I Lagardien
I Lagardien

US election 2012: Reconstituting a plutocracy

For the first time in more than three decades – since at least the election of Ronald Reagan – I have absolutely no interest in the outcome of the US presidential elections. This decline in interest has to do more with the fact that there is little difference, today, between Republican and Democrat candidates. The contest between the two parties represents little more than a battle to reconstitute the plutocracy the country has become. For the rest of the world, it will be business as usual.

My interests in the US elections have always coalesced around that country’s foreign policies, as implemented through the Pentagon, the State Department and the Bretton Woods organisations. For most of the past three decades these policies have by and large been disastrous for poor people and beneficial for the US. Going back to the 1960s, the US has carpet bombed Laos, invaded countries in east and southeast Asia, directly funded conflict in countries like Angola, propped up military dictatorships in the former Zaire and Chile and has been involved, directly or indirectly, in the assassination of popular leaders from Patrice Lumumba and Salvador Allende.

Through the World Bank and IMF the US has imposed its own vision of liberal capitalism on the world. Whether one agrees with these policies or not, they’ve been helicoptered into countries and forced onto states by various means of coercion and consent. That “American model” of political economy – from structural adjustment, to minimalist democracy, “good governance” (which Rita Abrahamsen most eloquently explained in Disciplining Democracy) and democracy promotion through the barrel of a gun – policies now lies in tatters, and that country is, itself, reeling under the pressures of its own fixation with the low-hanging fruit of capitalist excess.

Four years ago, on this blog, I wrote that people should not expect Barack Obama to be any different from George W Bush. I received a lot of hate mail after writing that. Two years into Obama’s reign, I receive apologies. Under Obama the US has continued its war against the Iraqis, the Afghan people and dropped bombs on innocent people in Pakistan. Targeted assassinations have increased and civil liberties in the US have been eroded. The fixation with Obama continues.

A colleague recently told me that I was not an African, that Obama was “and a Kenyan to boot” and that we should support whatever he does. I said we were outraged when the apartheid state attacked villages and killed innocent people in neighbouring states, and should be outraged by Obama’s slaughter of innocents in Pakistan. The response was curt: he is an African.

Again, I want to suggest that we should not expect the next president of the US to change that country significantly. The strict monetarism that was introduced under Reagan, the Republican, was reproduced under Bill Clinton, the Democrat. The violence and conflict sowed abroad by Bush was continued by Obama. Collectively the Democrats and Republicans represent the plutocracy the US has become.

The US economy will rebound … these things happen in cycles. The US will continue to play a role in global governance, not all of it will be benevolent. My biggest concern is that the US seems to have a scorched-earth foreign policy approach: if we can’t control and dominate the world – ain’t nobody else gonna do it!

Watch out for the next conflict in the South China Sea, and listen carefully, when they tell us they are doing it for humanity, or some narrow notion of freedom.

As for who the people of the US elect to lead them. This time I don’t care. When Clinton took over from the Republicans in the early 1990s, we thought things would be different. He ended up dropping bombs on innocent people in Africa. The people of that country elected Bush. When The New Yorker endorsed Obama for the presidency, this is what the editors wrote about Bush:

“Obama succeeded George W Bush, a two-term president whose misbegotten legacy, measured in the money it squandered and the misery it inflicted, has become only more evident with time. Bush left behind an America in dire condition and with a degraded reputation. On Inauguration Day, the United States was in a downward financial spiral brought on by predatory lending, legally sanctioned greed and pyramid schemes, an economic policy geared to the priorities and the comforts of what soon came to be called “the one per cent” and deregulation that began before the Bush presidency. In 2008 alone, more than two and a half million jobs were lost — up to three-quarters of a million jobs a month. The gross domestic product was shrinking at a rate of 9%. Housing prices collapsed. Credit markets collapsed. The stock market collapsed — and, with it, the retirement prospects of millions. Foreclosures and evictions were ubiquitous; whole neighbourhoods and towns emptied. The automobile industry appeared to be headed for bankruptcy. Banks as large as Lehman Brothers were dead, and other banks were foundering. It was a crisis of historic dimensions and global ramifications. However skilful the management in Washington, the slump was bound to last longer than any since the Great Depression.”

Yes Obama had a hard act to follow and he was, for some, a good president, but for those in the killing fields of Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and who knows where else, this is no comfort.

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    • Sterling ferguson

      @Lagardien, those people that blew up the US embassies in east Africa weren’t innocent people. The people killing people in Nigeria are not innocent people so, stop spreading poison. You forgot to mention how many people are alive in Africa because the US sent food to these countries. Many people are alive in SA because the US is paying for the AIDS treatment program in that country.

    • http://www.ilagardien.com Ismail Lagardien

      The United States is frittering away its role as a model for the rest of the world. The political system is plagued by an absurd level of hatred, the economy is stagnating and the infrastructure is falling into a miserable state of disrepair. On this election eve, many Americans are losing faith in their country’s future.


