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Key Myths of Neoliberalism

News Neoliberalism Neoliberalism Bookshelf Recommended Links Neoliberal rationality The neoliberal myth of human capital Neoclassical Pseudo Theories and Crooked and Bought Economists as Fifth Column of Financial Oligarchy Scapegoating and victimization of poor and unemployed
Ayn Rand and her Objectivism Cult Neoliberal "New Class" as "creative class" Small government smoke screen Invisible Hand Hypothesys: The Theory of Self-regulation of the Markets Shareholder value scam "Starving the beast" bait and switch Universal quantification  Deification of market
Neoliberalism's Myth on Benefits of Free Trade Scapegoating and victimization of poor Financization of everything in sight Mathiness Rational expectations scam Numbers racket and "Potemkin numbers" Free Markets Newspeak The Great Transformation
Neoliberal "New Class" as variant of Soviet Nomenklatura Techno-fundamentalism Ayn Rand and her Objectivism Cult Greed Is King - What We Learned Managerialism Deception as an art form Machiavellism Mayberry Machiavellians
Neoliberalism as secular religion, "idolatry of money"  Pope Francis on danger of neoliberalism Over-consumption of Luxury Goods as Market Failure Globalization of Financial Flows Neoliberalism as Trotskyism for the rich Libertarian Philosophy Greenspan humor Etc

Neoliberals has amazingly elaborate set of myths. Successfully  competing with Marxism and Trotskyism in this respect. It also creates its special "neolberal-speak" a language for indoctrinated, much like "Marxism-speak" in the USSR.  Among them


Our work will be guided by a shared belief that market  principles, open trade and investment regimes, and effectively regulated financial markets foster the dynamism, innovation, and entrepreneurship that are essential for economic growth, employment, and poverty reduction. […]

We recognize that these reforms will only be successful if grounded in a commitment to free market  principles, including the rule of law, respect for private  property, open trade and investment, competitive markets, and efficient, effectively regulated financial systems. These  principles are essential to economic growth and  prosperity and have lifted millions out of poverty, and have significantly raised the global standard of living. 

Recognizing the necessity to improve financial sector regulation, we must avoid over-regulation that would hamper economic growth and exacerbate the contraction of capital flows, including to developing countries. We underscore the critical importance of rejecting  protectionism and not turning inward in times of financial uncertainty.

-Declaration from the G-20 Washington Summit 2008

 

Amid the burgeoning financial crisis, the Group of Twenty (G-20) met in 2008 for the Washington Summit, attended by then President Rodríguez Zapatero of the ruling Socialist party (PSOE), where the world’s wealthiest nations called for concerted international cooperation to reform the financial sector, favorable to reviving global flows of capital.

The many points identified in the declaration (the need to strengthen transparency and accountability, enhance regulation, promote integrity in the financial markets, reform international financial institutions, and foster prudential oversight and risk management), may have been a legible indicator that the world’s leading economic  powers were coming to terms with the responsibility of unethical business practices and systemic flaws, among other factors, in the successive tumbling of international markets in a domino effect ( Declaration of the Summit ).

Yet, despite the different nuances of  policy positions in the European Union at large, political and financial powers have upheld structural reform  as the basis from which to pursue deeper austerity measures and labor reforms that favor precarity, thereby dismantling the welfare state and social rights in Spain under the aegis of neoliberal reform. In the neoliberal policies of the EU, reducing the deficit by cutting public expenditures on social measures (on public healthcare, education, pensions, social  programs, and so on) while leaving others untouched (investments in private enterprise, the military, national security programs, and so on) has been expressed, and indeed imposed, as part of the only  solution to the crisis in Spain, as elsewhere. According to this logic, as the G-20 declaration asserts, greater competition, private investments, and the surveillance and tempered regulation of the free market. In sum, free market activity with minimal state intervention, as deemed necessary equate directly to greater opportunity, entrepreneurship, and prosperity that deliver poverty reduction and a higher standard of living on a global scale. And yet, in extensive literature on the effects of neoliberal policies in general and of austerity in particular, nothing could be farther from the social reality experienced by world populations, as these reforms have correlated to greater inequality, unrest, disease, and mortality.

 In the forging of its myth, neoliberal policies are asserted by the G-20 as providing a better quality of life for all. On what bases is the claim made that a higher standard of living follows naturally from austerity and the "flexibilization" of labor, among other neoliberal reforms? Myth, writes Roland Barthes, bears an ideological mechanics that  ‘naturalizes’ its constructed character in order to assert and legitimize itself as truth. Exemplified in

Barthes’ reading of a magazine photograph in which a soldier of African descent salutes the French flag, myth produces a sleight of hand here, forged from an image of colonial subservience to the French Empire that collapses the signified into a signifier

These reforms have proved historically “damaging [to] the welfare of the common people in those countries, causing enormous suffering,” writes Vicenç Navarro. “[T]hese policies had consequences for the welfare and quality of life of ordinary people, creating death, disease, and social unrest” (“The IMF’s Mea Culpa?”).

Also see  Basu and Stuckler; Blyth; Harvey,  A Brief History of Neoliberalism ; and Lustig and her contributors, to name a few.  by reducing its connotative meaning into a self-evident truth: “that France is a great Empire, that all her sons, without any color discrimination, faithfully serve under her flag, and that there is no better answer to the detractors of an alleged colonialism than the zeal shown by this Negro [ sic] in serving his so-called oppressors” ( Mythologies  116). By attributing the constructed character of presumptions to nature, myth may  become an accomplice to legitimize power relations by forging an alibi. Here, to the ‘natural order’  of the cultural (and ethnic) ‘ superiority ’ of the metropolis  and its right to (military) rule over the colonial subject, demonstrated in the subordinate’s allegiance to the empire. In this sense, as in Barthes’ s reading, myth may adopt or invert the arguments of its opposition, despite the lack of veracity in its production of meanings or claims. “Myth is a value, truth is no guarantee for it; nothing prevents it from being a  perpetual alibi: it is enough that its signifier has two sides for it always to have an ‘elsewhere’ at its disposal”—  an elsewhere  which Barthes locates in the empire’s  benevolent intentions as its alibi to implicit racial subordination and colonial oppression (123). Thereby myth becomes indisputable material if its alibi is taken literally, at once  passing itself off as a natural order that has always been and that bears a malleable disposition to be appropriated in further myth-making, say, in Barthes’ s reading, at the service of imperial power and its legitimacy of rule. Let us return then to the assertion that neoliberal governmentality delivers greater good on a global scale.

The myth that neoliberalism produces poverty reduction and social wellbeing for all has become an alibi for the dismantling of the welfare state in Spain and with it, an accomplice to the dismantling of social rights, on the one hand, and to the channeling of state coffers into private interests to the benefit of banks, financial institutions, and private business, on the other. Such a polemic has been flagged by economist Vicenç Navarro, who argues that Spain’s ‘ oft’ multi-billion euro  bailout from the European Central Bank (ECB) does not alleviate the crisis of credit-lending in Spain, as this capital is destined for Spanish banks to pay off interest on loans from European financial institutions abroad, while the Spanish state incurs this burden of debt, on the one hand, and must also adopt austerity policies to dismantle social welfare programs, on the other (“The Euro Is Not in Trouble”). Public funds, in other words, are redirected to private interests in neoliberal practice at the expense of labor

“If I focus on a full signifier, in which I clearly distinguish the meaning and the form, and consequently  the distortion which the one imposes on the other, I undo the signification of the myth, and I receive the latter as an imposture” (128). See Roland Barthes,

 Mythologies

As Navarro notes, the ECB and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have placed conditions on Spain’s eligibility to receive financial assistance by urging the government to pursue measures that would increase the flexibility of labor, reduce public expenditures on pensions, and  privatize the welfare state — in sum, to deepen neoliberal reforms (“The Euro Is Not in Trouble”).

One form of what David Harvey calls the “accumulation by dispossession” of capital, these measures entail the “reversion to the private domain of common property rights won through past class struggles (the right to a state pension, to welfare, or to national health care),” which often, if not exclusively, benefit the greatest fortunes at the expense of social  programs (“The ‘New’ Imperialism” 75).

That is, where the private accumulation of capital reaches its limits of projected growth, the sustainability of a given enterprise must be secured through dispossession, through takeovers, expropriation, the payment of private debts from public funds, and so on. However, one should not presume that these reforms are adopted coercively alone, as government officials in Spain’s predominant left and right parties (PSOE and PP, respectively) have welcomed likeminded policies, historically, in order to meet the accords for Spain’s adhesion to the European Union after the Maastricht Treaty of 1992.

Amid neoliberal governance, contemporary times have witnessed the rise of new transnational actors and financial players. The state, in other words, experiences a crisis of sovereignty for its accentuated lack of autonomous decision-making on fiscal and labor matters, in which government officials and policy-makers often succumb to corporate, banking, and financial interests beyond the state, and sometimes do so voluntarily. This circumstance is not new, however, nor is it unique to Spain. In the 1970s, foreign credit lending from financial institutions in the United States would wield powerful leverage to reshape strategically the economic policies of indebted countries.

 As David Harvey notes, after Mexico was pushed into default on its debt to New York financial institutions in 1982-84, this circumstance provided the test case for the IMF and United States government to work in concert to demand neoliberal reforms of Mexico towards greater labor flexibility  (the deregulation of labor protections for workers), free market laws, and privatization (, 28-31). Echoing the test case of Mexico, today the European Commission (EC), the IMF, and the ECB, known popularly as the Troika, have urged the European member states of intervened economies to pursue further neoliberal “structural adjustments”


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Old News ;-)

[Nov 28, 2017] The Stigmatization of the Unemployed

"This overly narrow hiring spec then leads to absurd, widespread complaint that companies can't find people with the right skills" . In the IT job markets such postings are often called purple squirrels
Notable quotes:
"... In particular, there seems to be an extremely popular variant of the above where the starting proposition "God makes moral people rich" is improperly converted to "Rich people are more moral" which is then readily negated to "Poor people are immoral" and then expanded to "Poor people are immoral, thus they DESERVE to suffer for it". It's essentially the theological equivalent of dividing by zero ..."
"... That said, the ranks of the neoliberals are not small. They constitute what Jonathan Schell calls a "mass minority." I suspect the neoliberals have about the same level of popular support that the Nazis did at the time of their takeover of Germany in 1932, or the Bolsheviks had in Russia at the time of their takeover in 1917, which is about 20 or 25% of the total population. ..."
"... The ranks of the neoliberals are made to appear far greater than they really are because they have all but exclusive access to the nation's megaphone. The Tea Party can muster a handful of people to disrupt a town hall meeting and it gets coast to coast, primetime coverage. But let a million people protest against bank bailouts, and it is ignored. Thus, by manipulation of the media, the mass minority is made to appear to be much larger than it really is. ..."
Mar 20, 2011 | naked capitalism

Spencer Thomas:

Very good post. Thank you.

Over the past three decades, large parts of our culture here in the US have internalized the lessons of the new Social Darwinism, with a significant body of literature to explain and justify it. Many of us have internalized, without even realizing it, the ideas of "dog eat dog", "every man for himself", "society should be structured like the animal kingdom, where the weak and sick simply die because they cannot compete, and this is healthy", and "everything that happens to you is your own fault. There is no such thing as circumstance that cannot be overcome, and certainly no birth lottery."

The levers pulled by politicians and the Fed put these things into practice, but even if we managed get different (better) politicians or Fed chairmen, ones who weren't steeped in this culture and ideology, we'd still be left with the culture in the population at large, and things like the "unemployed stigma" are likely to die very, very hard. Acceptance of the "just-world phenomenon" here in the US runs deep.

perfect stranger:

"Religion is just as vulnerable to corporate capture as is the government or the academy."

This is rather rhetorical statement, and wrong one. One need to discern spiritual aspect of religion from the religion as a tool.

Religion, as is structured, is complicit: in empoverishment, obedience, people's preconditioning, and legislative enabler in the institutions such as Supreme – and non-supreme – Court(s). It is a form of PR of the ruling class for the governing class.

DownSouth:

perfect stranger,

Religion, just like human nature, is not that easy to put in a box.

For every example you can cite where religion "is complicit: in empoverishment, obedience, people's preconditioning, and legislative enabler in the institution," I can point to an example of where religion engendered a liberating, emancipatory and revolutionary spirit.

Examples:

•Early Christianity •Nominalism •Early Protestantism •Gandhi •Martin Luther King

Now granted, there don't seem to be any recent examples of this of any note, unless we consider Chris Hedges a religionist, which I'm not sure we can do. Would it be appropriate to consider Hedges a religionist?

perfect stranger:

Yes, that maybe, just maybe be the case in early stages of forming new religion(s). In case of Christianity old rulers from Rome were trying to save own head/throne and the S.P.Q.R. imperia by adopting new religion.

You use examples of Gandhi and MLK which is highly questionable both were fighters for independence and the second, civil rights. In a word: not members of establishment just as I said there were (probably) seeing the religion as spiritual force not tool of enslavement.

Matt:

This link may provide some context:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prosperity_theology

In particular, there seems to be an extremely popular variant of the above where the starting proposition "God makes moral people rich" is improperly converted to "Rich people are more moral" which is then readily negated to "Poor people are immoral" and then expanded to "Poor people are immoral, thus they DESERVE to suffer for it". It's essentially the theological equivalent of dividing by zero

DownSouth:

Rex,

I agree.

Poll after poll after poll has shown that a majority of Americans, and a rather significant majority, reject the values, attitudes, beliefs and opinions proselytized by the stealth religion we call "neoclassical economics."

That said, the ranks of the neoliberals are not small. They constitute what Jonathan Schell calls a "mass minority." I suspect the neoliberals have about the same level of popular support that the Nazis did at the time of their takeover of Germany in 1932, or the Bolsheviks had in Russia at the time of their takeover in 1917, which is about 20 or 25% of the total population.

The ranks of the neoliberals are made to appear far greater than they really are because they have all but exclusive access to the nation's megaphone. The Tea Party can muster a handful of people to disrupt a town hall meeting and it gets coast to coast, primetime coverage. But let a million people protest against bank bailouts, and it is ignored. Thus, by manipulation of the media, the mass minority is made to appear to be much larger than it really is.

The politicians love this, because as they carry water for their pet corporations, they can point to the Tea Partiers and say: "See what a huge upwelling of popular support I am responding to."

JTFaraday:

Well, if that's true, then the unemployed are employable but the mass mediated mentality would like them to believe they are literally and inherently unemployable so that they underestimate and under-sell themselves.

This is as much to the benefit of those who would like to pick up "damaged goods" on the cheap as those who promote the unemployment problem as one that inheres in prospective employees rather than one that is a byproduct of a bad job market lest someone be tempted to think we should address it politically.

That's where I see this blame the unemployed finger pointing really getting traction these days.

attempter:

I apologize for the fact that I only read the first few paragraphs of this before quitting in disgust.

I just can no longer abide the notion that "labor" can ever be seen by human beings as a "cost" at all. We really need to refuse to even tolerate that way of phrasing things. Workers create all wealth. Parasites have no right to exist. These are facts, and we should refuse to let argument range beyond them.

The only purpose of civilization is to provide a better way of living and for all people. This includes the right and full opportunity to work and manage for oneself and/or as a cooperative group. If civilization doesn't do that, we're better off without it.

psychohistorian:

I am one of those long term unemployed.

I suppose my biggest employment claim would be as some sort of IT techie, with numerous supply chain systems and component design, development, implementation, interfaces with other systems and ongoing support. CCNP certification and a history of techiedom going back to WEYCOS.

I have a patent (6,209,954) in my name and 12+ years of beating my head against the wall in an industry that buys compliance with the "there is no problem here, move on now" approach.

Hell, I was a junior woodchuck program administrator back in the early 70's working for the Office of the Governor of the state of Washington on CETA PSE or Public Service Employment. The office of the Governor ran the PSE program for 32 of the 39 counties in the state that were not big enough to run their own. I helped organize the project approval process in all those counties to hire folk at ( if memory serves me max of $833/mo.) to fix and expand parks and provide social and other government services as defined projects with end dates. If we didn't have the anti-public congress and other government leadership we have this could be a current component in a rational labor policy but I digress.

I have experience in the construction trades mostly as carpenter but some electrical, plumbing, HVAC, etc. also.

So, of course there is some sort of character flaw that is keeping me and all those others from employment ..right. I may have more of an excuse than others, have paid into SS for 45 years but still would work if it was available ..taking work away from other who may need it more .why set up a society where we have to compete as such for mere existence???????

One more face to this rant. We need government by the people and for the people which we do not have now. Good, public focused, not corporate focused government is bigger than any entities that exist under its jurisdiction and is kept updated by required public participation in elections and potentially other things like military, peace corps, etc. in exchange for advanced education. I say this as someone who has worked at various levels in both the public and private sectors there are ignorant and misguided folks everywhere. At least with ongoing active participation there is a chance that government would, once constructed, be able to evolve as needed within public focus .IMO.

Ishmael:

Some people would say I have been unemployed for 10 years. In 2000 after losing the last of my four CFO gigs for public companies I found it necessary to start consulting. This has lead to two of my three biggest winning years. I am usually consulting on cutting edge area of my profession and many times have large staffs reporting to me that I bring on board to get jobs done. For several years I subcontacted to a large international consulting firm to clean up projects which went wrong. Let me give some insight here.

  1. First, most good positions have gate keepers who are professional recruiters. It is near impossible to get by them and if you are unemployed they will hardly talk to you. One time talking to a recruiter at Korn Fery I was interviewing for a job I have done several times in an industry I have worked in several times. She made a statement that I had never worked at a well known company. I just about fell out of my chair laughing. At one time I was a senior level executive for the largest consulting firm in the world and lived on three continents and worked with companies on six. In addition, I had held senior positions for 2 fortune 500 firms and was the CFO for a company with $4.5 billion in revenue. I am well known at several PE firms and the founder of one of the largest mentioned in a meeting that one of his great mistakes was not investing in a very successful LBO (return of in excess of 20 multiple to investors in 18 months) I was the CFO for. In a word most recruiters are incompetent.
  2. Second, most CEO's any more are just insecure politicians. One time during an interview I had a CEO asked me to talk about some accomplishments. I was not paying to much attention as I rattled off accomplishments and the CEO went nuclear and started yelling at me that he did not know where I thought I was going with this job but the only position above the CFO job was his and he was not going anywhere. I assured him I was only interested in the CFO position and not his, but I knew the job was over. Twice feed back that I got from recruiters which they took at criticism was the "client said I seemed very assured of myself."
  3. Third, government, banking, business and the top MBA schools are based upon lying to move forward. I remember a top human resource executive telling me right before Enron, MCI and Sarbanes Oxley that I needed to learn to be more flexible. My response was that flexibility would get me an orange jump suit. Don't get me wrong, I have a wide grey zone, but it use to be in business the looked for people who could identify problems early and resolve them. Now days I see far more of a demand for people who can come up with PR spins to hide them. An attorney/treasurer consultant who partnered with me on a number of consulting jobs told me some one called me "not very charming." He said he asked what that meant, and the person who said that said, "Ish walks into a meeting and within 10 minutes he is asking about the 10,000 pound guerilla sitting in the room that no one wants to talk about." CEO do not want any challenges in their organization.
  4. Fourth, three above has lead to the hiring of very young and inexperienced people at senior levels. These people are insecure and do not want more senior and experienced people above them and than has resulted in people older than 45 not finding positions.
  5. Fifth, people are considered expendable and are fired for the lamest reasons anymore. A partner at one of the larger and more prestigious recruiting firms one time told me, "If you have a good consulting business, just stick with it. Our average placement does not last 18 months any more." Another well known recruiter in S. Cal. one time commented to me, "Your average consulting gig runs longer than our average placement."

With all of that said, I have a hard time understanding such statements as "@attempter "Workers create all wealth. Parasites have no right to exist." What does that mean? Every worker creates wealth. There is no difference in people. Sounds like communism to me. I make a good living and my net worth has grown working for myself. I have never had a consulting gig terminated by the client but I have terminated several. Usually, I am brought in to fix what several other people have failed at. I deliver basically intellectual properties to companies. Does that mean I am not a worker. I do not usually lift anything heavy or move equipment but I tell people what and where to do it so does that make me a parasite.

Those people who think everyone is equal and everyone deserves equal pay are fools or lazy. My rate is high, but what usually starts as short term projects usually run 6 months or more because companies find I can do so much more than what most of their staff can do and I am not a threat.

I would again like to have a senior challenging role at a decent size company but due to the reasons above will probably never get one. However, you can never tell. I am currently consulting for a midsize very profitable company (grew 400% last year) where I am twice the age of most people there, but everyone speaks to me with respect so you can never tell.

Lidia:

Ishmael, you're quite right. When I showed my Italian husband's resume to try and "network" in the US, my IT friends assumed he was lying about his skills and work history.

Contemporaneously, in Italy it is impossible to get a job because of incentives to hire "youth". Age discrimination is not illegal, so it's quite common to see ads that ask for a programmer under 30 with 5 years of experience in COBOL (the purple squirrel).

Hosswire

Some good points about the foolishness of recruiters, but a great deal of that foolishness is forced by the clients themselves. I used to be a recruiter myself, including at Korn Ferry in Southern California. I described the recruiting industry as "yet more proof that God hates poor people" because my job was to ignore resumes from people seeking jobs and instead "source" aka "poach" people who already had good jobs by dangling a higher salary in front of them. I didn't do it because I disparaged the unemployed, or because I could not do the basic analysis to show that a candidate had analogous or transferrable skills to the opening.

I did it because the client, as Yves said, wanted people who were literally in the same job description already. My theory is that the client wanted to have their ass covered in case the hire didn't work out, by being able to say that they looked perfect "on paper." The lesson I learned for myself and my friends looking for jobs was simple, if morally dubious. Basically, that if prospective employers are going to judge you based on a single piece of paper take full advantage of the fact that you get to write that piece of paper yourself.

Ishmael:

Hosswire - I agree with your comment. There are poor recruiters like the one I sited but in general it is the clients fault. Fear of failure. All hires have at least a 50% chance of going sideways on you. Most companies do not even have the ability to look at a resume nor to interview. I did not mean to same nasty things about recruiters, and I even do it sometimes but mine.

I look at failure in a different light than most companies. You need to be continually experimenting and changing to survive as a company and there will be some failures. The goal is to control the cost of failures while looking for the big pay off on a winner.

Mannwich:

As a former recruiter and HR "professional" (I use that term very loosely for obvious reasons), I can honestly say that you nailed it. Most big companies looking for mid to high level white collar "talent" will almost always take the perceived safest route by hiring those who look the best ON PAPER and in a suit and lack any real interviewing skills to find the real stars. What's almost comical is that companies almost always want to see the most linear resume possible because they want to see "job stability" (e.g. a CYA document in case the person fails in that job) when in many cases nobody cares about the long range view of the company anyway. My question was why should the candidate or employee care about the long range view if the employer clearly doesn't?

Ishmael:

Manwhich another on point comment. Sometimes either interviewing for a job or consulting with a CEO it starts getting to the absurd. I see all the time the requirement for stability in a persons background. Hello, where have they been the last 15 years. In addition, the higher up you go the more likely you will be terminated sometime and that is especially true if you are hired from outside the orgnanization. Companies want loyalty from an employee but offer none in return.

The average tenure for a CFO anymore is something around 18 months. I have been a first party participant (more than once) where I went through an endless recruiting process for a company (lasting more than 6 months) they final hire some one and that person is with the company for 3 months and then resigns (of course we all know it is through mutual agreement).

Ishmael:

Birch:

The real problem has become and maybe this is what you are referring to is the "Crony Capitalism." We have lost control of our financial situation. Basically, PE is not the gods of the universe that everyone thinks they are. However, every bankers secret wet dream is to become a private equity guy. Accordingly, bankers make ridiculous loans to PE because if you say no to them then you can not play in their sand box any more. Since the govt will not let the banks go bankrupt like they should then this charade continues inslaving everyone.

This country as well as many others has a large percentage of its assets tied up in over priced deals that the bankers/governments will not let collapse while the blood sucking vampires suck the life out of the assets.

On the other hand, govt is not the answer. Govt is too large and accomplishes too little.

kevin de bruxelles:

The harsh reality is that, at least in the first few rounds, companies kick to the curb their weakest links and perceived slackers. Therefore when it comes time to hire again, they are loath to go sloppy seconds on what they perceive to be some other company's rejects. They would much rather hire someone who survived the layoffs working in a similar position in a similar company. Of course the hiring company is going to have to pay for this privilege. Although not totally reliable, the fact that someone survived the layoffs provides a form social proof for their workplace abilities.

On the macro level, labor has been under attack for thirty years by off shoring and third world immigration. It is no surprise that since the working classes have been severely undermined that the middle classes would start to feel some pressure. By mass immigration and off-shoring are strongly supported by both parties. Only when the pain gets strong enough will enough people rebel and these two policies will be overturned. We still have a few years to go before this happens.

davver:

Let's say I run a factory. I produce cars and it requires very skilled work. Skilled welding, skilled machinists. Now I introduce some robotic welders and an assembly line system. The plants productivity improves and the jobs actually get easier. They require less skill, in fact I've simplified each task to something any idiot can do. Would wages go up or down? Are the workers really contributing to that increase in productivity or is it the machines and methods I created?

Lets say you think laying off or cutting the wages of my existing workers is wrong. What happens when a new entrant into the business employs a smaller workforce and lower wages, which they can do using the same technology? The new workers don't feel like they were cut down in any way, they are just happy to have a job. Before they couldn't get a job at the old plant because they lacked the skill, but now they can work in the new plant because the work is genuinely easier. Won't I go out of business?

Escariot:

I am 54 and have a ton of peers who are former white collar workers and professionals (project managers, architects, lighting designers, wholesalers and sales reps for industrial and construction materials and equipment) now out of work going on three years. Now I say out of work, I mean out of our trained and experienced fields.

We now work two or three gigs (waiting tables, mowing lawns, doing free lance, working in tourism, truck driving, moving company and fedex ups workers) and work HARD, for much much less than we did, and we are seeing the few jobs that are coming back on line going to younger workers. It is just the reality. And for most of us the descent has not been graceful, so our credit is a wreck, which also breeds a whole other level of issues as now it is common for the credit record to be a deal breaker for employment, housing, etc.

Strangely I don't sense a lot of anger or bitterness as much as humility. And gratitude for ANY work that comes our way. Health insurance? Retirement accounts? not so much.

Mickey Marzick:

Yves and I have disagreed on how extensive the postwar "pact" between management and labor was in this country. But if you drew a line from say, Trenton-Patterson, NJ to Cincinatti, OH to Minneapolis, MN, north and east of it where blue collar manufacturing in steel, rubber, auto, machinery, etc., predominated, this "pact" may have existed but ONLY because physical plant and production were concentrated there and workers could STOP production.

Outside of these heavy industrial pockets, unions were not always viewed favorably. As one moved into the rural hinterlands surrounding them there was jealously and/or outright hostility. Elsewhere, especially in the South "unions" were the exception not the rule. The differences between NE Ohio before 1975 – line from Youngstown to Toledo – and the rest of the state exemplified this pattern. Even today, the NE counties of Ohio are traditional Democratic strongholds with the rest of the state largely Republican. And I suspect this pattern existed elsewhere. But it is changing too

In any case, the demonization of the unemployed is just one notch above the vicious demonization of the poor that has always existed in this country. It's a constant reminder for those still working that you could be next – cast out into the darkness – because you "failed" or worse yet, SINNED. This internalization of the "inner cop" reinforces the dominant ideology in two ways. First, it makes any resistance by individuals still employed less likely. Second, it pits those still working against those who aren't, both of which work against the formation of any significant class consciousness amongst working people. The "oppressed" very often internalize the value system of the oppressor.

As a nation of immigrants ETHNICITY may have more explanatory power than CLASS. For increasingly, it would appear that the dominant ethnic group – suburban, white, European Americans – have thrown their lot in with corporate America. Scared of the prospect of downward social mobility and constantly reminded of URBAN America – the other America – this group is trapped with nowhere to else to go.

It's the divide and conquer strategy employed by ruling elites in this country since its founding [Federalist #10] with the Know Nothings, blaming the Irish [NINA - no Irish need apply] and playing off each successive wave of immigrants against the next. Only when the forces of production became concentrated in the urban industrial enclaves of the North was this strategy less effective. And even then internal immigration by Blacks to the North in search of employment blunted the formation of class consciousness among white ethnic industrial workers.

Wherever the postwar "pact of domination" between unions and management held sway, once physical plant was relocated elsewhere [SOUTH] and eventually offshored, unemployment began to trend upwards. First it was the "rustbelt" now it's a nationwide phenomenon. Needless to say, the "pact" between labor and management has been consigned to the dustbin of history.

White, suburban America has hitched its wagon to that of the corporate horse. Demonization of the unemployed coupled with demonization of the poor only serve to terrorize this ethnic group into acquiescence. And as the workplace becomes a multicultural matrix this ethnic group is constantly reminded of its perilous state. Until this increasingly atomized ethnic group breaks with corporate America once and for all, it's unlikely that the most debilitating scourge of all working people – UNEMPLOYMENT – will be addressed.

Make no mistake about it, involuntary UNEMPLOYMENT/UNDEREMPLYEMT is a form of terrorism and its demonization is terrorism in action. This "quiet violence" is psychological and the intimidation wrought by unemployment and/or the threat of it is intended to dehumanize individuals subjected to it. Much like spousal abuse, the emotional and psychological effects are experienced way before any physical violence. It's the inner cop that makes overt repression unnecessary. We terrorize ourselves into submission without even knowing it because we accept it or come to tolerate it. So long as we accept "unemployment" as an inevitable consequence of progress, as something unfortunate but inevitable, we will continue to travel down the road to serfdom where ARBEIT MACHT FREI!

FULL and GAINFUL EMPLOYMENT are the ultimate labor power.

Eric:

It's delicate since direct age discrimination is illegal, but when circumstances permit separating older workers they have a very tough time getting back into the workforce in an era of high health care inflation. Older folks consume more health care and if you are hiring from a huge surplus of available workers it isn't hard to steer around the more experienced. And nobody gets younger, so when you don't get job A and go for job B 2 weeks later you, you're older still!

James:

Yves said- "This overly narrow hiring spec then leads to absurd, widespread complaint that companies can't find people with the right skills"

In the IT job markets such postings are often called purple squirrels. The HR departments require the applicant to be expert in a dozen programming languages. This is an excuse to hire a foreigner on a temp h1-b or other visa.

Most people aren't aware that this model dominates the sciences. Politicians scream we have a shortage of scientists, yet it seems we only have a shortage of cheap easily exploitable labor. The economist recently pointed out the glut of scientists that currently exists in the USA.

http://www.economist.com/node/17723223

This understates the problem. The majority of PhD recipients wander through years of postdocs only to end up eventually changing fields. My observation is that the top ten schools in biochem/chemistry/physics/ biology produce enough scientists to satisfy the national demand.

The exemption from h1-b visa caps for academic institutions exacerbates the problem, providing academics with almost unlimited access to labor.

The pharmaceutical sector has been decimated over the last ten years with tens of thousands of scientists/ factory workers looking for re-training in a dwindling pool of jobs (most of which will deem you overqualified.)

http://pipeline.corante.com/archives/2011/03/03/a_postdocs_lament.php

Abe, NYC:

I wonder how the demonization of the unemployed can be so strong even in the face of close to 10% unemployment/20% underemployment. It's easy and tempting to demonize an abstract young buck or Cadillac-driving welfare queen, but when a family member or a close friend loses a job, or your kids are stuck at your place because they can't find one, shouldn't that alter your perceptions? Of course the tendency will be to blame it all on the government, but there has to be a limit to that in hard-hit places like Ohio, Colorado, or Arizona. And yet, the dynamics aren't changing or even getting worse. Maybe Wisconsin marks a turning point, I certainly hope it does

damien:

It's more than just stupid recruiting, this stigma. Having got out when the getting was good, years ago, I know that any corporate functionary would be insane to hire me now. Socialization wears off, the deformation process reverses, and the ritual and shibboleths become a joke. Even before I bailed I became a huge pain in the ass as economic exigency receded, every bosses nightmare. I suffered fools less gladly and did the right thing out of sheer anarchic malice.

You really can't maintain corporate culture without existential fear – not just, "Uh oh, I'm gonna get fired," fear, but a visceral feeling that you do not exist without a job. In properly indoctrinated workers that feeling is divorced from economic necessity. So anyone who's survived outside a while is bound to be suspect. That's a sign of economic security, and security of any sort undermines social control.

youniquelikeme:

You hit the proverbial nail with that reply. (Although, sorry, doing the right thing should not be done out of malice) The real fit has to be in the corporate yes-man culture (malleable ass kisser) to be suited for any executive position and beyond that it is the willingness to be manipulated and drained to be able to keep a job in lower echelon.

This is the new age of evolution in the work place. The class wars will make it more of an eventual revolution, but it is coming. The unemployment rate (the actual one, not the Government one) globalization and off shore hiring are not sustainable for much longer.

Something has to give, but it is more likely to snap then to come easily. People who are made to be repressed and down and out eventually find the courage to fight back and by then, it is usually not with words.

down and out in Slicon Valley:

This is the response I got from a recruiter:

"I'm going to be overly honest with you. My firm doesn't allow me to submit any candidate who hasn't worked in 6-12 months or more. Recruiting brokers are probably all similar in that way . You are going to have to go through a connection/relationship you have with a colleague, co-worker, past manager or friend to get your next job .that's my advice for you. Best of luck "

I'm 56 years old with MSEE. Gained 20+ years of experience at the best of the best (TRW, Nortel, Microsoft), have been issued a patent. Where do I sign up to gain skills required to find a job now?

Litton Graft :

"Best of the Best?" I know you're down now, but looking back at these Gov'mint contractors you've enjoyed the best socialism money can by.

Nortel/TRW bills/(ed) the Guvmint at 2x, 3x your salary, you can ride this for decades. At the same time the Inc is attached to the Guvmint ATM localities/counties are giving them a red carpet of total freedom from taxation. Double subsidies.

I've worked many years at the big boy bandits, and there is no delusion in my mind that almost anyone, can do what I do and get paid 100K+. I've never understood the mindset of some folks who work in the Wermacht Inc: "Well, someone has to do this work" or worse "What we do, no one else can do" The reason no one else "can do it" is that they are not allowed to. So, we steal from the poor to build fighter jets, write code or network an agency.

Hosswire:

I used to work as a recruiter and can tell you that I only parroted the things my clients told me. I wanted to get you hired, because I was lazy and didn't want to have to talk to someone else next.

So what do you do? To place you that recruiter needs to see on a piece of paper that you are currently working? Maybe get an email or phone call from someone who will vouch for your employment history. That should not be that hard to make happen.

Francois T :

The "bizarre way that companies now spec jobs" is essentially a coded way for mediocre managers to say without saying so explicitly that "we can afford to be extremely picky, and by God, we shall do so no matter what, because we can!"

Of course, when comes the time to hire back because, oh disaster! business is picking up again, (I'm barely caricaturing here; some managers become despondent when they realize that workers regain a bit of the higher ground; loss of power does that to lesser beings) the same idiots who designed those "overly narrow hiring spec then leads to absurd, widespread complaint that companies can't find people with the right skills" are thrown into a tailspin of despair and misery. Instead of figuring out something as simple as "if demand is better, so will our business", they can't see anything else than the (eeeek!) cost of hiring workers. Unable to break their mental corset of penny-pincher, they fail to realize that lack of qualified workers will prevent them to execute well to begin with.

And guess what: qualified workers cost money, qualified workers urgently needed cost much more.

This managerial attitude must be another factor that explain why entrepreneurship and the formation of small businesses is on the decline in the US (contrary to the confabulations of the US officialdumb and the chattering class) while rising in Europe and India/China.

Kit:

If you are 55-60, worked as a professional (i.e., engineering say) and are now unemployed you are dead meat. Sorry to be blunt but thats the way it is in the US today. Let me repeat that : Dead Meat.

I was terminated at age 59, found absolutely NOTHING even though my qualifications were outstanding. Fortunately, my company had an old style pension plan which I was able to qualify for (at age 62 without reduced benefits). So for the next 2+ years my wife and I survived on unemployment insurance, severance, accumulated vacation pay and odd jobs. Not nice – actually, a living hell.

At age 62, I applied for my pension, early social security, sold our old house (at a good profit) just before the RE crash, moved back to our home state. Then my wife qualified for social security also. Our total income is now well above the US median.

Today, someone looking at us would think we were the typical corporate retiree. We surely don't let on any differently but the experience (to get to this point) almost killed us.

I sympathize very strongly with the millions caught in this unemployment death spiral. I wish I had an answer but I just don't. We were very lucky to survive intact.

Ming:

Thank you Yves for your excellent post, and for bringing to light this crucial issue.

Thank you to all the bloggers, who add to the richness of the this discussion.

I wonder if you could comment on this Yves, and correct me if I am wrong I believe that the power of labor was sapped by the massive available supply of global labor. The favorable economic policies enacted by China (both official and unofficial), and trade negotiations between the US government and the Chinese government were critical to creating the massive supply of labor.

Thank you. No rush of course.

Nexus:

There are some odd comments and notions here that are used to support dogma and positions of prejudice. The world can be viewed in a number of ways. Firstly from a highly individualised and personal perspective – that is what has happened to me and here are my experiences. Or alternatively the world can be viewed from a broader societal perspective.

In the context of labour there has always been an unequal confrontation between those that control capital and those that offer their labour, contrary to some of the views exposed here – Marx was a first and foremost a political economist. The political economist seeks to understand the interplay of production, supply, the state and institutions like the media. Modern day economics branched off from political economy and has little value in explaining the real world as the complexity of the world has been reduced to a simplistic rationalistic model of human behaviour underpinned by other equally simplistic notions of 'supply and demand', which are in turn represented by mathematical models, which in themselves are complex but merely represent what is a simplistic view of the way the world operates. This dogmatic thinking has avoided the need to create an underpinning epistemology. This in turn underpins the notion of free choice and individualism which in itself is an illusion as it ignores the operation of the modern state and the exercise of power and influence within society.

It was stated in one of the comments that the use of capital (machines, robotics, CAD design, etc.) de-skills. This is hardly the case as skills rise for those that remain and support highly automated/continuous production factories. This is symptomatic of the owners of capital wanting to extract the maximum value for labour and this is done via the substitution of labour for capital making the labour that remains to run factories highly productive thus eliminating low skill jobs that have been picked up via services (people move into non productive low skilled occupations warehousing and retail distribution, fast food outlets, etc). Of course the worker does not realise the additional value of his or her labour as this is expropriated for the shareholders (including management as shareholders).

The issue of the US is that since the end of WW2 it is not the industrialists that have called the shots and made investments it is the financial calculus of the investment banker (Finance Capital). Other comments have tried to ignore the existence of the elites in society – I would suggest that you read C.W.Mills – The Power Elites as an analysis of how power is exercised in the US – it is not through the will of the people.

For Finance capital investments are not made on the basis of value add, or contribution through product innovation and the exchange of goods but on basis of the lowest cost inputs. Consequently, the 'elites' that make investment decisions, as they control all forms of capital seek to gain access to the cheapest cost inputs. The reality is that the US worker (a pool of 150m) is now part of a global labour pool of a couple of billion that now includes India and China. This means that the elites, US transnational corporations for instance, can access both cheaper labour pools, relocate capital and avoid worker protection (health and safety is not a concern). The strategies of moving factories via off-shoring (over 40,000 US factories closed or relocated) and out-sourcing/in-sourcing labour is also a representations of this.

The consequence for the US is that the need for domestic labour has diminished and been substituted by cheap labour to extract the arbitrage between US labour rates and those of Chinese and Indians. Ironically, in this context capital has become too successful as the mode of consumption in the US shifted from workers that were notionally the people that created the goods, earned wages and then purchased the goods they created to a new model where the worker was substituted by the consumer underpinned by cheap debt and low cost imports – it is illustrative to note that real wages have not increased in the US since the early 1970's while at the same time debt has steadily increased to underpin the illusion of wealth – the 'borrow today and pay tomorrow' mode of capitalist operation. This model of operation is now broken. The labour force is now being demonized as there is a now surplus of labour and a need to drive down labour rates through changes in legislation and austerity programs to meet those of the emerging Chinese and Indian middle class so workers rights need to be broken. Once this is done a process of in-source may take place as US labour costs will be on par with overseas labour pools.

It is ironic that during the Regan administration a number of strategic thinkers saw the threat from emerging economies and the danger of Finance Capital and created 'Project Socrates' that would have sought to re-orientate the US economy from one that was based on the rationale of Finance Capital to one that focused in productive innovation which entailed an alignment of capital investment, research and training to product innovative goods. Of course this was ignored and the rest is history. The race to the lowest input cost is ultimately self defeating as it is clear that the economy de-industrialises through labour and capital changes and living standards collapse. The elites – bankers, US transnational corporations, media, industrial military complex and the politicians don't care as they make money either way and this way you get other people overseas to work cheap for you.

S P:

Neoliberal orthodoxy treats unemployment as well as wage supression as a necessary means to fight "inflation." If there was too much power in the hands of organized labor, inflationary pressures would spiral out of control as supply of goods cannot keep up with demand.

It also treats the printing press as a necessary means to fight "deflation."

So our present scenario: widespread unemployment along with QE to infinity, food stamps for all, is exactly what you'd expect.

The problem with this orthodoxy is that it assumes unlimited growth on a planet with finite resources, particularly oil and energy. Growth is not going to solve unemployment or wages, because we are bumping up against limits to growth.

There are only two solutions. One is tax the rich and capital gains, slow growth, and reinvest the surplus into jobs/skills programs, mostly to maintain existing infrastructure or build new energy infrastructure. Even liberals like Krugman skirt around this, because they aren't willing to accept that we have the reached the end of growth and we need radical redistribution measures.

The other solution is genuine classical liberalism / libertarianism, along the lines of Austrian thought. Return to sound money, and let the deflation naturally take care of the imbalances. Yes, it would be wrenching, but it would likely be wrenching for everybody, making it fair in a universal sense.

Neither of these options is palatable to the elite classes, the financiers of Wall Street, or the leeches and bureaucrats of D.C.

So this whole experiment called America will fail.

[Nov 07, 2017] Upward mobility in the United States is largely an illusion, and the living standard for the middle class has hardly moved in decades; it has declined, if anything, relative to progress in the 1960's.

Notable quotes:
"... Seventy per cent of people born into the bottom quintile of income distribution never make it into the middle class, and fewer than ten per cent get into the top quintile. Forty per cent are still poor as adults. ..."
Nov 07, 2017 | marknesop.wordpress.com

marknesop , November 7, 2017 at 6:39 pm

Upward mobility in the United States is largely an illusion , and the living standard for the middle class has hardly moved in decades; it has declined, if anything, relative to progress in the 1960's.

Seventy per cent of people born into the bottom quintile of income distribution never make it into the middle class, and fewer than ten per cent get into the top quintile. Forty per cent are still poor as adults.

You are correct, though, that economics is immensely complicated and turns on almost-infinite variables. People who don't like the way things are turning out often just re-define the metrics, or pick a different set.

[Oct 17, 2017] Agents of Neoliberal Globalization Corporate Networks, State Structures, and Trade Policy by Michael C. Dreiling, Derek Y. Darve

Notable quotes:
"... Amid the global financial crisis of 2008, a new chapter in the history of neoliberal globalization emerged. Simple assumptions about markets as pure and neutral arbiters of economic transactions faced new challenges from beyond the pages of economic history and sociology. ..."
"... The apparent triumph of global capitalism came into temporary question, and with it, the reigning economic paradigm of neoliberalism. ..."
"... The specter of the Occupy movement in 1011, with its sweeping critique of corporate power, took root in ways not seen in the United States since the 1999 World Trade Organization protests in Seattle. ..."
"... In response, proponents of neoliberalism heightened their demands for a market-governed society, further tax cuts, deregulation, trade liberalization, and more. From the GOP and Tea Party's politics of austerity arose a fresh defense of free market politics in the United States, as well as a rcinvigorated denial of class as a structuring force in US society. These social tensions persist even as neoliberalism, as an ideology and a model for institutional restructuring, exhibits remarkable resilience. ..."
"... From the early 1980s onward, it provided the basic policy framework for "structural adjustment" in the global south, for "rescuing" the welfare state in the global north, and as a vision for a global economy unbound from centrally planned markets, dying industries, or rent-seeking interest groups. ..."
"... One cornerstone of this paradigm that remains mostly unchallenged among political elites is the principal of "free trade." Broadly speaking, neoliberalism and free trade have provided the ideological framework for most reciprocal trade agreements since the early 1980s, when President Reagan initiated a wave of new trade policies in February 1982 during a speech to the Organization of American States (OAS). ..."
"... This formulaic discourse of free markets, free trade, and personal liberty - hallmark features of Reagan's popular rhetoric - also captured what would later be acknowledged as core principles of an incipient neoliberal ideology that promised a restoration of US economic hegemony (Mudge 2008). Domestically and internationally, neoliberal trade proposals were generally presented in tandem with calls for privatization, deregulation, and a reduction in the size of government spending as a share of GDP. ..."
"... Was it the fever pitch of a new' policy ideology acted out by government partisans and policy makers committed to its mantra? Or did the very economic actors benefitting from market liberalization act politically and concertedly to unleash it? And if so, did this coordinated corporate political campaign arise from a reorganized and newly emboldened economic class, or simply through ad hoc alignments created by shared organizational interests? Specifically, can we detect class political signatures on the wave of free trade policies, like the CBI, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), or the World Trade Organization (WTO), that erected the institutional framework of neoliberal globalization? 6 ..."
"... We believe that our approach, rooted in the "elite studies" and "power structure" research traditions, expands (and, in some areas, corrects) conventional explanations of neoliberal trade and globalization that emphasize market, institutional, and ideological factors, while neglecting to incorporate a concept of class political action ..."
Oct 17, 2017 | www.amazon.com

Amid the global financial crisis of 2008, a new chapter in the history of neoliberal globalization emerged. Simple assumptions about markets as pure and neutral arbiters of economic transactions faced new challenges from beyond the pages of economic history and sociology.

The apparent triumph of global capitalism came into temporary question, and with it, the reigning economic paradigm of neoliberalism. From the left wing of US politics, a newly invigorated discourse of class and income inequality began to challenge corporate power with calls for greater accountability on Wall Street. The specter of the Occupy movement in 1011, with its sweeping critique of corporate power, took root in ways not seen in the United States since the 1999 World Trade Organization protests in Seattle.

In response, proponents of neoliberalism heightened their demands for a market-governed society, further tax cuts, deregulation, trade liberalization, and more. From the GOP and Tea Party's politics of austerity arose a fresh defense of free market politics in the United States, as well as a rcinvigorated denial of class as a structuring force in US society. These social tensions persist even as neoliberalism, as an ideology and a model for institutional restructuring, exhibits remarkable resilience.

Neoliberalism - which promises to efficiently generate wealth while disciplining states and bureaucracies with market forces - took shape over the course of decades. As a kind of governing philosophy, it has been offered, variously, as a remedy for economic stagnation, bureaucratic bloat, corruption, inflation, and more (Bourdieu 1999; Mirowski and Plehwe 2009; Mudge 2008). From the early 1980s onward, it provided the basic policy framework for "structural adjustment" in the global south, for "rescuing" the welfare state in the global north, and as a vision for a global economy unbound from centrally planned markets, dying industries, or rent-seeking interest groups.

One cornerstone of this paradigm that remains mostly unchallenged among political elites is the principal of "free trade." Broadly speaking, neoliberalism and free trade have provided the ideological framework for most reciprocal trade agreements since the early 1980s, when President Reagan initiated a wave of new trade policies in February 1982 during a speech to the Organization of American States (OAS). There, Reagan unilaterally called for a Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) that would "make use of the magic of the marketplace of the Americas, to earn their own way toward self-sustaining growth" (quoted in Polanyi-Levitt 1985: 232)/ This formulaic discourse of free markets, free trade, and personal liberty - hallmark features of Reagan's popular rhetoric - also captured what would later be acknowledged as core principles of an incipient neoliberal ideology that promised a restoration of US economic hegemony (Mudge 2008). Domestically and internationally, neoliberal trade proposals were generally presented in tandem with calls for privatization, deregulation, and a reduction in the size of government spending as a share of GDP. 5

Although a large and varied group of economists, policy wonks, and government leaders supported the general principles of neoliberal globalization, the "market fever" of the 1980s did not spread simply because certain individuals espoused free trade and domestic deregulation. The fact that many of these noncorporate actors assume a central role in many popular and academic accounts of this era does not reduce the many empirical problems with this view.

In particular, the problem with this "triumphant" vision of neoliberal history is the manner in which the very engines of capital behind the market mania - globalizing corporations appear as liberated historical agents acting out their market freedoms, not as class political actors foisting new institutional realities on the world. We contest this prevailing view and instead ask who liberated, or in Blyth's (2001) terminology, "disembedded," these markets from national social and political institutions?

Was it the fever pitch of a new' policy ideology acted out by government partisans and policy makers committed to its mantra? Or did the very economic actors benefitting from market liberalization act politically and concertedly to unleash it? And if so, did this coordinated corporate political campaign arise from a reorganized and newly emboldened economic class, or simply through ad hoc alignments created by shared organizational interests? Specifically, can we detect class political signatures on the wave of free trade policies, like the CBI, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), or the World Trade Organization (WTO), that erected the institutional framework of neoliberal globalization? 6

The answer to these questions and, in particular, the role of class agency within these macroeconomic shifts, is not simply a question of whether one likes Karl Marx or Adam Smith. Notwithstanding the recent tendency to equate the mention of class with "class warfare," it is our contention that removing class from accounts of recent economic history creates, at best, a narrow and distorted perspective on this important era. The primary purpose of this book, then, is to introduce and empirically validate a concept of class agency that deepens our understanding of both the trade policy-making apparatus as well as the neoliberal globalization "project" more generally.

We believe that our approach, rooted in the "elite studies" and "power structure" research traditions, expands (and, in some areas, corrects) conventional explanations of neoliberal trade and globalization that emphasize market, institutional, and ideological factors, while neglecting to incorporate a concept of class political action .

Our general line of argument historicizes US trade policy and neoliberal globalization, highlighting the active and at times contradictory processes that shape the state and class relationships responsible for propelling institutions, like the WTO, into existence. Following McMichael (2001: 207), we concur that globalization is best understood as a "historical project rather than a culminating process." Treating neoliberal trade policies as part of a much larger historical project - made and remade by collective actors - offers a more realistic and empirically grounded framework for exploring the intersection of class and state actors in the political articulation of globalization.

Whereas much of the literature on globalization assigns an important role to the economic activity of multinational corporations, the force of their collective political agency in pressuring states to ratify trade agreements and enact institutional reforms is mostly attributed to narrow sectoral interests, like factor mobility', economies of scale, or various industry-specific characteristics...

[Oct 09, 2017] Amazon.com Empire of Illusion The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle by Chris Hedges

Chris Hedges published this book eight years ago and the things he predicted have sadly been realized
Notable quotes:
"... his screed is a liberating tonic against the crazy-making double-speak and the lies Americans are sold by our country's elite in order to distract us from the true threat and nature of the Corporate State, from the cult of celebrity, to how our nation's Universities have been hijacked to serve the interests, not of the public, but of our corporate overlords. It explains the self-same conditions in all aspects of our society and culture that we now must face, the ever-shrinking flame of enlightenment being exchanged for the illusory shadows on a cave wall. ..."
"... He fearlessly and incisively calls us out on the obvious farce our democracy has become, how we got here, and highlights the rapidly closing window in which we have to do something to correct it. It is a revelation, and yet he merely states the obvious. The empire has no clothes. ..."
"... One of the most powerful aspects of this book was in regard to how our Universities are run these days. I may be in the minority, but I experienced a life-changing disillusionment when I gained entrance to a prestigious "elite" University. Instead of drawing the best and the brightest, or being a place where scholarship was valued, where students were taught critical thinking skills, the University I attended was nothing more than an expensive diploma mill for the children of the wealthy. In the eyes of the University, students were not minds to be empowered and developed, but walking dollar signs. ..."
"... Instead of critical thinking, students were taught to OBEY, not to question authority, and then handed a piece of paper admitting them to the ruling class that is destroying America without a moral compass. Selfishness, deceit, disregard for the common good, and a win-at-all-costs attitude were rewarded. Empathy, curiosity, dissent, and an honest, intellectually rigorous evaluation of ourselves and our world were punished. Obviously I am not the only one to whom this was cause to fear for the future of our country. ..."
"... The chapter involving the porn trade that is run by large corporations such as AT&T and GM (the car maker, for crying out loud) was an especially dark, profanity-laced depiction of the abuse and moral decay of American society . ..."
"... He is correct in his belief that the continual barrage of psuedo-events and puffery disguised as news (especially television) has conditioned most of Americans to be non-critical thinkers. ..."
"... Entertainment, consumption and the dangerous illusion that the U.S. is the best in the world at everything are childish mindsets. ..."
"... The are the puppet masters." As extreme as that is, he is more credible when he says, "Commodities and celebrity culture define what it means to belong, how we recognize our place in society, and how we conduct our lives." I say 'credible' because popular and mass culture's influence are creating a world where substance is replaced by questionable style. ..."
"... Celebrity and connectivity are both ways of becoming known. This is what the contemporary self wants. It wants to be recognized, wants to be connected: It wants to be visible. If not to the millions, on Survivor or Oprah, then to the hundreds, on Twitter or Facebook. ..."
"... Visibility has replaced substance and accomplishment; packaging over product, sizzle not steak. Chris Rojek calls this "the cult of distraction" where society is consumed by the vacuous and the vapid rather than striving for self-awareness, accomplishment and contribution ("Propaganda has become a substitute for ideas and ideology."). Hedges builds on Rojek's descriptor by suggesting we are living in a "culture of illusion" which impoverishes language, makes us childlike, and is basically dumbing us all down. ..."
"... Today's delusionary and corrupted officials, corporate and government, are reminiscent of the narratives penned by Charles Dickens. Alexander Hamilton referred to the masses as a "great beast" to be kept from the powers of government. ..."
"... Edmund Burke used propaganda to control "elements of society". Walter Lippmann advised that "the public must be kept in its place". Yet, many Americans just don't get it. ..."
"... Divide and conquer is the mantra--rich vs. poor; black vs. white. According to Norm Chomsky's writings, "In 1934, William Shepard argued that government should be in the hands of `aristocracy and intellectual power' while the `ignorant, and the uninformed and the antisocial element' must not be permitted to control elections...." ..."
"... The appalling statistics and opinions outlined in the book demonstrate the public ignorance of the American culture; the depth and extent of the corporatocracy and the related economic malaise; and, the impact substandard schools have on their lives. ..."
"... This idea was recently usurped by the U.S. Supreme Court where representative government is called to question, rendering "our" consent irrelevant. Every voting election is an illusion. Each election, at the local and national level, voters never seemingly "miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity" to eliminate irresponsible and unresponsive officials. ..."
"... Walt Kelly's quote "We have met the enemy and he is us" prevails! ..."
"... It's also hard to follow at times as Hedges attempts to stress the connections between pop culture and social, political. and economic policy. Nor is Hedges a particularly stylish writer (a sense of humor would help). ..."
"... The stomach-turning chapter on trends in porn and their relationship to the torture of prisoners of war is a particularly sharp piece of analysis, and all of the other chapters do eventually convince (and depress). ..."
Oct 09, 2017 | www.amazon.com

H. I. on May 13, 2011

This Book Explains EVERYTHING!!!!!

Hedges cogently and systematically dismantles the most pernicious cultural delusions of our era and lays bare the pitiful truths that they attempt to mask. This book is a deprogramming manual that trims away the folly and noise from our troubled society so that the reader can focus on the most pressing matters of our time.

Despite the dark reality Hedges excavates, his screed is a liberating tonic against the crazy-making double-speak and the lies Americans are sold by our country's elite in order to distract us from the true threat and nature of the Corporate State, from the cult of celebrity, to how our nation's Universities have been hijacked to serve the interests, not of the public, but of our corporate overlords. It explains the self-same conditions in all aspects of our society and culture that we now must face, the ever-shrinking flame of enlightenment being exchanged for the illusory shadows on a cave wall.

As a twenty-something caught in the death-throes of American Empire and culture, I have struggled to anticipate where our country and our world are heading, why, and what sort of life I can expect to build for myself. Hedges presents the reader with the depressing, yet undeniable truth of the forces that have coalesced to shape the world in which we now find ourselves. The light he casts is searing and relentless. He fearlessly and incisively calls us out on the obvious farce our democracy has become, how we got here, and highlights the rapidly closing window in which we have to do something to correct it. It is a revelation, and yet he merely states the obvious. The empire has no clothes.

One of the most powerful aspects of this book was in regard to how our Universities are run these days. I may be in the minority, but I experienced a life-changing disillusionment when I gained entrance to a prestigious "elite" University. Instead of drawing the best and the brightest, or being a place where scholarship was valued, where students were taught critical thinking skills, the University I attended was nothing more than an expensive diploma mill for the children of the wealthy. In the eyes of the University, students were not minds to be empowered and developed, but walking dollar signs.

Instead of critical thinking, students were taught to OBEY, not to question authority, and then handed a piece of paper admitting them to the ruling class that is destroying America without a moral compass. Selfishness, deceit, disregard for the common good, and a win-at-all-costs attitude were rewarded. Empathy, curiosity, dissent, and an honest, intellectually rigorous evaluation of ourselves and our world were punished. Obviously I am not the only one to whom this was cause to fear for the future of our country.

Five stars is not enough. Ever since I began reading Empire of Illusion, I have insisted friends and family pick up a copy, too. Everyone in America should read this incredibly important book.

The truth shall set us free.

By Franklin the Mouse on February 5, 2012

Dream Weavers

Mr. Hedges is in one heck of a foul mood. His raging against the evolving of American democracy into an oligarchy is accurate, but relentlessly depressing. The author focuses on some of our most horrid characteristics: celebrity worship; "pro" wrestling; the brutal porn industry; Jerry Springer-like shows; the military-industrial complex; the moral void of elite colleges such as Yale, Harvard, Berkeley and Princeton; optimistic-ladened pop psychology; and political/corporate conformity.

Mr. Hedges grim assessment put me in a seriously foul mood. The chapter involving the porn trade that is run by large corporations such as AT&T and GM (the car maker, for crying out loud) was an especially dark, profanity-laced depiction of the abuse and moral decay of American society .

He is correct in his belief that the continual barrage of psuedo-events and puffery disguised as news (especially television) has conditioned most of Americans to be non-critical thinkers.

Entertainment, consumption and the dangerous illusion that the U.S. is the best in the world at everything are childish mindsets.

The oddest part of Mr. Hedges' book is the ending. The last three pages take such an unexpectedly hard turn from "all is lost" to "love will conquer," I practically got whiplash. Overall, the author should be commended for trying to bring our attention to what ails our country and challenging readers to wake up from their child-like illusions.

Now, time for me to go run a nice, warm bath and where did I put those razor blades?...

By Walter E. Kurtz on September 25, 2011
Amazing book

I must say I was captivated by the author's passion, eloquence and insight. This is not an academic essay. True, there are few statistics here and there and quotes from such and such person, but this is not like one of those books that read like a longer version of an academic research paper. The book is more of author's personal observations about American society. Perhaps that is where its power comes from.

Some might dismiss the book as nothing more than an opinion piece, but how many great books and works out there are opinion pieces enhanced with supporting facts and statistics?

The book is divided into five chapters. Chapter one is about celebrity worship and how far people are willing to humiliate themselves and sacrifice their dignity for their five minutes of fame. But this is not just about those who are willing to make idiots out of themselves just to appear on television. This is about how the fascination with the world of rich and famous distracts the society from the important issues and problems and how it creates unhealthy and destructive desire to pursue wealth and fame. And even for those few who do achieve it, their lives are far from the bliss and happiness shown in movies. More than one celebrity had cursed her life.

Chapter two deals with porn. It offers gutwrenching, vomit inducing descriptions of lives and conditions in the porn industry. But the damage porn does goes far beyond those working in the "industry". Porn destroys the love, intimacy and beauty of sex. Porn reduces sex to an act of male dominance, power and even violence. Unfortunately, many men, and even women, buy into that and think that the sex seen in porn is normal and this is how things should be.

After reading this chapter, I will never look at porn the same way again. In fact, I probably will never look at porn at all.

Chapter three is about education. It focuses mostly on college level education and how in the past few decades it had increasingly changed focus from teaching students how to be responsible citizens and good human beings to how to be successful, profit seeking, career obsessed corporate/government drones. The students are taught that making money and career building are the only thing that matters. This results in professionals who put greed and selfishness above everything else and mindlessly serve a system that destroys the society and the whole planet. And when they are faced with problems (like the current economic crisis) and evidence that the system is broken, rather than rethink their paradigm and consider that perhaps they were wrong, they retreat further into old thinking in search of ways to reinforce the (broken) system and keep it going.
Chapter four is my favorite. It is about positive thinking. As someone who lives with a family member who feeds me positive thinking crap at breakfast, lunch and supper, I enjoyed this chapter very much. For those rare lucky few who do not know what positive thinking is, it can be broadly defined as a belief that whatever happens to us in life, it happens because we "attracted" it to ourselves. Think about it as karma that affects us not in the next life, but in this one. The movement believes that our conscious and unconscious thoughts affect reality. By assuming happy, positive outlook on life, we can affect reality and make good things happen to us.

Followers of positive thinking are encouraged/required to purge all negative emotions, never question the bad things that happen to them and focus on thinking happy thoughts. Positive thinking is currently promoted by corporations and to lesser extent governments to keep employees in line. They are rendered docile and obedient, don't make waves (like fight for better pay and working conditions) and, when fired, take it calmly with a smile and never question corporate culture.

Chapter five is about American politics and how the government and the politicians had sold themselves out to corporations and business. It is about imperialism and how the government helps the corporations loot the country while foreign wars are started under the pretext of defense and patriotism, but their real purpose is to loot the foreign lands and fill the coffers of war profiteers. If allowed to continue, this system will result in totalitarianism and ecological apocalypse.

I have some objections with this chapter. While I completely agree about the current state of American politics, the author makes a claim that this is a relatively recent development dating roughly to the Vietnam War. Before that, especially in the 1950s, things were much better. Or at least they were for the white men. (The author does admit that 1950s were not all that great to blacks, women or homosexuals.)

While things might have gotten very bad in the last few decades, politicians and governments have always been more at the service of Big Money rather than the common people.

And Vietnam was not the first imperialistic American war. What about the conquest of Cuba and Philippines at the turn of the 20th century? And about all those American "adventures" in South America in the 19th century. And what about the westward expansion and extermination of Native Americans that started the moment the first colonists set their foot on the continent?

But this is a minor issue. My biggest issue with the book is that it is a powerful denunciation, but it does not offer much in terms of suggestions on how to fix the problems it is decrying. Criticizing is good and necessary, but offering solutions is even more important. You can criticize all you want, but if you cannot suggest something better, then the old system will stay in place.

The author does write at the end a powerful, tear inducing essay on how love conquers all and that no totalitarian regime, no matter how powerful and oppressive, had ever managed to crush hope, love and the human spirit. Love, in the end, conquers all.

That is absolutely true. But what does it mean in practice? That we must keep loving and doing good? Of course we must, but some concrete, practical examples of what to do would be welcome.

By Richard Joltes on July 18, 2016
An excellent and sobering view at the decline of reason and literacy in modern society

This is an absolutely superb work that documents how our society has been subverted by spectacle, glitz, celebrity, and the obsession with "fame" at the expense of reality, literacy, reason, and actual ability. Hedges lays it all out in a very clear and thought provoking style, using real world examples like pro wrestling and celebrity oriented programming to showcase how severely our society has declined from a forward thinking, literate one into a mass of tribes obsessed with stardom and money.

