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Le triomphe de l’économie de la terre plate

Dans son article Le triomphe de l’économie de la terre plate, le professeur d’économie de Dalhousie, Michael Bradfield explique comment le fondament- alisme de la mondialisation et du marché déréglementé menace nos structures sociales, l’environnement et la démocratie.  

Le professeur Bradfield explique comment les entreprises, seulement intéressées par le profit, tentent de se dessiner une économie mondiale dans laquelle elles détiennent le pouvoir sur les gouvernements, les consommateurs, les travailleurs et l’environnement. 

Ces fondamentalistes de l’économie de la terre plate qui utilisent les profits comme leur indicateur de succès violent les conditions de base pour de sains marchés compétitifs.

Si nous voulons faire réussir une économie durable qui répond à nos besoins nous ne devons pas accepter cette économie de la terre plate.  Les entreprises mondiales doivent placer les objectifs sociaux et environnementaux avant ceux des profits.  

Le professeur Bradfield suggère une taxe Tobin sur les spéculations monétaires, comme une solution aux problèmes de nos fondamentalistes du marché de l’économie de la terre plate.




E-Commerce vs. Ecology -
The Triumph of Flat Earth Economics?

Michael Bradfield
Professor of Economics at Dalhousie University
August 2002

he supporters of the unregulated globalization and privatization favoured by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization (WTO) are market fundamentalists, the most dangerous form of fundamentalism threatening social structures, the environment, and democracy. Although contradicted by both economic theory and by the evidence, they worship the god of profits, a god which demands human sacrifice.

Advances in computer technology--primarily in the transfer and processing of data--are crucial to the current era of globalization, extending management's geographic control and drastically increasing the speed and volume of international financial flows. Thus both real capital (factories and their related jobs) and, on a far larger scale, financial capital (foreign direct investment buying up domestic operations and speculative flows for short-term returns) have made the world a smaller, but not a safer, place.

Well, safer for capital. The rules of the IMF and the WTO reduce the role of government and thereby advance the interests of corporations so that they have more opportunities to make still higher profits. The market fundamentalists believe that profits are a sign of efficiency and that efficiency means everyone's standard of living will rise. Thus the invisible hand of the market leads private greed to serve the public interest.

But Adam Smith warned that the invisible hand only works if there are competitive markets in which no agent has either economic or political power. The structure of the international institutions and their rules have been set by powerful interests. Thus, the very people whose power violates the basic condition of competitive markets design a world economy to give them power over governments, consumers, workers, and the environment, in the name of "free" markets.

The "level playing field" is the turf of flat earth economics. P3 arrangements (public-private-partnerships) really mean privatise-prevent-punish: Privatise the profitable activities of government; prevent governments from regulating corporations; punish governments that stand in the way of profits.

The use of profits as the criterion of efficiency is also a violation of the theory of competitive markets. In economics, profits indicate that something is out of whack. In the short-run, high profits imply a shift in supply or demand that competitive markets react to, indeed must erode for long-term efficiency. If high profits continue, it is a sign of market power and inefficiency.

But corporations are formed to maximize profits and, in flat earth economics, to ignore the social and environmental costs of that pursuit. That's why corporations must be controlled. We must remember they are legal fictions with responsibilities, not citizens with rights.

The fundamentalists of flat earth economics would have us believe that our future well-being depends on globalization and its efficiencies. They promote There Is No Alternative (TINA). But they want structures which reduce the well-being of the majority: as workers forced by the mobility of real capital to accept deteriorating wages and working conditions, as consumers buying goods at higher prices and lower quality, or as communities in ecosystems degraded by the processes of both production and consumption.

We must accept TINA only if we accept the Flat Earth Theory of Income and Development, i.e., FETID. But if we are prepared to say their TINA stinks, that it represents neither reality nor our aspirations, we can do better.

We have to work simultaneously at the local and global levels. We need to educate ourselves and other voters--and our politicians--that there are viable alternatives. We need to develop those alternatives ourselves, not have them foisted on us by "experts" or powerful interests. We need sustainable economics which meets our needs and the ecology's need for a sustainable humanity.

Our global institutions must place social and environmental needs ahead of profits. Start with a Tobin tax, a small charge on large purchases of foreign exchange. It would dramatically reduce speculative financial flows, removing the major element de-stabilizing currencies. With stable currencies, governments will be less vulnerable to the demands for structural adjustment programmes, which undermine their economies, increase poverty, and give corporations the power to ignore and even dismantle labour, social, and environmental protections.

A Tobin tax would also generate revenues that governments could use to help the poor, repair the environment, and improve education, health, and the other social programmes which provide the foundation for a sustainable future.