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"I think it's a healthy sign that there are demonstrators in the streets. They are raising the question of 'is the rich world giving back enough?'"
February 4, 2002 11:22 AM   Subscribe

"I think it's a healthy sign that there are demonstrators in the streets. They are raising the question of 'is the rich world giving back enough?'" : Bill Gates (yeah, this guy). I think it's interesting that the "evil capitalists" seem to actually have some similiar beliefs to the protestors at the WEF conference. Perhaps we've moved a step beyond between the us=good them=bad analogies?
posted by owillis (50 comments total)

 
Gates has always been known for his charitable works, but you know as well as I do that an isolated example proves nothing.
posted by walrus at 11:31 AM on February 4, 2002


Or maybe the "evil capitalists" are learning how to mouth platitudes to quell the dissent?
posted by revbrian at 11:31 AM on February 4, 2002


revbrian: you're not supposed to talk about the contents of Evil Capitalist Monthly with the world at large! :)
posted by owillis at 11:32 AM on February 4, 2002


As long as the capitalists produce distractions in the form of $200 sneakers, no one will care.
posted by adampsyche at 11:36 AM on February 4, 2002


Most of the protestors come from middle class and above families, i.e. they're sons and daughters of and also future "evil capitalists". Totally unsurprising that Gates would join in a way. He probably realizes that it will increase his cultural appeal tremendously. I saw an excerpt of a Bill Gates/Charlie Rose interview recently in which Gates said he was (outside of work) thinking hardest about how to convince other people to be more generous with poor countries.
posted by mlinksva at 11:38 AM on February 4, 2002


you're not supposed to talk about the contents of Evil Capitalist Monthly with the world at large! :)

Thank god I can't get thrown out of the union...
posted by revbrian at 11:39 AM on February 4, 2002


"We've not done our fair share to take on some of the global challenges" like poverty, disease and women's rights, Clinton said Sunday. "We need to convince the U.S. public that this is a role that we have to play." (Hillary Clinton)

I have to completely disagree with that statement. The U.S. gives more in charity than the rest of the world, and nations that have free and open trade with us, and free societies, generally prosper. There is little we can do (save overthrowing regimes) which will lift many of these countries out of poverty, where despots and warlords plunder their nations' wealth and resources to their own benefit.

Also, within this statment is the implication (made previously by Mr. Clinton), that poverty = terrorism, when the fact is that most of the terrorism we've experienced is at the hands of very affluent Arabs. They may use poor people to meet some of their ends, but remember that most of the terrorists on Sept. 11 were middle class, and college educated. For some people, ideas are more important than economics, and personal wealth will not prevent them from killing.
posted by insomnyuk at 11:44 AM on February 4, 2002


Col. Sanders will be along to revoke your Pentaverate memberships forthrightly.
posted by dong_resin at 11:45 AM on February 4, 2002


Yet another reason I give mad propz to Gates as a kick-ass type of billionaire. Yay, Bill!
posted by hincandenza at 11:49 AM on February 4, 2002


What is a capitalist?
An advocate of laissez-faire capitalism is a capitalist, just like an advocate of socialism is called a socialist, i.e. novelist Ayn Rand is a capitalist; i.e. billionaire George Soros is not a capitalist as he does not advocate capitalism; rather, Soros advocates mixed economy statism. Soros like Ted Turner is a "socialist at heart."
posted by dagny at 11:53 AM on February 4, 2002


organic, eco-friendly, politically correct, marketing.
Marketing.
Is it good that big corporations are finally getting around to caring what people think? Sure. It is great. But it is still just Marketing and branding. I'm in a cranky mood from some terrible coffee i just had, and so, at this moment, i'm convinced that most of the jet-set travel around the world professional protestors merely want to buy products and live comfortably without Guilt. They are calling for consumer equality, and spending power not based on race or religion, because they still feel guilty wearing expensive handmade non-sweatshop clothing. ok. i'm done being cranky.

capitalism can't survive on its own, it needs consumers, and it will adapt to changing trends. The current trend is for good things, and so those things will be packaged and sold just like everything else, and i can't say that is bad. I just can't.
posted by th3ph17 at 11:58 AM on February 4, 2002


Of course, there is nothing inherently contradictory about being a) a ruthless business competitor out to dominate the marketplace by any means and b) a human being who's concerned about millions of innocent people dying of disease and starvation & is willing to spend his own money to help. People have this unreasonable habit of not staying neatly inside boxes labelled "Good Guys" and "Bad Guys."

I subscribe to both Evil Capitalist Monthly and Communist Dupe Weekly.
posted by tdismukes at 11:59 AM on February 4, 2002


The U.S. gives more in charity than the rest of the world

Do we? This and this suggest otherwise. While our actual dollar amount is high, percentage of GDP might be a better marker.
posted by apostasy at 12:01 PM on February 4, 2002


within this statment is the implication (made previously by Mr. Clinton), that poverty = terrorism

I believe the thought is more along the lines of poverty = breeding ground for those sympathetic to terrorism. So while they may not be the ones doing the actual acts, they think as they do and will aid them (see Afghanistan, Africa)

dagny: I believe we are going with the popular definition of capitalism versus an idealogically driven one

I subscribe to both Evil Capitalist Monthly and Communist Dupe Weekly
I'm gonna turn you in!
posted by owillis at 12:02 PM on February 4, 2002


Everyone seems to talk of the giving back,

>The U.S. gives more in charity than the rest of the world... etc etc

How much does the US cost the world, it's resources and that cost to other countries and their people. Would not reducing that be a better way to start or work at. Stop taking it in the first place, then it will not have to be given back.
posted by bittennails at 12:10 PM on February 4, 2002


While our actual dollar amount is high, percentage of GDP might be a better marker.
Why is that? The basic fact is that the money itself is the most important thing, when it comes time to pay the bills. The percentage of GDP is just trivia.
posted by thirteen at 12:15 PM on February 4, 2002


Just got through Non Zero by Robert Wright, and one of his more interesting suggestions is that capitalism is a dominent cultural gene that erodes other political/economic strategies by upping the level of 'non zero sumness' at a faster and more easily assimilable rate.

Not sure about that. Although I guess an argument could be made that the poor in wealthier societies are better off than the middle class in poorer societies. But is poverty best viewed as a cultural relative or an absolute? I guess it's best not viewed at all, but even Jesus gave up on that one.

Or maybe Robert Wright just has a very good pseudo machine.
posted by umberto at 12:18 PM on February 4, 2002


How much does the US cost the world, it's resources and that cost to other countries and their people.

Considering the fact that we do not take resources by force and in fact pay people for these resources, I would say that it costs the world quite little.

What's next, the U.S. is greedy because we consume 90% of the world's energy, or some such drivel? The reason we consume the most is because we produce the most. The reason these nations are poor is not because there is a static pool of resources, and we are keeping it all to ourselves, it is because other nations are wasting their resources, and their economic systems do not promote wealth.
posted by insomnyuk at 12:29 PM on February 4, 2002


The Daily Show had a good quote.. somewhat mangled:

The WEF, where rich, white, well-bred capitalists from around the world get together and are protested by rich, white, well-bred activists from Conneticut.
posted by rich at 12:29 PM on February 4, 2002


thirteen - why is it trivial to compare the amount given via percentage of gdp. notwithstanding arguments about the relevance of gdp in the real world.
surely the measure of a country's giving should be equated against what resources they have? the amount is irrelevant, it is the thought that counts.
you may find that comment derisable, but the poor do not need to be made richer, that is a re-herring. what they need is a system that encourages them to look after themselves. for instance,why lead them to produce pointless cash crops via economic encouragement when they could be growing food for themselves?
money=!happiness
posted by asok at 12:49 PM on February 4, 2002


why lead them to produce pointless cash crops via economic encouragement when they could be growing food for themselves?

