Vol. IX, Bulletin No.
October 2, 2004
Questions for Presidential and Congressional Candidates
A Tough Test for Politicians, and Voters
Global concerns are at the heart of an election-year guide
produced by a Catholic society of missioners, Maryknoll, whose priests,
brothers, sisters, and lay people serve in 39 countries throughout the
"We see great danger in a superpower United States that
lacks a commitment to the global common good," the guide states, and
outlines a series of issues to test candidates for the
Presidency and for Congress on their commitment to sound policies.
The guide, titled "2004
U.S. Elections: Impact on peace, social justice and the integrity of
creation," covers issues in 16 specific areas. In one of them, on
corporate accountability, it notes that multinational corporations "are
major players in the global economy (51 of the world's largest
economies are corporations)," and goes on to suggest four specific
corporate accountability that should be posed to this year's candidates
national elective office:
you support an enforceable code of conduct for U.S. corporations, whether they are doing
business in the U.S. or overseas?
• Do you
believe transnational corporations should be bound by international
rights law and subject to sanctions in U.S. courts?
• Do you
support legislation that would require U.S.-based corporations to
publicly on their environmental, human rights and labor rights
• Do you support the “publish what you pay”
campaign, which would require corporations to disclose aggregate
information about tax payments, royalty and license fees and revenue
sharing payments with government and public sector entities?
One overall lament expressed in the eight-page document, produced by
the Maryknoll Office for Global
Concerns, deals with the trend toward centralized of
decision-making: "Around the world we have witnessed the
disastrous impact on local communities of economic decisions made in
distant or disconnected places and see it happening once again as
people in increasingly centralized positions of power shape the global
economy, placing profit and growth before human and ecological
A Painful Personal Reflection on Holocaust
As a physician dedicated to the ethical principles of his profession,
Sherwin B. Nuland always felt certain that if he had been
practicing in Germany during the Third Reich, he would in no way have
cooperated with the Nazi regime in carrying out the Holocaust. That was
his assumption before a recent visit to the U.S. Holocaust
Museum in Washington, D.C. Now he is not so sure.
Nuland calls the Holocaust Museum
"a place to learn, to look within oneself, and to ponder the nature of
our humanity," and he holds that especially true for the
Museum's special exhibition on "Deadly
the Master Race." There his own pondering led him to imagine
himself as someone in the German medical establishment during the 1930s
and 1940s. His
self-examination was not reassuring. It shook him deeply.
"To my startled dismay," he writes in a magazine article, "I found
much of the German medical establishment acted as it did. I realized
that, given the circumstances, I might have done the same."
His explanation takes eight pages of the New Republic's September 13/20
issue. Like the "Deadly Medicine" exhibit, Nuland traces
the dedication of international eugenics movement to improving the
"purity of the human race by
better breeding." It was so successful in Germany that
"who but a few visionaries would see any danger in the promotion of
Better Breeding Goal of Eugenics
Ultimately Led to Nazi Gas Chambers
"It is hardly surprises that National
Socialism in Germany would embrace the concept of eugenics," he
observes, and painfully recounts how Hitler and his regime expanded the
concept step by step toward the Final Solution, the program of "ridding
Germany and eventually Europe of the pestilential disease of Judaism."
Nuland dwells on the shocking truth that his own medical profession
cooperated in Hitler's program of a Judenfrei
Europe. "Physicians again and again participated in ways that
were as murderous as though they had themselves been officers in
Himmler's SS (as in fact so many of them were)," he points out. "Among
[those ways] was the eugenically justified euthanasia program that was
the forerunner of the gas chambers."
How could the medical profession so degrade itself? One reason he
gives is this:
"The German medical establishment was heir to a grand tradition of
accomplishment and international respect. When it took on
eugenics as a worthy goal, it was convinced of the righteousness of its
intent. Even when some of its own members began to voice concerns
about the direction which the research and its application were going,
many authoritative voices drowned out the relatively few
In other words, professional arrogance and a reluctance to question
association or guild," Nuland writes, "was more complicit in the rise
of Nazism and the
desecration committed by its leaders and followers than the
profession of medicine, in the form both of its organizations and its
individual members. This needs to be more widely known, and not
only by today's doctors. In our shame, great lessons are to be
From the imprimatur that medical
science in the United States, the Britain, and Germany gave to
eugenics, and the tragic consequences in Europe, Nuland
draws this lesson: the importance of recognizing that "scientific
enterprise" has limitations. He insists
that scientific findings arise in a setting that is
"Not only that, but its directions and even its conclusions are
influenced by the personal motivations, needs, and strivings of those
who practice it, some of which may not be apparent to these men and
women themselves. The danger in this lies...in the
inability of society and the community of scientists to recognize the
pervading influence of such an unpalatable reality, which flies in the
face of the claims [of detached objectivity] that form the groundwork
for our worship of the
What Would You or I Have Done as a
of Hitler's Germany?
