Open-toe sandals, closed minds

One columnist called them kids with “open toe sandals and closed minds.”

And commentators from Thomas Sowell to Thomas Friedman to Paul Krugman seem to never tire of pointing out just how economically illiterate pro-democracy anti-globalization protesters are for their views about the so-called free-trade and develop-ment policies of economic institutions like the WTO, the IMF and the World Bank.

Even the “liberal” media couldn’t resist venting its corporate spleen on the protesters. In the days following the WTO protests in Seattle, the Boston Globe editorialized that those who took to the streets calling for economic justice were “senseless in Seattle.”

Now, if you’re only source of information was the slanderous coverage of the “free” press, you’d think the protesters were nothing but a bunch of violence-prone, middle-class “anarchist” Birkenstock-wearing, neo-hippies with nothing better to do than destroy the property of good, clean, hard-working small business owners.

The condescending cacophony denouncing protesters among both pundits and politicians is based on the alleged fact, really an article of faith, that globalization is not only the “wave of the future” (as if the future were pre-determined), but a boon for the world’s poor. In other words, Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” on a global scale in which “pursuing (self) interest…frequently promotes that of society more effectively than when (individuals) really intend to promote it.”

Never mind that the intellectual father of capitalism also said that “wherever there is great property there is great inequality.” And that “for one very rich man there must be at least five hundred poor, and the affluence of the few supposes the indigence of the many.”

Clearly, as Chomsky points out, the intellectual heirs of Smith’s legacy, less honest in their economic assessments, spend more time praising Smith than they do actually reading him. But that’s another column.

The point is: the “experts” say globalization amounts to the spread of sweetness and light and therefore the protesters and their sympathizers are enemies of freedom. You’ve heard it all before.

Brings to mind Henry Kissinger’s candid conception of who can be considered an ex-pert in our society. He defined an expert as someone skilled in articulating the “consensus…of his constituency;” the people with power; those who “have a vested in-terest in the commonly held opinions.”

Being the “expert” aspiring commentator that I am, I’d like to do my part in heaping disdain upon the protesters, adding the following people and organizations to the list of those with “open toe sandals and closed minds.”

The CIA tops the list. In the agency’s report, “Global Trends 2015” published last year, a “senseless” analyst wrote: “The rising tide of the global economy will create many eco-nomic winners, but it will not lift all boats…(It will) spawn conflicts at home and abroad, ensuring an even wider gap between regional winners and losers than exists today…

“Regions, countries, and groups feeling left behind will…foster political, ethnic, ideo-logical, and religious extremism, along with the violence that often accompanies it.”

Echoing the “clueless” protesters, the World Bank’s own researchers found that “globalization appears to increase poverty and inequality…The costs of adjusting to greater openness are borne exclusively by the poor, regardless of how long the adjustment takes (“The Simultaneous Evolution of Growth and Inequality” – 1999).

Like the know-nothing protesters, the authors of the United Nations 1999 Human Development Report tell us that “the net worth of the world’s 200 richest people increased from $40 billion to more than $1 trillion from 1994 to 1998. The assets of the three richest people are greater than the combined GNP of the 48 least developed countries and the number of billionaires in the world has increased by 25 percent in only the last two years. Collectively these 475 individuals are worth more than the combined incomes of the poorest 50 percent of the world’s people.”

And then there’s William Easterly, senior advisor to the World Bank’s research group, who wrote: “Consider the facts and it soon becomes evident that the $1,000 billion spend on aid since the 1960s with the efforts of advisors, foreign aid givers, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, have failed to attain the desired results….It is little wonder that protesters have demonstrated so vehemently against the international or-ganizations.”

According to the Institute of Policy Studies, “The 1999 sales of each of the top five corporations (General Motors, Wal-Mart, Exxon Mobil, Ford Motor, and Daimler Chrysler) are bigger than the GDPs of the 182 countries. The top 200 corporations’ sales are growing at a faster rate than overall global economic activity. Between 1983 and 1999, their combined sales grew from the equivalent of 25 percent to 27.5 percent of world GDP.”

And lastly, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy reports that “forty-one U.S. companies not only paid no federal income taxes, but actually received money back from the federal government in at least one year from 1996 to 1998 (under the “liberal” Clinton administration). In those tax-free years, the 41 companies reported a total of $25.8 billion in pretax U.S. profits.”

All of these factoids, plus numerous specific case examples illustrating the damage caused by predatory corporate capitalism, can be found in the International Forum on Globalization’s recently released report, “Does Globalization Help the Poor? (www.ifg.org).”

For ZNetters, this stuff is old hat. But this is where Michael Albert’s thoughts come into play. In his latest book, “The Trajectory of Change,” the founder of ZNet writes insight-fully about organizing “aimed, not at solidifying and intensifying the knowledge and commitment of those who already speak our language and share our agendas, but at reaching people who differ with us.”

Albert, I think, rightly argues that “face to face interaction with people who don’t agree with us already, or who even disagree strongly with us, is at the heart of movement building.”

So for crying out loud, arm yourselves. Go buy a copy of the IFG’s report ($12) and share it with “people who differ with us.” That’s what I plan to do.

ZNet commentator Sean Gonsalves is also a syndicated columnist published weekly in the mainstream press.

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