‘The world’s most hated acronym’
Well, maybe just behind ISIS. Over the last few years, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership has become a definite second. The proposed deal between the EU and the US has dominated headlines, political debate and has been written about extensively by journalists and academics alike. It has produced a ‘Marmite effect’ like no other: from cheerleaders to whistleblowers. What it represents is that in a system which has already produced an economic precedent of ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’, the next step is to secure political power. The TTIP marks the age of the ‘having control’ and the ‘having no choice’. It’s a corporate manifesto for sure, but we’ve commissioned it.
The Two Tenets
Privatisation and deregulation. Two bedrocks of neoliberal thought, both equally disastrous for greater society. The promise: less state intervention in markets leads to greater productivity, efficiency and lower prices. The reality: ‘a race to the bottom’ which in essence is a forced embrace of lowering labour standards, environmental laws and evoking business tax cuts which ensure the preservation of wealth concentration.
Ronald Reagan’s wave of financial deregulation in the 1980s is what largely led to the global financial crisis of 2008, and did we learn the lessons? No, we bailed them out. The taxpayers were used to make corporate power “too big to fail”. From an environmental standpoint, companies have been negligent towards reducing pollution and lax regulations in food standards have led to increasingly negative effects on human welfare. ‘Chlorine’ chicken and carcinogenic pesticides will be the new European garnishes if the TTIP goes through. Alarming issues for many, which have often formed the backbone of widespread protest against a deal that hopes to establish a ‘Regulatory Cooperation Council’ to override and dictate any future regulation measures.
Privatisation is no new notion to many European economies and is already firmly embedded into the economic make up of many countries. Private entities are good at doing many things, however controlling public services isn’t one of them. Selling off public assets and outsourcing public services has led to increased prices, poorer working conditions, inefficient service and a lack of accountability. Outsourcing a country’s welfare state where the primary concern of the public is replaced with that of profit, has had dire effects. So much so, that many political leaders have called for the immediate protection of the NHS from the TTIP proposals. While capital flows freely among the wealthy via offshore funds, working people are facing increasing job insecurity. This is no accident. Two tenets of the TTIP and two ways to erode government control. Our control.
Who orders, who follows.
“Corporations are worms in the body politic.” Thomas Hobbes
In effect the TTIP has cemented its own celebrity status through its illustrious advertising campaign. An array of heads of state, notably David Cameron and Angela Merkel, have stepped forward like corporate cheerleaders, singing songs of free market, all in sound bites pure and sweet. Well, their message to us is very clear : there’s really no alternative. Coupled with with a European tour from 2008 Marketer of the Year, Barack Obama, the campaigning efforts of the TTIP team have been astonishing. A move closer to swearing an oath to corporate governance, this trade deal represents the end product of decades of ‘power handing’ to the world of business and the aggressive endorsement of an ideology that only seeks to serve the rich and powerful; whilst consolidating the concentration of wealth and gap of inequality.
The subservience of governments to the TTIP initiative is quite remarkable. Allowing US corporations greater say over EU regulations, environmental law and consumer rights is reckless. The TTIP would undeniably grant an exchange of sovereignty to an elitist group of unelected businessmen and the most alarming aspect is of course, the fact that leaders are so compliant in wanting its ratification. Strong petitions and campaigning efforts have done much to derail the progress of the deal and may well even prevent it from coming into practice. However, this only marks the start of corporate ‘power grab’ attempts against our democratic principles. The TTIP, in fact, is far from an isolated incident: its sister deal the TPP has already been finalised and is awaiting ratification. Furthermore, the final part of the free trading triangle, TISA, is all but ensured to hit the geopolitical shelves in the coming years. The three ‘Ts’ of total dependency on corporate- fuelled decision making.
So, what does all of this show? The TTIP is perhaps only a sign of the times we are heading for: an age of ‘who orders’ and ‘who follows’. The followers are increasingly proving to be our elected representatives; the people who are entrusted to do the ordering. Even political opposition is questionable. Anti-TTIP sentiment is often the result of populist style reactions to public opinion. Take the ‘Brexit’ debate, with many commentators suggesting ‘In’ or ‘Out’ will in fact do little to counter the bombardment of corporate power grabs that are setting future economic trends. Its role within the US election also suggests that stances are often drawn in a sound bite fashion in order to entertain the concerns of voters. This is a time when campaign promises and pledges are often empty; TTIP is no exception. Behind the distraction pieces, it’s been granted a VIP pass on to the political main stage.
To the highest bidder..
‘A free people regimented into the service of a limited few’ –Franklin D. Roosevelt
Corporations control countries. This is evident throughout history. The ‘Banana Republic’ and East India trading company, both symbolise the extent of control and influence corporations have had on government and populations. Additionally, corporations have equal rights to individuals in the US and the right to vote in the UK. They have become a powerful entity that we have helped to establish, holding a non-negotiable position in global politics.
The TTIP, in common with other free trade agreements, confirms the platform and status
we have gifted to corporations; whether it be through aggressive lobbying industries or an unwavering oath of loyalty to neoliberal ideals. In conjunction with the recent Panama papers scandal, the TTIP and other transatlantic trade proposals only add weight to the argument of one set of rules for them and one set of rules for us. Inequality is corroding the values of democracy. Public opinion is supposed to have a strong input on government decision – that is one of the bedrocks of any democracy. Well, this is the consequence of allowing the concentration of wealth and power ; as Adam Smith stated: “the principal architects of policy are the people who own society and they make that their own interests are cared for.” The ‘masters of mankind’ are financial institutions and multinational corporations following the vile maxim of “all for ourselves and nothing for anyone else”. The system is manufactured to reduce democracy and preserve the status of the ruling minority.
While we seem more concerned with exporting our brand of Western democracy to the rest of the ‘underdeveloped’ world we should first read our own product information: a system where corporate hegemony far exceeds government influence and public will. In fact, Western democracy is currently an illusion; what we are moving towards is a ‘corporatocracy’. The TTIP may be the most hated acronym on our lips, but there’ll be plenty more abbreviations where that came from, I can assure you. So, the shelf life of our freedom is in fact nearing it’s expiry date. But, the lesson to be learnt here is that by embracing a participatory democracy and not a spectator one, we may have a chance to save it.
“Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.”
— John Maynard Keynes