Posted tagged ‘monopoly’

FOOD CRISIS AND ORGANIZED PANIC BY FOOD CARTELS & OLIGARCHY

January 27, 2014

FOOD CRISIS AND ORGANIZED PANIC BY FOOD CARTELS & OLIGARCHY

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

We’re having a production-related problem with rice today in the Philippines today, which looks more like an echo problem of a larger global phenomenon of food crisis. Riots have already been experienced in at least 33 countries, and we may expect the frequency to rise in the months ahead.

To single out production factors, and especially to pinpoint flawed land-use patterns as the cause of the crisis, tends to blur the real cause behind much of our peace and development problems in the world today. This crisis is one of the anarchic results of orchestrations done by financial speculators over a stretch of three (3) decades, followed through recently by food cartels’ machinations to heighten up their looting of the public’s resources via the food market.

Let us recall that as early as the 1980s, the move towards liberalizing the food markets and integrate this sector into the evolving ‘virtual economy’—by unleashing speculative practices on agricultural products via instrument of ‘commodities markets’—already crept into our national boundaries. Gradually did the pattern get integrated into a global mesh of transactions involving not only food but a long list of articles of trade and services being transacted via the secondary markets or hedge funds.

The objective, as far as this observer now sees it, is to emerge a few gigantic cartels globally that some day dominate a global oligopoly. Probably as little as five (5) such colossal mega-corporations will be well prepositioned to control global food, thus enabling their control not only of the gene stocks (intellectual properties) but of prices most of all.

This scenario is now happening in steel. As soon as we hit the 900+ tones per annum or TPA production of global steel in the 1990s, plans were already afoot to eventually cartelize steel via mergers of giant steel firms, with the participation of fund managers in the process and ownership structures. The merger of Mittal and Alcelor, which resulted to the gigantic firm that now produces over 100 tpa, had now clearly substantiated this long forecast move to cartelize steel. In the near future, just about 3-5 such giants, each one producing 150+ tpa, will be left to control the global market of steel.

Didn’t you notice the sudden fluctuations in the prices of metals globally beginning in the middle of this decade yet? Often than not, based on our experience of the depression-era Weimar Republic, this phenomenon of hyper-inflationary swings in base and precious metal prices are preceding events prior to a global depression. This time around, the panic created by the corresponding process would be the sweetening of the steel merger option (with fund manager participation or rather manipulation) and, voila! Steel cartels are up! Hail the Cartels to the highest heavens!

The pattern is getting to be noxiously obvious that even a mere high school student of economics and history could easily see them. This same pattern is now creeping thru the food sector, even as it has also been taking down aluminum, nickel, copper, gold, banking, retail, realty, and lots of more sectors, with steel being the prototype experiment.

For the sharp observers out there, do make your tallies now as to which of the present food giants would emerge the victors. I will not be surprised if one day, my country’s own biggest F&B group, the San Miguel Corporation, will be gobbled up, via a merger with a larger corporate fish, and melt out into existence except in mere concept and memory of a once mighty firm.

Start making your tallies now. Meantime, let’s also start tallying the riots and casualties due to famine and food-related problems, and see where the casualty level will reach before the 3-5 cartels will become sacrosanct global food market controllers. It surely takes so much blood spillage to advance the interests of the Global Oligarchy, this is what we can get from the picture.

 

[Writ 28 April 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

FOOD CRISIS AND ORGANIZED PANIC BY FOOD CARTELS & OLIGARCHY

May 1, 2008

Bro. Erle Frayne Argonza

[Writ 28 April 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

We’re having a production-related problem with rice today in the Philippines today, which looks more like an echo problem of a larger global phenomenon of food crisis. Riots have already been experienced in at least 33 countries, and we may expect the frequency to rise in the months ahead.

To single out production factors, and especially to pinpoint flawed land-use patterns as the cause of the crisis, tends to blur the real cause behind much of our peace and development problems in the world today. This crisis is one of the anarchic results of orchestrations done by financial speculators over a stretch of three (3) decades, followed through recently by food cartels’ machinations to heighten up their looting of the public’s resources via the food market.

Let us recall that as early as the 1980s, the move towards liberalizing the food markets and integrate this sector into the evolving ‘virtual economy’—by unleashing speculative practices on agricultural products via instrument of ‘commodities markets’—already crept into our national boundaries. Gradually did the pattern get integrated into a global mesh of transactions involving not only food but a long list of articles of trade and services being transacted via the secondary markets or hedge funds.

The objective, as far as this observer now sees it, is to emerge a few gigantic cartels globally that some day dominate a global oligopoly. Probably as little as five (5) such colossal mega-corporations will be well prepositioned to control global food, thus enabling their control not only of the gene stocks (intellectual properties) but of prices most of all.

This scenario is now happening in steel. As soon as we hit the 900+ tones per annum or TPA production of global steel in the 1990s, plans were already afoot to eventually cartelize steel via mergers of giant steel firms, with the participation of fund managers in the process and ownership structures. The merger of Mittal and Alcelor, which resulted to the gigantic firm that now produces over 100 tpa, had now clearly substantiated this long forecast move to cartelize steel. In the near future, just about 3-5 such giants, each one producing 150+ tpa, will be left to control the global market of steel.

Didn’t you notice the sudden fluctuations in the prices of metals globally beginning in the middle of this decade yet? Often than not, based on our experience of the depression-era Weimar Republic, this phenomenon of hyper-inflationary swings in base and precious metal prices are preceding events prior to a global depression. This time around, the panic created by the corresponding process would be the sweetening of the steel merger option (with fund manager participation or rather manipulation) and, voila! Steel cartels are up! Hail the Cartels to the highest heavens!

The pattern is getting to be noxiously obvious that even a mere high school student of economics and history could easily see them. This same pattern is now creeping thru the food sector, even as it has also been taking down aluminum, nickel, copper, gold, banking, retail, realty, and lots of more sectors, with steel being the prototype experiment.

For the sharp observers out there, do make your tallies now as to which of the present food giants would emerge the victors. I will not be surprised if one day, my country’s own biggest F&B group, the San Miguel Corporation, will be gobbled up, via a merger with a larger corporate fish, and melt out into existence except in mere concept and memory of a once mighty firm.

Start making your tallies now. Meantime, let’s also start tallying the riots and casualties due to famine and food-related problems, and see where the casualty level will reach before the 3-5 cartels will become sacrosanct global food market controllers. It surely takes so much blood spillage to advance the interests of the Global Oligarchy, this is what we can get from the picture.   

THE OLIGARCHY QUESTION

April 28, 2008

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

BACKGROUND

 

The following statements are excerpts from the article E. Argonza, “New Nationalism: Grandeur and Glory at Work.” This article is my humble contribution to the current efforts at formulating policy frameworks for development and growth within the context of a globalizing world. The basic contention of neo-nationalism is that it is sacrosanct to conserve and advance the interests of nation-states, however this should also take note of the opportunities that a globalized economy and world community can offer.

 

It differs much from Old Nationalism which views anything outside of the nation-state as suspect and anathema to growth. Old nationalism for instance regales at the advancement of ‘national champions’ of enterprises, whereas new nationalism recognizes the obsolescence of these enterprises and the intermeshing of ideas from diverse nations within the content grid of commodities. Old nationalism is predisposed to extremes of maximum dirigism or interventionist policies, whereas new nationalism brings one to a balance of sustaining a market, albeit a ‘social market’, but retains a certain set of state intervention for advancing the general welfare.

 

THE OLIGARCHY QUESTION

 

What should the nation do to the oligarchs? Remember that the constitution and strengthening of the nation-state, as clearly indicated by historical accounts, involved the class factor, to wit: the various middle and lower classes forged a united front to overthrow the trilateral alliance of the monarch-nobility-priesthood. Nationhood was and will always be a struggle against predatory oligarchs, as exemplified by the violent overthrow of the gentry (monarchy, priesthood/Church, nobility) to be able to advance the gains of the French Revolution. Likewise did the socialist revolutions in various countries resulted to the strengthening of the nation-state, a strengthening that was achieved precisely through the institutional decapitation of the oligarchy, the physical elimination of many of its members and the seizure of their assets.

 

In the Philippine case, the oligarchy is represented by (a) the landlord-capitalist oligarchs  and (b) the Catholic Church. The landlord-capitalists were the products of the commercial era of the 19th century up through the industrializing era of 20th centry, while the oligarchic Church exists as a carry-over from the feudal Hispanic era. On the one hand, the landlord-capitalists have begun to preach ‘corporate social responsibility’ coupled with Santa Claus dole-outs handed over to ‘shirtless folks’, many of whom are shanty residents. On the other hand, the Church has been preaching a ‘preferential option for the poor’ as mandated by the post-Vatican II doctrines, coupled with ‘basic ecclesial organizing’ among communities aimed at contributing to ‘social capital’ and empowerment. The question is, do such sets of actions coming from the oligarchy suffice to redistribute wealth and contribute to poverty alleviation?

 

The maximalist solution is the one offered by Old Nationalism as a response to the question. The domestic Bolsheviks, whom we count among nationalists in the Philippine setting, are particularly hot on seizing the assets of the landlord-capitalists (‘comprador class’ as the Maoists labeled them collectively) and declaring these under state control. But the same (old) nationalists are silent about Church wealth, which is so enormous it is clear that Church oligarchism is a factor contributing to the ailments of our society. Is it because the Church had contributed immensely to the growth of the Left, by way of the politicization of many bishops, clergy, religious and ministers along the Maoist/Marxist way, and by the utilization of Church convents for such purposes? So now it seems that a Left seizure of power, if ever, is a surefire guarantee for perpetuating Church oligarchism, while landlord-capitalist wealth gets seized and declared as state assets, if not as Communist Party assets.

 

Neo-nationalism may very well consider the minimalist solution to the question. Sequestering assets by the large-scale and jailing/exterminating oligarchs may only be fruitful in the short-run. But if the value-base of possessive individualism, greed and predatory practices, including usury and rent-seeking, are not eradicated, oligarchs will again appear in the future, thus returning us all to where we were before, as billionaire oligarchs are now appearing by the dozens in post-Bolshevik Russia. “If you can’t beat them, join them!” is likewise unsound, as this is tantamount to capitulation to oligarchism. The minimalist way begins by declaring that oligarchs, when presented with sound options, can participate in the development game. With the strengthening of institutions, they will also begin to exhibit more accountability and responsibility, by first exhibiting truthfulness in their tax declarations and payments, henceforth fattening the public purse no end.

 

The structural landscape is now changing, and oligarchs are compelled by the exigencies of the times to recognize the winds of change. Gone were the days when oligarchs were as powerful as Zeus and His Olympian Entourage who can never be prosecuted for their crimes, inclusive of crimes of extracting unjust rent from people’s purses without public consent. As the Meralco case demonstrates, erring oligarchs do go punished, or at least the erring firm cannot just engage in criminal acts without being penalized. When civil society is strong and every kind of public interest group vigilantly watches the oligarchs’ acts with zeal, the Olympian stance of greedy oligarchs receive stunning blows by way of court litigations. Meanwhile, oligarchs in localities who commit heinous crimes, such as that of a former mayor in Southern Luzon, got jailed for such crimes, something that was unimaginable in the past. Institutions of justice are now galvanizing, thanks in part to a vigilant civil society and the synergy concurred by the state with it.

 

I would now boldly declare a forecast that in the long run, transcendent values would permeate the private sphere so greatly, resulting to greater compassion and the return to simple lifestyles. Eventually, the oligarchs will voluntarily share an immense portion of their wealth to the people, through stock sharing schemes, donating large stockholdings to social enterprises, and funding the equity components or even the working capital of social enterprise ventures. Other more exemplary acts will be in the offing too, benign acts that are truly redistributive and not just rhetorical clichés of ‘corporate citizenship’.

 

Correspondingly, a more radical organizational culture will crystallize, such that, during times of crisis, Big Business will no longer have to downsize in order to continue to gain profits and declare dividends. Rather, the remedial step will be to cut down on the working hours and temporarily cut down on wages and pay scales, so that no one gets unemployed in the process. That is because the personnel are also co-owners of the physical assets. Furthermore, as already suggested earlier, new accounting systems will arise that will more than highlight human assets as the most important assets in the agency, thus eradicating notions of downsizing or expelling people during crisis periods. The ‘corporate citizen’ will therefore become a living organism, unlike today when the concept is simply a strategy to evade taxes by diverting profits to corporate foundations.

 

Should we follow the Bolshevik way, it means that eventually the local Bolsheviks would become the new oligarchs. The Communist Party becomes the all-powerful economic Santa Claus owning vast assets, while the branches of government controlled by the Party, such as the army and parliament, will also respectively own vast assets, utilized for earning profits that will fatten the purses not only of the said organizations but of their CEOs’ as well. And when market reforms will be undertaken as Bolshevik dirigism can no longer be sustained, new capitalist-landlord oligarchs will emerge, blessed by the all-powerful partocrats with the mandate to “let a thousand millionaires bloom!” As the party oligarchy and the new landlord-capitalists enrich their purses, multitudes will continue to live the lives of paupers, homeless and jobless, cared by no one other than by howling winds of uncertainties and stray dogs who keep them company. Surely, this maximalist route is not the most pro-active route to counterveil against oligarchism, but is in fact a most reactionary route, the stuff of outdated Victorian-era vampire formulas of sucking rent from out of the toiling folks. 

 

As to the Church assets, which will be luckily retained in the advent of a delusional Bolshevik victory, the key is the Bishopric. Bishops are the power-wielders of the Church, and are necessarily the biggest obstacles to change within the Church. “In the long run, we shall all be dead!” declared Keynes than, and such will be the state of the bishops: the Old World bishops will be dead soon, as new generation bishops take their place. Not only are the same Old World bishops—due precisely to their feudalistic, sexist and Victorian-era prudish (pretending) mindsets—the stewards of the vast assets of the Church, their ranks are also replete with narratives of sexual misconduct, corruption and every type of scandalous misconducts from cryptic figures. Hopefully, the new generation bishops will go beyond mouthing ‘preferential option’ discourses to uplift the poor, and move soon enough to redistribute the vast Church assets by proclaiming their utilization for developmental purposes. Such assets can be used to collateralize credit as well as for loans that should be offered at very low interest rates, thus converting the Church into a ‘white knight’ at last.

 

Meanwhile, the Old Nationalists who are still waving the insurrectionary flag can still recoup by joining the legal stream, as some entrenched leaders of communist front organizations are now doing. Their party groups can join political society, while their mass movements and NGOs will continue to operate as civil society groups, and become part, hopefully, of those forces that will popularize to our people the ‘rule of law’ and ‘rule of reason’, in other words become authentic modernizing forces. Such is a very welcome move by the insurrectos, and is in fact the forecast pathway for the concerned rebel forces.

 

NEO-NATIONALISM TAKES CENTER STAGE

 

This paper now ends with a note on the prospects of neo-nationalism making waves. Note that Old Nationalism is the dominant discourse within the nationalist streams, and this fact is fully recognized in this paper. Old Nationalists will definitely have a hard time digesting the premises and contentions presented in this article. Being anchored on Western discourses, secular and materialistic to the extremes, the said articulators will have none of neo-nationalism save for viewing it as another exotic fad that will soon fade away. This is understandable. “Old dogs can’t learn new tricks!” goes the idiom, and this holds true in every sphere of human endeavor.

 

But one thing is sure at this juncture: New Nationalism is germinating right at the very center of state power, as the President herself expressed her subscription to and advancement of the new discourse. Surely, a coterie of like minds are gravitating around her, who are looking for an alternative to the neo-liberal frameworks that sorely failed, but who nonetheless find the extremist dirigism of Old Nationalism passé and repulsive. GMA’s reaching the helm of power signifies that nationalism has finally won amid over a century of struggle, as patriots of diverse ideological orientation won the previous electoral rounds nationwide. But a new phase of nationhood is coming into being, an evolving context that demands a corresponding new discourse to defend it and root it firmly.

 

Being one among those who strongly desire for an alternative framework, I am inclined to think that many potential articulators are waiting in the watersheds of civil society, political parties and state bureaucracy for the new discourse. Many of them began with the Old Nationalist frame but now find the old frame dilapidated and requiring gross recasting or replacement. My forecast is that it will take just about a minimal work to concur a synergy of efforts among these stakeholders. The moment that the synergy commences and gains momentum, neo-nationalism will quickly move into the mainstream, engulfing civil society, political parties and the state like wildfire. It may even serve as the new inspirational light of the business sector. And, who knows, maybe even church stakeholders, notably the bishops, would regard neo-nationalism as life-giving elixir-in-a-bottle floating amid wild seas intoxicated with every kind of antiquated ideological frames that have become inimical to national growth.

 

Such is the enormous prospect of neo-nationalist discourse gaining centerfold, that even the neo-liberal advocates might follow suit, taking its cue from the bandwagon effect of the new discourse that may take place in just about a couple of years from its inception. The neo-liberals are under fierce attack from everywhere, and are on the retreat, and the only graceful retreat for them is to find common grounds with the new discourse, even if they may not embrace the discourse entirely. After all, the (new) discourse does not seek to destroy the market, that it is inclusive as it appreciates the role of various stakeholders in the development game, from paupers and vagabonds to gentry and capitalists. The strength of the discourse lies precisely in this inclusiveness, a strength that makes it worth applying in the practical world.