Dr. Nuland teaches surgery and the history of medicine at Yale, and is
the author of How We Die and Doctors: the Biography of Medicine, among
other books. His New Republic article, "The Death of Hippocrates:
When Medicine Turns Evil," is worth reading not only as a reminder of
the Holocaust's horrors but also as a model of self-reflection, useful
for persons in other professions and occupations.
What would I have done had I been a German citizen in Hitler's
time? Think of the millions of Germans who lined his many parade
routes and packed his massive rallies. Would I have joined them,
saluting and cheering?
Today, are there no widely accepted policies crying to be challenged?
Economist on 'Complacencies' of Economists
You can't accuse Paul Samuelson of being anti-trade. In book
after book, article after article, lecture after lecture, this Nobel
Prize-winning economist has defended free trade and its
esoteric foundation, the economic "laws of comparative
advantage." But now Samuelson, the modern-day incarnation of Adam
Smith, David Ricardo, Alfred Marshall, and other great economists, has
joined the fray over globalization and outsourcing by challenging some
prevailing views of his mainstream colleagues, including those making
In a long article currently published in a leading academic journal,
Samuelson, professor of economics at MIT,
reveals his sharp disagreement with what he calls the "oversimple
complacencies about globalization" of economists. He
specifically disputes the following central claim of theirs (as
good jobs may be lost here in the short
run. But still total U.S. net national product must, by the economic laws of comparative
advantage, be raised in the long run [the italics are
Samuelson's]....The gains of
from free trade, properly measured, work out to exceed the losses of
the losers....Some American groups can be hurt by dynamic free
trade. But...the gains of the American winners are big enough to
more than compensate the losers."
That's wrong, according to Samuelson. "It is dead wrong about necessary surplus of winnings over
losings," he writes, and devotes 19 pages of the current issue of the
Economic Perspectives to expose what he calls this "popular polemical
Defenses of Globalization
Oversimplified, Samuelson Says
In an interview published in the September 9 issue of the New York
Times, Samuelson said that he wrote the Journal article to "set
straight" because "the mainstream defenses of globalization were much
too simple a statement of the problem." But, Times Reporter
Steve Lohr asked,
outsourcing reduce costs, delivering a net benefit
to the economy? Not necessarily, Samuelson replied; for example,
able to purchase groceries cheaper at Wal-Mart does not necessarily
make up for the wage losses."
Samuelson's dissent from conventional theory is especially sharp
because at the very start of his article he names the "prominent and
economists" who have entered the outsourcing or globalization debate
claims he denounces as false. Heading his list is Alan
Greenspan, chief of the Federal Reserve Bank, followed by N. Gregory
Mankiw, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisors, and
two noted professors of economics who are also prolific writers on free
Bhagwati of Columbia and Douglas A. Irwin of Dartmouth -- plus "John or
Jane Doe spread widely throughout academia."
After lambasting the belief that "the gains of the American winners
[from free trade] are
big enough to more than compensate the losers," Samuelson touches on
the issue of how fairly the gains from free trade are distributed in
the United States. He explores a scenario in which outsourcing
would harm a much larger share of the U.S. population but improve the
welfare of the winners to the point of justifying that "the winners
could be made to transfer some of their gains and thereby leave no substantial U.S. group net
losers from free trade."
Could Alan Greenspan Be Playing Role
of Marie Antoinette?
He then asks: "Should [people] accept this
as a cogent rebuttal if there
is no evidence that compensating fiscal transfers have been made or
be made? Marie Antoinette said, 'Let them eat cake.' But
history records no transfer of sugar and flour to her peasant subjects.
Even the sage Dr. Greenspan sometimes sounds Antoinette-ish."
In perhaps his most serious charge against his colleagues, Samuelson
that, leaving aside their policy and ethical judgments, "mainstream
trade economists have insufficiently noticed the drastic change in mean
U.S. incomes and in inequalities among different U.S. classes."
In other words, theirs is a failure to live up fully to their basic
responsibilities as scientists.
[outsourcing] is a hot issue now," Samuelson writes, "and in the coming
decade, it will not go away." True. Professor Bhagwati, for
one, will make sure of that.
He and two colleagues have already written an article for the next
issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives. Its
title: "The Muddles over Outsourcing."
Mercantilism Disguised as Free Trade
Meanwhile, in the tight little world occupied by trade negotiators....
At a Washington
ceremony recently, Robert B. Zoellick, the
U.S. trade representative, praised the new trade agreement that he had
just signed as historic because it "will put the U.S. relationship with
Central America on a more
solid mutual foundation, firmly grounded in our shared commitment to
democracy, free markets, free people, and hope." The euphoria was
typical for Zoellick as he charges forward in negotiating bilateral
(country-to-country) and regional free trade agreements outside the
framework of the World Trade Organization, where so far he has run into
a brick wall.
In this case, the agreement is between the United
States and the five Central American countries of Costa
Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. It's called
CAFTA in the acronym-heavy language of trade. Zoellick
expects it to sail through Congress after the November election.
