The Impending Coronation of King Profit

A new era could be dawning, and the history of capitalism will, thusly, need to undergo revisionism. As a result, there will be joyous celebrations within the canyons of Wall Street. Here’s why: Profit may be crowned a King.

The level of excitement is already registering in consecutive new highs for the Dow Jones Industrial Averages.

Yes, a coronation worthy of Louis XIV of France (1638-1715) “the Sun King,” who successfully increased the influence of the crown by establishing authority over the church and the aristocracy, thereby consolidating absolute monarchy in France.

The upcoming coronation (maybe) of King Profit, therefore, shall be the pinnacle of capitalism for there is no higher level for it to achieve beyond “absolutism.”

Trans-Pacific Partnership

The date for the coronation has not been set, but it could be real soon, especially if Congress grants President Obama “fast-track” authority to approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an agreement amongst 12 major Pacific nations for free trade, which will be very positive for multi-national businesses.

But, the public is onto this charade “in full force,” and TPP may fall (fail) under its own weight.

On a precautionary note, it should be noted that the analysis herein is based, in part, upon leaked secret documents.

Here’s the secretive scoop about the upcoming big news, and anticipated celebrations: Wikileaks released a newly leaked document about the goings-on behind closed doors for the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal.

And, if you believe NAFTA was a bust, wait’ll you see TPP in action

Of course, NAFTA is the free trade agreement between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. Here are the problems it has encountered: Once NAFTA officially crossed the border into Mexico in 1994, all hell broke loose; e.g., ever since then, Mexico’s annual per capita growth is a flat-line, the lowest in the hemisphere. Real wages are down, unemployment is up.

As well, because of heavily subsidized U.S. crops, Mexican crop prices dropped, driving small Mexican farmers off the farm; 20 million Mexicans live in food poverty. Hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) headed for the U.S. border to find “a better life.” Ah, okay.

Enter transnational corporations, setting up shop just across the border, you know, with free trade and all, thanks to NAFTA! Goodbye environmental concerns and hello dirt-cheap wages as unions in the U.S. continue to feel the wrath of a free trade zone “Wage-Two-Step” dance routine, to wit: Transnationals place one foot in Mexico whilst crushing Amerika’s workers with the other. It does wonders for corporate profitability.

TPP is NAFTA on steroids, granting greater privileges to transnational corporations than ever before, fulfilling their wildest dreams. The Wikileaks’ secret document shows how transnationals will henceforth be able to sue governments if a country’s laws or policies get in the way of corporate profits. Yes, transnationals will have carte blanche to do whatever they want, like King Louis redux.

When a nation gets in the way of profits, no problem; transnationals can sue the government for damages to profitability. This is kinda like Louis XIV’s absolutism followed by his great-great grandson Louis XVI, who was beheaded January 21, 1793, and who stripped parlement of powers to obstruct royal decrees and forced taxation on the formerly exempt nobility and clergy, instructing them to “pony up” with fresh funds because North American war debts busted the French treasury.

In a similar vein, TPP strips countries of their powers to obstruct transnational corporations via rules and regulations that may hamper profits or risk getting sued, even for “anticipated/future profits.”

Is there a difference between Kings Louis’ actions and the TPP edict?

Well, in the first instance, one person, a king, holds absolute power. In the second case, many transnational corporations hold absolute, or at the least semi-absolute, power. So, there is a difference because absolute power (or semi-absolute power, if one wishes to describe it as such, so what?) is distributed more broadly in the second instance.

But, there comes a point of contention when even the most downtrodden rise to the occasion and… well… off with their heads, as the late 18th century French guillotine savored kingly blood. TPP seems to be running up against similar resistance all across America w/o the necessity of guillotines.

U.S. TPP Negotiating Team

According to Wikileaks, the U.S. negotiating team is walking away from support of strong environmental safeguards in the talks.

To date, elected officials and the press have been shut out of the secret negotiation process, but if the Wikileaks’ information is correct, climate change issues could be subject to across the board attacks.

According to the Sierra Club, six hundred (600) corporate advisors have access to the negotiating texts for TPP, even though the public and the Congress have been cut out. Is there a scent of plutocracy in the air? Once again, shades of absolutism at work.

Along these lines, 350.org has sent a plea to its membership to help stop TPP by sending notice to Congress to stop giving “fast-track” authority to President Obama, which would allow him to push the agreement through without public debate. According to 350.org, 130 members of Congress, looking in the rear view mirror at the NAFTA disaster, already voiced concern about TPP.

