A reply to Thomas Friedman

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Tue Apr 24 07:28:04 MDT 2001

NY Times, April 24, 2001


Protesting for Whom?


ACCRA, Ghana - I thought about going to the Quebec Summit of the Americas,
but I lost my gas mask so I decided to go to Africa instead. It's
interesting listening to Africans talk about globalization. While the
protesters in Quebec were busy denouncing globalization in the name of
Africans and the world's poor, Africans themselves will tell you that their
problem with globalization is not that they are getting too much of it, but
too little.

[Correction: it is the African elites that favor globalization.]

That's not surprising, because if you actually look around Africa you see
that the countries that are the most democratic, where the people have the
most freedom to choose - South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana - are the most
pro-trade, the most integrated in the world economy and the most
globalized. The countries that are led by dictators, are the least open and
where the people have the least freedom to choose - Sudan, Zimbabwe,
Liberia, Libya etc. - are those most hostile to globalization, openness and
trade in goods and services.

[Nigeria has freedom to choose? Tell that to the Ogoni people. Shell has
the right to choose. The choice of the Ogoni people is between
oil-pollution and bullets. It is certainly news to me that Zimbabwe is
hostile to globalization. Robert Mugabe has been as accommodating to the
IMF as Turkey's Ecevit. He is only opposed to such forces rhetorically.]

So if you were wondering why you saw so few Africans joining the anti-
globalization "festival" in Quebec, it's because they understand that -
with the exception of the environmentalists - this anti-globalization
movement is largely the well intentioned but ill informed being led around
by the ill intentioned and well informed (protectionist unions and
anarchists), who do not serve Africa's interests.

[With Friedman's swipe at protectionist unions and anarchists, I almost
feel impelled to got to work for the Teamsters and join an anarchist
groups. Unfortunately there appears to be no such thing as an anarchist

Last year this same anti-globalization gang, in its most shameful hour,
tried to block Congressional passage of the African Growth and Opportunity
Act - a bill enabling Africa's poorest countries to export textiles to the
U.S. with little or no tariffs, which is critical for creating lots of
low-skilled jobs. Eventually the bill squeaked through. The early result?
Madagascar's textile exports to the U.S. are up 120 percent, Malawi's are
up 1,000 percent, Nigeria's are up 1,000 percent and South Africa's are up
47 percent. Real jobs for real people.

[Actually this trade agreement is hardly the favor to struggling African
peoples that Friedman represents it as. In a June 30, 2000 Financial Times
piece, Jagdish Bhagwati (an outspoken "globalization" advocate cited
favorably by Friedman below) writes, "The act reads superficially as if it
were an 'aid package, a one-way grant of free trade to the poor countries
in Africa. But this gift horse is actually a Trojan horse. The tariff
preferences in the act are contingent on preferential purchases of inputs
from the US. For example, for duty-free access, shirts assembled by the
qualifying African country must be made from fabrics formed and cut in the
US. In addition, the fabric must be made from US yarns. This forces on
Africa imports from the US, displacing cheaper imports from elsewhere."]

Ghana, like so many African countries, has largely lived off aid and the
export of raw materials. But for the first time it is developing an
information sector to do data processing for American Express and Aetna,
which is providing jobs that pay much higher than average Ghanaian
salaries. "People here want into the global marketplace; they know it's the
only way out of poverty," says George Apenteng, director of Ghana's
Institute for Economic Affairs. "But people here are also worried they
won't be able to compete and that [Western] markets aren't as open to what
we can sell, like agriculture, as ours are to what they sell."

[Translation: Ghana's "information sector" consists of claims data entry
for $1.75 per hour, work that was previously done in Ireland for $3.50 per
hour and $7.00 per hour in the USA before that. This is called a race to
the bottom.]

Which is why Jagdish Bhagwati, the Indian-born Columbia University trade
economist, insists that: "The civil society groups who are concerned about
the poor should actually be working to extend the benefits of globalization
and freer trade to the truly poor in Africa, not denying them these
opportunities. Simultaneously, they should be working for adjustment
assistance and retraining for our workers, so they are not abandoned to the
unregulated forces of international competition."

[This is the main problem with the term globalization. It is far too
imprecise. We should campaign to replace it with the much more accurate
term imperialism. That would force Bhagwati to say things like "the
benefits of imperialism." Down with fuzzy thinking.]

Face it, says Jeff Sachs, the Harvard development economist. Africans today
are literally dying of poverty - not simply AIDS, but diseases that could
easily be eradicated but aren't because there is so little economic growth
Africans don't have the resources. Mr. Sachs notes that one of the main
reasons Africa has fallen so far behind East Asia, Mexico or Brazil is
because it has been stuck just exporting raw materials, and has failed to
create the legal and tax incentives to attract the global investment and
factories that would create sustainable, diversified jobs. Africa's only
hope is that through globalization its coastal cities might one day become
the sort of export platforms, tourism and service centers that China's are
today. "There is not a single example in modern history of a country
successfully developing without trading and integrating with the global
economy," says Mr. Sachs.

[This is really a sick joke. It assumes that African nations can enjoy the
kind of success that the Asian tigers enjoyed, but those nations are
rapidly sinking into the kind of depressed state that would be the envy of
nobody. Capitalism works only for the winners in the global lottery and
those winners got their winning tickets 250 years ago when colonialism was
taking root. Africa was divided up by these colonists in the late 1800s and
has been paying the price ever since. It is only by driving out the
neocolonists and their native stooges that genuine progress can be
accomplished. Although the west managed to defeat the countries that had
thrown off the shackles of Portuguese imperialism, new liberation forces
will surely arise. Capitalism creates its own grave-diggers.]

The fact is, virtually all the leaders who met in Quebec to expand trade
were democratically elected, while "the people" in the streets clamoring
for "justice" were self-appointed or paid union activists. There is nothing
romantic about them. By inhibiting global trade expansion they are choking
the only route out of poverty for the world's poor. Which is why these
"protesters" should be called by their real name: The Coalition to Keep
Poor People Poor.

[Thomas Friedman is not only a disgusting propagandist, he has one of the
most ugly moustaches I have ever seen. He also needs to lose some weight.]

Louis Proyect
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