Occupy Wall Street through a Global Social Contract


Glen T. Martin


Occupy Wall Street cannot succeed without a global social contract. Our demands must not destroy our solidarity with the disenfranchised people of Earth. Only when truly united with the rest of the Earth’s 99% can we triumph on behalf of civilization and decent human values. For more than two decades now top scholars have clearly revealed the global scope and interdependency of all planetary institutions. It is time we took these facts seriously.

David Korten’s 1995 book When Corporations Rule the World showed the domination of vast concentrations of private wealth over the fragile legal mechanisms of governments worldwide that no longer have the ability to protect their own citizens. Michel Chossudovsky’s 1999 book The Globalization of Poverty showed the immense power of the World Bank and IMF to interfere in the internal affairs of nation-states and engineer their ruin in poverty. James Petras’ and Henry Veltmeyer’s 2005 book Empire with Imperialism: The Globalizing Dynamics of Neo-liberal Capitalism made clear the worldwide scope of the institutions of domination throughout the world. F. William Engdahl’s 2009 book Gods of Money: Wall Street and the Death of the American Century showed the deep colonization of the government of the United States by the power of big money manipulating internal political life and directing a foreign policy of brutal empire in the service of private wealth-accumulation for the ruling class.

As German philosopher Jürgen Habermas makes clear, within our modern framework, governmental authority cannot any longer be justified in terms of traditional religious and metaphysical justifications for the coercive power of government.  Today, governmental authority can only be justified through processes of self-critical rational reflection founded in a democratic framework presupposing the equality of personal freedom, voice, and procedural due processes of law for all citizens.  National governments can be evaluated, therefore, on their degree of legitimacy. They lack legitimacy to the degree that they are colonized by private wealth and institutions protecting the ruling oligarchy from scrutiny and critique. Institutions like the industrial-military complex, vast private corporations posing as “news” outlets, legitimized lobbying by corporate lawyers, campaign contributions, and debt-based financial systems (like that of the US) ensure that government will remain an illegitimate instrument for promoting the interests of the ruling class rather than a functioning democracy. The social contract is broken for all nation-states and cannot be repaired.

The banking interests that colonize the US government are global in scope, the multinational corporations whose interest the US government serves (both internally and in foreign policy) are global in scope. Walmart receives 91% of its goods from Chinese manufacturing.  The industrial-military complex accumulates its multi-billions in profit only through perpetual foreign wars and the militarization of the planet. The delegitimation of the US government (and all other governments) through a global economic and war system corresponds to the delegitimation of all nation-state governments by the multiple global crises, the remedies for which are beyond the scope of any and all nations. If one justification of nation-state government is that it be capable of serving the common security and common good of its citizens, then no government is any longer legitimate.  For global warming, pending climate collapse, diminishing vital resources, the spread of militarization, WMDs, and terrorism, population explosion, spreading planetary poverty, and global financial instability are phenomena beyond the scope of any and all nations. Citizens can no longer be protected at the national level.

Not only is no national government any longer legitimate, but the 1% of the world’s population who own 45% of its wealth are global in scope, and no nation-state can begin to control a force of this immense scope and size. The Wall Street protests claim to represent the 99% against the 1% who own and control nearly everything, but their demands will not and cannot be met by the US government, nor by any other government.  The people of Greece, so much more cohesive and organized than the people of the US, recently brought their entire country to a standstill with a massive general strike making these same demands.  Yet their government could do absolutely nothing to protect the people of Greece, for Greece, like all governments, is part of a global set of economic and quasi-political institutions and is held like an insect in the web of a planetary predatory spider.

The only legitimate government is one that represents the people in their multiplicity and diversity and institutionalizes sufficient economic and political equality that allows people to flourish in freedom, peace, prosperity, and environmental sustainability.  Today, the only legitimate social contract must be global in scope. The US government is utterly incapable of assuming this role, since it (being the most militarily powerful) is the primary focus of the colonization of governments by the world’s dominant elite.  The Wall Street protesters need to be representing the real 99%, not merely the 99% of the 7% of the world’s population that represent the privileged few who are US citizens. We live in a globalized world situation in all the ways described above and national solutions are today clearly impossible.  In the unlikely event that the protestors succeed in wringing some concessions from the ruling class in the form of a new “New Deal,” they will simply have been given a cut in the spoils accumulated by a global system of domination and exploitation.  There is no moral victory whatever in such an arrangement.

As philosopher Mortimer Adler insisted, it is high time that we mean “all” when we say “all.”  If all people have the right to a reasonable economic security (as Article 25 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares) then to cry for economic reform in the US while the rest of humanity struggles in a living economic hell is wrongheaded and unproductive.  If all people have the right to “life, liberty, and security of person” (as Article 3 of the Universal Declaration declares), then we need a planetary system that ensures that.  Reform within the US (1) cannot be successful for the above reasons, and (2) cannot be reasonably separated from the moral demand for justice on behalf of all people everywhere.

The people of Earth (those who are the true 99%) have the right and duty to ratify the Constitution for the Federation of Earth, widely available and widely known since its first public version was signed at Innsbruck, Austria in 1977. The Constitution, available worldwide in 23 languages, establishes the people of Earth as sovereign and subordinates both the rogue, militarized governments of Earth and the rogue economic institutions of Earth to the democratically legislated rule of law – enforceable law legislated in the service of the peace, freedom, prosperity, and environmental sustainability mandated by the Constitution. 

With the global communications and technology at our disposal today, we can “Occupy Wall Street” in a much more powerful and effective way by ratifying the Earth Constitution and instituting the reign of decent constitutional democracy on behalf of all the Earth’s citizens and future generations.  The time is now, the means are available now, and tomorrow will clearly be too late.  The Earth cannot tolerate any longer the moral and environmental outrages of the centuries-old capitalist and nation-state system.  We live in one world, on one planet, with one human race, and one global ecosystem.  The only solution that corresponds to these realities is one non-military, democratic, world constitutional system.


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