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As Greens and socialists we do not advocate the so-called "free market" and "free trade." Neither term adequately represents the reality of the practices which masquerade under those friendly names.
Global "free trade" and the "free market" are the most effective means of capitalist exploitation of people and planet. They oppress people, waste the planet's limited resources and destroy the environment on which we all depend. We argue that the response to this sustained onslaught must be to "protect the local, globally."
The Green Objective
Our aim is sustainable, equitable, democratic, diverse and genuinely free societies, based on largely self-reliant regional and local economies, in harmony with their environment and each other.
The key point is to empower nations and communities to retake control over their local economies and to make them as diverse as suits local needs.
The key point is to empower nations and communities to retake control over their local economies and to make them as diverse as suits local needs. This moves from the present situation in which all economies compete with each other to one in which goods and services are supplied more locally.
This is the Green and socialist alternative to the "free market" and "free trade" policies which currently dominate economic and political thought. We do not share the defeatist acceptance that there is no alternative to globalization.
The Local Economy
The aim of local and regional economies would be to produce as much as they can of their own primary products, manufactured goods and services. What they cannot provide should be obtained from neighboring economies. Long distance trade should be the last resort. To this end controls such as tariff barriers and quotas should be gradually introduced.
Long distance trade should be the last resort.
Local enterprises must be given encouragement. This assistance should include preferential access to local expertise, training and finance. Advantages should be given to local suppliers, particularly but not only in purchasing by public bodies.
The aim should be that enterprises are managed on stakeholder principles, not least because such enterprises have the strongest links with the community they serve. Particular encouragement should be given to the third sector (including cooperatives) and to enterprises which fill gaps in the local or regional economy, replacing more distant provision.
Capital & Investment
Access to capital at local and regional level is the key to funding investment by enterprises and communities to improve social and environmental conditions and job opportunities.
This is not achieved by the "free market," which encourages ever-larger and more distant institutions and capital flows. To reverse this requires both encouragement of local activity and the assertion of democratic control of larger capital flows.
Encouragement must be given to organization of financial institutions on mutual principles, including the re-mutualization of building societies. The promotion of local and regional financial institutions is essential and should include de-merger of larger institutions. "Bank here to sell here" policies will encourage that. Community banks and credit unions can play a major role in enabling local people.
It will be necessary to reintroduce national controls of capital movements and to re-regulate finance capital more broadly. The aim must be to encourage productive investment and in particular community reinvestment. This will be best achieved by the application of stakeholder principles at local and regional levels, supported by national regulation of corporate investments in a manner which involves the wishes of the affected communities.
Controlling the Speculators
Investment should be the focus, not the gambling of speculation. Financial trading on the "margin" should be discouraged and tightly regulated. Credit should not be available to allow speculators to multiply the size of their "bets" well beyond the cash required to cover them. Taxes should be used to discourage short-term speculative transactions-in particular currency speculation.
A consequence of extending the "free market" has been the reverse, as enterprises in it seek to grow to influence and eventually dominate the markets in which they trade. This process has passed the point where such enterprises dominate local communities and regions. Many are now much larger than the countries which nominally control them.
This must be addressed in two ways. In the short term, transnational institutions of similar size must be used to assert the primacy of the common interest over those of the corporations. But the only lasting remedy is to encourage the break-up of such organizations to more manageable units, through trade regulation, anti-trust legislation and fiscal policy.
The aim must be to encourage productive investment and in particular community reinvestment.
Market access should be regulated by "site here to sell here" policies. For some sectors this would relate to a community or region within a nation, for others to the whole country and for very large industries to more than one country.
Limiting Market Access
A limit should be set for market share at regional and national level by any one company. Where such a market is dominated by a particular company, new firms should be encouraged through grants, loans and subsidies to enter it to maintain the impetus for improved products, more efficient resource use and the provision of choice. The transfer of information and technology would be encouraged to improve the efficiency of local industry.
The advantages enjoyed by very large organizations must be countered. They must be rendered more accountable to their stakeholders, through greater transparency, internal democracy and public regulation.
Company and accounting law should control transfer pricing and the diversion of company profits and individual earnings off-shore. There should be a sustained effort to curb corporate tax evasion. The use of offshore banking centers should be ended by "bank here to sell here" policies.
This approach, while both sustainable and equitable, runs very much contrary to existing and proposed international arrangements such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), its development the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the proposed Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI).
All these serve the interests of the large transnational corporations and capitalists, at the expense of the rest of the world, including regions and communities of the countries in which they are based.
Getting Rid of GATT
Such arrangements must be replaced with ones that promote cooperation for self-reliance. The GATT rules should be revised to become a Sustainable and Equitable World Trade Agreement.
Aid policies and capital flows, technology transfer and residual international trade should be on "fair trade" not "free trade" terms. These should be geared to the promotion of sustainable local economies. The aim is to foster sustainable industry and prosperity through local and regional self-reliance.
This article is reprinted from The Way Ahead (No. 36, January, 1998, pp. 6-7) and is adapted from a paper prepared for Green Left's Working Group on Globalization. It draws on the ideas of Colin Hines and work with Peter Merry and others in the Green Party on policy on trade, sustainable economics, development and such threats as EMU and the MAI. John Norris (email@example.com) is the US monitor for Green Party of England & Wales. He was joint editor of The Way Ahead 1992-97.
A Dream of "Euro-English"
by Arnold Cassola, firstname.lastname@example.org
Brussels plans for Euro-English! The European Union Commission is reported to be considering a plan to adopt ENGLISH as the preferred language for European communications, rather than GERMAN, which was the other possibility.
As part of the behind-the-scene negotiations, the new Blair Government, determined to take a leading role in Europe, is confidently expected to concede that English spelling has some room for improvement and will accept a five-year phased plan for what will be known as Euro-English (Euro for short).
In the first year, "s" will be used instead of the soft "c". Sertainly sivil servants will resieve this news with joy. Also the hard "c" will be replaced with "k". Not only will this klear up konfusion, but typewriters and word-prosessors kan have one less letter. This will reduce the kost of making them and have the insidental advantage of giving Euro-typewriters a kompetitive advantage over Amerikan ones.
There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year, when the troublesome "ph" will be replaced by "f". This will make words like "fotograf" 20% shorter, which will also reduce produktion and printing kosts.
In the third year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments will enkorage the removal of double letters, which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also al wil agre that the horible mes of silent "e"s in the languag is disgrasful, and they would go.
By the fourth year, people wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing "th" by "z" and "w" by "v".
During ze fifz year, ze unesesary "o" kan be dropd from vords kontaining "ou", and similar changes vud of kors be aplid to ozer kombinations of leters.
After zis fifz yer,we vil hav a reli sensibl riten styl. Zer vil be no mor trubls or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi tu understand ech ozer. Ze Europen drem vil finali av kum tru!
From the European Federation of Green Parties' UPDATE-NEWSLETTER. October-November 1997