ECONOMIC JUSTICE: A CURE FOR TERRORISM

Terrorism is a result of causes. Combating the results is only half the battle. We can now address causes without undue concern that the exercise will be construed to support Osama bin Laden.

I. The Problem

The biggest question is whether globalization, as presently configured, plays a role in creating a climate conducive to the alienation and desperation that leads to terrorism. Globalization can be a cure for such desperation, but only if it can reverse the rapidly and vastly growing disparity of wealth in the world. Awareness of this disparity, which amounts to economic injustice, impels some intellectuals to generate the terrorist paradigm of thought and action as the only solution.

The problem was brought out strikingly, but, unfortunately, without any mention of solutions, this month by Jeff Gates in the January/February, 2002, issue of Tikkun: A Bi-Monthly Jewish Critique of Politics, Culture, and Society (see [url=http://www.tikkun.org]http://www.tikkun.org)[/url] Jeff was General Counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, and on the staff of Senator Russell Long, when he pioneered legislation on restructuring the financial system of America and the world in pursuit of economic justice. Jeff gives some devastating statistics, most of which are available in Muslim journals around the world that rant against American global hegemony without any apparent concern for constructive solutions:

1) “The wealth of the Forbes 400 richest Americans grew an average $1.44 billion each from 1997-2000, for an average daily increase in wealth of $1,920,000 per person ($240,000 per hour or 46,602 times the U.S. minimum wage). See www.forbes.com

2) Funds in the hands of U.S. money managers grew from $1.9 trillion in 1980 to $17 trillion in 2,000. While those funds were under the control of fiduciaries (half the funds are due to tax incentives), the pay gap between top executives and production workers in the 362 largest U.S. companies soared from 42:1 in 1980 to 475:1 in 1999. See “Executive Pay Report,” Business Week, April 7, 2000, p. 100.

3) Prior to the dot.com collapse, Wired magazine projected that Microsoft’s Bill Gates would become a trillionaire by March 2005 and, by March 2020, a quadrillionaire (a million billionaire). See Evan L. Marcus, Wired, September 1999, p. 163. ⢀ | Baby boomers can look forward to a future where a single person may have more financial wealth than an entire generation, all 76 million strong. Far-fetched? From l983-1997, only the top five percent of U.S. households saw an increase in net worth, while wealth declined for everyone else. See Federal Reserve Bulletin, January 2000, p. 10.

4) The financial wealth of the top one percent of U.S. households now exceeds the combined household financial wealth of the bottom 95 percent. See Edward N. Wolff, “Recent Trends in Wealth Ownership,” a paper for the conference on “Benefits and Mechanisms for Spreading Asset Ownership in the United States,” New York University, December 10-12, 1998.

5) The share of the nation’s after-tax income received by the top one percent doubled from 1979-1997. By 1998, the top-earning one percent had as much combined income as the 100 million Americans with the lowest earnings. See Congressional Budget Office Memorandum, “Estimates of Federal Tax Liabilities for Individuals and Families by Income Category and Family Type for 1995 and 1999,” May 1998.

6) The top fifth of U.S. households claims 49.2 percent of national income while the bottom fifth gets by on 3.6 percent. See www.census.gov (Table H-2). Between 1979 and 1997, the average income of the richest fifth jumped from nine times the income of the poorest fifth to fifteen times. See The Economist, June 16-22, 2001.”

Now let’s address Gates’ statistical rundown on the global impact of the mal-structure maintained by all the international financial institutions.

1) “Eighty countries have per capita incomes lower than a decade ago. Sixty countries have grown steadily poorer since 1980.

2) In 1960, the income gap between the fifth of the world’s people living in the richest countries and the fifth in the poorest countries was 30 to 1. By 1990, the gap had widened to 60 to 1. By 1998, it had surged to 74 to one.

3) From 1995 to 1999 the world’s 200 wealthiest people doubled their net worth to $1,000 billion.

4) Three billion people presently live on $2 or less per day, while 1.3 billion of those get by on $1 or less per day. With global population expanding 80 million each year, World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn cautions that, unless we address the “challenge of inclusion,” thirty years hence we may have 5 billion people living on $2 or less per day.

5) Two billion people suffer from malnutrition, including 55 million in industrial countries. In three decades, neo-liberal globalization could create a world where 3.7 billion people suffer from malnutrition.

6) UNDP’s assessment: “Development that perpetuates today’s inequalities is neither sustainable nor worth sustaining.

7) In Indonesia, 61.7 percent of the stock market’s value is held by that nation’s fifteen richest families. The comparable figure for the Phillipines is 55.1 percent and 55.3 percent for Thailand. See Stijn
Claessens, Simeon Djankov and Larry H. P. Lang, “Who Controls East Asian Corporations?” Washington D.C.: The World Bank, 1999. [The Bin Laden family, of course, is a prime example, RDC]. With help from their global regulatory agent, the WTO [World Trade Organization], neo-liberalism is evoking a future where a handful of the world’s most well-to-do families may pocket more than 50 percent of [the expected additional] $90 trillion in financial wealth.”

II. The Solution

Revolutionary theoreticians in the 19th century invented the paradigm of governmentally owned and managed socialism. This was popular for almost two centuries because the “man in the street” equated and confused it with compassion. Other theoreticians at the same time invented the paradigm of the free market based on private ownership of the means of production, with management through the “invisible hand” of “economic efficiency.”

These advocates of what the socialists derogatorily called “capitalism” were just as morally sensitive as was Karl Marx, and just as committed to justice, but also equally na ïve. Today even the barons of economic globalization, such as those who gathered at Davos and congregate at such fora as the Aspen Institute, the Bohemian Grove, and the Renaissance Weekends, are beginning to recognize that there has to be a third way to avoid the evils of doctrinaire economics in order to reduce the headlong rush toward enormous concentration of enormous wealth without destroying the system that has produced it.

The only solution is not to fly planes into tall buildings but fundamentally to restructure the entire system of money and banking in order to broaden capital ownership and thereby avoid the need to steal from capital owners by governmentally mandated re-distribution of wealth. We need a revolution in access to credit so that wealth is distributed during the production process not afterwards in derogation of property ownership.

Some people call this Islamic finance, but this merely adds baggage to common sense. Certainly, investing is better than lending, because lending at interest is a powerful concentrator of wealth, especially when the legal system promotes monopolization of credit by exclusionary methods of finance based on past wealth as collateral rather than on pure credit from future profits. And no loans should ever have been given to so-called Third World governments. For those who believe that “small is beautiful,” return on investment in locally-based, private enterprise, with substantial employee ownership and provision for automatic divestment of foreign ownership out of profits, is the best way to promote business integrity and economic independence. For those who believe that “big is better,” the “statism” inherent in reliance on governments to manage the use of money from abroad undermines the opportunities that multinationals can offer to democratize capital credit by facilitating the entry of local ownership into global corporations, with the consequent benefits of spreading know-how and superior access by locals to global markets.

No loans or investment should ever go to crony capitalists, like the maffia in Russia, who used “privatization” to steal the country at fire-sale prices and then embezzled funds from all the international lending institutions in a frenzy of corruption that nearly destroyed a country and may have set it back an entire generation. The hopes of millions throughout Eastern Europe were dashed as privatization of individual companies to their employees was discouraged. In Poland, more than fifteen percent ownership by workers in the factories where they worked was decreed to be illegal. The rationale, given by former World Bank president and Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, was that reliable international investment, and effective international policy, requires concentration of power at the top.

This third way, broadening capital ownership through the democratization of capital credit as a fundamental human right, can be called Islamic for those so inclined. The mechanisms for reform have been spelled out and promoted by the inter-faith think-tank/global-network, The Center for Economic and Social Justice, which I co-founded with its President, Norman Kurland, in 1985 as a platform to establish the Presidential Task Force on Economic Justice. President Ronald Reagan backed this initiative more enthusiastically than anything other than the space-based anti-missile defense, known as Star Wars, because he clearly saw that political democracy is impossible without economic democracy, and that evil empires of whatever sort can be countered with missiles but can be defeated only through economic justice.

We could not get this project past the White House bureaucracy, so we ran an end run around it by rejecting all government funding and tacking it onto the Foreign Aid Authorization bill as the only presidential task force ever created by Congress. I was the Chairman of its Financial Markets Committee, based on my experience as the Principal Economic and Budget Advisor to the Finance Minister of the Emirate of Bahrain.

For details on this third way see www.cesj.org or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Norman Kurland), as well as my books, the now out-of-print hardback, Shaping the Future: Challenge and Response (Santa Fe: The Center for Civilizational Renewal, 1997), 159 pages, and the collection of position papers, entitled Projecting Islamic Vision for America (Santa Fe: The Center for Understanding Islam, 2002), 250 pages. Both of these books are to be brought out in paper-back, God willing, by the Center for Understanding Islam in March, 2002, as part of a series of books entitled The Clash of Paradigms: Global Conflict Within Civilizations.

III. Conclusion

Reagan’s evil empire is still out there. Nowadays it is an amorphous but still targetible Al Qa’ida, but tomorrow it may be a hundred al qa’idas with no leadership because none will be necessary to accomplish the common goal of indiscriminate destruction.

As a life-long professional in global forecasting, as well as in the study of revolution, I see a link between the increasing concentration of capital ownership and the radicalization of the dispossessed and of their rich but alienated would-be leaders. Al Qa’ida and Osama bin Laden may be merely the first phase of violence in the new era of asymmetrical warfare. We must try to understand the perspective of the evilly misled, who thrive in Muslim countries not merely because injustice there is extreme but because Islam, more than any other religion, emphasizes the responsibility to seek both knowledge and justice.
The choice is between working “within the system” or destroying it in a frenzy of the French Revolution’s apres moi le deluge. Islamic scholars have carefully developed criteria for both just war and just revolution. They include probability of success in producing something better than the present and probability that the damage of war and revolution can be contained.

Terrorism, which is termed hirabah (not jihad) in Arabic, was uniformly condemned by all the classical Islamic scholars, even by those who were imprisoned by the authorities (which included all the greatest scholars in Islamic history), because it was the classic example of the fasad (or societal corruption) that destroys civilization (al hadara al islamiya). Osama bin Laden is nothing less than a Beast of the Anti-Christ (the masiah al dajal) and his terrorism against America is hirabah al shaitaniyyah, a satanic war that can only plunge all of humanity into centuries or millennia of barbarism.

We must understand where he is coming from, but also where he is going. Our task is not merely to stop evil, which can’t be done, but to promote good, which can overcome it, in sha’a Allah.


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