Friday, February 16, 2007

Illusions & Hopes in the Undead Age (Part Two: Capital's Strawmen)

Naturally, the racial dimension of poverty in the world's wealthiest political/economic unit is also completely overlooked by such vague, corporate discussions of "balance" typified by the Economist piece; nearly 25% of the African-American population in the United States is under the extremely limited poverty level mentioned above. That means, of course, that when real costs of living are taken into account, the poverty rate among American blacks is considerably higher--but, even at 25% in poverty, the rate is comparable to that of poor countries of the Global South (and it's pretty bad in the Global South).

Not to overlook the rest of the above corporate sophistry; the debate on technology/globalization as the source of ever-lowering labor value, while a near-complete red herring meant to disguise the fact that inequitable wealth distribution is predominantly a result of plutocratic government policy, is interesting nonetheless--perhaps by virtue of its very function. Technological advancements will likely wipe out a great deal of service jobs in the United States alone in the next two decades. Unemployment driven thusly will create a larger unoccupied labor pool which will in turn serve to drive down the value of labor. Globalization has served for the past decades as a means of removing corporate "externalities" like environmental degradation and miserable labor conditions away from the consumer base so as to both take advantage of lower labor value and poor-to-nonexistent labor/environmental safeguards in the Global South while also being able to reduce the interaction of the consumer base with production (for more on the global-scale environmental destruction caused by rapid Chinese development, read this).

While much about labor and environmental issues arising from globalization has been widely noted by every radical/dissident (and some "progressives") under the sun, the issue of separation between production and consumption is overlooked more often, though it is worthy of attention: using the vast Chinese labor pool, for instance, allows not only ridiculously low consumer prices (which, as shown above, still can't be met by millions of people in the world's wealthiest political/economic unit) but also allows corporations themselves to became more and more capable of relying on manufactured as opposed to real images to market themselves. Regardless of this particular upside for capital, globalization will continue to hold down labor markets in the Global North while preying on the vulnerable ones in the Global South, and will continue to cause economic crises, like that of Argentina 1999-2002, in any countries that actually follow the Washington Consensus.

If the forces of global integration and technological advancement were controlled not by tyrannies for profit, but by transparent, democratic governments accountable and recallable to their polities, then globalizing forces could conceivably raise living standards by using the comparative advantages of various states synergistically (see Venezuela and Cuba) and technological advancement through even marginal public funding compared to what is spent on the joke missile defense shield in the US could make renewable energies economical in a matter of years and rapidly reduce carbon emissions much sooner than simply relying on "the market". Just in case you were wondering, this happens to be necessary for the survival of humanity. Moreover, technology may take many jobs, but it can create new ones, depending on how it is shaped by policy. The necessity is simply for that policy to be democratic.

No comments: