Money Absolutism: The Dementia of Our Time
Although the corporate media declare nonviolence as the only moral alternative for any opposition movement, capitalism itself came to state power by violent overthrow of rulers who presumed private rights for themselves far less extreme than todays global money party. Lawyer John Locke published the first philosophical justification of this new order of rule in 1689 after James II was overthrown 39 years after his father, Charles I, was beheaded. Lockes doctrine of private property set the framework of thought on these matters to the current corporate global system of today.
Lockes canonical treatise on the face of it asserts the freedom and security of private property for all. In fact, the principles he advocates are the opposite in meaning. Underneath a rhetoric of universal natural rights and freedoms, he legitimates property without limit in the possession of the few, prescribing lawful harm by death or other grievous penalty to all who transgress the ever advancing lines of the fews possession.
Property and punishment remain the two great hidden pillars of law and order of the global corporate system today. The definitive difference is that what was once the real property of humans has become ever more dominantly the money property of corporations; while what was once inherited inequality has become exponentially multiplying inequality. The rest is trappings.
The United Nations Human Development Report 2000 reports that the worlds 200 richest people have doubled their wealth within just the last four years, with the result that the assets of just three corporate owners now exceed the G.N.P of all of the least developed societies of 600 million people.1
The public good in this money monopoly system is, in Orwellian fashion, equated to the absolute right of this unequal property possession. Government, in turn, is the deputy that enforces these property rights by imposing penalties of death and all less penalties for the regulating and preserving of property.2
In contrast, the redistribution of unneeded property for life needas Jesus, Robin Hood and some progressive tax systems have stood for, is taboo. Even original title is overrun without any colour of right. The first peoples who land and dream together could not believe their eyes when the foreign property invaders cut up the land like a dead carcass. For them, the privatization of nature into exclusionary titles for sale was understood as a violent offence against the earth and fellow members of the community.
We refer to the land and our bodies with the same root syllable. This means that the flesh that is our body is pieces of land come to us through the things that the land is. The soil, the water, the air, and all the other life forms contributed parts to be our flesh. We are our land and place. Not to know this is to be flesh waiting to die.3
Life considerations do not detain moneyproperty absolutism. Corporate privatization of native lands and resources still invades today across tropical Africa, Latin America and SouthEast Asia, not to mention Canada and the U.S. the Lubicon and Navajo lands of Alberta and Arizona, the tropical rainforests of the Amazon and Borneo, the Ogoniland of Nigeria and the Karens of Burma, the Quiche Mayans of Guatemala. The list is long. Its underlying pattern is genocide, and no people living on assets convertible to corporate profits is yet safe from it.4
The Question of Legitimacy
How could such an economic order be still believed in as free?
Locke begins his treatise on property and punishment by putting three sensible limits on real private property.
(1) Private property must be the outcome of mixing ones labour with what is appropriated from nature (Section 26).
(2) Private property must always leave enough and good in common for others to do likewise (Section 27).
(3) Private property must not be allowed to spoil (Section 31).
Locke then abolishes these reasonable limits on private property by a very simple device, the substitution of money property for real property. Moneys rule instead of labour right, he argues, expresses the tacit agreement and consent of men to distribute wealth by the possession of money rather than labour contribution. Since money can buy others labour, the owners labour mixed with the property is no longer required. The absolute right of the non-producer of property against everyone else, including its actual producer, is then presupposed as absolute.
Since money property does not spoil, its possessors also have the right to unlimited amounts of it, even if most others have none. As for enough and good left over, this third proviso of property right also disappears from view in Lockes theoretical shell game. Consequently, inequality of property with no bound becomes a sacred natural right. It is perfectly consistent with it that ever fewer have exclusive title to dispose of all that is on the face of the earth, while the rest all owe them money to compound their monopolist possession. Such a condition is not far off today.
