Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Ralston Saul On Trumpland

To help explain what is happening in Donald Trump's United States, Chris Hedges has turned to John Ralston Saul. Saul believes that the United States has experienced a "corporate coup d' etat in slow motion:"

“Congress works through corruption,” Saul, the author of books such as “Voltaire’s Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West” and “The Collapse of Globalism and the Reinvention of the World,” said when we spoke in Toronto. “I look at Congress and I see the British Parliament in the late 18th century, the rotten boroughs. Did they have elections? Yes. Were the elections exciting? Yes. They were extremely exciting.”
Rotten boroughs were the 19th-century version of gerrymandering. The British oligarchs created electoral maps through which depopulated boroughs—50 of them had fewer than 50 voters—were easily dominated by the rich to maintain control of the House of Commons. In the United States, our ruling class has done much the same, creating districts where incumbents, who often run unchallenged, return to Congress election after election. Only about 40 of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives are actually contested. And given the composition of the Supreme Court, especially with Donald Trump poised to install another justice, it will get worse.

Moreover, the country's central doctrine -- the free market -- is a lie. That lie is at the heart of Trump's trade war:

Trump’s decision to launch a trade war—Canada will impose punitive measures on $12.63 billion worth of imported American goods in response—is an example of the damage a despot who has little understanding of the economy, politics, international relations or law can do. These self-inflicted wounds, Saul warned, see despots intensify attacks on the demonized and the vulnerable, such as Muslims and the undocumented. Despots frantically scapegoat others for their mess, often inciting violence among their supporters to placate an inchoate rage.
Trump has again and again attacked the Canadian dairy system. Nobody has stopped to ask him, ‘Why are you opposing this instead of adopting it for yourself?’ A lot of American dairy farmers would like to have the Canadian system.”
The free market approach to agriculture produces a surplus that drives prices down and destroys the income of farmers,” Saul said. “There are two ways of responding to this. One of them is subsidizing. Europe, following the old social democratic approach, subsidizes their agricultural sector. This drives down the income of farmers, so [the governments] subsidize [agriculture] more. They have enormous surpluses. Periodically, they’re throwing millions of tomatoes on the streets.”
“The United States claims it embraces the free market, but it does the same thing as the Europeans,” Saul said. “It too heavily subsidizes the agricultural industry. This leads to American dairy farmers producing too much milk. This economic argument says the way to win is to mass-produce cheap goods. This is the Walmart argument. You’re not selling your milk or cheese for enough to make a living. The end result is, even though you subsidize them, the farmers go bankrupt. They commit suicide. You have terrible unhappiness in the [U.S.] dairy community.”
"We have a very efficient management system in Canada that keeps the prices up, not so high that working-class people can’t buy milk and cheese, but it keeps the prices up high enough that farmers can make a proper living,” Saul said. “Because farmers can make a proper living they’re not committing suicide. What Trump is saying to Canadians is that they should give up a system that works so Canadian farmers can commit suicide with American farmers.”

Saul believes that overproduction is central to the world's economic malaise:

“The problem with the Western world is surplus production,” Saul said. “We’re in surplus production in almost every area. But there is a terrible distribution system where people around the globe suffer and die from starvation. This is a distribution problem, not a production problem.”

And Donald Trump will do nothing to remedy that problem. He'll only  make it worse -- and bring the roof down on Trumpland.

Image: Print Media Centr


Lorne said...

Unfortunately, Owen, Saul's arguments, while sound, require some careful reading and reflecting. For Trump and his base, it is so much easier to simply react and fulminate.

Glad to see you back!

Owen Gray said...

A number of years ago, Lorne, I used to listen to a show every Saturday on NPR. It was called "Car Talk" The two mechanics on the show were brothers -- both educated at MIT. One of them had a doctorate. The subject was cars -- but they talked about so much more. One of their favourite topics was people who were, in their words, "unencumbered by the thought process." That phrase accurately describes Mr. Trump and his retinue.

Anonymous said...

I listened to a “Canada Talks” (National Post radio) segment yesterday regarding this topic. I believe a speaker was Diane Finley who saw nothing but horror over this issue; high consumer prices, millionaire farmers, angry foreign dairy producers locked out of Canadian market, etc. Maxine’s maxim. Interestingly, not shared by Scheer tho’.
What seems clear to me anyway is that what Wisconsin and other US dairy farmers want is to send their subsidized (I.e. cheaper) overproduction right here in Canada. Problem solved and who cares about the effect on Canadian farmers.
Sugar, corn, dairy I believe are subsidized crops in America, Not exactly free market and how do other nations compete with that system?
There is a corn / ethanol plant near Chatham! ON where I’m told all corn converted there comes from US corn belt, though SW Ontario is a major producer of corn. Mac

Owen Gray said...

"Free Market" is just a euphemism for "Me First," Mac. And that's Trump's message to the world.

The Mound of Sound said...

This may be an outlier but I saw an interview with a Wisconsin dairy farmer who blamed their plight not on Canada but on state and federal governments who created incentive plans to induce farmers to expand dairy production to meet a supposed market that never was. This fellow was going out of business but he laid the blame for his misfortune directly at the feet of his own governments.

Trump has made his fortune by never failing to exploit someone else's misfortune and vulnerability. The guy truly is diabolical. In addition to his other psychological disabilities, Donald Trump is an unrestrained sociopath.

Owen Gray said...

I caught a piece the other day about the history of a family farm. The modern farm has cows -- about a dozen of them -- on revolving platforms, attached to milking machines, which are released automatically when the cow is dry.

Apparently, at the turn of the last century, each cow produced about 14 lbs of milk. These days, each cow produces about 90 lbs of milk. With all that investment in technology, if farmers can't sell the 90 lbs each cow produces, they go bankrupt.