11 April, 2014


The Europeans have been very good at reigning in the power of private capital for their own internal greater good. Their nations promise-and deliver-public health care, transport, education, and a leveling of social hierarchies on a practical, day to day basis. They take care of their old and vulnerable. They support their arts and culture. Consequently, they remain rich, despite the fluctuations of the casino of foreign currency and the stock market.

Other countries that have fallen prey to private capital without reigning it in with the boundaries of social benefits, however, have not fared so well. And none more so than in Nepal, where the increasing disparities of what happens when a tiny minority seize all flows of capital has become clear. The banks have been generous with loans—real estate projects that follow no cultural or architectural codes abound, leading to a glut of badly made, glass fronted buildings that nobody wants to live, work or shop in. And yet the banks continue to fund these structures-clearly, there are no consequences to the loans, or their subsequent defaults. Why should one worry about this, you may wonder. Let the empty buildings prevail. But the more insidious takeover seems to be the takeover of land—or squatting, rather—by private capital. In America, millions have lost their homes when this greed from banks to own all property went haywire. Instead of reigning this in through the law, the American government recently bailed out the very banks that caused a decade of foreclosures. The neighbourhoods continue to fall to luxury development in cities like New York—clearly, private capital hasn’t given up its quest for the takeover of all land.

There’s also been a glut of automobiles on the roads—cleverly, it seems, through various schemes and incentives, the automobile industry has made it virtually imperative for almost everyone to own a vehicle, because without one the once pedestrian friendly roads have become treacherous.

Then there’s the continuous labor violations that continue to occur as Nepalese continue to flee in mass numbers from the countryside—countries like Malaysia, the Gulf and the Middle East continue to be destinations where labor violations are rife, and a slavery system, funded by private companies hungry for labor and capital from Western countries immune to prosecution, continues to thrive and multiply.

The banks have become omnipotent, omniscient, and above the law of any country. They play god—they make winners and losers. They take the money of some people and give it to others—true, this could be seen as an investment in entrepreneurships and new ventures. Alternately, it could also just been seen as playing god. The money goes to people who the bankers know, that goes without saying. Often it ends up in the hands of museums and art dealers who pay stratospheric amounts for a piece of canvas. We Ours has become a world where the value of human lives remains disposable and worth very little, in comparison to works of art whose “value” keeps soaring, and appear to have no limits.

Any attempts to reign in the power of private capital is going to be seen as a dirty commie movement that has to be squashed. The problem with letting the monster grow bigger and bigger is that even the country which ostensibly benefited from it, mainly the USA, may be in its death throes. The people of the USA are not doing very well—neither its economy, nor its people, are thriving at the moment. Vain attempts to revive the glory of the 90s (witness the lame attempt to inject 40 million into the bland and uninspiring Imgur via Anderssen Horowitz, in a desperate attempt to make it look like the roaring Clintoneque 90s are back again)  is bound to fail. Bill Gates may have tweaked his old software for a new device—one that will be downloaded by a few billion into their smartphones, but that still doesn’t bail out the rest of the country suffering from the deep malaise of capital gone amok.

World leaders of the present have to think about what may be the greatest challenge of this century—mainly, how to reign in the unbrindled power of private capital and its adherents. Capital has become a blank cheque to do whatever and whenever in the top echelons of finance, government and the military—might is right has been the catchword of the past decade. The only problem is that it hasn’t worked—either for those being exploited, or those doing the exploitation. In fact, the massive unleashing of capital has boomeranged—countries like the USA with the most unregulated financial systems have become worst hit with the economic crisis.

Will there be more restraint and regulation in the flow of capital? Will it be distributed more equitably this century? Or will we continue to walk the path of the laissez faire, liberal, privatized, “trickle down” economy?

No comments: