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Kicking Away the Ladder, Part 2
If you look at the state sector in the United States, your taxes have been funding growth for years. Now the funding is shifting. Pentagon funding is declining and funding for the National Institute of Health and other health-related parts of the government is going up.
Take a look MIT, take a look at the funding that is going on. There is a pretty of good reason for it.
In the early post-war period, the first 25 years, the cutting edge of the economy was electronics-based and the way to fool the public into paying for that was to scream, The Russians are coming or Grenada is coming or somebody. Then we have to have a big defense system and fund the computers and Internet and microelectronics and so on, and later hand it over to private corporations for profit.
But now the cutting edge of the economy is biology-based, so therefore government funding has to shiftyou have to have some other excuse for government funding: we will cure cancer, whatever it is. Meanwhile you have engineering and biotechnology being paid for by the same people, namely, you, with the profits going to whatever private corporations will be able to milk them when something is developed.
There are a lot of different devices. Like one critical part of the trade agreements is what is called Intellectual Property Rights and that is a fancy term that means state guaranteed monopoly pricing rights. So pharmaceutical corporations can charge very high prices because they have a monopoly and that monopoly is given to them by state power under the pretext of free trade.
They claim that they need it for research and development, but that is a fraud. It has been well investigated by Dean Baker, an excellent economist. You can get some information on this from a book he just wrote, which is actually free if you go online. It is called The Conservative Nanny State, which is about the real economy. One part of that has to do with the production of drugs. Baker calculated that if you increase the state subsidy to 100 percent and force the companies on the market, drug savings would be a huge benefit for consumers. But that is not the way existing capitalism works.
Lets turn to NAFTA in 1994. Something happened in 1994 along with NAFTA. It was called Operation Gatekeeper, instituted by the Clinton administration. It militarized the U.S./Mexican border. Previously it was a fairly open border. Like most borders it was established by conquest. But pretty much the same people lived on both sides and moved across the borders in both directions, but that was not going to work anymore after NAFTA. They had to militarize it.
Why? Well, it was understood what the effect of NAFTA was going to be for Mexico. Mexican farmers were not going to be able to compete with state-subsidized U.S. agribusiness. So people were going to flee and a lot of them were going to flee to the United States. They were going to be joined by people fleeing from the wreckage of Washingtons terrorist wars in Central America in the 1980s. So what is the solution? The solution is to build a wall. First, destroy their economy and then keep them out.
There is a real solution, promote or at least permit development. But that is counter to the interest of those who pretty much rule the world, or, at least, own it, or hope to.
Well, control of Latin America has been the earliest and major goal of U.S. foreign policyand it remains very central. That is partly for resource and market investment, as well as for ideological reasons. These are discussed in internal records where planners point out that we cannot expect to achieve a successful order elsewhere in the world unless we control Latin America. So its important to keep it under control. There are traditional methods of controlviolence and economic strangulation. But they are losing their effectiveness.
U.S. military coups used to be routine. The most recent attempt was 2002 in Venezuela, and Washington, of course, supported the coup and probably instigated it. The coup installed a rich businessperson and his first act was to disband Parliament, eliminate the Supreme Court, and get rid of every other vestige of democracythats what the U.S. calls democracy promotion.
The coup was quickly reversed in a popular uprising, restoring the elected government. Washington had to turn to subversion, a propaganda war, and very substantial aid to the supporters of the coup, under the guise of democracy promotion. For example, the opposition candidate in the election supported the coup. Can you imagine what would happen in the United States if there was a military coup and one of its supporters then ran for president?
Well, Central America was pretty much subdued, at least temporarily, by Reaganite terror throughout the 1980s, but the region from Venezuela to Argentina is now falling out of control. Venezuela is forging closer relations with China. Its planning to sell increasing amounts of oil to China. That is part of its effort to diversify exports and reduce its dependence on the openly hostile U.S. government. In fact Latin America as a whole is increasing trade and other relations with China and also Europe. But China is more worrisome to the United States, with very likely expansion for the raw material exporters like Brazil and Chile. China is investing in Latin America and challenging U.S. dominance.
