I am assisting the teaching of a master’s subject called The Political Economy of Conflict and Peace, at the University of Sydney this semester. My first presentation was yesterday and in the lead up to it I drowned myself in the political economic papers and books I wrote or read over the last couple of years. And searching YouTube for parts of documentaries that I have found useful in the past. This entry has become a bit of a dumping ground for me to refer and share again at later times… maybe you’ll find some of this random collection of thoughts and clips useful too…
The global economy today:
What does today’s global stage look like? I.e. What is the shape of today’s political/economical/social pyramid: tall or flat? What do people’s lives look like at the extremes?
The Miniature Earth:
Reminder that things could be worse: The Dark Ages
Cultural changes from Feudalism through to Modernity
– The British
– The Spanish
– In Africa
Different ways to tell the story:
- Realism – analyses the world as states acting on their self-interests
- Liberalism – analyses the world as individuals acting on rational self-interests
- Marxism – analyses the world as classes acting on their rational self-interests
In The Structural Theory of Imperialism (a World Systems Theory), Johan Galtung describes a Conveyor Belt between the periphery of the Periphery (pP) pumping resources through to the periphery of the Core (pC) – this is clear to anyone who travels to places like South America, who grow the best coffee beans, sell them to the “north” for cheap and buy them back in the form of the horrible Nescafe Instant, which is all that is generally on offer to the citizens. Crazy! Same goes for all cash crops from cocoa to cotton, which prevent these people from growing food for themselves, causes slavery and human trafficking,
Recent changes to the money system:
1944 Bretton Woods – IMF, WB, Fixed exchange rates
1947 Marshall Plan – European Recovery
1971 Gold Standard replaced with USD as reserve currency
1973 Oil shocks -> stagflation
1978 China opens up
1980s Reganomics / Thatcherism
1980s Latin American debt crisis
1989 Fall of USSR & ‘socialist’ allies.
1997 Asian financial crisis
2007 GFC – sub-prime lending
Friedman, Thatcherism and Reaganomics, and the rise and effects of Neoliberalism.
Nixon ends Bretton Woods International Monetary System
Introducing the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund
How our system works:
Demystifying Economics – Jim Stanford explains how the Booms and Bust are a necessary part of the system, and why it is the people at the very top of the pyramid who are bailed out, while the people with mortgages and jobs are the ones that have to pay.
Crises of capitalism (an RSA Animate)
The Goldsmith’s tale explains the history of money:
The South financing the North – The End of Poverty?
Who owns the Federal Reserve?
John Perkins – Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
Institutions and regimes and “structural adjustments” – Bill Clinton apologises
IMF, WB and WTO – who is helping who? a longish news clip
Dambisa Moyo – Dead Aid – Is Aid Killing Africa?
The myth of a “trickle-down” effect
Simms shows that on our current trajectory it would take 15 planets’ worth of earth’s biocapacity to reduce poverty to a state where the poorest receive $3 per day. In other words ‘we will have made Earth uninhabitable long before poverty is eradicated.’
Did you know that half of all world trade currently passes through tax havens? Apparently they ‘allow rich people and corporations to stash trillions in assets that could provide governments with at least $250 billion a yearin tax revenues.’
Wall St = the new world government – Inside Job
The roots of the problem – greed, fear and the laws that encourage it:
The profit motive, and the power of “corporation”
Laws of Incorporation – What kind of person are corporations? What guides their morals? THE BOTTOM LINE.
Connection with fear and The Power of Nightmares
“At the heart of the story are two groups: the American neo-conservatives and the radical Islamists. Both were idealists who were born out of the failure of the liberal dream to build a better world.These two groups have changed the world but not in the way either intended. Those with the darkest fears became the most powerful. Together they created today’s nightmare vision of an organised terror network. A fantasy that politicians then found restored their power and authority in a disillusioned age. Those with the darkest fears became the most powerful. The rise of the politics of fear begins in 1949 with two men whose radical ideas would inspire the attack of 9/11 and influence the neo-conservative movement that dominates Washington. Both these men believed that modern liberal freedoms were eroding the bonds that held society together. The two movements they inspired set out, in their different ways, to rescue their societies from this decay. But in an age of growing disillusion with politics, the neo-conservatives turned to fear in order to pursue their vision.”
