With us all global public goods !

Published on 14 October 2002 - François-Xavier Verschave, Sharon Courtoux

Article published in number 17 (June-July-August 2002) of the Hemispheres review.

Created in July 2000, "Biens publics à l’échelle mondiale" association has the role to promote and relay the citizens’ claims favourable to the construction of a more equitable world.

Our objective is to cross approaches inciting and prospective, militant and scientific, in order to locate the oppositions and the obstacles with the claims of public goods, by unceasingly registering this professional work in the social movement.

Denouncing without slackening it mistook and the neo-colonial crimes, which prolong those of slavery and colonization, I can not be taxed with unconditional henchman of the European values. But this indignation is able to be said only because in Europe there was not only the expression of worst. One of the historical cleavages most decisive in the history of French mentalities was the Dreyfus affair : after several decades, the supporters of Dreyfus carried it accuracy on the anti-supporters of Dreyfus ; those which postulated that the dignity of the French Republic was founded on the truth and justice gained their interminable legal combat against those which preferred the honor of the army or the interests of the Nation. This mobilization in favour of a man condemned because of his "race" and its "religion" was prolonged, via the League of the humans right and other groups similar, in a conspiracy for the universal rights declaration. It gave birth to a Rene Cassin, father of the Declaration of 1948.

Passing from the political rights and goods to the economic and social public goods, one retroactively observes in Europe a two centuries long fight, with rather extraordinary effects. Whereas in 1815 the public goods were limited roughly speaking to the army, the police force, a justice of class, road and harbour infrastructures, they widened gradually with education, health, retirement, vacation, an end of right to housing, etc. It was the result of a social movement complexes, multiform, sometimes cyclothymic (between virulence and depression).

This result, which mobilizes between 40 and 50 % of the national productions (GDP), is disputed much less than it is said and more threatened than it is believed. A very strong majority of the population, including "conservatuve" side, went and would go down in the street when what one can describe as "social rights" are threatened. The unfavourable theorists, to the World Bank, had to revise, at least officially, their hostility with the administration and the public goods. They had to note, after the Program of the United Nations for Development (UNDP), that the countries classified at the head of the human development have all a high level of public goods (at least a third of the GDP). Only point of view economistic, people in good health and educated well is more "efficient" that sick and illiterate people.

But that is much deeper : the economy cannot function any more if everything is for sale. A company is badly in its head and its skin if it becomes unable to indicate its collective goods most invaluable - so invaluable that they must escape at all costs from the marchandisation from the world. Let us observe finally that this conquest (unfinished) of a base of public goods concerns what is called in mathematics a game with positive sum : the production of goods grew much more than the percentage of imposition, individuals didn’t became impoverished, on the contrary, by these interlacings of solidarity. Far from these cruel plays, with null sum, where I can gain only what I take with the other.

However, which could become again a consensual reasoning is doubly undermined. On the one hand, the official theory and the rational speech are completely contradicted by the exponential growth of financial criminality, of the "world without law" of the tax havens - where more than half of the planetary money pass in transit. There is hardly public goods without taxation nor rule. Education and public health in European countries, protection of the legal economy and honest contractors, are possible because the police force and tax officials can inspect defrauders and the swindlers’ bank accounts. But already half of world finance escapes to them... Soon, there will be nothing more but the poor and the stupid to pay the tax, which is likely to be insufficient. Logically, tax havens will destroy tax department of the countries on high level of public goods, after having sheltered the fruits of the Third World’s plundering, dictators’ money, weapons’ traffickers and mercenaries’ companies. Initially impelled by Western secret service and Maffias, the rise of these offshore oil rig paradises of the occult money criminalising banks and multinationals firms, corrupting political communities, thwarting mass medias and legal countervailing powers [1], to sap two centuries of social conquests - by the delocalization and so on.

From where one deduces a second extreme vulnerability of these conquests : with the obviousness, they will thrive only if they find how to universalize themselves. On a worldwide scale, the enormous differentials of wages, law the labour and social protection are impossible, intolerable. The reasons are multiple and known. Let us not underestimate the ethical reason, the first article of this universal Declaration which is at the same time our only code of conduct and our parapet : " human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights...". We have to start with the conquest of health for all, a universal minimum income, generalization of the trade-union right, etc. We have to preserve planetary goods together : climate, drinking water, oceans, biodiversity...

There is what to be filled with enthusiasm, rather than outward journey with move back. What is profiled in this fight for the global public goods, is not a Malthusian redistribution, but a game with positive sum : all the people will gain there, if we play it well. By this play, we will leave neo-colonialist charity too often made by government’s aid for development : rich people and countries won’t be the only ones to help the poors, by their claims of dignity, the poors will reopen a skimped play.

I can not develop here all the meanders, all the surprises of such a play : our memory of the social conquests obtained by our parents could remember nonlinear projections, of a litany of defeats masking crawling progress, of alliances of the economic situation with the established capacities, of repressions, treasons. But if the results are there, it is that the desire of certain public goods finally subverted fates. The founders of the mutual insurance companies, made indignant in the middle of the 19th century by the begging of industrial injured, as well as possible saw like a Utopia the cover universal disease. Its institution in France, at the end of last century, almost did not move anybody, tended who we were by other dissatisfactions. But this slow advance makes us remember collective time : the change of the institutions and mentalities does not arise from the short commercial term. It is necessary to know what we want...

We nedd to have a strategy - not to lose ourselves in the tactics. The terms are a little warlike, but our design of the conquest of the public goods on a worldwide scale is not consensual - thats’ why it is radically different from concepts useful in many forums and conferences. This conquest requires social and political will and perseverance, it will not come from oneself, or the benevolence of the powerful ones. Those are rather carried to the generalized privatization of the goods, with the deregulation. To conquer the public goods, is also to wedge those which get busy to destroy them or to refuse them. Including by taking them with the trap of their double language.

In a history economic, which imports is not "goods" but the "public" qualifier. One will need coalitions and common fights, intercontinental, to impose this qualifier on the most vital goods. One will need also a whole work interculturel to seek compatibility between designs, specific to each culture, of what overhangs the particular interests. Thus will build us to it public property world.


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[1On this criminalisation induced by tax havens, read reference works of Denis Robert, "Révélation$" (with Ernest Backes) and "La boîte noire", Les Arènes, 2001 and 2002. I provided some examples believed in "L’envers de la dette", about political and economic criminality in Congo-Brazza and in Angola, Agone, 2001, and "Noir Chirac", Les Arènes, 2002.

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