Friday, March 09, 2007

Africa

You can always tell when the BBC believes there’s a humanitarian disaster in progress – wherever there is death, pain, famine and violence, up pops Fergal Keane.

With a soft Cork brogue almost designed for the transmission of bad news, well used by the old Irish missionaries who popped up in your primary school touting for cash and a spot of emotional blackmail just after Scotland had been dumped out of yet another World Cup on goal difference, whether ‘tis rape in Rwanda, death in Darfur or pillage in Peckham there is Blessed Fergal of the Kalashnikovs to report, sure, on the tragedy, the very tragedy, of it all.

Keane’s persistent presence in history’s wrong places and times makes one wonder whether or not his eventual retirement will eliminate both poverty and warfare in one fell swoop.

Mind you Keano’s not the worst of the BBC bunch, not by any manner of means. At least he digs the concept of humanity – that the actions of small groups of human beings acting in what they perceive to be in their own interests have the capacity to hurt and harm other human beings.

David Shukman now seems to have no function other than reporting on the ‘catastrophe of man-made global warming’. He deals in what the BBC seems to believe are the misdeeds of very big groups – really, anyone in the world who currently lives in a house with mains electricity.

From the Amazon to the Antarctic, Shukman can be found with evidence of how bad and nasty and damaging to ‘the environment’ the consequences of mains electricity, and its mostly necessary twin carbon dioxide emissions, really are.

One almost feels sorry for him that last night the entire science upon which the theory of ‘the catastrophe of man-made global warming’ is based was completely, thoroughly, utterly debunked. Forever.

It’s taken 25 years to get there, but last night Channel 4 justified every second of its previous existence by broadcasting Martin Durkin’s ‘The Great Global Warming Swindle’.

It should be compulsory viewing for everyone with a measurable IQ.

In a very large nutshell, its makers interviewed assorted scientific and other luminaries, including the professors of meteorology and oceanography at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the professor of climatology at the University of Winnipeg; the professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia; the professor of biogeography at the University of London; the professor of Earth sciences at the University of Ottawa; the professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Alabama; a professor from the Pasteur Institute in Paris; an astrophysicist from the University of Jerusalem; a weather satellite team leader at NASA; a former editor of ‘New Scientist’; a specialist in polar sciences; a co-founder of Greenpeace; an African economist; a British meteorologist who takes money off the bookies by predicting the weather through the measurement of sunspot activity; and a Danish scientist who’s verified the Brit’s research by correlating his theory against 400 years of available data.

Climate change seems to be an entirely natural phenomenon, a consequence of either greater or lesser amounts of solar activity. More solar activity = more sunspots; more sunspots = a stronger solar wind; a stronger solar wind = a higher amount of cloud-forming cosmic rays get deflected into space; more deflected rays = fewer clouds; fewer clouds = warmer weather.

It ripped apart Al Gore’s contention that increased CO2 is a cause of climate change, instead proving, at least to my satisfaction on the face of the data it made available, that its increased presence is one of climate change’s effects.

It described how ‘environmentalism’ as we know it in 2007 sprang from a very unusual alliance between Marxists, politically dispossessed by the collapse of Eastern European Communism, and rightists intent on smashing union power.

It described how a boiling ocean of money has become diverted from other, more productive purposes towards the study of ‘climate change’; if memory serves, something like $4 billion per year in the US alone – and how ‘climate scientists’, like all good whores, are willing to prostrate themselves in favour of The Big Lie in return for a chance to suck at the public teat of research grants.

It described how the United Nations’ International Panel on Climate Change is just another tacky tentacle of that gloriously tacky octopus, willing to lie to get what it wants.

And it described how some of those in the environmental movement would prefer to see Africans die rather than industrialise.

How humane. Live green and die at 35, all on a dollar a day.

At this point your average right-wing economist might be jumping up and down with joy; however if any are actually doing so I would suggest they calm themselves, for the purpose of this post is most certainly not to provide succour to those who claim that markets, by and of themselves, are the answer to all of humanity’s problems.

We all know that ‘globalisation’ is good for us – don’t we?

Come to think of it, given the term’s widespread presence in political and economic discourse, we all actually know what ‘globalisation’ is – don’t we?

Er…

The only working definition of ‘globalisation’ that I have thus far come across which seems to make sense is that it is a ‘global labour arbitrage’ between the First and Third Worlds, facilitated by the enormous impact which IT has made upon productivity.

