Transcript of Globalizing Inequality – a lecture by P. Sainath, sponsored by the Center for Social and Environmental Justice of Washington State University, Vancouver. Video by pdxjustice Media Productions.
In other words, rate far above the lives of millions of Africans. That is absolutely clear. It is crystal clear from the conclusion about it.
Yet, the game is unraveling. We’ll get into some of the numbers of inequality a little while later if you wish, but let’s look at some surprising things that are happening.
The guys running the game, know it’s unraveling. They’re aware that things are not going as per plan. And maybe they… maybe the plan was different in any case, but with one of the fundamental features of our time being the increasing, growing disconnect between mass media on the one hand and mass reality on the other, you don’t often get to see these things highlighted.
Let me quote three very, very important people and institutions. “Our planet is not balanced. Too few control too much, and too many have too little to hope for. Too much turmoil, too many wars, too much suffering.” Now depending on who you are, that sounds like Subcomandante Marcos of the Zapatistas, or Mother Teresa. It’s actually James Wolfensohn of the World Bank speaking. That’s James Wolfensohn at the joint World Bank – IMF meeting in Dubai.
You know, now a days the World Bank and IMF are very careful to pick as venues places like Dubai, Riyadh, other places known for freedom of expression to hold their meetings in. So that all you protesters can go there and say what you like. Now this is…
This is Wolfensohn speaking about concentration, inequality, too few own too much. Too few control too much. Look at the language. It is very different from the gung-ho, trickle down, claptrap that you had for fifteen years before that.
Three days after Wolfensohn spoke – this was towards the end of 2003 – a small paragraph appeared in the International Herald Tribune about the IMF. The International Monetary Fund, which if you remember, during the southeast Asian financial crisis together with the United States government, Washington and others, nearly brought down the Malaysian government of Mohammed Mahathir for being recalcitrant and creating a crisis, blah blah blah blah
Three days after Wolfensohn speaks, from the same meeting comes an acknowledgment from the IMF that the IMF has since accepted that Mahathir’s capital and controls formula actually worked.
You nearly brought down an elected government, because it didn’t conform to your prescriptions and then calmly, five years later you say, you know I was shocked, we got it slightly wrong… we just blew the whole region apart by doing so, but… you know? They’re admitting it.
Around the same time, the third member of the trinity spoke. This is the oracle. The Wall Stree Journal. And we’ll come to the Wall Street Journal in greater detail in a minute.
A few days after Wolfensohn got it off his chest, the Wall Street Journal came up with this very original line. Well… original for the Wall Street Journal anyway. It wrote. The Wall Street Journal said its true really (?) “Yes, markets are a great way to organize economic activity, but markets need adult supervision.”
Gee! If they had figured that out twenty years ago, millions of lives would have been spared.
Now I think this is a strong case that the World Bank and the IMF and the Wall Street Journal are in urgent requirement of adult supervision. All three of them are now hedging on what’s going wrong. They know that market fundamentalism has run its course, that things are going very badly wrong.
Throughout the 90s to even suggest that the market was not God was to invite derision, attack, ridicule, of a very abusive nature. Right? The market wasn’t good for just democracy. The market IS democracy.
You can’t separate these two things. Now, as it begins to unravel, let me give you the later thoughts of the Wall Street Journal.
On the elections in India. This is the same newspaper that argued that markets are democracy, etc etc. Here is the Wall Street Journal. It writes 5 days after the Indian election results, because that’s how much time it took to get out of the trauma, “Democracy is perverse.”
Democracy is perverse! It is attacking the Indian election results! Democracy is perverse. Although it is natural for the United States to suggest that all countries should embrace democracy, the lesson from India is that Western nations cannot be dogmatic about elections…. except when they are in Iraq.
The lesson from India is that Western nations cannot be dogmatic about elections.
The journal continues “As India’s elections will testify” – this isn’t on their op-ed or edit page – “As India’s elections will testify, democracy is not always supportive of coherent economic policy and prosperity.”
You want me to translate that for you, it means that those voters are really dumb and they are very dangerous and let’s – you know – corral them. Continuing – verbatim quote “The West should be more hesitant about promoting political competition. For alas, that could destroy the leadership” – unquote – that pursues real economic change.
So don’t promote elections and stuff for God’s sake, these miserable peasants in India go and change governemnts that are promoting markets
The WSJ continues “The lesson is that if India wants to be an economic power, it has to pay heed to the global voter known as the investor.”
If India wants to..you know? Screw your electorate. You want to be a power, you pay attention to the global voter known as the investor. And then it adds as an afterthought because it may not look all that democratic “in addition to your own voters at home.”
Gee! Thanks! We can listen to our own people so long as they think the way you want them to.
But surely that’s a regression, but oh… let me not put it all at the door of the Wall Street Journal. We have far more enthusiastic people at home, like the editors of our own newspaper – one of whom wrote when the collapse took place in 2004, no government … just before the election this editor wrote these two pieces in 2004 “No government that the markets see as hostile can survive.”
Just before the election he also wrote that “the era of mass elections, mass meetings, door-to-door campaigning and election rallies is over. Elections will now be decided on the basis of what people learn from the media.”
