In the Distributism blog, John Medaille reviews and comments upon a PBS documentary on a mining project in a poor valley of Romania. The project aims to totally destroy the mountain for gold-mining purposes.
The long commentary, worth reading in full, contains the following interesting passage comparing real wealth to financial wealth, and how the current economic system values the latter over the former.
The movie is below.
“Very simply, there is a gold mine in Rosia Montana, a village in Romania. This is not news; there has always been a gold mine Rosia Montana, and one can still explore the tunnels dug by the Romans, from whom Romania is named. Gold is not Rosia Monana’s only form of wealth. The mountain also gives silver and copper, but even that is not the end of it. It is a place of stunning beauty, as you may see in the film, but it also has fertile fields, verdant pastures, and rivers brimming with fish. There is no end of the natural wealth and there ought to be no end of natural prosperity and happiness.
But there is not. There is, in fact, poverty. None of this is news. What is new is that a Canadian company wants to mine in Rosia Montana. But “mine” is perhaps not the right word. Rather, they want to destroy the mountain, and in destroying the mountain they must destroy the village. They want to replace the village with a lake of cyanide to reduce a ton of rock to a grain of gold. In only 17 years, it is their plan to reduce the mountain of gold to a heap of slag. This is not to say that the Canadians are being unfair; they are more than willing to pay the villagers. Some have accepted, others are resisting. And they promise to turn the slag into a garden.
Now, it is not my place to tell the villagers what they should do. It is neither my village nor my country, and these are decisions which only the people of Rosia Montana and the government of Romania can make. But whether the villagers decide to stay or go, the decision they make is a sign and symbol of something much wider, and part of something much greater. To be specific, it is part of a great joke about capitalism. But it is a joke that no one seems to get. So here is the punchline: Rosia Montana is a place of great natural wealth, BUT THERE IS NO INCOME (as one of the villagers in the film put it). Now, here is a place that has received every gift that a loving God could bestow on any piece of ground: mountains full of minerals, valleys full of farms, pastures full of animals, rivers full of fish. It is a place that could—and has—supported tens of thousands in peace and prosperity, but under capitalism, it cannot provide work for a thousand. An area that should be prosperous and happy becomes an area of forced idleness. There is wealth, real wealth, but there are no jobs, and people, young people especially—that is, the future—feel they must leave. And if they leave with a few Euros provided by the Canadians, who can blame them?
But still there is the joke. The joke is that while the villagers have real wealth, the Canadians have financial wealth, and under capitalism, the latter is more important than the former. The bits of paper with the € printed on them are heavier than gold; the sterile bankers notes more fecund than fertile fields. We may laugh at the joke; we may even laugh at the Romanians, but we are caught in the same joke. In this country, no less than in Romania, men who make naught but bits of paper (called “financial derivatives”) have brought a great country to its knees. These men contributed not so much as a grain of wheat to the commonwealth, but from our common wealth we have paid them 100’s of billions of dollars, and will pay them more still as a reward for their failures. At least the Canadians will pay something for their destruction of the village; we must pay for the rope they will use to hang us, and pay a monopoly price at that.
Under capitalism, the natural order of things is reversed. The money that should serve as a convenience for the trade of real things becomes the master of real things—and real people. The natural connection between wealth and work is broken, and those who hold real wealth got with real work become the servants of those with financial wealth who do no work.”
Watch the story of the Rosia Montana villagers, here: