Saturday, October 11, 2008

Economic Insecurity Update: Woods & Forests Are Being Felled Mercilessly, We Will Miss None More Than Bretton Woods

Migrant Mother/Pea-Picker in the Dust Bowl, Photo by Dorothea Lange, 1936


The world financial system is teetering on the "brink of systemic meltdown", the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned in Washington.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn said rich nations had so far failed to restore confidence, but he endorsed a new action plan by the G7 group. ... Speaking in Washington on Saturday, Mr Strauss-Kahn said: "Intensifying solvency concerns about a number of the largest US-based and European financial institutions have pushed the global financial system to the brink of systemic meltdown."
BBC, 10-11-08

Economic Insecurity Update: Woods & Forests Are Being Felled Mercilessly, We Will Miss None More Than Bretton Woods -- Chomsky on the Lessons to Learn in this Present Crisis

By Richard Power


The woods and forests of the world are being felled mercilessly. And it is both a spiritual and environmental crime. But there is one wood we are missing right now more than all of the others -- Bretton Woods. Sadly, most of us do not even know its name, let alone its importance.

This unfortunate time of dangerously deepening economic duress contains within it a profound opportunity for each of us and all of us. Do not miss it.

Here are some excerpts from a worthy contribution to our ruminations on the current crisis in US and global financial markets, with a link to the full text. It is from the indefatigable and impeccable Noam Chomsky and published, poignantly, in the Irish Times (the major newspaper on that blessed island where world politics and economy is discussed intelligently 24x7).

In this piece, Chomsky provides brilliant insight into some of the critical lessons available to "We, the People" in these dire circumstances.

In a functioning democratic society, a political campaign would address such fundamental issues, looking into root causes and cures, and proposing the means by which people suffering the consequences can take effective control. ...
Financial liberalisation has effects well beyond the economy. It has long been understood that it is a powerful weapon against democracy. Free capital movement creates what some have called a "virtual parliament" of investors and lenders, who closely monitor government programmes and "vote" against them if they are considered irrational ...
John Maynard Keynes, the British negotiator, considered the most important achievement of Bretton Woods to be the establishment of the right of governments to restrict capital movement.
In dramatic contrast, in the neoliberal phase after the breakdown of the Bretton Woods system in the 1970s, the US treasury now regards free capital mobility as a "fundamental right", unlike such alleged "rights" as those guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: health, education, decent employment, security and other rights that the Reagan and Bush administrations have dismissed as "letters to Santa Claus", "preposterous", mere "myths". ...
"Politics is the shadow cast on society by big business," concluded America's leading 20th century social philosopher John Dewey, and will remain so as long as power resides in "business for private profit through private control of banking, land, industry, reinforced by command of the press, press agents and other means of publicity and propaganda".
The United States effectively has a one-party system, the business party, with two factions, Republicans and Democrats. There are differences between them. In his study Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age, Larry Bartels shows that during the past six decades "real incomes of middle-class families have grown twice as fast under Democrats as they have under Republicans, while the real incomes of working-poor families have grown six times as fast under Democrats as they have under Republicans".
Differences can be detected in the current election as well. Voters should consider them, but without illusions about the political parties, and with the recognition that consistently over the centuries, progressive legislation and social welfare have been won by popular struggles, not gifts from above.
Those struggles follow a cycle of success and setback. They must be waged every day, not just once every four years, always with the goal of creating a genuinely responsive democratic society, from the voting booth to the workplace.
Noam Chomsky, Common Dreams, 10-10-08

Richard Power's Left-Handed Security: Overcoming Fear, Greed & Ignorance in This Era of Global Crisis is available now! Click here for more information.

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For the Words of Power Climate Crisis Updates Archive, click here.

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