Who could be against democracy, free markets, free people, and
Bishops Ask CAFTA Ratification To Be
Well, some people do look behind labels, and they find much that is
wrong with CAFTA. The
AFL-CIO, like sister unions in Latin America, warns that CAFTA, if
approved by Congress, will make
workers, family farmers, and the environment "more vulnerable while
enriching and empowering corporate elites." But, to
many of CAFTA's supporters, that's
not a minus.
Moreover, in a joint
statement issued in July, the Catholic Bishops of Central America
and the United States called upon Congress and the other five
legislative bodies to defer ratification of CAFTA to allow sufficient
time to have a "broad debate about the content and
impact" of this FTA. The statement found fault specifically with
the agreement's agricultural, labor, environmental, and intellectual
property right provisions (the latter "could jeopardize the right of
Central American countries to exercise proper stewardship of their
natural resources"). The lack of debate in our countries about
CAFTA, the Bishops said,
us deeply, given the obvious imbalance in power and influence that
exists between the United States and the Central American countries and
the impact the agreement will have on our peoples, especially in
Central America. This lack of dialogue and consensus regarding
the treaty is also leading to growing discontent. In Central
America, this could lead to violence and civic unrest, which would
further hinder true democratic reforms and respect for the rule of law."
The most piercing criticism of Zoellick's free trade agreements is that
they are more about old-fashioned mercantilism than about free
trade. In a paper titled "Pitfalls in Asymmetric Negotiations,"
issued in November last year, the Center for Global Development charged
that "in bilateral (and regional) negotiations up to now, the
United States is taking a largely traditional mercantilist
stance...." That stance still dominates U.S. trade policy.
How Lop-Sided Power of U.S. Forces
Countries to Make Large Concessions
How does mercantilism overshadow free trade in the current crop
of U.S. free trade agreements? Kimberly Elliott, author of
he "Pitfalls" report, writes that, thanks its lop-sided power, the U.S.
is able to demand and get "far-reaching concessions in agricultural,
high tech, and services sectors where [the United States] is
competitive" and to resist "concessions where it is not." For
example, "U.S. negotiators are refusing to discuss agricultural
subsidies and anti-dumping, key areas of interest to many developing
Elliott, a research fellow at the Center for Global Development and the
Institute for International Economics, criticizes other key items on
the U.S. trade agenda that respond to U.S. business interests, such as:
Even when criticizing elements of trade policy (see "Fading Faith in 'Free Trade'"), economists
generally do not call them mercantilist. But Don Rodrik,
professor of international politicial economy at Harvard's Kennedy
School of Government, is not shy. In an article in the
March/April 2001 Foreign Policy
magazine, "Trading in Illusions," he wrote that global trade
rules often "lack any economic rationale beyond the mercantilist
interests of a narrow set of powerful groups in advanced industrial
- protecting patents and
copyrights through FTA provisions that are stricter even than the
intellectual property protections enforced by the World Trade
- requiring FTA partners to
eliminate capital market controls "at the same time that the
International Monetary Fund is rethinking the relative costs and
benefits of capital market liberalization."
Holding International Banks Accountable
Four years ago, while on a research trip through southeast Asia, I had
the good fortune to accompany a delegation of five Filipino worker
rights advocates in their visit to the headquarters of the Asian
Development Bank in Manila. It was the first-ever meeting between
Bank staffers and people representing working men and women from the
country in which the ADB has its headquarters. As I wrote in a magazine
article afterwards (see "Global Awakening
I was impressed with how
the delegation was able to score points and to get an agreement on the
need to have a continuing dialogue.
Lest I overburden that article with organizational details, I did not
fully explain the delegation's organizational standing. It
represented the Philippine
branch of the Asian Labor Network on International Financial
Institutions, or ALNI for short, made up of members from trade unions,
non-governmental organizations, and academics brought together by the
AFL-CIO Solidarity Center. The idea inspiring ALNI was this: to
hold powerful inter-governmental financial institutions (IFIs) like the
Asian Development Bank accountable by "engaging" them directly instead
of just lambasting their policies from the outside. In addition
to the Philippines, ALNI had established branches in Indonesia and
Thailand with the same purpose.
Without any news about ALNI in the past four years, I suspected that
like many good ideas, this one probably had died in infancy. But I was
wrong. This infant is still alive and kicking, as another international
financial institution, the World Bank, learned recently in Jakarta.
There the ALNI branch launched a investigation of labor practices
at a large-scale World Bank construction project on the island of Bali,
and found a range of violations that included child labor, gender
discrimination, wages below the legal minimum, and the absence of
legally required accident insurance.
The Solidarity Center reports that the Indonesia study has "paved the
improved workplace conditions in World Bank-funded projects," and
quotes a World Bank spokesman's commitment to observing core labor
standards in its operations in Indonesia. (For more details, see
the Solidarity Center's Website at <http://www.solidaritycenter.org
Human Rights for Workers: Bulletin No. IX-9
October 2, 2004
Robert A. Senser, editor