Monday, January 31, 2011

Thousands in Cancun

The December Cancun Kyoto summit on climate change came and went.  Here is an article I found recently at the alternative media site Brasil De Fato with some reporting on civil society activity there.  My translation will follow in steps.

Thousands in Cancun

Social movements act with the schedule of the conference negotiations to engage in a massive mobilization this Tuesday. 

This was the second march organized by the Via Campesina during COP 16 to pressure the UN to take more effective measures in the fight against global warming.  

The social organizations already are referring to "Cancun-hagen," communicating their message that the failure at Copenhagen would be repeated in Mexico.

Besides the large police presence, the march of almost 10 thousand people occurred without any conflicts.  Besides social movements and activists from all around the world, the event included the presence of the Bolivian Ambassador to the U.N., Pablo Solon, and with the representatvie from Paraguay´s government, Miguel Lovero.
The Via Campesina also has initiated in parallel with COP 16 a series of protest events called "Thousands in Cancun."  According to the organization, more than 200 actions in 37 countries have been conducted to protest the nations which refuse to assume commitments towards the reduction of pollutants, while on the other hand, incentivizing agreements which increase still more the market commodification of nature.  
Milhares por Cancún

Os movimentos sociais marcaram a agenda das negociações da conferência ao realizar uma mobilização massiva nesta terça-feira (7) 

 Vinicius Mansur
De Cancún (México)
Texto e fotos

Os movimentos sociais marcaram a agenda das negociações da COP 16 – conferência da ONU sobre mudanças climáticas – ao realizar uma mobilização massiva nas ruas de Cancún, México, nesta terça-feira (7).
Esta foi a segunda marcha organizada pela Via Campesina durante a COP 16 para pressionar a ONU a tomar medidas mais efetivas no combate ao aquecimento global.
As organizações sociais já falam em um “Cancún-hagen”, indicando que o fracasso de Copenhagen irá se repetir no México.
Apesar do alto contingente policial, a marcha de quase 10 mil pessoas transcorreu sem enfrentamentos. Além de movimentos sociais e ativistas de todo o mundo, o ato contou com a presença do embaixador da Bolívia na ONU, Pablo Solón, e com o representante do governo do Paraguai, Miguel Lovero.
A Via Campesina também impulsiona em paralelo à COP 16 uma jornada de lutas chamada de ”Milhares por Cancún”. De acordo com a organização, já foram realizadas mais de 200 ações em 37 países em protesto às nações que se negam a assumir compromissos para redução de poluentes e, por outro lado, incentivam acordos que aumentam ainda mais a mercantilização da natureza.

read the original text here:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Co-operatives and Banks in Bolivarian Venezuela

Hugo Chavez´s successful election, return to power after a coup, and re-election have generated a strong addition of hope for those attending to the details of social justice and the problems of the capitalist wage and industrial system.  The antagonistic position of the socioeconomically privileged and their followers has also obscured many interesting features of Chavez´s government´s accomplishments. has been a great find in my own searches. 

The New Cooperative Movement In Venezuela’s Bolivarian Process

I arrived in Caracas in July 2005 with a few contacts at different cooperatives, anxious about how I would sort through the more than 70,000 cooperatives that the Superintendencia Nacional de Cooperativas (National Superintendence of Cooperatives- SUNACOOP) had referred to in its recent press statements. Indeed, I found cooperatives everywhere. Between one night and the next morning, I stumbled on four cooperatives in some rather unexpected places: a group of artisans in the neighborhood near my hotel, a group of tour guides who entertained children in a nearby park, the cleaning crew of an office building where I went to conduct an interview, even the taxi drivers in front of the hotel where I was staying had left their private employer to form a cooperative.
read the rest here:

Venezuelan National Assembly Passes Law Making Banking a “Public Service”

Barinas, 20th of December, 2010 ( – Venezuela's National Assembly on Friday approved new legislation that defines banking as an industry “of public service,” requiring banks in Venezuela to contribute more to social programs, housing construction efforts, and other social needs while making government intervention easier when banks fail to comply with national priorities.
The Law of Banking Sector Institutions, as it is formally known, is one of a dozen pro-Revolution laws being passed by the current National Assembly before the incoming assembly – and its growing anti-Chavez minority – begins legislating early next year.  

