I find it very interesting, in arguing with people who hold the kind of views you do, that it becomes extremely difficult to hold any kind of rational discussion. There seems to be an extreme difference in focus that means we're basically talking past one another. You spent at least half of the parent comment talking about where you believe the origins of my views to lie. In terms of cogency of argument and the use of references, it is by far the better part of the post. The latter part, where you actually tackle some of my arguments, is much weaker, and consists mainly if trotting out bits of "common knowledge" that do not stand up to examination.
Regarding ideology: I am tempted to just file this under the genetic fallacy and move on. To put that another way: the origins or social function of a statement have no impact on its truth or falsehood. To say "oh, that's just capitalist ideology", or "not more establishment propaganda" might pass for a refutation on your planet, but it doesn't on mine. I will read your references on ideology later, but I'm afraid I don't expect them to have much of an impact, since I'm somewhat familiar with what I'm likely to find already.
On a personal note: You don't know who I am. Aside from the ones I've actually expressed, you don't know my political views. Please bear that in mind. You've made at least two errors in your assumptions about me. I'll leave it to you to figure out what they are. Assuming your opponent holds precisely the opposite of your own views and lives in the same cultural context is a good way not to progress an argument anywhere useful.
Regarding Greg Palast: I didn't know he had a website. He's an excellent investigative journalist, but his interpretation of what he discovers never seems well supported. Same goes for many of the other journalists ZNet is in the habit of exerpting (I read said publication regularly, incidentally). I attribute to you (and them) an extreme leftist system of beliefs because that is what you appear to have. I have no particular problem with that. There are several leftists around here (greenrd, for instance) who I consider to be among the most interesting K5 posters. More generally, the left has historically played an important role in driving social change.
The problem I often have, however, and this is true for many left-wing journalists in the mainstream press (have you figured out your mistake yet ?), is that the left in recent years seems to have given up on rational argument and even on empiricism, and started to rely on "that is just ideology" as an answer to almost everything, while moving away from coherent theory and towards a mish-mash of "common sense" beliefs and "radical" activism. This seems both lazy and futile. Thinly veiled insults to people's intellectual integrity may "win" an argument, but they don't convince people. Standing in the street wearing a silly hat may be fun, but it doesn't achieve actual social change.
That isn't a blanket judgement, BTW, it just appears to be the trend. You may or may not be an exception, but I recommend that if you want to continue this conversation you stop telling me where you think my beliefs come from, and start telling me why they're wrong.
Right, on to the substantive part of your post. I think it is worth repeating what I was trying to show, previously: that "imperialism" is not really a very good model for explaining the relative poverty of some parts of the world, or the existence of sweatshops.
A common theme appears to run through your direct disagreements with my points above, and it is probably worth focusing on that. We seem to have a different understanding of what makes a society prosperous. I want to avoid the term "wealthy", because it is too easy to get confused with individual wealth, which is different. You want to emphasise the role of natural resources: the society which control the most oil fields, sugar plantations and coal mines, is the most prosperous. I want to emphasise the productivity of labour: the society that has the most productive workers is the most prosperous.
There's a degree of truth to both of these views, but I believe the productivity view subsumes the natural resources view. The thing that makes labour more productive, of course, is the other factors of production: land and capital. If you control an oilfield, your labour is more productive, because oil is valuable. But similarly, if you have better oil extraction technology, your labour is more productive. So far, we don't disagree much, except that we can explain why, say, Taiwan, is rich in spite of having no natural resources through its high level of technology. This way, we can explain kinds of wealth that have little to do with natural resources: software, fine craftsmanship, high art, and so on ... If we look at the modern, developed economies, we find that of the total value of goods and services, very little of the value actually originates from natural resources.
So, to the state of nature: I'm not sure why you're dragging Locke into this. He was constructing an argument for the right of a people to depose their government. His version of the state of nature makes a nice argument for individualism, but it is not intended as a scientific theory, and many aspects are clearly not correct, from the perspective of modern anthropologists and archaeologists. They don't need to be, for his argument to work. Nozick, who resurrected the argument, called it a "potential explanation", which seems a good way of looking at it.
If we look at genuinely ancient societies (pre-Sumer, that is), what we find it that their labour was much less productive than ours. It took a man several days to make a good bow or spear. A vast number of hunting rifles can be made by less than a hundred men in the same time. They did not even know oil *was* a natural resource, let alone know how to extract and refine it. This is what I mean when I say the natural state of man is to be dirt poor. Life was not quite as "nasty, brutish and short" and Hobbes thought, but they had a life expectancy of maybe 40, ate a monotonous diet, had a fantastic infant mortality rate, and so on ... Our advance over them isn't that they suffered scarcity of natural resources, but we know more about how to make better use of those resources than they did. Oh, and don't bring Native Americans into this. The pre-Columbian history of the Americas is almost entirely obfuscated by things people would like to have been true, and what we know post-Columbus is contaminated as evidence by the presence of Europeans.
We can apply the same perspective - supplied by seeing societal wealth as the productivity of labour - to the colonial system. The great powers reserved to themselves the capital intensive manufacturing industries, and made their colonies undertake resource extraction and agricultural activities, to the extent they participated in the imperial economy at all. Even in India, most people remained subsistence farmers - more on that later. They gained from this because the industries they reserved to themselves were those that made most use of education and heavy capital, so the productivity of their labour was greater. The colonies bought expensive manufactured goods and sold cheap raw materials. The mother country did the reverse, and also traded manufactures with the other great powers. This system undeniably retarded the development of the colonies, and in the case of India, it did untold damage to what had been the manufacturing power-house of the world (which is why the British went there to begin with). In this, I suspect, we do not disagree, but even under the colonial system countries had very different fates: constrast, for instance, the destinies of Ethiopia and Japan, neither of which was ever a colony (at least, not till WWII).
Where we do disagree is that you believe this system has persisted and I do not. I gave you three reasons previously why I think you're unlikely to be right. I want to come back to that later, because I think you've rather missed the point, but right now I want to compare todays economy with that of the early 20th century, and point out the differences.
Firstly, and I would have thought obviously, capital intensive manufacturing industry has all but vanished from the former great powers, and yet they have surpassed even their former standard of living. That manufacturing industry has relocated to countries that were formerly very poor in Asia, and, to a lesser extent, South America. Those great powers, including the US, have largely transformed their economies to focus on economic management activities, services, and high technology. Manufacturing now comprises less than ten percent on the US or EU economy.
Those countries to which industry has tended to move: Taiwain, South Korea, Singapore, and so on, have by and large transcended their former status as parts of the developing world. Their economies are moving in turn towards higher end manufacturing.
Meanwhile, in the developing world, almost everyone is still a subsistence farmer. Life has not changed much since the Iron Age, except that in some places crops have been improved sufficiently that famines are now much less common. Partly because of those agricultural changes, a great population shift towards the cities has occurred. Those cities - much bigger than anything in the West - are not very nice places to live, but the people living in them are richer than their fellow citizens in rural areas: that goes back to the productivity of labour again. Most people living in them work is local manufacturing, or some other local indutry.
The places we're concerned with in talking about sweatshops are on the economic boundary between the developing world proper and the newly developed countries (S. Korea, Taiwain, etc). Indonesia, China, Malaysia, Mexico, and so on. They still have mostly farming, rural, economies, and somewhat developed cities, but are starting to play a role in the world economy.
Does this state of affairs look very like the mercantile system ? No. It does not. The extractive industries are still in the developing world, but that is about the only similarity. Those countries are now able to produce manufactures, which under mercantilism they were not. Indeed, it is the lower-end manufacturing that is happening in newly industrialising countries about which you are complaining. The highest parts of the value chain are still quite largely located in the west, that is true, but they are now quite different, and actually possessed of a largely western focus: western marketing, software development, stock trading and so on don't affect Malaysia much, let alone Burkino Faso.
Now to return to the second from last point: I said there's no particular advantage to having poor people around. You think that's naive, because J Edgar would never work in a toilet factory. Well, probably true enough, although I don't really see its impact on the question at hand. If we take the productivity view of prosperity, then richer people are more productive, because that is why they are rich. More productive people get that way because they work with more advanced technology (capital) or have more education. Therefore in a richer society, less people have to make toilets, and those who do don't have to apply ceramic glaze with the toungues, or whatever is so unpleasant about making toilets. Richer societies provide better markets and more opportunities for investment for outsiders and well as better lives for those living in them.
Compare that with the putative benefits of poverty, which basically consist of low wages, and wealth seems to win, doesn't it ? even from a capitalist's perspective.
A couple of final points: You say "ideological structure", I say conspiracy. The only differences seems to be that you suppose those participating in the process are too stupid to know what they're doing, and only a few marginal left wing commentators are clever enough to see the truth. That doesn't do anything to make the argument more credible. I believe people are smarter than that, by and large. I also note the similarity of the trend away from rationality and towards conspiracy theory on the left at present to be distubingly like the movements that gave rise to fascism.
As to your ad-hoc explanations of things the US might not have found so desirable that actually happened in spite of its total control over world affairs, I don't think they're really worth reply to, do you ? You'll just dream up more ad-hoc hypothesese to compensate. If you really want to convince me, you'll have to describe what the mechanism of this supposedly air tight control actually is.
If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]