Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Raj Patel on The Value of Nothing

An excellent and thought provoking video by Raj Patel a British writer, activist and academic. The video is a preview to his new book "The Value of Nothing" due to be released in January 2010.

 Below are some notable excerpts from his interview with The Indypendent and from his upcoming book. Comments in [ ] are ours.

On the Current System
The system under which we live [can be described as] “incipient global fascism.” It’s a system in which both the corporations and the state push a vision of citizenship, nationalism, patriotism, inclusion and distribution and in which transgression is punished. It is about a particular moment of conjuncture between the state and capital. During the recent G-20 protests, Pittsburgh was turned into a police state in the service of capital. The underlying politics of fear that we’ve had since 9/11 is alive and well in the Obama administration, and is alive everywhere else in the world, too.
Anyone concerned with democracy should be worried that the seam between Wall Street and the government is almost invisible. At the very least, it raises serious reasons to doubt that the institutions that facilitated the crisis can clean up their mess. Nassim Taleb points to the absurdity here: "People who were driving a school bus (blindfolded) and crashed it should never be given a new bus." The problem is that because both our economy and to a larger extent our politicians aren't really subject to democratic control, [e.g. The Fed which has free access to print money and lend unlimited $'s to banks without any oversight] the bus drivers are always going to be graduates of the same driving school.
The actual price of a $4 Big Mac is $200
The Center for Science and Environment in India tried a few years ago to figure out the true cost of a hamburger. Assuming that it was raised on pasture that was once rainforest, the ecological services provided by that rainforest, the loss of diversity, carbon sequestration, water cycling, fuel and tropical product sources, among many other things, the cost would come to $200. The U.S. food industry has huge hidden costs, from the agricultural run-off that causes a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico to the cultural destruction wrought by the “Western” diet. There are also huge health costs associated with poor diet — in 2007, $174 billion was spent in the U.S. caring for people with diabetes — as well as the public funds that support the industrial food system.
Cheap food is “cheat food.” There are all kinds of costs that are externalized from the price we pay at the checkout. We pay those costs one way or another — but the food companies don’t. Merely having a system of free markets with accurate prices still doesn’t address the underlying issues of poverty and disenfranchisement.
A free copy of the first Chapter of Raj's upcoming book "The Value of Nothing" can be accessed here.

1 comment:

Vishal Jain said...

Hello Raj,

I appreciate your comments and initiative. Recently, I developed interest in economics and finance. I learnt about the currency system, manipulations central banks have been doing, supporting big firms at the cost of common/middle class people and stealing money invisibly from people's pocket using tools of inflation and currency manipulation.

Most of the people are cheated in their country by the very people they are trained to respect from the childhood. We are never tought how the economy actually works.

Moreover, this act is killing creativity of huge middle class population by keeping them engulfed in dirty financial system.

Keep up the good work.