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DC Braces for April 16th IMF / World Bank Protests

By rusty in News
Thu Mar 30, 2000 at 02:36:42 PM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)

With memories of the recent events in Seattle still fresh in everyone's minds, the spring International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings, right here in Washington DC, are targeted as the next protest site. a16.org has already long begun the agitprop blitzkreig, and The Washington Post has already devoted an editorial to "debunking" the goals of the protesters.

April 16th and 17th are planned to be the dates of massive rallys and nonviolent protests aimed at blocking the streets of DC and preventing the scheduled meetings from taking place, and from the number of people already involved, it looks as though they might succeed. More information will be available in the coming two weeks, from sources close to the organizational core of the protesters. I will also be there, hopefully with a net hookup nearby, to report on events as they happen.

Have any of the more politically active amongst our readers heard of this already? And does anyone plan to attend?


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DC Braces for April 16th IMF / World Bank Protests | 15 comments (15 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
It's interesting, even important. ... (2.00 / 1) (#3)
by marlowe on Thu Mar 30, 2000 at 08:09:24 AM EST

marlowe voted 0 on this story.

It's interesting, even important. But it's not really geek related, is it?
-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --

Re: It's interesting, even important. ... (5.00 / 1) (#4)
by rusty on Thu Mar 30, 2000 at 03:29:42 PM EST

If you think it's interesting, and important, then why does it need to fit into a Jon Katz-created category to be posted here? I think "interesting" or "important" alone would be criteria enough. :-)

So, no, it's not particularly geek-related. You will be seeing a lot more of this story, though, pretty soon. Best to start finding out what the facts are before you hear about it on NBC Nightly Bundle of Meaningless Sound Bites though. I just wanted to give people a heads-up before the mainstream media gets a hold of it.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Re: It's interesting, even important. ... (none / 0) (#14)
by Anonymous Hero on Fri Mar 31, 2000 at 01:29:08 PM EST

This most certainly IS geek-related.

Geeks evolved to serve the needs of the techno-industrial complex.

Geek products drive the world. Geeks are John Galt.

Geeks must keep informed of labor issues ... in case Atlas ever decides to shrug.

[ Parent ]

Re: It's interesting, even important. ... (none / 0) (#13)
by driph on Fri Mar 31, 2000 at 01:35:20 AM EST

That's why the slogan is "technology and culture, from the trenches," and not "news for nerds."


Vegas isn't a liberal stronghold. It's the place where the rich and powerful gamble away their company's pension fund and strangle call girls in their hotel rooms. - Psycho Dave
[ Parent ]
I'm in Massachusetts, and there are... (3.00 / 1) (#2)
by eann on Thu Mar 30, 2000 at 09:29:17 AM EST

eann voted 1 on this story.

I'm in Massachusetts, and there are groups here organzing to go down and join the protest. I'm wary; these are the same people that are complaining about how budget cuts at the university are affecting education, then protesting the school trying to save money by privatizing unprofitable operations (the bookstore, and probably foodservice soon).

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. —MLK

$email =~ s/0/o/; # The K5 cabal is out to get you.

Re: I'm in Massachusetts, and there are... (none / 0) (#6)
by Philipp on Thu Mar 30, 2000 at 04:41:26 PM EST

The are pobably protesting the privatising of university operations, because the main reason private companies can be offer these services cheaper is by reducing service and reducing the wages/labro guarantees of employees. Private companies are not more efficient than university operations by magic powers...

alias kn 'killall -9 netscape-communicator'
[ Parent ]
only in the USA.... (1.00 / 1) (#1)
by asad on Thu Mar 30, 2000 at 11:59:47 AM EST

asad voted 1 on this story.

only in the USA.

I have to admit that I don't completely get it... (5.00 / 1) (#5)
by Philipp on Thu Mar 30, 2000 at 04:34:17 PM EST

First of all, thanks rusty for posting this, because this might be the most important political issue there is. And it is completely underreported, especially in the very inward-looking USA.

What I don't get is what the protesters are actually for. I know there are against the IMF and WorldBank. The agenda of these organizations is basically to ensure that global capitalism is running smoothly. If a country gets into trouble (lately Southeast Asia and Brazil), they come up with huge amounts of money and a lot of "advice" how to run things. A few African countries, for instance, have basically dictated their economic policy by IMF/WorldBank. These are very libertarian policies: privatize state-run businesses, enable competition and also cut welfare spending. So, I have mixed feelings about that, but I have to say that the world would be worse off without IMF/WorldBank.

The biggest problem I see with globalization I see is: Since there is no world government of any sort and the goal of IMF/WorldBank is simply unlimited free trade, the end result is that national goverments are powerless against large business interests. If, for instance, General Motors wants to open a car plant in South America (closing an US plant in the process), they can watch with joy how Argentina, Brazil, and others compete over offering 5-year, 10-year or 20-year tax breaks and billions of dollars in subsidies. This goes up to the point where it is questionable if the plant's benefits (employment, access to technology, opportunities for local suppliers) outweight the costs (lost taxes, subsidies). Because of the exact same reasons it is very hard to have minimum labor standards (reasonable wages, limited working hours, protection from arbitrary firing, right to form unions, ...) - the company just goes somewhere else where even more desparate people are willing to settle for less. Or even worse: where corrupt goverments are willing to sell out their people's interest for little kick-backs that end in Swiss bank accounts.

This may seem a remote problem for people in US/Europe, but it hits home with the loss of good jobs, and all it's consequences: increased disparities between rich/poor, increased crime, etc. Ultimately the low skilled worker in New York has to compete with the low skilled worker in Mozambique.

The only way to deal with this seems to be have a more social agenda in IMF/WorldBank/UNO/whatever, which limits the countries abilities to sell out like they have to now, and also brings economic aid to countries that really need it. This is happening, for instance, within the borders of the Eurpean Union, so it is no pinko socialist dream. I just don't see the US congress to support anything like that anytime soon, since it limits the powers of US corporations. I also don't see a powerful movement in the US to increase economic aid to Guatemala.

So what is the way to go?

alias kn 'killall -9 netscape-communicator'

Re: I have to admit that I don't completely get it (4.00 / 1) (#7)
by rusty on Thu Mar 30, 2000 at 04:44:08 PM EST

I think their general gist is:
  • The WTO dictates policies for trade which are too restrictive for developing countries to be competetive
  • The IMF/World Bank then go in and bail out these poor countries with "aid" money, which developing countries are powerless to refuse (because they're starving) and thus have to accept on whatever conditions are offered to them
  • This one-two creates a system of continuous dependence for developing nations on the global superpowers, thus neatly cementing us on top for the forseeable future.
I don't necessarily agree with this assessment, myself. I think the truth lies somwehere between your description and theirs-- they're trying to do what they think will help, but they've been misguided in their methods, and the system ain't working.

The protesting groups are of a wide range of stripes and goals. I think the most common ones are:

  • Forgive the debt of several developing countries, so as to level the playing field and remove the debt leash held by the IMF
  • Focus on social programs rather than unlimited free-market competition, since the libertarian policies force countries that can't afford it into the competition you describe.
And probably some other stuff. I, again, think that most of the protest groups would go too far the other way, and just create a lot of fat corrupt third world dictatorships. It's a hugely important issue, and one that simply doesn't have an answer you can put on a sign to wave around, IMO.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Re: I have to admit that I don't completely get it (none / 0) (#8)
by Philipp on Thu Mar 30, 2000 at 05:55:07 PM EST

The WTO dictates policies for trade which are too restrictive for developing countries to be competetive

I don't think that is a good assessment of the situation. The WTO's goal is free trade, but it's members might not share this goal. For instance, the European Union would actually love to block all agricultural imports to Europe, because it already spend half of its budget (!!!) on subsidies to its farmers. This really hurts third world countries.

It seems to me that the protesters think it is a much better battle-cry to shout "down with WTO!" than "let's hurt OUR farmers and import beef from Brazil to help the really poor farmers there!". But it is very fuzzy and ultimately meaningless.