Even better is that the author's style is approachable and non judgemental. This isn't an academic talking down to the masses, but a very solid reporter presenting findings in an accurate, logical style.

Every American should read this, and then consider whether to buy that glossy celebrity oriented magazine or watch that "I want to be a millionaire" show. The lifestyle and choices being promoted by the media, credit card companies, and by the celebrity culture in general, are toxic and a danger to our society's future.

By Jeffrey Swystun on June 29, 2011
What does the contemporary self want?

The various ills impacting society graphically painted by Chris Hedges are attributed to a lack of literacy. However, it is much more complex, layered, and inter-related. By examining literacy, love, wisdom, happiness, and the current state of America, the author sets out to convince the reader that our world is intellectually crumbling. He picks aspects of our society that clearly offer questionable value: professional wrestling, the pornographic film industry (which is provided in bizarre repetitive graphic detail), gambling, conspicuous consumption, and biased news reporting to name a few.

The front of the end of the book was the most compelling. Especially when Hedges strays into near conspiracy with comments such as this: "Those who manipulate the shadows that dominate our lives are the agents, publicists, marketing departments, promoters, script writers, television and movie producers, advertisers, video technicians, photographers, bodyguards, wardrobe consultants, fitness trainers, pollsters, public announcers, and television news personalities who create the vast stage for illusion. The are the puppet masters." As extreme as that is, he is more credible when he says, "Commodities and celebrity culture define what it means to belong, how we recognize our place in society, and how we conduct our lives." I say 'credible' because popular and mass culture's influence are creating a world where substance is replaced by questionable style.

What resonated most in the book is a passage taken from William Deresiewicz's essay The End of Solitude: "What does the contemporary self want? The camera has created a culture of celebrity; the computer is creating a culture of connectivity. As the two technologies converge -- broadband tipping the Web from text to image, social-networking sites spreading the mesh of interconnection ever wider -- the two cultures betray a common impulse.

Celebrity and connectivity are both ways of becoming known. This is what the contemporary self wants. It wants to be recognized, wants to be connected: It wants to be visible. If not to the millions, on Survivor or Oprah, then to the hundreds, on Twitter or Facebook. This is the quality that validates us, this is how we become real to ourselves -- by being seen by others. The great contemporary terror is anonymity. If Lionel Trilling was right, if the property that grounded the self, in Romanticism, was sincerity, and in modernism it was authenticity, then in postmodernism it is visibility."

Visibility has replaced substance and accomplishment; packaging over product, sizzle not steak. Chris Rojek calls this "the cult of distraction" where society is consumed by the vacuous and the vapid rather than striving for self-awareness, accomplishment and contribution ("Propaganda has become a substitute for ideas and ideology."). Hedges builds on Rojek's descriptor by suggesting we are living in a "culture of illusion" which impoverishes language, makes us childlike, and is basically dumbing us all down.

This is definitely a provocative contribution and damning analysis of our society that would be a great choice for a book club. It would promote lively debate as conclusions and solutions are not easily reached.

By S. Arch on July 10, 2011
A book that needs to be read, even if it's only half true.

Empire of Illusion might be the most depressing book I've ever read. Why? Because it predicts the collapse of America and almost every word of it rings true.

I don't know if there's really anything new here; many of the ideas Hedges puts forth have been floating around in the neglected dark corners of our national discourse, but Hedges drags them all out into the daylight. Just about every social/cultural/economic/political ill you can think of is mentioned at some point in the text and laid at the feet of the villains whose insatiable greed has destroyed this once-great country. Hedges is bold. He predicts nothing less than the end of America. Indeed, he claims America has already ended. The American Dream is nothing more than an illusion being propped up by wealthy elites obsessed with power and the preservation of their lifestyle, a blind academia that has forgotten how to critique authority, and a government that is nothing more than the puppet of corporations. Meanwhile, mindless entertainments and a compliant news media divert and mislead the working and middle classes so they don't even notice that they are being raped to death by the power-elite and the corporations.

(Don't misunderstand. This is no crack-pot conspiracy theory. It's not about secret quasi-mystical cabals attempting world domination. Rather, Hedges paints a credible picture of our culture in a state of moral and intellectual decay, and leaders corrupted by power and greed who have ceased to act in the public interest.)

At times Hedges seems to be ranting and accusing without providing evidence or examples to substantiate his claims. But that might only be because his claims have already been substantiated individually elsewhere, and Hedges's purpose here is a kind of grand synthesis of many critical ideas. Indeed, an exhaustive analysis of all the issues he brings forth would require volumes rather than a single book. In any case, I challenge anyone to read this book, look around honestly at what's happening in America, and conclude that Hedges is wrong.

One final note: this book is not for the squeamish. The chapter about pornography is brutally explicit. Still, I think it is an important book, and it would be good if a lot more people would read it, discuss it, and thereby become dis-illusioned.

By Bruce E. McLeod Jr. on February 11, 2012
Thorough and illuminating

Chris Hedges book, "Empire of Illusion" is a stinging assessment and vivid indictment of America's political and educational systems; a well-told story. I agree with his views but wonder how they can be reversed or transformed given the economic hegemony of the corporations and the weight of the entrenched political parties. Very few solutions were provided.

Corporations will continue to have a presence and set standards within the halls of educational and governmental institutions with impunity. Limited monetary measures, other than governmental, exist for public educational institutions, both secondary and post-secondary. Historically, Roman and Greek political elitists operated in a similar manner and may have set standards for today's plutocracy. Plebeian societies were helpless and powerless, with few options, to enact change against the political establishment. Given the current conditions, America is on a downward spiral to chaos.

His book is a clarion call for action. Parents and teachers have warned repeatedly that too much emphasis is placed on athletic programs at the expense of academics. Educational panels, books and other experts have done little to reform the system and its intransigent administrators.

Today's delusionary and corrupted officials, corporate and government, are reminiscent of the narratives penned by Charles Dickens. Alexander Hamilton referred to the masses as a "great beast" to be kept from the powers of government.

Edmund Burke used propaganda to control "elements of society". Walter Lippmann advised that "the public must be kept in its place". Yet, many Americans just don't get it.

They continue to be hood-winked by politicians using uncontested "sound bites" and "racially-coded" phrases to persuade voters.

Divide and conquer is the mantra--rich vs. poor; black vs. white. According to Norm Chomsky's writings, "In 1934, William Shepard argued that government should be in the hands of `aristocracy and intellectual power' while the `ignorant, and the uninformed and the antisocial element' must not be permitted to control elections...."

The appalling statistics and opinions outlined in the book demonstrate the public ignorance of the American culture; the depth and extent of the corporatocracy and the related economic malaise; and, the impact substandard schools have on their lives. This is further exemplified by Jay Leno's version of "Jaywalking". On the streets, he randomly selects passersby to interview, which seems to validate much of these charges.

We are all culpable. We are further susceptible to illusions. John Locke said, "Government receives its just powers from the consent of the governed".

This idea was recently usurped by the U.S. Supreme Court where representative government is called to question, rendering "our" consent irrelevant. Every voting election is an illusion. Each election, at the local and national level, voters never seemingly "miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity" to eliminate irresponsible and unresponsive officials.

Walt Kelly's quote "We have met the enemy and he is us" prevails!

By Richard Steiger on January 14, 2012
Powerful in spite of itself

There are many flaws with Hedges' book. For one thing, he is given to writing sermons (his father was a minister), hurling down denunciations in the manner of the prophet Amos. The book also tends to be repetitious, as Hedges makes the same general statements over and over. It's also hard to follow at times as Hedges attempts to stress the connections between pop culture and social, political. and economic policy. Nor is Hedges a particularly stylish writer (a sense of humor would help).

His last-second "happy ending" (something like: we're all doomed, but eventually, somewhere down the line, love will prevail beacuse it's ultimately the strongest power on earth) is, to say the least, unconvincing.

SO why am I recommending this book? Because in spite of its flaws (and maybe even because of them), this is a powerful depiction of the state of American society. The book does get to you in its somewhat clumsy way.

The stomach-turning chapter on trends in porn and their relationship to the torture of prisoners of war is a particularly sharp piece of analysis, and all of the other chapters do eventually convince (and depress).

This book will not exactly cheer you up, but at least it will give you an understanding of where we are (and where we're heading).

[Oct 06, 2017] How Economists Turned Corporations into Predators

Highly recommended!
The idea the a scientist can be a gangster was probably first presented by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in his famous Sherlock Holmes detective stories. Neoliberalism just made this a reality. Mass production of "scientific gangsters" is an immanent feature of neoliberalism.
Notable quotes:
"... By Lynn Parramore, Senior Research Analyst at the Institute for New Economic Thinking. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website ..."
"... The Idea That Businesses Exist Solely to Enrich Shareholders Is Harmful Nonsense ..."
"... Neil Fligstein wrote a good book awhile back called The Transformation of Corporate Control that shows how most large manufacturing companies were initially run by engineers, then sales people, then finance people (as corporations came to be seen as bundles of assets as opposed to businesses). I think this transformation paralleled the rise of neoclassical economics. So, not so much "chicken-and-egg" as "class war." In Germany, at least until recently, I believe CEO's of manufacturing firms were still disproportionately engineers. ..."
"... a group of hedge fund activists can suck the value that you've created right out, driving your company down and making you worse off and the company financially fragile ..."
"... That means transforming business education, including the replacement of agency theory with innovation theory ..."
"... since gigantism is the norm, rather than family run farms in a mostly agrarian economy such failures are catastrophic. The linkage between these elephants tends to create systemic risk. Previously, failure was small and isolated. ..."
"... Welcome to our wonderful new world of infinite mutual vulnerability! Risk On! Nuclear weapons, Equifax, Googleamazon, NSApanopticon, FIRE, hacking, crapification The Soviet Union vanished as an entity, many starved, but the mopes there at least still knew how to raise up edible crops and live on "less" and maybe do better collective response to that sharp peak on the entropy curve. Wonder how things might play out exceptionally, here in the Empire? ..."
"... It should be noted that Michael Jensen of HBS, one of the originators of the `maximize shareholder value' of corporate governance, is on some short lists for this year's not-exactly-the-Nobel Prize in Economics. ..."
Oct 06, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

By Lynn Parramore, Senior Research Analyst at the Institute for New Economic Thinking. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website

The Idea That Businesses Exist Solely to Enrich Shareholders Is Harmful Nonsense

In a new INET paper featured in the Financial Times , economist William Lazonick lays out a theory about how corporations can work for everyone – not just a few executives and Wall Streeters. He challenges a set of controversial ideas that became gospel in business schools and the mainstream media starting in the 1980s. He sat down with INET's Lynn Parramore to discuss.

Lynn Parramore: Since the 1980s, business schools have touted "agency theory," a controversial set of ideas meant to explain how corporations best operate. Proponents say that you run a business with the goal of channeling money to shareholders instead of, say, creating great products or making any efforts at socially responsible actions such as taking account of climate change. Many now take this view as gospel, even though no less a business titan than Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, called the notion that a company should be run to maximize shareholder value "the dumbest idea in the world." Why did Welch say that?

William Lazonick: Welch made that statement in a 2009 interview , just ahead of the news that GE had lost its S&P Triple-A rating in the midst of the financial crisis. He explained that, "shareholder value is a result, not a strategy" and that a company's "main constituencies are your employees, your customers and your products." During his tenure as GE CEO from 1981 to 2001, Welch had an obsession with increasing the company's stock price and hitting quarterly earnings-per-share targets, but he also understood that revenues come when your company generates innovative products. He knew that the employees' skills and efforts enable the company to develop those products and sell them.

If a publicly-listed corporation succeeds in creating innovative goods or services, then shareholders stand to gain from dividend payments if they hold shares or if they sell at a higher price. But where does the company's value actually come from? It comes from employees who use their collective and cumulative learning to satisfy customers with great products. It follows that these employees are the ones who should be rewarded when the business is a success. We've become blinded to this simple, obvious logic.

LP: What have these academic theorists missed about how companies really operate and perform? How have their views impacted our economy and society?

WL: As I show in my new INET paper " Innovative Enterprise Solves the Agency Problem ," agency theorists don't have a theory of innovative enterprise. That's strange, since they are talking about how companies succeed.

They believe that to be efficient, business corporations should be run to "maximize shareholder value." But as I have argued in another recent INET paper , public shareholders at a company like GE are not investors in the company's productive capabilities.

LP: Wait, as a stockholder I'm not an investor in the company's capabilities?

WL: When you buy shares of a stock, you are not creating value for the company -- you're just a saver who buys shares outstanding on the stock market for the sake of a yield on your financial portfolio. Public shareholders are value extractors , not value creators.

By touting public shareholders as a corporation's value creators, agency theorists lay the groundwork for some very harmful activities. They legitimize "hedge fund activists," for example. These are aggressive corporate predators who buy shares of a company on the stock market and then use the power bestowed upon them by the ill-conceived U.S. proxy voting system, endorsed by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), to demand that the corporation inflate profits by cutting costs. That often means mass layoffs and depressed incomes for anybody who remains. In an industry like pharmaceuticals , the activists also press for extortionate product price increases. The higher profits tend to boost stock prices for the activists and other shareholders if they sell their shares on the market.

LP: So the hedge fund activists are extracting value from a corporation instead of creating it, and yet they are the ones who get enriched.

WL: Right. Agency theory aids and abets this value extraction by advocating, in the name of "maximizing shareholder value," massive distributions to shareholders in the form of dividends for holding shares as well as stock buybacks that you hear about, which give manipulative boosts to stock prices. Activists get rich when they sell the shares. The people who created the value -- the employees -- often get poorer.

###p"downsize-and-distribute" -- something that corporations have been doing since the 1980s, which has resulted in extreme concentration of income among the richest households and the erosion of middle-class employment opportunities.

LP: You've called stock buybacks -- what happens when a company buys back its own shares from the marketplace, often to manipulate the stock price upwards -- the "legalized looting of the U.S. business corporation." What's the problem with this practice?

WL: If you buy shares in Apple, for example, you can get a dividend for holding shares and, possibly, a capital gain when you sell the shares. Since 2012, when Apple made its first dividend payment since 1996, the company has shelled out $57.4 billion as dividends, equivalent to over 22 percent of net income. That's fine. But the company has also spent $157.9 billion on stock buybacks, equal to 62 percent of net income.

Yet the only time in its history that Apple ever raised funds on the public stock market was in 1980, when it collected $97 million in its initial public offering. How can a corporation return capital to parties that never supplied it with capital? It's a very misleading concept.

The vast majority of people who hold Apple's publicly-listed shares have simply bought outstanding shares on the stock market. They have contributed nothing to Apple's value-creating capabilities. That includes veteran corporate raider Carl Icahn, who raked in $2 billion by holding $3.6 billion in Apple shares for about 32 months, while using his influence to encourage Apple to do $80.3 billion in buybacks in 2014-2015, the largest repurchases ever. Over this period, Apple, the most cash-rich company in history, increased its debt by $47.6 billion to do buybacks so that it would not have to repatriate its offshore profits, sheltered from U.S. corporate taxes.

There are many ways in which the company could have returned its profits to employees and taxpayers -- the real value creators -- that are consistent with an innovative business model. Instead, in doing massive buybacks, Apple's board (which includes former Vice President Al Gore) has endorsed legalized looting. The SEC bears a lot of blame. It's supposed to protect investors and make sure financial markets are free of manipulation. But back in 1982, the SEC bought into agency theory under Reagan and came up with a rule that gives corporate executives a "safe harbor" against charges of stock-price manipulation when they do billions of dollars of buybacks for the sole purpose of manipulating their company's stock price.

LP: But don't shareholders deserve some of the profits as part owners of the corporation?

WL: Let's say you buy stock in General Motors. You are just buying a share that is outstanding on the market. You are contributing nothing to the company. And you will only buy the shares because the stock market is highly liquid, enabling you to easily sell some or all of the shares at any moment that you so choose.

In contrast, people who work for General Motors supply skill and effort to generate the company's innovative products. They are making productive contributions with expectations that, if the innovative strategy is successful, they will share in the gains -- a bigger paycheck, employment security, a promotion. In providing their labor services, these employees are the real value creators whose economic futures are at risk.

LP: This is really different from what a lot of us have been taught to believe. An employee gets a paycheck for showing up at work -- there's your reward. When we take a job, we probably don't expect management to see us as risk-takers entitled to share in the profits unless we're pretty high up.

WL: If you work for a company, even if its innovative strategy is a big success, you run a big risk because under the current regime of "maximizing shareholder value" a group of hedge fund activists can suck the value that you've created right out, driving your company down and making you worse off and the company financially fragile. And they are not the only predators you have to deal with. Incentivized with huge amounts of stock-based pay, senior corporate executives will, and often do, extract value from the company for their own personal gain -- at your expense. As Professor Jang-Sup Shin and I argue in a forthcoming book, senior executives often become value-extracting insiders. And they open the corporate coffers to hedge fund activists, the value-extracting outsiders. Large institutional investors can use their proxy votes to support corporate raids, acting as value-extracting enablers.

You put in your ideas, knowledge, time, and effort to make the company a huge success, and still you may get laid off or find your paycheck shrinking. The losers are not only the mass of corporate employees -- if you're a taxpayer, your money provides the business corporation with physical infrastructure, like roads and bridges, and human knowledge, like scientific discoveries, that it needs to innovate and profit. Senior corporate executives are constantly complaining that they need lower corporate taxes in order to compete, when what they really want is more cash to distribute to shareholders and boost stock prices. In that system, they win but the rest of us lose .

LP: Some academics say that hedge fund activism is great because it makes a company run better and produce higher profits. Others say, "No, Wall Streeters shouldn't have more say than executives who know better how to run the company." You say that both of these camps have got it wrong. How so?

WL: A company has to be run by executive insiders, and in order to produce innovation these executives have got to do three things:

First you need a resource-allocation strategy that, in the face of uncertainty, seeks to generate high-quality, low-cost products. Second, you need to implement that strategy through training, retaining, motivating, and rewarding employees, upon whom the development and utilization of the organization's productive capabilities depend. Third, you have to mobilize and leverage the company's cash flow to support the innovative strategy. But under the sway of the "maximizing shareholder value" idea, many senior corporate executives have been unwilling, and often unable, to perform these value-creating functions. Agency theorists have got it so backwards that they actually celebrate the virtues of " the value extracting CEO ." How strange is that?

Massive stock buybacks is where the incentives of corporate executives who extract value align with the interests of hedge fund activists who also want to suck value from a corporation. When they promote this kind of alliance, agency theorists have in effect served as academic agents of activist aggression. Lacking a theory of the value-creating firm, or what I call a "theory of innovative enterprise," agency theorists cannot imagine what an executive who creates value actually does. They don't see that it's crucial to align executives' interests with the value-creating investment requirements of the organizations over which they exercise strategic control. This intellectual deficit is not unique to agency theorists; it is inherent in their training in neoclassical economics .

LP: So if shareholders and executives are too often just looting companies to enrich themselves – "value extraction," as you put it – and not caring about long-term success, who is in a better position to decide how to run them, where to allocate resources and so on?

WL: We need to redesign corporate-governance institutions to promote the interests of American households as workers and taxpayers. Because of technological, market, or competitive uncertainties, workers take the risk that the application of their skills and the expenditure of their efforts will be in vain. In financing investments in infrastructure and knowledge, taxpayers make productive capabilities available to business enterprises, but with no guaranteed return on those investments.

These stakeholders need to have representation on corporate boards of directors. Predators, including self-serving corporate executives and greed-driven shareholder activists, should certainly not have representation on corporate boards.

LP: Sounds like we've lost sight of what a business needs to do to be successful in the long run, and it's costing everybody except a handful of senior executives, hedge fund managers, and Wall Street bankers. How would your "innovation theory" help companies run better and make for a healthier economy and society?

WL: Major corporations are key to the operation and performance of the economy. So we need a revolution in corporate governance to get us back on track to stable and equitable economic growth. Besides changing board representation, I would change the incentives for top executives so that they are rewarded for allocating corporate resources to value creation. Senior executives should gain along with the rest of the organization when the corporation is successful in generating competitive products while sharing the gains with workers and taxpayers.

Innovation theory calls for changing the mindsets and skill sets of senior executives. That means transforming business education, including the replacement of agency theory with innovation theory. That also means changing the career paths through which corporate personnel can rise to positions of strategic control, so that leaders who create value get rewarded and those who extract it are disfavored. At the institutional level, it would be great to see the SEC, as the regulator of financial markets, take a giant step in supporting value creation by banning stock buybacks whose purpose it is to manipulate stock prices.

To get from here to there, we have to replace nonsense with common sense in our understanding of how business enterprises operate and perform.

Enquiring Mind , October 6, 2017 at 10:44 am

Owners come first!
That was the slogan of our former board chair. He didn't disclose to the employees that his compensation was influenced mightily by how big the net income was. He did tell the employees that they were well down the hierarchy, after Owners (capital O) and then vendors and then customers. His former employees deserted in droves.

RepubAnon , October 6, 2017 at 12:14 pm

I'd say that maximizing long-term shareholder value is a great idea the problem is, as is so often the case these days, short-term thinking.

Driving away a company's best employees makes that quarter's numbers look better, but destroys long-term value. Same thing for so many other short-term, "I'll be gone, you'll be gone" strategies.

One step to fixing things – change the definition of long-term capital gains from the current 1 year to, say, 5 years. This "one simple trick" would fix everything from the carried interest loophole to the abuses inherent in the current Wall Street gambling mentality.

It won't happen, of course, but it'd be nice.

Tim , October 6, 2017 at 2:21 pm

We can talk about what is best in theory, but reality is just that, shareholders come first.

They control the board and the CEO and the CEO institutes the will of the shareholders down into the business entities, determining the level of reinvestment in the business units and the level of employee compensation. That will continue to be the case until the company goes bankrupt at which point shareholders are entitled to nothing.

I agree with others that Jack Welch is saying what he is saying after the fact. Way too easy to do.

a different chris , October 6, 2017 at 10:47 am

>Welch had an obsession with increasing the company's stock price and hitting quarterly earnings-per-share targets, but he also understood

Yeah so he talks a good game but when he had the reins – one of the most powerful men in the world meekly (ok, that's a hilarious adjective when applied to Jack Welsh) followed the herd. Or more accurately, found out where the herd was heading and got out in front of it. The true sign of modern "leadership".

RepubAnon , October 6, 2017 at 12:20 pm

Folks at GE back in the day nicknamed him "Neutron Jack" – if he visited a site, all the employees disappeared, leaving only the buildings standing

digi_owl , October 6, 2017 at 1:06 pm

Or more accurately, found out where the herd was heading and got out in front of it. The true sign of modern "leadership".

Reminds me of something i have read, supposedly a quite from some politician or other, going to the tune of "i need to find out where the mob is going, so i can lead them there".

Left in Wisconsin , October 6, 2017 at 1:06 pm

Welch's primary business strategy at GE was to exit every product market in which GE's market share was not in the top two in the industry (selling them off or closing them down) and reallocate resources to industries where GE was market dominant, often buying up the competition rather than truly investing in innovation. A truly awful human being.

Synoia , October 6, 2017 at 11:18 am

As I personally have always believed, Employees have more invested in their employers than shareholders. Shareholders can sell quickly and have no loyalty. Employees do not enjoy such a liquid "jobs market."

There also seems to be a turning point in companies, where they change the perception of the customers form a group to be treasured, to a group who are to b exploited – change the relationship so the customers become "marks."

I also believe there should be an almost automatic "break -up" provision for companies who reach a certain market share.

Finally there should be one definition of income, and it should include Wages, Dividends, and Capital Gains.

Vatch , October 6, 2017 at 11:27 am

there should be an almost automatic "break -up" provision for companies who reach a certain market share.

Yes, anti-trust enforcement would be nice. Hypothetical President Sanders might actually do that. Real and hypothetical Presidents Bush, Obama, Romney, B. Clinton, H. Clinton, and Trump have other priorities.

readerOfTeaLeaves , October 6, 2017 at 12:15 pm

Sen Bernie Sanders sees right through the neoclassical fetters, blinders, and bullshit. He recognizes how intellectually and economically stagnant and dangerous it is. He has the most powerful conceptual, articulate grasp of economics that I've seen the past 40 years. He also, IIRC, had MMTer Stephanie Kelton as an advisor, and had her advise the Senate Finance Committee. Also notable: Sen Elizabeth Warren.

The other political operators that you mention are still in thrall to neoclassical assumptions. They mistake 'takers' for 'makers' and are economically bamboozled. And it has worked out well for all of them, on a personal basis, so it is not surprising that they don't see the problems.

Anyone actually trying to build an innovative business, OTOH, has to see through the bamboozlement or else you're out of business pronto.

JTMcPhee , October 6, 2017 at 12:05 pm

Chicken and egg question:

The class of humans that by inclination and opportunity become C-Suite and VC looters and "owners:" did they precede the imprimatur of "economists" with their notions of price, value, and crossing of curves, or did the "economists" do a Martin Luther, nail up a bunch of theses, and preach fire and brimstone to turn the greedheads loose?

And was/is any other outcome for the species and the planet even possible?

Left in Wisconsin , October 6, 2017 at 1:14 pm

Neil Fligstein wrote a good book awhile back called The Transformation of Corporate Control that shows how most large manufacturing companies were initially run by engineers, then sales people, then finance people (as corporations came to be seen as bundles of assets as opposed to businesses). I think this transformation paralleled the rise of neoclassical economics. So, not so much "chicken-and-egg" as "class war." In Germany, at least until recently, I believe CEO's of manufacturing firms were still disproportionately engineers.

Carla , October 6, 2017 at 3:05 pm

"most large manufacturing companies were initially run by engineers, then sales people, then finance people"

The Lincoln Electric Company, which became famous for its "Incentive Management" program of compensating employees, was a client of mine. Over three decades I saw it progress through precisely those stages, and gradually lose every characteristic that had made the company unique.

readerOfTeaLeaves , October 6, 2017 at 12:30 pm

This post was a genuine pleasure to read. Especially:

If you work for a company, even if its innovative strategy is a big success, you run a big risk because under the current regime of "maximizing shareholder value" a group of hedge fund activists can suck the value that you've created right out, driving your company down and making you worse off and the company financially fragile .

And we've had a government by and for hedge fund managers for about the same amount of time that we've had economic woes. One problem is that hedge funders like Romney, who actually don't think about consumer product development, actually don't have to test and deploy products, bring their bean-counter assumptions to business and make a hash of things. I mention Romney specifically, because he presents himself to the world as a paragon of economic wisdom.

Romney has a prestigious business school background. Which makes me want to highlight this:

Innovation theory calls for changing the mindsets and skill sets of senior executives. That means transforming business education, including the replacement of agency theory with innovation theory .

JTMcPhee , October 6, 2017 at 12:59 pm

Just a thought: "innovation theory," like MMT, is maybe just a tool set? "Innovation" includes "autonomous combat devices," and CRSP-R, and nuclear weapons, and the F-35, and fracking, and derivatives, and plastics, and charter schools, stuff and ideas that for some of us constitute "value" are corporations as the category has grown to be, any more likely to "innovate" in the areas of social improvements and possibilities, or stewardship of the planet, or close down the toll stations and all the other rent collection scams and extortions they have "innovated" to date? Or release their chokehold on "policy?"

Says the proponent: "Major corporations are key to the operation and performance of the economy. So we need a revolution in corporate governance to get us back on track to stable and equitable economic growth. Besides changing board representation, I would change the incentives for top executives so they are rewarded for allocating corporate resources to value creation. Senior executives should gain along with the rest of the organization when the corporation is successful in generating competitive products while sharing the gains with workers and taxpayers." There seems to be so much wrong and just more Biz-babble about this, one hardly knows where to start unpacking.

"Major corporations are key?" Really? Monsanto? GM? Bechtel? The Big Banks? And "back on track": When has the political economy, writ small or large, ever been "on track to stability and equitable growth," said "growth' itself seemingly one of the pathologies that's killing us? And who's going to write the entries for the corporate senior executives' dance cards that will measure their "success," in those feel-good categories?

But it's a good conversation piece, and maybe an opening into Something Better, however us inherently mostly self-interested, self-pleasing omnivorous predators might define "better "

Disturbed Voter , October 6, 2017 at 12:36 pm

Badly run companies, naturally extinguish themselves. Unfortunately they take down their customers, owners, vendors and employees in the process. But the government can step in and either save a company that otherwise would die, or act as a crony corruption partner on behalf of a well connected company. Same as it always was.

But since gigantism is the norm, rather than family run farms in a mostly agrarian economy such failures are catastrophic. The linkage between these elephants tends to create systemic risk. Previously, failure was small and isolated.

JTMcPhee , October 6, 2017 at 1:06 pm

Welcome to our wonderful new world of infinite mutual vulnerability! Risk On! Nuclear weapons, Equifax, Googleamazon, NSApanopticon, FIRE, hacking, crapification The Soviet Union vanished as an entity, many starved, but the mopes there at least still knew how to raise up edible crops and live on "less" and maybe do better collective response to that sharp peak on the entropy curve. Wonder how things might play out exceptionally, here in the Empire?

allan , October 6, 2017 at 12:48 pm

It should be noted that Michael Jensen of HBS, one of the originators of the `maximize shareholder value' of corporate governance, is on some short lists for this year's not-exactly-the-Nobel Prize in Economics.

[Sep 25, 2017] Free market as a neoliberal myth, the cornerstone of neoliberalism as a secular religion

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... Two of my criticisms about Krugman/Friedman, etc is that is 'free markets' are supposed to substitute for policy in the government sphere. Except very telling except when we're talking about funding the security state. ..."
"... The other is that the real power of markets is that in a real free market (not a Potemkin one) decisions are made often at the point where needs, information, incentives, and economic power come together. But where the large scale decisions the governments have to make, markets fail. Policy though doesn't. But Neoliberals hate policy. ..."
"... Well, duh. "Policy" and "Capitalism" don't go together and never have. When you enact policy, you destroy the ability to make profit and you get the 1970's. ..."
"... Free market is a neoliberal myth, the cornerstone of neoliberalism as a secular religion. Somewhat similar to "Immaculate Conception" in Catholicism. ..."
"... In reality market almost by definition is controlled by government, who enforces the rules and punish for the transgressions. ..."
"... Also note interesting Orwellian "corruption of the language" trick neoliberals use: neoliberals talk about "free market, not "fair market". ..."
"... After 2008 few are buying this fairy tale about how markets can operate and can solve society problems independently of political power, and state's instruments of violence (the police and the military). This myths is essentially dead. ..."
"... Friedmanism is this sense a flavor of economic Lysenkoism. Note that Lysenko like Friedman was not a complete charlatan. Some of his ideas were pretty sound and withstood the test of time. But that does not make his less evil. ..."
Jan 06, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
anne -> Paul Mathis... , December 31, 2016 at 07:09 PM
Krugman's refusal to endorse fiscal stimulus unless the economy is at zero lower bound. That is not only anti-Keynesian, it plays directly into the hands of the debt fear mongers. (Krugman is also worried about the debt.)

[ Only correct to a degree, economic weakness is recognized. ]

Gibbon1 -> anne... , December 31, 2016 at 10:21 PM
Two of my criticisms about Krugman/Friedman, etc is that is 'free markets' are supposed to substitute for policy in the government sphere. Except very telling except when we're talking about funding the security state.

The other is that the real power of markets is that in a real free market (not a Potemkin one) decisions are made often at the point where needs, information, incentives, and economic power come together. But where the large scale decisions the governments have to make, markets fail. Policy though doesn't. But Neoliberals hate policy.

AngloSaxon -> Gibbon1... , January 01, 2017 at 06:08 PM
Well, duh. "Policy" and "Capitalism" don't go together and never have. When you enact policy, you destroy the ability to make profit and you get the 1970's.
likbez -> Gibbon1... , -1
Free market is a neoliberal myth, the cornerstone of neoliberalism as a secular religion. Somewhat similar to "Immaculate Conception" in Catholicism.

In reality market almost by definition is controlled by government, who enforces the rules and punish for the transgressions.

Also note interesting Orwellian "corruption of the language" trick neoliberals use: neoliberals talk about "free market, not "fair market".

After 2008 few are buying this fairy tale about how markets can operate and can solve society problems independently of political power, and state's instruments of violence (the police and the military). This myths is essentially dead.

But like Adventists did not disappear when the Second Coming of Christ did not occurred in predicted timeframe, neoliberals did not did not disappeared after 2008 either. And neither did neoliberalism, it just entered into zombie, more bloodthirsty stage.

The fact that even the term "neoliberalism" is prohibited in the US MSM also helped. It is king of stealth ideology, unlike say, Marxists, neoliberals do not like to identify themselves as such. The behave more like members of some secret society, free market masons.

Friedmanism is this sense a flavor of economic Lysenkoism. Note that Lysenko like Friedman was not a complete charlatan. Some of his ideas were pretty sound and withstood the test of time. But that does not make his less evil.

And for those who try to embellish this person, I would remind his role in 1973 Chilean coup d'état ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1973_Chilean_coup_d%27%C3%A9tat ) and bringing Pinochet to power. His "Chicago boys" played a vital role in the events. This man did has blood on his hands.

http://www.bidstrup.com/economics.htm

Of course, bringing a reign of terror to Chile was not why the CIA had sponsored him. The reason he was there was to reverse the gains of the Allende social democracy and return control of the country's economic and political assets to the oligarchy. Pinochet was convinced, through supporters among the academics in the elite Chilean universities, to try a new series of economic policies, called "neoliberal" by their founders, the economists of the University of Chicago, led by an economist by the name of Milton Friedman, who three years later would go on to win a Nobel Prize in Economics for what he was about to unleash upon Chile.

Friedman and his colleagues were referred to by the Chileans as "the Chicago Boys." The term originally meant the economists from the University of Chicago, but as time went on, as their policies began to disliquidate the middle class and poor, it took on a perjorative meaning. That was because as the reforms were implemented, and began to take hold, the results were not what Friedman and company had been predicting. But what were the reforms?

The reforms were what has come to be called "neoliberalism." To understand what "neoliberal" economics is, one must first understand what "liberal" economics are, and so we'll digress briefly from our look at Chile for a quick

[Sep 19, 2017] Neoliberalism: the idea that swallowed the world by Stephen Metcalf

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... The word ["neoliberalism"] has become a rhetorical weapon, but it properly names the reigning ideology of our era – one that venerates the logic of the market and strips away the things that make us human. ..."
"... Last summer, researchers at the International Monetary Fund settled a long and bitter debate over "neoliberalism": they admitted it exists. Three senior economists at the IMF, an organisation not known for its incaution, published a paper questioning the benefits of neoliberalism ..."
"... The paper gently called out a "neoliberal agenda" for pushing deregulation on economies around the world, for forcing open national markets to trade and capital, and for demanding that governments shrink themselves via austerity or privatisation. The authors cited statistical evidence for the spread of neoliberal policies since 1980, and their correlation with anaemic growth, boom-and-bust cycles and inequality. ..."
"... In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, it was a way of assigning responsibility for the debacle, not to a political party per se, but to an establishment that had conceded its authority to the market. For the Democrats in the US and Labour in the UK, this concession was depicted as a grotesque betrayal of principle. Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, it was said, had abandoned the left's traditional commitments, especially to workers, in favour of a global financial elite and the self-serving policies that enriched them; and in doing so, had enabled a sickening rise in inequality. ..."
"... Peer through the lens of neoliberalism and you see more clearly how the political thinkers most admired by Thatcher and Reagan helped shape the ideal of society as a kind of universal market ..."
"... Of course the goal was to weaken the welfare state and any commitment to full employment, and – always – to cut taxes and deregulate. But "neoliberalism" indicates something more than a standard rightwing wish list. It was a way of reordering social reality, and of rethinking our status as individuals. ..."
"... In short, "neoliberalism" is not simply a name for pro-market policies, or for the compromises with finance capitalism made by failing social democratic parties. It is a name for a premise that, quietly, has come to regulate all we practise and believe: that competition is the only legitimate organising principle for human activity. ..."
"... No sooner had neoliberalism been certified as real, and no sooner had it made clear the universal hypocrisy of the market, than the populists and authoritarians came to power ..."
"... Against the forces of global integration, national identity is being reasserted, and in the crudest possible terms. What could the militant parochialism of Brexit Britain and Trumpist America have to do with neoliberal rationality? ..."
"... It isn't only that the free market produces a tiny cadre of winners and an enormous army of losers – and the losers, looking for revenge, have turned to Brexit and Trump. There was, from the beginning, an inevitable relationship between the utopian ideal of the free market and the dystopian present in which we find ourselves; ..."
"... That Hayek is considered the grandfather of neoliberalism – a style of thought that reduces everything to economics – is a little ironic given that he was such a mediocre economist. ..."
"... This last is what makes neoliberalism "neo". It is a crucial modification of the older belief in a free market and a minimal state, known as "classical liberalism". In classical liberalism, merchants simply asked the state to "leave us alone" – to laissez-nous faire. Neoliberalism recognised that the state must be active in the organisation of a market economy. The conditions allowing for a free market must be won politically, and the state must be re-engineered to support the free market on an ongoing basis. ..."
"... Hayek had only his idea to console him; an idea so grand it would one day dissolve the ground beneath the feet of Keynes and every other intellectual. Left to its own devices, the price system functions as a kind of mind. And not just any mind, but an omniscient one: the market computes what individuals cannot grasp. Reaching out to him as an intellectual comrade-in-arms, the American journalist Walter Lippmann wrote to Hayek, saying: "No human mind has ever understood the whole scheme of a society At best a mind can understand its own version of the scheme, something much thinner, which bears to reality some such relation as a silhouette to a man." ..."
"... The only social end is the maintenance of the market itself. In its omniscience, the market constitutes the only legitimate form of knowledge, next to which all other modes of reflection are partial, in both senses of the word: they comprehend only a fragment of a whole and they plead on behalf of a special interest. Individually, our values are personal ones, or mere opinions; collectively, the market converts them into prices, or objective facts. ..."
"... According to the logic of Hayek's Big Idea, these expressions of human subjectivity are meaningless without ratification by the market ..."
"... ociety reconceived as a giant market leads to a public life lost to bickering over mere opinions; until the public turns, finally, in frustration to a strongman as a last resort for solving its otherwise intractable problems. ..."
"... What began as a new form of intellectual authority, rooted in a devoutly apolitical worldview, nudged easily into an ultra-reactionary politics ..."
Aug 18, 2017 | www.theguardian.com

The word ["neoliberalism"] has become a rhetorical weapon, but it properly names the reigning ideology of our era – one that venerates the logic of the market and strips away the things that make us human.

Last summer, researchers at the International Monetary Fund settled a long and bitter debate over "neoliberalism": they admitted it exists. Three senior economists at the IMF, an organisation not known for its incaution, published a paper questioning the benefits of neoliberalism . In so doing, they helped put to rest the idea that the word is nothing more than a political slur, or a term without any analytic power. The paper gently called out a "neoliberal agenda" for pushing deregulation on economies around the world, for forcing open national markets to trade and capital, and for demanding that governments shrink themselves via austerity or privatisation. The authors cited statistical evidence for the spread of neoliberal policies since 1980, and their correlation with anaemic growth, boom-and-bust cycles and inequality.

Neoliberalism is an old term, dating back to the 1930s, but it has been revived as a way of describing our current politics – or more precisely, the range of thought allowed by our politics . In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, it was a way of assigning responsibility for the debacle, not to a political party per se, but to an establishment that had conceded its authority to the market. For the Democrats in the US and Labour in the UK, this concession was depicted as a grotesque betrayal of principle. Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, it was said, had abandoned the left's traditional commitments, especially to workers, in favour of a global financial elite and the self-serving policies that enriched them; and in doing so, had enabled a sickening rise in inequality.

Neoliberalism: the idea that swallowed the world – podcast

Over the past few years, as debates have turned uglier, the word has become a rhetorical weapon, a way for anyone left of centre to incriminate those even an inch to their right. (No wonder centrists say it's a meaningless insult: they're the ones most meaningfully insulted by it.) But "neoliberalism" is more than a gratifyingly righteous jibe. It is also, in its way, a pair of eyeglasses.

Peer through the lens of neoliberalism and you see more clearly how the political thinkers most admired by Thatcher and Reagan helped shape the ideal of society as a kind of universal market (and not, for example, a polis, a civil sphere or a kind of family) and of human beings as profit-and-loss calculators (and not bearers of grace, or of inalienable rights and duties). Of course the goal was to weaken the welfare state and any commitment to full employment, and – always – to cut taxes and deregulate. But "neoliberalism" indicates something more than a standard rightwing wish list. It was a way of reordering social reality, and of rethinking our status as individuals.

Still peering through the lens, you see how, no less than the welfare state, the free market is a human invention. You see how pervasively we are now urged to think of ourselves as proprietors of our own talents and initiative, how glibly we are told to compete and adapt. You see the extent to which a language formerly confined to chalkboard simplifications describing commodity markets (competition, perfect information, rational behaviour) has been applied to all of society, until it has invaded the grit of our personal lives, and how the attitude of the salesman has become enmeshed in all modes of self-expression.

In short, "neoliberalism" is not simply a name for pro-market policies, or for the compromises with finance capitalism made by failing social democratic parties. It is a name for a premise that, quietly, has come to regulate all we practise and believe: that competition is the only legitimate organising principle for human activity.

No sooner had neoliberalism been certified as real, and no sooner had it made clear the universal hypocrisy of the market, than the populists and authoritarians came to power. In the US, Hillary Clinton, the neoliberal arch-villain, lost – and to a man who knew just enough to pretend he hated free trade . So are the eyeglasses now useless? Can they do anything to help us understand what is broken about British and American politics? Against the forces of global integration, national identity is being reasserted, and in the crudest possible terms. What could the militant parochialism of Brexit Britain and Trumpist America have to do with neoliberal rationality? What possible connection is there between the president – a freewheeling boob – and the bloodless paragon of efficiency known as the free market?

It isn't only that the free market produces a tiny cadre of winners and an enormous army of losers – and the losers, looking for revenge, have turned to Brexit and Trump. There was, from the beginning, an inevitable relationship between the utopian ideal of the free market and the dystopian present in which we find ourselves; between the market as unique discloser of value and guardian of liberty, and our current descent into post-truth and illiberalism.

Moving the stale debate about neoliberalism forward begins, I think, with taking seriously the measure of its cumulative effect on all of us, regardless of affiliation. And this requires returning to its origins, which have nothing to do with Bill or Hillary Clinton. There once was a group of people who did call themselves neoliberals, and did so proudly, and their ambition was a total revolution in thought. The most prominent among them, Friedrich Hayek, did not think he was staking out a position on the political spectrum, or making excuses for the fatuous rich, or tinkering along the edges of microeconomics.

He thought he was solving the problem of modernity: the problem of objective knowledge. For Hayek, the market didn't just facilitate trade in goods and services; it revealed truth. How did his ambition collapse into its opposite – the mind-bending possibility that, thanks to our thoughtless veneration of the free market, truth might be driven from public life altogether?


When the idea occurred to Friedrich Hayek in 1936, he knew, with the conviction of a "sudden illumination", that he had struck upon something new. "How can the combination of fragments of knowledge existing in different minds," he wrote, "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?"

This was not a technical point about interest rates or deflationary slumps. This was not a reactionary polemic against collectivism or the welfare state. This was a way of birthing a new world. To his mounting excitement, Hayek understood that the market could be thought of as a kind of mind.

Adam Smith's "invisible hand" had already given us the modern conception of the market: as an autonomous sphere of human activity and therefore, potentially, a valid object of scientific knowledge. But Smith was, until the end of his life, an 18th-century moralist. He thought the market could be justified only in light of individual virtue, and he was anxious that a society governed by nothing but transactional self-interest was no society at all. Neoliberalism is Adam Smith without the anxiety.

That Hayek is considered the grandfather of neoliberalism – a style of thought that reduces everything to economics – is a little ironic given that he was such a mediocre economist. He was just a young, obscure Viennese technocrat when he was recruited to the London School of Economics to compete with, or possibly even dim, the rising star of John Maynard Keynes at Cambridge.

The plan backfired, and Hayek lost out to Keynes in a rout. Keynes's General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, published in 1936, was greeted as a masterpiece. It dominated the public discussion, especially among young English economists in training, for whom the brilliant, dashing, socially connected Keynes was a beau idéal . By the end of the second world war, many prominent free-marketers had come around to Keynes's way of thinking, conceding that government might play a role in managing a modern economy. The initial excitement over Hayek had dissipated. His peculiar notion that doing nothing could cure an economic depression had been discredited in theory and practice. He later admitted that he wished his work criticising Keynes would simply be forgotten.

... Hayek built into neoliberalism the assumption that the market provides all necessary protection against the one real political danger: totalitarianism. To prevent this, the state need only keep the market free.

This last is what makes neoliberalism "neo". It is a crucial modification of the older belief in a free market and a minimal state, known as "classical liberalism". In classical liberalism, merchants simply asked the state to "leave us alone" – to laissez-nous faire. Neoliberalism recognised that the state must be active in the organisation of a market economy. The conditions allowing for a free market must be won politically, and the state must be re-engineered to support the free market on an ongoing basis.

That isn't all: every aspect of democratic politics, from the choices of voters to the decisions of politicians, must be submitted to a purely economic analysis. The lawmaker is obliged to leave well enough alone – to not distort the natural actions of the marketplace – and so, ideally, the state provides a fixed, neutral, universal legal framework within which market forces operate spontaneously. The conscious direction of government is never preferable to the "automatic mechanism of adjustment" – ie the price system, which is not only efficient but maximises liberty, or the opportunity for men and women to make free choices about their own lives.

As Keynes jetted between London and Washington, creating the postwar order, Hayek sat pouting in Cambridge. He had been sent there during the wartime evacuations; and he complained that he was surrounded by "foreigners" and "no lack of orientals of all kinds" and "Europeans of practically all nationalities, but very few of real intelligence".

Stuck in England, without influence or respect, Hayek had only his idea to console him; an idea so grand it would one day dissolve the ground beneath the feet of Keynes and every other intellectual. Left to its own devices, the price system functions as a kind of mind. And not just any mind, but an omniscient one: the market computes what individuals cannot grasp. Reaching out to him as an intellectual comrade-in-arms, the American journalist Walter Lippmann wrote to Hayek, saying: "No human mind has ever understood the whole scheme of a society At best a mind can understand its own version of the scheme, something much thinner, which bears to reality some such relation as a silhouette to a man."

It is a grand epistemological claim – that the market is a way of knowing, one that radically exceeds the capacity of any individual mind. Such a market is less a human contrivance, to be manipulated like any other, than a force to be studied and placated. Economics ceases to be a technique – as Keynes believed it to be – for achieving desirable social ends, such as growth or stable money. The only social end is the maintenance of the market itself. In its omniscience, the market constitutes the only legitimate form of knowledge, next to which all other modes of reflection are partial, in both senses of the word: they comprehend only a fragment of a whole and they plead on behalf of a special interest. Individually, our values are personal ones, or mere opinions; collectively, the market converts them into prices, or objective facts.

... ... ...

The more Hayek's idea expands, the more reactionary it gets, the more it hides behind its pretence of scientific neutrality – and the more it allows economics to link up with the major intellectual trend of the west since the 17th century. The rise of modern science generated a problem: if the world is universally obedient to natural laws, what does it mean to be human? Is a human being simply an object in the world, like any other? There appears to be no way to assimilate the subjective, interior human experience into nature as science conceives it – as something objective whose rules we discover by observation.

... ... ...

More than anyone, even Hayek himself, it was the great postwar Chicago economist Milton Friedman who helped convert governments and politicians to the power of Hayek's Big Idea. But first he broke with two centuries of precedent and declared that economics is "in principle independent of any particular ethical position or normative judgments" and is "an 'objective' science, in precisely the same sense as any of the physical sciences". Values of the old, mental, normative kind were defective, they were "differences about which men can ultimately only fight". There is the market, in other words, and there is relativism.

Markets may be human facsimiles of natural systems, and like the universe itself, they may be authorless and valueless. But the application of Hayek's Big Idea to every aspect of our lives negates what is most distinctive about us. That is, it assigns what is most human about human beings – our minds and our volition – to algorithms and markets, leaving us to mimic, zombie-like, the shrunken idealisations of economic models. Supersizing Hayek's idea and radically upgrading the price system into a kind of social omniscience means radically downgrading the importance of our individual capacity to reason – our ability to provide and evaluate justifications for our actions and beliefs.

As a result, the public sphere – the space where we offer up reasons, and contest the reasons of others – ceases to be a space for deliberation, and becomes a market in clicks, likes and retweets. The internet is personal preference magnified by algorithm; a pseudo-public space that echoes the voice already inside our head. Rather than a space of debate in which we make our way, as a society, toward consensus, now there is a mutual-affirmation apparatus banally referred to as a "marketplace of ideas". What looks like something public and lucid is only an extension of our own pre-existing opinions, prejudices and beliefs, while the authority of institutions and experts has been displaced by the aggregative logic of big data. When we access the world through a search engine, its results are ranked, as the founder of Google puts it, "recursively" – by an infinity of individual users functioning as a market, continuously and in real time.

... ... ...

According to the logic of Hayek's Big Idea, these expressions of human subjectivity are meaningless without ratification by the market – as Friedman said, they are nothing but relativism, each as good as any other. When the only objective truth is determined by the market, all other values have the status of mere opinions; everything else is relativist hot air. But Friedman's "relativism" is a charge that can be thrown at any claim based on human reason. It is a nonsense insult, as all humanistic pursuits are "relative" in a way the sciences are not. They are relative to the (private) condition of having a mind, and the (public) need to reason and understand even when we can't expect scientific proof. When our debates are no longer resolved by deliberation over reasons, then the whimsies of power will determine the outcome.

This is where the triumph of neoliberalism meets the political nightmare we are living through now. "You had one job," the old joke goes, and Hayek's grand project, as originally conceived in 30s and 40s, was explicitly designed to prevent a backslide into political chaos and fascism. But the Big Idea was always this abomination waiting to happen. It was, from the beginning, pregnant with the thing it was said to protect against. Society reconceived as a giant market leads to a public life lost to bickering over mere opinions; until the public turns, finally, in frustration to a strongman as a last resort for solving its otherwise intractable problems.

... ... ...

What began as a new form of intellectual authority, rooted in a devoutly apolitical worldview, nudged easily into an ultra-reactionary politics. What can't be quantified must not be real, says the economist, and how do you measure the benefits of the core faiths of the enlightenment – namely, critical reasoning, personal autonomy and democratic self-government? When we abandoned, for its embarrassing residue of subjectivity, reason as a form of truth, and made science the sole arbiter of both the real and the true, we created a void that pseudo-science was happy to fill.

... ... ...

[Sep 16, 2017] The Transformation of the American Dream

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... Language is important, but it can be slippery. Consider that the phrase, the American Dream, has changed radically through the years. Mr. Trump and Ben Carson, the secretary of housing and urban development, have suggested it involves owning a beautiful home and a roaring business, but it wasn't always so. Instead, in the 1930s, it meant freedom, mutual respect and equality of opportunity. It had more to do with morality than material success. ..."
"... This drift in meaning is significant... ..."
"... Survival and security are the bottom 2 levels on Maslow's pyramid. If that's at the top of the wish list it doesn't speak well of the environment where the list is made. I would say most people are aiming for levels 3-5, taking 1-2 for "granted" - but while level 1 (survival) is pretty much assured unless you get sick or are shot by a cop, level 2 is increasingly brittle. ..."
"... In different US locations, I heard my share of "living the dream" in response to "how are you" from retail clerks - which is obviously ironic and shows that people are well aware of it just being a narrative. It also reminds me of a quip in a Dilbert cartoon many years ago - "you only have the right to pursue happiness, not to actually achieve it". ..."
"... And what George Carlin had to say on the topic. ..."
Sep 16, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

Robert Shiller:

The Transformation of the 'American Dream' : "The American Dream is back." President Trump made that claim in a speech in January.

They are ringing words, but what do they mean? Language is important, but it can be slippery. Consider that the phrase, the American Dream, has changed radically through the years. Mr. Trump and Ben Carson, the secretary of housing and urban development, have suggested it involves owning a beautiful home and a roaring business, but it wasn't always so. Instead, in the 1930s, it meant freedom, mutual respect and equality of opportunity. It had more to do with morality than material success.

This drift in meaning is significant...

RC AKA Darryl, Ron said in reply to RC AKA Darryl, Ron... , August 06, 2017 at 08:09 AM

[How I achieved the American Dream -]

http://www.richmond.com/news/virginia/government-politics/northrop-grumman-lays-off-state-workers-under-contract-with-vita/article_3d39c735-9793-5885-aba5-135f6b24d3bf.html

Northrop Grumman lays off 51 state workers under contract with VITA

By MICHAEL MARTZ Richmond Times-Dispatch

Jun 16, 2015

...
While Northrop Grumman made the decision on the layoffs, VITA informed the affected workers because they are state employees and placed them on leave through June 30. The state Department of Human Resources Management assisted the technology agency with the layoffs through its shared services center.

Affected employees will be offered state severance packages based on years of service, early retirement options, and "access to outplacement services."...

cm -> RC AKA Darryl, Ron... , August 06, 2017 at 04:48 PM
What you describe in the first sentence is only one of many interpretations. But the (al)lure of the meme is that the interpretation is open-ended (one could also say "not well defined"; but isn't that what freedom is about - that the outcome and the way of achieving it are not rigidly prescribed?).

Survival and security are the bottom 2 levels on Maslow's pyramid. If that's at the top of the wish list it doesn't speak well of the environment where the list is made. I would say most people are aiming for levels 3-5, taking 1-2 for "granted" - but while level 1 (survival) is pretty much assured unless you get sick or are shot by a cop, level 2 is increasingly brittle.

RC AKA Darryl, Ron said in reply to cm... , August 07, 2017 at 05:28 AM
The environment in a Detroit tenement grows a shorter Maslow's pyramid than Santa Clara Valley suburbs. Central VA is somewhere in between where the highest aspiration of the vast majority of people is to belong and have the esteem of others. Self-actualization and transcendence are not even things here save for a rare few strangers in a strange land.
cm -> RC AKA Darryl, Ron... , August 07, 2017 at 10:26 PM
Well, all these terms are subject to interpretation and exist in degrees. Obviously survival is a strong prerequisite for the higher levels, but one can partially achieve higher levels without having achieved lower levels fully. At least for a while; or having achieved a lower level may be illusory (this was my actual point).

I would dispute that "almost everybody" cannot achieve esteem/self-actualization - at least for a while. How strong/persistent need the achievement be to count?

Then there is even the fundamental issue of knowing whether a level has really been "permanently" secured. E.g. safety - which can usually only be judged by demonstration of its absence.

Michael , August 06, 2017 at 03:53 PM
When Drumpf talks about the American Dream, he means more wealth, freedom, control, and sleaze for the oligarchy.
cm -> Michael... , August 06, 2017 at 04:36 PM
No he actually doesn't. It is just a BS phrase/meme, similar to "hard work". It is just signaling that one cares for/appreciates general virtues and the audience's desire for recognition and happiness. In the case of "hard work", perhaps also with the aspect of pushing role model narratives.

I never heard these phrases in any other context.

cm -> Michael... , August 06, 2017 at 04:41 PM
In different US locations, I heard my share of "living the dream" in response to "how are you" from retail clerks - which is obviously ironic and shows that people are well aware of it just being a narrative. It also reminds me of a quip in a Dilbert cartoon many years ago - "you only have the right to pursue happiness, not to actually achieve it".

And what George Carlin had to say on the topic.

[Sep 11, 2017] Neoliberalism is creating loneliness. That's what is wrenching society apart by George Monbiot

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... Consumerism fills the social void. But far from curing the disease of isolation, it intensifies social comparison to the point at which, having consumed all else, we start to prey upon ourselves. Social media brings us together and drives us apart, allowing us precisely to quantify our social standing, and to see that other people have more friends and followers than we do. ..."
"... A recent survey in England suggests that one in four women between 16 and 24 have harmed themselves, and one in eight now suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Anxiety, depression, phobias or obsessive compulsive disorder affect 26% of women in this age group. This is what a public health crisis looks like. ..."
"... Opioids relieve both physical agony and the distress of separation. Perhaps this explains the link between social isolation and drug addiction. ..."
"... Children who experience emotional neglect, according to some findings, suffer worse mental health consequences than children suffering both emotional neglect and physical abuse: hideous as it is, violence involves attention and contact. Self-harm is often used as an attempt to alleviate distress: another indication that physical pain is not as bad as emotional pain. As the prison system knows only too well, one of the most effective forms of torture is solitary confinement. ..."
"... It's unsurprising that social isolation is strongly associated with depression, suicide, anxiety, insomnia, fear and the perception of threat. It's more surprising to discover the range of physical illnesses it causes or exacerbates. Dementia, high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, lowered resistance to viruses, even accidents are more common among chronically lonely people. Loneliness has a comparable impact on physical health to smoking 15 cigarettes a day: it appears to raise the risk of early death by 26%. This is partly because it enhances production of the stress hormone cortisol, which suppresses the immune system. ..."
"... Neoliberalism is a project that explicitly aims, and has achieved, the undermining and elimination of social networks in favour of market competition ..."
"... In practice, loosening social and legal institutions has reduced social security (in the general sense rather than simply welfare payments) and encouraged the limitation of social interaction to money based activity ..."
"... All powerful institutions have a vested interest in keeping us atomized and individualistic. The gangs at the top don't want competition. They're afraid of us. In particular, they're afraid of men organising into gangs. That's where this very paper comes in ..."
"... The alienation genie was out of the bottle with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and mass migration to cities began and we abandoned living in village communities ..."
"... Neoliberalism expressly encourages 'atomisation'- it is all about reducing human interaction to markets. And so this is just one of the reasons that neoliberalism is such a bunk philosophy. ..."
"... My stab at an answer would first question the notion that we are engaging in anything. That presupposes we are making the choices. Those who set out the options are the ones that make the choices. We are being engaged by the grotesquely privileged and the pathologically greedy in an enterprise that profits them still further. It suits the 1% very well strategically, for obvious reasons, that the 99% don't swap too many ideas with each other. ..."
"... According to Robert Putnam, as societies become more ethnically diverse they lose social capital, contributing to the type of isolation and loneliness which George describes. Doesn't sound as evil as neoliberalism I suppose. ..."
"... multiculturalism is a direct result of Neoliberalism. The market rules and people are secondary. Everything must be done for business owners, and that everything means access to cheap labor. ..."
"... I'd have thought what he really wants to say is that loneliness as a phenomenon in modern Western society arises out of an intent on the part of our political and social elites to divide us all into competing against one another, as individuals and as members of groups, all the better to keep us under control and prevent us from working together to claim our fair share of resources. ..."
"... Has it occurred to you that the collapse in societal values has allowed 'neo-liberalism' to take hold? ..."
"... No. It has been the concentrated propaganda of the "free" press. Rupert Murdoch in particular, but many other well-funded organisations working in the background over 50 years. They are winning. ..."
"... We're fixated on a magical, abstract concept called "the economy". Everything must be done to help "the economy", even if this means adults working through their weekends, neglecting their children, neglecting their elderly parents, eating at their desks, getting diabetes, breaking down from stress, and giving up on a family life. ..."
"... You can make a reasonable case that 'Neoliberalism' expects that every interaction, including between individuals, can be reduced to a financial one. ..."
"... As can be seen from many of the posts, neo-liberalism depends on, and fosters, ignorance, an inability to see things from historical and different perspectives and social and intellectual disciplines. On a sociological level how other societies are arranged throws up interesting comparisons. Scandanavian countries, which have mostly avoided neo-liberalism by and large, are happier, healthier places to live. America and eastern countries arranged around neo-liberal, market driven individualism, are unhappy places, riven with mental and physical health problems and many more social problems of violence, crime and suicide. ..."
"... The people who fosted this this system onto us, are now either very old or dead. We're living in the shadow of their revolutionary transformation of our more equitable post-war society. Hayek, Friedman, Keith Joseph, Thatcher, Greenspan and tangentially but very influentially Ayn Rand. Although a remainder (I love the wit of the term 'Remoaner') , Brexit can be better understood in the context of the death-knell of neoliberalism. ..."
"... Criticism of his hypotheses on this thread (where articualted at all) focus on the existence of solitude and loneliness prior to neo liberalism, which seems to me to be to deliberately miss his point: this was formerly a minor phenomenon, yet is now writ on an incredible scale - and it is a social phenomenon particular to those western economies whose elites have most enthusiastically embraced neo liberalism. ..."
"... We all want is to: (and feel we have the right to) wear the best clothes, have the foreign holidays, own the latest tech and eat the finest foods. At the same time our rights have increased and awareness of our responsibilities have minimized. The execution of common sense and an awareness that everything that goes wrong will always be someone else fault. ..."
"... We are not all special snowflakes, princesses or worthy of special treatment, but we act like self absorbed, entitled individuals. Whether that's entitled to benefits, the front of the queue or bumped into first because its our birthday! ..."
"... Unhealthy social interaction, yes. You can never judge what is natural to humans based on contemporary Britain. Anthropologists repeatedly find that what we think natural is merely a social construct created by the system we are subject to. ..."
"... We are becoming fearful of each other and I believe the insecurity we feel plays a part in this. ..."
"... We have become so disconnected from ourselves and focused on battling to stay afloat. Having experienced periods of severe stress due to lack of money I couldn't even begin to think about how I felt, how happy I was, what I really wanted to do with my life. I just had to pay my landlord, pay the bills and try and put some food on my table so everything else was totally neglected. ..."
"... We need a radical change of political thinking to focus on quality of life rather than obsession with the size of our economy. High levels of immigration of people who don't really integrate into their local communities has fractured our country along with the widening gap between rich and poor. Governments only see people in terms of their "economic value" - hence mothers being driven out to work, children driven into daycare and the elderly driven into care homes. Britain is becoming a soulless place - even our great British comedy is on the decline. ..."
"... Quality of life is far more important than GDP I agree but it is also far more important than inequality. ..."
"... Thatcher was only responsible for "letting it go" in Britain in 1980, but actually it was already racing ahead around the world. ..."
"... Eric Fromm made similar arguments to Monbiot about the psychological impact of modern capitalism (Fear of Freedom and The Sane Society) - although the Freudian element is a tad outdated. However, for all the faults of modern society, I'd rather be unhappy now than in say, Victorian England. Similarly, life in the West is preferable to the obvious alternatives. ..."
"... Whilst it's very important to understand how neoliberalism, the ideology that dare not speak it's name, derailed the general progress in the developed world. It's also necessary to understand that the roots this problem go much further back. Not merely to the start of the industrial revolution, but way beyond that. It actually began with the first civilizations when our societies were taken over by powerful rulers, and they essentially started to farm the people they ruled like cattle. On the one hand they declared themselves protector of their people, whilst ruthlessly exploiting them for their own political gain. I use the livestock farming analogy, because that explains what is going on. ..."
"... Neo-liberalism allows psychopaths to flourish, and it has been argued by Robert Hare that they are disproportionately represented in the highest echelons of society. So people who lack empathy and emotional attachment are probably weilding a significant amount of influence over the way our economy and society is organised. Is it any wonder that they advocate an economic model which is most conducive to their success? Things like job security, rigged markets, unions, and higher taxes on the rich simply get in their way. ..."
"... . Data suggests that inequality has widened massively over the last 30 years ( https://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/infographic-income-inequality-uk ) - as has social mobility ( https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2012/may/22/social-mobility-data-charts ). Homelessness has risen substantially since 1979. ..."
"... As a director and CEO of an organisation employing several hundred people I became aware that 40% of the staff lived alone and that the workplace was important to them not only for work but also for interacting with their colleagues socially . ..."
"... A thoughtful article. But the rich and powerful will ignore it; their doing very well out of neo liberalism thank you. Meanwhile many of those whose lives are affected by it don't want to know - they're happy with their bigger TV screen. Which of course is what the neoliberals want, 'keep the people happy and in the dark'. An old Roman tactic - when things weren't going too well for citizens and they were grumbling the leaders just extended the 'games'. Evidently it did the trick ..."
"... Sounds like the inevitable logical outcome of a society where the predator sociopathic and their scared prey are all that is allowed. This dynamic dualistic tautology, the slavish terrorised to sleep and bullying narcissistic individual, will always join together to protect their sick worldview by pathologising anything that will threaten their hegemony of power abuse: compassion, sensitivity, moral conscience, altruism and the immediate effects of the ruthless social effacement or punishment of the same ie human suffering. ..."
"... "Alienation, in all areas, has reached unprecedented heights; the social machinery for deluding consciousnesses in the interest of the ruling class has been perfected as never before. The media are loaded with upscale advertising identifying sophistication with speciousness. Television, in constant use, obliterates the concept under the image and permanently feeds a baseless credulity for events and history. Against the will of many students, school doesn't develop the highly cultivated critical capacities that a real sovereignty of the people would require. And so on. ..."
"... There's no question - neoliberalism has been wrenching society apart. It's not as if the prime movers of this ideology were unaware of the likely outcome viz. "there is no such thing as society" (Thatcher). Actually in retrospect the whole zeitgeist from the late 70s emphasised the atomised individual separated from the whole. Dawkins' "The Selfish Gene" (1976) may have been influential in creating that climate. ..."
"... I would add that the basic concepts of the Neoliberal New world order are fundamentally Evil, from the control of world population through supporting of strife starvation and war to financial inducements of persons in positions of power. Let us not forget the training of our younger members of our society who have been induced to a slavish love of technology. ..."
"... The kind of personal freedom that you say goes hand in hand with capitalism is an illusion for the majority of people. It holds up the prospect of that kind of freedom, but only a minority get access to it. ..."
"... Problems in society are not solved by having a one hour a week class on "self esteem". In fact self-esteem and self-worth comes from the things you do. ..."
"... Neoliberalism is the bastard child of globalization which in effect is Americanization. The basic premise is the individual is totally reliant on the corporate world state aided by a process of fear inducing mechanisms, pharmacology is one of the tools. No community no creativity no free thinking. Poded sealed and cling filmed a quasi existence. ..."
"... Having grown up during the Thatcher years, I entirely agree that neoliberalism has divided society by promoting individual self-optimisation at the expensive of everyone else. ..."
"... There is no such thing as a free-market society. Your society of 'self-interest' is really a state supported oligarchy. If you really want to live in a society where there is literally no state and a more or less open market try Somalia or a Latin American city run by drug lords - but even then there are hierarchies, state involvement, militias. ..."
"... Furthermore, a society in which people are encouraged to be narrowly selfish is just plain uncivilized. Since when have sociopathy and barbarism been something to aspire to? ..."
"... Why don't we explore some of the benefits?.. Following the long list of some the diseases, loneliness can inflict on individuals, there must be a surge in demand for all sort of medications; anti-depressants must be topping the list. There is a host many other anti-stress treatments available of which Big Pharma must be carving the lion's share. Examine the micro-economic impact immediately following a split or divorce. There is an instant doubling on the demand for accommodation, instant doubling on the demand for electrical and household items among many other products and services. But the icing on the cake and what is really most critical for Neoliberalism must be this: With the morale barometer hitting the bottom, people will be less likely to think of a better future, and therefore, less likely to protest. In fact, there is nothing left worth protecting. ..."
"... Your freedom has been curtailed. Your rights are evaporating in front of your eyes. And Best of all, from the authorities' perspective, there is no relationship to defend and there is no family to protect. If you have a job, you want to keep, you must prove your worthiness every day to 'a company'. ..."
Oct 12, 2016 | www.theguardian.com

What greater indictment of a system could there be than an epidemic of mental illness? Yet plagues of anxiety, stress, depression, social phobia, eating disorders, self-harm and loneliness now strike people down all over the world. The latest, catastrophic figures for children's mental health in England reflect a global crisis.

