Summit Protesters Need to Ask, Why?
As the chiefs of government of the Group of Eight, the G-8 world powers, met for a three-day summit July 20-22, 2001, to consult on global problems, demonstrator violence made news, while the protesters highlighted problems but not causes or solutions.
by Fred E. Foldvary, Senior Editor
The global chiefs' agenda included more trade negotiations to reduce barriers, the problems of poverty and disease, and the sluggish global economy. So what is the problem if the chiefs get together to talk about world problems? The protesters say these chiefs of government are themselves the problem, representing and protecting big bad business that hurts the environment and get rich at the expense of the poor.
Violence by a few has marred the message of the many. Violent demonstrators in black masks and clothes threw rocks, firebombs, and rocks at the police. One protester was killed, shot as he joined a mob attacking a police van. If I were more cynical, I would think that the big corporations hired and trained the violent protesters to discredit the protests and draw attention away from the real source of the problem: privilege. But I'm not that cynical.
The protesters themselves are part of the problem, perhaps the key problem. It is they who have the energy and passion that comes from moral outrage, to come long distances at major expense to protest and draw attention to the poor, the sick, and our dear mother earth. Global attention is focused on them. Here is their chance to point to the problems and solutions. So what do they say? Down with the rich! Boo on the corporations! It is a pathetic waste of scarce moral outrage. It is empty of thought, seeing only the surface and not the substance of the issues.
People get rich in one of two ways. One way is by providing wanted services. The other way is by stealing loot. The protesters who simply decry the rich do not differentiate, do not focus, and confuse because they fail to think and learn. The focus should be on the actual problem, legalized theft by monopoly, by subsidy, by government corruption. The peaceful and honest creation of wealth cannot create poverty; on the contrary, wealth creation extirpates poverty.
The protesters have had the effect of pushing the chiefs of government towards dealing more with the poor, the ill, and the environment. But governments' response is just more welfare aid. It does not deal with the causes. They don't want to deal with the causes, because that would involve dismantling privileges that keep them in power. But the greater fault is with protesters who remain willfully ignorant.
The environment gets destroyed because governments grant companies property rights to resources that properly belong to humanity, without any compensation. Folks are poor because government imposes costs and restrictions on their labor and enterprise while granting the rent that soaks up their productivity to the few having a privileged, subsidized title to territory. The protest should focus on the source and cause of the problem: privileges enforced by government.
In a way, the protesters do point to the chiefs as protectors of corporate power. But their diagnosis is incorrect. They need to understand the way that privilege is protected and how it can be remedied. The remedy is to remove the privilege by making all companies and individuals pay the social cost of environmental destruction and for the benefits of land and public services. At the same time, labor must be unshackled by removing all taxes and arbitrary restrictions.
Both the protesters and G-8 chiefs need to handle the violent few. Next year's summit will be in Canada. Perhaps it could take place in the northern tundra, where cooler heads would prevail.
What is needed is a global dialog on economics, the environment, and health. Then solutions such as pollution charges could be discussed. Shift taxes from income and sales to rent and pollution, and the global environment can be protected with no loss at all to the global economy, nay, even a gain. Shift taxes thus and we extirpate poverty too. If some get rich that way, that's good. We can't eliminate poverty by attacking wealth.
How to do the dialogue? The internet has boosted the protesting, and the dialogue must be in the internet, on the web sites of the protesters, and common web sites with representatives of the chiefs of government. Only with a dialogue can effective solutions win out over confusion.
And if protest needs to go beyond words, civil disobedience provides drama without violence. Civil disobedience can clog the jails and immobilize government. Violent attacks only strengthen government by excusing repression. Do they not know that "war is the health of the state"?
-- Fred Foldvary
Copyright 2001 by Fred E. Foldvary. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system, without giving full credit to Fred Foldvary and The Progress Report.
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