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Bill Moyers Interviews Benjamin Barber
by Jay Fenello
14 February 2002 18:28 UTC
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>Bill Moyers Interviews Benjamin Barber
>In New York this week, free trade is just one of the subjects on the agenda
>of the world economic forum.
>3,000 of the global elite are here, rubbing shoulders and networking, the
>Vatican of globilization.
>As usual, the protestors are here, too, urging the powers that be to
>remember democracy as they slice up the new world order.
>Benjamin Barber wrote the book on the new world order, called it JIHAD VS.
>September 11. Call him prescient or call him a professor, he's both. And
>he's one of the leading thinkers about democracy.
>Thank you for joining us.
>MOYERS: You are speaking three times at the world economic forum. Does that
>feel you've been invited into the belly of the beast?
>BENJAMIN BARBER: Well, I have been along with 50 religious leaders from
>around the world.
>I'm not sure the corporate leaders have got religion, but they've figured
>out that it's relevant in a way that perhaps before 9/11 they never realized.
>MOYERS: As you make your way to and from the place where the conference is
>being held you're passing through all those protesters. What do they want?
>BARBER: I think the single word that captures what is a diverse group 
>like any groups there are a lot of different folks, and or kifts,
>Socialists, Green, union folks, syndicalists  a lot of different people.
>I think if you needed one word to describe them, the word would have to be
>Where is the democracy of the new world?
>We know where the corporations are.
>We know where the interest of investors are.
>We know where the interest of those who trade in commodities and financial
>capital are.
>Where is democracy?
>MOYERS: I talked to one of the leading activists about a week ago. As he
>was getting ready to come to the conference. He said as they write the
>rules of the new world order we just want to make sure they make the world
>safe for democracy?
>BARBER: In fact, they're making the world less safe for democracy.
>MOYERS: How so?
>BARBER: Because what they are doing is taking it away from sovereign nation
>states which have historically been the guardians and keepers of democracy,
>they're taking away their power to regulate and make the rules and putting
>it into the hands of new international institutions, which institutions
>themselves, however, are far less democratic than the nation- states where
>the rules were originally made.
>In that sense they're not just globalizing the economy, they're
>dedemocratizing the economy at the same time.
>MOYERS: But the underlying assumption of globalization is that capital must
>be free to go where it wants and do what it wishes so that the spreading
>wealth will lift all the votes.
>BARBER: That's the mythology, but of course the reality of capitalism
>historically has been its synergistic interaction with democracy.
>MOYERS: What do you mean?
>BARBER: It has flourished in Britain, France and the United States through
>the 19th and 20th centuries because it's had the tight relationship to the
>series of democratic institutions which have regulated it and prevented it
>from being destroyed by its own contradictions, which has done something on
>its behalf that it does badly.
>Capitalism is great at production, lousy at distribution.
>What this democratic state has done is help redistribute the profits and
>the rewards of capitalism to spread them evenly.
>It's also protected us at the local level from the savage face of
>capitalism because capitalism's productivity can be a savage and brutal thing.
>MOYERS: Do you think it's possible to write the rules of the new world
>order to promote globalization that are fair to corporations and fair to
>the environment, to workers, to democratic institutions.
>BARBER: Sure we can. We've been doing it in the United States for the last
>100 years. It's a contest that goes back and forth.
>Sometimes the corporations get the upper hand the market gets the upper
>hand. That's where the conservatives and the Tories are in power.
>Sometimes regulation in the interest of the people and welfare and social
>safety nets get the upper hand, that's when Roosevelt and the Great Society
>are there.
>We go back and forth. But over time we do it decently. There is no such
>dialectic in the international realm. It's only the corporate interest.
>It's only the banking interest. It's only the interest of the market. The
>voice of the people is silent, is absent.
>MOYERS: You saw that report on Chapter 11. What happens to your hopes for
>democracy when the system appears to so many people, including yours truly,
>to be rigged that way.
>BARBER: There's a kind of a pretense here.
>The pretense is that we have an international privatized market in which
>there are no rules and no regulations. That it's a genuine entrepreneurial
>sector. But that's not true. There are rules. There are regulations.
