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|"Neoliberalism was a stunning utopia of economic determinism, one even
more ambitious than that of Marx."
“What does Christianity mean today? National Socialism is a religion. All we lack is a religious genius capable of uprooting outmoded religious practices and putting new ones in their place. We lack traditions and ritual. One day soon National Socialism will be the religion of all Germans. My Party is my church, and I believe I serve the Lord best if I do his will, and liberate my oppressed people from the fetters of slavery. That is my gospel.”
― Joseph Goebbels
There were two major favors of Bolshevism -- Trotskyism and Stalinism. Them main different is in the attitude to exporting revolution to other countries. Trotsky preached so called permanent revolution -- forceful regime changes in other countries, while Stalin adhered to more isolationist worldview ("Socialism in a single country"). In a way the whole Mont Pelerin Society can be renamed into "The Committee for the adaptation of Trotskyism for the needs of financial oligarchy"
Neoliberalism is essentially Trotskyism refashioned for the needs of the global financial elite. That's probably why the first substantial support Mont Perelin Society got in England.
This "socialism for corporations, feudalism for everybody" adapted a large part of Trotskyism ideology and, especially, political instruments, carefully hiding the origins. Instead of "proletarians of all countries unite" we have the slogan "neoliberal elites of all countries unite". Like Communism is supposed to be the result of revolt of proletariat against its oppressions, Neoliberalism can be considered to be the revolt of the elite (and first of all financial elite) against excessive level of equality that characterized the world after WWII. They key goal of neoliberalism is redistribution of wealth up at the expense of working class and lower middle class. Like Trotskyism in the past, it is a militant and dogmatic faith that ostracizes heretics and utilizes the full power of propaganda to brainwash the population. Like Bolsheviks' Communist International this virtual "Union of Neoliberal States" have zero tolerance for other social system or deviations from so called Washington consensus -- the dogmatic statement of main goal of neoliberalism in weaker countries. Like was the case with Bolshevism media dogs and intelligence agencies are unleashed on dissenters. Universities were refashioned into neoliberalism indoctrination camp by making neoclassical economics the obligatory discipline, without taking a course in neo-classical economy the student can't graduate. Much like Marxism-Leninism philosophy course and Marxist political economy course were obligatory in the USSR universities.
Permanent revolution was refashioned into regime change efforts with "color revolution" as the major instrument of such a change. If color revolution mechanisms fail, the direct military invasion is always an option ("export of neoliberal democracy of the tips of bayonets", so to speak). Subversive methods like color revolutions are polished to perfection. Recently they were used inside the USA as Clinton wing of Democratic Party (aka "soft neoliberalism") against Trump, who was elected on the platform of "anti-globalization", anti-outsourcing/offshoring", and ending foreign wars. See NeoMcCartyism
The key idea here is that "free market" in neoliberalism replaces the notion of "dictatorship of proletariat". The notion of the "world revolution" is preserved. Neoliberals do not want to wait until "free market" wins in the society on its own merits. They do not believe in Laissez-faire. Like Leninists they want to use state to build the society in which "dictatorship of market" happens. To enforce this society on people. This is not about libertarian dream of the state as "night watchman", on the contrary state in neoliberal doctrine state of "neoliberal dictatorship" which is active in enforcing "free market" mechanisms, despite possible resistance of the society.
Neoliberals like Trotskyites are globalists par excellence and dream about world neoliberal revolution. Like Bolsheviks with communism, they reject any other forms of social organization other then neoliberalism. And want to export neoliberalism to all countries of the world. If necessary using US bombers and tanks.
In other words while idea of the state under neoliberalism is identical to Bolsheviks view of state (and is very similar to the views of the Islamic state, if you wish ;-), the foreign policy under neoliberalism is the neoliberal empire expansion policy similar to idea of "World Revolution" which is the central postulate of Trotskyism. In other words neoliberals strongly believe in "Export of revolution", it is just disguised for unwashed masses as export of democracy. Kind of neoliberal jihad (The Totalitarian Nature of Islam)
"Bolshevism combines the characteristics of the French Revolution with those of the rise of Islam." "Marx has taught that Communism is fatally predestined to come about; this produces a state of mind not unlike that of the early successors of Mahommet." Among religions, Bolshevism is to be reckoned with Mohammedanism rather than with Christianity and Buddhism. Christianity and Buddhism are primarily personal religions, with mystical doctrines and a love of contemplation. Mohammedanism and Bolshevism are practical, social, unspiritual, concerned to win the empire of this world.
Perhaps it was Charles Watson who first described Islam as totalitarian in 1937, and proceeded to show how: "By a million roots, penetrating every phase of life, all of them with religious significance, it is able to maintain its hold upon the life of Moslem peoples. "Bousquet, one of the foremost authorities on Islamic Law, distinguishes two aspects of Islam which he considers totalitarian: Islamic Law, and the Islamic notion of Jihad which has for its ultimate aim the conquest of the entire world, in order to submit it to one single authority. We shall consider jihad in the next chapter, here we shall confine ourselves to Islamic Law.
Mont Perelin society which developed the neoliberal doctrine and served like Communist International for neoliberalism, was deliberately structured like a congress of pre-selected and pre-approved thinkers, allowing no dissent, and working in secrecy. Much like the new incarnation of Bolsheviks party. They explicitly rework the key methods of social struggle invented by Bolsheviks and Trotskyites to the their own ends. Many subversive method used by neoliberal state to enforce the rule of neoliberalism in other countries were first invented and tried by Communist International. Marx is probably now spinning in his grave seeing how his teaching and methods adapted by social-democratic parties were subverted and bastardized to serve the rich.
According to neoliberal doctrine, free market like socialist social system just do not happen naturally: they should be built and enforced by the "Party" despite all the resistance. and the Party in this case was artificially constructed of bribed intellectuals and (what is even more important) of the network of neoliberal think tanks. this idea to use "think tank" as the major weapon if the unleashing neoliberal revolution was also a direct (but creative) borrowing from Bolsheviks practice.
And as we all know tanks is formidable weapon on a modern battlefields. The same is true with think tanks in social battlefields. So like Trotskyites they are constructivists long before the term became popular (emergence of neoliberalism as a movement belong to early 30th). Nothing is left to the chance.
In other words this like Trotskyism neoliberalism is practically undistinguished from a secular religion. That's why some researchers call it a market uber alles religion. The key dogma is "There is no God other then the Market... " In other words, Market under neoliberal doctrine does not need any justification. It is the ultimate deity that judges the mere mortals, which needs to be imposed on the people by the power of the state, and requires absolute compliance, achieved by spilling blood, if necessary. Much like the idea of communism is a deity for Bolsheviks, which requires no justification and needs to be imposed on the people by whatever means necessary.
In both cases they are sold as kind of heaven on the earth. In this sense this is market fundamentalism which is a lot in common with Islamic Fundamentalism. Market is the heaven on earth for neoliberals and neoliberal priests (which are pretty well paid folk, look at Summers or Rubin ;-) have the same promise of twenty virgins to the followers. In they case virgins can be simply bought on money that the neoliberalism will bestow on the individual who will follow the teaching making him rich ;-). The actual reality is somewhat different. It is impossible to make rich everybody; this is reserved to the top 1% or 0.01%, while "shmucks" standard of living tend to deteriorate. But this is a hidden "esoteric" truth the neoliberalism does not advertise. In any case you see the analogy.
Like Trotskyites they were militant faction which wanted to seize the power but whatever means possible. And they want to forcefully destroy all alternatives including first of all socialism. Their attitude toward socialism is the exact morrow of Trotskyites view about capitalism -- they believe that socialism belong to the dustbin of history, and if it does not want to die "naturally" it is OK to help him to go to the grave. 1973 Chilean coup d'état against President Salvador Allende, is a perfect example of their ideology in action. color revolution are another. This is how Lenin would force the revolution. They just uses CIA instead of terrorist underground forces used by Bolsheviks (in case of Bolsheviks often cooperating with anarchist military faction -- so called 'boeviks"). There is even some uneasy alliance of islamist radicals Western intelligence agencies and neoliberal NGO in which neoliberal try to use islamist to achieve their goals. The same lack of principles and amorality was typical for Bolsheviks. In is important to understand that despite scholarly camouflage key neoliberal figures such as Milton Friedman were actually criminals. Minton Friedman hands were up to the elbow in blood of innocent victims due to killing many Chileans during Pinochet coup (objective view is our view of people which we do not like, so communists probably provided the most biting critique of neoliberalism and neoliberals ;-) :
In 1975, the New York Times accurately labeled him “the guiding light of the junta’s economic policy” (21 September 1975). The CIA funded a 300-page Friedmanite blueprint given to the leaders of the junta in preparation for the coup. In March 1975 Friedman himself, accompanied by his U of C cohort Arnold Harberger, flew to Chile for high-level talks with the regime to outline the economic “shock treatment” that led to the mass starvation of those who had survived the initial phase of bloodletting.
So the world revolution in Trotskyite doctrine is simply replaced by "world neoliberal revolution by what ever means possible". Criminal actions are OK. Like with Trotskyism "the goal justifies the means".
Another interesting question is why those people were help-bent of anti-communism, were so adamantly against socialism? One explanation is that most of them were from Austrian aristocracy circles. Another is that in their view (and first of all Hayek) market is a kind of natural "supercomputer" that can provide solutions to all world problems that no government can do. But, at the same time being closet neo-Trotskyites they advocate military coups and killing of dissenters to achieve their goals.
Their "utilitarian view" of the legitimacy of government, also extents to science. Like for Trotskyites with their bogus concept of "proletarian science", the science in their worldview is useful only to the extent it help to built neoliberalism. So there is scientific theories and scientists which needs to be financially supported and promoted and the scientific theories and scientists that needs to be suppressed and ostracized. Kind of new Lysenkoism.
That sound profoundly anti-democratic and that's completely true. Neoliberals do not care about democracy. They care only about "free market" -- their deity like communists cared only about Communism -- their deity. And both are ready to commit any crimes to achieve their goals. In other words they are a new type of a dangerous totalitarian sect. and the brand of Totalitarism they promote was called by Wolin "Inverted Totalitarism". Their approach smells with Lysenkoism. And that' true -- neoliberal practice is very close to practice of Lysenkoism, especially in the field of economics: they occupied all commanding positions in economic departments of universities and forcefully suppress any dissent. The only difference is that they use the power of state just for ostracism and isolation. They do not send "non-conforming" scientists to GULAG like Bolsheviks did. But they introduce a new interesting nuance: as the science became a "marketplace of ideas", under neoliberalism you can just buy the scientist you like on the market. Education also needs to be restructured as market. Which already happened in the USA.
So we really are talking about neoliberal revolution in the USA, which destroyed the New Deal capitalism by mercilessly destroying all the relevant law. You are liming in new brave neoliberal world now.
We can think about neoliberalism employing typical Trotskyite methods of "gain power first" implement neoliberal policies later. In a way, neoliberalism is the second after Bolshevism social model that is totally artificially constructed and explicitly planned to be enforced on unsuspecting people via subversive actions of a totalitarian sect. Like Bolshevism was dictatorship of the Communist Party nomenklatura, neoliberalism is dictatorship of financial oligarchy. Both neoliberalism and Bolshevism despise democracy and need a strong state which implements neoliberal policies "from above" -- reforming the society despite the wishes of population (exactly like bolshevism did it in the USSR space and later in Eastern Europe).
This symbiosis of strong state (in a form of "national security state" and super powerful intelligence agencies -- often called "the deep state") and corporation via the rule of financial oligarchy makes neoliberalism a modern flavor of corporatism. Inverted totalitarism as Sheldon Wolin called it. Like bolshevism neoliberalism relies of power of propaganda (first of all via think tanks -- its ingenious invention) as well as classic methods used by Bolsheviks such as indoctrination via economics courses at university economics departments and constant pro-neoliberal propaganda in major MSM owned and operated by large corporations.
Up to 2000 in the USA standard of living and employment level was maintained (partially via computer revolution, partially via "expropriation" of resources and capital at xUSSR space), although there are limits to that and at some point self-destruction process inevitably starts and the neoliberal society gradually slips into secular stagnation, somewhat similar to Brezhnev's stagnation period in the USSR. In the USA is characterized by the loss of jobs and manufacturing to outsourcing, as well as degeneration of neoliberal elite (matching if not exceeding the degeneration of neoliberal elite). Which at the end created conditions for the rise to power of Trump and his team of "bastard neoliberals" (neoliberalism without neoliberal globalization, somewhat similar to Stalin's idea of 'socialism ins single country").
Like Trotskyism in the past (with their slogan of "World revolution" borrowed by neoliberalism) neoliberals in general and neocons in particular (as "neoliberals with the gun") are hell-bent of creating Global Neoliberal empire. Killing millions people in the process. And destroying the well-being of the majorly of people in their host country (the USA in case of neoliberals, the Russian empire -- USSR -- in case of Trotskyites and later Bolsheviks ).
For them ‘We Think the Price Is Worth It’" as Secretary of State Madeleine Albright put it. This Nietzschean-style complete disregard of common people is probably the most common feature between those two "man-eater" class ideologies. Those Nietzschean Ubermensch like classic psychopaths just do not have compassion for other people. They are objects, tools for them. Actually you learn a lot about neoliberals by studying psychopath and sociopath behaviour, especially female sociopath. The percent of sociopaths in the society is by various estimate is over 5% which considerably exceeds the number of people required for forming the elite or the top 1% of neoliberal society.
Like Marxism before, neoliberalism provides its own ethics and its own rationality. It enforces a new encompassing "economic rationalism" (aka economism) , which should displace old, "outdated" and more humane rationality of New Deal capitalism.
The ethics of neoliberalism, or "Neoliberal rationality", is heavily tilted toward viewing people as "homo economicus". Like Marxism (and, by extension, Trotskyism and Bolshevism/Stalinism ) it "articulates crucial elements of the language, practice and subjectivity according to a specific image of the economics." Like Trotskyism before it directly assaults the idea of democratic governance and the rule of the law proving perverted rationality, elements of which are erringly similar to the ideas of "vanguard", "proletarian justice", " journalists as solders of the Party" and, especially, "Permanent Revolution".
It rejects the idea of social solidarity (emphasizing it for Undermensch "individual responsibility" including "who does not work, should not eat") replacing it, like Marxism before, with the idea of class solidarity (The members of transnational financial elite unite"). They also pervert the idea of the rule of the law, which animated so much of modernity, hollowing out democratic practices and institutions while at the same time catalyzing radical, brutal (as in neo-feudal) forms of the elite dominance, promoting Nietzsche separation of mankind into two caste: Undermensch ("despicables" in Hillary Clinton words) and Ubermensch ("creative class"). In a way neoliberalism is socialism for rich and feudalism for poor.
Like Marxism before it, neoliberalism wear the mantle of inevitability. As Bruce Wilder noted in his post on Crooked Timber blog (11.16.16 at 10:07 pm 30):
It was characteristic of neoliberalism that the policy, policy intention and policy consequences were hidden behind a rhetoric of markets and technological inevitability.
Matt Stoller has identified this as the statecraft of neoliberalism: the elimination of political agency and responsibility for economic performance and outcomes. Globalization and financialization were just "forces" that just happened, in a meteorological economics.
For example, instead of permanent revolution we have permanent democratization via color revolutions and military invasions for the expansion of neoliberal empire.. With the same fake idea of creating a global neoliberal empire which will make everybody happy and prosperous.
While this is never advertized (and actually the whole term "neoliberalism" is kind of "hidden" from the population and its discussion is a taboo in neoliberal MSM), implicitly Neoliberalism adopted a considerable part of Trotskyism doctrine and even bigger part of its practice, especially foreign policy practice. Like KGB in the USSR, CIA became presidents praetorian guard (which occasionally revolts, see JFK assassination).
Like Logos noted this is yet another stunning "economic-political" utopia with the level of economic determinism even more ambitious than that of Marx... But what is important to understand is that this doctrine incorporates significant parts of Trotskyism in pretty innovating, unobvious way. Thus, Marx famous quote "History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce" is fully applicable here: instead of revolt of proletariat which Marxists expected we got the revolt of financial oligarchy. And this revolt led to the formation of the powerful Transnational Elite International (with Congresses in Basel) instead of Communist International (with Congresses in Moscow). Both Trotsky and Marx are probably rolling in their graves seeing such a wicked mutation of their beloved political ideology.
Neoliberalism is also an example of emergence of ideologies, not from their persuasive power or inner logic, but from the private interests of the ruling elite. Political pressure and money created the situation in which intellectually bankrupt ideas could prevail much like Catholicism prevailed during Dark Ages in Europe. In a way, this is return to Dark Ages on a new level. Hopefully this period will not last as long. But as there is no countervailing force on the horizon, only the major change in economic conditions, such as end of cheap oil can lead to demise of neoliberalism.
Neoliberalism consists of the same three components as in Marxism: philosophy, political economy and neoliberal ethics (aka neoliberal rationality).
Among the ideas that neoliberalism borrowed from Trotskyism via renegades Trotskyites turned neoconservatives (and for all practical purposes Neoconservatism is just neoliberalism with a gun) such as James Burnham we can mention the following:
It was characteristic of neoliberalism that the policy, policy intention and policy consequences were hidden behind a rhetoric of markets and technological inevitability. Matt Stoller has identified this as the statecraft of neoliberalism: the elimination of political agency and responsibility for economic performance and outcomes.
Neoliberals destroy the notion of social justice and pervert the notion of the “rule of the law”. See, for example, The Neo-Liberal State by Raymond Plant
…social justice is incompatible with the rule of law because its demands cannot be embodied in general and impartial rules; and rights have to be the rights to non-interference rather than understood in terms of claims to resources because rules against interference can be understood in general terms whereas rights to resources cannot. There is no such thing as a substantive common good for the state to pursue and for the law to embody and thus the political pursuit of something like social justice or a greater sense of solidarity and community lies outside the rule of law.
… … …
…But surely, it might be argued, a nomocratic state and its laws have to acknowledge some set of goals. It cannot be impartial or indifferent to all goals. Law cannot be pointless. It cannot be totally non-instrumental. It has to facilitate the achievement of some goals. If this is recognized, it might be argued, it will modify the sharpness of the distinction between a nomocratic and telocratic state, between a civil association and an enterprise association.
The last paragraph essentially defines “neoliberal justice” which to me looks somewhat similar to the concept of “proletarian justice” (see Bukharin’s views https://www.marxists.org/archive/bukharin/works/1920/abc/09.htm; compare with Vyshinskii views http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1924-2/socialist-legality/socialist-legality-texts/vyshinskii-on-proletarian-justice/).
... ... ...
IMHO for neoliberals social justice and the rule of law is applicable only to Untermensch. For Ubermensch (aka “creative class”) it undermines their individual freedom and thus they need to be above the law.
To ensure their freedom and cut “unnecessary and undesirable interference” of the society in their creative activities the role of the state should be limited to safeguarding the free market as the playground for their “creativity” (note “free” as in “free ride”, not “fair”).
"Economists are wheeled out to comment on all sorts of public policy issues: in the news, on the TV, online and so forth. The deference to economic expertise is something that permeates our politics and, through the use of jargon, maths and statistics, serves to exclude non-expert citizens from conversations about issues that often have a direct impact on their lives.
As you imply, it is something like an ancient priesthood. In fact, in an earlier draft of the book we made a comparison to ancient medical texts, which were only written in Latin and so created a huge asymmetry between experts and non-experts, which could have awful consequences for the latter. In some senses economics in modern times goes even further than this, because it affects policy on everything from incomes and jobs to healthcare and the environment. " ...
"I concur with in that I have concluded that maybe 60-80% of formal economic language is ideology – it pretty naturally follows that there will be some attempt to indoctrinate those who wish to speak the language. I guess the natural place to start is to ask you for a flavour of what this indoctrination looks like and then maybe we will move on to what its purposes are and what ends it serves. " The Econocracy An Interview with Cahal Mora naked capitalism
Don't tell me that a country with our history and heritage, that today boasts six of the top ten businesses in the whole of Europe, with London the top business city in Europe, that is a world leader in technology and communication and the businesses of the future, that under us has overtaken France and Italy to become the fourth largest economy in the world, that has the language of the new economy, more brilliant artists, actors and directors than any comparable country in the world, some of the best scientists and inventors in the world, the best armed forces in the world, the best teachers and doctors and nurses, the best people any nation could wish for.
Don't tell me with all that going for us that we do not have the spirit to meet all the challenges before us.
Blair conference speech, 26 September 2000
This "capitalists counteroffensive" or "revolt of the elite" was pioneered in Britain, where Margaret Thatcher was elected leader of the Tory Party in 1975 and put into real shape by Ronald Reagan in 1981-1989 (Reaganomics). Margaret Thatcher victory was the first election of neoliberal ideologue (Pinochet came to power via supported by the USA military coupe de tat). Both Thatcher and Reagan mounted a full-scale counterattack against the (already weakened and fossilized) unions. In GB the miners were the most important target. In USA traffic controllers. In both cases they managed to broke the back of trade unions. Since 1985 union membership in the USA has halved.
Privatizing nationalized industries and public services fragments large bargaining units formed of well organized public-sector workers, creating conditions in which wages can be driven down in the competition for franchises and contracts. This most important side effect of privatization was dramatic redistribution of wealth to the top layer of financial and managerial elite (corporate rich).
Neoliberalism gradually gained strength since probably late 50th with free-market theorists like Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman as influential ideologues. Ann Rand also made an important contribution with her "greed is good" philosophy of positivism. Still many economists and policy-makers favored a ‘mixed economy’ with high levels of state intervention and public spending. That changed in the 1970s when the state capitalism run into rocks. In a way rise of Neoliberalism was the elite response to the Long Recession of 1973-1992: they launched a class war of the global rich against the rest. Shrinking markets dictated the necessity of cutting costs by sacking workers and driving down wages. So the key program was to reverse the gains made by the US lower and middle class since 1945 and it needed an ideological justification. Neoliberalism neatly fitted the bill. With outsourcing, the global ‘race to the bottom’ became a permanent feature of a new economic order.
At 1980th it became clear that the age of national economies and ‘autarkic’ (self-contained) blocs like the USSR block ended as they will never be able to overcome the technological and standard of living gap with the major Western economies. This inability to match the level of standard of living of western countries doomed communist ideology, as it has in the center the thesis that as a superior economic system it should match and exceed the economic level achieved by capitalist countries. Collapse of the USSR in 1991 (in which KGB elite played the role of Trojan horse of the West) was a real triumph of neoliberalism and signified a beginning of a new age in which the global economy was dominated by international banks and multinational corporations operating with little or sometimes completely outside the control of nation-states.
The rise of neoliberalism can be measured by the rise of the financial and industrial mega-corporations. For example, US direct investment overseas rose from $11 billion in 1950 to $133 billion in 1976. The long-term borrowing of US corporations increased from 87% of their share value in 1955 to 181% in 1970. The foreign currency operations of West European banks, to take another example, increased from $25 billion in 1968 to $200 billion in 1974. The combined debt of the 74 less-developed countries jumped from $39 billion in 1965 to $119 billion in 1974. These quantitative changes during the "Great Boom" reached a tipping point in the 1970s. Global corporations by then had come to overshadow the nation-states. The effect was to impose a relentless pressure on national elites to increase the exploitation of ‘their own’ working class. High wages became a facto that deters new investment and labor arbitrage jumped in full swing. Taxes on business to pay for public services or welfare payments became undesirable. As well as laws designed to make workplaces safe, limit working hours, or guarantee maternity leave. While from purely theoretic perspective the ‘free-market’ theory espoused by neoliberal academics, journalists, politicians, bankers, and ‘entrepreneurs’ is compete pseudoscientific Lysenkoism-style doctrine, it became very popular, dominant ideology of the last decade of XX century. It provides a pseudo-scientific justification for the greed, poverty, as well as economic crisis endemic to the system. It also justified high level if inequality of the political and business elite an a normal state of human society. In this sense, neoliberalism became an official ideology of the modern ruling elite.
Like Marxism before neoliberalism provides its own ethics and its own rationality. It enforces a new encompassing "economic rationalism", which should displace old, "outdated" and more humane rationality of liberal capitalism.
"Neoliberal rationality" is heavily tilted toward viewing the people as "homo economicus". This new neoliberal rationality " articulates crucial elements of the language, practice and subjectivity ‘according to a specific image of the economic" In so doing neo-liberalism like Marxism before it directly assaults the democratic imaginary that animated so much of modernity, hollowing out liberal democratic practices and institutions while at the same time catalyzing radical, brutal forces of the political spectrum.
In the book Undoing the Demos Neoliberalism's Stealth Revolution Professor Wendy Brown described this "neoliberal rationality" phenomenon and actually shows how close it is to the rationality which governed communism parties of the USSR and Eastern Block.
Here are some quotes from Wendy Brown interview What Exactly Is Neoliberalism to Dissent Magazine (Nov 03, 2015):
"... I treat neoliberalism as a governing rationality through which everything is "economized" and in a very specific way: human beings become market actors and nothing but, every field of activity is seen as a market, and every entity (whether public or private, whether person, business, or state) is governed as a firm. Importantly, this is not simply a matter of extending commodification and monetization everywhere-that's the old Marxist depiction of capital's transformation of everyday life. Neoliberalism construes even non-wealth generating spheres-such as learning, dating, or exercising-in market terms, submits them to market metrics, and governs them with market techniques and practices. Above all, it casts people as human capital who must constantly tend to their own present and future value. ..."
"... The most common criticisms of neoliberalism, regarded solely as economic policy rather than as the broader phenomenon of a governing rationality, are that it generates and legitimates extreme inequalities of wealth and life conditions; that it leads to increasingly precarious and disposable populations; that it produces an unprecedented intimacy between capital (especially finance capital) and states, and thus permits domination of political life by capital; that it generates crass and even unethical commercialization of things rightly protected from markets, for example, babies, human organs, or endangered species or wilderness; that it privatizes public goods and thus eliminates shared and egalitarian access to them; and that it subjects states, societies, and individuals to the volatility and havoc of unregulated financial markets. ..."
"... with the neoliberal revolution that homo politicus is finally vanquished as a fundamental feature of being human and of democracy. Democracy requires that citizens be modestly oriented toward self-rule, not simply value enhancement, and that we understand our freedom as resting in such self-rule, not simply in market conduct. When this dimension of being human is extinguished, it takes with it the necessary energies, practices, and culture of democracy, as well as its very intelligibility. ..."
"... For most Marxists, neoliberalism emerges in the 1970s in response to capitalism's falling rate of profit; the shift of global economic gravity to OPEC, Asia, and other sites outside the West; and the dilution of class power generated by unions, redistributive welfare states, large and lazy corporations, and the expectations generated by educated democracies. From this perspective, neoliberalism is simply capitalism on steroids: a state and IMF-backed consolidation of class power aimed at releasing capital from regulatory and national constraints, and defanging all forms of popular solidarities, especially labor. ..."
"... The grains of truth in this analysis don't get at the fundamental transformation of social, cultural, and individual life brought about by neoliberal reason. They don't get at the ways that public institutions and services have not merely been outsourced but thoroughly recast as private goods for individual investment or consumption. And they don't get at the wholesale remaking of workplaces, schools, social life, and individuals. For that story, one has to track the dissemination of neoliberal economization through neoliberalism as a governing form of reason, not just a power grab by capital. There are many vehicles of this dissemination -- law, culture, and above all, the novel political-administrative form we have come to call governance. It is through governance practices that business models and metrics come to irrigate every crevice of society, circulating from investment banks to schools, from corporations to universities, from public agencies to the individual. It is through the replacement of democratic terms of law, participation, and justice with idioms of benchmarks, objectives, and buy-ins that governance dismantles democratic life while appearing only to instill it with "best practices." ..."
"... Progressives generally disparage Citizens United for having flooded the American electoral process with corporate money on the basis of tortured First Amendment reasoning that treats corporations as persons. However, a careful reading of the majority decision also reveals precisely the thoroughgoing economization of the terms and practices of democracy we have been talking about. In the majority opinion, electoral campaigns are cast as "political marketplaces," just as ideas are cast as freely circulating in a market where the only potential interference arises from restrictions on producers and consumers of ideas-who may speak and who may listen or judge. Thus, Justice Kennedy's insistence on the fundamental neoliberal principle that these marketplaces should be unregulated paves the way for overturning a century of campaign finance law aimed at modestly restricting the power of money in politics. Moreover, in the decision, political speech itself is rendered as a kind of capital right, functioning largely to advance the position of its bearer, whether that bearer is human capital, corporate capital, or finance capital. This understanding of political speech replaces the idea of democratic political speech as a vital (if potentially monopolizable and corruptible) medium for public deliberation and persuasion. ..."
"... My point was that democracy is really reduced to a whisper in the Euro-Atlantic nations today. Even Alan Greenspan says that elections don't much matter much because, "thanks to globalization . . . the world is governed by market forces," not elected representatives. ..."
Pope Francis aptly called neoliberalism as "idolatry of money". In other words a cult. Here is a direct quote:
No to the new idolatry of money
55. One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.
56. While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.
Like any religion it has its set of myth:
Jan 17, 2019 | discussion.theguardian.com
BluebellWood -> Supermassive , 29 Nov 2018 12:41Yep - education is the key.
I remember at school we read Orwell's essay Politics and the English Language in an English class and then we were set a writing task as a follow-up, reporting on the same story using the same facts, from completely opposing points of view, using euphemism and mind-numbing cliches. Teach children to do this themselves and they can see how language can be skewed and facts distorted and misrepresented without technically lying.
How many children in schools are taught such critical thinking these days, I wonder? It might be taught in Media Studies, I suppose - but gosh, don't the right really hate that particular subject! Critical thinking is anathema to them.
Jan 08, 2019 | www.unz.com
Originally from: President Trump's Losing Strategy: Embracing Brazil and Confronting China James Petras January 8, 2019
The US embraces a regime doomed to failure and threatens the world's most dynamic economy. President Trump has lauded Brazil's newly elected President Jair Bolsonaro and promises to promote close economic, political, social and cultural ties. In contrast the Trump regime is committed to dismantling China's growth model, imposing harsh and pervasive sanctions, and promoting the division and fragmentation of greater China.
Washington's choice of allies and enemies is based on a narrow conception of short-term advantage and strategic losses.
In this paper we will discuss the reasons why the US-Brazilian relation fits in with Washington's pursuit for global domination and why Washington fears the dynamic growth and challenge of an independent and competitive China.
Brazil in Search of a Patron
Brazil's President, Jair Bolsonaro from day one, has announced a program to reverse nearly a century of state directed economic growth. He has announced the privatization of the entire public sector, including the strategic finance, banking, minerals, infrastructure, transport, energy and manufacturing activities. Moreover, the sellout has prioritized the centrality of foreign multi-national corporations. Previous authoritarian civilian and military regimes protected nationalized firms as part of tripartite alliances which included foreign, state and domestic private enterprises.
In contrast to previous elected civilian regimes which strived – not always successfully – to increase pensions, wages and living standards and recognized labor legislation, President Bolsonaro has promised to fire thousands of public sector employees, reduce pensions and increase retirement age while lowering salaries and wages in order to increase profits and lower costs to capitalists.
President Bolsonaro promises to reverse land reform, expel, arrest and assault peasant households in order to re-instate landlords and encourage foreign investors in their place. The deforestation of the Amazon and its handover to cattle barons and land speculators will include the seizure of millions of acres of indigenous land.
In foreign policy, the new Brazilian regime pledges to follow US policy on every strategic issue: Brazil supports Trump's economic attacks on China, embraces Israel's land grabs in the Middle East, (including moving its capital to Jerusalem), back US plots to boycott and policies to overthrow the governments of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. For the first time, Brazil has offered the Pentagon military bases, and military forces in any and all forthcoming invasions or wars.
The US celebration of President Bolsonaro's gratuitous handovers of resources and wealth and surrender of sovereignty is celebrated in the pages of the Financial Times, the Washington Post and the New York Times who predict a period of growth, investment and recovery – if the regime has the 'courage' to impose its sellout.
As has occurred in numerous recent experiences with right wing neo-liberal regime changes in Argentina, Mexico, Colombia and Ecuador, financial page journalists and experts have allowed their ideological dogma to blind them to the eventual pitfalls and crises.
The Bolsonaro regime's economic policies ignore the fact that they depend on agro-mineral exports to China and compete with US exports Brazilian ago-business elites will resent the switch of trading partners.. They will oppose, defeat and undermine Bolsonaro's anti-China campaign if he dares to persists.
Foreign investors will takeover public enterprises but are not likely to expand production given the sharp reduction of employment, salaries and wages, as the consumer market declines.
Banks may make loans but demand high interest rates for high 'risks' especially as the government will face increased social opposition from trade unions and social movements, and greater violence from the militarization of society.
Bolsonaro lacks a majority in Congress who depend on the electoral support of millions of public employees, wage and salaried workers ,pensioners,and gender and racial minorities. Congressional alliance will be difficult without corruption and compromises Bolsonaro's cabinet includes several key ministers who are under investigation for fraud and money laundering. His anti-corruption rhetoric will evaporate in the face of judicial investigations and exposés.
Brazil is unlikely to provide any meaningful military forces for regional or international US military adventures. The military agreements with the US will carry little weight in the face of deep domestic turmoil.
Bolsanaro's neo-liberal policies will deepen inequalities especially among the fifty million who have recently risen out of poverty. The US embrace of Brazil will enrich Wall Street who will take the money and run, leaving the US facing the ire and rejection of their failed ally.
The US Confronts China
Unlike Brazil, China is not prepared to submit to economic plunder and to surrender its sovereignty. China is following its own long-term strategy which focuses on developing the most advanced sectors of the economy – including cutting edge electronics and communication technology.
Chinese researchers already produce more patents and referred scientific articles than the US. They graduate more engineers, advanced researchers and innovative scientists than the US based on high levels of state funding . China with an investment rate of over 44% in 2017, far surpasses the US. China has advanced, from low to high value added exports including electrical cars at competitive prices. For example, Chinese i-phones are outcompeting Apple in both price and quality.
China has opened its economy to US multi-national corporations in exchange for access to advanced technology, what Washington dubs as 'forced' seizures.
China has promoted multi-lateral trade and investment agreement ,including over sixty countries, in large-scale long-term infrastructure agreements throughout Asia and Africa.
Instead of following China's economic example Washington whines of unfair trade, technological theft, market restrictions and state constraints on private investments.
China offers long-term opportunities for Washington to upgrade its economic and social performance – if Washington recognized that Chinese competition is a positive incentive. Instead of large-scale public investments in upgrading and promoting the export sector, Washington has turned to military threats, economic sanctions and tariffs which protect backward US industrial sectors. Instead of negotiating for markets with an independent China, Washington embraces vassal regimes like Brazil's under newly elected President Jair Bolsonaro who relies on US economic control and takeovers.
ORDER IT NOW
The US has an easy path to dominating Brazil for short-term gains – profits, markets and resources, but the Brazilian model is not viable or sustainable. In contrast the US needs to negotiate, bargain and agree to reciprocal competitive agreements with China ..The end result of cooperating with China would allow the US to learn and grow in a sustainable fashion.
Jan 04, 2019 | theconversation.com
"Neoliberalised healthcare requires every patient (or rather, "client" of healthcare "services") to take responsibility for her own state or behaviour. Mental healthcare is therefore being reframed as a series of "outcomes" geared at measurable improvement which the "service user" must manage by themselves as far as possible.
Access to psychiatric diagnosis and support from public health services (and also within private or employer-run occupational healthcare schemes) sometimes depends on completion of a mood or symptom diary using smartphone or Fitbit self-tracking techniques .
And there may well be more punitive future consequences for failure to self-track, as employers and perhaps benefit agencies gain more power to command this sort of performance from workers." •
From 2018, still germane.
Dec 27, 2018 | discussion.theguardian.com
PossumBilly , 3 Jun 2018 23:25This message is clear and concise. It is however never going to be heard beyond the 'Guardian'.
The MSM are hardly going to publish this article, nor are they going to reference it, why should they? It goes against everything they have been fighting for and the tin ear of their readership are unwilling to change teir views.
The only thing that they understand is money and the concentration of wealth. This misonception as Dennis So far this has been handed to them on a plate, the taxation system has enabled them to manipulate an multiply their earnings. So much of money the has nothing to do with adding value to this countries economy but is speculative in nature based on financial and overseas instruments.
No is the time for our government to take the lead and start as the Victorian ALP have done and invest in people and jobs on the back of strategic investment. It is a fallacy that governments don't create jobs they, through their policies do just that.
Friends of mine who make a living out of dealing both in stock and wealth creating schemes have no loyalty to this country, they are self motivated and libertarian in persuasion. "Government should get out of the way!" This is nothing short of scandalous.
Unless we stand up for our rights and a civil society that provides adequate provision for fair and balanced policy making,xwe will continue until we will see an implosion. History is littered with examples of revolution based on the kind of inequality we are seeing happen in this country. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.
Dec 27, 2018 | discussion.theguardian.com
MajorMalaise , 3 Jun 2018 23:44A couple of thoughts - in no particular order.
When governments like the LNP (driven as it is by its ideology of greed, the IPA manifesto and Gina Rinehart's idea of what Australia should look like [and how little she should pay to pillage "communally owned" assets to enrich herself beyond imagination - she has no greater claim over the Pilbara than any other Australian, but like all who live by the ethos of greed, she thinks she should get it all for nothing]).
When the LNP talk about "small government" and "slashing red tape" it is politician-speak for small government and NO red tape for the rich. What it also means is much more government and red tape for the poor and vulnerable - as we would expect, the rich and powerful, who really dictate economic and social policy in this country enlist willing governments to enact measures that suppress the lower classes. It is not quite calling out the military (as Hawke did during the pilot's strike at the insistence of the corpulent Ables - one act for which I will always despise Hawke), but it has the same result by more surreptitious, lasting and egregious means.
And one of the lasting legacies of the philosophies of neo-liberalism, from which the Hanson's of the world "suck their oxygen" is that the political and corporate dialogue of the last 30 or so years has pushed the notion of self-entitlement and vilification of the poor and vulnerable further down the economic ladder. So now, we have countless Australians on reasonable incomes who, like the rich, are convinced that all of our social and economic ills can be rectified if we stop giving handouts to the bludgers, the malingerers, the disabled and the indigenous - the neo-liberal rhetoric is now so widespread that it is easier than ever for the vulnerable to be attacked and for many, that is seen as absolutely necessary. It is the false US-sourced notion that if you are poor, it is because you deserve to be and if I am rich - it isn't luck or inheritance - it is because I deserve it. This world-view makes it so much easier to attack the vulnerable as receiving way to much to sit at home and bludge.
Want to forget the now disgraced CEO of Australia Post who bought a Sydney mansion for $22 million and now wants to sell it for $40 million - tax free I might add. He is entitled to that wealth enhancement. But someone on the dole smokes a spliff now and then and we think they should lose their entitlements to an income that doesn't even get them up to the poverty line (but they should be grateful for that pittance). Want to forget the CEO's who pretentiously do their "sleeping rough" for a night and proclaim their empathy for the homeless who would shriek at paying more tax to genuinely fund programmes to help the down and outs. No problem - just embrace the selfish and greedy neo-liberalism philosophy.
Dec 02, 2018 | www.salon.com
The esteemed filmmaker observed how the vapid trickle-down culture of the plutocracy could be the end of us allThis article was co-produced with Original Thinkers , an annual ideas festival in Telluride, Colorado that brings speakers, art and filmmakers together to create new paradigms.
It is ironic that, as the gulf between rich and poor reaches record levels, the language of the underclass has become infected with the culture and mores of the rich . Twenty years ago, English began to absorb and normalize verbal markers of wealth, consumption and status, evidenced by the mainstreaming of luxury brands like Chanel, Gucci and Louis Vuitton and their appearance in pop culture and media. Reality TV went from nonexistent in the 1970s to one of the most popular television genres in the 2000s, much of it homed in on the lifestyles and lives of the rich -- culminating in a billionaire, reality-TV star president. Social media in the late 2000s and 2010s seems to have exacerbated a cultural normalization of narcissism , an obsession with self-image, and a propensity for conspicuous consumption. Few of us are rich, but we all aspire to appear that way on Instagram.
In the past twenty-five years, documentarian and photograph Lauren Greenfield has been documenting this profound shift in culture, as the vapid materialism of the plutocracy has trickled down to the rest of us. Greenfield, who was once named "America's foremost visual chronicler of the plutocracy" by the New York Times, is an Emmy award-winning filmmaker and photographer. Greenfield has experience documenting the lifestyles of the rich and (in)famous: her much-lauded 2012 documentary, " The Queen of Versailles ," followed the billionaire Siegel family during their quest to build the largest house in the United States. Her unflinchingly honest depiction of their bleak existence led to patriarch David Siegel filing a lawsuit against the filmmakers for defamation, which increased publicity to the film and which the Siegels lost handily.
Greenfield's latest opus, " Generation Wealth ," is an attempt to understand the intricacies of the trickle-down culture of the wealthy. Simultaneously an exhibition, monograph and film , Greenfield's camera follows not just the wealthy, but many folks who are middle- or working-class and yet who have absorbed the narrative and values of the elite in their quest to be thin, forever beautiful, and image- and luxury-obsessed. The film is unflinching in a way that is occasionally macabre: The on-screen depiction of plastic surgery is a grisly counterpoint to the pristine resorts, lifestyles and houses of the well-heeled. "This movie is neither trickle-down treat nor bacchanal guised as bromide, but rather an interrogation of an era defined by an obsession with wealth," wrote Eileen G'Sell in Salon's review .
I interviewed Lauren Greenfield at the Original Thinkers Festival in Telluride, Colorado. A video from this interview can be viewed here ; the print version has been condensed and edited.
Keith Spencer: " Generation Wealth " is such a fascinating [book and film] project, and it's so rich. For those who may not know about it, how would you describe the overall project? I know it took 25 years of work?Advertisement:
Lauren Greenfield : I started looking back at my photography since the early nineties and seeing that, in a way, all of the stories that I had been doing -- about consumerism and body image and fame and celebrity and the economic crisis -- that in a way they were connected. And I decided to do an archeological dig in my own work and look at the pictures as evidence of how we had changed as a culture.
And what I came to was that they revealed a kind of fundamental shift in the American dream, that we had gone from a dream that prized hard work and frugality and discipline, to a culture that elevated bling and celebrity and narcissism.
Interesting. And like you said, it's a global phenomenon, right? I mean, the pictures and the shots in the film were taken are all over the planet, right?
Yeah, I started in L[os Angeles] in the nineties, but even when I was doing the work in L.A., I felt like [I] was more looking at L.A. as the extreme manifestation of how you see the influence of the popular culture. In a way you are closest to the flame there.Advertisement:
But then I found that other people saw [that culture] as just L.A., so I kind of made it my mission to first go across the country and then go to different places in the world to show how we were exporting these values -- exporting this culture with global media, with the Internet, with social media, with branding and international branding. In "Generation Wealth," I really tried to show this global virus that is consumerism.
And that's something that I thought was so interesting about the film, was that the goods and the brands and the imagery look the same whether they were in Hong Kong or Moscow or Los Angeles or Orlando. It was like there's this culture that exists everywhere. It's so interesting how something like that is transmitted everywhere, the same idea, the same cultural values.
Yeah, I was really looking at how our culture, international culture in a way is being homogenized by these influences of corporations and globalism and media. In my work, I'm really looking for the similarities in values and influence and behavior in people who are really, really different.
And that really came together for me during the economic crisis. Because from L.A., from middle class to working class, to billionaires in Florida ... to the crash in Dubai , to Iceland to Ireland , I was seeing similar consequences from similar behavior.
And the interconnected financial system was one more kind of homogenizing factor. And so that's what I was really interested in looking at. [Cultural critic] Chris Hedges speaks throughout the movie and at the end he says this comment, which I really love, about how authentic culture is being destroyed by the values of corporate capitalism. And that it's authentic culture that actually teaches us who we are and where we came from.Advertisement:
And so in a way we lose our identities when we lose that. And I think we see, especially with young people, how identity is so connected to brands and what you have and what you wear and what you buy.
Right. And that's one of the other interesting threads through the film, is just that in almost every subject's case -- because you followed a lot of them for a long time through their lives or pick up at different points in their life -- they all seem to sort of admit that either the money itself or the things that they bought with the money never made them happy. But yet at the same time, what I thought was so funny was some of them just seemed like they couldn't quit the lifestyle, like especially the German hedge fund manager.
Yeah. That's exactly right. For me, I realized it was really about addiction and it wasn't about the money -- in the [film], you see that wealth is not just money, but all the things that give you value. And so you see people searching for beauty and youth and fame and image. But it's like addiction in the sense that you think it's going to bring you something that it doesn't.
[In] a way, all of the subjects are kind of looking to fill a void or an emptiness that can't be filled by that thing . [You] just stay on that gold plated hamster wheel... in the metaphor of addiction, the only way to stop is when you hit rock bottom. And so we see a lot of crashes, both collective and individual in the film.
Speaking of addiction -- you ended up bringing in and talking about your own family too, both your mother and your children. Which I was not expecting, because before I saw "Generation Wealth" I'd seen "The Queen of Versailles," which you don't really bring yourself in that one much at all. Did you think while you were making it that you were going to end up turning the camera around on yourself and your family?Advertisement:
No, it kind of evolved. I started thinking I would be in it in some way as a kind of narrator, thinking mostly my voice, not physically in it, which was really scary to me in the beginning. But I felt like I was kind of the connective tissue and my journey was the connective tissue between these subjects.
I've always tried to go in really non-judgmentally, and show phenomena and people in situations that I think speak to the larger culture and are part of mainstream culture and influence. So I want people to see themselves in the characters, like in "Queen of Versailles."
And so I felt like it was also important to make the point that we're all complicit and that I'm not outside of it. And [to] look at how I'm also affected by these influences.
And it kind of emerged organically. I was talking to Florian -- the German Hedge Fund banker -- who is a very flamboyant character in the film. Makes $800,000,000, loses it all and becomes a truth-teller for how [money] doesn't bring you what you think it will.
And he challenged me at a certain point, and said, "How can a hundred-hour work week not affect your relationship with anything that matters?" And he kind of looks at me. And it forced me to kind of think about -- you know, there I was in Germany on a three week trip on my way to Iceland, two kids at home that I'm trying to connect with on FaceTime. It made me think about my own addiction to my work.Advertisement:
There's this great scene in the movie where your son Gabriel talks about how his older brother got a perfect score on the ACT and how he's just afraid that he'll never be able to live up to that and he'll never be able to go to Harvard like his parents and brother. And it was amazing because it was like, before the camera was focused on all these rich kids -- but they had similar anxieties to your son.
Yeah. And I think that this cycle of wanting more manifests in all different ways. I don't think that anybody can say they're outside of it. It's kind of like, I always think about modernism in a way, being kind of a justifiable luxury for [a] sophisticated or intellectual class.
And yeah... achievement was really important in my family. Gabriel also speaks to the weight and pressure of comparison, which is really a theme of the whole movie, that we're all kind of living in the state of collective FOMO where we can never be good enough because we're comparing ourselves to what we see not just on media but on social media. Not just real people but fictional, curated people.
I did a lot of work on gender, and so I made a short film called " Beauty Culture ." And even in my book, " Girl Culture ," looking at how girls are comparing themselves to pictures of models that are not just genetically specific, but also retouched and styled. And so it's literally impossible to measure up. And now I think we're all kind of in that state.
And so when Gabriel talked about comparing himself to his brother or not feeling like he could measure up, I wasn't initially planning to have my family be in there, but I did feel an obligation [to] be willing to ask of myself what I ask of the subjects -- a hard, intimate look into the hard issues of living.Advertisement:
Last night at the Q&A after the film screening, you mentioned that this movie is a feminist film in the specific way that it looks at girls and women. Can you elaborate on that? I thought it was interesting how you noted that women are both a commodity, and also get power from commodifying themselves.
