The problem with this book, like most other economics books that include figures and predictions, is that it becomes old fast. For instance, in 2008, China was the fourth largest economy in the world and Klare predicted it would become the second largest in a decade or so. China overtook Japan to become second largest economy, behind the US, last week.
This said, despite the outdated figures, the book’s main arguments remain intact and applicable today.
Rising Powers opens by introducing the link between energy-producer states and energy consumers, and shows how such links have defined the geopolitics of the world ever since fossil fuel became centerpiece in the life of civilization, more than two centuries ago.
The continuous consumption of fossil fuel was based on the assumption that oil companies will keep on discovering new sources at a pace faster than that of the demand. Apparently that turned out to be false as companies seem to have discovered them all. Klare argues that out of 116 giant oil fields that supply the world with most of its demand today, only four were discovered in the past quarter of a century.
Not only the globe has surveyed and tapped most of its oil resources, demand for oil has skyrocketed with the transformation of the economies of the world’s two most populated countries, China and India, from agrarian to heavy industrial.
Meanwhile, after having conceded its oil and natural gas resources to private firms in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia, with its former President, and now Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, came back. Employing some arm-twisting and other illicit tactics, Putin nationalized the oil and gas firms, and monopolized them in the hands of the state. This gave Russia immense geostrategic power, and Moscow has been keen on using it in countering America’s attempts to tap hydrocarbon resources in the former Soviet republics, especially in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.
Klare identifies three world regions for fossil fuel production: Africa, the Capsian Sea and the “American Lake” or the Middle East. He argues that the race over tapping oil resources around the world has created two main proto-blocs. In the first is the US, Japan, Australia, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Kazakhstan, among others. In the second is Russia, China, Iran, Sudan Uzbekistan, Armenia and other countries.
While not an imminent threat yet, Klare believes that the politics of Great Powers arming their energy-producing allies is a dangerous game, especially when mixed with populist politics of nationalism.
He concludes by writing that the energy race has been straining the environment, leading to global warming and slowing economies. Instead, Klare argues – albeit naively – that oil poor America and China should not be competing but rather complementing each other’s quest for alternative, clean and renewable sources of energy.
In this, Klare fails to notice that only because both America and China are oil poor, does not mean that they will cooperate to discover alternative fuel. Telling from history, in such situations, it will be the race toward alternative energy that would ultimately result in finding a solution. And, also from history, whichever nations arrives at the breakthrough of discovering energy that is alternative to fossil fuel first will thereafter enjoy the reaps of its discovery and rule the world for decades to come.
Monday, August 30, 2010
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Posted: August 25, 2010
By Hussain Abdul-Hussain
This month saw the withdrawal of all U.S. combat units from Iraq, leaving behind 56,000 troops whose mission, according to U.S. generals, will be limited to training, mentoring and supporting Iraqi security forces. But Washington's already-weakening influence in Iraq and the Middle East over the past year has rendered the ongoing reduction in troops insignificant.
Long before this most recent withdrawal, and while combat troops were still in Iraq, Washington had already decided on a diminished role in Iraq. The United States' refusal to hammer out a deal for the formation of a new Iraqi Cabinet, more than seven months after the March parliamentary elections, attests to Washington's determination to minimize its role.
Among the explanations for this declining interest is President Barack Obama's promise - during his electoral campaign - to refocus U.S. attention on the war in Afghanistan.
Since Obama's election 20 months ago, American generals have gradually minimized the United States' military role in Iraq, while at the same time rechanneling resources to Afghanistan and, to some extent, Pakistan. Not only has Afghanistan seen a surge in the number of NATO - mainly U.S. - forces, but the number of American drone attacks against targets in both Afghanistan and Pakistan has multiplied exponentially. However, the shift in U.S. military attention from Iraq to Afghanistan cannot account, by itself, for waning influence in the Middle East.
