, the courts, and armed forces) — and sanctioned by cultural norms, the rights of people, other species and the Earth are annihilated.
In sum: globalization as conceived and implemented by leaders of giant corporations and their politicians is about domination over the many by the few, protected (and camouflaged) by the rule of law. Such domination has been the reality in my country since its founding in 1787, despite all the propaganda you may have heard to the contrary.
People across the world are struggling to substitute their own visions of democracy and self-governance and enough for the relentless destructions that will be guaranteed by corporate dominion over the Earth. Such struggles cannot be won using the language, values, tools, and methods of our corporate oppressors.
Stefan, that's it for now. I include a few short memos written recently which you might find relevant. Please visit our website: poclad.org. Best luck to you. Please send me a mailing address so that I can mail you new POCLAD publications.
In Solidarity & with Best Wishes,
1 Note: Yes, it recognizes the rights of corporate "juristic" persons. In the discussions and debates leading up to South Africa's new constitution, a group of activists contended that corporations should not enjoy the same rights as natural persons. Their position lost to those arguing that South Africa would do well to emulate the U.S. economy, and since U.S. corporations have been granted "personhood" and related rights of persons, South Africa should do the same.
Richard L. Grossman, Box 390, Milton Mills NH 03852