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CHOICE: I'll Take The IMF & World Bank Over the Nihilist Protesters !

Doesn't Rationality Beat Nihilism?
When one sees two of one's enemies fighting, there is often a temptation to cheer for both sides. But the reality is that our enemies are seldom equal in their power or loathsomeness. In most cases, one of the two is far more dangerous. Thus, we must choose sides and aid the lesser evil. As they say, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Last week, anti-globalist demonstrators shut down much of Washington to protest the policies of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. As a longtime critic of both institutions, I should be tempted to at least sympathize with the demonstrators. But I cannot.

It is not that I have changed my mind about the Bank and the Fund. They still make a lot of mistakes, in my opinion, such as bailing out private banks that don't deserve it, pushing devaluations and tax increases that undermine growth, fostering dependency on foreign aid in developing countries, propping up dictators like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, financing "white elephant" projects that foster corruption, and various other sins.

However, at the end of the day, the Bank and the Fund are rational institutions that are at least trying to do the right thing. Where they err, it is often because the conventional wisdom among economists in general is wrong. Also, the governments of the major industrial countries, which control both institutions, often impose unwise policies on them for political reasons. Consequently, the Bank and Fund are often forced to follow policies that they know are wrong, but have no power to change.

As much as I criticize the Bank and the Fund, I should say, more often than I do, that they are also forces for good in the world. For the most part, they promote market-oriented policies and provide a measure of discipline to wayward governments that would not otherwise exist. They have many first-rate economists who produce vast quantities of research and data that are essential reading for anyone studying international economic development.

Moreover, historically, both institutions have been largely open to their critics. Recently, for example, the World Bank allowed economist William Easterly to write a book highly critical of its policies as part of his regular duties. The websites of both organizations are filled with papers and reports that are often critical of their past actions and policies. In short, both the Bank and the Fund try as best they can to learn from their mistakes.

The same cannot be said of the anti-globalists. They are utterly irrational as well as being wrong. It is a waste of time to argue with them, because they are incapable of making or even comprehending a rational argument. There is no research, no data, nor any academic literature supporting their position. It is based solely on emotion. But one cannot make policy on such a basis.

Even communism, which turned out to be a monumental disaster in every country in which it was imposed, had a more rational basis than the rants and tirades of the anti-globalists. At least the communists tried to justify their policies on the basis of serious if deeply flawed argument, backed by logic and analysis. The anti-globalists don't even bother to do as much as the communists did to support their position.

The truth is that anti-globalization is simply an umbrella under which every nut group in America, both on the right and left, has gravitated. Most of the protestors probably don't even care much about international trade, the World Bank, the IMF, the World Trade Organization, or any of the other things they profess to oppose. They just enjoy protesting. It's like a reunion of all the people who used to follow the Grateful Dead on their concert tours. Since the Dead don't tour any more, coming to Washington to rant and rave about globalization is the next best thing.

I have no respect whatsoever for the anti-globalists. And I fear them as nihilists, who would destroy the institutions of civilization simply for the fun of it.

Faced with nihilists incapable of rational thought, on the one hand, and organizations like the Bank and Fund that are attempting to make the world a better place by utilizing the best analysis and research they can find, my choice is clear. I have to side with the latter and oppose the former with whatever resources are at my disposal. I will not stop criticizing the World Bank and the IMF when I think they are mistaken. But I have stand with the Bank and the Fund over the anti-globalists and for rationality against nihilism.
My brother 03.Oct.2002 06:00

your brother

Hey friend, I''m one of those people you refered to in that fine post i just read. One of those ex grateful dead fans. But im your brother, symbolically of course, in that I see much truth in your comments.
This "anti-globalization movement" you and i are both aware of, does have quite a bit of nihilistic qualities, amongst its members. There is quite a bit of emotion driving this movement, not as much rationality. This movement could stand to do more research, provide more data, and support their position with more academic literature. These are real problems the "left" must face, or risk being forgotten and demonized by history.
Let me quote you "The truth is that anti-globlaization is simply an umbrella under which every nut group in America, both on the right and left, has gravitated." Let me partially agree with you and explain my reasoning. It is an umbrella, and that is mainly part of these systematic problems you and i agree are there. Nihilism is not a symptom of antiglobalization, it is a symptom of "globalization" (global corporatization might be a more exact meaning). So I feel as if there is a central, wiser core to the movement, one stemming from movements during the sixties for example, and from before that, like the labor movements. So this is actually positive, that the movement has some wisdom to it. But yes, us youger people, products of capitalism, have alot of nihilism. We cant help it. We learned it. We bring our nihilistic views to the movement, and this is a serious problem which we need to solve, not just on the right or left, but in general. We need to be more rational, and control our emotions. If we can do that, we could be remembered by history for nobly serving the greater humanity.
I seemed to have revealed who i would side with, if given the choice between the protestors, and the IMF, WTO, and world bank.
But we're brothers you and I. I do care about international trade. I don't enjoy protesting. and I certainly am capable of rational thinking, as any healthy human being is. I respect these institutions despite their "evil-doings", in much the same way you do. We have a highly advanced system of wealth distribution, one that should be studied, so that developing economies can learn from whatever it is that we do well.
But to believe that the current leaders are innocently pursuing rational interests is very dangerous thinking. The current group of leaders include maybe some of these kinds of "aloof generals" you refer to, but there is a more sinister group reaching for supreme power, one that lurks in the shadows, one that we must work together to discover and eliminate if our democracy is to survive through the next century. You understand this, my brother. But why do think in this dangerous way?
I do my research and provide my sources, like you say is right, but fail to do so when you slam communism as a deeply flawed argument. Shame on you my brother.
I used to consider myself an anti-globalist, but now, a little older, a little wiser, I don't. How can anyone be rationally antio-global? What I meant was anti- corporate rule of the globe-ist. Or something like that. You know what i mean. It's a complicated world, which needs complicated words.
I was once nihilist, and still am, to some extent. But i wasn't raised nihilist. Let me tell a personal story:

I was raised in a military familiy. I was raised to believe that our country(America) was the best, most advanced, most civilized, most free country in the world. That our military humbly and proudly protected the freedoms we citizens enjoy, and our security as well. As I got older I learned more about history, and that our Country hasn't actually been the best recently, and that our military engages in activites not so noble. With an illusion like that shattered, it's very easy to become nihilist. Its difficult to get another positive world view back. But that'sd what we're in the middle of , my brother, history.

ps. sorry about the speling =)

nihilism? here's your nihilism. 03.Oct.2002 08:55

this thing here

what's more nihilistic than a $ bill?

what's more nihilistic than: "rules, principles, dreams, traditions, cultures, time, the natural world, the human body, the human life, don't matter. all that matters is maintaining an acceptable profit margin for the continued solvency and financial health of the corporate ship."...?

don't confuse idealism for a better world with nihilism. and don't be so foolish as to think that capitalism is full of hope and joy and light for all.

IMF - WORLD BANK 03.Oct.2002 10:10

Square Meal

The IMF and World Bank could only amass the dreadful record they have through willful planning.

No well intentioned but sometimes mistake prone institution could cause the consistent destruction these institutions have.

The desire to see them in some sort of positive light, is the bastion of the mind hoping not to see how its own efforts and work have been supporting greed over humanity, profit over the necessity of sustainable life.

What a nihilism it is to go to your job everyday, go out to dinner, go home to TV and endlessly repeat without ever facing the truth of what ones work and energy is going to support.

And yes, you are right, that same ingrained nihilism still pulls at the minds of many activists.