While bogged down in an Afghan quagmire, a host of issues outside the Middle East also required Obama's immediate attention. The U.S. financial meltdown of 2008, the slow economic recovery that has followed since and a serious threat of deflation amid stubborn unemployment that hovers at around 10 percent have so far consumed Obama and his administration, leaving little room for other issues.
Unlike his predecessor George W. Bush, under whose terms a housing bubble helped fund an economic boom, Obama was dealt a much tougher hand domestically, inheriting that burst bubble. Forced to choose between a shaken economy at home and endless rivalries and bickering in the Middle East, Obama looked inward.
Accordingly, since taking office in January 2009, Obama's foreign-policy record in the region has lingered between naive and indifferent.
On Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, Obama committed a grave mistake when he called the Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories illegal, without backing it up with intentions to twist Israel's arm, and for it to end its peace process-killing settlement activity.
Obama's inexperienced misstep forced Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to walk out on talks until Israel freezes settlement activity, unlike in the past when Abbas had participated in negotiations despite continued Israeli construction in the occupied territories. The U.S. president effectively obstructed the very peace talks that he was seeking to espouse. A year later, he admitted the error in an interview, saying he had underestimated the intricacies of the peace process.
The announcement of the resumption of talks last week brings with it little optimism, given Obama's inability, or unwillingness, to force any concessions on either party.
In this area, Obama also reversed a cornerstone policy of his predecessor: Spreading democracy under Bush became supporting democracy under Obama. And even Obama's promise of support proved to be lip service as Washington cut funding to human rights activists in Egypt, Syria and other Middle Eastern countries.
While cozying up to Arab autocrats and cutting support for their opponents, Obama was not willing to pay - and rightly so - the price required to sell his new policy of befriending dictators in Washington, where Republicans prevented any practical implementation - like attempts to directly engage with Syria.
Close to two years after his election, Obama has extended the Bush-imposed sanctions on Damascus and has not used his authority to bypass the Republican hold on sending an ambassador back to Syria. This shows that while the president's policy on the Middle East may be different from his predecessor's, the region and its affairs are far from among his top priorities, and not something he sees as worth fighting for.
Most importantly in Iraq, where the United States has invested vast treasure and blood, Obama has been keen to supervise a quick, albeit honorable, exit for his troops.
Not only has Obama said a full withdrawal will take place by December 2011, but U.S. diplomats who dominated the Iraqi scene over the past seven years have already taken a backseat in Iraqi politics.
While word in Washington has it that the United States has so far refused to force the formation of an Iraqi coalition Cabinet out of fear that whatever faction left out might eventually turn against the United States - leaving a political vacuum and further throwing security in question - the policy raises serious doubts about the wisdom of American strategy.
To give Obama credit where it is due, mending U.S. ties with Russia and the successful diplomacy of enforcing further sanctions on Iran - while not end results in themselves - show that the administration has carefully arranged its priorities while picking both its fights and friendships.
Unfortunately for the Middle East, and Iraq, with few successes for the past half-century, Obama has likely decided that the sooner the United States can get out of the region and its affairs, the faster it will be able to restore U.S. world leadership, or at least become a global first among equals.
While Obama ends the United States' unilateral endeavor in Iraq, he takes on Iran multilaterally - mainly through complicated UN negotiations. Turning from unilateralism to multilateralism might best explain the United States' fading interest in Iraq. The withdrawal of U.S. troops comes as a consequence of this larger foreign-policy shift, and it is within this context that one should view such changes.
Iraq, its politics and its affairs at large have shot down from the top of the list of U.S. priorities to somewhere near the bottom. By the end of 2011, Iraq will be part of history, and it will be up to history to judge the failure or success of the United States' Iraq mission.
Meanwhile, Iraq is gradually becoming the business of Iraqis. If all the bickering and political jockeying that has so far prevented the formation of a Cabinet and led to a minor surge in violence are any indication, the Iraqis do not seem able to handle the affairs of their country after U.S. withdrawal.
Iraqis should realize that it will be a long time until they receive as much international attention as they have over the past seven years. It is up to them now to either run their nation successfully or stay entrenched in their political positions, thus extending the deadlock, to the detriment of Iraqis and the Middle East in general.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Thursday, August 19, 2010
On the eve of the Afghanistan war, historian Bernard Lewis argued that Osama Bin Laden wrongly believes he can inflict a defeat on the American empire in the same manner he had humiliated the Soviet superpower a decade earlier.
While America is not in a position as precarious as its Soviet nemesis in 1989, it is certainly not as powerful today as it was when it entered the war in 2001.
Many argue that imperial hubris, coupled with two simultaneous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, have accelerated the American demise. A better answer, however, might be found in economics.
The 20th century was the American century. Thanks to an ever-expanding economy, the United States overtook the leading empire, Britain, a scenario that is now replaying itself with China in the shoes of the growing power, at the expense of an aging America.
In the United States, neoliberals have dominated economic policy, at least since 1980. According to this school -- as defined by Austrian-British economist Fredrick Von Hayek and his disciples at the University of Chicago such as Milton Friedman -- the less government intervention in the market, the stronger the economy.
Neoliberals dominated as a response to stagflation and other economic ills that had befallen the United States, Britain and other capitalist countries throughout the 1970s. With a neoliberal takeover, governments abandoned most welfare programmes, undermined labour unions, and downsized.
The neoliberal scheme was then used as a one- size-fit-all. Under the aegis of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), economically troubled governments in Chile, Mexico Argentina, Dubai, and Greece -- among others -- were forced to swallow the neoliberal pill. Results proved disastrous as governments defaulted under colossal debts. Social unrest ensued and, in the case of Mexico, led to wars between drug cartels still ravaging until today.
Unlike smaller countries, America could get away with its neoliberals economics thanks to two main factors.
First, the dollar had been designated the world's currency. After Nixon untied the dollar from its gold base in 1971, Washington was at liberty of printing money and avoiding shortages of cash that usually paralyse countries like Greece.
However, printing banknotes results in inflation and big world economies might consider dumping the dollar. The only reason these economies have kept their greenbacks has been to maintain the value of their reserves, including $2 trillion in US debt to China and Japan.
Second, since 1980, America has been hiding behind reports of fake economic growth.
America's banks post brokerage and overdraft fees, for instance, as profit. Stock market brokers make colossal bonuses only by speculating against the market.
White-collar employees on one floor in New York's Financial District swap bonds with brokers on another floor, registering virtual profit in the absence of actual production or accumulation of wealth.
Such profits give a false sense of prosperity and economic growth until finance people run out of games. The bubble then bursts causing recession and a shakeup as a new bubble forms, and perhaps subsidises the losses from the previous one.
What the neoliberal school offered America, and the world, starting 1980, was monetary solutions to economic problems. As Wall Street posted profits throughout the 1990s and 2000s, American manufacturing plants were downsizing and shutting down, thus sending workers back home and causing ever soaring unemployment. The manufacturers that remained above water were those that diversified their business to include financial services.
Despite all the bursts and recessions under their rule, neoliberals still have the nerve today to call for smaller governments and the scrapping of more taxes for the rich.
Ironically, neoliberals remained silent when the US government was forced to step up to rescue finance institutions deemed "too big to fail".
On top of the skewed neoliberal theory is an impatient American public. Suffering from a deteriorating economy, many Americans want instant fixes for a problem that has been long brewing. Those who voted for Barack Obama to rectify the situation have already abandoned him in less than 20 months after his election.
Many Americans want the government to shrink, but still be able to fix the economy. They want to balance US debt while maintaining their entitlements and not paying a dime more in taxes, a formula that does not work.
Meanwhile on TV, Wall Street indicators are still erroneously taken to represent the health of the economy. Media often reports on presumed economic comebacks (from its new lows, not compared to pre-2008 highs), even though America's manufacturing base is still shrinking, the balance of payments always negative, the national budget sinking more into the red.
