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A range of material for you this week as we return to our continuing reading of David Graeber's Debt, The First 5000 Years: Joan Baxter on land grabbing in Africa, William Black on financial control fraud and the soundtrack of a short video on the Financialization of Nature.
Thanks to Against The Grain for the Joan Baxter and to Guns and Butter for the William Black recording.
We start the show with a 2011 interview of Joan Baxter on the pattern of land grabbing that is ongoing in the developing world, especially in Africa, which rich foreign investors are increasingly carrying out, increasing landlessness and poverty amongst the local population. Arable land especially, she notes, is appealing to those with capital who are looking for an investment or a source of income. As we hear, this often involves uprooting communities and converting what was previously jointly held, sustainably farmed land into commercially managed energy intensive monocultures for export. Those who carry this rely not only on bribery to ensure the support of key government officials, they are also supported by the whole ideology of foreign investment and economic development; sometimes locals fail to distinguish between NGOs with ostensibly altruistic motives and multi-national corporations who don't even bother to make such claims.
We finish our first hour with the soundtrack of a short video on the Financialization of Nature, which summarizes the ongoing switch from an economy centered on the real world to one centered on the fictional needs of capital, looking at topics such as emission trading schemes.
In our second hour we hear William Black speaking from the same conference we featured in episode 611. He recalls the lessons learned from the savings and loan crisis: "Accounting abuses also provided the ultimate perverse incentive. It paid to seek out bad loans, because only those who had no intention of repaying would be willing to offer the high loan fees and interest required for the best looting. It was rational for operators [that's CEOs] to drive their banks ever deeper into insolvency, as they looted them." — James Pierce, leader of the national investigation into the Savings and Loan Crisis
Black notes that far from being prosecuted for their criminality, many of the individuals who profited massively from the S&L crisis went on to leading positions in the US political system, where they could use their experience to repeat the phenomenon on an even larger scale. Although he remains more or less committed to the modern financial system, Black's insider's view provides more evidence that the financial 'crisis' was anything but a surprise, and was in fact widely predicted by those regulators with enough integrity to follow their conscience rather than the sociopathic culture of those in charge of financial markets. In spite of volumes of compelling evidence, minimal effort has been expended to bring charges against those who committed fraud. Black reflects on the corruption of the legal system in US, noting that the US supreme court ruled that only government could bring civil suits against fraudulent banks - something they have shown no interest in doing.
We conclude with another short reading from the final chapter of David Graeber's Debt, The First 5000 Years.