wee hens

posted in: words 0

recently finished john ralston saul’s latest book: the collapse of globalism and the reinvention of the world. as the title might indicate, saul chronologically maps the rise in the idolatry of globalism (i.e., viewing the world through an economic prism) and then its miserable failure to deliver: the rising tide of globalization alone is just not enough to pull the world’s poorest out of their predicament.

saul is refreshingly good at writing. and thinking. and pulling nugget quotes from economists, political leaders, etc. my only critique is that the work feels more like a series of (rather compelling) sketches–if only it were pieced together better to make a stronger whole.

still, one of the gripping points for me was saul’s reminder that as citizens/nation states we have real choices to make; that so-called leaders should actually lead, and not merely (micro)manage. the ‘inevitability’ of economics is anything but inevitable and besides, civilizations are not led by economics. we could all make decisions in an instant that would do wonders towards the public good, if we just had the willpower to do it (like relieving debts of african countries, which have become unserviceable anyway).

The obsession of the modern manager with structure and expertise and control — usually disguised as due process — is often taken to extremes. […] this applied doctrine of form over content also favours an obsession with minutiae on the one hand and large, lazy organizations on the other. Increasingly, these organizations are the directionless transnationals. You have only to look at the West’s painful approach to global warming to see what this can mean. The whole debate has been bogged down by the unreality of favouring technical detail over the real world.

but anyway, that was a long-winded segue just to say: to all the nay-sayers that believe developing countries are doomed to fail because of corruption, john christensen describes what is essentially ‘legitimate’ corruption practiced mainly by western corporations: tax havens for transnationals and high-net-worth individuals (“hen-wees”) [this is a book review for raymond baker’s capitalism’s achilles heel]. it is sickening to think of the amount of capital flight from African countries, when so much political effort is made to patch together (minuscule sums of) aid for those same states. sigh.