Monday, July 09, 2012

The World Economy: into the Wild Blue Yonder

David Seaton's News Links
It would be comforting for many to imagine that our globalized economy is a conspiracy,  a murky cabal, directed from the shadows by some Bilderberger-ish, ecumenical-protocol, of sinister "elders", who are pulling all the strings.
I say comforting because presumably, if sufficiently intimidated, the people who got us into this mess could easily pull their strings and get us out.
However, I am afraid that instead of being something so tidy, there are no identifiable human hands on the controls of our world and the whole thing is simply on automatic pilot...
How does that work?
I could illustrate that with an old joke I recall.
An airliner takes off full of people and a metallic voice comes over the speaker system:
"Welcome aboard Acme Airlines flight 505 to London, the first totally automatic flight in aviation history, this is your computerized control system speaking, totally free from any possibility of human error, there is no pilot on board,. We hope you enjoy your flight. We will be flying at an altitude of 30,000 feet, 30,000 feet, 30,000 feet, 30,000 feet, 30,000 feet, 30,000 feet, 30,000 feet, 30,000 feet, 30,000 feet, 30,000 feet, 30,000 feet, 30,000 feet, 30,000 feet, 30,000 feet, 30,000 feet, 30,000 feet, 30,000 feet, 30,000 feet,  30,000 feet....
That is where I think we are right now. No one is in charge: the system itself has taken over and has no idea of the future but to grow endlessly.
In globalization, the deregulated system expresses itself freely qua-system and even the famous buttinsky billionaires like Sheldon Adelson or the Koch Brothers and their Tea Party accolytes are mere puppets, reacting like Pavlovian pooches to the stimuli produced by the unshackled world mishagoss, as are those politicians they use their billions to influence (buy, bribe).
I call this system "stateless-imperialism".
Classical state imperialism could be illustrated by the 19th century British empire's destruction of India's native textile industry and forcing Indians to buy cheap, industrially produced, cloth from Britain's satanic mills. This captive market made Britain rich and caused many an Indian weaver to literally starve to death and sucked commercial life out of India's villages.
In short imperialism was generally good for the British, but generally bad for the Indians and the distinction between being British and being Indian was clearly marked with indelible ink.
Stateless imperialism is quite similar in its effects, but the lines of winners and losers has little reference to state boundaries, color or creed.
A roughly hypothetical example might go something like this. The prices on the world cotton market, chock a block with subsidies, but without significant tariff barriers, fall dramatically and this allows the reborn Indian textile industry to turn out a lot of cloth cheaply and allows the many brown and nimble fingers of sweatshop ladies in India and other Asian countries to turn out attractive clothing at near-slave wages; clothing which is to be sold by multinationals in expensive boutiques all over the developed world and after being worn there, turns up second hand in the street markets of Africa thereby putting native African industry out of business.
Meanwhile, thousands of Indian cotton farmers, with the collapse of world cotton prices, finding themselves drowning in debts they are unable to pay, commit suicide, leaving their widows and orphaned children to sell themselves into indentured servitude to eventually pay those debts.
Of course in this environment the British textile industry disappeared ages ago and its descendents loiter on street corners wearing hoodies.
All of this is logical, cause and effect. Just business... unchained business.
The suffering is the same as in state-imperialism, but in stateless-imperialism there is no "king and country" and no "viceroy" and certainly no one lining up to "bear the white man's burden". In classic state-imperialism, identifiable robber barons, celebrated in song and story, controlled entire industries. Today there are no Henry Ford or John D. Rockefeller figures, once upon a time there was a man actually named J. P. Morgan, God only knows what or who J. P. Morgan really is today. Now, like "flight 505 to London", the world economy is flying itself... look ma, no hands.
When I say this world system is on automatic-pilot, I'm not saying that are no human beings involved in running these mechanisms, only that these humans are merely hired managers with stock options, whose only assignment is to maximize shareholder value, if they don't do so they will soon be replaced by their board of directors, men and women who themselves represent only a tiny fraction of the total, largely faceless, equity. In short, faceless men and women create "value" for faceless often momentary shareholders in mastodonic enterprises of no clear national or personal affiliation and whose only horizon is the quarterly report.
Many have ridden this impersonal process to wealth, but none control it and the fallen lie all about us and the walking wounded crowd the roads. DS

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