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Written by Jim Jordal   
Tuesday, 10 March 2009

DISASTER CAPITALISM AT THE CROSSROADS

By Jim Jordal

Disaster capitalism is the name given by Canadian journalist Naomi Klein to the increasing ability of predatory corporate capitalism to use natural and economic disasters to tighten its grip upon subject peoples. Her book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (2007), chronicles almost a score of such instances from the merciless seizing by resort corporations of valuable ocean-front properties from indigenous peoples following the tsunami of 2005 to the subverting of economic justice in South Africa during the chaos surrounding the fall of apartheid.

Klein paraphrases noted free market economist Milton Friedman’s explanation of past workings of disaster capitalism: "Once a crisis has struck it was crucial to act swiftly, to impose rapid and irreversible change before the crisis-racked society slipped back into the tyranny of the status quo" (p. 7).

The current disastrous recession and the chaos gripping the market system present the greatest opportunity to institute sweeping structural economic change since the Great Depression. But so far we seem unable to think beyond propping up the existing system that has already revealed massively failed policies and extensive corruption—all for the benefit of the Masters of Wall Street.

So we are at a crossroads—we can rescue the existing system that enriches a small minority while impoverishing billions and destroying the environment to continue, or we can begin the transition toward a system that places human welfare above the amassing of monstrous wealth and power.

Which will it be? Right now, the domination system is winning as government devotes trillions of dollars to its continuation. Yes, the bailouts and stimulus package will help some persons on Main Street, but the emphasis remains on saving the system--and people--that got us into trouble in the first place. We haven’t yet fully grasped the idea that money does more good in the hands of the people than in the coffers of those able to control and manipulate the people.

Unfortunately, the lack of ethical foundations behind disaster capitalism predispose it toward changes benefiting mainly those already wealthy and powerful. Free market economic systems show no predisposition toward a fair distribution of wealth or equality of economic opportunity. As my old economics text said: "Under totally free market conditions the rich man’s dog will drink the milk the poor man’s child needs to survive." Instead, disaster capitalism acting through free markets only makes inequality and injustice more widespread and intransigent.

On the international level we have several additional options: One is to use the existing chaos in financial markets to impose strict regulatory control over the global financial system, as has already been discussed at the recent World Economic Summit in Davos, Switzerland. The other is to dismantle the existing global financial structure as unworkable and unjust in the extreme because of its proven track record of subverting justice for the underdeveloped world in favor of massive transfers of wealth to already-wealthy plutocrats of the developed world.

Justin Fox in his column The Curious Capitalist reports in the Feb. 14 issue of Time that plans are already under way for a revived, revved-up, super International Monetary Fund (IMF) to assume control over global financial institutions. This would be disastrous for the Third World and for the poor of the earth because the IMF—no matter what its protestations of seeking to solve poverty—acts only in the interests of predatory global corporate capitalism.

But there is also a positive side to the present chaos. We have enough economic suffering so that many people are willing to abandon old notions of what makes a good economy in favor of moving toward new forms of economic organization. If the present chaos and disastrous economic conditions cause us to awake to our suffering sufficiently to demand radical change, then perhaps it might be worth the turmoil and pain we now experience.

Lets’ pray for and work toward an economic system that operates in the biblical Jubilee tradition of restoring and preserving the earth and its inhabitants, providing fair sustenance for all people, using money as a medium of exchange rather than an instrument of oppression, freeing people from oppressive debt, and releasing the enslaved, wherever and whoever they may be.