America’s unsteady leadership in the world today represents a colossal failure of our corporate and government leaders. After the demise of the Soviet Union, the new corporate barons believed they had license to do whatever they deemed necessary to maximize profits. This included corrupting politicians and manipulating the legal system. “Aid” organizations such as the World Bank increased the interest rates on loans, made political demands, and imposed conditionalities on debtor countries that determined how those countries would govern themselves and do fealty to the United States and their corporate overlords.
Emerging nations understood that they were being exploited, but they had nowhere else to turn. There was no counter-balancing power left. They had no choice but to submit to a corrupt system that rewarded a few people at the top while heaping abuse on the majority of the citizens. Then, almost overnight, China leaped onto the world stage as a major player in international manufacturing and trade. A new world power was born.
China’s expansionism, like that of the U.S. and other empires, revolves around lending countries easy money, then plundering their resources, and paralyzing their leaders through fear. But China appears to have learned from the mistakes of the United States. Chinese loan deals sidestep many of the draconian demands imposed by the World Bank and IMF, such as voting for specific UN policies, trading only in dollars, or authorizing the establishment of military bases occupied by foreign troops.
But despite China’s apparent aptitude for conducting business more fairly than the U.S., the fact remains that China is using massive amounts of debt to advance a neo-colonial strategy to control countries and their resources. It’s a system I describe in my book, The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man (Berrett Koehler Feb. 2016).
Having risen from the ashes of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, China has enjoyed miraculous economic growth since Nixon’s first visit in 1972. But, the country has paid a terrible price for its growth. China is smothering itself in pollution, and millions of its people live under substandard social conditions.
We Americans need to admit that much of China’s pollution is our pollution. The same can be said of the social conditions. We seek out stores with the lowest prices, but the vast majority of products they sell are made in the polluting factories of China. In a very real sense, China’s economic miracle has only been possible because of the U.S.— and global corporations, most of which started in the U.S.
In attempting to become a major player, if not the major player, in the world economy, China is emulating a failed system. If less than 5 percent of the world’s population (located in the U.S.) consumes more than 25 percent of the world’s resources, how can 19 percent of the world’s population (located in China) hope to replicate our lifestyle? Forget about adding India, Brazil, and the rest of the world to that equation. We have no choice but to change how we manage resources, conduct business, and how we think.
A new model is needed, one that China, our own government and corporate leaders, emerging countries, and the rest of the world can follow. It shouldn’t be a change in the mechanics of economics. It’s should be a change in ideas, replacing the dogmas that have driven economics for centuries: debt and fear, insufficiency, divide and conquer. All of which have led to a death economy. To transition to a life economy will require a revolution in consciousness.
The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man offers detailed strategies that can be used by everyone – students, retirees, entrepreneurs, consumers and people from all walks of life – to make the world a better place for all life, ones that will facilitate the transition from a death to a life economy. A few examples are the below common sense ideas that can be implemented by corporations:
• Make it policy that raw materials and supplies come from recycled sources or are produced in ways that enable them to regenerate and that do not violate the rights of animals or nature.
• Implement policies that ensure fair, living, and equitable compensation for all employees, and work only with partner, contractor, subcontractor, and supplier companies that do the same.
• Invest in full employment and in the community where the company operates, instead of in stock buybacks and other ventures that only help Wall Street.
• Take actions that facilitate constant improvement. Recognize that legitimate criticism, introspection, evaluation, and improvement will benefit not only the company, but the community, the country, and the entire world.
• Foster a culture of ethical behavior and accountability. Encourage transparency and whistle-blowing rather than blind obedience and silence.