“Fight corporate power and greed!”
Thus runs the refrain of the perpetual‐protest set. From Seattle toWashington, D.C., from Prague to Davos, and soon in Quebec, street-bound“carnivals against capitalism” have become a political lollapalooza that nodeeply caring, shallow‐thinking young person can afford to miss. If you aren’t protesting, you aren’t cool.
Well, for you politicians and journalists out there, I have an announcement:I’m in my ‘20s and I like global capitalism. And here’s some more news: Mostpeople my age agree with me.
Yet you won’t hear much about my views at this weekend’s Summit of theAmericas in Quebec. Instead, you’ll see members of my generation trumpetingtheir passionate concern for the environment, the world’s poor, MumiaAbu‐Jamal, organic farming and a laundry list of other causes.
Honestly, I’m not sure what planet these kids are living on. They look atthe world and see only exploitation and repression, as if such evils werethe bane of multinational corporations and not the norm throughout history.
In contrast, I see a flowing of human liberty and material prosperity. I seethe move toward economic freedom that has swept through the Communist anddeveloping worlds over the past decades for what it is: a recognition on thepart of national leaders that their state‐dominated systems havefailed—failed in absolute terms as billions of people remained mired ingrinding poverty, and failed in relative terms by comparison with theprosperous West and the relatively open and thriving Pacific Rim. Free tradehas not been imposed from the top down; it has emerged from the bottom up.
Trade is also a matter of freedom here at home; the freedom to spend yourown money on whatever you wish, regardless of the skin color or language ofthe person you decide to buy from; the freedom to invest your savings whereyou choose, even if that choice is on the other side of the planet. We haveno more right to tell our fellow citizens what brand of clothing or car theymust buy any more than we have the right to tell them what they can say orthink.
Free trade has been good for both workers and the environment. By promotingeconomic growth, it enables less‐developed countries to afford higherenvironmental standards and helps create an educated middle class to supportthem. A similar story exists with wages and labor conditions, which areimproving in those places where globalization has taken hold.
The institutions that govern trade, like the Free Trade Area of the Americasto be discussed in Quebec, are no threat to sovereignty or democracy. Suchagreements are nothing but contractual arrangements between sovereignnations to mediate trade disputes according to rules agreed upon byconsensus. And despite the talk of “secret” negotiations, the Summit of theAmericas is more democratic than the people it drives to apoplexy. Afterall, the negotiators at Quebec represent elected governments from throughoutthe hemisphere. Who elected the purple‐haired sign‐waver on the street inthe black mask? The disruption and damage left in the wake of these protestsare more akin to mob rule than democracy.
Puppet‐bearing students in Quebec will speak of a “global corporate coup d’etat.” But let me let you in on a little secret: Most young people don’thate corporations. In fact, many of us either work in one, know someone whodoes, or even own stock in one. Corporations are nothing more than voluntaryassociations of people who are trying to achieve some common business goal.So the “evil, sinister, greedy corporation” mantra doesn’t jibe with ourlife experiences. It’s propaganda, and we know it.
Hurtling oneself against a police barricade in protest of free trade may befun. But it’s hardly a brave act for spoiled children of affluence–thoughask any protester and you’ll inevitably hear a tale of “hardship” (I had towork and go to school!)–to rail against the instruments of their ownprosperity. Doubtless many of the Quebec marchers will be concerned for theworld’s poor. Yet through their opposition to open markets they makethemselves the enemies of the poor.
Hey kids, want to help make the world a better place? Then grow up: Start abusiness or get a job. Want to help the poor? Hire them. “Corporate greed”has helped far more people than big puppets ever will.