October 18, 2008 > Karl Polanyi and Globalisation
Mainstream, Vol XLVI No 44
Karl Polanyi and Globalisation
If one wants to understand the real nature of the ongoing globalisation, based on the Washington Consensus and its impending fate, one needs to turn to Karl Polanyi's The Great Transformation, published in 1944. Polanyi's formulations are more relevant now than ever before. Fred Block of the University of California is quite correct when he states that even after many decades, The Great Transformation remains fresh. Indeed, it is indispensable for understanding the dilemma facing global society at the beginning of the twentyfirst century.
...Polanyi, "It is the absence of the threat of individual starvation which makes primitive society, in a sense, more human than market economy, and at the same time less economic."
Traditionally, land and labor are not separated; labor forms part of life, land remains part of nature, life and nature form an articulate whole. Land is thus tied up with the organizations of kinship, neighborhood, craft, and creed—with tribe and temple, village, gild, and church. One Big Market, on the other hand, is an arrangement of economic life which includes markets for the factors of production. Since these factors happen to be indistinguishable from the elements of human institutions, man and nature, it can be readily seen that market economy involves a society the institutions of which are subordinated to the requirements of the market mechanism.
...the neo-liberal utopia of a borderless and peaceful globe requires that millions of ordinary people throughout the world have the flexibility to tolerate ... a prolonged spell in which they must survive on half or less of what they earned before. Polanyi believes that to expect that kind of flexibility is both morally wrong and deeply unrealistic. To him it is inevitable that people will mobilize to protect themselves from these economic shocks.
Polanyi's vision has assumed its relevance. It provides a real alternative to market liberalism-based globali-sation that is unsustainable and is bound to give rise to economic crises and authoritarian regimes. "The alternative is that ordinary people in nations around the globe engage in a common effort to subordinate the economy to democratic politics and rebuild the global economy on the basis of international cooperation."
I looked back into this because a young friend of mine asked me what I think about the gold standard.
Here's what I commented to him:
Hi ya, Noah,
Long time no see. I hope you're doing well. How's Japan these days where you are (if you're still there)?
Let's see, the Gold Standard, well, it's loaded with problems even in the secular sense.
The rich have most of it and would if we were to go back to it. Mining of gold is very polluting. The quantity of gold does not increase with productivity gains. That means gold "shortages" are/would be a bottleneck to expanding the economy to meet the needs and wants of the people. It was a major problem in the past.
In addition, it just isn't necessary in any sense. We can easily convert to United States Notes, which are interest-and-tax free.
I've been advocating for years now that we do that and peg the supply exactly to productivity and do it in real-time via supercomputers and transaction monitors.
That's original with me. I've never seen it anywhere else (and I've looked). I don't know why it hasn't caught on. I've mentioned it in many places to many people. I think they just can't see it because it's simple.
Doing that would completely eliminate the national debt and inflation and deflation — no more recessions of the unnatural kind (mammon). We could have endless economic growth. We could completely eliminate poverty in our time. The US is not like a typical family household on a budget and that can't create money for whatever productive projects it wants. The US can create all the money it wants to fund the projects the people need. It's simply a matter of making the decision. It's all very easy. The bankers lie when they say economics is difficult.
They want it to appear complicated so they may obfuscate. They do not want the people out from under because the banker's machine is their parasitic heaven (for a while, until you know when).
Now, all of that United States Notes idea is simply a stepping stone to the Christian Commons, concerning which I'm assuming you are familiar, and then Heaven proper.
I hope this has been a sufficient overview. If you have any questions, feel free to ask, my Christian brother!
Peace to that lovely girl friend of yours and to you,