Trouble in a Capitalist Paradise

dubai-towers

The Dubai Towers.

Dubai, a province of the United Arab Emirates, has been described as  the ideal dream world of neo-liberalism, the place where capitalism is allowed to flourish without the least impediment by government regulation. Those who celebrate corporate capitalism certainly love Dubai, and wish the rest of the world could follow its example.

Take Donna Wiesner Keene, a fellow of the Independent Women’s Forum, a rightwing anti-feminist think tank. Recently in a letter to the New York Times she wrote: “Madrick’s statement, quoted by the reviewer, that ‘there really is no example of small government among rich nations,’ is unsupported nonsense. Think Dubai, free and rich.”

Matthew Yglesias has already pointed out that Dubai is better described as a petrodictatorship rather than a free country. Even under the recently departed Bush administration, the U.S. State Department has been critical of Dubai’s human rights record.

And today the New York Times ran an eye-opening report on what life is like in the capitalist utopia of Dubai. The article can be found here.

An excerpt:

Laid-Off Foreigners Flee as Dubai Spirals Down

 

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Sofia, a 34-year-old Frenchwoman, moved here a year ago to take a job in advertising, so confident about Dubai’s fast-growing economy that she bought an apartment for almost $300,000 with a 15-year mortgage.

Now, like many of the foreign workers who make up 90 percent of the population here, she has been laid off and faces the prospect of being forced to leave this Persian Gulf city — or worse.

“I’m really scared of what could happen, because I bought property here,” said Sofia, who asked that her last name be withheld because she is still hunting for a new job. “If I can’t pay it off, I was told I could end up in debtors’ prison.”

27 thoughts on “Trouble in a Capitalist Paradise

  1. H Jeet. I found this post a little bit confusing. I get it that the letter writer is badly misinformed about Dubai. But you seem to be trying to make some larger point about capitalism which I’m not sure I get.

    From the NYT article: “jobless people here lose their work visas and then must leave the country within a month. That in turn reduces spending, creates housing vacancies and lowers real estate prices.”

    This suggests that part of the problem has to do with the visa rule for foreigners. That sounds like a terrible and unfair law, but it seems misleading to say it is terrible and unfair because it is too capitalistic. A purely free market in labour would extend to foreigners the same rights and opportunities that local people enjoy. Indeed, a principle of neo-liberalism is that nationality is not an acceptable grounds for economic favouritism. Whether or not that principle is always a good one can be debated of course. But Dubai’s visa restriction does not not seem an example of it.

    A source of my confusion may be that there are a lot of terms flying around this post–capitalism, neo-liberalism, corporate capitalism, small government, freedom—that can sometimes function as synonyms, but often do not. To avoid this possibility in future, I would be interested to know:

    Are there any economies today that do not meet your definition of capitalism? For example, are there any countries you would label socialist?

    The New York Times suggests that the problem with Dubai is that Sophia and other foreigners are being forced to leave now that the boom is over. This implies that there was something good about the boom, in that it created opportunities for Sophia and other people. Do you share that view?

    1. I do not agree. Now that the castles and pyramids are built, who will live in them? You can only build so much before no more building is necessary. When you build to the extreme this is what happens. If this would ever happen in the United States, if Republicans would achieve their ‘get the government out of my business’ dream, few large corporations may succeed in building castles like in Dubai, but the growth spurt would eventually end, and the slaves would be sent away to starve and die. Donald Trump is already a failure as far as I’m concerned, being brought to have a reality TV show like Hulk Hogan. Honestly. That’s when you know it’s over. So Dubai and many ‘immigrants.’ Today, Republicans prefer to limit the number of immigrants, which i don’t disagree with, but who would have replaced the roofs and done much of the work the white people didn’t want to do here in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina? (i’m white). Then, like in Dubai, and New Orleans, there would come a time when they would have to leave. There is a reason Dubai is not extending the Visas, work is no longer there. Their government does not seem to be ignorant, nor is there a ‘problem’ with issuing Visas. But a boom is what a boom is, a sudden rise and fall. Is it not better to have something constant and SUSTAINABLE? Capitalism is good in its most basic form. However, I believe Joy Beher said it best on ‘THE VIEW’ when she referred to our capitalism in this country today – ‘CAPITALISM GONE AMUCK’. It has lost its way and purpose. It worked when our country had much fewer people and much more resources to go around and everyone had a job. Our banking industry showed the need for some type of consumer protection when they were deregulated and our economy went down the drain from dishonest banking practices. The same is true with healthcare, another consumable. Also with any business. There is nothing wrong with some type of regulation to insure greedy persons aren’t throwing the monkey-wrench in the gears of society. It obviously doesn’t take many greedy persons to bring a national economy to it’s knees. So yes, i would have to agree with the New York times article, I have to say the personal experience cited is very relevant, and I have to disagree with you about putting the blame on the Visa issuing process. Very good NYT article, i will be sharing it with everyone.

