First, there is only one economy today…the global economy. Second, global mergers and acquisitions have led to a consolidation of economic and political power in the hands of a very small group of people…a short list of ultra-wealthy individuals and families. Third, the purpose of governments around the world is to provide the infrastructure and control the ultra-wealthy need to sustain and grow their privileged positions. This may sound cynical, but sooner or later we need to face the real consequences of a sequential and unrelenting consolidation of global power after World War Two…and the acceleration of it with the end of the Cold War…and the explosion of it in recent years.
For good or ill, we are all part of a global economy. Certainly, there are many benefits in this. We love all the cheap gadgets and stuff that can keep us entertained and relatively satisfied in our daily lives…as long as we have a job that is. We’re marginally glad also that people around the world are achieving a higher standard of living with the increases in production of goods by a global labor force. But…the negative consequences are deeply troubling. This global economy it turns out can be quite fragile and volatile…when one country sneezes, the rest of the world gets a cold. Our global economy also requires a huge amount of energy…most of it in the form of oil…to keep the flow of stuff moving. Then…in order to have all the stuff from this fragile system, we’ve created a global house-of-cards in debt and dependency.
The continued accumulation of power into fewer and fewer hands leads ultimately to a very, very few people controlling everything. One merger or acquisition at a time…multi-national corporations have gathered power on behalf of their wealthiest stockholders. As long as consumers see cheaper prices, they haven’t been much concerned about the logical consequences of this sustained accumulation of influence and control. With the crushing implosion of the global economy in the Great Recession, however, we see for the first time that we now have corporations that are too big to let fail…so taxpayers bailed out these corporations, and the ultra-wealthy walked away with mind-boggling returns on their investments. Our global economy is owned by a very few ultra-wealthy individuals and families…and its purpose is to make the ultra-wealthy even more powerful.
Governments around the world are the political ‘hired help’ of the ultra-wealthy. The function of government in the global economy is basically the same around the world. In the United States, it doesn’t really matter whether its leadership is in the hands of Democrats or Republicans…legislation and policies will favor the stabilization and privilege of very large, multi-national corporate interests. Similarly, it doesn’t really matter if we’re talking about functioning democracies or despotic regimes around the world…policies always favor the interests of the ultra-wealthy. In colonial times, the job of the local colonial leaders was to serve the business needs of the parent colony…then as now; it’s all about the accumulation of wealth and power. Today we have some very sophisticated, political support systems to provide infrastructure and invisibility as the ultra-wealthy sustain their power and influence.
On June 26, hundred and perhaps thousands of people will gather across the country in AmericaSpeaks town meetings to discuss our federal budget, our growing national debt and our economy. I’m completely supportive of these efforts, and encourage everyone to participate in these conversations. We’re sponsoring a live event…and I’m helping to organize a parallel conversation in the virtual world of Second Life. But…if these conversations assume we can resolve our own economic dilemmas without addressing these big-picture issues too, they will ultimately be nice events with well-intentioned deliberation…but ineffective in identifying long-term strategies that are capable of repurposing political and economic institutions. These big-picture issues are tough to grasp, but we need to at least try.