By Amitabh Pal on June 11, 2013

By Amitabh Pal

The IMF’s supposed mea culpa for its role in the social and economic collapse in Greece rings hollow.

True to form, the IMF still insists that even if didn’t fully realize the havoc its insistence on radical belt-tightening would create, on the whole its policies were not mistaken. And the organization insists on fobbing off much of the blame on European institutions for the social meltdown and the agony it caused by asserting that Greece’s creditors came before everyone else.

The IMF has spread misery around the world before in its role as the international repo man. In the late 1990s, its insistence that harsh austerity measures be imposed exacerbated suffering in countries such as Thailand and Indonesia, while Malaysia, which defied IMF orders, got off comparatively lightly. Nobel laureate and former chief economist for the World Bank Joseph Stiglitz pointed out how bass-ackward the IMF’s approach was then.

The IMF’s “policies protect foreign creditors,” Stiglitz told The Progressive. “If I came to the problem of what can I do to maintain the Thai economy from the perspective of the chairman of the collection committee of the international creditors, I might mistakenly say the most important thing is to make sure people don't abrogate their debt. Senior people in the IMF actually said that not paying the debt was an abrogation of a contract, whereas anybody who knows about capitalism knows that bankruptcy is an essential part of capitalism.” Nothing has changed in the IMF’s approach since that time. “Every time a debt crisis strikes, the IMF moves in to impose the same short-sighted bailouts, austerity measures and market reforms—and then, several years later, comes to the conclusion that it made major mistakes in its handling of the crisis,” writes Jerome Roos of the Center for Research on Globalization. “Yet it never changes tack. When the next crisis hits, it simply reproduces the same old script: stabilization, privatization, liberalization. Nothing else will do to satisfy the markets.” Which raises the question that Roos so aptly asks: Are the IMF’s repeated “blunders” really in error? “If you make the same mistake a hundred times over, can it still be considered a mistake?” Roos inquires. “Or are we looking at the deliberate reproduction of an ideological script that narrowly serves the interests of private creditors by shifting the burden of adjustment squarely onto the shoulders of the poorest and weakest members in the debtor countries?” In all this seemingly arcane economic debate, let’s not forget the people who have so greatly suffered because of the IMF’s heartlessness. “Thanks for letting us know but we can't forgive you," Apostolos Trikalinos, a garbage collector in Athens, told Reuters. “Let's not fool ourselves. They'll never give us anything back. I'm sorry for all the people who killed themselves because of austerity. How are we going to bring them back? How?” If the IMF honchos have even a twinge of conscience, they’ll pause really long and hard before asking the next country to undergo the same ordeal as Greece. Amitabh Pal, the managing editor of The Progressive and co-editor of the Progressive Media Project, is the author of “ ‘Islam’ Means Peace: Understanding the Muslim Principle of Nonviolence Today” (Praeger).



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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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