Conspiracy theories - A crime against logic

Andrew Kenny defends globalisation.

South Africans love conspiracies. They like to explain the problems of the world in terms of plots hatched by a tiny number of all-powerful men. Often they have two sets of conspiracy theories in complete opposition to each other.

Consider "globalisation" and the part played by the USA and the multi-national corporations. The USA is accused of having only 5% of world's population but consuming 25% of its resources. It is evil because it takes far too much from the rest of the world. On the other hand the USA is accused of protecting its agriculture and its steel, and refusing to import food and resources from poorer countries. It is evil because it takes far too little from the rest of the world.

The conspiracists say, "The rich countries only invest in other rich countries". But they also say, "The First World countries are moving investment out of their own manufacturing industries, where workers have decent wages and conditions, and pouring it into sweatshops in the Third World". The epitome of such capitalist exploitation seems to be communist China. If the West invests in poor countries, it is exploiting them. If it does not, it is "marginalising" them.

In fact globalisation is a wonderful boon to mankind. It benefits everyone but especially the poor. Countries in the Far East such as South Korea, which 40 years ago was poorer than Kenya, are now far richer thanks to globalisation. Low paid work in factories soon develops into skilled, highly paid work and everyone benefits as the economy advances. The worst off countries in the world, notably those in Africa, are precisely those that are outside the global economy and do not have multi-national corporations. Of course manufacturers will go where costs are lowest but when they do set up their factories in the poor countries there are queues miles long for their jobs. This is because they offer these poor people more than they had before. I wish anyone who opposes globalisation would tell me whether he wants global companies, such as Ford, Toyota, Mercedes, BMW and VW to leave South Africa. If "yes", could he please explain what he is going to say to the workers who will lose their jobs.

The only problem with globalisation is that there is not enough of it. We need more countries brought in and we need freer trade. The conspiracists are right about one thing. The protection the West puts up against commodities from poor countries is immoral and inefficient and must be removed.

South African conspiracy theory has reached a crescendo of paranoia over AIDS, HIV and the pharmaceutical companies. On one extreme, AIDS is a deadly disease that is going to wipe out the black population; it could easily be cured by the life-giving anti-retroviral drugs but the evil pharmaceutical companies are deliberately pushing up their prices so as to increase their already obscenely high profits. On the other, the HIV virus does not exist and AIDS is a complete fiction dreamed up by the CIA to make Africans look like over-sexed primitives; the anti-retroviral drugs are worthless poisons deliberately being sold at very low prices by the pharmaceutical companies to wipe out the black population and increase their already obscenely high profits. ("Obscene" is a favoured word among conspiracists.) Sometimes prominent figures in the South African government seem to be supporting both conspiracies at the same time, which, as you can imagine, gets them into a bit of a tangle.

In fact, overwhelming evidence shows that HIV causes AIDS and the anti-retroviral drugs, if used properly, can help to slow down the disease although not cure it. The South African market is not important to the international drug companies but if they could make some profit out of it they would. That is their business. But if there is too little money and too much bad publicity for them in making drugs that could mean life and death for poor Africans, then they will simply move their research into something safer and more profitable, such as making a better pimple cream for American teenagers.