TiSA And The Threat To Public Banks

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Above Photo: Annette Dubois/Flickr

Why we must stop this global financial Inferno

The Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) is an attack on the future publicness of public banking around the world.

This briefing is about how the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) would be an attack on the future publicness of public banking around the world. Despite 30 years of privatisation, publicly owned banks remain active in most countries and communities. Yet the importance of TiSA to the future of public banks has yet to be raised as a fulcrum of resistance.

Indeed, by privileging a private, profit-oriented vision of financial services over the public good and public provisioning, TiSA will impact public banks’ mandates and capacities to serve the public interest, directly and indirectly, now and in the future. In this way, public banks will be pressured to internalise the interests of a global, private, corporate elite by forcing their activities into increasingly narrow competitive market logics – this being a precursor to eventual bank privatisation.

Again, we do not claim that public banks are perfect, but they do a lot of good. And today many civil society organisations are doing important work to improve and make them more accountable. TiSA will only undermine public banks’ potential. In short, public banks continue to offer viable, desirable, and defendable alternatives to neoliberalism and financialisation, and they are an alternative that needs protecting from TiSA in the public good.

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  • There is a distinct difference between a community that is intent of providing for each and every one of its members and one that is built around a monetary market economy, where the primary goal is to maximize personal return. Privatization is the structural outcome. For example, if I am in the business of making shoes, in a monetary market economy, I will strive to maximize profits by selling more shoes. If I were to design the perfect shoe, that lasts perhaps for generations, my business would soon begin to fail, as fewer and fewer people would be in need of new shoes.

  • There is a distinct difference between a community that seeks to meet the needs of all of its members and a community motivated by a monetary market economy. Within any monetary market economy, the constant motivational incentive is to maximize ones personal return at every opportunity. As a monetary institution, Public Banking fits snugly into this category. The traditional behavioral patterns associated with the use of money necessarily trend towards a set of private interests, varying only in the manner in which we define that “private” community, even if we call it “public”.

    The doublespeak of Orwell fits our culture so well. It seeks to obscure the self centered values at the heart of monetary market economics. It creates a culture of the elite and of the forgotten, a certain recipe for a culture in decline. Like so many of the articles being published here and the emails I receive daily that warn of the dire consequences headed our way, it is ultimately an exercise in futility unless we deepen our approach. Without a profound awakening and deep value shift across society, beginning with the implementation of a set of institutional incentives that promotes the health and well being of not only every person, but of the entire life community of the Earth, humanity will slide inexorably and painfully into oblivion. The monetary market economy that dominates our civilization only motivates what is ultimately self destructive behaviors. We are condemned by the very traditions and institutions that have guided us to this unavoidable time of great transition.

    Beyond all else, what is needed now is awareness activism. Without sufficient awareness of the deep roots of the problems facing us, we have no chance of success. There will be no monetary salvation. Public Banking, UBI, Workplace Democracy are all perhaps necessary steps in the great transition, but if we fail to recognize the ultimate generator of unsustainable human behaviors, all efforts will ultimately fail. I have constant nightmares mixed with the beautiful dreams of how human society might be. The exponential growth of our technical capacities faces the same bifurcation, paradise or oblivion depending on the choices we make in this generation. I am both terrified that Elon Musk will release a non-repentant humanity from our gravitational prison and excited about the possible futures of a humanity that has rediscovered its compassion. Do you remember your dreams? Which path will you choose?