>Chapter 11 is one set of regulations that in effect protect investors,
>often at the expense of ecology, of safety, for a local population.
>The W.T.O. provision....
>MOYERS: The World Trade Organization.
>BARBER: The World Trade Organization provision on boycotts does the same
>thing. It says if Americans organize, say, to bar Indian rugs made by child
>slave labor in India from coming in here that's an illegal boycott and the
>United States will be penalized if it permits that boycott to interfere
>with the rug trade from India.
>Once again we have international rules but rules that favor and are made by
>corporations' interest not by the democratic peoples around the world who
>have to live with the consequences.
>But starting on September 12, the world changed profoundly not just for you
>and me and the American people and people around the world but for the
>multi-national corporations and multi-national banks because what happened
>on September 11 is that globalization showed its malevolent face.
>It suddenly became apparent to corporations that a world of and anarchic
>markets without democratic regulations without an international criminal
>tribunal was a world in which terrorists could operate even more
>effectively than multi-national corporations.
>That's why this weekend in New York, 50 religious leaders from around the
>world, are meeting with the corporations.
>That's why I think people like me, civic democrats, idealists, were
>invited. I think after September 11, there is a new political realism. And
>the name of that political realism is democracy.
>MOYERS: Ben, Ben, Ben, within 24 hours after the World Trade Center, the
>corporations were in there with bills in Congress that attempted to attach
>to the defense bill.
>Here young Americans were about to be sent in harm's way this far places
>like Afghanistan.
>And these energy corporations were in there with their rented politicians
>in Congress proposing amendments to the defense bill to provide huge
>billion-dollar subsidies to some of America's richest corporations.
>BARBER: In that same week a number of interesting things happened.
>First of all on September 12, not one American, not one politician called
>Bill Gates or Michael Eisner and said help us out of our plight. "What are
>we going to do?"
>A week after the downing of those buildings President Bush and the
>Republicans who had made a fetish of not paying the United Nations' dues
>paid the U.N. dues that the U.S. owed.
>They began to talk in, for them, unusual multi-lateral terms. Colin Powell,
>Secretary Powell, began to say we need a coalition of nations.
>And the first thing these corporations did planning for Davos
>(Switzerland). Said let's move in.
>Davos is where for 27 years these corporate guys have met in a little
>charming alpine resort away from the eye of the media, away from the world
>where they can do their deals and networking and so on.
>They moved it to New York in part as a tribute to New York, in part because
>they needed the attention.
>MOYERS: You're saying the world economic conference came here for the same
>reason that the terrorists came here: because it's conspicuous. It's the
>place to make your point.
>BARBER: It's the very thing they hadn't wanted: transparency. They've
>invited transparency and they've done it also by inviting interlocutors,
>people who talk with them who come from a different segment from those they
>normally invite.
>I would say very simply they are running scared. Wouldn't you?
>One thing we can all agree, terrorism is bad for democracy but it's even
>worse for business.
>Ask business how they fared, ask the economy how they fared, terrorism, the
>very anarchy of globalization which these corporations have welcomed for
>years suddenly showed its dark side, its perverse side, its anti-business 
>Now corporations themselves are asking, we need government cooperation.
>MOYERS: When do you expect the multi-national corporations to go back to
>Congress and say we've been rethinking Chapter 11. We want to democratize
>it we want to ameliorate the effects of Chapter 11.
>BARBER: They won't lift a finger, Bill, to do that.
>But what may happen is if the American people figure out, helped along
>about documentaries by this, that there are rules out there in the new
>global world which privilege the corporations and prejudice the interest of
>the American people and the Mexican people and the Canadian people and
>start to do something about it, the corporations will say, "well, that's
>the cost of doing business in a modern world where terrorists also operate
>in the war on terror, you can say democracy has taken on fundamentalism and
>It's now time for democracy with equal force and equal strength to take on
>global markets, to take on global corporations, to take on the and anarchic
>side of globalization that is economic and not just fundamentalism.
>MOYERS: You're calling for something akin to the Reformation several
>hundred years ago.
>For years now the ruling ideology, the ruling religion of America has been
>free market.
