Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

REVIEW: The Best Democracy Money Can Buy

In C. Mickleson, Reviews on October 21, 2010 at 2:32 pm

IS THIS REALLY THE “BEST DEMOCRACY” WE’RE ENTITLED TO?

CLAUDE MICKLESON reviews ‘The Best Democracy Money Can Buy’, by investigative journalist, Greg Palast.

“The Best Democracy Money Can Buy” is not a new book. It was first published in 2002. Greg Palast says that you could actually call it “What you didn’t read in the New York Times”. The author was originally from Los Angeles, and was brought up in a working class area, one rung above poverty.

He spent some time in Britain, working for the Guardian and Observer newspapers. One day he was walking down a London street and saw in a newsagents a copy of the Daily Mirror. The front page was taken up with the words “THE LIAR”, and a picture of himself. He thought, “well I’ll be damned, it doesn’t get much better than this!”

This book begins with highlights of the corrupt practices carried out in Florida, prior to the election of George W. Bush as president of the USA. He asserts that for five months before the 2000 presidential election, Jeb Bush, Governor of Florida and George’s brother, moved to purge well over 57,000 people from the voters’ register in Florida – supposedly criminals who were not allowed to vote. Most were innocent of any crimes, but most of them were guilty of being black, the majority of whom tend to vote Democrat.

He also covers the Exxon Valdez “accident” – which he asserts was no accident. Exxon just shut off the ship’s broken radar to save money, instead of repairing it. They were supported by BP and others in the group of six oil companies calling themselves “Alyeska”.

There were at least 1,200 miles of the Alaska coastline covered in black oily sludge. The local population was employed to clear up the mess and unceremoniously sacked as soon as it was done.

The evils of Globalisation are well aired. According to Palast, the world’s 300 richest people are worth more than the world’s poorest three billion in wealth terms. During the period 1983 to 1997, as much as 85 per cent of the increase in wealth in the USA went to the richest one per cent. In the words of Thomas Friedman, the beauty of globalisation is that it’s “the Golden Strait Jacket – the tighter you wear it the more gold it produces.”He also exposed a cache of secret documents from the heart of the IMF, World Bank and the WTO (they are interchangeable masks of a single governance) explaining the inner workings of the iron tangle of globalisation. Many of the dodgy dealings occurred under Bill Clinton’s watch, as well as under George Bush.

THE IRON FIST OF FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE: Joseph Stiglitz, former chief economist of the World Bank, turned informer and was able to give Palast details of behind the scenes activities.

The so-called “country assistance strategy” includes the same four steps for any country getting into financial difficulties and asking for aid. They are:

  • One, privatisation.
  • Two, capital market liberalisation.
  • Three, “IMF Riot” – squeeze the economy until it causes riots (any demonstrations dispersed with bullets, tear gas and tanks) so that they can clamp down even harder.
  • And, four, free trade.

Palast describes these details as four steps to domination. It’s a bit like blood letting in the Middle Ages: when the patient died, they would say “well, he stopped the blood letting too soon. He still had a drop left in him.” Did any nation avoid this fate? Strangely enough, one did. Botswana told the IMF to pack its bags.

A whole range of examples uncover corporate greed in action. Monsanto, for example, doesn’t come out of it very well. Palast tells of cows fed genetically-altered hormones dripping pus into buckets of milk which eventually entered the food chain. And he quotes a former Texas Agricultural Commissioner as saying: “they used to complain about Monsanto’s lobbying of government. Now they are the government.”

Palast also looks at the California power shortage, and the suggestion that nuclear power stations should be built to augment supplies – in an area notorious for earthquakes. Energy operators, Enron, TXU, Dynergy and El Paso corporations contributed 4.1 million dollars to the Republican presidential campaign. “They didn’t have long to wait before their investment – excuse me, donation – paid off big time. Just three days after the Republican’s inauguration.”

Also, Government chiefs stopped key investigations into allegations of funding for Al Qaeda and the Bin Laden family by the Saudis. They were ordered to back away from any investigations into the Saudi royals.

In another example, the government of Ecuador was ordered to raise the price of cooking gas by 80 per cent, eliminate 26,000 jobs and cut real wages of those remaining in work by 50 per cent. They were forced to transfer ownership of its biggest water supply system to foreign operators. And then they had to grant BP’s Arco unit rights to build and own an oil pipeline over the Andes. All this happened under Bill Clinton’s administration. Meanwhile, Argentina was presented with a “technical memorandum of understanding” which nearly bled it dry. Amongst other restrictions it was forced to adopt an “open trade policy” causing the country to lose as much as 750 million dollars a day.

The many revelations in this book have helped me to understand much better many of the things that have been going on in the world during the years I have been politically aware. The book has been well worth reading.

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