Search Result(s)

Enron's Global Crusade by Jon Nichols

"And Enron’s domestic activities are only a part of the story. To limit discussion of Enron to them is to miss the most dramatic lessons of this burgeoning scandal. “If you want to know where economic globalization along the lines cheered on by the WTO, the IMF, the World Bank, George W. Bush and Tony Blair is headed, look at Enron. Globalization has created an international no man’s land where businesses survive by engaging in financial practices that no responsible nation-state would permit,” says Tony Benn, Britain’s former minister of industry. “When you allow corporations to write their own rules in the global marketplace, which is what has essentially been the case in recent years, you will see unimaginable abuses.” Enron was big on writing the rules. Before its collapse, it held a place on the board of the National Foreign Trade Council, which worked with the WTO to forge trade policy. It sponsored the 1999 World Services Congress in Atlanta, where, Polaris Institute researchers say, the services industry set its agenda for a new round of WTO negotiations. Along with its accounting firm, Arthur Andersen, Enron was at the center of the shadowy US Coalition of Service Industries’ campaign to negotiate General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) schemes that remove restrictions on international commerce involving services. The GATS negotiations, which have been going on for two years under the aegis of the WTO, were described at the World Economic Forum by former Clinton Administration Treasury Department official Stuart Eizenstat as a move to “allow [Arthur] Andersen to export its accounting services to the world.” Eizenstat’s attempt at humor was actually a blunt statement of reality. The first rules for a profession developed by the WTO as part of the GATS negotiations were for the accounting sector–and the rules were indeed shaped with a big assist from Arthur Andersen. So what might appropriately be dubbed “Enron accounting” is already in the process of going global. The loosening of rules governing sectors of the global economy in which Enron was involved was a long-term corporate priority. During the go-go years of business expansion in the 1990s, the company scoured the planet in search of opportunities in countries that were embracing–sometimes willingly, often under pressure from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund–“market-oriented reforms.” These public-policy shifts allowed multinational corporations to buy formerly public utilities and capitalize on the lifting of traditional regulations–moves that opened the door to aggressive global corporations like Enron. Forged in the last years of Ronald Reagan’s presidency by an ambitious former Pentagon economist named Ken Lay, Enron was a corporation designed to shape and then master the new economy of the post-cold war era. Lay preached what Britain’s Independent newspaper described as a “deregulation-happy philosophy” with such passion that The Economist would eventually describe Enron as “an evangelical cult” in which Lay was the messiah. Enron’s crusading globalism extended the corporation’s operations into virtually every sector of every economy worth owning a piece of, using all the tricks in the corporate globalizer’s handbook. “The thing that you have to understand about Enron is this: They have taken advantage of every opportunity globalization has presented them. They have been in the forefront of pushing deregulation and privatization, pushing for access to markets around the world, using pressure from the US government to open trade,” says the Polaris Institute’s Puscas. Once borders opened, once privatized industries were put up for sale and once sectors of economies were deregulated, Enron moved aggressively to gain advantage. Business Week explained that for companies like Enron, “the approach to globalization then was brutally simple: get in fast, strike megadeals with top officials, and watch the profits roll in.” Initially, it seemed, the model was working. Enron was often credited with putting new technologies to work in the service of its rapid expansion. But as much as the corporation benefited from the rise of the Internet, a case can be made that its bottom line gained at least as much from the opening of markets around the planet to swashbuckling corporate adventurers, who brought Texas-style business practice to Australia, Brazil and Croatia. Between 1998 and 2001 Enron’s foreign revenues increased from 7 percent to 23 percent of the company’s total revenues–adding $22.9 billion in 2001 to the coffers of a company that, it turns out, needed every cent it could get its hands on. Enron executives embraced the gospel of globalization with a fervor that portrayed free trade, deregulation, privatization and other planks in the neoliberal platform as the necessary and inevitable face of progress. “We are on the side of the angels,” declared former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling. “People want to have open, competitive markets.” That is a debatable point. When officials in the Indian state of Maharashtra took advantage of a recent relaxation of India’s restrictions on foreign investment to invite a joint venture led by Enron to build a power plant south of Bombay, nearby villagers were certainly not clamoring for the “open, competitive markets” Enron was offering. They worried that the Dabhol power-plant project would destroy their livelihoods and their environment. When they launched a movement to stop it, leading activists were dragged from their homes and beaten by Enron-paid “police” in what Human Rights Watch describes as “serious, sometimes brutal human rights violations carried out on behalf of the state’s and the company’s interests.” “Enron is now being widely accused of arrogance and lack of transparency, but the people of Dabhol have known that all along,” says Arvind Ganesan, who directs the group’s business and human rights program. “Enron was complicit in human rights abuse in India for several years.”

Security of Property Rights for Whom? (Terra Lawson-Remer)

Property insecurity of non-elites can be compatible with or even enhance economic growth, but it also encourages conflict—which can undermine long-term growth and economic development. Using a new set of indicators which measure the property insecurity of marginalized ethno-cultural minority groups, this article demonstrates that the severity of property insecurity for the worst-off group in a country is strongly associated with the onset of armed conflict, and—once civil war is controlled for—property insecurity for marginalized minorities corresponds with higher growth rates. Economic growth can occur when the property rights of elites are secure but marginalized minorities face a high risk of expropriation, as land may be reallocated into the hands of investors with skills and access to capital. However, the potentially growth-enhancing effect of forced displacement and resettlement is reduced, because the property insecurity of minorities also increases the likelihood of armed conflict. 1. Introduction---------- ----------------------------------------------------------------- Perhaps you have heard of us. We are Mexican, mostly indigenous, and we took up arms on January 1, 1994 demanding a voice, a face and a name for the forgotten of the earth. Since then, the Mexican government has made war on us, pursues and harasses us seeking our death, our disappearance and our absolute silence. The reason? These lands are rich with oil, uranium and precious lumber. The government wants them for the great transnational companies. We want them for all Mexicans. The government sees our lands as a business. We see our history written in these lands. In order to defend our right (and that of all Mexicans) to live with liberty, democracy, justice and dignity we became an army and took on a name, a voice and face. (Subcomandante Marcos, Juana Ponce de León, April 1999, Letter to Mumia Abu Jamal)

Britons and (we) Americans need to know something. We have frustrated "expectancies" but increasingly, thanks to GATS, the proposed UK-US FTA, TISA and others, not any kind of real property interest in our nation's futures.

These agreements push our rights out of our future. They attempt to irreversibly gut public services like the UK's NHS and will most certainly totally block the proposed "Medicare For All" as well as procurement proposals that employ our nations workers if international temping firms bid on those jobs and win. So they will outsource millions of now stable jobs, turning them into entitlements of foreign firms to do, if they are cheaper. They replace legal immigration with temporary subcontracting and its likely that because our countries will be overwhelmed by corporate temporary migration, (GATS Mode 4) developed nations may turn against the one part of it we can control, permanent migration. So this corporate capture of migration will push out refugees and likely also temp workers possibility of permanent migration. It will also displace millions of workers in dozens of high skill service sectors, starting with professionals and fields like IT, nursing, teaching, engineering, etc, and then working its way downward, and undercut the wages of the remaining workers across the board.

Million Dollar Shack: Trapped in Silicon Valley's Housing Bubble

"Our family has been priced out! Has the Bay Area gone crazy? Real estate prices have doubled in the last few years, a tent in the backyard can rent for $900/month, foreign investors are driving up prices, evictions and rent hikes are everywhere, people are commuting longer than ever, the middle class is disappearing, empty investment homes are everywhere, and locals are leaving in record numbers. The worst part? Some people are calling it "progress"". ‪ http://milliondollarshack.com/

The neoliberal (counter-) revolution

G Duménil, D Lévy There is a dramatic contrast between the last twenty years of the 20th century and the previous decades since World War II. It is common to describe the last twenty years of capitalism as “neoliberalism”. Indeed, during the transition between the 1970s and 1980s, the functioning of capitalism was deeply transformed, both within countries of the center and in the periphery. The earlier capitalist configuration is often referred to as the “Keynesian compromise.” Without simplifying too much, those years could be characterized, in the center countries—United States (and Canada), Europe, and Japan—by large growth rates, sustained technological change, an increase in purchasing power and the development of a welfare system (concerning, in particular, health and retirement) and low unemployment rates. The situation deteriorated during the 1970s, as the world economy, in the wake of the decline of the profit rate, entered a “structural crisis.” Its main aspects were diminished growth rates, a wave of unemployment, and cumulative inflation. This is when the new social order, neoliberalism, emerged, first within the countries of the center—beginning with the United Kingdom and the United States—and then gradually exported to the periphery. We explore below the nature of neoliberalism and its balance sheet after nearly a quarter of a century. Neoliberalism is often described as the ideology of the market and private interests as opposed to state intervention. Although it is true that neoliberalism conveys an ideology and a propaganda of its own, it is fundamentally a new social order in which the power and income of the upper fractions of ruling classes—the wealthiest persons—was reestablished in the wake of a set back. Although the conditions which accounted for the structural crisis were gradually superseded, most of the world economy remained plagued by slow growth and unemployment, and inequality increased tremendously. This was the cost of a successful restoration of the income and wealth of the wealthiest

Book: Blame It On the WTO: A Human Rights Critique

by Sarah Joseph 365 pages Oxford University Press, Oxford When the World Trade Organisation (WTO) was established in 1995, few human rights lawyers at the time realized the significance of this event for their discipline. In part, this may have been because the creation of the WTO followed more than a decade of neoliberal policies characterized by deregulation and the removal of barriers to trade and investment in many regions. Although it strengthened the system originally established under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in 1947, the WTO was not seen to represent a seismic shift: it was the final stage of a gradual evolution, rather than the beginning of something radically new... The relative indifference of human rights lawyers also stemmed from a lack of understanding of the consequences of this ambitious overhaul of the global trade system. The WTO was deliberately placed outside the remit of the United Nations. With its establishment, the international trade system included for the first time a dispute settlement mechanism of a quasi-judicial nature, binding upon the WTO Members, and which could allow economic sanctions to be imposed on States that failed to comply with the disciplines imposed on them. Indeed, in retrospect, it is this aspect of the WTO Agreement that appears both the most novel and that has the most far-reaching consequences. Most notably, it created an imbalance between the commitments of States under the WTO framework and their other international obligations, including those under human rights treaties: should conflicts emerge between the two sets of obligations, States may be tempted systematically to prioritize their duties under the WTO, because of the sanctions attached to non-compliance, leaving aside the comparatively ‘softer’ commitments made under human rights treaties. As this important book by Sarah Joseph shows, things are now changing. The problems arising from the fragmentation of international law are increasingly being acknowledged, and solutions are being explored to overcome them. Due to the ‘special nature’ of human rights treaties, which are irreducible to exchanges of undertakings between States, merely to state that these treaties are paramount, will not suffice. We need to work towards practical ways of avoiding conflicts whenever possible, and of solving conflicts when they emerge, in ways that do not lead to the sacrifice of human rights on the altar of increased trade, even for the sake of economic growth.

High prices, poor access: What is Big Pharma fighting for in Brussels?

Big Pharma's lobby machine ground into top gear to defend its privileges, doing its best to remove or weaken regulatory measures. A close relationship with the Commission –which fails to take undue industry influence seriously– has played a key role, as has the lobbying firepower of Big Pharma. The top ten biggest spending companies, for example, have increased their lobby budget by €2 million since 2015, and Big Pharma's main lobby group EFPIA (European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations) sits on eight of the Commission’s advisory groups. Big Pharma has also rolled out a PR offensive harnessing the powerful emotions around illness, designed to deflect criticism and narrow the scope for debate. Thanks to this lobbying arsenal, the industry has succeeded in influencing the review into pharma incentives and rewards (such as intellectual property rules), as well as a change to a type of patent extension called an SPC (supplementary protection certificate) which allows companies to extend the period of monopoly pricing. It has also affected a proposal for EU collaboration to assess how effective new medicines and health technologies are relative to existing ones, something which helps member states negotiate prices. Drug companies promote the use of ‘new’ drugs because they still have patent protection, and are therefore more expensive, over old ones that don't, even if the new product is not an improvement in medical terms.

Squaring the Circle? Reconciling Sovereignty and Global Governance Through Global Government Networks (Review of Anne-Marie Slaughter, a New World Order)

Anderson, Kenneth, Harvard Law Review, Vol. 118, pp. 1255-1312, January 2005. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=669842 "Anne-Marie Slaughter's widely noticed book, A New World Order (Princeton UP 2004), proposes that the emerging form of global governance is neither a world government nor global governance by partnerships of public international organizations and global civil society, yet neither is it the existing relationship of sovereign states. A form of global governance is emerging, she argues, which can resolve this dilemma in the form of global government networks - networks of national agencies (and courts) working with their counterparts and homologues worldwide to deal with a wide variety of global concerns. The review locates Slaughter's argument within the debate over international relations realism and idealism, and further locates it within a continuum of seven idealized positions in the debate between global governance and sovereignty, with pure sovereignty at one extreme and world government at the other, with the most relevant positions of democratic sovereignty and liberal internationalism located in the middle. The article concludes that Slaughter's vision of global governance through global government networks, ingenious as it is, does not finally avoid spitting us on at least one horn of the global governance dilemma, because ultimately it privileges global networks over democratic sovereignty".

Multinational Corporations and Health Care in the United States and Latin America: Strategies, Actions, and Effects

"In this article we analyze the corporate dominance of health care in the United States and the dynamics that have motivated the international expansion of multinational health care corporations, especially to Latin America. We identify the strategies, actions, and effects of multinational corporations in health care delivery and public health policies. Our methods have included systematic bibliographical research and in-depth interviews in the United States, Mexico, and Brazil. Influenced by public policy makers in the United States, such organizations as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and World Trade Organization have advocated policies that encourage reduction and privatization of health care and public health services previously provided in the public sector."