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The Cart in the Speculative Mud

by Marc Batko Friday, Jan. 04, 2008 at 11:13 AM

Liberalizing markets leads to instability, not growth. Developing and thresholdc countries suffer grievously through US speculation. The New Year is a time to abandon myths of American exceptionalism and corporate beneficence, mending our own pockets and footprints.


New Paradigms for the New Year

By Marc Batko

For hundreds of years the US was a source of hope and inspiration for the world, the city set on a hill, the dream of equal opportunity. With the Vietnam War and the Iraq war, the world has come to fear America as unbridled megalomania, a forked tongue power that feigns concern for human rights while enforcing its economic interests. Unwilling to see the log or the militarism in its own eye, the US rails against the speck in the eyes of the developing world and redefines solidarity as compliance with its multinational corporations. Once allies were respected and lip service was offered to self-determination. Now vassals are sought and countries expected to surrender their resources for the profit needs of beneficent corporations.

Liberalization of markets has brought instability, not growth. The Asian crisis followed by the financial crises in Mexico, Russia, Turkey, Brazil and Argentina left behind grievous wounds. The Washington Consensus, privatization, deregulation and opening markets to American finance capital, is discredited. At last a post-Washington Consensus is forming (cf. Jorg Goldberg, “The Cure is the Sickness,” In Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov, the Grand Inquisitor promised happiness in exchange for freedom. The South is refusing that hoax and demanding its own freedom in forging alternative economic policy. Countries no longer need the dollar to buy oil. Whether the US accepts this new reality and sees the self-destruction in its myopic quest for power and wealth will decide over the future of the planet.

The forced resignation of Cheney would help restore the dollar’s stability and the world’s respect for the US. Would you lend money to a pyromaniac or a gun-crazed megalomaniac? Blowback and the isolation and fear of the US are defense mechanisms of the world intent on survival and safeguarding law and language. Another analogy would be removing the fly from the soup after the guests complain or throwing out the rotten rancid milk after the rule of law has been spoilt.

Intimidation, might makes right and double standards are false securities like building your house on the hand (cf. Matthew 7). The world should be tilled and preserved and isn’t just putty for creating more money out of money and more international fear and loathing out of initial advantage!

The threat of war, war-mongering, violates international law (cf. UN Charter) like stealing the resources of another country. The right of self-determination and reparations are foundations of international law as liberating the world from the scourge of war was the foundation for the United Nations and the UN Charter. The fifty million who died in World War II united the world in outlawing war.

Interdependence should replace jingoism, ethnocentrism and the cult of the soldier. Nonviolence is stronger than violence as the pen is mightier than the sword. The penultimate should be restrained by the ultimate as short-term necessities should be relativized by the long-term love for life and respect for the planet. Hope and true patriotism (cf. Bonhoeffer, Ethics and Letters and Papers from Prison) require tough love, sacrifice and engagement, and may not become justifications for lawlessness and greed for power and wealth.

How do you proclaim costly grace in a culture accustomed to cheap grace and new financial products? How can alternative sustainable economics be heard when criticizing the dominant economic myths, the self-healing market, beneficent corporations and nature as a free good, external or sink, is anathema? Infinite growth is impossible in a finite world. We were told: increased profits would bring higher wages and more jobs. Instead soaring profits brought exploding inequality, destruction of the earth, unbridled speculation on currency markets and the working poor. Private affluence stands opposite public squalor. The average CEO earns .4 billion, 640 times the worker’s pay. Some CEOs earn more in ten minutes than their workers earn in an entire year and yet those CEOs are given tax gifts and tax subsidies.

“Words mean what I say they mean,” Humpty Dumpty said to Alice. Can the US discover interdependence, humility and self-criticism, mend its own pockets and focus on systemic/structural evil instead of scapegoating the weak and confusing its own interests with the interests of the world? The abuse of power in the US, cooking intelligence and exaggerating threats, has inevitable consequences in the mockery and isolation of the US. King Midas must have known that he would die of hunger after the entire world was transformed into gold. The economic and political elites of the US must have known that future peace necessitates partnership and sharing and that the most fearsome military power will not be able to force countries to hold onto an increasingly worthless dollar.

Jesus calls us to new life, to create a new language and a new mathematics, to encourage alternative perspectives and treasure the present in its interplay with the past and the future. We could be internationalistas, zealots for justice with a passion for reconciliation amid social, economic and cultural disconnection. The hope is that we become subjects enthralled with the wonder of life and with spiritual, moral, intellectual and creative growth. In the words of the Zapatistas of Mexico, the hope is one world where many worlds fit, where everyone has a place and where both cooperation and competition thrive.

As the New Year begins, may we see ourselves as part of a larger world and the economy part of the oikos. Politics must have precedence so the economy serves public interests. May we mend our own pockets and discover our gifts and powers repressed in economism. May we overcome the anti-social offensive with its anti-labor bias, its hire and fire, winner take all and right of the stronger. May we overcome the crisis of the welfare state, the crisis in the heads of the economic and political elites.

Hope comes from below, from the marginalized and excluded, from the grassroots. May community centers open up in every neighborhood. These centers could be oases of counseling and activity, of reclaiming and rediscovering our interconnectedness. The multiplier effects would be positive and breathtaking (cf. community centers in Vancouver, British Columbia, very different from the negative effects of the Washington Consensus and opening markets to hot money.

How many reasons did the chicken need to cross the road? May the US join the world in living an ethic of resistance and solidarity where human interests finally counter and contain profit interests and life and the future are more than newly packaged financial products!

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