Neoliberal times make referenda essential

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indigo 007 indigo 007's picture
Neoliberal times make referenda essential

Open Letters

Neoliberal times make referenda essential

Where governments recklessly refuse to exercise due diligence and flout democratic values the public must insist on its right to referenda.

 

It has been said that democracy is a fragile egg easily broken and there are those more than willing to break eggs persistently.

Democracy is about process and most importantly the integrity of the process.

You can go through the motions- a democratic pretense-and no democracy really exists.  You can make claims of openness, transparency, being consultative while the outcome is a forgone conclusion. The above three, are aspects of the democratic process but where the integrity of process is subverted democracy simply doesn’t exist.

I have been party to hearings and on committees where we were going through the motions of democracy but we all knew in our heart of hearts the fix was in, that our presence and our efforts were mere window dressing.  There was just the pretense of democracy.

We live in a time when the pretense of democracy is manifest and the shattered eggs make a rather gooey and toxic mess. Such is the case with the ratification of the TPP.  The government tells us the signing is mere formality. We are told over the next two years there will be public consultation and it will be debated in Parliament. 

My experience tells me and the present political culture tells me this is all hogwash. When the TPP arrives back in Parliament two years hence it is going to be jammed through, a slam dunk, a done deal and Canada will be one more huge step closer to a corporate oligarchy.

The present political culture tells me so because these are neoliberal times where the free market economy reigns supreme, corporatism is unfettered and nation states and their sovereignty are being sacrificed.   Governments here and abroad are more than willing to sacrifice their populations to neoliberalism and they have been doing it incrementally for decades-right back to the time of PE Trudeau and before.

Now comes the Grand Slam; the TPP, TTIP and TISA.  As I have stated elsewhere these agreements are “neoliberalism on steroids.”  Existing agreements have gutted the middle class, accelerated inequality and poverty and now we are blindly going that one huge step further. Our social indicators are being slaughtered.

“Neoliberalism” is a word that never crosses politician’s lips, but most pander to it.  It is only marginally part of our political dialogue when it should be front and center. They practice the politics of abdication at ruinous expense to the public good, the integrity of our democracy and our sovereignty.

“Too big to Fail”

In the 2008 Wall Street crash 700 billion dollars was spent bailing out banks that were too big to fail, but fail they did and the American tax payer got to pick up the tab for their freewheeling corruption and incompetence.

The concept of too big to fail also infests the US Congress where massive omnibus bills are jammed through containing the good the bad and the ugly.  Legislators are faced with all or nothing choices. Articles in the bills that deserve rigorous scrutiny receive little or none as they are recklessly passed into law.

The Harper government imported the omnibus bill to our Parliament as a way of jamming through all sorts of odious legislation with little scrutiny. One of his ministers admitted he hadn’t even read the bill he was sponsoring.

In British Columbia, recently, our health minister was caught unaware his senior bureaucrats had signed a 7 million dollar contract with a multi-national for work normally done by volunteers.  So much for the due diligence of the guardians of the public good and the public purse.

Now we have the TPP arriving as a massive omnibus bill and clearly designed as being too big to fail.  It is being misrepresented to us.  It is clearly deleterious to our social fabric as proven by the effects of the NAFTA and other such agreements. It is clearly another corporate power grab- as governments are all too willing to preside over their own redundancy. Where they should be leading, they follow.

 

 Ratification by Stealth and Intimidation

 The two year ratification period was designated by sly foxes used to smashing eggs indiscriminately.

We are told now that signing the TPP is only a formality; but two years from now (and I will put money on it) we are going to be told it has already been signed and final ratification is only a formality-bumped from one formality to another we have a fait accompli.

Two years allows time for the TPP to become entrenched as part of the present predatory neoliberalism capitalism that honest economists are decrying as ruinous. Time buys acceptance and acquiescence and the foxes are well aware of this. It also paves the way for the TTIP and the TISA.

 On the coat tails of ratification by stealth comes ratification by intimidation. Not only are these massive agreements daunting to legislators; they are even more so to the public.   Legislatures require massive time and resources to properly scrutinize trade deals that have been years in the making all behind closed doors. It is very easy for them to be lured into the trap of nothing more than cursory examination.  Governments are expected to follow the pack, sign on, and damn the consequences.

            As for the public, so busy dealing with the taxation and indebtedness imposed by neoliberalism and previous agreements, of necessity, submission be becomes the operative word. 

 

The Essential Binding National Referendum on the TPP

Younger Canadians are not aware of our constitutional wars of the 1980’s centered around the Meech Lake Accord (MLA) and the Charlottetown Accord (CA).  We were a divided country on the verge of balkanization.

