The Coastal Post - February, 1998

Asians 'R Us

BY FRANK SCOTT

The Asian crisis is about a whole system, not just a continent. You'd never know that to hear the Pollyannas of Wall Street, or its branch office at the White House. All Asia needs is a taxpayer financed bailout, and the adoption of strict free market policies by silly folks who've often practiced social responsibility.

The Japanese set the trend, with central planning to assure that few were left out as they attempted to balance humanity with profit. Japan is as distressed as any nation, given its crowded, polluted rush into global marketing. But at least it tried to protect segments of the population which are left to wander the streets and live in slums here in the U.S. They, and Koreans, Thais and Indonesians are being told to mend their ways and stick to market rules. That means substantial unemployment where there was almost none, excess profits for a few and dreadful poverty for many more, and a rush towards the paradise we experience here in the U.S. Hello?

Of course, we lead the world in profits, material excess, affluence and military might. We also have more people in debt, poverty, or both, lacking health care, adequate housing, or safety from domestic, not foreign, violence. We celebrate family values by creating millions of poor, malnourished children and an almost equal number of rich, overfed brats.

Asians should emulate our schizoid behavior and learn to profess one thing and do another. Dualism is understandable, especially when mind managers fill our heads with confusion about what constitutes reality. Among the greatest confusions is the implanted mania attributing all social ills to Big Government.

Unless it's used to socialize the costs of private profiteers, as in Asia, state power is portrayed as big, bad and anti-American. Government hardly serves a majority of the people, but its demonization in their minds has little to do with reality.

Critics of big government disregard its incestuous connection to big business. And business keeps getting bigger: more than 27,000 firms have merged in the last three years, and in 1997 there were 156 mergers of more than a billion dollars. Mom and Pop enterprise has been smothered by monopoly capitalism, which needs big government to provide minimal regulation of its massive marketeers, lest their lust for private profit create total social chaos. That is rarely mentioned in corporate politics, where the two wings of our ruling party flutter to keep the same overweight turkey in flight .

One wants as little government as possible, opting for the invisible hand of the market to run things according to religious, often barbarian belief. The other supports the moderately regulating hand of a public sector, so long as it's paid for by working people and not the rich. But both wings flap in the financial breezes provided by corporate capital.

Those who moan about the growth of the public sector are blind, if not deaf and dumb, to economic realities. When business throws people out of work, the only salvation for society is for government to hire them for public work, which would never be done privately because it isn't profitable. Or to put them on welfare, so that they remain poor but don't drop dead in the streets. This increases the size of the public sector, and lends a cosmetic veneer to an often ugly reality .

The investor class is protected, with religious fervor by conservatives, and slightly more secular passion by liberals. But both groups derive their power and paychecks by adhering to the demands of finance capital. All indulge in rhetoric about "the people," but the only people who count are those who pay for the campaigns that elect them.

There is plenty of vehement criticism of religious fundamentalists, whose single-minded beliefs can be menacing. But market fundamentalists are far more dangerous, and less subject to criticism. Spiritual beliefs can motivate us to do good or evil, but they don't collect property, manufacture cars or design bombs. Market forces compel the people who rent, drive and bomb no more than the secular crowd.

Our disintegrating natural environment is matched by a debt spiral and inequality gap of shocking proportions. We are told that fossil fuel, tobacco and weapons are all good for business, sometimes driving people into fanaticism and hatred in a world seemingly out of control.

In this context, further debate over the size of government, that doesn't include the size of what government should be controlling, will only bring us closer to social, economic and political breakdowns.

Citizens need to be critical of what mind management tells them. Particular attention should be focused on what is called the Asian crisis and it's proposed solution. Another bail-out, like the S&Ls; and so many others, will serve large capital, and be paid for by small workers. We should ask how government can be evil when it supports personal survival, but wonderful when it finances corporate welfare.

We and the Asians are part of a political economic system that is crumbling all around us, both here and there. What's happening in Asia concerns all of us, and if we're going to pay for a bailout, we ought to have something to say about who and what gets bailed. We've been told endlessly, that we're in a global market. It's time for a global democracy to bring it under control.

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