Here's a thought: so they won't be impoverished subsistence farmers their entire lives! If you can sell crops and make enough money to buy food and other amenities (electricity, clean water), and contribute to the economy, then you are far better off than you would have been just making food for yourself.. in which case one bad season would lead you starving to death.
posted by insomnyuk at 12:51 PM on February 4, 2002


I am a member of a very welathy family and we are taught that the super rich give much more than the super poor when we can not find loopholes. So I guess the notion that the wealthiest nation ought to give more than those poor beggers beneath us is a fairly conventional view. Some of my lefty friends, though, say that we give on the one hand and exploit, take, bomb, burn those that we also help out when the time is right to change things. But this is all too complicated for me so I just sit back, let Arthur Anderson do my taxes, and try the offshore banking spots cause they work for drug dealers, terrorists, and major
American banks.
posted by Postroad at 1:12 PM on February 4, 2002


thirteen: Because the point is whether the U.S. does good its charity, not simple whether the charity is good. Even if the total dollars given by the U.S. is higher than any other country (and even this is in question), we have no business calling ourselves more charitable than others if we give a smaller amount of our total pie than them.

Results of charity should be measured in actual dollars. Karma-points in percentages of GDP.
posted by apostasy at 1:17 PM on February 4, 2002


Insomyuk said: "we do not take resources by force and in fact pay people for these resources." That's just a technicality. America has discovered that it does not need to take somewhere by force to manipulate its resources. Even wars as recent as Afghanistan are in some way connected with the USA's need to maintain a stable oil market. America doesn't have a military presence in dozens of countries just for fun, or in the name of peace and freedom. It does it to protect America's interests, usually in terms of oil/ profits.

Now... as for this 'we pay people for the resources' stuff... yes, people get paid, but not often *the people*. If the distribution of oil was making the worldwide gap between rich and poor smaller, I'd have few complaints. But it's not. Every time we take our S.U.Vs onto the street we're profiting... our contemporaries in many nations throughout the world are not.
posted by skylar at 1:17 PM on February 4, 2002


surely the measure of a country's giving should be equated against what resources they have? the amount is irrelevant, it is the thought that counts.
Why would this be a given? The simple truth is that the thought counts for very little. I am guessing that this money is used for aid, and more money provides more to that end. You are correct if you are talking about gifts from your preschool children, but good intentions don't pay the bills. It might not get you into "heaven", but there is no arguing that the US is not giving the most money.
posted by thirteen at 1:25 PM on February 4, 2002


Or does "good intention" money count for double when you spend it on... lets say corn?
posted by thirteen at 1:29 PM on February 4, 2002


see kids are all graduating towards humanism, be a humanist! it's all about being human :)
posted by kliuless at 1:52 PM on February 4, 2002


" ... Or maybe the "evil capitalists" are learning how to mouth platitudes to quell the dissent?..."

I love this stuff. They give nothing, they are selfish. They give billions, they are just doing it for PR.

"...How much does the US cost the world, it's resources and that cost to other countries and their people. Would not reducing that be a better way to start or work at. Stop taking it in the first place, then it will not have to be given back..."

Ok ... can't resist the libertarian point of view - politically incorrect as it is:

The poor, folks, are not poor because the rich are rich. There isn't a fixed amount of value on earth that is divided up between a fixed number of people. Take all the rich away (and, more importantly, take away the products their companies created) and you'd be left with ... well, with what civilization was like for a good deal of history ... a lot of people at bare subsistance, and subject to the whims of weather, crops, and and whatever feudal tyrant happened to have the most swords.

The rich do not TAKE from the poor, they add value - create value - that often did not exist before they created it. That is, they expand the size of the whole pie, and often do so by amounts far greater than the income they receive. The very notion that we'd consider it an ideal for even the poor to have enough food to eat, clothes to wear, medicene for children, and a roof to sleep under is a relatively recent phenomena, and is entirely the result of a couple of centuries of people whose creatively could find the capital to work with, and poured energy and intellect into unfolding. They have so enormously expanded the pie itself that it now seems almost criminal for anyone to be homeless or hungry.

The entire notion of "giving back", however, is premised on the apparently unquestionable assumption that the rich have taken something. If the rich give absolutely nothing to charity they would already have done much more for the world than they'll ever be paid for - even if they have substantial paychecks.
posted by MidasMulligan at 2:56 PM on February 4, 2002


If the question is "who is better at giving", then the country with the highest giving amount percentage of GNP might be the best measure. The prize for "biggest impact" though would go to the US for sure. Impact can be negative, however- ask any aid worker- and I am more concerned that we provide appropriate aid. Do no harm is the goal- unattainable, but approachable.

