Those of us who seek to intervene in policy debates in favor of economic justice and environmentally sustainability are regularly assured by the world’s power brokers that they are fully committed to these goals so long as economic growth and the expansion of free trade are not compromised by governmental restraints on the market. So sacred have growth and free trade become in our modern culture that only rarely do we find the courage to ask why they should be given precedence over the needs of people and nature. Indeed, why should we consider accelerating growth and trade to be of any importance at all except to the extent that they serve people and nature?
When the proponents of growth, market deregulation, and free trade tout their benefits, it is well to bear in mind what some of the most outspoken of these proponents really have in mind. Take this account from a recent issue of Forbes magazine.
As disillusion with socialism and other forms of statist economics spreads, private, personal initiative is being released to seek its destiny. Wealth, naturally, follows. The two big openings for free enterprise in this decade have come in Latin America and the Far East. Not surprisingly, the biggest clusters of new billionaires on our list have risen from the ferment of these two regions. Eleven new Mexican billionaires in two years, seven more ethnic Chinese.
Taking a slightly more populist view, Business Week presented its own special report titled “A Millionaire a Minute,” providing this breathless account of what the free market has accomplished in Asia.
Wealth.. . . Now East Asia is generating its own wealth on a speed and scale that probably is without historical precedent. The number of non-Japanese Asian multimillionaires is expected to double to 800,000 by 1996. . . . East Asia will surpass Japan in purchasing power within a decade. . . . There are new markets for everything from Mercedes Benz cars to Motorola mobile phones to Fidelity . . . . To find the nearest precedent, you need to rewind U.S. history 100 years to the days before strong unions, securities watchdogs and antitrust laws.
Neither article made more than passing reference to the 675 million Asians who continue to live in absolute deprivation. So there we have it. In the eyes of two leading business journals, economic success is about creating millionaires and billionaires by denying workers the right to organize independent unions and giving free reign to securities fraud and the extraction of monopoly profits.
Tags: Business Week, Charles hurwitz, chemical and agribusiness corporations, Forbes, free trade, global financial system, growth of profits, industiral corporations, Kidder Peabody, Mexico, money game players, Pacific Lumber Company, poor and super rich gap, poverty and deprivation, tax revenues