Thursday, January 29, 2009
Money or Grass Roots?
Today's "million dollar" question is...what affects the world's politics the most? Money or grass roots activism? For sake of definition and focus, let's call this a high level philosophical discussion.
When I was young and reading all the history I could in order to learn the lessons of history in order to "not repeat them", I early on realized that so much of world history was based on MONEY. Who controlled the money controlled the governments and other institutions that run the world.
It is my contention that 90% of the world's wealth is controlled by probably less than 10% of the world's population. We have all heard the adage that "Money goes to Money". I suppose that makes sense in light of sociology and maybe a little Darwinism thrown in. The rich have always had their own clubs, neighborhoods, schools, churches and institutions. Everything from our media to government supports the idea that those who have money are "preferred". You have money, you have freedom to travel. You qualify for a visa to travel just about anywhere you want to go if you have money. No borders for YOU…and your money. Up until recently, most of the world thought that just being "American" meant you MUST be a millionaire. Now of course they are just beginning to find out how broke we actually are.
One of the scariest issues to me these days is the world money supply...who controls it? What is that money or currency based on? We have huge global mutual funds that fall under various sovereignties in our world. Managed by many "unknown" financial managers, these funds have historically had significant impact on market performances. Some of these funds play currencies against each other and can often make or break markets, at least in the short run.
Of course, under these managers fall many "super rich" investors or families who at the end of the day can probably "run" these fund managers. The owners of large positions determine often times what a manager needs to sell off or buy at a particular time. Usually, when one investment wins, another has to lose. Its part of that old science of "action - opposite reaction". It is the competition for these investment dollars that drive world markets for the most part. What is "popular" often gets funded while the crucial and necessary often gets left in the basement of financial priority. Much of that aspect is driven by what is offering the largest return in the shortest period of time. Long term prudence and critical investments for the future often get left in the dust of disinterest because of greed.
Another powerful aspect of money is its ability to control mass media. In the last 20-30 years we have seen huge consolidation of ownership in media. Governments go through cycles of regulation and deregulation like some of us change socks. Each government or dictator in the world tends to change the rules every few years. It seems in the USA we have allowed big business to buy out our government's interest in balanced use of limited bandwidths for the public consumption (which subject would demand a separate blog). Disney, "New" Viacom (and its former parent CBS Corporation, the former "Old" Viacom), TimeWarner, News Corporation, Bertelsmann AG, and General Electric together own more than 90% of the media holdings in the United States. Then on the other extreme, you have governments like China, Venezuela, Cuba and others who have "state run" control and ownership of the media. Neither extreme seems to be balanced and one has to thank God for the internet which is arguably the only media avenue that no government or corporate concern has been able to control or dominate completely. Don't worry though..."they" are working at it.
For those of us without money, power or influence in corporate America or her government, it seems that "grass roots" movements are more required than ever. Grass roots movements in the USA could say they had their start at the "Boston Tea Party" when early Americans showed their disdain for the controls and manipulations of England by throwing England's tea shipments into the Boston Harbor in protest, which became a catalyst for the American Revolution and independence movement. Then during the Industrial Age, it took grassroots efforts to unionize and organize the workers against unfair labor practices and "wage fixing" by the few powerful corporations of that era. In modern times, we have now seen the first minority President elected largely because of grassroots activism through the internet where record monies were raised and mobilization of "the people" through that clear channel of communication overcame traditional media controls and manipulation of perception. I personally believe the internet is now the most effective tool in the world for impacting the masses with objective information and decision making. No one "owns" the internet...and we should keep it that way though obviously some forces want that changed.
That being said, money still impacts and influences the grassroots use of the internet. It takes money to effectively market through that technology. A few internet "super powers" are gaining dominant controls over internet "eye balls". Google, MSN, MySpace and a very few other large tech media companies are attempting to control the internet airways and marketing databases that are growing exponentially each day. Information, AND DISinformation, can be developed and distributed in very short order with powerful results or consequences. I believe it will become more and more difficult for true "grass roots" efforts to be fruitful through that medium if our current global internet consolidation continues to happen.
So, back around to our original question...what influences our government(s) the most in these times? Money or "Grass Roots"? I would argue that first and foremost is the money factor. With money you can distribute information much faster. With money, you can make it easier to attract MORE money. With money, you can BUY media coverage with "PR". With money, you can buy off whole governments.
Much has been made of and written about the "evils" of money. As I stated in a previous blog, it is the "love" of money that is in my mind the greatest downfall of man. Money is morally neutral. It can be used for good and for evil. I continue to pursue having "some" money...hopefully to do good things with it...if only to secure my own way and freedom in this short life so as to never be dependent on another person or government. But hopefully I will never allow money, or the pursuit of it, to control every aspect of my life. Money as a means to an end, not the "end-all". And, as we have often seen and quite recently on a grand scale..."a fool and his money are soon parted".