globalization and too much government

Democracy Now has a fascinating interview with Naomi Klein on the topic of the shock doctrine, oil, climate change, Obama, politicians, free trade, and the surveillance apparatus being built in Shenzhen, China. A few highlights:
  • The Shock Doctrine is Klein’s hypothesis that disasters are used to push otherwise unpopular solutions for the benefit of corporate profits. She gives as an example Bush’s push to lift bans on off-shore drilling – a bad idea that will not help our energy situation, but will greatly profit oil companies and perpetuate the energy crisis.
  • Obama is of a conservative economic mode, much like the Clintons. From his advisors to some of the things he said, Obama isn’t always strictly progressive: “…I think what we actually saw with Obama is that he started pretty much at a conservative point on economic policy, and Clinton—and the campaign with Clinton, because she was moving so far to a populist position, he then moved. And as soon as she dropped out of the race, he moved back. So I think there are some real points of disagreement, and I think that there are some places to point to much more progressive outlook in Obama’s roots, particularly on foreign policy, but I don’t think economic policy is one of them.”
  • Ultimately, American politics are undermined by the unconditional nature of the support politicians receive. In other words, voters have to be clear that they will only support an elected official provided certain conditions are met. If not, they’ll throw the bum out. (This was precisely the topic of my most recent column: vote for Obama, but scorch the earth in 2012 if he, along with Democrats, doesn’t catalyze meaningful change.)
I think globalization really is the underlying issue making all these crises so hard to get a grip on. Instead of local self-sufficiency, we have a globalized network of economic and political connections that make local changes hard to deal with because they’re tied in to a bigger system. But like the old saw about the butterfly in China, any disruption in the system, however small, can have a tremendous impact in other parts of the network. Which brings me to a problem related to globalization: too much government. We have city and state governments – and county, on top of which is a national government. Then we have innumerable international regulatory bodies each of which exert some sort of authority. And much of these governments and regulatory entities operate outside the ordinary person’s immediate scope – job, house, food, and so on. With it being extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible, to stay reasonably informed about what all those government people are doing, it’s not surprising that a lot goes on that is against our interests and without our knowledge or informed consent.

The problem is worse than that, as corporate interests are increasingly synonymous with government interests. I’m not saying the solution is isolationism, but independence that focuses on the local and encourages self-sufficiency as much as possible. Maybe it’s time for the dormant anarchist movement to wake up again, to bring to the discussion the vigourous ideas of social organization without government. Even if a peaceful condition of anarchy is a pipe dream, anarchist theory can at least help cut through this tangled socio-politico-economic knot we have been bound with.

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