Competition year: 2001
About Mark Roeder
1. THE GLOBAL BACKLASH
In many parts of the world today we are witnessing a growing protest movement against the forces of globalisation and economic rationalism.
Television bulletins show people defiantly waving placards amidst the teargas and water cannons, stridently blocking the gates to the G-8 conferences and World Bank summits, picketing financial centres, and in a recent case, sacrificing their life. The flashpoints have spread to Seattle, Davos, Washington, Prague, Melbourne, Nice, Quebec, Barcelona and Genoa and have become increasingly violent.
These protesters do not belong to a particular ideology, creed or political party. They are drawn from a wide cross section of society including teachers, lawyers, environmentalists, nuns, entrepreneurs, trade unionists, teachers, the employed and the unemployed. Indeed, many are the direct beneficiaries of global capitalism, including business owners, investment bankers and money traders. Some wear expensive suits, others wear facepaint - such is their diversity.
The essence of these protests appears to be that global capitalism has unleashed a powerful new dynamic, which is trampling on the rights of individuals, communities and nations. It is seen to be an unstoppable, unaccountable force, which is tearing at the social fabric, fostering a sense of alienation and dispossession.
This dynamic is reflected in the rapid consolidation of diverse enterprises into fewer, larger global corporations with annual revenues exceeding the GDPs of some countries. It is manifested in the enormous polarisation of wealth that has occurred over the past two decades, and a huge rise in the inequality of incomes, even in developed countries. It is evidenced by the subordination of national laws and policies into global frameworks, which are devised by unelected, anonymous officials. Ultimately, it is reflected in the erosion of our quality of life.
Global capitalism obviously has a lot to answer for. Or does it?
This submission proposes that the real culprit for this collective angst is not global capitalism, but something deeper and more profound. Something so basic and fundamental, that we are barely conscious of it, let alone do we question it.
This is the issue of how we, as citizens of the 21st century, actually measure value in our lives. How we calculate what is important to us, and how we articulate this value in a meaningful way. Indeed, the excesses of global capitalism are symptoms of our failure to address this core underlying issue.
2. THE ENOBLEMENT OF MONEY
Throughout history, we have devised numerous ways of measuring value, from simple barter systems to primitive currencies such as shells, and more elaborate versions based on precious metals such as gold. This evolution eventually resulted in the development of coins and notes, and what we have come to know as 'Money'.
Traditionally, money was never a 'stand-alone'tool. It was used within the context of other value systems determined by the church, the state, the law, the military, the arts and society. These acted as balancing forces to maintain some sort of equilibrium in our value system. Money was used as one tool among many to measure value, and it focused primarily on commercial or economic value.
In recent years, however, this equilibrium has been destabilised by forces that never existed before, such as globalisation, economic rationalism, the internet and the rapid convergence of markets. Simultaneously, we have seen the precipitous erosion of the traditional value systems represented by the church, the law, military and various cultural institutions. This unique convergence of forces has elevated and ennobled money to the status of a 'super-measurer' of value, a universal currency for determining the value of all things in a world where everything has a price.
The result is that 'money' is now being used as a tool to calculate the value of things it was never designed to do. Money cannot measure the things that matter most to us - the value of love, relationship, truth, nature, beauty, health, spirit, emotions, humour, kinship, community, a rainforest, a summer shower or a golden sunset.