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2008-03-31

Loretta Napoleoni on "Rogue Economics: Capitalism’s New Reality"

Guests

Loretta Napoleoni, Economist, syndicated journalist and bestselling author of Terror, Inc.: Tracing the Money Behind Global Terrorism. Her latest book is called Rogue Economics: Capitalism"s New Reality.

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Italian economist, journalist and author Loretta Napoleoni argues that recent events on Wall Street indicate a much larger upheaval and could “signal the end of the ‘Roaring Nineties,’ nearly two decades of easy money, cheap credit, and soaring global debt.” It’s an argument Napoleoni develops in her latest book called Rogue Economics: Capitalism’s New Reality. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN:

US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson will unveil his blueprint today for the biggest overhaul of financial regulation since the Great Depression. As the dollar continues to sink and the credit crisis continues to grow, Paulson is expected to outline the Bush administration’s plan for Washington’s role in the market. But some analysts suggest the proposal will have little to do with the real scope of the current crisis.

In an article in the Chicago Tribune, Italian economist, journalist, author Loretta Napoleoni argues, recent events on Wall Street indicate a much larger upheaval and could “signal the end of the ‘Roaring Nineties,’ nearly two decades of easy money, cheap credit, and soaring global debt.” It’s an argument Napoleoni develops in her latest book called Rogue Economics: Capitalism’s New Reality.

We’re joined right now by Loretta Napoleoni, just before she heads back to London. Thank you very much for being with us.

LORETTA NAPOLEONI:

Thank you for inviting me.

AMY GOODMAN:

What do you mean by "rogue economics"?

LORETTA NAPOLEONI:

Rogue economics is a sort of umbrella under which we find the criminal economy, the illegal economy, but also those gray areas, gray areas where there is not a proper regulation, where there is not legislation for the economy. Now, these gray areas in this particular crisis are being created by globalization. Now, this happens generally when there are great transformations. We have seen it during the Industrial Revolution, but we also have seen it during the crisis in 1929. The economy suddenly starts moving faster than politics, and politics can’t manage to keep pace with it, so it can’t manage to regulate the economy. So, the current crisis is the product of the 1990s, of the easy money, cheap credit of the 1990s.

AMY GOODMAN:

You begin your book with a very provocative idea of democracy and slavery coinciding in many different countries at many different times.

LORETTA NAPOLEONI:

Yes, that’s one of the phenomena of rogue economics. So I found a correlation between the spreading of democracy after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the rise in slavery. Now, as countries, former Communist countries, became so-called democratic, people started to be enslaved by their own countrymen.

And the first example is the most shocking example, I would say, is the rise in sex slaves and also prostitution in Western Europe. Women from the former Soviet bloc were lured into prostitution, sex slavery by the Mafia. These women were desperate, because with the collapse of the Communist economy, they were unemployed. I mean, women unemployment went from virtually zero, before the fall of the Wall, to 80 percent. These women were desperate. They had to feed their own children, so they became prostitutes. So this is just one of the examples.

But we also see this phenomenon in the past. I mean, decolonization actually boosted slavery. As foreign powers withdrew from the colonies, people were enslaved by their own countrymen. And we see it in Africa, we see it in Asia.

AMY GOODMAN:

Give more examples.

LORETTA NAPOLEONI:

Well, I think one interesting example, for example, is what’s happened in a certain sector, for example, the cocoa production in the Ivory Coast. The majority of the cocoa that we eat, it is actually produced by young kids which are being enslaved in the plantations of the Ivory Coast. Ivory Coast is the largest producer of cocoa. Now, why does this happen? This happens for a series of complicated reasons, which are also the economic dependency of Africa from the industrialized countries. So, I mean —

AMY GOODMAN:

These are large multinational corporations, the cocoa companies.

LORETTA NAPOLEONI:

Yes, absolutely. Cocoa companies are controlled by a group of multinationals. So is coffee. Coffee is controlled by two main multinationals, which is Nestle and Starbucks. So, sometimes when we drink our coffee, we don’t know that this coffee is actually produced by slaves, that it is produced through exploitation of growers in Africa, and this is because of the globalization market.

AMY GOODMAN:

What about going back in history to slavery in this country, in the United States?

LORETTA NAPOLEONI:

Well, I think that what we are facing today is something very, very similar to what’s happened in this country several centuries ago, because when I talk about slavery, I do not talk about the new form of slavery. I talk about people who are deprived of their freedom, who are forced to work for, you know, the slave traders, who are given only the sustenance to survive and nothing else. It is true slavery.

AMY GOODMAN:

Do you view the US economy as a rogue economy?

LORETTA NAPOLEONI:

Yes, of course, the US economy it is a rogue economy. All Western economies at the moment are rogue economies, for the simple reason that politics has lost control of the economy. And I’ll give you an example. This decision of President Bush, for example, to give a tax rebate could end up being a rogue maneuver without even the President or the administration wanted that. So, we give a tax rebate to people in order to boost consumption. But if these people buy products, which are produced abroad, for example, in the Far East and China, the benefit of this new consumption is not going to stay inside the US economy. And that’s one aspect. The other aspect is how many people will use the tax rebate to pay back part of their credit card debt, because, you know, bankruptcy, personal bankruptcy in this country in 2006 was — the rate of growth was higher than the rate of growth of the GDP. This is a country which is in serious economic problems.

AMY GOODMAN:

You talk about high-tech as a mixed blessing; why?

LORETTA NAPOLEONI:

Well, I take it as a mixed blessing, because, to a certain extent, it gave us the possibility to spread information through the internet, of course, all over the world. Here we are, and people can watch us, which is fantastic. But at the same time, the internet has become a new vehicle for theft, for criminal activities, prostitution, pornography, and so on and so forth. I mean, for example, pornography, child pornography is the biggest business in the internet. So why is it a mixed blessing? Because nobody can control the internet. So that’s a very good example of rogue economics.

AMY GOODMAN:

Back here in this country, the bailout of Bear Stearns, the intervention of the Fed, your analysis of that?

LORETTA NAPOLEONI:

I think that’s very much in line with what has happened in the United Kingdom with Northern Rock. The panic at the moment is that if one bank folds, then we’re going to have a domino effect. So, this is exactly what has happened in 1929. The crash of 1929 was not really the cause of the Depression. The cause of the Depression was the failure of banks, and people panicking. So what the Fed is trying to do is trying to prevent another massive failure of banks. Now, why Bear Stearns ended up in that situation, that’s the key question. Why was a bank allowed to borrow way over the amount of money that it could actually pay back? This is the key question. And the answer is, lack of regulation. And even this proposal, that is on the table today, I mean, really —

AMY GOODMAN:

We have five seconds

LORETTA NAPOLEONI:

Well, even this proposal, it would be only a temporary — it would be a band-aid. It’s not going to solve the problem.

AMY GOODMAN:

I want to thank you very much for joining us, Loretta Napoleoni. Her book is called Rogue Economics.

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