It is a policy, not a process, which has never been put to the vote.

If one looks for evidence of the global labour arbitrage’s existence, one can see it all around – the case of Young’s Seafoods in Annan is an extreme example, but if the Africans are looking for an example of how not to develop in a hurry they could do no worse than examine the example given by Fergal Keane’s homeland the Republic of Ireland; a Celtic Tiger now rapidly losing its teeth.

Although I have strong personal ties to the Republic, and thus might have more incentive than many others to follow what goes on there, I’ve never really been able to understand why fewer Brits don’t take an interest in what happens in the only country which shares a land border with our own. Strange.

On March 7 Procter & Gamble announced the loss of 280 jobs at its plant in Nenagh, Co. Tipperary. According to RTE,

“The company announced today that skincare production at the Nenagh plant will move to a new plant which is planned for Lotez in Poland. The Polish plant is expected to be completed in 2009…

The job losses come after the company carried out a year-long study to identify the best manufacturing locations for the supply of its skincare and cosmetics to Europe.”

Indeed. Cheapest is not always best.

This morning Motorola announced the closure of its factory in Cork, with the loss of 330 jobs.
The reason given is that,

“…The company cited falling profits for its decision and has promised to help find alternative employment for those workers affected.”

There are several lessons to be drawn from these stories.

The first is that although they have given all the corporate welfare for ‘inward investment’ they possibly could, and taken all the immigrants they possibly can, the global labour arbitrage is so powerful that the Irish are still powerless in its face.

The Republic of Ireland began its development program while a democracy with working institutions; few African nations have the same standard of government.

The third is that the person who said “I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country” might have had a point.

Yep, that notorious leftist Thomas Jefferson sure had a way with words.

If they are not to follow the Irish model, what model can the Africans follow?

Well, it’s all to do with trade – not ‘globalisation’, but free trade according to David Ricardo’s ‘wine and cloth’ analogy. The wine may be turning sour and the cloth becoming a little threadbare, but there’s life in the old dog yet.

It never was a perfect analogy (Why did he compare the production of a luxury good and a necessity? Does the fact that his example involved two nations that were then imperial powers, able to discuss trade terms down the barrel of a gun, weaken it?), but for Africa’s sake it must work. It has to work.

An essential first step is either the abolition of, or our voluntary exit from, both the European Union and the World Trade Organisation. These cancers serve only to continue poverty by erecting barriers designed to protect political and business interests in the West. To Hell with them both.

An essential second step is the development of African capital. If African nations were permitted to trade with the rest of the world on mutually acceptable terms, the operation of comparative advantage makes it a given that capital would flow into the pockets of those who need it most – Africans.

Africans would then use that capital to do funny and interesting things, like burn greenhouse gasses while getting richer, healthier and living longer.

Some of them might lose it on the horses. Some of them might drink it. Capitalist systems allow people to get poor as well as rich – it goes with the territory- but others would do more with it, like seek to invest it for a return.

An inevitable consequence of that capital’s use would be an outbreak of something Africa hasn’t really seen a lot of for the last half-century – stability. If everyone’s making money trading and creating wealth, nobody’s got time to fight. The incentive to hold civil wars and engage in mindless tribal violence disappears.

Similarly if you have political stability, over the course of time you wind up with goodies like stable (and relatively honest) government, secure banks, sanctity of contract, relatively reliable courts and the rule of law.

Who wants to hold a civil war when they’ve never had it so good?

Development professionals seem to devote too much energy putting the cart of institution building before the horse of helping Africans make legitimate money. Such a focus is pernicious, actually inimical to Africans’ interests, because it demands that trees flourish on stones instead of soil.

If Africans wish to get sucked into the global labour arbitrage by giving corporate welfare to the moneyed corporations and calling it ‘inward investment’, there should be no barriers in their path - however neither should they be compelled to do so.

The development of, for want of a better word, capitalism in Africa now (I didn’t emphasis that enough – NOW!) is an imperative; if only because we are just a few years away from the second decade of the new century.

For we’ve all heard of the ‘Scramble for Africa’and what that helped lead to…and we’d be very foolish to think that the same thing couldn’t happen again

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

For those who missed the program they can get it here.

http://www.mininova.org/tor/612593

Anonymous said...

What can I say Devil? I just love you even more.

Anonymous said...

Encourage people to see the video “The Great Global Warming Swindle”.

Here is an easy URL to remember to see the program. Pass it along to friends and family.

http://gorelied.notlong.com