In 1987 the Mulroney government introduced the Meech Lake Accord.  It was conceived to get Quebec’s signature on the constitution and to pacify its separatist movement. For the likes of PE Trudeau who came out of retirement to strongly oppose the MLA it was a blueprint for the country’s ruination as it granted Quebec, “distinct society” status and paved the way for its incremental withdrawal from Confederation.

The MLA failed ratification by the provinces. It was then repackaged as the Charlottetown Accord and the government held a binding national referendum in 1992.   Voters repudiated the Accord decisively- a referendum that was a profound exercise in direct democracy.

The TPP is being sold as free trade, as a partnership, and an agreement.  It is in fact none of these.  It is mostly about investor and corporate rights. It is not really a partnership as it is a collection of smaller Pacific economies dominated by the US as the world’s largest economy. In the context of geopolitics it is not really an agreement. Just as the US conscripts it’s NATO “partners” for its endless warfare in the Middle East it is now conscripting Pacific Rim countries in its trade war with China. This is the real essence of what is the TPP. Trade wars, like military wars come with high costs, few benefits and the foot soldiers- the smaller countries- are going to take the biggest hits.

While the TTP is all about conscription it is also constitutional in nature as it will impact on our social, political and economic structures and practices.  In 2016 we face another constitutional crisis as we did in 1992 and it is incumbent on the government to recognize this and call a referendum- sooner than later.  

They are trying to sell the TPP as something other than what it is. They are playing for time as they practice the politics of abdication. Our only response can be to force our agenda on them in the form of a binding nation referendum.

We live in a time when government cannot be trusted to defend the public interest. It is all too willing to yield to the demands corporations make of them. They are too willing to see the public purse pilfered.  This retreat from governance has been ongoing for decades and it must come to an end.

Government must regain our trust.  In the meantime we must practice democracy in its most fundamental and purest form. There must be a binding national referendum on the TPP no later than June 30th 2017. It is up to us to make it happen.   

 Please sign on and Share

http://you.leadnow.ca/p/natref-rjb2

 

Robert Billyard ©

2/10/16

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

How many times to do you intend to post the same thing in different threads?

voice of the damned

Do a google on "California Proposition 13" to find an example of referenda working very much in lockstep with the neoliberal agenda.

mmphosis

I think we needed a real referendum on these so-called trade deals a long time ago.

32% of Canadians support TPP trade deal but many uncertain, poll suggests (cbc.ca)

More Canadians believe the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement will benefit the economy than those who think otherwise, but there is more pessimism about the effect the trade deal will have on employment in local communities, suggests a new poll.

Except for this tidbit from paid members of a selected polling group, TPP seems rarely mentioned in MSM as compared to something like the Gomeshi trial.  TPP seems to be something that the Trudeau Liberals have signed without any consultation with Canadians.  Was signing the TPP their campaign promise in the election? The two corporatist parties continue to operate in lockstep.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Referendums are a fools game where the rich and powerful get to propagandize none stop for months. Then we send people to the polls who have heard almost every main stream pundit support the corporate agenda whatever it may be for the issue in question.

mmphosis

kropotkin1951 wrote:

Referendums are a fools game where the rich and powerful get to propagandize none stop for months. Then we send people to the polls who have heard almost every main stream pundit support the corporate agenda whatever it may be for the issue in question.

I agree that referenda "are a fools game where the rich and powerful get to propagandize none stop for months."

The Canadian federal election of 1988 was held November 21, 1988, to elect members of the Canadian House of Commons of the 34th Parliament of Canada. It was an election largely fought on a single issue: the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

Progressive Conservative: 43.02%

Liberal: 31.92%

NDP:  20.38%

Even with $6 million in pro-FTA ads, just over 50% of Canadian voted for the Liberals and NDP, the two parties that were opposed to the trade deal.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

The election was definitely about Free Trade but not everyone voted based on that issue alone. Some people had already started to call Mulroney, Lying Brian and many Liberal voters merely returned to the fold. The Liberals rebounded in that election after what had been their worst electoral defeat ever.

Webgear

kropotkin1951 wrote:

Referendums are a fools game where the rich and powerful get to propagandize none stop for months. Then we send people to the polls who have heard almost every main stream pundit support the corporate agenda whatever it may be for the issue in question.

What is the correect way to deal with the issue? At least with a referendum the people have a say in the matter. I think we should let the people decide what agenda to follow based on thier own research.

 

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

Quote:
At least with a referendum the people have a say in the matter. I think we should let the people decide what agenda to follow based on thier own research.

Ya, at a certain point it's up to voters to actually vote intelligently.  I'm not suggesting that "intelligently" means voting for the thing, nor voting against the thing.  But if a voter is going to lend their vote to whatever some pundit says (or whatever their friend posted on their Facebook wall) without making any effort to understand what their "X" is supporting then I'm really not sure how we're supposed to fix that for that voter.