Giant and continuous dumps of excess grains from the US have been known to have the unintended consequence of putting entire farming regions out of business with their aid. So much for promoting self-sufficiency. Difficult issues: negative feedback mechanisms, cultural biases, ungrateful recipients, combatants hiding in refugee populations (feeding wars), graft, and so on. It's very hard to sort this stuff out, and most people just want to give their money and look the other way.

The US, with the worlds overwhelmingly largest economy, does come across as a bit of a miser though sometimes... Can't afford reductions in greenhouse gases? riiiiiiight....
posted by kahboom at 3:15 PM on February 4, 2002


"Considering the fact that we do not take resources by force..."

Eh? What colour is the sky in your world?
posted by five fresh fish at 3:44 PM on February 4, 2002


yes, people get paid, but not often *the people*

Who are these *the people* you speak of, Kemosabe?

It seems a bit patronizing to think that all miserable *the people* in the world are seen by a significant portion of the 'socially concerned' as a bunch of helpless puppies to whom the master must throw a handful of Kibble.

It is true that direct monetary aid is helpful in crisis situations, but the best way to actually effect change is to encourage self-reliance and entrepreneurship in places where such things are oftern brutally opposed by their ruling regimes.

I do not think it a coincidence that the spread of American-style democracy and capitalism presaged the collapse of most European monarchies in favor of more open political systems, and that countries that most effectively promote the free market are among the wealthiest in the world.

And in the places where a free market is just developing (like Russia), it is impossible to expect immediate absolute success. It sometimes takes a while to throw off the yoke of the past.

Good points, MidasMulligan. You're my favorite!
posted by evanizer at 4:51 PM on February 4, 2002


Hey evanizer: Thought about Argentina lately? I'm not totally up on the situation there, but as I understand it, the nation did everything the U.S. suggested and/or asked. Then they went bust at a critical moment, asked for more help and received none. Sink or swim. What good will that do to further the cause of freedom and democracy there, since they are in many minds tied in with accepting free markets and privatization, etc.? (Bear in mind here that economic growth does not automatically bring democracy and pluralism, though it helps. Acceptance of democracy and rights and the works is more of an expectations game.)
posted by raysmj at 5:13 PM on February 4, 2002


raysmj: The Argentine goverment did not do everything that the US suggested and/or asked. Namely, while they fixed their exchange rate and liberalized trade to some extent, they continued to run huge budget deficits to pay for various social programs. The US said "Hey - you might not want to run up such huge debts," but the Argentine government said "We're democratically elected, and our people want these programs, so we're going to keep paying for them."

At some point, bankers said "Hey - we don't think you're going to be able to pay us back, so we aren't going to loan you any more money," at which point the whole house of cards came tumbling down.
posted by jaek at 5:50 PM on February 4, 2002


> At some point, bankers said "Hey - we don't think you're going to be able to pay us back, so we aren't going to loan you any more money," at which point the whole house of cards came tumbling down.


In that situation the loans already outstanding to most countries in the world comes due, and will never be paid, much like that credit card in most peoples wallets, call in the loans now and you will effectively destroy world economy, it is precisely these loans that keep countries richer or poorer, like your credit cards will keep you richer or poorer...

I dare the IMF to call in its loans, lets watch it all collapse, you think you have war now?
posted by bittennails at 6:14 PM on February 4, 2002


According to this WaPo article, the Argentine deficits were very modest, certainly vastly lower than anything the U.S. experienced in the 1980s and well into the 1990s.
posted by raysmj at 6:18 PM on February 4, 2002


good thing the USD is the reference currency of the world. oh wait...
posted by kliuless at 6:27 PM on February 4, 2002


raymsj...

