Propaganda works by sanctifying a single value, such as faith, or patriotism. Anyone who questions it puts themselves outside the circle of respectable opinion. The sacred value is used to obscure the intentions of those who champion it. Today, the value is freedom. Freedom is a word that powerful people use to shut down thought.When thinktanks and the billionaire press call for freedom, they are careful not to specify whose freedoms they mean. Freedom for some, they suggest, means freedom for all. In certain cases, this is true. You can exercise freedom of thought, for instance, without harming others. In other cases, one person’s freedom is another’s captivity.
Category Archives: Economy
IT WAS as though the world had a new appetite. A Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) outlet opened near Tiananmen Square in 1987. In 1990 a McDonald’s sprang up in Pushkin Square, flipping burgers for 30,000 Muscovites on its first day. Later that year Ronald McDonald rolled into Shenzhen, China, too. Between 1990 and 2005 the two companies’ combined foreign sales soared by 400%.McDonald’s and KFC embodied an idea that would become incredibly powerful: global firms, run by global managers and owned by global shareholders, should sell global products to global customers. For a long time their planet-straddling model was as hot, crisp and moreish as their fries. Today both companies have gone soggy. Their shares have lagged behind America’s stockmarket over the past half-decade. Yum, which owns KFC, saw its foreign profits peak in 2012; they have fallen by 20% since. Those of McDonald’s are down by 29% since 2013 (see article). Last year Yum threw in the towel in China and spun off its business there. On January 8th McDonald’s sold a majority stake in its Chinese operation to a state-owned firm. There are specific reasons for some of this; but there is also a broader trend. The world is losing its taste for global businesses.
In barely a month, US President Donald Trump has managed to spread chaos and uncertainty – and a degree of fear that would make any terrorist proud – at a dizzying pace. Not surprisingly, citizens and leaders in business, civil society, and government are struggling to respond appropriately and effectively.Any view regarding the way forward is necessarily provisional, as Trump has not yet proposed detailed legislation, and Congress and the courts have not fully responded to his barrage of executive orders. But recognition of uncertainty is not a justification for denial.
Dolblij was Thijs toen hij aan de slag kon bij Ryanair. Hij had tientallen sollicitatiebrieven gestuurd en was anderhalf jaar op zoek naar een baan als piloot. Met een dikke ton schuld voor zijn vliegopleiding maakte hij zich zorgen of hij ooit nog aan de bak zou komen. Het telefoontje van Ryanair kwam dus als een verlossing.De selectie bleek een eitje: een gesprekje van een kwartier met twee piloten en een test van een kwartier in de vliegsimulator. Hij was zo aangenomen. Maar toen hij zijn contract onder ogen kreeg, moest Thijs even slikken. Hij moest samen met twee andere piloten die hij niet kende en ook nooit zou leren kennen een bv oprichten in Ierland. Hij zou als mededirecteur van zijn eigen bedrijf en als ‘zelfstandige’ voor Ryanair gaan vliegen. Dat gebeurde via een uitzendbureau voor piloten dat hem maandelijks uitbetaalde.
A half-hearted near handshake between US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin before and after they spoke «for about four minutes», standing up, on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Lima, Peru, captured to perfection the melancholic dwindling of the Obama era.
Donald Trump’s red wave on Election Day was an unprecedented body blow against neoliberalism. The stupid early-1990s prediction about the ‘end of history’ turned into a – possible – shock of the new.The new global nativism? Perhaps a new push towards democratic socialism? Too early to tell.Once again. A body blow, not a death blow. Like the cast of The Walking Dead, the zombie neoliberal elite simply won’t quit. For the Powers That Be/Deep State/Wall Street axis, there’s only one game in town, and that is to win, at all costs. Failing that, to knock over the whole chessboard, as in hot war.
The Pritzker family is one of the wealthiest in the United States. Their assets, which amount to $15bn, are held in 60 companies and 2,500 trusts, using structures and strategies that Forbes magazine – normally a cheerleader for wealthy elites – describes with an unusual hint of moral distaste as “shadowy … constructed to discourage outside inquiry – and brilliantly exploitative of loopholes in the tax code.”
This complex asset-holding structure was created not by the Pritzker family itself but by its lawyers, accountants, tax specialists and investment advisers. In this respect, the Pritzkers are no different to tens of thousands of super-rich families and individuals worldwide, who use the services of wealth managers. These professionals not only shelter wealth from taxation but, in the words of one academic paper, serve to “obscure concentrations of economic power”, using vehicles that make it difficult, if not impossible, to identify the true owners of wealth.
Almost six years ago, President Putin proposed to Germany ‘the creation of a harmonious economic community stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok.’This idea represented an immense trade emporium uniting Russia and the EU, or, in Putin’s words, “a unified continental market with a capacity worth trillions of dollars.”In a nutshell: Eurasia integration.Washington panicked. The record shows how Putin’s vision – although extremely seductive to German industrialists – was eventually derailed by Washington’s controlled demolition of Ukraine.
In a seminar room in Oxford, one of the reporters who worked on the Panama Papers is describing the main conclusion he drew from his months of delving into millions of leaked documents about tax evasion. “Basically, we’re the dupes in this story,” he says. “Previously, we thought that the offshore world was a shadowy, but minor, part of our economic system. What we learned from the Panama Papers is that it is the economic system.”
Luke Harding, a former Moscow correspondent for The Guardian, was in Oxford to talk about his work as one of four hundred–odd journalists around the world who had access to the 2.6 terabytes of information about tax havens—the so-called Panama Papers—that were revealed to the world in simultaneous publication in eighty countries this spring. “The economic system is, basically, that the rich and the powerful exited long ago from the messy business of paying tax,” Harding told an audience of academics and research students. “They don’t pay tax anymore, and they haven’t paid tax for quite a long time. We pay tax, but they don’t pay tax. The burden of taxation has moved inexorably away from multinational companies and rich people to ordinary people.”
The extraordinary material in the documents drew the curtain back on a world of secretive tax planning, just as WikiLeaks had revealed the backroom chatter of diplomats and Edward Snowden had shown how intelligence agencies could routinely scoop up vast server farms of data on entire populations. The Panama Papers—a name chosen for its echoes of Daniel Ellsberg’s 1971 leak of the Pentagon Papers—unveiled how a great many rich individuals used one Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca (“Mossfon” for short), to shield their money from prying eyes, whether it was tax authorities, law enforcement agencies, or vengeful former spouses.
The CEO of Enron – now in prison – happily applied ‘selfish gene’ logic to his human capital, thus creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Assuming that the human species is driven purely by greed and fear, Jeffrey Skilling produced employees driven by the same motives. Enron imploded under the mean-spirited weight of his policies, offering a preview of what was in store for the world economy as a whole.
An avowed admirer of Richard Dawkins’ gene-centric view of evolution, Skilling mimicked natural selection by ranking his employees on a one-to-five scale representing the best (one) to the worst (five). Anyone with a ranking of five got axed, but not without first having been humiliated on a website featuring his or her portrait. Under this so-called ‘Rank & Yank’ policy, people proved perfectly willing to slit one another’s throats, resulting in a corporate atmosphere marked by appalling dishonesty within and ruthless exploitation outside the company.