by Wayne Spencer – 10/16/2009
Once I thought that retirement would mean leaving the cares of the workplace and of the world at large to others. Instead, retirement has given me the opportunity to read and listen and attempt to better understand how the world powers are not serving the interests of the poor and common people and why.
In the last twenty years or more I have seen a deterioration in the use of the world's resources for the common good. These resources are more and more being used for the increased wealth of the elites. We need not look beyond our own borders to see the disconnect between the wealthy and the rest of us. Yesterday the Dow past 10,000 while foreclosures are at record levels and unemployment is the highest it has been in twenty-five years. The economy of the elites is apparently doing well with taxpayer money.
The resurgence of colonialism under the modern name of globalization is connected to the shift in wealth from the poor and middle class to the wealthy. It might be better called by its real name: neocolonialism. Its differs from colonialism in one important way. Under the old colonialism each imperialist country would control a number of colonies. There was no mistaking who owned and controlled what. There was French Indochina, Dutch Guinea, The British West Indies and many others as well as some very large colonies such as India where British ownership was well known. During this period nations fought wars against each other to gain economic advantage.
Today's colonialism, hidden behind the screen name of globalization, appears more difficult to detect. After all who is against free trade? But under the surface of what is called free trade, globalization and capitalism one will find the same old colonialism with its anti-unionism, top-down controlled economy and accumulation of wealth by the elites. It's quite a disguise. The world's armies are no longer fighting against each other, but have unified their support for the interests of the wealthy against the insurgencies of the poor. We are continually reminded that today's enemy wears no uniform. The argument continues that it is difficult to distinguish between the enemy and the general population. It is therefore reasonable that innocent people will be injured and killed in these counter-insurgency battles. I submit that the world's armies are fighting enemies who are the innocent population. This is a war against the common people for the benefit of the wealthy.
What has happened is that the major nations of the world have relinquished much of their economic sovereignty to multinational corporations. The mechanism for this relinquishment is called The World Trade Organization. Some call it the New World Order. We as citizens of a democratic country have very little power to affect the rules or the conduct of the WTO with respect to our own trade policies. In effect, any country belonging to the WTO or its sister organizations such as NAFTA no longer has any power over foreign trade.
The results of this globalization were supposed to be a win-win situation. They were to bring much needed jobs and prosperity to the developing countries and lower prices and hence prosperity to the industrialized countries as well. I submit that globalization has done neither. Without unionization and collective bargaining the poor in the developing countries will continue to work for low wages.
Meanwhile, workers in the industrialized countries continue to lose any job that can be exported. In this resulting race to the bottom the mean standard of living in the industrialized countries will continue to decline to the point where calling them industrialized nations will seem quaint.
The argument being made is: at least people in the developing world will be able to raise their standard of living. I submit that without collective bargaining this is a myth. I am not a protectionist, but globalization needs reform to make it democratic and fair.
This is not the whole argument. There is a dire crisis in the developing world right now that we, living in the industrialized world, may not be aware and is not being addressed. My story deals with India, but it is true for much of the developing world.
For the past few years I have been reading and listening to two women, both from India and both articulate and highly educated. The first is a young and beautiful woman named Arundhati Roy and the second is Physicist Dr. Vandana Shiva. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vandana_Shiva
Vandana gives many stirring accounts of the effects of globalization upon a country like India. The concept of globalization is supposed to make the world more efficient by letting countries produce the products that they produce cheaper. It seems reasonable, but it is not. As an example: while the United States may or may not be more efficient in the production of food, it is certainly more efficient in the processing and distribution of food products. So efficient in fact that prepared and canned food can be processed and shipped to the major cities of India cheaper than the raw product can be shipped across India by means of archaic transportation methods. This together with the fact that the U.S. Congress gives subsidies to agribusiness in an amount around $500 billion annually greatly distorts the system.
As a result, those living in Indian cities who can afford to buy imported food prefer the processed and convenient alternative. But what about the farmers who are no longer growing food in India? They are being forced to take jobs in the cities. The problem is that there are not enough jobs, if any, for undereducated farmers in the cities. In spite of the fact that there is a displacement of people, I imagined it little different from what has taken place here in the United States. But India now is suffering the worst starvation since it was a colony of England. Not only that, but record numbers of farmers are committing suicide. It was not readily apparent to me why this displacement was having a much more adverse effect in India than it had in the United States.
Finding more information has put a different light on India's agricultural plight and that of other developing countries. Large multinational agribusiness are buying large amounts of agricultural land in the developing world and are using highly mechanized, minimal labor methods.
While this may seem like an idea whose time has come, there are catastrophic consequences for developing countries with large populations of farmers. Here in the United States, when the change to large mechanized corporate farms was in full swing, we were talking about thousands of people relocating to cities. In India for example, it is not a matter of thousands but a number more like 600 million people. That is a number that is nearly twice the entire population of the United States.
It may be even worse than it sounds. These corporate farms are producing most of their produce for export to wealthier markets. It stands to reason that land being used for cash crops for export together with millions of people who can't afford to buy the food from the corporate farms would result in starvation. In addition, since 2004 it has been reported that 200,000 farmers have committed suicide in India.
Certainly, what is being reported sounds like a major catastrophe in the making. A catastrophe that will help continue our country's leadership of unending global warfare.
My condensed version of today's global economic crisis is an invitation to you to do your own research on this subject.
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