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on 5 May 2004
This book has been widely described as a "revolutionary manifesto", and that title is apt if initially disturbing. Monbiot advocates nothing less that a complete reworking of global trade and government, but incredibly he provides a coherent (if optimistic) method to achieve this.
However, perhaps the greatest utility of this book lies not in its primary aim of global revolution, but in providing clear and studied explanations of many of the more confused myths of both market fundamentalism and the amorphous "global justice" movement. It also does a creditable job of clearing the much maligned name of Maynard Keynes, as well as highlighting the fact that many solutions to today's global issues have already been proposed, decades ago.
This book will probably leave you, as it has left me, with a far more comprehensive understanding of globalisation issues, and confirmation of your suspicions that the world's corporations (and the governments that they have bought) really are the enemy. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
One key title mentioned in the book is Joseph Stiglitz' "Globalisation and its Discontents" - a book I've already highly recommended many times, and one that's well worth reading for an in-depth analysis of just how devastating the world's controlling financial agencies are to the whole world.
Further titles that spring to mind repeatedly in reading this book are Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy - (starting with "Red Mars") which feature a global revolution (albeit on this planet) and the battle to create a truly equitable world society.
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on 1 October 2006
George Monbiot has given me hope, there are alternatives to the problems facing the world - we just need to summon the will to implement them and to challenge those who say 'it was always ever thus.'

This book is worth reading (in my view) for the following quote alone.

''...almost everything I was brought up to believe is untrue. I don't blame my parents for this - they were brought up with the same self-justificatory myths of the British Middle Classes.

All nations, all classes, all tribes tell themselves stories that validate and centralize their existence. These stories are always false.''
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on 23 July 2003
For anyone who thought that "anti-globalisation" protestors were a bunch of nihilists and raving revolutionary "loony left" sort of people, this book should really set you straight. Indeed the term "anti-globalisation" seems to be used most often by politicians to portray activists as a bunch of insular luddites. By contrast, it is obvious that a lot of thought has very obviously gone into this book, and its conclusion about what needs to be done with the global structures is as appealing as it is sensible.
The idea is basically that globalisation is not necessarily a harmful process per se, but without proper democratic structures in place on a global scale, it is manipulated so as to favour powerful vested interests. This idea should really have confronted anyone who has thought seriously about the future of popular sovereignty in an increasingly inter-connected world. It is unthinkable that GATS, for example, effectively hands over control of business regulation to a secret body of WTO officials - but if the proposed alternative is to throw up barriers to trade in every country that feels like it, there is enormous scope for abuse and over-protectionism. For the poorest countries, blocking and distorting trade on the part of rich countries would be disastrous, as countries receiving ultra-cheap agricultural products from Europe and the US are currently learning. The process needs regulation on a global level.
This book has received rather a cool response so far, which I don't think it really deserves (though admittedly I'm dubious about Monbiot's theory that some form of metaphysical paradigm is developing) but on the whole the proposals seem eminently worth pursuing. I would imagine that many people are keen to write off George Monbiot as a quack; and, conversely, I imagine that for many in the global justice campaign, formulating policies and so on smacks of the party political machinery that many are suspicious of. But slogan-shouting and banner-waving are surely never enough - if alternatives to the current model of globalisation do not make sense, or are simply not developed, then it seems to me there is little point in protesting at all. To get beyond all that, this book is a good place to start.
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on 18 January 2006
George Monbiot was educated at Stowe School and later Oxford where he read Zoology. As a journalist he spent 7 years travelling around Brazil, East Africa and Indonesia. He is a plucky environmental, political activist leading to him being beaten up by police and security guards on several occasions being imprisoned and also shot at. A revolutionary thinker with a great deal of experience The Age Of Consent is a ‘manifesto’ picturing a world in which George Monbiot sees maximum prosperity.
In The Age of Consent he puts the current democratic world under scrutiny having also written about this on a more detailed level in his earlier book The Captive State and makes the fact that we can even call it democratic questionable, he suggests new systems to unselected world powers such as. WTO, World Bank with real democratic alternatives, and that power should be changed on a worldwide scale so that the worlds power was more equally distributed in terms of population rather than a countries trade or economic position.
He suggests that globalisation should continue but in a different, more fair way. He sees no need for us to be confined within our national border and asks why our sense of community and common interest should rarely go further than the national border. He asks why we do not forget our geographical differences and recognise that if we began to see our similarities and shared interests it would benefit us all. There are a few revolutionary changes he thinks should be done.
Power should be given to people with the creation of a world parliament whereby the world would be divided up in terms of its population and each part elected a representative. These would then meet and discuss world issues. There power would be immense for the sole fact that they would actually be representative of the worlds people and would therefore have huge lobbying weight influencing global institutional and national decisions, and opposing regimes. He estimated the cost to be almost 1 Billion Dollars, but suggested this could be raised from JM Keynes’s idea of an International Clearing Union (ICU) raised at Bretton Woods Conference in 1944. It was accepted by all members except the States, as Monbiot believes, it would have destroyed their dominant trading and economic position taking away the dollar as the international currency for trade.
The ICU would be a global bank replacing the IMF and World Bank whose purpose would be to equalise the power of international trade, reduce the growing disparity between rich and poor countries, prevent the third world ‘debt trap‘ and at the same time raise money for the world parliament. It would monitor worldwide trade where all trade would be done in its own currency, a bancor. Each nation would have an account with a fixed exchange rate and where exports would add bancors and imports would take them away providing an incentive for each country to end up at the end of a year with an account of zero bancors. If a country had bancors left over it would be confiscated to the ICU reserve fund encouraging the country to use up all the bancors by buying from other countries before the end of the year. Countries with an account deficit would have their currency depreciated, encouraging others to buy the next year.
Overall I think this is a well researched book with good ideas, but it does do something much more powerful than the ideas it proposes. It addresses that there are fundamental problems with the global order and gives us groundwork for change. For example why do we sit back and watch food surpluses grow (beef and butter mountains) in rich countries whilst millions starve in poor. It is naïve for us to think that how the world is run now is how it will be run in, even as soon as, a couple of decades. Without proper global democratic systems in place globalisation will further to benefit the rich over the poor.
The question as to why we should stop using democratic systems past the national scale is a very good one in terms of how to create fairer world regulatory systems, I think the one person, one vote World Parliament is a good start, and little more. The problem with representatives of the World Parliament is that they will always be very distant and I think the belief that democracy becomes less and less democratic the more people it represents is true. The system would be strongly weighted to countries of larger populations such as China and India having over 20 seats at the world parliament whereas the whole of Europe would have less than half of that. It seems this unfair weighting would misrepresent the many contrasting views of those smaller countries. A very interesting book I think the subjects will become of increasing relevance.
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on 29 November 2004
George Monbiot's 'Age of Consent' is a powerful and visionary call to arms from a seasoned campaigner of the Global Resistance Movement. With devastating clarity of thought, the author sets out a detailed and ambitious blueprint for creating a fairer, more just world, while simultaneously exposing the muddled thinking of those who would lead us down the blind alleys of neo-liberalism, Marxism, anarchism, or 'consumer democracy'.