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Co-ops and the Church of Latter Day Saints

 I´ve been very interested to find that the Church of Latter Day Saints, the Mormons, have some involvement with the co-operative model of business.  I see the connection between Christianity and the co-operative model as fundamental, and reflecting the struggle in Christianity between the essence of its teachings of social responsibility and the diversion of many of its denominations´doctrines.  Social responsibility is represented widely in modern times by groups known variously as non-profit groups or civil society organizations, co-operative businesses, have origins in Western society traceable through universities and to Christianity.  St. Dominic started his order of monks in the 12th or 13th Century with the intent to convince heretics of their doctrinal truth and in an attempt to avoid the worst violence of the Inquisitions, for example.  St. Thomas of Aquinas was a Dominican monk who then became the giant of the Greco-Christian synthesis, the organizational principle underlying the modern university system and modern science and technology.  The Quaker Religious Society of Friends are another example that arose in England and influenced early anti-slavery organizing in the first Anti-Slavery Society in England, which influenced the UK´s position at the 1815 Congress of Vienna.

 Excerpts from the Apostolic Circular on the Economy (1875)

Stephen Wellington's picture

Excerpts from the Apostolic Circular on the Economy 1875
The First Presidency
and Council of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-Day Saints

THE EXPERIENCE OF MANKIND has shown that the people of communities and nations among whom wealth is the most equally distributed, enjoy the largest degree of liberty, are the least exposed to tyranny and oppression and suffer the least from luxurious habits which beget vice. Under such a system, carefully maintained there could be no great aggregations of either real or personal property in the hands of a few; especially so while the laws, forbidding the taking of usury or interest for money or property loaned, continued in force. 

see the whole doc at:

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Nuremberg Trial for Speculators is Necessary: An Interview with Jean Ziegler

The Latin American alternative news site ADITAL has many interesting items, and I was inspired to translate this piece with Jean Ziegler, the first time I am hearing of him.  The 
piece is also in honor of my late Dad´s birthday, Marcio Rego-Monteiro, who worked at the U.N. years ago before passing away from cancer.

An international diplomat with the U.N., Ziegler published the work "The Hatred of the West," a criticism of the capitalist system dominated by Europe and the U.S.A.  The reporting is by Guillaume  Fourmont Madrid and was published originally at the site, 12/29/2010. The translation is by Moises Sbardelotto. 
        Let no one be deceived by his very official role as member of the U.N. Consultative Commission on Human Rights.  Behind his university professor´s eyeglasses, the Swiss Jean Ziegler (b. Thoune, 1934) is a revolutionary.  He likes to provoke and raise his voice in ways his diplomatic colleagues do not hear spoken in the corridors of international organizations. 
        For example: "A child which dies of hunger nowadays is a murder victim."  For another: "We are democracies, but we practice a foreign policy fascism."  Ziegler is an advocate who argues in every phrase with numbers or citations of great intellects, such as this cry of pain by the anti-colonialist poet Aime Cesaire: "I live in a holy wound / I live in an obscured desire / I live in a long silence." 
       This wound is spoken of in Ziegler´s last book, The Hatred of the West (Ed. Peninsula), a title which holds the industrialized countries responsible for the ills of the world.  The writer does not lose hope and aspires to a revolution to end the cannibal order of the world."  On the cover of the work, the letter "i" in the word for hatred is drawn as a bomb with a detonator.  Only one second is portrayed as remaining before the bomb will explode.  
The interview follows.  

Is the world really going that badly? 
      Never before in history ha an emperor or king had as much power as that wielded by the oligarchy of financial power currently.  It´s their pockets that decide who livesand who dies.  Twelve billion people could eat, twice the current world population.  However, every five seconds, a child under 10 years of age dies of hunger.  That is murder!

Is that where the hate that you talk about comes from?  Why do they hate us?
     It is necessary to distinguish between two types f hatred.  One, first of all, is pathological, such as as that of Al Qaeda, which murders innocent people with bombs.  However, nothing justifies that violence, nothing!  My book does not deal with that issue.  I am referring to a meditative hatred, which seeks justic and compensation, which calls for tinkering with the structural system of the world that is dominated by capitalism. 

Haven´t we learned anything throug the crisis? 
     Lessons?  It is worse than ever: these speculator bandits who instigated the crisis and the breakdown of the Western system are now attacking products like rice and wheat.  There are thousands more victims now than before.  These speculators need to be put in the spotlight and in the hot seat.  A Nuremberg trial needs to be conducted for them!  

Sir, you work at the U.N.  Don´t you believe in the role of the international community?
      The mere fact that the internatinal community is conscious of world problems is positive.  The Millenium Objectives are not being met, but I´m not a skeptic. 

Don´t you think, at any rate, that the West is only interested in the West and maintain the Third World in poverty intentionally?
     Of course!  However what is needed is not more donations, but to rob less.  In Africa, you can find European products more inexpensive than local products, while people are worked too death. The hypocrisy of the Europeans is barbaric!  We create hunger in Africa, but when the immigrants arrive on our shores in boats we send them away.  To put an end to hunger, there has to be a revolution!

In the West?  Is that possible? 
     Civil society has woken up.  There are movements like ATTAC, Greenpeace, and ohers who make radical critiques of the world order.  In the West, we have democracies, but we practice a foreign policy fascism.  Nonetheless, nothing is impossible in a democracy.  "The revolutionary needs to be able to hear the grass growing." as Karl Marx said.

In your book, sir, you mention that the Bolivia of Evo Morales is an example.
     It is an excellent case.  For the first time in history, the Bolivian people have elected as president one of their own, an indigenous aimara.  Moreover, in six months they expelled the private companies which had been keeping all the benefits of the country´s energy resources.  The government, with these millions in earnings, launch social programs, and Bolivia is now a flourishing, and above all sovereign, State.  Look, I am not ingenuous, but in Bolivia the wounded memory of the people has been converted into a political fight with an insurrectionist identity.

In other words, Morales deserved the Nobel Peace Prize more than Obama did?

       Of course!  Obama´s Nobel was ridiculous; it was a marketing operation.
Didn´t Obama bring any hope with his election?
       To see a black face as the President of the United States on the cover of the major magazines was incredible, mostly because the great grandfather of Obama´s wife was a slave.  However, that was just a symbol. The North American empire is three things: the arms industry, Wall Street, and the Zionist lobby.  Obama knows that to touch any of those three is death.  As such, he won´t do that.  Hope comes from civil society.  If we create a planetary alliance of all the emancipatory movements, from the West to the South, then we will have a world revolution, a revolution capable of ending the cannibalistic order of the world.

10.01.11 - MUNDO

‘É preciso um Nuremberg dos especuladores'. Entrevista com Jean Ziegler

Guillaume Fourmont *

Adital -
Diplomata internacional na ONU, Ziegler publicou o ensaio El odio a Occidente, uma crítica ao sistema capitalista dominado pela Europa e pelos EUA.

A reportagem é de Guillaume Fourmont Madrid, publicada no sítio, 29-12-2010. A tradução é de Moisés Sbardelotto.
Que ninguém se deixe enganar pelo seu cargo muito oficial de membro do Comitê Consultivo do Conselho de Direitos Humanos da ONU. Por trás de seus óculos de professor de universidade, o suíço Jean Ziegler (Thoune, 1934) é um revolucionário. Ele gosta de provocar e gritar o que os seus colegas diplomatas não ousam dizer nem nos corredores das organizações internacionais.
Um exemplo: "Uma criança que morre de fome hoje em dia é um assassinato". Outro: "Somos democracias, mas praticamos um fascismo exterior". Ziegler é um argumento que argumenta cada frase com números ou citações de grandes intelectuais, como esse grito de dor do poeta anticolonialista Aimé Césaire: "Vivo em uma ferida sagrada / Vivo em um querer obscuro / Vivo em um longo silêncio".
Dessa ferida, Ziegler falar em seu último livro, El odio a Occidente (Ed. Península), um título que responsabiliza os países desenvolvidos pelos males do mundo. O escritor não perde a esperança e aspira a uma "revolução para acabar com a ordem canibal do mundo". Na capa do seu ensaio, a letra "i" da palavra ódio é uma bomba com detonador. Resta só um segundo para que ela exploda.
Eis a entrevista.