Bin Laden has not defeated America. Neoliberal economics has. America will never resume its superpower role unless it retrieves its old time role as an industrial power hub, rather than a financial services centre.
Until America changes course, China will remain the rising star and coming superpower. And when America changes course, if it ever does, dismantling the World Bank, the IMF and apologising for the havoc these have wreaked on world governments will be in order.
Friday, August 6, 2010
This article first appeared on NOW Lebanon
Hussain Abdul-Hussain, August 6, 2010
Rumors of perjurers and sloppy investigators should be music to Hezbollah’s ears. For if it were that easy to pick holes in any of the expected upcoming indictments handed down to Hezbollah members by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, it should be fairly simple for the party to defend itself before the court, especially if it has evidence that Israel was behind the 2005 murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, as the party claims. Unfortunately however, the Party of God has chosen the route of making threats of civil unrest.
Despite all its confidence, Hezbollah refuses to stand before a court of law. In the mind of the Hezbollah leadership, it seems, there is no difference between a defendant and one found guilty. In fact, Hezbollah employs the language it knows best: violence. Should there be any mention of Hezbollah in any court document, every Lebanese should denounce the tribunal as “politicized,” or risk facing the party’s wrath.
Hezbollah’s allies have added their touch in muddying the waters. A so-called Beirut-based think tank, funded and run by pro-Syrian Lebanese operatives, is holding a panel entitled “How can we overcome the consequences of the tribunal.” Speakers include two prominent figures, one from March 14, the other from March 8, but it is clear from the quotes on the invitation that the organization does not support the court.
“Talk and rumors about an indictment by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon accusing members from Hezbollah of involvement in the [Hariri] assassination… have caused a crisis that forebodes dire consequences to stability and threatens to take the country back to the pre-May 2008 Doha Agreement days,” says one quote on the invitation.
“The political crisis escalates as each one of the factions holds on to its position, which has led to intensive domestic meetings as well as, thankfully, Arab efforts toward Lebanon,” reads another. “Even though these meetings have led to optimism toward containing the crisis, a final solution remains far,” trumpets a third.
The invitation concludes with a few questions on whether “Saudi-Syrian sponsorship” can keep a thumb on the crisis, and whether Lebanon can “abandon its commitments to the tribunal as was approved by the Security Council under Chapter VII.”
But why would the consequences of the tribunal, according to the think tank’s logic, affect the 2008 Doha Agreement, which makes no reference to the tribunal or its workings?
As long as the Lebanese can remember, the Doha Agreement resolved a longstanding dispute over March 8’s representation in cabinet, and allowed for the election of Michel Sleiman – already a consensus candidate – as president. Doha also settled a disagreement over the electoral law for the 2009 parliamentary elections.
Instead of confronting the tribunal with their so-called conclusive evidence showing Israel’s involvement, Hezbollah and Syria have tied justice in the Hariri case to the issue of Lebanon’s stability instead; a potentially successful distraction.
The way Hezbollah and Syria see it, Lebanon’s stability is threatened by two main dangers, namely war with Israel and civil strife. Indeed, a preview of a confrontation with the Jewish State took place on Tuesday.
Since the Hariri assassination on February 14, 2005, the behavior of Hezbollah and the Syrian regime has cast suspicion over their involvement in the crime. When blamed for committing crimes, the unfairly accused usually endorse justice wholeheartedly in order to assert their claims of innocence. Only those who fear justice threaten to destroy the temple in a desperate act of suicide.
As such, Hezbollah and Syria have been trying to sell the idea that serving justice on the Hariri murder is tantamount to civil war. To spice it up, Syrian cronies often argue that the Syrian army will reoccupy Lebanon in case war breaks out. What Hezbollah and Syria always fail to realize, however, is that killing the tribunal might prove to be the final nail in the coffin of Lebanon’s civil peace.
Family, friends, followers and supporters of Hariri, Samir Kassir, George Hawi, Gebran Tueni, Pierre Gemayel, Antoine Ghanem, Walid Eido and Wissam Eid – among others – are only silent because they hope justice will be served for these men’s murders.
If justice is scrapped on the way to cracking a “final solution,” however, frustration might grow and these silent Lebanese might not remain silent for long. In the absence of justice, they might seek revenge. We know from bitter experience both here and in Iraq that there are no winners in a civil war.
It is unfortunate that Hezbollah and Syria are pushing Lebanon to a crossroads. Either way might lead to civil strife.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
This article first
appeared in The National
In 1966, an Israeli secret agent was arrested in Baghdad with a notebook containing the names of leading Iraqi officials. Two years later, under a new Baathist regime with Saddam Hussein as deputy president, Iraq claimed that it had broken a “Zionist spy ring” in Basra and produced the same notebook again – with the added names of Hussein’s rivals.
Hussein’s 1968 claim of “Zionist suspects” was merely a way for the future strongman to purge his rivals and solidify his power.
Four decades later, Lebanon’s Hassan Nasrallah – the leader of Hizbollah – has borrowed the same template, accusing his opponents of being Israeli agents to discredit them. In his speech yesterday, Mr Nasrallah claimed that he had evidence that Israel was behind the killing of the former prime minister, Rafik Hariri. There are echoes of the former Iraqi leader in those statements.
There are four possible explanations in Lebanon for the murder of Mr Hariri in February 2005. Hizbollah has been implicated in one of them. The March 14 Alliance, led by Mr Hariri’s son, has accused pro-Syrian groups in Lebanon. They in turn have blamed radical Islamists for the crime.
Mr Nasrallah has accused Israel, while the former US ambassador to Lebanon, Jeffrey Feltman, has privately blamed Hizbollah. In response to that allegation, Mr Nasrallah publicly warned that Hizbollah’s implication could lead to civil war, a view that the Syrian president Bashar al Assad endorsed, until recently.
Those who believe Mr Nasrallah’s claim that Israel killed Mr Hariri argue that the Israelis knew the assassination would turn Lebanese and world opinion against Syria and force its troops out of Lebanon.
While such a utilitarian view of the crime deserves to be considered, subsequent crimes targeting anti-Syrian and anti-Hizbollah journalists, activists, lawmakers and security personnel took place after the Syrian withdrawal. This undermines the argument that Israel was carrying out assassinations merely to force a Syrian withdrawal.
If Israel was the perpetrator, why did the country do Syria and Hizbollah a favour by eliminating a dozen of their opponents in Lebanon, meanwhile sparing Israel’s immediate enemies, especially those Hizbollah politicians and journalists who often take less security precautions.
The radical Islamist explanation is also weak. Their behaviour in Iraq shows that these groups have rarely targeted Sunni leaders such as Mr Hariri. Granted, al Qaeda in Iraq went after Sunni tribes that had fought alongside American-backed Shiite governmental forces, but Mr Hariri was not in the middle of a similar confrontation.
Furthermore, if groups connected to al Qaeda were active in Lebanon at the time, why would they go after the Sunni leadership instead of Shiite and Christian figures and their places of worship. In Lebanon, radical Islamists have – so far – been too weak to carry out such assassinations.
This leaves only the pro-Syrian groups and Hizbollah as possible suspects. Testimonies from dozens of people who saw Mr Hariri after his August 2004 meeting with Mr al Assad said that the Syrian president had coerced him to sign a decree, which extended the presidential mandate of the pro-Syrian Emile Lahoud.
Other Hariri advisers testified that they had been summoned by Wafiq Safa, Hizbollah’s top security officer, to relay threats to Mr Hariri over his endorsement of the UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which called for Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon and Hizbollah’s disarmament. Pro-Syrian Lebanese politicians at the time, including the then-prime minister Omar Karami and the interior minister Suleiman Franjieh, blamed Mr Hariri for the resolution, calling him the “head of the snake”.
Additionally, after Mr Hariri was killed, the terrorist-turned-analyst, Anis Naqqash, said on Al Jazeera that he and another Iranian had met a Hariri adviser to warn him to turn away from the path he had taken.
Despite all this, Mr Nasrallah still rules out his or Syria’s involvement, and insists that Israel is the perpetrator. But Mr Nasrallah’s arguments do not add up. As he recently said: “We are all from the same neighbourhood,” which means things cannot be hidden in a small country like Lebanon. Since every Lebanese seems to know who the perpetrators are, civil war might be the only threat Mr Nasrallah can employ to dissuade people from moving forward.
More radically, Mr Nasrallah wants supporters to denounce the tribunal and forget justice for Mr Hariri and others, or risk Hizbollah’s wrath. The implicit threat is a return to the violence of May 2008, when Hizbollah militants took to the streets to reverse two “Israeli” decisions made by the cabinet.
If all else fails and the tribunal proceeds, Mr Nasrallah may borrow a page from Saddam’s notebook. Like Saddam and the Baathists 42 years before him, Mr Nasrallah may eliminate rivals under the pretext of countering a Zionist conspiracy.
If the truth of the Hariri assassination is not revealed, civil war becomes more, not less probable.
Hussain Abdul-Hussain is a correspondent for Al Rai and a visiting fellow at Chatham House
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
But what McCarthy leaves out of his story is more interesting.
First, after the 1979 ensuing battle with the Israeli police, two militants were killed and two others, Abras and Kuntar, were captured, only to be released in 1985 and 2006, respectively, as part of swap deals between the Israeli government and militant groups. If America should be all up in arms fighting Islamist terrorism, perhaps America's ally -Israel - should stop cracking deals with these same terrorists.
Second, neither Kuntar nor Abras (not mentioned in the book) were Islamists or members of Islamist groups. Kuntar, a non-Muslim Druze from Lebanon, was member of the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF), a splinter group of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Both groups - now nearly defunct - are Marxist-inspired Arab nationalist groups. The PFLP was founded and led, until his death recently, by Christian Palestinian George Habash.
How McCarthy failed to notice that Kuntar is not a Muslim (and was not a member of an Islamist group) is something you only find in poorly researched books written by authors with an ideological agenda like McCarthy.
Trying to sound even smarter, McCarthy uses Arabic words, of course as part of decoding the "grand conspiracy" that the Muslims of the world are concocting against America. Some of these words are not comprehensible even for those with an Arabic mother tongue.
Then comes the name crime, Hussein. For all the freedom this "Judeo-Christian" country has to offer, presidents can be either Jews or Christians, and cannot have names like Hussein as in Barack Hussein Obama. Throughout his presidential election campaign, Obama repeatedly laughed and shrugged off accusations that he was Muslim. What Obama failed to add (and perhaps out of pragmatic political calculations) every time he denied belonging to the Muslim faith, was that "there is nothing wrong with being a Muslim" and running for US president, just like it is ok being a woman, a homosexual, a hindu, or any other person who is not a Judeo-Christian male, the only category Mr. McCarthey expects to serve as US president.
Also in this book, one cannot but notice McCarthy's poor intellect. When talking about theological, doctrinal or similar trends within Islam, it is never enough to cite the thought of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood Hassan Al-Banna. To show number, McCarthy cites another fanatic, Tele-Islamist Yussuf Al-Qaradawi.
While the thought of late Al-Banna and the propaganda Al-Qaradawi might be the loudest in the Middle East, they are certainly not uncontested. During the time of Al-Banna (mid-20th century), for instance, several other Muslim and Arab thinkers disputed his thought and his radicalism. The likes of Egyptian Taha Hussein and Hafez Amin, Iraqi Maarouf Al-Rasafi and Ali Al-Wardi and many other thinkers wrote and preached extensively about needed reform within Islam, about women's rights, and about several other issues that resonate well with ideas of the Age of Enlightenment, which stood against Medieval Ages when Europe's Christians hunted down Jews to burn them (talk about a Judeo-Christian tradition).
