STOP CAUSING HUMANKIND’S SUICIDE, PLEASE!
FIVE GOOD CASES OF SYSTEMIC THINKING ABOUT CRUCIAL ISSUES PUT IN SYNERGY FOR SOLUTION TO THE GLOBAL CRISES
In the first three weeks of July 2009 I joined three crucial scientific events in Nainital, India and Brisbane, Australia. Along with some 200 interesting contributions, I read five books. I found them interrelated and worth a shared presentation putting them in synergy. They made me both very worried (as the title says) and hopeful (as the subtitle says). They provide insight in the current situation of humankind of our current civilization and the way out from its blind alley. But they do so much more in synergy suggested here than individually. People have tended and still tend to forget about the facts that:
·Economy is a part of nature rather than vice-versa, throughout the industrial 2-3 centuries, and
·Humankind and its consumption of natural resources have grown far beyond the planet earth’s natural capacity, thus ruining our un-renewable natural capital, not only income;
·This process leads to humankind’s suicide that may occur very soon.
This means that the currently prevailing industrial paradigm is too one-sided, biased and short-term oriented and needs to be replaced by systemic/holistic thinking/behavior. It is time to either add sufficiency to efficiency or to die out as humankind; need must replace greed and suicide.
Bertalanffy was right when advocating that we dare to broaden our loyalty from nation to globe.., that we become patriots of the planet, endeavoring to think and act primarily as members of humanity.., that we must begin protecting the individual and cultural identity of others. He advocated a new global morality: »an ethos, which does not center on individual goods and individual value alone, but on the adaptation of Humankind, as a global system, to its new environment«. The need for this new morality, he said, was imperative:
»We are dealing with emergent realities; no longer with isolated groups of men, but with a systematically interdependent global community: it is this level of [reality] which we must keep before our eyes if we are able to inspire larger-scale action, designed to assure our collective and hence our individual survival.« (Davidson, 1983, quoted from: Elohim, 1999).
I was in several teams publishing books on these topics over years, although we were not the only or the first ones voicing the necessary warnings and suggestions for innovative changes. I am not going to talk about our books except in a single sentence. The one by Dyck, Mulej and co-authors (1998) was used at universities in several countries, but it received a single review that said: ‘The 30 cases and multidisciplinary comments about them showed that the World Bank was using a very wrong approach in developing countries.’ The one by Ećimović, Mulej and Mayur with co-authors (2002) was called in François’s (2004) Encyclopedia an example of good application of systemic thinking to complex problems. Then we authored a next one (Božičnik, Ećimović, Mulej, with co-authors, 2008) that was soon out of stock with no real publicity.
The five books to be briefly presented here received a better publicity, which is great, but individually rather than as a set of interdependent books. They deserve to be considered as a dialectical system, i.e. covering interdependent and interacting viewpoints in consideration of the same problem – survival of humankind in the current dangerous combination of climate change, running out of the natural resources, environmental, economic and social crises. The five books are partly overlapping and mostly complementary in providing crucial information on the real situation concerning both the dangerous given problems and ways to solve them with the currently given, but under-used material and social technologies and means. The missing elements are basically two, but difficult:
1.The political will of the most influential people in governments and the rich few to whom the current profit means more than the future of their own children and grandchildren; thus, they are causing the humankind’s suicide pending to happen soon.
2.The transition from the piecemeal, one-sided, narrow and short-term values of the industrial times – against which the systems theory and cybernetic have been established over sixty years ago – to systemic/holistic values, that enable synergies of many narrow specialists co-working in interdisciplinary creative teams and human behavior at large..
These five books are also complementary to another crucial book of 2008: Goerner, Dyck, and Langeroos (2008), that will not be presented here. The books at stake are:
1.Graeme Taylor: Evolution’s Edge: The Coming Collapse and Transformation of our World; ISBN 978-0-86571-608-7; Copyright © 2008 by Graeme Taylor; Published by New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, Canada
2.David. S. Korten: AGENDA FOR A NEW ECONOMY; From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth; ISBN 978-1-60509-289-8 (pbk.); ISBN 978-1-60509-2904 (PDF e-book); Copyright © 2009 by ‘The People-Centered Development Forum’; Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publ., Inc., San Francisco, Ca., USA
3.Lester R. Brown: PLAN B 3.0; Mobilizing to Save Civilization; ISBN 978-0-393-06589-3 (cloth); 978-0-393-33087-8 (pbk); Copyright © 2008 by Earth Policy Institute; Published by Earth Policy Institute, W. W. Norton and Co., New York, London
4.Errol E. Harris: Twenty-first Century: Democratic Renaissance, From Plato to Neoliberalism to Planetary Democracy; ISBN 978-1-933567-15-0; Copyright © by Errol E. Harris, 2008; Published by The Institute for Economic Democracy Press, Sun City, AZ., and Fayetteville, PA, In cooperation with Institute on World Problems, and Earth Rights Institute
5.Glenn Martin: World Revolution through World Law. ISBN 0-9753555-2-X pbk); ISBN 0-9753555-3-8 (hc); Copyright © 2006 by Glenn Martin; Published by IED Institute for Economic democracy, Sun City, AZ, in cooperation with Institute on World Problems, Radford, Va.
L. R. Brown, D. C. Korten, and G. Taylor are analyzing the current socio-economic processes, while E. E. Harris takes a look at the history of philosophic thought, finishing with ideas about world order of tomorrow, and Glenn Martin adds legal documents supportive of it. All of them make suggestions for the humankind to find its way out from the current blind alley, which is perhaps the most threatening of them all ever in human history. Authors use different collections of data and references to make similar conclusions:
Humankind does have the knowledge and technology to resolve the problems into which it has brought itself with its concept of sovereign national state and monopolistic capitalism included in international law and socio-economic concept of its industrial and post-industrial age. In it the human impacts are global and long-term, but the humans’ selected viewpoints on their/our bases of action are narrow and short-term. Therefore we may not speak of developed and developing countries, but of self-destroying ones. But humankind needs the political will to innovate itself.
The reason for this dangerous situation and trend can be summarized as the deliberate or non-intentional refusal or disregard of systems and cybernetics theories as theories and world-views of (requisitely) holistic behavior; that refusal causes dangerous oversights in this case, too.
Suggestions by Brown, Harris, Korten, Martin and Taylor, can be called informal systemic concepts: they do not use the formal language of either systems theory (except Taylor) or cybernetics, but they have collected and put in synergy many crucial viewpoints and data. Thus, they attained the requisite holism of approach and requisite wholeness of outcomes. The latter holds even more, if we put all five books in synergy of them-selves and other books referenced here (and several more). These five books, in synergy, provide a far better response to the current crises than any of those we have analyzed recently, including the famous ones (Božičnik, 2007; Božičnik, Mulej, 2009; Ećimović et al, 2007; Hrast et al, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009; Knez Riedl et al, 2001; knez Riedl et al, 2006; Mulej, 2007; Mulej, ed., 2009; Mulej et al, 2008; Prosenak et al, 2008; Šarotar Žižek and Mulej, 2009; etc).
Taylor uses evolutionary systems theory and very many data providing an impressive insight on this basis. In 2009 he won a prestigious reward and comment that this book might show humans the way out from the current blind alley. I agree, but I add that this book may do this better in synergy with other books mentioned here.
Taylor begins with a crucial sentence ascribed to Albert Einstein: “Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.” The industrial socio-economic system caused the current problems of humankind and is unable to solve them. The alternative is a new type of planetary civilization with different views, values and social institutions. Societal evolution is the process by which societies reorganize themselves in more complex forms with new capabilities. It shows that the next level of civilization – to replace the industrial one – has already begun to emerge. Given the pressing problems resulting from the industrial society the actual issue reads: will this replacement occur before
-The climate change (compared with the nuclear war in terms of its threatening impact in his book),
-Running-out of the natural resources and of unavoidable bio-diversity of the planet Earth, and
-Related pending wars for them,
ruin the current civilization, or can it no longer be saved.
The limitless expansion with which the industrial period has started a few centuries ago is no longer possible. Then the number of people on Earth and their consumption was a tiny fragment of the current figures. For most people this crucial change of conditions is a hardly visible process. Taylor explains it with comparing the growth of humankind and its consumption of natural resources with the exponential growth of number of bacteria in a bottle. The bottle has its limits like the planet Earth. The number of bacteria/humans doubles every minute of one hour. Thus, five minutes before the end of this hour, only three percents of the available room are taken; a minute before the hour room is still 50% empty. Thus, humans have three choices:
1.To go on acting in the same way as so far, although the last minute has come close. The suicide of humankind is becoming unavoidable.
2.To introduce some minor changes (similar to the governmental and market actions in 2009), which will have the effect of a short postponing of the unavoidable end. It is like moving around chairs on the deck of Titanic going to crash the iceberg.
3.To innovate the paradigm, thus solving the problem. Two cases: If USA used the money for its war for oil in Iraq to invest in the available technologies for alternative sources of energy, USA would no longer need any import of energy. European Union demonstrates that a supra-national body and nation-states can co-exist well, while EU has authorities beyond international law limiting the impact of United Nations etc.
Taylor summarizes it all neatly at the beginning (and elaborates very well later on): “Humanity has no choice: if global civilization is to survive, it must evolve into a completely new type of social system. A consumer society cannot be transformed into a conserver society without structural change.
“In front of us are both an immense challenge and a wonderful opportunity. The challenge is to avoid the catastrophic collapse of our natural and social worlds. The opportunity is to finally end humanity’s ancient addiction to war and greed and to create a peaceful and healthy civilization. This is possible because the same forces that are driving us to self-destruction are creating the conditions for constructive change.
“Human societies have been evolving for more than 200.000 years. Nomadic families of hunter-gatherers armed with stone spears have developed into industrialized nations armed with nuclear missiles. In the process, occasional contacts between isolated bands have developed into constant exchanges between international networks. Globalization marks the beginning of a tremendous shift past tribal and national boundaries towards a planetary civilization. But it also marks the end of unexplored frontiers and the end of major resource discoveries. With the shrinking of time and space, our species has begun to realize that it lives on a finite planet with limited resources.
“Globalization is triggering a profound shift in human consciousness. on one hand we are being forced to realize that we cannot do anything we want – the price of continuing to exploit nature and each other will be our own destruction. on the other hand, we are learning that our differences are less important than our commonalities – because we are all humans; if our species succeeds, our children and grandchildren will lead happy lives; if it fails, they will inhabit a dying world.
“This is a time when we can – and must – make a great turning. We believe that the coming global crisis is a critical but inevitable part of the social evolution of our species. Our species has not failed – rather we risk being the victims of our own success. The Industrial Age has not been an evolutionary error, but a necessary stage in human development. It has encouraged the growth of science and technology; it has given most people better and longer lives. However, these benefits have come with enormous environmental and social costs, and the industrial system has now outlived its usefulness.
“The continuing development of both destructive and constructive capabilities creates two trends:
-The dominant trend toward collapse – unsustainable consumption and environmental destruction.
-The emerging trend toward transformation – sustainable ideas, values and technologies.
“These two trends are the major forces shaping the world today.
“There is no guarantee that all the necessary elements of a sustainable system will develop quickly enough to prevent irreversible environmental and social damage. Major evolutionary transformations only occur after a critical number of useful paradigm changing developments (functional mutations) have taken place within a biological or social system. If these new system components are compatible, their interaction can begin to change the form and function of the entire system.
“All of the key social and technological components of a sustainable system will have to be present before it will be possible for our consumer society to transform itself into a conserver society. For this reason we need to actively support their development. In order to do this we need to understand not only the evolutionary process but also the requirements of a sustainable system. The purpose of Evolution’s Edge is to help us determine how we can best support the constructive transformation of our world.
“The challenge is not just to change our values and social institutions, but the change them quickly enough to avoid environmental and social disaster.
“While previous societal systems (historical ages) took thousands of years to develop, we have only a few years left in which to transform our civilization. Fortunately, we do not have to start from square one. Because the shift to a holistic society began over a hundred years ago, many of the key components of a sustainable society are already present. Moreover, our species is constantly learning new skills and becoming increasingly adaptable.
“At the same time as our civilization has become unsustainable, our species has acquired the ability to redesign living systems.
“Understanding how living systems work is both powerful and dangerous knowledge. While it can be used in irresponsible and destructive ways, it can also be used constructively to help us design a sustainable societal system. Because evolution is about innovation (the emergence of new forms and functions), it is possible for humans to accelerate evolutionary processes.
“The challenge that humanity faces now is to rapidly transform our unsustainable global system into a sustainable system. The survival of our species is a more urgent and important task than the space race, although it is in many ways a similar project. Like going to the moon, we have only a general idea of how we will do it. And although many difficult problems remain to be solved, we already have the basic theoretical skills that we will need to solve them.
“We can expect to encounter enormous resistance. Technological innovations – like railways and cars – have always had to overcome initial derision and opposition, and social innovations – like democracy and public education – have been strongly opposed. Vested interests have always argued that progressive changes will cause economic ruins and social chaos. The same arguments are now being raised against efforts to protect the environment and introduce renewable technologies. As always, these arguments are self-serving and irrational. Because the global economy is no longer sustainable, the complete transformation of the existing system is not an option, but a requirement. Creating a more efficient and equitable economy will not cause a global depression – it is the only possible way to avoid economic collapse and sustain economic growth.
The first part describes in detail the coming collapse or our natural and social worlds. It shows why our current global system is environmentally and culturally unsustainable, why the design of the industrial system is now obsolete, why policy adjustments and new technologies will not be able to prevent its inevitable collapse. A look is provided at why earlier civilizations have failed and how cascading crises can provoke system failure.
The second part describes how a new and very different type of societal system has begun to evolve and how we can support this process. The paradigm changing factors are described that cause societies to evolve into more complex and conscious systems. These factors are now developing and interacting with each other; they provide the potential for rapid social evolution. Emerging technologies, ideas, values and social organizations are examined, and their role in supporting the evolution of a sustainable system is analyzed. So are the major developing global trends and probable future scenarios. Ways to make the necessary change happen are suggested. “It will require collective wisdom and combined efforts of billions of people to heal our dying planet. The alternative to our cancerous consumer society is not a new dogma and another monoculture, but a critically aware and culturally diverse holistic civilization.”
By education, D. C. Korten is no systems analyst, but by his learned and practiced approach he is a clear systemic thinker on economic and ecological topics: he looks for the big picture and up-stream causes behind the visible surface; he does so with an interdisciplinary approach (and team) in order to suggest a system of measures. This is not his first book demonstrating this. But in the period of the – on surface – financial and economic crisis of 2008- that is actually a crisis of the socio-economic concept and of its prevailing values-culture-ethics-norms, this a crucial book for all who wish to find a – real rather than fictitious – way out of the crisis.
Phantom Wealth – with this notion Korten describes the Wall Street concept, that money is wealth. But Wall Street makes wealth for very few persons at the detriment of a great majority of all others around the world. It is unrelated to the production of anything of real value meeting the real needs of people, their children, families, and communities, including their natural interest in maintaining the health and vitality of their social and natural environments. The Phantom Wealth is opposed to the Adam Smith’s true vision of capitalism/market economy with its full transparency and no one-sidedness of monopolies and oligopolies or feudal-times-like differences in wealth. The 2008- crisis shows clearly that it is failing and causing the humankind to face disaster rather than livable future.
The Real Wealth relates, in Korten’s words, to happiness and long-term well-being of people. It is measured with the ‘Happy Planet Index = (Life Satisfaction x Life Expectancy) / Ecological Footprint’, created by the New Economic Foundation in London (p. 99). Its result is an indicator of the ecological efficiency with which a society produces a given level of physical and emotional well-being. (On this index Zimbabwe is the last of 178, Russia 172, USA 150, and so poorly did also other industrial nations, while Vanuatu is 1.) Ecological efficiency can be attained in a real-market economy much in line with the true vision of Adam Smith. Replacing the Phantom for a new Real-Wealth Economy on the foundation of the Main Street economy, i.e. local production and market, will require far much more than adjustment on the margin. It will need a radical bottom-to-top redesign of our economic assumptions, values and institutions. Life, not money, is the measure of the real wealth value. The most important forms are beyond price and are unavailable for market purchase. They include healthy, happy children, loving families, caring communities, and a beautiful, healthy, natural environment. Real Wealth also includes all the many things of intrinsic artistic, spiritual, or utilitarian value essential to maintaining the various forms of living wealth. These may have or may not have a market price. They include healthful food, fertile land, pure water, clean air, caring relationships and loving parents, education, health care, fulfilling opportunities for service, and time for meditation and spiritual reflection.
On those terms, Agenda for a New Economy is a big picture story, or theory, of what went wrong in the design of the current economic institutions and what we can do about it. Korten finds that we do, in fact, have the means to create an economy that fulfills six criteria of economic health. Such an economy would:
1.Provide everyone with opportunity for a healthy, dignified, and fulfilling life.
2.Bring human consumption into balance with Earth’s natural systems.
3.Nurture relationships within strong, caring communities.
4.Honor sound, rule-based market principles.
5.Support an equitable and socially efficient allocation of resources.
6.Fulfill the democratic ideal on one-person, one-vote citizen sovereignty.
The point of Korten’s book is to look upstream, not in order to place blame, but to find real solutions to the system failure that now threatens our future. We need to shift our economic priorities from making money for rich people only to creating better lives for all. This new economy reallocates our economic resources from destructive, or merely wasteful, uses to beneficial ones. It is based on values opposed to Wall Street-dominated socio-economic system and includes a different understanding of wealth, our human nature, and sources of human happiness and well-being. Korten sees that the basic design elements of the New Economy he seeks are known, and elaborates them in his book.
In Part I, Korten discusses ‘The Case for a New Economy’, and shows that this innovating of the socio-economic life requires radical changes for an alternative, real, market to live. In Part II Korten explains why the Wall Street should be eliminated; he compares it with the British imperial rule over the 13 colonies that rebelled against abuse of power and made USA; he finds a similar end of power of empire called Wall Street necessary. Then, in Part III Korten outlines his agenda for a real-wealth economy, taking care of what people really want and putting the essential priorities anew, liberating Main Street, i.e. local economy in Adam Smith’s ideal style, adapting financial services to this real-wealth economy. He finishes this part with a big-picture outline of life in real-wealth economy. The last, Part IV, is dedicated to action called ‘Change the Story, Change the Future’, Korten outlines a speech he hopes President Obama will one day deliver to the nation, and points out that the historic experience of US liberation from British Empire: people started the insurrection, and the local elite followed in order not to lose their positions. The middle class used to be the essence of US, and it should be so again; local rather than global economy should be back; walking and bicycle distance to work should be back; ICT technology should diminish the need for international travelling for conferences etc.; most roads and other asphalted areas should become fields and meadows and forests again; houses should need much less energy; public transportation should replace the need for car and related fuel, sun and wind being the main sources of energy; GDP should be abolished because it measures cost rather than results; businesses should be human-scale, locally owned and dedicated to serving the people of community; suburban building shall be abandoned for renewal of nature and construction of new dwellings in compact communities; agrochemicals shall be banned and just about everything shall be composted and recycled for waste dumps to no longer exist; the overall consumption shall be modest, thus health and vitality will be rich; etc.
The 12-point new economy agenda is summarized on p. 122 as follows:
1.Redirect the focus of economic policy from growing phantom wealth to growing real wealth.
2.Recover Wall Street’s unearned profits, and assess fees and fines to make Wall Street’s theft and gambling unprofitable.
3.Implement full-cost market pricing.
4.Reclaim the corporate charter.
5.Restore national economic sovereignty.
6.Rebuild communities with a goal of achieving local self-reliance in meeting basic needs.
7.Implement policies that create a strong bias in favor of human-scale businesses owned by local stakeholders.
8.Facilitate and fund stakeholder buyouts to democratize ownership.
9.Use tax and income policies to favor the equitable distribution of wealth and income.
10.Revise intellectual property rules to facilitate the free sharing of information and technology.
11.Restructure financial services to serve Main Street.
12.Transfer to the federal government the responsibility for issuing money.
All of these ideas can become reality, once people understand that the 2008- crisis is only the top of iceberg and provides the information: the current one-sided rather than requisitely holistic economy leads the current civilization to death. We must stop ruining life conditions of our children to the benefit of only a handful. Time of the ‘feudal capitalism’ must be over for the market-capitalism to become reality as foreseen by Adam Smith.
Lester Brown is a world-famous researcher and author concerned with humankind’s future that depends on humankind’s natural environment overburdened now. Thus humankind ruins its own basis of its own survival. His book abounds in persuasive data and links between them, based on a great interdisciplinary investigation (with many acknowledged coauthors and investigators behind the scene) offering a way out of the current crisis, but also calling others to offer something better.
In Ch. 1 Brown explains that the applied market model of ensuring humankind’s wellbeing has failed, because it has neglected the humankind’s interdependence with its natural environment and robbed the nonrenewable resources beyond all limits, leaving the generations to come in extremely difficult conditions, threatening humankind’s physical survival. The number of failing states is constantly growing. If China keeps raising its standard of living like in recent decades, especially if China and other catching-up countries attain the robbing level of consumption of the West, especially USA, then humankind needs a radical alternative to survive, not only to live well on the current western criteria.
In Part I. A ‘Civilization in Trouble’ there are five chapters full of data and their interdependences demonstrating how bad the consequences of the applied market-based society and economy are because single parts of reality have been considered in separation rather than with a systemic approach, i.e. as wholes with many interdependencies and synergies. Oil and food security are deteriorating, states are failing, temperature and seas are rising, and carbon must be cut 80% by 2020 or +600 million people will have to flee inland – but where to? Water shortage threatens all around world, causing international and political stress. Natural systems, such as forests, soil, grass, fisheries, plants and animals are disappearing, while deserts are growing. Early signs of decline are clearly visible: our world is socially divided, health is challenged, throw-away-economy is no longer acceptable, population grows while natural resources shrink and/or disappear, more and more huge numbers of people are becoming refuges for environmental reasons. Thus, we face and more stress and failing countries.
In Part II ‘The Response – Plan B’ Brown makes suggestions in six chapters. In Ch. 7 he explains how can poverty be eradicated and population stabilized: universal basic education, better health for all, curbing the HIV epidemic, reducing farm subsidies and dept, and a poverty eradicating budget. In Ch. 8 he suggests how to restore the Earth: protecting and restoring forests, conserving and rebuilding soil, regenerating fisheries, protecting plant and animal diversity, planting trees to sequester carbon, with an Earth regenerating budget. In Ch. 9 he proposes how to feed 8 billion people: rethinking the land productivity, raising water productivity, producing protein more efficiently, moving down the food chain, with action on many fronts. In Ch. 10 Brown tackles designing cities for people rather than for cars. He addresses the ecology of cities, redesigning urban transport, reducing urban water use, farming in the city, and upgrading squatter settlements, thus creating cities for people. Ch. 11 is devoted to raising energy efficiency, e.g. by banning the bulb, using energy-efficient appliances, more efficient buildings, restructuring the transport system, a new materials economy, thus activating the energy saving potential. In Ch. 12 Brown shows chances for turning to renewable energy. He discusses harnessing the wind, wind-powered plug-in cars, solar cells and collectors, energy from the earth, plant-based resources of energy, river, tidal and wave power, summarizing it all as the world energy economy of 2020.
In Part III, which is the last chapter, Brown maintains that this system of warnings and suggestions provides for all humans an exciting new option. It requires shifting taxes and subsidies, summing up climate stabilization measures, providing for a response to failing states, which must be done so quickly and effectively that humankind needs a wartime mobilization for action, aimed at saving humankind by enabling its/our survival. At the end Brown shows, that each and every one of us can do something.
At the first sight his books addresses very different issues, but they are actually complementary. He mentions similar data, but much less in detail and only as a basis to finish his scholarly presentation of history of thinking about democracy with suggestions that we rethink the given international law in order for the humankind to be able to create a legal basis for solving the above problems and realize the above suggestions.
