A few years ago, when I first read about the absurd prodigies being undertaken in Dubai--huge man-made islands, towers reaching into the clouds, an indoor ski resort, a seven-star hotel shaped like a sail, etc., etc., my thoughts went instantly to the story of the Tower of Babel, and I blogged to that effect at the time. I do not claim any remarkable prescience, now that the whole thing is turning out to be the most astoundingly lofty house of cards conceived by man; anyone with sense could've seen that it would end this way. No doubt the $60 billion in bad debt that has rocked the financial world for the last week is just the start of it all.
So everyone knew that such absurd development could not continue. What many may still not know is how the whole thing was a sham all along--a glittering upper crust of crude and unrestrained hedonism built on top of teeming masses of desperately poor near-slave labor. More than six months ago, an article in the Independent painted a ghastly picture of the appalling exploitation undergirding all the glitzy shopping malls and European revelers, a picture in which Dubai appears as a shocking and extreme symbol of the entire Western capitalist consumerist order, an edifice of hedonism built on the backs of Third World drudgery. A chilling portrait to say the least.
Even more chilling is the blindness that the captains of capitalism continue to show toward the true nature of Dubai's "free market," a market that this article from BusinessWeek wants to hold up as a model for the rest of the world.