Global Unbridled Excess: Its Roots

This is the first of three articles about the “global unbridled excess”; it analyzes its roots and the social and economic dynamics it generates. It points out that the correlation of social forces, ensuing strategic decisions, and certain circumstantial factors determine a course and a certain way of functioning. Within this context, there appear a diversity of democratic traps that enervate the systemic functioning and contribute to the creation of the conditions leading to global unbridled excess and, from there, to the huge international crisis, foreseeable for some, unexpected for others. The second article will focus on the consequences of the global unbridled excess,, and the third one, on the choices to address it.Several crises in the Southern Hemisphere preceded today’s great global crisis; they were warnings about unbridled excesses1 taking place in certain non-central countries of the international system. Each one of them was dealt with as a country-specific problem, their causes or roots lying basically in domestic mismanagement. The international context was considered a parameter conditioning domestic trajectory. Those countries hardly weighing in the functioning of the global economy, the double claim of domestic responsibility and external conditioning made some, although biased, sense; all the more so because, indeed, several non-central economies had incurred severely unbridled excesses. These unbridled excesses translated into a poorly trustworthy political system with widespread corruption, showdowns aimed at taking control of the State to favor sectorial interests, and mismanagement of public finances, public spending, domestic prices, exchange rates, investment and foreign trade policies, as well as of the majority of social and environmental variables.

So big was the domestic unbridled excess in those countries that no sufficient attention was paid to the nature and impact of external over-conditioning factors: a global course and way of functioning that, structurally ─ and not circumstantially ─ privileged the central countries and severely punished the weakest links of the international economic system. The most distinguishing trait was a wealth, knowledge and information concentration-prone growth that generated very serious environmental deterioration and profound inequalities at the international level and within almost every country.

It might seem that unbridled excess has now grown global; but it may be the case that it has always been present in the world; only that with the accumulation of ever more rampant unbridled excesses in the central economies and a greater market integration, the capacity and celerity for those behaviors to impact the international systemic function has grown exponentially.

The global crisis has left behind a heap of wounded and dead, not only in the countries that generated it but also in Greece, Island and other European countries that are relatively more vulnerable; it has also hit almost all of our countries of the Southern Hemisphere. By contrast, it consolidated the emergence of huge economies that were until recently non-central, such as China, India and Brazil; they positioned themselves in the international economy absorbing part of the effects of the concentrating-prone process for their benefit.

Such a huge impact shocked those who led and enjoyed a privileged position at the pre-existing global order because, on well-grounded reasons, they saw their privileged status threatened. In the face of the threat they behaved in the only way it was expected they would react, with vigour and determination trying to rebuild the pre crisis order; that is, only changing what was indispensable in order to sort out the hurricane and trusting that, with the return of calm, the international course of events would go back, by its own means and economic dynamics, to its previous channels ¿Why would they transform that pattern if they had grown under its shelter? Only its most lucid statesmen have suggested the adoption of more profound changes in order to ensure the mid-term sustainability and security of global development; changes that involve adjusting the course and the systemic functioning, eradicating gross inter and intra-country inequalities, and addressing the problem of environmental deterioration. If this position does not prevail in the world, it is the unprivileged ones who will have to lead the efforts to materialize the transformation.

Roots of Unbridled Excess

The many decisions we make reference to resulted from a complex web of power structures at the local, national and international levels, i.e., from generally unequal relations that were historically built among the different players coexisting in the world. It is obvious that, for economic, political or social reasons, some sectors had more clout to influence the setting of the collective course; their voices and decisions have resounded, and resound, with much greater emphasis than the others’. Thus, their interests, needs and emotions prevailed over the rest, and ended up determining the type of concentration-oriented growth prevailing almost everywhere.

Thus, the result of certain correlations of forces impose specific dynamics of socioeconomic functioning that gradually consecrate social, political, economic and environmental structures. These, in turn, influence on their own the ulterior evolution of those dynamics. Therefore, the correlations of social forces, the strategic decisions, the resulting course and dynamics of functioning, the structural features of the socioeconomic system and the circumstantial factors, constitute dimensions of the development process that can have some degree of autonomy but are interconnected and influence one another.

In democratic regimes, all this is grounded on the decisions ─sovereign yet induced─ made by those who are entitled to vote. Hence the critical role played by those seeking to influence our conscience and our unconscious, and the instances that mediate between our will and the decisions that end up setting the local, national and international course and way of functioning. In representative democracies there exist a variety of intermediation mechanisms, a set of institutions, rules and provisions that regulate the way in which individual decisions permeate into collective decisions, including, among other instances, the political system with its three powers and parties; workers’, business and social representation, and the large media, who are ever more influential in the formation of public opinion and, hence, in the choice of leaderships, policies and strategies.

At the same time, in the western world there is a predominance of a more or less aggressive, more or less regulated capitalism that is associated with imperfect yet perfectible democratic regimes. All of them are threatened by an array of democratic traps1 that vary by country as to their nature and severity. These democratic traps, the genesis of which lies in the ”improper or unlawful behavior” that characterize both individual and collective unbridled excesses ─coupled with the structural treats and circumstantial factors of the systemic functioning ─ end up creating the conditions that led to global unbridled excess and, subsequently, to the great global crisis, foreseeable for some, unexpected for others.

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