Democracy and local free enterprise in the third world: in search of human rights, the rule of law, government serving people in business, health, education and environment
|Articles on individuals who are fighting for democracy and human rights in poor countries.|
|New Article: In Malawi the government has defied the U.S. and Europe (which dump subsidized corporate crops on poor countries) by subsidizing fertilizer for its small farmers. The result has been an end to famine and surplus crops for export.|
|Article: A recent U.N. report stated that Latin Americans are already unhappy with democracy and a lot of people are saying they would like to return to one party rule. The authors of the U.N. report and the New York Times article seem to treat Latin American governments as imperfect democracies in need of improvement. But when the courts, police, and government bureaus are routinely for sale to bribery, there is no real democracy, just elections that, even if they aren't rigged, merely hand the corruption process to a different top dog.|
|Some third world governments are taking health care out of the hands of corrupt government officials and workers and putting it into the hands of international non-profit contractors.|
|In Africa, Dunavant Enterprises has been helping farmers with credit, fair play, and technical assistance. Globalization doesn't have to be the ugly exploitation of poor workers.|
Microcredit institutions make loans as low as $50 to the poor. Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh made his first microloan in 1976, founded the non-profit Grameen Bank in 1983, and was awarded, along with the bank, the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. He is facing charges brought by Bangladeshi politicians who feel threatened by his popularity and efforts he has made to confront the government's culture of corruption. They are wielding phony charges made in a discredited documentary that accused him of fraud, and they are trying to identify him with the wave of greedy bad operators that have marred the woldwide reputation of microfinance. Now 70 years old, Yunus would like to find a successor who shares his values. He wants to retire from running the bank and instead be chairman of the board, but his enemies in the government, who have partial control of the bank, are trying to force him out altogether. He has faced much adversity along the way, as in resistance upon founding Grameen in 1983. Wikipedia: "Yunus and his colleagues encountered everything from violent radical leftists to the conservative clergy who told women that they would be denied a Muslim burial if they borrowed money from the Grameen Bank." Now all his work will go down the drain if the sleazy politicians get their way, and the 8.3 million borrowers will be squeezed without mercy by people motivated only by greed. For NYT's article by Lydia Polgreen, click here. LA Times, click here. For article by the Guardian, click here. For Wikipedia on Muhammad Yunus, click here. Fortunately the U.S. is backing Yunus in strong terms: click here. Update: Yusuf lost his job and there is no indication the U.S. will do more than pretend to care.
We wish to advance the argument that democracy and free enterprise go together. There may be free markets for corporations using the cheap labor in the third world, there may be thriving banking nations like Singapore and Hong Kong, there may be oil wealth, but these exceptions do not change the larger picture of what enables healthy thriving economy. Without democracy the rich take it all and small businesses are suppressed by racketeering and the burden of taxes which the rich don't have to pay. (Exceptions like Hong Kong and Singapore are banking communities, and thus, like oil economies, special cases. We are referring to nations that, to have healthy economies, must see development in diverse aspects of production.) Europe and the U.S. have vital economies, at least by comparison with the rest of the world, because small businesses operate with the protections of the rule of law. Small businesses may sell out to the big corporations, but they don't have to. There is probably more corruption per capita in the U.S. than anywhere in the world, but that is because there is so much money, and corruption tends to run at the top, where it doesn't affect most people. Kickbacks for government jobs may be a systemic drag on the economy, but a small business can make it here, and the midlevel corruption is usually more a cost of doing business than a barrier to doing business. And you don't have to pay bribes at government offices to get something like a driver license, and if you try to bribe a policeman you are likely to go to jail. This means the little guy has a chance, and there is valid competition. Where there is no democracy the little guy doesn't have a chance, and thus there is no free enterprise.
Two examples of strong emerging economies where democracy and free enterprise are emerging together are Chile and South Korea. China, on the other hand, is making money for a few, but most people are but slaves, literacy has been falling for a decade or so, and environmental horrors abound. A few people making money off of virtual slavery, protected by a heartless government, does not qualify as "free enterprise." Recent articles have been claiming that labor shortages have been giving workers a little more leverage with respect to wages and individual rights. But it shouldn't take a labor shortage to bring a glimmer of fairness to the picture.