Yeah. I had done a lot of work on gender and I wasn't sure in the beginning how it would fit into "Generation Wealth." And then I realized that, in a way, girls were a really powerful and tragic case study for how human beings are commodified, and how in a way it's the ultimate cost and degradation of capitalism, the sale of the human being. And so for girls, I had been looking at both how girls were sold to -- because their body image insecurities make them very vulnerable and avid consumers; "buy this and you can fix whatever's wrong with your skin, your body," or whatever -- but also how they are physically sold.
And I think, for me, Kim Kardashian is a really powerful symbol of how that's changed. That the sex tape is a means to a lifestyle of money and affluence, and it's not the scarlet letter anymore. It's a badge of honor if that's what you bring.
And that manifests in different ways from an innocent game of dress-up, where there's also kind of precocious sexualization, to teenage girls putting sexy pictures of themselves on social media, to women who feel like they can't age and [get] plastic surgery -- because if their beauty and bodies are their value, you can't lose that.
Speaking of that, that was another thing about the film I thought was interesting. From watching the trailer I had the sense that [the film] would be focused mostly on the 1%, but actually it's about how the values and the culture that the wealthy, the hypermaterialism and such, trickles down to the working class. I'm thinking specifically of Cathy, the bus driver... there's the very gruesome scenes of her getting plastic surgery in Brazil, multiple times I believe if I remember right.Advertisement:
Well, she gets multiple surgeries on one trip to Brazil, because if you go to Brazil you can get surgery much cheaper and the doctors will actually perform multiple operations on you in a way that they won't in the US. And yeah, I was really blown away by a statistic about plastic surgery that I heard, where 75% of women who get plastic surgery make $50,000 or less.
Like eating disorders -- these things were thought to be kind of practices of the rich, but they have really trickled down. And I think part of that is the way we're bombarded with images of luxury and affluence. And also the kind of, in a way, new mythmaking of the American Dream, where the body is the new frontier of the rags to riches -- where anybody with enough money, effort and willpower can transform themselves physically.
And so it's kind of like your fault if you don't have the drive and motivation to do that. And we see these shows, reality shows like "The Swan" and these transformation shows... I apologize for showing such hard images, but I felt like it was really important to not see the before and after that we get in the media, but to see the middle, and the violence and risk that's really part of that transformation.
Towards the end, cultural critic Chris Hedges describes us as a civilization on the verge of collapse. But then the movie ends on a more hopeful note. I was wondering if you share Chris Hedges' apocalyptic view of the future, or if you felt hope at the end?Advertisement:
I do share his view, but I have, I guess, kind of a split or duality, in the sense that I feel like the reason I did this work and put it all together now, and went through a half a million pictures, is I do feel we're kind of barreling towards the apocalypse if we stay on this path. It's not a sustainable path. And from what I've seen over the last 25 years, it's blown-up exponentially.
Yet I think that there's a possibility of not staying on this path. A lot of the characters in the movie and in the book -- when they do hit rock bottom, whether it's the economic crisis or their own personal crashes -- they have insights that make them want to change.
And I feel like, in a way, this work is about kind of showing the Matrix that we live in, and having the option of the red pill. But I think that you kind of need a super-majority for that to happen on any significant scale.
Keith A. Spencer
Keith A. Spencer is the cover editor for Salon, and manages Salon's science, tech and health coverage. His book, " A People's History of Silicon Valley: How the Tech Industry Exploits Workers, Erodes Privacy and Undermines Democracy ," was released in 2018 from Eyewear Publishing. Follow him on Twitter at @keithspencer.MORE FROM Keith A. Spencer • FOLLOW keithspencer
Dec 22, 2018 | www.unz.comMichael Hudson and Bonnie Faulkner October 8, 2018 8,300 Words Leave a Comment Email This Page to Someone
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The aim of classical economics was to tax unearned income, not wages and profits. The tax burden was to fall on the landlord class first and foremost, then on monopolists and bankers. The result was to be a circular flow in which taxes would be paid mainly out of rent and other unearned income. The government would spend this revenue on infrastructure, schools and other productive investment to help make the economy more competitive. Socialism was seen as a program to create a more efficient capitalist economy along these lines.
I'm Bonnie Faulkner. Today on Guns and Butter, Dr. Michael Hudson. Today's show: The Vocabulary of Economic Deception. Dr. Hudson is a financial economist and historian. He is President of the Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trends, a Wall Street financial analyst and distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. His 1972 book Super-Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire is a critique of how the United States exploited foreign economies through the IMF and World Bank. His latest books are, Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Destroy the Global Economy and J Is for Junk Economics – A Guide to Reality in an Age of Deception . Today we discuss J is for Junk Economics , an A to Z guide that describes how the world economy really works, and who the winners and losers really are. We cover contemporary terms that are misleading or poorly understood, as well as many important concepts that have been abandoned – many on purpose – from the long history of political economy.
BONNIE FAULKNER: Dr. Michael Hudson, welcome to Guns and Butter again.
MICHAEL HUDSON: It's good to be back, Bonnie.
BONNIE FAULKNER: You write that your recent book, J Is for Junk Economics , a dictionary and accompanying essays,was drafted more than a decade ago for a book to have been entitled The Fictitious Economy . You tried several times without success to find a publisher. Why wouldn't publishers at the time take on your book?
MICHAEL HUDSON: Most publishers like to commission books that are like the last one that sold well. Ten years ago, people wanted to read about how the economy was doing just fine. I was called Dr. Doom, which did very well for me in the 1970s when I was talking about the economy running into debt. But they wanted upbeat books. If I were to talk about how the economy is polarizing and getting poorer, they wanted me to explain how readers could make a million dollars off people getting more strapped as the economy polarizes. I didn't want to write a book about how to get rich by riding the neoliberal wave dismantling of the economy. I wanted to create an alternative.
If I wanted to ride the wave of getting rich by taking on more debt, I would have stayed on Wall Street. I wanted to explain how the way in which the economy seemed to be getting richer was actually impoverishing it. We are in a new Gilded Age masked by a vocabulary used by the media via television and papers like The New York Times that are euphemizing what was happening.
A euphemism is a rhetorical trick to make a bad phenomenon look good. If a landlord gets rich by gentrifying a neighborhood by exploiting tenants and forcing them out, that's called wealth creation if property values and rents rise. If you can distract people to celebrate wealth and splendor at the top of the economic pyramid, people will be less focused on how the economy is functioning for the bottom 99%.
BONNIE FAULKNER: Can you describe the format of J Is for Junk Economics – A Guide to Reality in an Age of Deception as an A-to-Z dictionary with additional essays? It seems to me that this format makes a good reference book that can be picked up and read at any point.
MICHAEL HUDSON: That's what I intended. I wrote it as a companion volume to my outline of economic theory, Killing the Host , which was about how the financial sector has taken over the economy in a parasitic way. I saw the vocabulary problem and also how to solve it: If people have a clear set of economic concepts, basically those of classical economics – value, price and rent – the words almost automatically organize themselves into a worldview. A realistic vocabulary and understanding of what words mean will enable its users to put them together to form an inter-connected system.
I wanted to show how junk economics uses euphemisms and what Orwell called Doublethink to confuse people about how the economy works. I also wanted to show that what's called think tanks are really lobbying institutions to do the same thing that advertisers for toothpaste companies and consumer product companies do: They try to portray their product – in this case, neoliberal economics, dismantling protection of the environment, dismantling consumer protection and stopping of prosecution of financial fraud – as "wealth creation" instead of impoverishment and austerity for the economy at large. So basically, my book reviews the economic vocabulary and language people use to perceive reality.
When I was in college sixty years ago, they were still teaching the linguistic ideas of Benjamin Lee Whorf. His idea was that language affects how people perceive reality. Different cultures and linguistic groups have different modes of expression. I found that if I was going to a concert and speaking German, I would be saying something substantially different than if I were speaking English.
Viewing the economic vocabulary as propaganda, I saw that we can understand how the words you hear as largely propaganda words. They've changed the meaning to the opposite of what the classical economists meant. But if you untangle the reversal of meaning and juxtapose a more functional vocabulary you can better understand what's actually happening.
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BONNIE FAULKNER: You write that "the terms rentier and usury that played so central a role in past centuries now sound anachronistic and have been replaced with more positive Orwellian doublethink," which is what you've begun to explain. In fact, your book J is for Junk – A Guide to Reality in an Age of Deception is all about the depredation of vocabulary to hide reality, particularly the state of the economy. Just as history is written by the victors, you point out that economic vocabulary is defined by today's victors, the rentier financial class. How is this deception accomplished?
MICHAEL HUDSON: It's been accomplished in a number of ways. The first and most brutal way was simply to stop teaching the history of economic thought. When I went to school 60 years ago, every graduate economics student had to study the history of economic thought. You'd get Adam Smith, Ricardo and John Stuart Mill, Marx and Veblen. Their analysis had a common denominator: a focus on unearned income, which they called rent. Classical economics distinguished between productive and unproductive activity, and hence between wealth and overhead. The traditional landlord class inherited its wealth from ancestors who conquered the land by military force. These hereditary landlords extract rent, but don't do anything to create a product. They don't produce output. The same is true of other recipients of rent. Accordingly, the word used through the 19 th century was rentier . It's a French word. In French, a rente was income from a government bond. A rentier was a coupon clipper, and the rent was interest. Today in German, a Rentner is a retiree receiving pension income. The common denominator is a regular payment stipulated in advance, as distinct from industrial profit.
The classical economists had in common a description of rent and interest as something that a truly free market would get rid of. From Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill down to Marx and the socialists, a free market was one that was free of a parasitic overclass that got income without doing work. They got money by purely exploitative means, by charging rent that doesn't really have to be paid; by charging interest; by charging monopoly rent for basic infrastructure services and public utilities that a well-organized government should provide freely to people instead of letting monopolists put up toll booths on roads and for technology and patent rights simply to extract wealth. The focus of economics until World War I was the contrast between production and extraction.
An economic fight ensued and the parasites won. The first thing rentiers – the financial class and monopolists, a.k.a. the 1% – did was to say, "We've got to stop teaching the history of economic thought so that people don't even have a memory that there is any such a thing as economic rent as unearned income or the various policies proposed to minimize it. We have to take the slogan of the socialist reformers – a free market – and redefine it as a free market is one free from government – that is, from "socialism" – not free from landlords, bankers and monopolists." They turned the vocabulary upside down to mean the opposite. But in order to promote this deceptive vocabulary they had to erase all memory of the fact that these words originally meant the opposite.
BONNIE FAULKNER: How has economic history been rewritten by redefining the meaning of words? What is an example of this? For instance, what does the word "reform" mean now as opposed to what reform used to mean?
MICHAEL HUDSON: Reform used to mean something social democratic. It meant getting rid of special privileges, getting rid of monopolies and protecting labor and consumers. It meant controlling the prices that monopolies could charge, and regulating the economy to prevent fraud or exploitation – and most of all, to prevent unearned income or tax it away.
In today's neoliberal vocabulary, "reform" means getting rid of socialism. Reform means stripping away protection or labor and even of industry. It means deregulating the economy, getting rid of any kind of price controls, consumer protection or environmental protection. It means creating a lawless economy where the 1% are in control, without public checks and balances. So reform today means getting rid of all of the reforms that were promoted in the 19 th and early-20 th century. The Nobel Economics Prize reflects this neoliberal (that is, faux-liberal) travesty of "free markets."
BONNIE FAULKNER: What were the real reforms of the progressive era?
MICHAEL HUDSON: To begin with, you had unions to protect labor. You had limitations on the workweek and the workday, how much work people had to do to earn a living wage. There were safety protections. There was protection of the quality of food, and of consumer safety to prevent dangerous products. There was anti-trust regulation to prevent price gouging by monopolies. The New Deal took basic monopolies of public service such as roads and communications systems out of the hands of monopolists and make them public. Instead of using a road or the phone system to exploit users by charging whatever the market would bear, basic needs were provided at the lowest possible costs, or even freely in the case of schools, so that the economy would have a low cost of living and hence a low business overhead.
The guiding idea of reform was to get rid of socially unnecessary income. If landlords were going to charge rent for properties that they did nothing to improve, but merely raise the rents whenever cities built more transportation or more parks or better schools, this rent would be taxed away.
The income tax was a basic reform back in 1913. Only 1% of America's population had to pay the tax. Most were tax-free, because the aim was to tax the rentiers who lived off their bond or stock holdings, real estate or monopolies. The solution was simply to tax the wealthiest 1% or 2% instead of labor or industry, that is, the companies that actually produced something. This tax philosophy helped make America the most productive, lowest-cost and competitive yet also the most equal economy in the world at that time.
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This focus on real industry has gradually been undermined. Today, if you're a real estate speculator, monopolist, bankster or financial fraudster, your idea of reform is to get rid of laws that protect consumers, tenants, homebuyers and the public at large. You campaign for "consumer choice," as if protection is "interference" with the choice to be poisoned, cheated or otherwise exploited. You deregulate laws designed to protect the atmosphere, free air and water. If you're a coal or oil company, your idea of reform is to get rid of the Clean Air Act, as the Trump administration has been doing.
The counterpart to junk science is junk economics. It is a lobbying effort to defend the idea of a world without any laws or regulations against the wealthy, only against the debtors and the poor, only against consumers for the "theft" of downloading music or stealing somebody's patented songs or drug monopoly privilege. This turns inside out the classical philosophy of fairness.
BONNIE FAULKNER: According to 19 th -century classical economists, what is fictitious capital, and why is this distinction no longer being made by economists?
MICHAEL HUDSON: That's a wonderful question. Today the term "fictitious capital" is usually associated with Marx, but it was used by many people in the 19 th century, even by right-wing libertarians such as Henry George.
Fictitious capital referred to purely extractive claims for income, as distinct from profits and wages earned from tangible means of production. Real capital referred to factories, machinery and tools, things that were used to produce output, as well as education, research and public infrastructure. But an ownership privilege like a title to land and other real estate, a patent or the monopoly privilege to charge whatever the market will bear for a restricted patent, without reference to actual production costs, does not add anything to production. It is purely extractive, yielding economic rent, not profits on real capital investment.
BONNIE FAULKNER: You say that by the late-19 th century, "reform movements were gaining the upper hand, that nearly everyone saw industrial capitalism evolving into what was widely called socialism." How would you describe the socialism that classical economists like Mill or Marx envisioned?
MICHAEL HUDSON: They all called themselves socialists. There were many kinds of socialism in the late 19 th century. Christians promoted Christian socialism, and anarchists promoted an individualistic socialism. Mill was called a Ricardian socialist. The common denominator among socialists was their recognition that the industrial capitalism of their day was a transitory stage burdened by the remnants of feudalism, headed by the landlord class whose hereditary rule was a legacy of the medieval military invasions of England, France, Germany and the rest of Europe. This was the class that controlled the upper house of government, e.g ., Britain's Lordships. For socialists, the guiding idea was to run factories and operate land and provide public services for the economy at large to grow instead of imposing austerity and letting the rentier classes exploit the rest of the economy and concentrate income, political control and tax policy in their own hands.
Until World War I, socialism was popular because most people saw industrial capitalism as evolving. Politics was in motion. The term "capitalism," by the way, was coined by Werner Sombart, not Marx. But classical political economy culminated in Marx. He looked at society's broad laws of motion to see where they were leading.
The socialist idea was not only that of Marx but also of American business school professors like Simon Patten of the WhartonSchool. He said that the kind of economy that would dominate the world's future was one that was the most efficient in preventing monopoly and preventing or taxing away absentee land rent so that almost all income would be paid as wages and profits, not rent or interest or monopoly rents.
The business classes in the United States, Germany and even in England were in favor of reform – that is, anti-rentier reform. They recognized that only a strong government would have the political power to tax away or regulate parasitic economic rent by the wealthiest classes at that time, in the late 19 th and early 20 th century. This economic and political cleanup of the rentiers stemmed very largely from the ideological battle that occurred in England after the Napoleonic Wars were over in 1815. Ricardo, representing the banking class, argued against Reverend Malthus, the population theorist who also was a spokesman for the landlord class. Malthus urged agricultural protectionism for landlords, so that they would get more and more rent from their land as grain prices were kept high. Ricardo argued that high food prices to support rents for the agricultural landlords would mean high labor costs for industrial employers. And if you have high labor costs then England cannot be the industrial workshop of the world. In order for England to become the industrial supreme power, it needed to overcome the power of its landlord class. Instead of protecting it, England decided to protect its industrial capital by repealing its protectionist Corn Laws in 1846. (I describe its strategy in my history of theories of Trade, Development and Foreign Debt .)
At that time England's banking class was still a carryover from Europe's Medieval period. Christianity had banned the charging of interest, so banks were able to make their money by combining their loans with a foreign exchange charge, called agio. Banks even Ricardo's day in the early 19 th century made most of their money by financing foreign trade and charging foreign exchange fees. If your listeners they have ever tried to change money at the airport, they will know what a big rake-off the change booths take.
Later in the 19 th century, bankers began to shift their lending away from international trade financing to real estate as home ownership became democratized. Home owners became their own landlords – but on mortgage credit.
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Today we're no longer in the situation that existed in England 200 years ago. Almost two-thirds of the American families own their homes. In Scandinavia and much of Europe, 80% are homeowners. They don't pay rent to landlords. Instead, they pay their income as interest to the mortgage lenders. That's because hardly anyone has enough money to buy a few-hundred-thousand-dollar home with the cash in their pocket. They have to borrow the money. The income that used to be paid as rent to a landlord is now paid as interest to the mortgage banker. So you have a similar kind of exploitation today that you had two centuries ago, with the major difference that the banking and financial class has replaced the landlord class.
Already by the late-19 th century, socialists were advocating that money and credit don't have to take the form of gold and silver. Governments can create their own money. That's what the United States did in the Civil War with its greenbacks. It simply printed the money – and gave it value by making it acceptable for payment of taxes. In addition to the doctrine that land and basic infrastructure should be owned by the public sector – that is, by governments – banking was seen as a public utility. Credit was to be created for productive purposes, not for rent-extracting activities or financial speculation. Land would be fully taxed so that instead of labor or even most industry paying an income tax, rentiers would pay tax on wealth that took the form of rent-extracting privileges.
The aim of classical economics was to tax unearned income, not wages and profits. The tax burden was to fall on the landlord class first and foremost, then on monopolists and bankers. The result was to bea circular flow in which taxes would be paid mainly out of rent and other unearned income, and the government would spend this revenue on infrastructure, schools and other productive investment to help make the economy more competitive. Socialism was seen as a program to create a more efficient capitalist economy along these lines, until the word was hijacked by the Russian Revolution after World War I. The Soviet Union became a travesty of Marxism and the word socialism.
BONNIE FAULKNER: You write that: "Today's anti-classical vocabulary redefines free markets as ones that are free for rent extractors and that rent and interest reflect their recipients' contribution to wealth, not their privileges to extract economic rent from the economy." How do you differentiate between productive and extractive sectors, and how is it that the extractive sectors, essentially Finance, Insurance and Real Estate (FIRE), actually burden the economy?
MICHAEL HUDSON: If you're a real estate owner, you want lower property taxes so that as the economy grows and people are able to pay more rent, or when a land site in a neighborhood becomes more valuable because the government builds a new subway – like New York City's Second Avenue line – real estate prices rise to reflect the property's higher income that is not taxed.
New York landlords all along the subway line raised rents. That meant that their real estate had a "capital" gain reflecting the higher rent roll. Individual owners fortunate enough to own a condo or a townhouse near the stations became more wealthy – while new renters or buyers had to pay much more than before. None of this price rise created more living space or other output (although today's post-classical GDP figures pretend that it did!). It simply meant that instead of recapturing the $10 billion the government spent on this subway extension by taxing the increased land valuations all along the subway route, New York's income and real estate taxes have been raised for everybody, to pay interest on the bonds issued to finance the subway's construction. So the city's cost of living and doing business rises – while the Upper East Side landlords have received a free lunch.
Creating that kind of real estate "fictitious wealth" is a capitalization of unearned income – unearned because the Upper East Side landlords didn't do anything themselves to increase the value of their property. The City raised rental values by making the sites more desirable when it built the subway extension.
The same logic applies to insurance. When President Obama passed the basically Republican Obamacare law advocated by the pharmaceutical and health management sectors, the cost of medical care went way up in the United States. It was organized so as to be a giveaway to the healthcare and pharmaceutical monopolies.
None of this increased payment for medical care increases its quality. In fact, the more that's paid for medical care, the more the service declines, because it is paid to health insurance companies that try to legally fight against consumers. The effect is predatory, not productive.
Finally, you have the financial part of the FIRE sector. Finance has accounted for almost all of the growth in U.S. GDP in the ten years since the Lehman Brothers crisis and the Obama bailout in 2008. The biggest banks at that time were insolvent as a result of bad loans and outright financial fraud. But the government created $4.3 trillion of reserves to bail out Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Bank of America, with Goldman Sachs thrown in, despite the fact that their fraudulent junk mortgage loans were predatory, not productive credit that actually increased wealth in the form of productive power. There's a growing understanding that the financial sector has become so dysfunctional that it is a deadweight on the economy, burdening it with increasing debt charges –student loans are an example – instead of actually helping the economy grow.
BONNIE FAULKNER: So just to reiterate, what is the classical distinction between earned and unearned income?
MICHAEL HUDSON: This distinction is based on classical value and price theory. Price is what people have to pay. The margin of price over and above real cost value is called economic rent. A product's value is its actual, necessary costs of production: the cost of labor, raw materials and machinery, and other elements of what it costs to tangibly produce it. Rent and financial charges are the product of special privileges that have been privatized and now financialized.
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Classical value theory isolated this economic rent as unearned income. It was the aim of society either to prevent it from occurring in the first place, by anti-monopoly regulation or by public land ownership, or to tax it away in cases where you can't help it going up. For instance, it's natural for neighborhoods to become more valuable and high-priced over time as the economy gets richer. But it doesn't cost more to construct buildings there, and rents keep going up and up and up on buildings that were put up 100 years ago. This increased rent does not reflect any new cost of production. It's a free lunch.
Neoliberals, most notoriously the University of Chicago's Milton Friedman at, kept insisting that "There's no such thing as a free lunch." But that's exactly what most of the wealth and income of the richest 1% is. It's the result of running the economy primarily to siphon off a rentier free lunch. Of course, its recipients try to distract public attention from this face and tell national income and Gross Domestic Product statisticians to pretend that they actually earn their income wealth, not merely transfer income from the rest of the economy into their hands as creditors, monopolists and landlords. The leading Wall Street firm Goldman Sachs said so notoriously a few years ago that "Our partners are the most productive in the country because look at how much we're paid." But they don't really earn their wealth in the classical sense of earning by performing a productive economic service. The economy would get along much better without Goldman Sachs and indeed the banking and financial system or the health insurance system being run the way they are, and without real estate the being untaxed in the way that it is.
BONNIE FAULKNER: I noticed that you used the term "rent" for unearned income. Is rent the same as profit, or not?
MICHAEL HUDSON: It's not at all the same. Profit is earned by investing in a means of production to make useful goods and services. Classical economists viewed profit as an element of cost if you're going to have a privately owned economy – and most socialists have accepted private ownership, although in a system regulated so as to benefit society as a whole. If you make a profit by a productive act acting within this system, you've earned it by being productive.
Economic rent is different. It is not earned by actively building means of production, conducting research or development. It's passive income. When pharmaceutical companies earn rent, it's simply for charging much more for the drugs they sell than it actually costs to produce them. This is especially the case when the government has borne the research and development cost of the drugs and simply assigns the rent-yielding patent privilege to the pharmaceutical companies. So rent is something over and above the profit necessary to induce the activity that these companies actually perform. Profits are why investors produce more. Rent is not necessary. If you got rid of it, you wouldn't discourage production, because it's purely an overhead charge, whereas profits are a production charge in a capitalist economy.
BONNIE FAULKNER: Well, thank you for that distinction between rent and profit. That's a very important thing to understand.
MICHAEL HUDSON: I describe it more clearly in my book, which includes the appropriate classical quotations.
BONNIE FAULKNER: You point out that interest and rent are reported as "earnings," as if bankers and landlords produce gross domestic product (GDP) in the form of credit and ownership services. How do you think interest and rent should be reported?
MICHAEL HUDSON: They should be classified interest and rent. But the rentier classes have taken over the National Income and Product Accounts (NIPA) to depict their takings as actual production of a service, not as overhead or a transfer payment, that is, not as parasitic extraction of other peoples' earnings.
For instance, suppose you have a credit card and you miss a payment, or miss a payment on a student loan, electric bill or your rent. The credit card company will use this as an excuse to raise your interest charge from 11% to 29%. The national income account treat this rise to 29% as providing a "financial service." The so-called service is simply charging a penalty rate. The pretense is that everything that a bank charges – higher interest or penalties – is by definition providing a service, not simply extracting money from cardholders, transferring income from them to itself.
Classical economists would have subtracted this financial rake-off from output, counting it as overhead. After all, it simply adds to the cost of living and doing business. Instead, the most recent statisticians have added this financial income to the Gross National Product instead of subtracting it, as the classical economists would have done – or simply not counted it, as was the case a generation ago.
Most reporters and the financial press don't get into the nitty-gritty of these national accounts, so they don't realize how lobbyists have intervened in recent years to turn them into propaganda flattering bankers and property owners. Today's "reformed" GDP format pretends that the economy has been going up since 2008. A more realistic description would show that it is shrinking for 95 percent of the population, being eaten away by the wealthiest 5% extracting more rentier income and imposing austerity.
If you look at the national balance sheet of assets and liabilities, the economy is becoming more debt-ridden. As student debt and mortgage debt go up, and penalty fees, arrears and defaults are rising. The long rise in home ownership rates is being reversed, and rents are rising, while people also have to pay more for medical care and other basic needs. Academic economists depict this as "consumer choice" or "demand," as if it is all a voluntary choice of "the market." The GDP accounting format has been modified to make it appear that the economy is getting richer. This statistical sleight-of-hand is achieved by counting the takings of the rentier 1% as a product, not a cost borne by the economy at large. What really should be shown is a loss – land and monopoly rent, interest and penalties is in fact so large a "product" that the economy seems to be growing. But most of that growth is unreal.
BONNIE FAULKNER: How does government fiscal policy, taxation and expenditure influence the economy?
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MICHAEL HUDSON: That's what Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) is all about. When governments run a budget deficit, they pump money into the economy. For Keynesians the money goes into the real economy in ways that employ labor. For neoliberals, quantitative easing is spent directly into the financial sector, and is used to finance the purchase of real estate, stocks and bonds, supporting the valuation of wealth owned mainly by the One Percent. The effect is to make housing more expensive, and also the price of buying a retirement income. Having to take on larger mortgage debt to buy a house and spend less each month in order to save for one's pension is not really "wealth creation," unless your perspective is that of the One Percent increasing its power over the 99%.
At least the United States is able to run deficits and avoid the kind of unemployment and austerity that Europe is imposing on itself and especially on Greece and Italy. I think in one of our talks on this show explained the problem that Europe is suffering. Under the constitution of the Eurozone, its member countries are not allowed to run a budget deficit of more than 3%. Most actually aim at extracting a surplus from the economy (as distinct from producing a surplus for the economy). That means that the government doesn't spend money into the economy. People and businesses are obliged to get their money from the banks. That requires them to pay more interest. All Europe is on the road to looking like Greece– debt-strapped economies that are kept artificially alive by the government creating reserves to give to the banks and bail out bond markets, not spending into economies to help them recover.
The ability to create debt by writing a bank loan that creates a deposit is a legal privilege. There's no reason why governments cannot do this themselves. Instead of borrowing from private creditors to finance their budget deficits, governments can create their own money – without burdening budgets with interest charges. Credit creation has little cost of production, and therefore does not require interest charges to cover this cost. The interest is a form of monopoly rent to privatized privilege.
Classical economists saw the proper role of government as being to create social infrastructure and upgrade living standards and productivity for their labor force. Governments should build roads to minimize the cost of transportation, not private companies creating toll roads to maximize the cost by building in financial charges, real estate and management charges to what users have to pay. Government should be in charge of providing public health insurance, not private companies that charge extortionate prices and whatever the market will bear for their drugs. It's the government that should run prisons, not private companies that use prisoners as cheap labor to make a profit and advocate that more people get arrested so to make more of a profit from their incarceration.
The great question is, what is the government going to spend money on, and how can it spend money into the economy in a way that helps growth? Imagine if this trillion dollars a year that's spent on arms and military – in California and the districts of the key congressmen on the budget committee – were spent on building roads, schools, transportation and subsidizing medical care. The country could become a utopia. Instead, the rentier classes have hijacked the government, taking over its money creation and taxing power to spend on themselves, not to help the economy at large produce more or raise living standards. Special interests have captured the regulatory agencies to make them serve rent extractors, not protect the economy from them.
BONNIE FAULKNER: Interest is tax-deductible, whereas profit is taxable. Does the tax deductibility of interest have a major impact on the economy?
MICHAEL HUDSON: Yes, because tax deductibility encourages companies to raise money by going into debt. This tax deductibility of interest catalyzed the corporate raiding movement of the 1980s. It was based on debt leveraging.
Suppose a company makes $100 million a year in profit and pays this out to its stockholders as dividends. In the 1980s this profit was taxed at about 50%, so you could only pay $50 million to the stockholders. Then as today, they were the wealthiest layer of the population. Drexel Burnham and other Wall Street firms sought out corporate raiders as clients and offered to lend them enough money to buy companies out, by buying out their stockholders. Stocks were replaced by bonds. That enabled companies to pay out twice as much income as interest than they had been paying as dividends. When they bought out target companies with debt, a company could pay all $100 million of its income as interest instead of only $50 million as dividends on stock.
So the wealthiest classes in the United States and other countries decided that they could get more from own bonds than stocks anymore. Government revenue declined by the added amount paid to financial investors as a result of this tax subsidy for debt.
The advantage of issuing stocks is that when business conditions turn down and profits fall, companies can cut back their dividend. But if they have committed to pay this $100 million to bondholders, when their earnings go down they may face insolvency.
The result was a wave of bankruptcy since the 1980s as companies became more debt-pyramided. Also companies heads went to the labor unions and threatened to declare bankruptcy and wipe out their pension funds, if their leaders did not agree to change these funds and replace the guaranteed retirement pension that were promised for a defined contribution plan. All they know is what they have to pay in every month. Retirees will only get whatever is left when they reach pension age. The equity economy shift into a debt economy has enriched the wealthy financial class at the top, while hurting employees.
Most statistical trends turned around in 1980 for almost every country as this shift occurred. Indebting companies has made them more fragile and also higher-cost, because now they have to factor in the price of interest payments to the bondholders and corporate raiders who've taken them over.
BONNIE FAULKNER: Do you think that changes should be made to the tax deductibility of interest?
MICHAEL HUDSON: Sure. If interest were to be taxed, that would leave less incentive for companies to keep on adding debt. It would deter corporate raiding. It is a precondition for companies being run to minimize their cost of production and to serve their labor force and their customers more. For homebuyers, removing the tax-deductibility of interest would leave less "free" rent to be pledged to banks for mortgages, and hence would reduce the size of bank loans that bid up housing prices.
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I think that interest and rents should be taxed, not wages and legitimate profits. The FICA wage withholding now absorbs almost 16% of most wage-earning income for Social Security and Medicare. But wealthy people don't have to pay any contribution on what they make over than about $ $116,000 a year. They don't have to pay any FICA contribution on their capital gains, which is how most fortunes are made. The rentiers' idea of a free market is to make labor pay for all of the Social Security and Medicare – and then to give so much to Wall Street that they can say, "Oh, there's no more money. The system's short, so we have to wipe out Social Security," just as so many companies have wiped out the pension commitments. As George W. Bush said, tere's not really any money in the Social Security accounts. Its tax on the lower income brackets was all used to cut taxes on the higher income and wealth brackets. The economy has been turned into a grab bag for the rich.
BONNIE FAULKNER: What about monetary policy, interest rates and the money supply? Who controls monetary policy, and how does it affect the economy?
MICHAEL HUDSON: The biggest banks put their lobbyists in charge of the Federal Reserve, which was created in 1913 to take monetary policy out of the hands of the Treasury in Washington and put it in the hands of Wall Street. That made the Fed a lobbyist for its members, the commercial banking system. It's run to control the money supply – in practice, the debt supply – in a way that steers money into the banks. That's why not a single banker was jailed for committing the junk mortgage scams and other frauds that caused the crash. The Fed has turned the banking system into a predatory monopoly instead of the public service that it was once supposed to be.
Monetary policy is really debt policy, because money is debt on the liabilities side of the balance sheet. The question is, what kind of debt is the economy going to have, and what happens when it exceeds the ability to be paid? How is the government going to provide the economy with money, and what will it do to keep debts line with the ability to be paid? Will money and credit be provided to build more factories and product more output, to rebuild American manufacturing and infrastructure? Or, are you going to leave credit and debt creation to the banks, to make larger loans for people to buy homes at rising prices reflecting the increasingly highly leveraged and outright reckless credit creation?
Monetary policy is debt policy, and on balance most debts are owed by the bottom 90% to the wealthiest 10%. So monetary policy becomes an exercise in how the 10% can extract more and more interest, rent and capital gains from the economy – all the while making money by impoverishing the economy, not helping most people prosper.
BONNIE FAULKNER: The economy is always being planned by someone or some force, be it Wall Street, the government or whatever. It's not the result of natural law, as you point out in your book. It seems like a lot of people think that the economy should somehow run itself without interference. Could you explain how this is an absurd idea?
MICHAEL HUDSON: It's an example of rhetoric overcoming people's common sense. Every economy since the Stone Age has been planned. Even in the stone age people had to plan when to plant the crops, when to harvest them, how much seed you had to keep over for the next year. You had to operate on credit during the crop year to get beer and rent draft animals. Somebody's in charge of every economy.
So when people talk about an unplanned economy, they mean no government planning. They mean that planning should be taken out of the hands of government and put in the hands of the 1%. That is what they mean by a "free market." They pretend that if the 1% control the economy it's not really a planned economy anymore, because it's not planned by government, officials serving the public interest. It's planned by Wall Street. So the question is, really, who's going to plan the American economy? Is it going to be the government of elected officials, or is it going to be Wall Street? Wall Street will euphemize its central planning by saying this is a free market – meaning it's free of government regulation, especially over the financial sector and the mining companies and other monopolies that are its major clients.
BONNIE FAULKNER: You emphasize the difference between the study of 19 th -century classical political economy and modern-day economics. How and when and why did political economy become "economics"?
MICHAEL HUDSON: If you look at the books that almost everybody wrote in the 19 th century, they called it political economy because economics is political. And conversely, economics is what politics has always been about. Who's getting what? Or as Lenin said, who-whom? It's about how society makes decisions about who's going to get rich and how they are going to do it. Are they going to get wealthy by acting productively, or parasitically? Eeverything economic turns out to be political.
The economy's new central planners on Wall Street pretend that what they're doing is not political. Cutting taxes on themselves is depicted as a law of nature. But they deny that this is politics, as if there's nothing anyone can do about it. Margaret Thatcher's refrain was "There is no alternative" (TINA). That is the numbing political sedative injected into today's economic discussion.
The aim is to make people think that there is no alternative because if they're getting poorer, if they're losing their home by defaulting on a junk mortgage of if they have to pay so much on the student loan so that they can't afford to buy a home, or if they find that the only kind of job they can get driving an Uber car, it's all their fault. It's as if that's just nature, not the way the economy has been malstructured.
The role of neoliberalism is to make people think that they are powerless in the face of "the market," as if markets are not socially and politically structured. The 1% have hired lobbyists and subsidized business schools so as to shape markets in their own interest. Their aim is to control the economy and call it "nature." Their patter talk is that poverty is natural for short-sighted "deplorables," not the result of the predatory neoliberal takeover since 1980 and their capture of the Justice Department so that none of the bank fraudsters go to jail.
ORDER IT NOW
BONNIE FAULKNER: In your chapter on the letter M – of course, we have chapters from A to Z – in your chapter on M, you have an entry for Hyman Minsky, an economist who pioneered Modern Monetary Theory and explained the three stages of the financial cycle in terms of rising debt leveraging. What is debt leveraging, and how does it lead to a crisis?
MICHAEL HUDSON: Debt leveraging means buying an asset on credit. Lending for home ownership in the United States is the leading example. From the 1940s to the 1960s, if you took out a mortgage, the banker would look at your income and calculate that the mortgage on the house you buy shouldn't absorb more than 25% of your income. The idea was that this would leave enough income to pay the interest charge and amortize – that is, pay off – the mortgage 30 years later, near the end of your working life. Minsky called this first credit stage the hedge stage, meaning that banks had hedged their bets within limits that enabled the economy to carry and pay off its debts.
In the second credit stage, banks lent more and loosened their lending standards so that mortgages would absorb much more than 25% of the borrower's income. At a certain point, people could not afford to amortize, that is to pay off the mortgage. All they could do was to pay the interest charge. By the 1980s, the federal government was lending up to almost 40% of the borrower's income, writing mortgages without any amortization taking place. The mortgage payment simply carried the existing homeowner's debt. Banks in fact didn't want to ever be repaid. They wanted to go on collecting interest on as much debt as possible.
Finally, Minsky said, the Ponzi stage occurred when the homeowner didn't even have enough money to pay the interest charge, but had to borrow the interest. So this was how Third World countries had gotten through the 1970s and the early 1980s. The government of, let's say Mexico or Brazil or Argentina, would say, well, we don't have the dollars to pay the debt, and the banks would say, we'll just add the interest onto the debt. Same thing with a credit card or a mortgage. The mortgage homeowner would say, I don't have enough money to pay the mortgage, and the bank would say, well, just take out a larger mortgage; we'll just lend you the money to pay the interest.
That's the Ponzi stage and it was named after Carlo Ponzi and his Ponzi scheme – paying early buyers out of income paid into the scheme by new entrants. That's the stage that the economy entered around 2007-08. It became a search for the proverbial "greater fool" willing to borrow to buy overpriced real estate. That caused the crash, and we're still in the post-crash austerity interim (before yet a deeper debt writeoff or new bailout). The debts have been left in place, not written down. If you have a credit card and have to pay a monthly balance but lack enough to pay down your debt, your balance will keep going up every month, adding the interest charge onto the debt balance.
Any volume of debt tends to grow at compound interest. The result is an exponential growth that doubles the debt in little time. Any rate of interest is a doubling time. If debt keeps doubling and redoubling, it's carrying charges are going to crowd out the other expenses in your budget. You'll have to pay more money to the banks for student loans, credit card debts, auto loans and mortgage debt, leaving less to spend on goods and services. That's why the economy is shrinking right now. That's why people today aren't able to do what their parents were able to do 50 years ago – buy a home they can live in by paying a quarter of their income.
BONNIE FAULKNER: Dr. Michael Hudson, thank you so very much.
Dec 17, 2018 | profile.theguardian.com
-> AsDusty 23 Aug 2016 00:43Marx, Engels and Gramsci all died before the second world war began. I doubt they had much to say about what caused it.ShaunNewman -> Ohcolowisc , 23 Aug 2016 00:25
Regarding the posited failure of "neoliberalism", if you want to know what real failure of a political and economic system looks like, have a look at the consequences of Marxism for every country where it held sway in the 20th century.
A recession followed by a few years of sluggish growth is hardly catastrophicDemocratic socialism must take the place of this capitalist system where 50% of the global economy is owned by just 1% of the population, patently unfair for billions of people. To have 1% having more than they could possibly spend in a lifetime is ludicrous while we have others starving and millions of "people" living below the poverty line.ShaunNewman -> RobertKlahn , 23 Aug 2016 00:21RobertKlahn The capitalist (USA) system diverts huge amounts of money via corporations 50% of the global economy to just 1% of the global population, which is patently unfair. The 1% ownership grows every day because these 1% people have a mental illness called insatiable greed, where enough is never enough. Yes 'fair trade' would help, but what must be broken is the compliance of conservative governments around the world who fail to tax these corporations a 'fair share' of taxation to help "the people" to raise their living standards. We must adopt democratic socialism with million of USA citizens voted for with Bernie Sanders, and as is practiced in the Nordic countries, who tax corporations fairly and obtain a good standard of living for "their people."Matthew Kilburn , 23 Aug 2016 00:03What comes next? Hopefully some kind of neo-nationalistic Westernism in which the societies that, up until the turmoil of the 60s and 70s shaped the course of global affairs, rediscover their roots and identifies.ShaunNewman -> martinusher , 22 Aug 2016 23:58
If "neoliberalism" seems to be in retreat, perhaps the simplest explanation is that the cultures that gave rise to it - western, Christian, often English-speaking cultures - most certainly ARE in retreat.
How can we answer questions like "what is happening to us?" or "How should we react?" When we can't even identify the "us" or the "we"?We need government that will restrain capitalism and use the system for the benefit of "the people" not the corporations. Which in practice means "don't vote conservative."ShaunNewman -> martinusher , 22 Aug 2016 23:56martinusher Yes, the point is that unrestrained capitalism does wreck lives, but continues to feed the 1% with mare more than they could ever spend. This is precisely why we need a system of democratic socialism as practiced on the Nordic countries, where "the people" come first and the corporations run a distant second. However if the UK continues to elect conservative governments the reverse will always be the case, with "the people" running a distant second.ShaunNewman -> Roger Elliott , 22 Aug 2016 23:47Globalization, capitalist society in the 70s quickly became ownership of 50% (and continuing to grow) of the global economy by just 1% of the population. We need to change to democratic socialism as practiced by the Nordic countries.ShaunNewman -> CopBase , 22 Aug 2016 23:43The biggest economic problem is "corporate welfare" find out how much subsidy the UK government 'gives' to profitable corporations, the ordinary taxpayers loss.ShaunNewman -> tamborineman , 22 Aug 2016 23:31How we got here was via the capitalist system whereby 50% of the global economy is now owned bt just 1% of the global population. A collection of individuals who are filthy rich but who also have the mental illness of insatiable greed, and who won't be satisfied until they own 60% and so on. They avoid paying tax, and conservative governments help them by providing loop holes in taxation legislation so their corporations can avoid paying tax or pay up to 5% of their huge incomes in a token gesture. In Australia out of 1,500 corporations surveyed 579 have not paid a cent since at least 2013. The Australian people should be marching in the streets for a 'fair go' but the apathy prevents that. They probably won't get angry until such time as they realize that the 1% own 70% of the global economy and they are being squeezed even harder into 14 hour days without a break, only then will they crack, if at all.ciaofornow -> Citizen0 , 22 Aug 2016 22:58Quantitative easing first upped the stock market and therefore the retirement portfolios of the US middle class as well as the portfolios of the wealthy, and now the US economy is finally producing middle class jobs (recent report, NY Times) and not just the upper middle class.AsDusty -> msTOmsTO , 22 Aug 2016 22:41
QE is just the creation of trillions more in debt. Artificially raising asset prices is not a free market. A free market depends on people being able to pay the prices. But today in the UK, people require three loans to buy a house the price of which has been artificially raised by QE. That enriches the homeowner, the bank, and estate agent. but in equal measure, it impoverishes the house buyer.
the blowing up of asset prices will have to go on forever (still, not one penny of QE has been repaid), or the system will collapse. But that is impossible. It will destroy the value of money. See what happens to stock prices each time the US "threatens" to raise interest rates and stop QE programmes. And just check out personal debt levels in the UK and US. It is unsustainable.
The basic problem of neoliberalism is that it demands low pay as a competitive measure. But that means people have less money to spend in the consumer economy. So neoliberalism requires deregulated banking, pushing up asset prices, so people feel wealthy and take on more debt with which to compensate their low pay, and so they can shop. But that in turn leads to higher debts until the debts are not likely to be repaid. Banks collapse.
The bailouts and money printing has raised asset prices as you say. So now they are at record highs. And if the system demands they go higher while keeping down pay. Who the Fuck is going to pay?
The system is designed to collapse. It only exists today thanks to the creation of money that does not really exist. We may as well adopt grass as money as keep this system going.
The flipside of artificial growth in asset prices is the falling value of earnings.
in 1996, UK average pay equalled 30-35% of a typical house. Today, it is only 10% of a house, and in London, 7%. And for the system to function, that percentage must fall.No, quite a lot of people have been writing about it. Marx, Engels and Gramski all discussed the tendency of free market economics to lead to conflict. More recently you could look at the work of Galbraith, Sachs and Frank Stilwell, just off the top of my head.ciaofornow -> MurrayGSmith , 22 Aug 2016 22:35You failed to understand the article. It says the post war period (1945-70s) was the longest and most successful economic run, especially for working classes, in history.tamborineman , 22 Aug 2016 22:34
It is "neoliberalism" since the late 70s that led to the trebling of personal debts on stagnant wages, and finally the collapse of the banks. And ever since the whole economic show has only been kept alive with life-saving drugs (QE which is basically pretending there is a cash flow rather than reality of a solvency crisis, govt set zero interest rates, bailouts). But we have merely got stagnation.
And your last point is a straw man. Hardly anyone wants to replace this failing system with Stalinism.
We have had two contrasting economic systems in the West since the War. The one had far more regulation, and stronger wage growth for workers, the latter since 1979 has been neoliberalism.
The first collapsed in the stagnation of the 70s. The latter died in 2008, and has been kept going through state support and printing trillions more in debt. But the bailouts are failing. They are failing because it was never a cash flow crisis. It was a solvency crisis. Now the debts are even greater.Selective description posing as analysis and allowing the emotional triggers of a couple of key phrases to justify the selectiveness. It sounds magisterial but it ain't and, as others have pointed out, it gives us little on where do we go from here. This is precisely because he has really not told us what he thinks here is, how we got here, and why we got here.Ohcolowisc -> RobertKlahn , 22 Aug 2016 22:25The last thing a capitalist corporation wants is to compete (i.e. having actual competition). What they want is monopoly. That's why they "rig" the markets - among others by merging with and acquiring their competitors until they reach near monopoly in their industry (or industries).ciaofornow , 22 Aug 2016 22:20
That's the essence of the statement that "there never have been free markets, only rigged markets". And there never will be. "Free markets" are transient phenomena that exist only for relatively short time periods during which the leading players do the rigging. The only factor that could keep free markets "free" is government - and that's why it is hated so much by corporations and is rendered practically toothless in the US. It limits their ability to rig and to loot.
The only form the phrase "free markets" exist for prolonged periods of time is when it is used as a propaganda slogan by neoliberal ideologues (even though it is the exact opposite of what really happens).And why has it taken so long for such an article to be published? Many of the points in this article should have been apparent to intelligent commentators right after the 2008 crisis.AsDusty -> candeesays , 22 Aug 2016 22:16
Why has it taken so long for political fallout?
The major reason is cited: Parties such as New Labour, supposedly of the Left that continued to support this failing system. Gordon Brown bailed out the banks, claimed to save the world, and then let it all go on as before. A Disgrace of a leader that history will condemn as a fool. And how many commentators of the time lauded him for it? Far too many. And many of them still in the jobs. Jesus Wept!
What the writer understands and too many are in denial about is this. New Labour is dead. It died in 2007-8 with the collapse of the banks.
Then the amazing coincidence that the third party (the Lib Dems) was taken over by the neoliberals just before the Financial Crisis brought the neoliberal age to an end, and which went onto support the True Neoliberal party (the Tories). In the US, a man who ran on a candidacy of Change only for the world to find out it was bluster and rhetoric! Obama will not go down as a Great President at all. He tried to bail out a failing system. He will be a footnote in history.
Then those bloody bailouts. They not only bailed out the bankers and the rich. They bailed out millions of largely older voters, artificially pumping up house prices. The old vote. And they voted to back this grand theft against Reason, and the younger generations. The result of the bailouts will be a far greater Financial Crisis than 2008. The disconnect between people's debts and wages is worse today than in 2006. That can mean only one thing. Collapse is coming. And now the debts are even bigger. Bailouts are wrong, have failed, and will not be politically acceptable again.
