What is personal liberty?
You may not realize it, but Washington is asking you that right now … albeit indirectly.
Liberty is the freedom to do what we will with ourselves and our property, constrained only by the injunction not to harm others. Easier said than done.
Most of us realize instinctively that maximum freedom means that when it comes to property, the inevitable compromises we must make in service of “don’t harm others” should be decided in our own communities. Having distant strangers decide the balance between one person’s property rights and another’s simply does not work.
That’s why land use, zoning and so on are generally legislated at the local level, where the experience, intelligence and subjectivity of local minds, with their own “skin in the game,” can be brought to bear. The Golden Rule is strongest face-to-face.
So why then, are our ostensibly liberty-loving politicians determined to hand that cherished right to self-government over to anonymous international corporate bureaucrats?
The Trans-Pacific Partnership
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal would change the rules for investments and trade among its signers. It’s currently in secret negotiation among 12 countries, including the United States, Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico and Singapore. Other countries could join later.
The TPP is widely seen as an attempt to create a new Pacific Basin trade regime before China can do so. For this reason, it’s become President Obama’s chief priority — one where, unusually, he has the support of most Republicans in Washington. Obama is lobbying furiously for “fast-track” authority to finalize the treaty, which would leave our elected representatives unable to amend it once signed.
The lengthy treaty itself is “classified,” and may be viewed only by legislators in person, with no copying or note-taking allowed. Congressmen and senators are forbidden from revealing to their constituents what is in the TPP.
One reason for that may be found in a recently leaked draft of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which gives member-nation investors the right to sue when a decision by a local government “interferes with distinct, reasonable investment-backed expectations.” The Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) tribunals who decide such matters would comprise highly-paid corporate lawyers unaccountable to any electorate or system of legal precedent.
If a foreign investor wins an ISDS suit but the relevant U.S. local government authority refuses to budge, the U.S. federal government must reimburse the investor for the loss of their “reasonable investment-backed expectations.”
For example, let’s say Chinese investors were to buy up land along the Savannah, Georgia riverfront, adjacent to the city’s stateliest old Spanish moss-drenched residential avenues. The Chinese plan to build a massive meat-processing operation that would process flash-frozen chicken for direct loading onto oceangoing refrigerated ships headed for China.
As anyone who has lived near an abattoir can attest, the smell is awful and constant. So would be the heavy truck traffic, noise and riverine pollution. Yet if the good burghers of Savannah were to refuse to issue the requisite permits, the Chinese investors could sue in ISDS tribunals, leaving it to corporate lawyers to decide. The U.S. federal government would have to foot the bill for lost future profits if the Chinese investors win.
Whose side do you think the feds would be on … the foreign investors or Savannah homeowners?
The TPP and Individual Sovereignty
We speak constantly about the meaning of individual sovereignty at The Sovereign Investor Daily. All of us agree that sovereignty is not boundless, and that some government and some rules are essential to enable it. But all of us rightly expect that where home and hearth are concerned, local government is where necessary compromises should be hammered out.
That’s why the TPP is so abominable — and so important to watch as an example of the hidden bipartisanship that is destroying our freedom. As Wall Street iconoclast Lambert Strether puts it,
It’s an issue where the grassroots on left and right can unite. After all, whether you are a big government liberal who admires FDR, or a small government conservative who admires Coolidge, you don’t want the government of your country to be under the sway of an unelected, trans-national entity like the ISDS putative courts.
Exactly. My mantra is that when it comes to protecting your personal sovereignty, you can’t rely on Washington or the two parties. You’ve got to take steps to protect yourself.
With the Trans-Pacific Partnership looming, that might just involve investing in property far outside the U.S. and the reach of unaccountable corporate trade panels … somewhere like this.
Offshore and Asset Protection Editor