The problems in Argentina have to do (or so says my Socialist friend in Buenos Aires) with government corruption at all levels, similar to the mexican crisis a few years ago. Argentina's history of instability and corruption is its problems, not its economic philosophy.
posted by Kevs at 6:34 PM on February 4, 2002


The problems in Argentina have to do...with government corruption at all levels

Isn't this a bit like saying Barry Bonds' home runs had to with the ball? While it's true it was involved, corruption is both global and too general. Did your friend mention what the corruption was? Did someone make off with all the accounts, or what?

FWIW, my econ major ex is of the opinion that the Argentine currency board was largely at the heart of the problems. The Economist had an article along similar lines within the past two weeks, but I can't seem to find it on their site.
posted by apostasy at 8:04 PM on February 4, 2002


are protested by rich, white, well-bred activists from Conneticut.

What about us working-class, ill-bred, apathetic morons from Connecticut?

Seriously, though, to expand on evanizer's point-who are 'the people' exactly? I am a low-level service worker who has led union drives, so I must be one of the vaunted 'people' right?
However, I also work for a big, evil corporation and enjoy buying nice things, so I must really be an evil capitalist lackey then?
Honestly, America(the world for that matter) is so Balkanized-not just by race, but religion, philosophy, economic systems, pet causes and hairstyles-that I'm beginning to believe that there is no 'the people' merely a bunch of very large roving gangs staking out their turf, looking out for their own and only their own and this is truly what prevents any meaningful change from taking place.
Now, If you'll excuse me I'm heading back to my bunker where I sit ith my shotgun patiently waiting for the world to end.
posted by jonmc at 8:16 PM on February 4, 2002


Sheesh, is it that unfashionable to claim to know anything about Marxism these days? jonmc you're not an evil capitalist lackey, you have been removed from the creativity and fruit of your labor by the company you work for. You aren't in a natural work state, you are alieneated from your own efforts! Though those talking cow commercials are near-inexcusable.

As for the "people"...well, it's a sad legacy of colonialism that people are largely removed from the resources of their homelands, with the wealth of the land ending up the hands of foriegn power. The average peasant could suddenly find themselves as sharecroppers on their own land, and, you need look no further than the many broken deals of the US Government and the natives of this country. Peoples were forced onto land that was, in many cases, not fit for sustainable agriculture thereby making natives dependent on their conquerors for survival. I imagine the IMF protestors are attempting to ask the world to avoid the pitfalls of history, which may or may not be possible.

It's funny to equate people like Bill Gates with altruism...frankly it's often hard to trust the wealthy and powerful. Was it Nietsche who said that a society that was built on altruism was terrible, as you could never be sure of people's motives? (Yeah, I know he was insane.) I'm excited by the work that Gate's foundation is doing, but I'm wary of why he is doing it. But there's some saying about a gift and a horse, so it's hard to be ungrateful.
posted by kittyloop at 9:19 PM on February 4, 2002


Though those talking cow commercials are near-inexcusable.

Maybe, but they sure beat the hell out of that annoying "Steve" kid. I'm waiting for a commercial where the cow gores steve to death in the middle of his shpeil.

"Dude, your gettin'a .....ahhhh no!!"
posted by jonmc at 9:30 PM on February 4, 2002


I think Steve's cute.
posted by evanizer at 11:10 PM on February 4, 2002


When I brought up the idea of *the people* I was trying to make a distinction between those who profit from trade with the US in things like oil and those who are just citizens of the country. Often international trade is fruitful for just a tiny elite of (usually corrupt) businessmen or politicians within a nation and *the people*, the vast majority, those who share in a right to the resource, get nothing. The country remains impoverished while others profit.

Worst of all, Westernised nations are often complicit in such deals - for example Australia, which teamed up with the maniacal Indonesian government to carve up among them the oil and gas resources of the Timor Gap which under UN maritime conventions would have belonged to the people of East Timor. With hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, it is not somehow good for *the people* of East Timor that they wouldn't have been able to sell their own resources for their own profit but that Western companies would reap the rewards. Fortunately I believe that this particular dispute has now been solved in favour of the East Timorese.
posted by skylar at 1:23 AM on February 5, 2002


As a Brazilian (a condition that pretty much makes me wonder a lot about the issue of national debts and IMF) and from a state borderline Argentina, their crisys was very serious for us (we do have many business with them and the turism sector here took a great hit this summer).