Conservative parties will be repositories for those afraid of change, and those happy to be bailed out until the crisis explodes again. On the change side, if we do not have Left Populism, we will get nationalism.In terms of stronger border controls there is no doubt this is happening. The US, Europe and here in Australia the governments grip on border entries has only got tighter. As for international labour migration, Trump, Brexit and the European refugee crisis will see increasing pressure on lowering the numbers of migrant workers.CivilityPlease -> MurrayGSmith , 22 Aug 2016 22:07
Increasing labour migration has been a ploy by government to try and make globalisation work, as globalisation requires the free flow of labour across international borders. The political pressure to reduce migrant numbers will be too much to resist, and greater controls will be put in place.This is not a choice between A or B. Stop fighting yesterday's battles. Its over, just as the article declares. What is developing as we speak will steer tomorrow's civilization and it will be neither of the old paradigms. We have to come to a consensus about where we want to go. What principles do we have faith in to inform our assessments of what we keep or alter? What roles will we play? What will our purpose(s) be? That is the business we need to be about to arrive at an orderly, deliberate future, prepared for a long journey to a better world. Or we push and pull in all different directions and go round and round the same old ground making the same old mistakes until the world moves on and leaves us behind. We will need to work together or fail each alone. Are you ready?candeesays -> MurrayGSmith , 22 Aug 2016 22:02It is theory without politics or economics.
The period from GATT was predicated on strong welfare states and national industries trading. Not privatising societies and globalising capital.
Dec 16, 2018 | www.amazon.com
Neoliberal economic policies, with their emphasis on market-led development and individual rationality, have been exposed as bankrupt not only by the global economic crisis but also by increasing social opposition and resistance. Social movements and critical scholars in Latin America, East Asia, Europe and the United States, alongside the Arab uprisings, have triggered renewed debate on possible different futures. While for some years any discussion of substantive alternatives has been marginalized, the global crisis since 2008 has opened up new spaces to debate, and indeed to radically rethink, the meaning of development. Debates on developmental change are no longer tethered to the pole of 'reform and reproduce': a new pole of 'critique and strategy beyond' neoliberal capitalism has emerged.
Despite being forcefully challenged, neoliberalism has proven remarkably resilient. In the first years since the crisis erupted, the bulk of the alternative literature pointed to continued growth in the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and in other big emerging market countries to affirm the necessary role for the state in sustaining capitalist development. New developmental economists have consequently reasserted themselves. Their proposals converged into a broader demand for global Keynesianism (Patomaki, 2012) -- a demand that is proving to be less and less realistic in the face of a deepening global economic crisis.
Interpreting and Resisting Neoliberalism
Neoliberalism is a historical phenomenon. In the early 1970s firms began to feel acutely the impact of falling profitability. Many managers and owners believed the mounting power of organized labor was responsible. Indeed, this emerging structural crisis of capitalism was amplified by increasing labor militancy and social opposition, and by the rising challenge of socialism and nationalism from the Global South - the greatest wave of decolonization in world history (Arrighi, 2007: 136). The power of the United States reached its nadir with its defeat in Vietnam (1975), with the Iranian Revolution in the late 1970s, and with the spread of revolutionary struggles, notably in Latin America. It is against this backdrop that the rise of neoliberalism becomes understandable.
Neoliberalism's set of pro-market and anti-labor policies were first implemented by the brutal US-backed Pinochet dictatorship in Chile (1973). The monetarist economic principles of the infamous 'Chicago Boys' guided the process. At this time, however, many other governments in the South resisted initial demands by the Northern-dominated international financial institutions (IFIs), notably the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), to implement rapid 'shock therapy' structural adjustment programmes.
The 1979 to 1982 Volcker Shock changed matters dramatically. Paul Volcker, then head of the US Federal Reserve, allowed US interest rates to skyrocket from around 5 per cent to over 20 per cent, ostensibly to halt persistent inflation and to shock the US economy out of stagnation. This move sparked a global rise in interest rates and a wave of profound economic crises in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Soviet bloc. Governments in these countries lost the ability to service their debts because of the dramatic falls in the prices received for and the quantity of their primary goods exported. This triggered the 1980s debt crisis, which opened an opportunity for governments North and South to press more systematically for neoliberal transformation.
Instead of mobilizing workers and peasants against this new form of economic imperialism, governments in the South began to reorient their economies toward intensified export production in order to earn the foreign currency needed to repay their loans. With the fall of the Soviet Union, neoliberal shock therapy was also extended to Russia and other Eastern European countries. In the former Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan, Western governments mobilized their military power to facilitate the entrenchment of neoliberal policies at a terrible human cost.
Neoliberalism has entailed processes of contested socio-economic transformation. Amidst great popular resistance and economic instability, post-war state-led strategies of development gave way to market-oriented neoliberal ones, or the so-called 'Washington consensus'. The economist John Williamson identified ten policies characteristic of the consensus: fiscal discipline, reduction in public expenditure, tax reform, financial liberalization, market-determined exchange rates, trade liberalization, an open door to foreign direct investment, privatization of public service and state-owned enterprises, deregulation, and secure property rights. These policies have led to higher unemployment, worsening social inequalities, widespread impoverishment, peasant land dispossessions, unsustainable urbanization and increased worker exploitation.
Contributors to this book describe many of the specific developmental transformations in the Global South, and how neoliberal processes have led to an expansion of the global reserve army of workers and accelerated international migration. At the same time, financial and trade deregulation have enhanced the power of finance capital and multinational corporations, which they have used to pursue the outsourcing and offshoring of many industrial and service activities. This globalization of production has brought with it intensified processes of ecological destruction.
Women and the poor are the most negatively impacted by the neoliberal privatization of public services. As women increasingly enter into the workforce, the privatization of public services magnifies their 'double burden'. Such transformations have been global, having negative impacts on workers in the South and, increasingly, in the North.
The neoliberal policies shaping these transformative processes are derived from neoclassical economic theory. Neoclassical theory obscures and naturalizes the exploitative foundations of capitalism because it reduces labor to just another factor of production, not unlike other 'technical inputs' like land and capital. The social reproduction of workers is further assumed to be a private, genderless process restricted to the household, when it is in fact vital to overall capital accumulation processes. In not dissimilar ways, neoclassical economics tends to treat the environment as an externality. Further embedded in this kind of approach is a tendency towards methodological nationalism. Certain models presuppose that capital and labor do not move internationally and that international trade represents merely exchange of commodities between national units. It follows, in theory, that by promoting domestic specialization according to a given country's comparative advantage, free trade would spontaneously stabilize participating 'national' economies at an equilibrium level, maintaining employment and growth in all of them.
With its emphasis on liberal, market-based notions of individual equality and freedom, neoclassical economics conceals underlying social polarizations and exploitative relationships characteristic of capitalism. In reality, neoliberal transformation favors the interests of the strongest capitals internationally (see Shaikh, 2005). Despite the proclaimed spontaneity of the market, moreover, neoliberalism does not lead to a retreat of the state. Rather, neoliberalism is marked by the class-based restructuring of the state apparatus in ways that have responded to the evolving needs of capital accumulation (for example, around new financial imperatives). What is more, as today's capitalism is dominated by Northern powerhouses like the United States and Western European countries, the extension of capitalist relations globally embodies these imperialist powers' aspirations to retain supremacy in the hierarchy of states.
Neoliberalism, in fact, has always occurred through and within states, never in the absence of states. Actually existing neoliberal transformations are mediated by the hierarchical position of a given state within the world market and by specific social struggles. Consequently, neoliberal transition in the United States is not the same as neoliberalism transition in India or Iraq, and each entails specific national, class, racial and gendered dimensions. Yet contributors to this book recognize that neoliberalism is a class-based political and economic project, defined by the attack of capital and neoliberal state authorities on the collective capacity of organized labor, the peasantry and popular classes to resist the subordination of all social, political, economic and ecological processes to accumulation imperatives. The subsequent consolidation of neoliberalism globally has thus been to the benefit of global capital, and has come at the expense of workers, women and the poor. Relations of imperialist domination, environmental exploitation, racial and gender oppression are constitutive dimensions of this class struggle.
Neoliberal consolidations nonetheless generate new social resistances. Many contributors to this book identify continuing processes involving the decomposition of working classes and the formation of important social movements. With the 1999 demonstrations in Seattle, these struggles assumed an inter-American character. Various indigenous groups, trade unionists, faith-based and women's organizations marched alongside environmentalists and farmers in a collective bid to shut down the World Trade Organization (WTO) talks (Burbach, Fox and Fuentes, 2013: 2). In the new millennium, the 'alter-globalisation' movement has attained a truly global scale. Yet the movement has not been without problems. Notably, the activists and organizations have failed to produce precise sets of collective demands or a coherent international political programme. Pre-existing antagonisms among workers and peoples across lines of national and social oppression were not overcome. The movement, as a result, failed to articulate collective resistance across national, regional and international levels (Prashad, 2013: 235). After the huge demonstrations against the war on Iraq (2003), it gradually faded away.
Still, resistances to neoliberalism grew thereafter, especially in the Global South. In some cases these made significant advances. For example, while the United States and other Western states were bogged down with military aggressions in the Middle East, US control over Latin America eased. Social mobilizations there enjoyed new spaces for action, which helped give rise to a variety of progressive governments less subservient to imperialist interests and the competitive imperatives of neoliberal development. In this book, Abelardo Marifta-Flores suggests that progressive income redistribution and the reinforcement of regional integration processes are among the most significant achievements. Susan Spronk and Sarah Miraglia highlight the progressive, albeit imperfect, gendered dimensions of the Bolivarian transformative movement in Venezuela. Neoliberal transformations also create new socio-economic conditions that may undermine US and Western hegemony. As several authors attest, for example, the relocation of industrial production towards East Asia has generated new centers of accumulation. Consequently, Western imperial powers now face a major challenge with the rise of China and India. So too have other big emerging capitalisms, like Brazil, Russia, South Africa, Indonesia and the Gulf States, become ever more important centers of accumulation. This has lent support to arguments suggesting global hegemony has started to shift from the West to the East.
To be sure, these emerging capitalisms, China in particular, offer alternative sources of foreign direct investment, international aid, developmental loans and technological know-how to countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Leaders of the BRICS have, for example, called for a 'multipolar' reform of the financial system and of the IFIs, which includes the establishment of a new multilateral Development Bank, the 'BRICS Bank'. Yet the extent to which these changes offer an alternative at all has everything to do with the extent to which South -- South relations and flows of know-how do not serve to extend and reproduce exploitative class relations of domination, even be they under novel forms of sub/ Southern imperialism. This remains to be seen, and indeed the global crisis is affecting the terms of this debate.
The Global Crisis and the Resilience of Neoliberalism
The global crisis that emerged in the United States in 2007 was rooted in the preceding decades of neoliberal restructuring. Its immediate trigger, however, was the subprime mortgage lending debacle. The US subprime crisis then took a global turn in late September 2008 with the collapse of the US investment bank Lehman Brothers. As investors scrambled to preserve their wealth and dump any toxic assets they had bought into, otherwise liquid US credit markets seized up, bringing the global financial system to the edge of ruin. Only massive and sustained state intervention prevented the system's implosion. Many Western governments rolled out financial Keynesianism. This entailed nationalizing failed private banks and industries and adding trillions of dollars to the public debt. The governments thus staved off global economic collapse but only by incurring massive increases in new public debts. This gave rise to the sovereign debt crises in the 'peripheral' EU countries. A number of developing countries also incurred new public debts as governments rolled out economic stimulus packages to help sustain domestic investment, maintain employment and buttress internal demand.
On the one hand, the privileges and powers gained by global capital under neoliberal transformation remain largely intact. Indeed, imperialist governments have done everything in their power to reinforce the current system. Such is the aim of the quantitative easing and zero interest rate policies being pursued by the US Federal Reserve, the Banks of England and Japan, and increasingly the European Central Bank. These actions are intended to prop up the financial markets, support the prices of financial assets and make these countries' exports more competitive. Throughout it all neoliberal technocrats remain unwavering in their ideological commitments to market-oriented development. For example, the World Bank's Global Financial Development Report 2013 attempts to reframe the global crisis not as a fundamental problem of 'market failure' and capitalism, but instead as essentially about 'state failure' and flawed human nature. The solution? More of the same neoliberal policies implemented since the 1980s, but now guided and sustained by a more robust state apparatus that ensures better market discipline...
Nov 27, 2018 | discussion.theguardian.com
Themiddlegound -> Themiddlegound , 11 Jun 2013 05:42The American Chamber of Commerce subsequently expanded its base from around 60,000 firms in 1972 to over a quarter of a million ten years later. Jointly with the National Association of Manufacturers (which moved to Washington in 1972) it amassed an immense campaign chest to lobby Congress and engage in research. The Business Roundtable, an organization of CEOs 'committed to the aggressive pursuit of political power for the corporation', was founded in 1972 and thereafter became the centrepiece of collective pro-business action.
The corporations involved accounted for 'about one half of the GNP of the United States' during the 1970s, and they spent close to $900 million annually (a huge amount at that time) on political matters. Think-tanks, such as the Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institute, the Center for the Study of American Business, and the American Enterprise Institute, were formed with corporate backing both to polemicize and, when necessary, as in the case of the National Bureau of Economic Research, to construct serious technical and empirical studies and political-philosophical arguments broadly in support of neoliberal policies.
Nearly half the financing for the highly respected NBER came from the leading companies in the Fortune 500 list. Closely integrated with the academic community, the NBER was to have a very significant impact on thinking in the economics departments and business schools of the major research universities. With abundant finance furnished by wealthy individuals (such as the brewer Joseph Coors, who later became a member of Reagan's 'kitchen cabinet') and their foundations (for example Olin, Scaife, Smith Richardson, Pew Charitable Trust), a ﬂood of tracts and books, with Nozick's Anarchy State and Utopia perhaps the most widely read and appreciated, emerged espousing neoliberal values. A TV version of Milton Friedman's Free to Choose was funded with a grant from Scaife in 1977. 'Business was', Blyth concludes, 'learning to spend as a class.
In singling out the universities for particular attention, Powell pointed up an opportunity as well as an issue, for these were indeed centers of anti-corporate and anti-state sentiment (the students at Santa Barbara had burned down the Bank of America building there and ceremonially buried a car in the sands). But many students were (and still are) affluent and privileged, or at least middle class, and in the US the values of individual freedom have long been celebrated (in music and popular culture) as primary. Neoliberal themes could here find fertile ground for propagation. Powell did not argue for extending state power. But business should 'assiduously cultivate' the state and when necessary use it 'aggressively and with determination'
In order to realize this goal, businesses needed a political class instrument and a popular base. They therefore actively sought to capture the Republican Party as their own instrument. The formation of powerful political action committees to procure, as the old adage had it, 'the best government that money could buy' was an important step. The supposedly 'progressive' campaign finance laws of 1971 in effect legalized the financial corruption of politics.
A crucial set of Supreme Court decisions began in 1976 when it was first established that the right of a corporation to make unlimited money contributions to political parties and political action committees was protected under the First Amendment guaranteeing the rights of individuals (in this instance corporations) to freedom of speech.15 Political action committees could thereafter ensure the financial domination of both political parties by corporate, moneyed, and professional association interests. Corporate PACs, which numbered eighty-nine in 1974, had burgeoned to 1,467 by 1982.
The Republican Party needed, however, a solid electoral base if it was to colonize power effectively. It was around this time that Republicans sought an alliance with the Christian right. The latter had not been politically active in the past, but the foundation of Jerry Falwell's 'moral majority' as a political movement in 1978 changed all of that. The Republican Party now had its Christian base.
It also appealed to the cultural nationalism of the white working classes and their besieged sense of moral righteousness. This political base could be mobilized through the positives of religion and cultural nationalism and negatively through coded, if not blatant, racism, homophobia, and anti feminism.
The alliance between big business and conservative Christians backed by the neoconservatives consolidated, not for the first time has a social group been persuaded to vote against its material, economic, and class interests the evangelical Christians eagerly embraced the alliance with big business and the Republican Party as a means to further promote their evangelical and moral agenda.
Themiddlegound -> Themiddlegound , 11 Jun 2013 05:23Any political movement that holds individual freedoms to be sacrosanct is vulnerable to incorporation into the neoliberal fold.
The worldwide political upheavals of 1968, for example, were strongly inﬂected with the desire for greater personal freedoms. This was certainly true for students, such as those animated by the Berkeley 'free speech' movement of the 1960s or who took to the streets in Paris, Berlin, and Bangkok and were so mercilessly shot down in Mexico City shortly before the 1968 Olympic Games. They demanded freedom from parental, educational, corporate, bureaucratic, and state constraints. But the '68 movement also had social justice as a primary political objective.
Neoliberal rhetoric, with its foundational emphasis upon individual freedoms, has the power to split off libertarianism, identity politics, multiculturalism, and eventually narcissistic consumerism from the social forces ranged in pursuit of social justice through the conquest of state power. It has long proved extremely difficult within the US left, for example, to forge the collective discipline required for political action to achieve social justice without offending the the Construction of Consent desire of political actors for individual freedom and for full recognition and expression of particular identities. Neoliberalism did not create these distinctions, but it could easily exploit, if not foment, them.
In the early 1970s those seeking individual freedoms and social justice could make common cause in the face of what many saw as a common enemy. Powerful corporations in alliance with an interventionist state were seen to be running the world in individually oppressive and socially unjust ways. The Vietnam War was the most obvious catalyst for discontent, but the destructive activities of corporations and the state in relation to the environment, the push towards mindless consumerism, the failure to address social issues and respond adequately to diversity, as well as intense restrictions on individual possibilities and personal behaviors by state-mandated and 'traditional' controls were also widely resented. Civil rights were an issue, and questions of sexuality and of reproductive rights were very much in play.
For almost everyone involved in the movement of '68, the intrusive state was the enemy and it had to be reformed. And on that, the neoliberals could easily agree. But capitalist corporations, business, and the market system were also seen as primary enemies requiring redress if not revolutionary transformation: hence the threat to capitalist class power.
By capturing ideals of individual freedom and turning them against the interventionist and regulatory practices of the state, capitalist class interests could hope to protect and even restore their position. Neoliberalism was well suited to this ideological task. But it had to be backed up by a practical strategy that emphasized the liberty of consumer choice, not only with respect to particular products but also with respect to lifestyles, modes of expression, and a wide range of cultural practices. Neoliberalization required both politically and economically the construction of a neoliberal market-based populist culture of differentiated consumerism and individual libertarianism. As such it proved more than a little compatible with that cultural impulse called 'postmodernism' which had long been lurking in the wings but could now emerge full-blown as both a cultural and an intellectual dominant. This was the challenge that corporations and class elites set out to finesse in the 1980s.
In the US case a confidential memo sent by Lewis Powell to the US Chamber of Commerce in August 1971. Powell, about to be elevated to the Supreme Court by Richard Nixon, argued that criticism of and opposition to the US free enterprise system had gone too far and that 'the time had come––indeed it is long overdue––for the wisdom, ingenuity and resources of American business to be marshaled against those who would destroy it'.
Powell argued that individual action was insufficient. 'Strength', he wrote, 'lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations'. The National Chamber of Commerce, he argued, should lead an assault upon the major institutions––universities, schools, the media, publishing, the courts––in order to change how individuals think 'about the corporation, the law, culture, and the individual'. US businesses did not lack resources for such an effort, particularly when they pooled their resources together.
Dec 13, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Why is it so difficult even for huge countries with large, diversified economies to maintain independence from the West?
If anyone could have done it, it was Brazil. In the 19th century it was imagined that Brazil could be a Colossus of the South to match the U.S., the Colossus of the North. It never panned out that way.
And 100 years later, it still hasn't happened. With a $2 trillion GDP (a respectable $9,800 per capita), nearly 200 million people, and a strong manufacturing base (the second largest in the Americas and 28.5 percent of its GDP), Brazil is far from a tiny, weak island or peninsula dependent on a patron state to keep it afloat.
When Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva won a historic election to become president of Brazil in 2003, it seemed like an irreversible change in the country's politics. Even though Lula's Workers' Party was accused of being communists who wanted to redistribute all of the country's concentrated wealth, the party's redistributive politics were in fact modest -- a program to eradicate hunger in Brazil called Zero Hunger, a family-based welfare program called the Family Allowance, and an infrastructure spending program to try to create jobs. But its politics of national sovereignty were ambitious.
It was under Workers' Party rule (under Lula and his successor, president Dilma Rousseff, who won the 2010 election to become president at the beginning of 2011) that the idea surged of a powerful BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) alliance that could challenge the ambitions of the U.S.-led West. Brazil took steps to strengthen its manufacturing, and held its ground on preventing pharmaceutical patent monopolies. Lula's Brazil accused Western countries of hypocrisy for insisting both on "free trade" with poor countries and farm subsidies for themselves. Brazil even moved in the direction of building an independent arms industry.
Contradictions remained: The Workers' Party government sent Brazilian troops to command the UN force that enacted the U.S.-impelled occupation of Haiti -- treating the world to the spectacle of the biggest, wealthiest country in the region helping the U.S. destroy the sovereignty of the poorest as part of its foreign policy. But in those years Brazil refused to renounce its alliance with Venezuela's even more independent-minded government under Hugo Chavez; it defended ideas of South-South cooperation, especially within Latin America, and it made space for movements like the Landless Peasants' Movement (MST).
But after more than a decade of Workers' Party rule, what happened? President Rousseff was overthrown in a coup in 2016. When polls showed that Lula would have won the post-coup election, he was imprisoned to prevent him from running. And so with the Workers' Party neutralized, Brazil elected Jair Bolsonaro, a man who famously saluted the American flag and chanted "USA" while on campaign (imagine an American leader saluting the Brazilian flag during a presidential campaign). No doubt the coup and the imprisonment of Lula were the key to Bolsonaro's rise, and failings like supporting the coup in Haiti played a role in weakening the pro-independence coalition.
But what about the economy? Or Brazil's leaders now dragging the economy into the U.S. fold? Or did the Brazilian economy drag the country back into the fold?
Brazil's economic history and geography have made independence a challenge. Colonial-era elites were interested in using slave labor to produce sugar and export as much of it as possible: The infrastructure of the country was built for commodity extraction. Internal connections, including roads between Brazil's major cities, have been built only slowly and recently. The various schemes of the left-wing governments of the last decade for South-South economic integration were attempting to turn this huge ship around (not for the first time -- there have been previous attempts and previous U.S.-backed coups in Brazil), and to develop the internal market and nurture domestic industries (and those of Brazil's Latin neighbors).
Yesterday's dependent economy was based on sugar export -- today's is based on mining extraction. When Bolsonaro was elected, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation quickly posted a story speculating on how the new government would be good for Canadian mining companies. The new Brazilian president plans to cut down huge swaths of the Amazon rainforest. Brazil is to return to its traditional role of providing natural resources to the U.S. and to the other rich countries.
A smaller country with a stronger pro-independence leadership, Venezuela faced similar structural economic problems that have imperiled and nearly derailed the independent-minded late president Hugo Chavez's dream that Venezuelans would learn to eat arepas instead of hamburgers and play with Simon Bolivar dolls instead of Superman ones. There, too, the pro-independence project had a long-term goal of overcoming the country's dependence on a single finite commodity (oil), diversifying its agricultural base and internal markets. And there, too, the challenge of doing so proved too great for the moment, especially in the face of an elite at least as ruthless as Brazil's and nearly two decades of vindictive, pro regime-change U.S. policy. Today Venezuela's "Bolivarian project" is in crisis, along with its economy and political system.
There are other sleeping giants that remain asleep, perhaps for economic reasons. In the face of relentless insults by Trump, the Mexican electorate chose a left-wing government (Mexicans have elected left-wing governments many times in the past few decades, but elections have been stolen). But locked into NAFTA, dependent on the U.S. market, Mexico also would seem to have little option but to swallow Trump's malevolence.
Egypt is the Brazil of the Middle East. With 100 million people and a GDP of $1.4 trillion, the country that was for a few thousand years the center of civilization attempted in the 20th century to claim what is arguably its rightful place at the center of the Arab world. But today, this giant and former leader of the nonaligned movement is helping Israel and the U.S. starve and besiege the Palestinians in Gaza and helping Saudi Arabia and the U.S. starve and blockade the people of Yemen.
Egypt stopped challenging the U.S. in the 1970s after a peace deal brought it into the fold for good. Exhaustion from two wars with Israel were cited as the main cause -- though a proxy war with Saudi Arabia in Yemen and several domestic factors also played a role. But here, too, is there a hidden economic story?
Egypt has oil, but its production is small -- on the order of 650,000 barrels a day compared to Saudi Arabia's 10 million barrels, or the UAE's 2.9 million. It has a big tourist industry that brings in important foreign exchange. But for those who might dream of an independent Egypt, the country's biggest problem is its agricultural sector: It produces millions of tons of wheat and corn, but less than half of what it needs. As told in the classic book Merchants of Grain , the politics of U.S. grain companies have quietly helped feed its power politics all over the world. Most of Egypt's imported grain comes from the U.S. As climate change and desertification wreak havoc on the dry agricultural ecosystems of the planet, Egypt's grain dependence is likely to get worse.
The structures of the global economy present challenges to any country or political party that wants to try to break out of U.S. hegemony. Even for countries as big and with as much potential as Brazil or Egypt, countries that have experienced waves of relative independence, the inertia of these economic structures helps send them back into old patterns of extraction and debt. In this moment of right-wing resurgence it is hard to imagine political movements arising with plans to push off the weight of the economic past. But that weight cannot be ignored.
Justin Podur, a Toronto-based writer who teaches at York University in the Faculty of Environmental Studies. His site is podur.org . Follow him on Twitter: @justinpodur . Produced by by Globetrotter , a project of the Independent Media Institute.
TG , December 13, 2018 at 10:03 am
So Egypt has a massive and rapidly growing population, but relatively little arable land, and so is dependent on food imports.
Duh. Perhaps the problem is not Western grain merchants. Perhaps the problem is when a country that could comfortably feed 20 million people boosts its population to 100 million and beyond, that more people do NOT automatically create more wealth. I mean, that is an established fact: more Egyptians are certainly creating more demand for food, but they are not automatically and without delay creating more fresh water, or new industries, etc.
Wukchumni , December 13, 2018 at 10:05 am
I'd always wondered why in the aftermath of WW2, when most of the developed world was in tatters, why South America didn't arise to become more than the continual basket case of a place that it is? Every country there has had hyperinflation (Brazil had a decade long+ stretch of it) episodes-post WW2, but surprisingly none before the war
PlutoniumKun , December 13, 2018 at 10:43 am
I think the answer for South America is structural to its politics and society. Both were settled by Europeans from feudal societies and incorporated all the worst aspects of a decaying Spain and Portugal into their systems. They are not just dependent on resource extraction, they are dominated by elites who's sole source of power is that resource extraction. In Classical economics terms, they are dominated by rentiers, not industrial capitalists. In modern development economics, you would say their structural issues prevent them escaping the middle income trap. When you look at reactionary movements in Brazil or Argentina, its usually big ranchers and mining interests who are behind them. The urban middle classes are usually not strong enough to form a buffer – as historically has happened in Europe and the US and most other countries that have achieved high development status.
Some might argue that a major contributor to the problem is simple geography. South American has a largely impenetrable interior, encouraging an urban and infrastructural system based on connecting agricultural and mining areas to big coastal cities, who's wealth is then dependent on trading those goods across the ocean. When you compare North American or Europe or even China to South America, you can see the former countries have dense internal networks of rail/road and many similar sized cities. South American has a few mega cities and very undeveloped internal networks. Of course, there is a chicken and egg argument here – did geography lead to a rentier dominated society, or did a rentier society result in an undeveloped urban structure and infrastructure?
Pym of Nantucket , December 13, 2018 at 10:12 am
Good start but article doesn't really give explicit answer to its rhetorical question. I'm guessing the short answer is credit. The amazing genius of the US reserve currency policies have given them such massive leverage over the world, it is nearly impossible to recreate elsewhere. This is why China is trying to get loans flowing from their belt/road relationships.
Without the ability to simply declare into existence wealth, the US would have to compete fairly for their global relationships. What is amazing about this system, is that the right to owe money to the US is something countries will beg for, because there is no alternate trust system that could be used to stimulate economic activity.
The global economy is truly in an unusual situation and the completely financialized creation of credit is less than 50 years old as a human experiment. (before it was linked to precious metals, and I think returning to that would squash liquidity).
I think in the future a different currency will be needed that is anchored to energy in a more direct way than the petrodollar. I think we should trade in kWh.
PlutoniumKun , December 13, 2018 at 10:53 am
It might be also worth focusing on those countries which have succeeded in keeping some independence, whether small or large. Bhutan is an example of a very small country which has to some extent succeeded in keeping western and other foreign interests at arms length. Of course, its protected from western domination by being landlocked by two regional superpowers. But it has resisted the temptation to play off one against the other. The price has been relative poverty, although its proud of having a very happy (by their own measure) populace. It has though accepted its military dependence on India, in effect ceding its military independence to that country (as was proven in the recent Chinese incursion, the Bhutanese depended on the Indian military to chase the Chinese off).
Plenty of countries have tried some level of autarky. Ireland tried it after independence – both military neutrality and economic independence. The latter was a disaster, it proved completely impractical and left the country entirely impoverished by the 1950's. Larger states including of course Russia, India and China have had their experiments.
Russia at the moment seems the most successful, something nobody I think would have predicted 10 years ago.
India has been largely proud to be apart for decades, but seems determined under Modi to abandon that. In South America, Uruguay is arguably the most successful example of a country that has kept to some degree its own independence. Costa Rica has been successful too, although you can't really say its kept US influence at bay.
In Africa, Botswana is a country which has had some degree of success. In Asia, Laos has tried to keep all influences out, but its pretty much being swallowed up by the Chinese now. This, of course leads us to the other conclusion – if you are small, and you resist Western influence, you may just end up getting swallowed up by another imperial power, be it the Saudi's (Yemen) or Laos/Tibet/Myanmar (China), etc.
Watt4Bob , December 13, 2018 at 10:57 am
The New World Order (GHW Bush) has only a couple of rules, and one is you will do 'business' only with the western finance Borg.
And what they mostly mean by 'business' , is everything you do should be financed by the Borg, the Borg gets a cut of everything you do, or you don't get to do it.
It's not only bad for other countries, it's bad for the American people because those same finance institutions that screw over other countries, screw Americans over by leading/prompting the rush to off-shore American jobs.
The same forces that are being applied to Brazil and Venezuela have been, and will continue to be applied to American workers. America is not busy spreading democracy, it's busy extending the reach of Wall $treet's steely fingers.
russell1200 , December 13, 2018 at 11:12 am
It is taken for granted here that there was a coup. But the charges of corruption against Lulu stemming from the Operation Car Wash investigations seem pretty real and plausible. The Clintons have their foundation, and Trump has his "all-sorts-of-stuff" . They are still walking free. Is it a coup because somebody in a high office actually got convicted of something?
The author does mention the problems with an extraction state. I think that that is at the root of the problem. It also is a result of the general trade pattern set up by the Western Europeans, with others brought in over time. Industrialization-Colonialism I think can fairly be described as root causes. It is also a lot more plausible than claiming the relatively recent introduction of the US $ as a reserve currency as a root versus aggravating cause.
Since a huge number of countries seem to have had this problem (half of the issue is referred to as the Dutch disease after all), it would be more interesting to compare experience to countries that escaped the problem. My guess is that a close look at the history, and current trends, would show that the problem is actually much deeper rooted and far more problematic than just some hand-wringing over the United States replacing nice guy/gal governments and the US$ reserve currency.
Dec 05, 2018 | www.bradford-delong.com
Frank Wilhoit 03.22.18 at 12:09 amThere is no such thing as liberalism -- or progressivism, etc.
There is only conservatism. No other political philosophy actually exists; by the political analogue of Gresham's Law, conservatism has driven every other idea out of circulation.
There might be, and should be, anti-conservatism; but it does not yet exist. What would it be? In order to answer that question, it is necessary and sufficient to characterize conservatism. Fortunately, this can be done very concisely.
Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit:There must be in-groups whom the law protectes but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.
There is nothing more or else to it, and there never has been, in any place or time.
For millenia, conservatism had no name, because no other model of polity had ever been proposed. "The king can do no wrong." In practice, this immunity was always extended to the king's friends, however fungible a group they might have been. Today, we still have the king's friends even where there is no king (dictator, etc.). Another way to look at this is that the king is a faction, rather than an individual.
As the core proposition of conservatism is indefensible if stated baldly, it has always been surrounded by an elaborate backwash of pseudophilosophy, amounting over time to millions of pages. All such is axiomatically dishonest and undeserving of serious scrutiny. Today, the accelerating de-education of humanity has reached a point where the market for pseudophilosophy is vanishing; it is, as The Kids Say These Days, tl;dr . All that is left is the core proposition itself -- backed up, no longer by misdirection and sophistry, but by violence.
So this tells us what anti-conservatism must be: the proposition that the law cannot protect anyone unless it binds everyone, and cannot bind anyone unless it protects everyone.
Then the appearance arises that the task is to map "liberalism", or "progressivism", or "socialism", or whateverthefuckkindofstupidnoise-ism, onto the core proposition of anti-conservatism.
No, it a'n't. The task is to throw all those things on the exact same burn pile as the collected works of all the apologists for conservatism, and start fresh. The core proposition of anti-conservatism requires no supplementation and no exegesis. It is as sufficient as it is necessary. What you see is what you get:
The law cannot protect anyone unless it binds everyone; and it cannot bind anyone unless it protects everyone.
bruce wilder, 03.23.18 at 1:40 pmI read the Sean Wilentz article and it seems to be an exercise in virtue signalling by a political centrist and Democratic partisan. Like most left-neoliberals, he doesn't want to be called a neoliberal or acknowledge the political dynamics that have cast his own political tendency as villains, and he cannot understand why betrayal rebranded as "practical" isn't selling better.Z 03.23.18 at 4:35 pm ( 54 )
Wilentz did not write the straightforward piece J-D wishes for because to do so would reveal too much of the reprehensible nature of the Democratic Party politics he has decided to praise.
It is strange that an historian would write a piece whose rhetoric seems premised on such labels having reliable definitions constant thru time when he clearly knows that such labels are repeatedly re-purposed by succeeding generations.
FDR used "liberal" for its connotation of generosity just as he repurposed "freedom" as, say, freedom from fear or want. A practical politician overseeing one of the great realignments in American partisan political history, FDR, by virtue of his own family name, could appropriate much of the reputational capital of progressive reform, but he also needed the Republican Progressive faction in his New Deal coalition, as support for agenda items like the Tennessee Valley Authority (public ownership of the means of producing electricity! What will we tell the grandkids?)
But, the New Deal was then, and now is something else.
US partisan politics now is undergoing its own crisis of legitimacy and realignment, as is, not incidentally, European party politics. There are splits in both Parties, though Wilentz is concerned with the split in the Democratic Party, which has people who actually care at odds with those, like Wilentz, who want to be seen to care while maintaining plausible deniability.bruce wilder>
It is strange that an historian would write a piece whose rhetoric seems premised on such labels having reliable definitions constant thru time when he clearly knows that such labels are repeatedly re-purposed by succeeding generations.
Yes, I was amused to think of François Hollande presidency, the successful candidate of the Socialist party, each time he wrote the word socialism to relate today and the 1920s.
Nov 27, 2018 | discussion.theguardian.com
thesingingdetective -> ABasu , 11 Jun 2013 05:38@ABasu - My comment was not in direct agreement with the article, it was a critique of the first comment above.
I won't even begin with the welfare debate in which you somehow think that 'welfare' and its relatively recent introduction is somehow anti neo-liberal because that is nothing other than newspeak...
The point I was making (with perhaps a less than perfect example) is that language is political and therefore it matters greatly what we call things.
Nov 27, 2018 | discussion.theguardian.com
Sidfishes , 11 Jun 2013 04:26And that bloody word...'modernisation' (Moderni- z -ation - for the management speak geeks). Why is it every time I come across that word in meetings, it means some worker is either losing money or losing their job? Or some manager is about to award themselves a bonus?thesingingdetective -> gyges1 , 11 Jun 2013 04:22@gyges1 - No, she is surely railing against the monetisation of everything and the use of language to make the neo-liberal nightmare through which we are living seem, not only the norm, but the only way.michaelsylvain , 11 Jun 2013 04:17
Social security becomes welfare and suddenly masses of society (the majority of benefit claimants being in work) are not drawing on an insurance policy but are in receipt of 'welfare' subject to the largesse and judgements of an ever more cruel and avaricious 'elite'.
Language matters and its distortion is a political act.But without these Exciting New Word Uprating Initiatives, we can never win The Global Race... or something.
I'm a big fan of Steven Poole's Unspeak , which looks at the way in which terms and terminology have been engineered precisely to hollow out meaning and present an argument instead. A kind of Neoliberal Emperor's New Clothes, the problem is that, obviously, if your vocabulary and your meanings become circumscribed, it limits what can be said, and even how people think about what's being said.
(By the way, the link's to Amazon, but, obviously, you may find you have a better "Customer Experience" if you get from somewhere less tax-dodgy.)
Nov 27, 2018 | discussion.theguardian.com
maxfisher , 11 Jun 2013 05:42Quite. Language is the first victim of any hegemonic project. Examples abound in communism, fascism and neoliberalism. There's nothing to argue with in this article yet, unsurprisingly, the usual swivel-eyed brigade seem to have popped up. Perhaps your discussion of work strays a little too close to philosophy for the unthinking. I don't know why I'm disheartened by some of the responses, as the same voices appear btl in almost ever CIF article, but I am somehow. Perhaps because the point of the article - the hijacking of language - is so obviously true as to be uncontroversial to any but the ideologically purblind, yet still....ABasu -> thesingingdetective , 11 Jun 2013 05:28@thesingingdetective - what is an insurance policy other than a financial product where in return for payments over a period of time a claim can be made in certain circumstances?OberynMartell , 11 Jun 2013 05:22
If anything, particularly given that the link between contributions and claims is now nugatory, describing welfare as welfare is much more honest and much less "neoliberal". It is a set of payments and entitlements society has agreed upon to ensure a level of welfare for all rather than an insurance policy which each individual may claim against if they've kept up their payments.
If an anti-neo-liberal, supportive of the article can get this so back to front, perhaps the "debate" being posited is an empty one about language.If you changed a few words from the Communist Manifesto, it could easily be about neo-liberalism and leftist attitudes towards it.Sidfishes , 11 Jun 2013 05:19
"A spectre is haunting Europe; the spectre of neo-liberalism. All the leftists of old Europe have entered into a Holy Alliance to exorcise this spectre; Toynbee and Loach; Redgrave and Harris.
Where is the party in power that has not been decried as neo-liberalistic by its leftist opponents on the sidelines?"Take FE as a case study on how the coin counters have taken over the world.Damntheral -> roachclip , 11 Jun 2013 05:18
Back in the dark ages of the 1980s, the maths department had 7 lecturers (2 part time) and two people to look after the admin - there was also the Department Head (who was a lecturer) and a Head of School. They had targets, loosely defined, but it was a rare year when there wasn't a smattering of A grades at A level...
Then along came the coin counters, the target setters, with their management degrees and swivel eyed certainty that 'greed is good... competition! competition! competition!' and with them came the new professionals into the department... the 'Quality Manager'... the 'Curriculum Manager' the 'Exams Manager' the 'Deputy Exams Manager'... and the paperwork increased to feed the beast that counts everything but knows nothing... and targets were set.... 'Targets! Targets! Targets!... and we were all sent in search of excellence... 'teach to the exam' 'We must meet our targets'... 'we won't use exam board 'A' because they're tough' and the exam boards reacted to their own target culture by all simplifying. The universities began to notice the standard of 'A' grade students (who increased) was equivelant to a C grade of 5 years ago. However, targets were being met (on paper) quality was maintained (on paper) we were improving year on year (on paper). However, what was going on in the real world is that our students were being sold a pup - their level of competence and of knowledge was very much inferior to their same grade fore bearers of just 5 years previous
Eventually, the department became 1 full time lecturer and 4 on 'zero hour contracts' and the Head of School became 'Chief Executive' the 'Head of Department' became 'Department Manager' and a gap developed between those who taught and those who 'managed'... not just a culture gap... a bloody big pay gap...
Who benefited from all this marketisation?
Not the lecturers... not the students... not the universities... not industry...not the economy...
Who benefited? Work it out for yourselves (as I used to tell my students)@roachclip - I am familiar with the numerous wiki sites including Wikipedia, thank you very much. If you read the article yourself you would see it supports my point of view here.retro77 , 11 Jun 2013 05:17Mark Taylor , 11 Jun 2013 05:11
There are loads of other examples of rarely scrutinised terms in our economic vocabulary, for instance that bundle of terms clustered around investment and expenditure – terms that carry with them implicit moral connotations. Investment implies an action, even a sacrifice, undertaken for a better future. It evokes a future positive outcome. Expenditure, on the other hand, seems merely an outgoing, a cost, a burden.
This is absolute nonsense...the terms "investment" and "expenditure" carry no moral connotations that I can determine. Does the author accept that we need to have terms to express each of these concepts? Perhaps she would like to come up with some alternative suggestions for the notions of "contributing money" and "spending money"?Seconded, its uses and abuses of the English Language second only that of the Church. A fitting comparison in my book because they both have much in common. Both are well aware that it is through language and the control of which that true cultural change is achieved.Themiddlegound , 11 Jun 2013 05:11
Both know that this new language must be propagated as far and as wide as possible, with saturation coverage. Control of information is a a must, people must see and they must know only things of your choosing.
For example, back in the 4th Century AD (which is incidentally an abbreviation of the Latin 'Anno Domini', which means 'in the year of our Lord'), the church became centralised and established under the patronage of the Roman Emperor Constantine. Part of this centralising mission was the creation of a uniform belief system. Those that 'chose' to believe something else were branded 'heretics'. The word 'heresy' coming from the Greek 'αἵρεσις' for 'choice'. Thus to choose to have your own opinions was therefore deemed to be a bad thing.
As a quick aside, 'Pagan' comes from the Latin 'paganus' which means 'rural dweller'. I.e. those beyond the remit of the urban Christian elites. 'Heathen' on the other hand is Old English (hæðen). It simply means 'not Christian or Jewish.
When you have complete control over the flow of information, as the Church did by the 5th Century, then you can write practically anything. This doesn't mean just writing good things about yourself and bad things about your enemies. Rather it means that you can frame the debate anyway you wish.
In modern times, I would argue that you can see similar things happen here. As the author suggests, terms like 'Wealth Creator', 'Scrounger', 'Sponger', 'living on welfare', 'Growth', 'progress' and my personal favourite, 'reform', take on a whole new meaning.
Their definition of the word 'reform' and what we would see it to mean are two totally different things, Yet since it is they that has access to the wider world and not us, then it is their definition that gets heard. The same could be said for all the other words and their latter day connotations.
Thus when you hear the news and you hear what passes for debate, you hear things on their terms. Using their language with their meanings. A very sad state of affairs indeed.Neoliberalism is in the ﬁrst instance a theory of political economic practices that proposes that human well-being can best be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterized by strong private property rights, free markets, and free trade.Wastoid , 11 Jun 2013 05:05
You'll notice I've highlighted the word freedoms. Freedom is a word they hijacked right from the start of the process and how they hijacked the Republican party in the USA.
For any way of thought to become dominant, a conceptual apparatus has to be advanced that appeals to our intuitions and instincts, to our values and our desires, as well as to the possibilities inherent in the social world we inhabit. If successful, this conceptual apparatus becomes so embedded in common sense as to be taken for granted and not open to question. The founding ﬁgures of neoliberal thought took political ideals of human dignity and individual freedom as fundamental.
Concepts of dignity and individual freedom are powerful and appealing in their own right. Such ideals empowered the dissident movements in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union before the end of the Cold War as well as the students in Tiananmen Square. The student movements that swept the world in 1968––from Paris and Chicago to Bangkok and Mexico City––were in part animated by the quest for greater freedoms of speech and of personal choice.
More generally, these ideals appeal to anyone who values the ability to make decisions for themselves.
The idea of freedom, long embedded in the US tradition, has played a conspicuous role in the US in recent years. '9/11' was immediately interpreted by many as an attack on it. 'A peaceful world of growing freedom', wrote President Bush on the ﬁrst anniversary of that awful day, 'serves American long-term interests, reﬂects enduring American ideals and unites America's allies.' 'Humanity', he concluded, 'holds in its hands the opportunity to
oﬀer freedom's triumph over all its age-old foes', and 'the United States welcomes its responsibilities to lead in this great mission'. This language was incorporated into the US National Defense Strategy document issued shortly thereafter. 'Freedom is the Almighty's gift to every man and woman in this world', he later said, adding that 'as the greatest power on earth we have an obligation to help the spread of freedom'.
When all of the other reasons for engaging in a pre-emptive war against Iraq were proven wanting, the president appealed to the idea that the freedom conferred on Iraq was in and of itself an adequate justiﬁcation for the war. The Iraqis were free, and that was all that really mattered. But what sort of 'freedom' is envisaged here, since, as the cultural critic Matthew Arnold long ago thoughtfully observed, 'freedom is a very good horse to ride, but to
ride somewhere'.To what destination, then, are the Iraqi people expected to ride the horse of freedom donated to them by force of arms?
As Hayek quoted....
Planning and control are being attacked as a denial of freedom. Free
enterprise and private ownership are declared to be essentials of freedom.
No society built on other foundations is said to deserve to be called free.
The freedom that regulation creates is denounced as unfreedom; the justice, liberty and welfare it oﬀers are decried as a camouﬂage of slavery.
The Neoliberal idea of freedom 'thus degenerates into a mere advocacy of free
enterprise. It helps explain why neoliberalism has turned so authoritarian, forceful, and anti-democratic at the very moment when 'humanity holds in its hands the opportunity to oﬀer freedom's triumph over all its age-old foes'. It makes us focus on how so many corporations have proﬁteered from withholding the beneﬁts of their technologies, famine, and environmental disaster. It raises the worry as to whether or not many of these calamities or
near calamities (arms races and the need to confront both real and
imagined enemies) have been secretly engineered for corporate advantage.
Political slogans can be invoked that mask speciﬁc strategies beneath vague rhetorical devices. The word 'freedom' resonates so widely within the common-sense understanding of Americans that it becomes 'a button that elites can press to open the door to the masses' to justify almost anything.
Appeals to traditions and cultural values bulked large in all of this. An open project around the restoration of economic power to a small elite would probably not gain much popular support. But a programmatic attempt to advance the cause of individual freedoms could appeal to a mass base and so disguise the drive to restore class power.Fascinating article, thanks for publishing. It goes some way to explaining, not only the tenacity of neo-liberalism, but also its ability to consolidate its power, even at the moment when it seemed weakest. Its ability to rearticulate language and to present as natural law what is socially constructed, shows the depth of its hold on society, economics, politics, culture and even science.
There is a neat cross-over here between neo-liberal discourses and the use of language by the military. Not only does this extend to the general diffusion of certain key phrases, but I think it also runs deeper. Just as the elision of meaning in the language of war facilitates the perpetuation of abuses and war crimes, so the neo-lib discourse permits the perpetuation of questionable economic activity, even as this presents itself in the unquestionable guise of "common sense".
Nov 27, 2018 | discussion.theguardian.com
KingOfNothing -> gyges1 , 11 Jun 2013 07:22@gyges1 - The idea of language is very important in the production of a way of thinking which closes down other alternatives and futures. One which leaves neoliberal globalisation as 'the only game in town'.
I worry that the very term 'neoliberalism' is one not used by the political classes and much of the media, I don't think I've ever heard the world 'neoliberalism' used on the BBC.
