Forex and intellectual property: the weapons of Empire

In the previous post, I outlined a hypothetical, centrally planned world economy. A question that naturally arises is how would  this world, planned economy deal with the economic imbalances between core and periphery.  I  have argued  before that garden variety anti-imperialism, where a peripheral region gains political independence from imperialist, core countries would still be economically subordinated (and therefore, in some sense politically) to core economies because there is almost no possibility for self-sufficiency/autarky in a global division of labour where the production of basic goods (clothing, medicine, computers) requires the coupling of resources/labour/technology across planetary scales. In other words, ultimately peripheral states, regardless if they are legally independent from core states, would require the purchasing of goods from imperialist countries, and therefore  will be forced to use  money that is valued in terms of  imperialist/core currency (e.g. dollars). So in my opinion, the destruction of imperialism can only be brought by a world, socialist economy, where the economy is planned at a  global scale in accordance to  planetary  constraints related to productivity, technological capacity, ecological limits and amounts of natural resources. This approach contrasts to development plans that assume a global market, given that the market will always favour those at the top of the geopolitical order.

An important question the socialist approach to resolving imperialism raises is whether workers from more affluent core regions would have to “foot the bill” so to speak.   It is important to answer this remark given that we live in a dark era of reaction where oppressed demographics, especially if they are not white, are considered deadweight and a drain. Furthermore,  much of the Left does not help, given that they phrase the question of emancipation of oppressed nations as ultimately resolved by zero-sum mechanisms, such as wealth redistribution, or “sacrificing” privilege. To put in another way,  it is implied that the more affluent and “white” working class will have to sacrifice their standards of living in order to emancipate oppressed nations.  I don’t believe that movements arise out of merely altruistic impulses, but from the realization that change will bring material betterment for the movement’s members.   If socialism requires that the majority of people in core regions sacrifice, then the whole project will be doomed unless there is a a sudden restructuring of the world economy that causes massive pauperization of core states.  Yet, I don’t believe that the resolution of the core-periphery asymmetry will appear as a zero-sum movement of wealth from the Global North to the Global South; in fact, this  argument comes from the corrupted perspective that material wealth is accurately represented by money.  In other words,  because social security, bailouts, and loans take the form of money that is extracted from taxes,  popular intuition renders the question of equalization as a transfer of wealth.   Yet,  a key issue to eliminate the core-periphery asymmetry is the  destruction of money as the mediator of wealth.

Why is the destruction of money important to eliminate imperialism? Money does not only mediate natural resources, or real capital (e.g. factories and technology), but embodies an opaque set of relations that includes financial and geopolitical/military balances of power. The value of the dollar and other global, reserve currencies is a function of the  geopolitical, military and financial balance of power that has been determined by centuries of wars, colonialism, and technological dominance. To put in another way, in the era of fiat money, reserve currency embodies credibility and trust, which is merely the representation of existing power relations that were imposed often through decades or even centuries of violence.  This is clearly evidenced in Greek debt crisis, where Syriza, an ostensibly anti-capitalist party that won the elections under a euro-sceptic platform in 2015, ultimately decided against pulling out of the euro-zone and against printing their own currency, given that Greece would be in the losing end of the balance of power, and therefore their currency would  be worthless to the global economy.  Instead, Greece  chose to be tied to the euro, which embodies the credibility and dominance of Germany, the latter a country with a long imperialist history. One of the means in which the core maintains its dominance over the periphery is that wealth is mediated by global reserve currency, the latter’s value which is determined by the dominance of  core states, and therefore it does not reflect necessarily a country’s available natural resources, labour power, and productive capacities.

Currency dominance couples to the opaque intellectual property of the core economies, where the engineering and science behind capital intensive technologies is rendered a trade secret, or simply becomes gated away by complex intellectual property laws.  Modern life in virtually every corner of the market requires access  to capital intensive technologies in order to produce even the most basic needs, such as electricity, automobiles, computers and medicine.  Although many peripheral regions, such as Africa, have the available natural resources to produce these technologies, they lack the technical expertise and  the trade secrets that are gated away in the core states. The imperial pecking order thus forces peripheral states to sell their natural resources cheaply for “imperialist” currency so that they can use the same currency to have access to commodities that require capital intensive technologies, commodities which are ultimately sold by core states.  The only alternative is to reverse engineer the core’s trade secrets,  which is a slow and labor intensive process that will still leave the periphery in a disadvantageous position, as ultimately, the core will keep increasing productive capabilities, making it impossible for the periphery to catch up in the global market. A good example of this phenomenon is the way many peripheral countries with oil reserves end up buying  gasoline from core states. Although some of these (semi)peripheral countries, such as Mexico, have the technological capacity to refine oil, they can never do it as efficiently and cheaply as the core economies, constraining the periphery to use global reserve currencies and also become dependent on the cores’ technological secrecy, deepening the core-periphery asymmetry.

A socialist, planetary economy would have to decouple itself from money,  as the value of currency does not reflect social need, but the balance of power, and ultimately the dominance of the core states. Instead, the development of the periphery should be planned in accordance to the available labour pool and natural resources, and under the assumption that information and technical expertise is widely available.   Today, the game is rigged for the periphery, and their contribution  to the global economy, in terms of  natural resources and labour, is under-valued, given that  the value  of global reserve currency, and the prices themselves, are  shaped by the geopolitical, financial, military and technological might of core states. A  socialist development program would not depend in lowering the standards of living of core workers,  as it will not take the form of a “tax” extracted from core workers and transferred to the periphery, but rather, it would be enforced by the transfer of technical expertise and the loaning of capital-intensive technologies to the periphery,  and ultimately, in fully integrating peripheral labour and resources into a  large-scale and planetary, world socialist republic. Such a plan would not just be carried out of humanitarian concern for the fellow human, but simply by the well known fact that elevating everyone to a decent standard of living  will have long-term, positive consequences for core workers as well.




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