There are plenty of secondary reasons for this distress, but it seems to me that the underlying cause is everywhere the same: human beings, the ultrasocial mammals, whose brains are wired to respond to other people, are being peeled apart. Economic and technological change play a major role, but so does ideology. Though our wellbeing is inextricably linked to the lives of others, everywhere we are told that we will prosper through competitive self-interest and extreme individualism.

In Britain, men who have spent their entire lives in quadrangles – at school, at college, at the bar, in parliament – instruct us to stand on our own two feet. The education system becomes more brutally competitive by the year. Employment is a fight to the near-death with a multitude of other desperate people chasing ever fewer jobs. The modern overseers of the poor ascribe individual blame to economic circumstance. Endless competitions on television feed impossible aspirations as real opportunities contract.

Consumerism fills the social void. But far from curing the disease of isolation, it intensifies social comparison to the point at which, having consumed all else, we start to prey upon ourselves. Social media brings us together and drives us apart, allowing us precisely to quantify our social standing, and to see that other people have more friends and followers than we do.

As Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett has brilliantly documented, girls and young women routinely alter the photos they post to make themselves look smoother and slimmer. Some phones, using their "beauty" settings, do it for you without asking; now you can become your own thinspiration. Welcome to the post-Hobbesian dystopia: a war of everyone against themselves.

Social media brings us together and drives us apart, allowing us precisely to quantify our social standing

Is it any wonder, in these lonely inner worlds, in which touching has been replaced by retouching, that young women are drowning in mental distress? A recent survey in England suggests that one in four women between 16 and 24 have harmed themselves, and one in eight now suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Anxiety, depression, phobias or obsessive compulsive disorder affect 26% of women in this age group. This is what a public health crisis looks like.

If social rupture is not treated as seriously as broken limbs, it is because we cannot see it. But neuroscientists can. A series of fascinating papers suggest that social pain and physical pain are processed by the same neural circuits. This might explain why, in many languages, it is hard to describe the impact of breaking social bonds without the words we use to denote physical pain and injury. In both humans and other social mammals, social contact reduces physical pain. This is why we hug our children when they hurt themselves: affection is a powerful analgesic. Opioids relieve both physical agony and the distress of separation. Perhaps this explains the link between social isolation and drug addiction.

Experiments summarised in the journal Physiology & Behaviour last month suggest that, given a choice of physical pain or isolation, social mammals will choose the former. Capuchin monkeys starved of both food and contact for 22 hours will rejoin their companions before eating. Children who experience emotional neglect, according to some findings, suffer worse mental health consequences than children suffering both emotional neglect and physical abuse: hideous as it is, violence involves attention and contact. Self-harm is often used as an attempt to alleviate distress: another indication that physical pain is not as bad as emotional pain. As the prison system knows only too well, one of the most effective forms of torture is solitary confinement.

It is not hard to see what the evolutionary reasons for social pain might be. Survival among social mammals is greatly enhanced when they are strongly bonded with the rest of the pack. It is the isolated and marginalised animals that are most likely to be picked off by predators, or to starve. Just as physical pain protects us from physical injury, emotional pain protects us from social injury. It drives us to reconnect. But many people find this almost impossible.

It's unsurprising that social isolation is strongly associated with depression, suicide, anxiety, insomnia, fear and the perception of threat. It's more surprising to discover the range of physical illnesses it causes or exacerbates. Dementia, high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, lowered resistance to viruses, even accidents are more common among chronically lonely people. Loneliness has a comparable impact on physical health to smoking 15 cigarettes a day: it appears to raise the risk of early death by 26%. This is partly because it enhances production of the stress hormone cortisol, which suppresses the immune system.

Studies in both animals and humans suggest a reason for comfort eating: isolation reduces impulse control, leading to obesity. As those at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder are the most likely to suffer from loneliness, might this provide one of the explanations for the strong link between low economic status and obesity?

Anyone can see that something far more important than most of the issues we fret about has gone wrong. So why are we engaging in this world-eating, self-consuming frenzy of environmental destruction and social dislocation, if all it produces is unbearable pain? Should this question not burn the lips of everyone in public life?

There are some wonderful charities doing what they can to fight this tide, some of which I am going to be working with as part of my loneliness project. But for every person they reach, several others are swept past.

This does not require a policy response. It requires something much bigger: the reappraisal of an entire worldview. Of all the fantasies human beings entertain, the idea that we can go it alone is the most absurd and perhaps the most dangerous. We stand together or we fall apart.

RachelL , 12 Oct 2016 03:57

Well its a bit of a stretch blaming neoliberalism for creating loneliness. Yet it seems to be the fashion today to imagine that the world we live in is new...only created just years ago. And all the suffering that we see now never existed before. Plagues of anxiety, stress, depression, social phobia, eating disorders, self-harm and loneliness never happened in the past, because everything was bright and shiny and world was good.

Regrettably history teaches us that suffering and deprivation have dogged mankind for centuries, if not tens of thousands of years. That's what we do; survive, persist...endure. Blaming 'neoliberalism' is a bit of cop-out. It's the human condition man, just deal with it.

B26354 , 12 Oct 2016 03:57
Some of the connections here are a bit tenuous, to say the least, including the link to political ideology. Economic liberalism is usually accompanied with social conservatism, and vice versa. Right wing ideologues are more likely to emphasize the values of marriage and family stability, while left wing ones are more likely to favor extremes of personal freedom and reject those traditional structures that used to bind us together.
ID236975 -> B26354 , 12 Oct 2016 04:15
You're a little confused there in your connections between policies, intentions and outcomes. Nevertheless, Neoliberalism is a project that explicitly aims, and has achieved, the undermining and elimination of social networks in favour of market competition.

In practice, loosening social and legal institutions has reduced social security (in the general sense rather than simply welfare payments) and encouraged the limitation of social interaction to money based activity.

As Monbiot has noted, we are indeed lonelier.

DoctorLiberty -> B26354 , 12 Oct 2016 04:18
That holds true when you're talking about demographics/voters.

Economic and social liberalism go hand in hand in the West. No matter who's in power, the establishment pushes both but will do one or the other covertly.

All powerful institutions have a vested interest in keeping us atomized and individualistic. The gangs at the top don't want competition. They're afraid of us. In particular, they're afraid of men organising into gangs. That's where this very paper comes in.

deskandchair , 12 Oct 2016 04:00
The alienation genie was out of the bottle with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and mass migration to cities began and we abandoned living in village communities. Over the ensuing approx 250 years we abandoned geographically close relationships with extended families, especially post WW2. Underlying economic structures both capitalist and marxist dissolved relationships that we as communal primates evolved within. Then accelerate this mess with (anti-) social media the last 20 years along with economic instability and now dissolution of even the nuclear family (which couldn't work in the first place, we never evolved to live with just two parents looking after children) and here we have it: Mass mental illness. Solution? None. Just form the best type of extended community both within and outside of family, be engaged and generours with your community hope for the best.
terraform_drone -> deskandchair , 12 Oct 2016 04:42
Indeed, Industrialisation of our pre-prescribed lifestyle is a huge factor. In particular, our food, it's low quality, it's 24 hour avaliability, it's cardboard box ambivalence, has caused a myriad of health problems. Industrialisation is about profit for those that own the 'production-line' & much less about the needs of the recipient.
afinch , 12 Oct 2016 04:03

It's unsurprising that social isolation is strongly associated with depression, suicide, anxiety, insomnia, fear and the perception of threat.

Yes, although there is some question of which order things go in. A supportive social network is clearly helpful, but it's hardly a simple cause and effect. Levels of different mental health problems appear to differ widely across societies just in Europe, and it isn't particularly the case that more capitalist countries have greater incidence than less capitalist ones.

You could just as well blame atheism. Since the rise of neo-liberalism and drop in church attendance track each other pretty well, and since for all their ills churches did provide a social support group, why not blame that?

ID236975 -> afinch, 12 Oct 2016 04:22
While attending a church is likely to alleviate loneliness, atheism doesn't expressly encourage limiting social interactions and selfishness. And of course, reduced church attendance isn't exactly the same as atheism.

Neoliberalism expressly encourages 'atomisation'- it is all about reducing human interaction to markets. And so this is just one of the reasons that neoliberalism is such a bunk philosophy.

anotherspace , 12 Oct 2016 04:05
So why are we engaging in this world-eating, self-consuming frenzy of environmental destruction and social dislocation, if all it produces is unbearable pain?

My stab at an answer would first question the notion that we are engaging in anything. That presupposes we are making the choices. Those who set out the options are the ones that make the choices. We are being engaged by the grotesquely privileged and the pathologically greedy in an enterprise that profits them still further. It suits the 1% very well strategically, for obvious reasons, that the 99% don't swap too many ideas with each other.

notherspace -> TremblingFactHunt , 12 Oct 2016 05:46
We as individuals are offered the 'choice' of consumption as an alternative to the devastating ennui engendered by powerlessness. It's no choice at all of course, because consumption merely enriches the 1% and exacerbates our powerlessness. That was the whole point of my post.

The 'choice' to consume is never collectively exercised as you suggest. Sadly. If it was, 'we' might be able to organise ourselves into doing something about it.

Burstcouch , 12 Oct 2016 04:09
According to Robert Putnam, as societies become more ethnically diverse they lose social capital, contributing to the type of isolation and loneliness which George describes. Doesn't sound as evil as neoliberalism I suppose.
ParisHiltonCommune -> Burstcouch , 12 Oct 2016 07:59
Disagree. Im British but have had more foreign friends than British. The UK middle class tend to be boring insular social status obsessed drones.other nationalities have this too, but far less so
Dave Powell -> Burstcouch , 12 Oct 2016 10:54
Multiculturalism is destroying social cohesion.
ParisHiltonCommune -> Dave Powell , 12 Oct 2016 14:47
Well, yes, but multiculturalism is a direct result of Neoliberalism. The market rules and people are secondary. Everything must be done for business owners, and that everything means access to cheap labor.

Multiculturalism isn't the only thing destroying social cohesion, too. It was being destroyed long before the recent surges of immigrants. It was reported many times in the 1980's in communities made up of only one culture. In many ways, it is being used as the obvious distraction from all the other ways Fundamentalist Free Marketers wreck live for many.

Rozina , 12 Oct 2016 04:09
This post perhaps ranges too widely to the point of being vague and general, and leading Monbiot to make some huge mental leaps, linking loneliness to a range of mental and physical problems without being able to explain, for example, the link between loneliness and obesity and all the steps in-between without risking derailment into a side issue.

I'd have thought what he really wants to say is that loneliness as a phenomenon in modern Western society arises out of an intent on the part of our political and social elites to divide us all into competing against one another, as individuals and as members of groups, all the better to keep us under control and prevent us from working together to claim our fair share of resources.

Go on, George, you can say that, why not?

MSP1984 , 12 Oct 2016 04:18
Are you familiar with the term 'Laughter is the best medicine'? Well, it's true. When you laugh, your brain releases endorphins, yeah? Your stress hormones are reduced and the oxygen supply to your blood is increased, so...

I try to laugh several times a day just because... it makes you feel good! Let's try that, eh? Ohohoo... Hahaha... Just, just... Hahahaha... Come on, trust me.. you'll feel.. HahaHAhaha! O-o-o-o-a-hahahahaa... Share

ID8701745 , 12 Oct 2016 04:19
>Neoliberalism is creating loneliness.

Has it occurred to you that the collapse in societal values has allowed 'neo-liberalism' to take hold?

totaram -> ID8701745 , 12 Oct 2016 05:00
No. It has been the concentrated propaganda of the "free" press. Rupert Murdoch in particular, but many other well-funded organisations working in the background over 50 years. They are winning.
greenwichite , 12 Oct 2016 04:20
We're fixated on a magical, abstract concept called "the economy". Everything must be done to help "the economy", even if this means adults working through their weekends, neglecting their children, neglecting their elderly parents, eating at their desks, getting diabetes, breaking down from stress, and giving up on a family life.

Impertinent managers ban their staff from office relationships, as company policy, because the company is more important than its staff's wellbeing.

Companies hand out "free" phones that allow managers to harrass staff for work out of hours, on the understanding that they will be sidelined if thy don't respond.

And the wellbeing of "the economy" is of course far more important than whether the British people actually want to merge into a European superstate. What they want is irrelevant.

That nasty little scumbag George Osborne was the apotheosis of this ideology, but he was abetted by journalists who report any rise in GDP as "good" - no matter how it was obtained - and any "recession" to be the equivalent of a major natural disaster.

If we go on this way, the people who suffer the most will be the rich, because it will be them swinging from the lamp-posts, or cowering in gated communities that they dare not leave (Venezuela, South Africa). Those riots in London five years ago were a warning. History is littered with them.

DiscoveredJoys -> greenwichite , 12 Oct 2016 05:48
You can make a reasonable case that 'Neoliberalism' expects that every interaction, including between individuals, can be reduced to a financial one. If this results in loneliness then that's certainly a downside - but the upside is that billions have been lifted out of absolute poverty worldwide by 'Neoliberalism'.

Mr Monbiot creates a compelling argument that we should end 'Neoliberalism' but he is very vague about what should replace it other than a 'different worldview'. Destruction is easy, but creation is far harder.

concerned4democracy , 12 Oct 2016 04:28
As a retired teacher it grieves me greatly to see the way our education service has become obsessed by testing and assessment. Sadly the results are used not so much to help children learn and develop, but rather as a club to beat schools and teachers with. Pressurised schools produce pressurised children. Compare and contrast with education in Finland where young people are not formally assessed until they are 17 years old. We now assess toddlers in nursery schools.
SATs in Primary schools had children concentrating on obscure grammatical terms and usage which they will never ever use again. Pointless and counter-productive.
Gradgrind values driving out the joy of learning.
And promoting anxiety and mental health problems.
colddebtmountain , 12 Oct 2016 04:33
It is all the things you describe, Mr Monbiot, and then some. This dystopian hell, when anything that did work is broken and all things that have never worked are lined up for a little tinkering around the edges until the camouflage is good enough to kid people it is something new. It isn't just neoliberal madness that has created this, it is selfish human nature that has made it possible, corporate fascism that has hammered it into shape. and an army of mercenaries who prefer the take home pay to morality. Crime has always paid especially when governments are the crooks exercising the law.

The value of life has long been forgotten as now the only thing that matters is how much you can be screwed for either dead or alive. And yet the Trumps, the Clintons, the Camerons, the Johnsons, the Merkels, the Mays, the news media, the banks, the whole crooked lot of them, all seem to believe there is something worth fighting for in what they have created, when painfully there is not. We need revolution and we need it to be lead by those who still believe all humanity must be humble, sincere, selfless and most of all morally sincere. Freedom, justice, and equality for all, because the alternative is nothing at all.

excathedra , 12 Oct 2016 04:35
Ive long considered neo-liberalism as the cause of many of our problems, particularly the rise in mental health problems, alienation and loneliness.

As can be seen from many of the posts, neo-liberalism depends on, and fosters, ignorance, an inability to see things from historical and different perspectives and social and intellectual disciplines. On a sociological level how other societies are arranged throws up interesting comparisons. Scandanavian countries, which have mostly avoided neo-liberalism by and large, are happier, healthier places to live. America and eastern countries arranged around neo-liberal, market driven individualism, are unhappy places, riven with mental and physical health problems and many more social problems of violence, crime and suicide.

The worst thing is that the evidence shows it doesn't work. Not one of the privatisations in this country have worked. All have been worse than what they've replaced, all have cost more, depleted the treasury and led to massive homelessness, increased mental health problems with the inevitable financial and social costs, costs which are never acknowledged by its adherents.

Put crudely, the more " I'm alright, fuck you " attitude is fostered, the worse societies are. Empires have crashed and burned under similar attitudes.

MereMortal , 12 Oct 2016 04:37
A fantastic article as usual from Mr Monbiot.

The people who fosted this this system onto us, are now either very old or dead. We're living in the shadow of their revolutionary transformation of our more equitable post-war society. Hayek, Friedman, Keith Joseph, Thatcher, Greenspan and tangentially but very influentially Ayn Rand. Although a remainder (I love the wit of the term 'Remoaner') , Brexit can be better understood in the context of the death-knell of neoliberalism.

I never understood how the collapse of world finance, resulted in a right wing resurgence in the UK and the US. The Tea Party in the US made the absurd claim that the failure of global finance was not due to markets being fallible, but because free markets had not been enforced citing Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac as their evidence and of Bill Clinton insisting on more poor and black people being given mortgages.

I have a terrible sense that it will not go quietly, there will be massive global upheavals as governments struggle deal with its collapse.

flyboy101 , 12 Oct 2016 04:39
I have never really agreed with GM - but this article hits the nail on the head.

I think there are a number of aspects to this:

  1. The internet. The being in constant contact, our lives mapped and our thoughts analysed - we can comment on anything (whether informed or total drivel) and we've been fed the lie that our opinion is is right and that it matters) Ive removed fscebook and twitter from my phone, i have never been happier
  2. Rolling 24 hour news. That is obsessed with the now, and consistently squeezes very complex issues into bite sized simple dichotomies. Obsessed with results and critical in turn of everyone who fails to feed the machine
  3. The increasing slicing of work into tighter and slimmer specialisms, with no holistic view of the whole, this forces a box ticking culture. "Ive stamped my stamp, my work is done" this leads to a lack of ownership of the whole. PIP assessments are an almost perfect example of this - a box ticking exercise, designed by someone who'll never have to go through it, with no flexibility to put the answers into a holistic context.
  4. Our education system is designed to pass exams and not prepare for the future or the world of work - the only important aspect being the compilation of next years league tables and the schools standings. This culture is neither healthy no helpful, as students are schooled on exam technique in order to squeeze out the marks - without putting the knowledge into a meaningful and understandable narrative.

Apologies for the long post - I normally limit myself to a trite insulting comment :) but felt more was required in this instance.

Taxiarch -> flyboy101 , 12 Oct 2016 05:42
Overall, I agree with your points. Monbiot here adopts a blunderbuss approach (competitive self-interest and extreme individualism; "brutal" education, employment social security; consumerism, social media and vanity). Criticism of his hypotheses on this thread (where articualted at all) focus on the existence of solitude and loneliness prior to neo liberalism, which seems to me to be to deliberately miss his point: this was formerly a minor phenomenon, yet is now writ on an incredible scale - and it is a social phenomenon particular to those western economies whose elites have most enthusiastically embraced neo liberalism. So, when Monbiot's rhetoric rises:

"So why are we engaging in this world-eating, self-consuming frenzy of environmental destruction and social dislocation, if all it produces is unbearable pain?"

the answer is, of course, 'western capitalist elites'.

We stand together or we fall apart.

Hackneyed and unoriginal but still true for all that.

flyboy101 -> Taxiarch , 12 Oct 2016 06:19
I think the answer is only

the answer is, of course, 'western capitalist elites'.

because of the lies that are being sold. We all want is to: (and feel we have the right to) wear the best clothes, have the foreign holidays, own the latest tech and eat the finest foods. At the same time our rights have increased and awareness of our responsibilities have minimized. The execution of common sense and an awareness that everything that goes wrong will always be someone else fault.

We are not all special snowflakes, princesses or worthy of special treatment, but we act like self absorbed, entitled individuals. Whether that's entitled to benefits, the front of the queue or bumped into first because its our birthday!

I share Monbiots pain here. But rather than get a sense of perspective - the answer is often "More public money and counseling"

DGIxjhLBTdhTVh7T , 12 Oct 2016 04:42
George Monbiot has struck a nerve. They are there every day in my small town local park: people, young and old, gender and ethnically diverse, siting on benches for a couple of hours at a time.

Trite as it may seem, this temporary thread of canine affection breaks the taboo of strangers passing by on the other side. Conversations, sometimes stilted, sometimes deeper and more meaningful, ensue as dog walkers become a brief daily healing force in a fractured world of loneliness. It's not much credit in the bank of sociability. But it helps.

Trite as it may seem from the outside, their interaction with the myriad pooches regularly walk

wakeup99 -> DGIxjhLBTdhTVh7T , 12 Oct 2016 04:47
Do a parkrun and you get the same thing. Free and healthy.
ParisHiltonCommune -> SenseCir , 12 Oct 2016 08:47
Unhealthy social interaction, yes. You can never judge what is natural to humans based on contemporary Britain. Anthropologists repeatedly find that what we think natural is merely a social construct created by the system we are subject to.

If you don't work hard, you will be a loser, don't look out of the window day dreaming you lazy slacker. Get productive, Mr Burns millions need you to work like a machine or be replaced by one.

Sandra Hannen Gomez , 12 Oct 2016 04:46
Good article. You´re absoluately right. And the deeper casue is this: separation from God. If we don´t fight our way back to God, individually and collectively, things are going to get a lot worse. With God, loneliness doesn´t exist. I encourage anyone and everyone to start talking to Him today and invite Him into your heart and watch what starts to happen.
wakeup99 -> Sandra Hannen Gomez , 12 Oct 2016 04:52
Religion divides not brings people together. Only when you embrace all humanity and ignore all gods will you find true happiness. The world and the people in it are far more inspiring when you contemplate the lack of any gods. The fact people do amazing things without needing the promise of heaven or the threat of hell - that is truly moving.
TeaThoughts -> Sandra Hannen Gomez , 12 Oct 2016 05:23
I see what you're saying but I read 'love' instead of God. God is too religious which separates and divides ("I'm this religion and my god is better than yours" etc etc). I believe that George is right in many ways in that money is very powerful on it's impact on our behavior (stress, lack etc) and therefore our lives. We are becoming fearful of each other and I believe the insecurity we feel plays a part in this.

We have become so disconnected from ourselves and focused on battling to stay afloat. Having experienced periods of severe stress due to lack of money I couldn't even begin to think about how I felt, how happy I was, what I really wanted to do with my life. I just had to pay my landlord, pay the bills and try and put some food on my table so everything else was totally neglected.

When I moved house to move in with family and wasn't expected to pay rent, though I offered, all that dissatisfaction and undealt with stuff came spilling out and I realised I'd had no time for any real safe care above the very basics and that was not a good place to be. I put myself into therapy for a while and started to look after myself and things started to change. I hope to never go back to that kind of position but things are precarious financially and the field I work in isn't well paid but it makes me very happy which I realise now is more important.

geoffhoppy , 12 Oct 2016 04:47
Neo-liberalism has a lot to answer for in bringing misery to our lives and accelerating the demise of the planet but I find it not guilty on this one. The current trends as to how people perceive themselves (what you've got rather than who you are) and the increasing isolation in our cities started way before the neo-liberals. It is getting worse though and on balance social media is making us more connected but less social. Share
RandomName2016 , 12 Oct 2016 04:48
The way that the left keeps banging on about neoliberalism is half of what makes them such a tough sell electorally. Just about nobody knows what neoliberalism is, and literally nobody self identifies as a neoliberal. So all this moaning and wailing about neoliberalism comes across as a self absorbed, abstract and irrelevant. I expect there is the germ of an idea in there, but until the left can find away to present that idea without the baffling layer of jargon and over-analysis, they're going to remain at a disadvantage to the easy populism of the right.
Astrogenie , 12 Oct 2016 04:49
Interesting article. We have heard so much about the size of our economy but less about our quality of life. The UK quality of life is way below the size of our economy i.e. economy size 6th largest in the world but quality of life 15th. If we were the 10th largest economy but were 10th for quality of life we would be better off than we are now in real terms.

We need a radical change of political thinking to focus on quality of life rather than obsession with the size of our economy. High levels of immigration of people who don't really integrate into their local communities has fractured our country along with the widening gap between rich and poor. Governments only see people in terms of their "economic value" - hence mothers being driven out to work, children driven into daycare and the elderly driven into care homes. Britain is becoming a soulless place - even our great British comedy is on the decline.

wakeup99 -> Astrogenie , 12 Oct 2016 04:56
Quality of life is far more important than GDP I agree but it is also far more important than inequality.
MikkaWanders , 12 Oct 2016 04:49
Interesting. 'It is the isolated and marginalised animals that are most likely to be picked off by predators....' so perhaps the species is developing its own predators to fill a vacated niche.

(Not questioning the comparison to other mammals at all as I think it is valid but you would have to consider the whole rather than cherry pick bits)

johnny991965 , 12 Oct 2016 04:52
Generation snowflake. "I'll do myself in if you take away my tablet and mobile phone for half an hour".
They don't want to go out and meet people anymore. Nightclubs for instance, are closing because the younger generation 'don't see the point' of going out to meet people they would otherwise never meet, because they can meet people on the internet. Leave them to it and the repercussions of it.....
johnny991965 -> grizzly , 12 Oct 2016 05:07
Socialism is dying on its feet in the UK, hence the Tory's 17 point lead at the mo. The lefties are clinging to whatever influence they have to sway the masses instead of the ballot box. Good riddance to them.
David Ireland -> johnny991965 , 13 Oct 2016 12:45
17 point lead? Dying on it's feet? The neo-liberals are showing their disconnect from reality. If anything, neo-liberalism is driving a people to the left in search of a fairer and more equal society.
justask , 12 Oct 2016 04:57
George Moniot's articles are better thought out, researched and written than the vast majority of the usual clickbait opinion pieces found on the Guardian these days. One of the last journalists, rather than liberal arts blogger vying for attention.
Nada89 , 12 Oct 2016 04:57
Neoliberalism's rap sheet is long and dangerous but this toxic philosophy will continue unabated because most people can't join the dots and work out how detrimental it has proven to be for most of us.

It dangles a carrot in order to create certain economic illusions but the simple fact is neoliberal societies become more unequal the longer they persist.

wakeup99 -> Nada89 , 12 Oct 2016 05:05
Neoliberal economies allow people to build huge global businesses very quickly and will continue to give the winners more but they also can guve everyone else more too but just at a slower rate. Socialism on the other hand mires everyone in stagnant poverty. Question is do you want to be absolutely or relatively better off.
totaram -> wakeup99 , 12 Oct 2016 05:19
You have no idea. Do not confuse capitalism with neoliberalism. Neoliberalism is a political ideology based on a mythical version of capitalism that doesn't actually exist, but is a nice way to get the deluded to vote for something that doesn't work in their interest at all.
peterfieldman , 12 Oct 2016 04:57
And things will get worse as society falls apart due to globalisation, uberization, lack of respect for authority, lacks of a fair tax and justice system, crime, immorality, loss of trust of politicians and financial and corporate sectors, uncontrolled immigration bringing with it insecurity and the risk of terrorism and a dumbing down of society with increasing inequality. All this is in a new book " The World at a Crossroads" which deals with the major issues facing the planet.
Nada89 -> wakeup99 , 12 Oct 2016 05:07
What, like endless war, unaffordable property, monstrous university fees, zero hours contracts and a food bank on every corner, and that's before we even get to the explosion in mental distress.
monsieur_flaneur -> thedisclaimer , 12 Oct 2016 05:10
There's nothing spurious or obscure about Neoliberalism. It is simply the political ideology of the rich, which has been our uninterrupted governing ideology since Reagan and Thatcher: Privatisation, deregulation, 'liberalisation' of housing, labour, etc, trickledown / low-tax-on-the-rich economics, de-unionization. You only don't see it if you don't want to see it.
arkley , 12 Oct 2016 05:03
I'm just thinking what is wonderful about societies that are big of social unity. And conformity. Those societies for example where you "belong" to your family. Where teenage girls can be married off to elderly uncles to cement that belonging. Or those societies where the belonging comes through religious centres. Where the ostracism for "deviant" behaviour like being gay or for women not submitting to their husbands can be brutal. And I'm not just talking about muslims here.

Or those societies that are big on patriotism. Yep they are usually good for mental health as the young men are given lessons in how to kill as many other men as possible efficiently.

And then I have to think how our years of "neo-liberal" governments have taken ideas of social liberalisation and enshrined them in law. It may be coincidence but thirty years after Thatcher and Reagan we are far more tolerant of homosexuality and willing to give it space to live, conversely we are far less tolerant of racism and are willing to prosecute racist violence. Feminists may still moan about equality but the position of women in society has never been better, rape inside marriage has (finally) been outlawed, sexual violence generally is no longer condoned except by a few, work opportunities have been widened and the woman's role is no longer just home and family. At least that is the case in "neo-liberal" societies, it isn't necessarily the case in other societies.

So unless you think loneliness is some weird Stockholm Syndrome thing where your sense of belonging comes from your acceptance of a stifling role in a structured soiety, then I think blaming the heightened respect for the individual that liberal societies have for loneliness is way off the mark.

What strikes me about the cases you cite above, George, is not an over-respect for the individual but another example of individuals being shoe-horned into a structure. It strikes me it is not individualism but competition that is causing the unhappiness. Competition to achieve an impossible ideal.

I fear George, that you are not approaching this with a properly open mind dedicated to investigation. I think you have your conclusion and you are going to bend the evidence to fit. That is wrong and I for one will not support that. In recent weeks and months we have had the "woe, woe and thrice woe" writings. Now we need to take a hard look at our findings. We need to take out the biases resulting from greater awareness of mental health and better and fuller diagnosis of mental health issues. We need to balance the bias resulting from the fact we really only have hard data for modern Western societies. And above all we need to scotch any bias resulting from the political worldview of the researchers.

Then the results may have some value.

birney -> arkley , 12 Oct 2016 05:10
It sounded to me that he was telling us of farm labouring and factory fodder stock that if we'd 'known our place' and kept to it ,all would be well because in his ideal society there WILL be or end up having a hierarchy, its inevitable.
EndaFlannel , 12 Oct 2016 05:04
Wasn't all this started by someone who said, "There is no such thing as Society"? The ultimate irony is that the ideology that championed the individual and did so much to dismantle the industrial and social fabric of the Country has resulted in a system which is almost totalitarian in its disregard for its ideological consequences.
wakeup99 -> EndaFlannel , 12 Oct 2016 05:08
Thatcher said it in the sense that society is not abstract it is just other people so when you say society needs to change then people need to change as society is not some independent concept it is an aggregation of all us. The left mis quote this all the time and either they don't get it or they are doing on purpose.
HorseCart -> EndaFlannel , 12 Oct 2016 05:09
No, Neoliberalism has been around since 1938.... Thatcher was only responsible for "letting it go" in Britain in 1980, but actually it was already racing ahead around the world.

Furthermore, it could easily be argued that the Beatles helped create loneliness - what do you think all those girls were screaming for? And also it could be argued that the Beatles were bringing in neoliberalism in the 1960s, via America thanks to Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis etc.. Share

billybagel -> wakeup99 , 12 Oct 2016 05:26
They're doing it on purpose. ""If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it." -- Joseph Boebbels
Luke O'Brien , 12 Oct 2016 05:08
Great article, although surely you could've extended the blame to capitalism has a whole?

In what, then, consists the alienation of labor? First, in the fact that labor is external to the worker, i.e., that it does not belong to his nature, that therefore he does not realize himself in his work, that he denies himself in it, that he does not feel at ease in it, but rather unhappy, that he does not develop any free physical or mental energy, but rather mortifies his flesh and ruins his spirit. The worker, therefore, is only himself when he does not work, and in his work he feels outside himself. He feels at home when he is not working, and when he is working he does not feel at home. His labor, therefore, is not voluntary, but forced--forced labor. It is not the gratification of a need, but only a means to gratify needs outside itself. Its alien nature shows itself clearly by the fact that work is shunned like the plague as soon as no physical or other kind of coercion exists.

Marx, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844

JulesBywaterLees , 12 Oct 2016 05:08
We have created a society with both flaws and highlights- and we have unwittingly allowed the economic system to extend into our lives in negative ways.

On of the things being modern brings is movement- we move away from communities, breaking friendships and losing support networks, and the support networks are the ones that allow us to cope with issues, problems and anxiety.

Isolation among the youth is disturbing, it is also un natural, perhaps it is social media, or fear of parents, or the fall in extra school activities or parents simply not having a network of friends because they have had to move for work or housing.

There is some upsides, I talk and get support from different international communities through the social media that can also be so harmful- I chat on xbox games, exchange information on green building forums, arts forums, share on youtube as well as be part of online communities that hold events in the real world.

LordMorganofGlossop , 12 Oct 2016 05:11
Increasingly we seem to need to document our lives on social media to somehow prove we 'exist'. We seem far more narcissistic these days, which tends to create a particular type of unhappiness, or at least desire that can never be fulfilled. Maybe that's the secret of modern consumer-based capitalism. To be happy today, it probably helps to be shallow, or avoid things like Twitter and Facebook!

Eric Fromm made similar arguments to Monbiot about the psychological impact of modern capitalism (Fear of Freedom and The Sane Society) - although the Freudian element is a tad outdated. However, for all the faults of modern society, I'd rather be unhappy now than in say, Victorian England. Similarly, life in the West is preferable to the obvious alternatives.

Interestingly, the ultra conservative Adam Smith Institute yesterday decided to declare themselves 'neoliberal' as some sort of badge of honour:
http://www.adamsmith.org/blog/coming-out-as-neoliberals

eamonmcc , 12 Oct 2016 05:15
Thanks George for commenting in such a public way on the unsayable: consume, consume, consume seems to be the order of the day in our modern world and the points you have highlighted should be part of public policy everywhere.

I'm old enough to remember when we had more time for each other; when mothers could be full-time housewives; when evenings existed (evenings now seem to be spent working or getting home from work). We are undoubtedly more materialistic, which leads to more time spent working, although our modern problems are probably not due to increasing materialism alone.

Regarding divorce and separation, I notice people in my wider circle who are very open to affairs. They seem to lack the self-discipline to concentrate on problems in their marriage and to give their full-time partner a high level of devotion. Terrible problems come up in marriages but if you are completely and unconditionally committed to your partner and your marriage then you can get through the majority of them.

CEMKM , 12 Oct 2016 05:47
Aggressive self interest is turning in on itself. Unfortunately the powerful who have realised their 'Will to Power' are corrupted by their own inflated sense of self and thus blinded. Does this all predict a global violent revolution?
SteB1 -> NeverMindTheBollocks , 12 Oct 2016 06:32

A diatribe against a vague boogieman that is at best an ill-defined catch-all of things this CIFer does not like.

An expected response from someone who persistently justifies neoliberalism through opaque and baseless attacks on those who reveal how it works. Neoliberalism is most definitely real and it has a very definite history.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoliberalism
http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=376

However, what is most interesting is how nearly all modern politicians who peddle neoliberal doctrine or policy, refuse to use the name, or even to openly state what ideology they are in fact following.

I suppose it is just a complete coincidence that the policy so many governments are now following so closely follow known neoliberal doctrine. But of course the clever and unpleasant strategy of those like yourself is to cry conspiracy theory if this ideology, which dare not speak its name is mentioned.

Your style is tiresome. You make no specific supported criticisms again, and again. You just make false assertions and engage in unpleasant ad homs and attempted character assassination. You do not address the evidence for what George Monbiot states at all.

heian555 , 12 Oct 2016 05:56
An excellent article. One wonders exactly what one needs to say in order to penetrate the reptilian skulls of those who run the system.

As an addition to Mr Monbiot's points, I would like to point out that it is not only competitive self-interest and extreme individualism that drives loneliness. Any system that has strict hierarchies and mechanisms of social inclusion also drives it, because such systems inhibit strongly spontaneous social interaction, in which people simply strike up conversation. Thailand has such a system. Despite her promoting herself as the land of smiles, I have found the people here to be deeply segregated and unfriendly. I have lived here for 17 years. The last time I had a satisfactory face-to-face conversation, one that went beyond saying hello to cashiers at checkout counters or conducting official business, was in 1999. I have survived by convincing myself that I have dialogues with my books; as I delve more deeply into the texts, the authors say something different to me, to which I can then respond in my mind.

SteB1 , 12 Oct 2016 05:56

Epidemics of mental illness are crushing the minds and bodies of millions. It's time to ask where we are heading and why

I want to quote the sub headline, because "It's time to ask where we are heading and why", is the important bit. George's excellent and scathing evidence based criticism of the consequences of neoliberalism is on the nail. However, we need to ask how we got to this stage. Despite it's name neoliberalism doesn't really seem to contain any new ideas, and in some way it's more about Thatcher's beloved return to Victorian values. Most of what George Monbiot highlights encapsulatec Victorian thinking, the sort of workhouse mentality.

Whilst it's very important to understand how neoliberalism, the ideology that dare not speak it's name, derailed the general progress in the developed world. It's also necessary to understand that the roots this problem go much further back. Not merely to the start of the industrial revolution, but way beyond that. It actually began with the first civilizations when our societies were taken over by powerful rulers, and they essentially started to farm the people they ruled like cattle. On the one hand they declared themselves protector of their people, whilst ruthlessly exploiting them for their own political gain. I use the livestock farming analogy, because that explains what is going on.

To domesticate livestock, and to make them pliable and easy to work with the farmer must make himself appear to these herd animals as if they are their protector, the person who cares for them, nourishes and feeds them. They become reliant on their apparent benefactor. Except of course this is a deceitful relationship, because the farmer is just fattening them up to be eaten.

For the powerful to exploit the rest of people in society for their own benefit they had to learn how to conceal what they were really doing, and to wrap it in justifications to bamboozle the people they were exploiting for their own benefit. They did this by altering our language and inserting ideas in our culture which justified their rule, and the positions of the rest of us.

Before state religions, generally what was revered was the Earth, the natural world. It was on a personal level, and not controlled by the powerful. So the powerful needed to remove that personal meaningfulness from people's lives, and said the only thing which was really meaningful, was the religion, which of course they controlled and were usually the head of. Over generations people were indoctrinated in a completely new way of thinking, and a language manipulated so all people could see was the supposed divine right of kings to rule. Through this language people were detached from what was personally meaningful to them, and could only find meaningfulness by pleasing their rulers, and being indoctrinated in their religion.

If you control the language people use, you can control how perceive the world, and can express themselves.

By stripping language of meaningful terms which people can express themselves, and filling it full of dubious concepts such as god, the right of kings completely altered how people saw the world, how they thought. This is why over the ages, and in different forms the powerful have always attempted to have full control of our language through at first religion and their proclamations, and then eventually by them controlling our education system and the media.

The idea of language being used to control how people see the world, and how they think is of course not my idea. George Orwell's Newspeak idea explored in "1984" is very much about this.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newspeak

This control of language is well known throughout history. Often conquerors would abolish languages of those they conquered. In the so called New World the colonists eventually tried to control how indigenous people thought by forcibly sending their children to boarding school, to be stripped of their culture, their native language, and to be inculcated in the language and ideas of their colonists. In Britain various attempts were made to banish the Welsh language, the native language of the Britons, before the Anglo-Saxons and the Normans took over.

However, what Orwell did not deal with properly is the origin of language style. To Orwell, and to critics of neoliberalism, the problems can be traced back to the rise of what they criticised. To a sort of mythical golden age. Except all the roots of what is being criticised can be found in the period before the invention of these doctrines. So you have to go right back to the beginning, to understand how it all began.

Neoliberalism would never have been possible without this long control of our language and ideas by the powerful. It prevents us thinking outside the box, about what the problem really is, and how it all began.

clarissa3 -> SteB1 , 12 Oct 2016 06:48
All very well but you are talking about ruthlessness of western elites, mostly British, not all.

It was not like that everywhere. Take Poland for example, and around there..

New research is emerging - and I'd recommend reading of prof Frost from St Andrew's Uni - that lower classes were actually treated with respect by elites there, mainly land owners and aristocracy who more looked after them and employed and cases of such ruthlessness as you describe were unknown of.

So that 'truth' about attitudes to lower classes is not universal!

SteB1 -> Borisundercoat , 12 Oct 2016 06:20

What is "neoliberalism" exactly?

It's spouted by many on here as the root of all evil.

I'd be interested to see how many different definitions I get in response...


The reason I call neoliberalism the ideology which dare not speak it's name is that in public you will rarely hear it mentioned by it's proponents. However, it was a very important part of Thatcherism, Blairism, and so on. What is most definite is that these politicians and others are most definitely following some doctrine. Their ideas about what we must do and how we must do it are arbitrary, but they make it sound as if it's the only way to do things.

If you want to learn more about neoliberalism, read a summary such as the Wikipedia page on it.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoliberalism
http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=376

However, as I hint, the main problem in dealing with neoliberalism is that none of the proponents of this doctrine admit to what ideology they are actually following. Yet very clearly around the world leaders in many countries are clearly singing from the same hymn sheet because the policy they implement is so similar. Something has definitely changed. All the attempts to roll back welfare, benefits, and public services is most definitely new, or they wouldn't be having to reverse policy of the past if nothing had change. But as all these politicians implementing this policy all seem to refuse to explain what doctrine they are following, it makes it difficult to pin down what is happening. Yet we can most definitely say that there is a clear doctrine at work, because why else would so many political leaders around the world be trying to implement such similar policy.

Winstons1 -> TerryMcBurney , 12 Oct 2016 06:24

Neo-liberalism doesn't really exist except in the minds of the far left and perhaps a few academics.

Neoliberalism is a policy model of social studies and economics that transfers control of economic factors to the private sector from the public sector. ... Neoliberal policies aim for a laissez-faire approach to economic development.

I believe the term 'Neo liberalism' was coined by those well known 'Lefties'The Chicago School .
If you don't believe that any of the above has been happening ,it does beg the question as to where you have been for the past decade.

UnderSurveillance , 12 Oct 2016 06:12
The ironies of modern civilization - we have never been more 'connected' to other people on global level and less 'connected' on personal level.

We have never had access to such a wide range of information and opinions, but also for a long time been so divided into conflicting groups, reading and accessing in fact only that which reinforces what we already think.

John Pelan , 12 Oct 2016 06:18
Sir Harry Burns, ex-Chief Medical Officer in Scotland talks very powerfully about the impact of loneliness and isolation on physical and mental health - here is a video of a recent talk by him - http://www.befs.org.uk/calendar/48/164-BEFS-Annual-Lecture
MightyDrunken , 12 Oct 2016 06:22
These issues have been a long time coming, just think of the appeals of the 60's to chill out and love everyone. Globalisation and neo-liberalism has simply made society even more broken.
The way these problems have been ignored and made worse over the last few decades make me think that the solution will only happen after a massive catastrophe and society has to be rebuilt. Unless we make the same mistakes again.
A shame really, you would think intelligence would be useful but it seems not.
ParisHiltonCommune -> MightyDrunken , 12 Oct 2016 07:19
Contemporary Neo-liberalism is a reaction against that ideal of the 60s
DevilMayCareIDont , 12 Oct 2016 06:25
I would argue that it creates a bubble of existence for those who pursue a path of "success" that instead turns to isolation . The amount of people that I have met who have moved to London because to them it represents the main location for everything . I get to see so many walking cliches of people trying to fit in or stand out but also fitting in just the same .

The real disconnect that software is providing us with is truly staggering . I have spoken to people from all over the World who seem to feel more at home being alone and playing a game with strangers . The ones who are most happy are those who seem to be living all aloe and the ones who try and play while a girlfriend or family are present always seemed to be the ones most agitated by them .

We are humans relying on simplistic algorithms that reduce us ,apps like Tinder which turns us into a misogynist at the click of a button .

Facebook which highlights our connections with the other people and assumes that everyone you know or have met is of the same relevance .

We also have Twitter which is the equivalent of screaming at a television when you are drunk or angry .

We have Instagram where people revel in their own isolation and send updates of it . All those products that are instantly updated and yet we are ageing and always feeling like we are grouped together by simple algorithms .

JimGoddard , 12 Oct 2016 06:28
Television has been the main destroyer of social bonds since the 1950s and yet it is only mentioned once and in relation to the number of competitions on it, which completely misses the point. That's when I stopped taking this article seriously.
GeoffP , 12 Oct 2016 06:29
Another shining example of the slow poison of capitalism. Maybe it's time at last to turn off the tap?
jwestoby , 12 Oct 2016 06:30
I actually blame Marx for neoliberalism. He framed society purely in terms economic, and persuaded that ideology is valuable in as much as it is actionable.

For a dialectician he was incredibly short sighted and superficial, not realising he was creating a narrative inimical to personal expression and simple thoughtfulness (although he was warned). To be fair, he can't have appreciated how profoundly he would change the way we concieve societies.

Neoliberalism is simply the dark side of Marxism and subsumes the personal just as comprehensively as communism.

We're picked apart by quantification and live as particulars, suffering the ubiquitous consequences of connectivity alone . . .

Unless, of course, you get out there and meet great people!

ParisHiltonCommune -> jwestoby , 12 Oct 2016 07:16
Marxism arose as a reaction against the harsh capitalism of its day. Of course it is connected. It is ironic how Soviet our lives have become.
zeeeel , 12 Oct 2016 06:30
Neo-liberalism allows psychopaths to flourish, and it has been argued by Robert Hare that they are disproportionately represented in the highest echelons of society. So people who lack empathy and emotional attachment are probably weilding a significant amount of influence over the way our economy and society is organised. Is it any wonder that they advocate an economic model which is most conducive to their success? Things like job security, rigged markets, unions, and higher taxes on the rich simply get in their way.
Drewv , 12 Oct 2016 06:30
That fine illustration by Andrzej Krauze up there is exactly what I see whenever I walk into an upscale mall or any Temple of Consumerism.

You can hear the Temple calling out: "Feel bad, atomized individuals? Have a hole inside? Feel lonely? That's all right: buy some shit you don't need and I guarantee you'll feel better."

And then it says: "So you bought it and you felt better for five minutes, and now you feel bad again? Well, that's not rocket science...you should buy MORE shit you don't need! I mean, it's not rocket science, you should have figured this out on your own."

And then it says: "Still feel bad and you have run out of money? Well, that's okay, just get it on credit, or take out a loan, or mortgage your house. I mean, it's not rocket science. Really, you should have figured this out on your own already...I thought you were a modern, go-get-'em, independent, initiative-seizing citizen of the world?"

And then it says: "Took out too many loans, can't pay the bills and the repossession has begun? Honestly, that's not my problem. You're just a bad little consumer, and a bad little liberal, and everything is your own fault. You go sit in a dark corner now where you don't bother the other shoppers. Honestly, you're just being a burden on other consumers now. I'm not saying you should kill yourself, but I can't say that we would mind either."

And that's how the worms turn at the Temples of Consumerism and Neoliberalism.

havetheyhearts , 12 Oct 2016 06:31
I kept my sanity by not becoming a spineless obedient middle class pleaser of a sociopathic greedy tribe pretending neoliberalism is the future.

The result is a great clarity about the game, and an intact empathy for all beings.

The middle class treated each conscious "outsider" like a lowlife, and now they play the helpless victims of circumstances.

I know why I renounced to my privileges. They sleepwalk into their self created disorder. And yes, I am very angry at those who wasted decades with their social stupidity, those who crawled back after a start of change into their petit bourgeois niche.

I knew that each therapist has to take a stand and that the most choose petty careers. Do not expect much sanity from them for your disorientated kids.
Get insightful yourself and share your leftover love to them. Try honesty and having guts...that might help both of you.

Likewhatever , 12 Oct 2016 06:32
Alternatively, neo-liberalism has enabled us to afford to live alone (entire families were forced to live together for economic reasons), and technology enables us to work remotely, with no need for interaction with other people.

This may make some people feel lonely, but for many others its utopia.

Peter1Barnet , 12 Oct 2016 06:32
Some of the things that characterise Globalisation and Neoliberalism are open borders and free movement. How can that contribute to isolation? That is more likely to be fostered by Protectionism. And there aren't fewer jobs. Employment is at record highs here and in many other countries. There are different jobs, not fewer, and to be sure there are some demographics that have lost out. But overall there are not fewer jobs. That falls for the old "lump of labour" fallacy.
WhigInterpretation , 12 Oct 2016 06:43
The corrosive state of mass television indoctrination sums it up: Apprentice, Big Brother, Dragon's Den. By degrees, the standard keeps lowering. It is no longer unusual for a licence funded TV programme to consist of a group of the mentally deranged competing to be the biggest asshole in the room.

Anomie is a by-product of cultural decline as much as economics.

Pinkie123 -> Stephen Bell , 12 Oct 2016 07:18

What is certain, is that is most ways, life is far better now in the UK than 20, 30 or 40 years ago, by a long way!

That's debatable. Data suggests that inequality has widened massively over the last 30 years ( https://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/infographic-income-inequality-uk ) - as has social mobility ( https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2012/may/22/social-mobility-data-charts ). Homelessness has risen substantially since 1979.

Our whole culture is more stressful. Jobs are more precarious; employment rights more stacked in favor of the employer; workforces are deunionised; leisure time is on the decrease; rents are unaffordable; a house is no longer a realistic expectation for millions of young people. Overall, citizens are more socially immobile and working harder for poorer real wages than they were in the late 70's.

As for mental health, evidence suggest that mental health problems have been on the increase over recent decades, especially among young people. The proportion of 15/16 year olds reporting that they frequently feel anxious or depressed has doubled in the last 30 years, from 1 in 30 to 2 in 30 for boys and 1 in 10 to 2 in ten for girls ( http://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/news/increased-levels-anxiety-and-depression-teenage-experience-changes-over-time

Unfortunately, sexual abuse has always been a feature of human societies. However there is no evidence to suggest it was any worse in the past. Then sexual abuse largely took place in institutional settings were at least it could be potentially addressed. Now much of it has migrated to the great neoliberal experiment of the internet, where child exploitation is at endemic levels and completely beyond the control of law enforcement agencies. There are now more women and children being sexually trafficked than there were slaves at the height of the slave trade. Moreover, we should not forget that Jimmy Saville was abusing prolifically right into the noughties.

My parents were both born in 1948. They say it was great. They bought a South London house for next to nothing and never had to worry about getting a job. When they did get a job it was one with rights, a promise of a generous pension, a humane workplace environment, lunch breaks and an ethos of public service. My mum says that the way women are talked about now is worse.

Sounds fine to me. That's not to say everything was great: racism was acceptable (though surely the vile views pumped out onto social media are as bad or worse than anything that existed then), homosexuality was illegal and capital punishment enforced until the 1960's. However, the fact that these things were reformed showed society was moving in the right direction. Now we are going backwards, back to 1930's levels or inequality and a reactionary, small-minded political culture fueled by loneliness, rage and misery.

Pinkie123 -> Stephen Bell , 12 Oct 2016 07:28
And there is little evidence to suggest that anyone has expanded their mind with the internet. A lot of people use it to look at porn, post racist tirades on Facebook, send rape threats, distributes sexual images of partners with their permission, take endless photographs of themselves and whip up support for demagogues. In my view it would much better if people went to a library than lurked in corporate echo chambers pumping out the like of 'why dont theese imagrantz go back home and all those lezbo fems can fuckk off too ha ha megalolz ;). Seriously mind expanding stuff. Share
Pinkie123 -> Pinkie123 , 12 Oct 2016 07:38
Oops ' without their permission...
maldonglass , 12 Oct 2016 06:49
As a director and CEO of an organisation employing several hundred people I became aware that 40% of the staff lived alone and that the workplace was important to them not only for work but also for interacting with their colleagues socially . This was encouraged and the organisation achieved an excellent record in retaining staff at a time when recruitment was difficult. Performance levels were also extremely high . I particulalry remember with gratitude the solidarity of staff when one of our colleagues - a haemophiliac - contracted aids through an infected blood transfusion and died bravely but painfully - the staff all supported him in every way possible through his ordeal and it was a privilege for me to work with such kind and caring people .
oommph -> maldonglass , 12 Oct 2016 07:00
Indeed. Those communities are often undervalued. However, the problem is, as George says, lots of people are excluded from them.

They are also highly self-selecting (e.g. you need certain trains of inclusivity, social adeptness, empathy, communication, education etc to get the job that allows you to join that community).

Certainly I make it a priority in my life. I do create communities. I do make an effort to stand by people who live like me. I can be a leader there.

Sometimes I wish more people would be. It is a sustained, long-term effort. Share

forkintheroad , 12 Oct 2016 06:50
'a war of everyone against themselves' - post-Hobbesian. Genius, George.
sparclear , 12 Oct 2016 06:51
Using a word like 'loneliness' is risky insofar as nuances get lost. It can have thousand meanings, as there are of a word like 'love'.

isolation
grief
loneliness
feeling abandoned
solitude
purposelessness
neglect
depression
&c.

To add to this discussion, we might consider the strongest need and conflict each of us experiences as a teenager, the need to be part of a tribe vs the the conflict inherent in recognising one's uniqueness. In a child's life from about 7 or 8 until adolescence, friends matter the most. Then the young person realises his or her difference from everyone else and has to grasp what this means.

Those of us who enjoyed a reasonably healthy upbringing will get through the peer group / individuation stage with happiness possible either way - alone or in friendship. Our parents and teachers will have fostered a pride in our own talents and our choice of where to socialise will be flexible and non-destructive.

Those of us who at some stage missed that kind of warmth and acceptance in childhood can easily stagnate. Possibly this is the most awkward of personal developmental leaps. The person neither knows nor feels comfortable with themselves, all that faces them is an abyss.
Where creative purpose and strength of spirit are lacking, other humans can instinctively sense it and some recoil from it, hardly knowing what it's about. Vulnerabilities attendant on this state include relationships holding out some kind of ersatz rescue, including those offered by superficial therapists, religions, and drugs, legal and illegal.

Experience taught that apart from the work we might do with someone deeply compassionate helping us where our parents failed, the natural world is a reliable healer. A kind of self-acceptance and individuation is possible away from human bustle. One effect of the seasons and of being outdoors amongst other life forms is to challenge us physically, into present time, where our senses start to work acutely and our observational skills get honed, becoming more vibrant than they could at any educational establishment.

This is one reason we have to look after the Earth, whether it's in a city context or a rural one. Our mental, emotional and physical health is known to be directly affected by it.

Buster123 , 12 Oct 2016 06:55
A thoughtful article. But the rich and powerful will ignore it; their doing very well out of neo liberalism thank you. Meanwhile many of those whose lives are affected by it don't want to know - they're happy with their bigger TV screen. Which of course is what the neoliberals want, 'keep the people happy and in the dark'. An old Roman tactic - when things weren't going too well for citizens and they were grumbling the leaders just extended the 'games'. Evidently it did the trick
worried -> Buster123 , 12 Oct 2016 07:32
The rich and powerful can be just as lonely as you and me. However, some of them will be lonely after having royally forked the rest of us over...and that is another thing
Hallucinogen , 12 Oct 2016 06:59

We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war. Our Great Depression is our lives.

- Fight Club
People need a tribe to feel purpose. We need conflict, it's essential for our species... psychological health improved in New York after 9/11.
ParisHiltonCommune , 12 Oct 2016 07:01
Totally agree with the last sentences. Human civilisation is a team effort. Individual humans cant survive, our language evolved to aid cooperation.

Neo-liberalism is really only an Anglo-American project. Yet we are so indoctrinated in it, It seems natural to us, but not to hardly any other cultures.

As for those "secondary factors. Look to advertising and the loss of real jobs forcing more of us to sell services dependent on fake needs. Share

deirdremcardle , 12 Oct 2016 07:01
Help save the Notting Hill Carnival
http://www.getwestlondon.co.uk/news/west-london-news/teen-disembowelled-years-notting-hill-11982129

It's importance for social cohesion -- yes inspite of the problems , can not be overestimated .Don't let the rich drive it out , people who don't understand ,or care what it's for .The poorer boroughs cannot afford it .K&C have easily 1/2billion in Capital Reserves ,so yes they must continue . Here I can assure you ,one often sees the old and lonely get a hug .If drug gangs are hitting each other or their rich boy customers with violence - that is a different matter . And yes of course if we don't do something to help boys from ethnic minorities ,with education and housing -of course it only becomes more expensive in the long run.

Boris Johnson has idiotically mouthed off about trying to mobilise people to stand outside the Russian Embassy , as if one can mobilise youth by telling them to tidy their bedroom .Because that's all it amounts to - because you have to FEEL protest and dissent . Well here at Carnival - there it is ,protest and dissent . Now listen to it . And of course it will be far easier than getting any response from sticking your tongue out at the Putin monster --
He has his bombs , just as Kensington and Chelsea have their money. (and anyway it's only another Boris diversion ,like building some fucking stupid bridge ,instead of doing anything useful)

Lafcadio1944 , 12 Oct 2016 07:03
"Society" or at least organized society is the enemy of corporate power. The idea of Neoliberal capitalism is to replace civil society with corporate law and rule. The same was true of the less extreme forms of capitalism. Society is the enemy of capital because it put restrictions on it and threatens its power.

When society organizes itself and makes laws to protect society from the harmful effects of capitalism, for example demands on testing drugs to be sure they are safe, this is a big expense to Pfizer, there are many examples - just now in the news banning sugary drinks. If so much as a small group of parents forming a day care co-op decide to ban coca cola from their group that is a loss of profit.

That is really what is going on, loneliness is a big part of human life, everyone feels it sometimes, under Neoliberal capitalism it is simply more exaggerated due to the out and out assault on society itself.

Joan Cant , 12 Oct 2016 07:10
Well the prevailing Global Capitalist world view is still a combination 1. homocentric Cartesian Dualism i.e. seeing humans as most important and sod all other living beings, and seeing humans as separate from all other living beings and other humans and 2. Darwinian "survival of the fittest" seeing everything as a competition and people as "winners and losers, weak or strong with winners and the strong being most important". From these 2 combined views all kinds of "games" arise. The main one being the game of "victim, rescuer, persecutor" (Transactional Analysis). The Guardian engages in this most of the time and although I welcome the truth in this article to some degree, surprisingly, as George is environmentally friendly, it kinda still is talking as if humans are most important and as if those in control (the winners) need to change their world view to save the victims. I think the world view needs to zoom out to a perspective that recognises that everything is interdependent and that the apparent winners and the strong are as much victims of their limited world view as those who are manifesting the effects of it more obviously.
Zombiesfan , 12 Oct 2016 07:14
Here in America, we have reached the point at which police routinely dispatch the mentally ill, while complaining that "we don't have the time for this" (N. Carolina). When a policeman refuses to kill a troubled citizen, he or she can and will be fired from his job (West Virginia). This has become not merely commonplace, but actually a part of the social function of the work of the police -- to remove from society the burden of caring for the mentally ill by killing them. In the state where I live, a state trooper shot dead a mentally ill man who was not only unarmed, but sitting on the toilet in his own home. The resulting "investigation" exculpated the trooper, of course; in fact, young people are constantly told to look up to the police.
ianita1978 -> Zombiesfan , 12 Oct 2016 08:25
Sounds like the inevitable logical outcome of a society where the predator sociopathic and their scared prey are all that is allowed. This dynamic dualistic tautology, the slavish terrorised to sleep and bullying narcissistic individual, will always join together to protect their sick worldview by pathologising anything that will threaten their hegemony of power abuse: compassion, sensitivity, moral conscience, altruism and the immediate effects of the ruthless social effacement or punishment of the same ie human suffering.
Ruby4 , 12 Oct 2016 07:14
The impact of increasing alienation on individual mental health has been known about and discussed for a long time.

When looking at a way forward, the following article is interesting:

"Alienation, in all areas, has reached unprecedented heights; the social machinery for deluding consciousnesses in the interest of the ruling class has been perfected as never before. The media are loaded with upscale advertising identifying sophistication with speciousness. Television, in constant use, obliterates the concept under the image and permanently feeds a baseless credulity for events and history. Against the will of many students, school doesn't develop the highly cultivated critical capacities that a real sovereignty of the people would require. And so on.

The ordinary citizen thus lives in an incredibly deceiving reality. Perhaps this explains the tremendous and persistent gap between the burgeoning of motives to struggle, and the paucity of actual combatants. The contrary would be a miracle. Thus the considerable importance of what I call the struggle for representation: at every moment, in every area, to expose the deception and bring to light, in the simplicity of form which only real theoretical penetration makes possible, the processes in which the false-appearances, real and imagined, originate, and this way, to form the vigilant consciousness, placing our image of reality back on its feet and reopening paths to action."

https://www.marxists.org/archive/seve/lucien_seve.htm

ianita1978 -> Ruby4 , 12 Oct 2016 08:18
For the global epidemic of abusive, effacing homogenisation of human intellectual exchange and violent hyper-sexualisation of all culture, I blame the US Freudian PR guru Edward Bernays and his puritan forebears - alot.
bonhee -> Ruby4 , 12 Oct 2016 09:03
Thanks for proving that Anomie is a far more sensible theory than Dialectical Materialistic claptrap that was used back in the 80s to terrorize the millions of serfs living under the Jack boot of Leninist Iron curtain.
RossJames , 12 Oct 2016 07:15
There's no question - neoliberalism has been wrenching society apart. It's not as if the prime movers of this ideology were unaware of the likely outcome viz. "there is no such thing as society" (Thatcher). Actually in retrospect the whole zeitgeist from the late 70s emphasised the atomised individual separated from the whole. Dawkins' "The Selfish Gene" (1976) may have been influential in creating that climate.

Anyway, the wheel has turned thank goodness. We are becoming wiser and understanding that "ecology" doesn't just refer to our relationship with the natural world but also, closer to home, our relationship with each other.

Jayarava Attwood -> RossJames , 12 Oct 2016 07:37
The Communist manifesto makes the same complaint in 1848. The wheel has not turned, it is still grinding down workers after 150 years. We are none the wiser.
Ben Wood -> RossJames , 12 Oct 2016 07:49
"The wheel is turning and you can't slow down,
You can't let go and you can't hold on,
You can't go back and you can't stand still,
If the thunder don't get you then the lightning will."
R Hunter
ianita1978 -> Ben Wood , 12 Oct 2016 08:13
Yep. And far too many good people have chosen to be the grateful dead in order to escape the brutal torture of bullying Predators.
magicspoon3 , 12 Oct 2016 07:30
What is loneliness? I love my own company and I love walking in nature and listening to relaxation music off you tube and reading books from the library. That is all free. When I fancied a change of scene, I volunteered at my local art gallery.

Mental health issues are not all down to loneliness. Indeed, other people can be a massive stress factor, whether it is a narcissistic parent, a bullying spouse or sibling, or an unreasonable boss at work.

I'm on the internet far too much and often feel the need to detox from it and get back to a more natural life, away from technology. The 24/7 news culture and selfie obsessed society is a lot to blame for social disconnect.

The current economic climate is also to blame, if housing and job security are a problem for individuals as money worries are a huge factor of stress. The idea of not having any goal for the future can trigger depressive thoughts.

I have to say, I've been happier since I don't have such unrealistic expectations of what 'success is'. I rarely get that foreign holiday or new wardrobe of clothes and my mobile phone is archaic. The pressure that society puts on us to have all these things- and get in debt for them is not good. The obsession with economic growth at all costs is also stupid, as the numbers don't necessarily mean better wealth, health or happiness.

dr8765 , 12 Oct 2016 07:34
Very fine article, as usual from George, until right at the end he says:

This does not require a policy response.

But it does. It requires abandonment of neoliberalism as the means used to run the world. People talk about the dangers of man made computers usurping their makers but mankind has, it seems, already allowed itself to become enslaved. This has not been achieved by physical dependence upon machines but by intellectual enslavement to an ideology.

John Smythe , 12 Oct 2016 07:35
A very good "Opinion" by George Monbiot one of the best I have seen on this Guardian blog page.

I would add that the basic concepts of the Neoliberal New world order are fundamentally Evil, from the control of world population through supporting of strife starvation and war to financial inducements of persons in positions of power. Let us not forget the training of our younger members of our society who have been induced to a slavish love of technology. Many other areas of human life are also under attack from the Neoliberal, even the very air we breathe, and the earth we stand upon.

Jayarava Attwood , 12 Oct 2016 07:36
The Amish have understood for 300 years that technology could have a negative effect on society and decided to limit its effects. I greatly admire their approach. Neal Stephenson's recent novel Seveneves coined the term Amistics for the practice of assessing and limiting the impact of tech. We need a Minister for Amistics in the government. Wired magazine did two features on the Amish use of telephones which are quite insightful.

The Amish Get Wired. The Amish ? 6.1.1993
look Who's talking . 1.1.1999

If we go back to 1848, we also find Marx and Engels, in the Communist Manifesto, complaining about the way that the first free-market capitalism (the original liberalism) was destroying communities and families by forcing workers to move to where the factories were being built, and by forcing women and children into (very) low paid work. 150 years later, after many generations of this, combined with the destruction of work in the North, the result is widespread mental illness. But a few people are really rich now, so that's all right, eh?

Social media is ersatz community. It's like eating grass: filling, but not nourishing.

ICYMI I had some thoughts a couple of days ago on how to deal with the mental health epidemic .

maplegirl , 12 Oct 2016 07:38
Young people are greatly harmed by not being able to see a clear path forward in the world. For most people, our basic needs are a secure job, somewhere secure and affordable to live, and a decent social environment in terms of public services and facilities. Unfortunately, all these things are sliding further out of reach for young people in the UK, and they know this. Many already live with insecure housing where their family could have to move at a month or two's notice.

Our whole economic system needs to be built around providing these basic securities for people. Neoliberalism = insecure jobs, insecure housing and poor public services, because these are the end result of its extreme free market ideology.

dynamicfrog , 12 Oct 2016 07:44
I agree with this 100%. Social isolation makes us unhappy. We have a false sense of what makes us unhappy - that success or wealth will enlighten or liberate us. What makes us happy is social connection. Good friendships, good relationships, being part of community that you contribute to. Go to some of the poorest countries in the world and you may meet happy people there, tell them about life in rich countries, and say that some people there are unhappy. They won't believe you. We do need to change our worldview, because misery is a real problem in many countries.
SavannahLaMar , 12 Oct 2016 07:47
It is tempting to see the world before Thatcherism, which is what most English writers mean when they talk about neo-liberalism, as an idyll, but it simply wasn't.

The great difficulty with capitalism is that while it is in many ways an amoral doctrine, it goes hand in hand with personal freedom. Socialism is moral in its concern for the poorest, but then it places limits on personal freedom and choice. That's the price people pay for the emphasis on community, rather than the individual.

Close communities can be a bar on personal freedom and have little tolerance for people who deviate from the norm. In doing that, they can entrench loneliness.

This happened, and to some extent is still happening, in the working class communities which we typically describe as 'being destroyed by Thatcher'. It's happening in close-knit Muslim communities now.

I'm not attempting to vindicate Thatcherism, I'm just saying there's a pay-off with any model of society. George Monbiot's concerns are actually part of a long tradition - Oliver Goldsmith's Deserted Village (1770) chimes with his thinking, as does DH Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover.

proteusblu -> SavannahLaMar , 12 Oct 2016 08:04
The kind of personal freedom that you say goes hand in hand with capitalism is an illusion for the majority of people. It holds up the prospect of that kind of freedom, but only a minority get access to it. For most, it is necessary to submit yourself to a form of being yoked, in terms of the daily grind which places limits on what you can then do, as the latter depends hugely on money. The idea that most people are "free" to buy the house they want, private education, etc., not to mention whether they can afford the many other things they are told will make them happy, is a very bad joke. Hunter-gatherers have more real freedom than we do. Share
Stephen Bell -> SavannahLaMar , 12 Oct 2016 09:07
Well said. One person's loneliness is another's peace and quiet.
stumpedup_32 -> Firstact , 12 Oct 2016 08:12
According to Wiki: 'Neoliberalism refers primarily to the 20th century resurgence of 19th century ideas associated with laissez-faire economic liberalism. These include extensive economic liberalization policies such as privatization, fiscal austerity, deregulation, free trade, and reductions in government spending in order to enhance the role of the private sector in the economy.'
queequeg7 , 12 Oct 2016 07:54
We grow into fear - the stress of exams and their certain meanings; the lower wages, longer hours, and fewer rights at work; the certainty of debt with ever greater mortgages; the terror of benefit cuts combined with rent increases.

If we're forever afraid, we'll cling to whatever life raft presents.

It's a demeaning way to live, but it serves the Market better than having a free, reasonably paid, secure workforce, broadly educated and properly housed, with rights.

CrazyGuy , 12 Oct 2016 07:54
Insightful analysis... George quite rightly pinpoints the isolating effects of modern society and technology and the impact on the quality of our relationships. The obvious question is how can we offset these trends and does the government care enough to do anything about them?

It strikes me that one of the major problems is that [young] people have been left to their own devices in terms of their consumption of messages from Social and Mass online Media - analogous to leaving your kids in front of a video in lieu of a parental care or a babysitter. In traditional society - the messages provided by Society were filtered by family contact and real peer interaction - and a clear picture of the limited value of the media was propogated by teachers and clerics. Now young and older people alike are left to make their own judgments and we cannot be surprised when they extract negative messages around body image, wealth and social expectations and social and sexual norms from these channels. It's inevitable that this will create a boundary free landscape where insecurity, self-loathing and ultimately mental illness will prosper.

I'm not a traditionalist in any way but there has to be a role for teachers and parents in mediating these messages and presenting the context for analysing what is being said in a healthy way. I think this kind of Personal Esteem and Life Skills education should be part of the core curriculum in all schools. Our continued focus on basic academic skills just does not prepare young people for the real world of judgementalism, superficiality and cliques and if anything dealing with these issues are core life skills.

We can't reverse the fact that media and modern society is changing but we can prepare people for the impact which it can have on their lives.

school10 -> CrazyGuy , 12 Oct 2016 08:04
A politician's answer. X is a problem. Someone else, in your comment it will be teachers that have to sort it out. Problems in society are not solved by having a one hour a week class on "self esteem". In fact self-esteem and self-worth comes from the things you do. Taking kids away from their academic/cultural studies reduces this. This is a problem in society. What can society as a whole do to solve it and what are YOU prepared to contribute.
David Ireland -> CrazyGuy , 12 Oct 2016 09:28
Rather difficult to do when their parents are Thatchers children and buy into the whole celebrity, you are what you own lifestyle too....and teachers are far too busy filling out all the paperwork that shows they've met their targets to find time to teach a person centred course on self-esteem to a class of 30 teenagers.
Ian Harris , 12 Oct 2016 07:54
I think we should just continue to be selfish and self-serving, sneering and despising anyone less fortunate than ourselves, look up to and try to emulate the shallow, vacuous lifestyle of the non-entity celebrity, consume the Earth's natural resources whilst poisoning the planet and the people, destroy any non-contributing indigenous peoples and finally set off all our nuclear arsenals in a smug-faced global firework display to demonstrate our high level of intelligence and humanity. Surely, that's what we all want? Who cares? So let's just carry on with business as usual!
BetaRayBill , 12 Oct 2016 08:01
Neoliberalism is the bastard child of globalization which in effect is Americanization. The basic premise is the individual is totally reliant on the corporate world state aided by a process of fear inducing mechanisms, pharmacology is one of the tools. No community no creativity no free thinking. Poded sealed and cling filmed a quasi existence.
Bluecloud , 12 Oct 2016 08:01 Contributor
Having grown up during the Thatcher years, I entirely agree that neoliberalism has divided society by promoting individual self-optimisation at the expensive of everyone else.

What's the solution? Well if neoliberalism is the root cause, we need a systematic change, which is a problem considering there is no alternative right now. We can however, get active in rebuilding communities and I am encouraged by George Monbiot's work here.

My approach is to get out and join organizations working toward system change. 350.org is a good example. Get involved.

SemenC , 12 Oct 2016 08:09
we live in a narcissistic and ego driven world that dehumanises everyone. we have an individual and collective crisis of the soul. it is our false perception of ourselves that creates a disconnection from who we really are that causes loneliness.
rolloverlove -> SemenC , 12 Oct 2016 11:33
I agree. This article explains why it is a perfectly normal reaction to the world we are currently living in. It goes as far as to suggest that if you do not feel depressed at the state of our world there's something wrong with you ;-)
http://upliftconnect.com/mutiny-of-the-soul/
HaveYouFedTheFish , 12 Oct 2016 08:10
Surely there is a more straightforward possible explanation for increasing incidence of "unhapiness"?

Quite simply, a century of gradually increasing general living standards in the West have lifted the masses up Maslows higiene hierarchy of needs, to where the masses now have largely only the unfulfilled self esteem needs that used to be the preserve of a small, middle class minority (rather than the unfulfilled survival, security and social needs of previous generations)

If so - this is good. This is progress. We just need to get them up another rung to self fulfillment (the current concern of the flourishing upper middle classes).

avid Ireland -> HaveYouFedTheFish , 12 Oct 2016 08:59
Maslow's hierarchy of needs was not about material goods. One could be poor and still fulfill all his criteria and be fully realised. You have missed the point entirely.
HaveYouFedTheFish -> David Ireland , 12 Oct 2016 09:25
Error.... Who mentioned material goods? I think you have not so much "missed the point" as "made your own one up" .

And while agreed that you could, in theory, be poor and meet all of your needs (in fact the very point of the analysis is that money, of itself, isn't what people "need") the reality of the structure of a western capitalist society means that a certain level of affluence is almost certainly a prerequisite for meeting most of those needs simply because food and shelter at the bottom end and, say, education and training at the top end of self fulfillment all have to be purchased. Share

HaveYouFedTheFish -> David Ireland , 12 Oct 2016 09:40
Also note that just because a majority of people are now so far up the hierarchy does in no way negate an argument that corporations haven't also noticed this and target advertising appropriately to exploit it (and maybe we need to talk about that)

It just means that it's lazy thinking to presume we are in some way "sliding backwards" socially, rather than needing to just keep pushing through this adversity through to the summit.

I have to admit it does really stick in my craw a bit hearing millenials moan about how they may never get to *own* a really *nice* house while their grandparents are still alive who didn't even get the right to finish school and had to share a bed with their siblings.

Pinkie123 -> Loatheallpoliticians , 12 Oct 2016 08:25
There is no such thing as a free-market society. Your society of 'self-interest' is really a state supported oligarchy. If you really want to live in a society where there is literally no state and a more or less open market try Somalia or a Latin American city run by drug lords - but even then there are hierarchies, state involvement, militias.

What you are arguing for is a system (for that is what it is) that demands everyone compete with one another. It is not free, or liberal, or democratic, or libertarian. It is designed to oppress, control, exploit and degrade human beings. This kind of corporatism in which everyone is supposed to serve the God of the market is, ironically, quite Stalinist. Furthermore, a society in which people are encouraged to be narrowly selfish is just plain uncivilized. Since when have sociopathy and barbarism been something to aspire to?

LevNikolayevich , 12 Oct 2016 08:17
George, you are right, of course. The burning question, however, is not 'Is our current social set-up making us ill' (it certainly is), but 'Is there a healthier alternative?' What form of society would make us less ill? Socialism and egalatarianism, wherever they are tried, tend to lead to their own set of mental-illness-inducing problems, chiefly to do with thwarted opportunity, inability to thrive, and constraints on individual freedom. The sharing, caring society is no more the answer than the brutally individualistic one. You may argue that what is needed is a balance between the two, but that is broadly what we have already. It ain't perfect, but it's a lot better than any of the alternatives.
David Ireland -> LevNikolayevich , 12 Oct 2016 08:50
We certainly do NOT at present have a balance between the two societies...Have you not read the article? Corporations and big business have far too much power and control over our lives and our Gov't. The gov't does not legislate for a real living minimum wage and expects the taxpayer to fund corporations low wage businesses. The Minimum wage and benefit payments are sucked in to ever increasing basic living costs leaving nothing for the human soul aside from more work to keep body and soul together, and all the while the underlying message being pumped at us is that we are failures if we do not have wealth and all the accoutrements that go with it....How does that create a healthy society?
Saul Till , 12 Oct 2016 08:25
Neoliberalism. A simple word but it does a great deal of work for people like Monbiot.

The simple statistical data on quality of life differences between generations is absolutely nowhere to be found in this article, nor are self-reported findings on whether people today are happier, just as happy or less happy than people thirty years ago. In reality quality of life and happiness indices have generally been increasing ever since they were introduced.
It's more difficult to know if things like suicide, depression and mental illness are actually increasing or whether it's more to do with the fact that the number of people who are prepared to report them is increasing: at least some of the rise in their numbers will be down to greater awareness of said mental illness, government campaigns and a decline in associated social stigma.

Either way, what evidence there is here isn't even sufficient to establish that we are going through some vast mental health crisis in the first place, never mind that said crisis is inextricably bound up with 'neoliberalism'.

Furthermore, I'm inherently suspicious of articles that manage to connect every modern ill to the author's own political bugbear, especially if they cherry-pick statistical findings to support their point. I'd be just as, if not more, suspicious if it was a conservative author trying to link the same ills to the decline in Christianity or similar. In fact, this article reminds me very much of the sweeping claims made by right-wingers about the allegedly destructive effects of secularism/atheism/homosexuality/video games/South Park/The Great British Bake Off/etc...

If you're an author and you have a pet theory, and upon researching an article you believe you see a pattern in the evidence that points towards further confirmation of that theory, then you should step back and think about whether said pattern is just a bit too psychologically convenient and ideologically simple to be true. This is why people like Steven Pinker - properly rigorous, scientifically versed writer-researchers - do the work they do in systematically sifting through the sociological and historical data: because your mind is often actively trying to convince you to believe that neoliberalism causes suicide and depression, or, if you're a similarly intellectually lazy right-winger, homosexuality leads to gang violence and the flooding of(bafflingly, overwhelmingly heterosexual) parts of America.

I see no sign that Monbiot is interested in testing his belief in his central claim and as a result this article is essentially worthless except as an example of a certain kind of political rhetoric.

Rapport , 12 Oct 2016 08:38

social isolation is strongly associated with depression, suicide, anxiety, insomnia, fear and the perception of threat .... Dementia, high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, lowered resistance to viruses, even accidents are more common among chronically lonely people.

Loneliness has a comparable impact on physical health to smoking 15 cigarettes a day:

it appears to raise the risk of early death by 26%

Why don't we explore some of the benefits?.. Following the long list of some the diseases, loneliness can inflict on individuals, there must be a surge in demand for all sort of medications; anti-depressants must be topping the list. There is a host many other anti-stress treatments available of which Big Pharma must be carving the lion's share. Examine the micro-economic impact immediately following a split or divorce. There is an instant doubling on the demand for accommodation, instant doubling on the demand for electrical and household items among many other products and services. But the icing on the cake and what is really most critical for Neoliberalism must be this: With the morale barometer hitting the bottom, people will be less likely to think of a better future, and therefore, less likely to protest. In fact, there is nothing left worth protecting.

Your freedom has been curtailed. Your rights are evaporating in front of your eyes. And Best of all, from the authorities' perspective, there is no relationship to defend and there is no family to protect. If you have a job, you want to keep, you must prove your worthiness every day to 'a company'.

[Aug 21, 2017] If you're Canadian, bend over and grab your ankles.

Aug 21, 2017 | www.moonofalabama.org

spudski | Aug 20, 2017 8:25:35 PM | 13

"After years without result, with days to the deadline, Canada's negotiator, Simon Reisman, who Chrystia Freeland recalls in the fond tones Hillary Clinton uses for Henry Kissinger, walked. Why? Because the U.S. wouldn't agree to a "mechanism" that superceded U.S. law. Ottawa was grim. Without a deal, we'd perish. The U.S. negotiator said: Canada needs a "face-saving gesture." President Reagan told his team to get creative.

They did. They didn't replace the U.S.'s unilateral right to impose costs on Canadian stuff with a neutral process to decide what's fair. They created a process to decide only whether the U.S. was accurately enforcing its own rules. That left everything as it was but called it dispute resolution."

http://rabble.ca/columnists/2017/08/minister-freeland-propagates-neoliberal-myth-free-trades-benefits

https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2017/08/19/us-signals-trumps-buy-american-agenda-non-negotiable-in-nafta-talks.html

John Gilberts | Aug 20, 2017 9:30:54 PM | 15

Re Spudski - 13 and the NAFTA reneg: Good thing Chrystia Freeland and Justin Trudeau have the very best advising them...

Taking Summers' Advice Defies Logic
http://www.torontosun.com/2015/04/08/taking-summers-advice-defies-logic

[Jul 19, 2017] A 21st-Century Form of Indentured Servitude Has Already Penetrated Deep into the American Heartland

Notable quotes:
"... By Thom Hartmann. a talk-show host and author of over 25 books in print.. Originally published at AlterNet . ..."
"... Yes. I thank Hartmann for pointing out the latest power grabs by our corporate masters. Still, his ignoring Clinton, Obama and the rest just puts him in with all the other political tribalists, who by their tribalism distract from the main problems – and their ultimate solutions. It's a class war, Thom, The Only War That Matters. ..."
"... I can disagree with you that this here republic is a democracy. ..."
"... Fair enough. The United States is no longer a representative democracy (and it was only that way occasionally in the past); it's currently an oligarchic plutocracy. But if we hope to regain any semblance of a representative democracy, we need to actively participate. There are many reasons why we've degenerated into a plutocracy, and one of those reasons is that people don't participate enough. ..."
"... "And anything that would make somebody not want to move here or start a company here is going to slow down our progress." ..."
"... The vast majority of the labor market is shifting gears to function as the servant class to the very rich. It is a painful transition as recent gains in labor rights are lost. ..."
"... The last 70 years was an aberration. It will not return, short of a major uprising. Given the state's security apparatus that prospect is extremely unlikely. ..."
"... And I do not agree with Thom's Indentured servitude meme; he gives no real examples, just generalities. I would submit that a neo-feudal system is the fact on the ground. The difference; a serf has land (and yes, he's attached to it), a house, and a modicum of freedom; as long as he takes care of his lord. ..."
"... All information is managed; and this includes the unemployment figures; pure fiction by the way. An indentured servant has work; 20 million(?) or more Usians have no work, and little hope of finding meaningful employment. ..."
"... The importance of this can not be underestimated; human dignity is at stake; we're a society brought up on the importance of being "gainfully" employed. Our society is being intentionally crushed to make us serfs in a neo-feudal society. ..."
"... 20+ years ago in Athens, GA, there was a local chicken place. Good food if you like that kind of thing. Come to find the employees who fried the chicken and worked the service counter were forbidden by the language of their "contracts" to quit for a dollar an hour more at another local restaurant. The first company didn't actually have the means to take its former employees to court, but they had the "right" to do so. Bill Clinton, neoliberal to his rotten core, was happily the president, feeling our pain. ..."
"... These days, even janitors are being required to sign non-compete clauses. When Krishna Regmi started work as a personal care aide for a Pittsburgh home health agency in 2015, he was given a stack of paperwork to sign. "They just told us, 'It's just a formality, sign here, here, here,' " he said. Regmi didn't think much of it. That is, until he quit his job nine months later and announced his decision to move to a rival agency -- and his ex-employer sued him for violating a noncompete clause Regmi says he didn't know he had signed. The agreement barred Regmi from working as a personal care aide at another home health agency for two years. ..."
"... In California, North Dakota and Oklahoma, the law says the agreements are unenforceable; judges will just throw them out. In other states, statutes and case law create a set of tests that the agreements must pass. In Oregon, for instance, they can only be enforced if workers have two weeks to consider them before taking a job, or if the worker gets a "bona fide advancement" in return, such as a raise. ..."
"... The author fails to point out that H1-B is also indentured servitude. ..."
"... The merging of corporate power with the state is called "fascism." This was described by both Benito Mussolini and FDR's vice-president Henry Wallace. But the term "fascism" isn't mentioned in the article. Importantly, fascists are sworn enemies of communism and socialism, and this is how they can be identified. ..."
"... The US is definitely getting more feudal. ..."
"... It's about bullying and intimidation. Like most bullies, the companies are cowards who would back down if challenged, because it would make little economic sense to sue minimum-wage ex-employees. They're relying on the employees being too cowed to call their bluff, so they choose to stay even if unhappy. ..."
"... Non-compete clauses sound like something that will create a hostile work force; that may not be so good for these companies. Articles like this make me think of "Space Merchants", an amusing science fiction satire on capitalism by Pohl and Kornbluth. ..."
"... Perhaps there are other options in responding to the types of abuse detailed in this post, in addition to the political action Thom Hartmann called for. One such action might be characterized as "Passive NonParticipation" with your brains, craftsmanship and know-how to the extent possible, yet still retain your job. ..."
Jul 19, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
July 19, 2017 by Lambert Strether By Thom Hartmann. a talk-show host and author of over 25 books in print.. Originally published at AlterNet .

Indentured servitude is back in a big way in the United States, and conservative corporatists want to make sure that labor never, ever again has the power to tell big business how to treat them.

Idaho , for example, recently passed a law that recognizes and rigorously enforces non-compete agreements in employment contracts, which means that if you want to move to a different, more highly paid, or better job, you can instead get wiped out financially by lawsuits and legal costs.

In a way, conservative/corporatists are just completing the circle back to the founding of this country.

Indentured servitude began in a big way in the early 1600s, when the British East India Company was establishing a beachhead in the (newly stolen from the Indians) state of Virginia (named after the "virgin queen" Elizabeth I, who signed the charter of the BEIC creating the first modern corporation in 1601). Jamestown (named after King James, who followed Elizabeth I to the crown) wanted free labor, and the African slave trade wouldn't start to crank up for another decade.

So the company made a deal with impoverished Europeans: Come to work for typically 4-7 years (some were lifetime indentures, although those were less common), legally as the property of the person or company holding your indenture, and we'll pay for your transport across the Atlantic.

It was, at least philosophically, the logical extension of the feudal economic and political system that had ruled Europe for over 1,000 years. The rich have all the rights and own all the property; the serfs are purely exploitable free labor who could be disposed of ( indentured servants , like slaves, were commonly whipped, hanged, imprisoned, or killed when they rebelled or were not sufficiently obedient).

This type of labor system has been the dream of conservative/corporatists, particularly since the "Reagan Revolution" kicked off a major federal war on the right of workers to organize for their own protection from corporate abuse.

Unions represented almost a third of American workers when Reagan came into office (and, since union jobs set local labor standards, for every union job there was typically an identically-compensated non-union job, meaning about two-thirds of America had the benefits and pay associated with union jobs pre-Reagan).

Thanks to Reagan's war on labor, today unions represent about 6 percent of the non-government workforce.

But that wasn't enough for the acolytes of Ayn Rand, Ronald Reagan and Milton Friedman. They didn't just want workers to lose their right to collectively bargain; they wanted employers to functionally own their employees.

Prior to the current Reaganomics era, non-compete agreements were pretty much limited to senior executives and scientists/engineers.

If you were a CEO or an engineer for a giant company, knowing all their processes, secrets and future plans, that knowledge had significant and consequential value!company value worth protecting with a contract that said you couldn't just take that stuff to a competitor without either a massive payment to the left-behind company or a flat-out lawsuit.

But should a guy who digs holes with a shovel or works on a drilling rig be forced to sign a non-compete? What about a person who flips burgers or waits tables in a restaurant? Or the few factory workers we have left, since neoliberal trade policies have moved the jobs of tens of thousands of companies overseas?

Turns out corporations are using non-competes to prevent even these types of employees from moving to newer or better jobs.

America today has the lowest minimum wage in nearly 50 years , adjusted for inflation. As a result, people are often looking for better jobs. But according to the New York Times , about 1 in 5 American workers is now locked in with a non-compete clause in an employment contract.

Before Reaganomics, employers didn't keep their employees by threatening them with lawsuits; instead, they offered them benefits like insurance, paid vacations and decent wages. Large swaths of American workers could raise a family and have a decent retirement with a basic job ranging from manufacturing to construction to service industry work.

My dad was one of them; he worked 40 years in a tool-and-die shop, and the machinist's union made sure he could raise and put through school four boys, could take 2-3 weeks of paid vacation every year, and had full health insurance and a solid retirement until the day he died, which continued with my mom until she died years later. Most boomers (particularly white boomers) can tell you the same story.

That America has been largely destroyed by Reaganomics, and Americans know it. It's why when Donald Trump told voters that the big corporations and banksters were screwing them, they voted for him and his party (not realizing that neither Trump nor the GOP had any intention of doing anything to help working people).

And now the conservatives/corporatists are going in for the kill, for their top goal: the final destruction of any remnant of labor rights in America.

Why would they do this? Two reasons: An impoverished citizenry is a politically impotent citizenry, and in the process of destroying the former middle class, the 1 percent make themselves trillions of dollars richer.

The New York Times has done some great reporting on this problem, with an article last May and a more recent piece about how the state of Idaho has made it nearly impossible for many workers to escape their servitude.

Historically, indentured servants had their food, health care, housing, and clothing provided to them by their "employers." Today's new serfs can hardly afford these basics of life, and when you add in modern necessities like transportation, education and child-care, the American labor landscape is looking more and more like old-fashioned servitude.

Nonetheless, conservatives/corporatists in Congress and state-houses across the nation are working hard to hold down minimum wages. Missouri's Republican legislature just made it illegal for St. Louis to raise their minimum wage to $10/hour, throwing workers back down to $7.70. More preemption laws like this are on the books or on their way.

At the same time, these conservatives/corporatists are working to roll back health care protections for Americans, roll back environmental protections that keep us and our children from being poisoned, and even roll back simple workplace, food and toy safety standards.

The only way these predators will be stopped is by massive political action leading to the rollback of Reaganism/neoliberalism.

And the conservatives/corporatists who largely own the Republican Party know it, which is why they're purging voting lists , fighting to keep in place easily hacked voting machines , and throwing billions of dollars into think tanks, right-wing radio, TV, and online media.

If they succeed, America will revert to a very old form of economy and politics: the one described so well in Charles Dickens' books when Britain had " maximum wage laws " and "Poor Laws" to prevent a strong and politically active middle class from emerging.

Conservatives/corporatists know well that this type of neo-feudalism is actually a very stable political and economic system, and one that's hard to challenge. China has put it into place in large part, and other countries from Turkey to the Philippines to Brazil and Venezuela are falling under the thrall of the merger of corporate and state power.

So many of our individual rights have been stripped from us, so much of America's middle-class progress in the last century has been torn from us , while conservatives wage a brutal and oppressive war on dissenters and people of color under the rubrics of "security," "tough on crime," and the "war on drugs."

As a result, America has 5 percent of the world's population and 25 percent of the world's prisoners , more than any other nation on earth, all while opiate epidemics are ravaging our nation. And what to do about it?

Scientists have proven that the likelihood the desires of the bottom 90 percent of Americans get enacted into law are now equal to statistical " random noise ." Functionally, most of us no longer have any real representation in state or federal legislative bodies: they now exist almost exclusively to serve the very wealthy.

The neo-feudal corporate/conservative elite are both politically and financially committed to replacing the last traces of worker power in America with a modern system of indentured servitude.

Only serious and committed political action can reverse this; we're long past the point where complaining or sitting on the sidelines is an option.

As both Bernie Sanders and Barack Obama regularly said (and I've closed my radio show for 14 years with), "Democracy is not a spectator sport."

griffen , July 19, 2017 at 5:43 am

Wait, no mention of the Clinton administration and those Rubin acolytes? I find that hard to believe, those 8 years in the 90s were significant for today's outsized CEO pay and incentives.

WheresOurTeddy , July 19, 2017 at 5:48 am

First-Term Reagan Baby approves this post. New Deal was under attack before FDR's body got cold. Truman instead of Wallace in the VP slot in '44 was a dark day for humanity.

Remember the Four Freedoms.

Arizona Slim , July 19, 2017 at 8:37 am

The New Deal was under attack from day one.

Disturbed Voter , July 19, 2017 at 6:24 am

To keep doing what doesn't work, is insane. So keep voting for your incumbents! Not!

r.turner , July 19, 2017 at 12:57 pm

Massive political action? Not gonna happen.

BoycottAmazon , July 19, 2017 at 6:40 am

Then there is probation board / court bonds slavery. The slave is captured by the police, then chained to debt and papers first by a bond and then later upon "early" release to a probation officer. The slave has restrictions on his freedom by the probation orders, and must make good the money owed the bondsman and the court ordered fines. The slaves work for the benefit of the political and monied class who don't need to pay much if any tax burden for all their government delivered goods thanks to this system of slavery.

DanB , July 19, 2017 at 6:45 am

Hartmann closes with, "As both Bernie Sanders and Barack Obama regularly 'Democracy is not a spectator sport'." Hello Thom: Sanders has twisted himself with pretzel logic regarding neoliberalism and Obama is a full-blown neoliberal (who you seem to forget admired Ronald Reagan).

Colonel Smithers , July 19, 2017 at 7:17 am

Thank you, Dan.

That sentence also caught my attention and reminded me of John Kennedy junior's George magazine, marketing "politics as a lifestyle choice" and featuring Cindy Crawford on the inaugural cover. Allied to the MSM's obsession with identity politics, as a neo-liberal and neo-con driver of news, one is soon distracted from, if not disgusted with, what's going on. Thank God for (the) Naked Capitalism (community).

Livius Drusus , July 19, 2017 at 7:28 am

Yeah like Obama cared about unions and workers' rights. What happened to EFCA? What happened to the comfy shoes Obama said he would wear to walk with public sector workers in Wisconsin? Obama never fought for workers but he fought like hell for the TPP even going on Jimmy Fallon's show and slow jamming for it.

Obama is like the rest of the neoliberal Democrats. They think that unions and workers' rights are anti-meritocratic. Unions are only good for money and foot soldiers during the election. After the election they are basically told to get bent.

lyman alpha blob , July 19, 2017 at 8:11 am

Yes thanks for mentioning the EFCA. I'm so old I remember when the Democrat party campaigned hard on that – "If you give us back the majority in Congress blah blah blah .". And as soon as they won said majority they never mentioned it again.

Dirk77 , July 19, 2017 at 9:38 am

Yes. I thank Hartmann for pointing out the latest power grabs by our corporate masters. Still, his ignoring Clinton, Obama and the rest just puts him in with all the other political tribalists, who by their tribalism distract from the main problems – and their ultimate solutions. It's a class war, Thom, The Only War That Matters.

Vatch , July 19, 2017 at 12:50 pm

One can disagree with Obama or Sanders about various issues, but democracy is definitely not a spectator sport. People need to vote in both primary and general elections, and not just in the big Presidential years. People need to vote in midterm primary and general elections, as well as the elections in odd numbered years, if their states have such elections.

They also need to actively support good candidates, and communicate their opinions to the politicians who hold office. Periodically, people post comments about the futility of voting, or they say that not voting is a way to send a message. Nonsense! Failure to participate is not a form of participation, it's just a way of tacitly approving of the status quo.

Eureka Springs , July 19, 2017 at 2:01 pm

Well I hope I can disagree with you that this here republic is a democracy. There isn't even a party I can think of which operates democratically.

Supporting a good candidate is asking people to participate in spectator sport-like activity. The people, party members, should determine a platform and the candidate/office holder should be obligated to sell/enact/administrate it.

The rich tell their politicians/parties what to do so should the rest of us.

Vatch , July 19, 2017 at 3:56 pm

" I can disagree with you that this here republic is a democracy. "

Fair enough. The United States is no longer a representative democracy (and it was only that way occasionally in the past); it's currently an oligarchic plutocracy. But if we hope to regain any semblance of a representative democracy, we need to actively participate. There are many reasons why we've degenerated into a plutocracy, and one of those reasons is that people don't participate enough.

"Supporting a good candidate is asking people to participate in spectator sport-like activity"

Sure, if people don't participate in the primary process, all they have to choose from in the general election is a couple of tools of the oligarchs. They also need to do many of the things in the quote from Howard Zinn that Alejandro provided.

Alejandro , July 19, 2017 at 3:11 pm

"If democracy were to be given any meaning, if it were to go beyond the limits of capitalism and nationalism, this would not come, if history were any guide, from the top. It would come through citizen's movements, educating, organizing, agitating, striking, boycotting, demonstrating, threatening those in power with disruption of the stability they needed."–Howard Zinn

AND this:

" Democracy is not a spectator sport."– Lotte Scharfman
http://www.capecodtimes.com/article/20081004/opinion/810040340

David, by the lake , July 19, 2017 at 7:04 am

As others have pointed out already, it is important to note that corporatism is not a uniquely Republican characteristic.

Roger Smith , July 19, 2017 at 7:33 am

Great post, although I think it goes a little out of its way to ignore referencing Democrats as an equal part of the problem, as they too are "conservative/corporatists". Party politics is theater for the plebes, nothing more. These "people" have the same values and desires.

Colonel Smithers , July 19, 2017 at 7:40 am

Thank you to Lambert. Indentured labourers were also used by the French colonial ventures, including Mauritius / Ile Maurice, known as Isle de France when under French rule from 1715 – 1810.

Many of the labourers lived alongside slaves and, later, free men and women. They also intermarried, beginning what are now called Creoles in the Indian Ocean, Caribbean and Louisiana. I am one of their descendants.

In 1936, my great grandfather and others, mainly Creoles, founded the Labour Party in Mauritius. A year later, they organised the first strike, a general, which resulted in four sugar factory workers being shot and killed at Union-Flacq sugar estate. From what my grandmother and her aunt and sister, all of whom used to knit banners and prepare food and drink for the 1 May, and my father report, it's amazing and depressing to see the progress of the mid-1930s to 1970s being rolled back . It's also depressing to hear from so many, let's call them the 10%, criticise trade unions and think that progress was achieved by magic. Plutonium Kun wrote about that recently.

19battlehill , July 19, 2017 at 8:12 am

Thom – I agree with your outrage; however, the truth is that economically the US has been broke since the 1970's and it doesn't matter. Nothing will change until our we have an honest monetary system, and until unearned income is tax properly – the rich have gotten richer and corporations have hijacked our government, whining about it does nothing, this will go on until something breaks and then we will see what happens.

cnchal , July 19, 2017 at 8:14 am

What is going on in Idaho? Why would the state politicians do such a thing? From the Idaho link which is the NY Times, reveals the real reason. Believe it or not.

"We're trying to build the tech ecosystem in Boise," said George Mulhern, chief executive of Cradlepoint, a company here that makes routers and other networking equipment. "And anything that would make somebody not want to move here or start a company here is going to slow down our progress."

Alex LaBeau, president of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry , a trade group that represents many of the state's biggest employers, countered: "This is about companies protecting their assets in a competitive marketplace ."

Alex doesn't get irony. What price discovery? Where are economists on this? Why are they radio silent? To paraphrase Franklin, a market, if you can keep it.

Again and again and again, we see narcissist lawyer/politicians doing stuff that is completely demented, from a normal person's point of view. They will be gone in a few years, but the idiotic laws remain.

Arizona Slim , July 19, 2017 at 8:42 am

Note the use of the word "ecosystem." A bullshhhh tell if there ever was one.

jrs , July 19, 2017 at 10:28 am

Tech is neither here nor there in it, I mean they say being able to leave jobs easily was a tech advantage in California where people could leave to start new businesses etc.. So I'm not sure how tech actually lines up on it, and it's almost not the point, even when it does good it's no substitute for an organization that really represents labor. It might be better in California due to tech pressure, but probably mostly because it's a deep blue state, which tends to make places slightly more tolerable places to live. Well as much as we're going to get when what we really need is socialists in the legislature but nonetheless.

Yes these practices are slavery. Indentured servitude is almost too polite, but I get it's more P.C..

Vatch , July 19, 2017 at 4:54 pm

It's not exactly the same as employee non-competition contracts, but remember the scandal about the Silicon Valley companies that privately agreed not to hire each others' employees? Here's one of the many articles about this:

http://www.businessinsider.com/emails-eric-schmidt-sergey-brin-hiring-apple-2014-3

Tom G. , July 19, 2017 at 12:12 pm

I imagine that a few companies will move to Idaho to take advantage of the favorable legal climate, and will leave even more quickly when they can't recruit the talent they need. Speaking as a Software Engineer, the only impact this new law has is to put Idaho at the top of my list of "places I won't consider for relocation."

MG , July 19, 2017 at 12:41 pm

Mulhern is an idiot then because there is a fair amount of evidence that CA's lax enforcement and very skeptical enforcement of non competes is an important factor on why Silicon Valley has thrived. My sense is that this is purely to protect the status quo among large local employers and nothing to do with growing the local ecosystem or smaller firms. Good luck trying to recruit top-flight talent especially engineers/programmers to Boise with most companies have a vigorous year or 2-year non-competes in place.

cnchal , July 19, 2017 at 8:18 pm

> Mulhern is an idiot . . .

Ultimately, Idahoans will shoot themselves in the asses, never mind assets. I know "ecosystem" is a bullshit tell but it's another word for network effects and the network is short circuited by these laws.

Laws preventing an employee from leaving means there is less mixing of talent, making everyone worse off. That's how we learn, getting in there and doing it, whatever it is, and by moving to another employer you transfer and pick up knowledge and experience.

What makes it farcical, is that Big Co Management never envisions itself in their employees shoes.

Mike G , July 19, 2017 at 1:29 pm

"And anything that would make somebody not want to move here or start a company here is going to slow down our progress."

He's right, but in the wrong way. Idaho's new feudal employment laws ensure I will never move there for a tech job.

RenoDino , July 19, 2017 at 8:29 am

The vast majority of the labor market is shifting gears to function as the servant class to the very rich. It is a painful transition as recent gains in labor rights are lost. Becoming a willing supplicant and attaching oneself to a rich and powerful family is the best way to better one's prospects. The last 70 years was an aberration. It will not return, short of a major uprising. Given the state's security apparatus that prospect is extremely unlikely.

Anti Schmoo , July 19, 2017 at 8:54 am

Not a Thom Hartmann fanboy; he deals in glittering generalities and treats serious subject matter in a deeply superficial manner. Having been a Teamster in warehousing and metal trades; they were corrupt and in management's pocket in those places I worked. I'm a huge proponent for labor and the ideal of labor unions (as imagined by the wobblies); not the reality on the ground today.

And I do not agree with Thom's Indentured servitude meme; he gives no real examples, just generalities. I would submit that a neo-feudal system is the fact on the ground. The difference; a serf has land (and yes, he's attached to it), a house, and a modicum of freedom; as long as he takes care of his lord.

Usian's are now, in fact, prisoners of war. Living in a broken system where voting no longer counts; the very back bone of a democratic society. The "two" parties have merged into one entity looking very much like the ouroboros (a snake eating its tail).

All information is managed; and this includes the unemployment figures; pure fiction by the way. An indentured servant has work; 20 million(?) or more Usians have no work, and little hope of finding meaningful employment.

The importance of this can not be underestimated; human dignity is at stake; we're a society brought up on the importance of being "gainfully" employed. Our society is being intentionally crushed to make us serfs in a neo-feudal society.

RickM , July 19, 2017 at 8:56 am

20+ years ago in Athens, GA, there was a local chicken place. Good food if you like that kind of thing. Come to find the employees who fried the chicken and worked the service counter were forbidden by the language of their "contracts" to quit for a dollar an hour more at another local restaurant. The first company didn't actually have the means to take its former employees to court, but they had the "right" to do so. Bill Clinton, neoliberal to his rotten core, was happily the president, feeling our pain. And his own, courtesy of Newt Gingrich et al.

Colonel Smithers , July 19, 2017 at 9:05 am

Thank you, Rick. It was not just our pain that Clinton and Nootie were feeling. Speaking of Mr Bill, his family's role in Haiti, amongst other places reduced to penury, should earn them a place in infamy.

oaf , July 19, 2017 at 9:39 am

"we're long past the point where complaining or sitting on the sidelines is an option."

but marches and *Occupy*s (sp?) FEEL SO GOOD!!! like we are ACTUALLY MAKING A DIFFERENCE!

jrs , July 19, 2017 at 10:41 am

he didn't suggest that, maybe that's what he meant, maybe somewhere else in his communications he says that, but it's not in the article.

Yes a problem is people don't know where or even how to apply any sort of pressure to change things

But one plus of these things being somewhat decided on the state level, is it is more obvious how to go about change there than with the Fed gov where things seem almost hopeless, try to elect people who stand against these policies for instance, easier done some places than others of course, but

jawbon , July 19, 2017 at 11:30 am

Occupy did make a difference, at least in how the public paying attention mostly to broadcast news and the "important" newspapers were concerned. Young people, especially, began to realize what they were up against in this corporatized economy where all the power went to the wealthy.

I'll bet a lot of Occupiers actually began to understand just what Neoliberalism meant!

And the amount of planning and effort the Obama WH spent organizing the Federal agencies and state/local governments to shut down the Occupy encampments indicated to me just how much they feared the effects of Occupy.

different clue , July 19, 2017 at 8:02 pm

Well . . . Occupy was clearly making enough of a difference that the Obama Administration worked with the 18 Democratic Party Mayors of 18 different cities to stamp it out with heavy police stompout presence. The Zucotti clearout in NYC, for example, was just exactly the way Obama liked it done.

Enquiring Mind , July 19, 2017 at 10:03 am

People subject to politicians should begin a coordinated effort to use a common approach to get the truth. Demand transparency, with all campaign contributions, lobbyist contacts, voting records, committee memberships and such all in one place. Use that information to provide a score to show the degree of voter representation. Not sure how that would work, just brainstorming to try some new approach as current ones have failed.

Vatch , July 19, 2017 at 10:05 am

A couple of months ago, this article was published:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2017/05/27/noncompete-clauses-jobs-workplace/348384001/

These days, even janitors are being required to sign non-compete clauses. When Krishna Regmi started work as a personal care aide for a Pittsburgh home health agency in 2015, he was given a stack of paperwork to sign. "They just told us, 'It's just a formality, sign here, here, here,' " he said. Regmi didn't think much of it. That is, until he quit his job nine months later and announced his decision to move to a rival agency -- and his ex-employer sued him for violating a noncompete clause Regmi says he didn't know he had signed. The agreement barred Regmi from working as a personal care aide at another home health agency for two years.

. . . . .

Bills in Maine, Maryland and Massachusetts would restrict noncompete agreements that involve low-wage employees; New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat, is pushing for the same change in his state. Proposals in Massachusetts and Washington would also restrict the agreements for other types of workers, such as temporary employees and independent contractors.

Such bills face an uphill struggle, however, often because of stiff opposition from business. "Non-compete agreements are essential to the growth and viability of businesses by protecting trade secrets and promoting business development," the Maryland Chamber of Commerce said in written testimony opposing a bill Carr introduced that would have voided agreements signed by workers who earn less than $15 an hour. The bill passed the House in February but died in the Senate.
. . . . . .

Some good news:

In California, North Dakota and Oklahoma, the law says the agreements are unenforceable; judges will just throw them out. In other states, statutes and case law create a set of tests that the agreements must pass. In Oregon, for instance, they can only be enforced if workers have two weeks to consider them before taking a job, or if the worker gets a "bona fide advancement" in return, such as a raise.

States have tightened up enforcement criteria in recent years, propelled by news reports, Starr's research and encouragement from the Obama White House. In addition to Illinois' law banning noncompete agreements for low-wage workers, last year Utah passed a law that voided agreements that restricted workers for more than a year; Rhode Island invalidated them for physicians; and Connecticut limited how long and in what geographic area physicians can be bound.

Yet Starr's survey research suggests that tweaking the criteria may have a limited effect on how often the agreements are signed. In California, where noncompete agreements can't be enforced, 19 percent of workers have signed one, he said. In Florida, where the agreements are easily enforced, the share is the same: 19 percent.

Softie , July 19, 2017 at 10:30 am

The author fails to point out that H1-B is also indentured servitude.

Jacob , July 19, 2017 at 11:00 am

The merging of corporate power with the state is called "fascism." This was described by both Benito Mussolini and FDR's vice-president Henry Wallace. But the term "fascism" isn't mentioned in the article. Importantly, fascists are sworn enemies of communism and socialism, and this is how they can be identified.

gepay , July 19, 2017 at 11:23 am

NC is one of the few blogs where I read the comments.- this was a good article until the wtf comment at the end. Great Britain in an 1833 Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom abolished slavery throughout the British Empire (with the exceptions "of the Territories in the Possession of the East India Company" (how is that not surprising), Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, and Saint Helena; the exceptions were eliminated in 1843). "Who ya gonna get to do the dirty work when all the slaves are free?" Indentured servants from India – the biggest ethnic group in British Guiana (now Guyana) are from India Indians. The US is definitely getting more feudal.

d , July 19, 2017 at 12:58 pm

while i dont disagree thats it not happening, it just seems extremely short sighted, as without a large growing middle class, corporations are dooming them selves to lower income (profits) in the long term. but then no one can really accuse corporations of having a long term view

different clue , July 19, 2017 at 8:09 pm

But perhaps the rich people hiding behind the corporate veil are motivated by class sadism, not class greed. Perhaps they are ready to lose half what they have in order to destroy both halves of what we have.

Benedict@Large , July 19, 2017 at 1:30 pm

I don't see the problem. You're getting somewhere around minimum wage, and so a lawyer wouldn't take you even if you knew how to find one suitable, which you don't.

So you look at your boss and say, "Sue me." What's the gut to do? Hire a lawyer? Use one on staff? This is a civil case, so what damages is he claiming?

Then how's the judge going to look on this. Any judge I've known would be pissed livid to get stuck with a bullcrap case like this. Imagine when every judge is looking at his docket filled with this nonsense. How long before he starts slapping your boss with contempt?

We're sitting around complaining how bad our bosses are, bet we have another, must worse problem. Employees have turned to wimps over their boss's every utterance. Here's a tip. Probably a half and more of whatever is in you employment "contract" (it probably doesn't even qualify legally as one) is either illegal or unenforceable. Pretend it isn't there.

And above all, STOP rolling over to these jerks. If your biggest problem is a non-compete on a minimum wage contract, your world has already fallen apart. If your bosses problem is that he thinks he needs them, his world is about to.

Mike G , July 19, 2017 at 5:27 pm

It's about bullying and intimidation. Like most bullies, the companies are cowards who would back down if challenged, because it would make little economic sense to sue minimum-wage ex-employees. They're relying on the employees being too cowed to call their bluff, so they choose to stay even if unhappy.

Edward , July 19, 2017 at 2:31 pm

Non-compete clauses sound like something that will create a hostile work force; that may not be so good for these companies. Articles like this make me think of "Space Merchants", an amusing science fiction satire on capitalism by Pohl and Kornbluth.

Swamp Yankee , July 19, 2017 at 2:49 pm

The East India Company did not establish a foothold in Virginia! That was the Virginia Company! This basic factual error mars an article that otherwise makes a very good point.

Swamp Yankee , July 19, 2017 at 2:58 pm

Nor was Virginia a State at the time -- a colony until the Revolution. These are critical distinctions.

This is the kind of thing that drives history teachers crazy.

Chauncey Gardiner , July 19, 2017 at 7:28 pm

Perhaps there are other options in responding to the types of abuse detailed in this post, in addition to the political action Thom Hartmann called for. One such action might be characterized as "Passive NonParticipation" with your brains, craftsmanship and know-how to the extent possible, yet still retain your job.

In the waning years of the Soviet Union, the mantra was "They pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work." I suspect many American workers have already figured out the minimum amount of work necessary to retain their jobs and incomes, hence the recent decline in one of the "elite's" most cherished metrics, "productivity" (besides wealth concentration, of course).

[Jul 01, 2017] The Slogan Globalization Equals Growth Is Wrong by Daniel Gros

Notable quotes:
"... Trade liberalisation has been a significant driver of globalization over the past half century. However, global trade has slowed down in recent years. This column argues that globalization can also be driven by higher commodity prices can also drive, as commodities constitute a large fraction of global trade. This is reflected in trade volumes and commodity prices, which increased until around 2014 but have fallen since. However, commodity price-driven globalization implies lower living standards in advanced countries, as the higher commodity prices diminish the purchasing power of workers. ..."
"... See original post for references ..."
"... "His conclusions are compelling and disturbing: that developed countries are attempting to 'kick away the ladder' with which they have climbed to the top, thereby preventing developing counties from adopting policies and institutions that they themselves have used." ..."
Jun 30, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
By Daniel Gros, Director of the Centre for European Policy Studies, Brussels. Originally published at VoxEU

Trade liberalisation has been a significant driver of globalization over the past half century. However, global trade has slowed down in recent years. This column argues that globalization can also be driven by higher commodity prices can also drive, as commodities constitute a large fraction of global trade. This is reflected in trade volumes and commodity prices, which increased until around 2014 but have fallen since. However, commodity price-driven globalization implies lower living standards in advanced countries, as the higher commodity prices diminish the purchasing power of workers.

Trade and international financial transactions have grown massively in recent decades. This phenomenon, also called globalization, is often described as a 'mega-trend'. Business and political leaders never tire of repeating that 'globalization' is the future, that it delivers more jobs and higher incomes. However, more recently globalization seems to be in retreat-in 2015 trade actually fell, both in absolute terms and relative to GDP. Does this mean globalization has gone into reverse (OECD 2016, IMF 2015, 2016)?

In this column, I argue that the slogan 'globalization equals growth' is wrong. There is no general economic theorem that links more trade to growth and other economic benefits. Economic theory implies only that, under most circumstances, lower trade barriers will lead to more trade and more jobs. The simplification, that more trade is thus always beneficial, is not warranted. If trade increases for reasons other than the lowering of trade barriers, it is far from clear that this will benefit everybody.

The distinction between globalization driven by lower trade barriers and increases in trade driven by other factors is not just an academic point. It is the key to understanding why globalization has become so unpopular in most advanced countries, and why the recent slowdown in trade is not something to worry about.

What Drove 'Hyper-Globalization'?

The massive increase in trade flows over the last two decades has always been difficult to explain with 'classic' causes, such as trade liberalisation lowering trade costs. Tariffs (and other trade barriers) had of course been reduced radically in several stages in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. However, by the late 1990s the remaining tariffs were already rather low; and many non-tariff barriers (such as the Multi Fibre Arrangement, which had seriously limited trade in textiles) had also been eliminated. 1

Transport costs of course fell with containerisation, but this improvement had yielded most of its benefits by the late 1990s. Estimates of the overall cost of trade based on the ratio of CIF prices (which incorporate transport costs) and FoB prices (which do not) actually suggest that transport costs slightly increased over the last 20 years; before1995 they had fallen almost continuously (Baldwin and Taglioni 2004). Figure 1 shows that transport costs have fallen again very recently, but that this coincided with a slowdown of trade – the opposite of what one would expect.

Figure 1 Word transport costs

[Imports(CIF)/Exports(FoB]-1

How can one reconcile 'hyper-globalization' (Subramanian and Kessler 2013) with stagnating tariffs and transport costs? Baldwin (2017) provides one answer. He argues that the key driver of globalization today is the falling price of 'transporting' ideas, as opposed to the cost of moving goods.

This contribution provides an additional, maybe complementary, explanation-higher oil (and other commodity) prices increase both trade volumes and transport costs for goods, but not ideas. The impact of oil prices on transport costs is clear-fuel is an important element of overall transport costs. A sharp increase in fuel prices can more than outweigh, at least in the short to medium run, the costs savings due to containerisation. (Cosar and Demir 2017 also argue that most of the cost savings from the latter have been realised.)

But the key point is that higher commodity prices also automatically create more trade, because commodities constitute a large fraction of global trade.

An Illustrative Example

Assume that one tonne of steel and ten barrels of oil are needed to produce one car. In 2002-03, that bundle of raw materials was worth around $800, or about 5% of the value of a car priced at $16,000. This implies that during the early 2000s, industrialised countries had to export five cars for imports of 100 bundles of these raw materials. By 2012–13, the value of the raw materials needed for one car increased to about $2,000, now representing about 10% of the cost of a car (prices of cars had gone up much less). Industrialised countries thus had to export 10 cars, double the previous quantity, for the same amount of raw material imports.

This example shows that the value of trade would double if commodity prices double. There is thus a direct link between the growth of trade and commodity prices. Increasing commodity prices lead to more trade (globalization), whereas falling commodity prices have the opposite effect.

An immediate objection to this example is that it looks at the value of trade, but one also finds that over the last decades the growth of trade in volume has exceeded that of the volume of real growth. However, this excess growth in trade volume also follows in this example-an industrialised country would need to double its exports in volume just to pay for an unchanged volume of raw material imports.

Since food, fuels, and raw materials make up about a quarter of global trade, the huge price movements in raw materials, especially energy, over the last few decades, must have had a big impact on aggregate trade figures. The run up in commodity, and especially crude oil, prices until about 2014 drove hyper-globalization, and the fall in prices since then has now reduced globalization. There is thus little need to look for other explanations for the recent slowdown in trade.

Figure 2 illustrates this phenomenon with three lines, each of which show three variants of the global trade/GDP ratio. The top-most line is just the ratio of total global exports to global GDP. It is the one that shows most globalization-trade accounted for a little over 15% of GDP in 1995, but 25% at the peak in 2007 (an increase of almost 10 percentage points).

The middle line shows global exports of manufacturing goods as a percentage of GDP. The difference to the first line is, of course, trade in raw materials, which increased in value along with their prices, as argued above. Trade in manufacturing goods shows much less globalization, having increased from only 13% to 17.5% of global GDP.

The lowest line takes into account the fact that higher raw material prices also means that industrialised countries have to export more manufacturing goods to pay for their more expensive raw material imports. This last line, which could be called 'manufacturing trade net of payment for raw materials' shows even less globalization, with the ratio relative to GDP going from 10.5% to 13.6% of global GDP (an increase of only 3 percentage points, one third of the headline increase mentioned above).

Figure 2 World trade as a percentage of GDP

Source : Own calculations based on OECD and WTO data.

This decomposition of trade flows suggests that there has indeed been some globalization, but it has been much less strong than the hyper-globalization one sees in the aggregate data. Moreover, the recent fall in commodity prices can fully explain the fall in trade since 2014 with trade in 'net manufacturing' showing no 'de-globalization'.

But back during the heyday of hyper-globalization, no responsible politician dared to explain that globalization driven by higher commodity prices would have different implications (for advanced economies) than globalization driven by trade liberalisation-this new globalization meant lower living standards in advanced countries as higher commodity prices diminished the purchasing power for OECD workers. The widespread popular disenchantment with globalization can thus be easily explained-workers in Europe and the US were told that more trade would make everybody better off. But in reality there was no 'surplus' to be distributed, and workers just noticed a decline in their living standards. 2

But hype and exaggeration are sure ways to bring a valid cause into disrepute. This is what has happened to globalization. The decades of gradual liberalisation of trade and capital flows that followed post-war reconstruction fostered a resumption of global trade that was hugely beneficial. However, at exactly the point when economic analysis would suggest that these gains from trading more freely were largely exhausted, actual trade accelerated. This surge in trade was driven largely by higher commodity prices and could not deliver higher living standards for workers in industrialised countries.

A popular backlash was thus unavoidable and Donald Trump became its standard bearer. The political consequences in Europe are also visible-the Brexit referendum, the difficulties in ratifying the free trade agreement between the EU and Canada (CETA) and the stand-still in the negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and the US are all expressions of this disenchantment with globalization.

What Could Be Done to Avoid Throwing the Baby Out With the Bath Water?

A first step would be to stop the overselling. CETA and TTIP would be useful to have, but the economic benefits can only be of second order importance (and the potential damage feared by some as well). A second step would be to look where there are still trade barriers whose removal could bring significant welfare benefits. They are likely to be found in emerging markets, whose tariffs and non-tariff barriers are still several times higher than those of the EU or the US. European trade policy should thus concentrate on free trade deals with India or China, rather than the US.

See original post for references

0 0 5 1 0 This entry was posted in Commodities , Free markets and their discontents , Globalization , Guest Post , Income disparity , Politics , The destruction of the middle class , The dismal science , TPP on June 30, 2017 by Yves Smith . Subscribe to Post Comments 19 comments justanotherprogressive , June 30, 2017 at 10:38 am

Silly boy! What makes you think that Globalization was ever meant to grow "economies"? It was never more than a means for mega-corporations to improve their bottom lines just another form of arbitrage .

ChrisAtRU , June 30, 2017 at 11:43 am

Globalization and the "free trade" it espoused were – in the words of economist Ha-Joon Chang – tantamount to ladder-kicking :

"His conclusions are compelling and disturbing: that developed countries are attempting to 'kick away the ladder' with which they have climbed to the top, thereby preventing developing counties from adopting policies and institutions that they themselves have used."

sgt_doom , June 30, 2017 at 2:29 pm

What Drove 'Hyper-Globalization'?

What a silly question!

Inflating financial assets - theirs (the super-rich), not ours!

RBHoughton , June 30, 2017 at 9:06 pm

The inclusion of the fatuous 'trade in money' that our agreements contain suggests you are right. Ripping-off by agreement might be the new game.

CD , June 30, 2017 at 11:22 am

Yes, it's surprising how most politicians and economists have missed this. Globalization was always meant to grow corporate revenue in their home saturated markets. Their effects on their home countries' welfare or their home country employees was not important.

Trump voters showed us otherwise.

Also, mergers are not about scale economies or some market benefits. Mergers and acquisitions are about letting top execs ask for higher benefits.

It's amazing that few see thru this persiflage.

JTMcPhee , June 30, 2017 at 1:56 pm

Which corporations have "home countries?" Any more than "our" empire is any respecter of silly old national boundaries. Nations were and are just springboards for "commercial interests " https://www.librarything.com/work/73551 They're the substrates that made and make "legal" the giant falsehoods and frauds that are corporate persons

Massinissa , June 30, 2017 at 3:03 pm

Theres a reason corporations are called 'multinationals'. They don't have actual 'home countries'.

Enquiring Mind , June 30, 2017 at 7:06 pm

Once upon a time, we older people learned about MNCs and their penchant for playing countries off against one another. That seems so quaint in retrospect, given the more brazen behaviors on offer. More recently, families give up citizenship to save some wealth and to hide some wealth. To what kind of world are they running? When loyalty, duty and character become passé, then the replacement characteristics are cause for alarm and disgust.

CD , June 30, 2017 at 5:25 pm

My overall takeway - Decisions by large corporations have huge consequences for the locals, especially if their jobs swim overseas. Locals' feelings at some point, maybe years later, become their votes and political opinions.

So if this is correct, Trump is the payback, greatly delayed. B Clinton's and Obama's politics changed our economy and that in turn became the new politics.

So economics has become politics, and not for the better.

Steven , June 30, 2017 at 11:35 am

The widespread popular disenchantment with globalization can thus be easily explained-workers in Europe and the US were told that more trade would make everybody better off. But in reality there was no 'surplus' to be distributed, and workers just noticed a decline in their living standards.2

There was a surplus alright. But even if promised to "everybody" it didn't go and wasn't intended to go – to "everybody".

Workers without jobs not only can not enjoy the fruits of globalization (AKA lower prices by employing the 'slave labor' of developing nations and raping and pillaging their environment). Western workers can not pay into their (unlocked by resident politicians and oligarchs) 'Social Security lock boxes'.

Left in Wisconsin , June 30, 2017 at 12:13 pm

I don't get a couple of things said in this post:

1. How come the huge run-up in commodities didn't translate to higher (measured) inflation? The author even makes the point that car prices went up much less than steel and oil. (Also, the doubling of oil and/or steel prices seems strange to me, as I thought neither had seen a big run-up in this period.) Granted problems with measured inflation but clearly the bigger problem with working class real wage growth was wage pressure, not inflation pressure.

2. The author seems to presume that trade must balance within countries: exports of cars must double to pay for higher commodities costs. That certainly does not explain car exports from the US (not to mention the lack of balanced trade). And I don't think it explains car exports from Europe or Asia either, unless the argument is that higher commodities costs affected exchange rates, lowering them for car exporters compared to commodities exporters. Nor would it seem to explain Chinese exports, again unless there is some argument as to why China "needs" (in an economic, not political, sense) to run a particular level of massive trade surplus.

3. The author completely ignores China's accession to the WTO in 2000, which some recent studies have suggested was the primary driver for dramatic increases in China exports to US from that point.

PKMKII , June 30, 2017 at 2:15 pm

The lack of car inflation may be explained by the increase in the same period in auto loan debt . If you can make a hefty profit off the loan interest and other service fees, they you don't need to increase the base car price. There may even be a motivation to keep the prices low, as the cheap sticker price gets the customers in the door, and it's not until they've gone through the ringer with the salesman and loan guy that they realized they've been duped into paying way more than advertised.

sgt_doom , June 30, 2017 at 2:32 pm

1. By globalizing wages downwards.

Jeremy Grimm , June 30, 2017 at 4:53 pm

There are a lot of things said in this post that I don't get. [And is this guy really Director of the Centre for European Policy Studies, Brussels? That's scary!]

