Archive for August 27th, 2009

‘A bunch of fucking bond traders’

What ho chaps. My copy of Manufacturing Discontent – The Trap of Individualism in Corporate Society just arrived. On the basis of browsing the first chapter alone, I heartily recommend it.

To illustrate the reach of corporate power Perelman cites first from The Twilight of Sovereignty by Walter Wriston, former Chief Executive Officer of Citibank.

The entire globe is now tied together in a single electronic market moving at the speed of light. There is no place to hide.

This enormous flow of data has created a new world monetary standard, an Information Standard, which has replaced the gold standard and the Bretton Woods agreements. The electronic global market has produced what amounts to a giant vote-counting machine that conducts a running tally on what the world thinks of a government’s diplomatic, fiscal and monetary policies. That opinion is immediately reflected in the value the market places on a country’s currency. [Wriston 1992: 8-9]

In this new world order:

capital will go where it is wanted and stay where it is well treated…It will flee from manipulation or onerous regulation of its value or use, and no government can restrain it for long. [Wriston 1992:61-2]

Perelman then goes on to cite an example of how this reality can dawn on people, from Bob Woodward’s book on the Clinton administration.

At the president-elect’s end of the table, Clinton’s face turned red with anger and disbelief. “You mean to tell me that the success of the program and my reelection hinges on the Federal Reserve and a bunch of fucking bond traders?” he responded in a half-whisper.

Nods from his end of the table. Not a dissent.

Clearly, all this has immediate local relevance to the recent and continuing crisis. Any Irish government in the foreseeable future will be forced to operate in such a way that appeases the interests of bond traders, provided that it wishes to obtain credit in order to pay for the health, education and welfare of its citizens. Needless to say, and I say it needlessly, these bond traders and those on whose behalf they act have no particular interest in the health, education and welfare of Irish citizens. But this predicament has been only indirectly apparent in media coverage. When it does appear, it is represented as either a natural fact or a glorious mystery, rather than a question of power structures in human relations.

However much one might talk of bailing out bankers and builders at the expense of ordinary workers, and however true that talk might be in fact, the basic problem -that under current circumstances the direction of capital flight is the primary determinant of government policy, regardless of who is in charge, and that this is antithetical to the thing called democracy which so many people get so enthusiastic about- is obscured and left unaddressed. No doubt that if it were ever broached in a detailed fashion, it would be to the polyphonic voices of lots of people of influence telling the Irish people that they have to take their medicine, that this is the path we have all chosen, that we are all responsible and all have a part to play, that we have to come to terms with the basic realities and so on. But they might wholeheartedly agree to some cosmetic reforms to the parliamentary system, accountability, oversight. This is called knowing what side your bread is buttered.

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August 2009
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