>Its god and profit. Its heaven is the corporate board room. Its hell is
>regulation. Its Bible is THE WALL STREET JOURNAL. Its choir of angels is
>the corporate media.
>You've got a religion in this country of free markets that is established
>in the political culture as well. How do you expect to have a Reformation?
>BARBER: Because we have the great and perverse assistance now of a new
>anti-prophet named Osama bin Laden. We have September 11.
>We have seen suddenly and abruptly the perverse animal and malevolent side
>of globalization, of anarchy of a world without rules of a world in which
>the United States refuses to play ball with the new international criminal
>tribunal which is now not available to deal with terrorists. The
>corporations have seen it too and they are scared.
>President Bush who came in after all as a kind of fraternity boy interested
>primarily in seeing to it that the economic interest that had supported him
>and he had supported would have free reign has suddenly become an apostle
>of strong government.
>Yes in the name of a war on terrorism but many different dimensions of that
>war point back to a relegitimation of our democratic institutions.
>The President in the State of the Union said this is going on, folks. This
>is a long war. This was isn't over.
>He even hinted toward the end of the speech that it was a war that would
>require volunteer citizens doing community service, that would require
>other things than just military actions.
>MOYERS: To beat my favorite dead horse  poor thing  can we do what you're
>talking about unless we break the grip of money on our political system?
>BARBER:No, I would say if there's one thing we first have to do it's to do
>genuine and real campaign finance reform because if the money interests in
>America, the powerful corporate interests in America through money control
>the government that in turn controls the international organization like
>the World Trade Organization, like the International Monetary Fund, like
>the NAFTA treaties and the regulations there, then there's a vicious circle
>because in effect they don't have to buy the international regulations,
>they buy the governments here and let our government buy the international
>regulations on their behalf.
>It's that vicious cycle that I think we now have a potential to break
>because of the events of September 11 and their aftermath.
>MOYERS: What is your answer or your response to Italy's Berlusconi or
>America's Henry Kissinger who say that to pursue democratic values as
>Benjamin Barber is proposing, to pursue democratic values in this kind of
>world is to undermine our true national interest.
>BARBER: Well, people like Sam Huntington and his clash of civilizations
>have argued and Berlusconi Prime Minister, the Conservative, the almost Neo
>Fascist Prime Minister of Italy has argued that the West alone is democratic.
>Islam and the rest of the world is not democratic. This is a clash between
>democracy and Islam. The West and the rest.
>But that goes back to a long ancient quarrel in the democratic tradition.
>There's two kinds of democrats. Democracy for me and mine.
>The Athenians, a few of them were citizens and everybody else were slaves.
>The American founders us white men with property, we're good democratic
>citizens but women, blacks, slaves, non-property owning whites, not good
>And those who have believed in what I believe is the true democratic
>tradition that democracy is the right of every man woman and child to be
>engaged in acts of self-governance, that every living human wants to govern
>his and her own life and wants to participate in the communities of power
>that govern them.
>In other words, democracy is a claim not that I run my life  and I have a
>right to  but that we all have exactly the same right.
>It's a universal claim. That's the claim I'm betting on. It's not just
>idealism. That's the new realism.
>The new realism says whether or not you agree with Barber on this, we will
>not have our democracy unless they find a democracy in Palestinian and
>There are no walls high enough to keep out the perils of a world full of
>injustice and inequality.
>There are no oceans wide enough, no walls high enough to separate us from
>that world. That means that the new inter-dependence which is the essence
>of globalization means we can't have democracy by ourselves.
>We all get it around the world or in time we lose ours.
>MOYERS: Thank you very much, Benjamin Barber for being with us.
>We have to get you back now to the belly of the beast.
>Good luck.
>This message is from the Aligning With Purpose Extra list.
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Jay Fenello, Internet Coaching
http://www.Fenello.com ... 678-585-9765
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http://www.AligningWithPurpose.com ... for a Better World
"The first step is to penetrate the clouds of deceit
and distortion and learn the truth about the world, then
to organize and act to change it.  That's never been
impossible and never been easy." -- Noam Chomsky

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