This author explicitly equates trade with globalization and implicitly equates growth with increases in GDP figures. I believe the term "globalization" covers much more than trade. I believe it also includes the deliberate movement of production out of the U.S. [or out of Europe] to far-away lands with cheaper labor and fewer annoying regulations. I believe it also includes an intent to weaken labor and nation states.

I doubt that figures for GDP provide an adequate measure for growth and similarly doubt that trade measured in terms of a currency provides an adequate measure for trade. Although I suppose this way of measuring trade might support the assertion:

"But the key point is that higher commodity prices also automatically create more trade, because commodities constitute a large fraction of global trade."

I don't know what that assertion really means given my bias against the measures this author uses. In turn, this assertion leads to another odd assertion:

"This example shows that the value of trade would double if commodity prices double. There is thus a direct link between the growth of trade and commodity prices. Increasing commodity prices lead to more trade (globalization), whereas falling commodity prices have the opposite effect."

So using the authors terminology I have trouble with the assertion: "Globalization equals growth" is wrong. If globalization means bigger trade numbers and growth means bigger GDP numbers and if trade is a positive additive component of growth the assertion that globalization equals growth - more clearly - that globalization increases growth seems a tautology. The author's slight of hand correcting for "higher raw material prices" in the trade figures does not convince me of the title assertion - and by this point in the argument the assertion - whether true or false - is devoid of meaning for me.

As Thuto notes in a comment below the author assumes globalization driven by trade liberalization is "somehow better" - I would say the author tacitly assumes globalization driven by trade liberalization does equal growth - contribute to "true" growth. This leads to the author's conclusion that CETA and TTIP might have some marginal benefits and might cause some marginal potential damage neatly avoiding the non-trade issues in those deals - like the ISDS "investor-state dispute settlement" and various intellectual property enhancements contained in the TTP. Given that globalization by trade liberalization does grow GDP and assuming that growing GDP is a good thing for all parties the author can conclude that "European trade policy should thus concentrate on free trade deals with India or China, rather than the US."

We know how globalization's free trade deals with India or China benefited the US. Does this author really desire similar benefits for Europe?

RBHoughton , June 30, 2017 at 9:10 pm

I'm with you Leftie. How inflation hardly appears in our hugely inflated western economies is one of the greatest magic tricks. We all know food and clothing has got more expensive but "inflation?" – not a hint.

I am guessing its like the paper gold market. We have the means to mis-price everything.

nonsense factory , June 30, 2017 at 12:21 pm

Conditions under which trade between nation-states is beneficial to both partners:
(1) Each nation exports goods which it has a competitive advantage in producing. Agricultural products are the classic example.
(2) The profits from sale of such goods remain in the country of origin. Transfer of profits out of the country of origin mean that the country is just a plantation run by absentee landlords.
(3) Trade between the nation-states must be balanced on both sides; i.e. exports and imports are on the same scale.
(4) Both nation-states must have a condition of full employment.
(Ricardo 1817)
Only when conditions 2-4 are met will condition 1, the ideal situation, be realized. Now, globalization of capital flows across nation-state borders (the key element of neoliberalism, or neocolonialism) defeats this. Instead of trade between independent nation-states, what we have is the imperial system – backed up by a $600 billion yearly military budget that is used to attack any entities that refuse to go along with the program, by covert means such as destablization and ultimately by military assault (as long as the target does not possess nuclear weapons, that is).

Furthermore, late 19th-century and 20th century economists have created a set of false assumptions and theorems with no basis in reality to justify this kind of thing. Notions like 'utility', 'externalities', and 'GDP' are just sloppy propaganda games; there are no 'general theorems' in economics that have any solid basis in reality – the entire game of modern academic economic theory is nothing but smoke and mirrors, whose primary function (as with Soviet economic theory and communism) is to promote the ideology of investment capitalism, protecting shareholder interests in the corporate system. If economists want to put their discipline on a sound physical and mathematical basis, they should start by studying a real science like ecology in natural science departments. My own opinion is that anything written by academic economists from the latter half of the 19th century to the present can be discarded with no loss at all.

Instead, read an ecologist like Hutchinson, and think about how those real concepts (in which there are no 'externalities') would apply to a study of human economic activity.

sunny 129 , June 30, 2017 at 1:31 pm

Globalization favored Mega Corporations and Multi-Nationals (+ their corporate share holders, lenders) over the rest of the society including labor b/c global labor wage arbitrage!

Living standards went down for working blue collar ( and some white collar) in the West. There was some 'patchy' RELATIVE increase in living standards of their middle class in some of the Countries, like India!

Sad reality:
The CAPITAL is mobile but the LABOR is NOT!

Thuto , June 30, 2017 at 2:11 pm

The author seems to be arguing that globalization driven by trade liberalization is somehow better and more palatable than globalisation driven by higher commodity prices. Yet history has demonstrated that trade liberalization leads sooner or later to the transfer of manufacturing capacity from high to low income countries, wiping out entire swathes of jobs in said high income countries. So the argument that globalization driven by trade liberalization benefits workers in rich countries is shaky at best and demonstrably false at worst

JTMcPhee , June 30, 2017 at 2:25 pm

So much understanding of "what's wrong" (from the mopes' standpoint, of course) and so little in the way of prescriptions for "what is to be done" about conditions as described Kind of like Tomgram, from the more military- and foreign-adventurism corner of the blogspace

One might guess that we thinking people, with our perceptions and little debates about syntax and the elements of political economy and composition skills, are maybe just tolerated by the Blob, because we don't pose much of a challenge to oligarchy and hegemony And we vent off righteous steam that might get up too much of a head, and also reinforce, via our perceptions of the massiveness of "the problem," the futility of resistance to something so yuuuuge, all interlocking directorates and self-licking incentives Small mice can sometimes avoid being crushed by the elephants' feet, if they are quick and inoffensive.

One wonders where the notion that elephants fear mice, a stock item in comedy, came from

[Jun 28, 2017] How Managerialsm- Generic Management Damaged the American Red Cross naked capitalism

Notable quotes:
"... some one ought to do a study of/ a book on generic management ..."
"... I'm seeing a parallel to the Obama strategy of branding/looting. Corporate and government decay seem to be mirroring each other, and this new obsession among the intelligentsia with messaging over substance is a major component of that. ..."
"... This branding/looting/communications has been building since at least 1977 when undergraduate communication majors multiplied. It accelerated by 1982 when every corporate finance and law professor taught short term quarterly profit was the only responsibility of management. The combination could only lead to the current 'propaganda as responsible management' philosophy. ..."
Jun 28, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
ng , December 17, 2015 at 5:08 am

some one ought to do a study of/ a book on generic management. it goes back a long way. i first saw it in 1973 where i was working in boomingdale's food department. almost all the managers in the store had worked their way up fom being staff members. in 1973 the board hired a young impressive- looking harvard mba to oversee about a fifth of the departments. he was an energetic man who spent one whole day throwing boxes around in the foof department stockroom to "show the stockmen how to be more productive." after two years his section of the store was the only one to lose money, but by then he had been hired by neiman marcus. in an even higher position.
the managerial class, useless and self-rewarding, is what every corrupt society needs.- endless administrators in the college system, inventing tests for the teachers. red cross, whatever. the destruction of substance and brains and heart. its replacement with ignorance and cluelessness. what a society we're (not) building!

Ulysses , December 17, 2015 at 7:36 am

"The managerial class, useless and self-rewarding, is what every corrupt society needs."

The eloi will continue to become ever more useless, putting insane pressures on the few remaining morlocks they allow to do all the work. Will robots save us? Not very likely, since they will be used to further enrich the parasites above all.

Barry , December 18, 2015 at 11:57 am

You might want to look up Henry Mintzberg, particularly Managers Not MBAs (2004).

Clive , December 17, 2015 at 5:35 am

The BBC is another good example of how managerialism has wrecked a not-for-profit corporation. Until McKinsey infiltrated the place, the BBC didn't really have a "brand" to speak of; if it considered its corporate identity at all, it was only in terms of how its output of programming conveyed what it was supposed to be about as an organisation.

Then, it brought in the brand consultants to develop an image of what it thought it should be. Nothing necessarily wrong with that. What caused the rot to set in was when the brand image started to define the programming output. Was, the brand managers asked the producers and directors, this-or-that programme compliant with the brand guidelines?

If the BBC's brand was not merely delivering communications which are honest and have integrity but also now need to be "simple to understand", "completely neutral at all times" or "a balance of positive as well as negative content" then you end up, as we largely have, with a lot of cosy-consensus mediocrity and an institution which only serves its own internal vested interests.

Lexington , December 17, 2015 at 5:38 am

some one ought to do a study of/ a book on generic management

Managerialism: A Critique of an Ideology

You're welcome ;)

jgordon , December 17, 2015 at 7:55 am

I'm seeing a parallel to the Obama strategy of branding/looting. Corporate and government decay seem to be mirroring each other, and this new obsession among the intelligentsia with messaging over substance is a major component of that.

I'd say that this is also the reason it's impossible to get the government in order. The corporate media is in bed with the corporate state, because patriotism, and most Americans are simply too burned-out or drug-addled to question anything. And if people do sense something is wrong and want a drastic change–well then there's Trump.

Sam Adams , December 17, 2015 at 8:54 am

This branding/looting/communications has been building since at least 1977 when undergraduate communication majors multiplied. It accelerated by 1982 when every corporate finance and law professor taught short term quarterly profit was the only responsibility of management. The combination could only lead to the current 'propaganda as responsible management' philosophy.

Procopius , December 18, 2015 at 9:54 am

I don't know when the turning point was, but it had something to do with neoliberalism becoming the "Washington Consensus" and the dogma that everything had to be "run like a business" became universally accepted. I would guess about the Carter administration.

mad as hell. , December 17, 2015 at 9:05 am

Wow -- It's an amazing story yet I should not be surprised. It's become a common theme throughout American society. We have the usual suspects, greedy, self centered individuals looking out for their interests, using the established modus operandi. Cut, slash and burn as many systems as possible while painting over the truth with colorful, truth distorting logic while enriching your self on the way.

An organization founded by Clara Barton in the 1880″s that has evolved into such a grab bag of I want my share thinking is an American tragedy of epic proportions.

petal , December 17, 2015 at 9:06 am

Funny timing. Just yesterday I was passed on the road in my area of NH by a Red Cross Hummer. It as white all over and the doors emblazoned with the red cross. In tiny print toward the back it said "donated by GM". Made me sick. Got me thinking about all of the mismanagement going back decades.

Melody , December 17, 2015 at 9:24 am

Personally, I'll throw any charitable discretionary money I might have into the gutter before I'd send a cent to the Red Cross. Took three strikes–but I'm done with them.
My father-in-law served in the SeaBees during WWII and initially influenced my dislike for the organization. He reported how Red Cross care packages were "SOLD" rather than distributed to intended service personnel. [Strike one!]

Much later the Twin Towers came down and I felt compelled to donate. When several weeks later I heard officials talk about the amount of contributions received, and asked us to dig deeper–they also revealed that they were setting aside (toward future disasters) at least half of donated dollars. (Whether this was true I don't know–but the fact that it made it into public discussion was not a skillful marketing ploy.) [Strike two!]

I then heard horror stories from local volunteers here on the (unaffected) part of the gulf coast who dropped what they were doing to offer help and support to Hurricane Katrina victims in myriad ways A veterinary friend–after describing the absolute chaos he encountered in the area–reported that late one night, after a gut-wrenching and exhausting day, he walked into the Red Cross tent for a cup of coffee. Not without paying for it–$1/cup–he was told. [Strike three!]

There are local charities still deserving of my small discretionary donations–so I won't truly be throwing money into the gutter; but if my only choice was give to the RC or throw it away: I'd throw it away.

Thanks for the article. I think further investigation would show that others charities–particularly those like the American Diabetes Association (with which I'm familiar)– have adopted that same managerialism model.

flora , December 17, 2015 at 10:53 am

"The Marketers' Best Laid Plans Led to Declining Contributions"

This year, for the first time ever in my adult life, I did not sent a contribution to the Red Cross. All the reasons listed in this excellent post went into my decision not to contribute. I still feel bad about it, but I can't 'enable' continued bad management of the Red Cross.

JEHR , December 17, 2015 at 11:11 am

This article proves yet again that by their words shall they be known. In this day and age when almost everything from politics to education is being subsumed by business lingo, it's interesting to see by the Red Cross example where it will all end up.

The Red Cross which depends on volunteers and donors gets master marketers and business expertise and becomes "branded" as a business; helping others in distress becomes being efficient; preventing and alleviating suffering becomes creating a profitable place where executives get mighty big bonuses; the bottom-up organization becomes a top-down monolith; taking care of emergencies becomes profit-making exercises; all in all, this Red Cross refurbishment reflects the society that we have become–the 1% versus the 99%. When organizations are defined in financial and business terms, there is no room for alleviating or preventing human suffering.

RUKidding , December 17, 2015 at 11:24 am

Crapification of "charities" abounds. I've lived in So CA at least part time since the '90s. San Diegans don't have a lot of love for the San Diego Red Cross:

http://www.utsandiego.com/uniontrib/20061228/news_7m28rcross.html
http://legacy.utsandiego.com/news/fires/weekoffire/20031028-9999_1m28redcross.html

I stopped giving to the Red Cross a long time ago bc of mis-mangement of money and making sure that the Big Wigs at the top get THEIRS first and screw everyone else. It's unfortunate, as this organization probably does some good stuff, but it's priorities are not good.

I donate a certain amount every year, and I look very closely and carefully at the organizations to whom I give my hard-earned dollars. Advise everyone else to do the same. There's a lot of "charities" out there that exist primarily to enrich those at the top, and any good that's done for others – whom the "charity" alleges to serve or support – is strictly incidental.

Good article re American Red Cross. Crapified.

cyclist , December 17, 2015 at 11:27 am

This is a great dissection of the decline at this august organization. Partners In Health is an example of a charity worth supporting.

BTW, I found the Wikipedia bio of the Bonnie McElveen-Hunter very creepy. Looking at the website of her company, Pace Communications, it took me awhile to figure out what they really do, which seems to be something on par with publishing airline magazines. It really isn't clear why this woman should have attained her power and status – e.g. trustee of the RAND Corporation? Really? Seems emblematic of the rot at the top of the US elite.

Jim A , December 17, 2015 at 11:29 am

Well publicized failures in the Hurricane Sandy response and the failure of their attempts at increased revenues through price raises, "branding" and marketing aside, the ARC WAS in increasingly dire straits when she took over. By many accounts centralizing things and closing many local branches WAS a necessity, because cutting overhead was desperately needed in an organization that was loosing large amounts of money every year. This is often that case with these "superstar managers," If everything is working well the organization doesn't bring them on. But when an organization is already floundering, the Boards look for a "superstar" that can "turn it around." It's a perfect situation for these guys: (they're mostly men) If the company goes bankrupt, they say that it was in worse shape than they thought and nobody could have saved it and it it DOES turn around (often for completely exogenous reasons) they can take the credit.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which runs the subways and buses in Washington DC recently went through a protracted process of hiring a new director because there was a real deep divide on the board between those who wanted a transit executive and those who wanted a "turnaround specialist." They ended up with the latter and there's already talk about a "charm offensive" to try and woo more riders

reslez , December 17, 2015 at 4:37 pm

The Red Cross was bleeding red ink, partly because of less demand for blood products in surgery (they sell the blood that gets donated) and partly because their labeling system was out of date, which reduced demand compared to their competitors' products. This is something the ProPublica article makes clear that isn't really referenced in the HCR post.

So the Red Cross brought in a generic marketer/manager who did what they do best–chopping off employee heads while destroying what made the organization viable. The Red Cross isn't the kind of non-profit that can survive the loss of goodwill in a community. And they still haven't addressed the labeling problem.

Michael G , December 17, 2015 at 12:30 pm

NC readers might be interested in this report, which caused quite a stir in the UK yesterday. Needless to say it has been denounced as worthless by the charities concerned.
I guess the question is whether you mind that when you give a dime, a nickel goes to getting money from the next person
http://www.trueandfairfoundation.com/content/file/feature/review-hornets-nest-report-into-charitable-spending-UK-charities-12-dec-15.pdf

KYrocky , December 17, 2015 at 1:42 pm

Labeling these people generic managers or whatever is far too kind. The goal and driving force of these people was to extract more money from those most in need of charity and assistance. These people are shitty human beings, so call them what they are. The changes that they have wrought within the Red Cross organization has deprived countless suffering peoples of the good will and needed services that would have been provided by this organization BUT FOR THESE ASSHOLES.

Charities are not businesses. Charities, by definition, plan to GIVE things or services to others, not sell them, not to make profit. Putting profit loving Randians, possessed with the goal of using corporate profit taking methods, in charge of a charity is like putting "arsonists for profit" in charge of the fire department. The people that suffer are those that NEED charity, be it in the form of shelter, services, goods, or information, and we, as a society, are diminished.

Sacrificing the Red Cross on the alter of conservative economic ideology is tragic.

digi_owl , December 17, 2015 at 2:59 pm

Sadly the problem is spreading internationally, as US universities is seen as cream of the crop.

bob , December 17, 2015 at 4:28 pm

I have to bring up the post 911 witchhunt by fox news on the red cross too.

That seemed to the the turning point, or near it.

"you mean not all of our donations are going to NYC?"

With Bill Oreilly yelling and throwing spittle at the TV cameras, a change had to be made. I'm sure more than a few of his budddies, who are very Professional Managers, were first in the door.

It's just another part of the planned destruction of any sort of locally based ability or lobby.

just_kate , December 17, 2015 at 5:18 pm

years ago i worked for a marketing firm that did a significant amount of work for the organizer of the avon 3 day breast cancer walks and the amount of money wasted on frivolous items and activities made me sick. really opened my eyes about charities and how greed and fraud can be rampant in the least expected places. don't think i can get any more cynical abt the world at this point :(

Brooklin Bridge , December 17, 2015 at 6:43 pm

There is not enough money in the world to pay McGovern a bonus that would make up for what she has done to the RC. Perhaps a 1000 year stint in a max security prison would be a start though.

BRUCE E. WOYCH , December 17, 2015 at 7:27 pm

Asset Grabbing "Capture" (University of Chicago Economics? Harvard Business ?) and pervasive Control Fraud ( credits to William Black: https://www.ted.com/talks/william_black_how_to_rob_a_bank_from_the_inside_that_is?language=en )
is a revenue seeking parasitic mission creep in the MBA world of executive profiteering and predator capitalism.

In the source article mentioned above ( https://www.propublica.org/article/the-corporate-takeover-of-the-red-cross ) we see century+ old organization established with a charter for public service disaster relief, being marketed as a revenue stream with a potential for mass returns based upon the "brand" quality of saving peoples lives in catastrophic events. The article is part and parcel with how private interests have been dominated by profit driven incentives even in the most sacred trust areas of the public domain of non-profit charities essentially built on the back of American volunteers. How AT&T crony capital took over this organization and adopted it for their own monetary interest is not just a story of lost vision but of totally perverted revision gone off track from its founding purpose.
But make no mistake about it, this is only the tip of the iceberg where private asset stealth is involved in milking and bilking the public trust. the medical Institutions generally across the country have been insidiously going the same perverted path dependent way of revenue streaming as health and wealth as the definition of healthy relief.

[Jun 28, 2017] Health Care Renewal How Managerialsm- Generic Management Damaged the American Red Cross

Notable quotes:
"... "Isn't it great that we have someone that really has had that business expertise in developing and working with a brand and recognizing the power of it ?" ..."
"... Local officials were furious. They say the Red Cross showed up lacking basic supplies such as Band-Aids, portable toilets, and tarps to protect against the rain. Instead the group's volunteers handed out Red Cross-branded bags of items that weren't urgently needed like lip balm and tissues. ..."
"... ' McGovern has fired almost all of the trained and experienced volunteers and staff, ' Maxwell told ProPublica, replacing them 'with people who have absolutely no knowledge of what the Red Cross is or does in a disaster. Not only is she setting these people up to fail but she is compromising the service delivery that is so important to the clients.' ..."
"... The Red Cross Board of Governors , largely composed of well paid business managers (e.g., a former Vice Chairman of Goldman Sachs, a senior vice president of Eli Lilly, the chief financial officer of Home Depot, the executive vice president of Target), decided that a generic manager using a managerialist approach could cure the organization's perceived ills. The new CEO, who lacked any obvious experience or training relevant to the Red Cross mission, hired her former cronies at AT&T and Fidelity as managers. The new team cut costs, laid off employees, centralized management, and focused on marketing. The apparent results were fewer, less experienced, upset staff; fewer volunteers; declining interest in public health training products; and worsening disaster response. ..."
The American Red Cross is a storied non-profit organization. It provides disaster relief, provides a major part of the US blood supply, and has important public health teaching functions, such as teaching cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (look here ). Nonetheless, its operations have become increasingly controversial. ProPublica has been investigating them for years . The latest ProPublica report, entitled "The Corporate Takeover of the Red Cross," showed how this renowned organization has suffered under generic management/ managerialism , providing another case study showing how bad generic management and mangerialism are for health care and public health.

We have frequently posted about what we have called generic management , the manager's coup d'etat , and mission-hostile management. Managerialism wraps these concepts up into a single package. The idea is that all organizations, including health care organizations, ought to be run people with generic management training and background, not necessarily by people with specific backgrounds or training in the organizations' areas of operation. Thus, for example, hospitals ought to be run by MBAs, not doctors, nurses, or public health experts. Furthermore, all organizations ought to be run according to the same basic principles of business management. These principles in turn ought to be based on current neoliberal dogma , with the prime directive that short-term revenue is the primary goal (sometimes in the for-profit sphere called the shareholder value principle, look here .)

The ProPublica article showed how the leadership of the American Red Cross was given over to generic managers; how they ran the organization based on generic business management principles; and how the results were bad for the organization's mission. I will address each point with quotes from the article, and add the commentary that was lacking in a straight investigative journalistic report. The New CEO is a Generic Manager who Specialized in Marketing

Gail McGovern became Red Cross CEO in 2008. Her academic background was in the "quantitative sciences." Her first job was as a computer programmer. Then,

McGovern climbed steadily through the ranks at AT&T. By the mid-1990s, she was head of the company's consumer markets division .

Next,

McGovern left AT&T in 1998, then spent four years at Fidelity Investments, where she was promoted to be the head of the retail mutual fund and brokerage business. Then came six years as a marketing professor at Harvard Business School....

On the other hand, she apparently had no specific experience, training or expertise relating to the mission of the Red Cross, and specifically no experience, training or expertise in public health, health care, blood banking, or disaster relief.

She Believes in the Primacy of Marketing

Her academic writings spell out her theory of corporate leadership. 'In many organizations, marketing exists far from the executive suite and boardroom,' she and her coauthors wrote in the Harvard Business Review. Companies that make this mistake are doomed to 'low growth and declining margins.'
One could argue that perhaps in the long run, a good product that sells itself might be better for a manufacturing firm than a temporarily persuasive marketing campaign. Even so, the mission of the Red Cross is not first to grow and make more money, or even to sell products, but instead it is

The American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.

She was Hired by the Red Cross to Promote Generic Management with Emphasis on Marketing.

Ms McGovern was hired at a time when the dogma that business managers ought to run everything was becoming very prominent.

McGovern, selected after a global search by a headhunting firm, was seen as a candidate who would bring private-sector methods to the nonprofit.

"Isn't it great that we have someone that really has had that business expertise in developing and working with a brand and recognizing the power of it ?" [Red Cross Board Chairwoman Bonnie] McElveen-Hunter told the Washington Post at the time.

Note that the Chairwoman of the Board of Governors herself was

a wealthy Republican donor appointed by President George W. Bush in 2004

According to Wikipedia , she is a businesswoman whose undergraduate degree was in business, who worked for Bank of America and then founded Pace Communications, and who also has no discernable experience or expertise in health care, public health, or disaster relief.

The ProPublica article did not suggest that Ms McElveen-Hunter or anyone else really thought through how a generica manager practicing managerialism would actually benefit the mission of the Red Cross.

The CEO Recruited Other Generic Managers

Furthermore,

As part of her effort to run the Red Cross more like a business, McGovern recruited more than 10 former AT&T executives to top positions. The move stirred resentment inside the organization, with some longtime Red Cross hands referring to the charity as the 'AT&T retirement program.'

Again, one would expert a generic manager to feel most comfortable amongst others of her ilk. Again, any consideration of whether running the Red Cross "more like a business" would improve its success as a charity was not evident. The New Generic Managers Relied on Generic Management Dogma

They Established Centralized Control

The work of the Red Cross was traditionally done by local chapters. The new generic managers sought to decrease their independence from "corporate." So,

Each of the Red Cross' more than 700 chapters had its own bank account, tracked its own volunteers, and ran its own computer system. McGovern hoped to realize considerable savings by consolidating these back-office functions, creating what she dubbed 'One Red Cross.'
The notions that different chapters might face different challenges, and hence that flexible local control might do better addressing these challenges than would centralized top-down command were not apparently considered.

They Cut Costs, Particularly Through Cutting Employee Benefits and Laying Them Off

and hence tried to enhance short-term revenue:

She also got to work cutting costs : there was a round of layoffs ; she killed the charity's generous pension program and to employees' retirement accounts.
Also,

When McGovern was hired as CEO, there were over 700 Red Cross chapters across the country. Today, there around 250, though some former chapter offices stayed open even as they were folded into other chapters. The Red Cross declined to say how many offices it closed.

Over the course of McGovern's tenure, the number of paid employees fell from around 36,000 to around 23,000 and the Red Cross today spends several hundred million dollars less a year than it did in 2008. (Most of the staff cuts were from local chapters, not the blood business, though the Red Cross declined to provide a breakdown.)

They Focused on Marketing and Public Relations

Early on,

consolidated, powerful, breathtaking marketing .'

a brand to die for ,' she often said.


In addition,

The Red Cross' chief of fundraising, a former colleague of McGovern's from Fidelity, told the assembled officials that the organization should attract far more than the $520 million in donations it was bringing in annually. ' Strength of brand ,' his PowerPoint said, 'justify results in

range.'

Also, CEO McGovern chose Jack McMaster to run the public health training operation, praising McMaster to Red Cross staff as a master marketer and a trusted former colleague [at AT&T].

As an aside, actually,

After leaving AT&T, he took a job in 1999 as CEO of a Dutch telecom company called KPNQwest. In just a few years, he had run it into what Reuters called a ' spectacular collapse prompting a bankruptcy, a storm of lawsuits, and comparisons to Enron . Just months before the company went under, McMaster publicly boasted that it was poised for dramatic growth.
This suggests that McGovern placed far more priority on hiring "master marketers" than finding trustworthy leaders. Of course, a CEO who is mainly a professional marketer may see marketing as central to whatever organization she is running. The notion that the Red Cross had such a wonderful brand because it used to do wonderful things did not apparently occur to the new generic marketers. Furthermore, the notion that even "master marketing" may not hide the undermining of the organization's mission also did not occur.

They Suppressed Opinions They Did Not Want to Here

As discontent among staff rose (see below), leading to anguish expressed on social media,

critical posts later disappeared from the Facebook page. Moderator Ryan Kaltenbaugh reminded participants that the group was intended to be ' a POSITIVE forum sharing ideas, stories, pictures, links, videos and more across our great country.'

' [P]lease (please) refrain from posting your negative personal views

To a leadership obsessed with marketing, appearance may have seemed to be everything. Yet again, suppressing the bad news does not make what generated it disappear.

They Paid Themselves Very Well

We have often discussed how executive compensation in health care now seems to rise beyond any level that could be justified by the executives' actions and performance. A central problem with managerialism seems to be that now top managers can virtually set their own pay. Thus, they have become value extractors, more focused on their own enrichment than their organizations' ultimate success. The ProPublica article did not explicitly discuss executive compensation except after the failure of the expansion plans by the "master marketer" McMaster,
Amid layoffs in the division last year, bonuses given to McMaster and his team raised eyebrows within the Red Cross, a former headquarters official said.

In a statement, the Red Cross said the bonuses were appropriate because the division hit 'strategic milestones' including establishing 'a national tele-service platform and national sales and service delivery models.'

Regardless, the division failed to reach its real goal, expansion of its business.

Furthermore, there is evidence that during the reign of McGovern, the top managers as a group have been very well paid, especially given that they were running a charity whose good works are largely supported by contribuations and the taxpayers. We noted in a 2011 post that

In 2009, then CEO Gail McGovern received over a million in total compensation, $1,032,022 to be exact. Its President for Biomedical Services got $850,489. Its Executive VP for Biomedical Services got $596,309. Twelve other executives got more than $250,000. Of those, ten got more than $350,000.

Since then, while Ms McGovern's compensation has actually declined, the number of very well paid managers has actually grown. According to the organization's latest available IRS Form 990 filing, for 2013, Ms McGovern had total compensation of over $597,000, and 15 managers had total compensation over $250,000, of these, 10 were over $400,000.

So despite all the problems afflicting the Red Cross (see below, and the larger ProPublica series), the top managers still managed to pay themselves very well.

The Results were Bad

The Marketers' Best Laid Plans Led to Declining Contributions

McMaster laid out how the CPR unit would attract more customers while at the same time hiking prices for classes and training materials in CPR, swimming, and babysitting. He believed the Red Cross brand justified higher prices than were being charged around the country.

'We thought if we raised prices, American Heart [Association] would probably raise prices, and life would be good,' McGovern said at a 2013 employee town hall meeting, referring to the Red Cross' competitor in the CPR class business. 'Didn't happen.'

Also,

'A halfway competent market analysis would have told you that the bulk of our business was in selling to small businesses who viewed us as a business expense,' recalled one former chapter executive director. 'When the massive price increases arrived, it was too much and customers bailed.'
This illustrates that the generic managers did not even achieve their business goal, increasing sales and increasing revenue. What did they care, though, if the bonuses still rolled in?

Centralized Control, Benefit Cuts, Layoffs, and the Marketing Focus Wounded Employee Morale and Discouraged Volunteers. Those who push generic management practices often seem blind to their adverse effects. So, many of those who taught classes - including volunteers who did the work for free - quit after being turned off by headquarters' poor communication .

Also,

But much like the organization's paid staff, many of its volunteers appear deeply disillusioned . An internal survey obtained by ProPublica found volunteers around the country had a satisfaction rate of 32 percent this year - down 20 points from last year.
Furthermore, driving the alienation, longtime employees and volunteers say, is a gulf that has opened up between McGovern's executive suite and the rank and file who have spent decades in the mission-focused nonprofit world.

She has surrounded herself with a tight-knit group of former telecom colleagues, they say. 'They're all people from the period when AT&T imploded,' said one former senior official. ' The priorities seem to be a reflection of what that team is comfortable with: sales and marketing .'

An internal assessment previously reported by ProPublica and NPR said national headquarters' focus on image slowed the delivery of relief aid during Hurricane Isaac and Superstorm Sandy. Officials engaged in ' diverting assets for public relation purposes ,' according to the assessment.

Layoffs and Cutback Reduced Capacity to Respond to Disasters

One example was the response in West Virginia

In West Virginia, where several chapters have been shuttered, emergency management officials said the group's response to recent disasters has been anemic . After a recent water shortage caused by a chemical leak, the charity declined to provide any help to residents, the Register-Herald of Beckley reported . Local officials described that as business as usual for the charity. When a tornado hit in the southern part of the state, the Red Cross' inadequate response left scores of victims without enough food , according to the newspaper.
Another was the response in northern California,
In Northern California last year, the Red Cross shuttered the Napa County chapter and laid off disaster relief staff, according to an

presentation. Then, in September, a drought-fueled fire swept through the area, consuming more than 75,000 acres and 1,200 homes.

Because of the issues with the Red Cross' shelter , nearly all of 1,000 displaced people at the Napa County Fairgrounds - including the elderly, new mothers and children, and anyone with a pet - ended up sleeping outside in tents, cars or RVs . The problems were first reported by the Press Democrat newspaper.

Also,
Local officials were furious. They say the Red Cross showed up lacking basic supplies such as Band-Aids, portable toilets, and tarps to protect against the rain. Instead the group's volunteers handed out Red Cross-branded bags of items that weren't urgently needed like lip balm and tissues.

The Red Cross responders were inexperienced and, according to residents, not enough of them spoke Spanish, the language of many of the fire victims.

In general, as told by former Red Cross volunteer Becky Maxwell, a self-described "die-hard Red Cross person for 25 years," who quit after becoming increasingly frustrated,

' McGovern has fired almost all of the trained and experienced volunteers and staff, ' Maxwell told ProPublica, replacing them 'with people who have absolutely no knowledge of what the Red Cross is or does in a disaster. Not only is she setting these people up to fail but she is compromising the service delivery that is so important to the clients.'

Summary

The Red Cross Board of Governors , largely composed of well paid business managers (e.g., a former Vice Chairman of Goldman Sachs, a senior vice president of Eli Lilly, the chief financial officer of Home Depot, the executive vice president of Target), decided that a generic manager using a managerialist approach could cure the organization's perceived ills. The new CEO, who lacked any obvious experience or training relevant to the Red Cross mission, hired her former cronies at AT&T and Fidelity as managers. The new team cut costs, laid off employees, centralized management, and focused on marketing. The apparent results were fewer, less experienced, upset staff; fewer volunteers; declining interest in public health training products; and worsening disaster response.

Thus, once again, generic managers and managerialism have laid low a formerly proud charity. Unfortunately, this one also happens to have vital public health and disaster relief roles that have now been severely compromised.

Based on previous experience, it should come as no surprise that generic managers who do not know much or care much about public health and health care, and who rely on a one-size fits all management dogma uninformed by the public health or health care context or public health or health care values will end up undermining patients' and the public's health.

The real surprise is that the generic managers have up to now had no problem maintaining the managers' coup d'etat , that is, their iron grip on the leadership of most public health and health care organizations.

To prevent our ongoing downward spiral, we need to reverse the managers' coup d'etat, and return leadership to those who understand health and health care, support their values, and are willing to be accountable for doing so.

ADDENDUM (17 December, 2015) - This post was republished on the Naked Capitalism blog .

Anonymous said... December 17, 2015 at 10:36:00 AM EST

Great post - clarifies why I am seeing the increasingly generic promotion/fund-raising communication "relationships" from many non-profit and advocacy groups lately. -Paul Rowan

afraid said... December 17, 2015 at 5:07:00 PM EST

Is Shkreli a prime example of managerialism?

Roy M. Poses MD said...

Afraid,

I'm afraid Shkreli is not really a typical generic manager, and certainly not typical of the CEO of a big pharma (or other health care) corporation.

Shkreli is a small time player.

Also, he is basically a hedge fund guy, and I don't believe there is any love lost between big corporate CEOs and hedgies. Finally, Shkreli was willing to say out loud what most big corporate managers would not: it's all about the money.

From the AP ( http://bigstory.ap.org/article/763ef9ae0809445e817438a79fcc979b/turing-ceo-martin-shkreli-custody-after-securities-probe )

"'No one wants to say it, no one's proud of it, but this is a capitalist society, a capitalist system and capitalist rules,' he said in an interview at the Forbes Healthcare Summit this month. 'And my investors expect me to maximize profits, not to minimize them or go half or go 70 percent but to go to 100 percent of the profit curve.'"

So I wouldn't be surprised if the big-time managerialists are cheering now that he was arrested. They can use his arrest to pretend that regulation and law enforcement are tough, and that the big-time managers don't have impunity. Furthermore, they can claim that he was just the rare bad apple.

However, a reader of this blog can see the problems are systemic. See in particular:

[Jun 28, 2017] Seriously flawed study will become an urban legend proving that a higher minimum wage is bad for poor people.

Jun 28, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

Sandwichman , June 28, 2017 at 01:02 AM

Researchers at the University of Washington have published a study that finds a 9.4% decline in hours of work for low wage workers, earning under $19 an hour. Trouble is the study doesn't appear to take account of wage bracket creep so the hours of workers making just under $19 an hour a year ago just vanish when they get a raise to above $19 an hour.

The EPI, Peter Dorman and Sandwichman have all weighed in with criticisms. But in all likelihood this seriously flawed study will become an urban legend "proving" that a higher minimum wage is bad for poor people.

http://econospeak.blogspot.com/2017/06/seattle-minimum-wage.html

anne -> Sandwichman ... , June 28, 2017 at 05:41 AM
http://www.nber.org/papers/w23532.pdf

June, 2017

Minimum Wage Increases, Wages, and Low-Wage Employment: Evidence from Seattle
By Ekaterina Jardim, Mark C. Long, Robert Plotnick, Emma van Inwegen, Jacob Vigdor, and Hilary Wething

This paper evaluates the wage, employment, and hours effects of the first and second phase-in of the Seattle Minimum Wage Ordinance, which raised the minimum wage from $9.47 to $11 per hour in 2015 and to $13 per hour in 2016. Using a variety of methods to analyze employment in all sectors paying below a specified real hourly rate, we conclude that the second wage increase to $13 reduced hours worked in low-wage jobs by around 9 percent, while hourly wages in such jobs increased by around 3 percent. Consequently, total payroll fell for such jobs, implying that the minimum wage ordinance lowered low-wage employees' earnings by an average of $125 per month in 2016. Evidence attributes more modest effects to the first wage increase. We estimate an effect of zero when analyzing employment in the restaurant industry at all wage levels, comparable to many prior studies.

im1dc -> anne... , June 28, 2017 at 05:41 AM
Research like that ought not be published, timeline used is too short to be reliable or valid and in all probability they used data skewed from limited sources.
anne -> Sandwichman ... , June 28, 2017 at 05:41 AM
http://irle.berkeley.edu/files/2017/Seattles-Minimum-Wage-Experiences-2015-16.pdf

June 20, 2017

Seattle's Minimum Wage Experience 2015-16
By Michael Reich, Sylvia Allegretto, and Anna Godoey

Abstract

This brief on Seattle's minimum wage experience represents the first in a series that Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics will be issuing on the effects of the current wave of minimum wage policies-those that range from $12 to $15. Upcoming CWED reports will present similar studies of Chicago, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and New York City, among others. The timing of these reports will depend in part upon when quality data become available. We focus here on Seattle because it was one of the early movers.

Seattle implemented the first phase of its minimum wage law on April 1, 2015, raising minimum wages from the statewide $9.47 to $10 or $11, depending upon business size, presence of tipped workers and employer provision of health insurance. The second phase began on January 1, 2016, further raising the minimum to four different levels, ranging from $10.50 to $13, again depending upon employer size, presence of tipped workers and provision of health insurance. The tip credit provision was introduced into a previously no tip credit environment. Any assessment of the impact of Seattle's minimum wage policy is complicated by this complex array of minimum wage rates. This complexity continues in 2017, when the range of the four Seattle minimum wages widened, from $11 to $15, and the state minimum wage increased to $11.

We analyze county and city-level data for 2009 to 2016 on all employees counted in the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages and use the "synthetic control" method to rigorously identify the causal effects of Seattle's minimum wage policy upon wages and employment. Our study focuses on the Seattle food services industry. This industry is an intense user of minimum wage workers; if wage and employment effects occur, they should be detectable in this industry. We use county level data from other areas in Washington State and the rest of the U.S. to construct a synthetic control group that matches Seattle for a nearly six year period before the minimum wage policy was implemented. Our methods ensure that our synthetic control group meets accepted statistical standards, including not being contaminated by wage spillovers from Seattle. We scale our outcome measures so that they apply to all sectors, not just food services.

Our results show that wages in food services did increase-indicating the policy achieved its goal-and our estimates of the wage increases are in line with the lion's share of results in previous credible minimum wage studies. Wages increased much less among full-service restaurants, indicating that employers made use of the tip credit component of the law. Employment in food service, however, was not affected, even among the limited-service restaurants, many of them franchisees, for whom the policy was most binding. These findings extend our knowledge of minimum wage effects to policies as high as $13.

Paine -> anne... , June 28, 2017 at 06:20 AM
We need living income compatible
wage rates and hours

The shorter hours program H
of course needs to tie into
the living wage calculation W

H x W

Start with living income flow rate of say 30 k per year
At 1500 hours per year
that requires a wage rate
Of 20 dollars per hour

Equally a 15 dollar wage rate requires 2000 hours per year

So what's your living income for a year ?

Is it 25 k or 20 k or ....


anne -> Sandwichman ... , June 28, 2017 at 05:44 AM
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/26/business/economy/seattle-minimum-wage.html

June 26, 2017

How a Rising Minimum Wage Affects Jobs in Seattle
By NOAM SCHEIBER

Three years ago, Seattle became one of the first jurisdictions in the nation to embrace a $15-an-hour minimum wage, to be phased in over several years.

Over the past week, two studies have purported to demonstrate the effects of the first stages of that increase - but with starkly diverging results.

The first study, by a team of researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, supports the conclusion of numerous studies before it, that increasing the minimum wage up to a level that is about half or less of an area's typical wage leads to at most a small reduction in employment.

That roughly describes Seattle, which first increased its minimum wage to $11 an hour from $9.47 for large businesses in April 2015, then to $13 an hour for many of those businesses in January 2016. (Small businesses, and large ones that provide health insurance for workers, had lower increases.)

The Berkeley study focused on the restaurant industry because of the high proportion of restaurant workers who are paid the minimum wage. It found that for every 10 percent that the minimum wage rose, wages in the industry rose nearly 1 percent, and that there was no discernible effect on employment.

By contrast, the second study, which a group of researchers at the University of Washington released on Monday, suggests that the minimum wage has had a far more negative effect on employment than even skeptics of minimum-wage increases typically find. (Neither study has been formally peer-reviewed.)

The University of Washington authors held one significant advantage over other economists studying the issue: detailed data on hours and earnings for workers affected by the increase.

This data allowed the researchers to measure the effects of the minimum wage on workers in all industries rather than relying on restaurants as a stand-in, a common technique. It also allowed them to measure a change in hours worked, a potentially more complete indication of the effect of a minimum-wage increase than the employee head count that many studies use....

Paine -> anne... , June 28, 2017 at 06:26 AM
Yes
Plenty of room to " find "
Pro and con " results "

I like the shift from jobs to hours

Raising he wage rate can be easily off set by lowering hours

Of course that suggests a lift in labor productivity
And Or reduction in service or product either quantity or quality

Paine -> Paine ... , June 28, 2017 at 06:28 AM
Real Labor Productivity increases can be the result of increased work intensity
Shrewd redesign of tasks
Or
Use of additional or better technical systems

[Jun 28, 2017] The single payer system works in Canada, and that is important because Canada is close in values to those of US citizens

Jun 28, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

RGC -> pgl... , June 28, 2017 at 08:50 AM

[Taxes may go up but lower costs than private insurance could give many people a net savings.]
............
We will describe the single payer system in Canada, because Canada is physically close and close in values to those of U.S. citizens.

Canada provides free medical services through private entities. The government sets federal standards to assure quality of care. The individual's health remains confidential between a person and his or her physician. In each Canadian province, each doctor submits the insurance claim against the provincial insurer. The person who gets healthcare does not get involved in billing and reclaim.

The Canadian government keeps advertising at a minimum. Costs are paid through funding from income taxes. There are no deductibles on basic health care and co-pays are kept extremely low. Provinces issue a health card to each individual who enrolls and everyone receives the same level of care. There is no variety of plans because all essential basic care is covered, including maternity and infertility problems. Dental and vision care may or may not be covered depending on the Province. Some provinces provide private supplemental plans for patients who desire private rooms if hospitalized.

Cosmetic surgery and some elective surgery are generally not covered. These can be paid out-of-pocket or through private insurers. One's health coverage is not affected by loss or change of jobs, as long as premiums are up to date. There are no lifetime limits or exclusions for pre-existing conditions.

Canadians chose their family physician (called a general practitioner or GP). If the person wants to see a specialist, the GP will make a referral. The median wait time to see a specialist physician is a month. The median wait time for diagnostic services such as MRI and CAT scans is two weeks. The median wait time for surgery is four weeks.

Pharmaceutical medications are covered by public funds for the elderly or indigent, or through employment-based private insurance. The Canadian government negotiates drug prices with suppliers to control costs.

Physician incomes in Canada rose initially after the single payer system was implemented. A reduction in physician salaries followed, many fearing this would be a long-term result of government-run healthcare. However, by the beginning of the 21st century, medical professionals were again among Canada's top earners.

The main thing to notice is that Canada's healthcare cost to its GDP is 11 percent whereas the U.S. cost is 17 percent of the GDP.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/its-time-for-a-single-payer-healthcare-system_us_58d6470de4b0f633072b37f8

pgl -> RGC... , June 28, 2017 at 09:59 AM
Canada gets a lot of things right that we totally mess up.

[Jun 28, 2017] Whats so Great about Free Trade?

Notable quotes:
"... It is not becoming involuntarily unemployed that is devastating. It is the loss of income security that sucks. I was laid off 6/16/2015, but I was 66 years and 2 months old having earned 37 years of service credit in our defined benefits pension plan and then granted an additional 6 years pension service credit by virtue of taking my severance benefits in the form of enhanced retirement. ..."
"... I had wanted to work six more years so I could take survivor benefit and still have a sufficient retirement income, but the severance package allowed me that freedom instead. ..."
"... There is no such thing as free trade. At best, there are treaties which successively approximate free trade. The problem comes in with who negotiates these agreements, the agreements largely addressing the concerns of those selected to do so, while ignoring the concerns of those not selected to do so. Which is the entire problem. Capital is selected; labor is not. ..."
"... So who ends up liking these things? Capital. Who ends up not liking them? Labor and environment. Duh? Is this really that hard to figure out? ..."
"... "Free trade" (whatever that is) is not necessarily fair trade. Free trade is a slogan special interest use to protect their capture of trade profits. Fair trade would be the attempt to manage trade such that the maximum number of winners is produced. ..."
Apr 01, 2016 | economistsview.typepad.com

David Glasner (I cut quite a bit -- the original is more than twice as long):

What's so Great about Free Trade? : Free trade is about as close to a sacred tenet as can be found in classical and neoclassical economic theory. ... Despite the love and devotion that the doctrine of free trade inspires in economists, the doctrine ... has never been popular among the masses. ...

The key to understanding that disconnect is, I suggest, the way in which economists have been trained to think about individual and social welfare, which, it seems to me, is totally different from how most people think about their well-being. In the standard utility-maximization framework, individual well-being is a monotonically increasing function of individual consumption, leisure being one of the "goods" being consumed, so that reductions in hours worked is, when consumption of everything else is held constant, welfare-increasing. Even at a superficial level, this seems totally wrong. ...

What people do is a far more important determinant of their overall estimation of how well-off they are than what they consume. When you meet someone, you are likely, if you are at all interested in finding out about the person, to ask him or her about what he or she does, not about what he or she consumes. Most of the waking hours of an adult person are spent in work-related activities. ... It seems to me that what matters to most people is the nature of their relationships with their family and friends and the people they work with, and whether they get satisfaction from their jobs or from a sense that they are accomplishing or are on their way to accomplish some important life goals. ...

Moreover, insofar as people depend on being employed in order to finance their routine consumption purchases..., the unplanned loss of their current job would be a personal disaster, which means that being employed is the dominant – the overwhelming – determinant of their well-being. Ordinary people seem to understand how closely their well-being is tied to the stability of their employment, which is why people are so viscerally opposed to policies that, they fear, could increase the likelihood of losing their jobs.

To think that an increased chance of losing one's job in exchange for a slight gain in purchasing power owing to the availability of low-cost imports is an acceptable trade-off for most workers does not seem at all realistic. Questioning the acceptability of this trade-off doesn't mean that ... in principle, the gains from free trade are[n't] large enough to provide monetary compensation to workers who lose their jobs, but I do question whether such compensation is possible in practice or that the compensation would be adequate for the loss of psychic well-being associated with losing one's job, even if money income is maintained. ...

The psychic effects of losing a job (an increase in leisure!) are ignored by the standard calculations of welfare effects in which well-being is identified with, and measured by, consumption. And these losses are compounded and amplified when they are concentrated in specific communities and regions...

The goal of this post is not to make an argument for protectionist policies, let alone for any of the candidates arguing for protectionist policies. The aim is to show how inadequate the standard arguments for free trade are in responding to the concerns of the people who feel that they have been hurt by free-trade policies or feel that the jobs that they have now are vulnerable to continued free trade and ever-increasing globalization. I don't say that responses can't be made, just that they haven't been made.

The larger philosophical or methodological point is that ... economic theory can tell us that an excise tax on sugar tends to cause an increase in the price, and a reduction in output, of sugar. But the idea that we can reliably make welfare comparisons between alternative states of the world when welfare is assumed to be a function of consumption, and that nothing else matters, is simply preposterous. And it's about time that economists enlarged their notions of what constitutes well-being if they want to make useful recommendations about the welfare implications of public policy, especially trade policy.

Barkley Rosser April 01, 2016 at 12:32 AM

The happiness literature on the impact of involuntary unemployment on happiness is quite large, with people like David Blanchflower having played important roles. An offhand summary is that becoming involuntarily unemployed is indeed one of the events that is most devastating to the happiness of most people, with only a few events worse, including having one's spouse die or being thrown in jail.

RC AKA Darryl, Ron -> Barkley Rosser ...

It is not becoming involuntarily unemployed that is devastating. It is the loss of income security that sucks. I was laid off 6/16/2015, but I was 66 years and 2 months old having earned 37 years of service credit in our defined benefits pension plan and then granted an additional 6 years pension service credit by virtue of taking my severance benefits in the form of enhanced retirement.

I had wanted to work six more years so I could take survivor benefit and still have a sufficient retirement income, but the severance package allowed me that freedom instead.

With firms no longer offering defined benefits pension plans then we need to expand social security into a full income pension plan. We need to increase unemployment benefits as well. Once we have paid for that then the plutocrats will find that they are better off paying US workers to make stuff since all their global price arbitrage profits have been clawed back.

DrDick -> RC AKA Darryl, Ron... Reply Friday, April 01, 2016 at 06:58 AM

I think this is an important factor. It is certainly the case that a certain level of consumption increases happiness, but beyond a fairly moderate level, I do not think it actually adds much. Another important factor is having something meaningful to do with your time. For most people, that is work. Boredom is a serious problem among the retired.

PPaine -> DrDick... April 01, 2016 at 07:10 AM

We have more then just skill crushing, job experience crushing. Impacts of domestic production erasing imports. We have the implied competition on wages. Of import threats

Wage stag --

JohnH -> PPaine ... April 01, 2016 at 07:31 AM

Economists largely ignore distribution of benefits, focusing on efficiency and the 'total good.' How that total good is divvied up is largely irrelevant to them, unless the populace gets testy.

In fact, most people would be better off if the economy were slightly smaller but distributed much more evenly. Economists just can't seem to wrap their heads around that concept.

RC AKA Darryl, Ron -> DrDick... April 01, 2016 at 09:58 AM

"I think this is an important factor."

[Not sure which this that you are agreeing with. So, let's say that income security means a roof over are heads and food to eat for the whole family. Then there is this boredom thingy. With a little acreage and a sound mind and body then staying occupied, productive (in some manner of speaking - a rose is a rose is a rose), and happy is a piece of cake. A tenement room with nothing but a TV would be death sentence for me. If not for money then I would never have needed to work for someone else. I see good honest work to do everywhere I look.]

reason April 01, 2016 at 12:45 AM

He came close but he missed the major point. SECURITY.

What do most people see as their life goal? To raise a family. How long does it take? Decades. Flexibility isn't a boon - it is a disaster for most people.

If you only look at a static picture of the world (which is the traditional view of economists) how can you possibility see this?

ilsm -> reason... April 01, 2016 at 04:35 AM

Economics is about "distribution of scarce resources......." if I recall ECON 101.

That phrase is as forgotten and ignored as the thing in the Declaration of Independence about "all men created equal"!

Unless the measure of "good" wrt distribution is the hoard of the richest.

RC AKA Darryl, Ron -> reason... April 01, 2016 at 05:24 AM

"He came close but he missed the major point. SECURITY..."

[Too bad. As I was reading this I was liking it so much that it had already elevated my former opinion of David Glasner, technically elegant, all the way up to topically relevant and possibly even socially astute, but from what you say then I must put a hold on that socially astute. I guess I had better read the entire article before I begin to comment further.]

RC AKA Darryl, Ron -> reason... April 01, 2016 at 06:10 AM

You are correct. Glasner missed the point on security, so he also missed the point that if income is maintained then that would cover the lion's share of well being. Glasner is correct that money is not everything, just as consumption is not everything, but that really does come down to just how much money that we are talking about. I worked a long time contributing into a traditional pension plan. I took great pride in my work, but I have not missed my job or felt inadequate because of the lack of that purpose for a minute since I was laid off on 6/16/2015. That's because between my social security and pension incomes then I can still make my mortgage payments and all my other bills and due to my reduced expenses on payroll taxes, clothes, and gas have more money left over for landscaping and other home projects than I did when I was working. If I was eating cat food or living under a bridge then I would be feeling much worse about having been laid off.

Benedict@Large -> reason... April 01, 2016 at 06:18 AM

There is no such thing as free trade. At best, there are treaties which successively approximate free trade. The problem comes in with who negotiates these agreements, the agreements largely addressing the concerns of those selected to do so, while ignoring the concerns of those not selected to do so. Which is the entire problem. Capital is selected; labor is not. (Neither much is environmental.)

So who ends up liking these things? Capital. Who ends up not liking them? Labor and environment. Duh? Is this really that hard to figure out?

RC AKA Darryl, Ron -> Benedict@Large ... April 01, 2016 at 06:47 AM

"There is no such thing as free trade...."

[Sure there is. Anne complains about this as well. But a large part of maintaining plutocracy within the framework of a democratically electoral republic is the copious use of misleading euphemisms. We all know what they really mean, or at least all of us here reading and commenting at EV know what they mean. My guess is that unemployed workers in the rustbelt know what they mean as well.

Republicans talk about being free all of the time, but what they really are is just cheap. There is nothing free in life. Most people know this intuitively. There are choices and consequences. One consequence of the overuse of "free trade" is the emergence of fair trade. As far as I can tell the rebranding will hardly put a dent in the arbitrage profits. ]

PPaine -> reason... April 01, 2016 at 07:14 AM

Might I submit this word

A decent measure of Control over ones fate

The job markets must always offer everyone ....everyone an opportunity to prosper

Ours is a job based culture as the blog post asserts so clearly

To control ones fate and ones love ones fate
Job opportunities and options
must. always be out there cajoling you to " join us "

jonny bakho April 01, 2016 at 04:09 AM

The United States benefits and historically has benefitted by being one large trading block. Increases in wealth are linked to improvements in transportation even today.

One stumbling block in international trade is the restriction on movement of labor. This is a huge problem for the EU. Another problem is distribution of the profits from trade. How much should be captured by private interests and how much should go to the public good. Should some profits from trade be returned from one country to another? This is often done through severance taxes or export fees.

"Free trade" (whatever that is) is not necessarily fair trade. Free trade is a slogan special interest use to protect their capture of trade profits. Fair trade would be the attempt to manage trade such that the maximum number of winners is produced.

RueTheDay April 01, 2016 at 06:11 AM

It seems to me that a couple of obvious points are being missed.

1) The "gains from free trade" argument is simply that under conditions of trade, more "stuff" will be produced than under conditions of autarky, so theoretically there will be more available for everyone. That says nothing about how those gains are distributed, i.e., there will be individual winners and losers. In practice, those gains never seem to actually get redistributed so it's impossible to say everyone is made better off.

2) What is the root cause of comparative advantage? The textbooks tell us - differences in initial factor endowments, technology, and tastes. What does that mean in a world where a company in a developed company can pick up its capital (and implicitly, technology) and move it to a lesser developed country with cheaper labor, because capital is far more mobile than labor, in order to produce goods to supply its home market (where tastes differ)?

RC AKA Darryl, Ron -> RueTheDay ... April 01, 2016 at 06:22 AM

Glasner did not really miss your point # 1, but he muddled the message a bit over the benefits of redistribution. Almost everyone, but especially those trained in economics, seems to miss your point #2. The most basic premise of comparative advantage has long been broken by technology, but the fiction of that old saw serves the price arbitrage motives of capital so well that it has been preserved in amber like the fossilized bug it is.

Fred C. Dobbs April 01, 2016 at 06:35 AM

The Democrats "Free Trade" Divide
https://shar.es/1Y8WAd
Mark Engler - April 23, 2008

"Free trade" has produced some of the most contentious political debates of our times. In a famous April 2000 article in the New Republic (*), economist Joseph Stiglitz argued, "Economic policy is today perhaps the most important part of America's interaction with the rest of the world. And yet the culture of international economic policy in the world's most powerful democracy is not democratic." During the Bush years, economic policy received far less attention in political discussion than before; the use of military force took center stage. However, the trade and development debate went on, and it continues to affect fundamental questions of global poverty, inequality, and opportunity. Under a new Democratic administration-or under a Republican administration that demotes the neocons in favor of the more traditional, realist foreign policy establishment-it is likely that economic policy will again become the most important part of America's interaction with the world. And it is likely that it will remain profoundly undemocratic.

The injustices of neoliberal trade policy and the hypocrisy of U.S. stances in international negotiations have produced an upheaval in multilateral institutions like the WTO, and this has helped to transform the debate about the global economy. But trade is also an important domestic issue. Today, trade policy plays an important role in the battle for the soul of the Democratic Party.

One of the major accomplishments of the Clinton administration was to move to the fore of the Party a faction led by the centrist, corporate-friendly Democratic Leadership Council. Working with pro-"free trade" Republicans, Clinton and the DLC made passing the North American Free Trade agreement (NAFTA) in 1993 and approving U.S. entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1994 into bipartisan crusades. The coalition in favor of corporate globalization was always tenuous, however. In recent years, especially as the Bush administration implemented an increasing belligerent foreign policy, the "free trade" coalition has frayed. ...

*- http://www.mindfully.org/WTO/Joseph-Stiglitz-IMF17apr00.htm

anne -> Fred C. Dobbs... April 01, 2016 at 07:12 AM

Really important:

https://www.globalpolicy.org/global-taxes/42760-what-i-learned-at-the-world-economic-crisis.html

April 17, 2010

What I Learned at the World Economic Crisis
By Joseph Stiglitz

Next week's meeting of the International Monetary Fund will bring to Washington, D.C., many of the same demonstrators who trashed the World Trade Organization in Seattle last fall. They'll say the IMF is arrogant. They'll say the IMF doesn't really listen to the developing countries it is supposed to help. They'll say the IMF is secretive and insulated from democratic accountability. They'll say the IMF's economic "remedies" often make things worse--turning slowdowns into recessions and recessions into depressions.

And they'll have a point. I was chief economist at the World Bank from 1996 until last November, during the gravest global economic crisis in a half-century. I saw how the IMF, in tandem with the U.S. Treasury Department, responded. And I was appalled.

The global economic crisis began in Thailand, on July 2, 1997. The countries of East Asia were coming off a miraculous three decades: incomes had soared, health had improved, poverty had fallen dramatically. Not only was literacy now universal, but, on international science and math tests, many of these countries outperformed the United States. Some had not suffered a single year of recession in 30 years.

But the seeds of calamity had already been planted. In the early '90s, East Asian countries had liberalized their financial and capital markets--not because they needed to attract more funds (savings rates were already 30 percent or more) but because of international pressure, including some from the U.S. Treasury Department. These changes provoked a flood of short-term capital--that is, the kind of capital that looks for the highest return in the next day, week, or month, as opposed to long-term investment in things like factories. In Thailand, this short-term capital helped fuel an unsustainable real estate boom. And, as people around the world (including Americans) have painfully learned, every real estate bubble eventually bursts, often with disastrous consequences. Just as suddenly as capital flowed in, it flowed out. And, when everybody tries to pull their money out at the same time, it causes an economic problem. A big economic problem.

The last set of financial crises had occurred in Latin America in the 1980s, when bloated public deficits and loose monetary policies led to runaway inflation. There, the IMF had correctly imposed fiscal austerity (balanced budgets) and tighter monetary policies, demanding that governments pursue those policies as a precondition for receiving aid. So, in 1997 the IMF imposed the same demands on Thailand. Austerity, the fund's leaders said, would restore confidence in the Thai economy. As the crisis spread to other East Asian nations--and even as evidence of the policy's failure mounted--the IMF barely blinked, delivering the same medicine to each ailing nation that showed up on its doorstep.

I thought this was a mistake....

William

Getting fired from your job is one of the most stressful events one can experience in life.

Two psychiatrists once conducted a study to attempt to discover how stressful various events were. They did a massive survey of 5000 people.

Losing your job was calculated to be a 47/100. To compare, having your home foreclosed on was a 30 and the death of a close friend was a 37. The only things more stressful than losing your job were things regarding beginning or ending a marriage, and going to prison.

It's understandable why most people are very, very risk averse when it comes to job loss.

See: Holmes TH, Rahe RH (1967). "The Social Readjustment Rating Scale". J Psychosom Res 11 (2): 213–8.

[Jun 28, 2017] Shibboleth of contemporary economics, free trade is just one of the mechanisms by which empires extract rents

Notable quotes:
"... Pick up an introductory textbook of economics and your chances of finding an objective assessment of a system of this kind are very low indeed. Instead, what you'll find between the covers is a ringing endorsement of free trade, usually in the most propagandistic sort of language. Most likely it will rehash the arguments originally made by British economist David Ricardo, in the early 19th century, to prove that free trade inevitably encourages every nation to develop whatever industries are best suited to its circumstances, and so produces more prosperity for everybody. Those arguments will usually be spiced up with whatever more recent additions appeal to the theoretical tastes of the textbook's author or authors, and will plop the whole discussion into a historical narrative that insists that once upon a time, there were silly people who didn't like free trade, but now we all know better. ..."
"... There's a rich irony here, because not much more than a century ago, a healthy skepticism toward the claims of free trade ideology used to be standard in the United States. At that time, Britain filled the role in the world system that the United States fills today, complete with the global empire, the gargantuan military with annual budget to match, and the endless drumbeat of brushfire wars across what would one day be called the Third World, and British economists were accordingly the world's loudest proponents of free trade, while the United States filled the role of rising industrial power that China fills today, complete with sky-high trade barriers that protected its growing industries, not to mention a distinctly cavalier attitude toward intellectual property laws. ..."
"... Free trade is simply one of the mechanisms of empire in the age of industrialism, one part of the wealth pump that concentrated the wealth of the globe in Britain during the years of its imperial dominion and does the same thing for the benefit of the United States today. Choose any other mechanism of empire, from the web of military treaties that lock allies and subject nations into a condition of dependence on the imperial center, through the immense benefits that accrue to whatever nation issues the currency in which international trade is carried out, to the way that the charitable organizations of the imperial center-missionary churches in Victoria's time, for example, or humanitarian NGOs in ours-further the agenda of empire with such weary predictability: in every case, you'll find a haze of doubletalk surrounding a straightforward exercise of imperial domination. It requires a keen eye to look past the rhetoric and pay attention to the direction the benefits flow. ..."
"... Follow the flow of wealth and you understand empire. That's true in a general and a more specific sense, and both of these have their uses. In the general sense, paying attention to shifts in wealth between the imperial core and the nations subject to it is an essential antidote to the popular sort of nonsense-popular among tame intellectuals such as Thomas Friedman ..."
"... Free trade is only fair if all nations in the agreement start from the same point. If you choose not to invest in development, that's your own lookout, but don't complain if you end up under the de facto control of the one who did. ..."
Mar 24, 2017 | marknesop.wordpress.com

robert , February 26, 2014 at 11:44 am

Regarding Kirill's post about that shibboleth of contemporary economics, free trade.

Pick up an introductory textbook of economics and your chances of finding an objective assessment of a system of this kind are very low indeed. Instead, what you'll find between the covers is a ringing endorsement of free trade, usually in the most propagandistic sort of language. Most likely it will rehash the arguments originally made by British economist David Ricardo, in the early 19th century, to prove that free trade inevitably encourages every nation to develop whatever industries are best suited to its circumstances, and so produces more prosperity for everybody. Those arguments will usually be spiced up with whatever more recent additions appeal to the theoretical tastes of the textbook's author or authors, and will plop the whole discussion into a historical narrative that insists that once upon a time, there were silly people who didn't like free trade, but now we all know better.

