SOME of what passes for commentary today would not have been considered odd by people who ran Jamaica half-a-millennium ago - people like Sir Henry Morgan and his bosom buddy and criminal accomplice, Sir Thomas Modyford.
Those two felonious financiers flourished shortly after Jamaica was first captured by the English. According to 'M&M', the English had a divine right to whatever assets, fixed or floating, happened to be within their reach. If these assets happened to have been claimed by the Taino or Inca or the Spaniards or anyone else, judgement was simple - it all depended on firepower. Morgan and Modyford probably had an aphorism to match ours: "T'ief from t'ief, God laugh!"
The Spanish should be able to accept the sacking of their cities like Panama, Porto Bello and Cartagena, the capture of their gold-laden galleons, the murder of their burghers and the rape of their wives and daughters. Globalisation is the new name for an old system - what George Soros, one of the world's richest men, calls "Gangster Capitalism".
Just about 700 columns ago, in this newspaper, in March 1997 I noted the departure of several commercial enterprises from Jamaica to happier hunting grounds, where labour costs are infinitesimal and unions non-existent.
"Jamaican development is under serious threat from The Free Market and the ethics of the slave trade," I said then.
"The UWI, itself now apparently in the grip of the free market hysteria, a mutated form of the Pyramid fever virus, is to invite Professor Jeffrey Sachs to tell us how best we can divest ourselves of our intellectual and cultural goods to follow Thatcher, Reagan and their fellow Titans into the empyrean realms of monetarist Paradise. As the newest, most fashionable cults tell us, all we have to do is to submit. ""Salvation is simple. It consists of devaluation and deregulation. If you can't compete, devalue. If laws, cultures, trade unions and ethics get in the way, deregulate and beef up your police forces."
Rule of the Cognitive Elite
In 1997 the buzz was about a book called The Bell Curve, an earnest farrago of racist theory published three years earlier but then being hailed as a prototype of a new world order. This capitalist manifesto for the 21st century would build on the ruins of socialism, altruism and humane solidarity.
As I wrote then, The Bell Curve purported to prove that there was a divinity that shaped our ends and that this divinity was Race. Inner-city Blacks, the authors Murray and Herrnstein said, were not as clever as whites (at least in the US) and were destined to become a permanent underclass, producing crime and the other primary products of which they were capable.
In their vision of the Custodial State, the cognitive elite (white) "with its commanding position, will implement an expanded welfare state for the underclass that also keeps it out from underfoot".
"In short, by custodial state, we have in mind a high-tech and more lavish version of the Indian reservation for some substantial minority of the nation's population, while the rest of America tries to go about its business. ...Extrapolating from current trends, we project that the policies of custodialism will not only be tolerated but actively supported by a consensus of the cognitive elite. To some extent, we are not even really projecting, but reporting. The main difference between the position of the cognitive elite that we portray here and the one that exists today is to some extent nothing more than the distinction between tacit and explicit.
"...The central law of the marketplace may briefly be summarised as follows: Free and competitive markets bring supply and demand into equilibrium and thereby assure the best allocation of resources. To bring these conditions about, Jeffrey Sachs and his co-religionists prescribe reforms imposed by stealth, speed and compulsion, an economic blitzkrieg in which sudden, overwhelming reform simply sweeps aside the defenders of deficient systems, their central banks and the other impedimenta of superstition. In Sachs' view it is at best a waste of time to seek a broad consensus for reform because most people don't understand why reform is necessary and will block it if possible. Deliverance brooks no argument. All we need to do is send in the economic equivalent of the Waffen SS and that will be that."
The Capitalist Threat
At the time this was written I was immensely cheered to discover that the billionaire George Soros seemed to share my thinking. In the February 1997 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, Soros considered that "the untrammelled intensification of laissez-faire capitalism and the spread of market values into all areas of life is endangering our open and democratic society. The main enemy of the open society, I believe, is no longer the communist but the capitalist threat."
For Soros, capitalism, like Nazism and Communism, seeks to justify its claim to ultimate truth by an appeal to science. The ultimate truth is, as Soros says, beyond the reach of mankind, because we are part of the reality we seek to comprehend. In social and political affairs the participants' perceptions help to determine reality -- as postulated in Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle. [The fact of observation itself affects the thing observed.] In such situations the facts do not necessarily constitute reliable criteria for judging the truth of statements.
