ZNet Interviews Barbara Garson about
ZNet Interviews Barbara Garson about
(1) Can you tell ZNet, please, what your new book, â€œMONEY MAKES THE WORLD GO AROUNDâ€ is about? What is it trying to communicate?
I decided to explore the global economy by the simple device of following my own money. I began by putting half my book advance in a one-branch bank and a second sum in an aggressive mutual fund. The result is part detective story part global justice manifesto as I follow my money around the world.
The first thing I found was that the small town bank had nothing to do with my money so they loaned it to Chase. Sitting in at the Chase Fed funds desk on their trading floor, I discovered that they too had nothing to do with that money in the
A lot of the ideas we call neo-liberalism or corporate globalism arose from desperation to pass the money along starting after about 1973. Money had collected in fewer and fewer hands. There was nothing profitable to do with it in the
But Iâ€™m giving you conclusions. I write it from the ground upâ€”as I said, a detective story on the trail of that money. Eventually I found a
(2) Can you tell ZNet something about writing the book? Where does the content come from? What went into making the book what it is?
I am proud to say that the content comes almost entirely from the people I met along the way. They range, as I say, from street vendors, to the former head of Citibank, Walter Wriston. There are also interviews with American workers in
By the time you finish reading â€œMoney Makes the World Go Aroundâ€ youâ€™ll understand global capital flows from the bottom up. But donâ€™t read it if you want to meet only good peasants and bad bankers. In this systemâ€”capitalism I meanâ€”clever, admirable engineers pollute the ocean, and amiable, hard working bankers undermine our daily security. Some of the most fascinating people I met, people working right in the midst of the contradictions, included a labor contractor who brought Chinese and Bangladeshis to
(3) What are your hopes for MONEY MAKES THE WORLD GO AROUND? What do you hope it will contribute or achieve, politically? Given the effort and aspirations you have for the book, what will you deem to be a success? What would leave you happy about the whole undertaking? What would leave you wondering if it was worth all the time and effort?
Iâ€™ll feel successful if Money Makes the World Go Around actually does what Howard Zinn says it does. Do you mind if I repeat his quote?
â€œIâ€™ve been a fan of Barbara Garsonâ€™s writing ever since I read her brilliant MacBird! This book shows her at her bestâ€”able to be funny about serious things and crystal-clear about impossibly complex matters. She brings all the formidable abstractions of the new world economyâ€”globalization, Eurodollars, information highways, restructuring, currency tradingâ€”down to the human level where we can see and feel and understand them. And always, her writing is suffused with a passionate concern for ordinary people overwhelmed by the giants of the corporate world.â€
Like most ZNet readers, I had opposed the methods of corporate globalism that Howard Zinn enumeratesâ€”Eurodollars, restructuring, etc.â€”even before I did the research for this book. But I didnâ€™t quite get it, not viscerally. How could all that money flowing in to poor countries leave people even poorer than they were before?
But the Asian currency crisis occurred soon after Iâ€™d left
But by that time my readers and I knew why the price of rice had doubled. Weâ€™d already spoken to Chase and IMF executives. It was not mysterious to them. Chase had fifty billion dollars at risk in
I heard the same sort of thing when I got back to those bright good-natured migrants I met in
The fishermen and tapioca farmers who the reader met building my oil refinery didnâ€™t necessarily complain that their land had been paved over. Each person was engrossed in the daily problems and hopes of his of her own new life. Indeed the reason that so many mainstream reviewers like the book is because the people I introduce arenâ€™t just â€œthe migrantsâ€ or â€œthe street vendor.â€ Theyâ€™re also that particular young girl who never wants to go back to the paddy farm or see her mother, that particular man you have to like even if heâ€™s constantly looking around for every angle, or that particular migrant who loves welding right angles but hates straight angles. Some readers get interested in these characters even if they donâ€™t care to understand why things didnâ€™t work out the way these people had hoped.
After the crash, when rice prices in Bangkok soared, many people Iâ€™d met couldnâ€™t go back to farms that had been paved over to build refineries, nor could they fish in water that was polluted by my shrimp farms. Not only couldnâ€™t they go back to their old poverty, but they now had to pay off the bank loans that they themselves had never made. Paying off loans took forms like mysteriously doubled rice prices. Thatâ€™s why they were not just as poor, but poorer than before. All sorts of rules had been forced through so that my bank could first desperately push dollars into
Did I know this before? Well, sort of. But now I really know it. I understand the mechanisms as well as who pays the cost. Iâ€™ll feel successful if people who are part of the global justice movement come away from the book with a deepened understanding of many of the things they already believe, plus a few new insights. Iâ€™d also like them to acquire enough economic background to be able to discuss global finance confidently with friends and even with their neo-liberal economics professors.
Iâ€™ll feel unsuccessful if the book is only read by the bankers and brokers who already know whereof I speak. They and bank regulators seem to be the people who bought the hard cover edition. I suppose I should be proud that they donâ€™t find errors. But Iâ€™ll be prouder if people in the global justice movement start reading the paperback.
Hmm, you notice I canâ€™t even conceive of a success whereby my arguments change policy. In the sixties I had about as great a success as you could have with a political book. â€œMacBird!â€ sold half a million copies. But it was the movement not the book that brought about real changes. I simply entertained the movement. â€œUnited we laughâ€ may be my slogan. Entertaining is still an important goal of my writing. In that respect I already have a success. â€œMoney Makes the World Go Aroundâ€ is at least a lively read.
MONEY MAKES THE WORLD GO AROUND: One Investor Tracks Her cash Through the Global Economy: (Penguin 2002) Available from Booksense.com (the order house of independent bookstores), Amazon.com, or local bookstores. For the publisherâ€™s information click on: http://www.penguinputnam.com/Biuiu8udddook/BookFrame?0CS^0142000507