Davos attendees also debated the future of the city-state, genetic
ethics, the future and power of art, and "educational issues."
Obviously, this is not a conference that focuses on the concerns of your average maquilladora worker or corporate wage slave. Davos is a meeting of, by and for the global aristocracy. This elite has a very consistent perception of what is "good" for humanity, with themselves perched securely at Earth's helm. And they are working harder than ever to turn their vision into our reality.
We live in savage new times, where economic ruin can strike whole populations like a bird of prey dropping on a field mouse. This uncertainty begins and ends with the elite's propagation of a pseudoUtopia which they pompously refer to as the "New World Order." The future as they envision it lies in transnational corporatization, unburdened by the restraints of governments which remain to some extent accountable to the citizenry.
Take the United States, for instance. The citizens of the very nation which spawned much of this New World disOrder are no longer willing to play along, after feeling the scathing effects of NAFTA. Stock prices skyrocket; the corporate Brahmin get rich as the corporate media reinforce the delusion of mass prosperity; workers get shafted; workers start to organize. Clinton's "fast track" legislation was bludgeoned in Congress, denying the president the unconstitutional powers he sought to negotiate trade agreements without the consent of the American people. And the Multinational Agreement on Investment, which would create a one-world system for investment capital, faces a rising mountain of international grassroots opposition.
Hence, to those forging the New World Order, it is vital to remove government from the power equation and establish total, unquestioned dominance before the common folk get together and figure out a way to short-circuit their plan. It is bitterly ironic that globalist politicians and pundits toss around "democracy" as their buzzword for the transformational effects of neo-colonialism. Indeed, a recurring theme at Davos was the need to "transform" existing governments to suit the new economic order. This generally requires government to take a subservient role to the will of international finance.
Much of the discussion at Davos centered around the "Asian banking crisis" that has wreaked crippling economic effects from Hong Kong to Java. The banking houses of New York, London and Paris all had big investments in the rapidly-expanding "Asian tiger" economies. We are told that one of the key factors in the Asian crisis was that production of goods outpaced the public's capacity to consume them. But many of these "overproduced" goods were manufactured in shiny new factories funded by Western banks -- factories which had an obligation to pay back their investors. Hence, the explanations of what exactly caused this "overproduction" becomes somewhat murky. In spite of this, Western financiers blamed the whole situation on "bad judgment" by Asian governments, even as they ran to the International Monetary Fund demanding a multi-billion dollar bailout to cover their losses. Many of those billions will be drawn from U.S. taxpayers' coffers.
The Asian banking crisis is an economic Rubik's Cube, but for Davos attendees, the key factor is that a crisis exists which must be solved. For only during cataclysm can an entire society be transformed. And if you happen to be the one offering the solution, there are hefty gains to be made. As Federal Reserve Chairman and Davos regular Alan Greenspan recently stated, "Events in Asia reinforce once more the fact that, while our burgeoning global system is efficient and makes a substantial contribution to standards of living worldwide, that same efficiency exposes and punishes underlying economic imprudence swiftly and decisively."
In other words, economies which allow themselves to be smoothly integrated into the New World Order will receive "substantial" (but unspecified) contributions to their standards of living; those who seek to maintain their old ways will be punished "swiftly and decisively" by the electronic infrastructure of finance and control that the elite is constructing as its vehicle of global governance in the 21st century.
And what is the proposed solution for Asia's problems? Crack open your ancient history textbooks and flip waaaaay back to 1995, when a similar crisis struck Mexico on a slightly smaller scale. Mexico was at the point of total collapse under the weight of massive debts to foreign banks. The ever-reliable U.S. taxpayer ended up bailing out the bankers as usual through the IMF, and Western finance leaned heavily on Mexico to drastically alter government expenditures, allotting tremendous sums of money to job training programs. Needless to say, the jobs that people are being trained for are jobs designed to improve conditions for foreign investment capital. Economic dissidents, such as the Zapatistas in Chiapas, are massacred by paramilitary death squads as an example to others of how desirable it can be to just shut up and get a job.
In his remarks during the 1998 Davos forum, Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo was quite frank about this fundamental shift ordered at economic gunpoint by foreign banks: "We have refrained from trying to pick winners and losers in our trade policy. We have regained credibility in our economic policies because we have done the right things, and these things are respected. It's as simple as that."
