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Gaveling Down the Rabble: How "Free Trade" Is Stealing Our Democracy
by Jane Anne Morris

AVAILABILITY: Readily available

Publication Date: June 2008
Publisher: Apex Press
Binding: Trade Paper

Description: In Gaveling Down the Rabble, author/activist Jane Anne Morris explores a century and a half of efforts by corporations and the courts to undermine local democracy in the United States by using a "free trade" model. It was that very 19th century model that was later adopted globally by corporations to subvert local attempts at protecting the environment and citizen and worker health.

Gaveling Down the Rabble is essential reading for understanding the background of the current struggle for U.S. democracy - local, state and national - against growing corporate power and how we can challenge it.

Since the late 1800s the U.S. Supreme Court has been cutting our local, state and national democracy off at the knees - in the name of "free trade" - by usurping the power to make public policy from our elected representatives in the Congress and the state legislatures and by giving power to corporations over citizens.

By erecting a "free trade" zone in the U.S., corporations and their champions on the Supreme Court have seen to it that "we do not have a chance of building a democracy." Morris looks at what substantive democracy should look like, and how far from that ideal the Supreme Court - without consent of Congress - has moved us.

As presidential candidates are deploring the loss of American jobs from the global trade agreements that were supposed to bring us new prosperity, a public debate is finally opening about the consequences of the last decade of global corporatization. In contrast, we do not debate the internal "free trade" at home that is hidden from view.

This urgent new book reveals one hidden source of the corporate power that has been steadily crushing our self governance: namely, the U.S. Commerce Clause in the U.S. Constitution, implemented by nine unelected Presidential appointees.

Most significant: Morris shows how environmental, labor and civil-rights cases using Commerce Clause arguments, rather than Constitutional Rights arguments, have distorted citizens' rights by defining them in terms of their value to commerce. But just as alarming is how tenuous the major legislation protecting our democratic rights becomes when based on the Commerce Clause and not grounded in legal rights.

Morris also shows how the courts have ruled time and again against local attempts to control large corporations. From efforts to protect public health in the face of slaughterhouse abuses in the nineteenth century to attempts at regulating wages and hours of migrant workers in the present, the Commerce Clause has been used in favor of corporate interests.

Gaveling Down the Rabble describes the development of this national "free trade" zone through Supreme Court decisions over many decades The idea that we live in a "free trade" zone is a commonplace among legal historians. "Supreme Court Justices have been intoning it like a mantra for over a century," Morris writes.

She makes the case that the U.S. Supreme Court has subverted our representative government through narrow rulings based on the U.S. Constitution's Commerce Clause - creating a hidden domestic "free trade" zone as undemocratic as the global "free trade" zone. Using this clause, the Court has incrementally built a large - and growing - body of law favoring large corporate interests over the rights of states, municipalities, labor, minorities and the environment.

She finds it astonishing that "a fact so present in legal discourse" is so absent from public debate. This book is her attempt to stimulate that debate.

Jane Anne Morris is a corporate anthropologist living in Madison, Wisconsin.

Review(s): "Jane Anne Morris' book shows with clear evidence how free trade and democracy cannot coexist. Free trade does not 'happen'. It is made to happen. It is not a 'natural' phenomena. It is a corporate driven design, based on dismantling every democratic protection that citizens have - through policy, through laws, through court decisions." - Dr. Vandana Shiva, internationally renowned environmentalist, thinker, radical scientist and author

"Jane Anne Morris gives us chapter and verse on how the Commerce Clause of the Constitution has undermined local democracy. Here is the inside story of corporate theft of people's rights. Further she shows how the rights of labor, minorities, women and the environment have been undermined instead of being protected by the courts." - Howard Zinn, author of the bestseller, A People's History of the United States

"From Frederick Douglass down through Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther King, non-lawyers have contributed some of our most insightful thinking about the Constitution. In Gaveling Down the Rabble Jane Anne Morris continues this distinguished tradition. She argues that the Supreme Court has transformed the commerce clause of the Constitution (which grants Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce) into a mandate for the Court to indulge its preference for 'free trade' over democracy and basic human rights. The argument is lively, cogent, and backed by extensive research. This book will be useful not only to law students, lawyers, and judges, but to anyone who is curious or concerned about the role of the Supreme Court in American politics." - James Gray Pope, Professor of Law & Sidney Reitman Scholar, Rutgers University School of Law

