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Who Wants War?
Businesses compete. They need money for research and development to keep their market position. If their rivals spend more, they need to spend more too.
To get this money, businesses can produce more, hoping to sell more, or they can lower expenses.
Say they produce more. There's a limit to how much people will buy. Twice as much soft drink in the shops doesn't make you twice as thirsty. Companies can increase sales by advertising. But advertising mostly convinces people to switch brands; not to buy a product that they otherwise wouldn't. This won't help if many companies have over-produced.
So if companies produce more, they may have more than they can sell. They'll have to use their second option: lowering expenses.
Some expenses, like advertising, can't really be lowered. Some can be lowered slightly, like workplace safety. But the main area where businesses can save money is wages. They can replace people with new technology. They can use 'labor hire' companies to get around minimum wages and conditions. Or they can move production to the poor countries, where wages are much lower.
Whichever they choose, people will have less money to spend. So they'll buy less. But the original problem was that businesses couldn't sell their products. With less people buying, this will get worse. This will mean that companies have to spend even less on wages. And this will mean that people will be spending less still...and so the economy will collapse.
Businesses want to force people to spend money.
A government that said "we're going to tax you and give the money to businesses" wouldn't last very long.
But this is exactly what all governments do. Not many people know how much public money the government gives to businesses. In fact, 'corporate welfare' costs more than unemployment and sickness benefits put together. Over the last decade the Australian government has given away $60 billion. For example Holden got $160 million to build a factory. This figure only includes outright gifts - not loans or tax incentives.
This has some dangers. Firstly, the companies might use the money to skip to another country. When the government gave a $6 million grant to King Gee, they used it to close down their Australian operation and start importing clothes from Indonesia.
But the main danger is that people will find out about it. Most people wouldn't put up with money being used this way, when there's supposed to be no money for health, education, or welfare.
However if people think there's a threat, they'll be happy to have their money taken as tax and given to military companies.
The American government has said that their "war on terrorism" could last longer than World War Two. The British and Australian governments say they'll back them all the way.
This is wonderful news for the people in power. It's not so good for ordinary people.
Money will be spent on weapons instead of schools or hospitals, or instead of people keeping it for themselves. The arms companies will have more money to spend on computers, so the computer companies will have more money to spend on research, so the research companies...and so on. The people who own companies don't need to use public hospitals or send their children to public schools, so cuts to these areas don't affect them.
We can expect ongoing racial violence. A pregnant Moslem woman in Melbourne was attacked and hospitalised. In America a Sikh was mistaken for a Moslem and murdered. In Britain a Moslem taxi driver was beaten and left paralyzed from the waist down and a woman was beaten by two men with baseball bats. Obviously, this kind of behaviour won't make white people safer either. But racial violence doesn't affect the people in power. Racist attacks basically don't happen in rich areas. In fact it benefits the people in power. Ordinary people will be fighting each other, not them.
And in war, people die. After the World Trade Centre bombing, Australian Foreign Minister John Downer admitted that the government's policy made Australia more likely to be a terrorist target. A year later, when a nightclub in Bali was bombed and many Australians died, he denied that it had anything to do with the government's policies.
However many soldiers or civilians die, the people who own companies won't be among them. They never join the army or get conscripted, nor do they have to compromise their personal safety.
This is all true in Iraq, Iran, or Korea, as much as in America, Canada or Britain. Osama bin Laden would love a war, for the same reasons as the American or Australian government. War with America greatly increased Saddam Hussein's popularity. Bombing Afghanistan increased the popularity of Al Qaeda.
The 'free market' needs war to survive. Some people say that invading Iraq, for example, would be mad or irrational. It will hurt ordinary people, both there and here. But it's not irrational. War is good for the people who make the decision.
As long as we have a 'free market' economy, and as long as a small elite makes decisions in society, there will be war. To stop war, we should get rid of the things that cause it.
(Facts in this article are from the Sydney Morning Herald series "The Companies You Keep". The incidents of racial violence were reported in the Melbourne Age).
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