The general welfare and organic prosperity of the citizenry, therefore, is no longer the goal of a nation's economy in the New World Order. The goal of an economy is simply to make money with no regard for the social and environmental ramifications, and anything which perpetuates that goal is good for the people by default. "It's as simple as that."
Japan has been somewhat reluctant in embracing the dictates of Western finance, and has grumblingly challenged the World Economic Forum's relentless criticism of Japanese monetary policy. Eisuke Sakakibara, Japan's vice finance minister for international affairs, pointed out at a Davos panel discussion that even though Japan had engaged in vigorous reforms to accommodate the shifting realities of the global economy, many factors in the Asian crisis were rooted within global capitalism itself.
Rudiger Dornbusch, a prominent economist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, barked a vehement, exaggerated response to Sakakibara's critical remarks. "This crisis surely has nothing to do with global capitalism. It's a crisis of crony capitalism, a crisis of very, very bad government. These are places where the government knows everybody's shoe size but doesn't know how much they have borrowed offshore."
But naturally, if overseas labor exploiter Nike (http://www.parascope.com/articles/0797/nike.htm) keeps a database of all their customers' shoe sizes, that's okay.
Dornbusch utterly refuted the idea that Western finance had anything to do with the crisis. The problem as he sees it isn't with the elite who gather at Davos every year to exploit shifts in the global economy -- it's with those pesky nations who just aren't willing to completely alter their ways of life in order to "fit in" with the new economic order. So, what better way to herd everyone into the global stockyard than with a worldwide economic crisis?
Klaus Schwab, the German professor who founded the World Economic Forum, has concluded that the world will face a severe capital shortage "around the year 2000." In an interview with Forbes magazine (whose editor-in-chief, Steve Forbes, is a regular Davos attendee), Schwab relayed his prediction of a massive global run on capital. According to Forbes, "This is bad news for many of the politicians who attend the forum. In a capital-short world they will have to avoid policies that scare capital away. This makes it hard for them to stay in power by pandering to special interests."
"Special interests" such as labor unions, environmental groups, the voting public, and anyone else who opposes the transformation of their society in order to adhere to the coercive demands of foreign investors.
Call it a global conspiracy; call it the inevitable result of the blind, amoral ambition of capitalist greed; call it whatever makes sense to you. Every year, this Beast lunges forward, thrust by meetings such as the Davos conference. And every year, the grip of global capital tightens around the throats of the world's governments, converting them into more efficient instruments for the enrichment of the elite at the expense of the governed.
It would seem that the deck is very much stacked against us. But grassroots opposition to neo-colonialism continues to rapidly organize. As the 1998 conference opened in Davos, "People's Global Action Against 'Free' Trade and the WTO," a group of 192 organizations from 54 countries with an aggregate membership of 20 million, released their "Declaration Against the Globalisers of Misery," a statement denouncing the Davos meeting.
"We oppose the accelerating centralization of political and economic power caused by globalisation," the People's Global Action manifesto states, "and its gradual shift to unaccountable and undemocratic institutions, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO). We denounce the role of "informal" business groups (such as the World Economic Forum) in this process, which only benefits multinational business elites, while increasing numbers of people are going hungry, unable to afford basic health care and education, and forced to cope with environmental destruction."
Three weeks after the release of this statement, 600 representatives of People's Global Action met in Geneva to work together "as a tool for coordination, exchange of information and mutual support for the struggles of all those hit by neoliberal globalisation." This first PGA conference, the peoples' answer to the elitist Davos gathering, was pocketed between intensive roundtable discussions and seminars on the World Trade Organization, the Multinational Agreement on Investment, and "free" trade agreements, as well as issues concerning food production, culture and economics.
A week of intensive activity drew to a close with a number of coordination and planning sessions which combined small groups of individuals to take action on the knowledge attained at the conference. And on February 27, the PGA sponsored a European meeting to launch a continent-wide movement of civil disobedience against the "free" trade policies of the elite:
"[Globalization] spreads through the fabric of societies and communities of the world seeking to integrate their peoples into a gigantic system whose sole purpose is the extraction of profit and the accumulation of capital. In this sense therefore, globalization implies the further dismantling of barriers to the free movement of capital."
People's Global Action calls for: