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This is no extremist anti-corporate, anti-capitalist text, although it does clearly come to the conclusion that the vector of economic globalisation that we are on is neither inevitable, desirable nor sustainable. It is notable for arguing at the level of underlying principles and their practical consequences - it makes explicit the assumptions underlying corporate globalisation and questions them. This, in itself, is a valuable service as so much of the 'debate' in the media proceeds on the basis of bald assertion of essentially fallacious economic dogma.
The report starts with a critique of 'corporate globalization'. The term itself is useful, because the term 'globalization' has become something of a 'Humpty-Dumpty' word ('when I use a word, it means exactly what I want it to mean, neither more nor less'). 'Corporate globalization' describes a process driven and promoted by the large global corporations which, whatever its other consequences, gives primacy to the benefits that will flow to global business.
The critique identifies eight key features of corporate globalization:
1. 'Promotion of hypergrowth and unrestricted exploitation of environmental resources to fuel that growth
2. Privatization and commodification of public services and of remaining aspects of the global and community commons
3. Global cultural and economic homogenization and the intense promotion of consumerism
4. Integration and conversion of national economies, including some that were largely self-reliant, to environmentally and socially harmful export oriented production
5. Corporate deregulation and unrestricted movement of capital across borders
6. Dramatically increased corporate concentration
7. Dismantling of public health, social, and environmental programs already in place
8. Replacement of traditional powers of democratic nation-states and local communities by global corporate bureaucracies.'
It demonstrates each of these propositions and explores who are the beneficiaries of application of these policies. One of the complexities of trying to follow the arguments of the pro- and anti- globalisers is that both use statistics, both from apparently authoritative sources, that directly contradict each other. It is almost as if the two sides inhabit parallel universes that operate in different ways. Suffice it to say that the report puts forward convincing arguments in support of its case.
The critique proceeds to a devastating analysis of the impact of the World Bank, The IMF and the WTO, the three pillars of corporate globalisation, over the last four or five decades.
The report then argues ten principles for sustainable societies, as a basis for identifying ways of realising these principles in the subsequent chapters of the report. It argues that these principles 'seem to be the mirror opposites of the principles that drive the institutions of the corporate global economy.'.
One of the minor problems in the debate is that, whereas 'globalization' rolls easily off the tongue, 'the principle of subsidiarity' is neither easy to say nor obvious in its meaning. The report contains a chapter on the case for subsidiarity, and it is a strong one. The counter argument is almost entirely concerned with power. While there are many elements of conflict between corporate globalisation and the principle of subsidiarity - local control - they are not entirely antithetical. But the reach of the large corporates would unquestionably be reduced.
You may or may not agree with the arguments in this report, but they deserve serious attention. They are well and carefully argued, they represent (in fairly sophisticated terms) the views of a growing number of people around the world who believe that current beliefs and institutions serve them poorly, and they show those who wish to promote change a path for doing so.
What makes the book really important is the positive solutions and alternatives offered. The authors offer real ways to put into practice the Tikkun Community's first and second core principles (interdependence and ecological sanity, and a new bottom line in economic and social institutions).
I think other Tikkun readers, progressive-Democrats, Green party members, and thoughtful people everywhere---who want to see the world change from how it is now to how it could be---would want to read a book outlining specifics of how to create sustainable energy, transportation and food systems. And Alternatives to Economic Globalization does just that. I can't recommend this book enough (in fact I've already bought several copies to give to some of my friends).
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Barlow and Clarke begin their analysis by discussing the shortcomings of many publicly-owned water systems, where the use of science and technology have overwhelmed the carrying capacity of the earth. The author's description of Mexico City literally sinking into the ground as underground water supplies are pumped to exhaustion is frightening.
But private ownership of water will not rectify the situation. If the corporations' purpose is to serve shareholder interests, the authors argue, how can anyone suppose that water resources will be managed sustainably or equitably by them? Indeed, the book provides many examples of corporate projects that threaten to deplete local fresh water supplies in order to provide (short-lived) profits for investors.
Yet, Barlow and Clarke show that schemes to transfer control to corporations are often promoted by the World Bank and other institutions that champion multinational capital investments. This should not be too surprising, as water infrastructures are not unlike other publicly-held assets that have become favorite targets of the investment community (disguised under the banner of "deregulation") in recent years.
