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|Last week's "MEMOIR" here, a reprint of my December, 1998, essay on globalization and its implications for democracy was meant to provoke discussion among the members of our new MOIA Discussion List. But I had no idea how effective it would be.
List members from around the globe weighed in at length on the subject matter. A woman in Australia posted to the list asking how I could lament the death of something (ideal democracy) which had never existed. Point taken. Another member from Texas chided me for missing the fact that as technology workers move around the globe on assignments they do contribute to the local economies, providing a benefit. They have to eat, find shelter, use the public or private facilities for transportation, etc. If anything, this gentleman said, technology increases our general store of knowledge which is a precursor to democracy.
A List member from Sweden shared insights on how the Internet and globalization has drastically changed the economy in his country, such that he is undecided if it has been a net gain or a great loss.
In other words, the very act of discussing globalization here led to a global conversation about how we all are impacted. And I believe that type of global dialogue is important for all of our development and growth as citizens.
So despite having to compile an *extremely long* digest for the MOIA Discussion List last week, I came away with a lot to think about.
One of the posts, which came in too late to make last week's List Digest, was from G21 Loyal Reader (my friend and past contributor) activist and attorney Robert Purvis. List members will get to read his full thoughts in the next Digest, but much of what he had to say was so on-the-beam that I felt I wanted to share it with the general readership of this Web magazine.
So what follows is a snippet of Mr. Purvis's posting:
|DOES YOUR BOSS READ YOUR E-MAIL? ARE YOU SURE?
"You've Got Mail!"
Where do I fit on "The Bell Curve?"
I don't care about your local economy. Where can I connect?
dubya-dubya-dubya nomoreplease dot com
404 Not Found on This Server.
|ROBERT PURVIS WRITES: "A misconception that many people seem to hold is the belief that capitalism promotes democracy. This is not true. Capitalism will function quite nicely in any political system that recognizes and enforces the property rights of capitalists and the contracts they make; is stable enough to permit planning and the orderly functioning of markets; and provides sufficient 'breathing room' for enough people to earn enough money to be good little consumers. No Bill of Rights needed here.
"It's all to the good, as far as capitalists are concerned, if the people are deluded enough to believe that the freedom to choose among competing consumer products is equivalent to political freedom -- or that a constitutional right to freedom of speech and of the press are really necessary to protect the commercial media, which rarely venture outside the range of debate validated by elite institutions. (Remember the healthcare "debate" a few years ago? How much substantive reporting did YOU hear about the single-payor proposal -- which throughout had the largest number of Congressional co-sponsors of any bill.)
"I think it's fair to say that all of us in the U.S. -- capitalists and anti-capitalists alike -- have been coasting on a series of massive government interventions in the economy since the 1930's, which has given us the misimpression that free-enterprise capitalism created the world in which we live. From the stock market crash of '29 through the depression of the '30s, capitalism on its own proved incapable of correcting the problems it created -- and which almost caused it to implode in populist revolt. Thanks mainly to economic regulatory reforms of the 30's, combined with the New Deal and World War II, we came out of the 40's the only major economy in the world left standing -- indeed prospering -- from the War. Thanks to, among other things, the GI Bill (which funded the first generation of middle-class college graduates); the Federal Highway Act (which funded the interstate highway system and the major arteries around the cities, thus making the suburbs possible); and massive federal investments in public education (esp. science education), my generation of baby-boomers graduated from high school and went to college in unprecedented numbers. The American "meritocracy" and the concept of 'equal opportunity' are less than half a century old -- and mostly government-funded..."
"...Government and serendipity had a lot more to do with our success and prosperity than we like to acknowledge."
"...A central problem we have been confronted with expressly since the early debates over NAFTA in the '80s is this: How can we preserve the rights and freedoms we enjoy (or think we enjoy) in nation states like the U.S. when the dominant global powers are no longer governments but multinational capitalist enterprises -- over which no single government can any longer assert effective control, as the U.S. government did for much of this century? Can the Net serve as a medium for peoples of the world to organize and assert popular will to temper the relentless forces of global capitalism, to ameliorate its harmful effects?
"Naive Net libertarians like John Perry Barlow say, 'Yes! Inevitably! Thanks to the Net the nation state is dead!'
"I say, 'Not so fast!'
"We still have a window of opportunity, but it closes a little each day. A small number of super-wealthy international capitalists, their gene-diluted offspring, and professional servants feeding at the trough (popularly referred to collectively as the 'top 5%' that owns everything), own the U.S. government to an extent unprecedented in our history. In recent years they have turned their attentions to exert similar ownership over state governments. Functionally, we are fast becoming an oligarchy. And the Net is fast becoming little more than a bewildering array of flashy, ad-driven portals and commercial brands. So long as the dominant U.S. legal regime recognizes that business corporations have the rights of individuals, and that money equals free speech, the cliche will remain, 'One dollar, one vote.' And 'persons' will be 'products' delivered to advertisers both commercial and political..." [Emphasis ours. -- Ed.]
In the quotes taken from Mr. Purvis's posting above he brings up two very important points which I felt, upon reflection, I failed to emphasize enough in the original essay.
As recently as last week I had a discussion with the twenty-something young Ph.D. candidate who now works as my part-time assistant and listened to him insist to me that the "under-privileged" (our modern euphemism for all the poor, under-employed, disadvantaged, and minority underclass residents of our global metropoli) were so because it is their own fault. I was floored. Here was that old sophistry, "The poor are poor because they are inferior/sinful" that I believed had been logically invalidated after the Victorian era.
But some of the lies and the self-justifying hogwash of the privileged never die. They spring up again and again to self-righteously defend venal rapacity and unbridled social theft.
I would like to believe that anyone with ANY understanding of civics, economics or public policy would see that there is a direct link between government action and commercial responsiblity or lack thereof.
The only people who argue for less government intervention in the social sphere are those people who will directly benefit from governments so weak that they can no longer protect minorities, ensure a quality educational infrastructure and make certain health services and other amenities are made available to the widest segment of the population --- instead of just those with the widest wallets.
Deregulating and privatizing most public functions is tantamount to telling a shark he has to spend all day eating fish!
You and I are the fish of the Information Age.
80% of the members of the MOIA Discussion List know me more as a "product" of Andover News Network where I am a daily columnist than they do as a "person," as Mr. Purvis so insightfully implies in his statements. Even for long-time readers of the G21 much of my existence is that of an Internet consumer commodity. Is that as it should be? Does this type of depersonalization bode well for us as citizens or as human beings --- even if we abrogate our social responsibilities?
These are some of the questions which I and the other contributors to MEMOIRS OF THE INFORMATION AGE will try to explore during the coming weeks.
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THEY HAVE STOLEN YOUR MEMORIES.
THERE IS NO HISTORY.
I AM A GLOBAL CITIZEN. I HAVE NO RESPONSIBILITIES.
MEMOIR ONE: The Pinnacle, by FELICITY USSHER
MEMOIR TWO: Age of Exploitation, by ROD AMIS
MEMOIR THREE: Is Microsoft Bothering You, too? by RON DIENER
MEMOIR FOUR: The Name of The Rose by ROD AMIS
MEMOIR FIVE: War on The Web by ADAM J. SMITH
MEMOIR SIX: G21 Interviews ICANN's ESTHER DYSON
MEMOIR SEVEN: The Chamber of E-Commerce by ROD AMIS
MEMOIR EIGHT: G21 Interviews GEORGE OLSEN of THE WEB STANDARDS PROJECT
MEMOIR NINE: Reprint - On Globalization by ROD AMIS
THE NEXT MEMOIR
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