Stiglitz on globalisation
The 38th Letter of an Autonomous Thinker

Amsterdam, October 2 2003

Dear reader, 

"The IMF was not participating in a conspiracy, but it was reflecting the interests and the ideology of the Western financial community." That writes Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz on page 130 of his excellent book "Globalisation and its discontents" (Penguin, 2002) about the financial dominance of the Western elite.
I agree with Stiglitz that the top of the world is not participating in a conspiracy. Elitepeople defend in the first place the interests of the own world that is situated at a great distance from the massworld.

But Stiglitz does not understand his own words. He writes on page 151 that "the cost of the MISTAKE was not borne by the IMF officials who gave the loan or the USA who had pushed for it, or the Western bankers and the oligarchs who benefited from the loan, but by the Russian taxpayer".
Mistakes? By what Stiglitz writes on page 130 the IMF did not make mistakes but pursed and supported a policy by which the Western elite could maintain its power over the financial world system and could even make profits during the Asian crisis, profits that are paid for by Asian masspeople.

On page 207 he rightly ascertains that the behaviour of the IMF does not come as a surprise, "it approached the problems from the perspectives and ideology of the financial community . many of its personnel came from the financial community and many of its key personnel, having served these interests well, left to well-paying jobs in the financial community".

Stiglitz contradicts his own words when he writes just a few lines later: "The IMF never wanted to harm the poor .." He then goes on by proposing new rules for international financial institutes that never will be implemented because the powers that be will bend and change them so a possible new IMF will defend the interests of the elite just as well as the old IMF. Stiglitz does not understand that the fair distribution of products made in the world is not a technical but a human problem. Humans use structures to suppress other humans. This will only stop when leaders change and not by making different structures.

It is said that all people have equal status as being part of the human race (see for example the last book of Francis Fukuyama about "Our posthuman future") but in the present situation the elite has assumed a higher status than the masses. That cannot be changed by still more rules and laws (that have to be approved by the very people that do not want to lose their privileged status) but by activities of masspeople who want to give all people indeed an equal status.

People on the eliteworld have only one goal, safeguarding the interests of the persons around them, the inhabitants of the eliteworld. Will there be any change than the elite has to come into contact with people that live on the massworld. And because the elite will never take up contact with masspeople, masspeople must penetrate in the eliteworld and make decision-makers clear that there are also other people.

But that does not happen. Stiglitz writes on the third page of his book: "International bureaucrats the faceless symbols of the world economic order are under attack everywhere". But alas, bureaucrats are only attacked on their work place while their decisions penetrate in the living sphere of masspeople. Demonstrators only protest in their own world and never intrude the world of people that take decisions that influence their living space.

As long as the masses do not enter the eliteworld to make elitepeople clear that they are also human, organisations as the IMF will continue to promote the well-being of a small part of humanity, the elite. And that will continue to happen despite the ideas of friendly and good-willing people like Joseph Stiglitz.

Yours truly, Joost van Steenis


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39. Reforming institutions?
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