Nepali Times Asian Paints
DANIEL LAK
Here And There
The Anglo-Saxon disease


DANIEL LAK


Call it, if you like, the European disease: the penchant for long paid holidays, 35-hour working weeks, Mediterranean lunch breaks, siestas, social provisions like paternity leave and workers' compensation for the ill and injured.

Hang on a minute. Disease? Surely some mistake. It all sounds a lot more like civilisation than anything that needs to be cured or changed. But alas, Europe's civilised approach to capitalism, rather than catching on, is to be scrapped or modified. A left-of-centre government in Germany and a rightist administration in France agree on this. European workers have it too good. Too good for whom? It's a legitimate question.

Productivity in most European countries is higher than in America or Britain. Companies are profitable, exports are doing well, all the usual banker measures are being met. So why, oh why, does it have to be changed?

The answer lies in a look at the evolution of the western market economy. Economists talk about two broadly defined types of capitalism-Anglo-Saxon and European. The first is how the Americans and the post-Thatcher British do business. Robust pro-entrepreneur policies, deregulation, minimal government, labour unions kept in the background and minimal environmental protection.

On the democratic side of Cold War Europe, faced with Soviet Communism and powerful left-wing and Marxist forces in their own countries, Germany, France, the Netherlands and the rest evolved what's known as a "social market economy". This meant building up private companies, giving them government favours in exchange for workers' rights and encouraging a mixed approach to the market. A little left, a little right. It worked wonderfully. Some of us think it had as much to do with defeating Moscow as Ronald Reagan's defence budgets and bellicose rhetoric. Perhaps more.

However, in the current post-cold war era, we are gripped by globalised free market fundamentalism. Social markets are a threat to the funds, so they must go. Capital manipulators attack countries that don't follow austere Anglo-Saxon ways. What they're doing is dumping on the European worker. What they say they're doing is building a sustainable system.

None of this is happening with any debate whatsoever, save among obviously interested parties like public service unions and right-wing think tanks funded by investment banks. Not to mention, the World Bank, IMF, the US treasury department and, for a time, our friends at Britain's own Department for International Development.

All this is happening before countries like Nepal can even begin to evolve a local market economy that would obviously be much more amenable to the European model than the British-American. After all, the country faces its own threats from the extreme left-never mind that Marx or Mao hardly had a feudal developing country in mind when they drew up their ideas far too many years ago.

Nepal should be more like Europe, and less like America or Mao's China. And that opportunity is disappearing thanks to the misguided forces of global capital. Call it irony, if you like. I call it the Anglo-Saxon disease.


LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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