Commons and World Governance

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• Essay: The Commons and World Governance. Toward a Global Social Contract. Arnaud Blin and Gustavo Marín. Forum for a New World Governance. April 2012 (draft version)



What’s wrong with the state and the market

Arnaud Blin and Gustavo Marín:

“a new set of problems and issues have arisen that have shown the state to be completely powerless as such or to have a negative impact on the evolving situation. Issues related to the environment, to global economic and social justice, to migration, global resources and common goods, to name a few, are in effect proving to be beyond the reach of the state.

For some, where the state is irrelevant or ineffectual, the “market” will solve all. Contrary to the state which is a (political) construction with a fairly clear framework and objectives, the market is essentially a mechanism. In this historic period, however, it is not just a mechanism, the function of which would be to facilitate trade. It is, in essence, a capitalistic market. As such, the only law it obeys is profit and, under the guise of freedom and the purpose of serving the consumer, it generates intense predatory activity that favors the wealthy and powerful and crushes the weak and the poor. Much like government, the capitalistic market has a logical propensity to generate and concentrate power, which is then abused by those who have managed to take hold of it. Much like government, and contrary to the self-serving arguments trumpeted by neoliberalism, the issue is not to give it a blank check but to impose upon it a set of checks and balances. Like the colonial empires of the nineteenth century that sought to colonize new territories to increase their power, the market tends to move toward territories where it will impose its will more easily. This state of affairs has long been a staple of commercial and economic practices, but in a very short span of time, it has taken such a qualitative and quantitative step that the erratic behavior of the market is likely to alter the geopolitical status quo to an unprecedented degree. In the twenty-first century, the market has the disruptive potential, now global, that in the past only a Robespierre, a Napoleon or a Hitler could garner. Oddly for what is just a mechanism, the market has given birth to an ideology that, not illogically, has come to replace both nationalism and communism as the most potent ideology of the age.

Both the liberal democratic model and neoliberal ideology have fostered an ethics of selfishness, the former by exacerbating the individualistic ethos, the latter by removing all barriers to economic riches and promoting their selfish pursuit while branding consumption as the ultimate purpose in life. At the same time, states have pursued policies focused on what is called the “national interest.” The spirit of competition, a byproduct of this ethos and a central part both of democracy (the competition for votes) and the capitalist market (the doctrine of comparative advantage), has undermined the sense of community and its inclination toward cooperation. “

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