This unwillingness to even call a spade a spade has political consequences . For example, I had an online discussion with someone over Thatchers death a little while ago. He called me 'comrade' and then questioned the very existence of the term Neo-liberalism. At the time I thought this was a bit of a cheap shot, but if you can quite cheerfully label someone a 'socialist' and then refuse to accept that neo-liberalism exists, you are well on your way to making people believe that the current set of social relations are indeed completely normal and that there are few, if any, alternative ways of rewiring the world which can create a better world.
Nov 27, 2018 | discussion.theguardian.commaxfisher -> finnkn , 11 Jun 2013 07:45@finnkn - Apologies. I was, of course, referring to the families of the disappeared in Chile. They are, of course, relevant and should not be excluded from any arguments about neoliberalism and its effects. Nor should the families of the disappeared in Argentina, though it is less well known, the junta was entrusted with the introduction of neoliberal policies in Argentina.maxfisher -> finnkn , 11 Jun 2013 07:04
The Argentinian military coup, like those in Guatemala, Honduras, Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia and Nicaragua, was sponsored by the US to protect and further its interests during the Cold War. By the 1970s neoliberalism was very much part of the menu; paramilitary governments were actively encouraged to practice neoliberal politics; neoliberalism was at this stage, what communism was to the Soviet Union; the ideological wing of the Cold War. You may be familiar with Operation Condor?
To be clear: I am arguing that the direct effects of 'actually existing neoliberalism' are very far from benign. I do not argue that the militarisation of Central and South America are the direct consequence neoliberal theory.@finnkn - Well I think many would. It has been pretty firmly established that the Allende regime was victim of US sponsored military coup and that said coup was sponsored to protect US interests. The Chicago boys then flew into Chile to use the nation as a laboratory for the more outlandish (at the time) neoliberal policies they were unable to practice at home.
Neoliberalism was first practiced in authoritarian states; the states in which neoliberalism is most deeply embedded are (surprise, surprise) increasingly authoritarian, and neoliberalism solutions are regularly imposed on client/vulnerable states by suprastructures such as the IMF, the EU, and the World Bank. Friedrich Hayek and Adam Smith were very clear that the potential for degeneracy existed. We have now reached that potential; increasingly centralised authority, states within states, the denuding of democratic institutions and crony capitalism. Neoliberalism in practice is very different to neoliberalism in practice. Rather like 'really existing socialism' and Marxism.
works best in authoritarian states because (in practice, if not in theory
finnkn -> BaronessHawHaw , 11 Jun 2013 07:41@BaronessHawHaw - Simply untrue.retro77 -> anonid , 11 Jun 2013 07:10
As the statistics on that link show, there are certain countries (notably Russia and the Ukraine) where the +65 age group disapprove of the change to democracy and capitalism. In the majority, however, people of all ages remain in favour.@anonid -BobJanova , 11 Jun 2013 07:09
For 'job' read 'bribe' (keep your mouth shut or lose it), for 'management' read 'take most of the interest out of the job for everybody else and put them on a lower scale', etc. I guess you get my drift.
It's sad that you have such a negative, self-hating attitude towards your work.retarius , 11 Jun 2013 07:07Spoken like a true champagne socialist in a creative industry. How do you find meaning and fulfillment, or creative values, in emptying bins, cleaning offices, sweeping the streets and a whole load of other work which needs doing but which is repetitive, menial and not particularly pleasant?
Work is usually – and certainly should be – a central source of meaning and fulfilment in human lives. And it has – or could have – moral and creative (or aesthetic) values at its core
There are two ways to get people to do work that needs doing but wouldn't be done voluntarily: coercion or payment. I think the second is a more healthy way to run a society.I've thought pretty much the same myself. Democracies can be good or bad (as the Greeks knew well)...but in our politic-speak it is used to denounce and make good; as in "Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East"...it is intended to make us feel something good about Israel, as it humiliates the Palestinians and steals their land.Antiquarian , 11 Jun 2013 07:06
In ancient Greece....'tyrant' simply meant 'usurper' without any neccessary negative association....simply someone who had usurped political power...they recognized that tyrannies could be good, bad or indifferent.
In Rome, dictator simply meant the cahp that took over fpr periods of six months at a time, during times of crisis.
I used to vacation in Yugoslavia in Marshall Tito's time....it was a wonderful place, beautiful, inexpensive and safe...very very safe. What came into the power vacuum after he died in 1980...what happened to the country? I'd argue that his was a good dictatorship or tyranny....
I'm also not too sure what the 90% of people unaffected by and uninterested in power politics in any given country feel about the 'liberation' of Libya and Iraq from their prior dictatorships...I'm sure that plenty of people whose previously steady lives have been wrecked, are all that thrilled.I have recently been exercised by the right's adoption of "Social Justice". In the past it was the left and churches who talked of social justice as a phenomenon to empower the poor and dispossessed, whether in this country or the developing world. Social Justice was a touchstone of Faith in the City, for example, but it seems now to be the smoke screen behind which benefits are stipped from the "undeserving poor".BaronessHawHaw , 11 Jun 2013 06:59Most of this crap comes from America. Crappy middle-management bureaucrats spouting "free-market" bollocks.BlankReg -> joseph1832 , 11 Jun 2013 06:56
The efficiency of the private sector - some nob with a name badge timing how long you've been on the toilet.
Freedommm!!!!@ joseph1832 11 June 2013 9:24am . Get cifFix for Firefox .Arabica Robusta -> Obelisk1 , 11 Jun 2013 06:55
It is not just neoliberalism. Everyone is at it - sucking the meaning out of words. Corporate bullshit, public sector bullshit. Being customers of your own government is a crime that everyone is guilty of. This is what Orwell railed against decades ago, and it has got worse.
Case in point; just look at the way in which the Cameron set about co-opting words and phrases justifiably applied to his own regime and repurposed them against his detractors.
For example, people who took a stand against the stealth privatisation of the NHS were branded as "vested interests", quite unlike the wholesome MPs who voted for the NHS bill who, despite the huge sums of money they received from the private healthcare lobby, we are encouraged to believe were acting in our best interests by selling our health service to their corporate paymasters. Or the farcical attempt to rebrand female Tory MPs as "feminists" despite their anti-social mobility, anti-equality, anti-human rights and anti-abortion views.
The political class, with the aid of their subservient corporate media quislings, have taken our language apart and used it against us. We have been backed into a corner, we are told, by both Labour and Tories, that there is no choice, either rabid profiteering or penury and we have, to our everlasting shame, lapped up every word of it.@Obelisk1 - You have single-handedly proven Massey's argument. We have become so embedded in the language of individuals, choice, contracts and competition that we cannot see any alternative. Even Adam Smith understood the difference between "economy" and "society" when he argued that labor is directly connected to public interest while business is connected to self-interest. If business took over the public sphere, Smith argued, this would be quite destructive.Snapshackle , 11 Jun 2013 06:50
Our whole conversation seemed somehow reduced, my experience of it belittled into one of commercial transaction. My relation to the gallery and to this engaging person had become one of instrumental market exchange.
But in the eyes of the economic right, that is precisely the case. Adjectives like altruistic, caring, selfless, empathy and sympathy are simply not in their vocabulary. They are only ever any of those things provided they can see some sort of beneficial payback at the end.
maxfisher -> Venebles 11 Jun 2013 06:20Liquidity Jones, 11 Jun 2013 06:04
@Venebles - I was simply joining many commentators in the mire. Those that dispute the neoliberal worldview are routinely dismissed as marxists. I thought I'd save you all the energy, duck.
I'm not sure that the families of the disappeared of Chile and Argentina would concur with you benign view of neoliberalism and its effects.Might as well define it.
Neoliberalism framework vs Full employment framework
Full employment. The 3 pillars
- Economic pillar.
- Commitment to full employment.
- Fiscal & Monetary demand management. Public sector employment. Employer of last resort. Government mediates the class struggle.
- Intervention to ameliorate market outcomes
- Transfer payments. Redistributive taxation. Services to enable participation.
- Regulation, conciliation & arbitration via specialist tribunals.
- Rights of citizenship
- Uniform services. Pursuit of collective will. Professional administration.
- Services delivered by the State. Rights embodied in legislation.
Neo-liberalism. The 3 pillars
- Primacy of market based outcomes
- Inflation targeting. Fiscal drag. Full employability and compliance programmes.
- Government as agent for business.
- Intervention to stimulate market outcomes
- Compliance tests and penalties mediating welfare payments.
- Taxation advantages for high incomes.
- Policies to force participation.
- Deregulation. Welfare to work.
- No intrinsic right of citizenship
- Non-uniform services. Individuals responsible for their own outcomes.
- Mutual reciprocal obligation.
- Outsourcing of public services.
- Privatised service delivery.
Nov 27, 2018 | discussion.theguardian.com
Wastoid , 11 Jun 2013 05:05Fascinating article, thanks for publishing. It goes some way to explaining, not only the tenacity of neo-liberalism, but also its ability to consolidate its power, even at the moment when it seemed weakest. Its ability to rearticulate language and to present as natural law what is socially constructed, shows the depth of its hold on society, economics, politics, culture and even science.
There is a neat cross-over here between neo-liberal discourses and the use of language by the military. Not only does this extend to the general diffusion of certain key phrases, but I think it also runs deeper. Just as the elision of meaning in the language of war facilitates the perpetuation of abuses and war crimes, so the neo-lib discourse permits the perpetuation of questionable economic activity, even as this presents itself in the unquestionable guise of "common sense".
Nov 26, 2018 | www.theguardian.com
MartynInEurope , 11 Jun 2013 13:13Term abuse didn't arrive with neoliberalism; it's been around since forever. Also, the fact that most of our daily transactions might be commercial is a reflection of our own habits as much as the changing use of language.Nostradamus333 , 11 Jun 2013 13:08
If a person is employed by a commercial gallery, they are effectively working in a shop, and the people who visit these galleries are potentially customers. No surprise there. Just like a person who uses transport can be a customer. Of course, there are public services where commercial terms such as customer make little sense.Marxism has hijacked our vocabulary for a 150 years. Nice to have a change for awhile.MartynInEurope -> bongoid , 11 Jun 2013 13:06@bongoid -dourscot , 11 Jun 2013 13:00
Sure, it isn't that important who is making the point, even if the point is made by reference to questionable and contentious examples.
I also think that any even bigger influence on meaning / lack of meaning / interchangeable meaning etc.has been postmodernity far more than neoliberalism.All true but the left is just as bad as coining its Orwellisms. Witness the way nobody has to use an approved vocabulary to talk about every and any group on fear of moral ridicule or worse. Language is a mental battlefield.LondonPhil -> RClayton , 11 Jun 2013 12:57@RClayton - Can I suggest resurrecting William Morris's distinction between "work" (ie labour that is moral, creative, aesthetic or, at least, hygienic - ie intrinsically worth doing) and "toil" which is work done only because of the necessity to earn money to buy the means of existence?KingOfNothing -> Yorkied24 , 11 Jun 2013 12:45
Having words that distinguish between these two ideas is useful. The 'work' you talk about is 'toil' and most of it is done simply to service the money/capitalist system.
As an example, I have in front of me a rubber 'stress reliever' in the shape of PacMan. It was given to me as a gift.
Presumably, somewhere in the world there is a factory full of people turning out this rubbish. It adds nothing to the world's beauty, nor its ability to support the people living on it. Its only uses are in providing paid 'toil' to support the factory workers and to enable someone to give me something I don't need as a token of their friendship, probably paid for from the fruits of their own toil.
Changing the words we use will not change this, but it does give us a framework in which to think about how it might be changed.@Yorkied24 -bill4me -> darylrevok , 11 Jun 2013 12:10
Strange then, that you can buy a book called: "Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics. By Daniel Stedman Jones. Princeton University Press".
What were Friedrich Heyek and Milton Friedman: lollypop salesmen?
If I can repeat what I said at the top of this thread - The denial of the economic ideology of Neo-liberalism is nothing more than a cheap debating point. If you pretend something doesn't exist then you make it difficult to attack.
Sorry, but it just won't wash with me.@darylrevok - Well, perhaps you might describe the sweet smell of success as 'funny', but I don't.MartynInEurope , 11 Jun 2013 12:08The biggest problem isn't so much that people use the language of commercial business and are free and easy with their abuse of terms (there's a new one), but that people treat government and politics as a service, and see their relationship with governance as akin to a client/customer relationship, to that end we elect politicians who tell us what we want to hear, even if what we hear can be, all to often, somewhat meaningless or trite.makingtime -> TheRealCmdrGravy , 11 Jun 2013 11:55@TheRealCmdrGravy - There's nothing vague about it, It represents the whole of UK and US government economic policy for the last thirty years with the happy outcomes that we enjoy today.darylrevok -> bill4me , 11 Jun 2013 11:49
But now you know what a neoliberal is, perhaps you can reread the excellent article above with added relish and understanding. Glad to be of assistance. If you want anything else looking up I suggest using a search engine before posting here that a particular word is too difficult for you.@bill4me - And Capitalism is not dead, it just smells funny.MartynInEurope , 11 Jun 2013 11:40According to Bradford DeLong, a Berkeley economic historian, neoliberalism has two main tenets:Justthefactsman , 11 Jun 2013 11:36
"The first is that close economic contact between the industrial core and the developing periphery is the best way to accelerate the transfer of technology which is the sine qua non for making poor economies rich (hence all barriers to international trade should be eliminated as fast as possible).
The second is that governments in general lack the capacity to run large industrial and commercial enterprises. Hence, [except] for core missions of income distribution, public-good infrastructure, administration of justice, and a few others, governments should shrink and privatize)."Such a long article.ascania , 11 Jun 2013 11:34
All one needs to know is that English language is being manipulated just as it always has been by those that have the power to do it. Today the main manipulators are, Madison Avenue, agencies and departments the United States government, Wall Street, US television media. Most people don't realize that the language is being manipulated, when they hear or see in print words being used in unusual ways they just go along with it.
A couple of years back a motormouth U.S TV show host used the word "impact" in place of the word "affect". He did so simply because "impact" seemed more dramatic. Now it is almost impossible to hear or see the word "affect" used anywhere.
Now there are some of you that will say that language and usage of words change over time, and I would agree with you, but when you see a word used in a context that is completely inappropriate and that use is adopted in general you have to ask yourself questions like who benefits from this.
Remember when Bush wanted to increase troop levels, he refered to the increase as a "surge". "Surge" until then had a distinct meaning it was not associated with any meaning of permanence, and that is why it was used.
Advertising frequently refers to things being "better" with no explanation of what it is better than.
"Underpriviliged" to describe people living in poverty but no explanation of the privileges that people have who are not poor.
I could go on and on, but I am sure that you scribblers who do not indulge in "confuse speak" know exactly what I am trying to explain.
Best example I can give is "The free world" which by latest check includes Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and sundry other brutal regimes and one time actually included outright fascist countries.
Enough said.Now all London Underground passengers are 'customers', which implies you are buying the travel experience rather than paying for transportation. When misused it suggests to me lack of strength and self-belief from the organization concerned.bill4me -> callaspodeaspode , 11 Jun 2013 11:31@callaspodeaspode - Gosh - an excellent example of how to get things completely wrong. Just because a firm has the government for a customer does not mean it is a public sector business.makingtime -> TheRealCmdrGravy , 11 Jun 2013 11:15
Note the word 'customer'. In the case of the FE college, who is the customer - the government or the students? Are the students just incidental fodder?
Your contract with the government will be for a certain job done in a certain for a certain sum of money. In FE, the government has a sum of money which gets paid out irrespective of the outcome. Indeed, how do you measure the 'outcome' of an FE college? In your case, it's easy - either the software works or it doesn't.
Your company no doubt is either owned by an individual, or has shareholders. Those people live on the profits of the company, or lose their money if it goes bust. What is the profit made by an FE college? Who are the shareholders? Who goes broke if the college folds? Still think an FE college is the same as private company?@TheRealCmdrGravy - No definition is a distinct improvement on your deliberate distortion. I was assuming you had the sense to find a definition on the internet for yourself, since you managed to find your way here.callaspodeaspode -> bill4me , 11 Jun 2013 11:13
I do not consider alternative viewpoints brainless, i consider a refusal to even engage in debate brainless, pretending that a word is undefined when there's reams of literature as well as concise definitions freely available from any number of sources. That might reasonably be construed as brainless.
Here, fill your boots, then if you have an actual argument instead of a crude attempt to derail the debate it can be considered.
Neoliberalism is a political philosophy whose advocates support economic liberalization, free trade and open markets, privatization, deregulation, and decreasing the size of the public sector while increasing the role of the private sector in modern society. (From wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoliberalism)
I'm convinced you had the brains to look it up yourself, that's why I suspect your agenda. Now please stop wasting everyone's time unless you have something to contribute. I even looked it up for you.@bill4me - That's an excellent point.seanmatthews , 11 Jun 2013 11:06
And I can give a further example. I used to work in a Private Equity-owned firm, which happened to have some contracts to provide software support to the government. Thus, in your conceptual framework, it was a public sector business. Indeed, by your reasoning, Lockheed Martin is a state-owned company as well.I agree that 'Neoliberalism' has hijacked our vocabulary, but that is about the limit of our agreement. People fling the word 'neoliberalism' around these days as a synonym for 'anything I and my friends have decided is politically-economically objectionable' ('have decided', not 'think'). In the old days, 'fascist' served the same purpose in all those late-night student flat discussions. I assume, until proven otherwise, that people who talk about 'neoliberalism', fall into the same category as those people who had so much difficulty distinguishing between 'liberal democracy' and 'fascism'.HarryTheHorse -> TheRealCmdrGravy , 11 Jun 2013 11:03
I can actually think of liberal left-leaning intellectuals who I can recall having self-described as neoliberal. They, however, are distinctive for the sort of nuanced understanding of political economy you are unlikely to find represented around the candles in the kitchen on a Friday night when the world's problems are being discussed and solved.@TheRealCmdrGravy -pagey23 , 11 Jun 2013 10:57
First of all I am impressed by the psychic ability which enables you to deduce my "closed political agenda", very impressive
Not really. It is transparently obvious when you declare that neo-liberalism is "vague stuff which I don't like" when there are cogent definitions of it, to which you have been referred in the past.this is not the kind of liberalism we needed it needed to be socially liberal but not economically liberal. How dare people become entrepenurial or take the thatcherite tax cuts, or buy goods made from slave labour. Some seriously sick yuppies out there.PointOfYou , 11 Jun 2013 10:54Yes - the person who said language was mankind's first technology were absolutely correct. I expect language was invented by those who invent all technology to be just out of reach of the general public until the inventers decide they can do business for themselves out of it.Claire75 -> gyges1 , 11 Jun 2013 10:22@gyges1 - doesn't say that though, does it?Snapshackle -> Yorkied24 , 11 Jun 2013 10:12
She says that we need to look at the language as it says a lot about how we think. Sounds about right to me. It's hardly arguing white means black, just that the words we choose say something about what we mean.
Then she says that what we talk about isn't the stuff we need to concentrate on. That's a matter of debate and opinion.@ Yorkied24 11 June 2013 12:57pm . Get cifFix for Firefox .TheRealCmdrGravy -> makingtime , 11 Jun 2013 09:58
Except that preference theory does not take into account causality. In any event we have the evidence, there are those who are perfectly happy to cast others to the wall just so long as they do OK and even benefit from it.@makingtime - Really ? Some very interesting points you've made there ...makingtime -> TheRealCmdrGravy , 11 Jun 2013 09:45
your closed political agenda may make it impossible for you to understand without a brain transplant.
First of all I am impressed by the psychic ability which enables you to deduce my "closed political agenda", very impressive. Secondly though it's interesting that you think a "closed political agenda", which I am taking to mean a concrete political viewpoint, can only be remedied with a "brain transplant" rather than through discussion. It's almos as though you're saying "those with political views different to mine are brainless" which is quite a bigoted point of view.
No definition from you regarding the word neo-liberal though so all in all not a very helpful or insightful post. Disappointing.@TheRealCmdrGravy -tiojo , 11 Jun 2013 09:41
..the word "neo-liberal" which, so far as I can see, simply means "vague stuff which I don't like".
Is it possible that you can't see very far because you're deliberately not looking? There are perfectly adequate and precise definitions. I quite liked 'A Brief History of Neoliberalism' by Prof D.Harvey as a long form definition, but since it's rather critical of 'vague stuff which I don't like', your closed political agenda may make it impossible for you to understand without a brain transplant.
It is exasperating when political discussion is reduced to which foghorn can generate the loudest interference. I suppose it's a mistake to waste time on correcting this rubbishDoreen Massey is an academic. It shows in the way she writes. It's good that she raises fundamental questions about society and the way it is managed. It has traditionally been the role of academics to play that role.Damntheral -> roachclip , 11 Jun 2013 09:40
The disappointing feature of the debate however is the absence of input from our politicians. All our leading politicians have essentially the same view of our society and economy. One in which, as Ms Massey indicates, choice exercised through market based mechanisms is the key principal. There is no view of progress towards a good society. There is no view of co-operation rather than competition. The only option is for us to measure ourselves by what we consume.
Our political system and its parties have failed us. In particular it is the left that has failed. It has accepted the social and economic arguments of the right and contented itself with suggesting minor variations on the same theme. Activists on the left need to re-gather their strength and more forcefully put forward a better alternative.@roachclip - The fact that you refer to "neoliberalism" as "they" in a comment below speaks volumes about the mental fog behind that term.Eddiel899 -> retarius , 11 Jun 2013 09:34@retarius - Any government is only as good as the human rights it upholds.Pagey -> TobyLatimer , 11 Jun 2013 09:33
Neoliberalism is the final stage of liberal democracy which has been around for 60-70 years, the most destructive form of government the world has ever seen, based on deregulation for the wealthy oligarchs and debt and debauchery for the poor .............. which is rapidly taking us back to feudal times.@TobyLatimer - See also: "hardworking famiies/taxpayers"OneCommentator , 11 Jun 2013 09:15Barry1858 -> gyges1 , 11 Jun 2013 09:05Wishful and naive thinking. Most work is very unfulfilling and even in cases where it is meaningful the day to day grind and intensity required by a job is making it a chore. There are very few people who have a job that is really a pleasure. There are many people though who have empty lives and were brainwashed into believing that their job is the most important part of their existence.
This is a view that misunderstands where pleasure and fulfilment in human lives are found. Work is usually – and certainly should be – a central source of meaning and fulfilment in human lives.@gyges1 - " This is playground level debating. You are just saying the meaning you give to words is to be preferred to that of your opponents."natedogg -> RClayton , 11 Jun 2013 09:01
Ah, I see the problem - a narrow mind with a broad-brush tendency.
I prescribe a course of Orwell, Start, perhaps, with short stories...... Politics and the English Language, Why I Write, Notes on Nationalism, for example. And then a full dose of Nineteen Eighty-Four. That should do the trick!@RClayton - But if we start to think about work differently - which then gets its expression with the words we use - maybe it can change. Your Bangladeshi example is interesting because it assumes they need to work in that way to exist. Should we not try and change the system so a Bangladeshi can harness his or her creativity to connect their creative ideas to a global market and earn money in this way, rather than selling their physical labour to connect someone else's t-shirt to a global market?MartynInEurope , 11 Jun 2013 08:48Good grief, how many more times will Adorno be plagiarised?bongoid , 11 Jun 2013 08:38It's not just vocabulary, its demeanor, etiquette and peoples entire self perception that has been usurped by the skewed modern logic of markets and the service industry.BobJanova -> BaronessHawHaw , 11 Jun 2013 08:37
People are preempting the technological singularity by rendering themselves robotic in a quite tragic struggle to perpetually remain relevant and employable in the form that the whims of the dictatorship of the market see fit to determine.
Some nationalities even have an intrinsic advantage, their national character tending rather to the robotic from the outset. What remains of human expression, of impulsivity, of spontaneity, of charisma, of originality is up for question, but the paucity of modern life, of human expression and interaction, will increase in direct relation to the increases in efficiency and productivity that will be demanded of citizens. And this despite the fact that we are suffering under the weight of massive over production, and the excessive demand on resources that this entails.
Nothing has been learnt from the crash of 2008 beyond "get rich even quicker", or as its more commonly known, economic and ecological suicide.@BaronessHawHaw - Working class pride in their jobs came from being highly skilled – for example riveting in shipyards was difficult and you really were adding value there, so was assembling a car and so on. Also, didn't most of their 'meaning and fulfilment' come from the community, not really the work they were doing, except in so far as most of the people in the community would be doing the same work so it gave them something to talk about?Giggidy -> BaronessHawHaw , 11 Jun 2013 08:30
I've never heard a modern person saying how much any of the jobs I listed give them meaning or fulfilment. The kind of jobs that gave working class people a meaningful identity have pretty much all gone.@BaronessHawHaw - most? You are kidding right?Venebles -> BaronessHawHaw , 11 Jun 2013 08:25
Just looking at the Governments of Poland, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Hungary as an example seems to indicate centrist and centre-right parties in power.@ BaronessHawHawGiggidy -> Sidfishes , 11 Jun 2013 08:24
Most want socialism back. Socialism with the freedom to travel and the ability to buy a nice pair of jeans to look cool in.
May I suggest that you look up the meaning of the word "patronising"?@Sidfishes - does your FE College pay tax, then?
As I'm reading the annual report of my old sixth form college - which also operate adult learning courses - and they're an exempt charity and therefore not liable for corporation tax. They have an operating surplus (read: profit) on which no tax is paid, quite unlike a private sector company.
Jun 11, 2013 | www.theguardian.com
'Customer'; 'growth'; 'investment'. We should scrutinise the everyday language that shapes how we think about the economy
'We need to question that familiar categorisation of the economy as a space into which people enter in order to reluctantly undertake unwelcome and unpleasing "work''.'
A t a recent art exhibition I engaged in an interesting conversation with one of the young people employed by the gallery. As she turned to walk off I saw she had on the back of her T-shirt "customer liaison". I felt flat. Our whole conversation seemed somehow reduced, my experience of it belittled into one of commercial transaction. My relation to the gallery and to this engaging person had become one of instrumental market exchange.
The message underlying this use of the term customer for so many different kinds of human activity is that in all almost all our daily activities we are operating as consumers in a market – and this truth has been brought in not by chance but through managerial instruction and the thoroughgoing renaming of institutional practices. The mandatory exercise of "free choice" – of a GP, of a hospital, of schools for one's children – then becomes also a lesson in social identity, affirming on each occasion our consumer identity.
This is a crucial part of the way that neoliberalism has become part of our commonsense understanding of life. The vocabulary we use to talk about the economy is in fact a political construction, as Stuart Hall, Michael Rustin and I have argued in our Soundings manifesto .
Another word that reinforces neoliberal common sense is "growth", currently deemed to be the entire aim of our economy. To produce growth and then (maybe) to redistribute some of it, has been a goal shared by both neoliberalism and social democracy. In its crudest formulation this entails providing the conditions for the market sector to produce growth, and accepting that this will result in inequality, and then relying on the redistribution of some portion of this growth to help repair the inequality that has resulted from its production.
This of course does nothing to question the inequality-producing mechanisms of market exchange itself, and it has also meant that the main lines of struggle have too often been focused solely on distributional issues. What's more, today we are living with a backlash to even the limited redistributional gains made by labour under social democracy. In spite of all this, growth is still seen as providing the solution to our problems.
The second reason our current notion of wealth creation, and our commitment to its growth, must be questioned is to do with our relationship with the planet. The environmental damage brought about by the pursuit of growth threatens to cause a catastrophe of which we are already witnessing intimations. And a third – and perhaps most important – defect of this approach is that increased wealth, especially as measured in the standard monetary terms of today, has few actual consequences for people's feelings of wellbeing once there is a sufficiency to meet basic needs, as there is in Britain. In pursuing "growth" in these terms, as a means to realise people's life goals and desires, economies are pursuing a chimera.
Instead of an unrelenting quest for growth, might we not ask the question, in the end: "What is an economy for?", "What do we want it to provide?"
Our current imaginings endow the market and its associated forms with a special status. We think of "the economy" in terms of natural forces, into which we occasionally intervene, rather than in terms of a whole variety of social relations that need some kind of co-ordination.
Thus "work", for example, is understood in a very narrow and instrumental way. Where only transactions for money are recognised as belonging to "the economy", the vast amount of unpaid labour – as conducted for instance in families and local areas – goes uncounted and unvalued. We need to question that familiar categorisation of the economy as a space into which people enter in order to reluctantly undertake unwelcome and unpleasing "work", in return for material rewards which they can use for consuming.
This is a view that misunderstands where pleasure and fulfilment in human lives are found. Work is usually – and certainly should be – a central source of meaning and fulfilment in human lives. And it has – or could have – moral and creative (or aesthetic) values at its core. A rethinking of work could lead us to address more creatively both the social relations of work and the division of labour within society (including a better sharing of the tedious work, and of the skills).
There are loads of other examples of rarely scrutinised terms in our economic vocabulary, for instance that bundle of terms clustered around investment and expenditure – terms that carry with them implicit moral connotations. Investment implies an action, even a sacrifice, undertaken for a better future. It evokes a future positive outcome. Expenditure, on the other hand, seems merely an outgoing, a cost, a burden.
Above all, we need to bring economic vocabulary back into political contention, and to question the very way we think about the economy in the first place. For something new to be imagined, let alone to be born, our current economic "common sense" needs to be challenged root and branch.
• Doreen Massey will be discussing Vocabularies of the Economy at a Soundings seminar on 13 June, 6.30-8.30pm, at the Marx Memorial Library, London. More information email@example.com
KingOfNothing -> Yorkied24 , 12 Jun 2013 13:06@Yorkied24 - Well, I just don't accept that. I agree that monetarism is a major part of Friedman's legacy (as incorporated into neo-liberal doctrine). But, neo-liberalism is what is says on the tin. It is a 'new' version of the liberalist free trade agenda of the past, modified to take into account the welfare state.Eddiel899 , 12 Jun 2013 12:12
I guess what I'm most interested in is how you can disentangle and separate politics from economics, since they are two sides of the same coin (where does 'science' fit in, by the way).it seems that the political side of Neo-liberalism (or liberal democracy) has come up with a new definition of the word "Catholic".Ronpert -> NeverMindTheBollocks , 12 Jun 2013 07:22
The Irish Prime-minster stated with a straight face in the Irish parliament today ........ that he is a "Catholic" outside parliament but when he enters parliament he is not a "Catholic"........ in relation to a bill allowing for abortion to be legalized in Ireland.@NeverMindTheBollocks - when you criticise the author of "nonsensical thinking", this suggests to me that you are uncomfortable with ideas that question "common sense". Rather than engaging with the arguments, you are simply dismissing them as somebody's arbitrary opinion. You seem to be suggesting that Massey is forcing her opinion on you - but surely, like any good academic, she is really asking critical questions, rather than providing answers and solutions. That's what academia is for. Why does that seem to make you so angry?MagicRusski , 11 Jun 2013 19:44Add "development" to that list.bongoid -> Pumplechook , 11 Jun 2013 19:24@Pumplechook - Enterprise culture is a fine emboldening phrase to describe the sinking of society casting citizens adrift with nothing but what nature gave them to keep them afloat. Some might suggest we need to concentrate on mono platform non deliverables going backwards. Or on a fleet of very cheap rubber dinghies.Pumplechook , 11 Jun 2013 18:48Ms Massey clearly fails to see importance of remaining customer/client-focused in our modern enterprise culture. It is crucial in terms of achieving outcomes-based win-win solutions, as well as assisting in the interation of leading-edge opportunities and leveraging cross-platform deliverables going forward.Yorkied24 -> KingOfNothing , 11 Jun 2013 17:44@KingOfNothing - No, what I said was that neoliberalism is not an economic theory. For a start, Milton Friedman's work has its own name in economics, which is monetarism. Neoliberalism is a made up political word only used by those who are more interested in politics and rhetoric than economics and science.bongoid , 11 Jun 2013 17:08Neoliberalism is bankrupt, it isn't even a philiosophy its simple social nihilism. The proof is in the get rich quick, or short term profit mentality of those at the top. Get rich quick is tantamount to jumping the ship, its the economic equivalent of deserting a sinking vessel. Until people recognise the destructive cynical nature of the current economic philosophy and cast out those that are steering the ship, we are all doomed.darylrevok -> bill4me , 11 Jun 2013 17:02@bill4me - 'Sweet smell of success'?bongoid -> Yorkied24 , 11 Jun 2013 16:59
No, it's just that your shit-detector is so absent or degraded that you can no longer smell the stink of 'filthy lucre'.@Yorkied24 - I disagree. There is only one writer that deserves volleys of ad hominem attacks and cheap insults and thats Julie Burchill. I know she's about as relevant as a horse drawn carriage but nevertheless I think we need to keep criticism of journalists in proportion.maxfisher -> bill4me , 11 Jun 2013 16:07@bill4me - The US under the aegis of freedom and capitalism sponsored paramilitary regimes in Guatemala, Honduras, Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Chile and Argentina. Not to mention Greece and Iran. It continues to sponsor repressive regimes in the middle east and is about to make peace with the Taliban.MartynInEurope -> maxfisher , 11 Jun 2013 16:05
You mistake capitalism as it exists in theory, or in your head with 'actually existing capitalism' which is often red in tooth and claw. The bloody history of the 20th century (particularly world war one, without which no world war two) was in many ways a consequence of imperialism which was a consequence of capitalism.
Theories are all very well, but they run into problems called people. This applies equally to Marx, Smith and Hayek.@maxfisher -ascania -> bongoid , 11 Jun 2013 16:01
True.@bongoid - I'd like to see the second sentence of your comment engraved above a University Sociology Department office. Quite brilliant!maxfisher -> Yorkied24 , 11 Jun 2013 15:57@Yorkied24 - But they don't do they? They don't engage in cowardly and anonymous ad hominem attacks. They are professional journalists. The Guardian pays them to write articles. They then put their name to said articles. It's a transparent process. They are infinitely better than people who anonymously insult them without engaging in debate.maxfisher -> bill4me , 11 Jun 2013 15:40@bill4me - No, but it rather skews the data doesn't it? The Soviet Union lifted more people out of extreme poverty than perhaps any society before or since. But I wouldn't advocate Stalinism. I'm sure Pinochet's supporters could point to a growth in prosperity during his reign, but I shouldn't imagine many Chileans would favour a return to authoritarian rule.Yorkied24 -> maxfisher , 11 Jun 2013 15:40
Headline date is often meaningless, for example George Osborne may be able to argue that more people are employed than ever before, whilst the opposition may be able to argue that more people are unemployed than ever before. Bo
Both statements my be true, but what do they tell us in isolation?
Does it not occur to you that appalling governance may be a consequence of the form capitalism takes right now?@maxfisher - Most of them aren't ad homs. They're just insults.Yorkied24 -> KingOfNothing , 11 Jun 2013 15:25
And the pair of them deserve it. They're embarrassing enough for all of us.@KingOfNothing - Oh, and no, it's not difficult to attack at all - you just attack something that exists. Like capitalism.Yorkied24 -> KingOfNothing , 11 Jun 2013 15:24
Keynes has already done the work for you. You're crying about nothing.@KingOfNothing -maxfisher -> bill4me , 11 Jun 2013 15:09
Strange then, that you can buy a book called: "Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics. By Daniel Stedman Jones. Princeton University Press".
What were Friedrich Heyek and Milton Friedman: lollypop salesmen?
So, someone writes a book calling two economists 'neoliberals', so that makes it so? By that argument, it also calls them Masters of the Universe, so they're fucking He-Man too.
Is this how logic works in your world?@bill4me -maxfisher -> Justthefactsman , 11 Jun 2013 14:40
If you think capitalism is all winners and no losers you're either tremendously naive or a bit thick.
I wouldn't rely on headline figures on Wikipedia to support your argument. Drill down a little, find the data, look at individual countries, see what type of regimes operate in said countries. And imagine, for a second, that the stats are meaningful, then imagine what responsible capitalism could achieve.@Justthefactsman - Slightly off topic, but I hanker for obliged rather than obligated. Also, most of the time I just feel ok, sometimes good, sometimes bad. Fair to middlin' you might say. I seldom feel awesome.maxfisher -> natedogg , 11 Jun 2013 14:34@natedogg - Of course. Francis Fukuyama told us so in the 80s. Oh....maxfisher -> MartynInEurope , 11 Jun 2013 14:33@MartynInEurope - Well it could be argued that postmodernism is the necessary condition for neoliberalism.maxfisher -> Damntheral , 11 Jun 2013 14:29@Damntheral - No, it means this:JTStone -> TheRealCmdrGravy , 11 Jun 2013 14:27
Go on, read it. Then come back to me.@TheRealCmdrGravy -darylrevok -> Ken Terry , 11 Jun 2013 14:01
No definition from you regarding the word neo-liberal though so all in all not a very helpful or insightful post. Disappointing.
It's sometimes worth having a debate about what particular words mean, but all debate rests on certain presumptions, a foundation on which the argument is built, and in this case, Massey counts on her audience sharing her understanding of the term 'neoliberal', which many of us do. Anyone who doesn't can very easily look it up online and quickly find a definition which sits well with Massey's points.
Your and others' approach to rejecting her argument is ungracious cavilling. It's easy to do this in response to any argument, and make no mistake - anyone with intelligence and an open mind can recognise it very clearly.@Ken Terry - Chomsky is right, ("The Manufacturing of Consent") 'At the head of it is the Military\Industrial Complex, coining the euphemisms of war to make the unthinkable palatable.maxfisher -> Giggidy , 11 Jun 2013 14:00
On a localised scale, consider the Coalition who have done a similar job on the word, "Reform". If you look at history's most accurate and honorific incidences of political and parliamentary Reform look at the two Reform Acts which extended the franchise to adult male suffrage, 1832 and 1867, under Peel and Disraeli, Tories FFS, opposed to the Liberal's merciless free market obsessions.
What is "reforming" about stripping poor, ill and vulnerable people of their material support?
I'm not a Tory, (Lifelong Socialist) but I think it's important to reconnect the Conservative Party with some of its avowed traditional self-definitions. "Maintaining continuity with past institutions, and a 'gradualism', if change is necessary." (Henry Cecil, I think).
Where has been the 'gradualism' in this Govt's' sudden and relentless pace of forcing change on the mass of its people by Bill after Bill restricting our aspirations and well-being?
We are governed by political liars who see this state of affairs as a triumph for their expertise. Any criticism is dismissed as not being able to accept the world 'as it is.'@Giggidy - You've got it. Except that you haven't. 'Trickle up' would be more accurate though a little illogical: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jun/10/truth-richard-branson-virgin-rail-profitsr0ssa -> Giggidy , 11 Jun 2013 13:55@Giggidy -r0ssa -> joseph1832 , 11 Jun 2013 13:50
The irony, of course, is that neoliberalism has *always* been coupled by high state spending. I know they say different, but that doesn't make it a reality. Stop showing your ignorance of the subject and go and delve in to some of the vast literature on the subject.@joseph1832 - I think this misses the point though. You're trying to claim there can be words that are neutral, a language without a political dimension. This is besides the point, it's certainly not feasible in a society constructed as it is now.maxfisher -> DemocracyNever , 11 Jun 2013 13:45
The real point is that language is itself a field of struggle. It's a terrain on which neoliberalism must be fought. In doing so we need not pretend to be doing anything less than entering a political fight. In combating neoliberalism no claim to be 'neutral' is necessary, that would be precisely to do what it does from the opposite direction - claim universality, eternalisation etc. The left does need to assert interrogate the language of neoliberalism and assert its own. Not becuase this is less political (I think "manipulation" is too strong a word here, the matter is somewhat more complex than that) but becuase it can offer a better future.@DemocracyNever - I should think the first two responses illustrate how and why debate is increasingly meaningless. Neither of you engage with the argument or posit an alternative; hence no debate.Ken Terry , 11 Jun 2013 13:34
That debate should be meaningful is given, that it should be an art form is, frankly, silly."The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum."
Nov 23, 2018 | angrybearblog.comThe world according to Trump -- notice a trend here?
Reporter: "Who should be held accountable?" [for Jamal Khashoggi's murder]
Trump: "Maybe the world should be held accountable because the world is a vicious place. The world is a very, very vicious place. " -- November 22, 2018.
- " The world is a vicious and brutal place. We think we're civilized. In truth, it's a cruel world and people are ruthless. They act nice to your face, but underneath they're out to kill you." Think Big and Kick Ass in Business and in Life , Donald Trump & Bill Zanker, 2007, p. 71.
- "Life is not easy. The world is a vicious, brutal place. It's a place where people are looking to kill you, if not physically, then mentally. In the world that we live in every day it is usually the mental kill. People are looking to put you down, especially if you are on top. When I watched Westerns as a kid, I noticed the cowboys were always trying to kill the fastest gun. As a kid, I never understood it. Why would anyone want to go after the fastest gun?
- "This is the way it is in real life. Everyone wants to kill the fastest gun. In real estate, I am the fastest gun, and everyone wants to kill me. You have to know how to defend yourself. People will be nasty and try to kill you just for sport. Even your friends are out to get you!" Think Big and Kick Ass in Business and in Life , Donald Trump & Bill Zanker, 2007, p. 139.
- "Well, not all people. But it's a vicious place. The world is a vicious place. You know, the lions and tigers, they hunt for food, we hunt for sport. So, it can be a very vicious place. You turn on the television and you look at what's happening." Interview with John Barton, Golf Digest , October 13, 2014.
- " This is the most deceptive, vicious world. It is vicious, it's full of lies, deceit and deception. You make a deal with somebody and it's like making a deal with– that table." Interview with Lesley Stahl, CBS 60 Minutes , October 15, 2018.
- "This is a r– this is a vicious place. Washington DC is a vicious, vicious place. The attacks, the– the bad mouthing, the speaking behind your back. –but – you know, and in my way, I feel very comfortable here." Interview with Lesley Stahl, CBS 60 Minutes , October 15, 2018.
Karl Kolchak , November 23, 2018 8:54 pmilsm , November 24, 2018 7:19 am
The world is a vicious place–that is utterly dependent on oil and other fossil fuels, and will be until civilization finally collapses.
Newly posted DNC democrat Bill Kristol thinks regime change in China a worthwhile endeavor.
The "world is a vicious place" designed, set up, held together, secured by the capitalist "post WW II world order" paid for by the US taxpayer and bonds bought by arms dealers and their financiers.
The tail wagging the attack dog being a Jerusalem-Medina axis straddling Hormuz and Malacca .
An inept princely heir apparent assassin is far better than Rouhani in a "vicious place".
While Xi moves ahead.
Nov 22, 2018 | thenewkremlinstooge.wordpress.com
Warren November 14, 2018 at 10:09 pmhttps://www.youtube.com/embed/abRukx0Y1GY
Published on 14 Nov 2018
The latest revelation about Brazil's slow motion coup, designed to ensure that the center-left remains out of power and the far-right takes control, involves a general who admitted that he threatened the Supreme Court so it would imprison presidential front-runner Lula da Silva. We discuss the development with Brian Mier
Nov 08, 2018 | www.isreview.org
The modern nation-state was necessary as a means of creating a single, unified market that could facilitate commerce. But the state was also crucial in providing necessary infrastructure, and sometimes the pooling of capital resources, necessary for national capitalists to operate and compete effectively.
But the state as a bureaucratic institution had another, more fundamental function. Lenin, citing Engels, defined the essence of the state as "bodies of armed men, prisons, etc.," in short, an instrument for the maintenance of the rule of the exploiting minority over the exploited majority.
As capitalism burst the bounds of the nation-state, the coercive military function of the state took on a new dimension -- that of protecting (and projecting) the interests of the capitalists of one country over those of another. As capitalism developed, the role of the state increased, the size of the state bureaucracy increased, and the size of its coercive apparatus increased.
Lenin was soon to refine this conception in light of the world's descent into the mass slaughter of the First World War. He argued that capitalism had reached a new stage--imperialism--the struggle between the world's "great powers" for world dominance. The central feature of imperialism was the rivarly between the great powers--whose economic competition gave way to military conflict.
Another Russian revolutionary, Leon Trotsky, put it this way:The forces of production which capitalism has evolved have outgrown the limits of nation and state. The national state, the present political form, is too narrow for the exploitation of these productive forces. The natural tendency of our economic system, therefore, is to seek to break through the state boundaries . The whole globe, the land and the sea, the surface as well as the interior, has become one economic workshop, the different parts of which are inseparably connected with each other. This work was accomplished by capitalism. But in accomplishing it the capitalist states were led to struggle for the subjection of the world-embracing economic system to the profit interests of the bourgeoisie of each country...
But the way the governments propose to solve this problem of imperialism is not through the intelligent, organized cooperation of all of humanity's producers, but through the exploitation of the world's economic system by the capitalist class of the victorious country; which country is by this War to be transformed from a great power into a world power.5
Oct 25, 2018 | www.zerohedge.comAuthored by John Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,
"The poor and the underclass are growing. Racial justice and human rights are nonexistent. They have created a repressive society and we are their unwitting accomplices. Their intention to rule rests with the annihilation of consciousness. We have been lulled into a trance. They have made us indifferent to ourselves, to others. We are focused only on our own gain." -- They Live , John Carpenter
We're living in two worlds, you and I.
There's the world we see (or are made to see) and then there's the one we sense (and occasionally catch a glimpse of), the latter of which is a far cry from the propaganda-driven reality manufactured by the government and its corporate sponsors, including the media.
Indeed, what most Americans perceive as life in America - privileged, progressive and free - is a far cry from reality, where economic inequality is growing, real agendas and real power are buried beneath layers of Orwellian doublespeak and corporate obfuscation, and "freedom," such that it is, is meted out in small, legalistic doses by militarized police armed to the teeth.
All is not as it seems.
"You see them on the street. You watch them on TV. You might even vote for one this fall. You think they're people just like you. You're wrong. Dead wrong."
This is the premise of John Carpenter's film They Live , which was released 30 years ago in November 1988 and remains unnervingly, chillingly appropriate for our modern age.
Best known for his horror film Halloween , which assumes that there is a form of evil so dark that it can't be killed, Carpenter's larger body of work is infused with a strong anti-authoritarian, anti-establishment, laconic bent that speaks to the filmmaker's concerns about the unraveling of our society, particularly our government.
Time and again, Carpenter portrays the government working against its own citizens, a populace out of touch with reality , technology run amok, and a future more horrific than any horror film.
In Escape from New York , Carpenter presents fascism as the future of America.
In The Thing , a remake of the 1951 sci-fi classic of the same name, Carpenter presupposes that increasingly we are all becoming dehumanized.
In Christine , the film adaptation of Stephen King's novel about a demon-possessed car, technology exhibits a will and consciousness of its own and goes on a murderous rampage.
In In the Mouth of Madness , Carpenter notes that evil grows when people lose "the ability to know the difference between reality and fantasy."
And then there is Carpenter's They Live , in which two migrant workers discover that the world is not as it seems. In fact, the population is actually being controlled and exploited by aliens working in partnership with an oligarchic elite. All the while, the populace -- blissfully unaware of the real agenda at work in their lives -- has been lulled into complacency, indoctrinated into compliance, bombarded with media distractions, and hypnotized by subliminal messages beamed out of television and various electronic devices, billboards and the like.
It is only when homeless drifter John Nada (played to the hilt by the late Roddy Piper ) discovers a pair of doctored sunglasses -- Hoffman lenses -- that Nada sees what lies beneath the elite's fabricated reality: control and bondage.
When viewed through the lens of truth, the elite, who appear human until stripped of their disguises, are shown to be monsters who have enslaved the citizenry in order to prey on them.
Likewise, billboards blare out hidden, authoritative messages : a bikini-clad woman in one ad is actually ordering viewers to "MARRY AND REPRODUCE." Magazine racks scream "CONSUME" and "OBEY." A wad of dollar bills in a vendor's hand proclaims, "THIS IS YOUR GOD."
