Globalization is the New Evil, it's the reason for the anti-capitalist
movements in Seattle
and many many other places. So what's it all about?
Laissaz-faire free market capitalism became the guiding principle of what George Bush (among others) later dubbed the New World Order at the end of the 1970s. Previous to this, the western world had been dominated by the practise of Keynsian Economics, and the East was working on a broadly Marxist-Leninist Command Economics basis. What we derisively refer to as the Third World was by and large still agrarian but showed signs of heading in one of these two directions.
The basis of Keynsian economic theory is the levelling of the "boom and bust" cycle of capitalist economies. In its simplest form, this theory can be expressed as the practise of high levels of state taxation maintained during periods of economic growth, with high levels of state investment made during periods of economic recession. It's a nice enough theory and has been shown to work well, most particularly during the post Wall Street Crash "New Deal" imposed by the US Government.
The problems in practising Keynsian theory lie in three areas. First, it's difficult to get elected on a high-taxation policy during times of economic growth. The electorate has been fairly conclusively shown to prefer to keep its money in its pocket rather than trust it to the State for use when the downturn comes. Therefore, public investment has a bad habit of staying high even when it is not, on economic grounds, strictly required.
Second, the increasingly global nature of modern business has created tax-havens, offshore companies, wholly-owned subsidiaries and a plethora of other ways for wealthy individuals and corporations to legally avoid paying the high levels of tax required to finance such an initiative.
Finally, in the world of imports and exports not everything can be locally accounted for, and at times all it takes is a push in an inflationary direction from outside source to send prices spiralling out of control. In the 1970s, this took the form of the OPEC-controlled oil price rise, which took the western hemisphere by surprise and immediate forced up the price of every commodity which is machine manufactured or transported in any way.
Of the three downsides, the first is locally the more the more problematic. Continual public investment in an economy leads to wages and prices rising pretty much constantly, fuelling inflation. Large, state-owned businesses and essential service providers can be pretty much held to ransom by strongly unionised workforces and forced to continue to increase wages above the rate of inflation, thereby fuelling the said inflation still further.
This can only lead to eventual economic collapse, as was clearly demonstrated by the British Labour Government's appeal for IMF intervention in the 1970s.
The neoliberal doctrine of laissez-faire free market economics was initially conceived of as a backlash against the prevailing Keynsian theory. To the neoliberal economist, the Market is God, it is infallible and its rules can be applied to all aspects of human life.
Margaret Thatcher was the first neoliberal Premier to be elected and provided the classic template for every Western free-market economist who followed. Her guiding philosophy was one of minimal state action, privatisation, legislation to curb union power, lower direct taxation and higher indirect taxation. She also encouraged to businesses to grow bigger at all costs, created the atmosphere we know so well today in which assett-stripping is regarded as wealth-creation and engendered in the populace a casual disregard for high levels of unemployment and crime while in fact using those as levers to create still more growth, in the form of private security, private prisons, burglar alarms and so forth.
She encouraged private health insurance, private pension plans, reduced levels of public investment in pretty much everything (except Defense) and began to actually repay the UK's National Debt.
In the current economic climate, businesses can sponsor schools, advertise in classrooms, "contribute" to the election funds of politicians and, in the case of Rupert Murdoch's News International corporation, claim to win elections, something i doubt that Neil Kinnoch will ever forget. By threatening to move a base of operations abroad (thus reducing the national tax base and creating unemployed workers to support) they can now hold the State to ransom in a manner similar to that of the trade unions of twenty-five years ago.
By relying on branding and third-party suppliers, corporations can rid themselves of any responsibility for those who actually make their products, who are usually paid subsistence or lower wages in order to keep the wholesale price of their produce down and hence, profits per item high. Third-world countries, desperate for foreign investment grant tax-concessions in order to attract the multinationals, who then move at the end of the tax-free period. Workers are forbidden to unionise, and all responsibility for their working conditions is shed by the simple practise of putting layers of market in between the end product and the raw materials.
After all, those suppliers could easily sell a million running shoes with Nike logos on them to Adidas, right? Oh well, guess not then.
This is the atmosphere in which we currently find ourselves. Any politician seeking to clamp down on the power of the multinationals will find him or herself without election funding and incapable of buying even the smallest of TV slots to address the electorate. Newspapers owned by mega-rich businessmen are unlikely to treat this politician with anything but contempt and possibly propaganda campaigns. The State can no longer govern the multinationals, because they are too big and too widespread to fall into the jurisdiction of any single state. As of 1997, News International had paid no tax at all in the UK despite having declared profits of over 3000,000,000 pounds sterling in their operations there. No politician is going to want to start a news campaign about that - who'd report it?
So, this is globalization. This is why it's being opposed. But how to fight it? That's the node title and it's something that a lot of people have been giving a lot of consideration to over the past couple of years. Here are my thoughts on the subject.
Communism can't stop globalization - the fall of the Eastern Bloc clearly demonstrates that in a modern global economy, no country can be completely self-sufficient. The slightest outside requirement puts that Command Economy at the mercy of the market just like any other system. "Hard Currency" means, in real terms, traded currency.
Selective shopping and Non-Governmental Organisations such as Greenpeace and others can bring the issues to our attention (and are indeed doing so) but they can't actually change anything.
The traditional political nation-states are increasingly powerless against the effortless movement of capital. In other words, neoliberalism got us here and old-style socialism is too small in effect to get us back.
The only option, i believe, is an ideology i call "Globalism". The United States and the European Union are decent steps in this direction, but not far enough. What's needed to clamp down on private business is the State, but the State must be bigger than the businesses. Furthermore, there's no reason why Keynsian economics shouldn't work indefinitely within a closed system. There's only one way to close the system. We have to make it bigger. We won't be free of the all-powerful corporations that our amazing new communications technologies have created until there is one world government and a unified taxation system.
This system, with unified ethical trade laws, union legislation, health provision and power and transport policy enforcement bodies would go a long way toward putting the third and second worlds on equal footing with the first. With devolved regional government people could select whatever flavour of local rulership they prefer, from Islamic states to monarchies to anarchistic communes.
It can't end tribal warfare. It can't prevent murder or petty crime. But maybe it can feed everyone, ensure that everyone has clean water and access to a decent education. There would still be millionaires, still be New Age Travellers, still be overpaid football stars, i don't doubt that for a second, but maybe there'd be a lot less starving kids in Africa and Filipino women wouldn't be fired for working less than fourteen hours per day at 0.85 USD/hour while pregnant. And that could only be a good thing.