First of all, Argentina's problem has nothing to do with following what the Americans or the IMF or BIRD tell them to do. Although those institutions have some policies about lending their money and also some guidance that they suggest to the countries that take money, they do not enforce it. Argentina's biggest problem was keeping their money exchange rate at equality with US dollar. There's no 'gold pattern' to ensure that 1 dollar is worth 1 dollar. The value of a currency is given by many factors, credibility of the entity issuing it being one of those factors.

Argentina has many problems keeping their costs low and that's the major issue with most of the latin-american countries. We did a great deal here in Brazil, selling most of our state business companies. We still spend quite a lot and the law is simple: if you spend more than your income, you gotta get money other way.

Now, IMF and BIRD lend us money. It's natural that they put up some safety on that operation. Rule number one is: you take an amount in dollars, you pay that amount in dollars. This means that we have to get dollars to pay our bills. Hence the high interests we pay to international investors so they can put their money here. Rule number two is: you have to pay the interests from the lending, otherwise we cannot be sure that you'll pay for the lending itself.

In the end, folks, although we did a lot in the last 8 years (our economy is way better and we dodged every major crisys that could have hitted us, such as Asia, Russia, Mexico and Argentina), there's still a lot to do. We oughta find a way to cut costs, solve our taxes system and need less money from other institutions.

Argentina, though, is in a pretty bad situation, but that's not your fault as much as it's their own fault. They didn't do the right thing when they had to. That's called a bluff and it is a risky thing to do. It might not work out.

From all the stuff said here, Middas is right in the bullseye. You cannot blame rich for the existence of the poor.
posted by rexgregbr at 8:10 AM on February 5, 2002


We still spend quite a lot and the law is simple: if you spend more than your income, you gotta get money other way.

We're not doing that in the U.S. right now, at all, and the nation also has foreign debt. I realize it's an emergency, but there are billions not directly attributable to Sept. 11 in the new budget and we were headed down Deficit Road before, given the recession. I also realize the terms of the IMF loans. Still, why push a policy of "zero deficit" on others, when the U.S. has only held to it eight short times (including the recent surplus) since World War II? Who holds to such a policy in their own, individual lives?

In any case, if the U.S. wants democracy and acceptance of rights to take hold in Argentina and other nations permanently, wouldn't it be a good idea to put up with crap for a bit? Especially given that no one in government worried much about corruption or instability, etc., when pushing for the IMF loans and reforms in the first place? (If our leaders had been worried about that and been wise, the govt. would either have gone slower, or pushed for civic reform as well, or decided just to wait it out, come what may. But maybe I'm expecting too much here.)
posted by raysmj at 8:51 AM on February 5, 2002


thirteen: Here's a thought: so they won't be impoverished subsistence farmers their entire lives! If you can sell crops and make enough money to buy food and other amenities (electricity, clean water), and contribute to the economy, then you are far better off than you would have been just making food for yourself..

with a good education and state health service what else would they need? water is free (if you collect it), and electricity can be generated, if it is required. during times of drought, or lack of resources they could call in favours from those who they helped in times of plenty. we have the technology and the knowhow, or at least we used to have. if they want to make money there is nothing stopping them, anymore than anyone else in the world.

MidasMulligan: There isn't a fixed amount of value on earth that is divided up between a fixed number of people. Take all the rich away (and, more importantly, take away the products their companies created) and you'd be left with...

there is a fixed amount of resources, though. the consumerist approach makes no provision for the environmental cost of products, unless by some miracle a government has seen the light and taxed appropriately. if this were taken into consideration, plastic would be one of the most expensive materials available.
also, it is not companies that have changed the standards of living for the select few in the west, it is people. notwithstanding the fact that the quality of life is not improving for the human race as a whole, or even within the west, i cannot see how you can give the credit to 'companies'.
the majority of positive changes to the quality of life come from people who have a vision of how the world could be. most of the time those that own things (the companies) are opposed to change, which they fear, unless they control it. now we are living in a world were companies have more fiscal resources, and can exert more power than elected governments. how can this be a good situation?

rexgregbr: From all the stuff said here, Middas is right in the bullseye. You cannot blame rich for the existence of the poor.
i am with epicurus on this one:
'A free life cannot acquire great wealth, because the task is not easy without slavery to the mob or those in power; rather, it already possesses everything in constant abundance. And if it does achieve great wealth, one could easily share this out in order to obtain the good will of one's neighbours.'
posted by asok at 9:27 AM on February 5, 2002


raysmj: "Who holds to such a policy in their own, individual lives?"

