Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Davos and the World Economic Forum: Freind or Foe to We Small Proles?

I mentioned David Ike and David Cameron in the same blogg and it is not entirely coincidental at these two clowns-of-their-convictions pop up again. The two bring me to discuss the Davos group, in reality the loose invitees of the WEF.  Are they a secretive elite hell bent on securing ever more riches for themselves or are they a benevolent movement which can operate as a kind of metademocracy involving the worlds major corporations and capital in the democratic process with a positive, global perspective?

Well certainly they are somewhat secretive in that meetings are closed to press and public, and  participants  are asked to keep privvy content. We do however know much of the agenda and some of the positive outcomes in international politics and decision making. For example many major corporates have decided to adopt green policies and persue sustainable and renewable markets at a pace probably accelerated by discussions and 'runways' for agreements from the public-private chamber. The WEF also grasped the thistle of China, claiming to have made the first moves towards a modernised market based economy.

To be sceptical: on one side there is the shadow of globalisation, where capital is free to organise internationally while fighting the internationalisation of organised labour and anything more than basic human rights, with exceptions therein even. Countries loose much of their ability to retain corporations while they ( like the UK and Spain) suffer a brain-drain of bright young things into international, borderless careers. Both these euroyuppies and made-men of the US super Inc's, their leaders and their investors loose sight of the consequences of disinvestment or over working in developed countries as they rush to the far east.

 They start to live bubble lives, much as an unemployed person in South Manchester does: swap the labour exchange for the swiss bank, the no 14 bus for first class in the jumbo and a ticket to old trafford with a skiing holiday in one of the more exclusive alpine resorts and you see that life revolves within certain circles,  by social and economic convention.  It becomes a habit that you don't mix with other strata: you don't seek it out. In some Chesire and rural scottish pubs I have been in, the reverse is true: the elite mix often with plumbers and joiners, and the cap is often not dothed: the elite of course are coy about what they do and who they are and probably avoid frequenting pubs their own serfs drink in!

One other thing is clear: in the USA it is a phenomenon dating to WWII and very apparent in the decision making for the long and unsuccessful war in vietnam. Corporations more than want their share of the public pie, they want to influence politics to deliver more public money to them.

This had long been a fact in the British Empire with quasi political entities like the East India Company. Whether or not weapons manufacturers influenced the inception, duration or cessation of hostilities is maybe hard to gauge, but this war was one for chemists and mechanical engineers back home as much as it was on the front of attrition warfare.

On one side corporations are free to influence the democratic process to reduce the tax burdon on profits, assets and controversially, top executives. While on the other side democracies have less in deciding how much gets put out to private companies or sold off to them. If you want a corporation in your western country then give us some of your public pie in both direct contracts and by providing a university system of graduates and low in- price, high end R&D.  As we have seen in the UK, once the utilities were privatised, the government and democracy was kept more and more at arms legnth: the market would prevail: the investors saw the UK as the milk cow and have put in place higher than RPI inflation price rises to both invest in infrastucture ( capital assets don't forget) and record profits.

A recurring theme in my blogs is the vehement anti public service lobbying and politics which have prevailed, while the west has been very pleased with it's public servants in the traditionally right wing organs- the police and the armed forces. There is privatisation around the logistic and security fringes there, but at the core the right wing TRUST these organs more so than say cleaners in hospitals. That a soldier faced with patrol in Bagdad or Kabul is mysteriously more motivated than a cleaner entasked with the hygeine of a hospital is fundamentally questionable. A cleaner with terrible working conditions from a private employer would and of course has in fact proven to be the lesser motivated od the two.

With this full blown recession of the non oil economies, private companies are pleased about states trying to balance their books and are looking for opportunities for private contracting. However they will find that this will often sting them in the tail. In future the tactic of suicide tenders to oust otherwise efficient public services may fall on its face as more social enterprises take organised by charities and trade unions take the mantel of the tender process. This is in fact the best way for labour to organise now : being able to work for slimmer margins and having access to technocracy to shared on a national level, they will be able to outcompete the spivs and the cheating multinationals. Then they too can have Davos type meetings and decide how much of the public pie the people get.

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