Confronting the Impact of Neoliberal Free Trade Policies
on Labor and the Environment
Richard D. Vogel
Copyright © 2009 by Richard D. Vogel
Permission to copy granted.
Modern economic class struggle--the unremitting fight over the distribution of the wealth created by social production that erupted in the 19th century and dominated the 20th-- underlies all of the major impending crises of the 21st century.
The stakes of this historic conflict are higher than they have ever been. Every aspect of human life is changing at an unprecedented rate, and three overarching trends that will affect the lives of everyone on the planet have been confirmed beyond any reasonable doubt.i These three global megatrends are:
- Increasing globalization
- Rising local, regional, and global inequality and growing absolute poverty--all factors that intensify political conflict
- Global climate change
These three megatrends are interrelated--all of them are consequences of unrestrained global capitalism which is relentlessly exploiting the resources and working people of the world in the process of accumulating capital for those who own the means of production and finance.
The United States of America is the biggest player in the expansion of global capitalism. The free trade policies adopted by the USA after World War II and imposed on virtually the entire world during the last 30 years are the driving forces behind the present megatrends that are plaguing the modern world.
Increasing globalization, the domination of the world economy by transnational capitalism, is the primary global megatrend. This ever-increasing concentration of economic power is the cause of the two secondary global megatrends: rising economic inequality between people and among nations, and runaway global climate change.
In matrix 1, the socioeconomic and environmental outcomes of the secondary megatrends are linked to their respective sources by black lines. These concrete consequences of globalization are seen everywhere and in every aspect of human life on earth: fabulous wealth for the few and grinding poverty for the masses; the privatization of all aspects of social life and the lack of basic social services for growing segments of the population; the militarization of civil society and the world; and the reckless destruction of the environment.
Matrix 1, which identifies the relationships between the megatrends of the modern world and their results, offers a ready reference for meaningful debates on contemporary political issues.
The megatrend of rising inequality presents an unparalleled threat to political stability worldwide and deserves particular attention.