Saturday, June 13, 2009

Saturday's Dirty Laundry - Wall Street’s Toxic Message (Exposed!)

Professor Joseph Stiglitz (yeah, that one) says in Vanity Fair that "While there may be no winners in the current economic crisis, there are losers, and among the big losers is support for American-style capitalism. This has consequences we’ll be living with for a long time to come." And if you didn't study your world history, here's an opportunity to make up for that loss. (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

Free-market ideology turned out to be an excuse for new forms of exploitation. “Privatization” meant that foreigners could buy mines and oil fields in developing countries at low prices. It meant they could reap large profits from monopolies and quasi-monopolies, such as in elecommunications. “Liberalization” meant that they could get high returns on their loans—and when loans went bad, the I.M.F. forced the socialization of the losses, meaning that the screws were put on entire populations to pay the banks back. It meant, too, that foreign firms could wipe out nascent industries, suppressing the development of entrepreneurial talent. While capital flowed freely, labor did not — except in the case of the most talented individuals, who found good jobs in a global marketplace. This picture is, obviously, painted with too broad a brush. There were always those in Asia who resisted the Washington consensus. They put restrictions on capital flows. The giants of Asia — China and India — managed their economies their own way, producing unprecedented growth. But elsewhere, and especially in the countries where the World Bank and the I.M.F. held sway, things did not go well. And everywhere, the debate over ideas continued. Even in countries that have done very well, there is a conviction among the educated and influential that the rules of the game have not been fair. They believe that they have done well despite the unfair rules, and they sympathize with their weaker friends in the developing world who have not done well at all.

Talk about long-term consequences being ignored in the race to riches at the expense of the now.

These guys deserve to be under the jail (for ever) and not raking in bonuses.

The economic debate takes on particular potency in the developing world. Although we in the West tend to forget, 190 years ago one-third of the world’s gross domestic product was in China. But then, rather suddenly, colonial exploitation and unfair trade agreements, combined with a technological revolution in Europe and America, left the developing countries far behind, to the point where, by 1950, China’s economy constituted less than 5 percent of the world’s G.D.P. In the mid–19th century the United Kingdom and France actually waged a war to open China to global trade. This was the Second Opium War, so named because the West had little of value to sell to China other than drugs, which it had been dumping into Chinese markets, with the collateral effect of causing widespread addiction. It was an early attempt by the West to correct a balance-of-payments problem. Colonialism left a mixed legacy in the developing world — but one clear result was the view among people there that they had been cruelly exploited. Among many emerging leaders, Marxist theory provided an interpretation of their experience; it suggested that exploitation was in fact the underpinning of the capitalist system. The political independence that came to scores of colonies after World War II did not put an end to economic colonialism. In some regions, such as Africa, the exploitation — the extraction of natural resources and the rape of the environment, all in return for a pittance — was obvious. Elsewhere it was more subtle. In many parts of the world, global institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank came to be seen as instruments of post-colonial control. These institutions pushed market fundamentalism (“neoliberalism,” it was often called), a notion idealized by Americans as “free and unfettered markets.” They pressed for financial-sector deregulation, privatization, and trade liberalization. The World Bank and the I.M.F. said they were doing all this for the benefit of the developing world. They were backed up by teams of free-market economists, many from that cathedral of free-market economics, the University of Chicago. In the end, the programs of “the Chicago boys” didn’t bring the promised results. Incomes stagnated. Where there was growth, the wealth went to those at the top. Economic crises in individual countries became ever more frequent—there have been more than a hundred severe ones in the past 30 years alone. Not surprisingly, people in developing countries became less and less convinced that Western help was motivated by altruism. They suspected that the free-market rhetoric — “the Washington consensus,” as it is known in shorthand — was just a cover for the old commercial interests. Suspicions were reinforced by the West’s own hypocrisy. Europe and America didn’t open up their own markets to the agricultural produce of the Third World, which was often all these poor countries had to offer. They forced developing countries to eliminate subsidies aimed at creating new industries, even as they provided massive subsidies to their own farmers.
And poor Hotel California. The wages of sin (see Gov. Schwarzenegger having summer fun here) coming home to roost (and beginning the tidal wave that is destined to swamp the rest of the country). It's summertime! Is it hot where you are? It's 100 degrees here (and humid!). Suzan ______________

No comments: