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Skepticism and critical thinking is not panacea, but can help to understand the world better
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Jan 01, 2014 | thebaffler.com
By any reasonable measure, the neoliberal dream lies in tatters. In 2008 poorly regulated financial markets yielded a world-historic financial collapse. One generation, weaned on reveries of home ownership as the coveted badge of economic independence and old-fashioned American striving, has been plunged into foreclosure, bankruptcy, and worse. And a successor generation of aspiring college students is now discovering that their equally toxic student-loan dossiers are condemning them to lifetimes of debt. Both before and after 2008, ours has been an economic order that, largely designed to reward paper speculation and penalize work, produces neither significant job growth nor wages that keep pace with productivity. Meanwhile, the only feints at resurrecting our nation's crumbling civic life that have gained any traction are putatively market-based reforms in education, transportation, health care, and environmental policy, which have been, reliably as ever, riddled with corruption, fraud, incompetence, and (at best) inefficiency. The Grand Guignol of deregulation continues apace.
In one dismal week this past spring, for example, a virtually unregulated fertilizer facility immolated several blocks of West, Texas, claiming at least fourteen lives (a number that would have been much higher had the junior high school adjoining the site been in session at the time of the explosion), while a shoddily constructed and militantly unregulated complex of textile factories collapsed in Savar, Bangladesh, with a death toll of more than 1,100 workers.
In the face of all this catastrophism, the placid certainties of neoliberal ideology rattle on as though nothing has happened. Remarkably, our governing elites have decided to greet a moment of existential reckoning for most of their guiding dogmas by incanting with redoubled force the basic catechism of the neoliberal faith: reduced government spending, full privatization of social goods formerly administered by the public sphere, and a socialization of risk for the upper class. When the jobs economy ground to a functional halt, our leadership class first adopted an anemic stimulus plan, and then embarked on a death spiral of austerity-minded bids to decommission government spending at the very moment it was most urgently required -- measures seemingly designed to undo whatever prospective gains the stimulus might have yielded. It's a bit as though the board of directors of the Fukushima nuclear facility in the tsunami-ravaged Japanese interior decided to go on a reactor-building spree on a floodplain, or on the lip of an active volcano.
So now, five years into a crippling economic downturn without even the conceptual framework for a genuine, broad-based, jobs-driven recovery shored up by boosts in federal spending and public services, the public legacy of these times appears to be a long series of metaphoric euphemisms for brain-locked policy inertia: the debt ceiling, the fiscal cliff, the sequestration, the shutdown, the grand bargain. Laid side by side, all these coinages bring to mind the claustrophobic imagery of a kidnapping montage from a noir gangster film -- and it is, indeed, no great exaggeration to say that the imaginative heart of our public life is now hostage to a grinding, miniaturizing agenda of neoliberal market idolatry. As our pundit class has tirelessly flogged the non-dramas surrounding the official government's non-confrontations over the degree and depth of the inevitable brokered deal to bring yet more austerity to the flailing American economy, we civilian observers can be forgiven for suspecting that there is, in fact, no "there" there. For all their sound and fury, these set-tos proceed from the same basic premises on both sides, and produce the same outcome: studied retreat from any sense of official economic accountability for, well, anything.
But the neoliberal flight from public responsibility is actually a tangled, and curiously instructive, tale of strikingly other-than-intended consequences -- something akin to the fables of perverse incentives that neoliberal theorists themselves love to cook up in their never-ending campaign against the prerogatives of the public sphere. The world of neoliberal market consensus that we now inhabit would likely strike many of the movement's founders as a grotesque parody of their own aims and intentions. But because it is a fable of intellectual overreach, as opposed to narrow economic self-interest, the neoliberal saga also bears an oddly hopeful moral. The seemingly impermeable armature of terrible social and economic thought that has bequeathed to us our present state of ruin is really a flimsy and jury-rigged set of market superstitions, and could readily be discarded for sturdier wares.
Open and Shut
To be sure, policy consensus is one of the premier breeding grounds of irony in our time, but the mid-twentieth-century movement that became known to us as the neoliberal rebellion is steeped in the stuff. For starters, the original cohort of neoliberal apostles conceived of themselves as an insulated, elite group of critics who were able to approach the great machinery of government and popular political discourse only at a fastidious remove. They began the project of combining their intellectual labors, oddly enough, out of their shared embrace of The Good Society (1937), a treatise on the limits of state planning by New Republic columnist Walter Lippmann, who, like many of his successors at that "contrarian" journal, advertised his growing disenchantment with New Deal liberalism and the whole endeavor of economic policy-making in the public interest. But Lippmann soon fell afoul of the more doctrinaire members of his new fraternity of mostly European fellow travelers -- notably German economist Wilhelm Röpke and French publisher Louis Rougier, who would later come into bad odor as a fascist collaborator. The group's early association with both Lippmann and Rougier underlined the perils of overexuberant detours into the political arena, and when they made a fresh stab at affiliating as transatlantic defenders of market liberty once the interregnum of the Second World War had passed, their formal alliance, now called the Mont Pelerin Society after a resort in the Swiss Alps, began life as something of a standoffish debating society. The first major irony in the annals of neoliberalism is that a clutch of publicity-averse intellectuals would, within three decades of the group's founding in 1947, end up running a very big chunk of the Anglophone capitalist world.
The neoliberal flight from public responsibility is actually a curiously instructive tale of strikingly other-than-intended consequences.
The Mont Pelerin faithful congregated around the Austrian anti-Keynesian economist F. A. Hayek, an Old World polymath who was eager to integrate his (strictly theoretical) vindication of individual liberty not merely into the heart of the economics discipline, but also into the full sweep of public life, from moral philosophy to scientific research. With the zeal of the ardent émigré, Hayek embraced the skeptical empiricism of conservative British thinkers such as Edmund Burke and David Hume -- and also seconded the broader British reverence for political custom and cultural tradition, which he saw as the outcome of adaptation across the generations. As economic historian Angus Burgin writes, Hayek maintained that "traditions were products of extended processes of competition, and had persisted because in some sense -- which their beneficiaries did not always rationally comprehend -- they worked." The focus here remained, as it did throughout Hayek's career, squarely on the radical limitations on knowledge available to individual human agents. In The Constitution of Liberty , the work he regarded, far more than the bestselling polemic The Road to Serfdom , as the summation of his thought, Hayek wrote that "civilization enables us constantly to profit from knowledge which we individually do not possess" -- and thereby the "freedom and unpredictability of human action" were to be tempered by "rules which experience has shown to serve best on the whole." It speaks volumes about Hayek's own sense of intellectual tradition that he initially proposed the group be called the Acton-Tocqueville Society -- a suggestion overruled on the grounds that these particular avatars of noble European tradition were both too Catholic and too aristocratic for modern tastes.
Like many European intellectuals of the time, Hayek was also haunted by the recent terrors of totalitarianism; both he and his harder-line Austrian colleague, Ludwig von Mises, were exiles from the Nazi regime, and the group of like-minded intellectuals they recruited to form the Mont Pelerin Society shared their sense that market-based liberalism remained the only sure refuge from communism and fascism. It was an obvious corollary of this faith that the philosophic values associated with such liberalism -- skepticism, open inquiry, and historical contingency -- were the most reliable antidotes to totalitarianism. Hayek, for example, argued that the halting and contingent nature of all human knowledge laid bare the conceits of state economic planning and demand management as so much bitter and destructive farce. In a 1936 lecture called "Economics and Knowledge," he sounded an early note of epistemological skepticism in public affairs that was virtually postmodern: "How," he demanded to know, "can the combination of fragments of knowledge existing in different minds bring about results which, if they were to be brought about deliberately, would require a knowledge on the part of the directing mind which no single person can possess?"
Clearly, nothing about such radical skepticism entailed an ironclad commitment to free-market fundamentalism. Any brand of liberalism that forced humans into free market relations would be self-contradictory, as liberal theorists from Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill to John Dewey, all of whom shared Hayek's epistemological stance, understood. Indeed, Karl Popper -- the thinker who inspired Hayek and many other Mont Pelerin founders -- was himself a social democratic defender of the welfare state with decidedly socialist leanings. As Popper explained in a 1994 interview not long before his death, his conception of individual liberty was not antithetical to principles of economic democracy:
In a way one has to have a free market, but I also believe that to make a godhead out of the principle of the free market is nonsense. . . . Traditionally, one of the main tasks of economics was to think of the problem of full employment. Since approximately 1965 economists have given up on that; I find it very wrong.
Clearly, too, the "open society" that Popper famously envisioned permitted ample room for the adoption of egalitarian, even redistributionist, policies. Even as Hayek himself inveighed against the "collectivist" ideology of New Deal economic reforms, he also took pains to distance himself from a devil-take-the-hindmost model of unregulated market competition. The challenge, as Hayek saw it, was not merely to mobilize the resources of the economic policy elite and its intellectual fellow travelers to ratify a complacent, status quo vision of business civilization, but to collaborate on a far more ambitious project. In a 1949 paper called "The Intellectuals and Socialism," Hayek sketched out a visionary, classically liberal mandate that became the animating mission of the Mont Pelerin Society:
We must be able to offer a new liberal program which appeals to the imagination. We must make the building of a free society once more an intellectual adventure, a deed of courage. What we lack is a liberal Utopia, a program which seems neither a mere defense of things as they are nor a diluted kind of socialism, but a truly liberal radicalism which does not spare the susceptibilities of the mighty (including the trade unions), which is not too severely practical, and which does not confine itself to what appears today as politically possible. We need intellectual leaders who are willing to work for an ideal, however small may be the prospects of its early realisation. They must be men who are willing to stick to principles and to fight for their realisation, however remote. The practical compromises they must leave to the politicians.
There is, of course, a contradiction at the heart of Hayek's vision: How is a utopian free society supposed to pursue its own ambitious battery of universalized mandates while remaining ostensibly founded on the radically unknowable nature of all human experience? But the real irony of Hayek's utopian longings is that they were fully realized -- albeit, of course, in nothing like the form he envisioned. As Daniel Stedman Jones argues in his incisive study of the neoliberal rise to power, Masters of the Universe , "it is hard to think of another 'utopia' to have been as fully realized" as Hayek's came to be in the powerful neoliberal regimes taking shape in Reagan's America and Thatcher's Britain: "The free market became the organizing principle for microeconomic reform, especially through the privatization of state assets, nationalized industries, and public services. Trade unions were vanquished and the power of labor was diluted. Exchange controls were abolished. The financial markets were progressively deregulated. Market mechanisms became the models for the operation of health care." While it's true, Stedman Jones notes, that "the purity that Hayek advocated was meant as an optimistic and ideological and intellectual tactic rather than a blueprint," it was to become that and much, much more: neoliberals went on to erect a permanent edifice of postideological assumptions about the natural predominance of markets and the just as rigid limitations of government. "The results," as Stedman Jones sums things up, "have been extraordinary."
In retrospect, Mont Pelerin's guiding spirits probably should have put a lot less stock in Adam Smith's comforting policy-fable of the Invisible Hand and heeded instead the counsel of the old Chinese curse "May all your wishes be granted." That aphorism is also rendered in English as "May you live in interesting times," and both renderings hold with equal force in the neoliberal case. For as the (fairly recondite and academic) proceedings of the Mont Pelerin set were gaining wider traction in the policy world, multiple crackups of the Keynesian model of coordinated economic planning helped to create an opening for the figure who would be the new economic order's zeitgeist on horseback: the diminutive University of Chicago monetarist-for-all-seasons, Milton Friedman.
The robustly entrepreneurial Friedman embraced a masscult platform.
When Paul Volcker -- Jimmy Carter's appointee to chair the Federal Reserve -- adopted a modified version of Friedman's theology of the money supply to tame the two-digit inflation of the late 1970s, Friedman was suddenly the policy visionary who could do no wrong. He soon served as an informal adviser to both the Reagan and Thatcher governments (and, less prestigiously, to the dictatorship of Chilean general Augusto Pinochet). He reached a popular audience via a column in Newsweek , a hit series on PBS, and several bestselling tracts of unalloyed free-market sloganeering. While demure Europeans such as Hayek distrusted the allure of popular renown as a temptation to oversimplify their ideas and pander to the public, the robustly entrepreneurial Friedman embraced a masscult platform -- and for the most part on the very grounds that aroused Hayek's suspicion. When he succeeded Hayek as chairman of the Mont Pelerin group, Friedman brought it, and the broader project of neoliberal thought, into its high propaganda phase. As he cultivated a high media profile, Friedman positioned himself at the nexus of an influential new group of transatlantic conservative think tanks that would go on to supply much of the concrete policy agendas for the Reagan and Thatcher revolutions: the Institute of Economic Affairs in London; the Hoover Institution at Stanford (where he would spend the balance of his career after retiring from the University of Chicago); and the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.
And as the institutional platforms for Milton Friedman's free-market gospel multiplied, the vaunted intellectual range of neoliberal inquiry vanished into a stagnant pool of confident and absolute assertions of the market's unchallenged sovereignty as the arbiter of all life outcomes. Friedman converted Adam Smith's classical doctrine of the invisible hand -- whereby all self-interested actions mystically possess a benign or munificent social payoff -- into an inverted demonology of the public sphere. There is, he said in an address honoring the two-hundredth anniversary of The Wealth of Nations , "an invisible hand in politics that is the precise reverse of the invisible hand in the market":
In politics, men who intend only to promote the public interest, as they conceive it, are 'led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of their intention.' They become the front-men for special interests they would never knowingly serve. They end up sacrificing the public interest to the special interest, the interest of the consumers to that of producers, of the masses who never go to college to that of those who attend college, of the poor working-class saddled with employment taxes to the middle class who get disproportionate benefits from social security, and so down the line.
It's hard to imagine a purer statement of the founding principles of neoliberalism as we have come wearily to know it in this advanced stage of market collapse. It is pitched, first of all, in a counterintuitive rhetoric of worldly cleverness, a spirit of seminar-room one-upmanship. Not only is Adam Smith right about the hidden virtues of business interests, but the same paradox operates, by a virtually metaphysical law, to transform every action of every individual putatively serving the public interest into a parody of his or her stated intent. Here is a hermeneutics of suspicion that far outstrips the wildest excesses of the death-of-the-author acolytes of high postmodern critical theory. Not only is it the case that public servants will fail to advance the public's interest out of some depressingly common shortcoming of character -- susceptibility to bribery, say, or short-sighted ideological delusion. No, the central idea here is far more radical than that: government, by its very nature, can't serve the public interest, because of the innately condescending and imperious character of the act of governing.
Friedman's claim owed its origins in large part to the work of George Stigler, a colleague at the University of Chicago. Stigler helped pioneer the famous neoliberal doctrine of regulatory capture, which in turn is its own ultra-cynical academic appropriation of what seems, at first glance, like a muckraking Marxist's indictment of the bourgeois state. Stigler and other advocates of the so-called public choice school of economic theory maintained that regulatory agencies inevitably became hostage to the interests of the industries they oversaw. In a 1971 journal article bearing the deceptively wan title "The Theory of Economic Regulation," Stigler airily dismissed reformist complaints about regulatory corruption as "exactly as appropriate as a criticism of the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company for selling groceries, or as a criticism of a politician for currying popular support." Stigler's disdain for pandering political leaders did not, however, prevent him from summarizing his theory in a policy paper for then-president Richard Nixon. And, like most of the leading lights of neoliberal theory, Stigler went on to win a Nobel Prize in Economics.
To be sure, the problem of industry-captive oversight is a common failing of the modern regulatory state, as any cursory glance at the recent track records of, say, the Securities and Exchange Commission or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will sadly demonstrate. But in promoting regulatory capture as a bedrock law of public-sector enterprise, the neoliberals performed a neat trick; they posited corruption as a permanent condition of the regulatory state. And in so doing, they casually relegated a fistful of traditional Progressive and New Deal reforms -- the cause of good government, upgrades in civil service appointments and public-sector unionizing, the punishment of graft and fraud, and (not least by a long shot) the tighter regulation of corruption in the private sector -- to the dustbin of history. Such measures, they preached, could breed only perverse and self-defeating outcomes, and would indeed grievously multiply double-dealing in the public sector. Only by harnessing the superior explanatory power of "profit-maximizing" in public life, Stigler argued, could the sad pieties of reformism be laid aside in favor of the sterner and more confident guidance of the true masters of realpolitik -- the lords of the economic profession. Because "reformers will be ill-equipped to use the state for their reforms, and victims of the pervasive use of the state's support of special groups will be helpless to protect themselves," Stigler reasoned, "economists should quickly establish the license to practice on the rational theory of political behavior." Thus was born still another pet piety of the neoliberal counter-reformation: the notion that economics is "the imperial science," duly licensed to dispense its market-pleasing wisdom in every sphere of life, from crime prevention and education policy to dating and food preparation.
The notion that the public and private sectors both bear "defects" is elevated to a metaphysical affront to the market's sovereignty.
In the brewing theology of the modern conservative backlash, the moral hazards of the captive regulatory state were entirely the creation of the bad actors in the public sector. The bagmen for the industries seeking to purchase regulatory favors from the agents of the state were, after all, only acting in accord with the sainted Smithian dictates of self-interest. What fault could it be of theirs if the state had provided them with an open market in graft, kickbacks, and influence-peddling? Indeed, Friedman, ever alert to opportunities for rhetorical one-upmanship, floated the proposition that critics of free-market policies were foisting a bad-faith "double standard" on the rightful workings of market self-interest. "A market 'defect,'" Friedman explained in a tribute to Smith's Wealth of Nations , "whether through an absence of competition or external effects (equivalent, as recent literature has made clear, to transaction costs) has been regarded as immediate justification for government intervention. But the political mechanism has its 'defects' too. It is fallacious to compare the actual market with the ideal political structure. One should either compare the real with the real, or the ideal with the ideal."
Got that? The notion that the public and private sectors both bear "defects" -- a completely banal supposition conceded by any Galbraithian on the economic left -- is here elevated to a metaphysical affront to the market's sovereignty. In fact, the double standard that Friedman calls out is nothing of the sort. No progressive-minded supporter of government intervention had staked out the absurd position that the state is morally immaculate, or itself unsusceptible to any constructive outside intervention when its practices are out of line with the public interest. Friedman writes as though Congress had never appointed an inspector general, passed legislation to reform the civil service, and improved regulatory safeguards -- or as though the various federal employees' unions had never pushed for improved hiring practices or better working conditions to upgrade their work product. And that's because, for critics in the neoliberal camp, such external controls on the state's behavior simply cannot exist; the regulatory-capture school of neoliberal theory already ruled out, on principle, the possibility that such interventions could yield anything other than market-distorting outcomes. In other words, Friedman's lament about the mismatched moral standards of state and market is the phony protest of a card cheat seeking mainly to stoke up the theatrical appeal of an already rigged game.
Who'll Stop the Rana?
You'd think that our recent bruising encounters with the devastating fallout from the deregulators' handiwork in the housing market of the early aughts should, by rights, render Friedman's complaints about the public sector's assaults on market virtue the deadest of dead letters. But, if anything, the ritual defense of the market's sovereign prerogative has dug in that much more intractably as its basic coordinates have been discredited. As critics such as Dean Baker routinely point out, the stalled recovery out of the Great Recession is almost exclusively a function of the failure of our neoliberal economic establishment to speak honestly about a collapsed housing bubble that created a yawning shortfall in demand -- a shortfall that, amid the paralysis of credit markets in the same recession, could be jumpstarted only by government stimulus.
All sorts of absurdities have flowed from this magisterial breakdown in comprehension. Since the neoliberal catechism holds that stimulative government spending can never be justified in the long run, much of our debate over the recovery's prospective course has been given over to speculative nonsense. Chief among these talismanic invocations of free-market faith is the great question of how to placate the jittery job creators. At virtually every turn in the course of debate over how steeply to cut government spending in this recession, our sachems of neoliberal orthodoxy have insisted that any revenue-enhancing move the government so much as contemplated would spook business leaders into mothballing plans to expand operations and add jobs. It became the all-purpose worst-case scenario of first resort. If health care reform passed, if federal deficits expanded, or if marginal tax rates were permitted to rise for the vapors-prone investor class, why, then the whole prospect of a broad-based economic recovery was as good as shot. [*]
And since neoliberalism is most notably a global -- or properly speaking, the globalizing -- ideology, such pat distortions of economic reality are no longer confined to the Anglo-American political economy. Nor are they confined to strictly cognitive errors in policymaking. The collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh has yielded commentary from neoliberals that might well merit entry into the psychiatric profession's DSM-5 as textbook illustrations of moral aphasia. Here, after all, was a tragedy that would appall even the darkest Victorian imaginings of a Charles Dickens or a Karl Marx: factory workers earning a monthly wage of $38 crowded into a structurally unsound multistory facility built on a foundation of sand above a drained pond. Three stories of the factory had been hastily erected on top of an already unsound existing structure just to house the fresh battalions of underpaid workers demanded by bottom-feeding international textile contractors.
Government inspectors repeatedly demanded that the facility be shuttered on safety grounds, but the plant's proprietors ignored their citations, reckoning that the short-term gains of maintaining peak production outweighed the negligible threat of a fine or safety citation. Nor was there likely to be any pressure from Western bastions of enlightenment and human rights. The ceremonial stream of Astroturf labor-and-safety-inspecting delegations from Western nations made zero note of the cracked and teetering foundations of the Rana Plaza structure. Lorenz Berzau, the managing director of one such industry consortium (the Business Social Compliance Initiative), primly told the Wall Street Journal that the group isn't an engineering concern -- and what's more, "it's very important not to expect too much from the social audit" that his group and other Western overseers conduct on production facilities. And, as Dave Jamieson and Emran Hossain reported in the Huffington Post , labor organizers have long since learned that the auditing groups serve largely as pro forma conduits of impression management for consumer markets in the West. The auditing of manufacturing facilities in the developing world "ends up catering more to the brands involved than the workers toiling on the line," Jamieson and Hossain write.
Yes, factory owners and managers well understand the permissible bounds of discourse in such Potemkin-style inquiries -- and instruct their workforce accordingly. "What to say to the auditors always comes from the owners," a Bangladeshi line worker named Suruj Miah told the two reporters. "The owners in most cases would warn workers not to say negative things about the factories. Workers are left without a choice." Sumi Abedin, one of the survivors of an earlier disaster -- a factory fire in the nearby Tazreen plant that claimed the lives of 112 workers in November 2012 -- told the Huffington Post that on the day of an international audit team's visit, management compelled workers to wear T-shirts designating them as members of a nonexistent fire safety committee, and had them brandishing prop fire-extinguishing equipment that plant managers had procured only for the duration of the audit.
What this disaster ought to have driven through the neoliberal consensus's collective solar plexus is something close to the polar opposite of its cherished, evidence-proof theory of the captive regulator: a largely cosmetic global watchdog effort funded overwhelmingly by private-sector concerns, far from delivering oversight and accountability, has incentivized fraud and negligence. And conveniently enough, it's the race-to-the-bottom competitive forces unleashed by the global workplace that ritually sanctify all of this routine dishonesty. In their malignant neglect of worker safety measures, local factory managers are able to cite the same market pressures to maximize production and profit that have prevented the ornamental Western groups conducting audits of workplace safety practices from releasing their findings to the workers at risk of being killed by the neoliberal regime of global manufacturing.
Still, the dogmas of neoliberal market prerogative are far sturdier than a collapsing factory or a raging fire on the production line. If the dogmatists have thrown overboard Hayek-era intellectual values like experimentation and skepticism, at least they can stave off their inevitable extinction by shoring up Friedman-era platitudes and, from the mantles of the nation's most prestigious universities and op-ed shops, try to pass them off as the nation's highest common sense. So former University of Chicago law professor Richard Epstein, who helped found the influential law and economics movement that essentially transposed the shibboleths of public choice theory into legal doctrine, has patiently explained that the just and measured response to the collapse of Rana Plaza is to seek enforcement of preexisting building codes across the Bangladeshi private sector. Writing on the heels of the disaster, in the Hoover Institution's web journal, Defining Ideas , Epstein takes pains to rule out the passage of any "new laws" to improve worker-safety standards or international monitoring efforts.
In other words: Bangladeshi workers can either be more safe or starve more rapidly.
But lest even this minimal recourse to regulation sound like too heady a plunge into statist remedies, Professor Epstein also cautions that the aggrieved and grieving workers in the Bangladeshi garment trade must not veer recklessly into unionism or other non-market-approved modes of worker self-determination. After all, he reasons, "in order to stave a shutdown off by improving factory safety, the savvy firm will have to raise its asking price from foreign purchasers . . . and may have to lower wages to remain competitive." (This is another classic myth of the neoliberal faith -- the rational "trade-off" between personal safety and wages that the independent broker makes when he or she contracts with an employer to freely exchange time and skills for wages. Only, of course, the notion of such rational choice has been reduced to a bitter farce in workplaces such as Rana Plaza, where the basic human rights of workers are only acknowledged theatrically, for the purposes of Potemkin auditing tours.) A more activist approach to the crisis in global worker safety would create intolerable distress to Epstein's utopian vision of the carefully calibrated relations of global market production. Sure, the EU might ban exports of clothes bearing the taint of labor exploitation -- but such a measure would just perversely create "undeserved economic protection" for EU economies that are net clothing exporters (and by implication, would deprive consumers of the sacred right to the cheapest possible attire that bullied and undercompensated labor can provide).
And do not get Epstein started on the mischief wrought by unions, which are all but certain to multiply calamities like the Rana Plaza disaster:
It is not as though the only thing that a union does once it gains its dominant position is to advocate for the safety of its workers, even if that item is at the top of its agenda. Unions also bargain over wages, work rules, seniority, pensions, benefits, and other conditions of employment. In dealing with these issues, they exert a monopoly clout that can easily raise wages and reduce productivity. In a market with many firms, they can exert that force only if they are prepared to take retaliatory action against the firms that refuse to bow to their conditions. And they can only do so if they induce the government to take measures to restrict the entry of non-union firms that could underbid them.
In other words: Bangladeshi workers can either be more safe or starve more rapidly. But according to Epstein, they assuredly aren't entitled to earn a living wage without the threat of being crushed or burned to death at any given moment. The pertinent market trade-offs simply won't permit it. Indeed, if you want to know the truth, Epstein claims, "labor agitation was . . . one of the contributing causes to the collapse at Rana Plaza." Even the threat of union-related disruptions to established work discipline can be Kryptonite to the beleaguered clothes barons of Bangladesh. We find ourselves confronted yet again by the torments of the heroic job creator. Prospective labor agitation, Epstein contends, "places enormous strains on the firms that have to deliver goods to foreign purchasers in order to remain in business. The threat of a repeat protest has led many firm bosses to step up the pace of work in the factories, which in turn means longer shifts, more workers, more extensive use of heavy equipment in order to make up for lost production, and stockpiling goods. That maneuver turned into a fatal insurance policy against future labor disruptions."
You see? One minute you're protesting for a wage increase or a work regime less likely to injure you, and before you know it, you've frightened your employer into stockpiling inventory at such a frenetic pace that he kills you. Could the tonic discipline of market preferences really be any clearer? One can only hope that future no-goodnik labor agitators will heed this tragic lesson and recognize "foreign purchasers" as the remote, punitive, and awesome deities that the market meant them to be.
Trapped in the Moneybox
It is not all that surprising, in light of the trajectory of neoliberal ascendancy, to see rigidly orthodox market apologists like Professor Epstein driven to such extremities to tease out a neoliberal moral from the bloody, smoldering squalor of the Rana Plaza disaster. But the neoliberal consensus has long since transcended conventional divisions of party and ideology; the axiomatic assertion of market dominance is a conditioned reflex among nearly all established pundits.
In a now-infamous April 24 write-up of the Bangladeshi catastrophe, Slate 's Moneybox columnist Matt Yglesias -- an eager Democratic partisan brandishing pious Washington credentials from The American Prospect and the Center for American Progress -- tried his own hand at an Epstein-style vindication of the market's undeviating wisdom. In a post bearing the reassuring free-to-be-you-and-me headline "Different Places Have Different Safety Rules and That's OK," Yglesias framed his defense of the status quo regime of erratic standards for worker safety in the hoary rhetoric of the public choice "trade-off." "While having a safe job is good," Yglesias chirped, "money is also good."
OK, then! But note again the pinched moral universe in which employees are permitted only to have a safe job or a (barely) sustenance income, and never both at the same time. It seems a modest social goal to demand that the exchange of labor value for a paycheck in non-mortal conditions be accepted as an incontrovertible human right. If a rapidly globalizing market order is unable to secure that baseline personal and financial security, its support for wildly varying models of job safety should be regarded precisely as the problem -- and not as the taken-for-granted standard for phony assertions about what individual workers (let alone "the Bangladeshis," tout court) are purported to be choosing.
"While having a safe job is good," Yglesias chirped, "money is also good."
But Matt Yglesias, like many of Washington's market-besotted, faux-contrarian pundits on the notional left side of the partisan aisle, will not be rushed into stating the morally obvious. Yes, he concedes, there could well be an abstract case here for collective action aimed at upgrading the safety conditions of Bangladeshi workplaces -- but like Epstein, he frets that the collective-action models of richer, Western workplaces create prohibitive costs of doing business and therefore may not fall within the ambit of choices that workers in Bangladesh should reasonably be permitted to make. "Bangladesh is a lot poorer than the United States, and there are very good reasons for Bangladeshi people to make different choices in this regard than Americans," Yglesias writes. "Safety rules that are appropriate for the United States would be unnecessarily immiserating in much poorer Bangladesh."
So, not to worry, Mr. Moneybox confidently asserts. The trade-offs have yielded optimal gains in each diverse market setting, in this, the best of all possible neoliberal worlds: "American jobs have gotten much safer over the past 20 years, and Bangladesh has gotten a lot richer." As an authority for this sweeping claim -- which, by the way, is untrue in what Yglesias sees as the argument-clinching "safer" U.S. end of the spectrum; Bureau of Labor Statistics data on workplace fatalities show steady increases over the past five years, with right-to-work states such as Texas leading the grisly toll -- Yglesias cites the work of Robert Frank, a public-choice enthusiast who, in his recent book The Darwin Economy , seeks to lay the groundwork for a terrifying entity he calls the "libertarian welfare state."
Social media scourges wasted little time in calling out Yglesias's smug, fatuous, and opportunistic effort to advertise his market contrarianism on the ruins of the Rana Plaza collapse. Eventually the scribe was hounded into publishing a passive-aggressive follow-up post averring that he'd been misread and unfairly castigated by his critics. The stalwart wonk remained unbowed, however; Yglesias wrote that he still "absolutely" stood by the conclusion that, in matters of workplace safety, it's "appropriate for rich countries to have more stringent standards than poor ones."
Now, Matt Yglesias is not a doctrinaire neoliberal thinker -- certainly not in the sense that a disciplined propagandist like Milton Friedman was (even though he longs, absurdly, for a revival of "Friedman-style pragmatism" to bring the economic right to its senses). [**] But that's precisely the point. Neoliberal orthodoxy has leached so deeply into the intellectual groundwater of the nation's political class that it's no longer a meaningful descriptor of ideological difference. That's why Yglesias's erstwhile American Prospect colleague Ezra Klein, over at his prestigious post atop the Washington Post 's economic blog shop, can marvel at the tough-minded budget "seriousness" of serial Randian liar Paul Ryan -- or why the Obama White House can confidently slot offshore billionaire Penny Pritzker as its second-term commerce secretary while it continues to mouth empty platitudes about saving the nation's middle class.
All Friedmans Now
It was Milton Friedman himself who famously announced, during his tour as an informal adviser to Richard Nixon, that "we're all Keynesians now" -- but that oft-quoted maxim has been badly truncated from its full context. What Friedman actually said, in a 1968 interview with Time magazine, was "in one sense, we are all Keynesians now; in another, no one is a Keynesian any longer." He went on to spell out the paradox more fully: "We all use the Keynesian language and apparatus; none of us any longer accepts the initial Keynesian conclusions."
Now, more than four decades on, Friedman's savvy rhetorical dodge is the watchword of all mainstream macroeconomic thought. Even putative liberals who pay lip service to the efficacy of government intervention dig in behind their own pet postulates about the market's transcendent wisdom and beneficence -- about the need to temper the alleged excesses of the social-democratic usages of social wealth with sterner, more austere pieties about the real-world trade-offs mandated by the lords of neoliberal market liberation.
It is an undeniable species of gibberish, one that would have likely appalled even as firm a market stoic as Hayek, who, whatever his other intellectual handicaps, well understood the mischief wrought by a glib and self-seeking centrism. During the Mont Pelerin group's tenth anniversary gathering in 1957, Hayek delivered a controversial speech called "Why I Am Not a Conservative." It was designed, among other things, to distance the group from the steady accretion of self-insulated and untested right-wing bromides that would later be the hallmark of Friedman's successor reign. Today, however, Hayek's oration sounds a much more sobering note of prophecy for our political culture at large. "Advocates of the Middle Way with no goal of their own, conservatives have been guided by the belief that the truth must lie somewhere between the extremes -- with the result that they have shifted position every time a more extreme movement appeared on either wing," Hayek announced.
The one true road to intellectual serfdom, in other words, was the one that Hayek correctly saw lurking within the heart of the neoliberal revolution.
[*] Meanwhile, the actual state of the labor economy told a different story -- that corporate profits had spiked to record highs and that, instead of scaling back entirely on job expenditures, employers were in fact adding hours to the average employee workweek, rightly calculating that they could continue getting more value out of the existing workforce in an artificially slack job market with anemic, and declining, union representation. (Once again, Dean Baker was virtually alone among economic commentators in noting this important shift.) Never mind, as well, that when significant provisions of the allegedly business-killing health care law finally began to kick in, health care spending in the private sector started to slow and stabilize on what looked to be a permanent and structural basis, with a projected decline of $770 billion over the next decade. In other words, government intervention in the economy -- even via a mechanism as compromised and graft-riddled as the 2010 Affordable Care Act -- was showing a striking capacity to even out and stabilize one of the most stubborn and devastating inequalities in the American economy, access to affordable health care. And far from producing a steeper drag on broader conditions for recovery, the stabilization of health care spending occurred amid a pronounced spike in health care hiring, and indeed a long overdue (if still altogether too weak) rebound in the labor economy generally.
[**] Yglesias has offered qualified support for the Obama stimulus plan and health care overhaul, and on this past May Day, even ventured a classically coy Slate post where he pretended to flirt with Marxism. (Hipster-trolling headline: "Capitalism is looking pretty shabby.")
Chris Lehmann is editor in chief of The Baffler and author of Rich People Things . His latest book, The Money Cult , is out now from Melville House.
Corporations wiping out large chunks of biodiversity and killing people with impunity in Honduras and Brazil in collusion with the corrupt state machinery, are being rewarded for their contribution to 'clean development' as are those throwing hundreds into abject poverty and total unemployment in India. At the end, however, their projects are not 'clean' with no net gain for environment in terms of carbon emission. In its march from one triumph to another, global capitalism brutally preys upon the poorest, weakest and the most vulnerable.
We are an inclusive company that respects and celebrates the diversity and human rights of its employees, customers and communities. But we never stop trying to improve as a company, employer and member of the community.
A corporation concerned about the human rights of the employees, customers and communities, isn't that something we are desperately looking for?
That was how Miguel Facusse, arguably the most powerful businessman in Honduras responded to the news that he was being awarded with CEAL International Award by Business Council of Latin America (CEAL).
Now juxtapose the noble words of Facusse with these words from the 'unidentified' kidnappers who threatened the MUCA (Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán) journalist Karla Zelaya on 23 October 2012 after kidnapping her: "This time you're lucky. We're not going to kill you because you're worth more to us alive than dead."
The association of these people to Facusse is the open secret in Honduras as is the collusion between the Facusse's militia and the state's security forces, particularly after the 2009 coup-de-tat that deposed the democratically elected president. According to the Front for Popular National Resistance (FNRP), this new act of violence happened after two more campesinos or peasant farmers were killed over the weekend and three more were found buried in Farallones, lands belonging to Miguel Facussé.
The news coming from Honduras over the past few months is equally horrifying as indicated by these two reports (here and here) from Amnesty International. After brutal murder of campesino leader Margarita Murilo on 27 August, another leader Juan Angel Lopez Miralda met with the same fate on 11 November this year.
After all, how long could have they tolerated Murilo-a survivor of twenty-two days of detention and torture in the 1980's and life-long fighter against the oppressive state-who dared say this after disappearance of her son in 2009: "If the army took my son to deter me, it was very poor judgment on their part. I've been in struggle for twenty-five years; I'm not going to abandon it."
Obviously, the state was forced to deter her by taking her life itself. Even though Facusse and his corporation are not mentioned in the AI reports, there is no doubt as to either the motive or the mechanism of her elimination.
With thousands of hectares of lands in Bazo Aguan region itself and more elsewhere, Facusse has every reason to eliminate anyone who advocates the rights of the creatures who claim to be the rightful owners of the same land. Himself having been the economic advisor for one of the Honduran past presidents and counting another past president as his own nephew, there is literally nothing Facusse cannot do in Honduras.
There is no dearth of people like Facusse in this world where capitalism rules the roost. If we look closely, every developing country and economy has its own shares of Facusses who not only decide who wins and who loses in elections but also can depose or oust those who refuse to play by their rule after gaining power. Indeed, these super-wealthy tycoons-with opaque business activities and capability to both make and break rules and governments-in the under-developed countries, are the equivalents of the wealthy and powerful multinational corporations in the developed countries and economies.
The neo-liberal theologians would like us to believe that these people who value their own wealth-gathering much more than lives of hundreds to thousands of paupers out in the communities are a transitory phenomenon before rule of law comes to fruition in these modernizing societies. In other words, we should bear with plutocracy and mass pauperization for the sake of capitalist economic development that will somehow lead us into more prosperous if not egalitarian societies.
Is that the truth, after all? Let's draw some similarities between Facusse's Dinant corporation and Vallourec & Mannesmann Tubes (V&M), a joint venture of French Vallourec Group (with more than 23,000 employees, sales of $5.3 billion in 2012, 78% generated outside Europe, according to Compay's site) and German Mannesmannrohren-Werke AG.
To start with, contempt and disregard for human rights is equally strong in both. As Facusse's militia shoot the peasants in Honduras point blank and leave them to rot in the fields before police can take their body, V&M poisons the lands to clear the natural vegetation in Brazil for its vast eucalyptus plantations. As the usual fruits-the means of livelihood-and the underground water sources disappear, people in small towns like Minas Grais are forced into hunger and misery all the same. Those who dare to raise a finger at V&M here are killed as mercilessly as those challenging Dinant in Honduras are.
The similarities, however, do not end there. Both the companies are now beneficiaries of a supposedly noble initiative from Kyoto protocol intended to reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emission. While Dinant's palm trees are used to produce supposedly 'renewable' bio-fuels, V&M's eucalyptus are used to make 'renewable' coal. They trade off their carbon credits to other big industrial polluters thereby receiving huge amount of money under the 'Clean Development Mechanism' of the UN and the World Bank. At the end however, both the biofuel and coal go on to be burnt thereby emitting the greenhouse gases.
Net outcome: as people keep being killed or stifled in Brazil and Honduras, profits for corporations like Dinant and V&M keep rising exponentially, the biodiversity being irrecoverably damaged in both the supposedly noble sources of clean development.