Ironically for a fully paid-up member of the so-called 'Anti-Globalization Movement, one of Monbiot's central arguments is that there is, paradoxically, a need for more rather than less globalization - in the sense of greater connectivity between people beyond national frontiers as opposed to the unrepresentative and undemocratic 'internationalism', which at present merely masquerades as globalization.

Though Monbiot has been, and will continue to be, criticized for his lack of realism, such shortsighted reactions only serve to underline how vital his horizon-expanding views are to defining the early 21st-century zeitgeist. This book's central aim is clearly to inspire its readers to act, a goal in which it will undoubtedly succeed.

To quote the author's opening broadside: "Everything has been globalized except our consent. Democracy alone has been confined to the nation state. It stands at the national border, suitcase in hand, without a passport." Indeed, releasing democracy from its current shackles must surely be the foremost challenge of our times - fortunately, this book may well provide the key!
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VINE VOICEon 2 June 2010
Monbiot describes how we can use the power of globalisation to achieve global justice, rather than trying to stop the unstoppable forces of capitalism and globalisation.

The book actually begins weakly and with a rather idealistic Utopian view of a Global Parliament, which he himself acknowledges has serious weaknesses because of the size of the constituencies and the lack of legislative authority. Where the manifesto starts to make sense is when he considers the markets and the idea of a fair trade organisation.

Monbiot also admits in the later chapters that he has written a book backwards. The global parliament might or might not come about but it will only be possible once the economic changes of a Fair Trade Organisation and an International Clearing Union deal with inequalities in trade (such as cutting faring subsidies and weakening IP rights) and then rebalance the deficits and surpluses so that the world economy can function (the US and EU still want to buy Chinese good and the Chinese want to sell them but we are log-jammed because of the deficit/surplus problem).

We have seen with the recent banking crisis that the entire commercial banking system and the markets do not have the power they thought they did. While they still try to impose this control through the media and fluctuations in the equity markets they have actually blown their cover. Here in the UK we now own a large proportion of the major banks. In the US the government owns the major mortgage lenders and some banks. So we have nationalised large parts of the private sector because otherwise they would have collapsed. Monbiot said that the developing world owns the banks through their debt, but now the banks are owned by the people - although they keep trying to tell us otherwise. I think that recent events hve accidentally put us on the path to his manifesto regardless of the opposition of the financial sector and the large multi-nationals.