While making a compelling case that growing corporate influence can only make a bad situation worse, the authors spend several chapters discussing how people can begin to constructively address the situation and turn it around for the better. These sections in particular are thoughtful and are obviously written by persons who have spent a great amount of time on this issue. Far from being merely a "screed" (as the reviewer from the pro-business Cahner's reviews claimed), I found the author's thoughts in these later chapters to be mature, balanced, and humane. Water, as a necessity for life, might indeed be the one issue that unites people around issues of social, economic and environmental justice.
I highly recommend this book for readers interested in learning more about an issue that will undoubtedly become increasingly important in the future.
In major cities around the world, they persuade governments to sign long-term contracts with major private water companies. The concern, is that a handful of private companies could soon control a tremendous bulk of the world's most vital resource. Are water barons providing a good product? One certain city in the U.S. cancelled it's water contract because of complaints of poor service and unsanitary water conditions. In other countries and poorer countries were unable to pay huge water bills were forced to drink from disease-ridden lakes and streams resulting the spread of deadly epidemic outbreaks such as chlorea. In regions of the U.S. where ground water isn't enough to support domestic and fire protection water needs. It's necessary to develop alternative sources of water. The water crisis is worldwide. Many countries are facing a severe shortage. Some will run out of water by the year 2011. Can we find alternative ways to conserve our greatest resource. And, in the meantime can we stop the railroading of public water to greedy giant corporate barons. This book is a eye-opener. Another good reading on this subject is, 'Cadillac Desert.'
The book is a pleasant and informative read but must be read with the understanding that the authors are completely opposed to any private involvement in the production and distribution of water. They make the mistake of equating the operation of a water system with the ownership of the resource. They make the mistake or would like the reader to believe that the cost of water is actually the cost of water. It is not. When we refer to the cost of water it is really the annualized amortation of the capital infrastructure cost and the annual operation and maintenance cost. There are very few situations where the water is sold as a resources, San Diego, El Paso, and San Antonio being a few recent examples. So to say water is like oil is misdirection.
The authors also would lead readers to believe that bottled water is bad. In actual fact, bottling companies are held to the same standard as municipal systems for water quality.
The authors are strongly opposed to the bulk water export from Canada or from anywhere else. Those who propose such schemes could not make their proposals unless there were an uneven distribution of water on earth and their proposals are sometimes received favorably by governments such as Israel in their proposal to temporarily import 50 million cubic meters for 10 years until their desalination plants are up and running.
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If you've read any of her past work, Parcel of Rogues or Class Warfare, there is no need to read this book. She trots out her tired old arguments: corporations are bad, markets are bad, foreign ownership is bad. At one point she states that her nationalism is not xenophobic despite the fact that she constantly rails against foriegn ownership: foriegner ownership is bad because the owners are not your own nationality and therefore cannot be trusted, if this isn't xenophobic and potentially racist I don't know what is.
Another odd characteristice of the book is that any proponent of free markets is presented as fools, but any of Barlow formers colleagues who turned their back on her causes are pretty much forgiven.
National Socialists like Barlow should learn some economics and history before they write drivel like this and contribute to deforestation.
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However, Barlow is incapable of putting these lessons together to show that they would lead to the world being a very poor place in a state of constant warfare due to nationalistics policies leading to trade wars, and then eventual military war as they try to capture eachothers natural resources.
The basic message of the book is that protectionist economic policy is the key to growth and prosperity. This type of national socialist policy is exactly what led to the collapse of Japan, and the rest of the Asian Tigers.
If you want a recipe for economic disaster read this book.
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It obviously outrages Barlow that people who defy the Canadian left's groupthink are still allowed to own newspapers in this country. But if Barlow wants to examine bias in the Canadian media, she should start on the left. Some examples she might have considered include the Atkinson family, the Liberal party apparatchiks who control the Toronto Star, Canada's biggest and dumbest newspaper. I'm sure it is mere coincidence that the paper reads like a Liberal propaganda sheet.
And lest a socialist like Barlow attempt to pin the blame for this kind of bias on capitalist ownership of the media, let's not forget the CBC, Canada's government-supported broadcaster and a leading manufacturer of at least two kinds of red ink and so howlingly leftist that it has lost any semblance of credibility for reporting anything beyond hockey.
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