O mundo vai tão mal assim?
Jamais na história um imperador ou um rei teve tanto poder como o que a oligarquia do poder financeiro possui na atualidade. São as bolsas que decidem quem vive e quem morre. Doze bilhões de pessoas podem comer, o dobro da população mundial. Mas a cada cinco segundos, uma criança menor de 10 anos morre de fome. É um assassinato!
É daí que vem o ódio do qual o senhor falar? Por que nos odeiam?
É preciso distinguir dois tipos de ódio. Um, primeiro, patológico, como o da Al Qaeda, que assassina inocentes com bombas. Mas nada justifica essa violência, nada! E o meu livro não trata disso. Refiro-me a um ódio meditado, que pede justiça e compensação, que chama a romper com o sistema estrutural do mundo, dominado pelo capitalismo.
Não aprendemos nada com a crise?
Lições? É pior ainda: esses bandidos de especuladores que provocaram a crise e a quebra do sistema ocidental atacam agora produtos como o arroz e o trigo. Há milhares de vítimas a mais do que antes. É preciso sentar esses especuladores na cadeira. É preciso realizar um Nuremberg para eles!
O senhor trabalha na ONU. Não acredita no papel da comunidade internacional?
O mero fato de que a comunidade internacional seja consciente dos problemas do mundo é positivo. Os Objetivos do Milênio não se cumpriram, mas não sou uma pessoa cética.
Não acredita, no entanto, que o Ocidente só se interessa pelo Ocidente e que mantém o Terceiro Mundo na pobreza de propósito?
É verdade! Mas não se trata de doar mais, mas sim de roubar menos. Na África, podem-se encontrar produtos europeus mais baratos do que os locais, enquanto que as pessoas se matam trabalhando. A hipocrisia dos europeus é bestial! Nós geramos fome na África, mas quando os imigrantes chegam às nossas costas em balsas os mandamos embora. Para acabar com a fome, é preciso uma revolução!
No Ocidente? Isso é possível?
A sociedade civil se despertou. Há movimentos como Attac, Greanpeace e outros que fazem uma crítica radical da ordem mundial. No Ocidente, temos democracias, mas praticamos um fascismo exterior. Embora não haja nada impossível na democracia. "O revolucionário deve ser capaz de ouvir a grama crescer", disse Karl Marx.
Em seu livro, o senhor fala da Bolívia de Evo Morales como exemplo.
É um caso exemplar. Pela primeira vez na história, o povo boliviano elegeu como presidente um deles, um indígena aimara. E, em seis meses, expulsaram as empresas privadas que ficavam com todos os benefícios das energias do país. O governo pode, com esses milhões ganhados, lançar programas sociais, e a Bolívia é agora um Estado florescente e, principalmente, soberano. Veja, não sou um ingênuo, mas na Bolívia a memória ferida do povo se converteu em uma luta política, em uma insurreição identitária.
Em outros termos, Morales merecia mais o Nobel da Paz do que Obama?
Claro! O Nobel de Obama era ridículo, era una operação de marketing.
Obama não trazia consigo nenhuma esperança?
Ver uma cara negra de presidente dos Estados Unidos na capa de grandes revistas foi incrível, principalmente porque o bisavó da esposa de Obama era um escravo. Mas é só um símbolo. O império norte-americano é três coisas: a indústria armamentícia, Wall Street e o lobby sionista. Obama sabe que se tocar em algum dos três está morto. E não vai fazer isso. A esperança vem da sociedade civil. Se conseguirmos criar uma aliança planetária de todos os movimentos de emancipação, do Ocidente e do Sul, então haverá uma revolução mundial, uma revolução capaz de acabar com a ordem canibal do mundo.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Remembering Mortgage Derivatives in Response to Tucson