"Jane Anne Morris has written a very important work. Who will control the direction of life on planet earth: mega-corporations and their ultra-rich CEOs or citizens and the communities they work and live in? Very few books ever touch such important questions, and Ms. Morris does it with originality and gravitas. She demonstrates powerfully how the Supreme Court and the Commerce Clause are undermining local democracy in America. She also has important ideas on how to fight back." - Carl Mayer, public interest attorney with the Mayer Law Group in New Jersey and New York, and termed "a populist crusader and maverick lawyer" by the New York Times

"Dr. Morris is a skilled deep historian analyzing how corporate control has destroyed and subverted real democracy. This is a very important book." - John Stauber, co-founder and director of the Center for Media & Democracy and its newsmagazine PR Watch, and co-author of many books including the 2003 New York Times bestseller, Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush's War on Iraq

"Ms. Morris provides an extremely valuable and important look into why, despite ongoing efforts to utilize local democracy to better manage our vital legacy for the essential benefits it provides to present and future generations, corporations continue to buy, mutilate, and profit from our commons to the detriment of environmental and public integrity. Morris succeeds admirably in presenting a well-researched [book] offering a historical glimpse into the ironic roots of environmental and social policy." - Britt Bailey, Executive Director, Environmental Commons, and author of Against the Grain: Biotechnology and the Corporate Takeover of Your Food

"This is a terrific book. Jane Anne Morris' meticulously researched book convincingly explains how 21 words in the U.S. Constitution have been used to subvert and hamstring our democracy. Required reading for politicians and citizens alike." - David Morris, co-founder and vice-president of the Institute for Local Self Reliance

"In delightful and engaging prose, Jane Anne Morris lays out the preponderant force of commerce that defines life in these United States. At a time when establishing sustainable communities is essential, Gaveling Down the Rabble gives us the background to move past commerce and invoke citizenship and democracy as the ruling arbiters of our lives." - Jim Tarbell, writer and broadcaster based in Northern California, co-hosts Corporations and Democracy radio show on KZYX and edits the quarterly journal Justice Rising: Grassroots Solutions to Corporate Domination

"Gaveling Down The Rabble dares the reader to think strategically about the political change required to make local democracy real. It's an utterly vital book ... sheaves of research on this crucial subject distilled into a strong medicine to remedy activist frustration and legislative impotence. Who'd-a thunk that an analysis of the Supreme Court's interpretations of the US Constitution's Commerce Clause could make a compelling, highly readable book?" - Stephanie Mills, bioregionalist, and author of Tough Little Beauties

"Jane Anne Morris always has something new and important to teach. Unorthodox, truth-seeking, and yet colorfully readable, Gaveling Down the Rabble removes a century's worth of legal cobwebs from our eyes. You will learn a great deal from this book; you will think differently once you've read it." - Ben Manski, Attorney at Law and founder, Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution

"Morris's painstakingly researched and humorously written book traces the bobbing and weaving of the Supreme Court through its inconsistencies that consistently champion the historic ruling economic elite in the United States. Gaveling Down the Rabble is a must-read book for those who want to replace the Commerce Clause of the Constitution with the General Welfare Clause - those who put people over profit." - Peter Kellman, President of the Southern Maine Labor Council, AFL-CIO, and author of Building Unions; Divided We Fall: The Story of the Paperworkers' Union and the Future of Labor; and Pain On Their Faces: Testimonies on the Paper Mill Strike, Jay, Maine, 1987-1988

"Who needs to read a book about the Commerce Clause? Everyone who cares about civil rights, labor issues, the environment and democracy; and wonders why our side never seems to make headway. Gaveling Down the Rabble provides the missing piece in the puzzle of corporate rule." - Jan Edwards, co-creator of the Timeline of Personhood Rights and Powers and the Tapestry of the Commons

"For those of us trying to establish meaningful democracy, our own unexamined assumptions can be every bit as big an obstacle as undemocratic institutions. Gaveling Down the Rabble is choice reading for anyone who wants to learn about the Commerce Clause, or relearn what they thought they already knew." - Jeffrey Kaplan, author of The Birth of the White Corporation reprinted by the Poverty & Race Research Action Council

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