"The Age of Consent"
(Harper, 2004 by George Monbiot)
- argues for a new world order, a global democratic world order.
His study of globalization has much in common with Teilhard de Chardin's "The Future of Man"
Chapter 5 shows how the IMF & World Bank caused crises like the Asian crisis
p.8: "Our (national) loyalties have made us easy to manipulate. In the First World War, a few dozen aristocrats sent eight million men to die in the name of nationhood"
p8: "(We will abandon) nationhood, just as, in earlier epochs, we abandoned the barony and the clan"
p.18: "The institutions founded 'to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war' have failed. Since the end of World War Two, some thirty million people have been killed in armed conflicts. Most of them were civilians"
p.23: "Our task is surely not to overthrow globalization, but to capture it, and to use it as a vehicle for humanity's first global democratic revolution"
p.29: "((Karl)Marx himself.....devised the perfect preconditions for totalitarian dictatorship. The 'dictatorship of the proletariat' transforms itself, with instant effect, into the dictatorship of the bureaucrat"
p.31: "The men and women who have governed all the recent superpowers - Britain, the USSR and the United States - have sought to enhance their power and secure domestic support without redistributing wealth, by seizing control of other nations and looting their economies"
p.34: "Any political system which seeks to enhance human welfare must provide the means of containing the preventing the aggression with which some people would (treat) others"
p.40: "Theirs (Anarchists') may be the perfect political system for another planet, inhabited by life-forms whose responses to scarcity and competition are the very opposite of ours. Regrettably, it is not a system destined to enhance the lives of those who live here"
p.41: "...democratic government, of one kind or another, appears to be the least-worst system we can envisage"
p.45: "The third major problem with democracy is that a system capable of restraining the oppressor will also be capable of restraining the oppressed. If we are to prevent the rich and powerful from wrecking our lives, we require a government big enough to sit on them; but a government big enough to sit on them will also be big enough to sit on us"
p.45: "While states, over the past few
years, have become ever more willing to regulate their citizens, they have
become ever less willing to regulate the corporations. This is one of the
problems this book seeks to address.
But while democracy has evident defects, it also possesses two great attributes. The first is that it is the only political system which contains the potential for its own improvement. We can overthrow our representatives
without having to kill them. To a lesser extent, we can affect their behaviour while they remain in office"
p.46-47: "But if we can - as most people
do - agree that democracy is the best way to run a nation, it is hard to think
of any reason why it should not be the best way to run the world. Indeed, it is
surely demonstrable that many of the most pressing global and international
problems arise from an absence of global and international
democracy. The way in which states engage with each other is much
closer to the anarchist model than the democratic one.
The democratic restraints within a state ...... do not prevent it from attacking weaker ones"
p. 62: "If an attempt to replace the global economy with a local economy locks the poor world into poverty....and if consumer democracy and voluntary simplicity avoid power rather than confronting it, then our attempts to re-democratize the world by withdrawing from globalization appear to be doomed. the leaves us.....with just one remaining option: we must democratize globalization"
p.65-66: "Every revolution
....was....described as 'unrealistic' just a few years before it happened. The
American Revolution, the French Revolution, female enfranchisement, the rise of
communism, the fall of communism, the aspirations of decolonization movements
all over the world were mocked by those reformists who believed the
best we could hope for was to tinker with existing institutions and beg some
small remission from the dominant powers"
p.66: "As the other possibilities fall away, a global democratic revolution is ..... the only realistic option we have. It is the only strategy which could deliver us from the global dictatorship of vested interests. It is the only strategy that is likely to succeed. We have responded to the Age of Coercion with an an Age of Dissent. This is the beginning, not the end, of our battle. It is time to invoke the age of Consent"
Chapter 4 outlines the idea of a World Parliament. A heavy chapter. Can be skipped over at first reading
p.141: Sierra Leone...spends 6.7 times more on servicing its debt than it spends on primary schooling. As a result, only 24% of its children go to school. Debt payments consume nearly 90% of the government's revenues
p.143: Joseph Stiglist, the Nobel laureate who was formerly the chief economist of the World Bank....
The IMF, Stiglist shows (has) destabilized exchange rates, exacerbated balance of payments problems, forced countries into debt and recession, and destroyed the jobs and incomes of tens of millions of workers
p.144: (Stiglist demonstrates how IMF
programs) are forced upon weaker nations...: every country ....must place the
control of inflation ahead of other economic objectives; immediately remove its
barriers to trade and the flow of capital; liberalize its banking system; reduce
government spending on everything except debt repayments; and privatize the
assets which can be sold to foreign investors.
"In a sense", Stiglist writes, " it is the IMF that keeps the speculators in business".
In the 1980s the IMF began to destabilize some
of the most successful economies in the developing world:...Thailand, South
Korea, The Philippines and Indonesia.....
p.145: The IMF....effectively forced those nations to drop their restrictions on the movements of capital....
"I believe that capital account liberalization was the single most important factor leading to the crisis..."
p. 146: The result .....was that their liberalized currencies began to be attacked by financial speculators. In 1997 they swooped on the the region's most vulnerable currency, the Thai baht. They made their money by means of a simple speculative game. You borrow a huge quantity of baht from a Thai bank, while the currency is valuable. You convert the baht into dollars. If you do so suddenly enough and in sufficient quantity, the value of the currency collapses. Baht.....are now much cheaper than they were before. You then pay off the loan with some of your dollars and pocket the difference. This is the business of some of the most admired "investors" in the Western world.
p.147: By 1998, the IMF had spread the
disaster it had caused as far as Russia.....
....it (now) appears to be pushing Latin America in the same direction
p. 148: The East Asian countries which survived the crash were those which refused to listen to the IMF: ....Malaysia.....China....