As Clive L Spash articulates in a well-researched article titled 'The brave new world of Carbon Trade':The pervasiveness of the greenhouse gas emissions, strong uncertainty and complexity combine to prevent economists from substantiating their theoretical claims of cost-effectiveness. Corporate power is shown to be a major force affecting emissions market operation and design. The potential for manipulation to achieve financial gain, while showing little regard for environmental and social consequences, is evident as markets have extended internationally and via trading offsets. (...) I conclude that the focus on such markets is creating a distraction from the need for changing human behavior, institutions and infrastructure.As fortunes of people like Facusse multiply overnight, the real sufferers of the whole fiasco live in abject poverty and increasing marginalization. As their fellow citizens face brutality of the forest rangers from V&M and other big companies, the Brazilian middle class is pre-occupied by something else. Apparently, the Rousseff administration's sellout to the corporations is too little for them: 142,000 of them recently signed a petition on the White House Website asking 'president Obama' to take a stand against the 'Bolivarian Communist expansion in Brazil promoted by the administration of Dilma Rousseff'.
That tells a lot about why the plight of indigenous people in Brazil, Honduras and elsewhere rarely makes it to the mainstream media even as the street protests against leaders like Brazil's Rousseff and Venezuela's Maduro receive a round-the-clock coverage.
But even as the mainstream media works day and night to manufacture consent for the neo-liberal economic order and the resulting political order thereby obfuscating the reality, not everybody has abandoned the poor and the downtrodden. Plight of these people in Brazil and Honduras has been retold vividly in the 2012 documentary 'The Carbon Rush' directed by social justice organizer and activist Amy Miller. The documentary was shown as the part of recently concluded Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival in Kathmandu (KIMFF), leaving the audience flabbergasted.
The documentary brilliantly captures the misfortune of the victims of some more projects under the so called clean development mechanism including the one in India which snatches the livelihood of the rag-pickers. As a big company moves on to produce energy from the garbage (the amount of energy produced being minimal as air pollution reaches intolerable levels with use of incinerators in residential areas) it is also bestowed with monopoly in recycling the recyclables from the garbage forcing the already poor people into a vicious cycle of abject poverty and total unemployment.
So, what is in the store for these people duped by their states and hounded by the wealthy? The smart and educated people in India may not have exactly petitioned the US president the way their Brazilian counterparts did but their attitude about the economic and social malaise of the society is also basically the same. The only solution to the crushing poverty and rampant unemployment is, for them, to let the wealthy corporations exploit the natural resources even faster-thereby transforming this planet into unlivable garbage dump even earlier than it would otherwise become-so that more jobs are created. The living conditions of the workers and the plight of the displaced people is the luxury that the state cannot afford to ponder over at this point of time.
It is then no wonder that after Narendra Modi came to power in India with a promise to 'development', his government is now going to depend on the 'utmost good faith' of the polluting industries to control pollution rather than strict laws enforced by the state.
So, when will this mad rush to seek solution of every problem in endless economic growth end? As the wealth gap widens between the rich and poor leaving the wealthy few increasingly beholden to the remainder of the rapidly depleting natural resources in the planet, how many more millions of people will have to suffer before the illusion of mankind's invincibility over the nature crashes?
Miguel Facusse is already over 90 and still wants to gather wealth at the cost of thousands of Honduran lives. But, will the fragile ecosystem of the planet survive for another 90 years without a major disruption? Even if it does not survive, Facusse will be long gone by then having left a disastrous track record of swallowing up entire genera and multiple species of flora and fauna in the South American continent for his palm plantations. Likely, the V&M's owners will also be gone by that time contributing to loss of an even large chunk of biodiversity in the planet for their eucalyptus plantations. But who can blame them? They are neither the biggest nor the last culprits in the whole sordid saga.
These people will be remembered especially for one reason though: as they tore through the ecosystem speeding the degradation of the most bio-diverse parts of planet earth, they were being paid for precisely the opposite of that, in other words, they were getting rewards instead of punishments for their crimes.
Author is a Kathmandu-based freelance writer who regularly blogs at South Asia and Beyond.
12/17/2014 | zerohedge.com
"...so many still maintain that America is the greatest nation in the world. They swear that America represents all that is good; freedom, democracy, merit based capitalism and the rights of the individual. That is true America does represent such things. However, it is fraudulent to consider our current nation America. America was a concept that promoted all that is good. And so it would seem that the nation in which they find themselves cannot be America. Their nation today represents the will of the political class at all costs, period. Their sole motivation is themselves. Very different from America. And so perhaps a renaming on the nation is required, at least until or if the people decide to take it back and reintroduce the world to the concept that is America for as discussed below you cannot destroy a concept and so there is hope to bring her back. But until then we need a name for this geographic region and its new societal system... It seems"Neoconica" is most fitting."
Dec 12, 2014 | counterpunch.org
The maiming and breaking of bodies and the forms of unimaginable pain inflicted by the Bush administration on so-called "enemy combatants" was no longer seen in violation of either international human rights or a constitutional commitment to democratic ideals. The war on terror had now reduced governance in the United States to a legalized apparatus of terror that mimicked the very violence it was meant to combat. In the aftermath of 9/11, under the leadership of Bush and his close neoconservative band of merry criminal advisors, justice took a leave of absence and the "gloves came off." As Mark Danner states, "the United States transformed itself from a country that, officially at least, condemned torture to a country that practised it." But it did more. Under the Bush-Cheney reign of power, torture was embraced in unprecedented ways through a no holds-barred approach to the war on terror that suggested the administration's need to exhibit a kind of ethical and psychic hardening-a hyper-masculine, emotional callousness that expressed itself in a warped militaristic mind-set fueled by a high testosterone quotient. State secrecy and war crimes now became the only tributes now paid to democracy.
... ... ...
Waterboarding, which has been condemned by democracies all over the world, consists of the individual being "bound securely to an inclined bench, which is approximately four feet by seven feet. The individual's feet are generally elevated. A cloth is placed over the forehead and eyes. Water is then applied to the cloth in a controlled manner [and] produces the perception of 'suffocation and incipient panic.'" The highly detailed, amoral nature in which these abuses were first defined and endorsed by lawyers from the Office of Legal Council was not only chilling but also reminiscent of the harsh and ethically deprived instrumentalism used by those technicians of death in criminal states such as Nazi Germany.
Andy Worthington suggests that there is more than a hint of brutalization and dehumanization in the language used by the OLC's Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Steven G. Bradbury, who wrote a detailed memo recommending:
"nudity, dietary manipulation and sleep deprivation"-now revealed explicitly as not just keeping a prisoner awake, but hanging him, naked except for a diaper, by a chain attached to shackles around his wrists-[as,] essentially, techniques that produce insignificant and transient discomfort. We are, for example, breezily told that caloric intake "will always be set at or above 1,000 kcal/day," and are encouraged to compare this enforced starvation with "several commercial weight-loss programs in the United States which involve similar or even greater reductions in calorific intake" … and when it comes to waterboarding, Bradbury clinically confirms that it can be used 12 times a day over five days in a period of a month-a total of 60 times for a technique that is so horrible that one application is supposed to have even the most hardened terrorist literally gagging to tell all.
... ... ...
In spite of the appalling evidence presented by the report, members s of the old Bush crowd, including former Vice-President Cheney, former CIA directors, George J. Tenet and Michael V. Hayden, and an endless number of prominent Republican Party politicians are still defending their use of torture or, as they euphemistically contend, "enhanced interrogation techniques." The psychopathic undercurrent and the authoritarian impulse of such reactions finds its most instructive expression in former Bush communications chief Nicolle Wallace who while appearing on the "Morning Joe" show screeched in response to the revelations of the Senate Intelligence report "I don't care what we did." As Elias Isquith, a writer for Salon, contends, as "grotesque as that was, though, the really scary part was [the implication that] waterboarding, sleep deprivation, stress positions and sexual assault is part of what makes 'America 'great.'" Wallace's comments are more than morally repugnant. Wallace embodies the stance of so many other war criminals who were either indifferent to the massive suffering and deaths they caused or actually took pride in their actions. They are the bureaucrats whose thoughtlessness and moral depravity Hannah Arendt identified as the rear guard of totalitarianism.
Illegal legalities, moral depravity, and mad violence are now wrapped in the vocabulary of Orwellian doublethink. For instance, the rhetorical gymnastics used by the torture squad are designed to make the American public believe that if you refer to torture by some seemingly innocuous name then the pain and suffering it causes will suddenly disappear. The latter represents not just the discourse of magical thinking but a refusal to recognize that "If cruelty is the worst thing that humans do to each other, torture [is] the most extreme expression of human cruelty." These apostles of torture are politicians who thrive in some sick zone of political and social abandonment, and who unapologetically further acts of barbarism, fear, willful lies, and moral depravity. They are the new totalitarians who hate democracy, embrace a punishing state, and believe that politics is mostly an extension of war. They are the thoughtless gangsters reminiscent of the monsters who made fascism possible at another time in history. For them, torture is an instrument of fear; one sordid strategy and element in a war on terror that attempts to expand governmental power and put into play a vast (il)legal and repressive apparatus that expands the field of violence and the technologies, knowledge, and institutions central to fighting the all-encompassing war on terror. Americans now live under a government in which the doctrine of permanent warfare is legitimated through a state of emergency deeply rooted in a mass psychology of violence and culture of cruelty that are essential to transforming a government of laws into a regime of lawlessness.
... ... ...
There is another story to be told about another kind of torture, one that is more capacious and seemingly more abstract but just as deadly in its destruction of human life, justice, and democracy. This is a mode of torture that resembles the "mind virus" mentioned in the Senate report, one that induces fear, paralysis, and produces the toxic formative culture that characterizes the reign of neoliberalism. Isolation, privatization, and the cold logic of instrumental rationality have created a new kind of social formation and social order in which it becomes difficult to form communal bonds, deep connections, a sense of intimacy, and long term commitments. Neoliberalism has created a society of monsters for whom pain and suffering are viewed as entertainment or deserving of scorn, warfare is a permanent state of existence, torture becomes a matter of expediency, and militarism is celebrated as the most powerful mediator of human relationships.
Under the reign of neoliberalism, politics has taken an exit from ethics and thus the issue of social costs is divorced from any form of intervention in the world. This is the ideological metrics of political zombies. The key word here is atomization and it is the curse of both neoliberal societies and democracy itself. A radical democracy demands a notion of educated hope capable of energizing a generation of young people and others who connect the torture state to the violence and criminality of an economic system that celebrates its own depravities. It demands a social movement unwilling to abide by technological fixes or cheap reforms. It demands a new politics for which the word revolution means going to the root of the problem and addressing it non-violently with dignity, civic courage, and the refusal to accept a future that mimics the present. Torture is not just a matter of policy, it is a deadening mindset, a point of identification, a form of moral paralysis, a war crime, an element of the spectacle of violence, and it must be challenged in all of its dreadful registers.
Henry A. Giroux currently holds the McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest in the English and Cultural Studies Department and a Distinguished Visiting Professorship at Ryerson University. His most recent books are America's Education Deficit and the War on Youth (Monthly Review Press, 2013) and Neoliberalism's War on Higher Education (Haymarket Press, 2014). His web site is www.henryagiroux.com.
 Cited in Edward S. Herman, "Folks Out There Have a 'Distaste of Western Civilization and Cultural Values'," Center for Research on Globalization (September 15, 2001). Online at: ,http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/HER109A.html
. Carl Boggs supplies an excellent commentary on the historical amnesia in the U.S. media surrounding the legacy of torture promoted by the United States. See Carl Boggs, "Torture: An American Legacy," CounterPunch.org (June 17, 2009). Online at: http://www.counterpunch.org/boggs06172009.html.
... ... ...
Brad DeLong's Grasping Reality...
Justin Fox: Andy Haldane: The Regulator Who Explained the World: "The Haldane trademarks...
...a framework in economic theory, references to the latest in empirical research, grand historical sweep, and crystal-clear explanation... [plus] the subversive element found in the best of Haldane's work.... His Sept. 2, 2010 speech "Patience and Finance"... bowled over by how good it was....
Under one equilibrium, patience wins the day. When long-term investors start in the ascendency, prices tend to correct towards fundamentals. The performance of untested investors pursuing momentum strategies falters, while those pursuing longterm strategies flourish. The fraction of long-term investors rises. The self-correcting tendencies of market prices are thus reinforced, further supporting long-term investors. The patience gene thrives, the impatience gene dies. Natural selection results in a self-improving cycle, as with dieting, happiness and exercise. But there is a second equilibrium where this cycle operates in reverse gear.... Natural selection results in a self-destructive cycle....
Haldane then goes on to meticulously document the ways that, over the past decade, financial markets--especially in the U.S. and UK--succumbed to the impatience cycle.... Another Haldane speech 'The Short Long'... 'Control Rights (and Wrongs)'.... As somebody who has long trafficked in explanatory financial journalism, I stand somewhat in awe...
Graydon said in reply to JC... Reply November 30, 2014 at 11:18 AM
You're arguing that _everybody is wrong_.
Axiomatically, in a democracy, everybody is not wrong. Practically, any time you find yourself thinking "everyone but me is an idiot", you've made a mistake.
I'd suggest you consider that the pricing mechanism is just flat broken. (Prices, after all, are chiefly socially determined.)
Pipeline and rail operators are very clearly totally indifferent to public safety; margins get cut to support maximal profits, and the occasional immolated town provides no feedback because there is no mechanism to impose the costs on a corporate entity; the corporate goes away, its assets are sold to some other corporate for a song, and the liability, chained to the first corporate, has vanished. It's completely rational for people to want some assurance that they won't be burned to death in their beds, that their water won't be poisoned, that the pipeline won't pump their land full of toxic sludge with no prospect of warning or recompense.
You can't actually say "broad benefits to the economy" without a working pricing structure, which we haven't got. What you can -- and appear to be -- saying is "profits would be higher if it was easier to impose localized suffering outside the accounting system", which, yeah, that's probably factual. That doesn't make it good, or a wrong thing to oppose.
A Serious Analysis Gone To Waste,
...Mirowski answers by suggesting that we must understand neoliberalism as a Russian doll. The innermost doll of experts emerged from the Mont Pelerlin Society, an organization that was by design very hierarchical. He describes, for instance, correspondence between Popper and Hayek. Popper, following his philosophy of open debate suggested that MPS should have at least one respectable socialist. Hayek shut down this idea, insisting that agreement on first principles was a necessary condition for membership. This tightly networked group of intellectuals slowly incubated neoliberalism and developed a political strategy for propagating it.
Mirowski further points out that the Neoliberal Thought Collective were excellent sloganeers. Friedman's most famous academic text, for instance, argues that a lack of government intervention caused the Great Depression: a series of rural bank failures caused by an overly tight supply of money. However, when Friedman penned his Newsweek column he claimed with a straight face that the government *caused* the Recession, that is, by a lack of action in expanding the supply of money and reducing interest rates. This is how the Russian doll works: nuance for the insiders, ignorance for the outsiders.
There is a further layer to the doll though. Pivoting off of Foucault's final lectures at the College of France, Mirowski argues that there is an everyday neoliberalism that has emerged. Beyond political theory and public policy, neoliberalism is experienced on a quotidian level and it is on that potent terrain that it has survived the crisis. I, right now, am taking time out of my day to write a book review which I will be paid nothing for, which is in the service of the Bezo empire to sell even more books and probably destroy more local bookshops and which will be used to further quantify me into some bits of data in the sky so I can be marketed to even more heavily. But but but: I am individually expressing myself! How free am I!
The neoliberal self is a creature coerced into being a "free" entrepreneur. It is the poor un/underemployed soul who thinks himself to be a failure or inadequate because he was not lucky enough to ride the right wave. The old liberal arts dictum to "know thy self" becomes "express thy self, and monetize it too!" This middle chapter here is the most engrossing part of the book. Mirowski delves into a sundry of sources on our culture and then leverages a novel and erudite analysis of Foucault to bring it all into sharp focus.
In closing, it is truly ironic that the other review of this book is so gravely concerned that Mirowski might be a socialist. We have a wonderful little anthropological artifact here of the NTC at work: "Whatever this book says, it's got 'Red' in a chapter title. I am a Very Reasonable Person and thus must be suspicious." Let me assure him/her: there are no calls for a violent revolution of the proletariat. On the contrary, Mirowski heads out to the outermost layer of the doll and analyzes why neoliberalism won. In particular, he argues that the NTC provided a powerful account of the market as a natural entity that *cannot* be messed with. Consequently, the Recession had nothing to do with the structure of capitalism itself, it was just a "once in a lifetime" moment akin to a natural disaster. An act of God.
Mirowski's careful history here shows that just the opposite is true. There was a concerted effort to propagate a particular ignorance and the Recession itself is by no means removed from that particular effort.James R. Maclean
On the Nonbarking of Dogs, OctoberThis book is exceptionally penetrating in its examination of the neoliberal project. Mirowski has for many years been a persistent scourge of orthodox economics, attacking its ersatz scientism in More Heat than Light (1989), and later its conspiratorial inner circle in The Road from Mont Pelerin (2009). Readers unfamiliar with the "Neoliberal Thought Collective" (NTC) will probably feel overwhelmed with the scope of this book: its etiology of neoliberalism is so relentless, it needs to examine both the moral philosophy and the anthropology spawned by it.
For this reason, he does not see neoliberalism as merely a view of how economies "work"; rather, he shows how its luminaries sought to create nothing less than a permanent empire of motion, in which all human agency was to be subordinated to an all-knowing market. While its votaries deny the very existence of any neoliberal project, the NTC is not only quite active, it is multifarious and ubiquitous. Mirowski briefly reviews some of the organs by which the NTC assures its acolytes influence, prestige, and pelf (1), but mainly focuses on the way in which it built upon, and distanced itself from, the neoclassical economics of the period 1870-1930.
I--In "Shock Block Doctrine" (2), Mirowski explains the outlook of Mont Pèlerin Society (MPS) cofounder Friedrich von Hayek (3). Hayek argued that liberalism (never defined in Mirowski's book, alas, but evidently meant to refer to the doctrine of negatively-defined individual rights) was at odds with the doctrine of democracy, and potentially its antithesis (p.57).
Mirowski's analysis, as always, is schematic; he points to efforts by the NTC to replace citizenship with consumerism (e.g., fixing education with school vouchers), and using orthodox economic models to devise policies explicitly to bypass agency problems associated with electoral politics. Some readers will no doubt object to his crash course in Hayek's political philosophy, which is traced directly to the coercive nature of austerity measures adopted following the Global Financial Crisis. However, the schemata does allow Mirowski to inject Carl Schmitt's doctrine of the "exception" into his narrative--an undeniable benefit in view of the austerity mania gripping the developed world right now (4).
II--"Everyday Neoliberalism" bores down to the pervasive character of neoliberalism, in which "market" transactions have gone so far as to redefine what it means to be an individual or to exercise volition.
III--"Mumbo Jumble" and "Shock of the New" explain both the self-apologia of orthodox economics in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis--viz., so "underwhelming" (or defiant and insolent) as to suggest some sort of higher power standing watch over that odious profession--and the structure of that higher power. Heavily larded with quotes from prominent economists and statistics. "Shock of the New" specifically addresses the inadequacies of attempts to incorporate "irrational" behavior (5).
IV--"The Red Guide to the Neoliberal Playbook" explicitly rejects any prescriptive approach, often encountered in crisis literature, and a lot of readers may object to the despairing tone of this chapter. Nearly all of the countervailing movements to the NTC come under withering criticism, none of which needs to be defended here because of the obvious historical outcomes (6).
A MINOR CRITICISM
Mirowski's overview of the literature of his subject is vast, especially if one includes materials discussed in prior works. It's one thing to say that the task he set for himself was to diagnose, and not prescribe; but this division of labor implies that someone else is expected to prescribe, and yet this overview guns down all known ripostes to the NTC. In other words, Mirowski's expertise in taxonomies of economic thought is SO broad that, if he reports no viable counterweight to the NTC, then he probably thinks none exists. This is unlikely to be so.
Another objection is that Mirowski insists on the uniqueness of the NTC as an actor; the NTC is the premier conspiracy, and other forms of the far right are its dupe. Without going into detail, I think Mirowski wanted to tell a story of a preternaturally deft political movement and did so by ignoring prior conditions, rival forms of the political right, and longstanding political verities (e.g., for all recording history, it has been extremely hard to pass legislation over the objections of the economic elites--even when "watered down"). The NTC has been only the latest (?) in a long tradition of aristocrats resisting encroachments on their prerogatives by denouncing "tyranny.
(1) A lot of information is available at Sourcewatch (an "org" domain; URLs are forbidden in Amazon reviews). Mirowski says that he uses the Mont Pèlerin Society (MPS) as a "Rosetta stone" (p.39) to identify people or institutions that qualify as neoliberal.
(2) The title of the chapter is a reference to Naomi Klein's book, The Shock Doctrine(2007). Mirowski's book is a detailed exposition of the personnel and outlook behind the shock.
(3) Along with Milton Friedman, Ludwig von Mises, Lionel Robbins, and a few others (in 1947). Ludwig von Mises later broke with the MPS for being ideologically impure (see Murray Rothbard, The Essential von Mises, p.112). Hayek understood "democracy" as reflecting the outcome of a popular vote, including decisions made by legislators elected by popular vote. Mirowski doesn't mention this here, but Hayek's view of the relationship between liberalism and democracy is explicitly borrowed from Ortega y Gasset (Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty: The Definitive Edition, 1960, pp.442-443). See Roland Axtman (1996), p.38.
(4) Carl Schmitt is most famous as a legal theorist who served the Nazi regime, justifying its every public act. His doctrine of the "state of exception," or inherently unforeseeable emergency, was used to explain the urgent need to liquidate democratic institutions. Mirowski mentions the examples of appointed prime ministers for Greece and Italy in order to administer austerity programs there (p.85). Greece and Italy are governed by massive party coalitions that permitted the suspension of democratic selection of the cabinet.
(5) Specifically, George Akerlof and Robert Shiller, whose book Animal Spirits (2009) comes under extensive fire (pp.258-259); and architects of TARP. TARP, of course, was actually just one of a vast complex of lending facilities for different types of financial instruments.
(6) Mirowski is sympathetic to OWS, but as of publication, it was a damp squib. Even in European countries, marked as they are by far higher standards of social justice and participatory democracy (and suffering from more violent reversals than those in the USA), protests had the perverse effect of enabling a continent-wide shift to the right.
S Wood (Scotland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown (Hardcover)
My feelings regarding Mirowski's "Never Let A Serious Crisis Go To Waste" are decidedly mixed, on the one hand there is much fascinating information and analysis with regards to both Economists and the Financial Meltdown, on the other... well imagine Thomas Franks (of One Market Under God & Pity the Billionaire fame) mainlining a hefty load of hard-core academic jargon, and you have some idea of the style Mirowski writes in and the minor headache I developed from time to time while reading it.
Some of it is brilliant, Mirowski has read up on his Hayek and Friedman and the rest of the Mont Pelerin folks (spreading out to those with varying degrees of connections into what Mirowski terms the Neo-Liberal Thought Collective), and their thoughts and methods; his examination of the links between Macro Economists and the Federal Reserve and with Wall St throws much light on the reasons for the almost total lack of innovation in their responses to the Financial Meltdown. But even these insights have to be teased out from the heavy load of academic terminology that he has larded this book with.
This should have been (and perhaps will be if someone does a plain English translation) one of the best books written on the Financial Meltdown of 2007 onwards, and certainly the best one on Economists and the Meltdown, but instead Mirowski's raucous riff-a-rama of esoteric academic terminology means that he may as well have erected a 'Keep Out!' sign for the general reader.
It also needs to be kept in mind that apart from the pursuit of truth, each individual becomes the criterion for measuring himself and his own actions. The way is thus opened to a subjectivistic assertion of rights, so that the concept of human rights, which has an intrinsically universal import, is replaced by an individualistic conception of rights. This leads to an effective lack of concern for others and favours that globalization of indifference born of selfishness, the result of a conception of man incapable of embracing the truth and living an authentic social dimension.
This kind of individualism leads to human impoverishment and cultural aridity, since it effectively cuts off the nourishing roots on which the tree grows. Indifferent individualism leads to the cult of opulence reflected in the throwaway culture all around us. We have a surfeit of unnecessary things, but we no longer have the capacity to build authentic human relationships marked by truth and mutual respect. And so today we are presented with the image of a Europe which is hurt, not only by its many past ordeals, but also by present-day crises which it no longer seems capable of facing with its former vitality and energy; a Europe which is a bit tired and pessimistic, which feels besieged by events and winds of change coming from other continents.
... ... ...
Similarly, the contemporary world offers a number of other challenges requiring careful study and a common commitment, beginning with the welcoming of migrants, who immediately require the essentials of subsistence, but more importantly a recognition of their dignity as persons. Then too, there is the grave problem of labour, chiefly because of the high rate of young adults unemployed in many countries – a veritable mortgage on the future – but also for the issue of the dignity of work.
It is my profound hope that the foundations will be laid for a new social and economic cooperation, free of ideological pressures, capable of confronting a globalized world while at the same time encouraging that sense of solidarity and mutual charity which has been a distinctive feature of Europe, thanks to the generous efforts of hundreds of men and women – some of whom the Catholic Church considers saints – who over the centuries have worked to develop the continent, both by entrepreneurial activity and by works of education, welfare, and human promotion. These works, above all, represent an important point of reference for the many poor people living in Europe. How many of them there are in our streets! They ask not only for the food they need for survival, which is the most elementary of rights, but also for a renewed appreciation of the value of their own life, which poverty obscures, and a rediscovery of the dignity conferred by work.
Nov 21, 2014 | naked capitalism
One of the major criticisms of Capital in the Twenty First Century is that Thomas Piketty relies heavily on the ideas of neoclassical economics in his presentation, as here and here. Others recognize what seems to me to be the most important aspect of the book, it's relentless assault on neoclassical economic theory, and its political cousin, neoliberalism. Here's one example.
It's not possible to tell what Piketty has in mind on this point. As I noted before, he is quite capable of working out ideas in the neoclassical mold, as he does with a study of the role of inheritance in wealth formation in a paper written with Gabriel Zucman. I think he is cutting out the heart of neoclassical theory, and slapping at the neoliberals who love it. To support my view, we can look at his discussion of marginal productivity as an explanation for wildly unequal income distribution. Neoliberals claim that the market rewards people according to their value in production. John Foster and Michael Yates give a good example:
Likewise Robert Lucas, Jr. of the University of Chicago, the most influential macroeconomist of his day, was merely stating the dominant view of the profession and of the establishment as a whole when he opined in 2004, "Of the tendencies that are harmful to sound economics, the most seductive, and in my opinion the most poisonous, is to focus on questions of [income] distribution. Fn omitted.
Piketty's discussion of marginal productivity begins at page 304, for those who want to follow along in the text. He says that the main explanation for rising inequality of income is the race between education and technology. Those who have more education are better able to cope with technology, and thus are worth more in the marketplace of employment.
This theory rests on two hypotheses. First, a worker's wage is equal to his marginal productivity, that is, his individual contribution to the output of the firm or office for which he works. Second, the worker's productivity depends above all on his skill and on supply and demand for that skill in a given society.
This theory is crucial in the construction of the neoliberal project. First, it justifies the massive amount of money going to the C-Suite, the group Piketty sees as a crucial part of the new wealth oligarchy. Second, it has been internalized by most of our fellow citizens, who blame themselves for their economic status and are blind to the impact of social norms and governmental actions. Let's first see what Piketty says, and then look at the impact on the neoliberal project.
"This theory is in some respects limited and naïve", he tells us. First, the productivity of any given worker is not a fixed and immutable number, as he puts it, "inscribed on his forehead." Second, he says that the relative power of each group is a crucial factor in determining how much each gets from revenues produced by the firm. He thinks that education and technology play a significant role:
…[I]f the United States (or France) invested more heavily in high-quality professional training and advanced educational opportunities and allowed broader segments of the population to have access to them, this would surely be the most effective way of increasing wages at the low to median end of the scale and decreasing the upper decile's share of both wages and total income.
This analysis is based on a book by Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz The Race Between Education And Technology, and not any special analysis by Piketty. It seems odd that one would draw the conclusion that raising the supply of educated workers would increase the price paid for their labor. It seems to contradict the law of supply and demand, and smells something like Say's Law. One way to think about it is that labor is not a commodity like coke and iron ore; there is something special about it, an idea rejected by the neoliberals. And even in the long run, how does it work for the unlucky sperm club? And how did it work out for everyone who graduated in 2008 and thereafter? Perhaps he gets it right with this: "…theoretical discussion of educational issues and of meritocracy is often out of touch with reality…." 307.
He then takes up marginal productivity theory in more detail, eviscerating the role of training and education as setting wages in the short run. It is silly to believe that even trained workers are paid according to marginal production. First, it is impossible to measure this accurately, even in the case of repetitive tasks. Second, technology is not always available that requires highly trained people. Third, education is not solely instrumental; it has value in itself. The biggest issue, though, is that the simple theory is unable to account for differences across countries. Worker pay is the outcome of the way the society is organized. He discusses the role of the minimum wage in setting wages. It makes sense, he says to limit the power of the employer to set wages in many settings, obviously where there is a monopsony of employment, but more generally where the power of the employer is overwhelming. That would be the case where unemployment is ridiculously high, as it is today, and where the ability of workers to organize is ridiculously low, as it is today in the US.
In sum, Piketty rejects the theory of marginal productivity as a predictor of wages, and considers it irrelevant in understanding the growth of inequality.
He then asks why there is such a large variance in the growth of wage income at the very top of the income scale. The answer is not simply education, because most of the people in the top quintile have equivalent educations. The explosion of incomes in the top centile happened in the US and England, but not in continental European nations or in Japan. That blows another hole in the idea that marginal productivity explains the rise in top incomes. The data show that the top .01% in France, Japan and Sweden grew rapidly, almost doubling, while quintupling in the US. This difference cannot be explained by differential technological change, because that is fairly constant in all these countries.
The idea that marginal productivity explains anything about the very top incomes is laughable in Piketty's telling. Consider a firm with 100,000 employees and 10 million Euros in revenues, and a cost of good and services purchased of 5 million Euros. The firm has 5 million Euros to divide among its employees. How should it set the compensation of its CFO? The theory of marginal productivity says we should figure out the value of the contribution of the CFO to the 5 million Euro figure. That's not possible.
Let's put this into a real life setting. Barry Ritzholz has the figures on the distribution of the bonus pool of $1.5 billion available at Pimco to be divided among 60 managing directors. Felix Salmon breaks it down:
The top of the food chain, that year, looked something like this*:
- Bill Gross: $290 million
- Mohamed El-Erian: $230 million
- Daniel Ivascyn: $70 million
- Wendy Cupps: $50 million
- Douglas Hodge: $45 million
- Jay Jacobs: $22 million
Obviously, the numbers here are mind-bogglingly enormous. But on top of that, they're incredibly skewed towards the very, very top of the income distribution, in a perfectly Piketty-like manner.
The top two get 35% of the pool, the next three get 8%, and the other 55 get less than the average. Gross managed The Total Return Fund, which shrank nearly 1/3 during the last 16 months. Ivascyn managed the Income Fund, which has grown by 30% over that same year. In fact, Gross committed a stunning mistake, betting on an increase in interest rates in 2011 that seriously damaged the fund. Krugman called him on it in real time. So, it isn't competence that resulted in the giant paycheck. Paying for lousy performance is pretty much the exact opposite of the marginal productivity theory. But there are plenty of studies showing that paying for lousy performance is common in big businesses, like the recent paper described here.
…[T]he companies run by the CEOS who were paid at the top 10% of the scale, had the worst performance. How much worse? The firms returned 10% less to their shareholders than did their industry peers. The study also clearly shows that at the high end, the more CEOs were paid, the worse their companies did; it looked at the very top, the 5% of CEOs who were the highest paid, and found that their companies did 15% worse, on average, than their peers.
Read the comments, and you'll see how desperately people cling to the obviously false idea that pay is related to performance, which brings us back to the neoliberal project.
Philip Mirowski gives a brief description of the neoliberal project here, and a longer one in Chapters 2 and 3 of his book, Never Let A Serious Crisis Go To Waste. As I read Mirowski, the point of the neoliberal project is to recreate the mass of humans as homo economicus, the economic person. One of its principal ideas has to do with the notion of human capital, that bizarre idea of Gary Becker of the University of Chicago. Mirowski quotes Michel Foucault in his book:
The Entrepreneurial Self cannot be passive, but must move strategically in a world rife with risk. Hence, reward and punishment are accepted by the agent as the outcome of calculated risk, not the dictates of 'justice'. Id at 96.
Neoliberals have convinced the vast majority of our fellow citizens that they and they alone are responsible for their fates. They took risks and they lost, but it was their choice. I can hear Rick Santelli ranting in the background. At the same time, neoliberals insisted that governments everywhere bail out the filthy rich and their corporations, especially their financial corporations, and governments obliged. So, we screw the productive members of society and reward the slugs, all in line with neoliberal theory.
Neoclassical economics undergirds the neoliberal project. Piketty slashes at a piece of that foundation with his attack on marginal productivity. What now is the justification for the absurd compensation of the filthy rich? Tort law failed to deal with the sins of the bankers. Why aren't they in jail? One more block pulled from the Jenga pile of vicious ideas so beloved of the rich and their government agents.
David Lentini, November 21, 2014 at 11:16 am
"Paying for lousy performance is pretty much the exact opposite of the marginal productivity theory. But there are plenty of studies showing that paying for lousy performance is common in big businesses, like the recent paper described here."
Indeed, having suffered watching the well-placed foolish getting to ride the gravy train into the ground, these results really demonstrate that highly paid managers are not interested in doing business; they're only interested in looting the firm or at least maximizing their deluded narcissistic status indicators. So, in reality, marginal productivity theory actually destroys businesses and economies by rewarding the worst of humanity.
"At the same time, neoliberals insisted that governments everywhere bail out the filthy rich and their corporations, especially their financial corporations, and governments obliged. So, we screw the productive members of society and reward the slugs, all in line with neoliberal theory."
The real issue is power. The neoliberal project is really about destroying collective public power in favor of maximizing the power of a few. And our economists have been well rewarded for their efforts. Creating the red herring of just compensation as defined by "productivity" keeps everyone running around in circles or fighting amongst themselves; we never see who really matters and what they do. Of course the bailouts are actually in line with neoliberal theory, since they reflect the power of a few to avoid the consequences of their foolishness. Getting paid for doing nothing useful, or even destroying what's valuable and productive, is a true sign of power and therefore liberty.
susan the other, November 21, 2014
This is a good start for breaking down our misery. It fits with Picketty's theme that too much money itself becomes unproductive and sucks the life out of the real economy by taking rents and interest, etc. that over time are unaffordable because they create an imbalance that cannot rebalance itself. I thought the Fed did an interesting thing the other day. It actually asked the high level bankers what the overnight rate should look like now with plenty of liquidity and low interest rates.
That sounds like asking Bill and Mohammed what their compensation rate for their long-time productivity should be. So these new-normal bankers are being asked to predict the productivity of the new economy going forward. (Which, everyone knows, is nada.) But somebody has to give us a definition of what the "real economy" actually is. I think the answer will be astoundingly simple. It might be simply that the real economy is people, after all the bullshit is reduced.
And that will prove once and for all that everyone deserves an equal share of society and its "real" productivity. We should offer a prize to the firsts bankster who has the guts to say it.
Fair Economist, November 21, 2014 at 1:36 pm
As Karrass' bestseller says "You don't get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate". Real labor productivity has doubled in the past 40 years, but wages haven't changed. Any claim that raising productivity will necessarily raise wages has been refuted by reality. Gross' gross overpayment for losing his company buckets of money is just the obverse.
Skilled workers doing what they're good at generate a benefit for society, but not necessarily for themselves, as a huge number of enslaved artisans, entertainers, and even intellectuals have discovered over the centuries.
The 0.1% are trying to recreate that kind of situation without it being so obvious who's exploiting whom.
Ed S., November 21, 2014
The one model which can plausibly explain the insane levels of compensation at the top: the "winner take most" tournament model.
The classic example is a tennis tournament – the winner of the 2014 US Open received $3mm; 2nd place $1.5mm (roughly); 3/4th gets $750k. If you get in (there are 128 entrants) - a measly $35k. (of course, the real money is in endorsements).
The motivation to attract new players isn't the $35k – it's the $3mm. Same with business today - a "winner take most" model – get the low to mid level people working 50 hours a week for $50k because there's the possibility of the golden ticket to the C-Suite.
Marginal productivity has very little (if anything) to do with compensation - C-Suite execs come and go regularly with little change in the dynamics of the business (although a true incompetent can drive a company into the ground).
Sky high CEO and C-suite pay is, in a neoliberal way, pour encourager les autres
Sep 12, 2011 | The GuardianWe are living through an extraordinary political situation: the end of the debt-fuelled boom, the banking crisis of 2007-10, the defeat of New Labour and the rise to power of a Conservative-Liberal Democratic coalition. What sort of crisis is this? Is it a serious wobble in the trickle-down, win-win, end-of-boom-and-bust economic model that has dominated global capitalism? Does it presage business as usual, the deepening of present trends, or the mobilisation of social forces for a radical change of direction? Is this the start of a new conjuncture?
My argument is that the present situation is another unresolved rupture of that conjuncture which we can define as "the long march of the Neoliberal Revolution". Each crisis since the 1970s has looked different, arising from specific historical circumstances. However, they also seem to share some consistent underlying features, to be connected in their general thrust and direction of travel. Paradoxically, such opposed political regimes as Thatcherism and New Labour have contributed in different ways to expanding this project. Now the coalition is taking up the same cause.
Neoliberalism is grounded in the "free, possessive individual", with the state cast as tyrannical and oppressive. The welfare state, in particular, is the arch enemy of freedom. The state must never govern society, dictate to free individuals how to dispose of their private property, regulate a free-market economy or interfere with the God-given right to make profits and amass personal wealth. State-led "social engineering" must never prevail over corporate and private interests. It must not intervene in the "natural" mechanisms of the free market, or take as its objective the amelioration of free-market capitalism's propensity to create inequality.
According to the neoliberal narrative, the welfare state mistakenly saw its task as intervening in the economy, redistributing wealth, universalising life-chances, attacking unemployment, protecting the socially vulnerable, ameliorating the condition of oppressed or maginalised groups and addressing social injustice. Its do-gooding, utopian sentimentality enervated the nation's moral fibre, and eroded personal responsibility and the overriding duty of the poor to work. State intervention must never compromise the right of private capital to grow the business, improve share value, pay dividends and reward its agents with enormous salaries, benefits and bonuses.
The formation of a Conservative-Liberal Democratic coalition in May 2010 was fully in line with the dominant political logic of realignment. In the spirit of the times, Cameron, with Blair as his role model, signalled his determination to reposition the Tories as a "compassionate conservative party", though this has turned out to be something of a chimera.
At the same time, many underestimated how deeply being out of office and power had divided the Lib Dem soul. Coalition now set the neoliberal-inclined Orange Book supporters, who favoured an alliance with the Conservatives, against the "progressives", including former social democrats, who leaned towards Labour. A deal – its detail now forgotten – was stitched up, in which the social liberals were trounced, and Cameron and Clegg "kissed hands" in the No 10 rose garden (the former looking like the cat that had swallowed the cream). The Lib Dems thus provided the Cameron leadership with the fig leaf it needed – while the banking crisis gave the alibi. The coalition government seized the opportunity to launch the most radical, far-reaching and irreversible social revolution since the war.
Coalition policy often seems incompetent, with failures to think things through or join things up. But, from another angle, it is arguably the best prepared, most wide-ranging, radical and ambitious of the three regimes that, since the 1970s, have been maturing the neoliberal project. The Conservatives had for some time been devoting themselves to preparing for office – not in policy detail but in terms of how policy could be used in power to legislate into effect a new political settlement. They had convinced themselves that deep, fast cuts would have to be made to satisfy the bond markets and international assessors. But could the crisis be used, as the rightwing economist Milton Friedman had suggested, to "produce real change"?
The legislative avalanche began immediately and has not let up. It begins negatively ("the mess the previous government left us") but ends positively, in embracing radical structural reform as the solution. Ideology is in the driving seat, though vigorously denied. The front-bench ideologues – Osborne, Lansley, Gove, Maude, Duncan Smith, Pickles, Hunt – are saturated in neoliberal ideas and determined to give them legislative effect. As One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest put it: "The crazies are in charge of the asylum." They are single-minded about the irreversible transformation of society, ruthless about the means, and in denial about the fallout. Osborne – smirking, clever, cynical, "the smiler with the knife" – wields the chopper with zeal. Cameron – relaxed, plausible, charming, confident, a silver-spooned patrician, "a smooth man" – fronts the coalition TV show. This crew long ago accepted Schumpeter's adage that there is no alternative to "creative destruction". They have given themselves, through legislative manoeuvring, an uninterrupted five years to accomplish this task.
Its wide-ranging character must be judged in terms of the operational breadth of the institutions and practices they aim to "reform", their boldness in siphoning state-funding to the private sector, and the number of constituencies they are prepared to confront. Reform and choice – the words already hijacked by New Labour – are the master narrative. They may be Conservatives but this is not a conserving regime (it is a bemused Labour that is toying with the "blue-Labour" conservative alternative now). Tories and Lib-Dems monotonously repeat the dissembling mantras of their press and public relations people: "We are clearing up the mess inherited from the previous government." But the neoliberal engine is at full throttle.
We cannot deal with the cuts in any detail here. They have only just started and there is much more to come. Instead we limit ourselves to tracking the neoliberal logic behind the strategy.
First, targeted constituencies – ie anyone associated with, relying or dependent on the state and public services. For the rich, the recession never happened. For the public sector, however, there will be massive redundancies, a wage freeze, pay running well behind the rate of inflation, pensions that will not survive in their present form, rising retirement ages. Support for the less well off and the vulnerable will be whittled away, and welfare dependency broken. Benefits will be capped, workfare will be enforced. The old must sell homes to pay for care; working parents must buy childcare; and incapacity-benefit recipients must find work. Sure Start, the schools refurbishment programme and the Education Maintenance Allowance scheme are on hold. Wealthy parents can buy children an Oxbridge education: but many other students will go into lifelong debt to get a degree. You cannot make £20bn savings in the NHS without affecting frontline, clinical and nursing services. Andrew Lansley, however, "does not recognise that figure". Similarly, though everybody else knew that most universities would charge the maximum £9,000 tuition fees, David "Two-Brains" Willetts doesn't recognise that figure. Saying that square pegs fit into round holes has become a front-bench speciality.
Women stand where many of these savage lines intersect. As Beatrix Campbell reminds us, cutting the state means minimising the arena in which women can find a voice, allies, social as well as material support; and in which their concerns can be recognised. It means reducing the resources society collectively allocates to children, to making children a shared responsibility, and to the general "labour" of care and love.
Second, there is privatisation – returning public and state services to private capital, redrawing the social architecture. The Blair government was an innovator here. To avoid the political hassle of full privatisation, it found you could simply burrow beneath the state/market distinction. Outsourcing, value for money and contract contestability opened the doors through which private capital could slip into the public sector and hollow it out from within.
Privatisation now comes in three sizes:
- straight sell-off of public assets;
- contracting out to private companies for profit;
- two-step privatisation by stealth, where it is represented as an unintended consequence.
Some examples: in criminal justice, contracts for running prisons are being auctioned off and, in true neoliberal fashion, Ken Clarke says he cannot see any difference in principle whether prisons are publicly or privately owned; in healthcare, the private sector is already a massive, profit-making presence, having cherry-picked for profit medical services that hospitals can no longer afford to provide; while in the most far-reaching, top-down NHS reorganisation, GPs, grouped into private consortia (part of whose profits they retain), will take charge of the £60bn health budget.
Since few GPs know how, or have time, to run complex budgets, they will "naturally" turn to the private health companies, which are circling the NHS like sharks waiting to feed. Primary Care Trusts, which represented a public interest in the funding process, are being scrapped. In the general spirit of competition, hospitals must remove the cap on the number of private patients they treat.
Third, the lure of "localism". In line with David Cameron's Big Society, "free schools" (funded from the public purse – Gove's revenge) will "empower" parents and devolve power to "the people". But parents – beset as they are by pressing domestic and care responsibilities, and lacking the capacity to run schools, assess good teaching, define balanced curricula, remember much science or the new maths, or speak a foreign language, while regarding history as boring, and not having read a serious novel since GCSE – will have to turn to the private education sector to manage schools and define the school's "vision". Could the two-step logic be clearer?
Fourth, phoney populism: pitching communities against local democracy. Eric Pickles intends to wean councils permanently off the central grant system. Meanwhile, social housing is at a standstill, housing benefits will be cut and council rents allowed to rise to commercial levels in urban centres. Many will move to cheaper rentals, losing networks of friends, child support, family, school friends and school places. Parents must find alternative employment locally – if there is any – or allow extra travelling time. Jobseekers' allowances will be capped. As the private housing lobby spokesperson said: "We are looking forward to a bonanza." Since the early days of Thatcher we have not seen such a ferocious onslaught on the fabric of civil society, relationships and social life.
Fifth, cutting down to size state involvement in quality of life. Amenities such as libraries, parks, swimming baths, sports facilities, youth clubs and community centres will either be privatised or disappear. Either unpaid volunteers will "step up to the plate" or doors will close. In truth, the aim is not – in the jargon of 1968 from which the promiscuous Cameron is not ashamed to borrow – to "shift power to the people", but to undermine the structures of local democracy. The left, which feels positively about volunteering, community involvement and participation – and who doesn't? – finds itself once again triangulated into uncertainty. The concept of the Big Society is so empty that universities have been obliged to put it at the top of their research agenda on pain of a cut in funding – presumably so that politicians can discover what on earth it means: a shabby, cavalier, duplicitous interference in freedom of thought.
What is intended is a permanent revolution. Can society be permanently reconstructed along these lines? Is neoliberalism hegemonic?
The protests are growing. Weighty professional voices are ranged against structural reforms, and the speed and scale of cuts in a fragile economy. There are pauses, rethinks and U-turns. Finally, there are unexpected developments that come out of the blue, such as the phone-hacking scandal that enveloped Rupert Murdoch's News International. In the free-for-all ethos of neoliberal times, this sordid affair blew the media's cover, compromised the Cameron leadership and penetrated echelons of the state itself. As Donald Rumsfeld ruefully remarked, "Stuff Happens!" If the Lib-Dem wheeze of delivering cuts in government and campaigning against them at the next election fails to persuade, they face the prospect of an electoral wipe-out. The coalition may fall apart, though at an election the Conservatives might get the majority they failed to muster last time. What happens next is not pregiven.
Hegemony is a tricky concept and provokes muddled thinking. No victories are permanent or final. Hegemony has constantly to be worked on, maintained, renewed, revised. Excluded social forces, whose consent has not been won, whose interests have not been taken into account, form the basis of counter-movements, resistance, alternative strategies and visions … and the struggle over a hegemonic system starts anew. They constitute what Raymond Williams called "the emergent" – and the reason why history is never closed but maintains an open horizon towards the future.
However, in ambition, depth, degree of break with the past, variety of sites being colonized, impact on common sense, shift in the social architecture, neoliberalism does constitute a hegemonic project. Today, popular thinking and the systems of calculation in daily life offer very little friction to the passage of its ideas. Delivery may be more difficult: new and old contradictions still haunt the edifice, in the very process of its reconstruction. Still, in terms of laying foundations and staging the future on favorable ground, the neoliberal project is several stages further on. To traduce a phrase of Marx's: "Well grubbed, old mole." Alas!
• This article was amended on 14 September 2011. The original said "Independent Maintenance Grants are on hold". This has been corrected to Education Maintenance Allowances.
Briar 15 Sep 2011 06:13
Back in 1979, when Thatcher kicked all this off (not that the Callaghan Government hadn't been complicit - the IMF insisted on that) I thought the basic decency of the British voter would be disgusted by the obviously unjust policies being pursued. Sacking hospital and school cleaners so they could be re-employed by a private firm at a much lower wage?
Surely the ordinary voter would be so sickened they would vote against the Tories next time round? After all, they had voted in the Labour government of 1945. But, of course, the ordinary voter could swallow any kind of injustice so long as the promise of lower taxes and more consumerism was maintained. I honestly don't think the clock can turn back now. Our neoliberal coup is entrained in a global one - the real decisions aren't taken here but in the headquarters of international companies which have to connection with their workforces in the various countries where they operate. And the poeple still don't care. In fact contempt for the "underclass" and scorn for the Unions which might lead the fightback have become automatic reflexes, while populist protest centres itself in racist opposition to immigration, a reliable safety valve as far as the right is concerned, since it backs nationalist and repressive policies. Yet nationalism, like localism, is more irrelevant than ever - in a country where the likes of HSBC, G4S and the IMF really call the tune.
Girindor 15 Sep 2011 05:00
Liberalism is just what this country needs after Labour abused the tax paying public for the ends of increasing its political base by massively bloating the public sector and after the years of "government knows best" and "government is always right", which infantilised us and took away our human and civil rights.
Thank you, Labour, for giving the police the right to take innocent citizens and lock them up for 26 days without any charges whatsoever. Just one example. Thank you, Labour, for forcing ID cards onto us. Just another example. Step by step, Labour's main project seems to have been the erosion of democracy and introduction of a police state.
So, frankly, I am greatly relieved that Liberals are in power. Even if I disagree with some of the unfortunate policies that Conservative backbenchers are foisting on us, such as immigration caps which harm the economy and make no moral sense either.
Attrition47 15 Sep 2011 04:28
Fascism is socialism's younger brother; they may not look identical but they are of the same genotype.
No, fascism and socialism as liberalism's bastard children...
Attrition47 15 Sep 2011 04:25
Paradoxically, such opposed political regimes as Thatcherism and New Labour have contributed in different ways to expanding this project. Now the coalition is taking up the same cause.
The history of Britain since the late 60s is the history of a class struggle in which the working class has been sabotaged by the reformist institutions which served it relatively well between 1918 and 1951.
one thing that strikes me is how the followers of this religion deny its very existence.
That's its main propaganda plank: we live in a post-ideological era and what we are doing arises purely out of expediency.
JBowers 14 Sep 2011 05:04
I very much doubt that the Kochs or Murdoch share enthusiasm for the dingbat Tea Party world view.
It's not so much Murdoch but more specifically FOX News and its head honcho, Roger Ailes.
"You know Roger [Ailes] is crazy. He really believes that stuff."
-- Rupert Murdoch
My jury's still out on your point about the Kochs, who I suspect could recite poor old messed up Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged from cover to cover, and David Koch stood as vice-presidential candidate for the Libertarians in 1980. But, libertarians don't really have the same goals as the Tea Party, the latter being a form of authoritarianism, although they sidle up together due to common economic goals. For example, I doubt a libertarian would enforce a woman to take a pregnancy to full term, whereas most of the Teavengelical Taliban would.
Teratornis has links to some insightful reading. But, that said, they have been bankrolling Tea Party events and networks, and did set up astroturf group Americans for Priosperity. Probably using the general public as useful idiots.
SteB1 13 Sep 2011 21:56
Thinking about this problem a bit more has made the problem clearer to me. To address a problem, you first need to properly define the problem. I broadly agree with Stuart Hall's analysis. However, there is another component that needs to be carefully identified. Stuart Hall is right about the neoliberal agenda reinventing itself, and using crises to push through it's society altering agendas.
Nevertheless there is an important qualitative difference between modern neoliberals and their predecessors. Previously neoliberals have to a certain extent been open as to what they were about. Thatcher and others openly espoused this ideology. You won't see Cameron waxing lyrical about this ideology like Thatcher. The modern neoliberal agenda is non-declared. The attempted means to achieve this agenda is a covert wrecking ball approach, which they delusionally believe will produce the real change they want.
Both Cameron's government, and the US Republicans with the Tea Party faction in a controlling position share similarities, which might not at first be obvious. Those pulling the strings and setting the agendas behind the scenes have a quite different outlook to the populist and sentimental themes publically espoused. It is a stealth agenda.
Let's take the US Tea Party situation. On the face of it this is a grassroots organization, all about homely simplistic moralism. It's about big government bad, and a citizen led agenda. The referent it uses is American mythology, which never really existed except in fantasy. It harks back to a mythological hotchpotch of the pilgrim fathers, the founding fathers of the US, the Wild West, and evangelical Christianity. However, the tapestry it has woven with these disparate threads has created a picture which never existed, and it is in reality a modern concoction. The fake nostaligia is merely a facilitator.
The Tea Party faction is not what it superficially seems - it is a 2-headed monster. It has been covertly backed and created by the likes of the Koch Brothers, and abley assisted by the likes of Murdoch's Fox News, which pumps out propaganda to reinforce this delusional dingbat worldview. I very much doubt that the Kochs or Murdoch share enthusiasm for the dingbat Tea Party world view. To the billionaires they just a wrecking ball, a means to an end. The big money backers of the Tea Party want it to smash environmental protection, and all the apparatus of government that get in the way of their money making agendas. I'm certain that these billionairres and their mega corporations would never want what the Tea Party's public supporters want. But then I suspect that the vested interests cynically figure that the Tea Part faction will never last long enough to do anything more than their dirty work.
The billionaires want a seriously weakened and emasculated government, which is easier for them to manipulate, but certainly not what the Tea Party faction want.
Cameron has pursued a different overt strategy, because US culture is very different, although the intended aim is similar The mythology the Tea Party faction is founded upon, does not exist in the UK. So Cameron's emotional populist pitch is to a different audience. Essentially it's a twintrack approach. It's meant to appeal to both the more centrist theme in UK politics, and prejudicial populist themes in British culture. The fact that these threads are quite contrary, doesn't matter, because neither Cameron nor his cronies are really pursuing either theme. It's the same wrecking ball approach to the obstructions of big vested interests. The aim is to destroy the institutional powers and traditions of the welfare state, which interfere with the objectives of the powerful vested interests. It isn't even a neoliberal or monetarist agenda, it is a plutocratic agenda - the neoliberal ideology is just borrowed as a means to an end. This is why it has so much in common with the Tea Party agenda. It's all about unrestrained powerful vested interests controlling everything.
However, whilst it's all very deceitful and apparently "Machiavellian", it's actually incredibly stupid and incompetent. Far from having great vision, this agenda is irrational and delusional. That is because the idiots who seek this wrecked society objective don't understand the dynamics of what will happen, and how different it is to what they envisage. Instead of a divided and conquered people with no coordination as they envisage, it will produce a shitstorm, which will sweep them away. It will create such a mood of public anger when it all goes pear-shaped, that it will create exactly the single purpose and coordinated society they definitely did not want. Unfortunately apart from sweeping these parasites away, it will produce little else that is good. So what I say is not wishful thinking, I think we must must urgentl prevent this societal wrecking.
Sturton 13 Sep 2011 20:11
The accelerating attack on the welfare state is already biting. My Down's Syndrome brother is looked after by my elderly mother and myself (I travel to spend one day a week with them), saving the state a small fortune. He could easily be put in care but we've never wanted that.
That hasn't stopped a new County Council means test with the result that £30 a week must now be found out of their benefits for him to continue attending a day centre occasionally. Wealthier families have been asked for up to £200 a week.
So I'm angry. Trouble is, your feature is almost as annoying as the Pickles et al of this world you are targeting.
What is the point of writing something castigating right wing dogma, when you are so clearly contaminated by its mirror image? You do realise, don't you, that this gives great succour to the froth-mouthed Daily Mail readers of this world, and helps to justify their myopia?
Just one example: You claim eagerness to volunteer predominantly for the left in point five, then follow it with the stupefying comment that "don't we all". So which is it, half the population, or all of it?
I was under the impression that a lot of bowling'n'Rotary Club types, many of whom have to be Tory voters, are up for voluntary work. Try giving a bit of credit to the other side, rather than tying yourself up in contradictory knots trying not to. That's what the Palins of this world do, it's corrosive to mature political debate, and both they and you drag us down into the cesspit of dogma-laden argument when you do it.
The article's many sound contentions - I really appreciated the paragraph outlining the various means of privatising by stealth - are undermined not only by this undercurrent of diehard dogma, but by its descent into Sixth Form debating-calibre comment on occasion.
For example, we have talk of an "irreversible" social revolution and the "irreversible transformation of society" in the first half of the piece. Then the statement towards the end that no victories are final or permanent. And preceding that, by this gem: "What happens next is not pregiven". Aristotelian or what.
The coup de grace is the clumsily-written revelation that "history is never closed but maintains an open horizon into the future". Really? That would explain tomorrow, then.
No wonder we get the contention that hegemony provokes muddled thinking. It certainly has in this piece.
And then there's the bizarre assertion that parents regard history as boring and haven't read a serious novel since GCSEs. I'm not a parent but really, did you just have a word count to fill?
I showed the feature to my gay neighbours downstairs. Lovely blokes, if you ignore the fact that they are diehard Thatcherites (yep, I know...).
They loved it, because it inadvertently serves to mirror their simplistic, un-nuanced world view. My favourite sport when with them is listing the odd Tory politican I have liked over the years. They can't stand hearing this from a liberal, because they can't bring themselves to return the favour. I note that many of my fervent Left wing friends can't find a compliment about anything from the Tory party either.
For a brilliant, proper grown-up article about the damage the Right can do, albeit from an American perspective, see this from a disillusioned Republican:
Now that's proper political analysis, and as such it's not scared to critique diehards at either end of the political spectrum.
Hall's confused polemic pales into insignificance alongside it.
VeronikaLarsson 13 Sep 2011 19:31
For a definition of fascism, let's go to the expert, Mussolini:
Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power. Benito Mussolini
How is neoliberalism different from this? No significant differences. Neoliberalism is fascism. Just because they don't have Brownshirts or funny costumes or mass rallies doesn't mean they're not fascists.
ScottSmith 13 Sep 2011 18:54
Keep shopping folks!, health care, yes we can make that work like a shop. Don't be selfish and save, spend now, take a loan, you worked hard for it. Sorry, did you say you lost your job?. Ah, we have a problem with that you see, we'd like our money back now, problem is, we didn't take into account our friends at the bank would want such a big bonus, and we're all going on a nice holiday in Tuscany at the end of the month, so do hurry up with the repayments. Ok, still haven't paid back your money we lent the banks, thats fine, although, we're pleased to announce we're cutting your benefits and repossessing your home, after all, those of us that still have work, don't want to pay for your apathy. I mean, when are you people going to learn to look after yourselves, instead of burdening the state, tax money after all, will be needed to put a down payment on my second home. No, nepotism never did me any favours, my great, great, great grandfather was poor, of course I can relate. You see we're not all equal, some of us are born with a silver spoon in our mouths ,elected to represent, the underclass, the criminal class, of our classless society.
Theres nothing to intellectualise here...the kids said it best by robbing plasma screens whilst we coward in the corner, "I don't care, I'll take what I want". Such a shame, but, "Englands dancing days are done".
sarkany 13 Sep 2011 17:39
The great paradox about neoliberalism is that it is not in fact, liberal at all.
It can only survive under the heel of a jackboot - the rich are only able to amass the vast wealth that they do now because they live under the protection of the state; which in countries like the USA and Britain are controlled by this corporate clique.
As most people have noticed in recent years, the emphasis on policing has gone from general order in the community to the protection of the ruling class and corporate property.
In fact, what has effectively happened under the neo-liberal regimes, from Thatcher through to Blair and Cameron, is that the people have been forced to pay more and more of their income to the state, local councils and PFI fund managers for less and less in return.
Where has the money gone ?
It has been spent on yachts, diamonds, chateaux in France and finishing schools in Switzerland.
Billions have 'disappeared' to private contractors and capital-intensive [not many workers] arms firms employed in the spurious War on Terror - in reality, a war of terror, a fear-inducing illusion conjured up by the very politicians who seamlessly glided into the very corporations and companies they had awarded consulting contracts to when in power.
Other money drains out from our pockets every day when we use the public services such as the trains - paid for many times over with subsidies from the public coffers, but still maximising profits by screwing their weary customers every day they drag into work on delayed and overcrowded cattle wagons.
And then there is the whole invisible army of drones who earn a living from pursuing us over the ever-increasing laws we might be breaking; fine collectors, private security companies, debt-collectors, bailiffs, privatised prisons . . .
And that's not mentioning the thousands of people paid to watch us on cameras, in stations, streets and parks; trawl our emails, tap our phones [another paradox rarely mentioned in connection with the Murdoch case] and search us at airports and train stations.
In fact, as was demonstrated on the real, original September 11th - when the US sponsored and supported the first neo-liberal coup in a democratic country [Chile in 1973]; its true nature was soon revealed.
If you want to read the extent to which the USA undermined a democracy, and replaced it with a military dictatorship which pioneered the original Chicago School of neoliberalism;
In 1970, Salvadore Allende became the first Marxist to be democratically elected president in the Western hemisphere. In the course of his sweeping socialist reforms, he nationalized not only the copper mines but banks and other foreign-owned assets as well. Along with the redistribution of land under land reform, these actions deeply antagonized Chile's business community and right wing. It is now a matter of historical record that the CIA helped organize their opposition to Allende. A massive campaign of strikes, social unrest and other political subversion followed. In September 1973, the CIA helped General Pinochet launch a military coup in which Allende was killed. The Pinochet government claimed he committed suicide; his supporters claimed he was murdered.
The new government immediately began privatizing the businesses that Allende had seized, as well as reversing his other socialist reforms. But Pinochet did not have an economic plan of his own, and by 1975 inflation would run as high as 341 percent. Into this crisis stepped a group of economists known as "the Chicago boys."
The Chicago boys were a group of 30 Chileans who had studied economics at the University of Chicago between 1955 and 1963. During the course of their postgraduate studies they had become disciples of Milton Friedman, and had returned to Chile completely indoctrinated in free market theory. By the end of 1974, they had risen to positions of power in the Pinochet regime, controlling most of its offices for economic planning.
Their model has been imposed ever since, across the globe, by force and deception - let's not forget that Obama took with him into the White House neither his radical friends from his time working the community, but economists from his home town, Chicago, to finish the work that was started with the murder of Allende;
In the first months after the coup d'état, the military killed thousands of Chilean Leftists, both real and suspected, or forced their "disappearance". The military imprisoned 40,000 political enemies in the National Stadium of Chile; among the tortured and killed desaparecidos (disappeared) were ... the Chilean song-writer Víctor Jara, and 70 other political killings were perpetrated by the Caravan of Death.
So that's where we're heading, folks . . .
keggsie 13 Sep 2011 17:23
I'm with you boycotthesun. We need a revolution. In fact I'm calling for it now.
And to think a war was fought to defeat fascism. How little we have learned.
boycotthesun 13 Sep 2011 16:39
Don't agree - it will be far worse yet completely different - there will be only that what you can pay for, that includes Health, Police, Law, Justice, food, water, parliamentary representation, the right not to beaten up by people selling protection, oh, I already said that didn't I - Police...well, I mean the New Police controlled by your Politicly appointed Police Chief - unless you can pay the politician enough to appoint someone less worse...you get t he point:
everything is up for grabs when you start to ignore concepts such as Social Fairness and morality and besides, how on earth can a Politician really believe they are accountable to underachieving failures...we need "Big Daddy" to run his Big Society Of Micro Transactions Because We Are Non Competitors.
That is one point that has not really been discussed...If the Market is supreme arbiter of what is desirable, then we become, in Cameron's Neo Liberal Nu Britain , servents of the Market and we are accountable to that market - the State, as we understand it, must dissapear to be replaced by an enforcement apparatus to ensure market stability and compliance with the expectation of servility to the Market that is essential for NeoLiberalism to work.
This IS a matter of choice and I choose to reject, in it's entirity , the False Idol worshipped by NeoLibs - which means I reject the legitimacy of this administration as it has no mandate to change the basis by which we exist as human beings.
Yep, I declare civil war...at the moment I may be outnumbered by 60,000,000 to 1
but it could be worse...Clegg might join me...now that would be bad,
buildabridge 13 Sep 2011 16:28
If democracy changed anything it would have been banned a long timed ago. A friend told me that, no idea who initially quoted it but I believe it.
The only reason Western Europe got its welfare state, and so some equality of wealth was due to the threat of communism through revolution confiscating ALL property and even the concept of property. That was enough to scare the wealthy to share some of their wealth. It was a survival move to make sure they did not go the way the Russian aristocracy went
Now that communism is dead and totally discredited due to inept paranoid despotic leadership, the neoliberals can take it all back and put normal people back to where they always were;to work to and survive or do nothing.
boycotthesun 13 Sep 2011 16:00
Honesty is something I look for first in people - without it you have nothing but a dilemma on legs.
NeolLiberalism is more that a Cancer, it is a pseudo philosophy which demotes humanity to nothing more that a concurrent series of transactions which, by right, must be done in accordance with whatever the Market dictates.
I recently suggested that Cameron would suggest the "poor" could ease their plight by selling their blood and Kidneys - as in the States, I was given this reply by someone who works for a NeolLib Minister:
Selling Blood and Kidneys: Autonomous assets to be used as collateral in negotiating with an investor.
Accurate?: yes, Right?: NO
The same criteria can be applied to selling babies and children - or even parts of them......morality, ethics and fairness, along with Justice - do not generate a profit unless there is a market of buyers for these "commodities" and who will be able to afford to pay for what were once fundamental elements of Society?
That is what Thatcher meant by "there is no such thing as Society" she was alluding to the overarching priority of a Free Market where we trade for the basics of life- and do without if we cannot compete.
NeoLiberalism and those who think it should be imposed for "our own good" should be quarantined on a sinking island with patrolling sharks for that is what they want for the a sizeable number of us.
theEclectic 13 Sep 2011 15:45
Neoliberalism is grounded in the "free, possessive individual"...,
These are a bunch of dreamers who contemplate life that only the earliest humans in Africa could have enjoyed. Individualism died with the caveman; and although it might still appeal to some fellow dreamers, it is not tenable in modern society. Anyway, there is no harm in pretending that we are free individuals – even though it is only a myth.
erealArtVandelay 13 Sep 2011 15:44
I don't think you can equate fascism and neo-liberlism: fascism implies more state control and use of the capitalist system for its ends, where as the current neo-liberal model we are witnessing sees the state as a virtual puppet of the capitalist system.
Nayrbite 13 Sep 2011 15:31
I admire your honesty.
Most aren't against wealth as such except when that wealth is gained at the expense of others which, unfortunately and historically, is more often the case than not. How many ennobled families are wealthy because of the Slave trade?
For me, the most appalling thing about NeoLiberalism is that it is totally without compassion, an ideology Satan himself would be proud of.
Tonight I watched a programme about the poverty stricken slums in London and Bristol which existed only 3 generations ago and only relieved by the slum clearances.
I suggest NeoLiberals would not have lifted a finger - the "markets," after all are always happy with cheap sources of labour whatever the conditions of its labour force. The neoliberals must be champing at the bit at the prospect - fast approaching - for those halcyon days.
frontalcortexes 13 Sep 2011 15:30
neoliberalism was always flawed. Without the state it is a recipe for cat-burglary as the Subprime Mortgage Bond Fraud has very tellingly revealed.
boycotthesun 13 Sep 2011 14:51
You wouldn't be trying to divert us by any chance, from the article about how you Zombies are willing to destroy everything that makes living worthwhile - no, you wouldn't do that would you, you want people to be regarded with respect don't you, you would never agree that it is morally right and desirable for a minority to manipulate the majority in order to feed off of them - would you...course you would, you actually think there will be room for you at the top, Ha Ha Ha Ha.
See you in Hell, mate, that's where we are all going 'cos you and me are not important - even if you think YOU are.
GizmoGizmo 13 Sep 2011 14:33
The welfare state, in particular, is the arch enemy of freedom. The state must never govern society, dictate to free individuals how to dispose of their private property, regulate a free-market economy or interfere with the God-given right to make profits and amass personal wealth. State-led "social engineering" must never prevail over corporate and private interests. It must not intervene in the "natural" mechanisms of the free market, or take as its objective the amelioration of free-market capitalism's propensity to create inequality.
Summarises just about every right-wing posting on these boards, and the narrow version of 'freedom' they espouse. It can be boiled down to the following Orwellian maxim. "The market is totally free. Oh, but some are freer than others: if you don't possess vast wealth, you must sell your body to the accumulators or starve."
Hasn't stopped the usual tripe along precisely these lines BTL, though.
no2dogma 13 Sep 2011 14:33
"The legislative avalanche began immediately and has not let up" Really, compared to what - not the 4300 new laws passed by the Labour government between 1997 and 2010?
boycotthesun 13 Sep 2011 14:33
Excellent post - you made the essential points clearly but what do we do now, just accept "their" version of utopia and in effect become servants of The Market State or fight back?
There is no question that a united populace would defeat ANY government in a stand up fight, the clever bit is to ensure there is no unity in the first place and thereby avoid direct or large scale conflict - as in Nazi Germany, the Warsaw Pact and it seems to me, the USA that Cameron admires so much.
(not the Culture, but the power the neoCons/Libs have over the people)
Our "Quislings" are already in place and when people are preoccupied by trying to climb over each other in order to get more coin, you will have Goethe's Free Market Slaves who think they are Free.
I can't live like that, I won't live like that and I will fight any Bastard that says I must.
ITS1789 13 Sep 2011 14:15
I'm not from the left, and I personally do really, really well out of the capitalist system, and enjoy a life of relative luxury, but then I can afford to give half my annual income away to charity and still live very well. I like capitalism, it's been very good to me, and my family for over two centuries, but the ghastly version that's swept the world over the last thirty years is something else.
I think neoliberalism is something close to a malignant cancer growing inside a healthy capitalism, and with equally disasterous consequences. So my criticism comes not from the left, but from the right, for what that's worth.
Neoliberalism is a kind of psuedo-religion, a dogma, which is passionately believed by its diciples, despite the evidence showing that it simply doesn't work in the real world, but like most religious fanatics, the real world doesn't matter much to them. Which is another reason they remind me of Stalinists in the old Soviet system.
The historic irony, that it's not the socialists, but the neoliberals and revolutionaries like Thatcher who have brought capitalism to its knees; is, difficult for many people to accept. It seems like a contradiction. That those who trumpet their loyalty and suppport for "unfettered" capitalism should by their collosal ignorance and stupidity, their crass oversimplifications, confusion, and lack of understanding, lead to the destruction of the very system they worship, well, perhaps irony isn't the right word, maybe tragic and grotesque is more accurate?
I think neoliberalism is a kind of dangerous and counter-productive heresy that risks destroying captialism and plunging the western world into a permanent depression which will wipe out the middle class and threaten the corporate, capitalsit state, itself.
boycotthesun 13 Sep 2011 14:11
The article succinctly lays out the agenda and means: The Tory media will repeat the mantra and right wing nutters will swallow it whole - thinking that a new dawn awaits us all.
More like Zulu Dawn unless there is mass opposition - which there won't be if Cameron and the right wing Zombies on this site succeed in conning the majority that Xmas is good for turkeys.
Representative Democracy is already undermined by the duplicity and amoral
conduct of many of our representatives.
Cameron will eventually suck up to the Police and seek to politicise the Armed Forces in order to prevent effective opposition.
Elected Police Chiefs are the first step in suborning a previously neutral and objective Police Service into a force that protects the state and not the individual.
I believe that this Government is on a crusade that they will not allow to falter and that they will do everything in their power to keep power - and if that means lying deceiving "the People" or trying to extend their term by declaring a state of emergency - they will.
Just in case the Zombies havn't worked it out yet - re- read the article and decide if you will be happy to be regarded solely as a servent of a free market where there is no such "commodity" as compassion, fairness or justice.
If that is what you want then you and I will be true enemies.
This Government is fighting an undeclared war that may turn into a real one.
ITS1789 13 Sep 2011 13:54
For me neoliberalism is a primative and dangerous delusion about society, economics, and human nature, comparable to extreme forms of socialism, which are equally hairbrained and destructive, and arguably just as bloody.
Thatcherism was classic, class-warfare politics, but launched from the extreme right instead of the left, and it was wildly successful, at least for those it benefitted, a narrow strata at the top of society. Now that the entire charade is collapsing, and taking the welfare state, the middle class, and probably capitalism itself, with it, it's time to pay the bill for this long, illusory, party.
Capitalism has, seen in narrow perspective, changed the world for the better, trashing feudalism for example, but like so much in life, it should have been kept in the market place where it belonged. Allowing capitalism to expand until it consumed virtually all of society was a tremendous mistake on many different levels, and now we are paying the price for allowing this to happen.
EconomicDeterminist 13 Sep 2011 13:48
When we neo-liberals have our backs to the wall we turn around and come out fighting
Stuart! These guys are already in reverse!
JBowers 13 Sep 2011 13:40
What was it that caused the banking crisis?
Ayn Rand's lapdog, Alan Greenspan, and his zealous neoliberal drive to deregulate the markets, especially the banks. It started when he was the top money dog for Reagan. Then, when everyone was telling him in 2008 that deregulation was causing serious problem and there was disaster looming, his only response was to push for more deregulation. When the head of the IMF later met with the bankstas to find out what the hell had just happened they all told him, to his face, that deregulation had let them go too wild.
boycotthesun 13 Sep 2011 13:35
A dose of Reality
If you piss on people for long enough, they will eventualy lose patience and do something extremely violent.
AlexanderKing 13 Sep 2011 13:17
It is noble viewpoint that we share, but it is not reality, human nature, particularly in poverty, is acquisitive by its very nature, it will not correspond to your noble view-point, and they would rob you if they could.
AlexanderKing 13 Sep 2011 13:15
It should not be legal for someone to eat trays and trays of Sausage rolls, be a delinquent at school, and then at the age of 23 manage to secure life long payment for their life of sloth because they managed to get disability because they cannot get out of the house. Those who receive such payment must perform some civic duty in order to gain this payment.
It is not 1890, the deserving poor are a bunch of thieves and aspire to be the top neighbours from hell in their area.
the unbalanced evolution of homo sapiens
It is more than obvious that using the latest big crisis, the economic elites in Europe and globally, are planning to impose all the catastrophic neoliberal measures tested in Greece by Troika. Dijsselbloem signaled recently the start of this plan. (http://failedevolution.blogspot.gr/2014/10/plutocrats-tighten-siege-around-europe.html)
As Social-democrats in nearly every European country have been "absorbed" by the neoliberal perception carried mainly by the neoliberal European Right, there is a big political gap to be filled by political forces who could fight against plutocracy and defend majority's rights. In Greece, which was chosen to be the field of the new conditions, the Left, naturally, became a significant power, taking the first position in recent Euro-elections through the radical-Left party, SYRIZA.
Costas Lapavitsas, professor in economics at the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies, described it very well in an interesting discussion with the audience at the Real News network:
"... to me, the most important change and transformation over the last two decades, as financialization went into overdrive, is the collapse of all social democracy, the social democrats. [...] obviously, in Europe and elsewhere, it has collapsed.
And the reason it's collapsed is because it basically accepted, lock, stock, and barrel, the arguments of neoliberalism, the idea of the market, the idea of financial growth, of financial expansion. It really believed in it. And the ones who argue most forcefully still for that are actually social democrats. It's incredible. And, therefore, their influence, certainly in Europe, it's just a vanishing. The social democratic party in Greece has disappeared. The social democratic party in Spain is disappearing nearly as fast. Social democrats in Portugal are nowhere to be seen. In country after country--in Germany, the social democracy is hobbled because of that, because they've accepted these--they've got nothing to propose which would be the equivalent of what they used to propose back in the '50s and the '60s and the '70s, which was some kind of regulated capitalism within those confines mentioned before, some kind of--you know, let's manage it.
The scope for that has become much less. In this context, there is room for the left, as in the non social democratic left. The tragedy there is that the left in Europe and elsewhere has been incredibly weak because of the events of the last two to three decades--the collapse of the Soviet Union, the massive defeats of the '80s in terms of class struggle and so on. And the left hasn't been able to take up the mantle. Not yet. There is life. It's not a corpse yet. There is life.
Things are happening, particularly because of the crisis. It took time for the left to comprehend what happened in the crisis, and they're beginning to respond. Who will fill the space left by the collapse of social democracy, by the ideological bankruptcy of social democracy, is a most interesting question for politics today. Who will fill that space? How will it be filled? It remains to be seen." (http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=12593)
Currently, people appear to be confused, in Europe, in the US and elsewhere, about the ways they could mobilize to fight for their rights which are systematically abolished. During the conversation, someone asked a question that shows this fact in the most characteristic way: "So what is this kind of mobilization of the people, the labor markets, the small businesses, medium businesses? What does that process look like to change the big business, to change the banking institutions, and even the household dynamics?"(http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=12562)
In Europe, the first signs of such a mobilization come from Spain with the Left-wing party Podemos. Latest polls showed that Podemos has a bigger electoral preference than the two major parties in Spain, only eight months after it was created. According to the poll, Podemos has 27 percent electoral support in Spain, the former governing party PSOE (Spain Socialist Workers Party) has 25.5 percent, while the currently governing conservative PP (Popular Party), which has recently being involved in a corruption scandal, has only 20 percent. (http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/New-Left-Wing-Party-Podemos-Over-takes-Major-Parties-in-Spain-20141102-0002.html)
As mentioned in a previous article: "Today's conditions are such that, the Left in Greece could not be able to change the course of the class-war in favor of the majority by itself. It could trigger, however, a general rise of the Left in Europe which could block, for a start, Europe's catastrophic course towards the new, brutal Feudalism." (http://failedevolution.blogspot.gr/2014/09/a-new-attempt-to-domesticate-left-in.html) It seems that this "triggering" has started (there is also some mobilization in Croatia with the creation of a Leftist party inspired by SYRIZA in Greece).
For the first time in Greece a Leftist party wins an election, but the message from Spain is even more promising because Podemos was not created by small groups behind closed doors, but from people protesting out in the streets.
The next big test for the Leftist parties would be to synchronize their efforts and create a solid European front capable to fight against the neoliberal catastrophe. SYRIZA leader, Alexis Tsipras, was called to speak today at the founding conference of Podemos in Madrid.
It seems that there are signs of resistance in Europe. Societies are politically mobilized to face the new challenges. What is left to see, is whether this would be enough for Europe to change its course, and bring back the lost values that have been sacrificed on the altar of the illusive economic indexes. A Europe that will work for the benefit of the real democracy and majority, not for the benefit of the bankers and lobbyists.
The USG sees its constituency as an international elite – whether British, Polish or Saudi–the people, as a population are, increasingly an afterthought.
Nov 14, 2014 | naked capitalism
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HUDSON: Every economy needs oil to some extent. China has to use oil for many things that gas simply won't work for. Every country's GDP goes up in keeping with its energy consumption. You could say the rise in productivity for the last hundred years, throughout the Industrial Revolution, has been an increase in energy use per worker or per unit of output. So it's energy that's pushing growth. And of course China needs oil. In fact, one of its problems is that when people are getting richer, they want to have cars, and they use gasoline. So of course China's going to be dependent on oil from Russia.
Mr. Putin said that as a result of these deals, Russian trade with China and the rest of Asia is going to increase from 25 percent to 40 percent of Russia's GDP. This leaves Europe out in the cold. What's been clear at the meeting is that there's a coming together between China and Russia. This has been the opposite of what American foreign policy has been trying to push for since the 1980s. What is ironic is that where the United States thought that it was putting pressure on Russia and sanctions following the NATO adventure in Ukraine, what it's actually done is bring Russia and China closer together.
The most important way in which they're coming together is reflected in Mr. Putin's announcement that Russia is setting up its own bank clearing house system independent of the so-called SWIFT system. When you transfer funds from one bank to another, or when any bank uses U.S. dollars, it has to go through the SWIFT clearing house system in the United States.
Right now the only country that's not part of this is Iran. To Russia, this has tipped America's hand. It showed that what U.S. Cold Warriors really want is to break up Russia and China, and to interrupt their financial and banking services to disorient their economies. So Russia, China and Iran – and presumably other Asian countries – are now moving to establish their own currency clearing systems. To be independent of the SWIFT system and the U.S. dollar, Russia and China are denominating their trade and investments in rubles and yuan instead of the dollar. So what you've seen in the last few days in Beijing is a rejection of the dollar standard, and a rejection of American foreign policy behind it.
... ... ...
As for the sanctions isolating Russia economically, this is just what it needs to protect its industrial revival and economic independence. In conjunction with China, it's integrating the Russian economy with that of China, Kazakhstan and Iran. Russia is now going to be building at least two atomic reactors in Iran. The center of global investment is shifting to Asia, leaving the United States out as well as Europe.
So you can expect at the G20 Brisbane meetings next week to increase pressure from Europe to break away from the U.S. sanctions.
All the United States has diplomatically at the present time is military pressure, while Russia and China have economic growth – markets and investment opportunities opening up. Despite the fact that there was an agreement on high-technology trade between the United States and China, the U.S. is basically being left out. This seems to be why Mr. Obama was looking so out of sorts at the meetings. He knows that the strategy that he was given by his neocons is backfiring.
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James, November 14, 2014 at 10:49 am
In the following decade, we won the cold war.
We know one side gave up the fight for sure, and has since rebounded rather nicely. Whether or not we can say the other side actually "won" remains yet to be seen, since it's still fighting against countless "enemies," some possibly real, but most purely imaginary.
Vatch, November 14, 2014 at 11:46 am
Russia has rebounded thanks to petroleum and natural gas. That doesn't alter the fact that it is a kleptocracy with severe problems of inequality. Putin is popular because he is standing up to the "foreign devils".
Of course, much of this is also true about the United States, but not the part about the leader being popular.
James, November 14, 2014 at 2:32 pm
Putin is popular because he is standing up to the "foreign devils".
Well, I guess you could say that the US MIC is providing Putin with valuable marketing services then. I must say, they're certainly worth every dollar, err… ruble he's paying them.
Vatch, November 14, 2014 at 3:01 pm
Mutual hostility usually benefits the elites of both nations. It is far less likely to benefit the typical citizens of the nations that are hostile to each other. On the contrary, it's likely to worsen the lives of people in both nations.
James, November 14, 2014 at 6:00 pm
I must say that as the initial coup unfolded after the Olympics I was wary of some sort of "joint disinformation" campaign on the part of both the US and Russia playing to some sort of higher regional goal. But events in the interim have led me to conclude otherwise. This one's an entirely US instigated fiasco.
Vatch, November 14, 2014 at 6:59 pm
Coup? What coup? Are you referring to the mess in Ukraine?
myshkin, November 14, 2014 at 12:56 pm
Though the Soviet empire toppled first, the US empire has disastrously hollowed out its putative republic. The Cold War was a continuity of the dark inertia of the armaments based recovery of WWII, weaponry being the only public spending TPTB will ever countenance. I've argued with various older friends who had passed through the depression and WWII, who were convinced that the nuclear standoff and arms race of the Cold War was a great success, having forestalled nuclear annihilation.
My point, that only a logic invented by Dr. Strangelove could view the march to the precipice of world war, armed with doomsday weapons, bought with national treasure, drained from the welfare of the people, as a success. It also countenanced or ignored the millions who did die, casualties of the Cold War that infected and inflamed corners of the world with proxy wars and anti democratic coups while baking the worst ingredients of a militarized, deep security state into the US sociocultural cake. It was evident to me but an unimaginable leap of faith to them.
flora, November 14, 2014 at 11:45 am
I think for at least the last 20 years Washington DC and Wall St have lived in a bubble that prevents them from seeing the real economy or effectively engaging in realpolitik. It gives me no happiness to write this.
Thanks for this article.
susan the other, November 14, 2014 at 11:53 am
It is all interesting, amusing and frightening. And shameful if you once loved your country and the things it stood for. We have dealt ourselves a fatal blow by using the EU to sanction Russia. That's gotta be the dumbest thing we ever did. We managed, in our arrogance, to isolate ourselves and our asinine cowboy neoliberalism, almost as if we built the great wall of America around our shores.
Xi is a fox. So is Putin. The difference being that Putin once took a chance on trusting us. The worsening debacle in the EU is because we are imposing strict neoliberalism on them and are demanding they dismantle all forms of a mixed economy, while Xi, in Asia where anything of importance is now happening, calmly states the Chinese position that SOEs are OK if they are beneficial to the health of nations.
susan the other, November 15, 2014 at 12:15 pm
Putin started off with Little George opening up oil development to US majors and they were both interested in making it go. Putin came to the White House and gave a little speech referencing this partnership. Etc. Some analysis (forget where, maybe foreign affairs) claimed Putin himself was a Russian Atlanticist – meaning his faction was leaning toward business relationships with the US and the EU.
Then everything fell apart. It is hard to tell just how cooperative RU and we are these days. But yesterday at the G20 everybody ganged up on Putin and accused Russia of being the aggressor in Ukraine and Putin said he had more urgent business to take care of in Moscow and left.
Putin himself has spoken clearly on the US and NATO being the aggressor and wanting to create crises to maintain power. So unless it is all theater, Putin did give it a try and became the goat. And now he has gone home.
Banger, November 14, 2014 at 12:26 pm
The issue is not the U.S. vs. China and Russia. China and Russia are centrally governed nation-states with, at least for China, imperial ambitions – but these ambitions are of limited Empire not like the American dreams of Empire which is to control the entire globe not just politically but culturally.
That ambition though is largely fantasy at least in political terms. The U.S. is not any longer what I would call a nation state with particular "interests." Israel, for example, is more supported in the U.S. than, say, Ohio or some segment of the U.S.
The USG sees its constituency as an international elite – whether British, Polish or Saudi–the people, as a population are, increasingly an afterthought. Washington is an international capital (as is NYC) that focuses on the multi-national corporation.
Russia and China, while not immune to such pressures, does recognize the importance of the population or power-factions that are native to it.
By forcing Russia, Iran and other states to the periphery they are moving them into a Chinese orbit. Now, how China chooses to react is something should make an interesting discussion.
James Levy, November 14, 2014 at 1:04 pm
I've argued to my students that the reason America is so dangerous is that Americans are the most ideological people on Earth without any understanding that they are ideological. Most Americans (certainly the foreign policy decision-makers) see doing anything dissimilar to the way "we" want it done as perverse (France), stupid (Venezuela), or malign (Iran).
The old Burkean notion that nations are what they are because of their history and traditions is unthinkable in Washington or on Wall Street.
America is the model and its up to every other country to conform – or else. Between Wilson and Truman a carapace formed over US thinking about itself and the world that has become impenetrable. It will only be burst when America is too broke or ecologically devastated to continue trying to re-form the world in its image. That's why I fear that a whole cadre of nuts would rather the world go down in flames than that the "last, best hope of humanity" not get to "tutor" the nations into doing thing
Banger, November 14, 2014 at 5:42 pm
Technically you are right–the USA is the last great remnant of the great ideologies of the 20th century and the ideology of American Exceptionalism is related to fascism and communism in the sense it is deeply nationalistic and also global - America wants everyone to become American. But I think this is largely over.
Leaders today only half-believe in these notions and the body politic is increasingly cynical and too self-centered to care much about "destiny" and the grand sweep of history that people like Henry Luce or Walter Lippmann articulated back in the day both on the left and the right.
Government is increasingly staffed by self-serving careerists and yuppies who long ago sold their souls. The ideologues are now mainly are inarticulate and no more than the equivalent of soccer hooligans.
Michael, November 14, 2014 at 6:59 pm
Neo-cons…. I assume that is who you meant.
Not much more too add. The people with real power do not show their faces. They write memos and let buffoons try to articulate them to the public. The public will buy into the ideology because they've spent their lives learning facts with out learning the importance of those facts.
Also most people are too busy trying to survive to learn enough to understand the games that the elites are playing. Hell, even the elites don't understand the system they have built. All energy is basically used to maintain the system which will eventually collapse in on itself…
I just hope I am self sufficient at this point….give me 5 more years and I should be set…homesteading is in my future.
madisolation, November 15, 2014 at 8:30 am
I just read Pepe Escobar's take on the APEC summit. There's a lot to absorb, but here is an excerpt:
Washington/Wall Street elites – talk about Cold War hubris – always took for granted that Beijing and Moscow would be totally apart. Now puzzlement prevails. Note how the Obama administration's "pivoting to Asia" has been completely erased from the narrative – after Beijing identified it for what it is: a warlike provocation. The new meme is "rebalance".
German businesses, for their part, are absolutely going bonkers with Xi's New Silk Roads uniting Beijing to Berlin – crucially via Moscow. German politicians sooner rather than later will have to get the message.
flora, November 15, 2014 at 11:03 am
"Washington/Wall Street elites… always took for granted that …"
Perfect description of the neo-con and neo-liberal ideological bubbles. Elite thinking is so captured by their ideologies that they can't clearly see facts on the ground, can't effectively respond to the facts, and can't accept their realpolitik failures as the consequence of their ideological capture. The 'shrewd yankee' has been replaced by the 'true believer'.
Interesting that Al From and the New Democrats have been described as idealists. No doubt they are.
Steven, November 15, 2014 at 11:29 am
Dr. Hudson has long had the right take on all this. But he doesn't seem to be able to take the last step in simplifying his analyses and prescriptions. Elites in the West and in particular the United States have no clue about the real sources of wealth and power in the modern world. Those elites, having long ago converted their wealth (the natural resources, skilled labor and, above all, the inanimate energy required to power the machinery and computers that do much of the world's real work) into money, now 'keep score' only by how much more money they can add to their bank accounts.
For those elites – and especially for the financiers and bankers to whom they have entrusted the wealth extracted from the labor of preceding generations and the spoils of pillaged continents – money is all there is. This is the core of 'American exceptionalism'. Anyone who doubts the omnipotence of money doubts the divine order of things. Educating, feeding and caring for the West's "labouring cattle" has long been viewed not as 'investment', a source of wealth, but an impediment on the more rapid accumulation of money. The only thing 50% of 'the people' are good for, in the words of Jay Gould, is slaughtering the other 50%.
The bottom line here is that real wealth and prosperity for the population at large represents a mortal threat for people whose power and social status is dependent only on money. A really wealthy population doesn't need money. For the monetarily affluent, the only possible use for advances in science and technology is the destruction of those who refuse to worship the golden calf. For the last century Western nations have removed the threat of general prosperity to their ruling classes through wars with each other and beyond their nations' borders.
Devastated by global war, much of the world managed to free itself from this self-destructive propensity by exporting the responsibility to defend their money-based ruling classes and the sanctity of money as embodied in the world's US dollar-based reserve currency to the United States. Thus we have arrived at the current division of labor in the world economy with the once 'developing nations' exporting the things people really need to live and the US and other Western nations exporting debt and death. This is the real mission of the military-industrial complex – absorbing advances in science and technology in ever more deadly weapons systems and ever mounting national debt. It can only end badly.
Events since 2008 have proved the world doesn't need the West's money. If the West's central banks can create tens of trillions of dollars, euros, yen, etc out of thin air to prevent the insolvency of its ruling elites, it can create the money it needs to pay for the real wealth required for a sustainable future.
Steven, November 15, 2014 at 11:49 am
The "last step" is dropping the 'growth' prescription. My suspicion is that a world economy purged of its waste, economic sabotage and above its weapons would be more than adequate at its current size for a long time to come.
October 07, 2014 | potlatch.typepad.com
As part of the slow-burning promotion of my book, a couple of discussions have been published in recent weeks, exploring the book's arguments.
Firstly, New Left Project published a two-part interview I did with Tom Mills, one of their editors. These can be read here [pt 1] and here [pt 2].
Secondly, Renewal organised a symposium of critical reviews of the book, with a response from me. I was really delighted with the quality of these commentaries from Bob Jessop, Stephanie Mudge and Jonathan Derbyshire. You can download the pdf of this symposium here.
... ... ...
Neoliberalism in action
The crisis of Keynesian macroeconomics (occasioned by the rise of 'stagflation' in the early 1970s) and of Fordist production (symptomized by declining productivity growth and profitability) created an opportunity for a new paradigm of economic policy-making. This was initially exploited in the United States and United Kingdom, before policies were exported internationally via multilateral institutions and economic experts. Prior to this breakthrough, the Chicago School had already shaped the policy regime of Pinochet in Chile, thanks to the training of Chilean economists in Chicago and the advice provided by Friedman to the government.
Marxist analyses of applied neoliberalism view it as the mobilization of the state, so as to restore the rate of profit. To this end, the neoliberal state targets inflation through deflationary, monetarist policies, and targets trade union power through legislation, police power and privatization. The effect of this is far greater returns to capital, and lower returns to labour, resulting in dramatic increases in inequality from the 1980s onwards. With declining investment opportunities following the crisis of Fordist-Keynesianism, the neoliberal state discovers non-productive paths to private profit, in households, the public sector and financial sector.
Analyses that are more influenced by post-structuralism, by Foucault in particular, look at neoliberalism more as an attempt to remake social and personal life in its entirety, around an ideal of enterprise and performance. Here, an ethos of competitiveness is seen as permeating culture, education, personal relations and orientation to the self, in ways that render inequality a fundamental indicator of ethical worth or desire. For many such theorists, economists themselves are viewed as political actors, who extend the limits of calculability. The state remains a central actor, according to this perspective, in forcing institutions to reinvent themselves and measure themselves according to this vision of agency. Distinctive neoliberal policies are those which encourage individuals, communities, students and regions to exert themselves competitively, and produce 'scores' of who is winning and losing.
A common theme between the Marxist and the post-structuralist accounts of neoliberalism is the rising power and authority of corporate and quasi-corporate actors and experts in public life. During the 1990s, the sense that social life was increasingly regulated by non-state intermediaries or private firms led to increased awareness of 'governance', 'governmentality' and risk as techniques for managing neoliberal or 'advanced liberal' societies in a calculated fashion. Arguably it is the managerial freedom of corporate and quasi-corporate actors which is maximized under applied neoliberalism, and not markets as such.
- - Amable, B. (2011). Morals and politics in the ideology of neoliberalism. Socio-economic Review. 9: 1
- - Babb, S. (2001). Managing Mexico: Economists from Nationalism to Neoliberalism. NJ: Princeton University Press
- - Dardot, P. & Laval, C. (2014). The New Way of the World: On Neoliberal Society. London: Verso
- - Davies, W. (2014). The Limits of Neoliberalism: Authority, Sovereignty and the Logic of Competition. London: Sage
- - Foucault, M. (2008). The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège De France, 1978-79. Basingtoke: Palgrave
- - Gamble, A. (1988). The Free Economy & The Strong State: The Politics of Thatcherism. Durham: Duke University Press
- - Harvey, D. (2005). A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press
- - Mirowski, P. (2009). Postface: Defining Neoliberalism. In Mirowski & Plehwe (eds.) (2009).
- - Peck, J. (2010). Constructions of Neoliberal Reason. Oxford: Oxford University Press
- - Rose, N. (1996). The death of the social? Re-figuring the territory of government. Economy & Society. 25
- - Valdes, J. (1995). Pinochet's Economists: The Chicago School in Chile. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Financial crisis and the future of neoliberalism
In the years following the global financial crisis of 2007-09, and the subsequent 'Great Recession', a couple of different slants appeared in the research on neoliberalism. Firstly, there was a heightened awareness that applied neoliberalism has in practice translated into 'financialisation'. This means that profits made in the financial sector account for an ever-greater share of profitability overall, made thanks to financial deregulation and growing household, consumer and student indebtedness. The banking bail-outs of 2008 highlighted the crucial role of the state in under-writing the financial sector, to allow for privatization of gains and socialization of losses. In place of profitable production, neoliberalism discovers sources of profit through expanding risk calculus into non-productive areas of social life, which can then be drawn into the financial economy. When it transpires that some of these risks cannot be handled by the private financial economy, they are transferred to the state. The complex neoliberal symbiosis between state and corporations (in this case, banks) attains a new form.
Secondly, the endurance of neoliberalism is itself a matter which requires explanation. The global financial crisis appears to have resulted in a strengthening, and not a weakening, of neoliberalism and the experts that propagate it. States appear even more committed to defending the interests of finance, against other political interests, and increasing the reach of finance into everyday life. Meanwhile, state borrowing is represented as the cause of the crisis, rather than the result, leading to further dismantling of social protections and public sector institutions.
On the other hand, the ideology, legitimacy or hegemony of neoliberalism, as a system dedicated to equal opportunity, enterprise and wealth-creation, is now far weaker than before the crisis. There is thus some debate as to whether neoliberalism is 'alive', 'dead' or in some paradoxical 'zombie' state.
- - Crouch, C. (2011). The Strange Non-Death of Neoliberalism. London: Polity
- - Davies, W. (2013). When is a Market Not a Market?: 'Exemption', 'externality' and 'exception' in the case of European State Aid rules. Theory Culture & Society. 30: 2. 32-59
- - Engelen, E. et al (2011). After the Great Complacence: Financial Crisis and the Politics of Reform. Oxford: Oxford University Press
- - Gamble, A. (2009). The Spectre at the Feast: Capitalist Crisis and the Politics of Recession. Basingstoke: Palgrave
- - Krippner, G. (2012). Capitalizing on Crisis: The Political Origins of the Rise of Finance. Cambridge: Harvard University Press
- - Mirowski, P. (2013). Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown. London: Verso
- - Peck, J. et al. (2010). Postneoliberalism and its Malcontents. Antipode. 41.
- - Streeck, W. (2011). The Crises of Democratic Capitalism. New Left Review. 71. Oct-Nov
William Davies is Assistant Professor at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies, University of Warwick (until March 2014) and Senior Lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London (from 7th April 2014). His research looks at the sociology and history of economic thought, and its influence over public policy-making. His book, The Limits of Neoliberalism: Authority, Sovereignty and the Logic of Competition is published by Sage (2014) in association with Theory Culture & Society. He is currently working on a second book on the history of Benthamite psychological measurement, to be published by Verso in 2015. His weblog is at www.potlatch.org.uk
Oct 19, 2014 : truth-out.org
"There is a lack of critical assessment of the past. But you have to understand that the current ruling elite is actually the old ruling elite. So they are incapable of a self-critical approach to the past."
Are they incapable, or merely unwilling? That is the credibility trap, the inability to address the key problems because the ruling elite must risk or even undermine their own undeserved power to do so.
I think this interview below highlights the false dichotomy between communism and free market capitalism that was created in the 1980's largely by Thatcher's and Reagan's handlers. The dichotomy was more properly between communist government and democracy, of the primacy of the individual over the primacy of the organization and the state as embodied in fascism and the real world implementations of communism in Russia and China.
But we never think of it that way any more, if at all. It is one of the greatest public relation coups in history. One form of organizational oppression by the Russian nomenklatura was replaced by the oppression by the oligarchs and their Corporations, in the name of freedom.
Free market capitalism, under the banner of the efficient markets hypothesis, has taken the place of democratic ideals as the primary good as embodied in the original framing of the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution.
It is no accident that the individual and their concerns have become subordinated to the corporate welfare and the profits of the upper one percent. We even see this in religion with the 'gospel of prosperity.' In their delusion they make friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, so that after they may be received into their everlasting habitations.
The market as the highest good has stood on the shoulders of the 'greed is good' philosophy promulgated by the pied pipers of the me generation, and has turned the Western democracies on their heads, as a series of political leaders have capitulated to this false idol of money as the measure of all things, and all virtue.
Policy is now crafted to maximize profits as an end to itself without regard to the overall impact on freedom and the public good. It measures 'costs' in the most narrow and biased of terms, and allocated wealth based on the subversion of good sense to false economy theories.
Greed is a portion of the will to power. And that madness serves none but itself.
This is a brief excerpt. You may read the entire interview here.Henry Giroux on the Rise of Neoliberalism
19 October 2014
By Michael Nevradakis, Truthout
"...We're talking about an ideology marked by the selling off of public goods to private interests; the attack on social provisions; the rise of the corporate state organized around privatization, free trade, and deregulation; the celebration of self interests over social needs; the celebration of profit-making as the essence of democracy coupled with the utterly reductionist notion that consumption is the only applicable form of citizenship.
But even more than that, it upholds the notion that the market serves as a model for structuring all social relations: not just the economy, but the governing of all of social life...
That's a key issue. I mean, this is a particular political and economic and social project that not only consolidates class power in the hands of the one percent, but operates off the assumption that economics can divorce itself from social costs, that it doesn't have to deal with matters of ethical and social responsibility, that these things get in the way.
And I think the consequences of these policies across the globe have caused massive suffering, misery, and the spread of a massive inequalities in wealth, power, and income. Moreover, increasingly, we are witnessing a number of people who are committing suicide because they have lost their pensions, jobs and dignity.
We see the attack on the welfare state; we see the privatization of public services, the dismantling of the connection between private issues and public problems, the selling off of state functions, deregulations, an unchecked emphasis on self-interest, the refusal to tax the rich, and really the redistribution of wealth from the middle and working classes to the ruling class, the elite class, what the Occupy movement called the one percent. It really has created a very bleak emotional and economic landscape for the 99 percent of the population throughout the world."
I think that as a mode of governance, it is really quite dreadful because it tends to produce identities, subjects and ways of life driven by a kind of "survival of the fittest" ethic, grounded in the notion of the free, possessive individual and committed to the right of individual and ruling groups to accrue wealth removed from matters of ethics and social cost.
"This is a particular political and economic and social project that not only consolidates class power in the hands of the one percent, but operates off the assumption that economics can divorce itself from social costs, that it doesn't have to deal with matters of ethical and social responsibility."
That's a key issue. I mean, this is a particular political and economic and social project that not only consolidates class power in the hands of the one percent, but operates off the assumption that economics can divorce itself from social costs, that it doesn't have to deal with matters of ethical and social responsibility, that these things get in the way. And I think the consequences of these policies across the globe have caused massive suffering, misery, and the spread of a massive inequalities in wealth, power, and income. Moreover, increasingly, we are witnessing a number of people who are committing suicide because they have lost their pensions, jobs and dignity. We see the attack on the welfare state; we see the privatization of public services, the dismantling of the connection between private issues and public problems, the selling off of state functions, deregulations, an unchecked emphasis on self-interest, the refusal to tax the rich, and really the redistribution of wealth from the middle and working classes to the ruling class, the elite class, what the Occupy movement called the one percent. It really has created a very bleak emotional and economic landscape for the 99 percent of the population throughout the world.
And having mentioned this impact on the social state and the 99%, would you go as far as to say that these ideologies have been the direct cause of the economic crisis the world is presently experiencing?
Oh, absolutely. I think when you look at the crisis in 2007, what are you looking at? You're looking at the merging of unchecked financial power and a pathological notion of greed that implemented banking policies and deregulated the financial world and allowed the financial elite, the one percent, to pursue a series of policies, particularly the selling of junk bonds and the illegality of what we call subprime mortgages to people who couldn't pay for them. This created a bubble and it exploded. This is directly related to the assumption that the market should drive all aspects of political, economic, and social life and that the ruling elite can exercise their ruthless power and financial tools in ways that defy accountability. And what we saw is that it failed, and it not only failed, but it caused an enormous amount of cruelty and hardship across the world. More importantly, it emerged from the crisis not only entirely unapologetic about what it did, but reinvented itself, particularly in the United States under the Rubin boys along with Larry Summers and others, by attempting to prevent any policies from being implemented that would have overturned this massively failed policy of deregulation.
It gets worse. In the aftermath of this sordid crisis produced by the banks and financial elite, we have also learned that the feudal politics of the rich was legitimated by the false notion that they were too big to fail, an irrational conceit that gave way to the notion that they were too big to jail, which is a more realistic measure of the criminogenic/zombie culture that nourishes casino capitalism.
September 17, 2013 | The Institute for New Economic ThinkingTrust is an essential part of a functioning economy, yet it is often one of the least understood variables in economics. That's why the Institute for New Economic Thinking is supporting the Thomson Reuters TRust index, which provides concrete metrics for understanding the level of trust in the financial system using a benchmark of the top 50 global financial institutions as a proxy for the sector as a whole.
While trust is difficult to understand and measure in the context of economics, this type of innovative work enables new and important conversations about trust and how it affects the economy. The Institute will be exploring this issue and the new economic thinking it facilitates In a series of essays over the next week. Stay tuned for more.
In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, distrust in the financial sector was widespread. Even after the mess appeared to be cleaned up, the uncertainty over whether the worst was over remained real.
But since that time, financial institutions have shored up their balance sheets as their earnings and capital cushions have improved and leverage ratios have shrunk. In short, banks today are safer than they were before the crash. So surely trust should have returned as the likelihood of systemic collapse declined.
That, however, does not appear to be the case, as is demonstrated by the persistent negative levels of trust shown by the Thomson Reuters TRust index.
Many people in the financial sector feel this distrust. But they aren't sure what to do about it. How can they win back the public's trust? Aren't record profits enough?
Apparently, there are some things that money can't buy.
Trust is an essential part of a functioning economy. It provides an antidote to the fundamental uncertainty that is part of any economic decision. Without trust, you would likely spend all of your energy and resources protecting yourself rather than working on productive activities.
For the financial sector, trust is especially important. Finance is the nerve center of our economy, and trust is an essential component of the financial system. As we saw in 2008, without trust and a properly functioning financial system the economy breaks down. If people don't trust in financial institutions, the entire economic system can be thrown out of balance.
This lack of trust leads to many dysfunctional symptoms. When people don't trust where to put their savings, they hoard cash, or commodities like gold, which reached its highest price in history in the aftermath the 2008 crisis. Similarly, when trust in the financial sector is low, corporations also are more likely to hoard cash and less likely to invest in expansion or hire new employees, leading to stagnant economic growth and persistent unemployment.
Despite the financial sector's economic resurgence, we are still dealing with these economic problems today. The situation is a reflection of the distrust the public still feels for our financial institutions.
After 2008, when so many banks were rescued the public rightly felt that it was owed systemic reform so it wouldn't be put in the position of having to rescue the financial sector again. And while there has been an increase in regulation with Dodd-Frank, none of the changes have addressed the fundamental issues underpinning the lasting distrust in the financial system. I'm talking about major obstacles such as too big to fail, derivatives regulation, and the revolving door between regulators and those they are supposed to regulate. Eric Holder's comment before the United States Senate in March of this year that some banks are simply too big to effectively prosecute suggests that the system is still very far out of balance.
So while profits have returned, if the financial sector wants to regain the public's trust, it needs to offer something more than earnings reports.
That's because of the persistent belief that the financial sector is functioning less like the nerve system of the economy and more like an autoimmune disease feeding on its host. This perception is not entirely unjustified. Large multinational banks have been forced to pay billions of dollars in fines for misdeeds leading up to and during the crisis. And yet fundamental change remains illusive in the industry. As Holder's comments suggest, the ungovernability of some of the most powerful entities in our society is a big barrier to reestablishing trust in our financial system.
While some in the financial sector may profess dismay at this state of affairs, most of the leaders of behemoth banks have shown themselves more eager to coerce the process rather than agreeing to necessary reform.
For example, consider the way underwater mortgage holders were treated when the housing market collapsed. After already being bailed out by the public, the banks preached forbearance in mortgage markets because of their still-fragile balance sheets. Yet, at the same time these same banks still were offering their employees sizeable bonuses, even though the hole in the mortgage market could have been substantially reduced by the more than $100 billion these firms handed out over the last five years.
If our society had operated under a different set of priorities and required banks to put these funds into helping underwater borrowers instead of toward bonuses for many of the same people who helped sink the system in 2008, the hole in the mortgage market would no longer exist, there would be no need for forbearance, and our economy would be in much better shape. But that's not what happened.
As long as this Wall Street versus Main Street dynamic persists, so too will the belief that the financial sector plays by a different set of rules, rules tilted in their favor at the expense of the rest of us.
In order to regain the public's trust, the financial sector must show itself willing to take meaningful steps to address this concern. It must show the public that it is worthy of its trust by accepting meaningful reform for the good of our society. Until that happens, all of the profits and equity financing in the world won't win back the kind of trust that is essential for the financial sector to serve its role at the center of our economy.
This situation isn't "heads I win, tails you lose." In this scenario, we all lose. Persistent anger and mistrust cannot be good for anyone. We can do better.
October 21, 2014 | seva-riga.livejournal.com
Neoliberal dogma is consistent only in rabid Russophobia. In all other respects they are, as in the joke: Q: How much will be 2 x 2 ? A: Well, what you want. We can make it from anywhere from 3 to 5...
Here's an example how it looks like a dispute with normal, sane blogger, who is writing under the nick - voronkov_kirill whose position is close to the positions staunch neoliberals:
- What is happening now with oil is called "short squeeze". And market mechanisms are not involved. Oil depreciates against the logic of the market, " says Cyril.
But wait a minute, I replied, there are two ways of pricing:
- Market price inherent in democratic countries with "free market"
- Administrative inherent in the totalitarian countries without the latter
Do I understand correctly that the countries that define the price of oil and the price of the ruble, are mostly totalitarian?
"No, not right. Well, absolute market, as well as absolute democracy does not exist. The market is "free" only for small players. Big players with serious financial or political-administrative levers, can influence "free market" and even control the price....
Here is everything you need to know about neoliberalism. And about so called "free market". Here Voltaire equality of free individuals. Here's to you and all the liberal government non-intervention in private Affairs. There is a "small players" and there are agents that can (I wonder by what right?) this element of control.
Unfortunately neoliberal thinking is not capable of a simple two-step, otherwise it inevitably would come to the conclusion that the absence of free competition in the economy will lead to the same state as in politics, where free competition of ideas and authorities only for small players, but not for TBTF -- like top government and industrial leaders. That is all about this now fashionable word "corruption"
In 1988 one stubborn Communist (then he is the same stubborn nationalist (Latvia-forever), and now no less staunch euro-emigrant ) promised to shoot me, because I argued that there were no socialism in the USSR and the economic system was not consistent with the fundamental principle of socialism is "from each according to his ability - to each according to his work"
Now here's the same thing with the market, with competition, with democracy. In reality like in case with the pregnancy market is iether free or not. If the corruption rules in the "real" market but illusions are force fed like in Guantanamo, sooner or later you will get full totalitarianism and with it total corruption. This is where slowly but inexorably the West moves, and with it anyone who tries to copy the Western model of the neoliberal economy. to this stable state called total corruption.
Yesterday Politico promoted a story about "Putin's Coup written by junior neocon Ben Judah. The lede:The war in Ukraine is no longer only about Ukraine. The conflict has transformed Russia. This increasingly is what European leaders and diplomats believe: that Vladimir Putin and his security establishment have used the fog of war in Ukraine to shroud the final establishment of his brittle imperialist dictatorship in Moscow.
Among those who believe that this is happening, and that Europe will be facing down a more menacing Russia for a long time to come, is Radek Sikorski, who was Poland's foreign minister from 2007 until September.
Anything that starts off by calling the elected government of the Russian Federation an "imperialist dictatorship" is obviously rubbish.
But the hard right-wing Radek Sikorski, who ones had a U.S. passport and is married to the neocon Washington Post columnist Anne Appelbaum, always makes some funny jokes like identifying Obama's grandfather as a cannibal so I read on.
And I was right, there were some really funny lines in there:Russia has attempted to involve Poland in the invasion of Ukraine, just as if it were a post-modern re-run of the historic partitions of Poland. "He wanted us to become participants in this partition of Ukraine," says Sikorski. "Putin wants Poland to commit troops to Ukraine. These were the signals they sent us. … We have known how they think for years. We have known this is what they think for years. This was one of the first things that Putin said to my prime minister, Donald Tusk, [soon to be President of the European Council] when he visited Moscow. He went on to say Ukraine is an artificial country and that Lwow is a Polish city and why don't we just sort it out together. Luckily Tusk didn't answer. He knew he was being recorded."
So Russia was planning, in 2008, to divide Ukraine between Poland and itself? Why the hell should or would Russia ever take up such a burden? Why should it create a mess in Eastern Europe which would be against all its interests? Anyone who has intelligently watched Putin and Russian politics would immediately recognize that Sikorski's claim is obviously false. Putin does realpolitik, always and ever. He reacts when Russia gets attacked, by Georgia's artillery on Russian peacekeepers or by a U.S. plotted neonazi coup in Kiev, but he is certainly not one who will risk anything significant for some lunatic imperial phantasy.
Whoever came up with that funny joke must have had way too many drinks. And the reporter who believed it and the editor who published it must have way too few braincells.
Reuters though thought differently, or just for fun wanted to stir the caldron, and distributed the nonsense on its wire.
Following that wire, Russia characterized the claim as "a fable" and Sikorski was pressed to take it back. That did not go well either:In a news conference on Tuesday, Sikorski was vague about whether he made those exact remarks to Politico Magazine and told journalists to refer to another interview he gave to a Polish media website. He said there that he didn't hear Putin's words firsthand, but stressed that they were treated in 2008 as "surrealistic" or a joke.
Later in the day, he held a second news conference where he said his memory had failed him in the interview with Politico Magazine and that the bilateral meeting between Tusk and Putin didn't take place in Moscow, as he said earlier, but at the NATO summit in Bucharest in April 2008.
So Sikorski said:
- "Putin suggested to Tusk to divide Ukraine between themselves."
- "Putin suggested to Tusk to divide Ukraine between themselves, but it was a joke."
- "Putin suggested to Tusk to divide Ukraine between themselves, but I wasn't present at the conservation."
- "No such conservation took place and I certainly was not present when it happened."
Sikorski even got the place of Putin-Tusk meeting wrong. The Politico author and editors, Blake Hounshell in this case, obviously did not even do a basic fact-checking of their sources claims.
Sikorski is nuts. Everyone in Europe knows this and that is exactly the reason why he was recently fired as Foreign Minister of Poland and reassigned to play Speaker of Parliament where one had hoped that he would produce less nonsense. As that reassignment did not help it is now really time to send him off to the American Enterprise Institute or some other asylum for neoconned lunatics. His boss seems to agree:Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz, who's in the same party as Sikorski, criticized him for dodging reporters' questions on the issue at the first conference. Political opponents want him fired, saying there is no room in politics for what they called irresponsibility.
Kopacz said she expected Sikorski to directly answer reporters' questions.
"I will not tolerate this kind of behavior. I will not tolerate this kind of standards that Speaker Sikorski tried to present at today's (news) conference," Kopacz said.
Note to reporters and editors: Publishing such nonsense like Sikorski's obviously rubbish claims is egg on your faces. Lots of it.Oui | Oct 21, 2014 3:38:59 PM | 1james | Oct 21, 2014 3:59:21 PM | 2
.. who once had a U.S. passport.
He held a British passport, worked as a "roving reporter" for National Reniew in Angola on the UNITA project with neocons like Condi Rice, Abramoff and Gingrich; witnessed the first Stinger missiles handed to mujihadeen in Tora Bora; worked for AEI and the Atlantic Initiative; pushed the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, was defense minister and FM in Poland and is married to Anne Applebaum.
○ National Review reporter Sikorski as witness to US Congress: The Mystique of Savimbi | Oct. 12, 1989 |
○ Radek Sikorski Returns to Ukraine's Headlines: Putin's Coup
this guy should get a gig working with the usa state dept.. oh wait - i guess he indirectly does in a weird sort of way thru his bozo propagandist wife annie applepants..great couple.. i take it they live in the usa, right?
Oui | Oct 21, 2014 4:00:58 PM | 3Nana2007 | Oct 21, 2014 4:09:06 PM | 4
We don't have Faux News, however the public news broadcast treats the Dutch with "neutral" observers on Ukraine and Putin's Russia with Ben Judah and Anne Applebaum.Anonymous | Oct 21, 2014 4:15:31 PM | 5
It's sad to think that the great experiment in democracy that is the US has devolved into 'making it up as we go along'' and a core belief in ignorance. The US at it's inception was bankrolled by Russian trade and diplomacy, so I guess it would be fitting if it be undermined by the same. With senility spreading among even the junior elite quicker than Ebola, the words 'We will bury you' are looking more prescient by the day.Hugo First | Oct 21, 2014 4:24:47 PM | 6
Here he is..
http://freepl.info/uploads/foto/2011/08/radek_sikorski_w_afganistanie.jpgsomebody | Oct 21, 2014 4:28:49 PM | 7
The initial claim goes out, is picked up on the wire, and after that all the retractions and controversy are quickly lost in the shuffle as more scurrilous claims are stuffed into the slobbering maw of gullible "news" consumers. This is how the game is played, and it is cynical and insults the intelligence of anyone able to recall what was said or done last week, but it reminds me of people who drive while their attention is focused on their ongoing cellphone conversation: they barely know what's going on around them, and forget about what they've driven past.Don Bacon | Oct 21, 2014 4:52:37 PM | 9
It is an old idea - last being floated in MarchReuters) - A prominent Russian politician has proposed dividing Ukraine along the lines of an infamous Nazi-Soviet pact and suggested that regions in Western Ukraine hold referendums on breaking away from Kiev.
In a letter sent to the governments of Poland, Romania and Hungary, Vladimir Zhirinovsky also suggested those countries hold referendums on incorporating the regions into their territory.
Zhirinovsky, whose nationalist Liberal Democratic party largely backs President Vladimir Putin in the Russian parliament, sent the letter as Russia annexed the Crimea region of southern Ukraine last week.
He is deputy speaker at the Duma and his party holds a minority in the parliament. But his ideas and language resonate with a large part of the Russian population and the Kremlin's increasingly pro-nationalist rhetoric.
His letter, seen by Reuters, suggested Poland, Hungary and Romania, who are now in the European Union, might wish to take back regions which he said were in the past their territories.
The regions were incorporated into Ukraine when it was part of the Soviet Union at the end of World War Two and featured in a secret annex of the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact under which the Soviet and Nazi German foreign ministers carved up the area.
The politics of this are beyond my understanding. But Reuters considering it news in March - and straining the news to implicate Putin - presumably was supposed to embarrass Germany by referencing the Hitler Stalin pact, which actually was something completely different.
Sikorski spreading the rumour is crazy. I suspect a lot of people threaten to wash dirty linen just now when Europe is supposed to pay for Ukraine's gas and Poland's activities in Ukraine could be part of it.
I guess it is due to the negotiations process. Ukraine's position does not look good. Talking of the Polish partition does nothing to improve it.
There seems a lot of hard bargaining going on - the United States suddenly sanction Hungarian.
...Reuters considering it news in March...
"News" ain't what it used to be, if it ever was. Only a small part of Reuters is news, most of it is financials. Same with Bloomberg and Wall Street Journal, etc. (Reuters and Bloomberg are particularly helpful in promoting stock activity when the place the ticker symbol after the corporate name in "news" articles.)
wiki--Reuters Group plc was a British multinational media and financial information company headquartered in London, United Kingdom. It merged with The Thomson Corporation in 2008, forming Thomson Reuters. Reuters Group was best known for the Reuters news agency, which was the original business of the company. By the time of its merger with Thomson the bulk of Reuters Group's revenues came from the provision of financial market data, with news reporting comprising less than 10% of its turnover.
Look at the Reuters news header to get an idea of Reuters' priorities:
So what was the financial benefit to Reuters with this bogus "news?" I don't know, but I bet they knew.
Michal | Oct 21, 2014 4:56:35 PM | 10Kopacz is not his boss. Actually the Speaker of Parliament is a higher rank than Prime Minister, or at least parallel in constitutional hierarchy. She might be considered his boss within the party but still she's not the one who decides there.
Anyway, being Polish, I'm happy that this utter idiot is not representing my country abroad anymore. I hope after this incident he will be flushed down the toilet. Pity that in politics shit often resurfaces.
Almand | Oct 21, 2014 4:57:00 PM | 11
Sikorski maybe a loose cannon, but isn't some partition of the Ukraine an inevitabilty? Eastern Ukraine has no reason to ever trust the coup government again, and reconciliation doesn't seem to be an option anymore. Neither the EU nor Russia wants the responsibility of propping up the rapidly failing state (to say nothing of the gas bill owed Russia).
Regardless, the idea that Russia would want a new border region full of hostile Ukrainians inside a hostile, NATO member Poland seems a touch... absurd. Then again, what's the need for logic when dredging up bad memories of WW2?
2014/10/19 | Sociología crítica
Danos tu opinión
Un amable lector de este blog ha realizado un resumen en inglés de nuestro artículo Las catedrales del kremlin y el capitalismo multipolar; es un resumen diferente al que nosotros hubiéramos hecho, pero de interés sin duda alguna. Ha sido publicado como apoyo a una pregunta en un coloquio con el economista ruso Mikhail Khazin organizado por The vineyard of the saker. Publicaremos aquí la respuesta.
Question: Does Russia represent an alternative to the current western economic/social model? Or is this view an illusion based only on the conflict between some traditional vs. post-modern values? / Arturo
For context to the question I will provide a translation / paraphrase / summary of some key points in the following article Las catedrales del kremlin y el capitalismo multipolar
The article contains and numbers many more points (36 in total) but I have translated/summarized only the first 14 (the rest is provided is a very raw translation --NNB)
- Moscow cannot defeat the American plans – i.e. the Anglo Zionist world elite – without contradicting the class interests of its own elites (Russian oligarchs): This is impossible because the system of sanctions and the blocking of access to their accounts and assets in the West generates such contradictions in the Russian power elites that, in practice, it prevents them from reacting adequately; it puts them on their knees before the American plans.
- Russia *could* resist those plans, since it possesses the strength, sense of identity, historical memory and material resources to do so. But in order to do so, its ruling elites would have to take measures that would affect their own class status within both the Russian system and the international system. And we can see that these are measures they are not willing to take. On the other hand, the Anglo Zionists suffer no such internal contradiction. Quite the opposite, in fact: Their own interest as the supporting base of the globalist hyperclass necessarily forces them to maintain the challenge to the end.
- By the term Anglo Zionists, in this analysis, we mean the dominant power group whose territorial and military base resides in the United States, and whose center originates in the historical and social links of the Anglo-American oligarchies, branching off to other historical central metropolis in Europe or other power centers in different parts of the world.
- The concept is made up of two elements that must be explained: the first, the "anglo" reference, has to do with the North American British connection [...] the second, the "zionist" reference, has to do with the interconnection among the economic and financial power groups that maintain various kinds of links with Israel. It is not so much a reference to ethnic origin, but rather to orientations as groups or lobbies of political and economic interests. A good part of this Zionist component consists of people who are neither Israelis nor Jews, but who feel identified with the pro-Israel lobby in the United States, Britain and other countries. Thus the term "zionist" referees here to an ideology, not to an ethnic origin.
- The Anglo elites on both sides of the Atlantic have evolved from being national elites to being the executive base of a world Hyperclass made up of individuals capable of exerting a determining influence in the most powerful nation, the United States.
- The result of the Anglo Zionist line of attack is that the contradiction and internal struggle is now occurring in Moscow between those who have already chosen to sell out and those who have not yet found the time to realize that a multipolar global capitalism is not viable.
- In this context, recovering Crimea was a mirage, an illusion.
- If we compare the implications of the Maidan coup in Kiev with the liberation of Crimea, we see that the strategic defeat implicit in losing Ukraine as an ally is of such magnitude that everything else pales by co s (all of them) in Kiev was so gigantic that its implications are frightening. It was either a failure or something even worse. In any case, the Crimea affair was merely a small episode in a confrontation that Russia is losing.
- Russia arrived very late at modern capitalism, and that is why its current elite will be unable to occupy a space among the globalist elite without paying the necessary toll, which is none other than renouncing its territorial power base – its country and its access to and control of its energy resources and raw materials.
- Stubbornly maintaining the dispute in trying to obtain a multi-polar capitalism, leads necessarily to a intra-capitalist confrontation, as it did in 1914-1918. And because of the nature of the current actors, nuclear powers … it brings the conflict to 2.0 war versions (color revolutions)
- All attempts by Russia to develop a hypothetical line of response based on similar strategies (i.e. mobilizing a social response based on discontent) have no future, because Russia does not represent an alternative social model, not even in the realm of Illusion of Hope. It can only elicit some empathy from those who reject the American domination, but here the class contradictions come into play again, because it is not enough to oppose Washington merely on political-military grounds, since the key to global power resides in the financial and military structures that enable global control and plunder: World Trade Organization, IMF, Free Trade agreements, World Bank, NATO… these are entities in relation to which Russia only shows its displeasure at not being invited to the table as an equal, not accepting that because it arrived late at modern capitalism, it must play a secondary role. On the other hand, Russia is ignoring the deep contempt, bordering on racism, that things Slavic generate among Anglo Zionist elites.
- In order to be able to fight the 2.0 versions of war that are engineered today, an alternative social model is needed. Alternative not only in regard to the postmodern vs. traditional sets of values, but fundamentally in regard to the social model that stems from the modes of production. In the postmodern vs. traditional conflict, Russia tends to align with the most reactionary values. And in regard to the social struggle, they don't want to enter that fray because they renounced it long ago. They renounced the entire Soviet Union, which they destroyed from within.
- The contradictions and the dialectical nature of reality have their own logic, however. Thus, a coup in Kiev and the widespread appearance of Nazi symbols in the streets of Ukraine was all that it took to induce a spontaneous reaction in the Slavic world. The popular resistance in the Donbass took strong root thanks to the historic memory of the people's of the old USSR and its war against fascism.
- If Russia were to abandon Novorossia to the oligarchs and their mafias, the world's "left" – or whatever remains of it - would come to scorn post-Soviet Russia even more than it already does. In the months following the brave action in Crimea and the heroic resistance in the Donbass, many people around the world looked to Moscow in search of some sign that it would support the anti-fascist and anti-oligarchic resistance, even if only as an act of self-defense by Moscow against the globalist challenge. If it finally abandons Novorossia, the price in terms of loss of moral prestige will be absolute.
- A support of the left has not been sought, but that is a collateral consequence of the character of class struggle open that has been given in the Donbas, where Russia has been forced to provide some assistance that would prevent the genocide at the hands of the fascist Ukrainian.
- Cuando say left, we refer logically to the one who has expressed their support to the struggle of people in the Donbas, as it is very difficult to consider the "left" to those who have preferred to remain silent or to have directly been complicit in the assault, and the coup in Kiev.
- The degradation of the left as politically active social force is very intense, their structures are embroiled in the collapse, or in the confusion, when not literally corrupt. Then related to both socialist parties since 1914 and the communists, at least from the time of fracture of 1956. The social changes experienced in Europe with the systems of welfare state, based on the elevation of the standard of living of the working population and the obtaining of social peace by sharing the power with the trade unions are at the base of the post-industrial society and the resulting profound changes of values.
The suicide of the USSR in 1989-93 marked a brutal global change , in which the balance which was preserved during the cold war was broken. That led to the capitalist elite in the west, which we are calling the Anglo-Zionists, to the suspension of the social pact (forced abandonment of New Deal), that gave rise to the welfare state and the emergence stark reality of a global power of capitalists without systemic opposition . Today the whole neoliberal globalization system of capitalism is in danger by the depletion of the natural resources. And to sustain this mode of production, they need to speed up territorial domination in the form of control and access to resources of other countries. Now there no space in the global system for spaces, which are managed autonomously even to a certain level.
- The system of global domination, capitalism, ruling elites with a territorial basis in the area of Anglo-American, global parasitic Hyperclass and depletion of resources, as well as cannibalization of the other nations, in the midst of troika of crisis of climate change, peak of the energy and raw materials shortages. those three factors that challenge the current globalization framework ... And the crisis of Novorossia, been demonstrated both impotence and the lack of real political autonomy of Russian elite with the respect to the dominant power in neoliberal worlds order..
- The new citizen movements in the western world are not so much resistance movements as samples of the discontent of the middle classes in precarious position of marginalization and/or social trance. This protest led to a "Maidans" which are not permanent and does not question the basis of the system. The participants seems to believe that it is possible to restore the old good world of the welfare state.
- The western movements are brainwashed by messages emanating from the headquarters of Democratic party of North America, the propaganda anarcho-capitalist and the various networks of ideological interference, are managing to break the bonds of historical memory that unite the struggles of the past with the present, de-ideologize the struggles and conflicts and to deny the tension left and right, isolating the militants -- or simple citizens who feel identified with the values of the left - of the masses who are suffering in the first place casualisation. At the heart of this new "left" are leaders that are co-opted voices, pseudo-intellectuals who destroy the words and empty of content of key concepts in a way that the alienation of the masses demonstrate at the language itself, thus preventing putting a real name to social process and things, and to identify the social phenomena.
- Viva to Russia, which the only country which eve in a weak form decided to fight neoliberal world order and position itself as an anti-imperialist force... It is interesting to observe the current great moral confusion in political landscape of the societies in decay. Confusion which have been stimulated by Moscow actions. As the result some the far-right groups that are simultaneously anti-US that anti-Russian now support Moscow. Also some part of Russia far-right political groups got the sympathy and support of factions of the anti EU far right forces in France, the Nazis of the MSR in Spain, and from small groups of euro-asianists. This line of political affiliation will allow them to simply join the Russia failure [to find alternative to monopolar neoliberal capitalism] and might well discredit then more profoundly in the future.
- The euro-asianists forces technically speaking are reactionary forces, neoliberal forces which is comparable to the worst of the worst in the western world. Moreover, they do not have any way to solve the main contradictions that arise in the current neoliberal model in the terms of class and dominance of Anglo Zionist global elite.
- Euro-Asianism is just a suitable ideology for the construction of Russian national idea for those who seeks to achieve lease to life for Russia sovereignty on the world stage. It is the actual proof that Russia has come too late to globalised capitalism and fascism...
- Huttington and his war of civilizations cynically exploit this confrontation on Anglo Zionist elite and newcomers, redefining it along the idea of the clash of civilizations which avoid using the notion of class and thus is ideologically false. Alexander Duguin who promote similar ideas quite seriously just shows the degree of degeneration of the Russian intelligentsia, which oscillates between serving as comprador class to the global Anglo Zionist elite and the repetition (as a farce, and with 75 years of delay ) of fascist reactionary revolutions in Western Europe, which were phenomenon of the interwar period (rexistas in Belgium, Croix de feu in France, CruzFlechados in Hungary, Requetés and Falangistas in Spain).
- The globalist elite offered a solution formulated in class terms, as it could not be another way: in the best cases, they proposes the co-optation to a handful of members of the Russian elite as deserving members of the new global Hyperclass, but this path is opened only the very very rich, and the pre-condition is the delivery of the country to plunder, where the global elite certainly would have need of some compradors which will be more or less adequately compensated depending on their achievements and sacrifices in the name of global neoliberal domination.
- The part of the power elite of Russia, which managed to expel the western compradors of the Yeltsin era, and rein in the oligarchs then, had tried with some success to regain control of the territory of the country. The illusion of the members of this part of the power elite -- basically the security services, both civil and military, and various synergies of those with the military-industrial lobby -- is that it would be enough to neutralize the Russian fifth column of the Anglo Zionists to take back control of their territorial base of power. this idea is going to be shredded into pieces when it enter into contradiction with the reality of the class struggle and interests of the elite at the global level. Russia is, for its size, influence, and resources, so huge that a line of action based on the defense of its sovereignty strategic enters in collision with the global power of neoliberalism. And that why it attracts disproportional reaction of the Anglo Zionists
- Supporters of Anglo Zionists that are ready to consent to a German-Russian alliance or Russia-EU alliance that give the viability of a idea of mutually beneficial co-development of both Russia and Europe are forgetting that such an action would require European sovereignty. Which is was non-existent iether on the level of the EU, or on the level of member states. The penetration of the Atlantism in Europe is already systemic. In the old European states there are still ancient national traditions, which were based on the basis of cultural, industrial, economic, and political identity. And they still run strong. But in the current situation for such states there no space for the sovereignty as the dominant power bloc in the national elite as well as in EU elite are Atlantists. Where this situation takes the Russian elite and the Russian state without confrontation? A confrontation that they, on the other hand are not willing and are not able to pursue.
- The multi-polar capitalist world had its lifespan which come to an end (exploded) in 1914. In 2014, the globalization of the elites and the capital is of such magnitude that no serious resistance is possible on the basis of some capitalist model. In those conditions the idea of Russian elite ability to enforce change to multipolar version of the currently monopolar neoliberal world is doomed to be a failure.
- Zbigniew Brezinsky has raised things crudely and openly, unlike the ("fake") supporters of perestroika, and their current heirs in Russia. Brezinsky know how to think in terms of the class contradiction and knows perfectly well that the Russian oligarchy has directed its monetary flows abroad, moved families abroad, and moved their investments abroad. That means that Anglo Zionists can disrupt any claim of sovereignty over the territory and resources by simply pressing the local neoliberal elite, giving them to choose between their interests as a class and their illusionary desire for sovereignty. Because in a globalized world, with its brutal fight for the natural resources there is no possibility of maintaining both, except what can be achieved in terms of direct anti-imperialist struggle. There is no space for the national bourgeoisies in the XXI century. You can only have sovereignty if it is posed in terms of a rupture with the actually existing neoliberal order of global capitalism, which, in its core is Anglo Zionists globalization. This break does not have to be forced, but in terms of scientific analysis of the social processes is a logical consequence of following this path one way or the other. To claim sovereignty over their own resources and territory inevitably leads to confrontation, and logical needs a break up and confront the Anglo Zionist empire. If you really want to achieve the goal. And that fact imposes the logic of the relationships and balance of power in the world today.
- The claims of the BRIC countries -- to the extent that you do not question them -- is that they have an alternative model to the dominant neoliberal capitalism model (Ango Zionist globalization with the center in the USA) are doomed to be a failure. The efforts of the BRIC countries can generate a lot of noise and discomfort for the West, but they can not break the global neoliberal system. Those countries are rightfully fearful of their budget balances -- which are very fragile. It can be even said that they are on their way to implosion sooner or later, due to the unbalanced structure of their internal classes, including first of all their own elite.
- The claim that it is possible to achieve the multipolar capitalist world (which Russia defends) and which led to current Ukrainian crisis without confrontation is false. As soon as Russia wanted to return to the global chessboard. as an independent player, they instantly saw opponents attacking weak elements of their defense at the borders. Ukraine has been a defeat for Russia and the Crimea is not a adequate compensation for loss of Ukraine. Now Novorossia is being sacrificed precisely because the class contradictions that have emerged in Moscow and lack of desire of Russian elite to go the bitter end.
- The situation in the Donbas / Novorossia clearly shows the resignation of Moscow to the victory, and their desire to avoid the clash with neoliberal world order. The fact is that Royal Dutch Shell has already begun the fracking in the Donbas, the coup regime in Kiev are already internationally accepted without reservations, the truce imposed in Novorossia has brought to its knees the armed resistance to junta. All this leads way to deliver Novorossia to the hands of mafias sponsored by the local oligarchs with friends in Kiev and Moscow.
- Statement that the destiny of Russia was played in the Donbas is something more than a phrase, It is a claim based on a reality, as the defeat of Novorossia would be the proof that Moscow had not the will to struggle. The betrayal of the fighters and the hopes of Novorossia is the acceptance of the defeat and might lead in the future to the victory to the Moscow Maidan, the same alliance of compradors and nationalists using which as storm troopers the globalist elite achieved their goal in Ukraine. If Novorossia is defeated, they can expect being able to push a puppet into the Kremlin the same way. And not without reason. This summer, the heroic struggle of the militia of the Donbas was the key element that forced the changes of the script designed for Kiev as well as diminished chances of successful application of the same methods in Moscow. The Minsk Agreements and the truce imposed by them are putting Novorossia on its knees, allowing for its destruction, but this time at the hands of their allies. Sad spectacle for the Russian security services, which were effective enough to organize the Donbas resistance, but now are useless and powerless before the neofascist Kiev junta.
- The struggle of the Donbas does not correspond to the strategic interests of the Russian elite. They have been forced to intervene to prevent the horror of the mass murder of the population of the Donbas at the hands of the extreme right. But the dream of a Donbas free of oligarchs and with a sovereign state, committed to social justice for workers on this Slavic land are completely incompatible with the post-soviet status quo. Only to the extent that there is a significant faction of Russian elite aware of the contradictions of the global neoliberal game and who put their sense of patriotism first can lead them to face the challenge that they face. Only in this case there would be any possibility of resistance; I would say patriotic resistance, because we already know no one at the top is able to think in terms of class.
- While very unlikely - there can be a move from February to October in Novorossia. You would say impossible. But he insurrection of the Donbas in March, logically was "February". In order to achieve victory, to take full control over the territory of Donetsk and Lugansk needs creation of the Revolutionary Military Council and suspension of the upcoming elections. which looking to be a smokescreen for capitulation to junta. They need to declare that they are ready to resist to the end. This output would be desperate move, without a doubt, and would represent the equivalent of a new "October". The event which of it occurs would force Moscow to show their cards to their own population. And perhaps it can help to generate a pulse necessary for the organization of the fight with Anglo Zionists empire between the towers of the Kremlin. That would move the fight toward more patriotic and popular goals, But this presuppose a lot of assumptions and first of all that such a "Kremlin tower", which is capable of emitted such a pulse, exists. Only in this case we can talk about achieving a real sovereignty. As Vasily Záitsev in Stalingrad suggested: "Maybe we're doomed, but for the moment we are still the masters and lords of our land." In Novorossia there are plenty of fighters who would agree with Záitsev, but they certainly lack political direction and, now the lack the support of Kremlin.
- The Russian objective is achieving a multipolar capitalism with a Russia united under a nationalist ideology based on the manipulation of patriotic sentiment, Orthodoxy and various Slavic myths. This objective is being challenged by the reality of the conflict, which should be defined in terms of geopolitical goals. The reality is that the Russian elite would be allowed to control their population as they wish, provided they renounce its sovereignty over territory and resources, renounce their physical power base, i.e. homeland. This is the nature of the challenge. Putin is mistaken if he thinks that the Grand Patriarch has the answer in their holy books. There is not enough incense in the Kremlin cathedrals to mask that reality."
Sep 27, 2014 | mid.ru
...There is growing evidence of the contradiction between the need for collective, cooperative efforts to provide adequate responses to challenges common to all, and the aspirations of a number of countries for domination and the revival of archaic bloc thinking based on military drill discipline and the erroneous logic of "friend or foe."
The US-led Western alliance that portrays itself as a champion of democracy, rule of law and human rights within individual countries，acts from a completely opposite position in the international arena, rejecting the democratic principle of the sovereign equality of states enshrined in the UN Charter and tires to decide for everyone what is good or bad.
Washington has openly declared its right to the unilateral use of force anywhere to uphold its own interests. Military interference has become common, even despite the dismal outcome of the use of power that the US has carried out in recent years.
The sustainability of the international system has been severely shaken by NATO bombardment of Yugoslavia, intervention in Iraq, the attack against Libya and the failure of the operation in Afghanistan. Thanks only to intensive diplomatic efforts, an aggression against Syria was averted in 2013. There is the involuntary impression that the goal of various "colour revolutions" and other goals to change unsuitable regimes is to provoke chaos and instability.
Today, Ukraine has fallen victim to such an arrogant policy. The situation there has revealed the remaining deep-rooted systemic flaws of the existing architecture in the Euro-Atlantic area. The West has embarked upon a course towards "the vertical structuring of humanity" tailored to its own hardly inoffensive standards. After they declared victory in the Cold War and the "end of history," the US and the EU opted for expanding the geopolitical area under their control without taking into account the balance of legitimate interests of all the people of Europe. Our Western partners did not heed our numerous alerts on the unacceptability of the violation of the principles of the UN Charter and the Helsinki Final Act, and time and again avoided serious cooperative work to establish a common space of equal and indivisible security and cooperation from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The Russian proposal to draft a European security treaty was rejected. We were told directly that only the members of the North Atlantic Alliance could have the legally binding guarantees of security, and NATO expansion to the East continued in spite of the promises to the contrary given previously. NATO's change toward hostile rhetoric and to the drawdown of its cooperation with Russia even to the detriment of the West's own interests, and the additional build-up of the military infrastructure at Russian borders made the inability of the alliance to change its genetic code embedded during the Cold War era obvious.
The US and the EU supported the coup in Ukraine and reverted to outright justification of any act by the self-proclaimed Kiev authorities that used suppression by force on the part of the Ukrainian people that had rejected the attempts to impose an anti-constitutional way of life to the entire country and wanted to defend its rights to a native language, culture and history. It was precisely the aggressive assault on these rights that compelled the population of Crimea to take destiny into its own hands and make a choice in favor of self-determination. This was an absolutely free choice no matter what has been invented by those who were, in the first place, responsible for the internal conflict in Ukraine.
The attempts to distort the truth and to hide the facts behind blanket accusations have been undertaken at all stages of the Ukrainian crisis. Nothing has been done to track down and prosecute those responsible for February's bloody events at Maidan and the massive loss of human life in Odessa, Mariupol and other regions in Ukraine. The scale of appalling humanitarian disaster provoked by the acts of the Ukrainian army in southeastern Ukraine has been deliberately underscored. Recently, new horrible facts have been brought to light as mass graves were discovered in the outskirts of Donetsk. Despite UNSC Resolution 2166 a thorough and independent investigation of the circumstances into the loss of the Malaysian airliner over the territory of Ukraine has been protracted. The culprits of all these crimes must be identified and brought to justice. Otherwise it is unrealistic to expect a national reconciliation in Ukraine.
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Let me recall the not too distant past. As a condition for establishing diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union in 1933 the U.S. government demanded of Moscow the guarantees of non-interference in the domestic affairs of the US and obligations not to take any actions with a view to changing political or social order in America. At that time Washington feared a revolutionary virus and the above guarantees were put on record and were based on reciprocity. Perhaps, it makes sense to return to this item and reproduce that demand of the US government on a universal scale. Shouldn't the General Assembly adopt a declaration on the unacceptability of interference into the domestic affairs of sovereign states and non-recognition of a coup as a method for changing power? The time has come to exclude from international interaction the attempts of illegitimate pressure of some states on others. The meaningless and counterproductive nature of unilateral sanctions is obvious if we review the US blockade of Cuba.
The policy of ultimatums and philosophy of supremacy and domination do not meet the requirements of the 21st century and run counter to the objective process of development for a polycentric and democratic world order.
Russia is promoting a positive and unifying agenda. We always were and will be open to discussion of the most complex issues no matter how unsolvable they would seem in the beginning. We will be prepared to search for compromises and the balancing of interests and go as far as to exchange concessions provided only that the discussion is respectful and equal.
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New dividing lines in Europe should not be allowed, even more so given that under globalization these lines can turn into a watershed between the West and the rest of the world. It should be stated honestly that no one has a monopoly on truth and that no one can tailor global and regional processes to one's own needs. There is no alternative today to the development of consensus regarding the rules of sustainable global governance under new historical circumstances - with full respect for cultural and civilizational diversity in the world and the multiplicity of the models of development. It will be a difficult and perhaps tiresome task to achieve such a consensus on every issue. Nevertheless the recognition of the fact that democracy in every state is the "worst form of government, except for all the others" also took time to break through, until Winston Churchill passed his verdict. The time has come to realize the inevitability of this axiom including in international affairs where today there is a huge deficit of democracy. Of course someone will have to break up centuries-old stereotypes and abandon the claims to eternal uniqueness. But there is no other way. Consolidated efforts can only be built on the principles of mutual respect and by taking into account the interests of each other as is the case, for example, under the framework of BRICS and the SCO, the G20 and the UN Security Council.
The theory of the advantages of cooperative action has been supported by practice: this includes progress in the settlement of the situation around the Iranian nuclear program and the successful conclusion of the chemical demilitarization of Syria. Also, regarding the issue of chemical weapons, we would like to obtain authentic information on the condition of the chemical arsenals in Libya. We understand that our NATO colleagues, after bombing this country in violation of a UNSC Resolution, would not like to "stir up"" the mayhem they created. However, the problem of uncontrolled Libyan chemical arsenals is too serious to turn a blind eye to. The UN Secretary General has an obligation to show his responsibility on this issue as well.
What is important today is to see the global priorities and avoid making them hostages to a unilateral agenda. There is an urgent need to refrain from double standards in the approaches to conflict settlement. Everybody largely agrees that it is a key issue to resolutely counter the terrorists who are attempting to control increasingly larger territories in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and the Sahara-Sahel area. If this is the case then this task should not be sacrificed to ideological schemes or a desire to retaliate. Terrorists, no matter what their slogans, should remain outside the law.
Moreover, it goes without saying that the fight against terrorism should be based solidly on international law. The unanimous adoption of a number of UNSC Resolutions including those on the issue of foreign terrorist operatives became an important stage in this fight. And conversely, the attempts to act against the Charter of our Organization do not contribute to the success of cooperative efforts. The struggle against terrorists in Syria should be structured in cooperation with the Syrian government, which has clearly stated its willingness to join it. Damascus has already proven its ability to work with the international community by delivering on its obligations under the programme to dispose of its chemical weapons.
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Submitted by Jim Quinn via The Burning Platform blog,
The Walking Dead reflect the darkening mood of this intensifying Fourth Turning. I wrote one of my more pessimistic articles called Welcome to Terminus in April regarding the season four finale of the Walking Dead series. I essentially argued we are approaching the end of the line and the world is going to get real nasty.
In the six short months since I wrote that depressing article, we've seen men beheaded on Youtube videos by terrorists no one had ever heard of at the beginning of this year. Somehow a ragtag band of 30,000 Muslim terrorists, using American military equipment supplied to fight Assad in Syria and taken from the Iraqi Army when they turned tail and ran away, have been able to defeat 600,000 Iraqi and Kurd fighters with air support from the vaunted U.S. Air Force. Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan descend into never ending religious based warfare. We've even had passenger planes mysteriously disappear in Asia with no trace.
Crimea seceded from Ukraine and rejoined Russia, initiating a plan to punish Russia by the western powers. America supported and planned the overthrow of a democratically elected government in the Ukraine, with a predictable push back response by Russia, leading to a bloody civil war in the Eastern Ukraine. We've had a false flag shooting down of an airliner over the Ukraine by the Ukrainian government, blamed on Russia and Putin by Obama and his EU co-conspirators. The American corporate media mouthpieces have ignored the cover-up of missing controller transmissions, black box recordings, and physical evidence regarding the murder of hundreds of innocent people by western politicians. Israel and Hamas resumed their endless religious war in Gaza, with thousands of casualties and destruction.
UK fear mongering and financial threats barely averted the secession of Scotland from the UK. Cantalonia continues to push for a secession vote to leave Spain. Violent protests have broken out in Spain, Italy, France and even Sweden. Turmoil, protests and riots in Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina and Mexico have been driven by anger at political corruption, high inflation, and general economic dysfunction. Saber rattling between China and Japan has increased and young people in Hong Kong have been protesting the lack of democratic elections being permitted by China. The world economy, undergoing central bank monetary stimulus withdraw, is headed back into recession as Germany, China and the U.S. join the rest of the world in economic decline. And now the Western Africa outbreak of ebola has gone worldwide, with predictions of an epidemic potentially causing worldwide economic chaos.
What's happening in the real world makes the dystopian zombie world of Walking Dead seem almost quaint. The writers of this show brilliant use of symbolism and imagery captures the violent, chaotic, inhumane, darkening, brutal world we inhabit as the Fourth Turning crisis period we entered in 2008 deepens on a daily basis. There is a good reason why the first episode of their fifth season drew the biggest cable TV audience in history. The show is clearly tapping into the mood of the masses. Early in the latest episode you realize Terminus has become a processing center run by cannibals. The line between victim and criminal, killer and prey, good and evil, madness and sanity, and moral and immoral is blurred. Everything is relative in the post-pandemic world of the Walking Dead.
Seeing Wall Street cannibals walk away unscathed after devouring the worldwide economic system in 2008 with their fraudulent financial schemes, corrupt politicians enriched by throwing taxpayers under the bus, militarized police forces trampling the Fourth Amendment, the NSA spying on every American, a private central bank enriching their owners by funneling trillions into their bank vaults, a president trampling on the Constitution by issuing executive orders to bypass the other branches of government, and billions of welfare and tax fraud from the urban ghettos to the penthouse suites in NYC, has convinced a large swath of Americans that everything is relative and nothing matters in our warped dystopian world. Right and wrong no longer matter. Morality is an antiquated concept. Adhering to the Constitution is an outmoded notion. Our society celebrates and condones our dog eat dog economic paradigm. Or zombie eats anything world in the case of Walking Dead.
The Terminus complex is reminiscent of the concentration camp in Schindler's List. It is complete with railroad cars to hold the prisoners, gates with barbed wire, armed guards, and extermination facilities to "process" the prisoners. Thick black smoke belches into the air. There is a room stacked full of booty, teddy bears, watches, clothes – everything except the gold fillings. The Nazi like precision and attention to detail is reflected in the almost business-like method in which the Terminus administrators go about gutting their prey. The bone chilling efficiency and antiseptic processing facility evoke memories of the holocaust gas chambers. The opening sequence when Rick, Daryl, Glenn and Bob are among a group of men lined up to be gutted like pigs over a trough in place to collect their spilled blood, might have been the most brutal scene ever put on non-premium cable TV.
The callous and dispassionate way in which the prisoners (cattle) are lined up in front of a stainless steel trough is disconcerting and bone chilling. The victims are hit with a baseball bat and then their throats are slit over the trough by men in protective suits. They have become nothing but cattle to be butchered and consumed by the Terminus cannibals. You see another part of the processing plant where human remains are hanging from hooks like sides of beef. Gareth, the leader of Terminus, supervises the operation like a CEO, berating the butchers for not meeting quotas and following standard operating procedures. Not much different than how our mega-corporations are run today.
The other fascinating similarity between the dystopian "nightmare of want" setting of Terminus and our modern day dystopian "empire of excess" is the use of false advertising and propaganda to lure "customers" into their web. Their version of billboard advertising has plywood with the hand written messages of "Sanctuary for All", "Community for All", and "Those Who Arrive Survive". The Terminus cannibals would have fit in well on Madison Avenue with the highly paid spin artists, propagandists, and whores for the corporate oligarchs.
The signs along train tracks and radio transmissions from a call center like facility showed the calculated business-like efficiency of the cannibals in systematically and methodically luring victims to their slaughterhouse. It is the same techniques used by the apostles of Edward Bernays to consciously and intelligently manipulate the habits, opinions, tastes, ideas and actions of the masses, in order to control and influence their buying habits, voting decisions, and support of their rulers. The unseen men who constitute the "invisible government" use these techniques to keep the cattle docile, fed, and ignorant, as they are led to slaughter.
The government and lack thereof is always lurking in the murky background of how and why the United States has devolved into an infected world of the walking dead. This episode provided some clues about government labs producing viruses as weapons to be used against some unexplained enemy. The insinuation is that the government somehow lost control of the virus and the ensuing pandemic destroyed our modern world and left the survivors to battle the biters and each other for the remaining scraps. The Federal government caused the societal collapse and is nowhere to be found in rebuilding the nation.
It is unclear how the apocalypse went down, but you can assume it began with fear, which led to panic, chaos, economic collapse, violent upheaval, war, and total breakdown of governmental authority and control. It is ironic that today fear of a worldwide ebola pandemic is coinciding with an inevitable economic implosion, wars raging in te Middle East, violent protests raging around the globe, and trust in governmental authority plunging to all-time lows. The Walking Dead has wittingly or unwittingly captured the ambiance of our turbulent times.
When you are faced with desperate circumstances you can either do whatever you need to survive or you can submissively accept your fate and die. Gareth and his cannibalistic cohorts had been in the same situation as Rick and his posse, but they had somehow turned the tables on their captors. Gareth's survival of the fittest creed was "either you're the butcher or you're the cattle". Human beings react to intense pressure and life threatening situations in different ways. Some people snap and turn into monsters, like Gareth. Some people snap and lose their minds. Others, like Rick and Carol, summon an inner strength to do whatever it takes to survive while barely maintaining their humanity. Others turn into blind followers of a strong forceful leader, not questioning the morality, legality or humanity of what they are ordered to do. The line between right and wrong, necessary versus unnecessary, vengeance versus justice, and butcher versus cattle is blurred in a world without rules, government or accepted norms.
I believe the "butcher or cattle" analogy is sadly a valid meme for the world we currently inhabit. In the Walking Dead world, individuals must choose to be butcher or cattle. It's a Darwinian world of kill or be killed. Like minded individuals with common values and goals form communities to protect themselves, provide for themselves, and attempt to bring a semblance of order in a chaotic world. The community of Westbury, led by the governor and the community of Terminus, led by Gareth, are founded upon a foundation of evil and ultimately destroyed. Rick's community of liberty minded freedom fighters do whatever is necessary to survive, but retain their humanity, decency and desire to create a better world.
Our present day world may not be as brutish as the Walking Dead world, though the line between reality and fiction is often indistinguishable when you turn on the news, but the distinction between butchers and cattle is clear. The elected and non-elected rulers of the deep state are the butchers, sending young men off to die for oil companies and arms dealers, impoverishing the masses through inflation and their control of the currency, and enriching themselves through their complete control of the political, financial, judicial, and economic systems. This establishment, or invisible government as Bernays described, is committed to its own enrichment and perpetuation. Its scope, financial resources, and global reach put it in a predator class all by itself.
The common people are the cattle being led to slaughter. We are kept docile with incessant propaganda from the mainstream media; marketing messages to consume from Madison Avenue; filtered, adjusted, manipulated economic data fed to us by government agencies; an endless supply of iGadgets and other electronic distractions; government education designed to keep us ignorant; 24/7 reality TV on six hundred stations to keep us entertained; corporate toxic processed food to keep us obese and tame; and an endless supply of Wall Street supplied debt to keep us caged in our pens with no hope of escape. The butchers of the deep state have maintained control for decades, but we're entering a new era.
Fourth Turnings result in the tables being turned on the butchers. Some cattle are awakening from their stupor. They can see the bloody writing on the slaughterhouse wall. Anyone who isn't sensing a dramatic mood change in this country is either a mindless zombie or a functionary of the deep state. The financial shenanigans of the ruling class are again being revealed as nothing but a Ponzi scheme built on a foundation of debt and propped up by delusions and ignorance. When the house of cards collapses in the near future, the tables will turn. When people have nothing left to lose, they will lose it. The butchers will become the cattle. There will be no sanctuary for these evil men. Their reign of terror will be swept away in a whirlwind of retribution, death and destruction. It might even make the Walking Dead look like a walk in the park.
Neoliberalism doesn't bring people together, but divides them, by destroying the bonds of solidarity. People did feel solidarity with others throughout the United Kingdom in the past - but these bonds have been loosened as our economic system has changed and we've been encouraged to become more individualistic.
A wise old 'One Nation' Tory, Sir Ian Gilmour, a consistent critic of Thatcherism, put it beautifully in his book 'Inside Right':
"If people are not to be seduced by other attractions they must at least feel loyalty to the State. This loyalty will not be deep unless they gain from the State protection and other benefits…Economic liberalism because of its starkness and its failure to create a sense of community is likely to repel people from the rest of liberalism."
Today, it's clear that many Scots believe that a return to the politics of solidarity will best be achieved by voting 'Yes' and leaving the United Kingdom. Perhaps they're right. Perhaps they're wrong. But it's important to understand why so many people in Scotland feel this way. It's a huge mistake to believe that everyone who is planning to vote 'Yes' on Thursday is an SNP supporter, or sees themselves as a Scottish nationalist.
The Institute for New Economic Thinking
In the wake of World War II, much of the western world, particularly the United States, adopted a new form of capitalism called "managerial welfare-state capitalism."
The system by design constrained financial institutions with significant social welfare reforms and large oligopolistic corporations that financed investment primarily out of retained earnings. Private sector debt was small, but government debt left over from financing the War was large, providing safe assets for households, firms, and banks. The structure of this system was financially robust and unlikely to generate a deep recession. However, the constraints within the system didn't hold.
The relative stability of the first few decades after WWII encouraged ever-greater risk-taking, and over time the financial system was transformed into our modern overly financialized economy. Today, the dominant financial players are "managed money" - lightly regulated "shadow banks" like pension funds, hedge funds, sovereign wealth funds, and university endowments-with huge pools of capital in search of the highest returns. In turn, innovations by financial engineers have encouraged the growth of private debt relative to income and the increased reliance on volatile short-term finance and massive uses of leverage.
What are the implications of this financialization on the modern global economy? According to Adair Lord Turner, a Senior Fellow at the Institute for New Economic Thinking and a former head of the United Kingdom's Financial Services Authority, it means that finance has become central to the daily operations of the economic system. More precisely, the private nonfinancial sectors of the economy have become more dependent on the smooth functioning of the financial sector in order to maintain the liquidity and solvency of their balance sheets and to improve and maintain their economic welfare. For example, households have increased their use of debt to fund education, healthcare, housing, transportation, and leisure. And at the same time, they have become more dependent on interest, dividends, and capital gains as a means to maintain and improve their standard of living.
Another major consequence of financialized economies is that they typically generate repeated financial bubbles and major debt overhangs, the aftermath of which tends to exacerbate inequality and retard economic growth. Booms turn to busts, distressed sellers sell their assets to the beneficiaries of the previous bubble, and income inequality expands.
In the view of Lord Turner, we have yet to come up with a sufficiently robust policy response to deal with the consequences of our new "money manager capitalism." The upshot likely will be years more of economic stagnation and deteriorating living standards for many people around the world.
Many people believe that great crimes come from terrible ideas: Marxism, racism and Islamic fundamentalism gave us the Gulag, Auschwitz and 9/11. It was the singular achievement of Eichmann in Jerusalem, however, to remind us that the worst atrocities often arise from the simplest of vices. And few vices, in Arendt's mind, were more vicious than careerism. 'The East is a career,' Disraeli wrote. And so was the Holocaust, according to Arendt. 'What for Eichmann was a job, with its daily routine, its ups and downs, was for the Jews quite literally the end of the world.' Genocide, she insisted, is work. If it is to be done, people must be hired and paid; if it is to be done well, they must be supervised and promoted.
Eichmann was a careerist of the first order. He had 'no motives at all', Arendt insisted, 'except for an extraordinary diligence in looking out for his personal advancement'. He joined the Nazis because he saw in them an opportunity to 'start from scratch and still make a career', and 'what he fervently believed in up to the end was success.' Late in the war, as Nazi leaders brooded in Berlin over their impending fate and that of Germany, Eichmann was fretting over superiors' refusing to invite him to lunch. Years later, he had no memory of the Wannsee Conference, but clearly remembered bowling with senior officials in Slovakia.
This aspect of Arendt's treatment of Eichmann is often overlooked in favour of her account of the bureaucrat, the thoughtless follower of rules who could cite the letter of Kant's categorical imperative without apprehending its spirit. The bureaucrat is a passive instrument, the careerist an architect of his own advance. The first loses himself in paper, the second hoists himself up a ladder. The first was how Eichmann saw himself; the second is how Arendt insisted he be seen.
Most modern theorists, from Montesquieu to the American Framers to Hayek, have considered ambition and careerism to be checks against, rather than conduits of, oppression and tyranny. Arendt's account of totalitarianism, too, makes it difficult to see how a careerist could survive or prosper among Nazis and Stalinists. Totalitarianism, she argued, appeals to people who no longer care about their lives, much less their careers, and destroys individuals who do. It preys on the dissolution of class structures and established hierarchies – or dissolves those that remain – and replaces them with a shapeless mass movement and a bureaucracy that resembles an onion more than a pyramid.
The main reason for the contemporary evasion of Arendt's critique of careerism, however, is that addressing it would force a confrontation with the dominant ethos of our time. In an era when capitalism is assumed to be not only efficient but also a source of freedom, the careerist seems like the agent of an easy-going tolerance and pluralism. Unlike the ideologue, whose great sin is to think too much and want too much from politics, the careerist is a genial caretaker of himself. He prefers the marketplace to the corridors of state power. He is realistic and pragmatic, not utopian or fanatic. That careerism may be as lethal as idealism, that ambition is an adjunct of barbarism, that some of the worst crimes are the result of ordinary vices rather than extraordinary ideas: these are the implications of Eichmann in Jerusalem that neo-cons and neoliberals alike find too troubling to acknowledge.
September 3, 2014 | consortiumnews.com
Given the very high stakes of a nuclear confrontation with Russia, some analysts wonder what's the real motive for taking this extraordinary risk over Ukraine. Is it about natural gas, protection of the U.S. dollar's dominance, or an outgrowth of neocon extremism, asks Robert Parry.
A senior U.S. diplomat told me recently that if Russia were to occupy all of Ukraine and even neighboring Belarus that there would be zero impact on U.S. national interests. The diplomat wasn't advocating that, of course, but was noting the curious reality that Official Washington's current war hysteria over Ukraine doesn't connect to genuine security concerns.
So why has so much of the Washington Establishment – from prominent government officials to all the major media pundits – devoted so much time this past year to pounding their chests over the need to confront Russia regarding Ukraine? Who is benefiting from this eminently avoidable – yet extremely dangerous – crisis? What's driving the madness?
Of course, Washington's conventional wisdom is that America only wants "democracy" for the people of Ukraine and that Russian President Vladimir Putin provoked this confrontation as part of an imperialist design to reclaim Russian territory lost during the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. But that "group think" doesn't withstand examination. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Who's Telling the Big Lie on Ukraine?"]
The Ukraine crisis was provoked not by Putin but by a combination of the European Union's reckless move to expand its influence eastward and the machinations of U.S. neoconservatives who were angered by Putin's collaboration with President Barack Obama to tamp down confrontations in Syria and Iran, two neocon targets for "regime change."
Plus, if "democracy promotion" were the real motive, there were obviously better ways to achieve it. Democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych pledged on Feb. 21 – in an agreement guaranteed by three European nations – to surrender much of his power and hold early elections so he could be voted out of office if the people wanted.
However, on Feb. 22, the agreement was brushed aside as neo-Nazi militias stormed presidential buildings and forced Yanukovych and other officials to flee for their lives. Rather than stand behind the Feb. 21 arrangement, the U.S. State Department quickly endorsed the coup regime that emerged as "legitimate" and the mainstream U.S. press dutifully demonized Yanukovych by noting, for instance, that a house being built for him had a pricy sauna.
The key role of the neo-Nazis, who were given several ministries in recognition of their importance to the putsch, was studiously ignored or immediately forgotten by all the big U.S. news outlets. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Ukraine's 'Dr. Strangelove' Reality."]
So, it's hard for any rational person to swallow the official line that the U.S. interest in the spiraling catastrophe of Ukraine, now including thousands of ethnic Russians killed by the coup regime's brutal "anti-terrorist operation," was either to stop Putin's imperial designs or to bring "democracy" to the Ukrainians.
That skepticism – combined with the extraordinary danger of stoking a hot war on the border of nuclear-armed Russia – has caused many observers to search for more strategic explanations behind the crisis, such as the West's desires to "frack" eastern Ukraine for shale gas or the American determination to protect the dollar as the world's currency.
Thermo-Nuclear War Anyone?
The thinking is that when the potential cost of such an adventure, i.e. thermo-nuclear warfare that could end all life on the planet, is so high, the motivation must be commensurate. And there is logic behind that thinking although it's hard to conceive what financial payoff is big enough to risk wiping out all humanity including the people on Wall Street.
But sometimes gambles are made with the assumption that lots of money can be pocketed before cooler heads intervene to prevent total devastation - or even the more immediate risk that the Ukraine crisis will pitch Europe into a triple-dip recession that could destabilize the fragile U.S. economy, too.
In the Ukraine case, the temptation has been to think that Moscow – hit with escalating economic sanctions – will back down even as the EU and U.S. energy interests seize control of eastern Ukraine's energy reserves. The fracking could mean both a financial bonanza to investors and an end to Russia's dominance of the natural gas supplies feeding central and eastern Europe. So the economic and geopolitical payoff could be substantial.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Ukraine has Europe's third-largest shale gas reserves at 42 trillion cubic feet, an inviting target especially since other European nations, such as Britain, Poland, France and Bulgaria, have resisted fracking technology because of environmental concerns. An economically supine Ukraine would presumably be less able to say no. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Beneath the Ukraine Crisis: Shale Gas."]
Further supporting the "natural gas motive" is the fact that it was Vice President Joe Biden who demanded that President Yanukovych pull back his police on Feb. 21, a move that opened the way for the neo-Nazi militias and the U.S.-backed coup. Then, just three months later, Ukraine's largest private gas firm, Burisma Holdings, appointed Biden's son, Hunter Biden, to its board of directors.
While that might strike some of you as a serious conflict of interest, even vocal advocates for ethics in government lost their voices amid Washington's near-universal applause for the ouster of Yanukovych and warm affection for the coup regime in Kiev.
For instance, Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, dismissed the idea that Hunter Biden's new job should raise eyebrows, telling Reuters: "It can't be that because your dad is the vice president, you can't do anything,"
Who Is Behind Burisma?
Soon, Burisma – a shadowy Cyprus-based company – was lining up well-connected lobbyists, some with ties to Secretary of State John Kerry, including Kerry's former Senate chief of staff David Leiter, according to lobbying disclosures.
As Time magazine reported, "Leiter's involvement in the firm rounds out a power-packed team of politically-connected Americans that also includes a second new board member, Devon Archer, a Democratic bundler and former adviser to John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign. Both Archer and Hunter Biden have worked as business partners with Kerry's son-in-law, Christopher Heinz, the founding partner of Rosemont Capital, a private-equity company."
According to investigative journalism in Ukraine, the ownership of Burisma has been traced to Privat Bank, which is controlled by the thuggish billionaire oligarch Ihor Kolomoysky, who was appointed by the coup regime to be governor of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, a south-central province of Ukraine. Kolomoysky also has been associated with the financing of brutal paramilitary forces killing ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine.
Also, regarding this energy motive, it shouldn't be forgotten that on Dec. 13, 2013, when neocon Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland reminded Ukrainian business leaders that the United States had invested $5 billion in their "European aspirations," she was at a conference sponsored by Chevron. She even stood next to the company's logo.
So, clearly energy resources and the billions of dollars that go with them should be factored in when trying to solve the mystery of why Official Washington has gone so berserk about a confrontation with Russia that boils down to whether ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine should be allowed some measure of autonomy or be put firmly under the thumb of U.S.-friendly authorities in Kiev.
There's also the issue of Russia's interest in exploring with China and other emerging economies the possibility of escaping the financial hegemony of the U.S. dollar, a move that could seriously threaten American economic dominance. According to this line of thinking, the U.S. and its close allies need to bring Moscow to its geopolitical knees – where it was under the late Boris Yeltsin – to stop any experimentation with other currencies for global trade.
Again, the advocates for this theory have a point. Protecting the Mighty Dollar is of utmost importance to Wall Street. The financial cataclysm of a potential ouster of the U.S. dollar as the world's benchmark currency might understandably prompt some powerful people to play a dangerous game of chicken with nuclear-armed Russia.
Of course, there's also the budgetary interest of NATO and the U.S. "military-industrial complex" (which helps fund many of Washington's "think tanks") to hype every propaganda opportunity to scare the American people about the "Russian threat."
And, it's a truism that every major international confrontation has multiple drivers. Think back on the motives behind the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Among a variety of factors were Vice President Dick Cheney's lust for oil, President George W. Bush's psychological rivalry with his father, and the neocons' interest in orchestrating "regime change" in countries considered hostile to Israel. [See Consortiumnews.com's "The Mysterious Why of the Iraq War."]
There are also other reasons to disdain Putin, from his bare-chested horseback riding to his retrograde policies on gay rights. But he is no Stalin and surely no Hitler.
The Neocons' 'Samson Option'
So, while it's reasonable to see multiple motives behind the brinksmanship with Russia over Ukraine, the sheer recklessness of the confrontation has, to me, the feel of an ideology or an "ism," where people are ready to risk it all for some larger vision that is central to their being.
That is why I have long considered the Ukraine crisis to be an outgrowth of the neoconservative obsession with Israel's interests in the Middle East.
Not only did key neocons – the likes of Assistant Secretary Nuland and Sen. John McCain – put themselves at the center of the coup plotting last winter but the neocons had an overriding motive: they wanted to destroy the behind-the-scenes collaboration between President Obama and President Putin who had worked together to avert a U.S. bombing campaign against the Syrian government a year ago and then advanced negotiations with Iran over limiting but not eliminating its nuclear program.
Those Obama-Putin diplomatic initiatives frustrated the desires of Israeli officials and the neocons to engineer "regime change" in those two countries. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even believed that bombing Iran's nuclear plants was an "existential" necessity.
Further, there was the possibility that an expansion of the Obama-Putin cooperation could have supplanted Israel's powerful position as a key arbiter of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Thus, the Obama-Putin relationship had to be blown up – and the Ukraine crisis was the perfect explosive for the destruction. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Why Neocons Seek to Destabilize Russia."]
Though I'm told that Obama now understands how the neocons and other hardliners outmaneuvered him over Ukraine, he has felt compelled to join in Official Washington's endless Putin-bashing, causing a furious Putin to make clear that he cannot be counted on to assist Obama on tricky foreign policy predicaments like Syria and Iran.
As I wrote last April, "There is a 'little-old-lady-who-swallowed-the-fly' quality to neocon thinking. When one of their schemes goes bad, they simply move to a bigger, more dangerous scheme. If the Palestinians and Lebanon's Hezbollah persist in annoying you and troubling Israel, you target their sponsors with 'regime change' – in Iraq, Syria and Iran. If your 'regime change' in Iraq goes badly, you escalate the subversion of Syria and the bankrupting of Iran.
"Just when you think you've cornered President Barack Obama into a massive bombing campaign against Syria – with a possible follow-on war against Iran – Putin steps in to give Obama a peaceful path out, getting Syria to surrender its chemical weapons and Iran to agree to constraints on its nuclear program. So, this Obama-Putin collaboration has become your new threat. That means you take aim at Ukraine, knowing its sensitivity to Russia.
"You support an uprising against elected President Viktor Yanukovych, even though neo-Nazi militias are needed to accomplish the actual coup. You get the U.S. State Department to immediately recognize the coup regime although it disenfranchises many people of eastern and southern Ukraine, where Yanukovych had his political base.
"When Putin steps in to protect the interests of those ethnic Russian populations and supports the secession of Crimea (endorsed by 96 percent of voters in a hastily called referendum), your target shifts again. Though you've succeeded in your plan to drive a wedge between Obama and Putin, Putin's resistance to your Ukraine plans makes him the next focus of 'regime change.'
"Your many friends in the mainstream U.S. news media begin to relentlessly demonize Putin with a propaganda barrage that would do a totalitarian state proud. The anti-Putin 'group think' is near total and any accusation – regardless of the absence of facts – is fine."
Yet, by risking a potential nuclear confrontation with Russia - the equivalent of the old lady swallowing a horse – the neocons have moved beyond what can be described in a children's ditty. It has become more like a global version of Israel's "Samson Option," the readiness to use nuclear weapons in a self-destructive commitment to eliminate your enemies whatever the cost to yourself.
But what is particularly shocking in this case is how virtually everyone in U.S. officialdom – and across the mainstream media spectrum – has bought into this madness.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America's Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry's trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America's Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.
Sep 02, 2014 | informationclearinghouse.info
Does this global oligarchy constitute a social class in the theoretical sense of the term? If so, it should (1) be in control of the means of production, (2) be bound together by class consciousness, and in-group mentality, and (3) be party to a global class struggle over the distribution of the social product. The second criterion, in particular, was answered affirmatively: "The GRC [Global Ruling Class] will tend to see themselves, very much like feudal kings, as being of divine superiority placing them far above all other human beings. Fascism is very likely to be a basic pillar of their ideology, and war will be just one of the tools to increase their power and profits" (Hamm, 2010:1010; see also Turley, J. 2014; Dolan, E.W. 2013). As the money elite generally tend to focus their social contacts inside, groupthink is permanently reinforced. This might hold true even if it is not homogeneous in other respects (Lofgren, M. 2013; Domhoff, G.W., Staples, C., Schneider, A. 2013).
For the first question, the extent that the financial sector has taken over control of productive industries should be emphasized. Here, the enormous amount of freshly printed dollars injected in the global economy since the abolishment of the gold standard in 1971 is decisive. The Federal Reserve Bank under successive US administrations has followed this policy up to the present day. The amount of money strolling around for profitable investment is not underpinned by production or services but rather by printing fiat notes. It has allowed the financial industry to buy up real businesses by shares and bonds and their respective derivatives inside and outside the US. Thus, the financial industry acquired, in fact, control of large parts of the real economy including (via production chains) small and medium-sized businesses, fertile lands, and raw materials. The financial industry is also highly influential in the areas of science and technology, and through lobbying and campaign donations, it influences political decision-making . In fact, as US lawmakers tend to belong to the upper strata of the financial hierarchy (thus to the third circle of our power model), they also tend to widely identify with the interests of the inner rings (Money Choice 2013). Therefore, it is correct to conclude that the financial industry is in control of the means of production.
Too often writers understand class struggle as action taken by workers for working class interests, overlooking the equally significant (and in our times considerably more important) class struggle organized and directed by the ruling class via the state: "The entire panoply of neo-liberal policies, from so-called 'austerity measures' to mass firings of public and private employees, to massive transfers of wealth to creditors are designed to enhance the power, wealth, and primacy of diverse sectors of capital at the expense of labor. … Class struggle from above is directed at enhancing the concentration of wealth in the ruling class, increasing regressive taxes on workers and reducing taxes on corporations, selectively enforcing regulations, which facilitate financial speculation and lowering social expenditures for pensions, health, and education for workers families" (Petras, J., 2013a). Class struggle from above aims at maximizing the collective power of capital via restrictive laws on labor organizations, social movements, and workers' collective bargaining rights. State budgets over bailouts are sites of class struggle; banks are sites of class struggle between mortgage holders and households, creditors, and debtors. "Trillions of dollars are transferred from the public treasury to bailout bankers. Hundreds of billions in social cuts are imposed on workers, cutting across all sectors of the economy" (ibid.). Governments are instrumental in the extraction of money from the population via taxation and then transfer it to the rich via the banking system. What they are doing, with help of the IMF, to Greece, Portugal, Ireland, or to Cyprus, or Spain, and what they hope to do to Ukraine, Egypt, Thailand, Venezuela or Lybia, they have been doing to developing countries yesterday with exactly the same medicine. "They want it all – profit and power. Our world is dominated and being re-shaped by a tiny global financial, corporate, political and intellectual elite. And all must suffer so that they can have what anyone in their position would want to have: more – they want it all. And they want you to just shut up and let them take it all. If you have a problem with that, well, that's what riot police, prisons, and fascism are for" (Marshall, A.G., 2013; see also Drum, K. 2013).
We also find a global power hierarchy among nation-states. To paraphrase what was said above of the attitudes of members of the ruling class: The most powerful nation will tend to see itself as being of divine superiority, placing itself far above all other nations. Fascism is very likely to be a basic pillar of its ideology, and war will be just one of the tools to increase its power and profits. "According to this self-righteous doctrine [of US exceptionalism], America is the indispensable country. What this means is that the US has been chosen by history to establish the hegemony of secular 'democratic capitalism' over the world. The primacy of this goal places the US government above traditional morality and above all law, both its own and international" (Roberts, P.C., 2013a). "If we have to resort to violence", Madeleine Albright once said, "then it is because we are America, the indispensable nation. We stand tall and look further into the future than other nations." "I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my life", President Obama said during his West Point inauguration speech 2014 (see comments by Escobar, P. 2014; Moon of Alabama 2014; Roberts, P.C. 2014a).
The claim to the role of world hegemon comes at a high price (Nader, R., 2014). Socio-economic polarization has increased sharply in the U.S. as hundreds of thousands of families have been driven out of their homes by foreclosures, with some twenty percent of all households on food stamps. Increasing numbers of households can no longer pay their rents, let alone care for retirement, while thousands live in shanty towns and tent cities. Some city governments have begun to drive the poor out of the downtown areas so that they will become more and more invisible . Women, children, and non-whites are especially affected; as a result, reduced health care and increased mortality rates have been reported . Furthermore, a baby born today in the U.S., when it takes its first breath of air, is $50.000 in debt (Ventura, J., 2013). Meanwhile, the prison industry profits from a policy of incarceration, which even includes the handing out of lifelong sentences to children. The Department of Homeland Security is being developed into a standing army, police forces are increasingly militarized (Whitehead, J., no date).
The installment of the US Dollar as world reserve currency constituted the economic pillar of the US as the global super power. As the US was able to export all newly printed money, it could appropriate the products of other societies for the simple price of printing paper, and through this measure, force other countries to pay for its luxury as well as for its overwhelming military power and war mongering. Add to this the structural adjustment policy exerted by the US-controlled World Bank and IMF, plus the CIA's covert actions around the globe, it would be analytically correct to say that the US has become the adversary in the global class struggle, especially since the nucleus of a global ruling class resides in the US. According to Galtung's structural theory of imperialism (Galtung, J. 1980), the hegemon will rely on vassals in subordinate nations (i.e., in the form of allied governments). Elites in subordinate nations are assigned to guarantee the unchallenged role of the global hegemon, to allow its unrestrained access to local resources and control rights while securing immunity to its representatives. Consequently, for the most part, the global ruling class can be located in the power elite of the United States (see, e.g., the longitudinal studies of the US power elite presented by G. William Domhoff and his group, Domhoff, G.W. 2014).
The litmus test of power is, on the individual as on the collective level, based on two criteria: the possibility to avoid prosecution for crimes committed, or impunity, and the degree to which appropriation of others' wealth is possible. An eminent example is given by the attacks of 9/11. As Ruppert (2004) and others  have argued, those who succeed in preventing a new and thorough investigation questioning the official narrative are obviously in a power position (case study below). So are those who initiate war, are responsible for hundreds of thousands of people murdered, yet are not brought to trial in the aftermath. Neither has anyone in the US government been held accountable for torture (the 600 pages Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture has not yet been released, Dick, A. 2014), targeted killings, and drone victims – all of which are prohibited crimes under US law and the Geneva Conventions. Nor has any U.S. official been charged for violating constitutional rights, that is, spying without warrants, warrantless searches, violations of habeas corpus, murder of US citizens without due process, denial of legal representation, conviction through undisclosed evidence. Who is to be held accountable for the long-term effects of the nuclear bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? or the spread of Agent Orange in Vietnam? or the use of depleted uranium ammunition in Iraq? Who is being tried for the crimes again the Palestinian people committed by the Israeli government? The problem is not whether the war criminals can be identified, no; rather, it is a problem of charging them with the crime and then following through with the legal process. But when are they ever charged and tried? And why not? It's not only that the US murdered one and a half million people , mostly Iraqis and some Americans, ruined the country, and inflicted costs of almost three trillion US$ on the taxpayer (the "supreme crime", according to the ruling of the Nuremberg Trials), they also inflamed the Sunni-Shia conflict (Stone, O., Kuznick, P., 2013:521-34) and they are responsible for the rise of IS, the Islamic State, presumably the most dangerous of all terrorist groups and a new pretext to bomb Iraq . "The Obama justice department, in particular the Chief of its Criminal Division, […], never even tried to hold the high-level criminals accountable. What Obama justice officials did instead is exactly what they did in the face of high-level Bush era crimes of torture and warrantless eavesdropping: namely, acted to protect the most powerful factions in the society in the face of overwhelming evidence of serious criminality" (Greenwald, G., 2013). Moreover, who will bring to trial the banksters that plunder the middle class? (Whitney, M. 2014a; Cantu, A. 2014) The silence following the crimes of the ruling powers is deafening.
The clash between the international economy and the political institutions that ostensibly govern it also weakens the sense of common purpose necessary for world order. The economic system has become global, while the political structure of the world remains based on the nation-state. Economic globalization, in its essence, ignores national frontiers. Foreign policy affirms them, even as it seeks to reconcile conflicting national aims or ideals of world order.
This dynamic has produced decades of sustained economic growth punctuated by periodic financial crises of seemingly escalating intensity: in Latin America in the 1980s; in Asia in 1997; in Russia in 1998; in the U.S. in 2001 and again starting in 2007; in Europe after 2010. The winners have few reservations about the system. But the losers-such as those stuck in structural misdesigns, as has been the case with the European Union's southern tier-seek their remedies by solutions that negate, or at least obstruct, the functioning of the global economic system.
The international order thus faces a paradox: Its prosperity is dependent on the success of globalization, but the process produces a political reaction that often works counter to its aspirations.
A third failing of the current world order, such as it exists, is the absence of an effective mechanism for the great powers to consult and possibly cooperate on the most consequential issues.
TLARGEY, 24 August 2014 8:40pmThe corporate elites and the rest of the 1% control the hack politicians here in the USA and Britain and are taking over most everywhere else. They set up graduate schools and "think" tanks and institutes that hire flack economists that defecate free market and anti-regulatory nonsense and pretend that there are laws of nature -- that like gravity control the economy and human relations.demorat, 24 August 2014 9:33pm
That's hogwash; manufactured consent: propaganda. The poor and now middle class are becoming increasingly aware of the rigged nature of the political and socio-economic system they are enslaved by, but there's not much to be done: unions are almost busted, there's no solidarity among the plebs and chavs, and some still believe that they're free agents and individuals in control of their destinies; it's hard to give that up I suppose; who wants to be no more than a contingent wage slave?
But even if a critical mass of revolutionary malcontents join forces, the military-police state here in the USA will gun them down or jail them. There's no "good Americans" in charge and most look away from the horror and keep them heads down. They don't day they would rather not.
What's the point anymore; as Camus opined, is like worth living? More and more say no.there is a saying: economics is science for people who can't do maths.Rocky13 -> demorat , 25 August 2014 4:10pmAnd an Economics degree is an Art Degree but with graphs.EpaminondasUSA , 24 August 2014 10:39pmPar for the course for a country that is becoming the first post-democratic society among Western nations - that is, an oligarchy. It should be a cautionary tale to the rest of the developed nations.NYbill13 -> EpaminondasUSA , 25 August 2014 2:59pm
Behind the Fed's monetary restraint are two individuals from the Bourbon Plutocracy - Esther George of Missouri who chairs the St. Louis Federal Reserve and Charles Plosser of Alabama, who heads the Philadelphia Fed. The American South is once again home to business oligarchy, as it was before the Civil War.Interesting view of things.gradely53 , 24 August 2014 11:38pm
What makes you think these two are so influential? I ask because I've never heard of either of them. The workings of The Fed aren't exactly a well-known thing, and certainly keeping a very, very low profile must be standard practice for the big dogs there. Of course the money lords will do whatever they please, but it's nice that a few people are willing to make a small fuss to remind the media barons that they have nothing to be proud of.It seemed for a while earnest economics "academics" were talking of this weird thing called a "jobless recovery" and frowning in incomprehension about how to account for it (while "remaining optimistic because they believe in the resilience and the innovatory spirit of the American people").John Egan , 25 August 2014 12:31am
A bit like going to an oncologist and having him declare, well, "I can't really be sure how things will pan out, but the good news is you're in what we call in the field a 'remission-less remission phase.'"
What do they not get, these eggheads? A jobless recovery? Well, let us put it simply for them. It ISN'T a fucking recovery unless a steady downward curve in the unemployment figures can be discerned, and a reduction in inequality! Ordinary folk either want a job, or they want to see wages going up. They want a solid or improving standard of living. End of story. They couldn't give a rat's ass what the numbers on the Nasdaq or Dow Jones show, unless it can be shown how that will produce jobs and/or wage increases ASAP.
The economists--all of whom, as Piketty says, are typically either in, or close to, the 1 percent--never actually explain, in comprehensible language, how the stock market "record" recovery, or bailout loans paid back (which the banks didn't deserve in the first place, and which they pay back, at close to zero interest rates, BECAUSE they were bailed out, and thus made profits, most of which they retained above and beyond paybacks), will translate into jobs and pay increases. Why? Because they can't explain how, because they won't translate, not in this universe or any other, and even in Jackson's (Ass)hole. Supply side and trickle down? Discredited bullshit. Wrong, Plain wrong.
The numbers show this about as clearly as numbers can show anything. How much longer will the ones who suffer from believing this snake oil salesmanship continue suffer from it? Well, at least until they recognize where their true interests lie, and stop idolizing the rich and parasitical, whether putatively "enlightened" (e.g. Bill Gates) or obviously vile (e.g. the Koch brothers).They've already fucked us so many times - - What's a couple of times more?Bogdanich -> John Egan , 25 August 2014 4:31pmThat's the spirit. What's insulting here is this pretense that the elites at Jackson, or anywhere else for that matter, have even the slightest concern for the majority of the population. Simply a fantasy.NSubramanian, 25 August 2014 3:01am
To prove it look at what these same elites did in Germany and Japan after the war when it actually was in their interests to help the majority of the population. They mandated that certain levels of profits from productivity improvements be paid to the workers. That simple step built those economies in a hurry. Did we magically forget about that? We could so the same today and everyone knows it only it reduces corporate profits and the stock market would fall a bit. Shows you where these people's priorities are.This is a post-2000 story, that the very, very very rich 1% have no idea how the 99% live (though Mitt Romney did tell his friends in a fund-raiser that the 99% live on government's charity).NoLongerBelieveGovt NSubramanian , 25 August 2014 3:13pm
However, this lack of awareness is an age old one. It troubles the rich to think over the difficulties of the poor and so, they prefer not to learn it.
As India's Prime Minister, Rajeev Gandhi made himself rememberable forever during a visit to a village in Maharashtra State which symbolised the poverty in every village of India.
Told by the women of the village that they drew water from a source about five miles away, Rajeev Gandhi asked them if they went by taxi or bus.
I am sure any national newspaper will be able to dig out the report on this visit from its archive.
About two years ago, The Guardian published what it called "Ten sins of being rich" if I remember right.
I am not sure if the list included the sin of knowing the troubles of the poor. If it did not, there is need for The Guardian to re-publish the list as "Eleven sins of being rich".The "very, very rich" have always been on this planet.AbstractImp , 25 August 2014 9:44am
You, uh, knew that... right?
On the other hand, the world population has never before had a power hungry American government that war mongers at every opportunity...
While wasting our resources (intellectual, financial, and physical) on that war mongering.... to the detriment of the well being of the guy on the street..... the average family.Meanwhile, the Chicago School of Economic Theft is still selling the fraud.DutchFriend , 26 August 2014 12:12am
Felipe Ossa, a young playwright, debuted a play in New York last week that suggested that billionaires adopt multiple members of the middle class as economic concubines.
It was already proposed in the movie Indecent Proposal. So it seems more like a re-play, than a play. Not much new there.
Another thing is that the play is proposing a middle-class occupation, to be sensational, for obviously for lower classes it is self-evident to prostitute themselves? Like in Pretty Woman?
There is a lot in this article I don't understand.
colliemum, July 30, 2014 at 10:05 amFound at zerohedge, a US reaction on Russia's reaction to the sanctions:yalensis, July 30, 2014 at 3:31 pm
"Assuming that they take this action, it would be blatant protectionism," Clayton Yeutter, a U.S. Trade Representative under President Ronald Reagan, said in a phone interview. "There is little or no legitimacy to their complaints."
Yep, how dare the Russkies retaliate, when they ought to come begging on their knees to be allowed to do what the grand master in DC wants them to do …Russians are using "trade as a geopolitical tool," warns a Washington think tank. Russia engaging in trade war – How despicable!ThatJ, July 30, 2014 at 3:39 pm
First Russkies pretend to find antibiotics in McDonalds "cheese" products. But everybody knows the cheese cannot possibly contain antibiotics, because it's not even real cheese! (it's a kind of edible plastic substance…)
And next Russans claim that "Fruit shipments from the EU have recently contained Oriental fruit moths…"
That's a lie too.
Everybody knows that if you eat your Polish quinces with a runcible spoon, then they will not contain any measurable amounts of moth larvae."Fedorov said consulting firms and audit firms will be the first to be targeted by the new bill. Next will be U.S. media, he said."colliemum, July 31, 2014 at 12:44 am
The US media helps in spreading liberasty. It should have been barred years ago.Above all else, Putin should throw out all Western NGOs – especially those with links to Soros.marknesop . July 30, 2014 at 9:41 pmcartman, July 30, 2014 at 10:21 am"It's not unusual for Russia to find something wrong when they have a political reason to do so".
No word on whether his tongue immediately turned black and started to smoke, then fell out of his mouth. It's not unusual for the United States to apply sanctions when they have a political reason to do so, and fuck-all else.I was wrong about Rosoboronexport. It is EXEMPT from the list of sanctions. No doubt some of the deals (titanium) are critical for the US's own MIC. Put Kadyrov or someone on the board and force Congress to slit Boeing's throat.cartman, July 30, 2014 at 10:26 amOr hire him to the company that produces rolled titanium alloys for Boeing and Airbus. A shot across the bow to say that Western leaders will have to be standing in front of their populations as they crash their economies. Russia won't do it for them.marknesop , July 30, 2014 at 9:51 pmExcellent reasoning. The baying audience of FOX-friends might be stoked at the idea of economic war with Russia, but the cold-eyed businessmen are likely to be unenthused at best. This is a great plan for achieving leverage cheaply and easily, and the U.S. government would be left 'splaining to Boeing that they had to lay off a couple of thousand workers because a bad man was appointed to the board of their major supplier.
The west is locked into its lame sanctions groove, and too proud to back down. This might be the big shootout from which only one currency will walk away.
July 30, 2014 | nakedcapitalism.com
By David Dayen, a lapsed blogger, now a freelance writer based in Los Angeles, CA. Follow him on Twitter @ddayen
Today is technically the drop-dead date for Argentina to work out an agreement to pay off vulture funds that long ago purchased their distressed debt, or else the country will go into default for the second time in thirteen years. 11th-hour negotiations with a mediator have yielded no results thus far. WSJ divines momentum from the length of the mediation session, which is pretty weak tea.
The default would actually be to the exchange bondholders, who already hold agreements with Argentina for restructured debt payments going back to the 2001 default. Judge Thomas Griesa prevented the country from making a scheduled interest payment to the exchange bondholders without the vulture funds getting their $1.5 billion first (the vultures paid roughly $48 million for the distressed debt, so it's a huge payday).
Argentina, which has already made the scheduled interest payment to its bond trustee (Griesa has blocked the transfer to the exchange bondholders), objects to paying out the vultures because of RUFO ("rights upon future offers") clauses that would force them to pay all creditors at the same rate, instead of at the agreed-to reduced levels. Argentinian leaders believe this could add $15 billion in liabilities.
Before demanding no additional payments before working things out with the vulture funds, however, Judge Griesa added an asterisk for money owed to oil companies:
Argentina will be permitted to make a one-time-only payment this week on some dollar-denominated bonds issued under that nation's law, the U.S. judge overseeing a legal battle over defaulted bonds ruled.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa in Manhattan federal court said yesterday he'll allow the payment to go forward because bonds issued in a settlement involving the Spanish oil company Repsol SA - where payments aren't subject to court orders - can't be immediately distinguished from a group of dollar bonds issued in the country's 2005 and 2010 debt restructurings. Payments on the latter securities can't be made unless holdout creditors are paid at the same time.
The idea here is that the Repsol bonds aren't related to the current situation. Well, neither are the previously negotiated bond payments to other creditors, really! This entire holdup comes from Paul Singer and NML Capital seeking a big payday after they scooped up Argentine debt at fire-sale prices. Only Judge Griesa decided to link that to the other creditors, and now he's trying to scramble out of some of the residual effects of his decision, because some exchange bonds and the Respol bonds places the blame for this expected default squarely on Griesa:
Distressed debt investment funds that buy into repudiated sovereign debt know exactly what they are doing and the risks they are taking. Their goal is to extract payment from the debtor by being a sufficiently squeaky wheel that the debtor will pay to make the investor go away [...]
The real blame lies with the U.S. courts, which should never have touched the issue. By overplaying its hand, NML exposed the fecklessness of the U.S. court system when dealing with a foreign sovereign. Although the Argentine bonds are governed by New York law and provide that Argentina consents to New York jurisdiction, there's no way to bind a sovereign to its promise of complying with court orders any more than there is to its promise of payment. What the Leviathan gives, it can take away.
By humoring the NML litigation, U.S. courts have gotten themselves into a high-stakes game of chicken with a sovereign state. This is a game the U.S. courts cannot and should not win. It's a basic prudential principle that courts abstain from cases where they lack the ability to administer an appropriate remedy. In this case, the courts cannot administer an appropriate remedy. The U.S. courts may be able to prevent, or at least impede, Argentina's other bondholders from being paid, but they cannot force Argentina to pay NML on its defaulted bonds.
Exactly. Paul Singer can have as much fun as he wants trying to squeeze profit out of old Argentine debt (while he waits for the world to be destroyed by an electromagnetic pulse, anyway). But courts which have almost no ability to compel a judgment should not pick a side in such a power play. And you have to believe that the reason the courts got involved was that Argentina did the unthinkable, by thumbing its nose at the world and living to tell the tale. Now they must face a penalty for such intransigence. It's not enough that they've been locked out of the capital markets for a decade. Suffering must ensue as well. (See Michael Hudson on this point.)
Incidentally, the RUFO clause expires at the end of this year, just five months from now. With everyone well aware of this fact, the exchange bondholders recognize that they would get their payments after December 31 (not to mention interest on the missed payments until then), and since they've been waiting for years for this money, they can probably stand to wait a bit longer. Several bondholders vowed in a plea to stay the injunction that they would be willing to waive their RUFO rights. (Some, like Josh Rosner, believe that since Argentina is being forced into negotiations with the vulture fund under duress, the RUFO clauses wouldn't get triggered anyway.)
Griesa hasn't ruled on this latest stay request, but the point here is that Argentina, seeing few better options, has seemingly decided to sit tight until 2015, when the RUFO problem goes away. As President Christina Kirchner has said, they've already paid the exchange bondholders; the judge is simply holding up the transfer. And her administration is telling anyone who will listen that there wouldn't be much fallout in the event of default. I don't know how true that is – this doesn't look like a great outcome – but the country believes they have other means to borrow (China just came forward with an offer), having already been locked out of the capital markets anyway. They see the near-term pain of default as the least-worst outcome compared to the long-term problem of additional claims. Politically, there's value in defying the West, particularly the unsavory vulture fund characters. And they simply don't believe the repercussions will approach the initial default in 2001–and they're probably right. It's not like the country has no history of economic upheaval. To wit:
Many ordinary Argentines are taking the threat of default in stride.
"I've lived through so many crises I can't be bothered to worry about this," said Mariano Torga, 70, an electrician who works in a repair shop.
Heck, if devaluation ensues, as is likely, it's probably good for attracting tourists.*
That throws it to Singer and his holdout associates on how to let things play out. In the event of default, Argentina might even have grounds to say they can't afford to pay off the vulture funds at par. I doubt highly that Singer blinks after being at this for so long, but a last-minute kick-the-can to January isn't implausible.
And since the legal implications of this fight are so insane, as they make any future sovereign debt renegotiation that in any way comes into contact with America irrelevant, kicking the can should be the preferred outcome not just for Argentina but the entire world. As Jayati Ghosh said a couple weeks ago:
This possibility of default is embedded into credit contracts through the interest rate, with interest rate spreads operating as the market estimate of the probability of a default. So those who are seen as less likely to be able to repay are forced to pay higher interest rates, in both formal and informal credit transactions. A creditor who has been demanding and receiving a higher interest rate based on this probability cannot then demand full repayment as a right, since the contract reflected that very likelihood. So the ruling actually negates the basic principles upon which all credit markets function.
Should be a wild day, but the courts have already ensured an outcome that will produce some form of sadness.
P.S. See also Felix Salmon's excellent debunking of the hash the financial press has made out of this story, and why Argentinian bond prices have actually gone up lately despite the increased likelihood of default.
*Full disclosure: I have several family members in Argentina and will be visiting in November, so if they want to devalue and stretch my tourist dollar, I'm not going to exactly say no. But I'd rather see this end with a safe landing for innocent people who don't really deserve the punishment they're about to endure.
July 1, 2014 | foreignpolicy.com
What has gone wrong? Iraq has come unglued. ISIS just announced the founding of a new caliphate. The Afghan presidential election is contested and getting ugly. The nuclear talks with Iran are going slowly, even as opponents devise new ploys to derail them completely. Ukraine is a mess with a tentative cease-fire being blown apart. China continues to throw sharp elbows. Japan is getting martial again. And Britain is getting closer to leaving the European Union. I could go on, but you may not have enough antidepressants handy.
So much for the "new world order" that President George H.W. Bush proclaimed in the heady days following the fall of the Berlin Wall. So much for the alleged demise of "power politics" once hailed by the likes of Bill Clinton and Thomas Friedman. The end of history? Not even Francis Fukuyama believes in that one anymore. The overall level of human violence may be in decline (though a single great-power war could derail that finding), but world politics seems to be spinning more out of control with each passing week.
In the hyperpartisan world of contemporary U.S. politics, Democrats blame these present woes on George W. Bush, while Republicans trace them all to Barack Obama or (looking ahead) to Hillary Clinton. And both sides can find ample evidence for these politically motivated indictments.
... ... ...
In recent months, for example, Secretary of State John Kerry responded to Russia's seizure of Crimea by denouncing Russian President Vladimir Putin as trapped in "19th-century" rules. Similarly, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush denounced their various authoritarian adversaries (Slobodan Milosevic, Ali Khamenei, Kim Jong Il, Muammar al-Qaddafi, etc.) in the harshest terms. Unfortunately, calling someone a part of the "axis of evil" is not a p eo]liberal governments seeking to wage idealistic crusades often end up lying to their own people in order to sustain popular support, and they have to maintain large and secretive national security apparatuses as well. Paradoxically, the more a [neo]liberal society tries to spread its creed to others, the more likely it is to compromise those values back home. One need only look at the evolution of U.S. politics over the past 20 years to see that tendency in spades.
Finally, because most [neo]liberals are convinced that their cherished beliefs are beyond debate, they fail to recognize that non-[neo]liberal societies may not welcome these wonderful gifts from abroad. On the contrary, the more the well-meaning foreign interference overseas -- whether through military occupation, sanctions, or even NGOs like the National Endowment for Democracy -- the greater the allergic reaction the interference is likely to generate. Foreign dictators will heighten repression, and populations that are supposed to greet their liberators with flowers will offer up IEDs instead. Massive state-building projects end up distorting local economies and fueling corruption, especially when the idealistic [neo]liberal occupiers have no idea how the local society works.
The conclusion is obvious. The United States and other [neo]liberal states would do a much better job of promoting their most cherished political values if they concentrated on perfecting these practices at home instead of trying to export them abroad. If Western societies are prosperous, just, and competent, and live up to their professed ideals, people in other societies will want to emulate some or all of these practices, suitably adapted to local conditions.
In some countries, this process may occur rapidly, in others only after difficult struggles, and in a few places not for many decades. This fact may be regrettable, but is also realistic. Trying to speed up a process that took centuries in the West, as the United States has been trying to do since 1992, is more likely to retard the advance of [neo]liberal values than it is to advance them.
Stephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.
I disagree. The wars of aggression foisted on the American people were the oligarchs wanting a greater piece of the wealth of the aggrieved countries. And then the gullible public are told it is to establish Democracy, Freedom and Apple Pie.
The problem in US foreign policy is very effectively shown in the comments below. The US policy cannot be different than the ignorance of its populace. How about leaving other societies figure out their own problems. How can a society developed without making its own decisions be them mistakes or not. The trend or the wave of history in the middle east or Muslim world is not going to change no matter what the US does, these interventions are only a temporary artificial hindrance jest like colonialism was. Once its over the Trend is going to continue to were it was before. This is because certain issue in those societies as in all societies have to be worked out between them and no one else. Americans have this unattractive narcissism to them, they believe that they know better than everyone els. How that narcissism has formed should be studdit very closely because that is where most of the current problems in the world and its long term development rest. You should trust human nature, all societies wont freedom and all that comes with democracy but it can not be artificially implentet in them as if it was a capetlistic brand. Societies are not like consumerism they are much more complicated than that.
I just noticed the change in headline from "American Values Are to Blame for the World's Chaos" to "Democracy, Freedom, and Apple Pie Aren't a Foreign Policy." What to make of that? I can't help relating this to another FP article on Blackwater's namechanging game. Which makes me think, are the U.S. failures in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. a failure of ideology or a systems failure - big government unable to take on the complex political risks of liberal values, a government only too willing to pass on the buck (yes, both the $$$ and the blame) to cowboy-swaggering contractors like Blackwater.
In my view, the onset of neoliberalism and elitest globalization resulted in traditional liberalism morphing into a liberal collectivism (involving a left-class which uses human rights in its own interests). This liberal collectiviism also took over the UN and on 10 December 2008 the two sets of rights which were at the centre of a major ideological battle between east - the communists promoting economic, social and cultural rights i.e. social justice and the west which championed civil and political rights e.g. freedom and democracy - were given equal status. This rebalanced global power away from the West to other regions - all this was hidden from the global public who only saw the consequences - the Global Financial Crash 2008/9, the increasing involvement of the UN i.e. UNDP, in increasing police, security rule of law so far reaching about half the world's countries and more recently the rebalance of global power saw the rise of repressive regimes to higher positions at the UN. With the equal status given both sets of the rights it meant that now not just civil and political rights but also economic, social and cultural rights have to be compatible to IMF elitist policies and the IMF has 188 member States. This meant the UDHR in its implementation is elitist.
So, in my view, neoliberalism morphed into a neoliberal absolutism - a near absolute control of all human behavior covered under the declaration - the actions of the UNDP is to ensure compliance with neoliberal absolutism which means the elimination of independent thought which will seriously limit the growth of human knowledge and consequently the survival of the human race which may need to live on other planets one day. In short, while much has been done to eliminate extreme poverty - the West's traditional liberties are targeted for elimination the reason being that the liberal collectivists, who are largely descent based by birth or social class and with virtually all academics now captured- are very concerned to hide their hegemony and their pursuit of global dominance e.g. one world government - consequently unsafe truth and ideas must be eliminated. If all this sounds very negative check out my new plan for the world an ethical approach to human rights, development and globalization - first outlined in my book, many articles on the internet (see San Francisco Bay Indymedia) - its virtually banned from the mainstream but amazingly received support from the UN, US States Dept, Open democracy initiative of the White House (and many others) on the internet but not in the mainstream media which might reach the democratic majority. I regard it as a crime against humanity that the UN has failed to inform the global public of this ethical plan in the mainstream media.
Silly article with an appalling headline. Huge generalizations not backed up by facts. Lots of skewed thinking. For example, "The desire to extend liberalism into Eastern Europe lay behind NATO expansion.." Here's the way that sentence should be written: The desire of the people of Eastern Europe to have a democratic political system and their request to join NATO out of fear of Russia...
And then this bit: John Kerry responded to Russia's seizure of Crimea by denouncing Russian President Vladimir Putin as trapped in "19th-century" rules." That's wrong because...? You're criticizing "sputtering"? Do you want an attack instead?
Can't you see that "it's all our fault" is really part of "we're the most important people on earth"? Drop the Americocentric position. Maybe this headlines and articles get clicked on -- sensationalism always draws a crowd -- but they do nothing to advance understanding of what is happening in the world.
When did the U.S. ever try to promote democracy? Only when corporations stood to benefit. Salvador Allende was the first president of a Latin American country elected democratically, but because he was a Marxist we supported the military coup and junta that was in power for 17 years and which ruthlessly crushed and murdered any perceived opposition. There are many, many other examples like the installation of the Shah in Iran, replacing the democratically elected Prime Minister Mosaddegh.
It is a bad joke to say that the U.S promotes democracy and deceitful to criticize it for doing something (promoting democracy) when in fact the U.S. promotes dictatorships far more often.
This is a typical article that describes US foreign policy full with "good intentions" but resulting in catastrophic results.
While I agree with the last point I do not agree on the premise. If you look on the history, US has continuously backed up
foreign nation leaders that are anti-liberal, anti-human rights but who have pursued regional interests of US.
I urge readers to examine more carefully this point of view. Good starting point are writings of Prof. Noam Chomsky.
" We try to help a country, it goes south and it is 100% our fault. "
Yes. If you chase a horde of mustangs through a china store, it IS 100% your fault if the whole place goes south. If you make no effort whatsoever to understand the place and the balance of power and the relationships between different people, it is certainly NOT the fault of these people that you spit into their faces.
Plenty of people predicted the outcome in Iraq - and in other countries. The US has left a string of failed states in its wake. From its desire to control the operation in Somalia all the way to Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.
The garbage is on your side, because you try to defend committing the same idiocy all over again time after time after time. You are willing to butcher people to cater to your ignorance - please explain how that makes you any different from the likes of Osama bin Laden?
LE CHESNAY, France - At a rally last week near the Palace of Versailles, France's largest far right party, the National Front, deployed all the familiar theatrics and populist themes of nationalist movements across Europe.
A standing-room-only crowd waved the national flag, joined in a boisterous singing of the national anthem and applauded as speakers denounced freeloading foreigners and, with particular venom, the European Union.
But the event, part of an energetic push for votes by France's surging far right ahead of elections this week for the European Parliament, also promoted an agenda distant from the customary concerns of conservative voters: why Europe needs to break its "submission" to the United States and look to Russia as a force for peace and a bulwark against moral decay.
While the European Union has joined Washington in denouncing Russia's annexation of Crimea and the chaos stirred by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, Europe's right-wing populists have been gripped by a contrarian fever of enthusiasm for Russia and its president, Vladimir V. Putin.
"Russian influence in the affairs of the far right is a phenomenon seen all over Europe," said a study by Political Capital Institute, a Hungarian research group. It predicted that far right parties, "spearheaded by the French National Front," could form a pro-Russian bloc in the European Parliament or, at the very least, amplify previously marginal pro-Russian voices.
Pro-Russian sentiment remains largely confined to the fringes of European politics, though Mr. Putin also has more mainstream admirers and allies on both the right and the left, including Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian prime minister, and Gerhard Schröder, the former German chancellor.
May 20, 2014 | The American Conservative
... We were promised deracination would lead inevitably to world peace. The original Cobdenite told us nations that trade with each other don't go to war with each other. Free trade apologists have been repeating this utopianism ever since, facts notwithstanding. (Germany and France were major trading partners before World War I.) No rational head of state would upset the harmonious workings of the global economy; nationalist passions would be tempered by "market realities."
It's clear they didn't get the memo in Russia and Ukraine. They have been significant trading partners, yet economic realities did not trump nationalism. To be sure, many of the Maidan protestors coveted their own flag more than designer goods from the EU. It is a modern Western conceit to view human aspirations strictly through a materialistic lens. Alexander Solzhenitsyn decried Western society's tendency to focus on the accumulation of material goods to the exclusion of all other human characteristics.
This stubborn insistence on seeing the world in purely economic terms blinded us to anticipating that Vladimir Putin could do exactly what he did. Putin wasn't supposed to risk upsetting "the market"-but he did. He was supposed to fear sanctions and economic backlash-but he didn't. The only possible explanation is that he is disconnected from reality, as Angela Merkel reportedly said.
Blind faith in economism informs the solutions to foreign conundrums proposed by many across the political spectrum. Economic sanctions will promote good behavior in Eastern Europe, while economic engagement will promote human rights and religious tolerance in East Asia. In Ukraine, we can conveniently have it both ways, sanctions and engagement: exporting loads of cheap American natural gas will reward our friends and punish our enemies.
Just as events in Ukraine show us nationalism is not a spent force, the Malaysian Airlines mystery shows us the limits of global technocracy.
We have come to believe that raising everyone to the Western standard of living will spread our values. The assumption is that having the same material goods makes everyone the same-the software goes with the hardware. President Clinton used this formulation to sell PNTR (Permanent Normal Trade Relations) with China: democracy would flourish in China in tandem with a middle class.
March 10, 2014 | the unbalanced evolution of homo sapiens
The support of neo-nazis in Ukraine destroys the last pretexts and wakes up nightmares of the past
It appears that, for at least six years now, the West is trapped in a situation of permanent recession, while there are many who predict new economic crises in the near future. As long as this situation continues, the true face of neoliberalism and the huge hypocrisy of the West become more and more clear. The neoliberal doctrine has been converted, a long time now, into a global dictatorship, which is revealing more and more its true face and seeks to expand its power in every corner of the world.
The events in Ukraine have shown that, the big capital has no hesitation to ally even with the neo-nazis, in order to impose the new world order. This is not something new of course. The connection of Hitler with the German economic oligarchs, but also with other major Western companies, before and during the WWII, is well known.
Besides, the history of neoliberalism starts with a dictatorship rather than a democracy, when dictator Pinochet with the US support, ousted the democratically elected president of Chile, Salvador Allende, and Chile became the first "lab-rat" of neoliberalism. Milton Friedman and the "Chicago Boys" were the main advisors of the dictator. Chile transformed into an exploitation field for the American companies and powerful cartels, while the majority of the people suffered in poverty by an atrocious dictatorship.
The economic crisis is the main cause for the increasing limitation of democracy in Greece. The Greek government, in many cases, takes decisions through legislative acts without the approvement of the parliament, demonstrations are increasingly criminalized, like in Spain, and it will be worth also to remember how the PMs in Greece and Italy were replaced through an anti-democratic process, by the banks' puppets Papademos and Monti. Europe, which supposedly cares about human rights, has silenced in front of crimes like those in Lampedusa and Farmakonisi and hides the problem of illegal immigration.
This time, however, the last "fig leaf" of the West has fallen for good, exposing its huge hypocrisy. While until today, operations and wars in other countries (Yugoslavia, Iraq, etc.) were taking place under the excuse of the fight against terrorism, the supposed "liberation" of people from authoritarian regimes, or, the supposed defence of human rights, there is no excuse in the case of Ukraine and mostly Crimea. The right of self-determination is not applicable in this case, according to the Western hypocrites, who activate this right only in "special" cases to serve their interests, like in the case of Kosovo.
The most terrifying of all however, is not that the West has silenced in front of the decrees of the new Ukrainian leadership, through which is targeting the minorities, but the fact that the West allied with the neo-nazis, while according to some information has also funded their actions as well as other extreme nationalist groups during the riots in Kiev.
Especially Europe, has already sacrifice its principles and values on the altar of banks and markets. All indications point to the fact that, the global economic elite seeks to impose the new world order through the neoliberal dictatorship, everywhere, by any means ...
May 2, 2014 | Conflicts Forum
Following five days in Moscow, a few thoughts on Russian perspectives: Firstly, we are beyond the Crimea. That is over. We too are beyond 'loose' federalism for Ukraine (no longer thought politically viable). Indeed, we are most likely beyond Ukraine as a single entity. Also, we are beyond either Kiev or Moscow having the capacity to 'control' events (in the wider sense of the word): both are hostage to events (as well as are Europe and America), and to any provocations mounted by a multitude of uncontrollable and violent activists.
In gist, the dynamics towards some sort of secession of East Ukraine (either in part, or in successive increments) is thought to be the almost inevitable outcome. The question most informed commentators in Moscow ask themselves is whether this will occur with relatively less or relatively more violence – and whether that violence will reach such a level (massacres of ethnic Russians or of the pro-Russian community) that President Putin will feel that he has no option but to intervene. We are nowhere near that point at the time of writing: Kiev's 'security initiatives' have been strikingly ineffective, and casualties surprisingly small (given the tensions). It seems that the Ukrainian military is unwilling, or unable (or both of these), to crush a rebellion composed only of a few hundred armed men backed by a few thousand unarmed civilians - but that of course may change at any moment. (One explanation circulating on Russian internet circles is that pro-Russian insurgents and the Ukrainian servicemen simply will not shoot at each other - even when given the order to do so. Furthermore, they appear to be in direct and regular contact with each other and there is an informal understanding that neither side will fire at the other. Note - we have witnessed similar understandings in Afghanistan in the 1980s between the Soviet armed forces and the Mujahidin.)
And this the point, most of those with whom we spoke suspect that it is the interest of certain components of the American foreign policy establishment (but not necessarily that of the US President) to provoke just such a situation: a forced Russian intervention in East Ukraine (in order to protect its nationals there from violence or disorder or both). It is also thought that Russian intervention could be seen to hold political advantage to the beleaguered and fading acting government in Kiev. And further, it is believed that some former Soviet Republics, now lying at the frontline of the EU's interface with Russia, will see poking Moscow in the eye as a settling of past scores, as well as underscoring their standing in Brussels and Washington for having brought 'democracy' to eastern Europe.
There seems absolutely no appetite in Moscow to intervene in Ukraine (and this is common to all shades of political opinion). Everyone understands Ukraine to be a vipers' nest, and additionally knows it to be a vast economic 'black hole'. But … you can scarcely meet anyone in Moscow who does not have relatives in Ukraine. This is not Libya; East Ukraine is family. Beyond some certain point, if the dynamic for separation persists, and if the situation on the ground gets very messy, some sort of Russian intervention may become unavoidable (just as Mrs Thatcher found it impossible to resist pressures to intervene in support of British 'kith and kin' in the Falklands). Moscow well understands that such a move will unleash another western outpouring of outrage.
More broadly then, we are moving too beyond the post-Cold War global dispensation, or unipolar moment. We are not heading – at least from the Russian perspective, as far as can be judged – towards a new Cold War, but to a period of increased Russian antagonism towards any western move that it judges hostile to its key interests – and especially to those that are seen to threaten its security interests. In this sense, a Cold War is not inevitable. Russia has made, for example, no antagonistic moves in Iran, in Syria or in Afghanistan. Putin has been at some pains to underline that whereas – from now – Russia will pursue its vital interests unhesitatingly, and in the face of any western pressures, on other non-existential issues, it is still open to diplomatic business as usual.
That said, and to just to be clear, there is deep disillusion with European (and American) diplomacy in Moscow. No one holds out any real prospect for diplomacy – given the recent history of breaches of faith (broken agreements) in Ukraine. No doubt these sentiments are mirrored in western capitals, but the atmosphere in Moscow is hardening, and hardening visibly. Even the 'pro-Atlanticist' component in Russia senses that Europe will not prove able to de-escalate the situation. They are both disappointed, and bitter at their political eclipse in the new mood that is contemporary Russia, where the 'recovery of sovergnty' current prevails.
Thus, the era of Gorbachevian hope of some sort of parity of esteem (even partnership) emerging between Russia and the western powers, in the wake of the conclusion to the Cold War, has imploded – with finality. To understand this is to reflect on the way the Cold War was brought to and end; and how that ending, and its aftermath, was managed. In retrospect, the post-war era was not well handled by the US, and there existirreconcilable narratives on the subject of the nature of the so-called 'defeat' itself, and whether it was a defeat for Russia at all.
Be that as it may, the Russian people have been treated as if they were psychologically-seared and defeated in the Cold War – as were the Japanese in the wake of the dropping of the nuclear bombs by the US in 1945. Russia was granted a bare paucity of esteem in the Cold War's wake; instead Russians experienced rather the disdain of victors for the defeated visited upon them. There was little or any attempt at including Russia in a company of the nations of equals – as many Russians had hoped. Few too would contest that the economic measures forced on Russia in the war's aftermath brought anything other than misery to most Russians. However unlike 1945, most Russians never felt defeated, and some felt then – and still feel – just betrayed. Whatever the verdict of history on how much the Cold War truly was a defeat, the aftermath of it has given rise to a Versailles Treaty-type of popular resentment at the consequences of the post-Cold War settlement, and at the (unwarranted) unipolar triumphalism (from the Russian perspective).
In this sense, it is the end of an era: it marks the end of the post-Cold War settlement that brought into being the American unipolar era. It is the rise of a Russian challenge to that unipolar order which seems so unsettling to many living in the West. Just as Versailles was psychologically rejected by Germans, so Russia is abdicating out of the present dispensation (at least in respect to its key interests). The big question must be whether the wider triangulation (US-Russia-China) that saw merit in its complementary touching at each of its three apexes is over too - a triangulation on which the US depends heavily for its foreign policy. We have to wait on China. The answer to this question may well hinge on how far the antagonism between Russia and the West is allowed – or even encouraged – to escalate. Only then, might it become more apparent how many, and who, is thinking of seceding from the global order (including from the Federal Reserve controlled financial system).
In the interim, time and dynamics require Russia to do little in Ukraine at this point but to watch and wait. The mood in Russia, however, is to expect provocations in Ukraine, by any one of the assorted interested parties, with the aim of forcing a Russian intervention - and thus a politically useful 'limited' war that will do many things: restore US 'leadership' in Europe, give NATO a new mission and purpose, and provide the same (and greater prominence) to certain newer EU member states (such as Poland). Russia will have concluded that the second round of economic sanctions has revealed more about a certain lack of political (and financial) will – or perhaps vulnerability – on the part of America's European allies. Russia no doubt sees the US to be gripped by the logic of escalation (as Administration talk centres on a new containment strategy, and the demonization of Russia as a pariah state), whatever President Obama may be hinting through the columns of David Ignatius. It is a dangerous moment, as all in Moscow acknowledge, with positions hardening on both sides.
Russia is not frightened by sanctions (which some, with influence in Moscow, would welcome as a chance to push-back against the US use of the global interbank payment systems for its own ends). Nor is Russia concerned that, as occurred with the USSR, the US – in today's changed circumstances – can contrive a drop in the price of oil in order to weaken the state. But Russia is somewhat more vulnerable to the West's teaming up with Sunni radicals as its new geo-strategic weapon of choice.
We have therefore seen a Russian outreach both to Saudi Arabia and Egypt (President Putin recently extolled King Abdallah's "wisdom"). There is a feeling too that US policy is not fully controlled by the US President; and that Gulf States, smelling that US policy may be adrift, and open to manipulation by interests within the US, will take advantage (perhaps in coordination with certain Americans opposed to President Obama's policies) to escalate the jihadist war against President Assad and to target Obama's Iran policy. Russia may be expected to try to circumscribe this danger to its own Muslim population and to that of its neighbouring former Soviet Republics. But for now, Russia will be likely to play it cool: to wait-and-see how events unfold, before recalibrating any main components of its Middle East policy.
For the longer term however, Russia's effective divorce out of the unipolar international order will impact powerfully on the Middle East, where Saudi Arabia (not to say Syria and Iran) have already virtually done the same.
Apr 17, 2014 | CounterPunch
"Russia … is now recognized as the center of the global 'mutiny' against global dictatorship of the US and EU. Its generally peaceful .. approach is in direct contrast to brutal and destabilizing methods used by the US and EU…. The world is waking up to reality that there actually is, suddenly, some strong and determined resistance to Western imperialism. After decades of darkness, hope is emerging." – Andre Vltchek, Ukraine: Lies and Realities, CounterPunch
Russia is not responsible for the crisis in Ukraine. The US State Department engineered the fascist-backed coup that toppled Ukraine's democratically-elected president Viktor Yanukovych and replaced him with the American puppet Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a former banker. Hacked phone calls reveal the critical role that Washington played in orchestrating the putsch and selecting the coup's leaders. Moscow was not involved in any of these activities. Vladimir Putin, whatever one may think of him, has not done anything to fuel the violence and chaos that has spread across the country.
Putin's main interest in Ukraine is commercial. 66 percent of the natural gas that Russia exports to the EU transits Ukraine. The money that Russia makes from gas sales helps to strengthen the Russian economy and raise standards of living. It also helps to make Russian oligarchs richer, the same as it does in the West. The people in Europe like the arrangement because they are able to heat their homes and businesses market-based prices. In other words, it is a good deal for both parties, buyer and seller. This is how the free market is supposed to work. The reason it doesn't work that way presently is because the United States threw a spanner in the gears when it deposed Yanukovych. Now no one knows when things will return to normal.
Check out this chart at Business Insider and you'll see why Ukraine matters to Russia.
The overriding goal of US policy in Ukraine is to stop the further economic integration of Asia and Europe. That's what the fracas is really all about. The United States wants to control the flow of energy from East to West, it wants to establish a de facto tollbooth between the continents, it wants to ensure that those deals are transacted in US dollars and recycled into US Treasuries, and it wants to situate itself between the two most prosperous markets of the next century. Anyone who has even the sketchiest knowledge of US foreign policy– particularly as it relates to Washington's "pivot to Asia"– knows this is so. The US is determined to play a dominant role in Eurasia in the years ahead. Wreaking havoc in Ukraine is a central part of that plan.
Retired German Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Jochen Scholz summed up US policy in an open letter which appeared on the Neue Rheinilche Zeitung news-site last week. Scholz said the Washington's objective was "to deny Ukraine a role as a bridge between Eurasian Union and European Union….They want to bring Ukraine under the NATO control" and sabotage the prospects for "a common economic zone from Lisbon to Vladivostok."
Bingo. That's US policy in a nutshell. It has nothing to do with democracy, sovereignty, or human rights. It's about money and power. Who are the big players going to be in the world's biggest growth center, that's all that matters. Unfortunately for Obama and Co., the US has fallen behind Russia in acquiring the essential resources and pipeline infrastructure to succeed in such a competition. They've been beaten by Putin and Gazprom at every turn. While Putin has strengthened diplomatic and economic relations, expanded vital pipeline corridors and transit lines, and hurtled the many obstacles laid out for him by American-stooges in the EC; the US has dragged itself from one quagmire to the next laying entire countries to waste while achieving none of its economic objectives.
So now the US has jettisoned its business strategy altogether and moved on to Plan B, regime change. Washington couldn't beat Putin in a fair fight, so now they've taken off the gloves. Isn't that what's really going on? Isn't that why the US NGOs, and the Intel agencies, and the State Dept were deployed to launch their sloppily-engineered Nazi-coup that's left the country in chaos?
Once again, Putin played no part in any of this. All he did was honor the will of the people in Crimea who voted overwhelmingly (97%) to reunite with the Russian Federation. From a purely pragmatic point of view, what other choice did they have? After all, who in their right mind would want to align themselves with the most economically mismanaged confederation of all time (The EU) while facing the real possibility that their nation could be reduced to Iraq-type rubble and destitution in a matter of years? Who wouldn't opt-out of such an arrangement?
As we noted earlier, Putin's main objective is to make money. In contrast, the US wants to dominate the Eurasian landmass, break Russia up into smaller, non-threatening units, and control China's growth. That's the basic gameplan. Also, the US does not want any competitors, which we can see from this statement by Paul Wolfowitz which evolved into the US National Defense Strategy:
"Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power."
This is the prevailing doctrine that Washington lives by. No rivals. No competition. We're the boss. What we say, goes. The US is Numero Uno, le grande fromage. Who doesn't know this already? Here's more from Wolfowitz:
"The U.S. must show the leadership necessary to establish and protect a new order that holds the promise of convincing potential competitors that they need not aspire to a greater role or pursue a more aggressive posture to protect their legitimate interests. In non-defense areas, we must account sufficiently for the interests of the advanced industrial nations to discourage them from challenging our leadership or seeking to overturn the established political and economic order. We must maintain the mechanism for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role."
In other words, "don't even think about getting more powerful or we'll swat you like a fly." That's the message, isn't it? The reason we draw attention to these quotes is not to pick on Wolfowitz, but to show how things haven't changed under Obama, in fact, they've gotten worse. The so called Bush Doctrine is more in effect today than ever which is why we need to be reminded of its central tenets. The US military is the de facto enforcer of neoliberal capitalism or what Wolfowitz calls "the established political and economic order". Right. The statement provides a blanket justification for the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and now Ukraine. The US can do whatever it deems necessary to protect the interests of its constituents, the multi-national corporations and big finance. The US owns the world and everyone else is just a visitor. So shut the hell up, and do what you're told. That's the message. Here's Wolfowitz one more time:
"We continue to recognize that collectively the conventional forces of the states formerly comprising the Soviet Union retain the most military potential in all of Eurasia; and we do not dismiss the risks to stability in Europe from a nationalist backlash in Russia or efforts to reincorporate into Russia the newly independent republics of Ukraine, Belarus, and possibly others."
Wolfowitz figured the moment would come when the US would have to square off with Moscow in order to pursue it's imperial strategy in Asia. Putin doesn't seem to grasp that yet. He still clings to the misguided notion that rational people will find rational solutions to end the crisis. But he's mistaken. Washington does not want a peaceful solution. Washington wants a confrontation. Washington wants to draw Moscow into a long-term conflict in Ukraine that will recreate Afghanistan in the 1990s. That's the goal, to lure Putin into a military quagmire that will discredit him in the eyes of the world, isolate Russia from its allies, put strains on new alliances, undermine the Russian economy, pit Russian troops against US-backed armed mercenaries and Special Ops, destroy Russian relations with business partners in the EU, and create a justification for NATO intervention followed by the deployment of nuclear weapons on Ukrainian territory. That's the gameplan. Why doesn't Putin see that?
Mar 31, 2014 | truth-out.org
...Thom Hartmann reports, "wages have gone down almost seven percent since the recession. And, that decline followed more than three decades of stagnant wages thanks to Reaganomics."Mutual sharing and aid has no seductive power in our elemental level of being - but domination does.
Neoliberals, moderate or immoderate, pragmatic or crazed, attribute this sorry state of affairs to a number of variables that Liberals agree with, mostly referring to a transition from a low-tech society to a high-tech society, from a manufacturing base to a financial base, from a hunting, farming and manufacturing economy to an information economy. None of this has any drawing power.
But the neoliberal steady refrain, from Reagan's Welfare Queen to Romney's 47 percent, has seductive power with that pivotal, crucial, voting middle class. The seductive spin is well-known:
"The slow degeneration of working-class family life and the creation of a 'moocher' class too lazy and indulged to get a job results from 'big government' nurturing and coddling."
There is a seductiveness also to other neoliberal reasons as to why immiseration is like the wolf now at every door but those of an elite few. Each "reason" touches a hot spot already fully charged within us.
- The collapse of a "nuclear family" is the collapse of a patriarchal order that is itself an order preserving male desire.
- The bureaucracy of public education is no more than the resistance of what is public, governmental and socialist to personal choice and individual freedom.
- The power of unions resides in a communist-like solidarity that obstructs the free and competitive play of business.
To read more articles by Joseph Natoli and other authors in the Public Intellectual Project, click here.
All of these briefs are seductive spins within the American cultural imaginary, not because they rest on uncontested fact and evidence, but because they rest on seductions and repressions already deeply embedded in that imaginary. In other words, the way we think now is so heavily layered in fantasies and illusions that the argument that wins the day does not appeal to rationality but rests on those fantasies and illusions.
As I have suggested before, this imaginary and its accompanying fantasies and illusions are not partisan, there being no politics ruling imagination.
Cyrus Bina, See all my reviews
February 9, 2014
Review of Economics of The 1%: How Mainstream Economics Serves the Rich, Obscures Reality and Distorts Policy by John F. Weeks, Anthem Press, 2014 (Paperback).
Voltaire (1694-1778), a well-known social critic and philosopher of the eighteenth century, who reportedly had also a cordial meeting with Adam Smith (1723-1790), once said "I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: 'O Lord! make my enemies ridiculous.' And God granted it." John Weeks has a fortune of devoting nearly fifty years of his life to observe, inhale, and witness the absurdity of mainstream economics in our textbooks - from freshman to Ph.D. - and in public policy in practice. Thus, he is the de facto witness extraordinaire in this business. In my mind, the subject of John Weeks's book, Economists of The 1%, is even more pitiful than the nagging pre-modern themes in Voltaire's age.
Yet John Weeks is more blessed than Voltaire ever was in the view of the fact that the mainstream economics (and mainstream economists) is the subject of self-indictment by everyday life. Today the toxic ideology of mainstream theory is observable by naked eye just like the detection of "toxic assets" in Wall Street and the splendid swindle that has now taken us on the brink of Great Depression since 2007. But John Weeks is revealing a larger story, the story of fakery by "respectable" economists who appoint themselves to the task of perpetuating a fairytale model of economy and stripping the public of intellectual understanding before hitting them in the wallet en masse. He informs us in plain non-technical language that preachers of the mainstream economics, in the classroom or in Wall Street, are faking of the facts and masquerading rather shamelessly in the name of science. Weeks tells us that the mainstream economic ideology is hell-bent on promoting confusion in the interest the 1%, and that in the lexicon of absurd "free" or "freedom" denotes free to fake.
Finally, in this easy to read and easy to understand book, John Weeks - the economist of the 99% - carefully deciphers the secret behind all these fraudulent claims by mainstream (neoclassical) economics. In Economics of the 1%, he shows rather vividly why should we take control of our economics education in order to recognize the difference between the real and fake, particularly "fakonomics," dished out and bulletproof by peddlers of polarization and captains of economic upheaval in our society and our classrooms. To know how highly I recommend this book: I wish to urge you to refrain from reading (or purchasing) any of my own books (please) until you read this book in its entirety – I mean it!
Cyrus Bina, Ph.D.
Distinguished Research Professor of Economics
University of Minnesota, USA
Elected Fellow, Economists for Peace and Security
Author of most recently A Prelude to the Foundation of Political Economy: Oil, War, and Global Polity (2013)
Feb 13, 2014 | The Real News Network
Real News Network(Jaisal Noor): So one of the chapters in your book is titled "Lies about Government", and you start off the chapter by talking about fake economics, which is the term you use to describe mainstream neoliberal economics. And you say it includes as a central message the inherent inefficiency and intrinsic malevolence of governments at all levels. Talk about what you mean and how governments and their role in our economy is so vilified and why that's done.WEEKS: It derives from a basic ideology that says that everybody and everybody in the world is a consumer and that you derive your pleasure in life from consuming, which, if you reflect on it, obviously is a pretty sick idea. I mean, people who actually behave that way I think are rather unhappy people. But at any rate, if you take that position, if you take that analytical position, then it follows that taxes are a burden--they take away an individual's ability to consume. And they are--some of it may be absolutely necessary. You might say that that's the more benign wing of this school of economics, which I refer to as fakery. And so they begin by saying everybody's a consumer. Taxes should be as small as possible so you can go out and consume. And anything that can be produced through the private sector should be produced by the private sector. And then, in addition to that, if it ends up being produced through the government, it will be produced inefficiently; that is, there are some things you can't avoid, one presumes. You can't have a private fire department. They would just go and put out the fires of the people that paid, not the ones next door that hadn't. But most things, you should go from the private sector, 'cause the government is inherently inefficient.
It's quite extraordinary, actually, that people--many people believe that. The reason they believe it is because it's beaten into people every day, because--think about it for a moment. You'll learn that, say, the environmental agency wastes money building something or other, whether it be subsidizing wind farms or subsidizing people to do research on non-carbon-based energies. But this is peanuts compared to the private sector. I mean, you have these executives who oversaw the collapse of the financial system, and each year they're getting bonuses of up to $100 million, $300 million. Well, I mean, if this isn't a waste, what is?
And then, in addition, many of these companies produce things that are absolutely useless for the economy, making billions of dollars out of producing so-called financial products which led to the collapse of the economy.
But the idea's been sold. You know, government is inefficient. We'll make it as small as possible. And we ought to--oh my deuce. I forget what the cliche is. It ought to be leaner and more effective.
This is nonsense. The government sector needs to be larger. Just about all of the basic things governments do they do more effectively and cheaper than the private sector. One of the best examples is pensions. The U.S. Social Security system is much more efficient than anything in the private sector. And that is because the government doesn't charge you a handling fee and doesn't run a profit doing it.
So there is this ideology that says the natural state of people is markets, and governments are intrusions into those markets, which itself is completely nonsense, because the people out there watching, they might have had bad experiences going down to the post office, having to stand in line, all that sort of stuff, but they sure had bad experiences with the private sector.
The idea that markets should exist without government regulation is absurd. You know, say a supermarket, which is a concrete form of a market--how do you get there? You're driving your car. In order to drive that car, you have to have a licence. You get the license from the state government. You're going to drive on a road. The government will have built that road. There will be regulations about how fast you can drive so you don't kill each other, other people when you do it. The government is doing all of that. That supermarket could not exist. That supermarket chain could not exist without the role of local and federal government. It's not that the federal government intervenes in markets. It's that they are the facilitator by which markets exist.
Now, there may be some things that are silly for governments to do, just like there are some things that are silly for markets to do. But the idea that somehow you could have a market, it wasn't--that had the government out of it wasn't completely contrary to all experience.
Eric_Saunders > Shelly
Weeks in only pointing out the obvious. We need regulation for innumerable reasons. Public ownership of natural monopolies is beneficial because it provides public goods without rent seeking.
The "free market" propaganda was indeed foisted on us through social engineering and all manner of propaganda paid for by the ruling class. If you want to actually understand this, I would recommend David Harvey's A Brief History of Neoliberalism or the book Winner Take All Politics.
You bring up the 1% and then attack Weeks for being a leftist. Your criticism is incoherent. You do not seem to grasp or even acknowledge the neoliberal and neoclassical dogma that Weeks is (justifiably) attacking. You have no economic understanding and are just spouting your uninformed opinions.
William W Haywood
I think he is saying that we now have a government that does not govern for the people's benefit, but governs because those in high elected office have become enamored, highly, of capitalism, extreme wealth, and dictatorial like powers over most other citizens. The upper echelons of our once democratic government are now filled with corporate money makers, and they are busy converting that once democratic government into one that helps the wealthy and powerful stay in wealth and power, and make more of both. What this nation was founded for, our constitution and Bill of Rights, does not mean squat to these devils. MALEVOLENT is an exceptionally well though out description of both of our political parties, and of most of the individuals holding power within the government, Supreme Court, justice system, etc.., To say that their actions are criminal would be an understatement, except that they have also turned our Justice system into a tool for the destruction of public liberty, so they have become quite difficult to prosecute...if not impossible.. Everyone holding political office within the confines of the US, because they are allowing this crap to go on, should be considered a traitor to the American people.
Corporations do a good job of covering up the public money they get in subsidies and tax breaks. They don't do anything, alone. Talk about inefficiency?-----Look at the huge salaries CEO's get for sitting on their rear ends. Now, that's inefficiency! Oh, yes, they do a lot of thinking about how to cheat the public out of their hard earned money. They do do that.
Excellent interview and John Weeks book, while a little pricey, is well worth the cost. (Maybe he can be encouraged to come up with a little discount for people who donate to TRNN).
While the great mass of the unwashed and uneducated might be excused for believing the propaganda of neoliberalism, those pedaling it can not be excused any longer. They are fakes, frauds, charlatans, snake oil salesmen, conmen and hucksters [did I leave anything out].
Now I will tell you what I really think. As John Weeks and his book so clearly point out this is all a great hoax and lie to keep the 1% at the top of the game at the expense of the 99%. And the only logical conclusions is that they know what they are doing and they are doing it very deceitfully.
Those that are knowledgeable in political-economics [the two field of study should never have been separated] know to a great degree how development and wealth is created; and for whom. Wealth can either largely be created for the 1% as it has been throughout most of human history; or it can be created for the great majority of citizens which a new concept developed only within the past 100 or so years.
So it would seem the "Invisible Hand" of Adam Smith's imagination is in reality an "Invisible Boot" on the neck of the people. That Boot is government which by definition is the monopoly on violence. The Boot can either be benevolent and creative for the 99% or it can be traditionally violent for the benefit of the
In the first decade of the new millennium, Latin America is far from Francis Fukuyama's prediction of the end of history. At both the elite and mass levels, liberal democracy and market economics are neither the only nor necessarily the preferred models for development. In fact, democratically elected leaders such as Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, Néstor Kirchner in Argentina, and Evo Morales in Bolivia have implemented economic policies at odds with the prescriptions of the Washington Consensus. At the same time, various social movements and leaders have emerged demanding not only the nationalization of economic resources but also new forms of political articulation beyond liberal politics. In this light, it is not surprising that interesting debates are taking place on the (re)emergence of the Latin American left and on the search for new models of development. These debates are at the heart of the six books reviewed here.
... ... ...
From the perspective of political science, Contemporary Latin America shows not only that the Washington Consensus had - and still has, in some countries - an important degree of popular support but also that its decline is due to ideological changes at the global level, as seen in entities such as international fi nancial institutions (IFIs). Consistent with these findings, Governance after Neoliberalism in Latin America looks at newly emergent paradigms, with both individual and comparative analyses by specialists in political science, political economy, and development. Post-Neoliberalism in the Americas provides an overview of recent trends in economic policy in North, Central, and South America to attempt to answer the question of whether Latin America's turn to the left implies the death of neoliberalism or rather neoliberalism's inclusion of progressive alternatives. Its contributors vary greatly in orientation, representing development studies, gender studies, international relations, political economy, political science, and sociology.
... ... ...
The theories of Karl Polanyi also receive special attention in four of the six books under review, with his Great Transformation (1944) as a point of reference. Silva explains this interest, and along lines similar to those of Panizza observes,
"Polanyi claimed that market society could not be the foundation for a stable and just social order. It created social tensions that inevitably led individuals and society to seek protection from the market's destructive power because market society sought to reduce humans to one dimension: that of commodities" (17).
Not surprisingly, several authors see a "Polanyian double movement" in which a market society is constructed, on the one hand, and a protectionist countermovement arises against it, on the other hand. Friesen states, for instance, that
"[l]iberalized market forces run freely until they create socially intolerable outcomes and, at this point, society pushes back with regulation and constraint. This counter-movement continues until a successful case is made for the efficiencies of unfettered markets processes, at which point market liberalization reoccurs and the whole process begins again" (in Macdonald and Ruckert, 83–84).
...the term post-neoliberalism signifies more the intent to move beyond the Washington Consensus than any coherent, new model of governance. Macdonald and Ruckert postulate in the introduction to their volume that
"the post-neoliberal era is characterized mainly by a search for progressive policy alternatives arising out of the many contradictions of neoliberalism" (6).
