In the global, national, or local markets, the most powerful actors subordinate the rest to their own interests: big ones abuse the medium-size ones, the latter abuse small ones and almost everybody the planet. Abuses are not occasional incidents but a foundational part of a merciless and destructive way of functioning based on the power to impose.
Even though some economic relationships are technical in nature, they are not the ones that define the structure and functioning of the economic systems: what decide those critical issues are essentially the interactions that are established among multiple actors and then embodied in institutions, public policies, and regulations. Each actor detents a different power quota and it is a function of such quota that the strongest can impose their interests, needs, and values to the rest.
The most powerful do not openly defend their interests rather they turn to subtle mechanisms to impose them. There is not an “invisible hand” that structures economic systems based on the functioning of perfect markets where multiple sellers and buyers freely interact on equal terms. The true “invisible hand” is the one that the powerful hide to disguise their impositions.
How do they do it?
Contemporary economic power emerges from the unbridled process of concentration of wealth that prevails in the world. ((Is the world burning?)). This power lets them impose a course and a way of functioning that enables the reproduction of privileges at the expense of the general welfare and the environment. Concentrated groups control good part of the available resources and secure for themselves a judicial framework that guarantees the continuity of the way they operate.
To accomplish that, they buy or co-opt complicities in critical instances of the social functioning, such as the media and related sectors of politics, the Judiciary, and the educational system. With them they shape public opinion and manipulate expectations ((Manipulation of expectations and economic development)) to conceal or whisk away the causes and mechanisms that they infringe upon their interests, generating support for measures that do not protect the general wellbeing. They are thus able to impose values, behaviors, and attitudes that sustain the reproduction of an order presented as untouchable ((Capitalism: eternal system?)).
When transforming initiatives threaten the status quo, the economic power mobilizes resources and uses legal trenches to block their progress. The repressive force is sometimes reserved as a dissuasive factor and other times openly applied. Popular-base governments that promote these transformations must face destabilizing operations ((Destabilization of people based governments)) that compromise their continuity or severely restrict their actions. It is not by chance that those operations start at the same time in various countries with transforming policies.
A widely used submission mechanism is to entrap countries within fiscal and foreign exchange deficits forcing them to become indebted. The more compromised the situation of the country, the harder the resulting financial conditions imposed to it and more intrusive the policy it is forced to accept. In this context of perverse subordination and recurrent instability, value extraction reaches asphyxiating levels for the embattled country.
These situations of financial colonialism sooner or later lead to the political mobilization of assaulted populations. In various countries these movements choose the democratic way to achieve transformations, a huge challenge as they face a series of democratic traps ((Democratic traps: solving them by deepening democracy)) which, if not unmasked and solved, divert the course towards manipulated democracies instead of full democracies.
The power of concentrated groups has imposed a global order that favors and enables the global reproduction of the concentration of wealth. In this context, the countries with larger geopolitical, economic, and military power control institutions such as United Nations where, although every country participates at its highest institutional level, the General Assembly, only a few assume veto power from their position as permanent members of the Security Council. Likewise, interests of central countries carry a strong weigh in key economic institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization. These global entities are complemented by other similar regional ones where central countries are also able to impose their decision power.
Anyway, the strategic variable that leads the course of the world economy is the concentrated financial capital that freely moves around the planet appropriating a huge mass of value generated by entire nations and peoples. It has a tremendous dynamics and its greediness knows no limits. Almost without controls or regulations, they evade every type of jurisdictions and legislations using fiscal havens ((Tax havens: crimes and their victims)) not by chance guarded by central countries. The most savage segments of the financial power are the sadly infamous vulture funds that take advantage of legal loopholes and their influence in central countries to extort whole societies from troubled countries.
The abuse as a way of functioning (the henhouse and its laws)
Popular wisdom states that in the markets the “henhouse law” prevails. In a henhouse, birds are usually placed in overlapping racks; thus the hens in higher shelves discharge over the lower shelves. In global, national, or local markets, the most powerful actors subordinate the rest to their interests ((Market power abuses)) appropriating good part of the value produced by the latter. As well as large corporations abuse suppliers and consumers, medium actors abuse smaller ones and these abuse the most disadvantaged ones.
The abuse tends to exist within productive units as well, between owners, managers, middle-ranking cadres and workers. When companies, especially the big ones, evade taxes, the abuse is extended to the society as a whole, depriving the State of the resources that could finance expenses in services and social and productive infrastructure.
A dimension that compromises the destiny of the whole planet is the irresponsible behavior of a considerable part of corporations and people that assault our precious environment, depleting non-renewable resources and contaminating soil, water, and the atmosphere.
In short, abuses are not occasional or isolated facts rather a main part of a malicious, merciless, and destructive way of the global, national, and local functioning. A way of functioning based on power relationships where the strongest impose their will over the weaker ones that cannot defend themselves, enshrining as natural the power of imposition.
Options that arise
The helplessness of the weakest is not something to stay forever. Experiences of peoples and societies that managed to free themselves from different type of yokes abound and, though difficult, nothing precludes us from liberating ourselves from the impositions and abuses that prevail today. Instead of exclusion and submission derived from the power to impose, the transformation involves everybody’s inclusion and prominence ((Un país para todos. Hacia un desarrollo justo y vigoroso “A country for all. Towards a just and vigorous development,” only in Spanish)).
The options that arise are diverse and take each people, each society, to choose the desirable and possible trajectories. What cannot be ignored is that it will be necessary to influence all dimensions of social functioning, economic, political, environmental and, very especially, the values that molds the sense and meaning of our efforts.
