The Beat G20 Schemes Threaten Democracy, Sustainability

A new international program, established by the G20, to pressure countries with regard to trade surpluses and deficits would further erode democracy at the national level.

The G20 Summit that opens Thursday is unlikely to achieve much when it comes to restructuring the global economic order. That's good news for workers, farmers, consumers and citizens.

What's good about inaction on the part of the leaders of the world's wealthiest nations? While there is no question that a radical restructuring is needed, it must be the right restructuring.

In the midst of the nastiest economic downturn since the Great Depression, and with so many unaddressed social and environmental challenges weighing on the planet, the necessity of finding new ways of organizing and managing the economic affairs of nation states and global trading and regulatory regimes should be evident to even the most nearsighted neo-liberals.

But multinational bankers and corporatists that contributed so mightily to the current crisis are busy peddling more-of-the-same "solutions" that could actually make matters worse. For instance, one of the great debates going into this week's meeting of leaders from wealthy nations such as the U.S., China, Germany, Japan and Great Britain has been over how to develop an international framework for what the powers that be define as "sustainable development."

The thing to remember is that, in the world of the global economic elites, "sustainable" has a different meaning than in does at a Friends of the Earth rally or the local farmers' market.

The high fliers at the G-20 want to manage international trade and competition in a manner that keeps banks and corporations on steady growth trajectories – no matter what that means for working families, small farmers and the poor of the planet. In other words, they're talking about sustaining status-quo economics.

One of the prime debates going into the summit had to do with a plan to set up a new system to manage trade between countries that would have what the Financial Times describes as "a powerful enforcement mechanism… to fine or punish countries that built up the sort of large trade surpluses or deficits that contributed to global trade imbalances."


John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent.
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