Quotes from the book
One World Ready or Not
by William Greider
Touchstone Press, 1997
In the primitive legal climate of the poorer nations, industry
has found it can revive the worst forms of nineteenth century
exploitation, abuses outlawed long ago in the advanced economies,
including extreme physical dangers to workers and the use of children
as expendable cheap labor.
What was the Cold War really all about? Was it about securing
freedom for enslaved peoples, as every patriot believed, or was
it about securing free markets for capitalism, as Marxist critics
often argued? The goal of human rights that leading governments
once described as universal has been diluted by a new form of
A corporation that has made stratigic investments based on
the cost advantages offered by repressive societies can hardly
be expected in advocate their abolition.
What is a nation, after all, if commerce has destroyed the
meaning of national boundries? For that matter, what is a citizen?
Are people confined by accident of birth to certain geographical
locations or are they as free as business and finance? What is
the future of work and workers when machines make things and also
do much of the thinking? What is the meaning of wealth and economic
growth if the world is someday choking on its own luxuriously
Today, there is the ... widespread conviction that the marketplace
can sort out large public problems for us far better than any
mere mortals could. This faith has attained almost relligious
certitude, at least among some governing elites, but ... it is
the ideology that led the early twentieth cnetury into the massive
suffering of global depression and the rise of violent fascism.
Multinational corporations, faced with continuing surpluses,
desperately need entry into the burgeoning markets [of the world].
The great multinationals are unwilling to face the moral and
economic contradictions of their own behavior - producing in low-wage
dictatorships and selling to high-wage democracies. Indeed, the
striking quality about global enterprises is how easily free-market
capitalism puts aside its supposed values in order to do business.
The conditions of human freedom do not matter to them so long
as the market demand is robust. The absence of freedom, if anything,
lends order and efficiency to their operations.
As capital owners and financial markets acclumulate greater
girth and a dominating influence, their search for higher returns
becomes increasingly purified in purpose - detached from social
concerns and abstracted from the practical realities of commerce.
In this atmosphere, investors develop rising expectations of what
their invested savings ought to earn and the risiing prices in
financial markets gradually diverge from the underlying economic
reality. Since returns on capital are risng faster than the productive
output that must pay them, the process imposes greater and greater
burdens on commerce and societies - debt obligations that cannot
possibly be fulfilled by the future and, sooner or later, must
be liquidated, written off or forgiven.
A market crash ... is the abrupt deflation of prices and of
The rich nations of the world are acting like ancient usurers,
lending money to the desperate poor on terms that cannot possibly
be met and, thus, steadily acquiring more and more control over
the lives and assets of the poor.
The social question - how does a society sustain equable relations
among its own people - has been brushed aside by the economic
sphere. Social cohesion and consent, even the minimal standards
of human decency, are irrelevent to free markets. p334
The process of industrialization has never been pretty in its
primitive stages. Americans or Europeans who draw back in horror
at the present brutalities in Asia or Latin America should understand
that they are glimpsing repetitions of what happened in their
own national histories. Practices that were forbidden as inhumane
in their own countries only after long political struggle.
If multinational enterprises truly expect greater human freedom
and social equity to emerge from the marketplace, then why do
they expend so much political energy to prevent these conditions
Are basic rights of human existence confined to those civilized
societies wealthy enough to afford them? Everyone's values are
defined by what they will tolerate when it is done to others.
When law and social values retreat.. before the power of markets,
then capitalism's natural drive to maximum returns ha[s] no internal
governor to check its social behavior. p341
It took Britain's aristocracy and gentry a century and a half
before they yielded full political rights to everyone; in the
meantime, the society was defined by a rigidified class structure
and recurring, sometimes violent conflicts between labor and property.
England's failure to address the social consequences of industrial
revolution in a timely manner proved fateful for the society it
became. The indifference of the ruling class led directly to the
subsequent generations of dispiriting ideological struggles, labor
versus capital, and produced a cramped social order that two hundred
years later is still riven by class conflict and harsh inequalities.
Every nation, it seemed, chose its own heaven and hell. p352
Americans cannot claim a higher morality while benefiting
from inhumnae exploitation. p356
In its present terms, the global system values property over human
A society unwilling to confront its social reality in a timely
manner is doomed to experience the consequences in later generations
and possibly forever. p 383
A democratic society makes choices and those choices will
reflect what its people truly value. p467
The nation-state is not going to disappear anytime soon for
the good reason that citizens need some way to assert control
over multinational corporations and capital. p471