  2. Well, the confusion is probably my fault. I wasn’t trying, in this quick and short blog post, to make a point about capitalism at large, but rather about a certain very influential strand of pro-capitalist thought. Let’s call this strand of thinking corporate-libertarianism, of which Donna Wiesner Keene is one example. The corporate-libertarian typically uses the language of classical liberalism (i.e., freedom, free trade, etc.) to defend regimes and policies that are anti-democratic.

    “Are there any economies today that do not meet your definition of capitalism? For example, are there any countries you would label socialist?”

    Well, I’d say there are no purely capitalist societies on earth or purely socialist ones either. All existing economies are a mixture of markets plus government regulation/ownership. But there are many variations of this pattern running from say Sweden (lots of democracy, including social democracy) to Dubai (no democracy, and very little social democracy).

    I think lots of corporate-libertarians rather admire the Dubai model, whereas I prefer Sweden.

  3. “Indeed, a principle of neo-liberalism is that nationality is not an acceptable grounds for economic favouritism. Whether or not that principle is always a good one can be debated of course. But Dubai’s visa restriction does not not seem an example of it.”

    I’ve been mulling this over and I’m not sure if this is true. Perhaps on a theoretical level neo-liberals oppose economic favourtism based on nationality. But in The Shock Doctrine Naomi Klein observes that the neo-liberal era has been characterized by 1) increasing freedom for the mobility of capital combined with 2) increasing restrictions on the mobility of labour (i.e., a whole range of new visa restrictions, guest workers programs etc.). In that sense Dubai is a perfect example of neo-liberalism because capital had a great deal of clout (it’s a place where lots of shady banking gets done) while labour has few if any rights. (It’s worth noting that Dubai has only 240,000 citizens, while the vast majority of the population, around 1.2 million, lives there as residents and guest workers).

    “The New York Times suggests that the problem with Dubai is that Sophia and other foreigners are being forced to leave now that the boom is over. This implies that there was something good about the boom, in that it created opportunities for Sophia and other people. Do you share that view?”

    Untill we build better robots, economics doesn’t exist apart from labour. Labour made Dubai boom; there would be no boom without labour. So rather than saying that people like Sopia should have been happy with the jobs they had, the question is whether labour, which was essential for making the boom happen, should have rights (including basic rights of citizenship). I think labour should have such rights. Coporate-libertarians like Donna Wiesner Keene are happy with Dubai as it is (she called it a “free and rich” society).

  4. I was talking about neo-liberalism rather than the neo-liberal era, i.e. as a philosophical rather than historical term. In that sense I don’t think it is controversial to say that it opposes economic favouritism based on nationality (which again may or may not be a good idea).

    I remember once I interviewed Christopher Hitchens back when he was a leftist and he always used the term “Stalinism” to describe the Soviet Union, rather than Socialism or Communism. Only later did I realize it was to avoid unfairly blaming Marx’s philosophy for the failing of the Soviet Union. It would be helpful if there were different term for the neo-liberal era to avoid the reverse-equivalent move of blaming neo-liberalism the philosophy for all the failings of existing states, which as you point out are often based on a mix of different economic philosophies.

    Interestingly, the extreme neo-liberal view on migrant rights is also an extreme left-wing view. Both the Libertarian Party of the U.S. and the Communist Party of the United Kingdom are officially in favor of open borders. I wonder if the two extremes meet so seemlessly here because both approaches tend to emphasize economic considerations over cultural ones, and so do not give much weight to nationalistic considerations.

  5. hi ,

    this picture taken by saleem for gudia specialy not any one else ………………

    ………………………….

    this is because of this sweet picture only

  6. “…has been described as the ideal dream world of neo-liberalism, the place where capitalism is allowed to flourish without the least impediment by government regulation…”

    Actually here in the U.S.A. we just conducted one of our periodic experiments that involve removing the shackles from capitalism. Should take a decade or so to recover from it for those who do recover. When we conduct such experiments we don’t dream of spiral sky scrapers and guys in white robes riding in Rolls Royce’s. We dream of owning a Wendy’s franchise and a plastic surgeon. But our outcomes are similar.

  7. They can’t think of a design these days, except by skewing, deforming, rotating from a basic solid model. I will only praise the Structural Engineer who will design the strcuture of this tower. But for the Architect, it’s just a basic Revit/3dsmax command where you can do it in a click of a mouse.

    1. garden of the world within the new city, in the path of the hollow mountains, it will fall into the vat ,drinking by force the waters of sulfur.”

  8. Dubai is a free country with rules and regulations, When boom was their every want to enjoy. when it lost mean gone cause.

    So any one who buy the properties in Dubai, she/he be very much careful other wise will happen like Sofia, a 34-year-old Frenchwoman because she is not a citizen of UAE. once she lost the job she has to leave the country even though she has own a house in UAE.

    In America is different once your get a green card you can buy a properties, if you lose the job no need to go out of the country.

    This the difference between gulf Countries and Europe/America.

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