How Financial Sector Greed Tramples on Human Rights
"The cause rests mainly in Western culture, which has been degraded by the principles of greed that overwhelm the connective tissue of a civil society. The culture of capitalism has killed human rights. … Solving these problems does not depend on increasingly distorted economic recipes, wherever they may come from, but rather on a new common law - the right of the people."
The shoes of a protester taking part in the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations: Just as during the 1960s, the young - but not only the young - are marching again for fundamental fairness. But this time the focus is more on economic rather than social justice.
Nearly unnoticed, a shocking piece
of news recently passed newspaper front pages. It concerns the recent imposition
of the death penalty against Troy
Davis, a Black man accused of having killed a White policeman more than 20
years ago in the state of Georgia, where racism is a very rooted phenomenon.
There is no material evidence
of his guilt, while there are numerous reports that his confession to murder
was coerced and most of the witnesses have recanted. As Alexander Stille
appropriately reminded us yesterday in La Repubblica, the U.S. Supreme
Court refused to review the case, and without a word from Justice Clarence Thomas,
himself a man of color, who was not by chance nominated by George H.W. Bush.
At this point, one might ask
why, in my opinion, a death sentence in the state of Georgia bears such serious
reflection during this devastating economic crisis. The connection is obvious,
for the incapacity to resolve the crisis is on every side attributable to the
weakness of governments and political institutions. The crisis is therefore
more institutional than structural.
In Europe one can sense the weight
of the political deficit. But in the U.S., in regard to the disaster that
financial capitalism has brought American democracy, one doesn't see it as
clearly, stunned as Americans are by the ideology of a consumer society and a
public opinion that increasingly fuels inequality, substituting the democratic
myth of equality with one of selfish egoism.
The newest Republican
candidate for president, the current governor of Texas, despite having sent 234
people to their deaths, declared - amid wide acclaim - that he "rests easy"
after each execution. It also seems paradoxical that such an ideology is also the
prerogative of the Catholic Church, which publicly feigns reproach of such
principles but maintains the legitimacy of the death penalty in the dictates of
its own catechism, in Article
2267, where it says: “Assuming that the guilty party's identity and
responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the
Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty.”
Following previous decisions
regarding the unconstitutionality of capital punishment, the U.S. Supreme Court
fell into this trap. The Court, after the death of William Rehnquist and
the retirement of Sandra
Day O’Connor, and with the new appointments during the Bush presidency,
clearly underwent a regression in the defense of human rights, such as that
concerning the death sentence.
Posted by WORLDMEETS.US
A striking example of how far
down the U.S. Supreme Court has fallen is last year’s decision on Citizens
United v. Federal Election Commission. Relying on the very first amendment to
the U.S. Constitution - the human right to free of expression - it chose to
protect the freedom of large financial companies to spend unlimited corporate
funds to help elect political candidates. This encourages a dangerous overlap
between business and politics and opens the door to the phenomenon of bribery. Now
he's much more tepid, but back then, President Obama denounced the decision as
a catastrophe for American democracy. And Obama's denunciation followed a much
more violent attack from a leading American philosopher, Ronald Dworkin,
along with many others.
It is the cultural dominance
of the financial economy that has removed the fundamental rights of the citizen
and weakened protections for workers and the lower classes, transferring such
guarantees to consumers and the interests of speculators. But even as economists
dare to continue declaring that America is certainly in a better situation than
Europe, going to far as to cite their Nobel prize winner Gary Becker, who said that the
state has a “moral obligation” to use the death penalty, they may soon come
to realize that the true crisis that led to the dominance of the financial
sector over the real economy and the impact of financial capitalism on
democratic institutions is what has rendered us powerless to resolve our
problems. Fear, insecurity, hard to assert rights, an unbearable gap between
rich and poor and unstoppable economic decline are not only due to a lack of
European leadership, which European Commission Chairman Jacques Delors lashed
out against. Nor are these problems due to the political incapacity of Obama, who
is often oblivious to international law and human rights. Nor can they be
simply attributed to the dictatorship of a shameless parliamentary majority in
The cause rests mainly in
Western culture, which has been degraded by the principles of greed that
overwhelm the connective tissue of a civil society. The culture of capitalism
has killed human rights.
Solving these problems does
not depend on increasingly distorted economic recipes, wherever they may come
from, but rather on a new ius gentium[common law], the right of the
people, the existence of which has already been asserted by the great Gianbattista Vico. It
is this that granted European culture the power to reemerge and reclaim the fundamental
rights of its civilization; it is this that has already been characterized time
and again by the United Nations and it is this that harkens American democracy to
honor the memory of founding fathers Madison and Hamilton in order to guarantee
the independence of democratic institutions and the fundamental rights of
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