"There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with
power to endanger the public liberty." - - - - John Adams

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Road to Serfdom, Part II

MODERN SERFS:   Feudal Serfs worked land they did not own, forced to
labor for armed thugs called nobles who were appointed by the King.  Today
Serfs work land they do not own for government anointed
corporations, investment groups and Wealth Funds.

African farmers are thrown off their land as foreign investors move in or Australians and Canadians are employed by companies owned by the government of China.  

Is the world returning to a new type of Neo-Serfdom?  A brave new world were millions have their property taken from them only to work as virtual slaves for faceless multi-national corporations or businesses owned by Big Brother Governments.

If government Sovereign Wealth Funds own the major businesses and the natural resources of the world then they also own you. . . . . and like a good and proper Serf you owe them homage.

The half-dozen strangers who descended on this remote West African village brought its hand-to-mouth farmers alarming news: their humble fields, tilled from one generation to the next, were now controlled by Libya’s leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, and the farmers would all have to leave.

“They told us this would be the last rainy season for us to cultivate our fields; after that, they will level all the houses and take the land,” said Mama Keita, 73, the leader of this village veiled behind dense, thorny scrub land. “We were told that Qaddafi owns this land.”

Across Africa and the developing world, a new global land rush is gobbling up large expanses of arable land. Despite their ageless traditions, stunned villagers are discovering that African governments typically own their land and have been leasing it, often at bargain prices, to private investors and foreign governments for decades to come.

Some condemn the deals as neo-colonial land grabs that destroy villages, uproot tens of thousands of farmers and create a volatile mass of landless poor.

 A World Bank study released in September tallied farmland deals covering at least 110 million acres — the size of California and West Virginia combined — announced during the first 11 months of 2009 alone. More than 70 percent of those deals were for land in Africa, with Sudan, Mozambique and Ethiopia among those nations transferring millions of acres to investors.
Are large parts of the world moving backwards in time?
Millions of people are becoming modern Serfs or
indentured servants to Corporations or Governments. 

The breathtaking scope of some deals galvanizes opponents. In Madagascar, a deal that would have handed over almost half the country’s arable land to a South Korean conglomerate helped crystallize opposition to an already unpopular president and contributed to his overthrow in 2009.

Many investments appear to be pure speculation that leaves land fallow, the report found. Farmers have been displaced without compensation, land has been leased well below value, those evicted end up encroaching on parkland and the new ventures have created far fewer jobs than promised.  People have been pushed off land in countries like Ethiopia, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and Zambia.

China:  Our new Feudal Lords?

Armed with trillions in foreign reserves and a mandate to secure natural resources around the world to feed its insatiable domestic engine, the Chinese are on the prowl for deals. And Canadian mining companies may soon be experts in striking them.

China’s state-owned enterprises are injecting millions into Canadian mining companies seeking to build out new mines. As a signal of future intentions, this year China Investment Corp., a sovereign wealth fund with $300-billion in assets, opened its first foreign office – in Toronto.  (see this story)

“On a lot of the deals we work on here, many of which are international in scope, a looming concern for buyers or investors is that the Chinese, with huge pools of endless capital, will come in and scoop it up,” says Dawn Whittaker, global mining leader at the Toronto-based law firm Ogilvy Renault. “There’s this feeling that you have to move fast and get what you want before the Chinese come in and trump your bid.”

"Fascism should more appropriately be
called Corporatism because it is a merger
of state and corporate power."
Benito Mussolini
The purchases by China are almost always cash deals. China’s SOEs and sovereign wealth funds are private and don’t have shares to offer.

China in the Land Down Under

NEWMAN, AUSTRALIA -- Here in this land of searing heat, scrub and eucalyptus, a land so vast that road signs warn the next gas station is 600 miles away, Mount Whaleback was once 1,500 feet high. Today it's a hole, the biggest open-pit iron ore mine in the world -- an entire mountain crushed, sold and shipped to China.

Trucks with tires twice the height of a grown man cart thousands of tons of raw ore to a processing plant, where it is separated and poured into the longest and heaviest train in the world -- 336 freight cars pulled by six locomotives. It chugs 300 miles to Port Hedland, where it is loaded onto ships bound for the unquenchable steel mills of the People's Republic.  (see this story)

Ton by ton, including more than 300 million tons of ore per year and vast quantities of liquid natural gas, China is buying Australia. One of the world's most staggeringly huge transfers of natural resources has both enriched and alarmed Australia, prompted a determined response from Washington and illustrated both China's savvy and ungainliness as it aggressively expands its influence around the world.

A surging China has become Australia's No. 1 trading partner. It has pumped $40 billion worth of investments into the Australian economy in the past 18 months alone. China's 70,000 students help bankroll Australia's education system, and a half-million Chinese tourists a year keep Aussies employed as lifeguards, blackjack dealers and real estate brokers. Chinese trade and investment have insulated Australia from the global financial crisis more than any other developed nation.

"China is remaking the social and political fabric of this country," said Chen Jie, a senior lecturer in international relations at the University of Western Australia who immigrated to Australia from China 20 years ago. "China is intruding into society itself."

Chinese "Capitalism" or state run "Fascist" companies?

Is Capitalism slipping away?  Is it being replaced by Benito Mussolini's Corporatism?  Did Il Duce see the direction of the world better than we did?

China has effectively adopted Mussolini's Corporatism.  A total partnership of the state and business.   No one really knows what proportion of Chinese GDP comes from the non-state sector, but it is significant.

In 2001, the Chinese Communist Party leaders allowed business people to join the party. Since then, as the economy has powered forward, they have become more embedded in the work that the CCP tries to do.

China is abandoning Socialism and is rapidly adopting
Mussolini's Fascist Corporatism
Every significant Chinese company has a shadow party structure inside it.

The heads of the top companies, largely in power or telecommunications sectors, are appointed by the party. The CCP's pragmatism, inculcated in it by Deng Xiaoping, is a thing to marvel at. Officials can tolerate a world in which Marxism lives side by side with cut-throat capitalism, in which it is glorious to grow rich, as long as you don't grow political, and in which a middle class has emerged free of most of the restive demands that have occurred in other societies moving from one-party rule to democracy.

It may be time to stock up on knee-pads.  I suspect there will be a lot of bowing around the world to a new class of Feudal overlords.

For more on this story

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