Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Notice To Readers

I am out of town right now and there will be no new postings until Nov. 4th.

Sunday, October 16, 2005


In 1956 a law was passed which ended up building 41,000 miles of interstate highways. 90% of the cost was born by the US Federal Government.

The US Government's Marshall Plan forced Europeans to convert from coal to oil. When Europe asked the US for 47,000 freight cars and no trucks, the Marshall Plan sent 20,000 freight cars and 65,000 trucks. Thus by 1950, 11% of Marshall Plan "aid" was in oil - a wonderful boon for the US oil giants.

In 1945, the US Chamber of Commerce called for rural depopulation in order to create a mass of low-wage workers. Between 1945 and 1970 rural America lost one million farms and 25,000,000 people "one of the largest migrations in history." The US Federal Dept. of Agriculture did everything possible to destroy the small farm and replace it with the technology and chemical dependent agro-business.

In the 1930's only 5% of retail food sales were through supermarket chains. State-induced suburban sprawl destroyed the market gardens that used to surround every city. Thus the sale of produce was taken over by the supermarkets, who in turn pushed for corporate farming.

During the Second World War, William J. Levitt (Levittown) contracted to build housing for naval personel in Norfolk Virginia.(2)Levitt developed mass production methods for housing development. Levitt and imitators after the war used these techniques to develop the suburban housing tracts. Meanwhile, the Federal Government intervened in existing communities to separate commerce, work and residence. Mixed neighborhoods did not get funding for improvements. Furthermore, 40% of businesses evicted during housing renewal did not reopen. Their place was taken by corporations.

1. All info from THE DARK AGES by Marty Jezer, South End, 1982
2. African Americans were not allowed to live in Levittown - whites only!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Way back in the Paleolithic Era of the 1950's and early 60's, believe it or not, there were hamburger joints, drug stores, hardware merchants, motels and hotels. Janitors also cleaned buildings and kitchen staff cooked food in hospitals. Not one of the organizations performing these services was a multinational corporation. Some were owned by regional chains, but most were local businesses.

The whole point of foreign investment is to introduce capital into an area that is short of it. Capital that cannot be supplied at home. But in the last 35 years we have seen foreign companies come in and take over all of the aforementioned businesses. What possible gain is there to have foreign investment do what we were already doing rather well? But foreign takeover is worse than that. Every dollar made by a regional or local company stays in that region or locality. The money is recycled several times through other businesses and everyone gains. This is called the Local Multiplier Effect. Now with the multinationals, the profits go to the major shareholders who could live anywhere, causing a net drain out of the community.

The problem is even worse where government-provided services have been corporatized. (Falsely known as "privatization.") Here the losses to the community are huge, as workers lose their jobs, wages are slashed and vacation time cut. Consider a situation where 100 workers have their wages cut from $15 and hour to $10 an hour and 30 are fired. The loss in buying power to their town is two million dollars a year. With the Local Multiplier Effect the extra buying power would go a long way to bolstering the towns economy. Its damn well time that people realized that when us workers lose, everyone loses, except the major investors who probably live in New York or London.

During the 1990's we witnesed the foreign takeover of existing large Canadian companies. A US company would march in, buy out the Canadian company, close down plants, fire most of the workers, and asset strip to pay off the loan to buy the company. The takover investment would be classified as foreign investment, yet it would have added nothing to the Canadian economy, but rather would have detracted from it. What was the point of it all?

Then there is the foreign investments that at first sight do seem to add to our economic betterment. But when you look again, you find vast government subsidies have been poured into these projects. We are paying others to do what we could do ourselves, and if we couldn't do them, maybe we are better off not doing them at all. Often these projects are unworkable and after a few years pull up stakes. We, the tax payers, are left to pay for the mess. Think only of the Bromont Quebec Hyundai plant and New Brunswick's Delorian.

Does anyone out there know of a balance sheet made on foreign investment to show what our real gains and losses are? I have tried googling the subject but don't come up with anything but neo-liberal apologetics.

Sunday, October 02, 2005


"People Without Government", written by the anthropologist Harold Barclay and has many important insights. The first of these is from of one of the greatest anthropologists, Claude Levy-Strauss, for whom the fundamental aspect of human society was reciprocity. For Pierre Clastres (the contemporary version of Levy-Strauss) this fundamental reciprocity was negated by coercive power or authoritarian hierarchies.

Barclay distinguishes two basic types of societies; "archies" and "anarchies." Anarchies are based upon reciprocity, what sanctions exist are diffuse and supernatural. Archies are characterized by legal sanctions backed by coercion and "a specialized and privileged body separated by its formation, status, and organization from the population as a whole." In other words a state.

How does an archie come about? "Most authority commences as the raw power of the gangster and evolves into the "legitimate" authority of tacit acquiescence." Above all, the state is an organization for war. "Stateless societies less violent and brutish than those with a state." Nor are stateless societies only those of hunters and gatherers, for the majority of horticultural societies were anarchies. Barclay refers to Clastres again, who points out that the Neolithic was not decisive in changing the fundamental structure of society to an authoritarian one. The old patterns of non-coercive organization were not radically altered during this epoch. The state came much later.

Barclay examines a number of different societies that were anarchies. Many were tribal societies in North America or Africa. This would come as not much of a surprise, but he includes some others we might not be aware of. Ireland of 2000 years ago was "not truly governmental", having mass meeting democracy, no executive officers, no military and hence no way of enforcing decisions other than by common agreement. The Kabalyes of Algeria have no state either, important decisions are settled by consensus. The Santals of India, who number some three million people are "egalitarian", "decentralized", and the "barest indication of a governmental system." Decisions are made in open meetings by consensus. Village life is structured to prevent concentrations of power.

Sounds good to me!

1. PEOPLE WITHOUT GOVERNMENT, Harold Barclay, Kahn and Avril 1990 Note that Barclay uses "government" as a synonym for state. Not all critics of authoritarianism do this. Some consider government to include organization, both non-coercive and coercive. Hence for them, an anarchie would have a government, but one that lacked coercion.
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