When viewed through Nada's Hoffman lenses, some of the other hidden messages being drummed into the people's subconscious include: NO INDEPENDENT THOUGHT, CONFORM, SUBMIT, STAY ASLEEP, BUY, WATCH TV, NO IMAGINATION, and DO NOT QUESTION AUTHORITY.
This indoctrination campaign engineered by the elite in They Live is painfully familiar to anyone who has studied the decline of American culture.
A citizenry that does not think for themselves, obeys without question, is submissive, does not challenge authority, does not think outside the box, and is content to sit back and be entertained is a citizenry that can be easily controlled.
In this way, the subtle message of They Live provides an apt analogy of our own distorted vision of life in the American police state, what philosopher Slavoj Žižek refers to as dictatorship in democracy , "the invisible order which sustains your apparent freedom."
We're being fed a series of carefully contrived fictions that bear no resemblance to reality.
The powers-that-be want us to feel threatened by forces beyond our control (terrorists, shooters , bombers ).
They want us afraid and dependent on the government and its militarized armies for our safety and well-being.
They want us distrustful of each other, divided by our prejudices, and at each other's throats.
Most of all, they want us to continue to march in lockstep with their dictates.
Tune out the government's attempts to distract, divert and befuddle us and tune into what's really going on in this country, and you'll run headlong into an unmistakable, unpalatable truth: the moneyed elite who rule us view us as expendable resources to be used, abused and discarded.
In fact, a study conducted by Princeton and Northwestern University concluded that the U.S. government does not represent the majority of American citizens . Instead, the study found that the government is ruled by the rich and powerful, or the so-called "economic elite." Moreover, the researchers concluded that policies enacted by this governmental elite nearly always favor special interests and lobbying groups.
In other words, we are being ruled by an oligarchy disguised as a democracy, and arguably on our way towards fascism -- a form of government where private corporate interests rule, money calls the shots, and the people are seen as mere subjects to be controlled.
Not only do you have to be rich -- or beholden to the rich -- to get elected these days, but getting elected is also a surefire way to get rich . As CBS News reports, "Once in office, members of Congress enjoy access to connections and information they can use to increase their wealth, in ways that are unparalleled in the private sector. And once politicians leave office, their connections allow them to profit even further."
In denouncing this blatant corruption of America's political system, former president Jimmy Carter blasted the process of getting elected -- to the White House, governor's mansion, Congress or state legislatures -- as " unlimited political bribery a subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect, and sometimes get, favors for themselves after the election is over."
Rest assured that when and if fascism finally takes hold in America, the basic forms of government will remain: Fascism will appear to be friendly. The legislators will be in session. There will be elections, and the news media will continue to cover the entertainment and political trivia. Consent of the governed, however, will no longer apply. Actual control will have finally passed to the oligarchic elite controlling the government behind the scenes.
Clearly, we are now ruled by an oligarchic elite of governmental and corporate interests.
We have moved into "corporatism" ( favored by Benito Mussolini ), which is a halfway point on the road to full-blown fascism.
Corporatism is where the few moneyed interests -- not elected by the citizenry -- rule over the many. In this way, it is not a democracy or a republican form of government, which is what the American government was established to be. It is a top-down form of government and one which has a terrifying history typified by the developments that occurred in totalitarian regimes of the past: police states where everyone is watched and spied on, rounded up for minor infractions by government agents, placed under police control, and placed in detention (a.k.a. concentration) camps.
For the final hammer of fascism to fall, it will require the most crucial ingredient: the majority of the people will have to agree that it's not only expedient but necessary.
But why would a people agree to such an oppressive regime?
The answer is the same in every age: fear.
Fear makes people stupid .
Fear is the method most often used by politicians to increase the power of government. And, as most social commentators recognize, an atmosphere of fear permeates modern America: fear of terrorism, fear of the police, fear of our neighbors and so on.
The propaganda of fear has been used quite effectively by those who want to gain control, and it is working on the American populace.
Despite the fact that we are 17,600 times more likely to die from heart disease than from a terrorist attack; 11,000 times more likely to die from an airplane accident than from a terrorist plot involving an airplane; 1,048 times more likely to die from a car accident than a terrorist attack, and 8 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist , we have handed over control of our lives to government officials who treat us as a means to an end -- the source of money and power.
As the Bearded Man in They Live warns , "They are dismantling the sleeping middle class. More and more people are becoming poor. We are their cattle. We are being bred for slavery."
In this regard, we're not so different from the oppressed citizens in They Live .
From the moment we are born until we die, we are indoctrinated into believing that those who rule us do it for our own good. The truth is far different.
Despite the truth staring us in the face, we have allowed ourselves to become fearful, controlled, pacified zombies.
We live in a perpetual state of denial, insulated from the painful reality of the American police state by wall-to-wall entertainment news and screen devices.
Most everyone keeps their heads down these days while staring zombie-like into an electronic screen, even when they're crossing the street. Families sit in restaurants with their heads down, separated by their screen devices and unaware of what's going on around them. Young people especially seem dominated by the devices they hold in their hands, oblivious to the fact that they can simply push a button, turn the thing off and walk away.
Indeed, there is no larger group activity than that connected with those who watch screens -- that is, television, lap tops, personal computers, cell phones and so on. In fact, a Nielsen study reports that American screen viewing is at an all-time high. For example, the average American watches approximately 151 hours of television per month .
The question, of course, is what effect does such screen consumption have on one's mind?
Psychologically it is similar to drug addiction . Researchers found that "almost immediately after turning on the TV, subjects reported feeling more relaxed , and because this occurs so quickly and the tension returns so rapidly after the TV is turned off, people are conditioned to associate TV viewing with a lack of tension." Research also shows that regardless of the programming, viewers' brain waves slow down, thus transforming them into a more passive, nonresistant state.
Historically, television has been used by those in authority to quiet discontent and pacify disruptive people. "Faced with severe overcrowding and limited budgets for rehabilitation and counseling, more and more prison officials are using TV to keep inmates quiet ," according to Newsweek .
Given that the majority of what Americans watch on television is provided through channels controlled by six mega corporations , what we watch is now controlled by a corporate elite and, if that elite needs to foster a particular viewpoint or pacify its viewers, it can do so on a large scale.
If we're watching, we're not doing.
The powers-that-be understand this. As television journalist Edward R. Murrow warned in a 1958 speech:
We are currently wealthy, fat, comfortable and complacent . We have currently a built-in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information. Our mass media reflect this. But unless we get up off our fat surpluses and recognize that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse, and insulate us, then television and those who finance it, those who look at it, and those who work at it, may see a totally different picture too late.
This brings me back to They Live , in which the real zombies are not the aliens calling the shots but the populace who are content to remain controlled.
When all is said and done, the world of They Live is not so different from our own.
We, too, are focused only on our own pleasures, prejudices and gains. Our poor and underclasses are also growing. Racial injustice is growing. Human rights is nearly nonexistent. We too have been lulled into a trance, indifferent to others.
Oblivious to what lies ahead, we've been manipulated into believing that if we continue to consume, obey, and have faith, things will work out. But that's never been true of emerging regimes. And by the time we feel the hammer coming down upon us, it will be too late.
So where does that leave us?
The characters who populate Carpenter's films provide some insight.
Underneath their machismo, they still believe in the ideals of liberty and equal opportunity. Their beliefs place them in constant opposition with the law and the establishment, but they are nonetheless freedom fighters.
When, for example, John Nada destroys the alien hyno-transmitter in They Live , he restores hope by delivering America a wake-up call for freedom.
That's the key right there: we need to wake up.
Stop allowing yourselves to be easily distracted by pointless political spectacles and pay attention to what's really going on in the country.
The real battle for control of this nation is not being waged between Republicans and Democrats in the ballot box.
As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People , the real battle for control of this nation is taking place on roadsides, in police cars, on witness stands, over phone lines, in government offices, in corporate offices, in public school hallways and classrooms, in parks and city council meetings, and in towns and cities across this country.
The real battle between freedom and tyranny is taking place right in front of our eyes, if we would only open them.
All the trappings of the American police state are now in plain sight.
Wake up, America.
If they live (the tyrants, the oppressors, the invaders, the overlords), it is only because "we the people" sleep.
ExpatNL , 38 minutes ago linkUtopia Planitia , 49 minutes ago link
All politics is local
Probably the closet to real democracy is your city or village council and that also is full of corruptionGolden Showers , 56 minutes ago link
"Has America Become A Dictatorship Disguised As A Democracy?"
Thanks to alternative media the answer is NO. It is important to note, however, that The left, the Drive-By Media (MSM), and some corporations think we are now a dictatorship - and they are the dictators. On a daily basis you see them spewing and sputtering and spinning in circles claiming that we are a dictatorship and THEY are in charge! Sorry fuckwads - ain't gonna happen.platyops , 58 minutes ago link
Eight O'Clock in the Morning by Ray Faraday Nelson: https://metadave.wordpress.com/2007/07/15/eight-oclock-in-the-morning/
This story from 1963 has something we instantly recognize in the bullshittery of David Icke of this decade.
George is a name that means "farmer" So George Nada is farmer of nothing. Radell Faraday Nelson knew an interesting lot of folks, many of whom including Burroughs were... what? From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_S._Burroughs
" Burroughs was born in 1914, the younger of two sons born to Mortimer Perry Burroughs (June 16, 1885 – January 5, 1965) and Laura Hammon Lee (August 5, 1888 – October 20, 1970). His was a prominent family of English ancestry in St. Louis, Missouri . His grandfather, William Seward Burroughs I , founded the Burroughs Adding Machine company, which evolved into the Burroughs Corporation . Burroughs' mother was the daughter of a minister whose family claimed to be closely related to Robert E. Lee . His maternal uncle, Ivy Lee , was an advertising pioneer later employed as a publicist for the Rockefellers. His father ran an antique and gift shop, Cobblestone Gardens in St. Louis; and later in Palm Beach, Florida when they relocated."
...Beat poets (right). Starving artists.
Anyway, Carpenter has done some great work. I remember "They Live" from the theater in '88 at 13. That and Die Hard. If you do a close read of this stuff you'll have fun for days. File away Ray dosing LSD with PKD. That must have been awesome! So have at it.
Let me ask you, can one take a half step to waking up? Can one be half pregnant?He–Mene Mox Mox , 1 hour ago link
One of the all time best films I have watched. "They Live" is a really good movie. I have seen it twice in my lifetime and am going to watch it again in a day or two. If you have never seen it then you are in for a real treat. It is truly a film worth watching.
Keep Stacking!Scipio Africanuz , 1 hour ago link
Sheep and people who can't think for themselves love dictators. They have a need for someone they can look up to for "leadership" and to be "herded".
And, bye the way, let's set this article straight. America was never a "Democracy". America, since the beginning, has been controlled by the elites, or the "Oligarchy". John Adams once said, "if the majority were given real power, they would redistribute wealth and dissolve the subordination so necessary for politics". The founding fathers were very much like the vast majority of European Enlightenment thinkers and against Democracy.. From their lofty perspective, they understood it to be a dangerous and chaotic form of uneducated mob rule. The Founding Fathers felt the masses were not only incapable of ruling, but they were considered a threat to the hierarchical social structures necessary for good governance.
So, the U.S. was formed as a "Republic", by devising a written constitution, which defined to the masses, how the oligarchy would herd them, and toss them a few bread crumbs called the "Bill of Rights", so the masses would feel assured of some respect and dignity and would comply. (Yet, they allowed slavery and indentured-servitude to exist). America is still ruled by an Oligarchy today, yet most Americans don't seem to know any better.(Perhaps the elites were right about the masses being uneducated)? Even George Mason, a Virginia delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 described America as "a despotic aristocracy." Not much has changed in the way Americans are governed in past 231 years. After all, who leads our country today, but a dictatorial aristocratic billionaire. Again, Sheep like to be herded because they don't know any better..ChaoKrungThep , 1 hour ago link
It's much worse than that Mr. Whitehead, much worse! We're at the begining stages of a cathartic transformation that'll either wither the USA for good, or provide the impetus for deep-seated change. For decades, we struggled to slow down the march of tyranny, and while we may say we succeeded to an extent, it wasn't enough.
There was too much general ignorance, too much complacency, apathy, and freeloading to make the efforts bear significant fruits, and just now, the last shoe has dropped thus, the fundamental right that pillars all fundamental rights, the right to speech according to an individual's preference, has just been stealthily abrogated, in the guise of preventing election meddling, whatever that means.
Now, Americans are free to allow the US government to do with them as it wishes, the rest of the world however, are not bound by that choice therefore, if we may advise the ROW (Rest of World), it's time to inoculate, and quarantine yourselves against the virus that's infected the USA.
It is glaring now, nothing anyone can do to halt the arrival of the accountant, absolutely nothing. The best we can do, is advise the patriots to quarantine themselves, the Republic cannot be restored just yet, and we don't know what it'll take, or when it'll happen but this much we know, the time has come for the calibration of the USA.
Folks will scoff as usual, and that's not our concern, we are no longer allowed to be involved actively, we'll pray for folks though, and hope they find the strength to persevere, other than that, nothing else we can do, cause now, it really doesn't matter anymore, who rules, or governs the US, it doesn't..
So now, we'll observe, and assist the faithful to grow in strength, prestige, and wealth, they at least, understand what it's all about.
So to you my friends, vote or don't vote, it's irrelevant, advocate or not, it doesn't matter, the Republicans might win, the Democrats might win, it doesn't matter, and it's not worth caring about anymore. As the spoilt generation engage in their final acts of depravity before they exit, we'll advise you to get out of their way, and observe keenly from a safe distance.
The way to health as usual, goes through the rough valley of deprivation. Now, it's time to concentrate on the healthy, and let the sick heal themselves, and the dead bury the dead, while yet the living live fully.
We thought it was possible to reform the depraved, it wasn't...even we must admit the limits of our efforts, it wasn't enough, oh what a crying shame...mabuhay1 , 2 hours ago link
Not a "slave"? Tell your ******* boss you quit, walk out, burn up your savings, crawl back a beggar. What do you call it?
One of the (very successful) tactics of corporatism (fascism) is to destroy individual inventiveness and entrepreneurship outside the big office. You become a wage slave, afraid to lose a crappy job, in debt because of inadequate wages, bombarded by corporate propaganda. Your kids are turned against you, because the ads say you're mean. You succumb, watch distractions on corporate media that show you that the "others out there" are worse off and trying to steal your stuff (which isn't paid for and is worthless). I dropped out a long time ago. I'm an escaped slave, hiding out, picking up what I can, living in the tropics. When I occasionally go back "home" and see friends who took the bait - hook, line and sinker - I pity them.
One consolation - the corporate captains of industry are also slaves, but their cells are a bit better than yours.
Always been comfortable with Carpenter. His dystopian world view is pretty close to the awful reality of Western life. I live elsewhere.Cheap Chinese Crap , 2 hours ago link
I have been bothered by the changes in society for many years. I lived in many dictatorships and Theocracies, and many of the trappings of those countries have now been installed here in America. It is not just that, but also basic changes in the way people think and act has brought this entire civilization to the brink. The US is not a dictatorship, but it is way more controlled and less free than it was when I was young. Thing is, change is always happening, nothing stands still. Societies age and become weak, eventually falling into dictatorship after the people stop believing in self discipline and self reliance, and start to live off of the gifts of the state. It is the death of a nation, and a society as a whole.
But the entire advanced civilization we currently have is failing, due to the changes in our belief systems. When we began to believe females are just males with different plumbing, we started on the long decline to eventual destruction as a race. Families depend upon real females to exist and thrive, and societies and the entire race depends upon families for survival as a species. We have lost that.admin user , 3 hours ago link
Every society on earth is, or would like to become, a dictatorship disguised as a democracy. No surprise there.
But, alas, foiled again. Damn those visionaries from 1776. If only we could convince the
Americans to be more like the Euro-geldings, we'd be there already.
And now their poisonous ability to say no is starting to spread into the veins of the already cowed and conquered.
Excuse me, I need to go visit my Rage Room.cheoll , 3 hours ago link
latest example: politicos and media decrying the mysterious mailing of bombs by " trump supporters " to the liberal elite as " unamerican " and " not our values " etc
I guess Boeing, Northrup Grumman and the rest of the MIC really hate bombs too, unless they are purchased and deployed under cost plus plus contracts for the pentagon.
USA is droning 'enemy combatants' and 'collateral damage' without regard for the terror that this sows, or should i say, with explicit intent to sow fear.
what a total load of bullshittery this all is...Justin Case , 2 hours ago link
Democracy. NOT. Oligarchy. YES.FBaggins , 1 hour ago link
Democracy is not simply about elections'.
The worthy Guardians of Democracy have taught us that democracy is about being able to bring down duly elected Governments by conducting espionage, promoting dissent, killing a few popular leaders, funding colour revolutions and various Springs, installing henchmen and boot lickers of their liking so that the Guardian Angels can walk in, turn the countries into piles of rubble, plunder whatever wealth they have so that the Guardians themselves can live a comfortable life – now this is real democracy.
It is not a dictatorship. It is a dicktatorship and run by crooks and murderers. The dicktators are the people who own and control the media, the financial system and the major political parties. Their power comes from their concentration money and information in their exclusive control.
Oct 22, 2018 | www.moonofalabama.org
somebody , Oct 21, 2018 3:53:21 PM | link
Number of people with preexisting conditionsAbout half of nonelderly Americans have one or more pre-existing health conditions, according to a recent brief by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS, that examined the prevalence of conditions that would have resulted in higher rates, condition exclusions, or coverage denials before the ACA. Approximately 130 million nonelderly people have pre-existing conditions nationwide, and, as shown in the table available below, there is an average of more than 300,000 per congressional district. Nationally, the most common pre-existing conditions were high blood pressure (44 million people), behavioral health disorders (45 million people), high cholesterol (44 million people), asthma and chronic lung disease (34 million people), and osteoarthritis and other joint disorders (34 million people).
While people with Medicaid or employer-based plans would remain covered regardless of medical history, the repeal of pre-ex protections means that the millions with pre-existing conditions would face higher rates if they ever needed individual market coverage. The return of pre-ex discrimination would hurt older Americans the most. As noted earlier, while about 51 percent of the nonelderly population had at least one pre-existing condition in 2014, according to the HHS brief, the rate was 75 percent of those ages 45 to 54 and 84 percent among those ages 55 to 64. But even millions of younger people, including 1 in 4 children, would be affected by eliminating this protection.
US has no concept of solidarity.
Sep 27, 2018 | www.moonofalabama.org
Russ , Sep 27, 2018 2:32:41 AM | link
Which is the cohort of voters who allegedly are leaning toward voting Republican in the mid-terms but who allegedly would refrain if Trump accepted Rosenstein's resignation? And which is the cohort not already motivated to turn out to vote Democrat but who allegedly would be motivated by a Rosenstein resignation? Is there real data on these?
I think if I had been a 2016 Trump voter I'd be feeling pretty disappointed about how he's unable to enforce the most basic discipline and loyalty even among his closest administration members, and this Rosenstein episode would be yet another egregious example.
If the Republicans do lose either/both houses, the main reason will be that for once they've taken on the normal Democrat role of being confused and feckless about what they want to do (they can't bring themselves to whole-heartedly get behind Trump; but a major Republican strength has been how they normally do pull together an present a united front). And Trump himself, in his inability to control his own immediate administration, also gives an example of this fecklessness.
AG17 , Sep 27, 2018 2:44:29 AM | linkWhat other October surprises might be planned by either side?psychohistorian , Sep 27, 2018 2:58:27 AM | link
This gave me chills.@ Circe who is writing that any who like any of what Trump is doing must be Zionists.
Get a grip. I didn't vote for Trump but favored him over Clinton II, the war criminal.
Trump represents more clearly the face of the ugly beast of debauched patriarchy, lying, misogyny, bullying and monotheistic "everybody else is goyim" values. Trump very clearly represents the folks behind the curtain of the Western private finance led "culture". He and they are both poor representations of our species who are in power because of heredity and controlled ignorance over the private finance jackboot on the lifeblood of the species.
Luckily there are still groups of our species that don't live totally controlled by the Western way and the cancer it represents to humanity. They on the outside and "us" on the inside are trying our hardest to shine lights on all the moving parts in hopes that humanity can throw off the shackles of ignorance about private/public finance.
I am taking a beginning astronomy class and just learned that it took the monotheistic religions 600 years to accept the science of Galileo Galilei. We could stand to evolve a bit faster as we are about to have our proverbial asses handed to us in the form of extinction, IMO.
Sep 27, 2018 | www.counterpunch.org
I rarely tell readers what to believe. Rather I try to indicate why it might be wise to distrust, at least without very good evidence, what those in power tell us we should believe.
We have well-known sayings about power: "Knowledge is power", and "Power tends to corrupt, while absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely." These aphorisms resonate because they say something true about how we experience the world. People who have power – even very limited power they hold on licence from someone else – tend to abuse it, sometimes subtly and unconsciously, and sometimes overtly and wilfully.
If we are reasonably self-aware, we can sense the tendency in ourselves to exploit to our advantage whatever power we enjoy, whether it is in our dealings with a spouse, our children, a friend, an employee, or just by the general use of our status to get ahead.
This isn't usually done maliciously or even consciously. By definition, the hardest thing to recognise are our own psychological, emotional and mental blind spots – and the biggest, at least for those born with class, gender or race privileges, is realising that these too are forms of power.
Nonetheless, they are all minor forms of power compared to the power wielded collectively by the structures that dominate our societies: the financial sector, the corporations, the media, the political class, and the security services.
But strangely most of us are much readier to concede the corrupting influence of the relatively small power of individuals than we are the rottenness of vastly more powerful institutions and structures. We blame the school teacher or the politician for abusing his or her power, while showing a reluctance to do the same about either the education or political systems in which they have to operate.
Similarly, we are happier identifying the excessive personal power of a Rupert Murdoch than we are the immense power of the corporate empire behind him and on which his personal wealth and success depend.
And beyond this, we struggle most of all to detect the structural and ideological framework underpinning or cohering all these discrete examples of power.
It is relatively easy to understand that your line manager is abusing his power, because he has so little of it. His power is visible to you because it relates only to you and the small group of people around you.
It is a little harder, but not too difficult, to identify the abusive policies of your firm – the low pay, cuts in overtime, attacks on union representation.
It is more difficult to see the corrupt power of large institutions, aside occasionally from the corruption of senior figures within those institutions, such as a Robert Maxwell or a Richard Nixon.
But it is all but impossible to appreciate the corrupt nature of the entire system. And the reason is right there in those aphorisms: absolute power depends on absolute control over knowledge, which in turn necessitates absolute corruption. If that were not the case, we wouldn't be dealing with serious power – as should be obvious, if we pause to think about it.
Real power in our societies derives from that which is necessarily hard to see – structures, ideology and narratives – not individuals. Any Murdoch or Trump can be felled, though being loyal acolytes of the power-system they rarely are, should they threaten the necessary maintenance of power by these interconnected institutions, these structures.
The current neoliberal elite who effectively rule the planet have reached as close to absolute power as any elite in human history. And because they have near-absolute power, they have a near-absolute control of the official narratives about our societies and our "enemies", those who stand in their way to global domination.
No questions about Skripals
One needs only to look at the narrative about the two men, caught on CCTV cameras, who have recently been accused by our political and media class of using a chemical agent to try to murder Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia back in March.
I don't claim to know whether Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov work for the Russian security services, or whether they were dispatched by Vladimir Putin on a mission to Salisbury to kill the Skripals.
What is clear, however, is that the British intelligence services have been feeding the British corporate media a self-serving, drip-drip narrative from the outset – and that the media have shown precisely no interest at any point in testing any part of this narrative or even questioning it. They have been entirely passive, which means that we their readers have been entirely passive too.
That there are questions about the narrative to be raised is obvious if you turn away from the compliant corporate media and seek out the views of an independent-minded, one-time insider such as Craig Murray.
A former British ambassador, Murray is asking questions that may prove to be pertinent or not. At this stage, when all we have to rely on is what the intelligence services are selectively providing, these kinds of doubts should be driving the inquiries of any serious journalist covering the story. But as is so often the case, not only are these questions not being raised or investigated, but anyone like Murray who thinks critically – who assumes that the powerful will seek to promote their interests and avoid accountability – is instantly dismissed as a conspiracy theorist or in Putin's pocket.
That is no meaningful kind of critique. Many of the questions that have been raised – like why there are so many gaps in the CCTV record of the movements of both the Skripals and the two assumed assassins – could be answered if there was an interest in doing so. The evasion and the smears simply suggest that power intends to remain unaccountable, that it is keeping itself concealed, that the narrative is more important than the truth.
And that is reason enough to move from questioning the narrative to distrusting it.
Ripples on a lake
Journalists typically have a passive relationship to power, in stark contrast to their image as tenacious watchdog. But more fundamental than control over narrative is the ideology that guides these narratives. Ideology ensures the power-system is invisible not only to us, those who are abused and exploited by it, but also to those who benefit from it.
It is precisely because power resides in structures and ideology, rather than individuals, that it is so hard to see. And the power-structures themselves are made yet more difficult to identify because the narratives created about our societies are designed to conceal those structures and ideology – where real power resides – by focusing instead on individuals.
That is why our newspapers and TV shows are full of stories about personalities – celebrities, royalty, criminals, politicians. They are made visible so we fail to notice the ideological structures we live inside, which are supposed to remain invisible.
News and entertainment are the ripples on a lake, not the lake itself. But the ripples could not exist without the lake that forms and shapes them.
Up against the screen
If this sounds like hyperbole, let's stand back from our particular ideological system – neoliberalism – and consider earlier ideological systems in the hope that they offer some perspective. At the moment, we are like someone standing right up against an IMAX screen, so close that we cannot see that there is a screen or even guess that there is a complete picture. All we see are moving colours and pixels. Maybe we can briefly infer a mouth, the wheel of a vehicle, a gun.
Before neoliberalism there were other systems of rule. There was, for example, feudalism that appropriated a communal resource – land – exclusively for an aristocracy. It exploited the masses by forcing them to toil on the land for a pittance to generate the wealth that supported castles, a clergy, manor houses, art collections and armies. For several centuries the power of this tiny elite went largely unquestioned.
But then a class of entrepreneurs emerged, challenging the landed artistocracy with a new means of industrialised production. They built factories and took advantage of scales of economy that slightly widened the circle of privilege, creating a middle class. That elite, and the middle-class that enjoyed crumbs from their master's table, lived off the exploitation of children in work houses and the labour of a new urban poor in slum housing.
These eras were systematically corrupt, enabling the elites of those times to extend and entrench their power. Each elite produced justifications to placate the masses who were being exploited, to brainwash them into believing the system existed as part of a natural order or even for their benefit. The aristocracy relied on a divine right of kings, the capitalist class on the guiding hand of the free market and bogus claims of equality of opportunity.
In another hundred years, if we still exist as a species, our system will look no less corrupt – probably more so – than its predecessors.
Neoliberalism, late-stage capitalism, plutocratic rule by corporations – whatever you wish to call it – has allowed a tiny elite to stash away more wealth and accrue more power than any feudal monarch could ever have dreamt of. And because of the global reach of this elite, its corruption is more endemic, more complete, more destructive than any ever known to mankind.
A foreign policy elite can destroy the world several times over with nuclear weapons. A globalised corporate elite is filling the oceans with the debris from our consumption, and chopping down the forest-lungs of our planet for palm-oil plantations so we can satisfy our craving for biscuits and cake. And our media and intelligence services are jointly crafting a narrative of bogeymen and James Bond villains – both in Hollywood movies, and in our news programmes – to make us fearful and pliable.
Assumptions of inevitability
Most of us abuse our own small-power thoughtlessly, even self-righteously. We tell ourselves that we gave the kids a "good spanking" because they were naughty, rather than because we established with them early on a power relationship that confusingly taught them that the use of force and coercion came with a parental stamp of approval.
Those in greater power, from minions in the media to executives of major corporations, are no different. They are as incapable of questioning the ideology and the narrative – how inevitable and "right" our neoliberal system is – as the rest of us. But they play a vital part in maintaining and entrenching that system nonetheless.
David Cromwell and David Edwards of Media Lens have provided two analogies – in the context of the media – that help explain how it is possible for individuals and groups to assist and enforce systems of power without having any conscious intention to do so, and without being aware that they are contributing to something harmful. Without, in short, being aware that they are conspiring in the system.
The first :
When a shoal of fish instantly changes direction, it looks for all the world as though the movement was synchronised by some guiding hand. Journalists – all trained and selected for obedience by media all seeking to maximise profits within state-capitalist society – tend to respond to events in the same way.
The second :
Place a square wooden framework on a flat surface and pour into it a stream of ball bearings, marbles, or other round objects. Some of the balls may bounce out, but many will form a layer within the wooden framework; others will then find a place atop this first layer. In this way, the flow of ball bearings steadily builds new layers that inevitably produce a pyramid-style shape. This experiment is used to demonstrate how near-perfect crystalline structures such as snowflakes arise in nature without conscious design.
The system – whether feudalism, capitalism, neoliberalism – emerges out of the real-world circumstances of those seeking power most ruthlessly. In a time when the key resource was land, a class emerged justifying why it should have exclusive rights to control that land and the labour needed to make it productive. When industrial processes developed, a class emerged demanding that it had proprietary rights to those processes and to the labour needed to make them productive.
Our place in the pyramid
In these situations, we need to draw on something like Darwin's evolutionary "survival of the fittest" principle. Those few who are most hungry for power, those with least empathy, will rise to the top of the pyramid, finding themselves best-placed to exploit the people below. They will rationalise this exploitation as a divine right, or as evidence of their inherently superior skills, or as proof of the efficiency of the market.
And below them, like the layers of ball bearings, will be those who can help them maintain and expand their power: those who have the skills, education and socialisation to increase profits and sell brands.
All of this should be obvious, even non-controversial. It fits what we experience of our small-power lives. Does bigger power operate differently? After all, if those at the top of the power-pyramid were not hungry for power, even psychopathic in its pursuit, if they were caring and humane, worried primarily about the wellbeing of their workforce and the planet, they would be social workers and environmental activists, not CEOs of media empires and arms manufacturers.
And yet, base your political thinking on what should be truisms, articulate a worldview that distrusts those with the most power because they are the most capable of – and committed to – misusing it, and you will be derided. You will be called a conspiracy theorist, dismissed as deluded. You will be accused of wearing a tinfoil hat, of sour grapes, of being anti-American, a social warrior, paranoid, an Israel-hater or anti-semitic, pro-Putin, pro-Assad, a Marxist.
None of this should surprise us either. Because power – not just the people in the system, but the system itself – will use whatever tools it has to protect itself. It is easier to deride critics as unhinged, especially when you control the media, the politicians and the education system, than it is to provide a counter-argument.
In fact, it is vital to prevent any argument or real debate from taking place. Because the moment we think about the arguments, weigh them, use our critical faculties, there is a real danger that the scales will fall from our eyes. There is a real threat that we will move back from the screen, and see the whole picture.
Can we see the complete picture of the Skripal poisoning in Salisbury; or the US election that led to Trump being declared president; or the revolution in Ukraine; or the causes and trajectory of fighting in Syria, and before it Libya and Iraq; or the campaign to discredit Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour party; or the true implications of the banking crisis a decade ago?
Profit, not ethics
Just as a feudal elite was driven not by ethics but by the pursuit of power and wealth through the control of land; just as early capitalists were driven not by ethics but by the pursuit of power and wealth through the control of mechanisation; so neoliberalism is driven not by ethics but the pursuit of power and wealth through the control of the planet.
The only truth we can know is that the western power-elite is determined to finish the task of making its power fully global, expanding it from near-absolute to absolute. It cares nothing for you or your grand-children. It is a cold-calculating system, not a friend or neighbour. It lives for the instant gratification of wealth accumulation, not concern about the planet's fate tomorrow.
And because of that it is structurally bound to undermine or discredit anyone, any group, any state that stands in the way of achieving its absolute dominion.
If that is not the thought we hold uppermost in our minds as we listen to a politician, read a newspaper, watch a film or TV show, absorb an ad, or engage on social media, then we are sleepwalking into a future the most powerful, the most ruthless, the least caring have designed for us.
Step back, and take a look at the whole screen. And decide whether this is really the future you wish for your grand-children.
Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are " Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" (Pluto Press) and " Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair " (Zed Books). His website is http://www.jonathan-cook.net/
Sep 07, 2018 | countercurrents.org
The creation of large enterprises gave rise not only to an organized labor movement, but to a larger bureaucratic regulatory state with agencies intended to help stabilize and grow capitalism while keeping the working class loyal to the social contract. Crisis in public confidence resulted not only from economic recessions and depressions built into the economy, but the contradictions capitalism was fostering in society as the benefits in advances in industry, science and technology accrued to the wealthy while the social structure remained hierarchical.
Ever since 1947 when the ideological father of neoliberalism Friedrich von Hayek called a conference in Mont Pelerin to address how the new ideology would replace Keynesianism, neoliberals have been promising to address these contradictions, insisting that eliminating the social welfare state and allowing complete market dominationthat would result in society's modernization and would filter down to all social classes and nations both developed and developing. Such thinking is rooted in the modernization theory that emerged after WWII when the US took advantage of its preeminent global power to impose a transformation model on much of the non-Communist world. Cold War liberal economist Walt Rostow articulated the modernization model of development in his work entitled The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto , 1960. By the 1970s, neoliberals adapted Rostow's modernization theory as their bible and the core of the social contract. (Evans Rubara, "Uneven Development: Understanding the Roots of Inequality"
The challenge for the political class has always been and remains to mobilize a popular base that would afford legitimacy to the social contract. The issue for mainstream political parties is not whether there is a systemic problem with the social contract intended to serve the capitalist class, but the degree to which the masses can be co-opted through various methods to support the status quo. "A generation ago, the country's social contract was premised on higher wages and reliable benefits, provided chiefly by employers. In recent decades, we've moved to a system where low wages are supposed to be made bearable by low consumer prices and a hodgepodge of government assistance programs. But as dissatisfaction with this arrangement has grown, it is time to look back at how we got here and imagine what the next stage of the social contract might be."
Considering that Keynesianism and neoliberalism operate under the same social structure and differ only on how best to achieve capital formation while retaining sociopolitical conformity, the article above published in The Atlantic illustrates how analysts/commentators easily misinterpret nuances within a social contract for the covenant's macro goals. A similar view as that expressed in The Atlantic is also reflected in the New America Foundation's publications, identifying specific aspects of Arthur Schlesinger's Cold War militarist policies enmeshed with social welfare Keynesianism as parts of the evolving social contract.
Identifying the social contract with a specific set of policies under different administrations evolving to reflect the nuances of political class and economic elites,some analysts contend that there is a European Union-wide social contract to which nationally-based social contracts must subordinate their sovereignty. This model has evolved to accommodate neoliberal globalism through regional trade blocs on the basis of a 'patron-client'integration relationship between core and periphery countries.
Sep 07, 2018 | en.wikipedia.org
Ágnes Heller's work is associated with Moral Anthropology and "probing modernity's destiny for a non-predatory humanism that combines the existential wisdom of ancient theory with modern values." 
Neomodernism accepts some aspects of postmodernism's critique of modernism, notably that modernism elevated the world view of dominant groups to the status of objective fact, thereby failing to express the viewpoint of " subaltern groups," such as women and ethnic minorities. However, in her view, neomodernism rejects postmodernism as:
- Unscientific: the ability of science to generate useful knowledge cannot be waved away as " scientism ".
- Journalism: as not giving any explanation as to how or why things happen.
- Local: as being unable to recognise patterns that occur across time or location.
- Unverified: as lacking any validation process, and therefore proceeding by fad and hierarchy.
In 1982, Victor Grauer attacked "the cult of the new," and proposed that there had arisen a "neo-modern" movement in the arts which was based on deep formal rigor, rather than on "the explosion of pluralism."  His argument was that post-modernism was exclusively a negative attack on modernism, and had no future separate from modernism proper, a point of view which is held by many scholars of modernism. Carlos Escudé
In "Natural Law at War", a review essay published on 31 May 2002 in The Times Literary Supplement (London, TLS No. 5174), Carlos Escudé wrote: "Postmodern humanity faces a major challenge. It must solve a dilemma it does not want to face. If all cultures are morally equivalent, then all human individuals are not endowed with the same human rights, because some cultures award some men more rights than are allotted to other men and women. If, on the other hand, all men and women are endowed with the same human rights, then all cultures are not morally equivalent, because cultures that acknowledge that 'all men are created equal' are to be regarded as 'superior,' or 'more advanced' in terms of their civil ethics than those that do not." Escudé's brand of neomodernism contends with "politically-correct intellectuals who prefer to opt for the easy way out, asserting both that we all have the same human rights and that all cultures are equal."Andre Durand and Armando Alemdar
Published their own Neomodernist Manifesto in 2001. The Neomodern Manifesto posits criteria for a revitalised approach to works of art founded on history, traditional artistic disciplines, theology and philosophy. Durand's and Alemdar's Neomodernism views art as an act of expression of the sublime; in Neomodern painting as a representation of the visual appearance of things with correspondence to the physical world understood as a model for beauty, truth, and good. Neomodern works of art via mimesis interpret and present the universe and man's existence, in line with the belief that the reality we live is but a mirror of another universe that can only be accessed through inspiration and imagination.Gabriel Omowaye
Gabriel Lolu Omowaye, in his speech 'A new challenging time' to a group of college students in Nigeria, in 2005, took a different approach to neomodernism. He viewed neomodernism as a political philosophy that became more prominent in the early 21st century. To him, it involves common goal and joint global effort - universalism - to address arising global challenges such as population growth, natural resources, climate change and environmental factors, natural causes and effects, and health issues. Omowaye posited that political will is the major driver of economic necessities. As a result, he added that neomodernism involves limited government-regulated liberalism along with high drive innovation and entrepreneurship, high literacy rate, progressive taxation for social equity, philanthropism, technological advancement, economic development and individual growth. He perceived the quest for equal representation of men and women in the neomodern era as a strong signal for advent of postmodernism. So also, the quest for youths engagement in resourceful and rewarding ways especially in governance, peace building and self-productivity has not taken a formidable shape than it is at this time. As far as he was concerned, he believed most of these challenges were not adequately tackled in preceding eras and the arising challenges thus stated were not prepared for and that cause for change in mentality and thinking which the neomodern era is providing for solutions to the era's challenges, with a prospective view to global stability and social inclusion. His philosophical thought premised on a fact that new times require new approaches from new reasonings, even if some applicable ideas or methologies could be borrowed from the past, an acute form of paradigm-shift.
Omowaye believed in idealism as guiding realism and in turn, realism as defining idealism. Moral concepts cannot be wished away from social norms, but evolving social trends dissipate morality in form of religion and logical standards and adheres to current norms in form of 'what should be'. Consequently, the manner at which 'what should be' is driven at in the modern and postmodern eras, being widely accepted became 'what is'. The manner at which the damage of the new 'what is' is hampering development process in the form of higher mortality rate and decadence of cultural good, calls to question the ideology behind the norms that are less beneficial to a wider society in form of globalization. The world as a whole through technological advancement became a global community particularly, in the 21st century. Former Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan then stated that the "suffering anywhere concerns people everywhere". Champions of neomodern age such as Bill Gates and Richard Branson in the field of philanthropy expounded their vision to encompass the global community in social good such as alleviating poverty, eradicating diseases, enhancing literacy rates and addressing climate changes.
Technological advancement of the neomodern era however has its downturns in that it added to the decadence in cultural good such that people everywhere, especially high number of youths follow the trends in the new 'what is', which include social celebrities in the form of dressing, sexual activities, extravagancies, and less interest in learning and even, working but more interest in making money. Money became a value-determinant than utility. This brought about frauds in various sectors. This latter aspect is not limited to youths but even company executives, and politicians of many societies. Technological advancement has made privacy less safer for intrusion and people more safer for protection. The supposedly good of technological advancement in the neomodern era has included whistle blow such as Wikileaks' Julian Assange. The more good has been in the level of innovations and innovators it has sprung up such as Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and easier business models and broader social connectivity. This latter part has lessened more amity in immediate environment and many people tend to live more in the virtual world neomodern technological advancements have created.
Neomodernism checks more into the current relative way of living of people and the society to correct necessary abnormalities and to encourage virtues and values within the global community in the 21st century.
In furtherance, Gabriel Omowaye's view of neomodernism was that knowledge comes from learning and experience, and wisdom primarily from intuition. Knowledge is a variable of set occurrences of that which happens to a man and that which a man seeks to know. Knowledge is vital and good for discretion but a minor part of discernment wherein what is known might not be applicable. Intuition is a function of the mind and the mind, not seen, and yet unknown to the carrier, is a function of what put the thoughts, ideas and discretion in it. Wisdom without knowledge is vague, and knowledge without wisdom, unworthy. Wisdom perfects knowledge, and in the absence of either, the sole is delusory.
Mar 23, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com"Listening to this show by MSNB is so disguising that I lost any respect for it. "
I actually jumped the gun. That's does not mean that it should not be viewed. There are some positive aspects of MSNBC http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show
Here is an except from "A Colony in a Nation" by Chris Hayes that she recently discussed (Chris Hayes is also the author of Twilight of the Elites )
...we have built a colony in a nation, not in the classic Marxist sense but in the deep sense we can appreciate as a former colony ourselves: A territory that isn't actually free. A place controlled from outside rather than within. A place where the mechanisms of representation don't work enough to give citizens a sense of ownership over their own government. A place where the law is a tool of control rather than a foundation for prosperity.
... ... ...
A Colony in a Nation is not primarily a history lesson, though it does provide a serious, empathetic look at the problems facing the Colony, as well as at the police officers tasked with making rapid decisions in a gun-rich environment.
Hayes takes us through his less-than-successful experience putting himself in the latter's shoes by trying out an unusual training tool, a virtually reality simulator: "We're only one scene in, and already the self-righteous liberal pundit has drawn his weapon on an unarmed man holding a cinder block."
Elsewhere, Hayes examines his own experiences with the law, such as an incident when he was almost caught accidentally smuggling "about thirty dollars' worth of marijuana stuffed into my eyeglass case" into the 2000 Republican National Convention. Hayes got away without so much as a slap on the wrist, protected by luck, circumstances and privilege.
For black men living in the Colony, encounters with the police are much more fraught. Racial profiling and minor infractions can lead to "being swept into the vortex of a penal system that captures more than half the black men his age in his neighborhood... an adulthood marked by prison, probation, and dismal job prospects...."
Dundalk , , August 13, 2018 at 5:01 am
Aug 13, 2018 | www.theamericanconservative.comTwo big Washington think tanks have teamed up to defend democracy against an 'assault on the transatlantic community.' For several months, an alliance has been forming between the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the neoliberal Center for American Progress (CAP). It's the sort of kumbaya not witnessed since wartime Washington a decade ago.
A press release from CAP on May 10 blares: "CAP and AEI Team up to Defend Democracy and Transatlantic Partnership." The same joyous tidings accompanied a public statement issued by AEI on July 31, which stressed that the alliance was meant to resist "the populist assault on the transatlantic community" for the purpose of "defending democracy."
Although, according to Vikram Singh, a senior fellow at CAP, the two partners "often disagree on important policy questions," they have been driven together "at a time when the character of our societies is at stake." This burgeoning cooperation underscores that "our commitment to democracy and core democratic principles is stronger than ever." Since both documents fling around the terms "democracy" and "liberal democracy" to justify a meddlesome foreign policy, we may safely assume that the neocons are behind this project. Neocons for some time now have prefixed their intended aggressions with "democracy" and "liberal democracy" the way the Spanish and Austrian Habsburgs during the 16th and 17th centuries stuck the word "holy" into the names of their wartime alliances. Closer to our time, communist governments favored the use of "people's democracy" to indicate that they were the good guys. Presumably the neocons have now picked up this habit of nomenclature.
Ironically, the new neocon-shaped think tank alliance is no more interested in what it claims to want, namely democracy, than its former Soviet rulers were. AEI has attacked Britain's decision to leave the European Union as symptomatic of "populist attacks on traditional structures of international affairs such as the EU and international trade regimes." It is in this context, we are told, that NATO has "appeared to be a second-rate concern" and that the globalization that "ushered in unprecedented worldwide growth" has been placed in peril. Leaving aside other critical analyses of globalism that call into question AEI's enthusiasm for neoliberal economics, the more relevant question is: why is it "undemocratic" for a nation to vote in favor of leaving the EU? And for that matter, why is it "undemocratic" for countries to reconsider their membership in NATO?
Moreover, who are these "authoritarian" bad guys that CAP now has in its crosshairs and plans to rid the world of with its new neocon pals? Presumably it's the right-of-center governments in Eastern and Central Europe, as personified by favorite leftist whipping boy Viktor Orban . Although CAP doesn't want to be especially "confrontational" in dealing with its villains, or so it claims, it also proclaims that "authoritarian regimes pursue different objectives than societies with governments that are accountable to the people and respect the rule of law." It might be useful for CAP to tell us how exactly Hungary, Poland, and other right-of-center European governments have not been democratically elected and have disrespected their countries' legal traditions.
Fortunately our think tank alliance is in still in no position (heaven be thanked!) to impose its will. The most these hysterical complainers can do is air their grievances and misrepresent them as somehow "preserving democracy." All AEI and CAP have done is to take a multitude of grievances -- e.g., America's failing to oppose adequately China's cyberthreats, putting up with Russia's aggression, "security threats" in general, and nuclear proliferation -- and mixed them together with standard leftist boilerplate about Orban's "illiberalism" and "sharing our values." This, of course, is indicative of the neocon tactic of linking whatever its advocates see fit to address to a supposed common purpose, which is saving democracy from whatever is defined as "antidemocratic."
For those who wonder what AEI, as a supposedly right-of-center foundation, is doing hanging out with CAP, such hobnobbing between Republican policy foundations and left-of-center tanks has been going on for a while. In December 2015, AEI and Brookings both proudly announced their cooperation in drafting a poverty program that emphatically diverged from the one proposed by then-candidate Trump. Both foundations called for, among other reforms, raising the minimum wage and greater government guidance for poor families.
What's new about the AEI/CAP "partnership of peril," however, is the degree of collaboration taking place and the unmistakable whiff of "never Trump" among their scholars and writers. It would also appear that as the price of collaboration, AEI has been required to join its more leftist partner in going after democratically elected right-of-center political leaders in Europe. This recalls all too vividly the Soviet practice of purging "undemocratic" -- that is, uncongenial -- governments while taking over Eastern Europe at the end of the Second World War. Today it's an establishment think tank world where governments elected fairly by their people are declared not democratic enough.Remaking the World in the Neoconservative Image A Neoconservative of Conviction
Paul Gottfried is Raffensperger Professor of Humanities Emeritus at Elizabethtown College, where he taught for 25 years. He is a Guggenheim recipient and a Yale Ph.D. He is the author of 13 books, most recently Fascism: Career of a Concept and Revisions and Dissents . 20 Responses to Neocons and Liberals Join Forces to Fight Populism
E. J. Worthing August 12, 2018 at 11:20 pmIt is anti-democratic to try to shut down a university because of a disagreement with the founder's political views.
Furor , , August 13, 2018 at 5:53 am"Moreover, who are these "authoritarian" bad guys that CAP now has in its crosshairs and plans to rid the world of with its new neocon pals?"
Curiously, they don't find mass surveillance by the NSA, militarization of the police, permanent war, or the kind of government-imposed humiliations we experience in airports these days to be the least bit "authoritarian", all of them byproducts of incompetent or treacherous neocon and neoliberal control-freaks.
Which is why the normal mind guffaws at the though of neocons and neoliberals banding together to fight "authoritarianism".
They're still pretending they don't get it. Populists aren't the problem. Populists reacted to the problem. The problem is the staggering damage that neocons and neoliberals have done to the West. The problem is how to rid ourselves of them.
I am not really surprised. What goes on in Eastern Europe is controversial and it will catch attention of all sides. Hungary and Poland are peripheries of a bigger political-economic area, so they will have to take this into accountFrank D , , August 13, 2018 at 7:35 am
The author seems to be complaining about something that will not have any effect on the thing he is complaining about.Oleg Gark , , August 13, 2018 at 8:09 am
The Little People use the internet to conspire against us, the Important People.Michael Kenny , , August 13, 2018 at 9:45 am
That's not Democracy, that's Insolence!
What's at stake for both think tanks is the continuance of US global hegemony, whether for its own sake or as an essential tool to prop up Israel. Ironically, the same US ideological "family" promoted the very populism they are now condemning for the purpose of breaking up the very same EU whose possible demise they now regard as a disaster! Equally, Professor Gottfried and his VDare friends themselves peddle the anti-EU/pro-Putin line and are therefore in no position to criticize the two think tanks for promoting "a meddlesome foreign policy". Indeed, the way in which Professor Gottfried takes a position in the article for or against this or that European government is a perfect example of his belief in a "meddlesome foreign policy". He just doesn't like the particular form of meddling that the think tanks are proposing.Ken Zaretzke , , August 13, 2018 at 11:35 am
Foreign affairs and domestic policy are intertwined in the hostility to populism. AEI supports quasi-open borders, so no surprise that they view populism as a scourge.Ron Pavellas , , August 13, 2018 at 11:42 am
A pro-populist strategy, specifically on the immigration front, suggests itself if we distinguish between Deep State-compatible immigration *restrictionism* and Deep State-incompatible immigration *patriotism*. The latter is a form of populist nationalism. (That phrase isn't redundant because there can surely be non-populist forms of nationalism.) For the former, note that the Deep State can, if anything, operate better in a society without continual ethnic minority- pleading.
Jeff Sessions is an immigration restrictionist; Stephen Miller is an immigration patriot.
The think tank anti-populism is part of the Deep State's effort to ensure that the Mueller investigation go forward as the best way of hindering Trump's populist instincts and the policies that it fears will flow from them.
My initial reaction to the headline and first few sentences was: "They are frightened. Good!" Since the first order of any organization is to survive, no matter what, each is now abandoning its original (stated) purpose to align with the other. "The Populists are coming! The Populists are coming!"Kent , , August 13, 2018 at 11:52 am
I think it's funny using terms like "liberal", "neo-liberal", "neo-conservative". They are all ideologies whose fundamental motive is to maximize corporate profits at the expense of the working American. There's no reason to distinguish between them.John S , , August 13, 2018 at 2:15 pm
This is an unfair critique.Patricus , , August 13, 2018 at 2:59 pm
" why is it "undemocratic" for a nation to vote in favor of leaving the EU? And for that matter, why is it 'undemocratic' for countries to reconsider their membership in NATO?"
The documents don't say these things are undemocratic. The documents claim that authoritarian populists attack international cooperation.
"It might be useful for CAP to tell us how exactly Hungary, Poland, and other right-of-center European governments have disrespected their countries' legal traditions."
They have. If you put "Viktor Orban" and "Poland" in the search box on their website you'll find it.
There has been no significant difference between Democrats and Republicans in my six decades. Trump was a breath of fresh air although he hasn't moved far enough to repudiate the establishment.EliteCommInc. , , August 13, 2018 at 3:00 pm
Laughing. Sure, until they want to adovcate for another regime change campaign, then it will about people, for people all day long to get them on board.Jeeves , , August 13, 2018 at 4:30 pm
Until then they won't be happy until the US reflects asian caste systems of social polity.
Viktor Orban is the "left's favorite whipping boy"? Oh, I think he's a little more than that, Mr. Gottfried.cka2nd , , August 13, 2018 at 4:54 pm
In addition to putting Mr. Orban's "illiberalism" in mocking quotes, this melange of conspiracy mongering finds yet more sinister neocon plotting in the AEI/Hudson connection -- which, if you follow Gottfried's link, turns out to surprisingly free of Soviet-era purges, even though it departs from anything proposed by The Stable Genius in Chief.
If the author doesn't think left-wing critics of globalism (Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the Latin American "pink" revolutionaries -- well, reformists -- and the anti-WTO/IMF/World Bank anti-globalists, among others), he's fooling himself. It was the farther left, after all, and the unions who often led the fights to vote against joining first the Eurozone and then the EU, and who have opposed the American elite's various free trade deals, forcing previous deals between neo-liberals and free market conservatives (e.g., NAFTA, Clinton and the GOP).Black , , August 13, 2018 at 5:16 pm
Soooo You think White Identitarian populism is good for the WEST see History. Ha! Whats coming down the PIKE is more wars, conflicts, tribalism, and DEATH. And this is just the Western Nations (Whites). Populism is not Racial Idealism. Poor whites CONNED again, like always. Good Fences make better neighbors, and NIMBY!Q , , August 13, 2018 at 6:17 pm
Neocons and liberals have always had a lot in common. They both want:Learned Foot , , August 13, 2018 at 9:42 pm
-- open borders
-- anti-Russia, Iran
-- American hegemony which means endless wars
-- support for gay marriage
-- anti-Nationalism hence anti-Trump
The only thing that separated them were gun control and abortion, but even those issues aren't as clearcut anymore.
Two sides of the same bad penny. Question is, how do we get rid of it?Wow. Just Wow. , , August 14, 2018 at 1:06 am
So the people who gave us an America of 'Your Papers, Please!!' and 'Shut Up and Bend Over' are getting worried about the threat of authoritarianism.Ken Zaretzke , , August 14, 2018 at 11:21 am
They want their "democracy" back, don't you know, with its black sites, endless wars, its torture and fiat assassination regime, its hate speech laws, its warrantless surveillance programs, and the highest incarceration rates in the world.
@Black,Tom Cullem , , August 14, 2018 at 2:39 pm
I suspect you're an academic with tenure already in the bag notwithstanding your way of talking. So tell me, how is the anti-White identitarianism going in South Africa, for the average non-white South African? And why is the anti-White government failing so miserably?
Legacy of colonialism, eh?
@Dundalk -- Second all that, perfectly put.
They aren't worried about democracy: they're worried about global corporatist power, which is what "transatlantic partnerships" really translates to.
"Populism" is another name for the Great Unwashed trying to regain some control of their environment. Bloody cheek, eh?
Aug 10, 2018 | www.theamericanconservative.comDonald Trump, during a recent stop on his "Anarchy in the UK" tour, argued that the mass influx of immigrants into Europe is causing Great Britain and other nations to "lose their culture." The fear of cultural dilution and transformation as a consequence of shifting demographics is widespread, and it resonates in the United States, too, especially among those who support the current president.
Stephen Bannon, Tucker Carlson, and other popular right-wing figures have warned of threats to national identity in an American context, contending that Mexicans will not assimilate and that Islam is incompatible with liberal democracy and secular governance. Liberals and libertarians often respond by recalling the long tradition of assimilation in American history, along with the outrage that often accompanies new arrivals. Nearly every ethnic group, from the Italians to the Chinese, has been the target of political and social hostility. It is an old story, but one worth telling, and it is an old debate, but one worth having. Border sovereignty, even to someone like me who probably favors more liberal immigration laws than most TAC readers, is a legitimate issue and not to be easily dismissed.
The current conversation about traditionalism, national identity, and cultural preservation, however, is so narrow to render it counterproductive and oblivious. For those truly worried about the conservation of traditional culture, to focus solely, or even primarily, on immigration is the equivalent of a gunshot victim rushing to the barber for a haircut.
Rather than asking whether American culture is at risk of ruination, it is more salient to inquire, after decades of commercialization, Madison Avenue advertising onslaughts, the erasure of regional differences, and the "Bowling Alone" collapse of community, whether America even has a culture.Some Conservatives Have Been Against Capitalism for Centuries Blame Regulation, Not Capitalism
In 2004, the historian Walter McDougall concluded that as early as the Civil War, America was a "nation of hustlers." During Reconstruction, Walt Whitman wrote that "genuine belief" seemed to have left America. "The underlying principles of the States," Whitman said, "are not honestly believed in, nor is humanity itself believed in."
Prophesizing with his pen that democratic structures and procedures would prove insufficient to cultivate a truly democratic culture, Whitman likened the American obsession with commercial conquest and pecuniary gain to a "magician's serpent that ate up all the other serpents." Americans, Whitman warned, were dedicating themselves to creating a "thoroughly-appointed body with no soul."
When Whitman wrote the essay in question -- "Democratic Vistas" -- the United States had open borders and immigrants freely entered the "new world" for reasons of freedom and financial ambition. Even if they attended churches in their native languages and lived in ethnic enclaves, they often found that they could matriculate into the mainstream of Americana through pursuit of the "American dream," that is, hope for monetary triumph. Accumulation of capital is the dominant, even definitional, American idea, which is why Calvin Coolidge famously remarked, "The chief business of the American people is business."
Capitalism is a formidable engine, enabling society to advance and allowing for high standards of living. But to construct an entire culture around what Coolidge identified as "buying, selling, investing, and prospering," especially when capitalism becomes corporate and cronyist, is to steadily empty a culture of its meaning and purpose.
Few were as celebratory over the potential for meaning and purpose in American culture as Whitman, who drew profound inspiration from America's natural beauty and regional diversity. So what force was most responsible for the widespread desecration of America's own Garden of Eden? All arguments about immigration aside, changing demographics did not transform the country into the planetary capital of asphalt and replace its rich terrain with the endless suburban sprawl of office complexes, strip malls, and parking lots. The reduction of the American character to a giant Walmart and the mutation of the American landscape, outside of metropolitan areas, to the same cloned big box stores and corporate chains is not a consequence of immigration.
The degradation of the American arts and the assault on history and civics in public school and even higher education curricula is not the result of immigrants flooding American streets. Amy Chua has argued quite the opposite when it comes to America's increasingly imbecilic and obscene pop culture. Many immigrant families try to keep their children away from the influence of reality television, the anti-intellectual reverence for celebrities, and the vigilant commercialization of every aspect of life.
The same cultural killer is responsible for all the assaults on American identity visible as daily routine, from environmental destruction to the endangerment of independent retailers and "mom and pop" shops. That culprit is corporate capitalism. It is a large entity that, like any killer, justifies its death toll with dogmatic claims of ideology. "Progress," everyone from the owner of the local diner to the out-of-work art teacher is told, has no room for you.
In his song "The West End," John Mellencamp gives an angry account of the disappearance of a small town:
For my whole life
I've lived down in the West End
But it sure has changed here
Since I was a kid
It's worse now
Look what progress did
Someone lined their pockets
I don't know who that is
Progress, as Mellencamp succinctly captures in song, often comes at someone else's expense, and translates to enrichment for the few who benefit.
Christopher Lasch had a slightly more prosaic way of measuring the pain of progress. "The triumph of corporate capitalism," he wrote, "has created a society characterized by a high degree of uniformity, which nevertheless lacks the cohesiveness and sense of shared experience that distinguish a truly integrated community from an atomistic society."
The irony Lasch describes is tragic. A culture of corporate capitalism demands conformity, and most people cooperate. But because its center is hollow, few people feel any sense of connection to each other, even as they parrot the same values. It is no wonder that most forms of rebellion in the United States are exhibitions of stylized individualism -- inspiring theater and often enlivening to observe, but politically fruitless.
Rather than a "marketplace of ideas," the United States is a mere marketplace, and just like at any store in the shopping mall, whatever fails to sell is removed from the shelves. Today's trend is tomorrow's garbage.
Those concerned about tradition and cultural longevity can lament immigration and condemn "open borders." But if they are serious about American identity, they should begin and end with the villainous corporate enterprise that has waged war on it since the late 19th century.
David Masciotra is the author of four books, including Mellencamp: American Troubadour (University Press of Kentucky) and Barack Obama: Invisible Man ( Eyewear Publishing).
Nelson August 9, 2018 at 10:36 pmWhatever culture remains in this country can often be found in the places where people still maintain at least a symbolic link with their immigrant roots.Whine Merchant , , August 9, 2018 at 11:55 pmMany of the immigrants came to the dream of America believing the myth. That they could be anything hard work would bring them, regardless of rank or class of birth, title, family name, or religious prejudice. For the most part, this was sufficiently true that they prospered. They became "us". This [perhaps naive] belief in the dream made most of them, and their children, our most loyal and law-abiding citizens.Fran Macadam , , August 10, 2018 at 12:33 am
It was indeed the robber barons of the 19th century that pushed us down the path of self-destruction.I feel vindicated. Some years ago, Rod Dreher pilloried me for being obsessed with how destructive corporate capitalism had become to American culture, values and social cohesion. I think his epiphany came, when supposedly "conservative" big business turned out to be on the other side in the culture wars.Ray Woodcock , , August 10, 2018 at 6:02 amI hear you, Mr. Masciotra. I'm not especially fond of large for-profit corporations. But they wouldn't occupy monopolistic positions and enjoy rapacious profits and latitude for enormous misdeeds if the public were firmly opposed to that sort of thing. Americans generally love a winner, even if the "winning" is fraudulent or coerced, as long as they personally aren't coerced or defrauded. It's all about the money, or at least the belief that the money might come.Crème fraiche , , August 10, 2018 at 8:09 amThank you for this refreshing piece which points the finger to a place where those on the left and right can actually make a difference. Of course, making any changes will require dismantling some the mythology of the American prosperity gospel, but it starts with great articles like these.GaryH , , August 10, 2018 at 8:39 am
The system didn't become corrupt in the 80s, it's been that way for much longer. And there have been hustlers and " well meaning " Corporate yes men making dishonest money off of their compatriots for centuries (everywhere, I might add).
So the question is, do we want to continue to encourage this behavior or do we dare to dream of another reality ?Oh so true. America's super rich are the enemy, a much worse one than a naive socialist like Bernie Sanders.connecticut farmer , , August 10, 2018 at 9:05 amWell crafted and thoughtful. Years ago, Walker Percy observed that America was unique among nations in that it was simultaneously the most religious country and the most materialistic country in the world. Fast forward to 2018 and while religion appears to be in decline "getting and spending" continues apace.Youknowho , , August 10, 2018 at 9:17 amSOCIALISM DOES NOT WORK!joshua , , August 10, 2018 at 9:25 am
WHAT ARE YOU, SOME KIND OF COMMUNIST?
THE FREE MARKET WILL SOLVE IT!
There, I put in the Libertarain response so there is no need to read all the posts they all will say the same thing.
How dare you attack the sacred cow of Capitalism, sir?Agreed but lets be honest with ourselves. We have to go where the kindling is dry and abundant to start a proverbial fire. America does have a culture. To see that all one need do is visit Nashville, the Ozarks or farm country in nebraska. Where there are still people the culture survives. That is a stoical dispensation. The culture does go back to Hellenism but Americana does have it's own ways. Go visit Europe for any amount of time or dare I say it Asia and American culture becomes obvious.collin , , August 10, 2018 at 9:47 am
Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday that, in my opinion, best represents American culture and how it is different from all else.Corporate Capitalism has always been American culture and life. Basic Taylorism on the assembly line was over 100 years in which men spent 50 -- 60 hours a week performing a single task very quickly.Jon , , August 10, 2018 at 10:02 am
What is American art? Would we consider Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley great American art and music? I do but the original reaction of older Americans was 1950s R&R was complete degradation of music. (Some of the racial language was very colorful by good citizens.) Or what Star Wars or Godfather. Or maybe the modern Marvel 'universe' has a degree of great pop art.Certainly well argued but for one important element that has been omitted; one ingredient which bundles everything together into one integrated picture. That necessary item can be summed with these two words, "buy in." Corporate capitalism would never hold sway except for the acquiescence of the populace which wanting the quantity of commodities had gathered in the shopping malls but now remain isolated in the front of their computer screens or cell phones.Joe the Plutocrat , , August 10, 2018 at 10:06 am
Rather than there being the tyranny of the marketplace bringing forth this dominance of goods over people and the legerdemain of monetized value displacing our organic relationship to the land, it is this anonymous accommodation to the denigration of the high arts and the erosion to our culture which is the ultimate culprit.
In a word, it is the tyranny of the masses which pulls apart any endeavor at creating and sustaining a hierarchy of value rewarding all enterprise which appeases public taste by appealing to the lowest common denominator. Fore it is through this tyranny that capitalism has built its avaricious edifice.
Suffice it to say that the target "corporate capitalism" remains the straw man, that ethereal and empty concept devoid of blood and sinews. Where then does one find the source to this dilemma but in that which is of both flesh and blood namely humanity. The problem lies with the populace.
What is called for here is an awakening but not through a reckoning as that would only cause humanity to roll over and return to its slumber. And if crisis and collapse serves not the catalyst for such an awakening what then will provide such an arousal? Until such a time, we remain asleep and the institutions of our dream life will rule us.
Corporate capitalism is not the source. It is not even at the source. We are the source until such a time as we awaken.excellent points. oh, and ironically (or not), from the Middle Ages (Europe) through the 19th century (American West), it was not uncommon for a barber to also perform ad hoc surgery/medical procedures, or to share space with the town's 'doctor', so in some instances it was prudent to go to the barbershop if shotWinston , , August 10, 2018 at 10:22 amWilliam Taylor , , August 10, 2018 at 11:02 am"Liberals and libertarians often respond by recalling the long tradition of assimilation in American history, along with the outrage that often accompanies new arrivals."
Apples and oranges. The welfare state didn't exist then, so it was assimilate or fail. 1/3 of all culturally similar to existing US culture Europeans returned to Europe.
Today, "Press 2 for Spanish", the welfare state (give birth on US soil to a US citizen for family access to benefits [or steal an ID], then chain migrate the rest of your family), the Internet, and identity politics discourage assimilation and allow extremely large cultural enclaves which are politically divisive as pointed out MANY years ago by the not exactly "right wing" former WH press secretary for LBJ, Bill Moyers, in one of his many excellent documentaries.interesting to see how this challenging article agrees with Chris Hedges in the radical left "Truthdig."Tony Soprano , , August 10, 2018 at 11:17 amWe focus on immigration because it is a clear threat to the American tradition with clear and obvious solutions. The author paints this focus of the Trumpian and dissident right as exclusionary, but it is not; at the same time arguing for his own exclusionary anti-capitalist platform. Quite frankly, I don't know what it's doing on TAC, but I will take the time to respond.Tyro , , August 10, 2018 at 11:35 am
The criticism of anti-immigration on the right is a straw man argument. The dissident right is not merely anti-immigration, it is more broadly anti-multiracialist. Many understand and agree with the author on the problems of capitalism, but also see racial and cultural integration as an additional threat to the American tradition. His point about how the immigration (into America) didn't cause the hellspace of suburbia is true, since only up until 1965 did we make sure immigrants were white and could integrate well into society. However, he ignores the history of black empancipation and subsequent desegregation that led to massive internal migration from the South into cities like Detroit, Chicago, and Baltimore. There weren't always majority black, my friend. The very real problems that this internal migration presented to ethnically homogenous, culturally rich, urban white neighborhoods in the 20th century were the driving force behind the suburban sprawl. We colloquially refer to this phenomenon as "white flight," and many on the left and the right see it as unjustified "racism."
The curious reader would do well to investigate this claim to see if maybe white flight might have actually been very justified, maybe a gross historical injustice was done to those now ethnically cleansed communities, and maybe racial desegregation is partly to blame for the author's perceived lack of (white) culture in America.
Thank you for reading."Capitalism" is cronyist by nature. "Capitalism" itself requires an extensive set of laws that benefit some economic arrangements over others. Now the reason for this is because nations need development, and that means they need capital, and that means they need to create laws that ensure that the people who have capital feel willing and confident enough to invest it in that country.Ken Zaretzke , , August 10, 2018 at 11:45 am
But once you've opened the pandora's box of bankruptcy laws, limit liability, and other "terms and conditions" of investment and capital, you're going to have a system that lends itself to cronyism when you have no other counter-balancing power from labor.My brilliant iPad just deleted my response. So, quickly, capitalism is partly curable by antitrust and protectionism, but proto-amnesty mass immigration is not curable, and it more quickly distorts national identity than does capitalism, which takes a very long time to alter society's frame. Mass immigration does that relatively quickly. Also, immigration has as many rackets as capitalism does -- for the one, capital gains tax cuts, and for the other, H1-B visas.Tyro , , August 10, 2018 at 12:40 pmonly up until 1965 did we make sure immigrants were white and could integrate well into societyTJ Martin , , August 10, 2018 at 1:06 pm
The immigration act of 1924 which choked off most immigration was about reducing white immigration. It didn't actually affect Mexican immigration. The largest beneficiaries the post-1965 immigration laws have been Asian immigrants who everyone argues integrate perfectly well.
ethnically homogenous, culturally rich, urban white neighborhoods
Any of the residents of those neighborhoods in Chicago would have been quick to deny they were "ethnically homogeneous" because they would have pointed out how they were mixed neighborhoods of Greeks, Poles, Slovenes, etc.Its about time someone on this site placed at least 50% of the blame when it comes to demise of the American Middle Class as well as ' culture ' -- ( such as it is seeing we have no well defined codified ' culture ' because we are and have been since the beginning so diverse ) -- on the American Corpocracy .Cynthia McLean , , August 10, 2018 at 1:49 pm
But the fact is the other 50% of the blame must fall firmly upon the shoulders of the greedy speculators and investors convinced every year should be a profitable year and they should of received next year's profits yesterday
Along with the American Consumer addicted to cheap goods 60% of which they have no need for nor ever use .
So what is the answer ? First we need to move towards a Responsible Capitalism rather than the Ayn Rand addled narcissist Hyper- Capitalism rapidly approaching Anarcho -- Capitalism we're currently immersed in from the Oval Office on down
Second the American Consumer needs to accept paying what something is worth .. be it service , goods or food .. rather than thinking the entire world is a discounted oyster at their beck and call
And Third .. with the onus once again falling firmly upon the shoulders of the discount addled American consumer . We need to get over the theater of convenience shopping ( online ) and get back to supporting local businesses who pay taxes to our local community and are in fact our neighbors
Problem is all of the above solutions require both compromise , authentic thought as well as discernment
None of which ( for the most part ) currently exists in this over polarized ' Collective Stupidity of America ' zeitgeist we're firmly entrenched in
Lecture over . Donuts , bagels and coffee in the virtual break room .English colonials brought to the American continent both English Law -- based on private property -- which has turned into Corporate Market Capitalism (Citizens United, eh?), and the Enlightenment idea of the centrality of Individual Freedom, which has turned into the rank Individualism of our current Me-Myself-and-I cultural ethos.BradD , , August 10, 2018 at 2:29 pm
Democracy and a healthy culture, in my view, depend upon holding in balance the needs/desires/rights of both the Individual and the broader Common Good. There now seems to be little left of a Social Covenant that includes all Americans, which is central to a viable culture.
Great article, thank you.I'll say this when it comes it integration: people in the past weren't forced to integrate in the least. A friend of mine has a grandmother that speaks Russian, only Russian, and no English. As long as she remained in her little enclave in the US, why need to speak English? In my native Cincinnati the "Over the Rhine" neighborhood had beer gardens, German schools, German newspapers, and German street signs. Only a fire and I am sure some Progressive 'encouragement' broke the neighborhood up.KDM , , August 10, 2018 at 3:42 pm
White in America use to mean Anglo-Saxon and Protestant. To be Wet was to be Catholic and to be Catholic was to be an immigrant. Dry was honest, hard working, and true. Wet was disorderly, murderous, and poor. Irish weren't white, Poles weren't white, and the Italians most certainly weren't white.
My question is why are we poo pooing Latina values? Family centric, conservative, Catholic/Christian, and hard working (come on, either immigrants are stealing our jobs or they are welfare leeches, pick one!). Their food is delicious and the music is fun.
The latina vote should be the Republican vote if they would just get over themselves. Spanish is just as much a Romance language as French or Italian. Get with the program, declare them white, and let's enjoy a super majority with taco Tuesday.@BradDLT , , August 10, 2018 at 6:50 pm
Nothing is necessarily wrong with "Latin" values per se . The problem is with massive amounts of Illigeal immigration coming all from one area. I'm sorry but integration and assimilation is extremely important, just look at Europe for an idea of what happens to countries that don't integrate immigrants well.
Also, if "Latin" values are great and desirable then why would such a massive amount of people be bum rushing our southern borders?
Can you please tell me one example of a country in Latin America that has been successful for an extended period of time? I cannot even think of one. When people come in small waves they can integrate and learn the value of our institutions, laws, freedom, liberty ect They basically become American w/ Latin heritage. When they come en mass, they keep their societies values a lot longer and stay in enclaves a lot longer as well. As an example not too long ago I was in the southern part of Houston Texas and the Galveston area and I cannot tell you the number of cars, houses and business that have the Mexican flag up instead of the USA flag! That is all kinds of wrong to me. If Mexico is so great, than they should just move on back and set up shop there.Ding, ding, dingAuguste Meyrat , , August 10, 2018 at 9:39 pm
We have a winner here. America is promoted as merchant culture, bread or bombs. The peoole termed colonists were largely corporate sponsored. So when people continue to arrive, they figure starting their store or buying the "right" things is American culture. And for everything else, they just say, "We have our own, thank you."While I appreciate that the writer is trying to link immigration with big business and culture, the argument as a whole doesn't come together. He needs to define what he means by "corporate capitalism," "identity," and "culture"; otherwise, this is nothing more than a incoherent rant. Is he talking about popular entertainment, the arts, academic institutions, civil society, religion? How exactly is the existence of a Walmart or the popularity of smartphones to blame? Quoting Walt Whitman and Calvin Coolidge doesn't really get us anywhere.mike , , August 10, 2018 at 9:55 pm
I would be happy to defend free enterprise in America and would even credit the business and marketing practices in America for inculcating customer service as a uniquely American trait. You can tell you're in America when people act politely and aim to serve you -- even illiterate young people know this. Go to any country in Europe, and you'll find a whole staff of people from the airport, to the stores, to the hotel frowning at you for having the nerve to have want of their services. And that's just a side benefit. The main thing business does is finance the creation of culture at all levels. Any civilization's golden age followed from societal prosperity, not from a more democratic and tasteful distribution of wealth.
If we're talking about the arts and influence, America is still the most dynamic in the world, being a great producer of movies, music, books, and all the rest. Even the existence of a site like TAC should cause one to reflect on just how nice it is to live in a country that permits open discourse and values quality writing and ideas -- and for no cost at all to the reader. We can despair all we like of the decline of the Oscars, or the stupidity of modern art, or the pointlessness of postmodernist ideology, but it says something that we can even have this conversation. I'm not sure other cultures, outside those in elite circles, even think about this stuff.Yes! Intentionally generalising: Big, remote, powerful things are ALWAYS evil. Small, local, law-governed communities are always good.Thomas Hobbes , , August 11, 2018 at 12:44 amWow, something Fran Macadam and I agree on! Surely there is enough there for some bright politician to make a central platform plank out of?JonF , , August 11, 2018 at 8:11 am
A number of commenters point out that this isn't just imposed on us, we also embrace it (or just succumbed to the propaganda/advertising). Fixing the problem will require efforts to curb corporate power as well cultural change from the ground up to embrace real values beyond just capitalism.JonF , , August 11, 2018 at 8:17 amRe: We need to get over the theater of convenience shopping ( online ) and get back to supporting local businesses
Sure, if local businesses carry the stuff I'm looking for. All too often you have to go online to find anything that is not a mass appeal staple.Re: Today, "Press 2 for Spanish", the welfare state (give birth on US soil to a US citizen for family access to benefits [or steal an ID], then chain migrate the rest of your family), the Internet, and identity politics discourage assimilationKurt Gayle , , August 11, 2018 at 8:55 am
The evidence, notably from language learning, shows that today's immigrants assimilate at about the same rate others did in the past. And yes, you could hear other languages in the US in the past also. There were places in Detroit I remember in childhood where all the signs were in Polish. Going farther back 19th century nativists were horrified that entire communities in the Midwest spoke German. Early on, our eighth president, Martin Van Buren, grew up speaking Dutch in the Hudson Valley.
As for the welfare state, well, there were lots of mutual aid societies which provided help -- we were not a social Darwinist nation. And don't forget the Civil War pensions to which a significant fraction of the population was entitled.Mr. Mascriota tells us: "Border sovereignty, even to someone like me who probably favors more liberal immigration laws than most TAC readers, is a legitimate issue and not to be easily dismissed."Hibernian , , August 11, 2018 at 11:51 am
And yet, Mr. Mascriotra, last Sept 9th (2017) at "Salon" you wrote an article entitled "The case for open borders: Stop defending DACA recipients while condemning the 'sins' of their parents":
"As an English instructor and tutor, I've met young men and women from Ethiopia, China and Nigeria, and I have taught students whose parents emigrated from Mexico to the United States 'illegally.' If I were an insecure coward afraid to compete in a multicultural society, and convinced my future children would become deadbeats without the full force of white privilege to catapult them into success, I would advocate for the deportation of immigrant families similar to those of my students, and I would repeat mindless bromides like 'America First' and 'Build that Wall.' One of the costs of racism, xenophobia, or any form of pathetic provincialism is that freezes the prejudicial person in a permanent state of mediocrity President Donald Trump's decision to end DACA, and his demand that Congress 'fix the' nonexistent 'immigration problem,' demonstrates a stunning streak of sadism, projecting yet another signal to his rabid and anti-American base of closed-minded losers If the 'real Americans' are afraid to compete with immigrants for jobs, prestige, or cultural authority, they only indict themselves as weak, self-entitled and easy to panic. In a word, 'snowflakes'. A bureaucratic permission slip is trivial compared to the imperative of human freedom -- freedom that should transcend what are largely artificial borders."
https://www.salon.com/2017/09/09/the-case-for-open-borders-stop-defending-daca-recipients-while-condemning-the-sins-of-their-parents/@Mr. Soprano: I think Baltimore was a special case as a Southern city (which it historically was up to maybe WW1, maybe WW2.) Don't know its demographics pre-WW2 but I'd bet dollars to donuts it was substantially more black pre-WW1 than Chicago, which was nearly all white up to about 1915 even though it was founded by a Francophone Black man Jean Baptiste Pont du Sable.johnhenry , , August 11, 2018 at 1:14 pmDavid Masciotra: Not sure what I think about the ironmongery in your left ear, but this piece is excellent. My only criticism -- mild at that -- concerns the analogy in your third paragraph:paradoctor , , August 11, 2018 at 1:46 pm
" to focus [our worries] on immigration is the equivalent of a gunshot victim rushing to the barber for a haircut."
DOA. Sorry.This article is timely, but only because its complaints are perennial. 'Twas ever thus.Siarlys Jenkins , , August 11, 2018 at 4:48 pm
Yes of course a commercial culture is prosperous, dynamic, cosmopolitan, rootless, greedy, materialistic, cynical, plebian and vulgar. And yes, of course in a market-dominated culture, all other systems of indoctrination (i.e. church and state) are constantly on the defensive.
That is not 'no' culture; it is a highly distinctive culture. It tends to neglect the high arts and excel at the low arts; it favors novelty over tradition, spectacle over reflection, passion over balance. Again, 'twas ever thus; as is the inevitable cooling of these innovations to new formalisms for the next generation to rebel against, and enrich.
A similar cycle applies to demographics. Today's scary outsider becomes tomorrow's stodgy insider, after they buy their way in. I therefore second BradD's motion to declare Hispanics to be white; and Asians too.
All those disturbed by demographic transitions should contemplate this truism: that by the middle of next century every man, woman and child now alive shall be dead, and replaced by people not born yet.
This includes you, which makes it personal. What a way to run a world! But if you can put up with 100% population turnover by 2150, then language and skin tint seems (to me at least) a trivial detail.
Self-critique: The preceding analysis has a flaw, namely that this is not simply a 'commercial' culture; it is a 'capitalistic' culture, which is the least free form of commercial culture.Thrice A Viking , , August 11, 2018 at 5:46 pmWow, something Fran Macadam and I agree on! Surely there is enough there for some bright politician to make a central platform plank out of?
Right! And I agree with Fran AND Thomas Hobbes!So, what should replace corporate capitalism -- socialism, distributism, non-corporate capitalism, what?Tyro , , August 11, 2018 at 6:20 pmGo to any country in Europe, and you'll find a whole staff of people from the airport, to the stores, to the hotel frowning at you for having the nerve to have want of their services.Renoaldo , , August 12, 2018 at 1:12 am
Americans, in my experience, mistake lack of slavish over-friendliness as rudeness. I have realized this because I am a fairly reserved kind of person, and "reserved" gets coded as "aloof" or "snobbish."
European retail still follows the "sole proprietor" model of service -- it's assumed that by shopping there you're effectively entering someone else's home, and you must act accordingly. In the US, lacking a formal class system, the retail experience is one coded towards allowing the customer to feel as though he is a noble with servants to attend on him that he can order around. The store is selling that experience.
Related to this is why middle class and upper middle Americans are so upset by the DMV and the Post Office. It's the only place where money does not buy them any better service, and they cannot use the threat of talking to the manager to have the service personnel fired in order to get what they want.
America's customer service culture is probably one of our most culturally dysfunctional aspects, all rooted in middle class insecurity.If this were actually, a Conservative website, that valued Western ideals? Do you really believe such excuses or something outside of myself like the "devil made me do it" will pass mustard with "God" or "St. Peter?"Paul , , August 12, 2018 at 4:40 amI strongly endorse Jon's (much earlier comment). It is not corporations that ruin culture but we who demand what they give. Corporations are just a convenient funding vehicle to produce goods. Yes they often mass market them. But it is we who like the marketing. If we were appalled, or turned away and it ignored it, they would change. In the end, when the spiritual life is subordinate to the material, our appetites and the corporations that serve them are a guaranteed outcome.M. Orban , , August 12, 2018 at 12:31 pmlate to this thread but what is American identity? How is it different from let's say a Danish identity? I have a good number of coworkers from other countries: Asians, South Americans, some Germans or Swedes. When I visit them, do you think I find their homes, their families (or their priorities for that matter) different from that of born-here American? If so, I must have missed itRicardo , , August 12, 2018 at 4:40 pmAuguste Mayrat hit the nail on the head. This article is garbage. It's sad that so many commentators agree with it. America is full of culture: pro and college sports, movies, TV shows, technology, books, music of all kinds all consumed throughout the world, as people from all countries love and admire American culture. Find a country that produces more culture than America. You can't.
Churches and schools proliferate here. What's so bad about corporations? If you own an iPhone or a television or a car or shop at the mall, or ride a plane or go on a cruise, you're a hypocrite to be against corporations. Corporations provide goods and services that people want, not to mention jobs. The author of this piece is an intellectual lightweight, and those who agree with his views are the type of blind sheep that communists find useful. The author neither specified what's bad about corporations, nor provides any solutions. Can believe TAC publishes such drivel.
Aug 03, 2018 | www.unz.com
Extracted from: Appeasement as Global Policy, by James Petras - The Unz Review
In recent decades throughout Latin America, rulers have spoken and demanded 'reforms' as essential to stimulate and sustain growth and foster equity and sustainability. The 'reforms' involve implementing 'structural changes' which require large scale privatization to encourage entrepreneurship and end state corruption; deregulation of the economy to stimulate foreign and domestic investment; labor flexibility to 'free' labor markets and increase employment; and lower business taxes. According to the reformers all this will lead to free markets and promote democratic values.
Over the past thirty years, ruling elites in Latin America have carried out IMF and World Bank structural reforms in two cyclical periods: between 1989-1999 and more recently between 2015-2018. In both cases the reforms have led to a series of major economic, political and social deformations .
During the first cycle of 'reforms', privatization concentrated wealth by transferring public means of production to oligarchs, and increased private monopolies, which deepened inequalities and sharpened class divisions.
Deregulation led to financial speculation, tax evasion, capital flight and public- private corruption.
'Reforms' deformed the existing class structure provoking social upheavals, which precipitated the collapse of the elite led 'reforms' and the advent of a decade of nationalist populist governments.
The populists restored and expanded social reforms but did not change the political and economic 'deformations', embedded in the state.
A decade later (2015) the 'reformers' returned to power and restored the regressive free market policies of the previous neo-liberal ruling elite. By 2018 a new cycle of class conflicts flared throughout Brazil and Argentina, threatening to overturn the existing US center free market order.
Jul 26, 2018 | 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
It wasn't supposed to be like this.
The children of America's white-collar middle class viewed life from their green lawns and tidy urban flats as a field of opportunity. Blessed with quality schools, seaside vacations and sleepover camp, they just knew that the American dream was theirs for the taking if they hit the books, picked a thoughtful and fulfilling career, and just, well, showed up.
Until it wasn't.
While they were playing Twister and imagining a bright future, someone apparently decided that they didn't really matter. Clouds began to gather -- a "dark shimmer of constantly shifting precariousness," as journalist Alissa Quart describes in her timely new book " Squeezed: Why Our Families Can't Afford America ."
The things these kids considered their birthright -- reputable colleges, secure careers, and attractive residences -- were no longer waiting for them in adulthood.
Today, with their incomes flat or falling, these Americans scramble to maintain a semblance of what their parents enjoyed. They are moving from being dominant to being dominated. From acting to acted upon. Trained to be educators, lawyers, librarians, and accountants, they do work they can't stand to support families they rarely see. Petrified of being pushed aside by robots, they rankle to see financial titans and tech gurus flaunting their obscene wealth at every turn.
Headlines gush of a humming economy, but it doesn't feel like a party to them -- and they've seen enough to know who will be holding the bag when the next bubble bursts.
The "Middle Precariats," as Quart terms them, are suffering death by a thousand degradations. Their new reality: You will not do as well as your parents . Life is a struggle to keep up. Even if you achieve something, you will live in fear of losing it. America is not your land: it belongs to the ultra-rich.
Much of Quart's book highlights the mirror image of the downwardly mobile middle class Trump voters from economically strained regions like the Midwest who helped throw a monkey wrench into politics-as-usual. In her tour of American frustration, she talks to urbanites who lean liberal and didn't expect to find themselves drowning in debt and disappointment. Like the falling-behind Trump voters, these people sense their status ripped away, their hopes dashed.
If climbing up the ladder of success is the great American story, slipping down it is the quintessential tragedy. It's hard not to take it personally: the ranks of the Middle Precariat are filled with shame.
They are somebodies turning into nobodies.
And there signs that they are starting to revolt. If they do, they could make their own mark on the country's political landscape.
The Broken Bourgeoisie
Quart's book takes a sobering look at the newly unstable bourgeoisie, illustrating what happens when America's off-the-rails inequality blasts over those who always believed they would end up winners.
There's the Virginia accountant who forks over nearly 90% of her take home pay on care for her three kids; the Chicago adjunct professor with the disabled child who makes less than $24,000 a year; and the California business reporter who once focused on the financial hardships of others and now faces unemployment herself.
There are Uber-driving teachers and law school grads reviewing documents for $20 an hour -- or less. Ivy Leaguers who live on food stamps.
Lacking unions, church communities and nearby close relatives to support them, the Middle Precariats are isolated and stranded. Their labor has sputtered into sporadic contingency: they make do with short-term contracts or shift work. (Despite the much-trumpeted low unemployment rate, the New York Times reports that jobs are often subpar, featuring little stability and security). Once upon a time, only the working poor took second jobs to stay afloat. Now the Middle Precariat has joined them.
Quart documents the desperate measures taken by people trying to keep up appearances, relying on 24/7 "extreme day care" to accommodate unpredictable schedules or cobbling together co-living arrangements to cut household costs. They strain to provide things like academic tutors and sports activities for their kids who must compete with the children of the wealthy. Deep down, they know that they probably can't pass down the cultural and social class they once took for granted.
Quart cites a litany of grim statistics that measure the quality of their lives, like the fact that a middle-class existence is now 30% more expensive than it was twenty years ago, a period in which the price of health care and the cost of a four-year degree at a public college nearly doubled.
Squeezed is especially detailed on the plight of the female Middle Precariat, like those who have the effrontery to procreate or grow older. With the extra burdens of care work, pregnancy discrimination, inadequate family leave, and wage disparities, (not to mention sexual harassment, a subject not covered), women get double squeezed. For women of color, often lacking intergenerational wealth to ease the pain, make that a triple squeeze.
The Middle Precariat in middle age is not a pretty sight: without union protection or a reliable safety net they endure lost jobs, dwindled savings, and shattered identities. In one of the saddest chapters, Quart describes how the pluckiest try reinvent themselves in their 40s or 50s, enrolling in professional courses and certification programs that promise another shot at security, only to find that they've been scammed by greedy college marketers and deceptive self-help mavens who leave them more desperate than before.
Quart notes that even those making decent salaries in the United States now see themselves barred from the club of power and wealth. They may have illiquid assets like houses and retirement accounts, but they still see themselves as financially struggling. Earning $100,000 sounds marvelous until you've forked over half to housing and 30% to childcare. Each day is one bit of bad luck away from disaster.
"The spectacular success of the 0.1 percent, a tiny portion of society, shows just how stranded, stagnant, and impotent the current social system has made the middle class -- even the 10 percent who are upper-middle class," Quart writes.
Quart knows that the problems of those who seem relatively privileged compared many may not garner immediate sympathy. But she rightly notes that their stresses are a barometer for the concentration of extreme wealth in some American cities and the widening chasm between the very wealthy and everybody else.
The Dual Economy
The donor-fed establishment of both political parties could or would not see this coming, but some prescient economists have been sounding the alarm.
In his 2016 book The Vanishing Middle Class , MIT economist Peter Temin detailed how the U.S. has been breaking up into a "dual economy" over the last several decades, moving toward a model that is structured economically and politically more like a developing nation -- a far cry from the post-war period when the American middle class thrived.
In dual economies, the rich and the rest part ways as the once-solid middle class begins to disappear. People are divided into separate worlds in the kinds of jobs they hold, the schools their kids attend, their health care, transportation, housing, and social networks -- you name it. The tickets out of the bottom sector, like a diploma from a first-rate university, grow scarce. The people of the two realms become strangers.
French economist Thomas Picketty provided a stark formula for what happens capitalism is left unregulated in his 2015 bestseller, Capital in the Twenty-First Century . It goes like this: when the rate of return on the investments of the wealthy exceeds the rate of growth in the overall economy, the rich get exponentially richer while everyone becomes poorer. In more sensible times, like the decades following WWII, that rule was mitigated by an American government that forced the rich pay their share of taxes, curbed the worst predations of businesses, and saw to it that roads, bridges, public transit, and schools were built and maintained.
But that's all a fading memory. Under the influence of political money, politicians no longer seek a unified economy and society where the middle class can flourish. As Quart observes, the U.S. is the richest and also the most unequal country in the world, featuring the largest wealth inequality gap of the two hundred countries in the Global Wealth Report of 2015.
Who is to Blame?
Over and over, the people Quart interviews tend to blame themselves for their situation -- if only they'd chosen a different career, lived in another city, maybe things wouldn't have turned out this way. Sometimes they point the finger at robots and automation, though they arguably have much more to fear from the wealthy humans who own the robots.
But some are waking up to the fact it is the wealthy and their purchased politicians who have systematically and deliberately stripped them of power. Deprivations like paltry employee rights, inadequate childcare, ridiculously expensive health care, and non-existent retirement security didn't just happen . Abstract words like deregulation and globalization become concrete: somebody actually did this to you by promoting policies that leave you high and dry.
As Quart indicates, understanding this is the first step to a change of consciousness, and her book is part of this shift.
Out of this consciousness, many individuals and organizations are working furiously and sometimes ingeniously to alter the negative trajectory of the Middle Precariat. Quart outlines proposals and developments like small-scale debt consolidation, student debt forgiveness, adequately subsidized day care, and non-traditional unions that could help.
America also has a track record of broad, fundamental solutions that have already proven to work. Universal basic income may sound attractive, but we already have a program that could improve the lot of the middle class if expanded: Social Security.
Right now, a worker stops having to pay Social Security tax on any earnings beyond $128,400 -- a number that is unreasonably low because the rich wish to keep it so. Just by raising that cap, we could the lower the retirement age so that Americans in their 60s would not have greet customers at Walmart. More opportunities would open up to younger workers.
The Middle Precariat could be forgiven for suspecting that the overlords of Silicon Valley may have something other than altruism in mind when they tout universal basic income. Epic tax evaders, they stand to benefit from pushing the responsibility for their low-paid workers and the inadequate safety net and public services that they helped create onto ordinary taxpayers.
Beyond basic income lies a basic fact: the American wealthy do not pay their share in taxes. In fact, American workers pay twice as much in taxes as wealthy investors. That's why infrastructure crumbles, schools deteriorate, and sane health care and childcare are not available.
Most Americans realize that inequality has to be challenged through the tax code: a 2017 Gallup poll shows that the majority think that the wealthy and corporations don't pay enough. Politicians, of course, ignore this to please their donors.
And so the Middle Precariat, like the Trump voters, is getting fed up with them.
From Depressed to Energized
Quart astutely points out that income inequality is being written into the law of the land. Funded the efforts of billionaires like the Koch brothers, politicians have altered laws and constitutions across the country to cement the dual economy through everything from restricting voting rights to defunding public education.
Several Middle Precariats in Squeezed have turned to independent or renegade candidates like Bernie Sanders who offer broad, substantial programs like debt-free college and universal health care that address the fissures in their lives. They are listening to candidates who are not afraid to say that markets should work for human beings, not the other way around.
If Donald Trump's political rise "can be understood as an expression of the gulf between middle-class citizens and America's ruling classes," as Quart observes, then the recent surge of non-establishment Democratic candidates, especially democratic socialists, may be the next phase of a middle class revolt.
Recent surprise victories in Pennsylvania and New York in the Democratic primaries by female candidates openly embracing democratic socialism, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who bested Democratic stalwart Joe Crowley by running for Congress on a platform of free Medicare and public college tuition for all, may not be the blip that establishment Democrats hope. In New York, democratic socialist Julia Salazar is looking to unseat long-time state senator Martin Dilan. Actress Cynthia Nixon , running against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, has just proclaimed herself a democratic socialist and promises to raise taxes on the rich and boost funding for public schools. Michelle Goldberg recently announced in the New York Times that " The Millenial Socialists are Coming ," indicating the intense dislike of traditional politics in urban centers. These young people do not think of things like debt-free college or paid family leave as radical: they see it done elsewhere in the world and don't accept that it can't be done in America.
Historically, the more affluent end of the middle class tends to identify with and support the wealthy. After all, they might join their ranks one day. But when this dream dies, the formerly secure may decide to throw their lot in with the rest of the Precariats. That's when you have the chance for a real mass movement for change.
Of course, people have to recognize their common circumstances and fates. The urban denizens of New York and San Francisco have to see what they have in common with middle class Trump voters from the Rust Belt, as well as working class Americans and everybody else who is not ultra-rich.
If the growing ranks of Precariats can work together, maybe it won't take a natural catastrophe or a war or violent social upheaval to change America's unsustainable course of gross inequality. Because eventually, something has to give.
Sergey P , July 26, 2018 at 3:42 amathena , July 26, 2018 at 6:06 am
I think one crucial thing that has to change is the culture of extreme individualization.
Professed as a right for individual freedom and empowerment, in reality it serves to suppress disobedience with shame. If you earn like shit -- it's gotta be because YOU are shit. Just try harder. Don't you see those OTHER kids that did well!
Part of the blame is on New Age with it's quazi-buddhist narrative: basically, everything is perfect, and if you don't feel it that way, it's because you are tainted with envy or weakness.
Thus what is in fact a heavily one-sided battle -- is presented as a natural order of things.
I believe we need a new framework. A sort of mix of Marx and Freud: study of the subconscious of the social economy. The rich not just HAPPEN to be rich. They WANT to be rich. Which means that in some way they NEED others to be poor.
Of course, I'm generalizing. And some rich are just really good at what they do. These rich will indeed trickle down, they will increase the well-being of people. But there are others. People working in insurance and finance. And as their role in the economy grows -- as does their role in politics, their power. They want to have more, while others would have less.
