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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 4/8/09

Promises, Promises: That's All They Ever Give Us

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Message Jim Goodman
Why is it that whenever the G20, the G8, or the World Economic Forum gather, I get a sinking feeling that these "world leaders" will accomplish nothing, change nothing?

There are, according to Wikipedia, 203 sovereign states in the world. So who died and made the G 20 king? Why can they, along with the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and a host of multi-national corporations and banks, decide how the world will run or how it will fail?

These 20 countries represent 85% of the worlds output, but they clearly depend on the rest of the world to provide them with raw material inputs, human resources and a market for their output.

Let's remember that these "world leaders", whether on their own, or on the advice of the World Bank, IMF and all those multi-nationals, allowed the current economic crisis to happen. Their national economies lost, their citizens lost and the other 183 sovereign states lost as well.

Some corporations lost and that was a bitter pill to swallow indeed. While much of the wealth they lost was extracted from the economies of the worlds poorest countries, it was the corporations we were supposed to feel sorry for.

Certainly getting money to the poor, the most desperate victims of the economic crisis, is not the answer, the money should go to those who engineered the collapse in the first place, the international banking institutions. They are after all, the best and the brightest, the masterminds that lost all those pensions, 401K's and home mortgages. We gave them billions, but it wasn't enough.

The G20 summit in London declared three goals; reform and strengthen the global financial and economic system, stabilize financial markets and put the global economy on track for sustainable growth.

Strengthening the global economic system and stabilizing financial markets; how will the G20 accomplish that? Pumping more money into the banking system with no accountability? They are all about growth, now they call it sustainable growth -- and that is a blatant lie.

Growth means more and we are a society that, according to economist John Ikerd, is accustomed to unending promises of "more" and "better". Ikerd tells us that sustainable development means "enduring progress, supportable advancement or livable evolution". The G20 needs to listen to the thousands of protesters in the streets of London, there is no such thing as sustainable growth.

Sustainable development can meet the needs of today while still allowing for the needs and opportunities of the future, but we can't have it all. We delude ourselves when we pretend we can have all we want today and with continued economic growth or expansion, let the good times roll forever.

While advocates of capitalist theory, investment bankers and the architects of the economic crisis would like to believe there is no limit to economic expansion, the world does have a finite carrying capacity. As Ikerd reminds us, "we may have to settle for enough rather than more, because more may not be possible and less may be better".

The tens of thousands who protest in the streets of London ask for change. Will the G20 go on with business as usual? Will they continue to follow the lead of the US and Great Britain and pretend that a few band aids on the banking system, derivatives trading, price speculation on food, land and agricultural commodities is all we need to put the world economy back on track? Or is the day of "cowboy capitalism" over?

French President Nicolas Sarkozy threatened to walk out of the G20 summit if French demands for stricter financial regulation are rejected. German Chancellor Angela Merkel joined Sarkozy in calling for "capitalism with a conscience". While they may not ascribe to the theory that capitalism has become an extractive, exploitive and oppressive economic system, clearly, they see a pressing need for change.

Perhaps the real answers are out in the street, nationalize the banks, growth cannot continue forever, the rich are rich enough. The crisis will end when those who have too much, when those who control the wealth of the world realize less may be better.

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Jim Goodman, a WK Kellogg Food and Society Policy Fellow, is an organic dairy farmer and farm activist from Wonewoc Wisconsin. Encouraging local food production and consumption in the industrialized north, allowing the global south sovereignty in (more...)
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