and out of borders. Roosevelt argued that the United States had been in a deep depression and a deflationary period because the monetary system was effectively managed by Wall Street.
He began the process of dismantling the monetary system by demanding that interest rates – and other important levers in the economy – would no longer be decided by Wall Street. This put the government in the driving seat of the economy. Roosevelt was also faced with a catastrophic ecological crisis during the Dust Bowl [severe dust storms that hit the American prairies during the 1930s]. Trees had to be planted, and soil restored back to health. There was a lot of investment in people and in the land during the New Deal.
Your book talks about “the hegemony and imperialism” of the US dollar. Globally, what impact does the US dollar have on economics and geopolitics? The power of the dollar is backed up by the military and economic power of the United States. But the way that power is managed is devastating and harmful for the ecosystem and the planet. By “dollarising” the entire global economy, we are being subjected to what is good for the United States.
This means massive imbalances in the global economy, particularly for countries in the Global South. This has led to political tensions that could eventually result in World War Three. So we can choose to go to war, or we can choose to alter the [financial] system that causes these imbalances.
Do global institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) do more harm than good? The IMF and the World Bank have lost their way and no longer exist to bring prosperity to countries. These global institutions act as agents for global capital markets and have become enforcers and policemen who act on behalf of the world’s creditors. Those creditors can be countries, corporate firms (such as, say, the global investment management company Blackrock) or private individuals.
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Can individual countries effectively challenge global market forces? If a country like Britain wants to “take back control”, then it needs to manage the flow of capital across its borders. This would ensure that global capitalist markets don’t get to decide what is the rate of interest for Britain, or what Britain should be investing in or not. If the flow of capital isn’t controlled, these choices tend to be made beyond the control of individual countries, their governments and their representatives.
Your book is tough on multinational corporations. Why are you so critical of them? Big corporations come and operate in the UK and then refuse to pay taxes. They then take their profits and invest them in Ireland or somewhere else where their tax rates are low. They can do this because of capital mobility. If we want the tax system to be fairer, we have to manage the flow of capital across borders. To Apple, Amazon and other such corporations, we need to be saying: if you are making profits here in this country, you must pay your taxes. But governments cannot do that if these corporations have the power to move their money without any hindrance whatsoever.
So in a sense, we are powerless against these toobig-to-fail companies? No. We have the power to leverage our negotiation with them. Because these companies need assets that public institutions create. Global capitalist markets and institutions depend on governments to create credit because they need collateral: a guarantee which they then use to create new cash. We need to understand that we own assets or collateral that are absolutely essential to the global capitalist markets.
Right-wing populism is currently ascendent in many countries, including the UK and the US. What are the realistic chances of the Green New Deal being implemented? It’s a really tough time for greens, progressives and people on the left. We have been beaten by the right, who are demanding protectionism. Authoritarianism is winning the argument because the left haven’t made an alternative one. It will take a crisis for the [global political spectrum] to shift. But we are due an environmental, financial and geopolitical crisis. And when that happens the question will be: what do we do to save the world? The Green New Deal may seem utopian right now. But it’s a plan for how to deal with the crisis when it arrives.
So the authoritarian right are winning the antiglobalisation argument? We are seeing authoritarianism all around the world: in the Philippines, Russia, Turkey, India and the United States, where [governments] promise to protect their people from globalisation. But they do it in a reactionary way. They are not interested in protecting the people. They want to
New Humanist | Spring 2020