|..During the Cold War the U.S. and Europe imposed dictatorships on democracies that appeared to be getting too friendly with the Soviet Union, for fear these democracies would fall to Soviet control and become Communist dictatorships. (See Cold War) Since the late 80's and fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the West supports Third World democracy (except in the Middle East, other than Iraq and Afghanistan: see Islam and the West), but it has not been so easy for poor countries to just jump out of the past. Many of the same people and power blocks remain in control, holding all the wealth and keeping labor at slave-wages. Corruption is still the norm. Many of the ex-military have turned to crime, terrorizing the poor, while journalists and human rights advocates are still being killed. Meanwhile Western business interests continue to get rich on the slave-wage labor and extraction of oil, gold, diamonds, lumber, fish etc., looting nations with bribes to the corrupt elite, who also sell off utilities and other state interests like water rights. Corporate outlets set up shop while there is still no democracy, no internal free market and, thus, no opportunity for local people to evolve their own business culture, their own middle class. Western corporate farms sell government subsidized crops, driving small, Third-World farmers out of business, while Western creditors require Third World governments to abandon subsidies for their farmers. The huge debt to the West comes mainly from loans that the West gave in support of Cold War ally governments, knowing the rich and military were stealing all the money but still given as a form of bribery to stay allied to the West. The Third World rich don't pay this debt back, they don't pay taxes. The workers pay it back in taxes and by going without health care and education so the debt can be paid....The West now claims it is trying to do better, and really help. We would like to hear from readers about ways to help in the emergence of Third World democracy and internal free markets....There are many third world countries, like Mexico, whose government cannot be blamed on Cold War forces, but the Cold War climate, in which only a few quasi-democracies survived, made it easier for governments like Mexico's to stop change....Global warming and climate change is ravaging the third world more than rich countries. They will bake while those who can afford air conditioning turn up the global oven by using it, and by driving around in trucks called S.U.V.'s, that the U.S. government has exempted from regular passenger car emission standards.|
The following comments are the essentially same as those found in our Cold War section. We repeat these ideas here because the current state of the Third World stems from the Cold War. By understanding the history we can have intelligent dialogue about how we can help the third world shape a democratic future.
All of the following may be said about either a Western-supported Cold-War dictatorship like Guatemala, or a Soviet-supported Cold-War dictatorship like Cuba.... The government exterminated or jailed people who spoke against it. Only a very few, the rich in Guatemala, party bosses in Cuba, lived a good life, materially. The courts did what they wanted to you, unless you were rich or a party boss. Corruption of government officials in all departments made life miserable for ordinary people. Elections were phony.
It is not unreasonable to to be in favor Western Cold War policy of imposing dictatorships. In the long run the West wanted democracy, and the West was doing what it did to contain Soviet expansion. But the options, which existed in every case, to support democracy, were also reasonable, and the West almost never chose those options until the end of the Cold War. When third world people say the U.S. wants democracy for itself but not for anyone else, they are talking about U.S. Cold War interventions -- always anti-democratic. When they say the U.S. is the biggest creator of wars in the world, they are talking about wars that rose up against the vicious military dictatorships we supported. If the U.S. had left democracies standing, maybe they would have fallen to Communism in many cases, and in these cases the wars of rebellion would have been backed by the West. Maybe the democracies would have survived and formed an offense against Communism, rather than the defensive strategy of dictatorships. We say offense because if the West had supported democracies, people in Communist countries would have an incentive to rebel -- the prospect of becoming a democracy. As it was, when governments switched sides from Communist to Western ally, they never became democracies, they just turned into the Western of Cold War dictatorship. Egypt, Ethiopia and Indonesia are examples.
The governments backed by the U.S. were murderous, evil governments, killing anyone they wanted and torturing in the name of anti-Communism. The people who suffered under U.S. puppets like Mobutu do not appreciate Americans looking at them and saying they are not ready for democracy. They did not choose the Cold War or want it. It is not right for Americans and Europeans not to be fully aware that Western Cold War policy was to impose and support dictatorships at the expense of democracy. Whether one is for or against this policy, it is not right to pretend the West supported democracy. And it is not right to deny that a democracy option existed in every case -- such as leaving Mossadeh in Iran rather than imposing the Shaw, such as accepting Ho Chi Minh's plea to the U.S. to help Vietnam become a democracy, rather than return to French colonial control, at the end of World War II. These democracy options, leaving leftist governments in power rather than get rid of them, were not unreasonable. One may say these options were too risky, but therein lies the argument we should be having about the Cold War. It is not fair to the people who suffered and died to say, once having admitted that Western Cold War policy was anti-democratic (in the short run), that there was no choice but to take that course of action. There was a choice in every case to risk democracy, and it is by no means clear that this choice would have lead to Communism.
People of the third world have never tasted democracy, they have never had human rights and social dignity, and they still want these things. First they were colonized, then they got the Cold War rammed down their throat. Now they must still live in these horrors that have have come down from the Cold War, and this is not the fault of the people of these countries. If we go back before the Cold War we find that the world's poor were exploited by colonial powers, who made no effort to help with transition to self rule. The lines that define third world nations were drawn by the colonial powers with no regard for tribal nationhood, and current tribal rivalries for control of government are often a legacy of these artificial boundaries, especially in Africa. Favoritism for certain tribes by colonial overlords has often spilled over into post-colonial hostilities, the genocide in Rwanda and Burundi being an especially horrendous example. And it should be noted that the West did nothing to stop that slaughter, apparently because the fiasco in Somalia created a U.S. reluctance to intervene.
We want to air views on how to promote third world democracy, and post reports from the people who are struggling to achieve democracy and human rights.
Note: by our definition countries like Mexico and Russia, which have elections but are completely corrupt including the courts, which are for sale, and whose labor class have no political clout, are not democracies. By democracy we mean human rights, rule of law, and freedom from the wall to wall corruption that rules the third world now.