    • Richard

      It is interesting to see how Obama’s presidency has shown how racist blacks worldwide are. In the UK, his visits are met with more interest than a visit by the Prime Minister, in the US he is supported by 95% of blacks no matter what his record. In South Africa, the situation is similar. It seems that whites vote by issue, whereas blacks vote by race. Excuses are always offered, but that is the sum of it. Whites in South Africa are discouraged from voting as a block, whereas blacks see no problem with that mentality. It makes me wonder whether democracy is simply a trojan horse to serve a racist agends. Sad, but revealing.

    • Rich Brauer

      Spot on. There is *no* significant difference between the two parties in the US.

      I, too, recall hearing, in particular, Kenyans, talking about how Obama would make a huge difference in Africa.

      I laughed, and laughed. And I’ve been giggling ever since.

      I will correct you on one thing:
      “Watch out for the next conflict in the South China Sea”

      It won’t happen. Nuclear weapons states don’t go to war with one another. Which is exactly why North Korea (and putatively, Iran), have made the attempt.

    • PM

      I happen to disagree, Ismail, and I want to point out only one important issue: the question of monetary and fiscal policy. The world economy depends on some major world economy taking the adult approach to economic expansion (as opposed to the approach of the EU, which is towards fiscal contraction). A victory by Romney would have meant the US adopting the approach of the EU–world economic contraction would have been the result.
      I will grant your points about political liberties and the Middle East–but those would have little effect on South Africa, whereas fiscal/monetary policy will have direct and important effects on the SA economy and world economic growth.

    • The Creator

      In fairness, one could argue that a Romney presidency would piss the world off more and would generally be more clumsy and incompetent in its execution of policies, so therefore it might have made a difference had Romney won.

      It’s not really an argument which would cut much ice with American voters, of course.

    • Lennon

      Alex Jones referred to it as the “Obama Deception”.

      What sickens me is that both you and Jones were right on the money, but it’s all about the US concept of “continuity of government” which means that the replacement simply picks up from where his predecessor left off and Obomber’s drone campaigns; numerous executive orders which circumvent the legislature and the 2012 NDAA have certainly proven this.

      Sorry. I’ve been awake for too long. Back to MTV.

    • beachcomber

      And apart from your invective, your alternative is?

      And will your advice to the National Planning Commission do anything to change the plutocracy which South Africa has become under the ANC?

      And boring as your stock-phrase diatribe is, it creates an excellent picture of the usual dog in the manger attitude to anyone not of your political persuasion.

      And finally, do you really think a single American cares if you followed the election or not?

    • HD

      Agree, not much difference. Economically speaking Romney would have been marginally better for the domestic situation and delaying (avoiding probably too optimistic) the US going along the social-welfare path of the EU…(you gotta love how exit polls show the economy as the most important issue, but people still voted for Obama who promises more of the same, because they blamed Bush – says something about rhetoric and Chicago political machine)

      The GOP crop for 2016 looks a lot better – for one a fiscal conservative (not crony-capitalist) and social moderate would be a much better proposition. But heck, who knows how the US and the world might look in 2016…Obama bogged down in Iran/MENA…unlikely, but definitely not impossible…

    • Sterling ferguson

      @Ismail, that is not true about the US people losing faith and hopes. As a matter of facts the people in the US don’t do nothing but cry hunger when, they are fifty pounds overweight.

    • http://google Norman

      A good article.As a black African I still fail to understand why we are so excited about the Obama presidency.Something tells we are just racist.

    • LittleBobPete

      Good Article.

      @beachcomber – crap comment bud – you cared enough to comment – thats who he was writing for

      Obama has been poor, but I do expect better from his second term. Generally Presidents spend their first term in appeasment mode, not wanting to alienate anyone, hoping to win their second term and then they try to impose their plans.
      Will we see more of the same……probably…….the big money campaign funders play both sides of the coin and we’ll see Obama having to platy to their fiddle.

      what America does need is a marked deviation from Friedman Economics. Unregulated economies breed greed that eventually will result in their collapse. Human greed and excess needs to be stopped, and nowhere more so than in the US…..sadly, humans need to be regulated……now if there were a President who was willing to do the hard yards for that……..then I would be interested!!!

    • Una


      I am one of those Africans that are not excited by Obama’s presidency. Admittedly he is an intelligent leader and Americans of all races are aware of this. However, there is more to why America is giving the world Obama than what meets the eye. If I may deviate a little before I make my point – I agree with The Creator that Republican presidents tend to have poor theoreticians and strategists, resulting in them making embarrassing mistakes in domestic & foreign policy initiatives. The Obama factor is a very strategic move on the part of Americans and can be lethal for Africa and the Arab world. This is a complicated move that cannot even be likened to a chess board maneuver. It is more sophisticated than that – it is a Trojan horse approach and can be very very confusing to simple minded leaders. One can only pray that African leaders are ready for this. Instead of elbowing out intellectuals, Africa needs think tanks now more than ever before. The stakes are very high.

