Friday, 4 June 2010

Enter the Doom Loop.

Capitalism with Asian Values.

What is commonly referred to as "Capitalism with Asian values" is essentially state-capitalism without a formal democratic system. This is the kind of system seen in China today, which is formally communist but in practice is a state-capitalist system, an authoritarian capitalism which is even more productive and dynamic than the Western liberal variety. Arguably, this was first put into practice in Singapore under Lee Kuan Yew who took Singapore from the developing world into the developed world in 30 years. Despite the fact that his years as Prime Minister ended in 1990 Lee Kuan Yew still dominates the government of Singapore at the side of his eldest son. Whereas, in China it was Deng Xiaoping, an admirer of Lee Kuan Yew, who brought about the reforms which have made China the economic powerhouse it is today. This new brand of capitalism does not necessitate democracy and is more efficient as a result. It looks as though this kind of capitalism is heading west, in Russia since the rise of the Oligarchs and in Italy under Silvio Berlusconi.

The Russian economy underwent a radical transformation in the 1990s as the old controlled economy was broken apart, the red-tape was cut up and entire industries were sold off, not long after the fall of the Soviet Union. The architects of these free-market reforms believed that the end result would be a new form of democracy, in which the market and not politics provides the people with what they want. What actually did emerge from years of economic "shock therapy" was a new elite of ruthless businessmen as millions of Russians were left in poverty. This led to economic chaos and political instability, culminating with the occupation and subsequent military assault on Parliament, Yeltsin ruled by decree and exerted state-power to pander to the wants of the Oligarchs. When Putin came to power the majority of Russians were disillusioned with democracy and wanted order above freedom, they welcomed Putin's authoritarian style of governing and nationalistic rhetoric. The corporatism that began under Yeltsin was further affirmed by Putin, except his tough approach brought some order to the economy.

It has been said that we may be in the "end game" of democracy as we know it. It may sound apocalyptic to talk in these terms, but it is sadly not an exaggeration as old threat to the political system are becoming even more threatening. Take the power of corporations, the US Supreme Court recently ruled that corporations have a right to freedom of speech and have removed all constraints that prevent "Corporate America" from contributing so much money to political campaigns. It should be noted that in the last election Barack Obama received around $730 million from "Big Business", now the funding is likely to rise and may exceed $1 billion in 2012. This is a major threat to the democratic process, as it is the increasing influence of the wealthy that diminishes the influence of the poor who cannot make such large contributions to the campaign. What is left of the American democratic process is being eroded and rendered ever more meaningless by a tacit alliance between the ultra-rich and politicians.

We have witnessed the passing of the USA Patriot act in the aftermath of 9/11, which may be a sign of things to come in the West. On the surface the widely known human rights violations by the US government are recognised as a consequence of the Patriot act. It is not widely known that the Patriot act undermines Magna Carta and by extension human rights in the West. If the depravity of torturing people on mass does not concern you, the way in which Magna Carta has been flushed down the toilet should. As the state-sanctioned kidnapping and torture of "enemy combatants" provides a pretext to infringing on the rights and freedoms of Westerners in the future. Guantanamo Bay is not the only indication of this, a far less known instance is the database that the NSA are currently building in Utah. The complex will be bigger than Washington DC and cost the American tax-payer over $2 billion to construct. The database will house all information derived from "signals intelligence" - phone calls, emails, text messages and data trails like web searches - which can then be analysed to determine which citizens are or may become "terrorists".

Beware the Boris.

This is not the only troubling development, the increasingly inhumane and racist policies on illegal immigrants may be another sign of the shift away from the liberal rhetoric about human rights and freedom. One well known instance of this is the Arizona Senate Bill 1070 which holds that anyone of Latino appearance has to carry documents proving that they are citizens of the US. If you're of Mexican descent and have lived in the US your whole life you still have to prove you are a US citizen. If the police stop you and you can't prove that you're an American you can be arrested, fined and even deported. Whites can also sue the police if they are seen not stopping a person who just happens to look hispanic. Even if such a person has a job and has lived here their entire life, if they cannot prove they are a US citizen they are not entitled to the same rights as US citizens. The immigrant population of the US are not regarded as human beings by the state, as a result so-called "immigrants" are required to show documentation to prove their citizenship just to pick up food stamps for their children. Again, a pretext for undermining the rights and freedoms of all people regardless of whether they are citizens or not.

A less well known example is the measures Silvio Berlusconi has taken to "curb" the influx of illegal immigrants from Africa into Italy. The Berlusconian measures effectively sanction the sinking of boat loads of Africans sailing illegally to the Italian Republic, the boot of Europe. An example was made of a group of fishermen who had saved illegal immigrants from drowning in the sea, each of them faced 15 years for "aiding and abetting illegal immigration". This has functioned to encourage Italian fishermen to beat away illegal immigrants with sticks and leave them to die in the sea, as fishermen responsible for this kind of behaviour do not face trial or even arrest. In 2008 Berlusconi even declared a state of emergency and deployed 4,000 troops to parts of cities "vulnerable" to illegal immigration, as of 2010 the state of emergency has yet to end. Berlusconi's sexual escapades are what the press prefer to focus on, meanwhile   illegal immigrants are being excluded from the civil order. Many in the US now believe that the rights and freedoms guaranteed in the US Constitution only apply to Americans so "foreigners" have no rights.

The way in which illegal immigrants are being deprived of rights and liberties is related to the issue of a superfluous population. The US economy became centred around finance and banking in the 1970s, manufacturing has been abandoned and millions of Americans are no longer needed in the economy.  These superfluous Americans include the 50 million people who don't have health insurance, most Latino and African-Americans also fall into this category, "illegal aliens" are also superfluous as they are mostly unskilled. In Colombia, the government deals with their superfluous population through "social cleansing" which amounts to the state-sponsored murder of impoverished Colombians who are not needed in the economy. This has also been seen in Brazil and Guatemala. But in the US, there is a more civilised way of dealing with the people who aren't needed - namely the prison system. This is the reason that over 7 million people were in prison, on probation or parole, in 2006. The US has the highest incarceration rate in the world and 25% of the world's prison population are in America.

Britain has a superfluous population too, it is concentrated mostly in areas of Wales, Scotland and Northern England that once thrived in areas such as mining and manufacturing. Finance and banking are now of central importance in the economy. The right-wing media blame immigrants for the lack of work available in these unnecessary communities, but really most immigrants are part of the same unnecessary population. Sadly, it may be that the kind of regime constructed in Italy is the future of Western politics. Berlusconi's reign is characterised by cynical and obscene media spectacles, his scandalous sex-life being an example, but also a more sinister side which has kept Italy under a state of emergency for 2 years to supposedly "fend off" illegal immigrants, sexual deviants and the Mafia. Berlusconi's populism blames communists and immigrants for everything that is wrong in society. Someone like Boris Johnson could well be the British Berlusconi one day, this possibility should be deeply unsettling to us all.

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