Err... I do. Seriously. I'm far from being a Scrooge myself. I do spend a lot and sometimes in stuff which is not that much essential. But I always try to keep it in my budget. Sometimes I've had to go through bank credit (it's a 10-12% monthly interest rate, so I'm not eager to use it), but it's part of the game and I've paid the interest for doing it. When I feel that I have to spend a whole lotta money, I try to find a way to do it without lending money from a bank or credit institution. It makes my life much more easy to do so.

About US policy on "zero deficit", I think it's a matter of needing it or not. Sure, you might do it yourselves and it would probably make it easyer for you to put your economy back on track. But you would have to cut things that you might not be that eager to cut. And the odds are that your economy will be back on track anyway.

I say that after comparing your public balance with the Brazilian one and with many other nation's balances. That's an alternative that we don't have, in my opinion.

As far as putting up with crap in order to support democracy permanently, it's a far deeper question. I don't think that this is the right justification. Democracy must stand for itself. Without several serious changes, a country will not embrace it or it will not survive.
posted by rexgregbr at 9:49 AM on February 5, 2002


thirteen: Here's a thought:
For the record, that was not me what said that.
posted by thirteen at 9:51 AM on February 5, 2002


asok:And if it does achieve great wealth, one could easily share this out in order to obtain the good will of one's neighbours.

I'm not against it (I do it myself). I'm against being obliged to do it and, most of all, I'm against relying on government to do it. Any government is a lousy administrator. Thinking that a 'fat' government, responsible for such tasks as distributing income equally, taking care of health, security, economics, water, energy, oil, etc. is a way of achieving it is a phalacy.

On the matter of the power that corporations have against governments and countries, there's no solution to that. A government is an institution that represents a society. There isn't a single society that achieves the status of flawless. Therefore, there will always be a part of the government that is more receptive to the pressure that a company can put on. But I'd say that this pressure, itself, is not that much powerfull as you think.

So, there's Enron and Bush. And before that, there was Clinton and all those weird business. And after Bush, there will always be another one. But in the end, Enron is screwed, Bush will have to explain it and life still goes on.
posted by rexgregbr at 10:08 AM on February 5, 2002


So, there's Enron and Bush. And before that, there was Clinton and all those weird business
I guess you wouldn't care to name any of the weird businesses that were akin to Bush' relationship to Enron; that would be unseemly.

Err... I do [not spend money I don't have]. Seriously.
Then I guess the dream of home ownership will always be just a dream for you. Unless, uh, you have a trust fund or something...

Thinking that a 'fat' government, responsible for such tasks as distributing income equally, taking care of health...
This might be an awkward time to mention the "medicare spends far less per dollar on administrative costs than those super-efficient HMOs". It also might be a bad time to suggest that the new Denzel Washington film, John Q, might actually be tapping into a zeitgeist of frustration with the titans of capitalism and their vision of what's best for the rest of us plebes.

It seems to me the "Government is fat and inefficient" is a meme/urban legend that only serves those who ultimately wish to rule in the place of our current democratic structures. Government is inherently no less efficient or more corrupt than businesses are; some aspects of government are extremely well-run, others not so much. Indeed, it seems that the only true, core critique that applies to aspects of our government that are inefficient is that they fail due to their massive scale, causing a disconnect between the organizational parameters and the actual people being served. This is no less true of excessively large corporations, however, and our large government is necessitated by the existence of large corporations.

What is that saying about the poor sometimes objecting to being governed poorly, while the rich always are objecting to being governed at all?
posted by hincandenza at 12:08 PM on February 5, 2002


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