What inevitably gets omitted from the textbook is any discussion, based in actual historical examples, of the way that free trade works out in practice That would be awkward, because in the real world, throughout history, free trade pretty consistently hasn't done what Ricardo's rhetoric and today's economics textbooks claim it will do. Instead, it amplifies the advantages of wealthy nations and the disadvantages of poorer ones, concentrating capital and income in the hands of those who already have plenty of both while squeezing out potential rivals and forcing down wages across the board. This is why every nation in history that's ever developed a significant industrial sector to its economy has done so by rejecting the ideology of free trade, and building its industries behind a protective wall of tariffs, trade barriers, and capital controls, while those nations that have listened to the advice of the tame economists of the British and American empires have one and all remained mired in poverty and dependence as long as they did so.

There's a rich irony here, because not much more than a century ago, a healthy skepticism toward the claims of free trade ideology used to be standard in the United States. At that time, Britain filled the role in the world system that the United States fills today, complete with the global empire, the gargantuan military with annual budget to match, and the endless drumbeat of brushfire wars across what would one day be called the Third World, and British economists were accordingly the world's loudest proponents of free trade, while the United States filled the role of rising industrial power that China fills today, complete with sky-high trade barriers that protected its growing industries, not to mention a distinctly cavalier attitude toward intellectual property laws.

One result of that latter detail is that pirate editions of the Encyclopedia Britannica were produced and sold by a number of American firms all through the 19th century. Most of these editions differed from their British originals in an interesting way, though. The entry for "Free Trade" in the original editions repeated standard British free-trade economic theory, repeating Ricardo's arguments and dismissing criticisms of free trade out of hand; the American editors by and large took the trouble to replace these with entries critiquing free trade ideology in much the same terms I've used in this post. The replacement of pro- with anti-free trade arguments in these pirate editions, interestingly enough, attracted far more denunciation in the British press than the piracy itself got, which shows that the real issues were tolerably well understood at the time.

When it comes to free trade and its alternatives, that level of understanding is nowhere near so common these days, at least in Britain -I've long suspected that businessmen and officials in Beijing have a very precise understanding of what free trade actually means, though it would hardly be to their advantage just now to talk about that with any degree of candor. In the West even those who speak most enthusiastically about relocalization and the end of corporate globalism apparently haven't noticed how effectively tariffs, trade barriers, and capital controls foster domestic industries and rebuild national economies-or perhaps it's just that too many of them aren't willing to consider paying the kind of prices for their iPods and Xboxes that would follow the enactment of a reasonable tariff, much less the prices that would be required if we had the kind of trade barriers that built the American economy and could build it again, and bluecollar First World workers were paid First World wages to make them.

Free trade is simply one of the mechanisms of empire in the age of industrialism, one part of the wealth pump that concentrated the wealth of the globe in Britain during the years of its imperial dominion and does the same thing for the benefit of the United States today. Choose any other mechanism of empire, from the web of military treaties that lock allies and subject nations into a condition of dependence on the imperial center, through the immense benefits that accrue to whatever nation issues the currency in which international trade is carried out, to the way that the charitable organizations of the imperial center-missionary churches in Victoria's time, for example, or humanitarian NGOs in ours-further the agenda of empire with such weary predictability: in every case, you'll find a haze of doubletalk surrounding a straightforward exercise of imperial domination. It requires a keen eye to look past the rhetoric and pay attention to the direction the benefits flow.

Follow the flow of wealth and you understand empire. That's true in a general and a more specific sense, and both of these have their uses. In the general sense, paying attention to shifts in wealth between the imperial core and the nations subject to it is an essential antidote to the popular sort of nonsense-popular among tame intellectuals such as Thomas Friedman, at least, and their audiences in the imperial core-that imagines empire as a sort of social welfare program for conquered nations. Whether it's some old pukka sahib talking about how the British Empire brought railroads and good government to India, or his neoconservative equivalent talking about how the United States ought to export the blessings of democracy and the free market to the Middle East or the former Soviet Union it's codswallop, and the easiest way to see that it's codswallop is to notice that the price paid for whatever exports are under discussion normally amounts to the systematic impoverishment of the subject nation.

marknesop , February 26, 2014 at 5:44 pm

Free trade is only fair if all nations in the agreement start from the same point. If you choose not to invest in development, that's your own lookout, but don't complain if you end up under the de facto control of the one who did. But when a highly-developed nation espouses a free trade agreement with a nation that is just starting, it should be fairly easy to forecast who will come out ahead on the deal.

Did you uhhh write that yourself? Because it's pretty awesome.

astabada , February 27, 2014 at 12:46 am

I agree with Mark, your comment is great. Especially when you mention that these matters were much more clear to the general public a century ago, than they are now.

This is what List wrote (National System):

It is a very common clever device that when anyone has attained the summit of greatness, he kicks away the ladder by which he has climbed up, in order to deprive others of the means of climbing up after him. In this lies the secret of the cosmopolitical doctrine of Adam Smith, and of the cosmopolitical tendencies of his great contemporary William Pitt, and of all his successors in the British Government administrations. Any nation which by means of protective duties and restrictions on navigation has raised her manufacturing power and her navigation to such a degree of development that no other nation can sustain free competition with her, can do nothing wiser than to throw away these ladders of her greatness, to preach to other nations the benefits of free trade, and to declare in penitent tones that she has hitherto wandered in the paths of error, and has now for the first time succeeded in discovering the truth.

[Jun 28, 2017] The Scourge of Managerialism – Generic Management, the Managers Coup DEtat, Mission-Hostile Management Rolled Up, as Described by Some Men from Down Under

Notable quotes:
"... The particular system of beliefs and practices defining the roles and powers of managers in our present context is what is referred to as managerialism. This is defined by two basic tenets: (i) that all social organisations must conform to a single structure; and (ii) that the sole regulatory principle is the market. Both ideas have far-reaching implications. The claim that every organisation - whether it is a mining company, a hospital, a school, a professional association or a charity - must be structured according to a single model, conforming to a single set of legislative requirements, not so long ago would have seemed bizarre, but is now largely taken for granted. The principle of the market has become the solitary, or dominant, criterion for decision making, and other criteria, such as loyalty, trust, care and a commitment to critical reflection, have become displaced and devalued. Indeed, the latter are viewed as quaint anachronisms with less importance and meaning than formal procedures or standards that can be readily linked to key performance indicators, budget end points, efficiency markers and externally imposed targets. ..."
"... Originally conceived as a strategy to manage large and increasingly complex organisations, in the contemporary world, no aspect of social life is now considered to be exempt from managerialist principles and practices. Policies and practices have become highly standardised, emphasising market-style incentives, devolved budgets and outsourcing, replacement of centralised budgeting with departmentalised user-pays systems, casualisation of labour, and an increasingly hierarchical approach to every aspect of institutional and social organisation. ..."
"... The managerial class is the universal class Hegel wrote about. It is the enemy of the productive classes, the agricultural and the industrial. Perhaps managers are like the eunuchs in former empires, grabbing power without production, always zealous that no idea will threaten their standing. ..."
"... Pick any empire on the verge of collapse in history and you'll find terrifying parallels to America today. I think all failing empires/societies must follow roughly similar trajectories on their way to oblivion. ..."
"... The creation of "professional managers" was not simply shaped by market fundamentalism but also by the progressive movement itself. Robert H. Wiebe's book "The Search for Order: 1877-1920, does a remarkable job of detailing this process. ..."
"... The trajectory runs from local autonomy once being the heart of American democracy, to the incremental erosion of the autonomy of community, to the supposedly necessary regulatory, managerial needs of urban-industrial life. and finally to the creation of flexible administrative devices that tended to encourage the creation of professional managers(in both the public and private sectors) and the increasing centralization of authority. ..."
Jun 28, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Posted on October 29, 2015 by Lambert Strether Lambert here: As we dig deeper into the health care system, concepts like those expressed in this article will become increasingly useful. The patterns identified by Poses here remind me of the university, which is also being eaten alive by a bloated and parasitical administrative layer.

By Roy Poses , MD, Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at Brown University, and the President of FIRM – the Foundation for Integrity and Responsibility in Medicine. Cross posted from the Health Care Renewal website

I just found an important article that in the June, 2015 issue of the Medical Journal of Australia(1) that sums up many of ways the leadership of medical (and most other organizations) have gone wrong. It provides a clear, organized summary of "managerialism" in health care, which roughly rolls up what we have called generic management , the manager's coup d'etat , and aspects of mission-hostile management into a very troubling but coherent package. I will summarize the main points, giving relevant quotes.

Recent Developments in Business Management Dogma Have Gravely Affected Health Care

Many health practitioners will consider the theory of business management to be of obscure relevance to clinical practice. They might therefore be surprised to learn that the changes that have occurred in this discipline over recent years have driven a fundamental revolution that has already transformed their daily lives, arguably in perverse and harmful ways.

These Changes Have Been Largely Anechoic

these changes have by and large been introduced insidiously, with little public debate, under the guise of unquestioned 'best practice'.

See our previous discussions of the anechoic effect , how discussion of facts and ideas that threaten what we can now call the managerialist power structure of health care are not considered appropriate for polite conversation, or public discussion.

Businesses are Now Run by Professional Managers, Not Owners

The traditional control by business owners in Europe and North America gave way during the 19th century to corporate control of companies. This led to the emergence of a new group of professionals whose job it was to perform the administrative tasks of production. Consequently, management became identified as both a skill and a profession in its own right, requiring specific training and based on numerous emergent theories of practice.

These Changes Were Enabled by Neoliberalism (or Market Fundamentalism , or Economism )

Among these many vicissitudes, a decisive new departure occurred with the advent of what became known as neoliberalism in the 1980s (sometimes called Thatcherism because of its enthusiastic adoption by the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom). A reaction against Keynesian economic policy and the welfare state, this harshly reinstated the regulatory role of the market in all aspects of economic activity and led directly to the generalisation of the standards and practices of management from the private to the public sectors. The radical cost cutting and privatisation of social services that followed the adoption of neoliberal principles became a public policy strategy rigorously embraced by governments around the world, including successive Liberal and Labor governments in Australia.

Note that this is a global problem, at least of English speaking developed countries. The article focuses on Australia, but we have certainly seen parallels in the US and the UK. Further, note that we have discussed this concept, also termed market fundamentalism or economism.

Managerialism Provides a One-Size Fits All Approach to the Management of All Organizations, in Which Money Becomes the Central Consideration

The particular system of beliefs and practices defining the roles and powers of managers in our present context is what is referred to as managerialism. This is defined by two basic tenets: (i) that all social organisations must conform to a single structure; and (ii) that the sole regulatory principle is the market. Both ideas have far-reaching implications. The claim that every organisation - whether it is a mining company, a hospital, a school, a professional association or a charity - must be structured according to a single model, conforming to a single set of legislative requirements, not so long ago would have seemed bizarre, but is now largely taken for granted. The principle of the market has become the solitary, or dominant, criterion for decision making, and other criteria, such as loyalty, trust, care and a commitment to critical reflection, have become displaced and devalued. Indeed, the latter are viewed as quaint anachronisms with less importance and meaning than formal procedures or standards that can be readily linked to key performance indicators, budget end points, efficiency markers and externally imposed targets.

Originally conceived as a strategy to manage large and increasingly complex organisations, in the contemporary world, no aspect of social life is now considered to be exempt from managerialist principles and practices. Policies and practices have become highly standardised, emphasising market-style incentives, devolved budgets and outsourcing, replacement of centralised budgeting with departmentalised user-pays systems, casualisation of labour, and an increasingly hierarchical approach to every aspect of institutional and social organisation.

We have frequently discussed how professional generic managers have taken over health care (sometimes referred to as the manager's coup d'etat .) We have noted that generic managers often seem ill-informed about if not overtly hostile to the values of health care professionals and the missions of health care organizations.

Very Adverse Effects Result in Health Care and Academics

In the workplace, the authority of management is intensified, and behaviour that previously might have been regarded as bullying becomes accepted good practice. The autonomous discretion of the professional is undermined, and cuts in staff and increases in caseload occur without democratic consultation of staff. Loyal long-term staff are dismissed and often humiliated, and rigorous monitoring of the performance of the remaining employees focuses on narrowly defined criteria relating to attainment of financial targets, efficiency and effectiveness.

The principles of managerialist theory have been applied equally to the public and the private sectors. In the health sector, it has precipitated a shift in power from clinicians to managers and a change in emphasis from a commitment to patient care to a primary concern with budgetary efficiency. Increasingly, public hospital funding is tied to reductions in bed stays and other formal criteria, and all decision making is subject to review relating to time and money. Older and chronically ill people become seen not as subjects of compassion, care and respect but as potential financial burdens. This does not mean that the system is not still staffed by skilled clinicians committed to caring for the sick and needy; it is rather that it has become increasingly harder for these professionals to do their jobs as they would like.

In the university sector, the story is much the same; all activities are assessed in relation to the prosperity of the institution as a business enterprise rather than as a social one. Education is seen as a commodity like any other, with priority given to vocational skills rather than intellectual values. Teaching and research become subordinated to administration, top-down management and obsessively applied management procedures. Researchers are required to generate external funding to support their salaries, to focus on short-term problems, with the principal purpose being to enhance the university's research ranking. The focus shifts from knowledge to grant income, from ideas to publications, from speculation to conformity, from collegiality to property, and from academic freedom to control. Rigid hierarchies are created from heads of school to deans of faculties and so on. Academic staff - once encouraged to engage in public life - are forbidden to speak publicly without permission from their managers.

Again, we have discussed these changes largely in the US context. We have noted how modern health care leadership has threatened primary care . We have noted how vulnerable patients become moreso in the current system, e.g., see our discussions of for-profit hospices . We have discussed attacks on academic freedom and free speech , the plight of whistle-blowers , education that really is deceptive marketing, academic institutions mired in individual and institutional conflicts of interest , and the suppression and manipulation of clinical research . We have noted how health care leaders have become increasingly richly rewarded , apparently despite, or perhaps because of the degradation of the health care mission over which they have presided.

The Case Study

The article provided a case study of the apparent demise of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians as a physician led organization, leading to alleged emphasis on "extreme secrecy and 'commercial in confidence," growth of conflicts of interest, risk aversion on controversial issues. When members of the organization called for a vote to increase transparency and accountability, the hired management apparently sued their own members.

Authors' Summary

Whether the damage done to the larger institutions - the public hospitals and the universities - can be reversed, or even stemmed, is a bigger question still. The most that can be said is that even if the present, damaging phase of managerial theory and practice eventually passes, its destructive effects will linger on for many years to come.

My Summary

I now believe that the most important cause of US health care dysfunction, and likely of global health care dysfunction, are the problems in leadership and governance we have often summarized (leadership that is ill-informed, ignorant or hostile to the health care mission and professional values, incompetent, self-interested, conflicted or outright criminal or corrupt , and governance that lacks accountability, transparency, honesty, and ethics.) In turn, it appears that these problems have been generated by the twin plagues of managerialism ( generic management , the manager's coup d'etat ) and neoliberalism (market fundamentalism, economism) as applied to health care. It may be the many of the larger problems in US and global society also can be traced back to these sources.

We now see our problems in health care as part of a much larger whole, which partly explains why efforts to address specific health care problems country by country have been near futile. We are up against something much larger than what we thought when we started Health Care Renewal in 2005. But at least we should now be able join our efforts to those in other countries and in other sectors.

Reference

1. Komesaroff PA, Kerridge IH, Isaacs D, Brooks PM. The scourge of managerialism and the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. Med J Aust 2015; 202: 519- 521. Link here .

We have to leaven this dismal post with the 1980 live version of "Down Under" by Men at Work

https://www.youtube.com/embed/IbsfupH8W1o

JLCG , October 29, 2015 at 3:18 am

The managerial class is the universal class Hegel wrote about. It is the enemy of the productive classes, the agricultural and the industrial. Perhaps managers are like the eunuchs in former empires, grabbing power without production, always zealous that no idea will threaten their standing.

Eleanor , October 29, 2015 at 9:21 am

It is unfair to eunuchs to compare them to managers. The man who led the great Ming dynasty naval journeys to SE Asia and Africa was a eunuch. The man credited with the invention of paper was a eunuch attached to the Han Dynasty court.

Narses, one of the emperor Justinian's great generals, was a eunuch.

He began his military career at the age of sixty and continued until he was murdered by the then-emperor at the age of ninety-five.

(This post is the result of very quick checking and memories of Robert Graves' wonderful book Count Belisarius. But I am mostly right.)

Ed , October 29, 2015 at 10:05 am

This comment completely misses the point of JLGC's excellent comment, and I refer you to the opening chapters of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms for remedial reading. Its become striking, at least to me, how much the developed western world is imitating the declines of the Chinese dynasties.

jgordon , October 29, 2015 at 10:21 am

Pick any empire on the verge of collapse in history and you'll find terrifying parallels to America today. I think all failing empires/societies must follow roughly similar trajectories on their way to oblivion.

Lexington , October 30, 2015 at 12:22 am

One of those parallels is surely that authentic historical memory has been lost and replaced by the authority of works of fiction

S M Tenneshaw , October 29, 2015 at 4:45 am

Back in 1975 at my local technical college, I was fortunate enough to snag a part-time COBOL programming job at the school. My colleagues and I noticed that several managers above the department level had little to do but sit around in their offices. Periodically they would emerge to engage some unlucky soul in dumb conversation. One of my co-workers summed it up admirably: "The more they make, the less they do."

A couple years later while reading the Sunday paper job ads, I ran across this job title: Manager of Management Development. A sign of very bad things to come.

PIGL , October 29, 2015 at 4:48 am

Let me say this about that:

"Voltaire's Bastards"

John Raulston Saul

dk , October 29, 2015 at 6:03 am

I have to wonder if it's a coincidence that both healthcare and education are given as especially notable victims of inappropriate/ineffective management

Because both healthcare and education are things that can best and primarily be done by and for oneself. And there is overlap here: organic chemistry is a special case of molecular physics. Regardless of how well instructors present it, there is a wealth of well understood information on molecular physics (with a lot of special examination of organic chemistry), and so far the bulk of that information remains easily available (although it's starting to disappear at an increasing and alarming rate). I know that many will say, "there's a lot more to it than that!", but this only indicates that they themselves have made no sustained effort to understand these matters. It's not rocket science (which is, indeed, quite demanding).

I think the authors may somewhat overlook collateral (and undoubtedly mutually synergistic with managerial phenomena) issues in the quality of teachers and doctors, which has also degraded in a similar way, possibly for similar reasons. Rote learning increasingly replaces comprehension in both fields. Inundated with unproven, and often unsound, commercial and theoretical dogma, rudimentary performance is still possible, but results are mediocre. Excellence in these fields requires patience, precision and and familiarity with underlying principles; "caring", bonhomie and rote knowledge are admirable, but not viable substitutes.

Does it even make sense to pay to undertake courses in order to get a certificate of achievement? From a commercial career perspective, certainly. But such a certificate is no sure guarantee of skill. "Qualified" personnel are not necessarily capable. In a time of ever increasingly complex systems and disciplines, capability is more needed than ever. The management sector is not the only area where performance, and fulfillment of actual (in contrast to nominal) responsibility, degrades.

For that matter, does it even make sense to have somebody undertake to diagnose your own health, without detailed information about your diet, your regular environment, your physical history, and any exceptions to these; information for which you yourself should be the best source? The consulting physician enters at an immediate disadvantage, facing a significant information deficit; it behooves individuals to become more proactive, especially when rudimentary diagnostic equipment (sphygmomanometers, simple blood test kits, etc) and reference information (anatomical references, drug chemistries and interactions, etc) are readily available. True, there are some thing's you can't do yourself, surgery is surely a valuable skill and worthy of respect, but it has significant limits as well (replacing a bad heart in an unhealthy body won't cure the body, etc).

Managerialism is a scourge, a calamity, a great threat; no argument from me. But it's not the only problem we face, as a culture, and as an economy, of human beings, in these fields and others. And the authors acknowledge this tangentially, but perhaps somewhat over-emphasize the impact if managerialism on the ongoing degradation of these and other fields, at least by omission of other evident and significant factors.

norm de plume , October 29, 2015 at 6:35 am

'Does it even make sense to pay to undertake courses in order to get a certificate of achievement? From a commercial career perspective, certainly. But such a certificate is no sure guarantee of skill. "Qualified" personnel are not necessarily capable'

I think in time there will be a move away from official credentialing toward companies and organisations testing candidates – 'qualified' or not – themselves, with a professional or a dept (depending on the size of the concern) whose job it is to sort the wheat from the chaff. They would be in constant liaison with the various sections (and not just the heads) to keep abreast of what skills and knowledge are required in appointees, and test candidates accordingly. The net enables enterprising people too poor to afford expensive laurels to become as skilled and knowledgeable and probably more flexible than those born with 'advantages'. The twin drivers of this change will be, for the employers, the degradation of quality in 'qualified' applicants that you refer to, and, for the employees, the debt peonage involved in becoming 'qualified'

'For that matter, does it even make sense to have somebody undertake to diagnose your own health, without detailed information about your diet, your regular environment, your physical history, and any exceptions to these; information for which you yourself should be the best source?'

Not to mention your genetic heritage yes, human variation is the big blind spot not just in medicine but health generally. Almost nothing can be generalised, yet whole industries in health and wellbeing rely on generalisation.

norm de plume , October 29, 2015 at 6:09 am

This

'The claim that every organisation - whether it is a mining company, a hospital, a school, a professional association or a charity - must be structured according to a single model, conforming to a single set of legislative requirements, not so long ago would have seemed bizarre, but is now largely taken for granted. The principle of the market has become the solitary, or dominant, criterion for decision making, and other criteria, such as loyalty, trust, care and a commitment to critical reflection, have become displaced and devalued'

Put me in mind of this :

'And, so, finally the floodgates were open. Nowadays, every expected income stream is a fair candidate for capitalization. And since income streams are generated by social entities, processes, organizations and institutions, we end up with the 'capitalization of every thing'. Capitalists routinely discount human life, including its genetic code and social habits; they discount organized institutions from education and entertainment to religion and the law; they discount voluntary social networks; they discount urban violence, civil war and international conflict; they even discount the environmental future of humanity. Nothing seems to escape the piercing eye of capitalization: if it generates earning expectations it must have a price, and the algorithm that gives future earnings a price is capitalization'

Ed Walker , October 29, 2015 at 6:11 am

The number of healthcare administrators has soared. Here's a nice chart. The huge increase occurred in the early 90s.
http://www.google.fr/imgres?imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Fimage.slidesharecdn.com%2Fpnhplongsetweisbartversion-121221105916-phpapp01%2F95%2Fpnhp-long-setweisbartversion-52-638.jpg%253Fcb%253D1356087906&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.slideshare.net%2FPNHP%2Fpnhp-long-setweisbartversion&h=479&w=638&tbnid=jrT8UrwLVoOZbM%3A&docid=udNUOrYIofj7GM&ei=NfAxVpKnNYLjUc_foeAP&tbm=isch&iact=rc&uact=3&dur=1757&page=1&start=0&ndsp=15&ved=0CCoQrQMwBGoVChMI0pXI_LfnyAIVgnEUCh3Pbwj8

guest , October 29, 2015 at 1:50 pm

Does anybody have an idea of what changed in 1990 to lead to such a sudden jump in the management overhead of health organizations? It must have been something crucial in the legal or economic environment of the sector.

redleg , October 30, 2015 at 8:14 pm

Start here:
https://kenhoma.wordpress.com/2014/04/30/how-many-mba-degrees-are-awarded-each-year/
It takes time to achieve a critical mass of MBA-wielding managers in order for group-think to establish itself.
I'm not going to exhaust myself fact-checking this data, so if anyone finds better please correct me and post it. Based on my own experience in a STEM field, this looks about right.

abynormal , October 29, 2015 at 6:24 am

Sadistic Managerial 'teams' have existed too long in too many areas. my mother recently received a notice on the door of her apartment, she's occupied for 5yrs. this letter was short and to the point 'if you do not pay .23 (cents) before the end of the business day, you will vacate your apartment'. mom, 81yro, called me in hysterics. i got to her apt. and immediately had to attend to her racing heart and hyperventilating. i read the letter slowly and see where mom missed the "you will voluntarily vacate your apartment".
after a few deep breaths, i hiked down to the den of smiling sadist offering coffee and cake. they introduced themselves as the 'new management', when i asked how many of the group of 5 it took to pull the 3yro .23 Cent delinquency i was assured by the head honcho, she was involved with the entire process. i explained my CPA sister and myself, Corporate Analyst (stretch), were off a few zero's and hadn't even bothered to account for the home office reconciliations.

back to 'healthcare/hospitals': "-owned hospitals. How many are there? Two hundred and thirty-eight of them in the whole country (out of more than five thousand)–somewhere between four and five percent of the total in the U.S. (numbers courtesy TA Henry from this excellent piece).

What are the issues?

Obamacare effectively bans doctors from owning hospitals in the U.S.
Those already in existence are grandfathered in under the law.
We know that doctor-owned hospitals have higher average costs–hence the rationale for banning them under a law with the intent of "bending the cost curve."

In the most recent Medicare data (December 2012 report on "value-based purchasing"), doctor-owned hospitals did well in terms of achieving quality milestones.

How well?

Really well. Physician-owned hospitals took nine out of the top ten spots in the country. And in spite of their low relative number, forty-eight out of the top one hundred.

What's the secret sauce? Here's a little tidbit on the #1 ranked hospital from another excellent piece on this issue:

The top one is Treasure Valley Hospital in Boise, Idaho, a 10-bed hospital that boasts a low patient-to-nurse ratio and extra attention, right down to thank-you notes sent to each discharged patient.

A 10-bed hospital? Thank you notes for each discharged patient? Sign me up to go there next time I need hospital services.

Who cares? Well, we all should. Why?

It boils down to incentives.

When doctors own the hospitals, they stand to directly share in profits. If you're a doctor-owner, and the hospital you both run and own is functioning at a high level, you think, "This is what America is all about. Free enterprise. Why shouldn't I make more money if my hospital runs well?"

As a taxpayer, do I want government incentives going to hospitals that are privately owned and known for cherry-picking insured patients?

Moreover, what does it say about public hospitals, or academic centers, that often see the sickest, poorest, most vulnerable patients? Yes, their quality is measurably lower, according to this data. But now, in spite of staying true to their core missions (serving the public) they're being further penalized.

Is this just another case of the rich simply getting richer?

Maybe Obamacare's got it wrong. Maybe we should build upon the model of doctor-ownership and turn over public hospitals to their workers. All of them. Let the nurses buy in. And the food handlers. And the "environmental services" folks (i.e. custodial crews). Let's really let the workers own the means of production. Then we can see where incentives get us." http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2013/05/doctor-owned-hospitals-rich-richer.html

Sister Act: Gov. Perry's Little-Known Sister is a Lobbyist for Lucrative Doctor-Owned Hospitals; Milla Perry Jones is vice president of government relations at United Surgical Partners International, an Addison, Texas company that runs hospitals and surgery centers co-owned by doctors. Sister Jones works with trade groups to rebut claims that doctor-owned medical facilities inflate American medical bills. Both Governor Perry and his sister have championed doctor-owned facilities in Texas and Washington.
2006 federal report found that Medicare costs are 20 percent higher at doctor-owned orthopedic surgical hospitals than at competing community hospitals. These studies typically do not determine if the extra procedures are beneficial. The doctor-owned industry says it delivers superior care and points to contradictory research that does not associate doctor ownership with higher costs.
doctor-owned facilities are money machines. A 2009 study found that Texas' doctor-owned hospitals pumped $2.3 billion into the economy each year. The industry has had to use some of this money to fend off political meddling. Heavily favoring Republicans, Perry Jones' United Surgical PAC spent almost $250,000 on federal politicians from 2005 to 2010, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The New York Times reported that Doctors Hospital at Renaissance donors gave congressional Democrats $1.3 million in that period, with then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visiting that hospital in 2007. Surpassing the powerful Texas Medical Association, the Doctors Hospital's Border Health PAC spent close to $4 million on Texas state elections from 2005 through 2010, becoming Texas' 13th largest PAC. Houston's doctor-owned North Cypress Medical Center pumped another $500,000 into Texas state races, ranking as Governor Perry's No. 5 donor in 2010.

In one of his last presidential ads, Rick Perry skewered Washington as a twisted place where, "You can't say that Congressmen becoming lobbyists is a form of political corruption." United Surgical, North Cypress and Doctors Hospital at Renaissance have paid federal lobbyists-including ex-Congressman Tom Loeffler-almost $3 million since 2005. Joined by two Perry Jones-affiliated trade groups, these same doctor-owned interests paid 24 Texas lobbyists-including U.S. Senator John Cornyn's daughter-up to $3.4 million in that period. These lobbyists do not include Milla Perry Jones, whose advocacy activities may not trigger Texas' registration requirements. (A Texas lobbyist generally must register if she receives more than $1,000 a quarter for direct communications with public officials). http://www.texasobserver.org/obamacare-jags-rick-perrys-lobbyist-sister/

can you imagine the independent sadist managing these hospitals?

Wade Riddick , October 29, 2015 at 9:32 am

It's about confiscating public budgets – and, as such, it fits into the broader pattern of privatized jail and war. When you have for-profit war, you never get any peace; there's no money in it. For profit medicine is about sickcare and not healthcare. There's no profit in cure or prevention, only treatment.

Sickness creates natural captive markets for rent-seeking monopolies and cartels to exploit. Once you've got a disease there are only so many chemical options to treat it. Corporate America is often actively blocking cheap treatments to steer patients toward patented medicine. See my earlier comment about Pharmacy Benefit Managers. The recent epidemics of drug shortages aren't a coincidence; they are engineered. It's only happening with cheap, effective, often public domain chemicals (e.g., methotrexate, 2ml vials of MgSO4). This is by design. Rent-seekers confiscate public goods like public domain chemicals and provide inferior, expensive, patented substitutes.

Some of these are baffling if you don't understand the recent breakthroughs in biochemistry. When you take gel helminths (worms like whipworms) out of the body you get autoimmune diseases like m.s. and crohn's. This has been clear for about ten years but have you heard about that research from drug company-funded "patient" groups? When you feed people antibiotics that kill their gut flora and sell people food stripped of necessary fiber to nourish said bacteria, you get inflammation and insulin resistance – contributing to, sometimes outright causing, Alzheimer's, diabetes, autism, atherosclerosis, cancer and polycystic ovaries, among many diseases. What news company wants to tell the public the food companies in creating an addictive sugar-laden product by removing fiber is also creating disease? Big Tobacco wasn't an anomaly. It's a pattern of regular conduct across industries.

Patients are being tortured to death in this system.

washunate , October 29, 2015 at 9:50 am

Love the read. The quaint notion that the top employees in healthcare aren't in it for the money still lingers in some corners of our society.

One quibble with using this quote

A reaction against Keynesian economic policy and the welfare state, this harshly reinstated the regulatory role of the market in all aspects of economic activity and led directly to the generalisation of the standards and practices of management from the private to the public sectors.

It does not apply very well to the American context. Healthcare in the US context is all about the welfare state. US taxpayers give more money to both medical and non-medical managers/administrators/specialists/etc. than any other taxpayers in any other country on the planet. Markets play no role in the monstrosities that have become our hospital franchises, drug dealers, and equipment peddlers. These corporations (many of them 'nonprofit') are the anti-thesis of price takers in a competitive marketplace.

tyaz , October 29, 2015 at 11:19 am

Health care in the US is a mess in more than one dimension. Many aspects of managerialism are certainly a major problem contributing to increased costs and reduced quality. But there is an aspect of "overconsumption" of health services as well. I put it in quotes because the framing of "overconsumption" puts the blame on patients (as if they are "consumers"), rather than where I think the blame truly belongs - health care providers and management.

The existing system is largely setup to pay by the number of procedures (easy to measure with electronic health records) rather than the actual quality of care (not as easy to measure). Specialized doctors and managers have an incentive to push for unnecessary procedures and clinical visits, because it means they get paid more.

Perhaps the strongest evidence for doctors responding to these perverse incentives is the specializations that doctors choose. Primary care specializations like family medicine, general practice, and pediatrics are being decimated because these specializations are largely focused with preventative or long-term care. As a result, the pay is substantially lower than other specializations that perform many procedures. The evidence is that there is a critical shortage of doctors in these primary care fields, especially in rural areas of the country. Doctors flock to specializations that offer many procedures and consequently higher pay.

JTMcPhee , October 30, 2015 at 8:47 am

Smaal example of "wallet biopsy" structuring of "health care:" You have a lab test or MRI or tissue biopsy done, under the "provider's" order. To be "given the results," even if normal or benign, you have to " be seen in clinic." A nurse or paraprofessional may actually "give you your results," but that will be billed as an office visit with the doctor. Don't want to pay f9r the wallet biopsy? Fine, the doc doesn't "give you yor results." And if you find a more compassionate, maybe even more skilled, provider? If there's a balance due on your account with the first, S/he effectively has a "chart lien," like a lawyer's "file lien," on your very own personal medical records.

And maybe that's "against the law," some places, but as always, where there's ño effective remedy (sue the doctor or the corporation? No effective remedy), there's no right

My wife went through this with a "Chr8stoan" DO primary-care dude who discovered Mammon was a more compelling god than YHWH, corporations and privatized his practice and got into peddling "procedures" like in-office ablation of throat tissue to "cure apnea and snoring," and Trusting Patient enrollment in drug trials for Bad Meds

Anyone who thinks clinicianscare all Albert Schweitzers needs to read "The House if God," learn the real rules of practice, understand what a "GOMER" is, and hope you won't get the "buff and turf" treatment. It's a hilarious book, but a check on the irrational exuberance that endows practitioners of the calling art business of medicine with universal expectations of virtue https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_House_of_God

And Lambert, don't credit me with invention of that "wallet biopßy" phrase– it's a commonplace in the business of medicine.

Lambert Strether Post author , October 30, 2015 at 12:10 pm

We need more such commonplaces! The language will be very revealing. Readers?

JTMcPhee , October 30, 2015 at 8:59 am

"Wallet biopsy:". http://csn.cancer.org/node/253191
Another less cynical take: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=wallet%20biopsy
And closer to the real meaning: http://insureblog.blogspot.com/2009/01/wallet-biopsy.html?m=1
And more: http://www.healingwell.com/community/default.aspx?f=35&m=3346181

Why the vast majority of us humans will" never have nice things," like comity and empathy and simple decency, 'cuz more than enough of us are "all too human."

TedWa , October 29, 2015 at 11:31 am

Good read. Self-sustainability in all aspects of our lives is being usurped by un-free markets created by rent seekers or their lackeys. There is no longer a desire for America to be the best nation in the world because that would mean it's self-sustaining. And I'm not talking budgets. I'm talking people running things instead of corporations. No longer does Buy American mean anything – actually, it's been outlawed by our trade agreements. There is no drive among our leaders anymore for America to be self-sustaining, which includes taking care of the least of us because we're all in this together. Capitalism as practiced by corporations is dead, it just refuses to be buried. Supported by the Fed handouts it's busy handing out crutches for the entities it's crippled – which it then intends to kick the crutches out from under. Hilarious ehh? Universities, hospitals, pharma, the post office you name it used to all be self-sustaining entities that people could afford or that provided needed services at low prices and actually cared about people. Self-sustaining to me means America having the best food, the best health care, the best education, the happiest people and on and on – the shining city on the hill so to speak. Instead we get crapification of everything we need and it's all for sale to the highest bidder who then crapifies everything even more. It's a race to the bottom and the ultimate goal is a floor full of crutches and no one left standing.

TedWa , October 29, 2015 at 3:04 pm

I meant : "It's a race to the bottom and the ultimate goal is a floor full of broken crutches and no one left standing."

Masonboro , October 29, 2015 at 5:23 pm

+ 10

The medical association I use actually has a C-level job called "Chief Efficiency Officer". Her latest was raising the bar for hospital referrals thus reducing insurance company costs and increasing consumer (I have stopped saying patient) risk. The incentive is the insurance companies are kicking back part of the extra profit. Another case of privatize profit – socialize cost since the added cost to consumers is impossible to measure. If I can find the letter from the association announcing (and attempting to rationalize) the change, I will email a copy to Lambert.

Jim

Adam Eran , October 29, 2015 at 2:23 pm

Worth a look: Matthew Stewart's The Management Myth . It discloses that the very foundations of "scientific management" originating with Frederick Winslow Taylor were flawed. Taylor cooked the results of his "scientific" experiments in getting more productivity from the workforce to fit his theories. The first MBA - Penn's Wharton School - was founded on this con. Similar cons were at the inception of the Harvard MBA.

The "MBA Mentality" - embodied by W, among others - says everything can be measured, and measurement is what makes it real. Hence testing our students until their eyeballs bleed is now an endorsed strategy to improve educational outcomes. No actual science supports this conclusion, but that hasn't stopped the people who want to leave No Child Behind(tm).

Turns out, management is a liberal art! Who knew?!

Mickey Marzick , October 29, 2015 at 2:29 pm

"The particular system of beliefs and practices defining the roles and powers of managers in our present context is what is referred to as managerialism. This is defined by two basic tenets: (i) that all social organisations must conform to a single structure; and (ii) that the sole regulatory principle is the market. Both ideas have far-reaching implications. The claim that every organisation - whether it is a mining company, a hospital, a school, a professional association or a charity - must be structured according to a single model, conforming to a single set of legislative requirements, Originally conceived as a strategy to manage large and increasingly complex organisations, in the contemporary world, no aspect of social life is now considered to be exempt from managerialist principles and practices."

This is an apt description of MARKET TOTALITARIANISM.

MBAs and project managers armed with their metric-driven spreadsheets in pursuit of "best practice" – market lebensraum – speak the same language and spearhead this offensive against the welfare state. A managerial elite devoted to the belief that the the market will set you free functions much like the Waffen SS did in another regime with explicit totalitarian aspirations. The need for concentration camps is not needed in this version of totalitarianism because "no aspect of social life is exempt from managerialist principles and practices." The institutions of civil society have been captured by this "weltanshuung/zeitgeist" and dissent is lost in the "nacht und nebel" of the eternal present.

Herbert Marcuse [One Dimensional Man], Eric Fromm, [Escape From Freedom] and the Frankfurt School broached the idea of what has evolved into "market totalitarianism" shortly after the Second World War. Dismissed largely as a Marxist rant it did not garner much traction inside or outside of academia, especially in this country. I suspect many of you are too young to be familiar with this body of work – no fault of yours. Nevertheless, LIBERALISM 2.0 [aka neoliberalism] did not capture the hearts and minds of the political classes until the 1970s signified by Ronald Reagan's election in 1980. From then on it gathered steam and by the 1990s it was apparent that "market totalitarianism" was on the rise, if not yet ascendant.

Orwellian concepts like "doublethink/doublespeak" resonated as the language employed in political discourse became little more than smoke and mirrors. "Reform" signified a revamping of welfare and criminal justice. It also has come to mean little more than slash-and-burn CUTS to programs associated with the welfare state or their outright privatization under the rubric of "choice" . Natural gas and electric rate "choice" programs exemplify this approach. Indeed, the two biggest prizes – Social Security and Medicare – are subject to calls for "entitlement reform" by Republicans and Democrats alike. That both programs have been internalized in the minds of many as "entitlements" destined for "reform" testifies to this. The federal deficit matters now and the hysteria surrounding it will likely be a primary talking point in the 2016 elections. The question of how will we pay for the expansion of any program barring tax increases will become the retort by those opposed to both, MMT notwithstanding.

The Great Recession has been portrayed as an anomaly or as a normal part of the business cycle and precipitated some rethinking. But make no mistake about it, the market totalitarian impetus in this country continues unabated. If anything, the monotheism of the market has accelerated in some respects as "businesspersons" – Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina – from the private sector now vie for the presidential nomination of the Republican Party. The very idea that business acumen/experience is now of paramount importance in running this country – as a business – testifies to the pervasiveness of market totalitarianism. It is now deep rooted in civil society.

Even here in Akron, there are plans to rename the University of Akron: the Ohio Polytechnic University! Fans of Firesign Theater back in the day will recall the rivalry between "more science high" and "commie-martyrs' high school! It would be funny in most circumstances. but who's laughing now? Many a former rubber rat plan to vote for Trump!

I have come to the conclusion that "market totalitarianism" now has to run its course in this country. The Achilles' heel of market totalitarianism may be how and where it stifles/smothers innovation, subjugating research and development to market criteria in which the short term trumps the long term. To the extent that dissent/conflict is fundamental to innovation and cannot be confined to the laboratory, then resistance is NOT futile. It remains to be seen whether that dissent can be co-opted or reappropriated indefinitely by market totalitarianism in this country or not, yet alone outside of its borders.

Jesper , October 29, 2015 at 5:13 pm

Ban collective bargaining and the collective will suffer. If a government was allowed to negotiate for the collective against the suppliers then maybe the outcome would be different. But as we all know, letting the government co-ordinate and negotiate for the collective will make it worse for some individuals so ..
The needs of the many do not(?) outweigh the needs of the few. Be it for healthcare, education or?

Jim , October 29, 2015 at 5:47 pm

"The Scourge of Managerialism" raised some profoundly important issues.

But its fundamental assumption " the traditional control by business owners in Europe and North American gave way during the 19th century to corporate control of companies. This lead to the emergence of a new group of professional whose job it was to perform the administrative tasks of production"–is only half correct.

The creation of "professional managers" was not simply shaped by market fundamentalism but also by the progressive movement itself. Robert H. Wiebe's book "The Search for Order: 1877-1920, does a remarkable job of detailing this process.

The trajectory runs from local autonomy once being the heart of American democracy, to the incremental erosion of the autonomy of community, to the supposedly necessary regulatory, managerial needs of urban-industrial life. and finally to the creation of flexible administrative devices that tended to encourage the creation of professional managers(in both the public and private sectors) and the increasing centralization of authority.

Can any renewal of democracy begin without a dismantling of professional managerial authority in both the market and the state?

Is a breakdown of centralized bureaucratic power (both public and private) a precondition for democratic renewal?

[Jun 28, 2017] The Skills Gap: Blaming Workers Rather than Policy

Notable quotes:
"... We don't see this sort of bidding war for workers taking place in any major sector of the economy. While there may be a few occupations in a few areas where employers really are bidding up wages rapidly, this is not happening in most sectors of the labor market. ..."
"... The other reason we know the skills shortage story does not fit is that there is no noticeable increase in the length of the average workweek for any major group of workers. The story we would expect to see if companies could not hire more workers is that they would instead work their existing workforce more hours, paying them overtime if necessary. We don't see this happening on any large scale either. The length of the average workweek is actually slightly shorter now than it was two years ago. Here also, there is no major area of the economy in which are seeing lengthening workweeks in a manner that would be consistent with the skills shortage story.... ..."
Jun 28, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

anne , June 27, 2017 at 03:39 PM

http://cepr.net/publications/op-eds-columns/the-skills-gap-blaming-workers-rather-than-policy

June 25, 2017

The Skills Gap: Blaming Workers Rather than Policy
By Dean Baker

Last week Donald Trump visited a technical college in Wisconsin. He was accompanied by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, several members of Congress, and top officials in his administration. The theme was promoting apprenticeship programs that give workers job specific skills. Trump, along with the rest of his contingent, bemoaned the fact that employers cannot find workers with the skills they need. This theme was picked up by many in the media, including many who are not Republicans, who argued that workers in the U.S. are not getting ahead because they lack the necessary skills.

The striking feature about this argument is how widely it gets repeated, even when the evidence continually shows that it is not true. Just to be clear, it is good that U.S. workers get better training. Other countries, most notably Germany and the Nordic countries, do a much better job of training workers who do not get college degrees than the United States.

It is also true that any individual worker will almost certainly be better off in the labor market if they could acquire more skills. Certainly the best advice to a young person completing high school would be to try to go to college or alternatively to get the training needed to be a physical therapist, dental hygienist, or some other moderately well-paying professional. Insofar as the government can facilitate this education and training it will be good for both the workers and the economy as a whole.

But that is very different from claiming that the main reason that millions of workers are unemployed or out of the labor force is that they don't have the right skills. This claim is endlessly put forward, in both the United States and elsewhere, even in contexts where it is obviously not true.

The unemployment rate in the United States fell to 4.3 percent in May, so the claim that companies may be having trouble finding qualified workers is more plausible now than earlier in the recovery. But even now that the labor market is hugely stronger than at its low points in the Great Recession there is still reason to question the skills shortage view.

First and foremost we are not seeing the sort of rapid wage growth that would be expected if there were widespread skills shortage. This is a story where companies would like to expand their business but are prevented from doing so because they can't find any workers with the skills they need.

However there are always some workers somewhere who have the needed skills. Companies could offer higher wages to lure workers away from competitors. Or, they can make a point of recruiting in more distant areas and offering to pay travel and location expenses for workers.

We don't see this sort of bidding war for workers taking place in any major sector of the economy. While there may be a few occupations in a few areas where employers really are bidding up wages rapidly, this is not happening in most sectors of the labor market.

The other reason we know the skills shortage story does not fit is that there is no noticeable increase in the length of the average workweek for any major group of workers. The story we would expect to see if companies could not hire more workers is that they would instead work their existing workforce more hours, paying them overtime if necessary. We don't see this happening on any large scale either. The length of the average workweek is actually slightly shorter now than it was two years ago. Here also, there is no major area of the economy in which are seeing lengthening workweeks in a manner that would be consistent with the skills shortage story....

[Jun 27, 2017] Neoliberalism is a species of fascism by Manuela Cadelli, President of the Magistrates' Union of Belgium, via Defend Democracy

Jun 27, 2017 | off-guardian.org

The time for rhetorical reservations is over. Things have to be called by their name to make it possible for a co-ordinated democratic reaction to be initiated, above all in the public services.

Liberalism was a doctrine derived from the philosophy of Enlightenment, at once political and economic, which aimed at imposing on the state the necessary distance for ensuring respect for liberties and the coming of democratic emancipation. It was the motor for the arrival, and the continuing progress, of Western democracies.

Neoliberalism is a form of economism in our day that strikes at every moment at every sector of our community. It is a form of extremism.

Fascism may be defined as the subordination of every part of the State to a totalitarian and nihilistic ideology.

I argue that neoliberalism is a species of fascism because the economy has brought under subjection not only the government of democratic countries but also every aspect of our thought.

The state is now at the disposal of the economy and of finance, which treat it as a subordinate and lord over it to an extent that puts the common good in jeopardy.

The austerity that is demanded by the financial milieu has become a supreme value, replacing politics. Saving money precludes pursuing any other public objective. It is reaching the point where claims are being made that the principle of budgetary orthodoxy should be included in state constitutions. A mockery is being made of the notion of public service.

The nihilism that results from this makes possible the dismissal of universalism and the most evident humanistic values: solidarity, fraternity, integration and respect for all and for differences.

There is no place any more even for classical economic theory: work was formerly an element in demand, and to that extent there was respect for workers; international finance has made of it a mere adjustment variable.

Every totalitarianism starts as distortion of language, as in the novel by George Orwell. Neoliberalism has its Newspeak and strategies of communication that enable it to deform reality. In this spirit, every budgetary cut is represented as an instance of modernization of the sectors concerned. If some of the most deprived are no longer reimbursed for medical expenses and so stop visiting the dentist, this is modernization of social security in action!

Abstraction predominates in public discussion so as to occlude the implications for human beings.

Thus, in relation to migrants, it is imperative that the need for hosting them does not lead to public appeals that our finances could not accommodate. Is it In the same way that other individuals qualify for assistance out of considerations of national solidarity?

The cult of evaluation

Social Darwinism predominates, assigning the most stringent performance requirements to everyone and everything: to be weak is to fail. The foundations of our culture are overturned: every humanist premise is disqualified or demonetized because neoliberalism has the monopoly of rationality and realism. Margaret Thatcher said it in 1985:

There is no alternative."

Everything else is utopianism, unreason and regression. The virtue of debate and conflicting perspectives are discredited because history is ruled by necessity.

This subculture harbours an existential threat of its own: shortcomings of performance condemn one to disappearance while at the same time everyone is charged with inefficiency and obliged to justify everything. Trust is broken. Evaluation reigns, and with it the bureaucracy which imposes definition and research of a plethora of targets, and indicators with which one must comply. Creativity and the critical spirit are stifled by management. And everyone is beating his breast about the wastage and inertia of which he is guilty.

The neglect of justice

The neoliberal ideology generates a normativity that competes with the laws of parliament. The democratic power of law is compromised. Given that they represent a concrete embodiment of liberty and emancipation, and given the potential to prevent abuse that they impose, laws and procedures have begun to look like obstacles.

The power of the judiciary, which has the ability to oppose the will of the ruling circles, must also be checkmated. The Belgian judicial system is in any case underfunded. In 2015 it came last in a European ranking that included all states located between the Atlantic and the Urals. In two years the government has managed to take away the independence given to it under the Constitution so that it can play the counterbalancing role citizens expect of it. The aim of this undertaking is clearly that there should no longer be justice in Belgium.

A caste above the Many

But the dominant class doesn't prescribe for itself the same medicine it wants to see ordinary citizens taking: well-ordered austerity begins with others. The economist Thomas Piketty has perfectly described this in his study of inequality and capitalism in the twenty-first century (French edition, Seuil, 2013).

In spite of the crisis of 2008 and the hand-wringing that followed, nothing was done to police the financial community and submit them to the requirements of the common good. Who paid? Ordinary people, you and me.

And while the Belgian State consented to 7 billion-euro ten-year tax breaks for multinationals, ordinary litigants have seen surcharges imposed on access to justice (increased court fees, 21% taxation on legal fees). From now on, to obtain redress the victims of injustice are going to have to be rich.

All this in a state where the number of public representatives breaks all international records. In this particular area, no evaluation and no costs studies are reporting profit. One example: thirty years after the introduction of the federal system, the provincial institutions survive. Nobody can say what purpose they serve. Streamlining and the managerial ideology have conveniently stopped at the gates of the political world.

The security ideal

Terrorism, this other nihilism that exposes our weakness in affirming our values, is likely to aggravate the process by soon making it possible for all violations of our liberties, all violations of our rights, to circumvent the powerless qualified judges, further reducing social protection for the poor, who will be sacrificed to "the security ideal".

Salvation in commitment

These developments certainly threaten the foundations of our democracy, but do they condemn us to discouragement and despair?

Certainly not. 500 years ago, at the height of the defeats that brought down most Italian states with the imposition of foreign occupation for more than three centuries, Niccolo Machiavelli urged virtuous men to defy fate and stand up against the adversity of the times, to prefer action and daring to caution. The more tragic the situation, the more it necessitates action and the refusal to "give up" (The Prince, Chapters XXV and XXVI).

This is a teaching that is clearly required today. The determination of citizens attached to the radical of democratic values is an invaluable resource which has not yet revealed, at least in Belgium, its driving potential and power to change what is presented as inevitable. Through social networking and the power of the written word, everyone can now become involved, particularly when it comes to public services, universities, the student world, the judiciary and the Bar, in bringing the common good and social justice into the heart of public debate and the administration of the state and the community.

Neoliberalism is a species of fascism. It must be fought and humanism fully restored.

rogerglewis says May 9, 2017

It's a wonderful piece. Whats more Neo-Liberal voodoo economics does not work. http://letthemconfectsweeterlies.blogspot.se/2017/05/the-magic-money-tree-and-tories.html
Mark Webster says January 29, 2017
This supports my own research, in which I identified German WWII Nazi methodologies at the Ministry of Social Development. I published this on Medium
David Bauerly says December 13, 2016
AS an Amerikan the term neoliberal has a different impact I believe than it does in the context of European use of the word. Could someone give a succinct definition of what the term means in the context of European parlance.
I too have found this article and discussion incredibly interesting and enlightening, especially in light of the potential nightmare of our next four years here in the states.
Jez Tucker says December 17, 2016
Try this David.
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/apr/15/neoliberalism-ideology-problem-george-monbiot
Emily Elizabeth Windsor-Cragg says August 4, 2016
These same neo-fascists work with the NEOCON Party on the side of so-called Conservatives to pursue Globalist repression, waste and population reduction genocide. In this way they keep both Conservative and Liberal parties COVERED and dominated by Globalist dogma. To hell with Equity, Justice or Fairness.
chrisb says July 28, 2016
Funny how many critics of neo-liberalism are fascists such as Le Pen. That's because to be a fascist is to be a nationalist and to believe in strong national governments. Neo-liberalism in contrast supports the transfer of power to supra-national entities. The fascist economy is a mixed economy with the national government able to exert immense power over the conduct of private business. Neo-liberalism in contrast expects national governments to have no influence over private business.

The word 'Fascism' comes from 'fascio' in Italian meaning bundle or sheaf. If 'Fascism' as a word is to have a meaning, it is to describe Italy under Mussolini. To use the same word to describe 21st century globalisation is to negate the word's meaning.

Jason Killbourn says August 2, 2016
A very good point, as, strictly speaking, by those terms, we should refer to neo-liberalism as a transnational plutocracy, or at least that appears to be where it's heading. However for many people, increasingly robbed of democracy and being bled dry, down at the sharp end of things, there is little difference between the two systems in practice. Furthermore, the term Fascism has long since passed into common parlance, to be widely viewed by many as simply anti-democratic and supportive of a totalitarian regime, sometimes with nationalistic, or even racist connotations. In this instance, you are very right to point out that neo-liberalism is neither racist, nor nationalistic in nature, though it does, if left unchecked, lead to an hegemony of international moneyed interests over the affairs and government of nation states, so we can at least say that it is anti-democratic and supportive of totalitarianism (in this case, a plutocracy). I guess most of us do tend to use the word out of context and quite offhand, and I am as guilty as the next man, but I do think it's always a good thing to be pulled up on such things.
Jason Killbourn says July 25, 2016
An excellent and most thought provoking article. I have long thought neoliberalism to be fascism, except I arrived at that conclusion from an economic perspective, whilst researching the foundation and rise of neoclassical economics. Also that quote from Orwell has haunted me for quite some time, as it was a corruption of the very language of economics that lies at the heart of that story, which is one that played out over 100 years ago. It's a story that involves the same moneyed interests, the same use of public relations, and the same erosion of democracy in both political and academic institutions, simply because it is the same story, and to fully understand neoliberalism, you have to rewind about 120 years to pinpoint the preconditions for its inception. Fortunately most of what happened did so in plain sight and is well documented. No laws were broken, as such, but nevertheless, arguably one of the greatest crimes against humanity was set in motion for the most banal reasons of economic protectionism. There is a way out of the problem, but it'll take years and an incredible effort to reform what is to all intents and purposes a predominant religion that has become ingrained into our society.
Arrby says July 15, 2016
Shadia Drury is the author of a number of books on neconservatism, including "Leo Strauss And The American Right." It's informative is somewhat confusing in places. A few authors and famous people (Howard Zinn, Tommy Douglas) dispense with the academic minutiae and talk about fascism in simple terms. It's good to know history, but the object of knowing is to be enabled. Learn not in order to know, but in order to know how to proceed.

As Douglas noted, You don't have to wear brown shirts in order to be fascist. Huey Long, a famous, corrupt American politician (who fought the capitalist class; It happens) was asked if America would ever see fascism. He said yes, but it won't be called fascism. Indeed. Obama et al call it democracy, just as Hitler called his Germany democratic.

If you reduce it to something useable (for purposes of mobilizing the working class), fascism is simply a situation where the political class and the capitalist class jointly rule, telling the people that because they have elections and can vote they therefore have democracy and a voice when in reality the police state robs them of that. Media complies with elites' wishes or are shut down in the name of national security. All opinions and protests get the same treatment. And to keep the people's attention diverted from the abusers in power, you whip up nationalism. Neoconservatism existed before it was formulated as such. Neocons 'believe' that a nation needs to have an enemy and be at war in order to stay strong. If there's no enemy, then one must be created. One can see how nationalisn (which isn't) patriotism, is useful to fascist leaders. And can see how neoconservatism is convenient to certain powerful, entrenched special interests like the military/intelligence industrial complex.

Strauss 'believed', as did Marx, that religion is the opiate of the people, but unlike Marx, who wasn't thinking in terms of how to manage and exploit the people, Strauss felt that the people should be given their fix. He saw it as another mechanism of control. (I see organized religion as being a racket, even though I am religious.)

Neoconservatism is a political philosophy and neoliberalism is one type of social economic system and they are both sides of the same evil coin. One needn't be a student of Strauss in order to called a neocon, which is why you often find writers referring to Hillary Clinton as one.

Vaska says July 15, 2016
I'd only point out that nationalism isn't a required ingredient at all. On the contrary. Nationalism is often what the current order fears the most. The globalists, all of them neoliberals to a man and a woman - use the language of internationalism. It's a fascist kind of internationalism, to be sure, but cleverly deployed and manipulated, it gives them moral credibility in the eyes of a large segment of the population.
Secret Agent says July 14, 2016
Well there is another angle to this; Cultural Marxism. It would take ages to explain but here is a good video that does the job.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/G8pPbrbJJQs?feature=oembed

Frank says July 14, 2016
Agreed in spades about neo-liberalism. But let us not forget the other side of the counter-revolutionary coin, to wit, neo-conservatism. For the western ruling elites neo-liberalism is an attack directed on its internal enemies, the 99% and neo-conservatism is an attack on its external enemies, principally the Russian Federation and China, but in fact anyone who doesn't toe the Pentagon, State department line. Austerity without end at home and a creeping dismantling of democracy, and everlasting war abroad, that is the future: a global slave empire controlled through the Washington, Brussels, London, Tel Aviv axis of evil. This is a fight to the death and the future of humanity depends on the outcome.
falcemartello says July 14, 2016
WOW such a lightbulb moment. This makes my blood go into thermal nuclear boil. I have been saying this for the last 30 years and now this quantum leap moment. I really hope we the sheeple can wake up and really start getting all the elite to be accountable for they conspiracy. Since 1979 the west has been walking like a zombie towards fascism. Reagon and Thatcher were their front persons . The Chicago school of economic theory.The Liberal interventionist. The helicopter money to bail out the biggest fraud in the western financial history. Then they turn around and get the PAYE public to bail them out. The sip[ their Champagne and eat their caviar and we live on austerity. Hitler in drag will be the next POTUS and the MSM call Trump a xenophobic fascist when we all know Hitlary and all her cohorts and all the western political establishment r fascist's. That has been my point for over a quarter of a century. The use of the term democracy and veil themselves in these hollow terms without any substance or facts is insulting at best. Putin,Xi and Rohani have been trying now and hopefully they will prevail and once Syria settles down in might c the dawn of a new pan -arabism which will start the century of humanism and human dynamism for the good of all and not 64000 people. Gramsci forewarned us all from his cell in the 30's and before him Engels as well. That is why i finish my spiel with this old journalistic quote.YESTERDAY'S NEWS GETS WRAPPED IN TODAYS FISH. If only more humans would study and analyse history more maybe we would not be in such a pickle.. Luv this website wish it had more pull and a following.
Schlüter says July 13, 2016
Very true! And in the Neocon Neoliberalism of the US Power Elite is clearly surfaces:
"US Power Elite Declared War on the Southern Hemisphere, East Asia and all Non-Western Countries in September 2000": https://wipokuli.wordpress.com/2016/03/13/us-power-elite-declared-war-on-the-southern-hemisphere-east-asia-and-all-non-western-countries-in-september-2000/
Andreas Schlüter
Sociologist
Berlin, Germany
Neil MacLeod says July 13, 2016
Yes, and Sheldon Wolin began this discussion about 15 years ago https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inverted_totalitarianism
Seamus Padraig says July 15, 2016
Yes, at least some familiarity with Wolin's concept of 'inverted totalitarianism' is absolutely essential for understanding what is really happening in our world today. The fascism we have today differs from the classical model in one key respect: the original fascist regimes were all of the state-corporatist model, with an all-powerful government presiding over the banks and corporations; our modern fascism, however, is of a new corporate-statist (and thus, according to Wolin, inverted) variety, where the banks and the corporations completely control the state. Therefore, the age of the Hitlers and Mussolinis–at least in the West–is over. Our so-called 'rulers' are really nothing more than corporate executives or CEOs who serve at the leisure of a kind of hidden board of directors, composed of those banks corporations we all know, and probably a few powerful oligarchs, such as a the Rockefellers and the Rothschilds.

Liberal dupes, however, believe that we are still free, because they wrongly understand fascism as an ideology (Racism! Nationalism! Xenophobia!) or else confuse it with certain systems of symbology (swastikas, fasces, cool-looking uniforms, etc.). But in reality true fascism in neither an ideology (false consciousness, as the Marxists would say), nor is it a particular system of symbology. Fascism, properly understood is simply a state of affairs–namely, the total fusion of state and corporate power. That was the definition Mussolini gave it long ago, and since he was fascism's inventor, I'll take his word for it! The consequence of this is that fascism, in practice, can adopt virtually any ideology or symbology, even some that might, at first glance, seem rather 'lefty'. In the west today, for example, the true fascists have now adopted cultural (not economic!) Marxism as their ideology.

Ironically then, the new fascism has cleverly disguised itself as anti-fascism! Pretty slick, eh?

Vaska says July 15, 2016
Thanks for fleshing it out!
falcemartello says July 20, 2016
Spot on Mussolini is the father of modern fascism , historically speaking fuedalism was an older form of fascism. With the birth of industrial capitalism and nouveau bourgeoisie was the beginning of modern day fascism. Mussolini from returning from the WW1 and being shun by fellow socialist and the new founded Gramscian movement decided to form his own party. He was always into grandiosity and ancient empire mythology. Most of the socialist including Gramsci did not support the WW1 they all identified it as the bankers war . Many leftist of the time also recognised the con job in the USA with the rewritting the Federal reserve act of 1913 as the Private bankers taking over the money supply of the US .

[Jun 26, 2017] US Pursues Selective Protectionism Not Free Trade

Notable quotes:
"... As a result of this protectionism, average pay for doctors is over $250,000 a year and more than $200,000 a year for dentists, putting the vast majority of both groups in the top 2.0 percent of wage earners. Their pay is roughly twice the average received by their counterparts in other wealthy countries, adding close to $100 billion a year ($700 per family per year) to our medical bill. ..."
"... We also have actively been pushing for longer and stronger patent and copyright protections. While these protections, like all forms of protectionism, serve a purpose, they are 180 degrees at odds with free trade. And, they are very costly. Patent protection in prescription drugs will lead to us pay more than $440 billion this year for drugs that would likely sell for less than $80 billion in a free market. The difference of $360 billion comes to almost $3,000 a year for every family in the country. ..."
"... It is also worth noting patent protection results in exactly the sort of corruption that would be expected from a huge government imposed tariff. (When patents raise the price of a drug by a factor of 100 or more, as is often the case , it is equivalent to a tariff of 10,000 percent.) The result is that pharmaceutical companies often make payoffs to doctors to promote their drugs or conceal evidence that their drugs are less effective than claimed or even harmful. ..."
"... Stop using the term "free trade" at all...when wall street bankers and hedge fund managers and the corporate media use the term "free trade", what they are really talking about is labor arbitrage. Shifting factories to nations with the lowest worker living standards, health, safety and environmental standards. It usually means a nation without a democracy, run by either oligarchs or despots. ..."
"... Bbbbut patents are essential to allow top executives to extract half the annual expenditures of unprofitable corporations in compensation while still leaving a few pennies for "research". ..."
"... Fake news...about a reliable as a Democrat's promise that he's for the working folks. ..."
"... The "law" of supply and demand just does not apply in this field. That "law" also does not work in certain other areas where important conclusions are drawn from it - applying it is not a substitute for empirical evidence. ..."
Apr 12, 2017 | cepr.net

The Washington Post and other major news outlets are strong supporters of the trade policy pursued by administrations of both political parties. They routinely allow their position on this issue to spill over into their news reporting, touting the policy as "free trade." We got yet another example of this in the Washington Post today.