Harris starts with the thought the human search for the best kind of social order has exposed personal freedom through individual conduct and attitude and appropriate social and political organization. The latter is democracy as the political structure in which people are consulted and thus ruling themselves, either directly or by delegation of power, while assuring that government depends on the consent of the governed. In this framework the rule of law must prevail. The question, however, arises who makes, administers, and interprets the law. The maintenance of the rule of law must not be limited to the national state, but be equally valid in the relations between them.
Here the addressed problem begins. George Keeton is quoted to say: ‘Sovereignty is the evil genius of international affairs’ (p. 123). Neither international law nor the United Nations can ameliorate this state of affairs (i.e. too much weapons, insecurity, conflict, war, superpower’s hegemony, etc.). International law’s first principle consists of sovereign states, which acknowledge no legislation superior to their own, thus annulling its own authority. United Nations is constrained by article 2 of its Chart to respect and uphold the sovereign independence of its members. United Nations is only advisory. Due to global economy, peace versus war, well-being versus destruction of all – nation states can no longer be legitime bearers of sovereign authority; they do not use requisite holism with a requisitely broad definition. Contemporary government is motivated by fear – of foreign aggression, international terrorism, economic decline, starvation (due to climate change), unjust discrimination, religious apostasy, genocide; they disable true democracy and almost all of them are global problems.
The solution can be learned from practice of federal states such as United States, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, or India. Its possible success can thus not be questioned. Also internationally, nation states have been members of confederation, first the League of Nations and, since 1945, the United Nations. The economic interdependence of all nations is marked and undeniable. The overriding common interest is undoubtedly the prospect of survival in the face of environmental deterioration and the menace of warfare with nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. There can thus be little doubt that the conditions exist conspicuously (in only peoples and their national governments can be brought to see them) for world federal union.
Prejudices against federal government, widespread as they are today, are ill-founded and baseless (p. 136). Genuine federalism does not allow the central government to intervene in the administration of the purely local affairs of its member states. It reserves for the federal legislature only issues of common interest of all, and such as the separate states in any case could not control, because (as now when they are sovereign) such matters are beyond the limits of their jurisdiction, and are affected by what happens and is done or left undone in other countries (p. 137). It may address only issues of common interest demanding concerted action beyond sovereign states’ respected agreement and chance of enforcing observance except by military action – by enforceable world law, enforceable on delinquents who are individual persons (not upon sovereign states). World Union cannot be established by hegemony of one superpower, but by free popular decisions without duress, through referenda prior or after governmental ratification.
World Federation is clearly the only course that can provide means by which global problems that can be solved only by global measures, and can be effectively addressed, because it establishes the universal Rule of Law of creative democracy (p. 138). Details follow on pp. 138-148.
This new world order offers a chance for nations and peoples and individuals to survive. How can this be attained, from the legal point of view, can be learned from Glenn Martin’s book.
Martin provides details and rationales to what other referenced authors mention only: the institutional change of the current international law toward a world law. It does not cancel the sovereign state of nations, but it does limit its prerequisites to the internal topics of the given nation/s, and he suggests the same about the international law of so far. Namely: “A fragmented world system cannot support the unity-in-diversity of democracy. only the sovereignty of all the people who live on Earth institutionalized in the Earth Constitution can achieve the goals inherent in democracy: peace, equity, freedom, and prosperity”. And: “It is the nation-state system (where nations inevitably act in their own perceived self-interest), in league with the global system of exploitative monopoly capitalism, that has created this economic nightmare for the majority of humankind. Both these institutions must be transformed into the unity-in-diversity of democratic world government under the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. Under democratic federal world government, the prosperity of all nations and peoples is the constitutional goal. The elimination of poverty, illiteracy, misery, and disease worldwide is the goal. The preservation of the global environment for future generations is the goal. Demilitarization of the world is the goal. And the institutions will be in place (for the first time in history) that can meet these goals quickly and efficiently.” This cannot be done under the political system of so far because the nation states, United Nations, other international institutions and international law do not attain the world-wide level of holism and wholeness and make a world based of premises of economic domination and exploitation by imperial nation-states inevitable, resulting in terror rather than making economic exploitation illegal and unproductive. “The changes needed are not difficult, nor impractical. But they are indeed fundamental. The “Declaration of the Rights of People”, the Manifesto, and the Earth Constitution together in this volume provide all that is necessary to establish this new world order”.
Institutions are crucial, but not sufficient preconditions for humankind to survive. The same is true of all other criticisms and suggestions by the briefed authors. Synergy of all of them might provide a chance – technological and social innovations replacing the obsolete tools of humankind of so far. They might provide the content for the ‘fifth phase of development of the basis of competitiveness’ we have started to outline elsewhere (Mulej et al, 2007; Mulej, Prosenak, 2007; Prosenak, Mulej, 2008).
Several conferences on systems and cybernetics should be added as critical sources of critical ideas, too, another time.
Božičnik, S. (2007): Dialektično sistemski model inoviranja krmiljenja sonaravnega razvoja cestnega prometa. University of Maribor, Faculty of Economics and Business, Maribor
Božičnik, S., Ećimović, T., and Mulej, M., with co-authors (2008): Sustainable Future, Requisite Holism, and Social Responsibility (Against the current abuse of free market society).ANSTED University, School of Environmental Sciences, Penang, in cooperation with SEM Institute for Climate Change. Korte and IRDO Institute for development of social responsibility, Maribor. See: www.institut.climatechange.si
Božičnik, S., Mulej, M. (2009): The Current Crisis requires a Sustainable Model of Dynamic Management of CO2 Emissions (too)
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THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN EMPIRE
Independent Media is more important than ever
Today, we spend the hour with a man who claims to have worked deep inside the forces driving corporate globalization. In his first book, “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man”, John Perkins told the story of his work as a highly paid consultant hired to strong-arm leaders into creating policy favorable to the U.S. government and corporations - what he calls the “corporatocracy.” John Perkins has just come out with a new book. It's called “The Secret History of the American Empire: Economic Hit Men, Jackals, and the Truth about Global Corruption.” [includes rush transcript]
Hundreds of thousands of protesters are gathering in Germany ahead of tomorrow's G8 meeting of the world's richest nations. The three-day summit is being held in the coastal resort of Heiligendamm. German police have spent $18 million dollars to erect an eight-mile-long, two-meter-high fence around the meeting site. Global warming will be high on the agenda. Going into the meeting, President Bush has proposed to sideline the UN-backed Kyoto Accords and set voluntary targets on reducing emissions of greenhouse gas. Other top issues will include foreign aid and new trade deals. Today, we spend the hour with a man who claims to have worked deep inside the forces driving corporate globalization. In his first book, “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man”, John Perkins told the story of his work as a highly paid consultant hired to strong-arm leaders into creating policy favorable to the U.S. government and corporations - what he calls the “corporatocracy.” Perkins says he helped the U.S. cheat poor countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars by lending them more money than they could possibly repay and then taking over their economies. John Perkins has just come out with a new book. It's called “The Secret History of the American Empire: Economic Hit Men, Jackals, and the Truth about Global Corruption.” John Perkins joins me now in the firehouse studio. John Perkins, From 1971 to 1981 he worked for the international consulting firm of Chas T. Main where he was a self-described "economic hit man." He is the author of the new book "The Secret History of the American Empire."
AMY GOODMAN: Hundreds of thousands of protesters are gathering in Germany ahead of tomorrow’s G8 meeting of the world’s richest nations. The three-day summit is being held in the coastal resort of Heiligendamm. German police have spent $18 million to erect an eight-mile-long, two-meter-high fence around the meeting site. Global warming will be high on the agenda. Going into the meeting, President Bush has proposed to sideline the UN-backed Kyoto Accords and set voluntary targets on reducing emissions of greenhouse gas. Other top issues will include foreign aid and new trade deals. Today, we spend the hour with a man who claims to have worked deep inside the forces driving corporate globalization. In his first book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, John Perkins told the story of his work as a highly paid consultant hired to strong-arm leaders into creating policy favorable to the US government and corporations, what he calls the “corporatocracy.” John Perkins says he helped the US cheat poor countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars by lending them more money than they could possibly repay and then taking over their economies. John Perkins has just come out with his second book on this issue. It’s called The Secret History of the American Empire: Economic Hit Men, Jackals and the Truth about Global Corruption. John Perkins joins us now in the firehouse studio. Welcome to Democracy Now!
JOHN PERKINS: Thank you, Amy. It’s great to be here.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, before we go further, “economic hit men” - for those who haven’t heard you describe this, let alone describe yourself as this, what do you mean?
JOHN PERKINS: Well, really, I think it’s fair to say that since World War II, we economic hit men have managed to create the world's first truly global empire, and we've done it primarily without the military, unlike other empires in history. We've done it through economics very subtly. We work many different ways, but perhaps the most common one is that we will identify a third world country that has resources our corporations covet, such as oil, and then we arrange a huge loan to that country from the World Bank or one of its sister organizations. The money never actually goes to the country. It goes instead to US corporations, who build big infrastructure projects - power grids, industrial parks, harbors, highways - things that benefit a few very rich people but do not reach the poor at all. The poor aren’t connected to the power grids. They don’t have the skills to get jobs in industrial parks. But they and the whole country are left holding this huge debt, and it’s such a big bet that the country can't possibly repay it. So at some point in time, we economic hit men go back to the country and say, “Look, you know, you owe us a lot of money. You can't pay your debt, so you’ve got to give us a pound of flesh.”
AMY GOODMAN: And explain your history. What made you an economic hit man?
JOHN PERKINS: Well, when I graduated from business school at Boston University, I was recruited by the National Security Agency, the nation’s largest and perhaps most secretive spy organization.
AMY GOODMAN: People sometimes think the CIA is that, but the NSA, many times larger.
JOHN PERKINS: Yeah, it is larger. It’s much larger. At least it was in those days. And it’s very, very secretive. We all - there’s a lot of rumors. We know quite a lot about the CIA, I think, but we know very, very little about the NSA. It claims to only work in a cryptography, you know, encoding and decoding messages, but in fact we all know that they’re the people who have been listening in on our telephone conversations. That’s come out recently. And they’re a very, very secretive organization. They put me through a series of tests, very extensive tests, lie detector tests, psychological tests, during my last year in college. And I think it’s fair to say that they identified me as a good potential economic hit man. They also identified a number of weaknesses in my character that would make it relatively easy for them to hook me, to bring me in. And I think those weaknesses, I [inaudible] might call, the three big drugs of our culture: money, power and sex. Who amongst us doesn’t have one of them? I had all three at the time. And then I joined the Peace Corps. I was encouraged to do that by the National Security Agency. I spent three years in Ecuador living with indigenous people in the Amazon and the Andes, people who today and at that time were beginning to fight the oil companies. In fact, the largest environmental lawsuit in the history of the world has just been brought by these people against Texaco, Chevron. And that was incredibly good training for what I was to do. And then, while I was still in the Peace Corps, I was brought in and recruited into a US private corporation called Charles T. Main, a consulting firm out of Boston of about 2,000 employees, very low-profile firm that did a tremendous amount of work of what I came to understand was the work of economic hit men, as I described it earlier, and that’s the role I began to fulfill and eventually kind of rose to the top of that organization as its chief economist.
AMY GOODMAN: And how did that tie to the NSA? Was there a connection?
JOHN PERKINS: You know, that’s what’s very interesting about this whole system, Amy, is that there’s no direct connection. The NSA had interviewed me, identified me and then essentially turned me over to this private corporation. It’s a very subtle and very smart system, whereby it’s the private industry that goes out and does this work. So if we’re caught doing something, if we’re caught bribing or corrupting local officials in some country, it’s blamed on private industry, not on the US government. And it’s interesting that in the few instances when economic hit men fail, what we call “the jackals,” who are people who come in to overthrow governments or assassinate their leaders, also come out of private industry. These are not CIA employees. We all have this image of the 007, the government agent hired to kill, you know, with license to kill, but these days the government agents, in my experience, don't do that. It’s done by private consultants that are brought in to do this work. And I’ve known a number of these individuals personally and still do.
AMY GOODMAN: In your book, The Secret History of the American Empire, you talk about taking on global power at every level. Right now, we’re seeing these mass protests taking place in Germany ahead of the G8 meeting. Talk about the significance of these.
JOHN PERKINS: Well, I think it’s extremely significant. Something is happening in the world today, which is very, very important. Yeah, as we watched the headlines this morning, you know, what we can absolutely say is we live in a very dangerous world. It’s also a very small world, where we’re able to immediately know what’s going on in Germany or in the middle of the Amazon or anywhere else. And we’re beginning to finally understand around the world, I think, that the only way my children or grandchildren or any child or grandchild anywhere on this planet is going to be able to have a peaceful, stable and sustainable world is if every child has that. The G8 hasn’t got that yet.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain what the Group of Eight are.
JOHN PERKINS: Well, the Group of Eight are the wealthiest countries in the world, and basically they run the world. And the leader is the United States, and it’s actually the corporations within these companies - countries, excuse me - that run it. It’s not the governments, because, after all, the governments serve at the pleasure of the corporations. In our own country, we know that the next two final presidential candidates, Republican and Democrat alike, are going to each have to raise something like half a billion dollars. And that’s not going to come from me and you. Primarily that’s going to come from the people who own and run our big corporations. They’re totally beholden to the government. So the G8 really is this group of countries that represent the biggest multinational corporations in the world and really serve at their behest. And what we’re seeing now in Europe - and we’re seeing it very strongly in Latin America, we’re seeing it in the Middle East - we’re seeing this huge undercurrent of resistance, of protest, against this empire that’s been built out of this. And it’s been such a subtle empire that people haven’t been aware of it, because it wasn’t built by the military. It was built by economic hit men. Most of us aren’t aware of it. Most Americans have no idea that these incredible lifestyles that we all lead are because we’re part of a very vicious empire that literally enslaves people around the world, misuses people. But we’re beginning to understand this. And the Europeans and the Latin Americans are at the forefront of this understanding.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re going to talk to you about Congo, about Lebanon, about the Middle East, about Latin America, much of what you cover in The Secret History of the American Empire, when we come back. [break]
AMY GOODMAN: Our guest is John Perkins. From 1971 to ’81, he worked for the international consulting firm of Charles T. Main, where he was a self-described “economic hit man.” His new book is called The Secret History of the American Empire: Economic Hit Men, Jackals and the Truth about Global Corruption. Let's talk back, going to Latin America, about this ChevronTexaco lawsuit.
JOHN PERKINS: Well, that’s extremely significant. When I was sent to Ecuador as a Peace Corps volunteer in 1968, Texaco had just gone into Ecuador, and the promise to the Ecuadorian people at that time from Texaco and their own politicians and the World Bank was oil is going to pull this country out of poverty. And people believed it. I believed it at the time. The exact opposite has happened. Oil has made the country much more impoverished, while Texaco has made fortunes off this. It’s also destroyed vast areas of the Amazon rainforest. So the lawsuit today that’s being brought by a New York lawyer and some Ecuadorian lawyers - Steve Donziger here in New York - is for $6 billion, the largest environmental lawsuit in the history of the world, in the name of 30,000 Ecuadorian people against Texaco, which is now owned by Chevron, for dumping over eighteen billion gallons of toxic waste into the Ecuadorian rainforest. That’s thirty times more than the Exxon Valdez. And dozens and dozens of people have died and are continuing to die of cancer and other pollution-related diseases in this area of the Amazon. So all this oil has come out of this area, and it’s the poorest area of one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere. And the irony of that is just so amazing. But what I think - one of the really significant things about this, Amy, is that this law firm has taken this on, not pro bono, but they expect if they win the case, which they expect to do, to make a lot of money off of it, which is a philosophical decision. It isn’t because they wanted to get rich off this. It’s because they want to encourage other law firms to do similar things in Nigeria and in Indonesia and in Bolivia, in Venezuela and many other places. So they want to see a business grow out of this, of law firms going in and defending poor people, knowing that they can get a payoff from the big companies who have acted so terribly, terribly, terribly irresponsibly in the past. And Steve Donziger, the attorney - I was in Ecuador with him just two weeks ago - and one of the very touching things he said is - he’s an American attorney with, you know, very good credentials, and he says, “You know, I’ve seen a lot of companies make mistakes and then try to defend themselves in law courts.” And he said, “That’s one thing. But in this case, Texaco didn’t make mistakes. This was done with intent. They knew what they were doing. To save a few bucks, they killed a lot of people.” And now they’re going to be forced to pay for that, to take responsibility for that, and hopefully open the door to make many companies take responsibility for the wanton destruction that’s occurred.
AMY GOODMAN: Let's talk about Latin America and its leaders, like Jaime Roldos. Talk about him and his significance. You wrote about him in your first book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.
JOHN PERKINS: Yeah, Jaime Roldos was an amazing man. After many years of military dictators in Ecuador, US puppet dictators, there was a democratic election, and one man, Jaime Roldos, ran on a platform that said Ecuadorian resources ought to be used to help the Ecuadorian people, and specifically oil, which at that time was just coming in. This was in the late ’70s. And I was sent to Ecuador, and I was also sent at the same time to Panama to work with Omar Torrijos, to bring these men around, to corrupt them, basically, to change their minds. You know, in the case of Jaime Roldos, he won the election by a landslide, and now he started to put into action his policy, his promises, and was going to tax the oil companies. If they weren’t willing to give much more of their profits back to the Ecuadorian people, then he threatened to nationalize them. So I was sent down, along with other economic hit men - I played a fairly minor role in that case and a major one in Panama with Torrijos - but we were sent into these countries to get these men to change their policies, to go against their own campaign promises. And basically what you do is you tell them, “Look, you know, if you play our game, I can make you and your family very healthy. I can make sure that you get very rich. If you don’t play our game, if you follow your campaign promises, you may go the way of Allende in Chile or Arbenz in Guatemala or Lumumba in the Congo.” on and on, we can list all these presidents that we’ve either overthrown or assassinated because they didn’t play our game. But Jaime would not come around, Jaime Roldos. He stayed uncorruptible, as did Omar Torrijos. And both of these - and from an economic hit man perspective, this was very disturbing, because not only did I know I was likely to fail at my job, but I knew that if I failed, something dire was going to happen: the jackals would come in, and they would either overthrow these men or assassinate them. And in both cases, these men were assassinated, I have no doubt. They died in airplane crashes two months apart from each other in 1981 - single plane; their own private planes crashed.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain more what happened with Omar Torrijos.
JOHN PERKINS: Well, Omar, again, was very stalwartly standing up to the United States, demanding that the Panama Canal should be owned by Panamanians. And I spent a lot of time with Torrijos, and I liked him very, very much as an individual. He was extremely charismatic, extremely courageous and very nationalistic about wanting to get the best for his people. And I couldn’t corrupt him. I tried everything I could possibly do to bring him around. And as I was failing, I was also very concerned that something would happen to him. And sure enough - it was interesting that Jaime Roldos's plane crashed in May, and Torrijos said - got his family together and said, “I’m probably next, but I’m ready to go. We’ve now got the Canal turned over.” He had signed a treaty with Jimmy Carter to get the Canal in Panamanian hands. He said, “I’ve accomplished my job, and I’m ready to go now.” And he had a dream about being in a plane that hit a mountain. And within two months after it happened to Roldos, it happened to Torrijos also.
AMY GOODMAN: And you met with both these men?
JOHN PERKINS:Yes, I’d met with both of them.
AMY GOODMAN: What were your conversations like?
JOHN PERKINS: Well, especially with Torrijos, I spent a lot of time with him in some formal meetings and also at cocktail parties and barbecues - he was big on things like that - and was constantly trying to get him to come around to our side and letting him know that if he did, he and his family would get some very lucrative contracts, would become very wealthy, and, you know, warning him. And he didn’t really need much warning, because he knew what would be likely to happen if he didn’t. And his attitude was, “I want to get done what I can in my lifetime, and then so be it.” And it’s been interesting, Amy, that since I wrote the book Confessions, Marta Roldos, who’s Jaime’s daughter, has come to the United States to meet with me, and I just spent time with her in Ecuador. She is now a member of parliament in Ecuador, just elected, and she married Omar Torrijos's nephew. And it’s really interesting to hear their stories about what was going on - she was seventeen at the time her parents - her mother was also in the plane that her father died in; the two of them died in that plane - and then to hear her talk about how her husband, Omar's nephew, was in that meeting when the family was called together and Omar said, “I’m probably next, but I’m ready to go. I’ve done my job. I’ve done what I could do for my people. So I’m ready to go, if that’s what has to happen.”
AMY GOODMAN: So what were your conversations at the time with other so-called economic hit men? I mean, you became the chief consultant at Charles Main.
JOHN PERKINS: Chief economist.
AMY GOODMAN: Chief economist.
JOHN PERKINS: Right. Well, you know, when I was with other people that - we could be sitting at a table, say, in the Hotel Panama, knowing that we’re both here to win these guys over, but we also had our official jobs, which were to do studies on the economy, to show how if the country accepted the loan, it was going to improve its gross national product. We would talk about those kinds of things. It’s, I suspect, a little bit like if two CIA agents, spies, get together or have a beer together, they don’t really talk about what they’re really doing beneath the surface, but they’ve got an official job, too, and that’s what you focus on. And, in fact, the two, in my case, are very closely linked. So we were producing these economic reports that would prove to the World Bank and would prove to Omar Torrijos that if he accepted these huge loans, then his country's gross national product would just mushroom and pull his people out of poverty. And we produced these reports, which made sense from a mathematical econometric standpoint. And, in fact, it often happened that with these loans, the GNP, the gross national product, did increase. But what also was true, and what Omar knew and Jaime Roldos knew and I was coming to know very strongly, was that even if the general economy increased, the poor people with these loans would get poorer. The rich would make all the money, because most of the poor people weren’t even tied into the gross national product. A lot of them didn’t even make income. They were living off subsistence farming. They benefited nothing, but they were left holding the debt, and because of these huge debts, their country in the long term would not be able to provide them with healthcare, education and other social services.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about Congo.
JOHN PERKINS: Oh, boy. The whole story of Africa and the Congo is such a devastating and sad one. And it’s the hidden story, really. We in the United States don’t even talk about Africa. We don’t think about Africa. You know, Congo has something called coltan, which probably most of your listeners may not have even heard of, but every cell phone and laptop computer has coltan in it. And several million people in the last few years in the Congo have been killed over coltan, because you and I and all of us in the G8 countries demand low - or at least we want to see our computers inexpensive and our cell phones inexpensive. And, of course, the companies that make these sell them on that basis, that “Oh, here, mine’s $200 less than the other company.” But in order to do that, these people in the Congo are being enslaved. The miners, the people mining coltan, they’re being killed. There’s these vast wars going on to provide us with cheap coltan.
And I have to say, you know, if we want to live in a safe world, we need to be - we must be willing, and, in fact, we must demand that we pay higher prices for things like laptop computers and cell phones and that a good share of that money go back to the people who are mining the coltan. And that’s true of oil. It’s true of so many resources that we are not paying the true cost, and there’s millions of people around the world suffering from that. Roughly 50,000 people die every single day from hunger or hunger-related diseases and curable diseases that they don’t get the medicines for, simply because they’re part of a system that demands that they put in long hours, and they get very, very low pay, so we can have things cheaper in this country. And the Congo is an incredibly potent example of that.
AMY GOODMAN: You talk about the so-called defeats in Vietnam and Iraq and what they mean for corporations.
JOHN PERKINS: Yeah, well, that’s - yeah, we, you and I, look at them as defeats, perhaps, and certainly anybody who lost a child or a sibling or a spouse in these countries look at them as disasters, as defeats, but the corporations made a huge amount of money off Vietnam, the military industry, huge corporations, the construction companies. And, of course, they’re doing it in a very, very big way in Iraq. So the corporatocracy, the people that are in fact insisting that our young men and women continue to go to Iraq and fight, they’re making a tremendous amount of money. These are not failures for them; they’re successes from a very strong economic standpoint. And I know that sounds cynical. I am cynical about these things. I’ve been there. I’ve seen it. And, you know, we must learn not to put up with that anymore. All of us.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to John Perkins. His book is The Secret History of the American Empire. It’s the fortieth anniversary of the 1967 Israeli-Arab war. You talk about Israel being a Fortress America in the Middle East.
JOHN PERKINS: I think it’s very sad and very telling, once again, that the Israeli people, for the most part, are led to believe that they’ve been given this land as a payoff, basically, for the Holocaust, because they deserve to be recompensed. And, of course, the Holocaust was terrible, and they do deserve to be taken care of and recompensed and have stability. But why would we locate that place in the middle of the Arab world, their traditional enemies? Why would we locate that place in such an unstable area? It’s because it is serving as a huge fortress for us in the biggest oil fields known in the world today, and we knew this when Israel was located there. And I think the Israeli people have been terribly exploited in this process. So, in fact, we built this vast military base, armed camp, in the middle of the Middle Eastern oil fields that are surrounded by the Arab communities, and in the process, we’ve obviously created a tremendous amount of resentment and anger and a situation that it’s very difficult to see any positive outcome there. But the fact of the matter is, our having this military base in Israel has been a huge defense for us. It’s been a place where we could really launch attacks, rely on. It’s been our equivalent of the Crusaders’ castles in the Middle East. And it’s very, very sad. I think it’s extremely sad for the Israeli people that they’re caught up in all of this. I think it’s extremely sad for the American people. It’s extremely sad for the world that this is going on.
AMY GOODMAN: As we crisscross the globe, John Perkins, which is exaclty what you did in your years as an international consultant, having been groomed by the National Security Agency, but then becoming a top economist in an international consulting firm, you have also written books about Shamanism. You also write about Tibet. Where does Tibet fit into this picture?
JOHN PERKINS: Well, you know, I was just in Tibet a couple of years ago, and it was an interesting thing, because I took a group of about thirty people into Tibet with me as part of a non-profit organization. I was leading the trip. And some of these people had been in the Amazon with me, been to other places. And, of course, Tibet right now is - it’s very depressing, because the Chinese presence is extremely strong, and you see how the Tibetan culture has been put down. And you’re always aware that there’s Chinese soldiers and spies all around you. And many of the people on the trip came to the realization, yeah, this terrible here. “Free Tibet,” we all know about that, but the ones who had been with me on a trip to the Amazon, where the oil companies and our own military are doing the same things, said, “But doesn't this remind us of what we’re doing in so much of the world?” And it’s something we tend to forget. We can all wave banners about “Free Tibet,” which we should, but how about freeing the countries that are under our thumb, too? And certainly Tibet is not nearly - well, I hate to say it this way, because some people might disagree with me, but I think Iraq is in worse shape than Tibet is these days, although both of them are in pretty bad shape. But so, what we saw in Tibet is that same kind of model that we’re implementing around the world. And yet, most Americans are not aware that we’re doing it. They’re aware that the Chinese are doing it, but not aware that we’re doing it on actually a much bigger level than the Chinese are.
AMY GOODMAN: John Perkins, talk about your transformation. You were making a lot of money. You were traveling the world. You were in a position where you were meeting presidents and prime ministers of countries, bringing them to their knees. What made you change, and then, ultimately, the decision to write about it?
JOHN PERKINS: You know, Amy, when I first got started - I grew up - three, four hundred years of Yankee Calvinism - in New Hampshire and Vermont, with very strong moral principles, came from a pretty conservative Republican family. And all during the ten years that I was an economic hit man, from ’71 to ’81, I was pretty young, but it bothered my conscience. And yet, everybody was telling me I was doing the right thing. Like you said, presidents of countries, the president of the World Bank, Robert McNamara, patted me on the back. And I was asked to lecture at Harvard and many other places about what I was doing. And what I was doing was not illegal - should be, but it isn’t. And yet, in my heart, it always tore at my conscience. I’d been a Peace Corps volunteer. I saw. And as time went by and I began to understand more and more, it got to be more and more difficult for me to continue doing this. I had a staff of about four dozen people working for me. Things were building up. And then, one day I was on vacation, sailing in the Virgin Islands, and I anchored my little boat off the St. John Island, and I took the dinghy in, and I climbed this mountain on St. John Island in the Virgin Islands up to this old sugar cane plantation in ruins. And it was beautiful. Bougainville. The sun was setting. I sat there and felt very peaceful. And then suddenly, I realized that this plantation had been built on the bones of thousands of slaves. And then I realized that the whole hemisphere had been built on the bones of millions of the slaves. And I got very angry and sad. And then, it suddenly struck me that I was continuing that same process and that I was a slaver, that I was making the same thing happen in a slightly - in a different way, more subtle way, but just as bad in terms of its outcome. And at that point, I made the decision I would never do it again. And I went back to Boston a couple of days later and quit.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to John Perkins, worked for Chas Main International Consulting Firm, self-described “economic hit man,” now has written a new book called The Secret History of the American Empire. When we come back from break, we’ll talk about - well, from quitting the American empire to taking it on. Stay with us. [break]
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to John Perkins. His second book on the issue of economic hit men is called The Secret History of the American Empire. John Perkins is a New York Times bestselling author. His book Confessions of an Economic Hit Man took this country by storm. So, you quit, but that was one step. Writing about it was another. Talk about your attempts over time.
JOHN PERKINS: Oh, yes. After I quit, I tried several times to write the book that became Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, and each time I reached out to other economic hit men I had worked with or jackals to try to get their stories, word got out and I was threatened. I had a young daughter at the time. She’s now twenty-five. And I also was offered some bribe. In fact, I accepted a bribe of about a half a million dollars. It’s what’s called a legal bribe, but it’s a bribe, and it was given to me with the condition that I not write the book. There was no question about that. I describe it in detail. And I assuaged my guilt by putting a lot of that money into nonprofits I had formed - Dream Change and Pachamama Alliance - that are helping Amazonian people fight oil companies, so to assuage my guilt some. But I didn't write the story. And this happened a number of times, and I would find one excuse or another, and I wrote other books about indigenous people. I worked with these people. I wrote the books you mentioned earlier about Shamanism and so forth, and so I kind of, you know, distracted myself and assuaged my guilt and went on with this. And then, on 9/11, I was in the Amazon with the Shuar people, had taken a group of nonprofit people in to learn from indigenous people in the Amazon. But shortly after that, I came up to New York to Ground Zero, and as I stood there looking down into that terrible pit, that smoldering - and it still smelled of burning flesh - I realized that I had to write the book, I could no longer defer, that the American people had no understanding of why so many people around the world are angry and frustrated and terrified, and that I had to take responsibility for what happened at 9/11. In fact, we all have to take a certain responsibility, which is not in any way to condone mass murder by anybody ever - I’m not condoning that in any way - but I did realize that the American people needed to understand why there’s so much anger around the world. I had to write the book. So this time I didn’t tell anyone I was writing it, and even my wife and daughter, they knew I was writing something, but they didn’t know what. I didn’t reach out to other people. It made it a little more difficult to write it. But finally I got it in the hands of a very good New York agent, and he sent it out to publishers. At that point, this manuscript becomes my best insurance policy, as at that point if something strange happens to me, including now, suddenly the book will sell. Even though it’s been a bestseller for a long time, it will sell a lot more copies, if something - people sometimes laugh and say, “Do you worry that your publisher may be trying to assassinate you, because it would certainly help book sales?” I don’t worry about it. But, you know, so at that point, once I got the manuscript there, it became my insurance policy.
AMY GOODMAN: You write “A jackal is born,” about Jack Corbin. Who is he?
JOHN PERKINS: Well, Jack Corbin - and that’s not his real name, but he’s a real person - he’s alive and well today, working for us in Iraq. But he is a jackal, he is an assassin.