Blaming "pundits" for people voting against their own interests, and not the people themselves, is pretty thin soup.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

I know, I know advertising and propaganda does not work. I just don't understand how Madison Avenue ever became a thing and why companies spend billions on products that people would buy anyways. What a waste of money.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..i'd rather have a referendum and loose than not have any at all. elections are not the place to have a serious debate.

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

People forget that Coca-Cola isn't spending their marketing dollars to try to convince a lifelong tap water drinker to drink Coke.  They're just trying to lure away Pepsi drinkers.

It's why you probably don't spend much -- if any -- money on Big Macs, or KFC, despite the dollars they pump into ads.

To be fair, though, I'm old enough to remember the millions spent on those "Just Say No to Drugs" ads, and how they totally stopped people from using drugs.

I'll just say again, if you rush out to cast your vote in solidarity with some "pundit" then you probably deserve what you voted for.

We talk so much about how real democracy means the electorate being engaged with the issues that affect them, but then when the government actually, literally lets the electorate decide, we say "Oh, it was all RIGGED!!   The FIX was IN!!" and we don't take a moment to actually expect the electorate to use that opportunity to choose what they want.

Webgear

No political organization will ever want to give power to the common man, they will lose control of everything.

iyraste1313

Referendums are a fools game where the rich and powerful get to propagandize none stop for months....

...thank you for this...how is it that people can´t see the obvious?

There is no getting away from it....people if they want to live in real democracy and liberty must take to the streets...this of course just one piece of an intricate struggle requiring envisioning, coordination..organization!

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

Quote:
There is no getting away from it....people if they want to live in real democracy and liberty must take to the streets

If they're organized enough and ready enough to "take to the streets" then why not just use their referendum "X" intelligently and save having to paint a sign and march around?

Webgear

Because everyone likes a good parade? 

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

I'm not even slightly sure what you mean there.

I'm just suggesting that if a "pundit" successfully pulls a Jedi Mind Trick on the electorate, then not only will that electorate vote stupidly, they're also unlikely to paint up a sign that challenges the pundit and march through the streets waving it.

Let me put it a different way:  if you can't convince people to give $2 to your cause, it's unlikely that they'll give $20 to your cause.

Webgear

My theory is that political groups across the spectrum are afraid of individual thought, it is easier to control the collective group of people and their thoughts than it is the individual.

 

Edit: Sorry, I quoted by mistake.

 

iyraste1313

If they're organized enough and ready enough to "take to the streets" then why not just use their referendum "X" intelligently...

...I guess what I see as the obvious....doesn´t penetrate........a mass mobilization to the gates of Parliament, say a million....would scare the sh... out of the government...while the other 20 odd million lost in the vapours of their tablets and TV´s saturating the latest messages of their oligarchic controlled media aka Long Live Big Brother will make over to the urns to put another checkmark before their favourite TV sponsored candidate or referenda question...

No its the activists that will determine political direction...and if they stay cloistered in their inner electronic sanctuaries, guaranteed nothing will change and as expected Canada as an existing entity will diasppear!

iyraste1313

Caught On Tape: 800 Angry Farmers Storm Greek Ministry, Beat Cops With Shepherd's Sticks Tyler Durden's picture Submitted by Tyler Durden on 02/12/2016 20:49 -0500

  in Share1  

On Friday, we got confirmation of what everyone already knew: the Greek economy is still mired in recession. GDP contracted 0.6% in Q4 after shrinking 1.4% in Q3.

We also found out that Greek farmers have most assuredly not calmed down since they parked their tractors in the middle of the street blocking traffic late last month.

Why are the farmers mad, you ask? Well, they’re not particularly enamored with the idea of having their social security contributions tripled and their income tax doubled as part of PM Alexis Tsipras’ push to satisfy creditors in Brussels who, six months after the country’s third bailout program was agreed, aren’t satisfied with the pace of fiscal consolidation.

So what do you do when you’re an angry farmer from Crete hell bent on demonstrating just how frustrated you are with a government which just a little over a year ago, swept to power with promises to roll back austerity? You grab your shepherd's crook and some tomatoes and you storm the Agriculture Ministry in Athens.....

.....this is I´m afraid, what it takes....if and when your government refuses to receive your farmer delegation with honour and respect, invite them to deliberations of government policy which effects them...will kill them!

...check out the video! I picked it up from zerohedge

mark_alfred

Mr. Magoo wrote:

People forget that Coca-Cola isn't spending their marketing dollars to try to convince a lifelong tap water drinker to drink Coke.  They're just trying to lure away Pepsi drinkers.