But behind it all are not rational thoughts, not efficiency, but psychological trauma, pain of the soul. Without addressing these matters, we will not be able to change the world.
I'm sorry if my thoughts are somewhat fragmented. It's just something I've been thinking of a lot since I started reading NC, discovering MMT and heterodox approaches in general.NotTimothyGeithner , July 26, 2018 at 7:53 am
I enjoyed reading your thoughts, and completely agree with them all. :)Louis Fyne , July 26, 2018 at 8:53 am
The problem is the perception the Democratic Party is reliable as a partner. The culture wasn't a problem in 2008 when the Democratic candidate was perceived as wanting to raise taxes, pass universal health care, and end the wars.Urizenik , July 26, 2018 at 9:00 am
====Part of the blame is on New Age with it's quazi-buddhist narrative: basically, everything is perfect, and if you don't feel it that way, it's because you are tainted with envy or weakness.
Adam Curtis touched about this (and the 50's/60's "self-actualization movement) in his TV documentary "Century of Self." if i recall correctly. https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=century+of+self
That's where I first heard of this theoretical link. I think that it's flat out right and post-WWII psycho-babble has seeped into society in pernicious ways (along with everything else, breakdown of nuclear family, etc). Unfortunately, can't prove it like Euclid.MC , July 26, 2018 at 10:16 am
"A sort of mix of Marx and Freud"– the " Frankfurt School " is a start, with the realization of "the culture industry" as force majeure in the "heavily one-sided battle." And ditto recommendation of "The Century of the Self."Left in Wisconsin , July 26, 2018 at 1:00 pm
There's also Zizek.DolleyMadison , July 26, 2018 at 3:02 pm
Both good suggestions.
Responding to Sergey P:
I think one crucial thing that has to change is the culture of extreme individualisation.
There are really only two alternatives to individualism. There is Durkheim-ian "society," in which we are all in this together – interdependent. I think this is still an appropriate lens for a lot of smaller cities and communities where people really do still know each other and everyone wants the community to thrive. And, of course, it is the only way to think about human society nested inside a finite Earth. But it can only work on a larger scale through mediating "institutions" or "associations." All the evidence shows, consistent with the piece, that precariousness by itself weakens social institutions – people have less time and money to contribute to making them work well.
And then there is Marx-ian "class." Which is to say, we are not all individuals but we are not all of one group. There are different groups with different interests and, not infrequently, the interests of different groups are opposed – what is good for one is bad for another – and if power is unequal between groups (either because some groups as groups have more power than others or because individuals with more power all have the same group affinity), then powerful groups will use that power to oppress others. In that case, the only remedy is to try to systematically empower the weak and/or disempower the strong. This also requires collective action – institutions, associations, government – and it is again noted that our collective institutions, most notably unions, have been seriously weakened in the last 40-60 years.
The real world doesn't always fit into neat categories. Trump's America First is an appeal to the "society" of USAmerica. Maybe there will be some improvements for working people. But the argument in the piece, perhaps not as clearly stated as I would like, is that the interests of the (former) middle class – as a class – have diverged from the interests of the upper class. Changing that equation requires collective action.Redlife2017 , July 26, 2018 at 5:08 am
Well saidJim Haygood , July 26, 2018 at 5:49 am
Naturally one must quote the great Frank Herbert from his novel Dune:
"Once men turned their thinking over to machines in the hope that this would set them free. But that only permitted other men with machines to enslave them."
Or shorter: Follow the money.YankeeFrank , July 26, 2018 at 8:34 am
'We already have a program that could improve the lot of the middle class if expanded: Social Security.'
Never mind expanding it -- even the existing Social Security program is less than 20% funded, headed for zero in 2034 according to its trustees. Scandalously, these trustees owe no fiduciary duty to beneficiaries. Old Frank wanted pensioners to be forever dependent on his D party. How did that work out for us?
Take a look at the transmittal letter for the 2018 trustees report, released last month. Two public trustee positions are "VACANT," just as they were in last year's transmittal letter:
Just above these blank spaces is the signature of one Nancy Berryhill, "Acting Commissioner of Social Security." But wait --
On March 6, 2018, the Government Accountability Office stated that as of November 17, 2017, Berryhill's status violated the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, which limits the time a position can be filled by an acting official; "[t]herefore Ms. Berryhill was not authorized to continue serving using the title of Acting Commissioner after November 16." Berryhill declared, "Moving forward, I will continue to lead the agency from my position of record, Deputy Commissioner of Operations."
By June 5th, Berryhill was still impersonating the Acting Commissioner, legally or not.
Summing up, even the trustees' one-page transmittal letter shows that Social Security is treated as a total and complete Third World joke by the US federal government.Kurtismayfield , July 26, 2018 at 8:44 am
Yeah, yeah. Gubmint can't do nuthin' rite. How about we take our government back from the plutocrats and set SS on solid footing again. There are no impediments other than the will of the people to use our power. Now that the Boomers are moving off all sorts of things, like 'thinking', and 'logic', will become prevalent again.Jamie , July 26, 2018 at 11:03 am
Never mind expanding it -- even the existing Social Security program is less than 20% funded, headed for zero in 2034 according to its trustees. Scandalously, these trustees owe no fiduciary duty to beneficiaries. Old Frank wanted pensioners to be forever dependent on his D party. How did that work out for us?
Correct, then the system will eventually be totally reliant on taxes coming in. According to 2011 OASDI Trustees Report
Beginning in 2023, trust fund assets will diminish until they become exhausted in 2036. Non-interest income is projected to be sufficient to support expenditures at a level of 77 percent of scheduled benefits after trust fund exhaustion in 2036, and then to decline to 74 percent of scheduled benefits in 2085
The benefits are never going to go completely away, the benefits will decrease if nothing is done. Things can be done to change this, such as an increasing the the cap on earnings, raising new revenues, etc. This is not exactly an "end of the world" scenario for SSI.
Also, no one complained when the excess SSI tax collected "Social security trust fund" was used to keep interest rates down by purchasing Government bonds.Kurtismayfield , July 26, 2018 at 11:29 am
The whole tax angle is a complete red herring. Raising the cap is not the answer. FICA is "the most regressive tax" the country imposes. Eliminating FICA altogether, doing away with the "trust fund" and the pretense that SS is not the government taking care of it's elderly citizens but is workers taking care of themselves, is the answer. If the emphasis in Quart's book on the rise of a new democratic socialism means anything, it means reconciling with the notion that it is OK for the government to take measures to ensure the welfare of the people. Pay-as-you-go SS can become simply the re-assumption of our collective responsibility to take care of our own, as a society, not as individuals.kgw , July 26, 2018 at 11:39 am
I would be fine with that if I could trust the Federal government to do the right thing. The problem is that we have too many people invested in the system, and I don't trust the Federal government to not screw people over in a new system. You know what will happen, they will set up a two tiered system where people over a certain age will keep their benefits, and the new people will get a system that is completely crapified or means tested.Anon , July 26, 2018 at 2:02 pm
Well-put The only way to eliminate the constant refrain of "but SS is (insert blithering comment on entitlement spending), is to shift resources to people rather than armies for the SuperRich.JCC , July 26, 2018 at 9:52 am
Yeah, more Butter–Less Guns!
(Now how do we stop the media hysteria about those big,bad Enemies -- Russia?!)Grumpy Engineer , July 26, 2018 at 11:00 am
So we should just ignore the fact that our own Govt has "borrowed" $2.8 Trillion, at least, from the SS Trust Fund so far and can't (won't) pay it back?
This "borrowing" should be illegal and I believe that "Old Frank" would be rolling in his grave if he knew that would happen.
And I sincerely doubt his intentions were to get SS on the books in order to keep us beholden to the Dem Party. And if that were true it is obvious that his party doesn't agree. If they did they wouldn't be assisting in gutting the program.Spring Texan , July 26, 2018 at 1:15 pm
The whole concept of creating and maintaining a multi-trillion dollar "trust fund" was irrevocably flawed. When the surplus payroll taxes were "invested" in government bonds, they entered the government's general fund and were promptly spent. The money is gone. That's why it's on the books as a debt owed to the Social Security administration. There are no actual assets behind the fund. It's just one part of the government owing money to another part of the government.
However, what would the alternative have been? Investing in the crap shoot known as the US stock market? No thanks. Or setting the funds aside in a bank account, where they would cease circulating through the economy? That wouldn't have worked either, as all dollars in circulation would have eventually ended up there, causing massive deflation.
None of these are workable. We should have gone on a strictly pay-as-you-go basis. If payroll taxes generated more revenue than was necessary, we should have cut payroll taxes and/or raised benefits. And if they fall short, we should raise payroll taxes and/or cut benefits.
Today, we cover about 95% of benefits with payroll taxes. The remainder comes from "trust fund redemptions", where general fund monies are given to the SSA to cover the shortfall. Given that our government is already running a deficit, this means more borrowing (or money-printing, depending on how you look at things).
When the "trust fund" is depleted, but SSA will lack the legal authority to claim any more general fund monies, but it would be quite easy for Congress to change the rules to simply state that "any SSA shortfall will be covered by the general fund". And I predict they will do so in 2034, as it would take less than a month of constituents complaining about reduced benefits to force even the strictest of deficit hawks to cave.
Or maybe they'll get creative and instead raise rates on the interest that the trust fund earns. Right now it's a 3% rate, but if Congress were to double or triple it, the trust fund would last much longer. [As would the debt owed to the SSA.] Heck, if they multiplied the interest rate by a factor of 11, then they could theoretically dispense with payroll taxes entirely. Right?Milton , July 26, 2018 at 10:37 pm
Yes, SS has contributed NOT ONE PENNY to the deficit and the reason it accumulated a surplus was so people could collect later. Now, they want to say that old surplus shouldn't count. That's thievery.ObjectiveFunction , July 26, 2018 at 6:44 am
tired old tripe and how much is the US military funded? I can answer that for you. It's ZERO. 0% funded! Take your heterodox BS to a bunch of freshman impressionables – it is only tolerated here because you are a fine writer and interesting as hell and know almost all there is about economic liberalism.Musicismath , July 26, 2018 at 7:29 am
Wow. So let's go full SSCodex for a bit and push this trend out to the limit.
While the unwashed masses remain a market for big Ag, big Pharma, big Auto, big (online) Retail, and a few others, it seems like the predatory 'fund' segment of the FIRE elite has moved on to devouring larger prey (capitalist autophagy?). The unbankable precariat are beneath their notice now, like pennies on the sidewalk.
So in that case, the 1% of the 0.1% has evolved beyond 'exploitation' in any Marxist sense. It is now indifferent to the very life or death of the precariat, at home or abroad, still less their security or advancement. It needs them neither for consuming nor producing, nor for building ziggurats.
(Just so long as the pitchforks aren't out – but that's what the credentialed minion 20% is for. And drones).
Here Disposables, have some more plastic and painkillers. Be assured the Alphas will be live tweeting the Pandemic, or Chicxulub 2.0, from Elon's luxury robot-serviced survival capsules (oh, you thought those were for use on Mars? Silly rabble!)
It's like that DKs mosh pit classic: "Uncounted millions whisked away / the rich will have more room to play"
[I exaggerate, of course, for illustration. Slightly.]athena , July 26, 2018 at 7:47 am
I think you can extend this analysis to the current U.K. Conservative Party. Commentators have started to notice that the Brexiteer wing of the party seems completely impervious to claims Brexit will harm the economy. Are the Tories no longer the natural party of British business, they ask?
Using your logic, we can say that a fund-interest-dominated Tory party simply has no interest in or need for the "ordinary" bits of the British business community anymore. What it wants are shorting and raiding opportunities, and from that vantage point a catastrophic Brexit is very attractive. Put these interests in coalition with a voter base largely living on guaranteed incomes and retirement funds of one sort or another and you have the surreal spectacle of an entire governing party and its supporters who are no longer anchored to the "real" economy at all. Yes, it's an exaggeration but it's an exaggeration that explains a few things, I think.ObjectiveFunction , July 26, 2018 at 8:47 am
You both need to read the 2005 leaked Citigroup "plutonomy memo", if you haven't yet. Very bright minds called it a decade ago, that the global economy isn't even an economy any longer in any traditional sense. This is part one: https://delong.typepad.com/plutonomy-1.pdfsharonsj , July 26, 2018 at 4:59 pm
"Plutonomy" sounds like some nasal epithet out of a Goebbels speech: " die Plutonomisten und Bolshewisten! "Louis Fyne , July 26, 2018 at 8:09 am
Great link. From page one, Citigroup thinks the global imbalance is a great opportunity. Nothing new here. For years I've been reading about stock and futures manipulations–and vulture capitalists–that cause people to die or kill themselves. The rich don't care; they see it as a way to make more money. And then you wonder why I've been talking revolution for years as well?athena , July 26, 2018 at 8:17 am
"Who is to Blame?"
Answer: Add the US wasting its blood and cash meddling in other countries' affairs. "honest friendship with all nations-entangling alliances with none." bueller ?
Ironic as multilateralist/globalist/fan of US interventions George Soros supposedly provided some of the seed money for the Institute for New Economic Thinking.chris , July 26, 2018 at 8:40 am
I don't think Soros is diabolical or sadistic. He's just, let's say, "neurologically eccentric" and unimaginably wealthy.athena , July 26, 2018 at 9:25 am
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iipn6yM43sMChiGal in Carolina , July 26, 2018 at 11:52 am
I just want to not die earlier than necessary because I can't afford health care. I'd also like to stop worrying that I'll spend my golden years homeless and starving because of some disaster headed my way. I gave up on status a long time ago, and am one of those mentioned who has little pity for the top 10%.John B , July 26, 2018 at 8:50 am
DittoDaniel F. , July 26, 2018 at 9:32 am
Sounds like a good book. I shall have to pick it up from my library, since buying new books is a stretch.
Nearly all income growth in the United States since the 1970s has gone into income obtained by the rich other than wages and salaries, like capital gains, stock options, dividends, partnership distributions, etc. To capture overall economic growth to which the entire society has contributed, Social Security benefits should be tied to economic growth, smoothed for the business cycle. If people believe benefit increases require tax increases, the tax should be applied to all earnings, not just salary/wages. Raising the $128,400 cap on income subject to SS taxes would thus increase taxes on the lower rungs of the upper middle class but not really address the problem.nycTerrierist , July 26, 2018 at 9:47 am
I apologise in advance for being blunt and oversimplifying the matter, but at the end of the day, (in my very humble and possibly uninformed opinion) nothing short of a mass beheading would work. The 0.1% doesn't really seem, uh, willing to let go of their often ill-gotten billions, and when they do (i.e. charities and such), they often end up being some kind of scam. I refuse to believe that the Zuckerberg-types operate their foundations out of genuine philanthropy. Acquisitions and mergers like Disney buying Fox or Bayer gobbling up Monsanto don't contribute anything to the well-being of the 99% either, and I think that's and understatement.
If there's going to be some kind of revolution, it needs to happen before the logical conclusion of rampaging capitalism. the OCP-type megacorp with its own private army. And, if there indeed is a revolution, what's next?Michael Fiorillo , July 26, 2018 at 10:14 am
https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2018/jul/25/betsy-devos-yacht-untied-causing-10000-damages/Newton Finn , July 26, 2018 at 9:36 am
Case in point: as a public school teacher who has been opposing so-called education reform for two decades, I can assure you that the "venture/vulture philanthropy" model that infests the education world has absolutely nothing to do with improving education, and everything to do with busting the teachers unions, privatizing the schools and turning them into drilling grounds for training young people to accept the subordination, surveillance, tedium and absurdity that awaits them in the workplace. For those lucky enough to have jobs.
As a result of this phenomena, I periodically suggest a new term on the education blogs I post on: "Malanthropy:" the process of of using tax exempt, publicly subsidized entities to directly and indirectly support your financial and political interests, but which are harmful to the public good"The Rev Kev , July 26, 2018 at 10:06 am
Clear and compelling analysis, although still a little MMT challenged. About to turn 70, I vividly remember living through a sudden sea change in American capitalism. In the late 1970s/early 80s, whatever undercurrents of patriotism and humanitarianism that remained within the postwar economy (and had opened the space for the middle class) evaporated, and almost overnight we were living in a culture without any sense of balance or proportion, a virulent and violent mindset that maxed out everything and knew not the meaning of enough. Not only the business world but also the personal world was infected by this virus, as ordinary people no longer dreamed of achieving a healthy and stable family life but rather became hellbent to "succeed" and get rich. Empathy, compassion, and commitment to social justice was no longer cool, giving way to self-interest and self-promotion as the new "virtues." Men, of course, led the way in this devolution, but there was a time in the 90s when almost every other woman I knew was a real estate agent. I touched upon a small male-oriented piece of this social devolution in an essay I wrote several years ago: Would Paladin Have Shot Bin Laden? For those who might be intrigued, here's the link:
https://newtonfinn.com/2011/12/15/would-paladin-have-shot-bin-laden/Brooklin Bridge , July 26, 2018 at 10:49 am
What was needed was a Wyatt Earp, not a Paladin ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgvxu8QY01s ). His standard procedure in the old West was to use his Colt revolver to pistol-whip an offender. Short, sharp and effective.
But then again there was no way that Bin Laden was ever going to be taken prisoner. That bit on his resume as being a contractor for the CIA was a bit embarrassing after all.Newton Finn , July 26, 2018 at 12:22 pm
I remember the 50's and even under the hue of bright eyes saw that people were just as hell bent to 'get ahead' in their careers as now and that competing with 'the Joneses' in every crude way imaginable was the rage.
Perhaps more precise to say that in the early '80s, Capitalism reached a tipping point where gravity overcame thrust and virtues with latent vice became vices with the optics of virtue. That and the fact that the right actors always seem available -as if out of thin air, but in reality very much part of cause and effect – for a given state of entropy.BrianStegner , July 26, 2018 at 10:05 am
No doubt what was somewhat latent in postwar American capitalism became obscenely blatant in or around the Reagan era. It was all there before, of course, in former times like the Gilded Age. But in the midsize, now rustbelt city I grew up in and continue to live in, the upper middle class of my childhood and youth–the doctors, lawyers, corporate exec's, etc.–lived a few blocks away from my working class neighborhood, had nicer homes, drove caddys instead of chevys, and so forth, but their kids went to school with us working class kids, went to the same movies and dances, hung out in the same places, and all of us, generally, young and old, lived in essentially the same world. For example, my uncle, a lawyer, made maybe 3 times what my dad, a factory clerk, made. THAT was the split between the middle and upper middle class back then, at least in a fairly typical Midwestern city. THAT was what drastically and suddenly changed in the late 70s/early 80s and has only intensified thereafter.Expat2uruguay , July 26, 2018 at 10:28 am
Terrific article, but with so many "missing" words (words left out)–too many to list, gratis–you make it a serious challenge to consider sharing with literate friends on social media. Seriously, doesn't anyone re-read their work before "posting?"ChiGal in Carolina , July 26, 2018 at 11:40 am
Well, at least the missing words in this piece don't make sentences unintelligible. I've seen that happen before.
It's such a shame for authors to put so much work time and effort into their articles, but then allow the lack of an editor or final read-through to tarnish the entire work.David Miller , July 26, 2018 at 10:11 am
If they're so literate, they can fill in the missing words as the NC commentariat has apparently done with no difficulty.
The substance is well worth sharing, and widely.Eureka Springs , July 26, 2018 at 10:16 am
One thing that strikes me – a generation ago the talking-point robots of the right could decry "socialized medicine" and all those people supposedly dying while waiting for an operation in foreign, "socialized medicine" places. And they could largely get away with it because relatively few people had personal acquaintances outside their own area.
But now, anyone active in social media probably can interact freely with people all over the world and appreciate how pathetic things really are in the US.
I read on a sports-related forum where an English guy had been watching Breaking Bad and commented offhand that he was amazed at the cost of medical treatment for Mr. White. This turned into a discussion between Brits and Yanks about the NHS. And person after person chimed in "yeah, NHS is not perfect but this kind of thing could never happen here." And you saw the Americans – "yeah, our health care system really is a disgrace."
I'm not a big fan of the social media Borg in general, but here at least seems to be a good effect. It might over time enable more people to wake up as to how jacked up certain things are here.ChiGal in Carolina , July 26, 2018 at 11:50 am
I'd like to declare us a completely divided, conquered people.
In the last few weeks I've visited with many old friends all of them suffering in silence. Each and every one falling further behind, on the brink of disaster, if not already there. No matter their credentials, many highly credentialed with multiple degrees and or highly experienced in several fields. All with ridiculously high work ethics. All feel maintaining personal integrity is costing them an ability to 'get ahead'.
Many of these friends have multiple jobs, no debt, no car payment, some have insurance which is killing them, medical bills which bury them if they ever have so much as basic health issues, and they are thrifty, from the clothes they wear to the amount of rent they commit themselves. And yet 'staying afloat', is but a dream trumped by guilt and isolationism.
I often joke with my fellow country neighbors that it costs a hundred bucks to simply leave the house. It's not a joke anymore. At this point those still fighting for a paltry 15.00 should include a hundred dollar per day walk out your front door per diem.
A couple months back I gave my camper to an old acquaintance who had no record, found himself homeless after being falsely accused of a crime and locked up for two months. And another friend with full time management position, just gave up her apartment to move into a tent in another friends back yard. Both of these people are bright, hard working, mid forties, white, family peeps with great children. The very kind this article addresses.
The noose tightens and people are committing desperate acts. There is no solidarity. No vision of a way out of this.
Watch a ten dollar parking ticket bring a grown man to terror in their eyes. And he brought in a thousand bucks last week, but has been texting his landlord about past due rent all afternoon.
I feel like I'm on the brink of a million episodes of " Falling Down ".John , July 26, 2018 at 11:56 am
Indeed. But as consciousness is raised as to the real causes (not personal failure, not robots taking over), hopefully solidarity will grow.
Wonderful article, definitely want to read the book.sharonsj , July 26, 2018 at 5:09 pm
I don't think the 0.1% wanted to build a society like this, it is just the way the math works. Somewhere around 1980 the integrity of the US was lost and it became possible for the owning class to divorce themselves from their neighbors and arbitrage labor around the world. Computers and telecommunications made it possible to manage a global supply chain and Republicans changed the tax rules to make it easier to shut down businesses and move them overseas.
A different way to view this: as the wealthy earn profits they can use some of their cash to modify the rules to their benefit. Then they gain more cash which allows them to influence voters and politicians to modify the rules even more in their favor.
If people organized they could change the rules in their favor, but that rarely happens. We used to have unions (imperfect though they were) which lobbied for the working class.Louis , July 26, 2018 at 10:17 am
I think the 1980s was when I found out my wealthy cousins, who owned a clothing factory in Georgia, had moved it to–get ready for this–Borneo! And of course they are Republicans.John Wright , July 26, 2018 at 10:33 am
The collective decisions to pull up the drawbridge, and a lot middle-class people have supported these decisions are the major reason why there is a housing crisis and higher-education is so expensive.
A lot of people, especially middle-class people, come out with pitchforks every time a new housing development is proposed, screaming about how they don't want "those people" living near them and will vehemently oppose anything that isn't single-family homes which has resulted in the housing supply lagging behind demand, thus affordability issues.
These same people over the years have decided that tax-cuts are more important than adequately funding higher education, so higher education has become a lot more expensive as state support has dwindled.
As the saying goes you made you bed, now you get to sleep in it. Unfortunately so does the younger generation who may not have anything to do with the horrible decision making of the past.FluffytheObeseCat , July 26, 2018 at 10:58 am
The article stated Americans are "Petrified of being pushed aside by robots".
Maybe I associate with the wrong people, but I don't know any who fear being pushed aside by robots.
But I do know of someone who was being laid off from a tech firm and was finding his job moved overseas.
The deal management presented was, "you can leave now, with your severance package, or get two more weeks pay by training your replacement who will be visiting from overseas."
He trained the new worker for the two weeks.
The American worker is being hit, not by robots, but by outsourcing to other countries and by in-sourcing of labor from other countries.
Robots are expensive and will be avoided if a human can do the job cheaply enough.
That the article brings "fear of robots" into the discussion is a tell that the writer does not want to mention that it is the competition from others in the world wide labor force that depress USA wages.
In the USA, we are witnessing labor arbitrage encouraged by both parties and much of the media as they push USA wages toward world wide levels.
But not for the elite wage earners who gain from this system.Brooklin Bridge , July 26, 2018 at 11:11 am
Agreed. The kind of pink collar and barely white collar employees this piece was focused on are not presently threatened by "robots". They are threatened by outsourcing and wage arbitrage.ambrit , July 26, 2018 at 12:24 pm
That the article brings "fear of robots" into the discussion is a tell that the writer does not want to mention that it is the competition from others in the world wide labor force that depress USA wages.
You may have a point there, and you are spot on that the vast bulk of job-loss is due to job migration and import of cheaper labor. But regardless of the writer's intent or simple laziness, don't be too fast to poo-poo the effect of Robots.
One problem is that we tend to measure job loss and gain without reference to the actual job loosers and the fact that re-training for them may well be impossible or completely ineffective or, at the very minimum, often extremely painful. So while automation may provide as many new jobs as it takes away old ones, that is cold comfort indeed to the worker who gets left behind.
Another, is that the fear of massive job loss to Robots is almost certainly warranted even if not yet fully materialized.Todde , July 26, 2018 at 1:01 pm
When the "Steel Wave" of robot workers comes ashore, I'll be near the head of the queue to join the "Robo Luddites." If the owners of the robot hordes won't pay a fair share of the costs of their mechanominions worker displacement activities, then they should be made to pay an equivalent share in heightened "Production Facility Security Costs." Ford Motors and the River Rouge plant strike comes to mind.
See: http://98937119.weebly.com/strike-at-the-river-rouge-plant-1941.htmlBrooklin Bridge , July 26, 2018 at 1:35 pm
The robots are going to be shooting backambrit , July 26, 2018 at 9:45 pm
It'd be great to be right there with you on that fateful day, Ambrit :-) (And I've even got my gun with the little white flag that pops out and has "Bang!" written on it, all oiled up and ready to go). I suspect however that it will be a silent D Day that probably took place some time ago.
Hard Briexit looks to be baked in the cake
Global Warming disaster looks to be baked in the cake
Water wars look to be baked in the cake.
Massive impoverishment in developed and so called third world nations alike and insane 'last gasp' looting looks to be baked in the cake
Why would all manner of robots, the ones too tiny to see along with human looking ones and giant factories that are in reality themselves robots be the exception?G Roller , July 26, 2018 at 4:30 pm
We'd be facing robots, so that flag would have to go "Bang" in binary code. (Might even work. While they are trying to decipher the flag, we can switch their tubes of graphite lubricant with tubes of carborundum.)
When the technologically capable humans have all died off, will the robots perish likewise for lack of programmers?Arizona Slim , July 26, 2018 at 12:02 pm
"Robots" are software programs, do-it-yourself online appointments, voice recognition, "press 1 now." What's the point of retraining? All you're good for is to make sure the plug is in the wall.Brooklin Bridge , July 26, 2018 at 1:46 pm
The act of training the overseas replacement could become an act of sabotage. Think of the ways that one could train the replacement to do the job incorrectly, more slowly than necessary, or not at all.funemployed , July 26, 2018 at 12:19 pm
Sabotage by miss-training.
In a lot of cases that doesn't require much 'intentional' effort. But the lure of cheap labor seems to conquer all. I've seen software companies take loss after loss on off-shore development team screw ups until they finally get it right. I even saw one such company go out of business trying rather than just calling it quits and going back to what was left of their core developers.ChristopherJ , July 26, 2018 at 2:03 pm
As I approach 40, having only realized in recent years that the constant soul-ache I've lived with my whole life is not some inherent flaw in my being, but a symptom of a deeply ill society, I desperately wish I could share in the glimmer of hope at the end of this post.
But I cannot. What drives me to despair is not the fragile, corrupt, and unsustainable social/political/economic system we're inheriting; nor is it the poisoned and increasingly harsh planet, nor the often silent epidemic of mental and emotional anguish that prevents so many of us from becoming our best selves. I retain great faith in the resilience and potential of the human spirit. And contrary to the stereotypes, I think my generation and those who have come after are often more intellectually and emotionally mature than our parents and grandparents. At the very least, we have a powerful sense of irony and highly tuned BS detectors.
What drives me to despair is so pathetically prosaic that I want to laugh and cry all at once as I type this. To put it as simply as I know how, a core function of all functional human societies is apprenticeship, by which I mean the basic process whereby deep knowledge and skills are transferred from the old to the young, where tensions between tradition and change are contested and resolved, and where the fundamental human need to develop a sense of oneself as a unique and valuable part of a community can flourish.
We have been commodified since before we were even born, to the point where opportunities for what Lave and Wenger would call "legitimate peripheral participation" in the kinds of work that yield real, humane, benefits to our communities are scant to nonexistent for most of us. Something has gone deeply awry in this core social function at the worst possible time in human history.
... ,,, ,,,lyman alpha blob , July 26, 2018 at 3:31 pm
thank you funemployed, perceptiveGayle , July 26, 2018 at 5:11 pm
Sympathies from a fellow traveler – your experience sounds similar to mine. I'm a little older and in my 20s I avoided getting a 'real' job for all the reasons you describe. When I hit my 30s and saw what some of the guys who had been hanging out in the bar too long looked like, and decided I ought to at least try it and see how it would go.
Turns out my 20 year old self had been right.David May , July 26, 2018 at 5:16 pm
"Some quirk of my psychology means doing those things creates an irresistible urge in me to slowly poison myself with alcohol and tobacco."
I think those things and drugs are conscience oblivators. Try gardening. Touch the earth. Grow actual food. Not hemp. Back away from the education racket. Good luck. Quit the poison.ChiGal in Carolina , July 26, 2018 at 7:08 pm
That was a wonderful post, very moving, thank you. These kind of testimonies are very important because they show the real human cost of neoliberalism. Neoliberalism is truly a death cult. Please find an alternative to alcohol. Music, art, nature, etc.ambrit , July 26, 2018 at 9:58 pm
Thank you for sharing your compelling story. As someone who could be your mother, it is painful to me not only that this is your experience, but that you are so acutely aware of it. No blinders. Hence, I guess, the need for alcohol.
You write beautifully. Hope is hard to come by sometimes.Unfettered Fire , July 26, 2018 at 12:25 pm
At least you are self aware. Most people are not. As for the Ship of Status, let it sink. Find a lifeboat where you feel comfortable and batten down for the Roaring (20)40s yet to come. Once you find something to work for, the bad habits will lose much of their hold on you. As long as you don't slide into alcoholism, you have a chance.Newton Finn , July 26, 2018 at 5:10 pm
Life was kinder just 40 years ago, not perfect but way more mellow than it is today. Kids were listening to Peter Frampton and Stevie Wonder, not punk, grunge, rap and industrial music. What changed? Neoliberalism, the economic policy that is private sector "free market" driven, giving the owners of capital free, unfettered reign. Created by libertarians like Fredrich von Hayek and Milton Friedman, they sold it to the nation but failed to mention that little peccadillo about how privatization of government would usher in economic fascism.
"An extreme form of laissez-faire individualism that developed in the writings of Hayek, Friedman and Nozick they are also referred to as libertarians. They draw on the natural rights tradition of John Locke and champion's full autonomy and freedom of the individual."
What they meant was ECONOMIC freedom. They despise social freedom (democracy) because civil, labor, health, food safety, etc., rights and environmental protections put limits on their profits.
The "maximizing shareholder value" myth turns people into psychopaths . The entire neoliberal economic policy of the past 40 years is based on the false assumption that self-interest is the driving evolution of humanity. We're not all psychopaths, turns out. We're social beings that have mainly used cooperation to get us through these thousands of years of existence.
There's nothing wrong with wanting government to protect the public sector from predatory capitalists. Otherwise, society's value system turns upside down sick people are more valued than healthy violent are more valued to fill up the prison factories war becomes a permanent business a filthy, toxic planet is good for the oil industry a corporate governance with no respect for rights or environmental protections is the best capitalism can offer?
Thanks, but no thanks.
The easily manipulated right are getting the full assault. "Run for your lives! The democratic socialists want to use the government bank for everyone, not just the 1%!! They understand how the economy really works and see through our lies!! Before you know it, everyone will be enjoying a better quality of life! AAAAGHHH!!"
Even the IMF is getting a scolding for being so out-of-touch with reality. Isn't economics supposed to factor in conscience?
"If the IMF is to shake its image as an inward-looking, out-of-touch boys club, it needs to start taking the issue seriously. The effect of the male dominance in macroeconomics can be seen in the policy direction of the organisation: female economists are more likely to be in favour of Government-backed redistribution measures than their male counterparts.
Of course, the parochial way in which economics is perceived by the IMF, as nothing more than the application of mathematical models, is nothing new. In fact, this is how mainstream economics frequently is taught in universities all over the world. Is it any wonder that the IMF has turned out as it is?"
Michael Hudson, as usual, was right:
"Economics students are forced to spend so much time with this complex calculus so that they can go to work on Wall St. that there's no room in the course curriculum for the history of economic thought.
So all they know about Adam Smith is what they hear on CNN news or other mass media that are a travesty of what these people really said and if you don't read the history of economic thought, you'd think there's only one way of looking at the world and that's the way the mass media promote things and it's a propagandistic, Orwellian way.
The whole economic vocabulary is to cover up what's really happening and to make people think that the economy is getting richer while the reality is they're getting poorer and only the top is getting richer and they can only get rich as long as the middle class and the working class don't realize the scam that's being pulled off on them."Andrew Watts , July 26, 2018 at 12:54 pm
Unfettered Fire and funemployed: deeply appreciate your lengthy and heartfelt posts. It's a terribly small thing, but I have a suggestion to make that always helps me to feel a bit better about things or should I say to feel a bit better about the possibility of things. If you're game, and haven't already done so, search for the following free online book: "Equality" by Edward Bellamy. Then do no more than read the introduction and first chapter (and slightly into the second) to absorb by far the finest Socratic dialogue ever written about capitalism, socialism, and the only nonviolent way to move from the former to the latter–a way wide open to us, theoretically, right now. I know that's a hell of a qualifier.precariat , July 26, 2018 at 1:36 pm
Why do modern intellectuals insist on inventing euphemisms for already known definitions? The middle precariat is merely another term for the petty bourgeoisie. While they may have possessed economic benefits like pensions and owned minuscule amounts of financial assets they were never the dominant ruling class. Their socioeconomic status was always closer in their livelihoods to the working class. After the working class was effectively being dismantled starting in the 1970s, it has become the petty bourgeoisie's turn to be systematically impoverished.
This is the primary economic development of our era of late capitalism. The question is, what does it mean to be American if this country is no longer a land of opportunity?Mel , July 26, 2018 at 1:44 pm
Because the 'known definitions' do not apply anymore.
The middle has more in common with those below than those above. And here is the scary reason: everyone is to be preyed upon by the wealth extractors who dominate our politics/economy -- everyone. There is no social or educational allegieance, there is only a resource to be ruthlessly plundered, people and their ability to earn and secure.Andrew Watts , July 26, 2018 at 5:07 pm
Right. It's hardly a euphemism. The Middle Precariat are the people in the 9.9% who will not be part of the 8.9%.ProNewerDeal , July 26, 2018 at 1:16 pm
The so-called precariat lacks any sense of class consciousness and as a consequence are incapable of any kind of solidarity. Nor do they perceive any predatory behavior in the economic system. If the article is to be believed they blame themselves for their plight. These traits which include the admiration and imitation of the rich are the hallmarks of the petty bourgeoisie.
This disagreement over semantics is an example of the shallowness and superficiality of new ideas. Marx already predicted that they'd be unceremoniously thrown into the underclass in later stages of economic development at any rate.precariat , July 26, 2018 at 1:24 pm
thanks for this article.
The BigMedia & BigPols ignore the Type 1 Overqualified Underemployed cohort. Perhaps hopefully someone like the new Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will discuss it, her recently being of this cohort as an economist by degree working as a bartender. Instead we have examples of BigMedia/BigPol crying about "STEM worker shortage" where there already are countless underemployed STEM workers working Uber-ish type McJobs.
Afaict the only occupations (mostly) immune to Type 1 Overqualified Underemployment risk here in Murica are medical pros: physicians/dentists/pharmacists & possibly nurses. Otherwise there are stories of PhD Uber drivers, MBA strippers, & lawyers working Apple store retail, especially in the first few years post 2008-GFC but still present now. In other words, the US labor market "new economy" is resembling "old economy" of Latin America or Russia (proverbial physicist selling trinkets on the Trans-Siberia railway).Jean , July 26, 2018 at 1:34 pm
From Eureka Springs, this:
"I often joke with my fellow country neighbors that it costs a hundred bucks to simply leave the house. It's not a joke anymore. At this point those still fighting for a paltry 15.00 should include a hundred dollar per day walk out your front door per diem."
This is a stark and startling reality. This reality is outside the framework of understanding of economic struggle in America that is allowed by the corporate neoliberal culture/media.Sound of the Suburbs , July 26, 2018 at 1:38 pm
As the Precariat grows, having watched the .1% lie, cheat and steal – from them, they are more likely to also lie, cheat and steal in mortgage, employment and student loan applications and most importantly and sadly, in their dealings with each other. Everybody is turning into a hustler.
As to dealings with institutions, this comment is apt. I think this came from NC comments a couple of weeks ago. Apologies for not being able to attribute it to its author:
"Why should the worker be subservient to the employer? Citizens owe NO LOYALTY, moral or legal, to a someone else's money making enterprise. And that enterprise is strictly a product of signed commercial legal documents. Commercial enterprise has no natural existence. It is a man-made creation, and is a "privilege", not a "right"; just as a drivers license is a privilege and not an absolute right."Lambert Strether , July 26, 2018 at 3:35 pm
Economics was always far too dangerous to be allowed to reveal the truth about the economy. The Classical economist, Adam Smith, observed the world of small state, unregulated capitalism around him.
"The labour and time of the poor is in civilised countries sacrificed to the maintaining of the rich in ease and luxury. The Landlord is maintained in idleness and luxury by the labour of his tenants. The moneyed man is supported by his extractions from the industrious merchant and the needy who are obliged to support him in ease by a return for the use of his money. But every savage has the full fruits of his own labours; there are no landlords, no usurers and no tax gatherers."
How does this tie in with the trickledown view we have today? Somehow everything has been turned upside down.
The workers that did the work to produce the surplus lived a bare subsistence existence. Those with land and money used it to live a life of luxury and leisure.
The bankers (usurers) created money out of nothing and charged interest on it. The bankers got rich, and everyone else got into debt and over time lost what they had through defaults on loans, and repossession of assets.
Capitalism had two sides, the productive side where people earned their income and the parasitic side where the rentiers lived off unearned income. The Classical Economists had shown that most at the top of society were just parasites feeding off the productive activity of everyone else.
Economics was always far too dangerous to be allowed to reveal the truth about the economy.
How can we protect those powerful vested interests at the top of society?
The early neoclassical economists hid the problems of rentier activity in the economy by removing the difference between "earned" and "unearned" income and they conflated "land" with "capital". They took the focus off the cost of living that had been so important to the Classical Economists to hide the effects of rentier activity in the economy.
The landowners, landlords and usurers were now just productive members of society again. It they left banks and debt out of economics no one would know the bankers created the money supply out of nothing. Otherwise, everyone would see how dangerous it was to let bankers do what they wanted if they knew the bankers created the money supply through their loans.
The powerful vested interests held sway and economics was corrupted. Now we know what's wrong with neoclassical economics we can put the cost of living back in.
Disposable income = wages – (taxes + the cost of living)
Employees want more disposable income (discretionary spending). Employers want to pay lower wages for higher profits
The cost of living = housing costs + healthcare costs + student loan costs + food + other costs of living
The neoliberals obsessed about reducing taxes, but let the cost of living soar. The economists also ignore the debt that is papering over the cracks and maintaining demand in the economy. This can never work in the longer term as you max. out on debt.Livius Drusus , July 26, 2018 at 7:46 pm
> These young people do not think of things like debt-free college or paid family leave as radical: they see it done elsewhere in the world and don't accept that it can't be done in America.
An unexpected consequence of globalization is that a lot of people see how thing are done, elsewhere.
Part of me doesn't feel sorry at all for the plight of middle-class Americans. When times were good they were happy to throw poor and working-class people under the bus. I remember when the common answer to complaints about factory closings was "you should have gotten an education, dummy." Now that the white-collar middle class can see that they are next on the chopping block they are finding their populist soul.
At the end of the day we need to have solidarity between workers but this is a good example of why you should never think that you are untouchable and why punching down is never a good political strategy. There will always be somebody more powerful than you and after they are done destroying the people at the bottom you will probably be next.
Jul 23, 2018 | www.wsws.org
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders appeared on the CBS interview program "Face the Nation" Sunday and fully embraced the anti-Russia campaign of the US military-intelligence apparatus, backed by the Democratic Party and much of the media.
In response to a question from CBS host Margaret Brennan, Sanders unleashed a torrent of denunciations of Trump's meeting and press conference in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin. A preliminary transcript reads:
SANDERS: "I will tell you that I was absolutely outraged by his behavior in Helsinki, where he really sold the American people out. And it makes me think that either Trump doesn't understand what Russia has done, not only to our elections, but through cyber attacks against all parts of our infrastructure, either he doesn't understand it, or perhaps he is being blackmailed by Russia, because they may have compromising information about him.
"Or perhaps also you have a president who really does have strong authoritarian tendencies. And maybe he admires the kind of government that Putin is running in Russia. And I think all of that is a disgrace and a disservice to the American people. And we have got to make sure that Russia does not interfere, not only in our elections, but in other aspects of our lives."
These comments, which echo remarks he gave at a rally in Kansas late last week, signal Sanders' full embrace of the right-wing campaign launched by the Democrats and backed by dominant sections of the military-intelligence apparatus. Their opposition to Trump is centered on issues of foreign policy, based on the concern that Trump, due to his own "America First" brand of imperialist strategy, has run afoul of geostrategic imperatives that are considered inviolable -- in particular, the conflict with Russia.
Sanders did not use his time on a national television program to condemn Trump's persecution of immigrants and the separation of children from their parents, or to denounce his naming of ultra-right jurist Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, or to attack the White House declaration last week that the "war on poverty" had ended victoriously -- in order to justify the destruction of social programs for impoverished working people. Nor did he seek to advance his supposedly left-wing program on domestic issues like health care, jobs and education.
Sanders' embrace of the anti-Russia campaign is not surprising, but it is instructive. This is, after all, an individual who presented himself as "left-wing," even a "socialist." During the 2016 election campaign, he won the support of millions of people attracted to his call for a "political revolution" against the "billionaire class." For Sanders, who has a long history of opportunist and pro-imperialist politics in the orbit of the Democratic Party, the aim of the campaign was always to direct social discontent into establishment channels, culminating in his endorsement of the campaign of Hillary Clinton.
Sanders's support for the anti-Russia and anti-Wikileaks campaign is all the more telling because he was himself the victim of efforts by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party leadership to block his 2016 campaign. In June and July 2016, Wikileaks published internal Democratic emails in which officials ridiculed the Sanders campaign, forcing the DNC to issue a public apology: "On behalf of everyone at the DNC, we want to offer a deep and sincere apology to Senator Sanders, his supporters, and the entire Democratic Party for the inexcusable remarks made over email."
In the aftermath of his election campaign, Sanders was elevated into a top-level position in the Democratic Party caucus in the US Senate. His first response to the inauguration of Trump was to declare his willingness to "work with" the president, closely tracking remarks of Obama that the election of Trump was part of an "intramural scrimmage" in which all sides were on the same team. As the campaign of the military-intelligence agencies intensifies, however, Sanders is toeing the line.
The experience is instructive not only in relation to Sanders, but to an entire social milieu and the political perspective with which it is associated. This is what it means to work within the Democratic Party. The Sanders campaign did not push the Democrats to the left, but rather the state apparatus of the ruling class brought Sanders in to give a "left" veneer to a thoroughly right-wing party.
New political figures, many associated with the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) are being brought in for the same purpose. As Sanders gave his anti-Russia rant, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sat next to him nodding her agreement. The 28-year-old member of the DSA last month won the Democratic nomination in New York's 14th Congressional District, unseating the Democratic incumbent, Joseph Crowley, the fourth-ranking member of the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives.
Since then, Ocasio-Cortez has been given massive and largely uncritical publicity by the corporate media, summed up in an editorial puff piece by the New York Times that described her as "a bright light in the Democratic Party who has brought desperately needed energy back to New York politics "
Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders were jointly interviewed from Kansas, where the two appeared Friday at a campaign rally for James Thompson, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for the US House of Representatives from the Fourth Congressional District, based in Wichita, in an August 7 primary election.
Thompson might appear to be an unusual ally for the "socialist" Sanders and the DSA member Ocasio-Cortez. His campaign celebrates his role as an Army veteran, and his website opens under the slogan "Join the Thompson Army," followed by pledges that the candidate will "Fight for America." In an interview with the Associated Press, Thompson indicated that despite his support for Sanders' call for "Medicare for all," and his own endorsement by the DSA, he was wary of any association with socialism. "I don't like the term socialist, because people do associate that with bad things in history," he said.
Such anticommunism fits right in with the anti-Russian campaign, which is the principal theme of the Democratic Party in the 2018 elections. As the World Socialist Web Site has pointed out for many months, the real thrust of the Democratic Party campaign is demonstrated by its recruitment as congressional candidates of dozens of former CIA and military intelligence agents, combat commanders from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and war planners from the Pentagon, State Department and White House.
There is no contradiction between the influx of military-intelligence candidates into the Democratic Party and the Democrats' making use of the services of Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez to give the party a "left" cover. Both the CIA Democrats and their pseudo-left "comrades" agree on the most important questions: the defense of the global interests of American imperialism and a more aggressive intervention in the Syrian civil war and other areas where Washington and Moscow are in conflict.
Jul 22, 2018 | new-compass.net
Bureaucracies, Markets, and the Loss of Municipal Citizenship 02.07.2018
"Liberty vanishes whenever the law, in certain cases, allows a man to cease to be a person and to become a thing"
Throughout the modern era, there has been a lingering fear of the mechanization of everyday life through the overuse of instrumental rationality. Because the social sciences intimately weave both outcomes and ethics, this overuse of instrumental rationality carries with it a moral dimension. Despite having somewhat predictable behavior, people are not things . Rather, the very notion of humanity implies a degree of agency, and agency demands an acknowledgment for spontaneous behaviors and active choices. Nevertheless, the growth of both bureaucracies and markets -- two common features of the modern era -- appears to negate this truism and encourage an inverse to Kant's maximum to treat people as ends in themselves rather than means toward some bureaucratic or profit-driven goal.
The overuse of instrumental rationality has many sources, but in the United States its historical development begins with dramatic changes in the design of municipal governments. At the turn of the 20th Century, Socialists in the United States had considerable success in municipal elections. Empowered by a constituency of small-scale and heavily mortgaged farmers and newly created industrial laborers, for a brief period, the Socialist Party posed a significant electoral challenge to both Democrats and Republicans in America's Midwest. Nevertheless, these successes were short-lived. In response to the electoral victories of Socialist candidates, Progressives promoted "reform" governments that made municipalities more both bureaucratic and market orientated. Under their guidance, the full weight of Taylorism was brought to municipal governments. In the process, local governments became embedded with an ideology predicated on instrumentalist rationality that justified the marginalization participation in public life and redirected the priorities of municipal politics toward ensuring certain monetary ends. In the end, potentially more so than any other factor, these changes in the fundamental design of municipal governments not only reversed the victories of Socialists but encouraged an outlook on local politics that deemphasized the people as active citizens and conceptualized them as passive shareholders who entrusted the operations of local government with managers and bureaucrats.
