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writing for godot

We live in a pop, modern, cool capitalism that, not only is imposed on us by force, but is desired by us its slaves. (Lucas Grisafulli)

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Friday, 31 January 2020 20:19

Human rights: Food for a rigged thought  ‘Capitalism, privatization and HR’


Human Rights Reader 514

About business, high finance and other pursuits of (pretended) happiness. (Susan George)


Let us start with Karl Marx


1. For Marx, the whole capitalist system is inescapably rigged against workers and their rights. Whatever the short-run victories of the trade unions, the capitalist have retained the power and the ultimate control. There are many variants of capitalism, of course, from (ex?)welfarist Scandinavia through Anglo-Saxon laissez-faire to Chinese market statism. Over the last decade, the logic of markets and the workings of capitalism have been intensely questioned and challenged, both from the populist right and the socialist left. (Richard Reeves)


2. Yes, (truly) free markets could deliver fair-enough outcomes, as long as everyone got the education and training they needed, as well as, most importantly, the opportunities that come with it. Not surprisingly, ‘lifelong learning’ became the mantra of all, and the cliched answer from politicians and scholars to the deepening problem of inequality. The necessary investments in education and training were never actually made though. Lifelong learning (and the opportunities that were to come from it) never made it from the-think-tank-policy-briefs and Davos panels to the real lives of real people.


Lifelong learning or wages and workers power?

-Beware: wages do not reflect the productivity of the workers, but their power, or lack of it, to fight for their rights (R. Reeves)

-A worker without power is one with just a light paycheck.


3. It is most useful to think about wages as being determined by a combination of competitive market forces, workers’ bargaining power, and institutions. Lower wages are a reflection of growing powerlessness. (Keep in mind that unions have become almost mythical creatures). Even if workers can get organized, they cannot force a completely indifferent employer to share more of his surplus with them. Simply, because there is a still large reserve army of (lumpen) workers serving to hold wages down. Workers also suffer great indignities, human rights (HR) violations and/or disrespect in the course of their daily working life. For some critics of capitalism, workers lost the power struggle right at the outset. Whatever material gains workers managed to achieve came at the price of a profound loss of their labor and other HR.

Let us continue with a sample of other assorted thinkers

4. Do not the rendered rich already have excess resources and wealth, but they keep accumulating them out of fear of future hard times …and social strife? Let us see:


  • Yes: Access to the state as a source and means for the accumulation of private wealth has become an end in itself among the ruling classes. (Lenin)
  • Yes: Capitalism does now not want welfare states, but at the same time, it knows very well that it cannot survive without them. (Claus Offe)
  • Yes: Corporate mergers are nothing but pure empire building. (John Kenneth Galbraith)
  • Yes: The development of the real economy has nothing to do with the science of economics. Even if the latter is taught as if it where mathematical, economic theories never had so little practical utility. (Karl Popper)
  • Yes: The techno-scientific-economic rationality has in certain recent historical occasions acquired a sinister character. (Franz Fanon)
  • Yes: The rich are also very charitable --they understand that they have to pay ransom for their riches. (George Bernard Shaw)
  • Yes: The economy has become the source for exercising political power. Within the ruling paradigm, social sciences subjects have simply become overwhelmed by the ruler of economic measurements. But economic indicators deny all other dimensions such as the HR, the social and the political dimensions. (Alvaro Munoz F.)
  • Yes: The crony capitalist network includes some in-transparent ostrich economics transactions, a well-oiled financial machine, some aggressive sado-monetarist interventions, some financially sadistic demands and perhaps (only perhaps) a tender-heartedness of Northern elites towards those rendered poor. (anonymous) [Yes: Simple-minded mono-causal reasoning and a good dose of do-goodism makes for a self-affirming picture of the world… (Sanjay Reddy)].
  • Yes: Tourism has too often been assigned a higher priority than agricultural development. (anonymous)
  • Yes: Peasants and blue-collar workers are affected by events of which they have never heard… but we have! (anonymous)


As said, the rich are not only getting richer, but are accumulating more and more power


-Let us never forget: The gap between those rendered rich and those rendered poor can and does wideneven when there is the falsely praised overall economic growth.


5. The powerful not only control wealth; they also control the public policy discussion space --as well as what counts as ‘intellectually and pragmatically correct’. Good ideas coming from elsewhere are never sufficient; they are not believed or enacted, simply because they are …too close to a reality denied. They eventually become the ideas-of-our-time only enacted when they are wielded by those (claim holders) who come to believe in their own power and who use their power to advance their HR. (The New Intellectual)


And then, those rendered rich continue the privatization frenzy


6. Privatization is making its intrusion at all levels in social services as they become attractive businesses. The move is assuming alarming proportions with scant control by public authorities. Governments are literally abdicating their core responsibility-for and duty-to fulfill economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR). Unbridled privatization, driven by business interests is detrimental to the concept of HR being akin to social-services-as-a-public-good. By catering to particular social strata, privatization breeds social segregation and aggravates inequalities and marginalization --of which the rights of women and children from poor households are especially victims.


7. Privatization undermines democratic principles and violates the norms and principles of all HR as laid down in the international HR conventions. Mind you, the right to health and education are not a privilege of the rich and well-to-do, they are a core obligation of States, as well as a moral imperative! The State is both guarantor and regulator of social services and this must be seen as its public duty.


8. Fraudulent practices by private providers and hidden corruption in these sectors remain unscathed due to an almost total lack of financial and other regulations. It is, therefore, of paramount importance to safeguard these rights from the forces of privatization. A comprehensive and sound regulatory framework with a system of sanctions is necessary to ensure that business has no place in a country’s social services system! (Jomo Sundaram)


Privatization works as a dissuasive force allowing governments to devote less resources to fund services considering that private providers are available


9. We all know the public education and public health systems are shrinking due to insufficient (decreasing?) government budgetary allocations. Quality of education and of health care in public institutions is degenerating due to scant resources and inadequacy of necessary infrastructural facilities. Teachers and health personnel are poorly paid and their professions do not remain attractive as they are losing their esteem. Moral and ethical values are on the decline and the materialistic corporate culture driven by business interests and by privatization is on the rise. …and TNCs cater to particular social strata and to their own business interests.* (J. Sundaram)

*: Internationally, it is TNCs that dominate the operations, both as buyers, of the commodities countries rendered poor produce and as suppliers of the inputs they have to import.


10. In this respect, all public interest CSO actors have an important role and responsibility in taking up the cause of the more decisive implementation of economic, social and cultural rights as a binding legal framework with a focus on core HR obligations. Human rights are not a matter of provision of services under contractual arrangements and are not to be subject to payment and market forces; HR ought not to be compromised in arrangements bringing on board multi-stakeholder platforms** in the provision of essential services through spurious public-private partnerships. Period. (Kyshore Sinh)

**: Not to be overlooked: Early promoters of privatization took a step backward, only to take two more forward to, ‘brilliantly’ come up-with and promote public-private partnerships (PPPs)….  (J. Sundaram)


Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City

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-The World Bank has not changed much over the years. Their ‘people first’ perspective seems more linked to the idea of ‘give more advice’ than to give needed funding to those who need it. They continue to use the same old theoretical basis of Human Capacity Theory that emphasizes individual sectoral solutions (education, health…) to solve structural problems. The less-money-and-more-advice approach actually transfers social and structural problems to the individual sphere. (Angela Siqueira). Their ‘pinstriped doctors’ (plus those of the IMF) pass-by the suitcase-carrying members of the capital flight mafia in airports the world over --but they do not greet each other. (Susan George) your social media marketing partner
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