H. Global Economics

In this Chapter:

Global trade and multinational corporations have spanned the world for hundreds of years, enabling rapid growth of many countries’ economies, but stifling the growth of others.

Study Questions

  1. Limited liability corporations were created to carry out expensive or dangerous activities that neither individuals nor nations wanted to or could undertake. Is the corporate form still useful?
  2. Through history, U.S. corporations have acquired many rights including property rights and the right of free speech. Should corporations have rights? If so, which ones?
  3. Which things should be privately owned or controlled and which should be collectively owned or controlled through national governments or other cooperative bodies?
  4. Do the benefits of international trade outweigh the negative consequences?
  5. Should trade agreements attempt to protect property, intellectual property (patents, copyrights, etc.), national currencies, labor, and/or the environment? By whom and how should these agreements be negotiated and enforced?

Overview Article H

11 pages total

“The Demand for the Common Good,” by Jonathan Rowe, Yes! Magazine, Summer 2004, 11 p. Already included in collection F4.

What happens when economic growth produces more “illth” than wealth? What happens when it gobbles up the foundation of the good life — the commons?

Reading Set H1: Corporations as Persons

55 pages total

“American Rebellions,” by Thom Hartmann, Yes! Magazine, Winter 2003, 10 p.

The Boston Tea Party, corporate personhood, and unequal protection: the rise of corporate dominance and the theft of human rights.

“Rise of Corporate Power in America,” an excerpt from When Corporations Rule the World by David C. Korten, Kumarian Press, 1995, 24 p. Already included in collection F2.

Economic history of the U.S. through the lens of the rise of corporations.

“Corporations and the Public Interest,” by Jonathan Rowe, In Context, Summer 1995, 10 p.

How the original purpose behind corporate charters was lost. another great POCLAD type article, folksy

“A Corporate Lawyer Speaks Out,” by Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman, CommonDreams.org, March 22, 2002, 5 p.

A proposed amendment to corporate law: corporations should be concerned about their employees and the communities in which they operate, and sometimes they should sacrifice the interests of shareholders for the larger good.

“Nike v. Kasky: Corporations Are Not Persons,” by Jennifer Van Bergen, National Lawyers Guild Committee on Corporations, the Constitution & Human Rights, June 4, 2003, 6 p.

Does the Nike Corporation, like a person, have a constitutionally protected right of free speech?

Reading Set H2: Corporate Irresponsibility and Crime

58 pages total

“Bad Company: How to Civilize the Corporation,” by Jonathan Rowe, Dollars & Sense, Issue #218, July-August 1998, 13 p.

An historical overview of corporations, including ethical and economic issues concerning social responsibility.

“Sacrifice is for Suckers: How Corporations Are Using Offshore Tax Havens to Avoid Paying Taxes,” by Charlie Cray and Lee Drutman, with help from Sam Ferguson, Citizen Works briefing paper, April 15, 2003, 15 p.

There are a variety of ways that large U.S. multinationals use offshore tax havens to avoid taxes, but also some good ways to stop them. Focus on corporate tax evasion—detailed, not real easy reading.

“Executive Privileges,” by Lee Drutman, TomPaine.com, August 11, 2006, 6 p.

The backdating scandal is just the tip of the iceberg of corporate CEOs working the system to get outrageously high salaries.

“Putting Teeth in Corporate Social Responsibility,” by Keith Slack, Oxfam America, Policy Innovations, November 21, 2006, 5 p.

A key problem affecting all voluntary CSR initiatives is that they are just that: voluntary, and thus lack any real enforcement mechanism for sanctioning corporations that fail to comply.

“Cracking down on corporate crime,” the Center for Corporate Policy, 13 p.

Eleven specific suggestions for stopping corporate crime.

“A Contract With Corporate America,” by Charlie Cray and Phil Mattera, TomPaine.com, December 20, 2006, 6 p.

Ten specific steps government could take in the U.S. to curb corporate crime and irresponsibility.

Reading Set H3: Trade, Global Economics, Multinational Corporations

58 pages total

“The Three Rounds of Globalization,” by Ashutosh Sheshabalaya, The Globalist, October 19, 2006, 5 p.

A short history of globalization including the the recent rise of India and China — the Third Round of Globalization. big historical picture

“The ABCs of the Global Economy,” by the Dollars and Sense Collective, Dollars & Sense, Issue #228, March-April 2000, 17 p.

A brief introduction to nine global organizations: what they are and why should you care. This is old, but comprehensive and readable.

“Globalization Has Increased the Wealth Gap,” an interview of Joseph Stiglitz by Terrence McNally, AlterNet, January 15, 2007, 11 p.

Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz criticizes globalization.

“A Short History of Neo-Liberalism: Twenty Years of Elite Economics and Emerging Opportunities for Structural Change,” by Susan George, Conference on Economic Sovereignty in a Globalising World, Bangkok, March 24-26, 1999, 17 p.

The common denominator of global trade institutions is their lack of transparency and democratic accountability. Fairly polemical critique of globalization and neo-liberalism.

“Multilateral Trading System: time for a new approach,” a letter signed by 103 non-governmental organizations, June 26, 2006, 7 p.

An open letter criticizing the 2006 round of World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations.

“Fair Trade: for Everyone’s Benefit,” by Lilja Otto, Yes! Magazine, Winter 2006, 1 p.

The fair trade movement has forged direct, stable, democratic trade relations between producers and consumers.

Reading Set H4: Privatization

46 pages total

“The Majesty of the Commons,” review by Jonathan Rowe of Silent Theft by David Bollier, Washington Monthly, April 2002, 12 p.

An overview of privatization.

“The Great Privatization Grab,” by Wayne Ellwood, New Internationalist, Issue 355, April 2003, 11 p.

Argues the worldwide sale of public assets to private interests is larceny on a grand scale.

“Privatization: The Facts,” New Internationalist, Issue 355, April 2003, 3 p.

The last two decades have seen a sea change in the provision of public services around the world.

“Suez’ World Water Wars: The Skirmish at the WTO Over Privatization,” by Deepa Fernandes, CorpWatch, September 9th, 2003, 4 p.

Privatizing municipal water services is a worldwide phenomenon. However, community outcry against the practice is also on the rise.

“The Prison Industry Goes Global,” by Stephen Nathan, Yes! Magazine, Fall 2000, 5 p.

Corporations promote prison privatization around the world and may use the World Trade Organization to open new markets.

“The Political Economy of Intellectual Property,” by Michael Perelman, Monthly Review, Volume 54, Number 8, January 2003, 11 p.

Stronger intellectual property rights will reinforce class differences, undermine science and technology, speed up the corporatization of the university, inundate society in legal disputes, and reduce personal freedoms.

Reading Set H5: Global Economic Conditions

61 pages total

“Africa: The Invisible Continent,” by David Model, Z Magazine, Volume 19, Number 5, May 2006, 4 p.

Missing from the radar screen is the tragic plight of the people of Africa who have suffered the effects of war, poverty, and disease for over 100 years, most of which can be attributed to the empire-building nations of the North.

“Village Women Become their Own Bankers,” by Frances Moore Lappé, Yes! Magazine, 25 p.

The poorest women in the world are coming together in groups of 15 to 25, saving regularly, and teaching each other how to read, write, and keep simple accounts. They’re forming their own village banks, calculating interest, and making small loans to each other to start or expand small businesses.

“Microcredit and Women’s Poverty,” by Susan F. Feiner and Drucilla K. Barker, Dollars & Sense, November/ December 2006, 5 p.

Micro-credit promotes individualism and does not deal with the structural causes of inequality.

“The Most Important Conference You Never Heard About,” by Frank Joyce, AlterNet, February 16, 2007, 9 p.

The recently concluded 7th World Social Forum in Kenya included 66,000 participants, was the most globally representative so far, and detailed a variety of issues that people in the economic South are dealing with.

“US Corporations Work to Prevent Chinese Workers’ Rights,” by Jeremy Brecher and Brendan L. Smith and Tim Costello, AlterNet, October 16, 2006, 3 p.

Corporations like Wal-Mart and Nike aren’t just lobbying Washington against worker’s rights, they’re lobbying Beijing too.

“Latin America Shifts Left: It’s the Economy,” by Mark Weisbrot, AlterNet, January 21, 2006, 8 p.

Bolvia’s Evo Morales is the sixth presidential candidate in the last seven years to win an election while campaigning against economic neoliberalism.

Additional Resources


“Unequal Consequences: Restoring Democracy as the Founders Imagined It,” an excerpt from Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights by Thom Hartmann, 2002, 29 p.

Looks at a variety of ways that corporations take advantage of “personhood” and proposes a local-based strategy for change.

Review by Brad Johnson of We the People: A Call to Take Back America by Thom Hartmann, HopeDance Magazine, 1994, 2 p.

Written as a comic book, We the People looks at the corporate threat to democracy from a historical perspective and provides some remarkable facts and stories.

“Corpocracy…,” Thom Hartmann interviewed on the Paula Gordon Show, 2000, 5 pages plus 6 RealAudio recorded conversations, each about 10 minutes long.

Hartmann would like to return the protection of the U.S. Constitution to “natural people” and eliminate corporate “personhood.”

“The Railroad Barons Are Back — And This Time They’ll Finish the Job,” by Thom Hartmann, Garlic & Grass, Issue 2 (Winter 2002-03), 8 p.

Details the history of corporations acquiring human rights, including three rights from the Bill of Rights that no other association of people has.

“Democracy — Not ‘The Free Market’ — Will Save America’s Middle Class,” by Thom Hartmann, Common-Dreams.org, March 12, 2004, 7 p.

The rules of the game of business are defined by government. Link between economics and governance.


Next Reading Set Collection: I. International Security