The right-wing extremists have been extending beyond the attacks on Obama during the 2008 elections.  The Tucson shooting this passed  Saturday, Jan. 15, shows how the violent attitudes of the right-wing have not taken long to bubble over .  Frankly, the violence of corporate economic activity and influence makes this no surprise to many of us.  See Global Witness´ website as they extend the fine traditions of Amnesty International, Oxfam, Greenpeace, and others to new levels.  However, besides recommending revisiting the great documentaries in the Michael Moore tradition including Bowling for Columbine, I simply want to mention here a series of strong articles about the 2008 mortgage derivatives market crisis which have gotten to little attention and promotion.  The turmoil resulted from the stock market sales of mortgage assets, and resulted shockingly in the September, 2008 bankruptcy of financial giant Lehman Brothers and the sale of Merrill Lynch.  Far from an unforeseeable result of Adam Smith’s so-called “invisible hand,” the collapse shows the results of unsound deregulation of government financial industry legislation established during the 1930´s New Deal hearings and the Glass-Steagall Act.  The influence of financial industry executives on academic theory and political policy creates a triangle of causal agents.  Among a series of political events, three provide an essential and illustrative outline of this triangle of influence.  First, the 1997 harassment of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission by government ideologues.  Second, the 1999 Gramm-Leach-Bliley legislation which then finally repealed the New Deal protections of the Glass-Steagall Act, and third the 2000 Commodity Futures Modernization Act which opened possibilities for abuses of derivatives and mortgages. 
Such policymaking is directly related first to financial influences, and secondarily to supportive justifications by means of economic philosophy.  Politicians received millions from the financial industry throughout the 1990’s.  Yet, one conservative economist explains the crisis without reference to the divergent policies evident and the impacts of the legislation.  Instead, the government´s Federal Reserve Interest rates are identified as the primary cause, and the convenient rationale of mystification stemming from “the inherent difficulty in assessing risk due to the complexity.”  This type of convenient logic does not examine the range of facts and causes and effects. In addition to the influences of ideology and regulatory legislation, the impacts of the private sector on political policy are not unknowable and   can be traced.  Other views relying on markets justify their “brutally Darwinian” ways.  They blame grassroots, “left-wing” advocates like ACORN and legislation like the Community Reinvestment Act which forced the hapless bankers to assist poor and minorities.  IMF staff views reflect a more courageous recognition of  interactions between economic and political regulatory processes, but not the specific efforts of the industry and its academics which created the architecture of financial instability.  A high-level European report leaves out any specific references, but identifies the failure of U.S. derivatives regulation.  The U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) report makes a strongly worded reference to the relevant ideology and its associated practices.  The non-profit Center for Responsive Politics has recently been providing analysis of this dimension during the follow-up investigations. An early panel questioning former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson was examined and found to contain two representatives considered to have received significant funding from the financial industry.  Moreover, the subsequent inquiry commission was found to contain large campaign contributors and those who have ties to Wall St.  Theorists and apologists of various schools often fail to address the cause and effect reality of these kinds of political and economic connections.
Nevertheless, the interactions are captured in the phrase to describe discrepancies between market behavior and theory, “market inefficiencies” one type of which involves inequality among participants in markets, their “asymmetries”.  In the case of the recent mortgage-based derivatives crisis, the derivative instruments were politically deregulated and created by large financial firms, reflecting their asymmetric political influence and volume of business.  Along with the dimension of “disclosure,” since many purchasers like pension funds were not aware of their purchasing derivatives, asymmetry then lead to the most resounding of market inefficiencies, the collapse of the derivates market.  On the other hand, smaller credit unions and community banks, and European cooperative banks were often spared any impacts of the speculative and specious assets.  The 2008 mortgage derivatives market crisis represents a sophisticated and hidden form of violence in its subtle elimination of social responsibility by disguising and converting obligations into false hopes of excess profit.  The widespread impacts of 2008 events can be viewed in combination with insightful works like Louis Uchitelle´s book The Disposable American and Marjorie Kelly´s The Divine Rights of Capital, which provide additional information on the psychological and socioeconomic links between the behavior and beliefs of corporate executives, the Tucson shooting, moreover, along with right-wing extremists and much of society´s violence in general and their origins in socioeconomic inequalities and abuse of power.       
A. R. Sorkin, “Lehman Files for Bankruptcy, Merrill is Sold,”  The New York Times, Sept. 14, 2008; 
W. Greider, “Establishment Disorder,” The Nation, Oct. 29, 2008;  P. S. Goodman, “The Reckoning: Taking a Hard New Look at a Greenspan Legacy,” The New York Times, Oct. 8, 2008; 
F. Partnoy, “Danger in Wall St.´s Shadows,” The New York Times, May 15, 2009;
 D. Leonhardt, “Reconsideration: Washington’s Invisible Hand,” The New York Times, Sept. 26, 2008; 
J. B. Taylor, “How Government Created the Financial Crisis,” The Wall St. Journal, Feb. 9, 2009; 
Editors, “Villain Phil,” NRO: The National Review Online, Sept. 22, 2008,;  
Leach, J. A., “Regulatory Reform: Did Gramm-Leach-Bliley Contribute to Crisis?” Northwestern Financial Review, Oct. 15-31, 2008; 
L. Kodres, “A Crisis of Confidence…and a Lot More,” Finance and Development, 45:2, June, 2008; 
J. de Larosiere et al., Report of the High-Level Group on Financial Supervision in the EU, European Commission, 25 Feb. 2009; 
E. Lipton and S. Sabaton, “The Reckoning: Deregulator Looks Back, Unswayed,” The New York Times, Nov. 16, 2008;      
UNCTAD, The Global Economic Crisis: Systemic Failures and Multilateral Remedies, UNCTAD Secretariat Task Force on Systemic Issues and Economic Cooperation, 2009; 
J. D. McKinnon, “Panel Probing Financial Crisis Has Wall St. Ties,” The Wall St. Journal, July 18, 2009; 
A. Kiersch, “Henry Paulson´s Questioners Are Not Bankers´ Favorites,” The Center for Responsive Politics - July 16, 2009; 
R. Nader, “How Credit Unions Survived the Crash,”, Feb. 23, 2009; 
A. Serwer, “Banks as Heroes,” American Prospect, June 30, 2009; 
P. Capella, “Cooperative Banks Club Together and Thrive in Crisis,”, Oct. 17, 2008;

