Saturday, November 22, 2014
Does Your Bank Back the Bomb?
Well, if we believe that these institutions should be walking away from fossil fuels, how do we feel about their investments in the nuclear weapons industry?
A Dutch organization, Don't Bank on the Bomb, has compiled a list of what it calls nuclear weapons producers and the entities that invest in them.
When you look at the list of producers you'll find a lot of companies you would not be surprised to find on any mutual fund's books. Familiar names like Raytheon, BAE Systems, Boeing, Lockheed, Bechtel, Airbus, Honeywell, Northrop Grumman, Rockwell Collins, Rolls Royce and ThyssenKrupp. These companies may not produce actual nuclear warheads but they do manufacture missiles, rockets, cruise missiles, and submarines that get those devices onto their assigned targets.
The organization also lists institutions that invest in these companies on a country by country basis. Here's Canada's. The only Canadian lender listed as developing a nuclear weapons policy is the Royal Bank.
Investment opportunities seem plentiful, especially after US Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel, announced a 30-year, trillion dollar programme to refurbish America's nuclear arsenal. There's going to be a lot of money splashed around and a great deal of profit to be skimmed off some decidedly apocalyptic hardware.
Now that our leaders seem hell bent on getting us firmly stuck into Cold War II we should try to get a handle on this nuclear arms business and the role we all may inadvertently have in it.
While this is an obscure issue in Canada, it is generating controversy in Australia where the country's sovereign wealth fund, Future Fund, is investing millions in these nuclear weapons producers.
Then consider this item from Forbes that seems to be hyping America's nuclear rearmament by suggesting that Russia could defeat the US in a nuclear war. It paints Russia as having the upper hand and a willingness to resort to tactical nuclear weapons in the belief the Americans have become too decadent, too weak to respond in kind. This brings to mind an editorial that appeared in the leading German financial paper, Handelsblatt, in August that warned civilian populations in the West are undergoing "a kind of mental mobilization: war fever."
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I'd be surprised at any bank that didn't do business with companies that are involved with bombs or any other armaments. Capitalism has no morals nor should it. It is people at large and their chosen political leaders who have the responsibility to rein in corporate behaviour.
Well, as the Future Fund article indicates, the fund has instituted a policy not to invest in anything to do with landmines or cluster bombs after Canberra entered the accords banning those weapons. The RBC is likewise developing a weapons investment policy.
I think you're going to find we're entering a transitional phase in our notions of capitalism. If we return to a progressive era, free market capitalism will operate under different rules. Read Roosevelt's "Square Deal" speech which you can find by searching this blog.
Yes, many of the rules brought in during the progressive era served to rein in extreme capitalism. Neo-liberals have spent the last forty years removing those rules. We need to rebuild them. We particularly need to axe the corporate rights nonsense. Corporations are not citizens and should not have rights as such.
Corporate leaders should not have to negotiate public whims. Politicians should set rules and enforce them. Agreed, our banks should not be funding land mines. Our politicians should put that in the banking regulations.
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