You won’t see much about that in American media (you didn’t see the egging of his limo on the way to his inauguration, did you?), but it did happen:
… protesters opposed to George Bush, the war in Iraq and unfettered capitalism marched through the Chilean capital Santiago just before the American president arrived for a weekend summit of 21 Pacific Rim economies.
Bush and other leaders will discuss trade, security, fighting corruption, stronger economic ties – and network with one another – at the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum.
Yesterday, thousands of Chileans took to the streets of downtown Santiago for a government-authorised demonstration to express their disgust over the APEC summit, believing it champions a kind of capitalism that widened the gap between rich and poor.
But most of their outrage was aimed at Bush and the US-led war in Iraq.
Marchers held up posters saying “Bush, you stink”, and ”Terrorist Bush”. Some chanted: “Bush, listen: Chile is not for sale!” and “Bush, fascist, thief, murderer!”
Organisers said 40,000 protesters participated in the march, which took place far from the conference centre where the leaders would gather. Police put the number at 25,000. [Protestors Denounce Bush Before Pacific Rim Summit 11/ 20/04] (Story links open in new windows)
On the issues of trade and "stronger economic ties," the key phrase above is "unfettered capitalism."
For the last couple of decades, the US-dominated IMF and World Bank have been pushing an agenda that increases the wealth of developed nations while reducing the wealth of lesser-developed nations who participate. This compassionate conservatism is non-partisan, and Democrats and Republicans cheerfully and actively support and promote it.
The basic mechanism is what John Williamson of the Institute for International Economics called the "Washington Consensus." His original paper lists ten propositions that summarize the policy steps followed by the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and World Bank in dealing with lesser-developed nations. A few particular propositions jump out:
- Trade liberalization
- Liberalization of foreign cash in-flows (Foreign Direct Investment)
Theoretically, these are supposed to improve the well-being of the countries participating, increase international trade and make the world at large a wealthier place, with "all boats rising on the tide."
What they did accomplish was a bit different, although the developed nations did very well.
Privatization of formerly government-controlled industries allowed developed nations to buy most of them since there was little money in the countries gaining the "benefits" of the Western advice.
With little regulation, the privatized industries profited as a rule, but the profits then left the countries where they were generated and these countries ended up poorer in the exchange (look up Bolivia as a well-documented example).
And the ability of capital to freely enter and leave countries at the speed of light precipitated financial crises in East Asia and South America.
As I said, it was non-partisan. Democrat Bill Clinton signed NAFTA and today Republican George W. Bush is pushing CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Area) and the FTAA ( Free Trade Area of the Americas) and "stronger economic ties."
You and I here in America shouldn’t care since we’re in the right location, but Chileans clearly see through the mesmerizing "Free" and we may not have this gravy train to ride much longer.
If, on the other hand, you do think that a "dogmatic commitment to the belief that markets can handle everything" (Williamson’s phrase) is maybe being a little too brainwashed, the next time you hear a politician, pundit or corporate PR practitioner saying "Free Trade," "free market" or "deregulation" don’t just respond with: "Oh, goodie!"
Think about it, instead.
Powered by Sidelines