THE BLOG
05/21/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

My country is the world

Look I'm puzzled, and if there are any libertarians, neoconservatives, teabaggers, invisible-hand-of-the-marketeers, the-UN-has-black-helicopters readers out there perhaps they could enlighten me.

See these are people who apparently believe in government of the capitalists, by the capitalists and for the capitalists. Believe in the economy red in tooth and claw. Believe in the devil take the hindmost. Believe that life for the poor, the lesser breeds without the law, was meant to be short, brutish and hard. Believe in fact that of all the things humans can do and think and achieve, the only one that has any role in society is money. That there is some fundamental universal principle involved, similar to the theory of gravity, or the theory of evolution, or the theory of the role of greenhouse gases in climate, by which money in society will, if left unchecked by actual human beings, magically distribute itself through society in the most efficient and equitable way to achieve the greatest good and the greatest happiness for the greatest number.

Now I don't know why they believe this. Might as well believe in some invisible being in the sky for all the evidence they have of an invisible hand in the till (sorry, that should read "on the tiller"). I mean the most cursory knowledge of history of even the last 200 years would tell you that markets running riot have only the intended outcome of making the rich richer and the poor poorer to their credit. That after spells of free market madness in any country we the people have to come back in and adjust the clocks, sort out the problems, deal with the disasters, behave with humanity. That people, actual visible people, elected by us, have to work with all the aspects of being human in the multi-faceted human society. Have to sort out matters of health care, and education, and environmental issues, of art and culture, of infrastructure, of law and justice, of gender and race issues. Have to deal with all the things in fact that in a democracy we elect human beings to deal with in spite of the madness of money.

But let's take this another irrational step further. Let us suppose, just for a moment, that there really was an invisible spanner (sorry, supervisor) in the works, tinkering away, working like clockwork except when messed up by the clumsy hands of the peasants meddling with what they do not understand. And that if we kept the peasant's hands off the controls the economic sausage making machine would go on turning out sausages for everyone, no problem. If that was true, we might, those of us on the progressive side of the human condition, grit our teeth and say, ok, I wouldn't do it like that, all things considered, but I suppose it's the best way to make sausages, better leave it alone.

Except that's not the way things are in the real world. Not only is there no single wise invisible hand lightly caressing the fly wheels of the economy, there are in fact hundreds of invisible hands gripping the wheels and levers hard and turning the great ship of the economy in directions that will most benefit they and their friends. So when the libertarians say they don't want the elected representatives of the people to control the economy in any way, they are not saying they want no one to control the economy, but that they want only their friends the back room boys in the counting houses counting out their money to control it. The choice was never about control versus free, but about who was doing the controlling. With all due respect to the derivatives traders, I think I would rather elect someone who would represent my interests in a modern complex society than leave them to it.

Today New York, tomorrow the world. The same people who would rather be part of a plutocracy than a democracy are also, it seems, scared stiff of "World Government" by United Nations bureaucrats. They hate the very idea that, in dealing with universal issues such as climate change, poverty, war, hunger, the marine environment, trade, the nations of the Earth, through their governments, should seek universal solutions. They believe, apparently, that there is a kind of invisible hand which ensures that all the nations acting individually in their own selfish interests for their inward looking and nationalistic populations will magically achieve the best for everyone in the best of all possible worlds. That any agreements or concerted actions between nations will damage the interests of Joe Public in small town Ohio or Alaska.

Again, as a theory, this might, just, be included as part of public discourse at election time. I mean, the evidence for this kind of invisible supranational hand is also non-existent, its existence in fact being disproved by world history for the last 6000 years, or so. But just as at the national level, the imaginary hand is in fact these days replaced by a number of invisible hands (and no, I don't mean the Mafia, although now you mention it ...) operating at the international level. Multinational corporations, with the help of their people at the World Bank, the World Trade Organisation, and the IMF, and various bilateral trade agreements, already largely control what goes on in the world. Decisions made by individual countries about their economy, their environment, their workplace laws, their customs and quarantine arrangements, and so on, are all being limited by those whose financial interests are at stake on a global level.

We have, to all intents and purposes, a world government now, but it isn't one whose operations are transparent, it isn't one whose activities can be influenced by democratic processes, and it sure as hell isn't acting in the interests of the 7 billion citizens of planet Earth. Again, the choice is not between no international cooperation and world government, but between a democratic world government and a plutocratic one. The ability of the latter to calmly watch the world warm up while preventing action to reduce greenhouse gases is just the most blatant example of how the system is failing us now.

I must have obviously misunderstood something here, misread the signs or the blogs, so if any tea baggers have time to drop by after trying to prevent government involvement in health care in favour of health care by the health care companies for the health care companies, perhaps they could set me straight.

No invisible hands at The Watermelon Blog.