Monday, November 15, 2004

Sowing the Seeds of Corporatism in Iraq

When I hear GW Bush or other neoconservatives talk about the so-called promotion of freedom and democracy in Iraq, I'm not sure if the proper response is to laugh or to cry.

In yet another example of how illusory any notion of freedom and democracy in occupied Iraq is, Iraqi farmers are now under assault by corporate pirates backed up by the guns of the occupying state. As discussed in a report by GRAIN, a non-governmental organization promoting sustainability and agricultural biodiversity, Iraqi farmers have been robbed of their generations old traditions and sovereignty over agriculture by patent laws that serve corporate interests. The unregulated seed supply system, and the freedom of self-sufficiency and unfettered innovation that go along with it, have forcibly been replaced by a system where farmers have no choice but to buy seeds from certain corporations, some of which are patented while others are "owned" despite the fact that the owners may not have created them. In other words, what we have here is a glaring example of government-enforced monopoly on what is a way of life for many Iraqis.

While the GRAIN report is quite informative on the subject and I generally sympathize with the concern of these people, I did notice that a particular portion of the report unfortunately parrots a line of thought promoted by lefties whose concerns are valid, but misplaced. Here is an excerpt that shows the problem:
Iraq is a special case in that the adoption of the patent law was not part of negotiations between sovereign countries. Nor did a sovereign law-making body enact it as reflecting the will of the Iraqi people. In Iraq, the patent law is just one more component in the comprehensive and radical transformation of the occupied country's economy along neo-liberal lines by the occupying powers. This transformation would entail not just the adoption of favoured laws but also the establishment of institutions that are most conducive to a free market regime.

Conducive to a free market regime? That's malarkey. Voluntary associations allowing for mutual benefit is what a free market and free trade are all about. How in the world does forced monopolization of a particular market, rooted in mischevious intellectual property laws and enforced by government coercion, fit any literal definition of free trade or free enterprise? It doesn't.

The report quotes a portion of Order 81, the legally binding order written up by the Coalition Provisional Authority that spells out this new food despotism, which states that their provisions...
"transition from a non-transparent centrally planned economy to a free market economy characterised by sustainable economic growth through the establishment of a dynamic private sector, and the need to enact institutional and legal reforms to give it effect."

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.

Maybe free market advocates should start referring to communist countries as being "people's democracies". We all know that nations such as Cuba and the former Soviet Union weren't really democratic, but this would simply give lefties who love promoting "people" and "democracy" while tarnishing the notion of free enterprise a dose of their own medicine.

*note: My singling out and criticizing of lefties here does not mean that I am a right-winger. I generally reject the left/right dichotomy and engage in equal opportunity bashing of both sides due to the rampant blindness of both sides. Liberty, like our feathered or winged critter friends, require two wings to take off and fly.

Back to the original subject matter, it seems even more evident that the only "freedom" and "democracy" that'll be spread by the occupying forces in Iraq will be the forms that include the loss of local sovereignty and are enforced by the barrel of a gun.


Blogger bkmarcus said...

Here here! Thank you! Right on! Etc.

2:37 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

Right on, right on, right on!

I like to call those corporatist "free market" advocates vulgar libertarians.

They seem to forget, from one minute to the next, whether they are defending free markets as such, or the wealth of large corporations under actually existing corporations.

Typical of the genus are the Adam Smith Institute Blog and The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty. Every time I look at either, I can be confident of finding a piece of vulgar libertarian boilerplate denouncing some "common misconception" of "the Left." Their response, every time, is that "corporations couldn't get rich at the expense of the poor [for example], because that's not how things work in a free market."

If you point out that the present system is not a free market, and that most large corporations are running in the black only because of government subsidies to their operating expenses, they'll concede it momentarily and make a tip of the hat to opposing corporate welfare. But the minute your attention wanders, they're right back to defending the wealth of the Fortune 500 on the basis of "free market principles."

They live in a Bizarro world where the main beneficiaries of government intervention are union bosses, welfare moms and "trial lawyers," and Big Business is an "oppressed minority." And of course, the main political force behind food stamps is not ADM's contributions to Bob Dole, but the irresistable power of people on AFDC.

1:38 PM  
Blogger Sal.T. said...

I agree unreservedly - but with one sad note. As you rightly point out "Liberty, like our feathered or winged critter friends, require two wings to take off and fly." Right now I'm just hoping that one wing starts flapping, otherwise liberty might be headed the way of the Dodo bird . . .

3:39 PM  

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