28 October 2006

A Casualty of Globalization: Death of the Unions

Der Spiegel
The following is an obituary.

The death, though, was never publicly announced -- and the tragedy is compounded by the fact that the closest relatives are keeping it a secret. But that does not alter the truth: Trade unions, as we knew them, are dead. The protector of the underdog is no more. What passes for a union today does not have the power to provide shelter.In fact, even the estate executors need protection. Unions once saw themselves as a buffer against the whims of the executives. They made sure that wages were fair. They also functioned as the political voice of society. Today, such unions are a thing of the past.

The development of a global job market, the appearance of 1.2 billion new workers and the readiness of millions more to work at any cost has robbed the job brokers of their once-powerful position.For decades, they had access to unparalleled treasures: The well-educated industrial worker was irreplaceable; the industrial robot was not yet intelligent enough; and the masses of today's competitive jobseekers were trapped behind walls and barbed wire, and sometimes simply hidden in the morass of Asian slums. These people were denied participation in Western job markets, a state of affairs which kept the price of Western labor high.

It was child's play for union negotiators to force employers to pay higher wages. The factory owner had no choice but to buy labor from the unions, because while there was a national and -- in the best case -- still a Western job market, there was no global job market that could provide the industrial skills necessary. Workers were scarce after both World Wars, and unions had a virtual monopoly on the commodity. They milked it for all it was worth.

Der Spiegel is posting these extracts from a new book War for Wealth: The Global Grab for Power and Prosperity. It's uncomfortable reading, especially in an Australia where Howard clearly believes that social democracy is about to join the Leninist state and planned economy in the trashcan of history.

On the other hand, if Howard really were surfing towards destiny, he might be able to tell the truth occasionally and not need to constantly scare us into wetting ourselves before we re-elect him.

Cue Saruman, despatching his fighting uruk-hai:

A new power is rising! Its victory is certain! March to Helm's Deep! Leave none alive!

War on Tuskers

An Elephant Crackup?
I'd have considered it a wise policy even at a more peaceable juncture in the course of human-elephant relations. In recent years, however, those relations have become markedly more bellicose. Just two days before I arrived, a woman was killed by an elephant in Kazinga, a fishing village nearby. Two months earlier, a man was fatally gored by a young male elephant at the northern edge of the park, near the village of Katwe. African elephants use their long tusks to forage through dense jungle brush. They've also been known to wield them, however, with the ceremonious flash and precision of gladiators, pinning down a victim with one knee in order to deliver the decisive thrust. Okello told me that a young Indian tourist was killed in this fashion two years ago in Murchison Falls National Park, north of where we were.

These were not isolated incidents. All across Africa, India and parts of Southeast Asia, from within and around whatever patches and corridors of their natural habitat remain, elephants have been striking out, destroying villages and crops, attacking and killing human beings. In fact, these attacks have become so commonplace that a new statistical category, known as Human-Elephant Conflict, or H.E.C., was created by elephant researchers in the mid-s to monitor the problem. In the Indian state of Jharkhand near the western border of Bangladesh, 300 people were killed by elephants between 2000 and 2004. In the past 12 years, elephants have killed 605 people in Assam, a state in northeastern India, 239 of them since 2001; 265 elephants have died in that same period, the majority of them as a result of retaliation by angry villagers, who have used everything from poison-tipped arrows to laced food to exact their revenge. In Africa, reports of human-elephant conflicts appear almost daily, from Zambia to Tanzania, from Uganda to Sierra Leone, where 300 villagers evacuated their homes last year because of unprovoked elephant attacks.

Still, it is not only the increasing number of these incidents that is causing alarm but also the singular perversity - for want of a less anthropocentric term - of recent elephant aggression. Since the early 1990s, for example, young male elephants in Pilanesberg National Park and the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve in South Africa have been raping and killing rhinoceroses; this abnormal behavior, according to a 2001 study in the journal Pachyderm, has been reported in "a number of reserves" in the region. In July of last year, officials in Pilanesberg shot three young male elephants who were responsible for the killings of 63 rhinos, as well as attacks on people in safari vehicles. In Addo Elephant National Park, also in South Africa, up to 90 percent of male elephant deaths are now attributable to other male elephants, compared with a rate of 6 percent in more stable elephant communities.

The elephants hate us, not because of what we do, but because of who we are. They want to establish an elephantocracy reaching from Capetown to Hanoi. There is only one solution...