    • Sterling Ferguson

      @Una, many Africans seem to think that the US has a secret plan about Africa and this is far from being the truth. There is a thinking among some Africans that Africa has so many resources and the US has a secret plan to take them. This isn’t true about Africa having so many resources that the US wants. As a matter of facts, Africa isn’t loaded with resources like many Africans think. Most of Africa doesn’t get enough rainfall to grow food to feed the people. Africa doesn’t have the capital to develop their resources nor do they have the technology to develop them. African leaders are begging these western companies to come and invest in Africa’s resources.

    • Sterling Ferguson

      @HD, the meltdown was caused by the failure of the R-party policies of unregulated capitalism. The myth that the market would regulate itself has been proven to be a big myth because, the market isn’t free to control excessive gambling. Prior, to Obama coming to office, look at how many Ponzi schemes were being run the US and billions were lost.

      Speaking of Romney, this man was a big liar and didn’t have a plan to jump start the US economy. He wants to go back to the same system that got the US in this trouble with this fake boom and bust economy.

    • george orwell


      Dr PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS, former assistant secretary of US Treasury and editor of the “Wall Street Journa”l makes strong points on the election:

      ” I don’t think that either candidate is a good choice or that either offers a choice. Washington is controlled by powerful interest groups, not by elections.

      “What the two parties fight over is not alternative political visions and different legislative agendas, but which party gets to be the whore for Wall Street, the military-security complex, Israel Lobby, agribusiness, and energy, mining, and timber interests.

      “Being the whore is important, because whores are rewarded for the services that they render. To win the White House or a presidential appointment is a career-making event as it makes a person sought after by rich and powerful interest groups..

      “Wars are profitable for the military/security complex… whichever candidate or party wins, the interest groups prevail….”

      The article continues at the link and is well worth a read.

    • george orwell

      I’m guessing you might find this amusing and thought-provoking, Lagardien!

      More from former Wall Street Journal editor, economist and politician Dr Paul Craig Roberts:

      What a P. Craig Roberts US Administration Would Look Like


      PCR: “… Several hundred readers wrote me in as their selection for President. I am honoured. Some asked if I were elected by write-ins and not instantly assassinated, who would I appoint?

      “An easy question to answer.

      Glenn Greenwald [Salon.com and Guardian lawyer-journalist] would be Deputy Attorney General.

      Willie Nelson would be Secretary of Agriculture.

      Cynthia McKinney would be Secretary of State.

      The CIA would be headed by Ray McGovern and Philip Giraldi.

      The FBI would be headed by Sibel Edmonds.

      David Ray Griffin and Richard Gage would head the 9/11 investigation.

      Bradley Manning would be in charge of closing down the torture prisons.

      Julian Assange and John Pilger would head Public Broadcasting.

      Norman Finkelstein would be US Ambassador to Israel.

      Noam Chomsky would be US Ambassador to the UN.

      The Israel Lobby would have to register as a foreign agent.

      It would be an administration that represented Americans, not special interests and foreigners…

      [see the full list at the link]

    • Una

      Sterling Furgeson

      The resources that Africa has have proved to be a curse rather than a blessing for the continent. Africans are starving while Anglo American is amassing trillions by exploiting African raw materials ( gold, diamonds, platinum, coal, manganese etc). You have come from a very naive angle which I find to be baffling. If America does not need Africa’s riches then Anglo American must stop exploiting African raw materials and get out of the continent. In order not to fall prey to British, Dutch and American oligarchies African leaders need to up their game, united in their diversity so as not to allow outside influence that does not cater for Africa’s interest. I am disappointed in you. You are very naive. I

    • Sterling Ferguson

      @Una, the natural resources in Africa are not a curse like many people in Africa want you to believe. The problem with Africa is there is no industries built around the resources in Africa. Most of the African leaders see their resources as something to used by other countries but, not by Africans. Take the case of Nigeria, this country sold billions in oil but only had four oil refineries and two of them didn’t work. Nigeria was an importer of gasoline for domestic use because she didn’t produce enough domestic gasoline. Take a look at the sweetheart agreements the African leaders have made with these foreign companies to get them to invest money Africa. The buck stops with your leaders and not with these companies doing business in Africa.

    • Sterling Ferguson

      @Una, the most important resources are food and the US is loaded with food. In Africa, the governments are trading off their natural resources for the food from N America to feed the elite groups in Africa. The resources you named in your comment are founded in large quantities in N America. Africa doesn’t have the capital nor do they have the technology to develop their resources so, Africa needs these companies to invest in their countries. One offshore oil rig can cost up to $300 million dollars to build and how many countries in Africa can afford to build one of these rigs?

    • Una

      Sterling Furguson

      Africa now has technocrats, unfortunately some of them, though they want to be called African, they are not committed to Africa. African leaders who are not prepared to sign sweetheart agreements with multinationals owned by foreign oligarchies are pushed out of power. there are various cases that can be pointed out that underscore this submission. What I know is that Africa is the wealthiest continent in the world in terms of resources, you need to do a lot of research on this then you will be surprised. Canada has an abundance in minerals I agree and is a well run country. This is the area where most African governments have proved to be failures. Foreign intervention in Africa sometimes undermines the development initiatives of the continent – when dictators and incapable leaders are surreptitiously promoted in order to serve foreign interests and not those of the continent.