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The blog "Biopolitical" has concerned itself with ecological economics and caught my attention during the last year.  The blog author´s position is in fact hostile to whole cost economics, and firmly grounded in the assumptions of orthodox neoclassical assumptions.  It appears that he considers the concerns of environmental degradation through economic activity to be unreal.  The reading can be somewhat entertaining since he usually makes expresses his disdain in a fairly offhand manner.  As such, it makes for an interesting exercise in the elements of classic debate.  
       A recent post titled, "How to make people happy via Ecological Economics"
begins as follows, "Monica Guillen-Royo arranged group discussions with a heterogeneous sample of people from a city in Spain and has just published a paper saying that these workshops illustrate how "a given society can unravel its own pathway towards sustainability and wellbeing" (Realising the ‘wellbeing dividend’: An exploratory study using the Human Scale Development approach, in the journal Ecological Economics)."
       His discussion includes this observation, "...So, according to Guillen-Royo, people think that a more modest lifestyle would improve their well-being, keep telling each other - particularly the rich - not to pursue such lifestyle, and keep doing what other people tell them to do instead of what they think they should do...."
  Any subject can be trivialized without supporting material.  Since the subject in question is based on the environmental crisis, it can be helpful to refer to current studies on environmental problems, such as the report produced by scientists through UNEP in 2009, .
   Moreover, since lifestyle concerns and especially "who tells people-particularly the rich-how to behave," is also of interest, an informed observer can easily research the subject of "advertising influence on lifestyle choice" and find a relevant source such as Juliet Schor, an economist who has reoriented her scholarship in terms of sociology, Juliet Schor, .
     An additional dimension can be explored in referring to former consumers of fossil fuel energy who have invested in becoming renewable energy producers, by looking at examples such as these from Germany and the US: Blake, M., “In Germany, Ruddy-Cheeked Farmers Achieve (Green) Energy Independence,” The Christian Science Monitor, Boston, MA, USA, Aug. 21, 2008,

Festa, E.D., “To Go Solar, Start Local,” Washington Post, Sept. 19, 2009
     Some talk isn´t so cheap, but makes for a good drink, worship service, and sustainability workshop that has no problem going green.  Thanks.

      Upon re-reading, I would add that "(people, especially the rich, doing what they themselves think they should do)" doesn´t really address the basic information inherent in the concerns of the journal in question, Ecological Economics, produced by the International Society for Ecological Economics. 

Ecological Economics: Enough is Enough CASSE Report

10. Enough Excess Profits: Rethinking Business
and Production
Alternative Forms of Business Organisation
Not all forms of business organisation have the growth impulse found in profitmaximising
shareholder corporations. There are at least three other types of
business organisation that do not need to pursue growth: co-operatives, foundations,
and low-profit limited liability companies:
Co-operatives: Co-operative organisations are a very old and successful form
of firm. As legal entities, co-operatives pre-date the modern corporation by some
hundred years; they were first formalised as legal entities in 18th century Europe
and North America. The Rochdale Pioneers and Philadelphia Contributorship are
well-known early examples. Co-operatives are built around a common goal that
is beneficial for their members, and are based on equal control of organisational
decisions by all members. In a sense, they resemble a household turned into an
In recent years, co-operatives have seen a renaissance in economic life. In the
UK, John Lewis (a co-operatively owned department store) recovered from the
recession more quickly than many of its rivals,143 and membership of The Cooperative
(the UK’s biggest farmer) is increasing.144 In Germany, there was a
major and favourable overhaul of co-operative law in 2007, which now allows for
limited liability co-operatives. The Mondragon co-operatives in Spain were
established in the mid 1950s. As of 2006 there is even a European Co-operative:
the Societas Cooperativa Europaea (SCE).
Foundations: Foundations are another rather old legal form of organisation. By
definition, a foundation is a non-profit organisation, often with charitable
purposes. Some corporations, such as Robert Bosch in Germany, are owned by
foundations (in this case the Robert Bosch Foundation). Others, such as Mozilla
Corporation, have transferred their patents and copyrights to a foundation (i.e.
the Mozilla Foundation). The engineering and design firm Arup is wholly owned
in trust for the benefit of its employees and their dependents.
Low-profit limited liability companies: A low-profit limited liability company
(L3C) is a rather new form of business that is a hybrid between a non-profit and
for-profit organisation. An L3C runs like a regular business and can be profitable,
but its primary focus is not to make money. Instead, an L3C focuses on
achieving socially beneficial aims with profit-making as a secondary goal. In the
UK, these businesses take the form of Community Interest Companies (CICs). In
Germany there is a similar legal form called “gemeinnützige GmbH” (public
interest Ltd.), and even a “gemeinnützige Kapitalgesellschaft” (public interest
corporation). These legal forms often benefit from lower corporate taxes, or even
no tax at all (in the German case).
To support the transition to a steady state economy, policy makers should
encourage these alternative forms of business by (1) making it simpler to set up (or
change to) these forms, and (2) by taxing excess profits in shareholder corporations....