Of course the policy is very far from free trade. We have largely left in place the protectionist barriers that keep doctors and dentists from other countries from competing with our own doctors. (Doctors have to complete a U.S. residency program before they can practice in the United States and dentists must graduate from a U.S. dental school. The lone exception is for Canadian doctors and dentists, although even here we have left unnecessary barriers in place.)

As a result of this protectionism, average pay for doctors is over $250,000 a year and more than $200,000 a year for dentists, putting the vast majority of both groups in the top 2.0 percent of wage earners. Their pay is roughly twice the average received by their counterparts in other wealthy countries, adding close to $100 billion a year ($700 per family per year) to our medical bill.

While trade negotiators may feel this protectionism is justified, since these professionals lack the skills to compete in the global economy, it is nonetheless protectionism, not free trade.

We also have actively been pushing for longer and stronger patent and copyright protections. While these protections, like all forms of protectionism, serve a purpose, they are 180 degrees at odds with free trade. And, they are very costly. Patent protection in prescription drugs will lead to us pay more than $440 billion this year for drugs that would likely sell for less than $80 billion in a free market. The difference of $360 billion comes to almost $3,000 a year for every family in the country.

It is also worth noting patent protection results in exactly the sort of corruption that would be expected from a huge government imposed tariff. (When patents raise the price of a drug by a factor of 100 or more, as is often the case , it is equivalent to a tariff of 10,000 percent.) The result is that pharmaceutical companies often make payoffs to doctors to promote their drugs or conceal evidence that their drugs are less effective than claimed or even harmful.

Raye 2 days ago

I was pleased to see that PBS looked into the matter of physician supply a few years ago.. They noted: "There are fewer physicians per person than in most other OECD countries. In 2010, for instance, the US had 2.4 practicing physicians per 1000 people--well below the OECD average of 3.1." They also noted that "US physicians get higher incomes than in other countries." They didn't go so far as to note a cause-and-effect relationship here, a deliberate restriction of supply going on, for purposes of raising MD incomes. But at least they were presenting the facts.

They even mentioned the $750 billion wasted each year by our health care system.. I expect it's up to at least $3000 per person by now. And they suggested some good uses that so much money could be put to (VA health care, state college education for all the 17- and 18-year-olds in the country). I would like to add another use. If we were wasting less on overpriced health, more people might be able to afford a little more leisure and recreation time. And this (especially the recreation time) might lead to a lowering of our very high rates of obesity, diabetes and prediabetes.

Harlan Raye , 2 days ago

Physician density (as reported by CIA dot gov with dates) shows Canada with smaller ratio than the U.S. but they still retain lower costs, and U.K. though higher by 10 or 15% has considerably lower costs, and the U.S. has more specialists but they get higher incomes, and states with more doctors have higher incomes.

We may need more doctors, especially general practitioners, and more medical schools since 8% of U.S. citizens are forced to train abroad already, but increased supply won't lower costs. It is the medical system and not the supply of doctors that determines fees being charged, which only amount to 10% of total costs. Cut their fees 30% and you still have a $1 trillion 1/3 cost higher than other developed nations. Doctors are not the main cause of the dysfunctional system. Look at what other countries do.

Harlan , 3 days ago

This bolsters my case, there is a high skills job shortage. Take 100,000 proposed increase in doctors and give the jobs exclusively to foreign graduates, and you've robbed Americans of needed jobs. College graduates only have a 2.5 percent unemployment rate because they take jobs away from those without college. So lack of enough high skills jobs really hurts the working class lower income groups with less formal education.

New argument, pay attention. No one would deny that a gap of 1 million jobs, or nearly 1% of increased unemployment (really only .8% since there are 120 jobs), is enough to suppress wages, induce slack in the economy, suppress growth, and possibly even create contraction or self sustaining stagnation. Well a 100,000 new doctor jobs is only 1/10 of that amount. How important is that? I would argue it's very important. 10 percent cause of any such serious effect as a 1 percent rise in unemployment is nutty to dismiss. That's why we cheer when the unemployment drops even .1 percent. You don't get the benefits of full employment until reach full employment, whether 1 percent away or .1 percent away. Really.

EPI

Even the Most Educated Workers Have Declining Wages
Feb 2015

Harlan ->Harlan , 3 days ago

Was trying to highlight this report, but buried the lead:

EPI
Even the Most Educated Workers Have Declining Wages
Feb 2015

Also in my comment where I wrote "since there are 120 jobs," obviously meant "120 million jobs".

And finally, left out a "you" in closing:

You don't get the benefits of full employment until you reach full employment, whether 1 percent away or .1 percent away.

David Havelka , 3 days ago

Isn't 10 years and 1 million dollars too much for the average family practice physican to pay to become a doctor. Reducing the cost of educating a doctor would be a better solution. Increasing the use of midwives and nurse practicioners is another unexplored solution.

Stop using the term "free trade" at all...when wall street bankers and hedge fund managers and the corporate media use the term "free trade", what they are really talking about is labor arbitrage. Shifting factories to nations with the lowest worker living standards, health, safety and environmental standards. It usually means a nation without a democracy, run by either oligarchs or despots.

As best I can see, neither NAFTA or any other "free trade" agreement mentions anything about wages, or for that matter worker health and safety, or environmental standards. The only purpose of NAFTA and TPP was to force trade partners to accept US patent and copyright protections as the price of access to the lucrative US market.

Dean's argumen that just because we import cheap foreign labor to displace American workers in the contruction and lawn-mowing and housekeeping labor markets, it's fair and justified to import highly educated professionals seems wrong-headed to me. Are you talking about extending H1B Visa categories to include doctors.

In my opinion the people behind the high cost of highly educated professions is the AMA, and the universities and education trade associations---who set the standards for doctors and lawyers, and are the ones demanding foreigners complete American educational standards to be permitted to work in the USA

Harlan-> David Havelka , 3 days ago

The truth is the exact opposite of what you report. The medical educational establishment favors increased admissions. The AMA is another story, perhaps. In any event you need more medical schools for more doctors, not lower standards or importing more than the already high 12% foreign medical school graduates we recruit each year.

Our high standards are fine. But already 8% of US citizens train abroad for lack of medical schools. Even if you don't favor more doctors, that in itself screams for more U.S. medical schools.

From the Association of American Medical Colleges
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
New Research Reaffirms Physician Shortage
Shortages Likely to Have Significant Impact on Patient Care

More corrections: H1B can already include doctors, though 60 percent are in tech. Trade agreements were not about patents and copyright, they were about making it easier to do what they were already doing. No surprise is you lower barriers to trade, your domestic industry suffers in competition with cheaper goods. Unions opposed them to protect their jobs. Do you think the union officials were geniuses and the economists were stupid? Or was it common sense exactly what would happen and that it was just too convenient for economists not to favor trade, deregulation of banks, lower taxes, derivative markets, hedge funds.

David Havelka -> Harlan , 2 days ago

Sound like "fake news"---the educational establishment supports increasing admissions but if the price of admission is 10 years and 1 million dollars, well....so the cost of entry they charge is usually a barrier to entry.. Aside from that, there is the standards for admission are set by the educational establishment...so between the two, what have you got? A contrived limit on doctors. Oh, but apologists for the educational establishment like you keep repeating the PR/BS line that universities and trade unions want to increase admissions to medical schools.

Next another one of your "facts" that sounds seriously contradictory...that trade agreements make things "easier" to do what they were doing. HUH? What does that mean? Look none of the trade agreements have anything to do with anything except patent and copyright protection. If a trading partner accepts patent and copyright protection for their economy, they get access to the Us market without trade barriers. Except for productts that receive public subsidies, like franken-food and growth hormone treated meat. So a trading partner is forced to remove the barriers to entry on things like the growth hormone raised beef to Japan, and genetically modified and subsidized crazycorn to Mexico. Is that what you mean by "making things easier"....Sure it makes things "easier"---but is that the point? Or do citizens from Japan have the right to prohibit meat raised with growth hormones? Or do Mexican citizens have the right to prohibit genetically raised corn?

Look, "free trade" is a utopian fantasy, invented by a bunch of liars to sell something to the US consumer that isn't good for him.

Harlan -> David Havelka , 2 days ago

Why don't you try reading what people wrote before posting under their comment? I'm against trade agreements and increased trade that undercuts American workers.

Maybe you should read even the most elementary news report on the effect of NAFTA and China's entry into the WTO. Patent and copyright protections were neither the main motivation nor an important effect. China pays little heed to any IP law anyway and their state efforts to coerce and steal American technology are barely concealed.

Japan doesn't buy American due to cultural norms, American incompetence, and laziness, and Japanese protectionist laws and regulations.

Most free traders have been Republicans, and most objections to free trade have come from the Democrats and the left. Except for Trump Clinton reversal, Liberals (and unions) can claim the high ground over conservatives when it comes to trade issues. This blog and Dean Baker consistently decries the effects of international trade and trade agreements effects on the working class.

There is a shortage of medical schools, there is no shortage of qualified students, admissions standards do not prevent medical student enrollment from increasing. Your comment is virtually fact free.
You obviously hate education and unions and real news.

AlanInAZ , 3 days ago

Expanding doctor supply without major changes to the insurance system is as likely to increase overall healthcare costs as reduce them. In the world of healthcare, demand increases to meet supply.

The country with the insurance and healthcare system closest to the US is probably Switzerland with the exception that costs are controlled with a national fee for service scale (TARMED).

The Swiss estimate that each new private medical practice adds $536,000 per doctor to the nation's overall healthcare spending. This is one of the main reasons the Swiss limit the number of new medical practices and control doctor immigration to balance demand. The Swiss are concerned about rising costs and the government is now proposing to reduce the allowable charges by specialists.

Those that are attracted to Baker's immigration proposal should ask what is the long term consequence of relying on immigration to fill the doctor shortfall and/or control cost. In the short run there may be some average income reduction for physicians with little or no change in total healthcare costs (remember total cost equals average income times the larger number of doctors). Longer term, it restricts domestic investment in expansion of healthcare training and that is a restriction of opportunity for all Americans.

Mitch Beales , 3 days ago

Bbbbut patents are essential to allow top executives to extract half the annual expenditures of unprofitable corporations in compensation while still leaving a few pennies for "research".

pieceofcake , 3 days ago

'U.S. Pursues Selective Protectionism: Not Free Trade'

Oh absolutely - and I'm also really worried about these doctors... and the meat - the meat - as if we can't export all of our meat to China - we for sure will need more doctors to operate on all these oversized boobs which will grow if we have to eat all of our hormone meat by ourselves - and you know how painful it is to carry these big boobs around?

And I happen to know this Plastic Surgeon who told me we need lots and lot more Plastic Surgeons -(as Americans get older and older) - and perhaps - if your plan finally comes through - also facelifts will get cheaper - as who wants to have her or his face done in a undeveloped country -(even if it comes with a nice and long vacation)

So more power to y'a and you finally have completely convinced me and let's do it together!

Get them doctors!!

Harlan , 3 days ago

There is no protectionism when it comes to doctors as they are well represented by immigrants who make up 12% of doctors, including new doctors, comparing favorably to the near record 13.5% U.S. immigrant population.

U.S. doctors don't make twice the salary of other developed countries, with their incomes running about 40% to 60% for GPs and specialists respectively.

More doctors should be supplied by relieving the shortage of medical schools, even an extra 100,000 would help the working class stop getting bumped into unemployment by an overskilled work force. Too many college graduates and not enough jobs, so they bump off those without. They get 2.5% unemployment, those without north of 5 or 7%.

This paper cited below clearly shows we do not pay our doctors twice the salary of other developed countries. The figure is actually around 40% for those in general practice, 60% for specialists, and largely because U.S. salaries overall are higher (in every occupation). When you look at the comparative advantage a doctors salary in any country enjoys over the average salary in that country, even that advantage largely disappears. See figure 2 on page 16 for general practitioners and and figure 6 on page 21 for specialists.
"THE REMUNERATION OF GENERAL PRACTITIONERS AND SPECIALISTS IN 14 OECD COUNTRIES: WHAT ARE THE FACTORS INFLUENCING VARIATIONS ACROSS COUNTRIES?"

Unlike Dean Baker's anti-labor, anti-working class stance that we should end any protection against importing cheaper foreign labor to undercut wages, we should of course afford the same protections to all occupations.

David Havelka ->Harlan , 3 days ago

It is the Democrat Party politics that is behind the high cost of doctors and lawyers. Why because the Educational establishment---the trade associattions and the universities themselves are the ones limiting the admissions, and the ones demanding that all medical professioanls get their education and qualifications through themselves...And we all know that is the universities, the education trade unions and their lobbiest that are one of the most powerful constituencies for the Democrat Party.

Mitch Beales ->David Havelka , 2 days ago

It is the republic party that is behind the high cost of everything as well as the pollution of the internet with ridiculous comments like yours.

Harlan ->David Havelka , 3 days ago

The truth is the exact opposite of what you report. The medical educational establishment favors increased admissions.

From the Association of American Medical Colleges
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
New Research Reaffirms Physician Shortage
Shortages Likely to Have Significant Impact on Patient Care

David Havelka ->Harlan , 2 days ago

Sound like a "fake newa"...so the educational establishment's official public relations read BULL-TOSS position is to support increased admissions to medical school. Yet the same establishment imposed the "barrier to entry" cost of obtaining a doctor ticket, 10 years and 1 million dollars. And who the heck sets the admission standards for their precious schools that results in the high rejection rate of applicants.

Fake news...about a reliable as a Democrat's promise that he's for the working folks.

skeptonomist ->Harlan , 3 days ago

The OECD article should be read by anyone interested in this. Figure 11 shows that the number of physicians in the US is close to the OECD average - in fact the number of specialists is actually less, but the US level of pay is higher. Of course there is also no correlation of pay with the fraction of foreign doctors.

And despite the supposed shortage of GP's in the US their pay is still much less. The "law" of supply and demand just does not apply in this field. That "law" also does not work in certain other areas where important conclusions are drawn from it - applying it is not a substitute for empirical evidence.

The comparison of physician pay would be better if done with the overall median rather than average. Greater inequality in the US means that the average pay is greater than in the other countries.

[Jun 26, 2017] Lies That Neoliberals Tell Us

Replaced "neoliberals" with neolibersl" in the text as it more correspond to the ocontent of the article.
Notable quotes:
"... Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson almost certainly has organized crime links , as if owning a casino wasn't enough of a con to begin with. ..."
"... Rich DeVos became a billionaire by running a pyramid scheme most are familiar with called Amway. ..."
Jun 26, 2017 | www.counterpunch.org
While idiotic supporters of our two-party system wring their hands over the sensationalist nonsense reported by the mainstream media, we thought it might be worth touching on the most dangerous lie of all-time: neoliberalism. It's an all-encompassing delusion, including: the myth of continual technological progress, the mendacious assumptions of endless economic growth, the lie that constant bombardments of media and consumer goods make us happy, and the omissions of our involvement in the exploitation of the planet and the resources of distant, poorer nations, among other things.

We've taken the time to hash out some of the most pernicious mendacities we've come across in our (relatively) young lives, in the workplace, in our private lives, and in the media. ***

Please share these counter-arguments far and wide, in order to educate your fellow citizens, and, if necessary, to provide the intellectual beat-downs needed when arguing with pro-neoliberals. So without further ado, here is our list of the most devious "Lies that Neoliberals Tell Us":

1) Wealth will "trickle down"

It's hard to believe an economic policy that conjures images of urination could be wrong, but the idea is as bankrupt as the lower classes who have been subjected to the trickling. Less than ten people now have the financial wealth equivalent to half the planet, and the trickling seems a lot more like a mad cash-grab by the (morally bankrupt) elites. Rather than trickle down, the 1% and their lackeys have hoovered up the majority of new wealth created since the 2008 crash. After 40 years of stagnant wages in the US the people feel more shit on than trickled upon.

It's not a mistake that the elite reap most of the profits: the capitalist system is designed this way, it always has been, and will be, until we the people find the courage to tear it down and replace it with something better.

2) I took all the risks

It can be argued the average employee takes far more risks in any job than the average person who starts a business with employees. The reason being is that the person starting a business usually has far more wealth, where most Americans can't afford a 500 dollar emergency. Meaning if they lose a job or go without work for any stretch it means some tough decisions have to be made. A person with even a failing business cannot be fired, but the employee can be fired for almost any reason imaginable, they are operating without a net at all times.

The neoliberalism uses all sorts of public infrastructure to get his/her company off the ground. From everything to the roads to get you to your job, colleges, public utilities, tax breaks, electricity, etc. Even the internet itself was created from public research. Yet still, elite business owners still have the audacity, and are so full of hubris, that they believe in the hyper-individualist, macho, rugged-cowboy/pioneer façade they affect.

3) I could pay you more if there were less government regulations

Many neoliberals argue that layers of government bureaucracy prevent them from paying their employees a fairer, living wage. This is a huge whopper, as our regulations (like no child labor, a minimum wage, disability and worker's compensation, basic environmental impact studies, etc) actually provide safety against the worst type of exploitation of workers and destruction of the land by corporations. Without these minimum regulations, an age of even more outright neo-feudalism would occur, where employees could be layed-off and rehired ad-infinitum, based on downward market wage forces, at the wishes of ever-more capricious owners, management, and CEOs.

4) If you work hard, one day you can be rich like us (We live in a meritocracy)

America is not a meritocracy, and no one should think it is. There exists no tie to the intelligence of work done or the amount of it that guarantees success. Rather to be rich depends more on either being born into it, or being exceptionally good at exploiting others so one may take the bulk of the proceeds for themselves. This is the magic formula for wealth in this ever so "exceptional" land – exploit, exploit, exploit.

Inheritance & exploitation is how the rich get rich. To understand the exploitation aspect takes some understanding of how the rich function. Next to none of the super rich become that way solely by meritocracy. Their income is created through complex webs of utilizing leverage usually to extract some form of passive income. They are the rentier class or con artists, or both.

You only have to look at what the rich are dabbling in. Like Robert Mercer for instance, who made his money via "a hedge fund that makes its money by using algorithms to model and trade on the financial markets." . Skimming money off corrupt financial markets hardly seems like a worthwhile activity that contributes anything to humanity, it's a hustle.

Or take Bill Gates, who did some programming for a few years, poorly, and became rich by landing a series of deals with IBM initially, and then by passively making money off the share values of Microsoft. The late Steve Jobs may have been one of the more hands-on billionaires, but even he required thousands of enslaved asian hands to extract the kind profits Apple was able to make.

Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson almost certainly has organized crime links , as if owning a casino wasn't enough of a con to begin with.

Rich DeVos became a billionaire by running a pyramid scheme most are familiar with called Amway.

The Walton family, owners of Wal-Mart, pays a median wage of 10 bucks an hour (far below a living wage), they strong arm vendors, and also rely on products made with working conditions that resemble old world slavery, while having more wealth than the bottom 40% of Americans.

There's just no way to make that kind of money without having a major market advantage and then profiteering off it. Lie, cajole, coerce, manipulate, bribe, rig, and hustle. These are the tools of the rich.

No one is worth this kind of money and everyone needs each other's help to function, but in the minds of the rich they consider themselves the primary cogs in the machine worthy of their money for doing not much else than holding leverage over others and exploiting it.

5) This is as good as it gets (there is no alternative, TINA)

Through a process of gaslighting and double bind coercion the choices we are fed are propagandized via controlled media outlets owned and operated by elites. We are told our choices must be between the democrats or republicans, attacking the Middle East or face constant terrorism, unfettered neoliberalism or state run communism. We are given binary choices that lack all nuance, and nuance is the enemy of all those who seek to control and exploit. They feed us a tautology of simpleton narratives which unfortunately do exactly what they hoped, keep people dumb and biting on their red herrings.

Neoliberals make it seems as if there is no alternative because they hoard all the money, have all the hired guns, and pay off teams of servile lawyers, judges, and lobbyists to write and enforce their anti-life laws. Neoliberals demand "law and order" whenever their servant classes get too restless. In general, the most hardened, dogmatic neoliberals exhibit bewilderment and/or disgust at genuine human emotions like joy, creativity, spontaneity, and love. Many neoliberals have an unconscious death wish, and want to drag the rest of us and the mother Earth down with them.

Neoliberals have stolen all the farmlands, hold all the patents to technology, and don't pay enough to mass amounts of citizens to get out of the rat race and get back to the land, to live off of. The screws are turned a little tighter every year. If we are not done in by massive natural disasters or an economic collapse, expect a revolution to occur, hopefully a non-violent one.

6) We give back to the community

Corporations set out to create non-profits as a public relations move. They cause the problems and then put small band-aids on the gaping wounds they have directly contributed to and use the charity as a source of plausible deniability to obscure the fact that they are exactly what we think they are: greedy.

Handing out bread-crumbs after you've despoiled, desecrated, and bulldozed millions of hectares of valuable habitat is not fooling anyone. The elite one-percenters are the enemies of humankind and the biosphere itself.

7) The system (and economic theory) is rational and takes into account social and environmental costs

People tend to think someone somewhere is regulating things to keep us safe. They look around and see sophisticated technology, gleaming towers in the sky, and what they believe to be is a complex intelligent world. But in truth no one is running the show. The world functions as a mad cash grab driven by neo-liberal ideology. Our leaders are driven by power, fame, and money, and exhibit strong psychopathic, sociopathic, and narcissistic traits.

The problems of modern neoliberalism and its impact on the world is clear – our exploitation of the resources, people, and other species are a direct result of our consumer based infinite growth model. Just a few of the problems we face are species extinction, climate change, ocean acidification, and a toxic carcinogen filled trash dump of a planet that reached population overshoot decades ago.

If the system was rational, we would begin planning to lower birth rates to decrease the world's population, and voluntarily provide education, decent, dignified jobs, as well as birth control and contraception to women worldwide.

We live by money values, and think in money terminology. When we discuss healthcare the topic arises about how to pay for it before nearly anything else. The priority isn't on saving lives but how to pay for things. Yes, how will we pay for healthcare when banks can create money on a computer through the magic of fractional reserve banking, which they often use to bail out their crony friends . The money isn't real but the implications of restricting it from the populace are. Money is created out of thin air by the magic of the Federal Reserve, yet we have all heard our bosses, and the pricks in Washington complaining that "we don't have enough money for that" when it comes to healthcare, improving schools, and humanitarian relief for the poorest parts of the world.

Again, if the system was rational, world poverty would be solved within a few short years. Money destined for weapons and "defense" could be used domestically as well as abroad to Africa, South Asia, and Latin America, and there is more than enough money (75 trillion is the annual world GDP, approximately 15 trillion in the US alone) to pay for a good home, clothing, and food for every family worldwide, with an all-renewable powered energy grid.

8) The future will be better

When Trump's slogan make America great again was on the lips of every alt-right fascist, most of us stopped to ask, when was it great? The truth is that politicians have been promising something better since the inception of this country and better has never arrived.

There is always another expensive war to fight and another financial meltdown occurring on average every eight years. Wait, you might say, what about those sweet post-WWII growth years brought about by the New Deal? The sad truth is those years were only materially beneficial to white, middle-class men, who were highly sexist, racist, and complicit in incubating today's consumer-driven Empty Society .

The post-WWII era was an aberration in our history and the result of having more jobs available than people, but as the country rapidly exploited its natural resources and reached the limits of linear growth while the population exploded the leverage that allowed people to have higher wages receded. Even though efficiency increased enormously, the people lost leverage to demand higher wages.

Without leverage held by the people neoliberalism will return to its status quo goal – exploit, and that's just what it did. In the US, corporations grew richer and the people grew poorer starting from the mid 1970s to the present.

9) It's Just Business

Employees devote years of their lives to companies and when they are let go they are told it's nothing personal, it's just business. This is how all bad news is delivered even when personal, it's says we are cold-hearted organizations that adhere to a bottom line first and human needs second. So know when they say "it's just business" what they are saying is understand we are sharks, and acting like a shark is just what we do.

This is also the logic behind defending war crimes and similar atrocities. Nations like the US claim they have a "responsibility to protect" civilians from terrorists. Then, when American bombs kill civilians (or their proxies use US-made weapons), they are referred to as "collateral damage".

10) Financial markets & debt are necessary

The health of the entire economy is too often gauged by the stock markets. But the reality about financial markets is they are extraneous gambling machines designed to place downward pressure on companies to post good numbers to elevate share prices. These financial markets funnel capital to a smaller and smaller number of multinational corporations every year, and perpetuate non-linear economic growth (and therefore more pollutants, CO2, pesticides, strip mining, razing of forests) that is killing the planet.

Debt is the most fundamental lie in our economy. Money is only supposed to be a tool to move goods efficiently around a market, but for money itself to be a wealth engine is a Ponzi scheme. And we all know how that ends.

*** For a wider taste of our oeuvre, visit Reason Bowl Radio to watch Jason expose the Trump administration for the sorry sacks of shit that they are and discuss current events, as well as Jason and Bill's commentary and ramblings about topics such as psychedelics, the nature of consciousness, and reflections on how to effect social change.

[Jun 26, 2017] The entire spectrum of political thought from the neoliberal center to the reactionary right is really about setting up punitive systems of coercion and control.

Notable quotes:
"... The entire spectrum of political thought from the neoliberal center to the reactionary right is really about setting up punitive systems of coercion and control. They hate the "losers" and want them punished. They really believe that the beatings should continue until morale improves, that if you make things unbearable people will pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and if they don't then they deserve all the cruelty that can be heaped upon them. ..."
"... The poor are errant children who need to be molded. Conservatives may whine about the "nanny state" but what they really want to see is either the negligent mommy state or the abusive daddy state. They want to "help" the poor the way a drill instructor wants to help you learn to obey and kill. And remember: it's for your own good. Perhaps I am being unfair, but beneath the platitudes this seems to be the motivating ideology of too much of the contemporary governing class. ..."
"... This is how totalitarian regimes operate and how they view the "brainiacs" of this World. Brainiacs are merely military assets to be deployed brutally against the enemy. Or, if the Brainiacs are perceived to be "Assets of the Enemy", they are targeted for destruction- First, Foremost and on the double! ..."
May 05, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
James Levy , May 4, 2017 at 1:14 pm

I used to think that much of modern conservatism was simply a misguided, wrong-headed alternative attempt to formulate policies for the general welfare. Then I read Corey Robin's book The Reactionary Mind and started reevaluating that presumption.

The entire spectrum of political thought from the neoliberal center to the reactionary right is really about setting up punitive systems of coercion and control. They hate the "losers" and want them punished. They really believe that the beatings should continue until morale improves, that if you make things unbearable people will pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and if they don't then they deserve all the cruelty that can be heaped upon them.

The poor are errant children who need to be molded. Conservatives may whine about the "nanny state" but what they really want to see is either the negligent mommy state or the abusive daddy state. They want to "help" the poor the way a drill instructor wants to help you learn to obey and kill. And remember: it's for your own good. Perhaps I am being unfair, but beneath the platitudes this seems to be the motivating ideology of too much of the contemporary governing class.

clarky90 , May 4, 2017 at 5:51 pm

IMO, Parise (an economist) is following a well-worn "playbook".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democide

It is happening, as I speak, in the beautiful little town that I grew up in, on the banks of the Ohio River, in Southern Ohio. (drugs and hopelessness)

Seventy-five years ago, it happened to my Jewish forebears in Belarus. Three hundred years ago my Minqua (Iroquois) forbears were destroyed by this murderous rationalization.

This sort of article is not an exchange of ideas, but rather a crafted assault on a vulnerable group of humanity (in this case, the Poor)

Thank you Yves for bringing this to our attention!

clarky90 , May 4, 2017 at 7:37 pm

This last century, Scientists, Intellectuals, Academics, and Religious Leaders have been viewed as Powerful Military Assets, or Military Threats by totalitarian regimes. They have been used to progress the goals of regimes. (The Nazi Doctors of Auschwitz)

Or, if they question the regime, they are the first to be rounded up, jailed or murdered.

The Khmer Rouge immediately murdered anybody who wore glasses or had soft hands.(Intellectuals).

When the Soviet Union invaded Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia in 1940, the first thing the NKVD did was round up local Scientists, Intellectuals, Academics, Religious Leaders and Cultural Leaders and deport them to the Gulags or, more likely, kill them.

The Nazis behaved in exactly the same way with the Cultural leadership of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia ..

This is how totalitarian regimes operate and how they view the "brainiacs" of this World. Brainiacs are merely military assets to be deployed brutally against the enemy. Or, if the Brainiacs are perceived to be "Assets of the Enemy", they are targeted for destruction- First, Foremost and on the double!

I believe that we have a naive view of "experts"; imagining benign, tweed coated/skirted, helpful, good-hearted, "Good Will Hunting" types. Thanks Hollywood!

Adam Eran , May 4, 2017 at 6:08 pm

MSM! Why this fairly screams David Brooks' name!

[Jun 26, 2017] Why hurting the poor will hurt the economy

Crocodile tears of WaPO staff... Who fully supported implementation of Washington consensus that robbed the nations in favor of international companies... this was a new mass scale economic rape of the Western countries and it was especially brutal in xUSSR area.
Mar 11, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

djb : March 11, 2017 at 06:42 AM

Why hurting the poor will hurt the economy - The Washington Post

that this topic even needs a special article about it is proof of the sad state of affairs of economics today

Why trying to help poor countries might actually hurt them - The Washington Post

Nobel-winning economist Angus Deaton argues against giving aid to poor countries

It sounds kind of crazy to say that foreign aid often hurts, rather than helps, poor people in poor countries. Yet that is what Angus Deaton, the newest winner of the Nobel Prize in economics , has argued.

Deaton, an economist at Princeton University who studied poverty in India and South Africa and spent decades working at the World Bank, won his prize for studying how the poor decide to save or spend money. But his ideas about foreign aid are particularly provocative. Deaton argues that, by trying to help poor people in developing countries, the rich world may actually be corrupting those nations' governments and slowing their growth. According to Deaton, and the economists who agree with him, much of the $135 billion that the world's most developed countries spent on official aid in 2014 may not have ended up helping the poor.

Angus Deaton (LARRY LEVANTI/AFP/Getty Images)

The idea of wealthier countries giving away aid blossomed in the late 1960s, as the first humanitarian crises reached mass audiences on television. Americans watched through their TV sets as children starved to death in Biafra, an oil-rich area that had seceded from Nigeria and was now being blockaded by the Nigerian government, as Philip Gourevitch recalled in a 2010 story in the New Yorker. Protesters called on the Nixon administration for action so loudly that they ended up galvanizing the largest nonmilitary airlift the world had ever seen. Only a quarter-century after Auschwitz, humanitarian aid seemed to offer the world a new hope for fighting evil without fighting a war.

There was a strong economic and political argument for helping poor countries, too. In the mid-20th century, economists widely believed that the key to triggering growth -- whether in an already well-off country or one hoping to get richer -- was pumping money into a country's factories, roads and other infrastructure. So in the hopes of spreading the Western model of democracy and market-based economies, the United States and Western European powers encouraged foreign aid to smaller and poorer countries that could fall under the influence of the Soviet Union and China.

The level of foreign aid distributed around the world soared from the 1960s , peaking at the end of the Cold War, then dipping before rising again. Live Aid music concerts raised public awareness about challenges like starvation in Africa, while the United States launched major, multibillion-dollar aid initiatives . And the World Bank and advocates of aid aggressively seized on research that claimed that foreign aid led to economic development.

Deaton wasn't the first economist to challenge these assumptions, but over the past two decades his arguments began to receive a great deal of attention. And he made them with perhaps a better understanding of the data than anyone had before. Deaton's skepticism about the benefits of foreign aid grew out of his research, which involved looking in detail at households in the developing world, where he could see the effects of foreign aid intervention.

"I think his understanding of how the world worked at the micro level made him extremely suspicious of these get-rich-quick schemes that some people peddled at the development level," says Daron Acemoglu, an economist at MIT.

The data suggested that the claims of the aid community were sometimes not borne out. Even as the level of foreign aid into Africa soared through the 1980s and 1990s, African economies were doing worse than ever, as the chart below, from a paper by economist Bill Easterly of New York University, shows.


William Easterly, "Can Foreign Aid Buy Growth?"

The effect wasn't limited to Africa. Many economists were noticing that an influx of foreign aid did not seem to produce economic growth in countries around the world. Rather, lots of foreign aid flowing into a country tended to be correlated with lower economic growth, as this chart from a paper by Arvind Subramanian and Raghuram Rajan shows.

The countries that receive less aid, those on the left-hand side of the chart, tend to have higher growth -- while those that receive more aid, on the right-hand side, have lower growth.


Raghuram G. Rajan and Arvind Subramanian, "Aid and Growth: What Does the Cross-Country Evidence Really Show?"

Why was this happening? The answer wasn't immediately clear, but Deaton and other economists argued that it had to do with how foreign money changed the relationship between a government and its people.

Think of it this way: In order to have the funding to run a country, a government needs to collect taxes from its people. Since the people ultimately hold the purse strings, they have a certain amount of control over their government. If leaders don't deliver the basic services they promise, the people have the power to cut them off.

Deaton argued that foreign aid can weaken this relationship, leaving a government less accountable to its people, the congress or parliament, and the courts.

"My critique of aid has been more to do with countries where they get an enormous amount of aid relative to everything else that goes on in that country," Deaton said in an interview with Wonkblog. "For instance, most governments depend on their people for taxes in order to run themselves and provide services to their people. Governments that get all their money from aid don't have that at all, and I think of that as very corrosive."

It might seem odd that having more money would not help a poor country. Yet economists have long observed that countries that have an abundance of wealth from natural resources, like oil or diamonds, tend to be more unequal, less developed and more impoverished, as the chart below shows. Countries at the left-hand side of the chart have fewer fuels, ores and metals and higher growth, while those at the right-hand side have more natural resource wealth, yet slower growth. Economists postulate that this "natural resource curse" happens for a variety of reasons, but one is that such wealth can strengthen and corrupt a government.

curse

Like revenue from oil or diamonds, wealth from foreign aid can be a corrupting influence on weak governments, "turning what should be beneficial political institutions into toxic ones," Deaton writes in his book "The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality." This wealth can make governments more despotic, and it can also increase the risk of civil war, since there is less power sharing, as well as a lucrative prize worth fighting for.

Deaton and his supporters offer dozens of examples of humanitarian aid being used to support despotic regimes and compounding misery, including in Zaire, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Somalia, Biafra, and the Khmer Rouge on the border of Cambodia and Thailand. Citing Africa researcher Alex de Waal, Deaton writes that "aid can only reach the victims of war by paying off the warlords, and sometimes extending the war."

He also gives plenty of examples in which the United States gives aid "for 'us,' not for 'them'" – to support our strategic allies, our commercial interests or our moral or political beliefs, rather than the interests of the local people.

The United States gave aid to Ethiopia for decades under then-President Meles Zenawi Asres, because he opposed Islamic fundamentalism and Ethiopia was so poor. Never mind that Asres was "one of the most repressive and autocratic dictators in Africa," Deaton writes. According to Deaton, "the award for sheer creativity" goes to Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya, president of Mauritania from 1984 to 2005. Western countries stopped giving aid to Taya after his government became too politically repressive, but he managed to get the taps turned on again by becoming one of the few Arab nations to recognize Israel.

Some might argue for bypassing corrupt governments altogether and distributing food or funding directly among the people. Deaton acknowledges that, in some cases, this might be worth it to save lives. But one problem with this approach is that it's difficult: To get to the powerless, you often have to go through the powerful. Another issue, is that it undermines what people in developing countries need most -- "an effective government that works with them for today and tomorrow," he writes .

The old calculus of foreign aid was that poor countries were merely suffering from a lack of money. But these days, many economists question this assumption, arguing that development has more to do with the strength of a country's institutions – political and social systems that are developed through the interplay of a government and its people.

There are lot of places around the world that lack good roads, clean water and good hospitals, says MIT's Acemoglu: "Why do these places exist? If you look at it, you quickly disabuse yourself of the notion that they exist because it's impossible for the state to provide services there." What these countries need even more than money is effective governance, something that foreign aid can undermine, the thinking goes.

Some people believe that Deaton's critique of foreign aid goes too far. There are better and worse ways to distribute foreign aid, they say. Some project-based approaches -- such as financing a local business, building a well, or providing uniforms so that girls can go to school -- have been very successful in helping local communities. In the last decade, researchers have tried to integrate these lessons from economists and argue for more effective aid practices.

Many people believe that the aid community needs more scrutiny to determine which practices have been effective and which have not. Economists such as Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, for example, argue for creating randomized control trials that allow researchers to carefully examine the development effects of different types of projects -- for example, following microcredit as it is extended to people in poor countries.

These methods have again led to a swell in optimism in professional circles about foreign aid efforts. And again, Deaton is playing the skeptic.

While Deaton agrees that many development projects are successful, he's critical of claims that these projects can be replicated elsewhere or on a larger scale. "The trouble is that 'what works' is a highly contingent concept," he said in an interview. "If it works in the highlands of Kenya, there's no reason to believe it will work in India, or that it will work in Princeton, New Jersey."

The success of a local project, like microfinancing, also depends on numerous other local factors, which are harder for researchers to isolate. Saying that these randomized control trials prove that certain projects cause growth or development is like saying that flour causes cake, Deaton writes in his book. "Flour 'causes' cakes, in the sense that cakes made without flour do worse than cakes made with flour – and we can do any number of experiments to demonstrate it – but flour will not work without a rising agent, eggs, and butter – the helping factors that are needed for the flour to 'cause' the cake."

Deaton's critiques of foreign aid stem from his natural skepticism of how people use -- and abuse -- economic data to advance their arguments. The science of measuring economic effects is much more important, much harder and more controversial than we usually think, he told The Post.

Acemoglu said of Deaton: "He's challenging, and he's sharp, and he's extremely critical of things he thinks are shoddy and things that are over-claiming. And I think the foreign aid area, that policy arena, really riled him up because it was so lacking in rigor but also so grandiose in its claims."

Deaton doesn't argue against all types of foreign aid. In particular, he believes that certain types of health aid – offering vaccinations, or developing cheap and effective drugs to treat malaria, for example -- have been hugely beneficial to developing countries.

But mostly, he said, the rich world needs to think about "what can we do that would make lives better for millions of poor people around the world without getting into their economies in the way that we're doing by giving huge sums of money to their governments." Overall, he argues that we should focus on doing less harm in the developing world, like selling fewer weapons to despots, or ensuring that developing countries get a fair deal in trade agreements, and aren't harmed by U.S. foreign policy decisions.

Deaton also believes that our attitude toward foreign aid – that developed countries ought to swoop in and save everyone else – is condescending and suspiciously similar to the ideas of colonialism. The rhetoric of colonialism, too, "was all about helping people, albeit about bringing civilization and enlightenment to people whose humanity was far from fully recognized," he has written.

Instead, many of the positive things that are happening in Africa – the huge adoption in cell phones over the past decade, for example – are totally homegrown. He points out that, while the world has made huge strides in reducing poverty in recent decades, almost none of this has been due to aid. Most has been due to development in countries like China, which have received very little aid as a proportion of gross domestic product and have "had to work it out for themselves."

Ultimately, Deaton argues that we should stand aside and let poorer countries develop in their own ways. "Who put us in charge?" he asks.

Inequality

[Jun 26, 2017] I hate the the use of word THE POOR by neoliberal politicians It is an insult like deplorable

Notable quotes:
"... "Struggling " is a far better term if we need a category for distressed citizens. Jobless of course leaves out The huge Category of low wage short hours households. Liberals want to help, want to be charitable, but the real social blight is lack of opportunity to make a decent living thru wage work ..."
"... Safety nets are not necessary if opportunity provides alternatives. More jobs more hours ..."
"... And instead we curb the jobs and hours expansion rate because we refuse to socialize even in part the pricing mechanism ..."
"... That was war time and we "tolerated" rations and price boards for the war effort ..."
"... A similar sense of urgency however can be instilled if leading circles embrace the effort ..."
"... We moved from the landed aristocracy to the landed gentry. Democracy still remains to be seen in full light of day, even relatively representative. ..."
"... Distribution system of US/EU capitalism has failed. [It is a ] systemic plunder* it passed ..."
"... Well yeah, but that is the best that we can get with largely unanswerable elites in charge of everything. Patronizing triangulation is the natural modus operandi for republican politics under a system of dollar democracy and arcane rules of compartmentalized representation. Sure, pure democracy is too cumbersome, but would a rough approximate of representativeness be too much to ask? ..."
Mar 11, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
Paine : March 11, 2017 at 05:49 AM
I hate the the use of word "THE POOR " by liberal politicians It's like deplorable It's an insult

"Struggling " is a far better term if we need a category for distressed citizens. Jobless of course leaves out The huge Category of low wage short hours households. Liberals want to help, want to be charitable, but the real social blight is lack of opportunity to make a decent living thru wage work
Wage rates and hours

Households cope with this blight. They struggle tinline and hold on to some happiness in the Jeffersonian use of the word happiness

Paine -> Paine... , March 11, 2017 at 05:58 AM
Safety nets are not necessary if opportunity provides alternatives. More jobs more hours

And instead we curb the jobs and hours expansion rate because we refuse to socialize even in part the pricing mechanism

We know what potential for mobilizing idle hours exits thru correct and adequate micro nautics We did this in 1940 - 44

That was war time and we "tolerated" rations and price boards for the war effort

A similar sense of urgency however can be instilled if leading circles embrace the effort

A war on browning

But first the Threat of global browning. Has to become real in the minds of The citizenry

RC AKA Darryl, Ron -> kthomas... , March 11, 2017 at 08:10 AM
Most people are complicated and Thomas Jefferson was no exception. The better part of him was associated with James Maddison and largely came from Thomas Paine.

But TJ had far too many personal problems to be held up like a saint. To be fair his time was well before even a faint glimmer of effective democracy during the dawn of the modern quasi-electorally appointed republic, an institution designed to emphasize property rights economic and political efficacy over inherited bloodlines.

We moved from the landed aristocracy to the landed gentry. Democracy still remains to be seen in full light of day, even relatively representative.

ilsm -> Paine... , March 11, 2017 at 07:32 AM
Distribution system of US/EU capitalism has failed. [It is a ] systemic plunder* it passed

l'audace, l'audace toujour l'audace

RC AKA Darryl, Ron -> Paine... , March 11, 2017 at 08:17 AM
Well yeah, but that is the best that we can get with largely unanswerable elites in charge of everything. Patronizing triangulation is the natural modus operandi for republican politics under a system of dollar democracy and arcane rules of compartmentalized representation. Sure, pure democracy is too cumbersome, but would a rough approximate of representativeness be too much to ask?

[May 27, 2017] Macro policy is sort of trade policy. So instead of neoliberal ideal of a free market in international trade without trade policy or government interference, we really need governments to manage trade, or at least manage their macro policy with trade policy in mind

Notable quotes:
"... "The fact that Germany is selling so much more than it is buying redirects demand from its neighbors (as well as from other countries around the world), reducing output and employment outside Germany at a time at which monetary policy in many countries is reaching its limits." ..."
"... Trade deficits have also contributed to asset bubbles. They must be financed with borrowed capital, and such flows from surplus countries were clearly associated with our housing bubble in the 2000s, as well as the longer-term "secular stagnation" economist Larry Summers talks about (weak demand, even in mature recoveries). ..."
"... Moreover, team Trump is consistently misguided with their unilateral approach to this problem of trade imbalances. As long as foreign capital continues to flow freely into the US from surplus countries, absorbing less from Germany simply implies absorbing more excess savings from somewhere else. ..."
"... Trade deficits have also contributed to asset bubbles. They must be financed with borrowed capital, and such flows from surplus countries were clearly associated with our housing bubble in the 2000s, as well as the longer-term "secular stagnation" economist Larry Summers talks about (weak demand, even in mature recoveries). ..."
"... At this point, the growing group of economists who recognize the importance of these international imbalances are pointing towards the capital flows themselves as the force behind persistent trade deficits. ..."
"... "King suggests that the best solution is for deficit countries to get together with surplus countries and, a la Bretton Woods, figure out a "mutually advantageous path to restore growth." That sounds a bit pie-in-the-sky until you consider the economic shampoo cycle ("bubble, bust, repeat") that's been so repeatedly damaging to countries across the globe." ..."
May 27, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
Christopher H., May 27, 2017 at 09:17 AM
http://jaredbernsteinblog.com/trump_trade_germany/

Trump, trade, and Germany
by Jared Bernstein

May 26th, 2017 at 1:58 pm

So, at a meeting in Brussels yesterday, President Trump appears to have told leaders of the European Union that "the Germans are bad, very bad." I'll let those with foreign diplomatic chops figure out how to clean that up-and good luck: When I plug the Spiegel Online headline-"Die Deutschen sind böse, sehr böse"-into Google translator, it spits back: "The Germans are evil, very evil."

I'll handle the economics, which actually are interesting. When Trump talks about trade, he sometimes gets a piece of it right, and it's often a piece about which establishment politicians and the economists that support them are in denial: Germany's trade surplus of over 8 percent of GDP really is a problem for the other countries with whom they trade.

That's not just my view. Both Ben Bernanke and more recently, Lord Mervyn King, former governor of the Central Bank of England, have expressed serious concerns about the impact of Germany's large trade surplus on other countries.

But here are two things that I'm sure Trump misunderstands. First, Germany is not manipulating its currency to build its surplus. Instead, it's the single currency of the Eurozone that's the culprit. Germany is the economic powerhouse of the region, with stronger growth and production practices than its Eurozone partners. Thus, if it's currency could float, it would surely appreciate, but it can't, so its goods are underpriced in export markets relative to those countries' exports.

Second, as I'll get to in a moment, it's not clear what Germany should do about it.

In many posts, I've explained that, contrary to conventional wisdom, including the pushback I've already heard from German EU ministers, trade imbalances are not always benign, nor do they represent efficient markets at work. King stresses the damage of currency misalignments, as well as the fundamental arithmetic of global trade. Since trade must balance on a global scale, one country's trade surplus must show up as other countries' deficits. When a country like Germany produces so much more than it consumes (runs a trade surplus), other countries must consume more than they produce (run trade deficits). And when the magnitudes get this large as a share of GDP-Germany's surplus hit a record 8.6 percent of GDP last year-the damage to other nations can be severe.

Bernanke in 2015:

"The fact that Germany is selling so much more than it is buying redirects demand from its neighbors (as well as from other countries around the world), reducing output and employment outside Germany at a time at which monetary policy in many countries is reaching its limits."

Bernanke's last point is key. When economies are percolating along at full employment, trade deficits can, in fact, be benign. But unemployment in the Eurozone is still 9.5 percent, which combines Germany's 3.9 percent with Spain's 18.2 percent, Greece's 23.5 percent, Italy's 11.7 percent, and so on. Germany's massive surplus has cribbed labor demand from those high unemployment countries, but neither the fiscal nor monetary authorities in these nations have undertaken adequate counter-cyclical policies ("why not?" is a good question having to do with constraints of the monetary union and austerity economics).

To be clear, even at full employment, large, persistent trade deficits-which again, are the flipside of large, persistent surpluses-can be problematic. Here in the US, they've hurt our manufacturers and their communities, a fact that Trump exploited in the election. And one can, of course, see similar political dynamics in the weaker parts of European economies.

Trade deficits have also contributed to asset bubbles. They must be financed with borrowed capital, and such flows from surplus countries were clearly associated with our housing bubble in the 2000s, as well as the longer-term "secular stagnation" economist Larry Summers talks about (weak demand, even in mature recoveries).

At this point, the growing group of economists who recognize the importance of these international imbalances are pointing towards the capital flows themselves as the force behind persistent trade deficits. This is an important insight because it belies the simple solution we tend to hear from the mainstream: if only you'd save more, your trade deficit would shrink. But if other countries persist in exporting their savings to us, short of capital controls to block those flows, our trade deficit will also persist.

What could/should Germany do to be more of team player, spreading demand to others instead of hoarding it? The usual recommendation, made by Bernanke, is to take their excess savings and invest them at home, say through more public infrastructure or some other sort of fiscal stimulus. But King makes the good point that since Germany is already pretty much at full employment-recall their 3.9 percent unemployment rate–they may be disinclined to take this advice.

King suggests that they should instead do something to raise the value of their exchange rate (appreciate their currency), but here again, it's not obvious how, as a member of the currency union, they're supposed to go about that.

Surely, the solution Trump intimated-a big tariff on German exports into the US-wouldn't work. For one, such actions invite retaliation, and not only do many of us want to tap the consumer benefits of our robust global supply chains, but Germany has factories here that employ a lot of people making cars and other equipment. That's welcome investment.

Moreover, team Trump is consistently misguided with their unilateral approach to this problem of trade imbalances. As long as foreign capital continues to flow freely into the US from surplus countries, absorbing less from Germany simply implies absorbing more excess savings from somewhere else.

King suggests that the best solution is for deficit countries to get together with surplus countries and, a la Bretton Woods, figure out a "mutually advantageous path to restore growth." That sounds a bit pie-in-the-sky until you consider the economic shampoo cycle ("bubble, bust, repeat") that's been so repeatedly damaging to countries across the globe. Perhaps that would be a motivator for our trading-partner countries, though the longer Trump's out there on the road, the harder it's getting to imagine such forward-looking international coordination.

I too have suggested that President Trump should convene such a commission, but sadly, I'm not the Jared he listens to. In the meantime, he should check out Google Translator before he mouths off.

Christopher H. said... May 27, 2017 at 09:25 AM

Krugman:

"This has only minor spillovers to the United States - maybe Germany's unhelpful role has contributed a bit to our trade deficit, but this is basically an intra-Europe issue."

Bernstein:

"To be clear, even at full employment, large, persistent trade deficits-which again, are the flipside of large, persistent surpluses-can be problematic. Here in the US, they've hurt our manufacturers and their communities, a fact that Trump exploited in the election. And one can, of course, see similar political dynamics in the weaker parts of European economies.

Trade deficits have also contributed to asset bubbles. They must be financed with borrowed capital, and such flows from surplus countries were clearly associated with our housing bubble in the 2000s, as well as the longer-term "secular stagnation" economist Larry Summers talks about (weak demand, even in mature recoveries).

At this point, the growing group of economists who recognize the importance of these international imbalances are pointing towards the capital flows themselves as the force behind persistent trade deficits.

This is an important insight because it belies the simple solution we tend to hear from the mainstream: if only you'd save more, your trade deficit would shrink. But if other countries persist in exporting their savings to us, short of capital controls to block those flows, our trade deficit will also persist."

Paine -> Christopher H.... May 27, 2017 at 02:10 PM

Nonsense. We can force Germany to build more cars here. In fact we can tell the German MNCs to build all their north American cars here. Including parts and accessories. German MNCs have no patriotic urge we couldn't subvert with market threats. Or Japanese MNCs for that matter. Push back ?

Sorry we are the global market of choice we shut you out and you decline to secondary status. Violate the code of MNCs liberty to jump borders at will ?

Now that is a horse of a darker shading

Christopher H. said... May 27, 2017 at 09:22 AM

Krugman:

"Yet Germany's huge trade surpluses are a problem * - which has nothing to do with trade policy."

Macro policy is sort of trade policy as Bernstein points out above. Instead of this neoliberal ideal of a free market in international trade without trade policy or government interference, we really need governments to manage trade, or at least manage their macro with trade policy in mind.

As Bernstein suggest:

"King suggests that the best solution is for deficit countries to get together with surplus countries and, a la Bretton Woods, figure out a "mutually advantageous path to restore growth." That sounds a bit pie-in-the-sky until you consider the economic shampoo cycle ("bubble, bust, repeat") that's been so repeatedly damaging to countries across the globe."

In the 1980s, the dollar was getting too strong until governments managed trade and currency policy via the Plaza Accords which brought the dollar down. It was trade policy.

It wasn't policy to change savings rates or something that the mainstream economists focus on.

Christopher H. -> to pgl... May 27, 2017 at 10:41 AM

"The exchange rate value of the dollar versus the yen declined by 51% from 1985 to 1987. Most of this devaluation was due to the $10 billion spent by the participating central banks.[citation needed] Currency speculation caused the dollar to continue its fall after the end of coordinated interventions. Unlike some similar financial crises, such as the Mexican and the Argentine financial crises of 1994 and 2001 respectively, this devaluation was planned, done in an orderly, pre-announced manner and did not lead to financial panic in the world markets. The Plaza Accord was successful in reducing the U.S. trade deficit with Western European nations but largely failed to fulfill its primary objective of alleviating the trade deficit with Japan."

Since the coordinated actions of central banks led to the devaluation of the dollar and reduction of the trade deficit, I'd say it was currency and trade policy as well.

"The justification for the dollar's devaluation was twofold: to reduce the U.S. current account deficit, which had reached 3.5% of the GDP, and to help the U.S. economy to emerge from a serious recession that began in the early 1980s."

[May 26, 2017] Fair Trade instead of Free Trade

May 26, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
im1dc , May 26, 2017 at 05:06 AM
"Blinder: Why, After 200 Years, Can't Economists Sell Free Trade?" From yesterday.

B/C so-called 'Free Trade' favor one group over another. Fair Trade should be the basis for 'Free Trade.'

American Economists are not smart enough to comprehend the "basis" and instead focus on numbers which are clearly skewed to favor trade and which ignore the effects on those that DO NOT gain in such deals.

im1dc - , May 26, 2017 at 05:12 AM
Maybe it would help if Economists thought in metaphors.

Try thinking about music. There are all sorts of genres. Within each some are great and some are horrible, i.e., a vast variety of degrees of what is great and what is not.

RC AKA Darryl, Ron - , May 26, 2017 at 06:57 AM
"Maybe it would help if Economists thought in metaphors..."

[Essentially that is what economists already do, although the term most often used is a different form of abstraction than a metaphor or colloquial meme. Economists think in terms of stylized facts.]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stylized_fact

In social sciences, especially economics, a stylized fact is a simplified presentation of an empirical finding.[1] A stylized fact is often a broad generalization that summarizes some complicated statistical calculations, which although essentially true may have inaccuracies in the detail...

*

[When it comes to sorting out the beneficiaries from the losers, then the common measurement of all things economic is money. Money aggregates is what economists look at in all those stylized facts. So, the people with the most money naturally matter more in economics.

However, the devil is in the details. Just like Bluefin tuna do not benefit from a higher price for Bluefin tuna in the short run (nor long run either unless caused by a drastic fall in quota and catch rather than stock depletion) and fisherman of Bluefin tuna do not benefit from a higher price of Bluefin tuna in the long run (as they still won't make enough to save and invest adequately to protect against fishery collapse) and sushi bars don't benefit and sushi eaters do not benefit then maybe lose-lose is more likely than win-win in economics. But if you were an economists and said that then you would be out of a job.

Environmental economics makes a lot more sense than monetized economics if we are worried about the future and quality of life for everyone, but economist do not worry about the future because "In the end we are all dead" before it becomes time to pay the environmental piper. Besides environmental economics places much more focus on distribution than wealth and GDP, whereas monetized economics is just the opposite. So, financialize and securitize to your heart's content because we are on the path to global destruction.]

RC AKA Darryl, Ron , May 26, 2017 at 05:35 AM
RE: Growth, import dependence, and war in the context of international trade

Roberto Bonfatti, Kevin O'Rourke 26 May 2017

Classical models suggest that shifts in the balance of power can lead to conflict, where the established power has the incentive to trigger war to deter the threat to its dominance. This column argues that this changes if international trade is taken into account. Industrialisation requires the import of natural resources, potentially leading a smaller nation to trigger war either against a resource-rich country or the incumbent nation. The model can help explain the US-Japanese conflict of 1941 and Hitler's invasion of Poland, and has implications for US-Chinese relations today...

http://voxeu.org/article/growth-import-dependence-and-war

[I am not buying into ANY of THESE narratives regarding the risks of geopolitical instability attributable to increased levels of global economic integration, but I do really like how the authors pose these narratives which all fly in the face of the old saw about global economic integration ushering in a sustained period of world peace.

Indeed globalization has never stopped warring before. It did not prevent WW-I. Yes, there was lots of world trade before container ships and the free movement of capital. Container ships and the free movement of capital just lowered the cost of extended supply chains such that international wage arbitrage made greater global integration profitable for owners of capital well after most other comparative advantages of international competition had become moot.

Global economic integration via the international settlement of accounts regime under the gold standard was a principle cause of the Great Depression which in turn greatly exacerbated "The Economic Consequences of the Peace." The Versailles Treaty was a "Carthaginian peace" Keynes convincingly argued and it did indeed lead to WW-II with Germany in the grips of the Great Depression fitfully reasserting its self determination.

I do not even believe that war poses the greatest risk to geopolitical instability in the current century. The H-bomb has done a lot to limit the severity of international hostility even if it has done nothing to reduce the frequency since the end of the Cold War.

The role of the greatest risks to geopolitical instability in the current century I expect to be filled by various supply side and demand side shocks delivered by the unnatural events of Nature under its present climate change regime. Floods, draughts, typhoons, and even earthquakes (yep - both rising ocean and melting glaciers are unsteadying the steady pressure of Earthly masses on its tectonic plates - recipe for earthquakes second only to asteroids) all continue to be both more frequent and more severe. In an integrated global economy any catastrophe of economic significance in one country (or more) is not only propagated in its economic effects to all of its trading partners around the world, but those effects become magnified as the integration between those trading partners reverberate the effects. This is globalization's economic shock multiplier effect. Falling tides wreck all boats. This century is still young, but fortunately enough for me that I am not.]

RC AKA Darryl, Ron - , May 26, 2017 at 07:32 AM
It is drying up outside now after two days of rain and no one has slapped me with the other side of this story yet. So, I will have to slap myself while I am still conveniently at hand to answer the challenge.

If not for globalization then worldwide poverty would likely be the greatest risk to geopolitical instability in the current century instead of climate change, which would also make climate change even more deadly and difficult to deal with. However, globalization in its present degree and form was the chosen rather than only possible means of turning the tide against global poverty. First off, the major emerging economies were each capable of doing quite a lot on their own and a lot more with just a little help in the form of capital and technology. It was the choice of the west to engage in private trade rather than foreign aid to achieve these ends. That choice came about because corporations have a greater control of western governments than western governments have control of corporations. Corporations seeded that choice both through their own generosity to the campaigns of politicians and via a public relations campaign against giving foreign aid to those people. Corporations preferred to just give those people our jobs and skip the middle man, the taxpayer.

[May 26, 2017] Blinder Why, After 200 Years, Cant Economists Sell Free Trade (Video)

Notable quotes:
"... Neoliberal economics denies that for real economic agents networks are of primary important. ..."
"... I'm beginning to hate the word "free". It is so vague and so often misused that I'm beginning to think it should just be banned. It is a hindrance to communication. ..."
May 26, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
I.B , May 25, 2017 at 02:02 PM
Free trade works with he assumption that the winners share their profits with the losers, creating a win-win or at least win-no lose scenario. However, the same people who preach free trade tend to suggest to "reform" the welfare state, a.k.a. annihilating it, eliminating the very assumption that makes free trade supposedly a pareto improvement.

Plus economists only argue with money and commodities. Free trade moves jobs abroad, destroying lifes and communities. This non-monetary cost is not included in the models that prove the advantages of free trade.

New Deal democrat - , May 25, 2017 at 02:07 PM
Yes.

In terms Blinder might understand: "Alan, if you let me murder you, I will give each of your children and grandchildren $10,000. That's money they wouldn't otherwise receive. You're cool with that, right?"

Gibbon1 - , May 25, 2017 at 05:39 PM
[destroying lifes and communities]

Neoliberal economics denies that for real economic agents networks are of primary important.

mulp - , May 26, 2017 at 12:15 AM
"Free trade works with he assumption that the winners share their profits with the losers, creating a win-win or at least win-no lose scenario"

Nonsense. Free trade, local or international, is about trading labor for labor. There are no winners or losers. Economies must be zero sum. A free trade means neither you nor I do AAA nothing for the other that puts us at a disadvantage. Since Reagan made free lunch economics cool, most economists reject labor as the core of the economy.

Free lunch economics seeks to eliminate labor from the economy as a purely burdensome cost. Instead, free lunch economics worships money with no connection to labor. But money is, at its core, simply a proxy for labor. But with free lunch economists constantly rejecting labor as a burden to be cut and eliminated, trade increasingly becomes about monopoly power and rents, but that requires eliminating free trade.

The problems with trade in the US is free lunch economists have justified and given authority to trade US property, land, assets away in exchange for labor by Asians who needed assets to develop. Assets like fossil fuels, iron ore, etc.

Milton Friedman argued that we Americans become wealthier getting labor produced consumption goods in exchange for giving them our property in a frequently cite 1978 lecture. Ie, he advanced the idea that labor is not what trade is about.

Yet, you will never find an economist describing the advantage of free trade by saying nation one's capitalists make its workers unemployed in order to have nation two's workers do all the work.

That's the wonder of free lunch economics. Describe free trade in terms of trading labor. Then immediately argue that it's better to trade, not labor, but assets for labor, making workers in both nations better off....

The rhetoric is clever, and liberals grew lazy and failed to think about the flaws in free lunch economics of Friedman, et al, since.

JohnH , May 25, 2017 at 03:12 PM
After 200 years it has finally gotten to the point where free trade promoters are having trouble selling their snake oil. The biggest problem is that 'free' trade isn't free at all. It is a series of deals heavily negotiated on behalf of the industries that benefit from them...labor, indigenous groups, and environmentalists are nowhere to be found at the negotiating table...only multinational corporations hoping to get a free lunch...or as close to it as possible...in return for the gobs of money they invested in Democrats and Republicans.

Sad that it has taken 200 years to figure this out.

mulp , May 26, 2017 at 12:29 AM
Workers love to screw themselves because they believe they will keep getting high wages even if they pay every other worker low wages. Do you complain that food prices are too low resulting in food workers being paid too little?

If you are not calling for higher food prices, then you better believe food workers want your wages slashed so the price of what you produce for them can be afforded by someone making $15,000 a year.

No one forces any American worker to buy Chinese made goods, or any import. Instead, US workers kill their own jobs paying prices that are too low to be produced by US workers.

But not even Bernie calls for higher prices paid by all workers so US workers can produce everything at good 60s era union wage levels. Food was more expensive then. Clothing more expensive. Vacations like those many take today were very expensive, so vacations then were spartan: visiting relatives, or camping in government parks or staying at a cabin with an outhouse and no electricity.

dwb , May 25, 2017 at 04:11 PM
Maybe economists could sell free trade if they were not standing if front of what looks like a concrete prison wall fidgeting with their microphone.

I find it mildly amusing that economists who believe in rational expectations and rational consumers cannot understand why people are too stupid to get free trade. Experience cognitive dissonance much?

Only an economist who does not understand business would say that it does not pay to advertise a book before it's out.

Gibbon1 - , May 25, 2017 at 05:57 PM
I have an idea what's wrong with ration expectations theory that falls out of work I've done on self organizing radio networks.

One of the biggest problems when trying to reason about these networks if that the actual nodes have very limited information about the layout of the network. It's vital to take that into account when developing strategies for maintaining the network without having a central controller.

I find that people have a really really hard time letting go over an over-all mental model of what is happening and way. Turns out none of the information that the nodes have is totally unambiguous. It's always ambiguous and limited and poorly sampled.

That's the central problem with the rational expectations model right there. In real life the actors do not have anything close to sufficient, well sampled, unambiguous information to work off of. Even if they did, cognitive load is an issue.