So if you want to have a positive view of where the current crisis might lead then read this book and make it happen.
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on 20 March 2009
The current world wide economic collapse has much to learn from this well argued and insightful book. In his trenchant critique of corporate globalisation, Monbiot shows that the current difficulties originated in the sabotaging of John Maynard Keynes's idea of an International Clearing Union, and an international reserve currency, the Bancor, for transnational transactions. The idea that nations accumulating a surplus in the balance of trade would be penalised by paying a fixed tax to the ICU, would have prevented the world economy polarising at the rate of 90:1 between the rich nations GDP per capita and that of the poor. With the IMF and the IBRD, supplimented with the new WTO, countries whose marginal rates of return on exports falls, giving them negative balance of payments, currently have to undergo savage Structural Adjusment Policies (SAPS) which cut health and education expenditures, and place the whole economy in the hands of multinational corporations through the privatisation of all valuable infrastructural assets. This beggars those who suffer and rewards those that exploit others. The fact that de-facto international reserve currency, the USA under the abuses of the Clinton-Bush presidencies, has now fallen into this category, is the source of our current difficulties. Keynes's solution is both a remedy and a preventative to this crisis. Monbiot is to be congratulated for resurrecting this piece of our economic history so eloquently. I cannot recommend this book highly enough for those seeking answers to our current malaise.
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on 5 April 2008
For someone whose only exam failure was a U in Economics at 'A'-Level (no, I don't know why I took it either), I am the least likely advocate of a book that confronts the 'dismal science'. However, Monbiot's towering achievement is one of the very few books of any genre I have read which I would legitimately call 'mind-expanding' or 'life-changing' (or any other overused husk of broadsheet blurbspeak). A passionate polemic on the ways and means of re-ordering the current capitalist system both more equitably AND sustainably, it's elegantly argued and simply structured, with an inbuilt expectation for its proposals to be refuted, refined and/or improved by anyone who can and wishes to do so. Monbiot recognises from the outset that some of his proposals will cause knee-jerk horror in many people who believe themselves to be free-thinking liberals, but his demolition of lazy assumptions and subsequent reasoning is fundamentally logical and seemingly watertight, especially when contrasted with the current or alternative options. Its most damning indictments (mostly of the US and its Western hegemony) can be drawn from the surprising fact that few of his proposals are new ones. He has revised and updated versions of those international economic checks and balances proposed in previous years (John Maynard Keynes' original plans for the functioning of the World Bank is one example) which were agreed in principle by every country guessed it, the US, who were terrified of losing their financial advantage. He overturns the idea that deregulation and free-trade are necessary steps to improve the economies of poorer nations by showing that only those countries in recent years who have IGNORED the IMF's economic advice (Taiwan for example) have seen their standards of living improve across the board. Those countries who have implemented the IMF's strategies have plummeted further into debt and degradation. But this is not Michael Moore agitprop territory. Monbiot merely presents the evidence, suggests sensible alternatives and asks what part YOU will play. We are, on our current trajectory, headed for an unavoidable global economic crash (the rumblings of which are being felt in the UK and US as I write in April 2008), which we have, in many ways, brought upon ourselves by ignorance (whether wilful or imposed) and omission of action. However, we now MUST choose whether the landing will be a soft or a hard one and this book arms us with strategies designed for us to cushion the global blow.
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on 10 July 2003
There have been many recent books on the problems of 'globalization', 'The Age of Consent' is a suggestion for how to tackle these problems. Monbiot suggests a complete replacement of the unelected controlling powers (Security Council, IMF, WTO etc.) with truly democratic alternatives. Whilst this might sound utopian 'pie-in-the-sky' thinking, well thought out and researched suggestions prevent this from being the case. Monbiot doesn't pretend that his solutions are perfect or will be easy to implement, or that the dominant powers will relinquish control easily, but his arguments are convincing and often include existing examples of how the techniques might work.
The arguments are too detailed to go into here but to give a brief example, he suggests replacing the IMF / World Bank with the Keynesian model of an International Clearance Union where both debtors and creditors have responsibility for the balance of trade. The book shows how this was the favoured solution of all participants in the 1944 Bretton Woods meeting except the US, which changed the minds of other attendees to support the IMF by threatening to withdraw war aid. It may seem implausible that these institutions can be replaced with one which alters the current balance of power but Monbiot provides a mechanism of how this can happen.
Far from being a dry, politically arcane book 'The Age of Consent' is written to be accessible to most with clearly explained ideas. As readers of Monbiot's previous work will expect it is also rigorously researched.
If you are unhappy with the current balance of trade and political control and wish to do more than attack McDonalds or buy Fair Trade coffee from your local supermarket then read this essential book and be inspired to act.
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on 17 November 2003
I've been an avid reader of Monbiot's books (such as Captive State), as well as his regular collumns in newspapers such as The Guardian, and consider him to be one of the foremost thinkers of our time. The Age of Consent is by far his best work, and its brilliance cannot be understated. This is a far reaching book that succinctly demonstrates that viable alternatives to our largely unsustainable society exist here and now, and it's about time we stood up to make a difference. His research is, as usual, spot on, and his solutions for a better world, both in terms of economics and democracy, are nothing short of revolutionary. This is a book every individual should read; these are ideas every person needs to build and act upon. Essential reading if you're truely interested in the welfare of all, and want to do something about it.
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