Alex Gladstein is Chief Strategy Officer at the Human Rights Foundation & Natalie Smolenski is an Executive Director of the Texas Bitcoin Foundation. In this interview, we discuss Alex’s new book: ‘Hidden Repression: How the IMF and World Bank Sell Exploitation as Development’. We talk about debt traps, western support for dictators, US and UK culpability, and what freedom means.
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The IMF and World Bank were originally created to stabilize exchange rates and fund infrastructure in war-torn countries. Alex Gladstein’s work found that there was a pivot in this mission in the late 1960s. The new mission was to target and exploit poor countries for the benefit of the West, neocolonialism replacing colonialism, debt replacing the sword.
These institutions have been incredibly harmful to poor countries, but also incredibly beneficial for the West through interest payments, extraction of resources and labour, and control of markets. This has been done with only a limited need for military intervention and subjugation through physical means. The wheels of this process have been oiled by the co-option of dictactors in on the steal.
Bitcoin is a way out and may bring some justice. However, there must also be a reckoning with the damage done to poor countries by these exploitative policies. The IMF and World Bank have repeatedly prevented free markets from working normally in such countries forcing them deeper into debt. And when the country has inevitably defaulted, damaging structural adjustments have been imposed limiting government expenditure and hurting the most vulnerable.
As Alex Gladstein asserts, changing the monetary paradigm, with the growth of Bitcoin, could break the current system and give hope for a more sustainable future. But in that process, we have to be clear about what we need to repair. As Natalie Smolenski states, without a programme of debt cancellation then we could enter a period of significant geopolitical stress.