Enlightenment belongs to humanity at large and is not the monopoly of Judaism, Christianity, Islam or any combination of these monotheistic religions. When McCarthy singles out Islam as the enemy, he does a favor to Al-Banna's followers and Al-Qardawi who, like McCarthy, are never able to see the world outside of their binary division that breeds hatred over and over again.
Confronting radical thought in every religion, whether Judaism, Christianity or Islam, is in the interest of humanity at large. Confronting radical Islam with radical Judeo-Christianity, like the one propagated by McCarthy in this book and endorsed by like-minded fanatics such as Rush Limbaugh et al, is against the interest of humanity.
For those who asked: I gave this book three stars only because I agree with McCarthy that Georgetown professor John Esposito is the apologist-in-chief for radical Islam.
Monday, August 2, 2010
David Harvey first presents the historical context during which neoliberalism replaced embedded liberalism. Embedded liberalism was the period when most governments - throughout the world - offered safety nets and social programs to their citizens. By the 1970s, public budgets were scorching the bottom of their barrels and thus provoking anger on the part of labor unions: Enter neoliberal thought as defined by Austrian academic Fredrick Augustus Von Hayek and his disciples, such as Milton Friedman and the "boys of Chicago" - economists trained by the University of Chicago.
The neoliberal school argued that privatizing the public sector, dismantling labor unions and liberalizing markets were reforms needed to reverse the economic ailments of the 1970s. The neoliberals put their ideology to test first in Chile in 1973 and later to solve the crisis of the bankrupt city of New York.
Despite some initial success, we now know that neoliberalism has continuously resulted in economic disasters, first and foremost in the United States (such as in 2008, after this book was written).
To win popular support for the spread of their ideology, neoliberals split the most popular movement of 1968 when labor unions and student movement waged street battles against governments. According to Harvey, the fusion of the social welfare demands of the labor unions and individual freedoms of the student movement was no easy task, a lesson not lost on the neoliberals who capitalized on this difference, and eventually caused a split between the two by endorsing individual freedom as one of their scared principles.
Harvey writes: "A contradiction arises between a seductive but alienating possessive individualism on the one hand and the desire for a meaningful collective life on the other. While individuals are supposedly free to choose, they are not supposed to choose to construct strong collective institutions (such as trade unions) as opposed to weak voluntary associations (like charitable organizations)."
He heavily criticizes the tools of neoliberalism namely the IMF, World Bank, the US Federal Reserve (all unelected institutions) and the US Treasury, saying that the IMF, the World Bank and Washington have imposed their neoliberal ideas on countries like Mexico and Argentina, giving capital owners worldwide a chance to expand their wealth through financial games with the troubled countries and eventually causing economic havoc for these countries and colossal fortunes for themselves.
Harvey brilliantly highlights the failure of neoliberalism even within the United States. He argued (before the 2008 financial crisis) that neoliberals had de-industrialized America and transformed the economy base into finance. There, brokerage and speculating against the market - among other games - generated virtual wealth for the country at large, while actual fortunes were being accumulated for the finance dealers only (and even those had to be bailed out by government as evident in the US in 2008 and 2009). When America's bubbles burst, the poor usually find themselves poorer and the rich, much richer.
Harvey also writes in details about the Chinese style of neoliberalism.
Harvey argues that democracy is undermined when manipulated by the overwhelming power of affluent citizens and their ability to outspend everybody else on lobbying and other activities. Money gives a few the powers to decide on issues that affect the lives of the many.
Finally, Harvey - who implicitly calls for the restoration of a Keynesian state - commits grave errors through his sweeping generalizations of schools of thoughts and economic classes. Because of his opposition to neoliberalism, Harvey writes against the concept of individual freedoms, saying they account for little without social justice and economic rights. He even argues that if nations choose dictatorships, they should be allowed to do so.
As such, Harvey unintentionally aligns freedom and neoliberalism, on one side, vs. social justice and tyranny on the other. There is no reason why individual freedom and social justice cannot mix.