Having said that, I sympathize a lot with the movement because this issue should be forced on the table (i.e. the media), because otherwise the big powers just have their way (no social agandas, corporations that rule the world). It definitely raises the right questions and I am astonished how they are being ignored by the media (ok, I have only lived four years in the US now, so I am not used to the utter ignorance of real information in the commercial media here).

alias kn 'killall -9 netscape-communicator'
[ Parent ]

Re: I have to admit that I don't completely get it (none / 0) (#10)
by Dacta on Thu Mar 30, 2000 at 10:59:37 PM EST

The WTO dictates policies for trade which are too restrictive for developing countries to be competetive.

No way. I'm sorry, but it isn't the poor contries that are protesting free trade for instance. It is the rich countries (esp the US, Europeans & Japan) that want to put trade barriers up because they can't compete with cheap imports from the developing nations.

Trade, in particular easy access to the rich markets of the world is the only way these countries have any hope of helping themselves.

[ Parent ]

Re: I have to admit that I don't completely get it (none / 0) (#12)
by rusty on Thu Mar 30, 2000 at 11:15:30 PM EST

Like I said, that's my very-high-level, mostly uninformed feeling of what they're saying. That's not my opinion, and may not even be their opinion. I do encourage you to check out a16.org and the links from that, and report back if you can get a clear picture of what they want. :-)

If there's interest, I can get more information from people who are involved in the protest organizations.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

There is a fundamental issue here (none / 0) (#15)
by Anonymous Hero on Sat Apr 01, 2000 at 09:25:35 AM EST

Society frequently has to resolve conflict between two goods.  In particular
unrestricted free trade comes into conflict with many social agendas.  Here are
a few examples.

Any government that passes laws against pollution has imposed costs on
business.  (To be fair pollution is a cost that society has to pay.)  So
businesses go elsewhere unless they get some sort of compensation encouraging
them to stay.  Virtually any kind of compensation that can be given is going to
be shot down by the WTO.

Frequently environmental legislation prevents trade in products that were
themselves produced in an enviromentally unfriendly manner.  (eg Products made
from endangered animals cannot be imported into the US.)  The WTO's mandate
puts it squarely opposed to such restrictions.

Governments usually have public health legislation setting standards for what
chemicals are allowed in food, proper methods of preparation, etc.  Everyone
agrees that overall these standards saves lives.  But what happens when the USA
goes to the WTO to complain that the European Union is not allowing them to
sell perfectly good beef because the cattle were fed hormones?

Unrestrained free trade sounds great and all.  But most countries balance more
sets of needs than that, and by focussing on one thing only you have implicitly
devalued all other possible agenda.

Ben Tilly

[ Parent ]
Re: DC Braces for April 16th IMF / World Bank Prot (5.00 / 1) (#9)
by Anonymous Hero on Thu Mar 30, 2000 at 06:01:53 PM EST

The reasons protesters are heading to DC are very legit. The World Bank and the IMF are the 2 tools used by western corporations to get more profits at the expense of people living in poorer countries. When the IMF sends the so-called rescue packages to countries, they go with conditions. These conditions are a set of policies that the governments must follow, allways at the expense of social policies to improve the lifes of its population. In the A16 homepage there is a good site with facts about the World Bank and the IMF at http://www.globalexchange.org/wbimf/facts.html. I encourage you to read them, and you can also follow the Protests(if you're not among them, that is:) at www.indymedia.org, which gave great independent coverage at the WTO meeting.

These protests don't make sense (2.00 / 1) (#11)
by Dacta on Thu Mar 30, 2000 at 11:11:25 PM EST

I'm not in the 'states, and here in Australia we've already been through the whole free trade thing and come out the other side much better for it.

There seem to be two groups of protestors involved here - the first group is the unions and organized labor, and the second is assorted groups who think Big International Organizations are bad for some reason.

I can see why the unions are protesting - lower trade barriers in the US will cost jobs in some sectors.

As for the rest... well... I can see some environmental arguements against economic development in some countries make sense, (although I'm not sure that the people in those countries are all going to be happy about well meaning 1st world people protesting stuff for them), but the rest of the protestors... they don't make sense.

Guess what guys? If you want to help those poor countries, you need to help them trade. That's one of the main purposes of these organisations - in particular the WTO.

Read the Washington Post article, and think about it for a while. Exactly what don't you agree with there?

DC Braces for April 16th IMF / World Bank Protests | 15 comments (15 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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