Neo-liberalism also led to 1) opening up countries to short-term capital flows--which resulted in destabilizing their economies, 2) reduced taxes on luxury imports and higher taxes on subsistence commodities--which meant higher taxes on the poor, 3) trade liberalization--which reduced the chances of poor countries to develop using the same techniques that developed countries had followed in previous centuries. In general, ideology won out over practicality, and the poor suffered as a result.
Privatization in many countries led to riots, forcing governments to weigh their loyalties to the banks and to their own people. In Bolivia, a popular uprising in Cochabamba led to the overturning of a private water supply contract with Bechtel, which had raised rates by 50-100% on poor households. In African countries, where popular resistance has been less evident, the poor were simply turned away from hospitals and schools because they could not afford to pay.
Free trade, another mantra of the neoliberal Washington Consensus, has also been promoted in bad faith. While rich nations have insisted that Third World countries lower their trade barriers, the U.S. and Europe have blocked imports of manufactured goods from poor countries and have subsidized the production of cotton, sugar, and other commodities, and then flooded world markets with their overproduced goods.
Enforcement of property rights has also been another exercise in hypocrisy. While corporations and research institutes in the North have gathered genetic and cultural material from the South without compensation, the North has insisted on full compliance with one-sided treaties that protect the intellectual property rights of entertainment and pharmaceutical companies.
Violence has remained the ultimate weapon used by the former colonial powers to ensure compliance with their economic policies. When governments in Indonesia, Iran, Guatemala, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and many other countries have sought to extricate themselves from the web of dependency, the U.S. has sent in a paramilitary unit to assassinate the leader, financed a coup, or even sent in the Marines. These stories of U.S. intervention in the affairs of other countries have been widely reported, but few commentators have made a connection between them and the endemic poverty that results.
By laying claim to the world’s most valuable resources--first gold and silver, then land for growing sugar, cotton, and tea, then petroleum and uranium, and finally water, carbon emission rights, genetic material, and other “new” resources--the North has consistently deprived the South of the means of equal development. Through theft, unequal trade, odious debts, and other instruments, the North has managed to garner 80% of the world’s resources for a mere 20% of the world’s population.
The film offers a few specific policy changes that are needed to end poverty: 1) cancel debts, 2) create fairer trade arrangements, 3) impose taxes on wealth, not consumption of necessities, 4) end privatization of natural resources, 5) develop land reform that shares land, or its value, among the actual producers of farm products, and 6) initiate programs of de-growth in the North, to reduce wasteful consumption.