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September 26, 2017

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Free your mind of free trade misconceptions

These monopolies prevent competition from passing along cost savings from innovation to the consumer, so that state-privileged corporations can instead enclose it as a source of rent. Patents on dual-purpose technology enable Western TNCs to secure lockdown on the latest generation of production technology and prevent the emergence of indigenous competition in the Third World.

Because of this highly statist system of global "intellectual property" law, the great majority of TNC profits are royalties on copyright or embedded patent rents on the intangible value of physical goods. The most profitable industries in the global economy are either heavily dependent on IP (entertainment and software), heavily subsidized by home governments (armaments and agribusiness), or both (biotech, electronics, pharma).

The global corporate economy, and the "intellectual property" regime at the heart of it, are almost as dependent as was the Soviet nomenklatura's system of power on totalitarian information controls. "Digital Rights Management," anti-circumvention laws, website seizures without due process, ubiquitous surveillance, etc., constitute a level of police statism equivalent to that of the War on Drugs. It's no coincidence that offenders against this information control regime, like the old Samizdat publishers, are known by the state as "pirates."

Then there's the highly profitable category of extractive industries. You don't even want to think about the massive evictions and population clearances, state pre-emption of vacant land, and slave labor that's gone into colonial mining operations around the world.

In agriculture, you've got Washington and World Bank technocrats colluding with local governments and landed oligarchies to enclose formerly peasant-occupied and -cultivated land for cash crop production, using GM seeds with terminator genes from Monsanto and working on contract for Cargill and ADM to raise feed for McCattle — while the peasants formerly feeding themselves on their own land are either driven to working as agricultural day-laborers or starve in the gutters and shantytowns of Nairobi and Calcutta. When supposed political adversaries share common vocabularies and conceptual frameworks, you know something's up. The implication is that "both sides" in our mainstream political narrative, far from being either mutually exclusive or mutually exhaustive, span the ideological spectrum from L-O and share probably 80 percent of their assumptions in common. That's because the "two sides" in the American political system are really two wings of the same establishment — the "right" and "left" boundaries of what's acceptable to our corporate-state ruling elite. Maybe it's time to look at the man behind the curtain.

Kevin Carson is a senior fellow at the Center for a Stateless Society ( and holds the Center's Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory.

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