This three part documentary traces the rise of Neo-Conservativism in the U.S., with “disillusioned liberals” like Irving Kristol and Paul Wolfowitz looking to Leo Strauss’s political thinking to come together with Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. Neo-conservatives come to power under the Reagan administration, using fear to unite the citizens (and unite with the radical Islamists) in a war against the Soviet Union. It traces this alongside the radical Islamist movement back to Sayyid Qutb’s visit to the U.S. to learn about their education systems but sees the “corruption of morals and virtues in western society through individualism” and returns to Egypt to and starts the movement. Qutb is executed in 1966 and one of his followers, a–Zawahiri, later becomes the mentor to Osama bin Laden. Then of course, the two radical groups then face each other head on in the “War on Terror”.
A much shorter and funnier version of the above: Pirates and Emperors
Culture as the Ideological Battleground of the Capitalist World-System
Positive impacts of the rise of Capitalism:
- Women’s rights
- Technology and communications
- New forms of creativity, variety, learning from other cultures
- Quality of life of some
- Quality of life of others
- Depression, cancer, stress, baldness and obesity of people at the top
- Loss of our connection to ancestors and to each other
- Hunger and dehumanization of people at the bottom
How The Pyramid is changing in the 21st century
Jim Stanford – Economic Crisis:
Capitalism: A Love Story
Serge La Touche on Degrowth
Microfinance – lending money to women in the third world
Investment in Cradle to Cradle design – turning waste into food:
Investments in “Social Business” – Mohammed Yunus
The Eagle and the Condor (the meeting of the Mind and the Heart, of Masculine and Feminine, of the knowledge and wisdom of our world, from Western individualism, to Eastern collectivism, to Indigenous connection to the land)
Bill Gates: How to Fix Capitalism? “Creative Capitalism” (LOVE this!!!)
Changing the economic system with an email
10 ways to change the world:
1. Change corporation law – redefine “corporation” so that they are NOT treated as separate entities in their own right that can be declared bankrupt in and of themselves. Corporation law must be adjusted to hold shareholders responsible for monetary and non-monetary profits and loss.
2. Change finance / stock market laws – in implementing the above, the ST money market would probably have to go, as would trading Derivatives and Options. The stock exchange would slowdown and be based on long term investments.
3. Change banking laws for money/debt creation and collection – limit their ability to print money via debt, decrease bank’s profits, and maybe all debt cancels after 50 years, I’m not sure. Something needs to be done to regulate them though.
4. Change balance of power in the WB, WTO and IMF – give more votes to the poorer nations and create fairer trade policies
5. Create international tax laws – to crack down on tax havens.
6. Philosophically, a self-examination of our values – what makes a life “good”? Two shifts: shift from valuing capital to valuing creativity; and shift from EGO to ECO.
7. Women might reconsider what they find attractive qualities in men – see the attraction of a creative and caring man over a rich and selfish man. Then maybe men will change in suit.
8. Write letters to corporations telling them you won’t buy their product until they stop slave trade and ridiculously low paying 80-hour weeks in sweatshops, and treat their workers in a way they would like to be treated.
9. Public shame of the ridiculously rich – unite in an attempt to decrease the obesity of the rich, and as a consequence decrease the hunger of the poor.
10. See what we might be able to do to campaign to change the laws above.
Essentially I’m talking about setting a limit to the lifestyle of those at the very bottom and very top to the pyramid. There’s nothing wrong with inequity. As my friend said, “if you wanna work smart and hard and eat lobster all the time, and if I wanna work little and eat noodles, then that’s cool. But we both should have food and shelter. It’s just a matter of cutting out the extremes and increasing social mobility between the classes.”
For more on related issues check out:
Summing up our ecological context: Where we are, where we are going, and how
Overpopulation: The Elephant in the Room
When Jim Sanford visited Sydney: The Paper Economy
Trying to do something about chocolate slavery: Chocolate slavery and people with agency
On women and men’s sexual frustration: Empowering women and the role of men
Switching between sides – the paradoxes one faces – Leftist Idealist or Rightwing Conservative
1. Stop exploiting them 2. Look at ourselves Helping Developing Nations
Links to more docos – Free documentaries
 Andrew Simms, ‘Trickle-Down Myth’, New Scientist (18 Oct 2008). p. 49. Andrew Simms is the policy director of the New Economics Foundation in London. In this article Simms steps through the mathematics to show the system is designed such that for the poor to get ‘slightly less poor, the rich have to get very much richer’. This means it would take ‘around $166 worth of global growth to generate $1 extra for people living on below $1 a day’.
 Susan George, ‘We Must Think Big’, New Scientist (18 Oct 2008). p. 51.