Opinions

Do free markets make free people?

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Ten years ago in his inaugural address then us President George Bush laid the ground work to justify our newly crowned economic hypothesis.

"Freer markets undoubtedly lead to freer people."

While it's not a direct translation from Milton Friedman it's the sound-bit summation of the libertarian's philosophy. It is also very incorrect. The link between capitalism and democracy which we've all accepted for years has yet to rear it's head in dictatorships of China, Singapore, Indonesia, et cetera.

For over 120.000 protesters presently taking up the "Battle for Seattle" the motivation may be hard to reconcile.

For protesters to bemoan the a loss of freedom and prosperity in the West may seem alarmist. After all we live in a society with strong democratic roots. Still, this is a direct threat to our sovereignty and the legitimacy of our elected governments.

A recent example involves a battle between the democratically elected Government of Newfoundland and Inco. Ltd. that raged over the development of massive nickel deposit at Voisey's Bay in the economically depressed Labrador region of the province.

The battle lines were clear; Newfoundland refused to allow Inco. to mine the ore only to ship it out of province to be smelted (one possible destination was Indonesia). The province felt the company should invest over $1 billion in the construction a new local smelter to benefit its citizens and amended its mining regulations to ensure it did so. Inco., after much reluctance, was forced to spend a billion on the smelter--one thirtieth of the huge deposit's market value.

This is contrary to everything the WTO would like to have happen. In five years the WTO has made over 100 rulings, all of which have been anti-environment, anti-labor, and pro-profit.

A company standing to make over $20 billion on the production of a resource gem would have no responsibility to properly reimburse the citizens who rightly own the resource. If such an issue had come before the WTO, it would certainly have ruled against the government of Newfoundland.

If this could happen in Newfoundland can you imagine the job they'd pull in Indonesia or some other military dictatorship?

When money becomes concentrated, as it inevitably will even in the freest of systems, you are left with a dictatorship of
capital--a monopoly upon the means of production.

While the psuedo-democracy portrayed in the shareholder system is an empty shell, a stranger phenomenon is gaining a head of steam: the call for business rights, from which we may witness the death of individual rights--the basis of the nation state.

Any successful company's board of directors own a vast majority of stock. In this system there is no need to be accountable to individual shareholders except to keep the stock an attractive purchase through profit. While there is freedom for some, there is the need to feed the machine.

And is the WTO's total lack of flexibility in accommodating critics a telling sign of exactly how cruel that machine can be?

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