Thursday, November 22, 2007

The audacity to choke - and squeeze further

I recently read an article in the New York Times that had me thinking about the swaths of self denial that certain institutions use to cover themselves as they continue their business of making money off the global marketplace.

Read the report here in detail but one statement in particular got to me.

The report focuses on the ever growing trend of companies in the United States fanning out over larger areas around the globe in their search for the eternal lucre and profit. I can’t find too much fault with this behavior given that variants of capitalism seems to work OK in a majority of nations around the world (of course, it has it’s attendant warts that I shall list in some post later, but in its most basic form, it is a fairly feral animal that weeds out and mostly tramples slower moving animals leaving significant road kills in its hunting grounds while providing game meat for the villagers…)

With our economy currently heading towards a state of extended stasis, it is only natural for the capitalist machine to seek our greener pastures and feed itself. This way the economy grows, we keep the industries from dying out and innovation is spurred (add in a couple of hundred extra millionaires and all are happy with equilibrium). Most of us are ok with all of this because for the most part, the system works and we can go to the movies and have that bag of popcorn unhindered on weekends…

What does get to me is when senior analysts (the well educated suits) at financial firms start to couch naked capitalist aspirations with ennobling messages that portray financial companies playing a role in alleviating people in other countries from their current economic conditions to a higher, more modern, purportedly better condition while trying to explain their actions… Cunning contortionist are among the phrases that come to mind, but the quote is very telling.

“Think of 400 million people in China going from the 6th century to the 21st century over the last 15 years,” said Robert Barbera, chief economist at ITG, a brokerage and advisory firm. “The same thing is going on in India as well. That’s still the big driver for growth. It could self-destruct for any number of reasons, but that underlying story is decades away from being over.”


This statement is plain wrong and misleading for a lot of reasons.

- If people still think that countries are stuck in the 6th century then they would need to revisit their high school history, geography and civics classes (not to mention maybe a flawed education system)..

- Even if the above is true, it is indeed puerile to think that it is the capitalist industrial complex that is responsible for lifting people from the 6th century to the 21st century…

- A reason for some nations to become stuck in less modern times might be due to the reckless plundering that oiled the economic engines of countries fuelled by ideas of enlightenment and industrial revolution (here the plundering of nations was not just limited to human beings in the form of slave capital, but also materials hijacked from these nations to fill the coffers of the plunderers)… Think King Leopold II.

- At a psychological level, the statement just shows the brand of hidden elitism that a lot of us have towards the purported ‘third world’ (how I hate that term) countries. The elitism is normally well disguised in polite dinner chatter, but wells from the collective subconscious during times like these…

If one is in the business of making profits, just say it, it is sad when I see individuals believing that they are lifting people from their supposedly un-modern conditions when the alternative – leaving them untouched might have led to a better state – we just do not know for sure – do we?

Maurits Escher (1898-1972), 'Predestination', 294 X 422 mm, Lithograph, 1951


Jafabrit said...

it is a patronizing quote to be sure, and what comes to mind is that the only thing they are doing is bringing a new way of exploiting others under the guise of modernity.

Sunil said...

You hit it bang on...