Thursday, October 25, 2012

Globalization and its discontents

             Globalization is based on "Free Market" ideology. Companies should be free, absolutely free, to invest anywhere, do what they want, no strings attached. At best, governments should serve as industry's handmaidens, not their masters. In the words of one neo-conservative luminary, government should be shrunk to the point that "it can be drowned in a bathtub":

              In practice, wo/man appears a more tribal animal than our ideologues would wish! Of course, ultimately it all comes down to a question of power. If you have the power to globalize, you globalize on the backs of those who are too weak to resist.  Western investment - often compelled by IMF / World Bank diktat - in third world economies? No problemo! Free markets foster wealth creation which wealth then "trickles down"  - The Golden Shower - and lifts the masses out of their poverty. That's the theory anyway. The practice may leave a bit to be desired..

              Haitian farmers, for example, have to compete with US subsidized rice which maintains them in poverty if it does not force them off the land into urban squalor. (Subsidized rice?? - Gee, we thought "Free Marketeers" were against subsidies. Guess it's a question of whose subsidy.. Third world farmers versus US agrobusiness, petroleum companies versus renewable energy producers..) But then a little suffering for little Haitian farmers: can't make omelettes without breaking eggs,eh?

             On the other hand, when it comes to third world (or ex-third world) companies investing heavily in important sectors of the North American economy? Not so sure, not so sure..

              A recent poll found, for example, that 64% of Albertans polled "opposed Chinese investment in the form of full ownership" in the Albertan oil sector while only 15% found it acceptable: that's more than 4 to 1 against full Chinese ownership of oil sector assets!! "Free Market".. Maybe, just Not In My Back Yard. 

              When it came to Chinese state-owned companies buying oil patch assets, things weren't much better: 53% against, 24% for - a bit over 2 to 1 against.

               As the French say, "un poids, deux mesures": one weight, two standards of weight. One standard for the first world, another standard for the third world :-D

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