Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Free Trade Meets Populism at the IMF

Photo by Daniel Lobo | CC BY 2.0

Photo by Daniel Lobo | CC BY 2.0

I was taken by surprise by the headline of the Latin American Herald TribuneGlobal Elites Insist on Greater Trade Openness to Halt Populism. The article reports on the IMF general assembly held in Washington over the weekend and it shows just how disconcerted the “global elites” are by the rising tide of disenchantment with the neoliberal gospel not only in the Global South, but in the Center (Europe and the United States) as well. But why all the worry? I thought history ended in 1989, the progressive cycle is now ending in Latin America, and globalization was the fulfillment of the World Spirit.

The headline suggestions that the “global elites” are grappling with what appears to be a contradiction. If “populism” (a term that is probably being used here in a pejorative way) itself is anti-free trade, how can more free trade cure the disease that provokes anti-neoliberal populism?

The article quotes IMF head, Christine Lagarde about her prescription for the “mediocre” world economy that is causing the populist disaffection:

“The first priority for inclusive growth is to escape the ‘new mediocre’ of low growth, low employment, and low wages. That means using all policy tools – monetary, fiscal, and structural: to maximize the synergies within countries – and amplify the impact though coordination across countries.”

Of course, “all policy tools” likely refers here to those tools acceptable to the IMF, not the ones employed by those sovereign nations experimenting with other economic models.

With regard to whatever “populism” might mean here, the IMF statements point not only to the critical consensus of millions of persons in the Global South (the periphery if you like), but also to a growing dissident movement in some of the Global Center countries.

The article does not mention that though the “global elites” are using “all the [neoliberal] policy tools” in Argentina, the “adjustments” that have triggered rising unemployment and a pull back in social investment are causing a growing popular backlash there; and in the aftermath of the institutional coup against President Dilma Rousseff, Brazil is next in line.

To make things worse, the Brexit, says the Herald, “has caused alarm bells to ring in world financial centers.” And that’s not all. “Officials expressed a marked concern for the mistrust of the benefits of global trade evidenced in the presidential election campaign in the United States, the world’s largest economy.”

Yes, the U.S. is the world’s largest economy, but it is worth adding that the US is also among the “developed” world’s most unequal economies with poverty hitting minorities the hardest and more people in jail than any nation on earth. The antipathy to free trade by the electorate is so pronounced, even Hillary Clinton is willing to throw the Trans Pacific Partnership under the bus ( at least for the next four weeks).

The IMF prescription to treat the disease of the inequality generated by the private accumulation of socially produced wealth is more neoliberalism. But this won’t come easy. Since “populism”  can often compete effectively at the ballot box, the “insistence” of the use of adjustment-medicine may require a measure of “arm twisting” (to borrow a term from President Obama) with regard to those nations or political parties that do not know what is good for them.

The headline and article suggest that “populism” poses a challenge to the agenda of the “global elites.” The Herald concludes “it is perhaps for that reason that the IMF has expanded the focus of its analysis, which has been traditionally focused on macroeconomic stability and growth, to include calls for the need to fight economic inequality and the negative consequences of globalization.”

Those negative consequences of globalization, however, are arguably not mere accidents, but an essential feature of the capital system.

More articles by:

Frederick B. Mills is a professor of Philosophy at Bowie State University.

Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
Sam Husseini
The Most Strategic Midterm Race: Elder Challenges Hoyer
Maria Foscarinis – John Tharp
The Criminalization of Homelessness
Robert Fisk
The Story of the Armenian Legion: a Dark Tale of Anger and Revenge
Jacques R. Pauwels
Dinner With Marx in the House of the Swan
Dave Lindorff
US ‘Outrage’ over Slaying of US Residents Depends on the Nation Responsible
Ricardo Vaz
How Many Yemenis is a DC Pundit Worth?
Elliot Sperber
Build More Gardens, Phase out Cars
Chris Gilbert
In the Wake of Nepal’s Incomplete Revolution: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian 
Muhammad Othman
Let Us Bray
Gerry Brown
Are Chinese Municipal $6 Trillion (40 Trillion Yuan) Hidden Debts Posing Titanic Risks?
Rev. William Alberts
Judge Kavanaugh’s Defenders Doth Protest Too Much
Ralph Nader
Unmasking Phony Values Campaigns by the Corporatists
Victor Grossman
A Big Rally and a Bavarian Vote
James Bovard
Groped at the Airport: Congress Must End TSA’s Sexual Assaults on Women
Jeff Roby
Florida After Hurricane Michael: the Sad State of the Unheeded Planner
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Bradley Kaye
The Policy of Policing
Wim Laven
The Catholic Church Fails Sexual Abuse Victims
Kevin Cashman
One Year After Hurricane Maria: Employment in Puerto Rico is Down by 26,000
Dr. Hakim Young
Nonviolent Afghans Bring a Breath of Fresh Air
Karl Grossman
Irving Like vs. Big Nuke
Dan Corjescu
The New Politics of Climate Change
John Carter
The Plight of the Pyrenees: the Abandoned Guard Dogs of the West
Ted Rall
Brett Kavanaugh and the Politics of Emotion-Shaming
Graham Peebles
Sharing is Key to a New Economic and Democratic Order
Ed Rampell
The Advocates
Louis Proyect
The Education Business
David Yearsley
Shock-and-Awe Inside Oracle Arena
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail