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Plunder Blog! Please contribute to a way out of the crisis from the "bottom up"

A big problem with corporate capitalism is that it is short sighted and has very short memory. How comes that policy mistakes happen over and over again? can't humankind learn from mistakes? A long term way out of plunder and exploitation possibly can come only from education. This is why I learn with pleasure that a group of students and scholars at the Univrsity of London  is setting up a 'Journal of Colonialism Empire and International Law" to help in the global effort to build from the bottom up a critical mass capable of contributing with the strenghts of ideas towards revolutionary changes in the modes of thought and in international social structures.

In a post a few days ago I was arguing for the need to re-establish the proper relationship between the law, "a people's rule of law" as we argue in Plunder and the economic system. At the International University College, in  Turin, www.iuctorino.it Italy we are working hard in the attempt to avoid the confusion between the law as part of the problem and the law as part of the solution.

Here is what we are trying to put in place under tremendous time pressure to avoid at least that the debate on "legal standards" for financial activity as a way out of the economic crisis does not turn once more into plunderous rule of law rhetoric. Contributions and posts on the  basic issues that should be included in this kind of effort are most welcome. Going beyond mere professionalism is the first step to establish a global people's rule of law.

International University College of Turin (IUC)Working Group on Legal Standards for the Global Financial Markets

The International University College (IUC) is setting up an independent Working Group (WG) to produce a Position Paper on Preliminary Issues in Legal Standards for the Global Financial Markets.

The plan may be presented at a Conference organized by OECD at the end of March 2009, which will officially provide its own proposals for the G-8 Meeting held under the Italian Presidency at the Maddalena the 8-10 of July 2009. Before the G-8 Meeting, there will be another proposal presented by the G-20 next Meeting held under the UK Presidency in London the 2nd of April 2009. Moreover, other international institutional technical groups, which are working on the same topics, are the “High Level Expert Group” coordinated by Governor de Larosiére set up by the President of the European Commission Barroso, the Group of the Italian legal scholars set up by the Ministry of Economy and Finance coordinated by Prof. G. Rossi, the Financial Stability Forum under the Presidency of Italian Governor M. Draghi which will hold its next Meeting in London 12-13 March 2009. In all these Groups there are proposals to develop a set of global “legal standards” possibly working as a WTO like legal regime to govern financial markets and possibly even broader areas of the global economic system.  

We think that it is very important that genuine critical thinking be present in this process. It is crucial that the mainstream is precluded from uncritically assuming that the law might be part of the solution before thoroughly considering that, mostly because of arrogance and ethnocentrism,  there are reasons to believe that it has been part of the global “problem”.

Our effort has been to put together a group of scholars from all over the world and to harvest “from the bottom up” a catalogue of sensitive issues that must be openly and humbly faced by the international elite before coming out with more self-serving ideology. Invited participants, all chosen because of specific expertise and intellectual sympathy with the critical multi-disciplinary and genuinely global project of IUC, are asked to produce a short issue-based introductory three-five pages paper that, later harmonized with the others might be included in the IUC preliminary position paper.


IUC is planning to produce by the 25th of March the Position Paper setting the preliminary agenda of issues that the global community must tackle before attempting to use “the law” in attempting to tame the global financial and economic system. We have in mind to approach quite basic problems such as “is it economically defensible (let alone morally) a global system that allow for the free circulation of capital and not of labour? “or “ why standards and not hard rules?” or similar questions broadly related to this issue.

 The UIC Proposals for discussion will be based on a general global approach in serach of a radically new paradigm of globalization and social relations among the citizens of the world based on communication, long term trust and respect rather than on economic and military might. Any attempt to redesign the global system, we argue, must now rethink the very foundations of the model of predatory capitalism which in the last two decades has been legitimized by market fundamentalism and whose drammatic drawbacks are finally beyond mainstream denial in the present global crisis. The economic emergency makes it legitimate to advance at least some broad political guidelines, logically and organically linked with eachother and aiming at the safeguard of the weaker rings of the chain of global survival. First, from the legal perspective a different relationship between the local and the global dimension must be outlined. Attempt to impose global law from the top down by means of more or less violent use of conditionality has failed and must be abandoned.  From the local to the global should be the direction of a legitimate legal flux potentially a solution and not itself a problem. Second, a world-community based approach to globalization which grants to the periphery the same dignity of the center and that places without hypocrisy responsibility where it belongs. Third, a long term global/local policy vision of world economics and finance, which will take into account the drammatic problems that technology and short term Wetstern universalism keep posing as a lethal threath to a natural and balanced evolution of the planet. Fourth, a capacity to outline a different timing for action clearly pointing out what can be done immediately, its limits and the need to invest on the midle and long term to correct what are clearly structural cyclical  problems of the dominating capitalist model of development. The law should not serve as a mean to survive from crisis to crisis attempting to transfer as much as possible the catastrophic social costs on the weaker majority. Fifth, the imperative need to overcame the logic of the ”socialization of costs and the privatization of benefits”, which has been the dominant pattern of corporate capitalism and which should make the critical observer aware of the fundamental continuity of neo-leberalism even in the current tragic cosistency. Sixth, a different global/local – orizzontal and vertical -  distribution of wealth. Seventh, a new governace of globalization and new models of corporate governace which will take into account the needs of a just distribution of cooperative surplus between labour and capital. Eight, a new broader vision of the commons and of the pubblic goods capable of re-pubilcize by means of the law whatever has been privatized outside of very serious reasons other than the ideological trimph of western-dominated neoliberalism. Ninth, a different relatiponship between man and nature, between the individual and the community. In short, a revamping of an organic, comunitarian, pluralistic, quality based approach to the political economy introducing a radica break with the idolatry of competition and substituting it with a cosmopolitan and internationalist idea of cooperation.Our agenda should implement a reasonably utopian vision.       One may find clear indications that a new transnational set of normative principles is needed. And to be sure what is really at stake is the establishment of a legal system capable to control economc proceses rather than being controlled by them. Even the first reaction of governments in front of the crisis shows a remarkable continuity in the fact that it is economics that sets the agenda to the law rather than the other way around. Principles of justice, responsibility and long term ecology, rather than short term economic contingency and strong interests must set the legal agenda. It could be argued that a new governance and bottom up inclusive integration of knowledge-based economies (wherever located) which is crucial to the very survival of humanity cannot happen without defining new terms of widely accepted standard of long term justice in the transnational context – hence the urgency to conceive legitimate transnational legal structures and possibly some apparatus of “superlegality”. This superlegal apparatus must refer to fundamental principles with which the behavior of political and economic players in the global scene must comply, and supply a series of standards and rules for evaluating the objectives and equanimity of the conduct of national and international actors public and private. All of this has to be ambitiously based on a radical new foundation. 

We believe that we should begin to work informally as a think-tank. We have a sense that our collective position paper might receive some attention in the global policy debate. Each one of us, in his or her field, must have thought at least once on what he\she would have done if they had a blank sheet where to draft the law from a new start. Voltaire once said that if you want good law you must throw everything you had before in the trash-can and draft new one. We are all too aware of the thick institutional aggregate that can defeat legal fantasy. But let’s still deploy it for once.   



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Thank you


Thanks for bringing up the JCEIL. The purpose of the journal, to examine the historical/contemporary relationships between international law and colonialism, as you pointed are, is not merely to mount critique (which is important), but to also search for a constructive way forward - and in this sense, I think the London-based projects really resonate with your project to build an informal think tank and all these new initiatives, all very exciting, that you have started from Turin. For the upcoming Turin project (re OECD), my L/D class is co-writing the draft proposal that I'll bring along to Turin, and we are all watching what is growing at the IUC with interest. I hope the CCEIL / JCEIL and IUC have the opportunity to collaborate more closely in coming years. Lots of love from London.

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Some very brief ideas about

Some very brief ideas about what to petition for in the midst of this financial crisis.

1. Banks are getting bailed out, why not charities?

2. Corporations failing (ie, AIG in US) are posing 'systematic risk', so why not start limiting the size of private companies so that wouldn't have this potential impact?

3. Nationalizating banks sounds good, but only if we are not going to re-privatize them soon afterwards, which is what progressives like Paul Krugman are calling for.

4. In a similar vein to non-compete clauses in employment contracts, why not have politicians agree not to work for consultancy/lobby firms after retirement (ie, Howard Dean in US)?

5. Let's push for thinking about poverty/inequality not in material, but primarily in relational terms.

6. Finally, the entire push among progressive circles seems to be to find a new 'global' order that is more egalitarian, etcetera... But maybe what we are witnessing is the breakdown, the unsustainability of global chains of production/consumption... in other words, the contraction of globalization. If this is the case, maybe it is better if we allow certain chains to break down, allowing countries more breathing room to advance without Western benevolent aid... More trade, more production, and so on, is not necessarily a good thing for most people, and future generations.