450 billionaires had more wealth than the total income of 45% of the worlds population in 1996. Within a few years, the United Nations Human Development Report 1999 reported that under 224 billionaires possessed more wealth than 47% of the worlds population. On the national level, U.S. Congressional statistics disclosed that 1% of the U.S. population had more wealth than the bottom 90% by 1992. By 1999, 1% had more wealth than the bottom 95% of the population. Compounding debt to the rich simultaneously escalates. Average personal debt is now the highest in history passing 100% of annual income in both Canada and the U.S. in the late 1990s. Poorer nations are in a more steeply declining position relative to the rich. For example, compound interest demands by private banks in the rich world extracted $178 billion from governments of the poorer countries between 1984 and 1990. But the poorer countries debt had still risen to $3500 billion by 1999.5
Death for Disbelievers
It matters not to this disordered mindset that unearned money demand has replaced self-earned property right as world societys ruler, or that this money right itself is multiplied by leveraging it to greater and greater sums of market demand with no productive contribution by its possessors. It matters not that compound interest and stock, bond and land speculation accumulate money demand in the hands of these possessors to tens or hundreds of times original values, while the majority of the population grows poorer or starves.
The right to it all is viewed as absolute and God-given. And the right to permanently punish all who transgress it is supposed as a law of nature. The current multiplying imprisonment of Americas poor, the thunderous demand to reverse taxes on the rich, the Republican Supreme Courts prohibition of Florida presidential votes, and the overriding of the Kyoto agreement to protect the earths atmosphere itself are all current symptoms of the absolutist mindset at work.
The deep-structural disorder of money becoming maximally more money with no contribution of its owner to any life interest is globally enforced by U.S.NATO military terror against any people choosing an alternative way. Dire punishment for deviation is visited on any who do not submit even if this entails the destruction of whole societies and their next generations.
U.S. military terror above all targets social infrastructures not yet ruled by the profitable money-sequences of the transnational corporate system. Yugoslavia and Iraq, the most recent victim societies, were the most advanced countries in the their regions in social infrastructure development before their destabilization and destruction by U.S.-led financial and military forces. The destabilization of Yugoslavia began by U.S. National Security Directives (NSDD 52 and 133) in 1982 and 1984.6 The destruction of Iraqs social infrastructures by aerial bombing then began in 1991, with subsequent embargoes which left the U.S.s former ally, Saddam Hussein, more in power than before trebling infant and child mortality rates, and killing an estimated 4700 children every month.7
In the end, this regime is driven by the programmatic compulsion to reduce all that exists to obedient functions of its final solution: to turn the money inputs of corporate stockholders into maximally more money-demand outputs with no limit of unequal distribution or planetary ecological destruction.
Any who do not serve the pervasive imperative demands of this regime are attacked as the Enemy even lifesaving social sectors and brave young resisters in the streets of Seattle, Washington, Windsor, London, Melbourne, and Prague. Can any sane mind doubt the dementia of this ancien regime as it overrides its own electoral laws, and strips the carrying capacity of global life itself?
1 Overview, Human Development Report 2000 (Cary N.C.: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 3.
2 This quotation from John Locke, and those following, are from John Locke, Second Treatise of Government (New York: Liberal Arts Press, 1953), with the section in brackets after wards (here, (3)).
3 Jeanette Armstrong, Sharing One Skin, (eds) Jerry Mander and Edward Goldsmith, The Case Against the Global Economy (San Francisco: Sierra Books, 1996), pp. 46667.
4 See, for example, Sven Lindquist, Exterminate All the Brutes: One Mans Odyssey into the Heart of Darkness and the Origins of European Genocide (New York: New Press, 2000). The phrase, exterminate all the brutes is from a London Times editorial of 1873.
5 How Bretton Woods Reordered the World and Debt: The Facts, New Internationalist, No. 257, July 1994 and No. 312, May 1999.
6 Michel Chossudovsky, The Globalization of Poverty (London: Zed Books, 1998), pp. 24364.
7 Mohamed M. Ali and Iqbal H. Shah, Sanctions and Childhood Mortality in Iraq, The Lancet, May 27, 2000, pp. 183756.
From Economic Reform, January 2001
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