The Environment and TPP

Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, claims, “If the environment chapter is finalized as written in this leaked document, President Obama’s environmental trade record would be worse than George W. Bush’s… This draft chapter falls flat on every single one of our issues— oceans, fish, wildlife, and forest protections— and, in fact, rolls back on the progress made in past free trade pacts.” 1

Taking a deep breath, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative countered: “Stewardship is a core American value, and we will insist on a robust, fully enforceable environment chapter in the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) or we will not come to agreement.” 2

Nevertheless, environmentalists are disconcerted by the failure of the agreement to effectively enforce conditions against random acts of illegal logging, wildlife poaching, overfishing, and the lack of “pretty basic environmental provisions.”3

All of that makes a lot of sense, and it is an understandable position for environmentalists to voice. In fact, it’s remarkable, absolutely remarkable, that the agreement is so flimsy when it comes to environmental basics. Evidently, the leaked document mentions that trade partners should take steps to protect the environment, but “there are many caveats that effectively allow countries to not make these enforceable.”

As such, the wording of the document tells the story: References to the word “shall” are rarely used and often times paired with words like “seek to” or “attempt.” H-m-m.

But, getting back to the provision allowing transnationals to sue if their profits are hampered because of rules or regulations of a country, the Sierra Club’s reading of the document indicates that “Corporations will have the right to sue a government for unlimited cash compensation in private and non-transparent tribunals over any law or regulation that a corporation argues is hurting its expected future profits,” The Trans-Pacific Partnership Could Leave a Big Fracking Mess! Sierra Club. A king’s courtiers could not have stated it any better!

Not only that, but according to the Sierra Club, based upon former free trade agreement provisions, corporations such as Exxon Mobil and Dow Chemical have already filed 500 cases against 95 governments, attacking environmental laws and regulations. So, in point of fact, the TPP “sue anybody provision” has some precedent on its side. This should help prompt Obama’s signature, if “fast-tracking” hits his desk.

But, still, “The TPP would strip our constitutional rights, while offering no gains for the majority of Americans. It’s a win for corporations.” 4  Thus, it’s really as close to plutocratic absolutism as one can get.

Where are the limitations?

TPP Membership:

Member nations to the negotiations of the new free trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, include: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. Eventually, every Pacific Rim nation may be included.

Postscript: Moyers & Company, Interview: Lori Wallach, Global Trade Watch Director, “Trade Expert: Why TPP — ‘NAFTA on Steroids’ — Must Be Stopped” by Joshua Holland, January 9, 2014. Excerpts, as follows:

Shortly after NAFTA, we did a very detailed dig to find all the promises of US producers who made very specific claims before the treaty was signed that ‘if NAFTA passes, we will add X number of jobs.’ So we went and looked at the federal government’s Trade Adjustment Assistance database and we found that company after company — big US manufacturers like Chrysler, GE, Caterpillar — that promised to create specific numbers of US jobs instead were offshoring thousands and thousands of US jobs to Mexico, and then they were bringing the product back into the country and selling it. It was still their US brand name, but made with much lower wages in Mexico.

The trade data are very telling. The year before NAFTA, the United States had a small trade deficit with Canada — about $20 billion dollars — and a slight surplus of $2 billion dollars with Mexico. Now, 20 years later, we have almost a $200 billion dollar trade deficit with those countries. So the surplus with Mexico turned into a huge, huge deficit, as all those companies relocated there to produce goods with lower wages.

Losers: U.S. Workers, U.S. Taxpayers, Workers worldwide, American deficits, and “Buy America”

Winners: Transnational Corporations and Shareholders

  1. Brian Clark Howard, 4 Ways Green Groups Say Trans-Pacific Partnership Will Hurt Environment, National Geographic Daily News, January 17, 2014. []
  2. Ibid – 1 []
  3. Ibid – 2 []
  4. Mark Weisbrot.  The Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty is the complete opposite of ‘free trade’, The Guardian, November 19, 2013 []

Robert Hunziker (MA, economic history, DePaul University) is a freelance writer and environmental journalist whose articles have been translated into foreign languages and appeared in over 50 journals, magazines, and sites worldwide, like Z magazine, European Project on Ocean Acidification, Ecosocialism Canada, Climate Himalaya, Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Comite Valmy, and UK Progressive. He has been interviewed about climate change on Pacifica Radio, KPFK, FM90.7, Indymedia On Air and World View Show/UK. He can be contacted at: rlhunziker@gmail.com. Read other articles by Robert.