Similar comparisons can be made between Russia, which did as the IMF instructed and collapsed, and Poland, which refused to take the IMF's advice and prospered
These crises and related disasters, triggered or exacerbated by the IMF, have thrown tens of millions of people out of work, turned comfortable citizens into poor ones and poor citizens into desperate ones, destroyed investment in education, health and other public services, undermined the ability of nations to feed themselves....
p.151: (World Bank & IMF policies) are indirectly responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths
p.156-157: ...the world's impoverished nations ....owe a total of $2.5 trillions, largely to commercial banks and the World Bank and IMF. Between 1980 and 1996, the nations of sub-Saharan Africa paid twice the sum of their total debt in the form of interest, but they still owed three times more in 1996 than they did in 1980
p.157: This accumulation of debt has been
accompanied by a massive transfer of natural resources from the poor world to
the rich world....
Between 1503 and 1660, 185,000 kilogrammes of gold and 16 million kg of silver were shipped from Latin America to Europe. Guautemoc argues that his (native) people should see this transfer not as a war crime, but as "the first of several friendly loans, granted by (Latin) America for Europe's development".
p. 158: Were the indigenous people of Latin America to charge compound interest on this loan, at the modest rate of ten per cent, Europe would owe them a volume of gold and silver which exceeded the weight of the planet.
That the colonized world, whose wealth has
been plundered for 500 years, should be deemed to owe the rich world money, and
that this presumed debt should be so onerous that every year $382 billion, which
might have been used to feed the hungry, to house the poor, to provide health
care, education, clean water (etc)....,
is transferred from the poor world to the banks and financial institutions of the rich world in the form of debt repayments is an obscenity which degrades all those of us who benefit from it.
p.159ff....re John Maynard Keynes and his proposed system for fair trade....vetoed/rejected by USA...
p.181: Chapter 6 "The Levelling - A Fair Trade Organization"
p.181: The world possesses sufficient resources, if carefully managed and properly distributed, to meet the needs of all it people....
p.182: Fair trade ....requires that the rich nations, like the fastest racehorses, carry a handicap
p.186: Nations, like people, appear to become more selfish as they get richer
p.188: ...Oxfam has shown that....the poor
world obtains 32 times as much revenue from exports as it receives from aid. If
the poor nations increased their share of world exports by only five per cent,
they would reap an extra $350 billion a year.
....a one per cent increase in the share of world exports for each developing region would reduce the number of people in extreme poverty by 128 million...
p.191: The rich nations now give their farmers $352 billion a year......These subsidies permit rich countries to sell crops for less than they cost to produce......(The poor world's) exports cannot compete with the artificially cheap crops grown by the rich world's farmers. (And)...when the rich world's exports enter the poor world's markets, they undercut the local farmers, forcing them out of business
p.196: .....a little-known truth: ...almost
every nation which has industrialized successfully ...has done so not through
free trade but through protectionism
e.g. Britain (p.197)
e.g. USA (.198)
e.g. Japan, Taiwan, South Korea (p.200)
p.205: How the World Trade Organization (WTO)
is controlled/gagged by the rich nations:
- agenda is set by "The Quad": US, EU, Canada & Japan, joined each time by a small number of poorer countries to form "The Green Room" which is in effect (p.206) the WTO's Security Council, with Quad as permanent membership.
p.206: example and details of controlling/gagging....
p.210: The movement of goods around the world
is extraordinarily wasteful and inefficient: grain is shipped from one side of
the world to the other, passing freighters which are transporting an identical
cargo in the opposite direction.
Salad vegetables, grown with water stolen from the Samburu people, and with the help of pesticides which are wrecking the ecology of the savannahs, are flown from Kenya to Britain in planes which are helping to heat the planet.....while hundreds of acres of British greenhouses fall into dereliction
p.215: A cup of coffee in the rich world may cost $3, but the farmer who produced the component which makes it worth drinking received ....2 or 3 cents
p.239: Because capitalism is built upon the
lending of money at interest, capitalist economies are driven by the need to
repay debt, which is why survival within this system is contingent upon endless
growth. Endless growth is physically impossible.
Interest payments....are feasible only in the short term. As debt can be paid only be generating value, capitalism seems destined to destroy the planet ((JW's reflection: is this why Moses/Bible says "Don't take interest on a loan"?))
p. 249: Final chapter: The Contingency of Power....."I must act"
p.258: Mainstream politics has become, especially for young people, boring and alienating, as many correctly perceive that it has been reduced to a matter of management, that the competing parties in most nations have been captured by a class of people permitted by corporations and the financial markets to govern, whose aims and outlook are almost identical
p.259: The global justice movement has become, for many of those alienated from national politics, an enfranchisement movement. By lifting their sights from the national sphere to the global or international sphere, they have discovered that the potential for political engagement has not disappeared, but merely shifted to another realm.
2004-08-18: Re capitalism heading for a financial crash: According to "Money" Magazine, quoted on morning TV program today, Australians are "drowning in debt" and owe AUD$700 billion, $26 billion of which is owed by credit card holders. If the Australian figure is $700 billion, what is the world figure....and how much longer can the world's economy carry such a burden?
For the time being, maybe the best way to take action re fair trade etc is to
influence nation states. And the best way to influence nation states is by small
parties which often have the balance of power. Classic example for me in
Australia was the DLP which achieved government assistance/justice for
non-government schools - something which decades of speeches/meetings etc had
failed to achieve. A small party could powerfully influence a government to care
more about fair trade etc.
The various Green parties around the world offer hope, but some of their moral policies (e.g. on homosexuality) make it difficult/impossible for many people to support them
A Family Vote type party could adopt fair trade and debt relief as part of its policy of concern for familes all over the world