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DEMOCRACY AND GLOBLIZATION – CAN THEY COEXIST?

August 22, 2013

DEMOCRACY AND GLOBALIZATION – CAN THEY COEXIST?

My followers will recall that I have often complained that countries which employ the rules of the WTO, IMF and other such agencies and governments as a front (see Merkel and the EU) have substituted their will for that of the elected governments of countries in financial  trouble, telling such countries that they must pass laws written elsewhere etc. Such poor countries lose their economic sovereignty and the consequences of such loss have been serious. Imposed austerity has resulted in Greeks and Spaniards in the streets as the bondholding portion of the elite 1 percent enforces its will on the financial markets of the target countries, a will oblivious to the needs and wants of the unemployed of such countries, and, of more ultimate importance, democracy itself.  Argentina proved years ago that there are worse things than default, and I agree. A world-wide loss of democracy makes default look like child’s play.

The one percent, who are past masters at shaping perceptions (and who have the incentives and resources to do so), will trumpet through their corporate media that people like me are playing the “democracy card,” much as some use the “race” and “Hispanic” cards to enforce their wills when on the verge of losing the perception game played daily (and successfully to date) by Wall Street. If so, I have distinguished company. (See the following.)

Harvard University Professor Dani Rodrick: “One cannot simultaneously have democracy, national self-determination, and full and unfettered globalization.”

Princeton University Professor Paul Krugman: “Extreme concentration of income is incompatible with real democracy. Can anyone seriously deny that our political system is being warped by the influence of big money, and that the warping is getting worse as the wealth of a few grows even larger?”

Similar pronouncements of note in history have also been made by such luminaries as FDR and Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Louis J. Brandeis. Anyone who is awake (especially since Citizens United REALLY opened the floodgates for even further control of the political process by the elite 1 percent) can see that the will of the people (sometimes called democracy) is being subverted not only by the daily propaganda of perception but also by buyout of the political process itself. Modern day “campaign contributions” are not quite so crass as the brown suitcases filled with cash that were handed to politicians during the Gilded Age, but they are just as effective – or even more so. Mark Hanna, the Karl Rove Republican equivalent of a century or so ago, when asked what the most important things were in political campaigns, famously replied: “Money, and I don’t remember the others.” He was a poster boy for corruption; our K Street and other emissaries who intermix with members of Congress these days are more discreet.

Some have said that the world’s greatest economist is Joseph Stiglitz, professor of economics at Columbia University, Nobel Prize winner, former Chairman of Economic Advisers during the Clinton reign, etc. etc. etc. (his experience and output defy my time and space to account for them). In his latest book, “The Price of Inequality,” he (perhaps surprisingly) holds that globalization and democracy CAN BE compatible, but not as globalization is currently practiced. He then proceeds to give a litany of ways in which it is being practiced (mismanaged for the benefit of the 1 percent at the expense of most Americans, used as a shield to raid the sovereignty of democratic nation-states, how such antics weaken and distort and undermine democracy etc.).

He also points out that judgments of our financial markets are badly flawed (see Great Recession, bailouts etc.), shortsighted, and have a political and economic agenda that seeks the advancement of the well-being of financiers rather than that of the country as a whole. Thus globalization – which could be used under the best of circumstances to create international market efficiencies which would contribute to all of such trading nations’ economies and financial regimes and serve as a hotbed for democracy – has instead (among other things) become a tool for meddling into the sovereignty of impoverished states and intrusions into their democracy under the guise of loans (read protection of the 1 percent’s foreign bondholders in such borrowing states).

Globalization as practiced currently (the 1 percent runs the show and the rest of us are left on our own as our democracy ebbs away) is not working and will not work. It is on the road to unraveling unless changes are made – and quickly.

We are playing with a lot more than just money and managed perceptions of social worth in corralling our respective shares (whether members of the productive real economy or of the  non-productive paper economy of Wall Street). We are playing with the fundamentals of society’s organization, something far more important than euros and dollars and who gets how much.

We are talking about centuries of blood, sweat, toil and sacrifice that gave us our most precious possession; Democracy. It is not for sale, not to Wall Street paper shufflers, not to common currency pretexters for meddling, not to acronym creations such as WTO and NAFTA. It cannot and will not be sacrificed on the altar of the 1 percent gods for fear of default, or for any other reason.

Globalization: vice or virtue? It depends on how it is structured. It could be good if structured to serve a broader interest of the common good – 100 percent of all the people to be affected. Unfortunately, it is now structured to serve a narrow financial elite, an elite which pockets paper gains and offers austerity to the rest of us. That is an offense to the practice of democracy and must therefore end, and I have a suggestion to readers: that if our reigning politicians will not remove this cancer on our democracy, that we remove them, whether Democrats or Republicans. Democracy is beyond politics, too.  GERALD  E

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