In his introduction to a reedition of René Descartes’ Discours sur la méthode, Jean-Paul Sartre wrote toward the end of his life that, “On ne peut pas faire ce qu’on veut, mais on peut vouloir ce qu’on peut!”(1979) Today, in our era of post-modernism’s disconnect between rhetoric and reason, desires seem to take on a life of their own. While the rapport de force between policy and practice is increasingly visible, individual resentment, envy, and greed are celebrated as cardinal virtues in many bourgeois circles.
If Lord Acton’s famous maxim is true --that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely-- then our research associates at CEIMSA should have no shortage of research opportunities in North American Studies, as long as 1% of the population owns 50% of the wealth in the USA. For a critique of the research methods and theories employed in Richard Barnet’s book, Global Reach, see the essay of Grenoble graduate student, Corrine Eldin Chait, "Theories and Methods Developed in Global Reach", Atelier No.0, article 14.]
We live in exciting times (keeping in mind the ancient Chinese prayer, “May the gods save us from exciting times!”) –the bloody massacres in the “Holy Land”, subsidized by billions of dollars in American grants each year. [For current up-dates on the Palestine-Israeli War, please visit http://www.aljazeerah.info/]; the economic collapse of Argentina, [please see Atelier No.17, article 16, «Eyes-only memos show who done it », by Greg Palast.]; the « war on terror » [please visit Atelier 11, and read articles 13 and 14, by Paul Mcgeough, Robert Fisk]; the lies and legal scandals of political leaders; and the chronic ache of low wages, unemployment, and part-time-temporary-job insecurity, the hallmark of advanced capitalist economies that plagues the daily lives of most families and remnants of families.
These are only a few of the topics which our Research Center is trying to address with the expert aid of new research, produced by graduate students, established scholars, and investigative reporters with international reputations for honesty and intellectual courage.
The Savings-and-Loan Scandal of the late 1980s [read Big Money Crime : Fraud and Politics in the Savings and Loan Crisis, by Kitty Calavita, Henry N. Pontell, Robert H. Tillman, Univ. of Cal. Press, 1999] which occurred during the Reagan-Bush presidencies is now being reenacted by Bush (fils) in the Enron Scandal [read Buy, Lie and Sell High: How Investors Lost Out on Enron and the Internet Bubble, by Daniel Quinn Mills, Financial Times-Prentice Hall Press, 2002] --only this time there appears a direct link between the president and the documented criminal activities of the chief executives of the corporation. [See David Corn’s investigative report, “Update on the Bush-Enron Oil Deal”, in Atelier No.15, article 23.]
The slash-and-burn economy is not new, but what is new is the growing number of sophisticated observers, who are well informed and pondering out loud, “what will be next…?”
The destabilization of societies and the systematic dismantling of socialist institutions (not to mention the liquidation of socialist milieux) from Nicaragua to the Former Soviet Union, has developed into a science, where economic plunder driven by the quest for private profits leaves in its wake social devastation and the ever real threat of nuclear war. (For an update on the threat of nuclear war under the current Bush administration please visit Atelier No.2, and read articles 11 and 12, "U.S. Works Up Plans for Using Nuclear Arms," by Paul Richter, and "Secret Plan Outlines the Unthinkable," by William Arkin.]
In the face of this violence, common dangers have been identified by growing numbers of people, and (post-modernism not withstanding) the crystallization of social movements appears as the result of this collective awareness. [Toxic waste dumping in southern China by U.S. corporations is the subject of a report by The Basel Action Network, in Atelier No.9, article 8: "High-Tech Toxic Trash".]
There is, of course, nothing new about hypocrisy. Although in these “post-modern” times attempts have been made to give it a literary legitimacy by borrowing from such 19th century works as Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Will to Power. [For a report on the U.S. government’s “will to power” in southern and eastern Afghanistan, see Alexander Cockburn’s article, "The Politics of a 'Bumper Crop' of Opium", in Atelier No.10.]
Hypocrisy is not new, nor is American Protectionism. Protective tariffs
are, of course, what built American industry. [See Richard Du Boff’s outstanding
economic history of the United States, Accumulation and Power,
M.E. Sharp, 1989.] During the Second Industrial Revolution, which followed
the American Civil War (1861-1865), new protective tariffs prevented European
products from being sold in the US. As a result, by the end of the century
the United States emerged as a world manufacturer, producing twice as much
as Great Britain, and fully one-third of the entire world's manufactured
goods. This was the Gilded Age, which Mark Twain made famous in
his satirical book by the same name. “Greed was God”, and Twain’s character,
Sellers, represented the new capitalist visionary in the 1870s:
Why what an infant you are [he told the aspiring young entrepreneur,
Washington, who wondered how much profits they would make
by marketing a new eye-wash product he was inventing] –what a
guileless, short-sighted, easily-contented innocent you are, my poor
little country-bred knownothing! … Now do I look like a man who
contents himself with the narrow horizon that hems in the common
herd, sees no further than the end of his nose? … Why, our head-
quarters would be in Constantinople and our hindquarters in Further
India! Factories and warehouses in Cairo, Ispahan, Bagdad, Damasus,
Jerusalem, Yedo, Peking, Bangkok, Delhi, Bombay, and Calcutta!
Annual income –well, God only knows how many millions and millions
Indeed, contrary to the rhetoric of free trade, U.S. government subsidies and protective tariffs made the American economy the international power that it is today, and knowing this economic history prepares us to understand President Bush’s recent decision to ratify as law the 30% protective tariff on steel imports, [For a critical discussion of this issue see Laura Flanders’ report, "Un-Fair U.S.-Led Global Economic Policies are Behind U.S. Steel's Crisis", article 22 in Atelier No.15.]
Finally, we remind our readers to visit the web site: www.commondreams.org for more information on contemporary developments in the United States and beyond….