"... in economics, unlike the natural sciences, the material facts can influence the result of any reaction. Atoms of oxygen and carbon can only combine with each other in certain proportions. The decision of an industrialist may depend on objective facts, but may depend more on how his wife treated him last night, or on a hunch."
I will conclude my visit with Soros by another quote, even more relevant now than in 1997.
"In many parts of the world control of the state is so closely associated with the creation of private wealth that one might speak of robber capitalism or the 'gangster state'.
"In the social sphere what is effective is not necessarily identical with what is right, because of the reflexive connection between thinking and reality. ...our sense of right and wrong is endangered by our preoccupation with success, as measured by money. Anything goes, as long as you can get away with it."
This axiom is no better expressed than in the recent treatment of the people of Honduras, Haiti and Palestine. It is nowhere more succinctly expressed by President Obama's chief economic heavyweight, Lawrence Summers, who, 18 years ago was vice-president of the World Bank.
In a memo to staff of the bank, Summers wrote: "'Dirty' Industries: Just between you and me, shouldn't the World Bank be encouraging MORE migration of the dirty industries to the LDCs [Less Developed Countries]? I can think of three reasons: "...the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that; ...under-populated countries in Africa are vastly UNDER-polluted, their air quality is probably vastly inefficiently low compared to Los Angeles or Mexico City; ... The demand for a clean environment for aesthetic and health reasons is likely to have very high-income elasticity. The concern over an agent that causes a one in a million change in the odds of prostrate [sic] cancer is obviously going to be much higher in a country where people survive to get prostrate cancer than in a country where under five mortality is 200 per thousand."
Inequality and Human Rights
This is the thinking of one of the world's most influential thinkers and leaders, an adviser to two presidents of the US, and the moral and intellectual helmsman of globalisation and modern capitalism. You may now be able to understand the Copenhagen debacle.
Summers is the paradigm of those so-called investors, casino gamblers and felonious financiers whose recklessness and greed have driven the price of food out of the reach of the poor, whose speculation in sub-prime mortgages and other 'instruments' have pauperised the American working class and destroyed the savings and pensions of millions around the world. Ten years ago, in 2000, Mr Bill Gates' wealth was estimated at over $100 billion, just slightly less than the wealth of 600 million people in the least developed countries.
The World Bank's Human Development Report for that year said global inequalities had increased in the 20th century to the point where they count as violations of human rights. The inequalities have increased "by orders of magnitude out of proportion to anything experienced before". The gap between the incomes of the richest and poorest countries was about three to one in 1820, 35 to one in 1950, 44 to one in 1973, and 72 to one in 1992. Today it is more like 150 to one.
It is in the interest of the rich that Jamaicans pay an interest rate 40 times as much as Americans, Britons or Japanese. We have paid back several times as much as we borrowed to build schools, to repair hurricane damage and to buy Pajeros or whatever for ginnigogs. We are told that we must make sacrifices, must reduce the taxes paid by the rich to attract 'Development' while we watch our jobs outsourced to the Dominican Republic, China, Salvador and other happier hunting grounds, where labour costs are infinitesimal and labour unions non-existent.
We have never defaulted on our debt although the British, Americans, Mexicans, Russians, Argentinians, Germans and French and many others have done so. It is our duty to pay the usurious interest of the investors who double their money in three years. It sounds like a good reason to hand the Usain Bolt stadium over to UTech. We need to produce more cannon fodder for globalisation. Our culture and our talents are of no account.
We have never defaulted because we understand and accept the Summers/Herrnstein Bell Curve principle that we must be satisfied with our subservient status, generating crime and such other primary products as we are capable.
It is not our business to dream, to make music or to be the best in the world at anything. Our jobs are to be foot soldiers in the great march of the grey masses, the fertiliser for real wealth.
(Historical note: Under the Government Savings Bank Law, repealed by the PNP in 1958, it was illegal for the savings of Jamaicans in the bank to be invested in Jamaica. The GSB invested in the South Africa of Malan, Verwoerd and Vorster.)
Copyright ©2009 John Maxwell firstname.lastname@example.org