Like the other 111,725 people at the spectacular Irish humiliation on Saturday, I had a really good time. I’ve been going to Michigan football games since I was too young to remember them, and Saturday’s was one of the great ones of my life.
Not only were we incredibly successful against Notre Dame, the other university with such a rich, historical football tradition, but the student section was out of control. It was notably loud for a stadium known for being gigantic, but quiet. The highlight for me, however, was that I got to play the cowbell in the stands, a role with which Michigan faithful are very familiar.
The cowbell belonged to my friend Jeff, and I operated it for him because of my musical background. After a while, I jokingly said to him, “Jeff, this is like socialism because you own the means of production, and I am the proletariat operating them for you.”
Clearly, students at the University are not members of the proletariat class. They may think they are or fancy themselves as being members of the proletariat, but the point of going to college is to become a part of the knowledge- and skill-based economy. But there are a number of students here and at universities around the world who have been confused into believing that they are members of the proletariat and that they must rise up against a capitalistic conspiracy.
On Sunday, the World Trade Organization trade negotiations collapsed in Cancun, Mexico, as developed and developing nations could not agree on much of anything. The developing countries wanted the rich nations, such as the United States and the European Union, to reduce their tariffs and their domestic subsidies, and the rich nations wouldn’t do it. In recent years, the United States has pressured countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines to open their agricultural markets and engage in trade with the rest of the world. They agreed, but we continued subsidizing our farmers, which only further impoverished their third-world counterparts. This is a particularly heartless policy because of the United States’s dark history in those two countries.
As usual, thousands of protesters greeted the delegates in Mexico to protest against free trade, capitalism and international economic organizations. These people surely have a right to protest against the talks, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out why they’d want to. It seems that they actually believe the quip I told Jeff at the football game. They see the world the way Karl Marx saw it – composed of owners and proletariats, and for some reason, they have decided to side with those countries most resembling the owners. By protesting talks designed to let farmers and workers around the world sell their products to developed nations, they are in effect advocating on behalf of the status quo – a status quo that keeps millions, if not billions, of people around the world in desperate poverty.
By trying to stop the negotiations, the protesters are making the point that subsidizing U.S., European and Japanese farmers at the expense of farmers in poorer nations is fair. Either they have not fully thought through the implications of their actions, or they are actually more concerned with the plight of the farmers in the developed world than the poverty farmers in the Third World.
But those on the left are not the only ones supporting policies that they probably don’t intend to advocate. By bowing to political interests and not expanding free trade and the wealth that globalization can create around the world, the Bush administration is pursuing a policy that will keep the developing world in wretched economic despair. Not only is this morally repugnant (I wish I had more space to discuss how morally repugnant this is), but like the leftists, he is pursuing a policy that will result in consequences he surely will not want to face. The reasoning behind his decision to provide massive amounts of funding to fight AIDS around the world and to bring prosperity to the Middle East is so states will not be vulnerable to those forces wanting to use them as terrorist havens. He seems to know that stability depends on at least a moderate level of prosperity.
So in the name of slowing globalization, we have populists fighting to expand poverty and a war president creating instability. Bourgeoisie unite!
CORRECTION: My last column mistakenly stated that Audrey Hepburn passed away this year. It should have read that Katharine Hepburn died at the age of 96.
Pesick can be reached at email@example.com.