July 12, 2010

Federalism: Concentration, Assault, and Evasion

In my last post, I talked about the public hatred for democracy Obama evinces in his rhetoric. Democracy is under assault everywhere. Let’s look at another example, including the assault on federalism wherever it becomes inconvenient for corporatism.
Eurozone bureaucrats have long been frustrated by the democratic rejection of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on the part of the European people. (See * at the bottom for a brief sub-post on what’s wrong with GMOs in themselves. Here above I’ll discuss the rackets which purvey them.)
Biotech rackets like Monsanto and Syngenta, their US government flunkies, and globalization cadres have long clamored to break down this democratically closed door. Now, according to this NYT piece, the Eurocrats have become so disgusted by democracy (a word which does not occur once in the article, by the way) that they want, ad hoc, to countermand the entire centralization thrust which underlies the whole Eurozone concept, and instead redistribute power back to national and local governments on just this issue.

After decades of pushing nations to surrender more power to the European Union, the bloc is pulling back on efforts to assert its authority over one highly contentious issue, genetically modified foods.

The new policy is aimed at overcoming a stalemate that has severely curtailed the market for biotech seeds in Europe. Only two crops, produced by the agricultural giant Monsanto and the chemical company BASF, are sold for cultivation in Europe.

The new flexibility is aimed at opening up markets in countries like the Netherlands, where governments are favorable toward growing and trading biotech products, while countries like Austria, where the products are unpopular, can maintain a ban.

How is it a “stalemate” if this is supposed to be democracy? Democracy has spoken. Here they’re admitting that democracy long ago came under permanent siege by inherently anti-democratic, indeed anti-political gangs called “corporations”. They admit this is a permanent war of attrition where the gangs will never except any peace short of their complete domination, and where therefore the only choice for the people is to eradicate the corporations completely, or see democracy and freedom completely destroyed. (Of course, since this is the NYT, we can take it for granted from the tone of the piece that the corporations must and should win in the end.)

A critical factor behind the proposed change in Europe is a growing frustration with the current system, under which meetings between government officials and ministers often end in deadlock. That forces unelected officials at the European Commission to make the final decision on authorizing biotech products.

“Growing frustration” – That would be with democracy, which has spoken on the matter. So the general frustration is with a fundamentally anti-democratic system which is still having trouble doing an end-run around democracy. “Deadlock” is the NYT’s term for the way we stupid peasants keep demanding a say on issues critical to our own lives. (I do like the touch of how it’s supposedly we who force the resort to “unelected officials”, when of course we simply want the case closed once and for all. It’s the haters of democracy who have to keep “forcing decisions” from unelected officials.)
But the corporations themselves are publicly skeptical of this new approach, since while it may smash down a few doors, it may allow others to remain closed.

But far from celebrating the new approach, the growing global industry as well as some farmers themselves are extremely wary.

“So many different authorities suddenly doing so many different things risks sending a message to successful growers in Africa and Asia that authorities are unsure how to deal with biotech,” said Nathalie Moll, the secretary general of EuropaBio, an industry group.

She said it also remained to be seen whether the proposals would conform with World Trade Organization rules.

The US government is, as usual, opposed to democracy.

The United States and the European Union are still resolving a dispute over genetically modified organisms, or G.M.O.’s, and related issues after the trade organization in 2006 ruled against Europe’s de facto ban. Washington could still retaliate in that case.

The Office of the United States Trade Representative declined to comment on the new approach but said it would be on the agenda at a meeting with European officials this month.

Despite “some progress” in recent months, the United States “still has a number of concerns,” said Nefeterius Akeli McPherson, a spokeswoman for the trade representative. They include “a substantial backlog of pending biotech applications, and bans adopted by individual E.U. member states on biotech products approved at the E.U. level.”

At the end there they explicitly say even this end-run is unacceptable if it leaves any democratic spaces inviolate. They’re totalitarians, in the literal sense of the word. For a corporatist, any restraint on corporate prerogative, no matter what the countervailing value, is unacceptable and must be eradicated.
And of course Eurozone ideologues are opposed.

Other countries, though, have expressed concern about setting a precedent that could undermine European integration. The crisis this year over how to supervise the finances of the 16 nations that use the euro already has highlighted the limits to European cooperation.

“If the agricultural policy is common, why wouldn’t the policy of cultivation of G.M.O.’s be?” asked Elena Espinosa, the Spanish environment minister. Spain grew 80 percent of the biotech corn, intended to resist a pest called the corn borer, produced in Europe last year.

In addition, Belgium, which has just taken over the rotating European Union presidency, is concerned that a ban by a single country could put the entire bloc in danger of facing retaliatory trade sanctions.

The thesis statement of the article, its whole thrust, is this: Progress is trying to move forward in the form of biotech domination, make that “GMO bounty”, while some shadowy, incomprehensible obstruction is mucking up the works.
But that obstruction is simply the fact that most of the people of most countries of Europe don’t want these things imposed upon them. They don’t want them in their fields and they don’t want them in their food. (As for the US, forget about it…)
So the Eurozone, like all globalization bodies, was formed to override or evade democracy, in part by usurping power from local and national governments, to federalize upward. They claimed this surrender of sovereignty would result in greater freedom and prosperity for all. Many aspects of democracy would allegedly be preserved.
But as we see, wherever democracy wants to assert its prerogative against what it sees as a destructive application of the system; or from the technocrats’ point of view, the system breaks down because in a particular case what was supposed to be only potemkin democracy is actually acting like the real thing, they don’t have the courage of their proclaimed convictions. They don’t say, that’s the system, and its results have to be accepted. Instead they scramble for a kludge to achieve the desired result no matter what.
This is a specific application of the general case: Those who claim to believe in the integrity of federalism, who advocated that power be centralized to a great extent, will always seek in practice to deploy real power at whatever level achieves the correct result. This is always whatever result best empowers corporations and disempowers democracy.
For a typical example, one need only look at the roller coaster ride of Republican and right wing positions on the subject, from the Clinton years (“all power to the 10th amendment”) to the Bush years (suddenly they all became Bolshevik centralizers, and especially in the executive) to Obama (there’s that 10th amendment again! where was he those eight years?).
We true fighters for democracy, on the other hand, consistently advocate defederalization. We want to bring the power back to the soil, and it looks like we’ll have to cultivate it there ourselves. What the Eurozone’s doing here is breaking its own concentration of power in a particular case, and only because it can achieve an even less democratic, more pro-corporate result that way. It’s the same thing every “federalist” does. (For the record, the real Republican position is pro-federal, pro-central, pro-concentration, pro-big government, just as much as is the Democratic position.)   
They seek a tyrannical concentration, of power and wealth, for its own sake, claiming to do so according to some principle, but then break with the principle and slash out exceptions anywhere the rules they laid out would for once produce a result dispersive of power and wealth. That’s because this “principle” like all others of the system, is not a principle but only a weapon against the people.
So when we now set out to critique federalism, we’ll have to do so with the knowledge of how it was everywhere hijacked, and how in the original foundation debate those who claimed centralization would safeguard liberty have been proven wrong, while those who warned that centralization fosters tyranny have been proven correct. That’ll be my thesis.
* Regarding genetically modified organisms (GMOs), here’s the three main points.
1. The reckless rush to deploy GMOs in the ecosystem without even the slightest idea what kinds of effects they’ll have, and the assault on all attempts to impose any sort of control and prudence, is a radical repudiation of the precautionary principle. Since this is one of the absolute core principles of environmentalism, it follows that it’s impossible to be a real environmentalist and yet support GMOs, at least the way they’ve been and always will be deployed. (So that’s one of the ways to recognize a sellout corporate environmentalist – support for GMOs, along with biofuels, nukes, cap and trade.)
2. With GMOs, whatever stupid rhetoric we’re subject to about prosperity and liberation, it’s really about patents, profits, and power. Monsanto has openly declared its goal is world domination of the food chain. Both morally and socially this is unacceptable. If the biosphere’s genetic code, upon which all biotech work has been done, belongs to anybody it belongs to humanity as a whole and can never legitimately be enclosed. The idea of a patent on an organism is on its face invalid.
Since the biotech companies themselves claim genetic modification is indistinguishable from age-old hybridization techniques, it follows that they shouldn’t be able to patent genes or organisms.
3. The food supply must be seen as first and foremost a social property. Even beyond moral considerations there remain the considerations of sociopolitical stability and national security. These demand that the integrity of the food supply not be held hostage by sociopathic corporations, that we not be reliant upon one strain of genetically modified monocrop, and that we diversify way beyond monoculture in general.
Since the food supply is a social good and a strategic element, it shouldn’t be held hostage to any corporate interest at any point. The genetics of the world ecosystem are public property, and no one ever had a right to enclose them or to allow them to be enclosed. So right there all such patents are invalid and vacated. The fact is, man does not need GMOs, just like we didn’t need monoculture in the first place. Diversified cultivation of wild varieties has always been more productive for local and regional populations. It was only corporate globalism which wanted and needed to build the Tower of Babel of monoculture, fossil-fuel fertilizer and pesticides, and growing global distribution, these three always circulating in an ever-intensifying loop.


  1. Good piece!

    P.S. And on top of the GMO issue is the even broader topic of corporate agriculture generally…

    The increased global reliance on a very few species of both plants AND animals goes against every good principle of a healthy, sustainable ecology.

    And frankly, many of the practices in ‘industrial’ animal husbandry are contrary to basic standards of humane treatment.

    The whole paradigm can’t survive. Unfortunately we’re likely to go extinct along with the paradigm.

    Or at least face some catastrophic ‘Biological Black Swan’ realities which are as inevitable as the financial kind produced by the same mindset.

    Comment by Tom Crowl — July 12, 2010 @ 3:54 pm

    • Yup, you hit all the points. And unlike the financial insanity, this really can physically wipe us out.

      In particular, factory farms are unregulated, unsecured bioweapons laboratories.

      Comment by Russ — July 12, 2010 @ 4:53 pm

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