Real life actors tend to punt and work on developing trusted economic associations with other economic actors. My experience is this takes years to develop. Yet neoliberals don't place any value on those trusted networks and work to destroy them because they see them as inefficient.

reason - , May 26, 2017 at 02:51 AM
It is worse than that. Economists don't have a model that works, but they assume that each and every actor in the market does. That is a crazy assumption.
kaleberg , May 25, 2017 at 05:25 PM
Places are created by import substitution. Free trade makes import substitution harder. That means places like cities, states and even nations, have found it increasingly difficult to be somewhere as opposed to some trading post or colony. People like to live somewhere as opposed to nowhere.
Shouldn't ignore 170 years of Western protectionism which led to wealth, followed by 30 years of total destruction under free trade , May 25, 2017 at 07:55 PM
Economists need to study history. They needed to be told about East Asia and should travel around the destroyed cities of the US. Economists should let the people of Detroit how wonderful things have gone since the US abandoned protectionism in the early 1970s.
Jerry Brown - , May 25, 2017 at 09:48 PM
There is a whole lot of truth in your comment. Economists (and policy makers) should look at East Asian countries and really take into account how export focused economies HAVE managed to improve the standard of living of their citizens so greatly. And they have managed that- and it is a very good thing overall. But it has had costs for many here in the US who were not in a position to bear those costs and there has not been any nearly adequate attempt to help them bear those costs.
Economists should sell free trade in Youngstown, Camden, Cleveland, East St. Louis - tell them the world was terrible in the 1950s when the US had high tariffs , May 25, 2017 at 08:18 PM
Economists should host the next AEA meeting in Youngstown. 

Toast yourselves! Celebrate your brilliant successes - what a marvel America has become sin ce it abandoned Lincoln's protectionism!

So modern! So rich! A true land of opportunity, unlike the bad old days under 19th century GOP protectionism!

Jesse , May 25, 2017 at 09:20 PM
Free trade, like free markets, are both tools of the neoliberal agenda moreso than sound principles applicable to the real world.

Markets with few or no rules and enforcement to prevent the strong and well connected from victimizing others resides the fundamental assumption that people are naturally rational and with the character of angels.

Anyone who has ever driven on a freeway knows that this assumption representative a fatal error.

libezkova - , May 26, 2017 at 08:36 AM
Jesse,

"Free trade, like free markets, are both tools of the neoliberal agenda moreso than sound principles applicable to the real world."

Exactly -- The key word here is "tools". They are used as a tools of achieving specific, pretty nefarious goals.

What is interesting is that neoliberals redefined the meaning of "free" as "unregulated" and pushed to use it in this "double" meaning, instead of the proper word "fair".

Neoliberals never use the term "fair trade". That's Anathema to them.

That redefinition is actually pretty subtle and pretty devious. Really Orwellian semantic trick.

Compare with "The Ministry of Truth, which concerned itself with news, entertainment, education, and the fine arts. The Ministry of Peace, which concerned itself with war. The Ministry of Love, which maintained..."

libezkova , May 25, 2017 at 10:15 PM
As Reason once commented in this blog: "I'm beginning to hate the word free".

There is no free trade - only negotiated and regulated trade and dominant nations always get better terms.

Foreign nations are very suspicious if, for example, the USA reps talk about "free trade" ;-)

Historically GB was the promoter. In this case, free trade was simply one of the mechanisms of empire in the age of industrialism, one part of the wealth pump that allows to concentrate the wealth of the globe in Britain during the years of its imperial dominion. Manufactured good carried huge premium in price. For example, they completely destroyed textile industry in India to eliminate competition. Opium wars is another good example here.

It's role is pretty similar for the United States today. In a very interesting way it is combined with "debt slavery" for the most of that nations on the globe.

Kind unique combination, typical for neoliberalism.

It also exists within the web of military treaties that lock allies and vassal nations into a condition of dependence on the imperial center, as well as enforce the dominant currency in which international trade is carried out.

It requires a keen eye to look at the history and pay attention to the direction in which the benefits of "free trade" flow.

But in reality the USA has very little to do with "free trade". The USA practices "selective protectionism" hypocritically disguised as "free trade".

http://cepr.net/blogs/beat-the-press/u-s-pursues-selective-protectionism-not-free-trade?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+beat_the_press+(Beat+the+Press)

"... We also have actively been pushing for longer and stronger patent and copyright protections. While these protections, like all forms of protectionism, serve a purpose, they are 180 degrees at odds with free trade. And, they are very costly.

Patent protection in prescription drugs will lead to us pay more than $440 billion this year for drugs that would likely sell for less than $80 billion in a free market. The difference of $360 billion comes to almost $3,000 a year for every family in the country. ..."

"... Stop using the term "free trade" at all...when wall street bankers and hedge fund managers and the corporate media use the term "free trade", what they are really talking about is labor arbitrage. Shifting factories to nations with the lowest worker living standards, health, safety and environmental standards. It usually means a nation without a democracy, run by either oligarchs or despots. ..."

reason, May 26, 2017 at 06:28 AM
I never said that - the word I hated was "freedom", because it has been badly abused (and it is often not clear what it is). Freedom is only ever relative (i.e. you can't increase one aspect of freedom without impingement of another in some way). That is not the same as the adjective "free" - which not an concept relating to a universal state - I know what free entry to a museum is.
libezkova -> reason ... , May 26, 2017 at 08:24 AM
Never say never ;-)

reason : Reply Thursday, March 23, 2017 at 02:20 AM , March 23, 2017 at 02:20 AM

Is the question "Are there Benefits from Free Trade" - different from the question "Are there Benefits from Trade"? What work is word "free" doing here - and what does it even mean?

I'm beginning to hate the word "free". It is so vague and so often misused that I'm beginning to think it should just be banned. It is a hindrance to communication.

http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2017/03/links-for-03-23-06.html#comment-6a00d83451b33869e201bb098696b7970d

[May 04, 2017] The entire spectrum of political thought from the neoliberal center to the reactionary right is really about setting up punitive systems of coercion and control. by their bootstraps, and if they dont then they deserve all the cruelty that can be heaped upon them.

Notable quotes:
"... The poor [under neoliberalism] are errant children who need to be molded. Conservatives may whine about the "nanny state" but what they really want to see is either the negligent mommy state or the abusive daddy state. They want to "help" the poor the way a drill instructor wants to help you learn to obey and kill. And remember: it's for your own good. Perhaps I am being unfair, but beneath the platitudes this seems to be the motivating ideology of too much of the contemporary governing class. ..."
May 04, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

The poor [under neoliberalism] are errant children who need to be molded. Conservatives may whine about the "nanny state" but what they really want to see is either the negligent mommy state or the abusive daddy state. They want to "help" the poor the way a drill instructor wants to help you learn to obey and kill. And remember: it's for your own good. Perhaps I am being unfair, but beneath the platitudes this seems to be the motivating ideology of too much of the contemporary governing class.

[Apr 28, 2017] Will some honest economist, if there are any left, finally step up and analyze the distributional effects of free trade between capital and labor?

Apr 28, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
JohnH said in reply to pgl...

, April 28, 2017 at 06:49 AM
"Krugman thought that this was because economists, enamored by the "jewel in the crown of economics", theory of comparative advantage, tend to look at average effects, not at the heterogeneity of effects. He thought that this was changing now. "

Interesting that economists still seem to avoid a discussion of those supposedly 'diffuse' winners. Sure, consumers saw lower prices. But what about investors, at whose behest these 'fair' trade deals got negotiated in the first place?

Will some honest economist, if there are any left, finally step up and analyze the distributional effects of 'free' trade between capital and labor?

I expect that the most concentrated effects 'free' trade will be found not only among displaced workers but also in the profits...and earnings going to the 1%.

[Apr 28, 2017] Concentrated oligopolies know how to best leverage this situation to their advantage, shifting production and employment among various operations

Apr 28, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
JohnH said in reply to RC AKA Darryl, Ron... , April 28, 2017 at 07:51 AM
True enough.

Neil Irwin had an interesting piece in the NY Times a couple days ago. Basically, he was meditating on the future direction of the economic stagnation. He speculates that the rise in inflation was a non-recurring event, driven largely by rising oil prices. Those clamoring for more inflation are likely to be disappointed.

Irwin notes that underlying drivers of growth and inflation are absent: globally there is over capacity in manufacturing, ample supplies of commodities, and a glut of labor.

Concentrated oligopolies know how to best leverage this situation to their advantage, shifting production and employment among various operations.

I have long argued that this new reality will put a damper on US wage growth, because employers have escape valves in the global market. IMO Promoters of low interest rates ignore this new reality, claiming that pressurizing the economy will inevitably lead to higher wages.

We will see who is right. Ten years and counting...and wages have yet to rise.

RC AKA Darryl, Ron -> JohnH... , April 28, 2017 at 08:07 AM
Yep. However, there is always room for complexity in economics. The right and wrong of inflation will depend upon the basket of goods AND services. CPI includes the following.

• Food and beverages

• Housing

• Apparel

• Transportation

• Medical care

• Recreation

• Education and communication

• Other goods and services

There is more than ample room for cost push inflation that is not linked to wages in every bullet. That is not something to celebrate though.

RC AKA Darryl, Ron -> RC AKA Darryl, Ron... , April 28, 2017 at 08:08 AM
What we want to see is demand pull inflation though, which is always a result of higher wages.
JohnH -> RC AKA Darryl, Ron... , April 28, 2017 at 08:41 AM
I agree that we want to see inflation resulting from higher wages...but economists rarely talk about wages in the same breath as inflation...which leads me to suspect that they are interested mostly in more inflation, which I believe has few benefits, rather than higher wages, which has a lot of benefits.

Most here strenuously disagree, believing that we must take it on faith that liberal economists are really promoting higher wages via accommodative monetary policy, even though wages almost never factor into any discussion of monetary policy or its benefits.

[Apr 18, 2017] Atomization of workforce as a part of atomization of society under neoliberalism

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... a friend of mine, born in Venice and a long-time resident of Rome, pointed out to me that dogs are a sign of loneliness. ..."
"... And the cafes and restaurants on weekends in Chicago–chockfull of people, each on his or her own Powerbook, surfing the WWW all by themselves. ..."
"... The preaching of self-reliance by those who have never had to practice it is galling. ..."
"... Katherine: Agreed. It is also one of the reasons why I am skeptical of various evangelical / fundi pastors, who are living at the expense of their churches, preaching about individual salvation. ..."
"... So you have the upper crust (often with inheritances and trust funds) preaching economic self-reliances, and you have divines preaching individual salvation as they go back to the house provided by the members of the church. ..."
Apr 18, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
DJG , April 17, 2017 at 11:09 am
Neoliberalism is creating loneliness. That's what's wrenching society apart George Monbiot, Guardian

George Monbiot on human loneliness and its toll. I agree with his observations. I have been cataloguing them in my head for years, especially after a friend of mine, born in Venice and a long-time resident of Rome, pointed out to me that dogs are a sign of loneliness.

A couple of recent trips to Rome have made that point ever more obvious to me: Compared to my North Side neighborhood in Chicago, where every other person seems to have a dog, and on weekends Clark Street is awash in dogs (on their way to the dog boutiques and the dog food truck), Rome has few dogs. Rome is much more densely populated, and the Italians still have each other, for good or for ill. And Americans use the dog as an odd means of making human contact, at least with other dog owners.

But Americanization advances: I was surprised to see people bring dogs into the dining room of a fairly upscale restaurant in Turin. I haven't seen that before. (Most Italian cafes and restaurants are just too small to accommodate a dog, and the owners don't have much patience for disruptions.) The dogs barked at each other for while–violating a cardinal rule in Italy that mealtime is sacred and tranquil. Loneliness rules.

And the cafes and restaurants on weekends in Chicago–chockfull of people, each on his or her own Powerbook, surfing the WWW all by themselves.

That's why the comments about March on Everywhere in Harper's, recommended by Lambert, fascinated me. Maybe, to be less lonely, you just have to attend the occasional march, no matter how disorganized (and the Chicago Women's March organizers made a few big logistical mistakes), no matter how incoherent. Safety in numbers? (And as Monbiot points out, overeating at home alone is a sign of loneliness: Another argument for a walk with a placard.)

Katharine , April 17, 2017 at 11:39 am

I particularly liked this point:

In Britain, men who have spent their entire lives in quadrangles – at school, at college, at the bar, in parliament – instruct us to stand on our own two feet.

With different imagery, the same is true in this country. The preaching of self-reliance by those who have never had to practice it is galling.

DJG , April 17, 2017 at 11:48 am

Katherine: Agreed. It is also one of the reasons why I am skeptical of various evangelical / fundi pastors, who are living at the expense of their churches, preaching about individual salvation.

So you have the upper crust (often with inheritances and trust funds) preaching economic self-reliances, and you have divines preaching individual salvation as they go back to the house provided by the members of the church.

[Mar 23, 2017] Im beginning to hate the word free . There is no free trade - only negotiated and regulated trade.

Notable quotes:
"... Is the question: "Are there Benefits from Free Trade" - different from the question "Are there Benefits from Trade"? What work is word "free" doing here - and what does it even mean? ..."
"... I'm beginning to hate the word "free". It is so vague and so often misused that I'm beginning to think it should just be banned. It is a hindrance to communication. ..."
"... There is no "free" trade - only negotiated and regulated trade. And we seem to do a really lousy job of negotiating, unless you are in the small percentage who rigged the game. ..."
"... Silly boy, only large corporations and capital matter. Workers are a hindrance to rent extractions and can be sacrificed. ..."
Mar 23, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
reason : March 23, 2017 at 02:20 AM
Is the question: "Are there Benefits from Free Trade" - different from the question "Are there Benefits from Trade"? What work is word "free" doing here - and what does it even mean?

I'm beginning to hate the word "free". It is so vague and so often misused that I'm beginning to think it should just be banned. It is a hindrance to communication.

Tom aka Rusty said in reply to reason ... , March 23, 2017 at 04:45 AM
There is no "free" trade - only negotiated and regulated trade. And we seem to do a really lousy job of negotiating, unless you are in the small percentage who rigged the game.
reason -> Tom aka Rusty... , March 23, 2017 at 06:31 AM
Who are "we"? Most people in the rest of the world thinks the game was rigged by the U.S. (whose main interest seems to be in protecting its patent holders and agriculture).
Tom aka Rusty said in reply to reason ... , March 23, 2017 at 06:34 AM
I care more about US workers than workers in other countries. As should our politicians. And I think when the US is strong the rest of the world is better for it.
Smart $$$$ Long said in reply to Tom aka Rusty... , March 23, 2017 at 06:53 AM
Do you know where your citizens are?

As more expatriots travel and do business overseas, more foreign born sisters, brothers, and cousins come here for our slice of the global supply chain production. As the line blurs between our home girls and home boys vs others, the lines between many ethnicities also blurs as intermarriage moves forward.

Forget political favoritism and affirmative favoritism! Let the good times roll and thrill your soul! Got soul?

Get
it --

Tom aka Rusty said in reply to Smart $$$$ Long... , March 23, 2017 at 08:27 AM
I don;t care where they come from, once they are legal US workers they are my home boys and girls.
DrDick -> Tom aka Rusty... , -1
Silly boy, only large corporations and capital matter. Workers are a hindrance to rent extractions and can be sacrificed.

[Jan 14, 2016] Neoliberalism was also economics departments orthodoxy for decades

Notable quotes:
"... It should never be forgotten that the conservative orthodoxy -- of low taxes on the wealthiest, deregulation of finance, small govt deficits, and the need for inequality to spur individual initiative -- was also economics departments orthodoxy for decades. Economists put their imprimatur on this whole mess, with VERY few exceptions. ..."
"... 70% of the population STILL believes that federal deficits are a big problem, and also believes that this is standard economic orthodoxy. Until the crash, most people were ready to accept some degree of privatization of Social Security, and Martin Feldstein pushed on this repeatedly with no counterargument from the economics departments. The Clinton economic team was instrumental in pushing financial deregulation, upon the supposed orthodoxy that it is good for the economy. Even the worst nonsense in Friedmans Capitalism and Freedom and Free to Choose barely saw any push-back from other economists in the op-ed pages. ..."
"... Reaganomics was approved by most economists either through mood affiliation or intellectual incompetence. That 70% currently includes college graduates who took economics classes and traders on Wall Street. ..."
"... Nonsense. Polls of profession economists opinions abound. Reaganomics/neoliberalism has predominated in economics until recently. On a few big issues (notably, on whether the size of federal deficits as % of GDP should be reduced) the split remained even. ..."
economistsview.typepad.com

Lee A. Arnold :

It should never be forgotten that the "conservative orthodoxy" -- of low taxes on the wealthiest, deregulation of finance, small gov't deficits, and the need for inequality to spur individual initiative -- was also "economics departments orthodoxy" for decades. Economists put their imprimatur on this whole mess, with VERY few exceptions.

It's been a first-rate intellectual scandal, perpetrated by some of the biggest names in the economics racket, and with most of the lesser lights tagging along, for fear of ostracism.

And most of them STILL don't have a clear view of what the real problems are.

Lee A. Arnold -> anne...
70% of the population STILL believes that federal deficits are a big problem, and also believes that this is standard economic orthodoxy. Until the crash, most people were ready to accept some degree of privatization of Social Security, and Martin Feldstein pushed on this repeatedly with no counterargument from the economics departments. The Clinton economic team was instrumental in pushing financial deregulation, upon the supposed orthodoxy that it is good for the economy. Even the worst nonsense in Friedman's "Capitalism and Freedom" and "Free to Choose" barely saw any push-back from other economists in the op-ed pages.

"Conservative orthodoxy" can be laid squarely at the feet of the economics departments, up until the crash. If the ones who are supposed to know better, don't make a concerted effort to refute the tons of nonsense spouted in the name of economics, then they should resign their tenure.

Lee A. Arnold -> pgl...
It most certainly WAS taken as the orthodoxy. Reaganomics was approved by most economists either through mood affiliation or intellectual incompetence. That 70% currently includes college graduates who took economics classes and traders on Wall Street.
pgl -> Lee A. Arnold ...
"Reaganomics was approved by most economists either through mood affiliation or intellectual incompetence."

Not even remotely true. Criticized by liberal economists. Blasted by the conservative economists who refused to work for the Reagan White House. Even blasted by a young Greg Mankiw but that is before he drank the Bush Kool Aid.

Lee - your claim here is just wrong. And the more you defend it, the worse it gets.

Lee A. Arnold -> pgl...
Nonsense. Polls of profession economists' opinions abound. Reaganomics/neoliberalism has predominated in economics until recently. On a few big issues (notably, on whether the size of federal deficits as % of GDP should be reduced) the split remained even.

(1992 -- responses from 464 US economists):

[Jan 13, 2016] ObamaCare's Neoliberal Intellectual Foundations Continue to Crumble

Notable quotes:
"... By Lambert Strether of Corrente . ..."
"... ObamaCare is a Bad Deal (for Many) ..."
"... they do not comparison shop. ..."
"... very ..."
"... Obama was never in favor of single payer, ever. Wash your mouth out for even suggesting that ..."
"... He had health care lobbyists draft the legislation ..."
"... thatworddoesnotmeanthat ..."
"... The United States National Health Care Act, HR 676 ..."
January 12, 2016 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

by Lambert Strether By Lambert Strether of Corrente .

ObamaCare is, of course, a neoliberal "market-based" "solution." ObamaCare's intellectual foundations were expressed most clearly in layperson's language by none other than the greatest orator of our time, Obama, himself ( 2013 ):

If you don't have health insurance, then starting on October 1st, private plans will actually compete for your business, and you'll be able to comparison-shop online.There will be a marketplace online, just like you'd buy a flat-screen TV or plane tickets or anything else you're doing online, and you'll be able to buy an insurance package that fits your budget and is right for you.

Let's leave aside the possibility that private plans are phishing for your business, by exploiting informational asymmetries, rather than "competing" for it. Obama gives an operational definition of a functioning market that assumes two things: (1) That health insurance, as a product, is like flat-screen TVs, and (2) as when buying flat-screen TVs, people will comparison shop for health insurance, and that will drive health insurers to compete to satisfy them. As it turns out, scholars have been studying both assumptions, and both assumptions are false. "The dog won't eat the dog food," as marketers say. This will be a short post; we've already seen that the first assumption is false - only 20%-ers who have their insurance purchased for them by an institution could be so foolish as to make it - and a new study shows that the second assumption is false, as well.

ObamaCare's Product Is Not Like a Flat-Screen TV

Here's the key assumptoin that Obama (and most economists) make about heatlth insurance: That it's a commodity, like flat screen TVs, or airline tickets, and that therefore , there exists a "a product that suits your budget and is right for you" because markets. Unfortunately, experience backed up by studies has shown that this is not true. From ObamaCare is a Bad Deal (for Many) . From Mark Pauly, Adam Leive, Scott Harrington, all of the Wharton School, NBER Working Paper No. 21565 ( quoted at NC in October 2015 ):

This paper estimates the change in net (of subsidy) financial burden ("the price of responsibility") and in welfare that would be experienced by a large nationally representative sample of the "non-poor" uninsured if they were to purchase Silver or Bronze plans on the ACA exchanges. The sample is the set of full-year uninsured persons represented in the Current Population Survey for the pre-ACA period with incomes above 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The estimated change in financial burden compares out-of-pocket payments by income stratum in the pre-ACA period with the sum of premiums (net of subsidy) and expected cost sharing (net of subsidy) for benchmark Silver and Bronze plans, under various assumptions about the extent of increased spending associated with obtaining coverage. In addition to changes in the financial burden, our welfare estimates incorporate the value of additional care consumed and the change in risk premiums for changes in exposure to out-of-pocket payments associated with coverage, under various assumptions about risk aversion. We find that the average financial burden will increase for all income levels once insured. Subsidy-eligible persons with incomes below 250 percent of the poverty threshold likely experience welfare improvements that offset the higher financial burden, depending on assumptions about risk aversion and the value of additional consumption of medical care. However, even under the most optimistic assumptions, close to half of the formerly uninsured (especially those with higher incomes) experience both higher financial burden and lower estimated welfare ; indicating a positive "price of responsibility" for complying with the individual mandate. The percentage of the sample with estimated welfare increases is close to matching observed take-up rates by the previously uninsured in the exchanges.

So, for approximately half the "formerly uninsured," ObamaCare is a losing proposition; I don't know what an analogy for flat-screen TVs is; maybe having to send the manufacturer money every time you turn it on, in addition to the money you paid to buy it? That's most definitely not a "package that fits your budget and is right for you," unless you're a masochist or a phool. Second, the portion of those eligible that does the math probably won't buy the product if they're rational actors (and Obamaare needs to double its penetration of the eligible to avoid a death spiral ). That again is not like the market for flat-screen TVs; the magic of the ObamaCare marketplace has not operated to produce a product at every price point (or a substitute).[1] Bad marketplace! Bad! Bad!

Health Care "Consumers" Tend not to Comparison Shop

We turn now to a second NBER study that places even more dynamite at ObamaCare's foundations. From Zarek C. Brot-Goldberg, Amitabh Chandra, Benjamin R. Handel, and Jonathan T. Kolstad, of Berkelely and Harvard, "What Does a Deductible Do? The Impact of Cost-Sharing on Health Care Prices, Quantities, and Spending Dynamics" NBER Working Paper No. 21632 ( PDF ), the abstract:

Measuring consumer responsiveness to medical care prices is a central issue in health economics and a key ingredient in the optimal design and regulation of health insurance markets. We study consumer responsiveness to medical care prices, leveraging a natural experiment that occurred at a large self-insured firm which required all of its employees to switch from an insurance plan that provided free health care to a non-linear, high deductible plan[2]. The switch caused a spending reduction between 11.79%-13.80% of total firm-wide health spending. We decompose this spending reduction into the components of (i) consumer price shopping (ii) quantity reductions and (iii) quantity substitutions, finding that spending reductions are entirely due to outright reductions in quantity. We find no evidence of consumers learning to price shop after two years in high-deductible coverage. Consumers reduce quantities across the spectrum of health care services, including potentially valuable care (e.g. preventive services) and potentially wasteful care (e.g. imaging services). We then leverage the unique data environment to study how consumers respond to the complex structure of the high-deductible contract. We find that consumers respond heavily to spot prices at the time of care, and reduce their spending by 42% when under the deductible, conditional on their true expected end-of-year shadow price and their prior year end-of-year marginal price. In the first-year post plan change, 90% of all spending reductions occur in months that consumers began under the deductible, with 49% of all reductions coming for the ex ante sickest half of consumers under the deductible, despite the fact that these consumers have quite low shadow prices. There is no evidence of learning to respond to the true shadow price in the second year post-switch.

So, empirically, these "consumers" just don't act the way that good neoliberal Obama says they should; they do not comparison shop. That alone is enough to undermine the intellectual basis of ObamaCare. If there's no comparison shopping going on, there's no competitive pressure for health insurers to improve their product (assuming good faith, which I don't).

(We can leave aside the issue of motivation, but to speculate, I've found that when I talk to people about health care and health insurance; they're very defensive and proprietary about whatever random solution they've been able to cobble together; and if you'd been sold an exploding flat-screen TV, and had somehow been able to use duct tape and a well-timed fist to the housing to get it work, most of the time, wouldn't you be rather unwilling to go back to the same store and buy another? So there is evidence of "learning"; the lesson learned is once you've got something that seems to works, don't on any account change it, and we "bear those ills we have," rather "than fly to others that we know not of.")

Moreover, the population studied has more ability to comparison shop than ObamaCare's. From page 4 of the study :

Employees at the firm [in the study] are relatively high income ( median income $125,000-$150,000 ), an important fact to keep in mind when interpreting our analysis

The top income for a family of four eligible for ObamaCare is around $95K (and not eligible for subsidy). Do people think this ObamaCare-eligible population has more ability to comparison shop, compared to a population with a $125K median income for individuals, or less ability? To put this more tendentiously, if a population that can afford accountants or at least financial planners doesn't comparison shop, how likely is it that a population that cannot afford those personal services will do so?

Even worse, the population studied reduces costs, not by comparison shopping, but by self-denial of care. From page 6 of the study :

In our setting consumers were provided a comprehensive price shopping tool that allowed them to search for doctors providing particular services by price as well as other features (e.g. location).

So, just like the ObamaCare "marketplace online" front end (at least after they got it working). And what happened?

We find no evidence of price shopping in the first year post switch . The effect is near zero and looks similar for the t -1 - t 0 year pair (moving from pre- to post-change) as it does for earlier year pairs from t 4 to t 1 . Second, we find no evidence of an increase in price shopping in the second year post-switch; consumers are not learning to shop based on price. Third, we find that essentially all spending reductions between t 1 and t 0 are achieved through outright quantity reductions whereby consumers receive less medical care . From t 1 to t 0 consumers reduce service quantities by 17.9%. Fourth, there is limited evidence that consumers substitute across types of procedures (substitution leads to a 2.2% spending reduction from t 1 - t 0 ). Finally, fifth, we find that these quantity reductions persist in the second-year post switch, as the increase in quantities between t 0 and t 1 is only 0.7%, much lower than the pre-period trend in quantity growth. These results occur in the context of consistent (and low) provider price changes over the whole sample period.

Now, it could be that the study population is reducing items like cosmetic surgery and not items like dental care (assuming they've got dental); the Healthcare Economist summary of this study says no. In fact, says the study, some of the foregone services were "likely of high value in terms of health and potential to avoid future costs." And it could be that the lower-income ObamaCare-eligible are smarter shoppers (dubious: Shopping is a tax on time a lot of working people can't pay). That said, it looks like ObamaCare has replaced a system where insurance companies deny people needed care with a system where people deny themselves needed care; which is genius, in a way. However, if any doctors or medical personnel continue to support ObamaCare politically, they should consider closely whether they're violating the principle of non-maleficence - "First, do no harm" - and halt their support, if so. Bad marketplace! Bad, bad!

Conclusion

Shopping for health insurance under ObamaCare is nothing at all like shopping for a flat-screen TV. First, there's a sizeable population who, if they are rational actors, just won't buy health insurance at all; the ObamaCare "marketplace" is not capable of adjusting prices to get such "consumers" to enter the market. Second, people don't comparison shop; they reduce needed care. (To flog the flat-screen TV metaphor even further, if the screen is so defective it's painful to watch, people don't reduce the pain by comparison shopping for a better TV; they reduce the pain by watching less, and keep the TV they have.)

So, with ObamaCare, and thanks to the dogmas of neoliberalism, we have a "marketplace" that repels "consumers" from entering it, and repels people from shopping if they do enter. Perhaps there's a better solution out there?

NOTES

[1] It may be that the ever-increasing mandate penalties will force enough people into the marketplace to make ObamaCare actuarially stable ; needless to say, we don't see Federal agents forcing people into Best Buy to buy TVs, although the social pressure of Black Friday comes close.

[2] Again, much like ObamaCare plans, which are increasingly high-deductible.

brian t , January 12, 2016 at 3:23 am

The author seems to have forgotten that the kludge called "Obamacare" is not the single payer solution that this Obama wanted. What you have is what was able to get past a Congress after intense lobbying by HMOs and insurers. I see little evidence of ideology in the result, "neoliberal" or otherwise. It does nothing to address the insane-and-rising cost of healthcare, because the vested interests are OK with that.

Yves Smith , January 12, 2016 at 5:12 am

Let me clue you in: the readers here are way WAY too clued in to buy your Big Lie.

1. Obama was never in favor of single payer, ever. Wash your mouth out for even suggesting that

2. He had health care lobbyists draft the legislation

3. He used the "public option" as a bright shiny toy. He was so uncommitted to it he didn't even trade it away. He gave it up as a free concession. A basic principle in negotiating is you NEVER make a free concession. The fact that he just threw it away is proof he never meant it as anything more than a talking point

I hope you are paid to dispense this blather. I really feel sorry for you if you actually believe it. Obama is a neoliberal who campaigned as a leftist but has governed as a right-winger. His apologists have regularly used the meanie Republicans as excuses for his selllouts, when Obama gets what he wants when he wants it, and there's no evidence that his center-right results are at all at odds with what he intended to achieve.

Linc , January 12, 2016 at 8:33 am

I won't pretend to be as smart as you and I was doing okay with your comments until the following. "Obama is a neoliberal who campaigned as a leftist but has governed as a right-winger." You're kidding? I won't ask for an example because I am sure there are a few issues you can name and discuss. That being said, Obama is no where near the middle, never mind the right. If anything, I would say Obama is an inexperience professor trying to teach Economics at Wharton….he can't. The problem is Obama is too narcissitc to even think about listening. He has constantly picked situations because it is what he believes and that includes the simple things such as inviting the Harvard professor who was arrested early on in his presidency for a beer to the WH to giving how many millions to Solyndra. He can't be wrong!

As far as Obamacare. To me it is a simple issue. Health Care does not equal Health Insurance. The sad part is we have spent billions in what will eventually end up as quasi single payer system with 4 large insurance companies sharing the administrative function. Let's just get there and quit kidding one another.

Yves Smith , January 12, 2016 at 4:31 pm

Huh? Obama has proven to be an extremely skilled political infighter when he wants something done. And as to him being center-right, all you have to do is look at his staff, most important his economics team.

He's got a history of being a fake leftist going back to his days in Chicago. Obama, Michelle, and Valerie Jarrett were the black faces that legitimated the plan by the Pritzkers and local finance interests to gentrify near South Chicago and push the black community 3 miles further south while giving them nothing. See here for details:

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/05/exclusive-how-obamas-early-career-succes-was-built-on-fronting-for-chicago-real-estate-and-finance.html

And he's never been a real prof. This constitutional law talk is a crock. No one can remember him teaching any courses (he appears to have taught a couple but made no impression). This was a resume-burnishing post and he did the bare minimum.

Hayek's Heelbiter , January 12, 2016 at 12:55 pm

Beg to slightly differ regarding Obama and single payer (if the transcripts of his campaign rally speech in Jersey City before he was nominated hadn't been scrubbed from the Internet, I'd have the exact wording).

After he had had told the story of sitting with his dying mother on her death bed, surrounded by paperwork, trying to sort out the restrictions of her employer-based insurance policy and there wasn't a dry eye in the gymnasium, everyone THOUGHT he said, "When I am President, I will fight tooth and nail for single payer for every single American."

And the gymnasium absolutely erupted in applause.

Apparently, he said something very CLOSE to that, but when the sentence is carefully parsed, did not mean that all.

Nevertheless, as a former Obot who worked tirelessly to get him elected on almost the sole basis of the genuine emotion he exhibited when he told this awful story and how he promised to rectify the situation in the future, I felt the dagger of betrayal when the first thing he said during the health care debate was, "I'm taking single payer of the table."

Lambert Strether Post author , January 12, 2016 at 1:58 pm

I hate to say this, but a lot of us at Corrente did try to keep track in 2008, and I can't remember any reporting on this at the time, and we were also strongly for single payer, which we also kept track of. Not to say that we couldn't have missed something, but a link to something contemporaneous would be helpful.

Michael Hudson , January 12, 2016 at 2:32 pm

I know that I've said this on NC before, but Yves is absolutely right - and THEN some. When Dennis Kucinich tried to introduce EVEN A DISCUSSION of single payer in Congress, the Democratic Party leadership blocked him from even bringing it up. Pelosi et al. were absolutely committed to the Republican neoliberal policy.
This led us to discuss whether the only way to get progressive health care policy was to start a new party, now that the Democrats have become the Wall Street wing of the Republican Party's natural resource monopolists.

Hayek's Heelbiter , January 12, 2016 at 3:37 pm

If you could locate a transcript, I would dearly love to read what he ACTUALLY said.

Cameras and recording devices were strictly forbidden, and this was in the days before everyone had cellphones that could record anything.

meeps , January 12, 2016 at 6:44 pm

I don't know the date of this speech (the upload predates the 2010 debacle), but Obama stated, "I happen to be a proponent of single payer health care…"

That said, we got hosed. Each of us must now decide whether to roll over and take the corn, or, to demand single payer and the re-regulation of industry (the pharmaceutical industry and others that affect health tangentially).

meeps , January 12, 2016 at 7:09 pm

meeps , January 12, 2016 at 7:38 pm

I've not been able to resolve the technical reason behind my missing links. You'll find the 53 second clip on youtube channel 6y2o12la titled: Obama on single payer health insurance.

sierra7 , January 12, 2016 at 1:57 pm

Oh, My! My!
Thank you Yves!!!!!!!!
You go to (as you are now) the head of the class!

nigelk , January 12, 2016 at 2:33 pm

One imagines Yves with a large staff and flowing robe…

"O-bots…YOU…SHALL…NOT…PASS!"

barutanseijin , January 12, 2016 at 5:28 am

You mean vested interests as represented by Obama and the Democrats.

Paul P , January 12, 2016 at 5:40 am

"the single payer solution that this Obama wanted"

Obama kept single payer off the table from the start. He would have had to decide to fight the industry and take the fight to the country. Medicare for All is a simple idea. He could have done a 50 state whistle stop tour. He could have saturated any Congressional district opposing Medicare for All with the same message. That wasn't his plan.

I attended one of his community meetings on health care, held around the country prior to him adopting Romney Care as his proposal. One of the organizers of the meeting starts off by complaining to the group about not just telling Obama we want single payer.

cwaltz , January 12, 2016 at 9:09 am

One of the first things Obama did was make the GOP party point men on health care(Olympia Snowe anyone?)

And it was Nancy Pelosi who called it impractical and took it off the table, heck she even went so far as to have some of the activists committed to being heard arrested for being disruptive. She then promptly gave a minority Blue Dog group the opportunity to co opt the debate to grandstand on abortion.

It's positively revisionism to blame the health care mess on GOP. It was Democrats who screwed it up from start to finish.

Paper Mac , January 12, 2016 at 6:11 am

The first step is admitting you have a problem, brian.

Myron Perlman , January 12, 2016 at 8:58 am

"Obama wanted'? Single payer was ruled out from the beginning. Advocates for that position were not permitted to be part of the discussion. Who knows what Obama wanted? Look at his actions on this and other issues to make a better judgment. My take is that it was a presidency of symbolism not substance when it came to policies.

Lambert Strether Post author , January 12, 2016 at 11:47 am

Not to pile on or anything, but I think a review of the bidding is in order:

I suggest the real constraints came from three sources, as indicated by their behavior from 2009, when battle for health reform was joined: (1) The Democratic nomenklatura , which censored single payer stories and banned single payer advocates from its sites , and refused even to cover single payer advances in Congress , while simultaneously running a "bait and switch" operation with the so-called "public option," thereby sucking all the oxygen away from single payer; 1 (2) Democratic office holders like Max Baucus, the putative author of ObamaCare - Liz Fowler, a Wellpoint VP, was the actual author - who refused to include single payer advocates in hearings and had protesters arrested and charged ; (3) and Obama himself , who set the tone for the entire Democratic food chain by openly mocking single payer advocates ( "got the little single payer advocates up here" ), and whose White House operation blocked email from single payer advocates , and went so far as to suppress a single payer advocate's question from the White House live blog of a "Forum on Health Care." (Granted, the forums were all kayfabe, but even so.) As Jane Hamsher wrote, summing of the debacle: "The problems in the current health care debate became apparent early on, when single payer advocates were excluded [note, again, lack of agency] from participation."

In short, if single payer was "politically infeasible" - the catchphrase of that time - that's because Democrats set out to make it so, and succeeded.

Brian, could you ask your boss to send us smarter trolls?

nigelk , January 12, 2016 at 2:52 pm

I appreciate that such takedowns are always link-filled and impeccably sourced, and though combativeness in the comments is not the prevailing tone of this website (happily), damn if I don't pump my fist when I read a troll getting cut down thusly.

Fake leftist trolls are the worst.

GlobalMisanthrope , January 12, 2016 at 12:48 pm

Maybe you're not an incredibly lame troll. Maybe you're just a poor beginner who unwittingly wandered onto the Varsity field. But if you "see little evidence of ideology in the result," you may want to look up the definitions of "evidence," "ideology" and "result."

James Levy , January 12, 2016 at 6:17 am

Educated elites with a modicum of leisure always love to play these games. It took them decades and the most draconian policies imaginable to break the habit of workers early in the industrial revolution of trading off pay for leisure time. The basic notion of every capitalist scold throughout the ages has been that this is irrational laziness, even if your job is a physically exhausting and soul-crushing exercise–you must work more, or you are a bad person who should be punished.

Now, it's the "let's turn everything into a market" game. Don't want to play? Screw you–we'll make it mandatory, and, of course, punitive. This goes way beyond Obamacare into every facet of our lives. Public utilities? Hell no–give them "choice"! Community schools? No way–can't have the races and the classes and the ability levels mixing in such a promiscuous manner–let's go charter "academies", or vouchers. It's a normative takeover under the guise of "rational" "scientific" "efficiency".

Jim , January 12, 2016 at 8:54 am

Wow, this is so right!

JustAnObserver , January 12, 2016 at 2:14 pm

Minor correction:

Public utilities? Hell no–give them Lead!

ilporcupine , January 12, 2016 at 6:06 pm

So true. Ask them about their golf game. It is only YOUR leisure time at issue, not theirs. Don't you wish you could count as "work" blathering your stream of conciousness on CNBC day after day?

ambrit , January 12, 2016 at 6:57 am

I remember that one of the 'talking points' in favour of Heritage Foundation Care (HFC) was that "pre-existing" conditions were not to be allowed to deny anyone coverage. Using that logic, it can be asserted that 'Poverty', absolute or relative, a pre-existing condition if there ever was one, denies 'patients' useful medical care. The system as administered is internally contradictory. Taken one step farther, the HFC can be defined as a "Faith Based Service Provider." This would be an insult to actual traditional Faith based providers. Most "real" FBPs are governed, at least in theory, by ideologies that counsel 'compassion' when dealing with the less fortunate. As has been demonstrated, the HFC program counsels exploitation when dealing with the less fortunate. A case in point; this week a local religious charity opened a 'Free Clinic' in our town of 45,000 or so souls. The local paper put this on the front page. Buried in the body of the article was the mention that this clinic was fully booked up for the first, and probably second month. All this before public mention of it's existence. There's your 'Marketplace' in action. As I discovered when I looked into signing up for the Mississippi Medicaid program for myself, a family cannot have over 2,500 USD in 'assets.' There is an ongoing dispute as to whether or not an automobile classifies as an item counted toward this limit. Thus, those in our state who do qualify for Medicaid are poor indeed.

Carolinian , January 12, 2016 at 9:21 am

Using that logic, it can be asserted that 'Poverty', absolute or relative, a pre-existing condition if there ever was one

Great point. In the US we have a health care system that saves people's lives while–in many cases–taking away their means of living it. The Hippocratic Oath should be modified to read: first do no harm to Capitalism.

thatworddoesnotmeanthat , January 12, 2016 at 7:11 am

Obama is a 1060s style communist;==perhaps one could call him a "NeoCommunist" Obamacare is anything but "Neoliberal" –it is redistributionist in its very nature. This is why it is crumbling. It is an absurd notion as is this article, but that is to be expected as you cannot seem to get over this adolescent attachment to Marxism.

Lambert Strether Post author , January 12, 2016 at 11:29 am

You mean pre-Norman Conquest? Interesting.

nigelk , January 12, 2016 at 2:54 pm

William of Normandy, a notorious leftist prior to his hard pivot to militarism after the 1066 election

Ulysses , January 12, 2016 at 3:01 pm

"Election!" That's a good name for it. Hustings, Hastings, I mean, only one letter separates them!

Ulysses , January 12, 2016 at 2:58 pm

Yes, it is an intriguing suggestion. Does commenter thatworddoesnotmeanthat care to elaborate? Were the architects of RomneyCare (and it's national extension Obamacare) attempting to recreate a golden age, of 11th century free peasants– happily enjoying the abundant commons of medical care, in the carefree forests and dales, before they slipped under the Norman Yoke of feudal exploitation?

Or, is the reference to some non-Western communist society that flourished in the mid-11th century? Perhaps thatworddoesnotmeanthat has studied early communist cultures in South Asia, America, or Africa that distributed healthcare in a way that eerily foreshadows what Romneycare did in Massachusetts?

diptherio , January 12, 2016 at 11:56 am

Obama is a [1960s] style communist


You keep using that word….

James Levy , January 12, 2016 at 1:36 pm

The record is irrefutable–the ACA was written by the insurance companies with a wink and a nod to Big Pharma and the HMOs. Unless you are going to seriously entertain the notion that these are "communist" institutions, or give a rats ass about anything but making money, you can't really believe what you wrote. You are just angry about something and projecting your fears onto this travesty.

Disturbed Voter , January 12, 2016 at 7:37 am

The subsidies of Obamacare, if you qualify for them, requires the IRS to get intimately involved with your checkbook. Just like middle class folks want recipients of SNAP to be regulated with every food and drink purchase … matching what the bourgeoisie thinks matches their own moral rectitude.

I prefer not to make the IRS my intimate partner … helping me to define what is an asset and what is income to the last penny.

Wade Riddick , January 12, 2016 at 8:12 am

The idea behind high deductibles is that you'll force consumers to economize. It's kind of like telling science, "Hey. This patient needs ten pills to live? Let's give him eight and see what happens."

Medical treatment is a science issue. A treatment's either effective or it's not. You can negotiate the cost – *with the supplier* – but you can't bully a disease or injury into behaving the way you want. You certainly can't bully the sick person and they're in no position to negotiate with the supplier. They have none of the necessary experience or health. That's exactly the wrong time to try to educate someone about their "options."

But then that's the whole point. The medical market is intentionally littered with opacity. There is nothing transparent about insurance, much less drugs or surgeries. Medicine is increasingly dominated by complex bureaucratic cartels for exactly that reason – so you *won't* find out how things work. They don't want you comparison shopping for drugs, surgeries, therapists. Everything about the modern medical system is precisely about robbing "customers" of human agency.

The whole idea of shopping for health insurance itself is absurd. It requires you figuring out exactly how sick you'll be in the next year and then inventing a time machine to travel back so you can pick the Pareto optimal policy with exactly the best deductible – which really won't matter because then they'll find a way to make sure your E.R. wasn't in network nor your anesthesiologist and the only drug to keep you alive won't be "covered" and then you'll wish it was only an Arnold Schwarzenegger skin-wearing android sent to kill you 'cause that would be way easier.

They're removing choice left and right and destroying scientific information through lobbying. The people responsible for creating diseases aren't being held responsible for them but the victims suffering from them are.

When multiple sclerosis organizations are run by drug companies selling $50K+ a year drugs, do you think they want those customers finding out that deworming society is what created the risk for M.S. in the first place?

As Martin Shkreli put it, he has the perfect "price inelastic" product. Patients are a captive market that's easy to exploit. Either they get what they need or they die. You can charge what you want.

Do you think lazy executives looking to bump up next quarter's earnings are going to invest heavily over the long haul in scientific models of effective disease prevention and treatment or are they simply going to squeeze people a little more and a little more?

Let's not forget why politicians love the sickcare complex. The more an industry turns into a cartel, the easier it is to raise both economic and political rents from it. Let's be honest here and call a spade a spade. Politicians like this system because it easily feeds campaign dollars into the system. It may not be efficient for treating patients, but it's quite efficient for extracting political re

Crazy Horse , January 12, 2016 at 12:48 pm

Comparison shop for medical care in the USA? You've got to be kidding.

Case in point. My doctor recommended a cardiovascular "stress test" for diagnosis of heartburn symptoms to make sure that it wasn't cardiovascular in nature. I traveled to a regional heart specialist center for the test, but based upon previous experience refused to undergo the test until they put the bill for the procedure in writing including my deductible cost. The intake administrator acted shocked by such a request, and it took 30 minutes of increasingly strongly worded demands on my part before they finally produced a verbal quotation – which I recorded for future use if they decided to bill $12,000 for 10 minutes on a treadmill.

The world's most expensive health care extortion system at work.

Jim Haygood , January 12, 2016 at 1:49 pm

NBER: 'There is no evidence of learning.'

As Barry O. likes to joke, mimicking George W. Bush's drawl, "Is our consumers learning? Ha ha ha!"

Wade Riddick , January 12, 2016 at 8:15 am

political rents. (Got cut off for some reason. Arnold got me, I think.)

Winston , January 12, 2016 at 8:44 am

It's nearly impossible to "comparison shop" if you're part of an HMO these days. The only choice one really has is to select their PCP. After that the PCP pretty much forces you to see docs and get tests within the hospital system – presumably for "coordinated care". And this for nearly $1000/mo for a single person not receiving much in the way of "healthcare". That which can't continue, won't….

Jim in SC , January 12, 2016 at 8:49 am

One of the things that distinguishes the US from other countries is our high level of tax compliance. I'm concerned that these Obamacare penalties will lead to diminished compliance, both because people resent the penalties, and because it is such an intellectually frustrating exercise to try and estimate future income.

HotFlash , January 12, 2016 at 11:44 am

Perhaps not so ? Can you give me a link? TIA.

Jim in SC , January 12, 2016 at 10:08 pm

http://www.pappastax.com/american-tax-compliance-rates-highest-in-civilized-world/

allan , January 12, 2016 at 9:39 am

More like a flat screen TV, rented from Samsung, that functions like one of those old British hotel radiators that you have to feed with pence $60 copays every 10 minutes in order for Time Warner not to interrupt the streaming.
And then you get balance billing from Disney for the content.

Chromex , January 12, 2016 at 9:42 am

My experience is that there IS no "competition" in any product field that involves actuarial calculations. I get a subsidy and I am 63. There were about 50 plans offered in my area. A few were OVERpriced, yes, but the vast majority offered very similar premium prices, and identical elephantine deductibles, which means that except for aspects of the annual physical, it will "cover" ( assuming cover means pay for) jack. "Coverage" is not care, it is nothing to brag about. I am "covered" for expenses beyond my deductible as a form of catastrophic insurance but the plan will never pay for anything else and actuarially, it is easy to calculate a premium that guarantees that companies will make lotsa money while paying out less. Needless to say the "product" is outrageously overpriced for what it covers and puts people like me _- close to medicare but limited income and owns own house free and clear in a far far worse position than before the law. ( eg medicaid asset recovery if I dare to state a lower income etc etc). So I'm "covered" , so what. I have far less actual care. And that , it appears to me , is deliberate.
Even if it were "competitive" there is not much point in comparison shopping for flat screen tvs.. for a flat screen tv with X features made by brand "A" the price difference for a tv with the same features ( and longevitiy) of brand "B: will in the vast majority of online offerings, be so close as to not be worth the effort. This is even more true with insurance.
Like most politicians, Obama wanted to "do something" and a have a bill he could hold up in front of Everybody and say "see this is mine". My experience with such legislators/administrators is that they have a lot of hubris and grees for the bill to pass and do not subject potential downsides to any critical analysis so that advisers get the message "construct something that will pass" .The fact that he was dumb enough not to see this coming suggests that his "ideology" was driven by his advisers- who are definitely neocons IMO not neoliberals unless the term "liberal" is used in its classic economic sense.
And while we are on the subject, "Health care" is not really subject to "market" principles. Start with the fact that most people in this country have less than 1K savings, which means that they cannot cover the ginormous deductibles most "silver" plans offer or the premiums of better plans. Then add in the fact that these people cannot predict how much care will be needed in a given year or what the final cost of that care will be. What's the "market " for that? Under these two facts mandatory "insurance"with high deductibles and narrow networks simply functions as a wealth transfer from strapped lower-middle and middle class adults to Insurance company shareholders and CEOs.
Even assuming that Obama "wanted" single payer- an assumption that has been ably refuted in this string already, had he given "what can get passed" a moment's critical analysis, he might have realized that he- with his insistence on change for change's sake- was making it worse for so many Americans. I for one , could care less that pre-existing conditions are now "covered" if I can't actually use the coverage- pre existing survives, its now called high deducitlbes and narrow networks.

macman2 , January 12, 2016 at 9:59 am

Actually, as Winston Churchill famously noted, "Americans manage do the right thing after they have exhausted all of the wrong choices firs"t. So it is that had we gone right to single payer without this "market based" attempt, we would have heard howls of capitalistic remorse, etc.

So I am glad that Obamacare was attempted and that it is failing predictably. It is pretty clear to even the free marketers that high deductibles only impoverish Americans, that "skin in the game" does not make people better shoppers for the highly technical world of medicine, that price transparency is essentially worthless if nobody is comparison shopping while they are bleeding out from every orifice, etc.

Medicare for All is arguably catching on. Bernie Sanders poll numbers have not taken a dive with this promise and the sputtering Obamacare is only putting more fuel to this fire. Hillary's tax scare attempt will turn flat on its face. People know bad value when they see it, and the current market based health reform is failing into the predictable death spiral. View Bernie's ascendency as evidence that the American people think health care is a right and it is time to fund it that way.

marym , January 12, 2016 at 12:26 pm

Is the argument here that it was necessary for millions of people to suffer from lack of access to affordable healthcare, and tens of thousands to die, to teach us a lesson, because designing, advocating for, and rapidly deploying a simple, effective single payer system that would bring both immediate and long-term benefits that would silence even its would-be detractors is impossible even to imagine? This is why Democratic Party and Obama cheerleaders have no credibility anymore.

http://www.pnhp.org/news/2015/july/medicare-turns-50-and-we-have-much-to-celebrate

Also, while it's great that Sanders is bringing attention to this topic, it's not surprising that people are responding favorably People have been polling in favor of a Medicare-type single payer program for decades.

http://pnhp.org/blog/2009/12/09/two-thirds-support-3/

James Levy , January 12, 2016 at 1:44 pm

Americans have not and will not "do the right thing" on this issue because the entrenched interests that are making money off of the current atrocity that passes for a healthcare system are too strong to displace. Europe got single payer after WWII because the only institution in society left with access to money was the State, so doctors and hospitals after the war were going to sign on for socialized medicine because societies at large were destitute. Whatever the government will pay is better than grandpa's watch (if some conquering army hadn't stolen it) or a chicken (ditto). Until this situation comes into being here in the USA we're not going to see single payer tax-based healthcare.

Ulysses , January 12, 2016 at 3:13 pm

Your argument would make sense if Canada, which, like the U.S., never suffered the same WWII devastation as Europe, hadn't managed to build a national single-payer health system.

sleepy , January 12, 2016 at 10:16 am

And let's not forget the medicaid clawback provisions for those between 55-65. If you apply for Obamacare, and your income level is below a certain threshhold, you are not eligible for subsidies. You are placed into medicaid.

However, for those in that 55-65 age bracket, there is an estate clawback provision that effectively acts as a lien on your estate: once you die your assets will be seized by the state to satisfy all medicaid provided healthcare expenses.

Prior to Obamacare, in order to qualify for medicaid, not only was there an income requirement, but your assets also had to be below a certain, very low, amount. With Obamacare however, the asset requirement is waived for those in that age bracket.

What happens? Many who now are eligible for medicaid via Obamacare will now own a house as their primary asset of any significance. But once enrolled, that house will be sold on the insured's death to pay medicaid. I would assume that in states that have privatized medicaid, these sums will also include all premiums paid by medicaid on the insured's behalf-even if no claims are ever filed.

If that's not bad enough, under Obamacare to satisfy the law, the consumer is forced into this by the mandate. There is no choice. Beyond that, if the insured had an income level a few dollars higher, he/she would be eligible for subsidies which, of course, need not be paid back on the insured's death.

Clawback provisions, though with many exceptions particularly for those under age 55 have always been required under medicaid, but now medicaid enrollment will be required by law with actual assets available.

Medicaid is essentially a reverse mortgage.

sleepy , January 12, 2016 at 10:31 am

In terms of the assets issue, my comment is applicable to those states that have adopted the expanded medicaid features of Obamacare. As mentioned by a poster in Mississippi, states that have not, still have the old rules on having virtually no assets in order to qualify.

Spring Texan , January 12, 2016 at 11:56 am

Thanks, your comments are accurate; and this is something that is too little discussed.

ilporcupine , January 12, 2016 at 5:49 pm

I have seen this stated here on many occasions, over the course of the OCare debate. While the law seems to give authorization to clawback, in my state it only seems to have been used for nursing home and other long term care. I can state from my experience, I was never queried about assets, and was qualified only on income. I just lost the person with whom I have shared my life for 30 years, and her assets, went to her daughter without any claim from the state. Hers was an expensive battle with cancer, and did rack up a pile of charges. ( In my state, Medicaid is paying a private insurer to cover Medicaid patients). I have been reading here for a long time, rarely posting, I tend to agree mostly with the view here, but this seems to be widely different between states. I have no issue with Yves or Lambert on this, they have done yeoman work trying to get to the bottom of these issues. Just felt I needed to weigh in for the sake of completeness. Yves and Lambert you have my email if you want to discuss my experience, it is all to fresh a wound to discuss in this public forum.

Rob Lewis , January 12, 2016 at 10:39 am

No argument that Obamacare has some serious problems. But placing ALL the blame on the President seems excessive. Even if he had come out strongly for single payer, there are more than enough DINOs in Congress in thrall to Health Care, Inc. to have prevented its passage. And the Republicans would have dialed up their anti-reform propaganda to new levels of hysteria (Remember the anti-Hillarycare saturation media campaign? I'll bet Obama does.)

sleepy , January 12, 2016 at 10:55 am

When Obama was inaugurated he had more political capital in his pocket than any president in recent memory. The repubs were on the ropes.

Sure, the repubs could have gone all out in opposition, but as another poster mentioned Obama could have gone all out as well and blitzed the country. And in the first few months of his presidency, my bet would have been on him more than on the repubs.

Of course he did nothing. And to say he did nothing because of fear of the repubs at that point is silly. He empowered the repubs. He didn't even pretend.

HotFlash , January 12, 2016 at 11:33 am

Even if he had come out strongly for single payer…

Oh, but he didn't! If pigs had wings, perhaps they could fly? He could have, he didn't even pretend (like he did with closing Gitmo). Oh, concerned about his legacy? No problem, $peaking fees from insurance companies, pharmacos, $eat on bds of directors, his future will be golden!

Hello. "Leaders", elected or otherwise, sell out locals to corps = banana republic.

Have a banana.

Lambert Strether Post author , January 12, 2016 at 11:48 am

"placing ALL the blame on the President"

Match for that straw?

fb , January 12, 2016 at 4:43 pm

"All health insurance plans purchased through Covered California must cover certain services called essential health benefits. These include doctor visits, hospital stays, emergency care, maternity care, pediatric care, prescriptions, medical tests and mental health care. Health insurance plans also must cover preventative care services like mammograms and colonoscopies. Health insurance companies cannot charge copayments, coinsurance or deductibles for such services."

Yves Smith , January 12, 2016 at 7:05 pm

By taking that out of context, you've considerably overstated what Covered California covers.

Just as in the rest of the US, the "metal levels" have the same meaning. For instance:

Bronze: On average, your health plan pays 60 percent of your medical expenses, and you pay 40 percent.

This is the language from their "Essential Health Benefits" section:

Essential Health Benefits

All health insurance plans now share some common characteristics. The Affordable Care Act requires that all health insurance plans offered in the individual and small-group markets must provide a comprehensive package of items and services, known as essential health benefits.

These benefits fit into the following 10 categories:

Ambulatory patient services.
Emergency services.
Hospitalization.
Maternity and newborn care.
Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment.
Prescription drugs. For more information about prescription drug benefits, visit the page Prescription Drugs.
Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices.
Laboratory services.
Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management. For more information about preventive services with no cost sharing, click here.
Pediatric services, including dental and vision care. Dental insurance for children will be included in the price of all health plans purchased in the exchange for 2015.
The requirement for insurance plans to offer essential health benefits is just one of many changes in health coverage that began in 2014.

So this is just ACA boilerplate. I do recall reading that Covered CA does require some services be provided irrespective of the deductibles (beyond the ACA-mandated preventive care items like mammograms, which separately are a bad test), but after 10 minutes of poking around the Covered CA site and other Googling, I can't find any evidence of what those other services might be. I thought it was at least a doctor visit or two, but I can't even find that.

And 75% of Covered CA plans have narrow networks, compared to 41% for the US as a whole, which among other things means you might not be able to get a specialist you need:

http://touch.latimes.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-84275268/

The site and web service are also terrible, see the long horror stories at Yelp:

http://www.yelp.com/biz/covered-california-sacramento

And see this from Kaiser News:

Most Insurance Exchanges Just Got Bigger. Covered California Is Getting Smaller.

http://khn.org/news/california-healthline-fewer-insurers-on-online-marketplace/

RUKidding , January 12, 2016 at 11:52 am

Obama NEVER tried one iota to go for Single Payer. Nada, Zip, Nothing.

Ergo, I place ALL the blame on Obama. IF he had tried even a teeny tiny bit, I could perhaps place some blame elsewhere. But factual reality refutes that.

I also do recall the POTUS taking Dennis Kucinich up in Air Force One, and when they landed, suddenly Kucinich had changed his mind and was (reluctantly in my viewpoint) giving an thumbs up on ObamaCare. Kucinich was the longest hold out advocating for Single Payer. Obama basically took him to school and forced him in some way to STFU and say Obamacare was the best.

Baloney. Obama sold us all to BigInsurance, BigPharma, BigHospital, BigMedDevice, and I'm sure he was handsomely rewarded.

This one, imo, is all on Obama. It was what he wanted, and it's what he now touts as being this very great thing, which it's not.

so , January 12, 2016 at 12:38 pm

No amount of dem. or repb. BS will ever persuade me to participate in national politics again.
obamas handling of the ongoing financial and health care crisis finished it for me.
It's so clear to me where were at. The corruption is sickining. EVERY DAY the stories. I keep thinking…."all the kings horses and all the kings men couldn't put Humpty back together again." Read The Archdruid Report for some insight. Everybody wakes up sooner or later.
In this life or the next

tegnost , January 12, 2016 at 11:30 am

Yes, definitely better to give up without a fight. Have you noticed that in spite of what is essentially a media blackout Bernie is likely leading in the polls? As to your opening statement "No argument that Obamacare has some serious problems" you admit to ACA shortcomings, maybe you would like to offer up some of what you see as good aspects of the ACA? Further, "there are more than enough DINOs in Congress in thrall to Health Care, Inc. to have prevented its passage. " there was and is a DINO in the oval office "in thrall to Health Care, Inc." who made no other option impossible. So much for the vaunted "free market" The ACA was designed and implemented as socialism for the 20% (h/t Lambert and others who have noted the upper class and their minions occupy the top quintile) whose medical care was getting too expensive, and whose medical (device, pharma patents, and insurance co.) investments were not being supported by demand, so the ACA created demand for them. Medicare for all, and get rid of the clawbacks, I personally would rather chromex's heirs get his assets rather than Blackstone, thank you.

tegnost , January 12, 2016 at 11:39 am

I notice that Crude Earl is tempting $30 and copper is at $1.96/lb, looks like some demand problems there, as well. Maybe we should mandate that everyone must purchase gasoline even if they don't have a car, and mandate that pennies will once again be made of copper? ka-ching!

Ulysses , January 12, 2016 at 3:25 pm

You jest, but in many late medieval and early modern Italian city-states there were ruthlessly enforced minimum consumption levels for salt. Prior to refrigeration salt was more of a food preservation necessity, but the huge consumption taxes placed on salt made them a fiscal necessity as well. Our word salary derives from the fact that so many government officials were paid from the revenues collected through salt taxes.

The much-hated gabelle in pre-Revolutionary France was a salt tax!

http://www.academia.edu/18012323/_Un_popolo_che_non_vorrebbe_sentire_nominare_dazi_esenzioni_privilegi_e_traffici_illeciti_tra_Brescia_Cremona_e_Mantova_nel_Settecento_versione_provvisoria_

Lord Koos , January 12, 2016 at 3:53 pm

No, a better solution would be forcing everyone to go in debt to own a large SUV… hybrids don't qualify.

tegnost , January 12, 2016 at 11:45 am

this was meant as a reply to rob lewis' post at 10:39

Rob Lewis , January 12, 2016 at 2:03 pm

I doubt you're really interested in a discussion, but here are a few very good things about Obamacare:
1. Elimination of pre-existing conditions as a reason for being refused coverage
2. Requirement that insurers spend at least 80% of their revenue actually paying benefits
3. Preventive care must be free
4. Expansion of Medicaid (where permitted by states) brings coverage to millions of previously uninsured
5. Standardization of plans makes is possible (if not easy) to compare them

And this is my opinion, but I don't think it would have been possible to get Medicare for All through Congress, even with Democrats nominally in control, for the reasons already stated.

Anyway, my whole point is that Obama doesn't deserve ALL the blame. Are you arguing that the public and Congress were ready and willing to enact single-payer, and Obama somehow prevented it?

Katiebird , January 12, 2016 at 3:44 pm

1. Pre-existing condition with the caveat that you must live in an area served by a medical establishment that specializes in your possibly rare illness.

2. 80% Yay! It's almost like Christmas! …. Cold comfort to those who must cough up $10,000 or more before getting any benefit from trom their policy at all.

3. Preventative care must be free. OK. So the $10,000 get's them a colonoscopy and a glucose meter.

4. Expanded Medicaid … In the states where it happened, anyone over 55 years old subject to an undisclosed clawback of benefits from estates. Wow.

5. I cannot imagine how you come up with the comparison justification. People have to sign up for plans without final commitments of which doctors or hospitals are included. And even then they are subject to change!

"Democrats nominally in control" … This is a pure deception. They had overwhelming majorities and wildly popular President. Do you seriously think that if faced with Obama's shaking finger and an enticing promise, that any Democrat would have defied him during those first 100 days. I laugh at the thought. He could ave gotten Expanded Medicare for All passed in those first 100 days with one hand tied behind his back.

bob , January 12, 2016 at 3:46 pm

Are you arguing that any single one of your bullet points is true?

For instance #1- covered? Covered by what? You can be covered and still not be able to afford the deductibles, or even the premiums.

The rest is talking point BS, tiny little grain of some sort of truth wrapped in ponies.

tegnost , January 12, 2016 at 9:55 pm

Thanks for responding. Yes it's good that pre-existing conditions no longer can be refused coverage,but one still needs to be able to afford coverage, so not being refused is not the same as receiving care, no? Your second point also has some merit as it appears intended to contain profiteering, but as one can see from martin shrkeli there's nothing stopping the greater healthcare marketplace from increasing costs, so the 80% becomes ambiguously beneficial. I did not know preventative care is free, but if that means as implied by another comment colonoscopies and other rather invasive procedures that might be seen as a cash cow with once again ambiguous benefits to consumers, really they are actually insureds, not consumers, as t