They also spend money on spring water/bottled water ads.  And before that, the focus was on Coke (or pop in general) being a thirst quencher -- superior to water, in that "Coke adds life"!  Coca Cola is less concerned about those who drink Pepsi cola than it is with those who drink tap water.  The idea is to make pop more convenient a choice for quenching thirst than tap water.  So, fight against any returnable bottle system, demean public tap water as dull and unhealthy (water fountains spread germs), create an image of Coca Cola (or pop in general) as special, life giving, and a status symbol (and if spring and/or bottled filtered water will do rather than carbonated sugar water, then go with that).  You can get Coke cans with your name on them, I've heard.  So, I feel the strategy is less to move people from a competitor like Pepsi then it is to establish pop and/or another bottled product as the essential choice over tap water.  Tap water, not Pepsi, is Coca Cola's enemy.

Mr. Magoo wrote:

We talk so much about how real democracy means the electorate being engaged with the issues that affect them, but then when the government actually, literally lets the electorate decide, we say "Oh, it was all RIGGED!!   The FIX was IN!!" and we don't take a moment to actually expect the electorate to use that opportunity to choose what they want.

Maybe.  But I do think you underestimate the power of marketing as used by those with big bucks.

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

Quote:
But I do think you underestimate the power of marketing as used by those with big bucks.

I think that many people overestimate it.

I think that people see a large and successful company like Coca-Cola that they know spends a lot on advertising, and from that assume that their success is a direct result of those ads, that the effectiveness of those ads is directly proportional to the amount spent on them, and that that must be so, otherwise why would they spend the money they do?  And people believe that marketers have secret voodoo psychological tricks that manipulate the human mind without us even knowing it, while at the same time having no good explanation for the thousands of things that we don't buy, despite all of this money and trickery.  For some reason the people most likely to believe that McDonald's brainwashes the masses with behavioural science seem to also be those who never eat there despite it.  And the idea that "that's because we woke up from our sheeple slumber and can see the real truth" is pretty thin soup.

What people don't seem to do is consider how it is that despite an absolutely huge and expensive marketing campaign, "New Coke" sank like a brick.  If advertising money is so all-powerful, how could that happen?  Whatever may or may not have been wrong with New Coke, shouldn't the influx of munnee have guaranteed the win?

What about all the money spent on those ubiquitous "Just Say No" ads?  Why did they have no noticeable effect on drug use whatsoever?  Shouldn't money, and the power of persuasion, have guaranteed success?

I'm not suggesting that marketing is useless, or that companies spend money on it without expecting some sort of return, but I think that it's become a convenient excuse for why something we don't like succeeds, or why something we do like fails.

More to the point, it seems sometimes to take the place of actually looking at what was being marketed, and whether or not people actually liked or wanted it.

To bring this back closer to the thread topic, I don't believe that the electoral referenda in BC or Ontario failed because the "No" side had deep pockets and tricked the electorate.  But that's a much more appealing excuse than "maybe the 'Yes' side failed to make their case" or worse yet "maybe the electorate just isn't as interested in electoral reform as we wish they were".

voice of the damned

^ Or another example from politics, every single daily newspaper in the last Alberta election endorsed the Tories, most of them under direct orders from their owners in Toronto. But the public STILL said "Nah, we've had enough of these guys", and tossed the PCs into THIRD place. And the winning party was pretty much the polar opposite of what the press barons would have wanted.

So, maybe Alberta is just an oasis of critical thinking in an otherwise zombified Canada?

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

If the Tories had won, I'm sure lots of folk would have said "Well OF COURSE they won!  They have the biggest war chest thanks to all  the rich donors, they enjoy free editorial endorsements from the corporate media, and they have an overwhelming atmosphere of neo-Liberalism submliminally campaigning for them 24/7!!"

But when they lose hard, who stops to wonder whether the big war chest, the editorial endorsements and the neo-Liberal status quo are really as influential as they think?  Who ever says "OK, clearly there must be more to it than just these things"?

Levitt and Dubner's Freakonomics pretty much debunked the idea that electoral success was proportional to electoral spending.  Yes, candidates and parties do spend money to get their names and ideas out there, but simply having more to spend isn't enough if you're the "New Coke" on the ballot. 

Wasn't it pointed out during our last election that the Tories have a considerably larger marketing budget than the Liberals and NDP, in addition to stretching out the campaign period so that they could make best use of it as the others' budgets dried up?  Didn't seem to result in a win.

montrealer58 montrealer58's picture

It is the taste which produces consumer loyalty.

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

Was that intended for the French's Ketchup thread?

montrealer58 montrealer58's picture

Everything is commoditized now. Ideologues would like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.