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Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism

To dissolve, submerge, and cause to disappear the political or governmental system in the economic system by reducing, simplifying, decentralizing and suppressing, one after another, all the wheels of this great machine, which is called the Government or the State. --Proudhon, General Idea of the Revolution

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Location: Northwest Arkansas, United States

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

More Wonderful "Free Market" Reforms From Those Corporate Pirates

Well, here's another example of the sort of "democracy, ...free economy, and trade" that Bush is promoting, according to Dr. Eamon Butler (via yesterday's Progressive Review).

From Uruknet:

The American Administrator of the Iraqi CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority) government, Paul Bremer, updated Iraq's intellectual property law to 'meet current internationally-recognized standards of protection.' The updated law makes saving seeds for next year's harvest, practiced by 97% of Iraqi farmers in 2002, and is the standard farming practice for thousands of years across human civilizations, to be now illegal. . . Instead, farmers will have to obtain a yearly license for genetically modified seeds from American corporations.). These GM seeds have typically been modified from seeds developed over thousands of generations by indigenous farmers like the Iraqis, and shared freely like agricultural 'open source.'"

From Grain:

When former Coalition Provisional Authority administrator L. Paul Bremer III left Baghdad after the so-called "transfer of sovereignty" in June 2004, he left behind the 100 orders he enacted as chief of the occupation authority in Iraq. Among them is Order 81 on "Patent, Industrial Design, Undisclosed Information, Integrated Circuits and Plant Variety." This order amends Iraq's original patent law of 1970 and unless and until it is revised or repealed by a new Iraqi government, it now has the status and force of a binding law. With important implications for farmers and the future of agriculture in Iraq, this order is yet another important component in the United States' attempts to radically transform Iraq's economy....

Multiply this specific example many times over, and that's the kind of systematic looting by crony capitalists that passed for "free market reform" under Bremer. Check out Naomi Klein's account of the CPA racket's attempts, administered by a gaggle of bright young things from the Heritage Foundation, to auction off state assets at fire-sale prices.

Unfortunately for Bremer and the Young Republican alumni in the Green Zone, such insider deals were illegal so long as Iraq was administered by Coalition forces. Getting a compliant Iraqi government in place to sign over the farm to Rummy's and Cheney's cronies was the hidden agenda behind the much-vaunted "transfer of sovereignty" last summer. As Klein put it, "International law prohibits occupiers from selling state assets themselves, but it doesn’t say anything about the puppet governments they appoint."

On June 30 the occupation would officially end—but not really. It would be replaced by an appointed government, chosen by Washington. This government would not be bound by the international laws preventing occupiers from selling off state assets, but it would be bound by an "interim constitution," a document that would protect Bremer’s investment and privatization laws.

The real ace up Bremer's sleeve was Article 26 of the Constitution, which stated that "[t]he laws, regulations, orders and directives issued by the Coalition Provisional Authority . . . shall remain in force" under the interim government, until the "sovereign" puppet regime was replaced by general elections.

Bremer had found his legal loophole: There would be a window—seven months—when the occupation was officially over but before general elections were scheduled to take place. Within this window, the Hague and Geneva Conventions’ bans on privatization would no longer apply, but Bremer’s own laws, thanks to Article 26, would stand. During these seven months, foreign investors could come to Iraq and sign forty-year contracts to buy up Iraqi assets. If a future elected Iraqi government decided to change the rules, investors could sue for compensation.

My biggest problem with Naomi Klein's account is her tendency to take the Rumsfeld-Bremer cabal's use of "laissez-faire" and "free markets" at face value. Here's what Freeman, Libertarian Critter had to say about it a while back:

The problem with lefties whose heart may be in the right place is that they believe the spokespeople of state corporatism who falsely claim to support free enterprise. This is one of the main reasons why notions of free trade and free markets are villanized by the left, or at least the generally non-authoritarian lefties who stand a chance at being converted to free market advocacy if only they could see the light on this issue. Hearing Republicans and corporate executives promote free markets rings about as hollow as similar promotions of spreading freedom and democracy in the middle east.