As famous last words, those rank along side the Tarzan’s “Who greased the grapevine?”
He also made a pronouncement on after the crash “The markets have spoken” you know? He had read the entrails of the market like the ancient wizards who read the entrails of whatever animal that they made miserable.
Now all the other newspapers in the West contributed to the building of this Tiger economy model, this emerging tiger stuff when in fact, inequality was being entrenched at that devastating pace.
Let me give you the example of the New York Times. Mr Keith Bradshaw, renowned investigative journalist for the New York Times, an expert on the automobile industry, which of course qualifies him immediately to comment on Indian agriculture. Is sent to the southern state of Andhra Pradesh to deify the greatest, the most beloved third world leader in the West. Mr Chandrababu Naidu, from my home state of Andhra Pradesh.
If you hit.. if you Google this name tonight, or if you check LexisNexis, you will find that no third world leader … the only other third world leader who will get you an equal number of hits is probably Saddam Hussein – ok? But for totally different reasons.
Naidu was the darling of the World Bank, the IMF, the WTO, etc. Mr. Bradshaw in analysing also joined the list of famous last words, said that “Mr. Naidu’s party is set to retain power.” You know? Before they suffered the biggest electoral defeat in the history of that state in decades. “Mr. Naidu’s party is set…” In my home state in Andhra Pradesh speaks a language called Telugu. Some 70-80 million people speak this language.
And Mr. Bradshaw wisely commented – he’d studied the problem very closely. He’d visited the place for all of six hours or so – and declared that “Mr. Naidu’s party seems set to regain power in the coming elections, because he and his party speak Telugu.”
Now this is… you know? The rest of Andhra Pradesh speaks Esperanto. Right?
This is like saying that “Tony Blair and the labor party is set to retain power because they speak English.” which of course, there might be a strong case for, because earlier it was cockney. Right? So…
Anyway, all these predictions went awry, and you can see how how angry they are with democracy when it works against them, because the poor there spoke, and they spoke decisively.
Anyway, if you look at how… oh… more than the free market, has anyone seen the new patent laws and seed laws of Iraq? There’s a free market for you. A completely imposed free market in perpetuity and in eternity captive to Halliburton and MCI and a number of other multinationals.
Halliburton gets exclusive monopoly rights to import oil into a country with the second largest reserves of that commodity in the world at about two and a half times the price of that commodity in that part of the world. Exclusive rights of exclusive importation.
A friend of mine calculated that it would be cheaper to drive the oil down by limo from Kuwait than to buy it at Halliburton’s price.
You should see these patent laws and seed laws. The people of Iraq didn’t even know that they needed a Seed Law. It’s been written by the Monsantos, the Cargills and these guys. Its been… whoever or whatever other doubts you might have about the law you can see that it’s been written by the lawyers of American Corporations. The language, the tone, everything is unmistakable.
A country has been reduced to a colony in perpetuity. It doesn’t matter how representative the government of Iraq is tomorrow, it can have no…. The free market precludes Iraqi ownership of any Iraqi asset of significance.
Soon after Saddam fell, a couple of very entrepreneurial young guys started a telephone … a cell phone network, which was shut down physically by your army and handed over to to MCI which had no previous experience of building networks in such places. That’s the free market.
I’m sure the Iraqis will be very grateful. I see them expressing it everyday. The opening up process in many ways now, in many of these countries resembles the opium wars of the 19th century.
But let’s look at this growth of inequality worldwide. Inequality has grown faster in the last 15 years than in the preceding 50. Every single report of the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Report, which has been coming up since 1991 shows you this and shows you that it has intensified with every single successive year.
The income gap between the top 20% of the world’s population and the bottom fifth has more than doubled by 1998. The top 20% consumed 80% of all goods and services. The bottom fifth of the world’s population are currently living on 1.2% of the world’s resources and services – goods and services.
The world’s richest 200 people doubled their net worth in 4 years leading to 1998, which means they more than doubled their net worth in 4 years to over 1 trillion dollars and the assets of the top three billionaires are more than the combined gross national product of all least developed countries and a six hundred million people put together.
By 2004, the position had actually worsened. To that point, is what I think the Bank and the Fund were beginning to worry about. You know? That things are not going as planned or maybe they were going as planned, but too well.
Russia. Look at the rest of the world. Russia, once the second superpower in the world was subjected to shock therapy in the 90s and other doctrines of market fundamentalism. The former USSR lost 42% of her gross domestic product. No mean achievement, because no country has lost 42% of its GDP without either a war or a famine. Russia managed that with only the IMF and Jeffery Sachs. Without war or famine.
Every year now. Every year, if you check it out, 400-500 people die in Moscow in the vicinity of hypothermia. Of cold. In the cold of Moscow in winter, while every year, the number of Mercedes Benzs sold in Moscow has soared. The sale of Mercedes Benzs has gone up in every one of those years that more and more people have died of hypothermia.
In fact, so many new boutiques in fashion… fashion boutiques and designer stores have opened in Moscow that when Armani opened his designer store, in Moscow, the international world… [contd in Part 4]