The Dilution of Democracy

By   /   August 3, 2015  /   18 Comments

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In short, the TPPA is being used as a run around to prevent states having the ability to regulate in the interests of the people against corporate interests.

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Isn’t it great to live in a democracy?!

In the global west – whatever that means – we laud our various forms of government as being democratic.

We pat ourselves on our figurative backs for having a system we claim to be fully representative of our societies. Inclusive decision-making led by an informed body citizenry with representatives driven by the pure reward of public service.

By the people, for the people.

But, such superficial gloss does a disservice to our reality. More and more we see today examples of the true nature of our western systems in denying collective decision-making.

Trickle up politics.

A clear example of this will be the impact of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). Yes, the recent round of talks in Hawaii reached an impasse, but don’t count on the TPPA dying out just yet. There is too much invested in this agreement by the economic elites to let it simply just fall away.

The TPPA is supposed to represent a “free trade” agreement. The inherent problem with “free trade” is that it really isn’t “free”. Traditionally, countries with greater leverage continue to insist on free access to other markets while maintaining a protectionist stance to their own market. The TPPA is no different and the protracted length of negotiations must surely be a testament to this.

Whispers that our dairy farmers will not gain significantly greater access to US or Japanese markets illustrate that this is far from any plain meaning of the term “free trade”. The claimed windfall to our economy may not be so great, especially given the concerns around the lack of diversity in our economy.

But, this agreement is more than just the inequity of “free trade”. Consistent with that theme of inequity, it is also about the further impact it will have on our ability to make our own decisions.

In short, the TPPA is being used as a run around to prevent states having the ability to regulate in the interests of the people against corporate interests.

The TPPA represents hegemony in its pure form. But, it is able to do so without any genuine scrutiny – there is no robust public debate, media analysis is thin and relatively uncritical, while any parliamentary oversight will be on the other side of the Rubicon.

A key component of this oppressive exertion of hegemonic power by the financial elites is that the text of the TPPA remains hidden from view. Well, as I have often heard from one proponent of the TPPA (but in another context), if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear.

Clearly, they have a lot to hide with “transparency” being a term conveniently applied to others.

We already know about the impact the TPPA will have on Pharmac. The pharmaceutical companies want you to pay more for your medicines. They won’t allow governments to set up market mechanisms to produce better prices for consumers, and they sure won’t allow generic substitutes into the market at significantly lower cost.

This is a big problem for us. It is an even bigger problem for other countries also part of the TPPA whose people need access to cheaper medicine. Shouldn’t other countries have the benefit of a similar mechanism to Pharmac?

To me, it is utterly crazy that the pharmaceutical companies are so easily able to achieve the beginning of global regulation geared in their interests through the backdoor like this.

This is not an engaged decision-making process. The pharmaceutical companies, through the political access their financial power guarantees, are gaming the system leading to decisions that are ultimately against the interests of the consumer.

The consumers, meanwhile, have no one fighting in their corner. The fix is in.

Similarly, the investor state dispute resolution system allows corporations to ultimately dictate internal state policy. This is entirely absent any collective decision-making process normally reflected within in a democracy and is singularly only in the interests of corporations.

Traditionally, the financial elite has been against the encroachment of international law into domestic decision-making. From one perspective, this is because that law has primarily been about improving access to individual human rights.

But, more recently, including items such as the ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement with extensions around copyright law), the financial elites have worked out how these multi-lateral agreements can work in their interests. They have worked out how to use these agreements as a backdoor to countries, without having to confront any genuine scrutiny knowing that most countries have very weak parliamentary oversight.

The result? Our democracy is diluted. But, hey, at the end of the day, what is real democracy anyway?

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About the author

Michael Timmins

Michael Timmins is an expert in international human rights law. Specialising in refugee rights, Michael has worked in Egypt, the United States, Australia, Thailand, Pakistan and his home country of New Zealand across roles in advocacy, academia, and government. He is also a member of the Child Poverty Action Group's Management Committee. Michael’s writing covers international human rights, counter-terrorism, international environmental law, rule of law and accountability issues, as well as anything interesting happening in international relations.

18 Comments

  1. Helena says:

    In my opinion 😀

    The American people and the New Zealand people are the TPPA’s victims.
    The word “America” is about as appropriate as the word “cucumber”.

    TPPA : to understand this at the swamp level one has to click on:
    Project New American Century plans for Pacific Area (New Zealand).

    Surprised?

  2. Mike the Lefty says:

    I would like to offer a bold opinion. I’m wondering in the back of my mind whether Key and Groser are actually GLAD that it has turned to custard, at least right now. I think they were feeling pretty uncomfortable about how it was all shaping up for poor little ol’ Nu Ziland but they obviously couldn’t pull out of the deal because it would simultaneously make the Americans cross and make themselves look like prize pillocks. But oh joy! the whole thing fell apart anyway; big secret sigh of relief from Groser and Key: saved by the Canadians! Perhaps they will now pull their heads out of the sand and actually think about what they are doing for the interests of ALL New Zealanders, not just the 1%. On second thoughts, they probably won’t.

  3. Rayince says:

    Yes, the TPPA is driven by the ideology of small government. John Key is an influential member of the Goldman Sachs funded Bilderberg Group which, in a nutshell, aims to secure corporate usurpation of the role of government.

  4. Jay says:

    The modern definition of fascism: the unholy alliance between international and national corporations and government. The people’s concerns and wants are irrelevant.

  5. Blake says:

    Isn’t Democracy pretty much dead anyway?
    The shady corporate elite have bought up most governments and the media and now they want to dictate to all commerce and trading worldwide for their greedy interests.
    Sounds like more like dictatorships all over the show than democracy.

  6. liberty bell says:

    This sounds like some NWO conspiracy shit WTF are these neo cons or neo libs or whatever they call themselves up to and wtf does the CFR have to do with this shit and who the f..k is the Council for Foreign Relations? and what is there purpose?

  7. Murray Simmonds says:

    Souns a bit over the top, i know, but IMO here is the real agenda behind National’s support for the TPPA.

    Forget all the media drivel about dairy being the stumbling block for the present round of negotiations. That is just ‘smokescreen’ stuff. (No trade deal compels other countries to buy stuff they don’t want or need, and right now no one much seems to want or need our dairy produce).

    The Government’s intentions, I believe, are something like this:

    1. Continue borrowing like there’s no tomorrow until NZ finds itself so unmanageably deeply in debt that there is no hope of ever repaying what is owed. (The ‘Greek experience’ of “austerity” sounds familiar?).

    2. Then, at the opportune moment, get the IMF or some similar organization to declare the country bankrupt. The only way out of this debt-fuelled mess, we will be told, is to sell off or privatise our hard-won social institutions. The ‘sell-off’, in advance of all this, has already started of course with the nation’s electricity generators and suppliers (once the proud property of the MED), with the prison service (Cerco), and with education (charter schools) and with the next-head-on-the-block, Solid Energy. These will soon be followed by the privatisation of the nation’s public hospitals, of the NZ Superannuation fund, and of the various social welfare institutions once held so dear by this country.

    3. All this will be facilitated by the ‘secret agenda’ chapters of the TPPA (i.e. the major portion of the agreement, which we all know is not at all about free trade but is about gifting control of the county’s business affairs to offshore multinational corporations).

    4. By then, members of the current government and their business-mates will be well-positioned to suck up the personal profits to be made from the privatisation of our public services. And of course the present members of our government will have to be out of office in order to position themselves alongside the big corporates for the buy-outs of our once-public institutions. (It wouldn’t look good for current government ministers to be seen buying up our once publicly-owned institutions, and anyway, who in their right mind would want to be a part of the subsequent puppet-government of NZ which, by then, will be well and truly under the thumb by the offshore multinationals.)

    This, I believe is what lies behind the Government’s enthusiasm to see the next round of negotiations concluded successfully. (In THEIR favour, that is, not OUR favour. There is nothing in it for us, the ordinary New-Zealanders who aren’t part of the 1%. Most of us will not be in a position to buy up these public assets, even if we wanted to).

    This is how corruption works, folks, and this is the kind of government that we have in NZ at the moment.

    • muribaba says:

      i Dont believe we have had any other kind of Govt ever because we have never had a slave revolution.

    • Blake says:

      Well stated Murray, thanks. Sad but true – and it is only the power of the people to stand up and resist this privatization and corporate greed that dominates our govt. and our media. If we continue to just lie down and accept their insanity, we get what we deserve. But we are powerful and we can speak out and speak up and write letters and send emails and make calls. We need to continue the pressure and the exposure of these psychopaths who are driven by greed.

  8. Helena says:

    Come on Putin – hurry up and put the evidence out there. We all know the game eventually ends well. 😀

  9. Draco T Bastard says:

    Well, at least we know where it all started:

    Jimmy Carter: The U.S. Is an “Oligarchy With Unlimited Political Bribery”

    Former president Jimmy Carter said Tuesday on the nationally syndicated radio show the Thom Hartmann Program that the United States is now an “oligarchy” in which “unlimited political bribery” has created “a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors.” Both Democrats and Republicans, Carter said, “look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves.”

  10. Helena says:

    In a nutshell:
    Philippine Solidarity of Aotearoa
    http://www.converge.org.nz/psna/Kapatiran/KapNo23/Kap23Art/art94.htm

  11. Helena says:

    In a nutshell
    The above link is made by people who know truth.

  12. Dyson says:

    If the facts as alleged in this complaint are true, then the black and Hispanic commissioners of Dallas County clearly violated the Voting Rights Act and acted intentionally to discriminate against white voters to dilute their political power.



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