I recently had a brief online discussion with a leftie who is hostile towards what is often referred to as free trade. When I tried to explain the difference between what he calls free trade and genuine free trade, he responded by essentially implying that advocates of genuine free trade should come up with a new term for it since the masses equate free trade with the type of state corporatist crap that is now taking root in Iraq. He claimed that most people are too stupid and/or ill informed to make the distinction between free trade and what could be called imperialist trade, therefore the term is lost to those who advocate genuine free trade. It's such a shame that the perversion of language is so pervasive in despotic societies that are hostile to freedom.

The term "free market" should burn the tongues of corporate mercantilists like Bremer every time they utter them with their filthy mouths. Those of us who believe in genuine free markets--voluntary association and free exchange between producers, without the state's privileges enabling some to live at the expense of others--should reclaim the term free market for ourselves. Every time a left-wing critic of corporate rule parrots the neoliberal use of "free market" or "free trade" without ironic quotation marks, we should contest the legitimacy of the term. Every use of these terms that we allow to pass unchallenged serves to strengthen the ideological hegemony of the enemy class. We must take back our own language from our class enemies.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The problem with lefties whose heart may be in the right place is that they believe the spokespeople of state corporatism who falsely claim to support free enterprise. This is one of the main reasons why notions of free trade and free markets are vilified by the left, or at least the generally non-authoritarian lefties who stand a chance at being converted to free market advocacy if only they could see the light on this issue.This is exactly right. I misguidedly considered myself a leftie mainly for cultural reasons (“Amnesty International is a leftie thing” “A back-to-the-land ethos is a leftie thing”), but there’s a whole slew of “lefties” out there who are anti-military and fed up with the current system, love populism and unions, but think more government is the solution. “Free trade” to me and probably most lefties means corporations taking land from native people, destroying it, and then hiring them to work in piss-poor conditions and since their land and livelihood has been destroyed, no one having a choice anymore. I guess the job is to convince them/me that real free trade = what they think of as fair trade.

January 26, 2005 5:45 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

Exactly. I think most people are motivated by similar values. The disagreements are mainly over how to get there.

January 26, 2005 6:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent, love it!
» »

November 27, 2006 4:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

AND he's a fucking idiot. AND he's full of shit. "Free" trade is not just bad because it's associated with crony capitalism. it's inherently a total bullshit lie. It means in practice that no community is free to set rules for itself. all you have to do is have, or say you have, even one person in that community who wants the right to untrammeled commerce and then you can get the fucked up sheep, like this blog features, stirred up on a capitalist jihad of blockading and economic warfare and lo and behold, time to allow black market kidneys to be sold alongside child porn in your village - oh, and poisoned food. And God forbid you should object to GMO seed spreading to your fields. Guess what? The WTO is not a government program. It's a convenient meeting place where corporations discuss what they'll do with their money. The sanctions imposed are imposed by private companies, not governments, not the UN. Without it, they'd just meet somewhere else. Von Hayek was fond of planning the future of humanity at secret meetings.

Fuck you all. Freedom of association is something you'll NEVER understand. Free market is a sick, sick joke. That was one thing the communists got right. All freedom reduced to the one, hollow freedom of free trade. they got that one exactly right.

How despicable you are, creating straw men of the anti-"free trade" movement. Free trade is the key ingredient in the race to the bottom and the destruction of the environment and the destruction of culture and morality and the rise of the hegemony of the inhuman immortal corporate persons. We defend the rights of human fucking beings to have things like tariffs and trade barriers (the latter being essentially ANYTHING a fucking capitalist piece of shit REGARDS as being a trade barrier - in short everything not a goddamned business transaction making him and his rich family and his corporation wealthier) if they fucking want to. Economic totalitarians just do not get this and that's why you're so inhuman.

December 13, 2007 10:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

okay, fair trade is a good way to put it. "free trade" in its purest sense would be "anarchy" anyway. are we free to murder and lie to obtain goods or services? and "fair trade" would certainly not restrict a nation from refraining from trade, that would not be fair or free. it would encourage people to make their decisions based on their own and other peoples good rather than the good of the mega nationals or a select few.

October 19, 2008 1:23 PM  

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