If you look at U.S. public documents, China is regarded as the main potential threat, but not a military threat. Of the major powers its been the most restrained in military expenditures. But it is a threat. The threat is it cant be intimidated. When the U.S. shakes its fist at Europe and tells them to stop investing in Iran, Europeans immediately pull out. China just moves in. They have been there for 3,000 years. They cannot be intimidated, which is very frightening to the U.S. Put yourself in the situation of a Mafia Don, and suppose there is somebody that cant be intimidated. And international affairs are pretty much like the Mafia. In Latin America, China is just moving along.
Elsewhere too. You might recall last spring the Bush administration decided to insult the president of China. He came to visit Washington and they insulted him by not inviting him to a state dinner, only to a state lunch. He took it pretty calmly and he then flew to Saudi Arabia where he entered into new trade investment relations with Saudi Arabia, which is the oldest and most valued U.S. ally in the Middle East.
Getting back to Venezuela, it joined a South American economic bloc and was welcomed as opening a new chapter in integration. Venezuela supplied Argentina with fuel oil to help stave off an energy crisis and bought about a third of the Argentine debt. That is one element of a region-wide effort to free the countries from the controls of the International Monetary Fund. This is after two decades of disastrous effects of conformity to its rules. The way Argentine President Kirchner put it, The IMF has acted towards our country as a promoter and vehicle of policies that cause poverty and pain among the Argentine people. That is approximately what he said when he announced his decision to pay almost a trillion dollars, in his words, to rid Argentina of the IMF forever. And by radically violating IMF rules Argentina did enjoy a substantial economic recovery from the disaster that was left by IMF policies. Other countries are going in the same direction.
Steps towards Latin American independence advanced further with the election of Evo Morales in Bolivia last Decembera real democratic election, the kind that does not take place in the West. The election of Rafael Correa in Ecuador was another step. Morales moved very quickly to reach a series of energy agreements with Venezuela and he committed himself to reversing the neo-liberal policies that Bolivia had pursued rigorously for 25 years, leaving the country with lower per capita income than at the outset.
In Brazil, now considered by the U.S. as one of the good guys, it was necessary to ignore the fact that the first thing President Lula did after his re-election was fly to Venezuela to offer his support to Chavez in the upcoming election there and also to promote regional integration by inaugurating a joing Venezuelan-Brazilian-built bridge across the Orinoco river and overseeing work by Brazils state oil companies.
In addition, the indigenous populations are becoming much more active and influential, and many of them want oil and gasand other resourcesto be domestically controlled. In some cases they oppose production altogether. Some are even calling for an Indian nation in South America, which challenges the race/class divide that goes back to the Spanish conquests. The elite that run the place are mostly white, European. The population are mostly Indians, black, mised race. That is a fairly sharp distinction.
Internal economic integration is also taking place for the first time since the Spanish conquest. Elites in the past, the white elites, have been linked to the imperial powers, but not to one another, and that is beginning to change.
Latin America is now, I think, the most exciting part of the world and there are opportunities for cooperative development and interchange that are quite real. One step towards that is the solidarity movements that developed in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s. That was something new. During hundreds of years of Western imperialism, no one in France ever thought to live in an Algerian village and no one ever thought of going to a Vietnamese village to live with the people to help them and support them and protect them with a white face. But that started in the 1980s on a substantial scale. Thousands of people, many of them from churches, organized what is now a mass popular movement all over the world.
The internal developments in much of Latin America, as you know, are strongly influenced by mass popular movements, which are coming together in the global justice movement. Where this will lead, nobody can say. But there are definitely opportunities now for real progress towards more freedom and justice in cooperation across the hemisphereand beyond.
Noam Chomsky is a linguist, social critic, and author of numerous articles and books, including Failed States. This talk was given at City Life/Vida Urbana in January 2007. It was transcribed for Z by Mary Peacock.
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
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BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
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ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
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CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
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NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
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GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
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IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
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LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
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ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
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