From this angle, the term postneoliberalism refers to the emergence of a new historical moment that puts into question the technocratic consensus on how to achieve economic growth and deepen democracy. Similarly, Roberts maintains that,
"[s]ince it is not clear whether the region's new leftist governments have identifi ed, much less consolidated, viable alternatives to market liberalism, it is far too early to claim that Latin America has entered a post-neoliberal era of development" (in Burdick, Oxhorn, and Roberts, 1).
Panizza offers a different and interesting point ... post-neoliberalism seeks not only to contest the technocratic monopolization of political space but also to favor the expansion of the national state, particularly in the economic arena.
...Silva finds, for example, that in Peru, "significant insurrectionary movements and a turn to authoritarianism that closed political space during Fujimori's presidency inhibited the formation of associational power and horizontal linkages among social movement organizations" (231).
This explanation is shared by Roberts, who, in the introduction to Beyond Neoliberalism in Latin America?, states that a bottom-up perspective helps us understand that market reforms may unintentionally have sown the seeds for protest. That is, the Washington Consensus may have brought with it demands by and on behalf of the poor and disadvantaged.
...Silva observes that the support of transnational entities such as certain UN organizations and international nongovernmental organizations has been decisive in nurturing contention and, by extension, antineoliberal mobilizations.
...Latin American neostructuralism is not necessarily against the Washington Consensus, but it is at odds with the idea that the invisible hand of the market is all-powerful.
...An additional factor in the movement beyond the Washington Consensus is the premise that we have entered a new historical period marked not only by new global powers but also, as Macdonald and Ruckert note in the introduction to their collection, by "the decline of the United States' historic hegemony in the southern part of the hemisphere" (10). This became particularly evident after the events of September 11, 2001, which gave Latin American countries more room to test and implement policies
at odds with the Washington Consensus. In addition, the failure of U.S. efforts to create the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) "paved the way for the emergence of alternative projects of regionalist political economy creating a new environment for the reemergence of nationalism in the South" (Grugel and Riggirozzi, 15).
Another similarity among current left-of-center governments is that they favor an activist state; that is, they believe that state capacity must be built back up after decades of retrenchment (Macdonald and Ruckert). Moreover, they advocate implementing and expanding relatively new kinds of policies, particularly so-called conditional cash-transfer programs, which provide payments to poor persons who meet certain desiderata, such as enrolling their children in school or having themselves vaccinated.
Néstor and Cristina Kirchner in Argentina, Ricardo Lagos and Michelle Bachelet in Chile, and Lula da Silva in Brazil are prime examples of this approach (Cortés, in Grugel and Riggirozzi). The last important
commonality among current leftist regimes is the search for new forms of regional cooperation to counteract the U.S. FTAA. Chávez in Venezuela and Morales in Bolivia illustrate this intent, as Burton and Domingo discuss in Governance after Neoliberalism. Tussie notes that regional cooperation is also supported by more moderate leftists such as Silva, who has sought in particular to promote South-South relations (in Grugel and Riggirozzi).
...Future research on post-neoliberalism requires more precise use of the concept of critical juncture, taken from historical institutionalist literature and loosely defined as a
"relatively short perio[d] of time during which there is a substantially heightened probability that agents' choices will affect the outcome of interest."3
Silva asserts, accordingly, that "the fluidity of contemporary developments suggests we may be at a new critical juncture with respect to the incorporation of the popular sectors in politics" (270), yet he does not address a series of related questions. First, can we speak of a common critical juncture, or do different critical junctures exist for the various nations of Latin America? Second, if a critical juncture is a short period of time, does that imply that the current window of opportunity to make major transformations in Latin America is coming to a close?
August 7, 2004 | Dr.Henry A. Giroux-Online Articles
August 7, 2004
Neoliberalism has become one of the most pervasive, if not, dangerous ideologies of the 21st century. It pervasiveness is evident not only by its unparalleled influence on the global economy, but also by its power to redefine the very nature of politics itself. Free market fundamentalism rather than democratic idealism is now the driving force of economics and politics in most of the world, and it is a market ideology driven not just by profits but by an ability to reproduce itself with such success that, to paraphrase Fred Jameson, it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of neoliberal capitalism.
Wedded to the belief that the market should be the organizing principle for all political, social, and economic decisions, neoliberalism wages an incessant attack on democracy, public goods, the welfare state, and non-commodified values. Under neoliberalism everything either is for sale or is plundered for profit. Public lands are looted by logging companies and corporate ranchers; politicians willingly hand the public's airwaves over to powerful broadcasters and large corporate interests without a dime going into the public trust; Halliburton gives war profiteering a new meaning as it is granted corporate contracts without any competitive bidding and then bilks the U.S. government for millions; the environment is polluted and despoiled in the name of profit-making just as the government passes legislation to make it easier for corporations to do so; public services are gutted in order to lower the taxes of major corporations; schools more closely resemble either malls or jails, and teachers are forced to get revenue for their school by hawking everything from hamburgers to pizza parties. As markets are touted as the driving force of everyday life, big government is disparaged as either incompetent or threatening to individual freedom, suggesting that power should reside in markets and corporations rather than in governments (except for their support for corporate interests and national security) and citizens.
Under neoliberalism, the state now makes a grim alignment with corporate capital and transnational corporations. Gone are the days when the state "assumed responsibility for a range of social needs."  Instead, agencies of government now pursues a wide range of "'deregulations,' privatizations, and abdications of responsibility to the market and private philanthropy."  Deregulation, in turn, promotes "widespread, systematic disinvestment in the nation's basic productive capacity."  Flexible production encourages wage slavery and disposable populations at home. And the search for ever greater profits leads to outsourcing which accentuates the flight of capital and jobs abroad. Neoliberalism has now become the prevailing logic in the United States, and according to Stanley Aronowitz "...the neoliberal economic doctrine proclaiming the superiority of free markets over public ownership, or even public regulation of private economic activities, has become the conventional wisdom, not only among conservatives but among social progressives." 
The ideology and power of neoliberalism also cuts across national boundaries. Throughout the globe, the forces of neoliberalism are on the march, dismantling the historically guaranteed social provisions provided by the welfare state, defining profit-making as the essence of democracy, and equating freedom with the unrestricted ability of markets to "govern economic relations free of government regulation."  Transnational in scope, neoliberalism now imposes its economic regime and market values on developing and weaker nations through structural adjustment policies enforced by powerful financial institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Trade Organization (WTO). Secure in its dystopian vision that there are no alternatives, as England's former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once put it, neoliberalism obviates issues of contingency, struggle, and social agency by celebrating the inevitability of economic laws in which the ethical ideal of intervening in the world gives way to the idea that we "have no choice but to adapt both our hopes and our abilities to the new global market."  Coupled with a new culture of fear, market freedoms seem securely grounded in a defense of national security, capital, and property rights. When coupled with a media driven culture of fear and the everyday reality of insecurity, public space becomes increasingly militarized as state governments invest more in prison construction than in education. Prison guards and security personnel in public schools are two of the fastest growing professions.
In its capacity to dehistoricize and depoliticize society, as well as in its aggressive attempts to destroy all of the public spheres necessary for the defense of a genuine democracy, neoliberalism reproduces the conditions for unleashing the most brutalizing forces of capitalism. Social Darwinism has been resurrected from the ashes of the 19th century sweatshops and can now be seen in full bloom in most reality TV programs and in the unfettered self-interests that now drives popular culture. As narcissism is replaced by unadulterated materialism, public concerns collapse into utterly private considerations and where public space does exist it is mainly used as a confessional for private woes, a cut throat game of winner take all, or a advertisement for consumerism.
Neoliberal policies dominate the discourse of politics and use the breathless rhetoric of the global victory of free-market rationality to cut public expenditures and undermine those non-commodified public spheres that serve as the repository for critical education, language, and public intervention. Spewed forth by the mass media, right-wing intellectuals, religious fanatics, and politicians, neoliberal ideology, with its ongoing emphasis on deregulation and privatization, has found its material expression in an all-out attack on democratic values and on the very notion of the public sphere. Within the discourse of neoliberalism, the notion of the public good is devalued and, where possible, eliminated as part of a wider rationale for a handful of private interests to control as much of social life as possible in order to maximize their personal profit. Public services such as health care, child care, public assistance, education, and transportation are now subject to the rules of the market. Construing the public good as a private good and the needs of the corporate and private sector as the only source of investment, neoliberal ideology produces, legitimates, and exacerbates the existence of persistent poverty, inadequate health care, racial apartheid in the inner cities, and the growing inequalities between the rich and the poor. 
As Stanley Aronowitz points out, the Bush administration has made neoliberal ideology the cornerstone of its program and has been in the forefront in actively supporting and implementing the following policies:
[D]eregulation of business at all levels of enterprises and trade; tax reduction for wealthy individuals and corporations; the revival of the near-dormant nuclear energy industry; limitations and abrogation of labor's right to organize and bargain collectively; a land policy favoring commercial and industrial development at the expense of conservation and other pro environment policies; elimination of income support to the chronically unemployed; reduced federal aid to education and health; privatization of the main federal pension programs, Social Security; limitation on the right of aggrieved individuals to sue employers and corporations who provide services; in addition, as social programs are reduced, [Republicans] are joined by the Democrats in favoring increases in the repressive functions of the state, expressed in the dubious drug wars in the name of fighting crime, more funds for surveillance of ordinary citizens, and the expansion of the federal and local police forces. 
Central to both neoliberal ideology and its implementation by the Bush administration is the ongoing attempts by free-market fundamentalists and right wing politicians to view government as the enemy of freedom (except when it aids big business) and discount it as a guardian of the public interest. The call to eliminate big government is neoliberalism's great unifying idea and has broad popular appeal in the United States because it is a principle deeply embedded in the country's history and tangled up with its notion of political freedom. And yet, the right wing appropriation of this tradition is racked with contradictions in terms of neoliberal policies.
The advocates of neoliberalism have attacked what they call big government when it has provided essential services such as crucial safety nets for the less fortunate, but they have no qualms about using the government to bailout the airline industry after the economic nosedive that followed the 2000 election of George W. Bush and the events of 9/11. Nor are there any expressions of outrage from the cheerleaders of neoliberalism when the state engages in promoting various forms of corporate welfare by providing billions of dollars in direct and indirect subsidies to multinational corporations. In short, government bears no obligation for either the poor and dispossessed or for the collective future of young people.
As the laws of the market take precedence over the laws of the state as guardians of the public good, the government increasingly offers little help in mediating the interface between the advance of capital and its rapacious commercial interests. Neither does it aid non-commodified interests and non-market spheres that create the political, economic, and social spaces and discursive conditions vital for critical citizenship and democratic public life. Within the discourse of neoliberalism, it becomes difficult for the average citizen to speak about political or social transformation, or to even challenge, outside of a grudging nod toward rampant corruption, the ruthless downsizing, the ongoing liquidation of job security, or the elimination of benefits for people now hired on part-time.
The liberal democratic vocabulary of rights, entitlements, social provisions, community, social responsibility, living wage, job security, equality, and justice seem oddly out of place in a country where the promise of democracy has been replaced by casino capitalism, a winner-take-all philosophy, suited to lotto players and day traders alike. As corporate culture extends even deeper into the basic institutions of civil and political society, buttressed daily by a culture industry largely in the hands of concentrated capital, it is reinforced even further by the pervasive fear and insecurity of the public that the future holds nothing beyond a watered down version of the present. As the prevailing discourse of neoliberalism seizes the public imagination, there is no vocabulary for progressive social change, democratically inspired visions, or critical notions of social agency to expand the meaning and purpose of democratic public life. Against the reality of low wage jobs, the erosion of social provisions for a growing number of people and the expanding war against young people of color at home and empire-building abroad, the market-driven juggernaut of neoliberalism continues to mobilize desires in the interest of producing market identities and market relationships that ultimately sever the link between education and social change while reducing agency to the obligations of consumerism.
As neoliberal ideology and corporate culture extend even deeper into the basic institutions of civil and political society, there is a simultaneous diminishing of non-commodified public spheres -those institutions such as public schools, independent bookstores, churches, noncommercial public broadcasting stations, libraries, trade unions and various voluntary institutions engaged in dialogue, education, and learning–that address the relationship of the individual to public life and foster social responsibility and provide a robust vehicle for public participation and democratic citizenship. In the vacuum left by diminishing democracy, religious zealotry, cultural chauvinism, xenophobia, and racism have become the dominant tropes of neoconservatives and other extremist groups eager to take advantage of the growing insecurity, fear, and anxiety that result from increased joblessness, the war on terror, and the unraveling of communities.
As a result of the consolidated corporate attack on public life, the maintenance of democratic public spheres from which to launch a moral vision or to engage in a viable struggle over politics loses all credibility–not to mention monetary support. As the alleged objectivity of neoliberal ideology remains largely unchallenged within dominant public spheres, individual critique and collective political struggles become more difficult.  It gets worse. Dominated by extremists, the Bush administration is driven by an arrogance of power and inflated sense of moral righteousness mediated largely by a false sense of certitude and never ending posture of triumphalism. As George Soros points out this rigid ideology and inflexible sense of mission allows the Bush administration to believe that "because we are stronger than others, we must know better and we must have right on our side. This is where religious fundamentalism comes together with market fundamentalism to form the ideology of American supremacy." 
As public space is increasingly commodified and the state becomes more closely aligned with capital, politics is defined largely by its policing functions rather than an agency for peace and social reform. As the state abandons its social investments in health, education, and the public welfare. It increasingly takes on the functions of an enhanced police or security state, the signs of which are most visible in the increasing use of the state apparatus to spy on and arrests its subjects, the incarceration of individuals coincided disposable (primarily people of color), and the ongoing criminalization of social policies. Examples of the latter include anti-begging ordinances and anti-loitering that fine or punish homeless people for sitting or lying down too long in public places.  An even more despicable example of the barbaric nature of neoliberalism with its emphasis on profits over people and its willingness to punish rather than serve the poor and disenfranchised can be seen in the growing tendency of many hospitals across the country to have patients arrested and jailed if they cannot pay their medical bills. The policy, right out of the pages of George Orwell's 1984, represents a return to debtors prisons, which is now chillingly called "body attachment," and is " basically a warrant for... the patient's arrest." 
Neoliberalism is not simply an economic policy designed to cut government spending, pursue free trade policies, and free market forces from government regulations; it is also a political philosophy and ideology that effects every dimension of social life. Neoliberalism has heralded a radical economic, political, and experiential shift that now largely defines the citizen as a consumer, disbands the social contract in the interests of privatized considerations, and separates capital from the context of place. Under such circumstances, neoliberalism portends the death of politics as we know it, strips the social of its democratic values, and reconstructs agency in terms that are utterly privatized and provides the conditions for an emerging form of proto-fascism that must be resisted at all costs. Neoliberalism not only enshrines unbridled individualism, it also destroys any vestige of democratic society by undercutting its "moral, material, and regulatory moorings,"  and in doing so it offers no language for understanding how the future might be grasped outside of the narrow logic of the market. But there is even more at stake here than the obliteration of public concerns, the death of the social, the emergence of a market-based fundamentalism that undercuts the ability of people to understand how to translate the privately experienced misery into collective action, and the elimination of the gains of the welfare state. There is also the growing threat of displacing "political sovereignty with the sovereignty of the market, as if the latter has a mind and morality of its own."  As democracy becomes a burden under the reign of neoliberalism, civic discourse disappears and the reign of unfettered social Darwinism with its survival-of-the-slickest philosophy emerges as the template for a new form of proto-fascism. None of this will happen in the face of sufficient resistance, nor is the increasing move toward proto-fascism inevitable, but the conditions exist for democracy to lose all semblance of meaning in the United States..
Educators, parents, activists, workers, and others can address this challenge by building local and global alliances and engaging in struggles that acknowledge and transcend national boundaries, but also engage in modes of politics that connect with people's everyday lives. Democratic struggles cannot under emphasize the special responsibility of intellectuals to shatter the conventional wisdom and myths of neoliberalism with its stunted definition of freedom and its depoliticized and dehistoricized definition of its own alleged universality. As the late Pierre Bourdieu argued, any viable politics that challenges neoliberalism must refigure the role of the state in limiting the excesses of capital and providing important social provisions.  At the same time, social movements must address the crucial issue of education as it develops throughout the cultural sphere because the "power of the dominant order is not just economic, but intellectual–lying in the realm of beliefs," and it is precisely within the domain of ideas that a sense of utopian possibility can be restored to the public realm.  Most specifically, democracy necessitates forms of education that provide a new ethic of freedom and a reassertion of collective identity as central preoccupations of a vibrant democratic culture and society. Such a task, in part, suggests that intellectuals, artists, unions, and other progressive movements create teach-ins all over the country in order to name, critique, and connect the forces of market fundamentalism to the war at home and abroad, the shameful tax cuts for the rich, the dismantling of the welfare state, the attack on unions, the erosion of civil liberties, the incarceration of a generation of young black and brown men, the attack on public schools, and the growing militarization of public life. As Bush's credibility crisis is growing, the time has come to link the matters of economics with the crisis of political culture, and to connect the latter to the crisis of democracy itself. We need a new language for politics, for analyzing where it can take place, and what it means to mobilize alliances of workers, intellectuals, academics, journalists, youth groups, and others to reclaim, as Cornel West has aptly put it, hope in dark times.
1. George Steinmetz, 'The State of Emergency and the Revival of American Imperialism; Toward an Authoritarian Post-Fordism," Public Culture 15:2 (Spring 2003), p. 337.
2. George Steinmetz, Ibid., 'The State of Emergency and the Revival of American Imperialism; Toward an Authoritarian Post-Fordism," p. 337.
3. Barry Bluestone and Bennett Harrison, The Deindustrialization of America: Plant Closings, Community Abandonment and the Dismantling of Basic Industry (New York: Basic Books, 1982), p. 6
4. Stanley Aronowitz, Ibid. How Class Works, p. 21.
5. Stanley Aronowitz, How Class Works (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), p. 101.
6. Stanley Aronowitz, "Introduction," in Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of Freedom (Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 1998), p. 7
7. Doug Henwood, After the New Economy (New York: The New Press, 2003); Kevin Phillips, Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich (New York: Broadway, 2003); Paul Krugman, The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the New Century (New York: W.W. Norton, 2003).
8. Stanley Aronowitz, How Class Works (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), p. 102.
9. Of course, there is widespread resistance to neoliberalism and its institutional enforcers such as the WTO and IMF among many intellectuals, students, and global justice movements, but this resistance rarely gets aired in the dominant media and if it does it is often dismissed as irrelevant or tainted by Marxist ideology.
10. George Soros, "The US is Now in the Hands of a Group of Extremists <http://www.commondreams.org/views04/0126-01.htm>," The Guardian/UK (January 26, 2004).
11. Paul Tolme, "Criminalizing the Homeless," In These Times (April 14, 2003), pp. 6-7.
12. Staff or Democracy Now, "Uncharitable Care: How Hospitals are Gouging and Even Arresting the Uninsured <http://www.commondreams.org/headlines04/0108-07.htm>," CommonDreams (January 8, 2004).
13. John and Jean Comaroff, "Millennial Capitalism: First Thoughts on a Second Coming," Public Culture 12:2 (2000), p. 332.
14. Comaroff, Ibid., (2000), p. 332.
15. Pierre Bourdieu, Acts of Resistance: Against the Tyranny of the Market (New York: The New Press, 1998).
16. Pierre Bourdieu and Gunter Grass, "The 'Progressive' Restoration: A Franco-German Dialogue," New Left Review 14 (march-April, 2003), p. 66.
In the last decade the concept of the commons has increasingly become the basis of anticapitalist thinking in the antiglobalization (or, as some now have it, "the global justice") movement. It has been politically useful both as an alternative model of social organization against the onslaught of "there is no alternative" neoliberal thinking and as a link between diverse struggles ranging from those of agricultural workers demanding land, to environmentalists calling for a reduction of the emission of "hot house gases" into the atmosphere, to writers, artists, musicians and software designers rejecting the totalitarian regime of intellectual property rights. But, like any concept in a class society, it can have many and often antagonistic uses. Our paper will show that there is a use of the concept of the commons that can be functional to capitalist accumulation and it offers an explanation as to why this capitalist use developed, especially since the early 1990s. The conclusion of this paper will assess the political problem that this capitalist use of "the commons" (both strategically and ideologically) poses for the anticapitalist movement. Download full PDF here:
The long and often deadly debate about the virtues and efficiencies of "State vs. Market," or private property vs. state property (as the struggle of capitalism vs. communism was often described in this period) seemed finally to be over while the nuclear weapons backed obstacles to the expansion of the Market to all the categories of social life that Communism purportedly posed vanished. The utopia of neoliberalism seemed finally poised to conquer the world. As Margaret Thatcher apocalyptically put it; "There is no alternative."
Today this account of world history still dominates the academy and the media. But it is being challenged by another understanding of the last fifteen years whose outlines were only becoming clear in the late 1980s and whose consequences intensified throughout the 1990s. This period saw the origin of the antiglobalization movement in the great riots, strikes and revolutions against structural adjustment policies (SAPs) imposed throughout Asia, Africa and South America in the later half of the 1980s (Federici and Caffentzis 2001). For the insurrections against structural adjustment policies (what is often called "neoliberal globalization") which exploded in Caracas, Lagos, Algiers, and other urban centers of these regions and the less visible mobilizations in the countryside of the planet at that time (e.g., in Chiapas and the Niger Delta) were as historically significant as the fall of the Berlin Wall.At first, much of this "other" struggle was dismissed as a "dead ender" defense of state property; but as the neoliberal period unfolded, it became clear that the aim of SAPs (designed by the planners of the World Bank and IMF) was not only to undermine state property, their overt aim. They were also devised both to destroy the basis of common property that has been struggled for and defended in the Third World and the so-called First for centuries and to prevent future common property regimes from forming anywhere. Just as neoliberal bankers and government officials were demanding the totalitarian transformation of everything into a commodity, many throughout the planet recognized the life-and-death importance of various forms of common property that were rapidly being "enclosed." The most obvious type of common property was land (in the forms of arable, pasture, and forest land) in many parts of Africa and South America, but soon the types of recognized resources that could or should be communalized included access to water, "rights" not to have your body polluted by industrial waste, indigenous knowledge, cultural artifacts, the oceans, the electro-magnetic frequency spectrum and even the human genome. These, and other examples of near common property including traditional ones like the provision of 'public goods'--e.g., intergenerational support systems, education, and health care--were abominated by the new political economy and their doctrinal fate was to be sold to the highest bidder.
One of the first reactions to these New Enclosures was a worldwide war for land and in defense of the commons that took place in the 1980s, but it passed largely unnoticed since it appeared under a variety of confusing rubrics. Up the Andes into Central America and Mexico there has been desperate and chronic armed struggle over the control of land (frequently referred to in the US as an aspect of the 'drug problem' or the 'spread of communism') (Weinberg 1991). In West Africa there is a micro-level of armed struggle against seizures of communal land by the state, oil companies and development banks (frequently discussed as anachronistic 'tribal war') (Okonta and Douglas 2003). In southern Africa, the battle over land and its communal control, both in town and country, was referred to as an aspect of 'the struggle against apartheid,' while in East Africa it was considered a 'problem of nationalities.' War for common land and resources (including water) was and is, of course, what the 'Palestinian issue' is about... Thus at the moment when the NAFTA and WTO agreements were being finalized in the mid-1990s, with their neoliberal prejudices in favor of private alienable property in land, the "there is no alternative" World Bank was carefully exploring "Plan B," i.e., a political position to fall back on when the antagonistic response to the privatization of land becomes too powerful and aggressive. A key element in this alternative is the acceptance of the land or forest commons at least as a stop-gap, transitional institution when the revolts of the landless or the devastation of the forests become destabilizing to the general exploitation of a territory and population. Of course, the World Bank was not alone in its strategic reassessment of the commons. Both the Food and Agriculture Organization and many national governments also were also forced to recognize common property rights over land in the late 1980s and early 1990s (Colchester and Lohmann 1993).
Clearly by the early 1990s there was a need to conceptualize such an alternative and to train international agency officials to negotiate with the indigenous antagonists who had not been crushed in 'the Fourth World War' (Midnight Notes 2001). Neoliberalism is incapable of theorizing such a negotiation process, since it is logically committed to the subversion of communal forms of ownership. A new theory had to be developed that articulated arguments concerning the "appropriateness" of common property regimes in certain circumstances and integrated knowledge of what neoliberal economists had defined out of existence. Adherents of such a theory would thus be perfect advisors to a government in a political and/or military stalemate with an indigenous apposition demanding common lands or forests (e.g., in Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, or Nigeria). For they would not simply repeat their economistic version of the imperialist cry -- 'exterminate the brutes' -but would provide other 'possible worlds' and a full 'menu' of options that would make a negotiation feasible.
The realm of 'intellectual property rights' also called for an alternative theory appealing to the commons. Neoliberalism's grandest theoretical and practical efforts were called on to defend the notion that private property institutions should be strictly extended to the realms of scientific, artistic and technological production. Indeed, most of the 'free trade' treaties and SAPs of the 1990s insisted on the imposition of privatized 'intellectual property rights" on formerly colonized or socialist countries where patents, copyrights and licenses did not have much legitimacy. But a planetary revolt against privatized intellectual property rights began in those years. In the so-called underdeveloped world, there was a large scale evasion of the drug, bioengineering, music and film distributing, and computer software corporations' demand that they receive their royalties before 'their' medicines, seeds, musical recordings, film videos, and software programs are used. The so-called developed world also saw a parallel large-scale evasion of privatized intellectual property claims through reproduction of videos, musical recordings, and software programs. This world-wide evasion provoked an attempt to create a planetary police state that would enforce the claims of the corporations demanding their 'rights.'
... ... ....The rapid collapse of Keynesianism in the early 1980s and the even more rapid collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, let the Apprentice exchange his broom for a magical wand. Neoliberalism became the paradigm tool for both ideological justification to be used to dismantle problematic regimes and policies, and for actual regime planning. The Structural Adjustment Programs, the "shock therapies," the wave of privatizations of pension programs, the dismantling of government health care systems around the planet in the last twenty years have had their theoretical basis in this doctrine and the capitalist class forces that became dominant in this period embraced it. The theoretical production of the antiglobalization movement has naturally been seen as the antagonistic response to this doctrine. But over the last decade an a half there has also been a parallel development: an academic and "establishment" literature which rejects the anti-capitalism of much of the antiglobalization movement, supports the commons, and is a theoretical alternative to doctrinaire neoliberalism. Much of this literature, rich in detail and in the experiences of farmers, fishers, and forest dwellers around the planet, can be found in the "Digital Library of the Commons" (http://dlc.dlib.indiana.edu) which has been put together at Indiana University under the auspices of the International Association for the Study of Common Property (IASCP), the group organizing our 'other' conference. The IASCP is an interdisciplinary and international association of scholars formed in 1989 and which has grown dramatically in the 1990s, especially after the crisis of neoliberalism began to become apparent. The bibliography it has established has almost 40,000 titles of articles and books, most of them published in a wide variety of academic or foundation-backed journals, publishing houses or conference web sites and deal in one way or another with the commons, so it would be impossible to survey or characterize this literature in a brief way. What I want to do in this section is to analyze a significant tendency in this literature that recognizes the compatibility of capitalism with common property systems of resource management and is committed to "improving institutions for the management of environmental resources that are (or could be) held or used collectively by communities" (as the IASCP's mission statement puts it).
May 01, 2009 | Philippine Daily Inquirer/INQUIRER.net
THE crisis of neoliberal economic theory and practice is only proving that an economic and financial system based on the logic of deregulated profit maximization cannot go on. But is it just enough to reform or "redesign" neoliberal capitalism? Those who think that it can be saved by mere bailouts of big business failures by governments will be disappointed.
As the world reels from the crisis of neoliberal capitalism, an exciting process is happening in Latin America led by Venezuela and Cuba. It is a process that is emerging as an alternative to profit-oriented neoliberal economics and a foreign policy subservient to the United States, the IMF-World Bank and the World Trade Organization. It symbolizes the new solidarity and internationalism that draws inspiration from the integration of initiatives from popular organizations and progressive states.
In Latin America, taking concrete shape right in the backyard of the US Empire, there has emerged the Bolivarian Alternative to the Americas (Alba), which is an alternative form of regional integration that is not based on trade liberalization. If not on US-sponsored free trade agreements, what is it based on then? It is based on the vision and idea of social welfare and equity, advocating a socially oriented trade bloc. It is a regional solidarity whose purpose is to eradicate the poverty of the most dispossessed sectors of society. Its linchpin is to allow the economically weakest countries to gain more favorable terms in trade negotiations, thereby undercutting the prerogatives of profit-driven transnational corporations. But it is more than a new and alternative trade agreement. A brainchild of Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia and other emerging progressive states in Latin America, Alba?s projects which are being implemented for Latin America include the following:
Prioritizing people?s needs and interests. This is being achieved through food self-sufficiency in agriculture before focusing on profit-making processes. Internal production must be protected and states should have the ability to design and implement policies in the defense of their people?s right to have access to essential and high-quality services at fair prices. In effect, public services have to be oriented toward fulfilling the people?s needs, not those of big businesses which have accumulated more private profit through deregulation, liberalization and privatization.
Strengthening the infrastructure of public services especially in education, health care and housing. Foremost of these is ?Operation Miracle,? which provides free eye operations, plus transportation and accommodation, to almost 600,000 Latin American citizens each year. One beneficiary of this was the Bolivian soldier who was ordered to shoot the guerrilla leader Che Guevarra in 1967. Regional exchanges of cheap Venezuelan oil for Cuban doctors and health care expertise sent to the poorest provinces have also been initiated and a Latin American school of medicine has been organized to train more doctors and health workers from all over South America.
Mutual exchanges in technical expertise and markets. One good example is the case of Bolivia, where doctors, engineers and teachers from Cuba, which has the best social services among developing countries, were sent to the countryside to share their technical expertise, especially in managing its hydrocarbon extraction sector. Bolivia also gained a regional market for its soy beans while its contribution is mainly in the form of its natural gas reserves. A continental oil and gas pipeline is being constructed to benefit most Latin American countries.
A cooperative bank of the South. Otherwise also known as a ?compensatory fund for structural convergence,? this bank becomes an alternative to the World Bank and IMF regime which, over the past decades, has only further impoverished many developing nations which have been losing control over their economic planning and fiscal policies.
TeleSUR, a regional TV and radio network presenting a Latin American people?s perspective. TeleSUR, a pan-Latin American network financed by the governments of Venezuela, Argentina, Cuba and Uruguay and supported by Brazil is now in a way serving as the Al Jazeera for South America. It is emerging as the alternative voice of Latin American peoples to the Western viewpoint monopolizing global television through CNN, Univision and BBC.
Alba, in effect, is a far cry from the kind of ?free trade model of integration? which the United States has long dictated to gain economic, political and military hegemony over the region and other parts of the world.
But the scope of the Alba vision and project is even more ambitious. It is a regional anti-poverty project that focuses on upgrading basic social services and developing local economies. Its core objective is to promote the social side of development, the eradication of poverty and provision of the best social services which have for so long excluded the vast majority of the people. It is firmly grounded on popular participation, that is, the solidarity and cooperation not only of governments, but also of their peoples? movements such as workers? movements and indigenous peoples? movements.
It represents a new form of international relations that is worth watching.
Roland G. Simbulan is professor in Development Studies and Political Economy at the University of the Philippines.
RT In motion
At least 150 people were injured, as protesters across the former Yugoslav republic of Bosnia rebel against corruption, joblessness and political stagnation. Scuffles have reached the presidential residency, resulting in the use of water cannon and tear gas.
Sarajevo is in chaos, with buildings and cars burning and riot police in full gear chasing protesters and pounding batons against their shields to get the crowd to disperse.
In the city of Mostar, protesters stormed the local government building, throwing furniture and files out its windows on Friday before setting it on fire.
February 09, 2014 | The Independent
The Labour Party has "disenfranchised and betrayed" its core working-class voters in northern England by leaving them on the sidelines of society, out of work and on benefits, Ukip's candidate in this week's Wythenshawe and Sale East by-election claims.John Bickley, who believes he can still snatch a shock victory in the Manchester Labour heartland on Thursday, says his own party is gaining traction in the North because the government of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown failed to get its traditional voters back into work. Ed Miliband, Mr Bickley says, equally has lost touch with typical voters in Wythenshawe, a working-class area of Manchester dominated by a huge housing estate.
While polling suggests that Labour will hold the seat with a reduced majority, Ukip's predicted second place in the by-election, caused by the death of former minister Paul Goggins, shows how politics has changed since the last general election. Nigel Farage's party can scoop up votes from Labour and the Lib Dems because of fears over immigration and the legacy of the last government, suggesting they can win seats outright in May 2015.
Ukip's John Bickley canvassing locals Mr Bickley, 60, who was born on the Wythenshawe estate, asks why, after 13 years of Labour government, the residents are not doing better. He says: "I look back to when I left at 16. Benefits as a concept didn't exist. They feel left on the sidelines by the political class. They have been made second-class citizens. I am picking up a sense of betrayal by the Labour Party. Working-class people have found that their wages are under pressure. People on benefits have even less of an incentive to get off benefits. The cost of living crisis is firmly laid at the door of Labour."
Jan. 27, 2014 | Bloomberg | Video
Tom Perkins, co-founder of venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, talks about comments he made comparing today's treatment of wealthy Americans to the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany.
Perkins, 82, wrote in a three-paragraph letter in the Jan. 25 Wall Street Journal that resentment of the very rich in the U.S. amounts to a "progressive war on the American one percent" paralleling attacks on Jews in the 1930s.
He speaks with Emily Chang on Bloomberg Television's "Bloomberg West."
Five days on, the commentariat continues to drop anvils on Tom Perkins, who may have written the most-read letter to the editor in the history of The Wall Street Journal. The irony is that the vituperation is making our friend's point about liberal intolerance-maybe better than he did.
"I perceive a rising tide of hatred of the successful one percent," wrote the legendary venture capitalist and a founder of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Mr. Perkins called it "a very dangerous drift in our American thinking. Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendant 'progressive' radicalism unthinkable now?"
That comparison was unfortunate, albeit provocative. It's not always easy to be subtle in 186 words, as Mr. Perkins learned, though a useful rule of thumb is not to liken anything to Nazi Germany unless it happens to be the Stalinist Soviet Union.
Amid the ongoing media furor and an ungallant rebuke from Kleiner Perkins, Mr. Perkins has apologized for the comparison, without repudiating his larger argument.
Jan 24, 2014 | WSJ.com
I would call attention to the parallels of Nazi Germany to its war on its "one percent," namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the "rich."
Regarding your editorial "Censors on Campus" (Jan. 18): Writing from the epicenter of progressive thought, San Francisco, I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its "one percent," namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the "rich."
From the Occupy movement to the demonization of the rich embedded in virtually every word of our local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, I perceive a rising tide of hatred of the successful one percent. There is outraged public reaction to the Google buses carrying technology workers from the city to the peninsula high-tech companies which employ them. We have outrage over the rising real-estate prices which these "techno geeks" can pay.
We have, for example, libelous and cruel attacks in the Chronicle on our number-one celebrity, the author Danielle Steel, alleging that she is a "snob" despite the millions she has spent on our city's homeless and mentally ill over the past decades.
This is a very dangerous drift in our American thinking. Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendant "progressive" radicalism unthinkable now?
Feb 07, 2014 | Reuters/Yahoo
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Modern Ukraine is divided between eastern provinces that were districts of Russia for centuries and where most people speak Russian, and Western sections that were annexed by the Soviets from Poland and the former Austrian empire, where most people speak Ukrainian and many resent Russian domination.
Although many Ukrainians say they dream of integration with the West, the Soviet economic legacy gives Moscow extraordinary leverage: Ukraine's heavy industry depends on imports of energy, above all Russian natural gas.
Moscow portrays the anti-Yanukovich demonstrators as paid Western agents and seems to be pushing for Yanukovich to order a crackdown to clear the streets.
In some of the sharpest language yet, the Kremlin's point man on Ukraine, Sergei Glazyev, urged the Ukrainian leader to stop negotiating with "putschists". He accused Washington of arming, funding and training the opposition to take power.
Nuland called the remarks "pure fantasy".
"He could be a science fiction writer," she said.
When any empire ends under the guise of "renewal" organizations tend to show up, like a parasite they eat the legacy of the empire alive often from within. There are remarkable similarities to most if not all A.D. Empires, From the beginning first pioneers of them up to the final conspicuous consumer populations that eventually become a burden on the state of the empire. They all have 6 stages and in total last around 200-250 years before collapsing. The age of pioneers, the age of conquest, the age of commerce, the age of affluence, the age of intellect, ending with the bread and circus' campaigns of the age of decadence. The age of decadence is amazingly similar throughout most empires. This involves an undisciplined, over extended military, a continuous conspicuous display of wealth, a massive and ever growing disparity between rich and poor, desire to live off a bloated state, and a cultural obsession with sex. More importantly the most similar trend throughout empires in the age of decadence is the aggressive debasement of that empires currency. Once the backing resource of an empires currency is abandoned, the denominations go through a continuous corruption, until even the officials who once backed the people, become more fixated on the accumulation of as much wealth as possible. With this corruption comes distractions.
Like Rome and their Gladiatorial events used to keep the public eye off of state affairs and economy, this is a classic trait of declining empires. Today in the U.S. there is an ever prevalent emphasis on all kinds of television shows, sports, and celebrities. Just like today's celebrities and sports stars earn vast sums of wealth, so did the Roman charioteers, one in the second century gained so much wealth, it would equate to several billions today. And ironically like Rome before it's collapse we even make celebrities out of our chef's. We have been lulled into a lethargy and have completely accepted it. through un fettered consumerism, continuous economic bubbles, and the desire for everlasting youth, the "baby boomer" generation squandered their inheritance from the prior. "and our posterity" became "just for us" and part took in the largest misallocation of capitol in our time, and future generations will pay the price.
The inmates are not only running the asylum, they own it. Obama and his administration need to be Baker Acted. Welcome to the modern day 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest'.
Frank A. Pasquale III
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Progressives often cite "market failure" as a reason for regulation. But the term itself has a hidden laissez-faire bias, implying that markets generally succeed and that intervention is extraordinary. Vaidhyanathan balances the playing field by introducing the idea of the "public failure," which itself is parasitic on a larger vision of endeavors naturally performed or sponsored by government or civil society. As he explains,
[N]eoliberalism. . . .had its roots in two prominent ideologies: techno-fundamentalism, an optimistic belief in the power of technology to solve problems . . . and market fundamentalism, the notion that most problems are better (at least more efficiently) solved by the actions of private parties rather than by state oversight or investment.
Neoliberalism [included] . . . substantial state subsidy and support for firms that promulgated the neoliberal model and supported its political champions. But in the end the private sector calls the shots and apportions (or hoards) resources, as the instruments once used to rein in the excesses of firms have been systematically dismantled. . . . .
Google has deftly capitalized on a thirty-year tradition of "public failure," chiefly in the United States but in much of the rest of the world as well. Public failure, in contrast, occurs when instruments of the state cannot satisfy public needs and deliver services effectively. This failure occurs not necessarily because the state is the inappropriate agent to solve a particular problem (although there are plenty of areas in which state service is inefficient and counterproductive); it may occur when the public sector has been intentionally dismantled, degraded, or underfunded, while expectations for its performance remain high.
Vaidhyanathan's call for a "Human Knowledge Project" in response to this trend is one of the few tech policy proposals that is bold, ambitious, and comprehensive enough to address the challenges posed by privatized knowledge systems.
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The Last but not Least Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage and those who manage what they do not understand ~Archibald Putt. Ph.D
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