Without Bringing Down the System
The link leads to video of a 2006 lecture given to a knowledgeable, capitalist-minded, audience – people far more knowing in details of global capitalism, than I could hope to be, without a 2-3 year focused study, which I’m unlikely to undertake. Minutes short of an hour, the video includes Q/A, with good questions posed by capitalist enthusiasts – so it’s very much an “in-house” discussion.
The lecturer and his background: (from ‘Info’ at the Fora site: Capitalism’s Achilles Heel. Raymond Baker, International Businessman, Guest Scholar at the Brookings Institution, and a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy. Throughout his career, Raymond Baker a tough-as-nails businessman turned scholar has been thoroughly committed to capitalism. He has seen it all, and now he offers careful analysis and gripping examples illustrating the serious problems besetting the global free-market system. Baker (provides an) insider’s look at the way criminals, terrorists, and businesspeople move dirty money around the world, impoverishing billions and corrupting capitalism’s ideals of fair play. … more detail of Baker’s credentials posted as a footnote to this post, see ** below.)
Given my skepticism of capitalism’s capacity to truly serve ALL humanity, I ‘lack credibility’ among ‘die-hard’ supporters of capitalism in my sphere.
It was refreshing to hear Raymond Baker. It was good to imagine his challenge reaching ears and minds that my voice is unlikely to reach.
Interesting to note that Baker’s address was delivered in February, 2006, as we, and the rest of the world, were only beginning to feel early symptoms of severe economic illness. “Real estate bubble” is not mentioned. Despite the real estate bubble and associated practices drawing much if not all our attention, Baker’s thesis takes aim at something very different than real estate related “financial instruments”.
We have continued into increased economic misery for many previous “middle class” since 2005/6. To large extent, differences of economic disaster experience, for citizens in different countries, have been based in amount, type, and effectiveness of regulation. But we’ve all been ‘caught’, and have strongly focused on what we deem the central problems. General public understanding of economic-based suffering is unaware of how “high finance” and “global money dealings” actually work.
Baker’s thesis, based on deep and extensive experience and investigation, was that capitalism’s Achilles Heel was lack of greater equality in spread of wealth within and across populations. The culprit he identified, backed up with facts and figures, was “illicit financial maneuverings” (money-laundering) as it has historically occurred, and continues, internationally.
Baker spoke to the often thought “clean of corruption” belief among supporters of capitalism: “Since I am not trying to launder money in any way, my hands are clean”. He details in the 2006 Fora lecture how this is not the case. Passionate enthusiasts of, and participants in, assorted capitalist ventures are without clue to how pervasive, how costly, is the corruption by money-laundering within capitalism. His lecture, his words, are not ‘moralistic’. He speaks from a pragmatic point of view and conviction. Either capitalism “shapes up” with regard to behind the scenes corruption of money movements at the international level, or it is doomed to fail.
Capitalism will fail because no country, and the world itself, cannot sustain an economic system that by its very function creates poverty. (And by that same function increases poverty by increasing accumulation of wealth in fewer and fewer people.)
Baker does not moralize. He does not offer a single “heart-wrenching” detail of lives of the impoverished. He speaks of cause-effect conditions, embedded in international trade practices, and speaks only of the “money-laundering” aspects of this trade. He does briefly mention ‘greed’, saying it is not useful as an argument to clean up international finance.
Baker and other capitalists continue to pursue correction of money-laundering to this day: (June 30, 2010: “We are disappointed that there was not an acknowledgment of the importance of curtailing illicit financial outflows from developing countries in the official statement,” said Global Financial Integrity director Raymond Baker. “The G20 seems intent on increasing official development assistance and pumping money into other lending bodies for development work but the annual loss of $1 trillion a year from developing countries will continue to dwarf development aid and undermine all efforts to foster robust and sustained economic development until corrective action is taken.”) … article by Monique Danziger, Global Financial Integrity Policy website: http://www.gfip.org/.
As to ‘moralizing’, the GFIP website posts a 7/1/2010 blog by Francois Valerian of Transparency International, Berlin: “Is There A Place for Morals in Finance”. In 5 brief paragraphs, Valerian begins with Plutarch, and ends with: “The right question is probably not whether there is a place for morals in finance, but whether there is a place for a new global crisis after all the public commitments from various governments or international bodies. Populations would then seriously question, not only the ethics of their corporations, but the one of their political leaders, everywhere in the world, with consequences difficult to predict. If there is to be a place for morals in finance, it has to be ensured by global political will.”
Anyone who has read much of what I’ve posted here knows I passionately insist we have capacity and ‘tools’ to lead ourselves to a better world. I mean to speak to all humanity, those in position of ‘power-over’ and those who wonder ‘what’s happening’). I continually advise us to study psychology in order to understand and correct ourselves – “Taming the Wild Ox” and the like. I suppose I can be accused of wanting to tackle “greed” as an issue.
My constant drum-beat is “wake up!” along with “We can do better than this!”. I call for us to “look at what we say is important and worthy against what we actually do. I claim it is because we are habitually “asleep” that we do not do this.
One place my thinking dovetails perfectly with that of Baker and his colleagues is in our state of ignorance, our habit of not asking questions – the answers to which would bring us to better self-correction.
Baker’s call is to capitalism enthusiasts. It does not seek to bring down the system. It says the system is collapsing, for clear, identifiable, and correctable, reasons of it’s own internal and insufficiently addressed ‘disease’.
Valerian ends with “(there must be) global political will.”
In the end, it still seems to me there is a “wild ox” to be tamed. I’m skeptical that capitalists will be able to do this. Their motivation will necessarily include recognition of value and contribution from each and every person, and will require understanding that “poor cousins” are, in the end, not good for anyone who seeks “prosperity”.
Differences between me and “capitalists” aside, I am grateful for, and impressed by, the voices of Baker, Danziger, Valerian. I suggest all good capitalists “listen up!”
My Best! –MaggieAnn
**(From ‘Bio’ on Baker at the Fora site: “Baker is a Senior Fellow and directs the Global Financial Flows Program, researching and writing on the linkages between corruption, money laundering and poverty. From 1996 to 1999 he was a Guest Scholar at The Brookings Institution, undertaking a Program entitled, “Flight Capital, Poverty and Free-Market Economics,” following receipt of a grant for research and writing from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. He traveled to 23 countries to interview 335 central bankers, commercial bankers, government officials, economists, lawyers, tax collectors, security officers and sociologists on the relationships between bribery, commercial tax evasion, money laundering and economic growth.”)