see the full document at:

from O’Neill, D.W., Dietz, R., Jones, N. (Editors), 2010. Enough is Enough: Ideas for a
sustainable economy in a world of finite resources. The report of the Steady State Economy
Conference. Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy and Economic
Justice for All, Leeds, UK.

From CASSE: The Financial Crisis is the Environmental Crisis

The Center for the Steady State Economy is a nice think tank for ecological economics, and has a great team of contributors, including Herman Daly himself, Brian Czech, Brent Blackwater, and a young scholar named Rob Dietz.  Here´s a selection from a recent piece at their blog: 

January 5, 2011

The Financial Crisis Is the Environmental Crisis

by Eric Zencey

In May of 2009, U.S. federal legislation created the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, charged with investigating the causes of the financial crisis that led to the largest economic downturn since the Great Depression. The Commission’s report is due in January. But don’t get your hopes up; they’re more than likely to get it wrong.
The Commission has held hearings with and gathered testimony from quite a few experts, all of them entrenched within the mainstream of neoclassical economic theory. The experts have named the usual suspects: cyclical swings between greed and fear; feedback effects that “disequilibrate” markets; cheap and “poorly documented” mortgage financing; bank accounting that kept some liabilities “off balance sheet;” the international sale of debt that guaranteed that a collapse in one market in one country would ripple out to affect the world; foreign demand for American debt, which created demand-pull for riskier and riskier American investments; and unworkable hedge funds that appeared to transform sure-to-fail loans into sure-to-pay investments.
It’s likely that all of these played a role. Fixes for most of them ought to be undertaken on their own merits. (Who could be in favor of “poorly documented mortgages” or “off-balance-sheet” investments?) But none of the testimony makes this point: the financial crisis is also the environmental crisis. We won’t solve the former until we start solving the latter.
Two facts about this crisis stand out: the world came to the brink of global economic collapse, and the world is and remains on the brink of ecosystem collapse. The economy is humanity’s primary instrument for interacting with its environment; this suggests that these two facts are somehow related. And yet none of the standard diagnoses come anywhere close to acknowledging that there might be a connection, let alone start to illuminate it. In the standard view, the financial crisis beset an economy that consists solely of humans acting within formalized systems of their own creation —systems that have no connection to a larger world.
And that’s why the standard view won’t succeed in fixing the problem. The spasm of debt repudiation with which the crisis began — the collapse of the sub-prime lending market — is what happens when an infinite-growth economy runs into the limits of a finite world.
That insight comes from the reference frame suggested by Frederick Soddy, as elaborated by Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, Herman Daly, and others. Soddy offered a vision of economics as rooted in physics — the laws of thermodynamics, in particular. An economy is often likened to a machine, though few economists follow the parallel to its logical conclusion: like any machine the economy must draw energy from outside itself. The first and second laws of thermodynamics forbid perpetual motion, schemes in which machines create energy out of nothing or recycle it forever. Soddy criticized the prevailing belief in the economy as a perpetual motion machine, capable of generating infinite wealth....

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      The author´s discussion later suggests a 100% reserve requirement as a preferred sustainable policy for banks.