Sense and meaning of our efforts
Together with understanding what happens, it is worth reflecting on the significance of what we do and search. It is not just about knowing how to better do what we are already doing (the “how”) but to clarify its sense (“what” we are doing and “why”). Clarifying requires moving beyond what is apparent, disentangling the hidden interests and logics, unmasking the cultural submission and value appropriation mechanisms ((The biggest component of inequality: The appropriation of value generated by others)). Moreover, it demands a deep introspection, that individual responsible inside look to identify what guides and motivates us, what do we truly crave for. We need to elucidate us to help elucidate, transform ourselves to be able to transform.
Politics and social organizations
The State is a crucial factor in the course of contemporary societies. When it is controlled by forces associated with the concentrated capital, it ends up as a gendarme that guards their interests and, thus, reproduces the concentrating process. When the State is controlled by forces that defend the general wellbeing it tries to transform the concentrating order to pave the way for full democracies, very much different from those democracies manipulated by the power to impose. Thus, the critical importances of politics as a space to inform, elucidate, mobilize, and organize social forces. Here nests the best transforming efforts and, for that reason, the concentrated capital tries by all means to discredit both State and politics.
We need to review the perspective “everyone for himself,” an alienating course that affects the ability to develop organizations that can address impositions and injustices. Assaulted societies that remain disunited enable the hegemony of powerful groups that impose a world where the greedy concentration of wealth, inequalities, poverty, indigence, disdain of others, fatuous consumerism and huge wastage of resources that severely compromises the environment prevail.
The passage from dictatorships to manipulated democracies and from there to full democracies is not lineal and does not occur spontaneously. It is a long walk that demands organization to occupy power spaces, making the interests of the victimized majorities converge with those segments of the concentrating order that can be reconverted. A critical aspect is to transform non-elected institutions that become trenches to resist changes and, simultaneously, strongly reinforce our own ability to identify new courses and choose better trajectories. Certainly, it is not about changing one privilege group for another one; painful reality that has tugged the history of humanity.
Just and sustainable economy
The economy must be at the service of humanity and not the other way around, because, if that happens, humanity is forced to serve those who control the economy. No economic variable should turn into a deity to guide our destiny; no any single economic group should come to be the helmsman of the planetary course. It is the whole Nation, the organized citizens in full democracies, who have the right to choose the direction to follow and those who will coordinate the social course. In summary, the course and way of functioning of a society cannot be defined by the market ((Who decides the market or the citizens?))—euphemism used to avoid mentioning the power to impose that the strongest detent—but by an increasingly organized and elucidated society.
The essential economic transformations ((Systemic transformation)) need to eliminate the huge concentration of wealth, allowing every inhabitant of this planet to generate social and environmental needed value. The way markets function cannot generate new courses and rules of functioning which are political in nature. If those changes were to occur, the new social and political dynamic would permeate towards the economic system aiming at transforming the productive matrix, the value generation process, and the income distribution ((Transformation of the productive matrix: sectorial, social, political aspects)).
In emergent economies a heavy challenge lays on solving recurrent external sector bottlenecks aggravated by and adverse international context that affects our exports. In such context, it is necessary to strengthen the internal market, promote strategic industries, reinforce import substitution, widen scientific and technological knowledge, abate capital flight and the large tax evasion, recuperate food sovereignty and develop energy sovereignty using hydric, eolian, and solar renewable resources, among others.
Fair justice despite being an oxymoron is one of the most important popular claims in almost all of our imperfect democracies. The Judiciary, largely appropriated by those who detent the power to impose, has turned into a trench for resisting transformations and punishing the most defenseless. Justice courts are not elected and legislations that rule them tend to have numerous loopholes apt for judges’ discretion. Thus, there are extended venality and judicial corruption with differentiated treatment for the powerful compared with the rest and that those subject to more rigorous proceedings are poor and defenseless sectors. This justice is an opprobrious obstacle. New rules to select judges and prosecutors must be established, ones that allow for the democratization of justice and elimination of every type of favoritism, in particular, towards economic power.
Frequently the media is concentrated in a few hands so that some networks enjoy the hegemony of the production of information through the vast web of televisions, radio stations, and newspapers they control, exercising a determinant influence over public opinion. These media networks usually have related interests with economic powers, covertly defending them: by hiding certain truths, deviating their audiences attention, misinforming, manipulating facts, generating confusion with their titles, endlessly repeating what they what to impose. A full democracy requires a diversity of voices operating on equal terms in finance and reach.
Educational system as shaper of persons of integrity
It is not useful for our countries an educational system that falls behind the huge changes that are taking place in communications, ecological crisis, economic and cultural inequalities, the extended existential alienation, among others. It is necessary an education shaper of persons of integrity with discernment skills and ability to act on that.
Let us imagine
As the States dedicated thousands of dollars to save banks and financial groups that contributed to generating the huge contemporary global crisis, why there is no decision to invest similar amounts to transform the economic systems to make them more stable, inclusive, and sustainable. For example, just one of many possible examples, it could be promoted the emergence of thousands of inclusive ventures with transforming potential ((Inclusive venture developers)) that could activate the battered local economies, deconcentrate the generation of value, and close technological gaps.
These transformations would substantially reduce environmental damage, social tensions, different type of alienation, geopolitical struggles. Let us imagine what would result by reorienting the creative potential to build instead of destroy, assist instead of impose, comprehend instead of confuse, reflect about the significance of our social and family functioning, caring for the rest and ourselves.
It is not an economic restriction what impedes choosing this better global and local course; rather it is the power to impose other quite different destinies that powerful groups detent, embedded as they are in the madness of maximizing benefits at any social or environmental cost. It is worth thinking about all this, imagining, understanding, and acting accordingly.