And one of the most fascinating stories, I think, involves Seychelles, which is a small county, an island country, off the coast of Africa. And it happens to be located where Diego Garcia, one of the United States’s most strategic air bases, is located. There’s a long history behind Diego Garcia. But in the late '70s, Seychelles had a president that was very friendly to us, James Mancham, and he was overthrown in a bloodless coup by [France-Albert] Rene, a socialist. And [France-Albert] Rene threatened to get us out of Diego Garcia, to expose the real facts behind the terrible things that went on to put us in Diego Garcia. There’s a lot of details that I won’t get into now. In any case, I was called down to Washington to meet with a bunch of retired generals and admirals, who were trying - who were all working as economic hit men for consulting firms, and they were prepping me to go in and corrupt [France-Albert] Rene and bring him around to our side. But before doing that, they wanted to find out whether he was really corruptible or not. And it was sort of interesting that they - one of these generals had a young protégé, a young man, and the general had noticed that a high diplomat from Seychelles in Washington had a young wife who was not very happy. So this young man was sent in to seduce the wife and compromise her and get information from her, which is a fairly common tactic. Sex is a big thing in this game of diplomacy and economic hit people. And sort of an interesting bi-story here is that one time at lunch this general came back, and he said, “You know, I think you economic hit men have a much tougher job than you women counterpart, because,” he said, “now this woman, the diplomat’s wife, is buying into this with the young man, but she wants to be convinced that he loves her. So, you know, my god, you know, I’d give the keys to the Pentagon to a young lady just for some good sex. I don’t need to be convinced that she loves me. But I guess that’s the difference between men and women.” That’s what he said. Kind of interesting. Anyway, in the end, the young man did get the information from the wife, and the information was that [France-Albert] René was not corruptible. There was no point in even trying.
AMY GOODMAN: Also, Diego Garcia is very significant as a military base.
JOHN PERKINS: Extremely significant. And it was used - it’s being used in Afghanistan and Iraq and sorties that we fly in to Africa or any part of that world. In any case, I was called off the job, and a little while later a team of assassins were sent in from South Africa - forty-five, forty-six, I can’t remember the exact number - were sent in as a rugby team to bring in Christmas gifts to children of the Seychelles, but their real job was to overthrow the government and assassinate Rene. At the time, I didn’t know these individuals. Now, I know Jack Corbin. I know him very well, personally. I’ve met him since. Our paths crossed back then, but we didn’t know each other.
AMY GOODMAN: What exactly did he do?
JOHN PERKINS: Well, the team went in, and they were apprehended at the airport. A security guard discovered a hidden weapon on one of them. A huge gun battle broke out at the Mahi airport, and these mercenaries were surrounded by perhaps a thousand soldiers on the outside. Jack told me it was one of the few times in his life where he figured he was going to die and had time to think about it. Many times he could have died, but he just reacted quickly. And they didn’t know what to do, but eventually an Air India 707 came into view and asked permission to land, and they gave it permission to land. As soon as it landed, they hijacked it, and they flew it back to Durban, South Africa. And I’m now watching this on the national news. This was now on US national news, and I’m knowing that this is - I didn’t know what was going to happen when I was called off the case, but now I’m seeing it unfold. And to the world, what we saw is this plane, Air India 707, flies into Durban, South Africa, surrounded by South African security guards. The men on the plane give themselves up. They march off. They’re sent to court and then sentenced to prison, and some, I think, to execution, and that’s the end of the story, as far as we know. Now that I know Jack, what actually happened was when the plane was surrounded, the security forces got on the telephone with the plane and discovered there was their good friends, their teachers in fact, on the plane. They worked out a deal. The men gave themselves up. They did spend three months in prison. They had their own wing with television, etc., and then were quietly released after three months. A lot of those same men, that team, a lot of them today are in Iraq working for us there, doing things that, you know, our soldiers are forbidden from doing. And they’re making very good money doing it.
AMY GOODMAN: Who is this man, so-called Jack Corbin, working for today in Iraq?
JOHN PERKINS: Well, he works for a private company in Iraq that has a contract, you know, that comes through the Pentagon, CIA, one of those organizations. So, like so much of this work, there’s a tremendous, as you’ve reported on this program, a tremendous number of these mercenaries there. Jack Corbin and his people are at the very top of that level. They’re the extremely skilled ones who do the really delicate work. We’ve also got a lot of people working for Blackwater and others that, you know, are not quite as skilled and are just out there doing kind of the grunt work. But there’s all kinds at that level.
AMY GOODMAN: Bechtel, Bolivia, the water wars. You’re based in the Bay Area, where Bechtel is based, and the continent you know best, South America.
JOHN PERKINS: Yeah, well, you know, Bechtel was given the franchise to own and operate the water system of Cochabamba, Bolivia, third largest city in that country. And the World Bank forced this to happen.
It’s so sad. When it happened, suddenly the price of water quadrupled for some people, went up by tremendous amounts. People could no longer afford water. Cochabamba is a pretty poor city. There’s sections of it that are extremely poor. And so, the people took to the streets. They rebelled against this. There were riots. And Bechtel dug in its heels, but eventually they threw Bechtel out of Bolivia. Bechtel then sued Bolivia for $50 million in a European court, because they couldn’t sue in a US court, because of the laws between Bolivia and the US. And then Evo Morales was elected president of Bolivia, and very shortly after that, Bechtel dropped its lawsuit. But it was interesting that the lawsuit was for lost profits that they hadn’t been able to realize because they had been thrown out for doing things that were so onerous to the people there.
AMY GOODMAN: John Perkins, what do you see as the solutions right now?
JOHN PERKINS: Well, you know, Amy, this empire that we’ve created really has an emperor, and it’s not the president of this country. The President serves, you know, for a short period of time. But it doesn't really matter whether we have a Democrat or a Republican in the White House or running Congress; the empire goes on, because it’s really run by what I call the corporatocracy, which is a group of men who run our biggest corporations. This isn’t a conspiracy theory. They don’t need to conspire. They all know what serves their best interest. But they really are the equivalent of the emperor, because they do not serve at the wish of the people, they’re not democratically elected, they don’t serve any limited term. They essentially answer to no one, except their own boards, and most corporate CEOs actually run their boards, rather than the other way around. And they are the power behind this. And so, if we want to turn this around, we have to impact them very strongly, which means that we have to change the corporations, which is their power base. And what I feel very strongly is that today corporations exists for the primary purpose of making large profits, making a few very rich people a lot richer on a quarterly basis, on a daily basis, on a very short-term basis. That shouldn't be. There is no reason for that to be. Corporations have been defined as individuals. Individuals have to be good citizens. Corporations need to be good citizens. They need to take - their primary goal must be to take care of their employees, their customers and all the people around the world who provide the resources that go into making this world run, and to take care of the environments and the communities where those people live. We must get the corporations to redefine themselves, and I think it’s very realistic that we can do so. Every corporate executive out there is smart enough to realize that he’s running a very failed system. As an economist, as a rational person, nobody can conclude anything otherwise. If you look at the fact that less than 5% of the world's population live in the United States and we consume more than 25% of the world's resources and create over 30% of its major pollution, you can only conclude that we’ve created a very flawed and failed system. This is not a model that can be sold to the Chinese or the Indians or the Africans or the Middle Easterners or the Latin Americans. We can’t even continue with it ourselves. It has to change. And corporate executives know that. They’re smart individuals. I believe that they want to see change. And when we have really pushed them to change, we’ve been extremely successful. For example, we’ve got them to clean up rivers that were terribly polluted in the 1970s in this country. We got them to get rid of the aerosol cans that were destroying the ozone layer. We got them to change their policies toward hiring and promoting minorities and women. We’ve gotten them to put seatbelts in cars and airbags, against their initial resistance. We’ve got them to change tremendously in any specific area where we’ve set out to do that. Now, it behooves us, we must convince them that their corporations need to be institutions to make this a better world, rather than institutions that serve a few very rich people and their goal is to make those people even richer. We need to turn this around. We must.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask one last quick question on Ecuador, and that is the death of Ecuador’s Defense Minister Guadalupe Larriva, who died in a helicopter crash last year near the Manta US Air Base installation. Do you know anything about that?
JOHN PERKINS: Well, yeah. I just came from Ecuador, and everybody is talking about it, because the same thing happened to Jaime Roldos’s minister of defense before he was assassinated. And the fact that it happened next to the US air base in Manta and it was a freak crash, two helicopters collidng, the similarities between what happened to Jaime Roldos, people all through Ecuador are saying this was a warning to Rafael Correa, the new president of Ecuador.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to have to leave it there. John Perkins, thanks for joining us. John Perkins’s new book is called The Secret History of the American Empire: Economic Hit Men, Jackals and the Truth about Global Corruption. To purchase an audio or video copy of this entire program, click here for our new online ordering or call 1 (888) 999-3877.
June 8, 2007