The Cloud Minders

(Episode of Star Trek)

This troubled planet is a place of the most violent contrasts. Those that receive the rewards are totally separated from those who shoulder the burdens. It is not a wise leadership.

Spock – “The Cloud Minders” Star Trek first broadcast 28/2/1969

Is this just a coincidence ?
The very weekend I am reading the book “When Corporation rule the World” by David Korten this star trek episode is aired on TV4. I thought I had seen them all. Korten uses this future morality tale to highlight the problems he sees with the world today.

This book chronicles the economic history of the last 50 years, since the Bretton Woods conference and the creation of the IMF and World Bank.

Korten tell how large corporations have influenced the economic world and ensured a system that is to their advantage.
Some of the accusations are a bit to simplistic for my liking, the impression gained is that all the evils of the 20th century can be laid at the feet of big business. He fails to take into account other trends of our modern world, especially the influence of technology.

Most of the trends and influences he outlines ring true, anyone who has read similar books will recognize the themes –
* reduction of environmental standards
* the error of growth based economics
* undermining of democratic process

Indeed, some of the work he quotes I read in previous books in similar subjects. All those interested in economics should read the Cobb/Daly book “For the common good”, as this must be the most quoted book on “new” economics.

Some notable quotes from the book –
According to Joe Kurtzman, editor of Harvard Business Review –
* For every $1 circulating in the productive world economy, $20-$50 circulates in the world of pure finance.
* In international currency markets alone, $800billion to $1 trillion changes hands each day. Far in excess of the $20-$25 billion required to cover trade in goods and services.

Production accounts for only 25% of the selling price of a typical product.

Overall a good read. The prose is good, and not too technical.
Most of the book concentrates on the problems, with the solutions being kept until the last few chapters. Korten doesn’t propose solutions, he simply states the strategies that others have started to enact.

I sympathize, therefore, with those who would minimize, rather than those who would maximize, economic entanglements between nations.

Ideas, knowledge, art, hospitality, travel – these are the things which should of their nature be international. But lets goods be homespun whenever it is reasonably and conveniently possible, and above all, let finance be primarily national.
– John Maynard Keynes

(c) Nigel Baker 29/3/98