      I think it´s an idea that makes sense to start with, though providing loans immediately depletes reserves as a natural function of the connection between deposit reserves and loans.  Apparently reserve levels have traditionally been around 10% or so, even for credit unions, allowing 90% of reserves to be loaned.   Based on my agreement with advocates for employee and local ownership like co-operative development services, my assessment is that the longstanding US regulatory policies like the Glass-Steagal Act since the 1930s New Deal with limits on interest rates and lending constraints for financial institutions are soundest.

see, for example: M. Waldman, Who Robbed America? A Citizen’s Guide to the Savings & Loan Scandal, New York, NY: Random House, 1990   
A. R. Sorkin, “Lehman Files for Bankruptcy, Merrill is Sold,”  The New York Times, Sept. 14, 2008;
W. Greider, “Establishment Disorder,” The Nation, Oct. 29, 2008; 
P. S. Goodman, “The Reckoning: Taking a Hard New Look at a Greenspan Legacy,” The New York Times, Oct. 8, 2008; 
F. Partnoy, “Danger in Wall St.´s Shadows,” The New York Times, May 15, 2009; 
D. Leonhardt, “Reconsideration: Washington’s Invisible Hand,” The New York Times, Sept. 26, 2008 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Globalization and The Aarhus Convention

        The 2010 Cancun Conference on the Kyoto Protocol, the practical part of the 1992 Climate Change / Global Warming treaty has become perhaps among the most well-known of international treaties.  Perhaps the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Air Act of the US, along with CITES, the Nuclear Non-proliferation treaty, and the WTO are among some others, not to forget the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ILO conventions on labor rights.  Among the many worthy treaties, environmental, labor, and otherwise, the Aarhus Convention came to my attention for its democratic and social participatory qualities in substance.     
        The Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation, and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters emerged in 1997 and 2001 as an international UN related treaty which correlated democratic principles and environmental responsibility.  In terms of solidarity economics and government policy, the recognition of each and every member of the public in economic democracy forms extends the co-operative, value-based model of business first historically established by working people in Rochdale, England near Manchester.  While the U.S. has fostered some important advances in democratic practices, among its most important has been the UN´s Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which established a new modern standard declared in favor of the participatory principle.  The Aarhus Convention builds significantly on this idea by applying it to environmental concerns.
      An examination of the Aarhus Convention reveals that the treaty originated in the U.N. Economic Commission for Europe’s (UNECE) “Environment for Europe” (E for E) processes begun in 1991, following the Brundtland Commission’s report on Sustainable Development and in anticipation of the 1992 U.N. Rio Conference on Environment and Development.  Stockholm’s Principle 1 against discrimination and Rio Declaration Principle 10 on pluralistic public participation became a definitive foundation for the E for E concerns and programs.  In between these two events and declarations, environmental accidents in Europe first spurred the development of the environmental public participation principle, while the subsequent fall of Eastern Europe and Central Asia’s Communist systems created a broader response to the acute and wide-scale crisis in environmental pollution and transitional political economies for the UNECE and the E for E process.  A series of steps took place as conferences and interim meetings developed concerns, concepts, and consensus, like a Regional Environmental Center and the Sofia Guidelines, until the 1998 UNECE conference in Aarhus, Denmark.1
            The significance of public participation in environmental matters is clarified by a number of historical developments in international environmental law, including European environmental law like the 1990 Directive on Access to Information in Environmental Matters2 and U.S. legal developments like the 1992 founding of the EPA Office of Environmental Justice.3  These in turn reveal the influence of human rights law, as in the U.N.’s Declaration of Human Rights, and subsequent 1960’s conventions on Political and Civil Rights and Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.  Also, important insights can be gained by considering the relations between the U.N.- and non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) such as are clarified by appreciating Article 714 of the U.N. Charter and Article II of the Constitution of UNESCO’s International Union for the Protection of Nature,5 and historical momentum derived from the historical development of environmental associations known as NGO’s.  In addition, NGO efforts contributed significantly to the organizing of events like the 1884 Vienna International Ornithological Congress.  Also importance is the more general historical development of associations and international congresses conveying democratic  and human rights concerns often with religious origins, like the 18th Century anti-slavery societies and the 1815 Congress of Vienna.6  
 UNECE (U.N. Economic Commission for Europe), “History of the Process: From Dobris to Belgrade,”  “Environment for Europe” Process,
2 “Council Directive 90/313/EEC of 7 June 1990 on the Freedom of Access to Information on the Environment.” Official Journal L 158, 23/6/1990, Europa: the European Union.
3 EPA, “Environmental Justice Background,”
4 Russell, Ruth B. and Jeannette E. Muther,  A History of the United Nations Charter: the Role of the United States 1940-1945,  Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, 1958.; 
5 “International Union for the Protection of Nature Constitution,”  Conference for the Establishment of the International Union for the Protection of Nature, NS/UIPN/12, Fontainebleau, FRA, 30 Sept.- 7 Oct. 1948, ttp://;
6 Charnovitz, Steve,  “Two Centuries of Participation: NGO’s and International Governance,”  Michigan Journal of International Law, 18, 1996-97, 183-286.