'We should rebel against the world trade regime': Roberto Unger
Roberto Mangabeira Unger is a Brazilian social theorist, professor of law at Harvard Law School, and until recently the appointed 'Minister of Ideas' by Brazilian president Luis Inácio Lula da Silva in his second term. As head of the Long-term Planning Secretariat, Unger's responsibilities included long-term strategising for Brazilian economy, the reshaping of institutions to abet the flow of knowledge, and the (uneviable) task of defining an economically AND ecologically responsible plan for development in the Amazon rainforest. Unger has been a profound influence on me with his insistence on no-nonsense institutional analysis and encouragement of both practical and radically innovative thinking on how our present constellation of institutional 'realities' can be disentangled, subjected to critical scrutiny and then re-arranged to turn "imagination into the possible”, as he says. At the recent 'Towards a Global New Deal' conference held by the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) in Ontario, Canada, Unger was asked in an interview what a 'global new deal' would encompass. Unger replied as follows: "A global new deal passes through a radial reshaping of the international political and economical arrangements that developed in the second half of the twentieth century. The arrangements that were created in the aftermath of the second world war have tended to impose on the whole world, a narrowing funnel of institutions and practices. They want to force humanity to follow a particular path in the name of economic openness and political security and the consequence is that the enemies of the formula that is imposed then become unnecessarily enemies of the political security and of the economic openness. This is very clear in the field of the world trade regime. The First basic principal of the regime established is to treat free trade as the goal to be maximized. Free trade is not an end it is just a means. The goal ought to be the maximum co-existence of alternative strategies of development and alternative experiences of civilization within a world economy that gradually becomes more open. The second principal of the present trade regime, is that all countries need to follow a particular variant of the market economy. So its a kind of institutional maximalism; as opposed to the institutional minimalism the characterized the earlier regime of the GATT. What we should want is the maximum of economic openness, with the minimum of intuitional restriction. One example is the tendency to outlaw under the label subsidies all the forms of strategic coordination between governments and firms that the countries now rich, used to become rich; but want to deny to the late comers, and a second example is the desire to incorporate into the rules of free trade the present intellectual property regime which would leave the major technological innovations of interests to humanity in the hands of small number of multinational businesses. The third principal of the present regime is the radical contrast it establishes between freedom for things and for money and denial of freedom to people. People are to be locked up in the nations state. We should rebel against all these three principals and that rebellion is an example of the larger project of establishing a world political and economic order, hospitable to a pluralism of vision and of power. Thats what humanity wants it to lift up the capabilities and the experience of the ordinary man and women and not to have imposed on it a formula by the great powers. We dont want a Congress of Vienna, we dont want Prince Metternich. We want democratic experimentalism to the hilt."