This history upturns a problematic assumption among advocates of a free market economy. Chiding President Kennedy, Milton Friedman, in Capitalism and Freeman , proclaimed that "the free man will ask neither what his country can do for him nor what he can do for his country. He will ask rather "What can I and my compatriots do through government?" to help us discharge our individual responsibilities, to achieve our several goals and purposes, and above all, to protect our freedom." (1) The idea that in a free market democracy people merely act "through" government rather than "by" government implies a purely instrumental account of public authority. For Freidman, the government is not supposed to reflect a common good, but is simply another option for achieving the specific ends of individuals. For this reason, Friedman argues, the ideal government for a thriving market is both limited and dispersed. However, the history of reform government shows the opposite. In pursuit of strengthening business interests over socialist politics, municipal governments became more bureaucratic. If anything, markets and bureaucracies have had a historical mutually reinforcing relationship; the survival of the free market system has been dependent on the bureaucratization of public life.
In many ways, this relationship was anticipated. Max Weber's remarks on the "iron cage" of the modern economic order implied a shared rationality between markets and bureaucracies. (2) In both cases, social life -- and by extension people -- is valued only to the extent that it can fulfill certain ends, rather than being seen as an end in and of itself. Murray Bookchin's criticism of bureaucracies -- in that they grow as a sense of citizenship declines, filling social vacuums with "monadic individuals and family units into a strictly administrative structure" (3) -- can just as easily apply to markets. Margaret Somers, in her work Genealogies of Citizenship: Markets, Statelessness, and the Right to Have Rights demonstrates that market fundamentalism has resulted in the "contractualization of citizenship" in the United States. In doing so, Americans have reorganized "the relationship between the state and the citizenry, from noncontractual rights and obligations to the principles and practices of quid pro quo market exchange." (4) In decrying the loss of citizenship -- whether through bureaucratization or market fundamentalism -- both Bookchin and Somers draw on contemporary political realities. Yet, as will be shown, the roots of this problem run much deeper. In the United States, the phenomenon of bringing instrumentalist rationality to the public sphere started a century ago with the restructuring of municipal governments.Reform vs Machine: A Problematic Dichotomy
Few issues in urban politics have been as enduring as the institutional design of governing bodies. The conventional view is that before the Progressive Era most municipalities were ruled by machine governments that served myopic interests, usually geographically or ethnically based. These machine governments were easily susceptible to corruption. Eventually, these governments became reform regimes that merged ideals on the public good with modern concepts of business management. Reform politics were thought to be "objective," in the sense that they isolated public officials from parochial interests, advocated for nonpartisan elections, and promoted efficiency in government services. (5) According to Paul Peterson, machine governments "favored ward elections, long ballots, decentralized governing arrangements, and the close connection between government, party, neighborhood, and ethnic association. Reformers preferred citywide elections, short ballots, centralized governing institutions, and the application of universalistic norms in the provision of government services." (6) In the overwhelming majority of cases, reform governments favored small city councils and managerial systems, where the administration of the city's activities was performed by a hired city manager, rather than the mayor. Both during the Progressive Era and after the Second World War, America saw an explosion of reform orientated managerial governments. (7) Judged in the terms of popularity alone, reform governments are often assumed to be the ideal means for handling local affairs, at least for small municipalities.
However, the degree to which reform governments objectively represent the interests of all residents in the city has been contested. Jessica Trounstine has argued that reform governments do not necessarily make local power more transparent. Instead, they substitute one form of institutional bias for another. (8) For example, advocates of reform governments promote citywide, non-partisan, winner-take-all elections in the hopes of severing the tie between public officials and party bosses. However, this often decreases voter awareness of candidates and results in costlier elections. Party bosses are weakened, but wealthy individuals running for office gain electoral advantages. For this reason, the debates between reform and machine governments have not necessarily been debates on transparency and corruption, but on which type of local elites should be in control of the governments. This is a critical point in understanding why certain municipalities changed to reform governments and why, in many cases, these changes were strongly resisted.
Rice has noted that commission governments -- which were part of the reform agenda and acted both as a theoretical and practical precursor to more managerial institutions -- were almost unequivocally supported by business elites and bitterly opposed by labor. Often business elites were only able to demobilize labor's opposition by making major concessions that made the reform process far more varied and complicated than the usual narrative of machine-to-reform proposes. (9) Nevertheless, when labor did prove itself to be a significant threat to the established order -- as in the case of Midwest cities in the form of the Socialist Party -- the move to managerial governments occurred swiftly, uncompromisingly, and involved players outside of the local political landscape.
The support among business elites for reform governments was not only because such changes ensured them electoral advantages. The structure of the reform governments often duplicated the organizational styles that were prevalent within the private sector. Replacing large city councils elected through wards with small commissions elected citywide made local governments more closely resemble the structure of corporate boardrooms. Furthermore, the position of city-managers was thought to mimic that of the chief executive officer (CEO) within a firm. There was no expectation that the city manager would be accountable to the people directly any more than a firm's CEO was thought to be directly accountable to its workers. Instead, the city-manager was accountable to the council who acted as a board, while the citizens themselves were thought to be shareholders of the city. As Stillman has observed, "commercial activities have been one of the vital forces in shaping American society, and the businessman and the corporation have often been instrumental in determining public values Probably no political or administrative philosophy reflects business and corporate ideals more clearly than the city management movement." (10) In this regard, the movement for reform governments not only wanted to reconfigure local power to better serve business elites but believed that the values and thinking of business elites -- which saw citizens in service of certain fiscal ends -- should be embedded into the structure of municipal politics.Socialists Against Reform
In 1911, after two decades of organizing, the Socialist Party in Dayton, Ohio reported nearly 500 formal members and the support of approximately 13,000 trade unionists. With this popular support, they successfully elected two of their members to the city council and another three to the assessor's office. Their political strength was undoubtedly on the rise. During the 1912 presidential election, a greater portion of the Dayton electorate voted for the Socialist Party candidate Eugene Debs than the Progressive Party candidate Theodore Roosevelt. (11)
In 1912, Ohio revised its constitution in order to grant home rule status to local municipalities. This prompted twenty-five cities in the state to consider charter changes. Dayton was one of them. With the design of local government now open, there was a strong push by Progressives to shrink the city council, make all elections citywide, and hire a city manager to perform administrative tasks. One notable champion of this cause was John H. Patterson. Patterson was a local industrialist known for his experiments in "welfare capitalism." Despite his reputation as an enlightened business owner, Patterson was notoriously anti-union, chiding labor organizations for promoting a "restive spirit" among employees. Under the progressive banner, Patterson promoted reform governments as a means of combining Taylorism with republicanism. According to Paterson, the virtues of managerial and market orientated governments were elevated to the status of a secular religion. In print and lectures, he proudly proclaimed that "A city is a great business enterprise whose stockholders are the people Our municipal affairs would be placed upon a strict business basis and directed, not by partisans , but by men who are skilled in business management and social science; who would treat our people's money as a trust fund, to be expended wisely and economically, without waste and for the benefit of all citizens." (12) The local Socialist Party was not persuaded by Paterson's calls for a technocratic utopia. They decried the proposed reform government as a regressive step away from democracy. (13)
In March, 1913, only two months before the city was to vote on its new charter, a massive flood from the Miami River hit Dayton, resulting in a state of emergency. While the local government scrambled to deal with the crisis, Patterson utilized the opportunity to exhibit the generosity of Dayton's business class. He opened his factory as a relief center and organized a fundraising campaign among the business community to pay for emergency services. These actions won him favor among the local population. When election for the new charter was held on May 20, 1913, the new reform government was approved by a 2-1 margin. Despite increasing their number of votes in proceeding election cycle, the changes prevented the Socialist Party from taking office again. By 1917, the Socialist Party managed to win 43% of the vote, but in citywide, winner-take-all elections, this resulted in no representation. (14)
A similar dispossession of Socialists happened in New Castle, Pennsylvania. In 1911, New Castle voters elected several Socialist Party members to their select board, including the mayor, Walter V. Tyler. Despite the recalcitrance of non-socialist on the select board, often refusing to attend meetings in order to deny a quorum, Tyler and his supporters were able to make meaningful changes to the city. They ended petty graft and managed to get the city's finances in order, raised wages and reduced hours for city workers, and instituted reforms to curb police brutality. (15)
Despite these successes, the Socialists in New Castle found their ability to maintain their tenure in public office severely limited with the passage of the Clark Act. Passed in 1913, the Clark Act changed all third-class cities in Pennsylvania, which included New Castle, to a commission-style government. This reduced the size of the city councils to five members, replaced wards with citywide elections, created nonpartisan positions, and increased the number of signatures needed to get an initiative on the ballot. Despite the appearance of nonpartisan elections, it was clear that the new commission-style government biased the electoral system toward Republicans. Previously, the electoral achievements of Socialists in New Castle were partially attributed to factionalism within the local Republican Party. The editors of the New Castles News were Republican partisans and condemned ex-Republicans who ran independently in elections for their lack of loyalty. Nevertheless, after the passage of the Clark Act, New Castle News editors had an overnight conversion to nonpartisan ideals, worked with the local Board of Trade to select "men of the highest standard" to run for public office, and were extremely successful in reinstituting Republican rule. (16) As with Dayton, the changes effectively excluded Socialists from office. No Socialists were reelected in 1913. Mayor Tyler's reform movement was halted, and -- due to charter changes -- Tyler himself was unable to run for reelection. (17)
The examples of Dayton and New Castle demonstrate that reform governments did not necessarily result in an attack on machines, but rather a turn toward more bureaucratic and market-orientated municipalities. As Bruce M. Stave has noted, "urban structural reforms that Socialists generally opposed, with good reason, include the often successful attempt to institute city manager or commission forms of government. Along with substituting nonpartisan city-wide elections for ward-based elections to city councils and school boards, such diluted areas of socialist strength and grass-roots neighborhood control over municipal politics. Conversely, it enhanced the power of urban elites, who had the resources and expertise to take advantage of the new rationalized structures." (18)Reviving Municipal Citizenship
Municipal politics in the United States has had a problematic history. In the United States, the virtues of local sovereignty are praised to such an extent that critical examinations of municipal governments often get lost in the adulations. There is no argument that machine governments hindered greater democratic inclusion, but the assumption that their reform counterparts offered a meaningful an alternative is mistaken. The reality is that more often than not reform governments shifted power rather than dispersing it.
Advocates of reform governments claimed that they would make politics more efficient by preventing the waste and spoilage associated with machines. Since the private sector constantly strove for higher levels of efficiency to maximize profits, it was only reasonable to bring private sector organizational styles into the public realm. However, this analysis fundamentally misunderstands the nature of machine politics. Machines were not inefficient. They were actually highly efficient is distributing the resources at their disposal. The issue was that the rewards of that distribution were not based on competency but loyalty. Party loyalty acts as the machine's capital, where if party bosses were willing to invest favoritism toward certain underlings, then that boss would see a return on investments through loyalty. The movement away from machine to reform government did not seek a fundamental dismantling of this capitalistic relationship but instead transferred the terms so that party loyalty was substituted for business loyalty. In doing so, municipal governments became embedded with the values and rationality of the reigning business class. Municipal bureaucracies aided in the creation of localized market societies. This relationship between market and bureaucracy proved to be both self-reinforcing and enduring. The managerial concepts on local governments popularized during the Progressive Era remain a mainstay of America's political landscape, especially in suburban areas.
Problematically, the treatment of citizens in a polity as stockholders of a corporation fundamentally undermines the very notion of citizenship. In a free society, the people do not consume their government; they embody it through the exercise of their citizenship. Consumers in a market, unlike citizens in a polity, have no presumption of equality. If anything, consumers in a market are constantly seeking to undermine each other's equality in order to secure the best deals. Citizenship cannot engage in this anarchy of the market. Doing so undermines the basis of a cohesive community.
The displacement of Socialists from municipal governments could not have happened without a grander agenda to limit democratic participation and a reimagining of citizens as means toward ensuring business interest rather than ends. Nevertheless, this suggests a corrective to the tendency toward market bureaucratization in local government. The expansion of democracy, above and beyond the local realm, is essential to working against the "iron cage" of the modern economic order. Such an expansion can only come about by embracing a deeper sense of citizenship that challenges not only the inviolability of private property but the very rationality that reduces citizens to nomadic cogs in a bureaucratic engine intended to maximize profits.
(1) Friedman, Milton, Capitalism and Freedom (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982) 10.
(2) Weber, Max, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. ed. Richard Swedberg (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2009)
(3) Bookchin, Murray, Urbanization Without Cities: The Rise and Decline of Citizenship (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1992), 172.
(4) Somers, Margret R., Genealogies of Citizenship: Markets, Statelessness, and the Right to Have Rights (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 2.
(5) Rice, Bradley, Progressive Cities: The Commission Government Movement in America, 1901-1920 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1977).
(6) Peterson, Paul E, City Limits (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1981), 7.
(7) Stillman II, Richard J, The Rise of the City Manager: A Public Professional in Local Government (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1974).
(8) Trounstine, Jessica, Political Monopolies in American Cities: The Rise and Fall of Bosses and Reformers (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2008).
(9) Rice, Bradley, Progressive Cities: The Commission Government Movement in America, 1901-1920.
(10) Stillman II, Richard J, The Rise of the City Manager: A Public Professional in Local Government, 7-8.
(11) Judd, Richard W, Socialist Cities: Municipal Politics and the Grass Roots of American Socialism (Albany: State of University of New Press, 1989).
(12) Quoted from ibid, 8.
(13) Judd, Richard W, Socialist Cities: Municipal Politics and the Grass Roots of American Socialism.
(16) Quoted from ibid, 156.
Jun 21, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
The US press has largely ignored a potential sea change in our neighbor to the South. A self-styled radical, former mayor of Mexico City, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, looks set to win Mexico's presidential election on July 1. That possibility is giving heartburn to corporate interests in Mexico and the US, as well the US officialdom.
His opponents depict him as a wild-eyed radical, but while Obrador, widely referred to as Amlo, has called for agricultural self-sufficiency, infrastructure development, higher minimum wages, improved public education. But he's also promised no new taxes, and as mayor of Mexico, entered into a public-private partnership with billionaire Carlos Slim to redevelop the downtown area.
Indeed, the website In Defense of Marxism had to make quite a case for its readers to vote for Amlo. They depict him as a type of Third Way figure:
AMLO does not propose a fundamental change of the system – replacing capitalism with socialism – what he proposes is a return to a more humane form of capitalism . He does not propose a programme of expropriations, nor the development of a large-scale nationalized industry, as there was before neoliberalism. To the capitalists, he offers a country of opportunity, without special privileges and without corruption.
For the poorest, he also offers a good list of proposals, particularly for the youth: he is committed to providing education for all at all levels, universal healthcare – not the so-called "seguro popular" ("people's insurance"), but healthcare systems like the IMSS and the ISSSTE (the Mexican social security and the public employees' healthcare programmes) that will be made available for everyone. He also speaks of scholarships for young people and programmes where the state will employ millions of youths a year. He says he will raise pensions for seniors and for single mothers and so on. All of this is a good start and we support it.
He proposes that the funding for these reforms and a large-scale national infrastructure plan will be drawn from eliminating corruption and cutting the high salaries of the bureaucracy, as well as reducing the number of state workers, reducing unnecessary state expenditure and so on. That is to say, he proposes that the interests of the big companies and the banks are not to be touched, and that no more foreign loans are requested. We have real doubts about the possibility that the money he saves with his proposed measures will cover all his planned reforms.
The Financial Times reported on Almo reassuring Mexico's top bankers :
"I will support banks. We won't confiscate assets. No expropriations, no nationalisations. We'll have a country more focused on its main problem: the cancer of corruption. That's my proposal, to end corruption," he said .
But he stuck to his guns on his main policy pledges, including austerity, an end to fat-cat salaries, a president setting a moral example to fight graft, greater co-ordination of security forces which Mr López Obrador said he would personally supervise with a daily 6am security cabinet meeting .
He promised no rollback on structural reforms passed by the current government; a "very few" reforms of his own around the middle of his term, including removing the ban on a president being able to be tried for corruption. However he said there would be "no need to increase taxes, no new taxes, no VAT on medicine and food . . . no petrol price shocks". He also pledged to respect the autonomy of the Bank of Mexico and to establish an "authentic rule of law".
So why are so many people in and outside Mexico in a tizzy about a probable Almo win? Jacobin argues that if Amlo hasn't been convincing enough in his move to the right, he's likely to assassinated. That's not a far-out idea, given Mexico's long-standing history of dirty election, including past assassinations, which Jacobin recounts in gory detail.
From a profile of Amlo in the current issue of the New Yorker:
I told him that many Mexicans wondered whether he had moderated his early radical beliefs. "No," he said. "I've always thought the same way. But I act according to the circumstances. We have proposed an orderly change, and our strategy seems to have worked. There is less fear now. More middle-class people have come on board, not only the poor, and there are businesspeople, too."
Even though Amlo has a strong left-wing economic agenda which makes him extremely popular in the poor south, the election has come to be more and more about fighting corruption. Again from the New Yorker:
With every major party implicated in corruption, López Obrador's supporters seem to care less about the practicality of his ideas than about his promises to fix a broken government. Emiliano Monge, a prominent novelist and essayist, said, "This election really began to cease being political a few months ago and became emotional. It is more than anything a referendum against corruption, in which, as much by right as by cleverness, amlo has presented himself as the only alternative. And in reality he is."
"Implicated" is an understatement. "Knee deep" would be more accurate.
Even in his measured way, Amlo intends to turn Mexico away from neoliberalism, which is enough to make heads explode. The US press either ignores or considerably downplays how poorly Mexico has fared under its tender ministrations. Again from In Defense of Marxism :
Mexico has been immersed in neoliberalism for 32 years and the results are overwhelming: "Under Porfirio Diaz, 95 percent of the population was poor. In 1981 it had fallen to just over 40 percent. Now it is actually 85 percent", said Dr. José Luis Calva Téllez, a member of the Institute of Legal Research of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), in an interview with Contralínea. (Contralínea 2015)
In addition, the purchasing power of wages dropped by 71.5 percent. It is practically impossible to live on the minimum wage
The driving priority was "macroeconomic management above everything else. More than 1,000 state-owned companies were privatized to stop state intervention in the economy. Foreign trade was liberalized by drastically reducing all taxes or tariffs on foreign products; the Mexican financial system was privatized." .
In the three neoliberal decades, GDP per capita has grown at a rate of 0.6 percent per year; that is, an aggregate growth of 21 percent. That is not to mention the millions of Mexicans who emigrated in search of jobs they do not find in our country. "Counting the emigrants, the growth of GDP per inhabitant is scarcely 0.3 percent per year, or an aggregate growth of 10 percent in 32 years." (José Luis Calva, Mexico Beyond Neoliberalism: Options Within The Global Change)
Jacobin highlights another manifestation of the failure of neoliberalism: the rise of crime and rule by drug lord :
Mexican immigration to the United States -- historically seen as a safety valve in a country where about half the population lives in poverty -- has declined to the lowest level in years. The unemployed and the underemployed are forced to stay home and can't live on Mexican wages. With a population of 127 million, some 55 million live in poverty.
Violence remains a way of life and has not improved under the current administration. There are over 200,000 dead in the drug wars since 2006 and another 32,000 disappeared. Business Insider wrote on April 23 :
The 104,583 homicide cases registered since [President Enrique Peña Nieto] took office in December 2012 are more than the 102,859 officially recorded under his predecessor, Felipe Calderon, who deployed military personnel around the country to confront organized-crime and drug-related violence.
The US is clearly not happy at the idea of an Amlo presidency. His instincts are nationalistic but both the New Yorker and Michael Ard, a former deputy national intelligence officer, see Amlo as willing to deal with America, just not on as one-sided terms as before. As the New Yorker notes :
In campaign events, López Obrador speaks often of mexicanismo -- a way of saying "Mexico first." Observers of the region say that, when the two countries' interests compete, he is likely to look inward. Mexico's armed forces and law enforcement have often had to be persuaded to coöperate with the United States, and he will probably be less willing to pressure them.
And Ard elaborates :
Much of the progress the United States has made with Mexico on security cooperation will probably be jeopardized. It's hard to believe that AMLO will endorse the close relations that the DEA, the Pentagon, and the intelligence community have forged with their Mexican counterparts in the war on drugs. The extradition of the notorious drug kingpin Joaquin el Chapo Guzman to the U.S. in 2017 will probably be the high watermark in the relationship. It is doubtful that AMLO will permit more high-profile extraditions. President Trump's disdain for a close relationship that has taken us decades to build may come back to haunt us.
But a poor relationship between Washington and Mexico City doesn't have to be inevitable. Despite the rhetoric, the flamboyant American billionaire has much in common with the austere Mexican populist. Both countries have too many common interests to go down separate paths. The question is: does AMLO have to build the bomb to get Trump to care about Mexico?
But the US is already hostile. As Jacobin put it:
The business press is exceedingly gloomy about the future under a president who promises to improve the lives of Mexico's working class. The New York Times wrote on April 26 that:
In addition to threatening refinery profits in the United States, his proposals could slow oil production in Texas and impede deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico by international oil giants like Exxon Mobil and Chevron. They would also jeopardize the United States' energy trade surplus with Mexico, which reached roughly $15 billion last year.
Mary Anastasia O'Grady, a columnist in the Wall Street Journal, writing on López Obrador's "reinvention as a moderate," suggests that her readers shouldn't believe it:
Morena's " declaration of principles ," posted on its website, asserts that the liberalization of the economy is part of a 'regime of oppression, corruption and privileges.' And that it is the work of "a true Mafioso state built by a minority of concentrated political and economic power in Mexico." If that's what Mr. López Obrador believes, fixing it would seem to require more of a socialist revolution than he proposes.
She writes that, "Over the years he has earned a reputation as a populist demagogue who uses the streets when democratic institutions block his path to power." And she warns her readers against his "socialist party," Morena .
The Council on Foreign Relations, the foreign relations think tank of the American ruling class, writes:
Champions of civil society, transparency, and strong independent public institutions can derive little comfort from some of [AMLO's] recent pronouncements . On the stump, he offers a return to a time of business subsidies, state ownership, and agricultural self-sufficiency. He repeatedly questions energy and infrastructure contracts -- including those undergirding Mexico City's new $13 billion airport -- and promises to roll back the educational shifts underway.
The reports in the business press and the warning from the Council on Foreign Relations are intended to convince the American business class and the State Department that something must be done to stop López Obrador.
The article concludes on a downbeat note:
I would be delighted if my speculations proved wrong and if AMLO could defend a social-democratic program and avoid being pulled into the arms of the US State Department and the Mexican clase política. But as they have for over a hundred years, the prospects for democracy in Mexico look dim.
Mexico desperately needs and wants change and Amlo has long sought to be a catalyst. Let's hope he can fulfill his ambitions.
TiPs , June 21, 2018 at 7:19 amarmchair , June 21, 2018 at 11:40 am
Hopefully the third time is the charm for Obrador. He's contested the last two outcomes, and I'm sure he had a case in at least one of them if not both.hemeantwell , June 21, 2018 at 7:35 am
An interesting historical 'what if', is what if AMLO had won in 2006 over Calderón? Calderón unleashed the drug war that we know and see today, and was a faithful steward of neoliberalism. México might be in a very different place today.Pym of Nantucket , June 21, 2018 at 9:11 am
Dan La Botz' article in Jacobin succeeds masterfully in resolving relatively bland phrases like "coercive influence of the United States" that are part of left discourse into "a rational fear of murder by US-backed interests."
Martin Luther King is said to have felt himself to be a "dead man walking" in the last months of his life; Amlo must feel much the same way.johnnygl , June 21, 2018 at 9:18 am
Mexico's predicament cannot be understood without the context of the war on drugs. I recommend a fun graphic novel: "Narcotráfico para inocentes: El narco en México y quien lo U.S.A." Mexico is in a similar situation as China during the Opium war or the US during prohibition. The book does an excellent job explaining how and why US interests created and foster the "war".PhilK , June 21, 2018 at 9:23 am
I suspect the outcome is going to be influenced, perhaps significantly, by how the political context in the region unfolds in the next few years. The so-called 'pink tide' has been mostly, but certainly NOT completely, rolled back in the last few years. If AMLO's win is isolated, he probably won't change much. But, if this is the start of a new 'pink tide', then he might have more breathing space to get things done.
I think Brazil is still the linchpin of the region. Prospects look quite dim there, but things can turn rather quickly.Lord Koos , June 21, 2018 at 12:39 pm
I wouldn't think that the Mexican PTB would be too worried. Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas almost surely got the most votes in his election, too.Susan the other , June 21, 2018 at 12:46 pm
I've never understood why business interests fight so hard against the welfare of the poor. If more poor people can get into the middle class, they then have more money to buy the crap they sell. Would love to read the graphic novel that is mentioned, but there seems to be no English edition of it.Tim Williams , June 21, 2018 at 12:57 pm
Interesting politics in Mexico. But dangerous. Failed capitalism, or even failed neoliberal freemarketism, is an existential threat to marxism. Neoliberalism somehow thought it could balance the budget and it would balance capitalism. So where do those ideologues go from here. It's a dead end. The only way to save the usefulness of capitalism at this point is to turn back to social spending.
Varoufakis, yesterday, was logically fudging neoliberalism – by going around the banking of surpluses and putting them directly into EU-wide stimulation/projects. It is very MMT but he doesn't say so. It avoids destructive over-banking and mirage profits by financialization because the money goes where it should go. But Obrador doesn't sound like he would dare suggest anything but austerity to rebalance spending priorities in Mexico. His priorities are fine, except he doesn't have a road map to get there. But interesting the political tide is turning.
We destroy their indigenous agriculture by dumping cheap corn, then complain bitterly about all the 'illegals' who seem perfectly willing to harvest our dinners since we won't do the work. Then we try to make 'Agricultural Self-Sufficiency' sound like a bad thing. Godd luck Senor Obrador, you're just what we need.
Jun 09, 2018 | www.counterpunch.org
A final matter concerns the problem of imperial chickens coming home to roost. Liberals don't like to hear it, but the ugly, richly documented historical fact of the matter is that their party of binary and tribal choice has long joined Republicans in backing and indeed crafting a U.S. foreign policy that has imposed authoritarian regimes (and profoundly undemocratic interventions including invasions and occupations) the world over . The roster of authoritarian and often-mass murderous governments the U.S. military and CIA and allied transnational business interests have backed, sometimes even helped create, with richly bipartisan support, is long indeed.
Last fall, Illinois Green Party leader Mike Whitney ran some fascinating numbers on the 49 nation-states that the right-wing "human rights" organization Freedom House identified as "dictatorships" in 2016. Leaving aside Freedom House's problematic inclusion of Russia, Cuba, and Iran on its list, the most remarkable thing about Whitney's research was his finding that the U.S. offered military assistance to 76 percent of these governments. (The only exceptions were Belarus, China, Central African Republic, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Russia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Syria.). "Most politically aware people," Whitney wrote:
"know of some of the more highly publicized instances examples of [U.S. support for foreign dictatorships], such as the tens of billions of dollars' worth of US military assistance provided to the beheading capital of the world, the misogynistic monarchy of Saudi Arabia, and the repressive military dictatorship now in power in Egypt apologists for our nation's imperialistic foreign policy try to rationalize such support, arguing that Saudi Arabia and Egypt are exceptions to the rule. But my survey demonstrates that our government's support for Saudi Arabia and Egypt are not exceptions to the rule at all. They are the rule ."
The Pentagon and State Department data Whitney used came from Fiscal Year 2015. It dated from the next-to-last year of the Obama administration, for which so many liberals recall with misplaced nostalgia. Freedom House's list should have included Honduras, ruled by a vicious right-wing government that Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton helped install in a June 2009 military coup .
The problem here isn't just liberal hypocrisy and double standards. The deeper issue is that, as the great American iconoclast Mark Twain knew, you cannot maintain democracy at home while conducting an authoritarian empire abroad. During the United States' blood-soaked invasion and occupation of the Philippines, Twain penned an imaginary history of the twentieth-century United States. "It was impossible," Twain wrote, "to save the Great Republic. She was rotten to the heart. Lust of conquest had long ago done its work; trampling upon the helpless abroad had taught her, by a natural process, to endure with apathy the like at home."
"Just a decade after Twain wrote those prophetic words," the historian Alfred W. McCoy has observed , "colonial police methods came home to serve as a template for the creation of an American internal security apparatus in wartime." The nation's first Red Scare, which crushed left and labor movements during and after World War One, drew heavily on the lessons and practices of colonial suppression in the Philippines and Cuba. As McCoy shows in his latest book, In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power , the same basic process -- internal U.S. repression informed and shaped by authoritarian and imperial practices abroad and justified by alleged external threats to the "homeland" -- has recurred ever since. Today, the rise of an unprecedented global surveillance state overseen by the National Security Agency has cost the US the trust of many of its top global allies (under Bush43 and Obama44, not just under Trump45) while undermining civil liberties and democracy within as beyond the U.S.
"The fetters imposed on liberty at home," James Madison wrote in 1799 , "have ever been forged out of the weapons provided for defense against real, pretended, or imaginary dangers abroad." Those are wise words well worth revisiting amidst the current endless Russiagate madness, calculated among other things to tell us that the FBI, the CIA, and the rest of the nation's vast and ever more ubiquitous intelligence and surveillance state are on our side.
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Jun 06, 2018 | discussion.theguardian.commeticulousdoc , 3 Jun 2018 16:16
Just as conservative Christian theology provides an excuse for sexism and homophobia, neoliberal language allows powerful groups to package their personal preferences as national interests – systematically cutting spending on their enemies and giving money to their friends.
And when the conservative "Christians" form a neoliberal government, the results are toxic for all, except themselves and their coterie.
Nothing short of a grass roots campaign (such as that waged by GetUp!) will get rid for us of these modern let-them-eat-cake parasites who consider their divine duty to lord over us.
An excellent article, we need more of them.
Jun 05, 2018 | www.theguardian.com
he first page of Tim Winton's new essay collection, The Boy Behind the Curtain , sets a disturbing scene. A 13-year-old boy stands at the window of a suburban street, behind a terylene curtain, training a rifle on passersby.
"He was a fraught little thing," says Winton of that boy – the boy he used to be. "I feel related to him but I'm no longer completely him, thank god."
The passage opens a surprisingly intimate essay about the role of guns in Australian life, setting the tone for a collection being billed as Winton's most personal yet.
In spite of his inclination for solitude, Winton has spent much of his life in the spotlight. His first novel, An Open Swimmer, catapulted him into the public eye when it won the Vogel literary award in 1981, but it was his 1991 novel, Cloudstreet, that cemented his place in Australian letters. Winton has won the Miles Franklin award four times and been shortlisted twice for the Booker. His books have been adapted for film, TV and even opera .
ss="rich-link"> Island Home by Tim Winton review – a love song to Australia and a cry to save it Read more
The contradictions of having such a high-profile career while working in a quintessentially solitary artform are not lost on him. "I spend all day in a room with people who don't exist, and I'm not thinking about any public – but once the thing's done it goes out there and it has a public life over which I have no, or very little, control," he says.
On one reading, the boy with the rifle lurking out of sight, watching the world go by, could be a metaphor for the life of a reclusive writer. But Winton is quick to distinguish himself from such a reading. "I wouldn't like to see myself as somebody who was just cruelly observing the world behind the terylene curtain of art."
For Winton, the perceived lives of other writers always seemed completely unrelated to his own experience. "I grew up with a kind of modernist romantic idea of the writer as some kind of high priest, someone who saw themselves as separate and better, which I now find a bit repellent," he says. "I think that was something that was sold to us at school and certainly at university that writers were somehow aloof from the ordinary business of life; they didn't have to abide by the same rules as other people. The worse their behaviour off the page, the more we were supposed to cheer them on. Once I woke up to that idea as a teenager, I think I consciously resisted it."
Winton's own background was characterised by a working class sensibility and evangelical religion. His parents converted to the Church of Christ when he was a small boy, the circumstances and his experiences of which form the basis of a number of the previously unpublished essays in The Boy Behind the Curtain. As a result, when he finally did start writing, it was with a particularly industrious work ethic.Facebook Twitter Pinterest Tim Winton: 'There wasn't a lot of romance in my view of what writing was about.' Photograph: Hank Kordas
"I approached it like I was a tradesperson," he says. "It didn't necessarily involve FM radio played very loudly on a worksite; it didn't always require plumbers' crack or a hard hat and there was certainly no catcalling, but for the rest of it I went a different route. There wasn't a lot of romance in my view of what writing was about."
ss="rich-link"> A fish called Tim Winton: scientists name new species after novelist Read more
Yet it was finding words, what Winton calls "the enormous luxury of language", that took him from being a 13-year-old boy who watched strangers through the eye of a rifle – a boy who was "obviously insecure and feeling threatened and probably not quite one with the world" – to a well-adjusted adult.
The "emotional infancy of men" has a lot to answer for, he says, suggesting that it's something society would do well to pay more attention to in its early stages. "The lumpiness and surly silence of boys is not something we're sufficiently interested in. They're not sufficiently attractive to us until they become victims or dangerous brutes and bullies."
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I think it's a mistake to think someone who doesn't say much doesn't have strong feelingsTim Winton
Conflicted masculinity is recurring theme throughout Winton's fiction, and his characters often suffer as a result of their inability to articulate their feelings. "I think it's a mistake to think someone who doesn't say much doesn't have strong feelings," he says. "I think we stifle people's expression or we ignore people's signals of wanting to express things at our peril."
The distinct tenor of Winton's prose, a lyricism which manages to turn even the Australian vernacular into a kind of rough poetry, lends itself to the intimacy of the personal essay. The Boy Behind the Curtain contains a number of vignettes that reflect the imagery and landscape that characterises his fiction: hot bitumen roads through the desert; the churning ocean.
But there is also a clear political streak to Winton's nonfiction, and the inclusion of a number of more direct essays in this collection mean it's difficult to collapse the work under the category of memoir. Stones for Bread, for example, calls for a return to empathy and humanity in Australia's approach to asylum seekers. The Battle for Ningaloo Reef is a clear-eyed account of the activism that prevented a major commercial development from destroying a stretch of the Western Australian coastline. And Using the C-Word concerns that other dirty word that Winton believes we are avoiding: class.
"I think there are people talking about class but they're having to do that against the flow," Winton says. "We're living in a dispensation that is endlessly reinforcing the idea that we are not citizens but economic players. And under that dispensation it's in nobody's interest, especially those in power, to encourage or foster the idea that there's any class difference."
The market doesn't care about people, Winton argues, and neither is there any genius in it. "There's no invisible hand," he says. "And if there is one, it's scratching its arse."
It's clear to Winton that neoliberalism is failing, but not without casualties, two of which are very close to his heart: the arts and the environment.Facebook Twitter Pinterest Cover image for The Boy Behind The Curtain by Tim Winton. Photograph: Penguin
"People in the arts are basically paying the price for this new regime where we pay no tax and where we get less public service and more privatised service," he says. "The arts are last on, first off in people's minds and I think that's not just sad, it's corrosive. They're just seen as fluff, as fripperies, as indulgence, as add-ons and luxury. And I don't think the arts are luxury; I think they're fundamental to civilisation. It's just that under our current dispensation, civilisation is not the point; civilisation is something that commerce has to negotiate and traduce if necessary."
Winton is one of a number of high-profile critics of the Productivity Commission's proposals to allow the parallel importation of books , and a signatory to petitions opposing funding cuts to the Australia Council . But he has also been a grassroots activist in the area of marine conservation for over 15 years.
"I don't know if I'm an activist writer or just a writer who has an activist life on the side," he says.
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I don't know if I'm an activist writer or just a writer who has an activist life on the sideTim Winton
Years of lobbying by conservation groups and the general public contributed to the Labor government announcement in 2012 of 42 marine reserves in Australian waters , including over the entire Coral Sea. The Abbott government, however, implemented a review which, in September this year, recommended significantly scaling back those reservations . It was, says Winton, an act of cowardice.
"The Abbott review was basically all about applying inertia to imminent progress," Winton says. "We've gone from world leaders [in conservation] to being too frightened to lead."
When asked what role writing fiction plays in his activist work, Winton says it comes back to the idea of "keeping people's imaginations awake".
"Imagination is the fundamental virtue of civilisation. If people can't imagine then they can't live an ethical life."
• The Boy Behind the Curtain is published by Penguin Books and is available now
Jun 02, 2018 | www.zerohedge.comBy Joe Jarvis Via The Daily Bell
You know how missionaries used to run around the globe forcing everyone to be a Christian? And in the process, they destroyed native cultures and traditions?
Well, the same thing is happening today with Western "teen culture." It is being exported around the world with disastrous effects.
Preindustrial societies mostly exhibit a continuum from childhood to adulthood. There is generally no random cut off age where suddenly teens are given rights and expected to become adults. Children seamlessly and gradually integrate into adulthood, with puberty rites being the only major benchmark.
These societies were "free-range parenting" before it was cool. Even toddlers have a large degree of autonomy. The child is allowed to explore, and the mother provides the nurturing, feeding, and love at the child's initiation. Young children participate in the work of their parents and elders and interact and learn from people of all ages.
Children are raised from infancy alongside adults, instead of being segregated into peer groups of the same age. They slowly learn from adults and take on more responsibilities by emulating what they see.
What do kids see in the USA? A bunch of other kids with whom they have been grouped by government and industry working in tandem . Instead of emulating adults, they act like their peers. They want to dress the same, impress others with their technology, and keep up with the same tv shows.
This creates an artificial sub-culture based on age. And it creates a new market.
As of 2011, teens spend over $200 billion per year . Disney and all its many subsidiaries bring in about $45 billion a year. It is not surprising that these industries now spend several billion dollars each year advertising to teenagers. And the most effective form of advertising is to create a sub-culture through which to sell products.
You can trace the roots of this phenomenon way back to the industrial revolution when social structures got a big shakeup. Kids worked less alongside adults in family work and apprenticeships. Instead, they were shipped off to compulsory public schools. They were grouped by age and sex, and "educated" to be factory workers.
By contrasting Western adolescence with people of the same age in societies that are just recently modernizing, we see that "teen turmoil" is not a natural phenomenon or an issue of hormones. It has been created by Western culture and is now infecting industrializing societies.
Imperializing Teen Culture
According to Robert Epstein in his book Teen 2.0: Saving Our Children and Families from the Torment of Adolescence , exporting this Western teen culture is undermining the social structures of developing nations.
A similar story has played out for Kenyans, Moroccans, Australian aborigines, Canadian Inuits, and many other preindustrial societies recently integrated into Western culture. Their ways of life led to few social problems like unwed pregnancy, the breakdown of the family, drug use, depression, violence, and general teenage angst and rebellious destructive behavior. But that changed upon the introduction of Western television, schooling, and teen culture.
What is it that preindustrial teens are seeing on those television programs? Answer: teens being treated like, and behaving like, irresponsible children.
When teens in preindustrial society are forced to attend Western-style schools, how are they affected? Answer: they're cut off from adults and from the centrality of adult culture; they're prevented from working, or at least making work the center of their lives; they become controlled by adults instead of part of adult life; teens, rather than adults, become their role models.
When Western mechanisms delay marriage, what is the outcome? Answer: because marriage is the hallmark of adulthood in virtually all cultures, the delay of marriage also means the delay of adulthood. It's no coincidence that Tom Smith's recent survey showed that Americans now think adulthood begins at age twenty-six; the median age for first marriages in the United States is now 26.8.
Pros and Cons of Western Culture
This is not a pro-tribalism post. I am absolutely not saying that society was better off in a pre-industrial age. This is not a black or white issue. It is not like we have to choose between being ignorantly blissful hunter-gatherers or isolated bitter consumer-robots.
Many cultures have benefited from industrialization in that the standard of living has increased. But industrialization does not have to be imported 20th-century style. Modernization can be introduced without causing the collapse of the old ways of life, which kept social problems to a minimum.
We have the ability to see both extremes, isolate the biggest detrimental factors, and mitigate them.
While the issues are all integrated, the main three problems are:
- Mandatory Western Styled Public Schooling
- The Industry of "Teen Culture"
- The Breakdown of the Family
Public schooling is the most glaring catalyst to the perils of Western teenage culture . It is where the groupings by age begin, and the arena in which teens compare themselves, compete and copy each other. They are also a major contributing factor to the oppression many teens feel .
Exporting Hollywood around the globe is another major problem. Teens are indoctrinated with the creepy Hollywood executives' ideas of what it means to be a teen. They are sold sex, drugs, and irresponsibility as fun, on the silver screen. And of course, there are plenty of real-world products that they can buy to fast-track their emulation of the TV stars.
And finally, like it or not, families are a historically effective regulator of social behaviors.
When it comes to teens around the world, just what kinds of practices and problems are we exporting? The answer, it seems, is crime, ennui, anger, premarital sex, pregnancy, abortion, drug and alcohol abuse, and family conflict. Consider just one of our more subtle exports: according to a recent book on teens by psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Barbara Schneider, American teens are almost completely isolated from adults . Teens typically spend more than thirty-five hours per week surrounded by their peers in school and an additional thirty-five hours per week with peers outside of school. That's two-thirds of their waking hours. This is, according to the researchers, twelve more hours per week than teens in other industrialized nations such as Italy and South Korea spend together, and it is probably sixty hours a week more than teens spend together in many preindustrial societies.
Many American teens–perhaps half or more–also grow up with little access to their father, and "for those lucky enough to have a father, the average teenager now spends less than half an hour a week alone with his or her father." Half of this time is spent watching television, "a situation that does not readily lend itself to quality parent-child interactions." Father-teen interactions in the United States are certainly "not enough to transmit the knowledge, values, attitudes, and skills that adult males should pass on to their children." The child-adult continuum about which Jean Liedloff wrote is almost completely absent in the united states, and we're sending our broken model of family life to each and every village on earth.
Through our films, television programs, laws, religious beliefs, and schooling and marriage practices, we're exporting a wide range of mechanisms that extend childhood well past puberty and that isolate teens from adults. We're creating prolonged, turbulent, Western-style adolescence, with all its inherent problems. We're creating generation gaps and family conflicts where none existed before. And because we ourselves have no idea how to deal with those problems, we're offering no solutions to the cultures we're corrupting.
Sure, pre-industrial cultures have their weak points, but so does the new way of life. You can't objectively say one is better without specifically defining what makes it better.
Is increased teen depression and suicide worth having access to cell phones and internet? Is increased violence and alcohol abuse worth an overall extended lifespan because of modern medicine?
Luckily, we don't have to choose.
You can modernize without Westernizing. The three main contributors to the torment of adolescence, and all the social problems which accompany them, are not necessary factors of modernization.
I mentioned "free range parenting" earlier. It is catching on in America. In a global world with more information at our fingertips than ever before, we can cherry pick the best parts of each culture, and apply those lessons to the modern world.
We don't have to live in a tribal-commune with no access to modern technology in order to give young children autonomy to roam and explore the world.
We don't have to hunt in loin clothes in order to impart fatherly wisdom to our sons and daughters.
But we may have to reorganize our lives and get our priorities straight.
If you've read my articles before, you know that I am not a big fan of "top-down" solutions. That is, the best way to deal with something is on a grassroots, individual level. Trying to change a whole society is difficult and not at all guaranteed to succeed. If it does, you have to guard the progress against undoing.
Better to make the changes at the individual level, where you don't have to ask permission or get a majority to agree.
Clearly, some broad reforms would help the situation. It is not about the government "doing something" about the problem, it is about the government undoing some of the harm they have caused.
For instance, abolishing public schools, or at very least compulsory schooling would be a good start. Since that probably won't happen anytime soon, parents can homeschool, send their kids to alternative schools, or team up with friends and neighbors to form a co-op arrangement for education.
Removing age-based restrictions on rights, or at least moving to a competency-based model of gaining rights and privileges would also help. Again, petitioning the governing is mostly a waste of time. Better to work with the freedoms you can give your kids. So they still can't drive until 16, but at least they can cut their hair how they want, and maybe even have a glass of wine with dinner.
But as with most problems, the largest barriers to improvement are in our heads.
Why not give your kids freedom from an early age? Why not let them participate in household work from an early age? Hell, why not let them participate in your career if they are into it?
The cool thing is that the modern economy seems to be reorganizing to accommodate this way of life, without sacrificing modern comforts and efficiencies.
It is easier than ever to work from home. Imagine a setting where mom and dad do their work while the kids independently learn, or work on easier tasks. Older kids–neighbors or family members or even a tutor–teach the younger kids. Certain work tasks and household chores can be done together as a family, as many hands make light work.
The whole point of this method of parenting is that you offer a continuum from childhood to adulthood.
And without even noticing it, life lessons, love, and kinship will be passed on. You don't have to sit a kid down at a desk to teach them how to become an adult. If you interact with them daily, they will learn from you. You just have to allow them to participate and encourage them to pursue whatever they get excited about.
If you can't teach it to them, the internet can.
For some parents, this might sound like a disaster attempting to work from home while teaching kids. But it is the transition that is difficult. Once children understand the new structure of freedom, they will occupy themselves. They will learn more and be more independent. And when they do come to you with a question or problem, it will be a rewarding experience for everyone to work through it.
Of course for kids and teens unaccustomed to freedom, an immediate withdrawal of authority could have disastrous consequences. Think about the 18-year-olds with strict parents who go off to college and go crazy with parties and alcohol. But you can gradually give your child more freedom whatever their age. Just be honest and upfront about what you are doing and why.
The issue of extended childhood, manufactured adolescence, and the harms of teen culture are missing from most public debates.
School shootings, teen suicide , and low-achieving youth are products of the artificial extension of childhood, the oppression that teens face . But with this issue, is it easy for individuals to take control of the situation, and refuse to be part of the problem. You can solve these problems for your family in one generation.
You don't have to play by the rules of the corrupt politicians, manipulative media, and brainwashed peers.
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May 09, 2018 | www.unz.com
mark green , May 6, 2018 at 6:06 am GMTTrotsky helped create the Red Army as well as the intellectual underpinnings of the (worldwide) communist revolution. This movement destroyed/ended/ruined the lives of many millions of innocent people. Shouldn't a movement that caused this much damage ruin the reputation of its architects?Johan Meyer , May 6, 2018 at 2:36 pm GMT
Not in the case of Trotsky. He was such a brilliant Jew!@mark greenHaxo Angmark , Website May 7, 2018 at 1:30 am GMT
Trotsky was not that competent militarily, and even tried to arrange a transfer of e.g. Czech troops to Vladivostok to allow them to fight on the western front, and allowed American inspections of German prisoners of war in a hope of forestalling the coming Allied invasion (through Siberia and the North). Frunze was the real architect of the Red Army, while Trotsky's main contribution to the Red Army was getting Czarist commanders to join. Trotsky likely had Frunze assassinated, rather than Stalin.
Considering America (and Japan's) Siberian adventure, and the mass killings involved, e.g. by Japanese and Americans, well, pots and kettles and all that.
If we are to compare death tolls, we could look at the US and UK armies' intervention (and Canada's!), directly (1994, from Burundi, mainly to prevent Hutu civilians from fleeing), and, more importantly, via proxy (1990 to the present, using the Ugandan army, armed by the former armies, with constant supply flights until at least 1994) in Rwanda and later Congo-Kinshasa. Two million Hutu (Rwanda, 1994, from former Kagame Henchman, Eric Hakizimana) and five to ten million eastern Congolese (mainly in the Kivus), from that intervention alone. The intervention also included the assassination of Rwandan president Habyarimana, and of former Burundian president Cyprien Ntaryamira (Burundi's first democratically elected president, deposed in a baTutsi (feudal aristocrat) coup likely sponsored by same western armies), mere days after the death threat by former US secretary of state for African affairs, Herman Cohen.that today's Trotskyites come down on the side of Isramerican-backed Sunni terrorists in Syria should surprise no one. Because yesterday's Trotskyites are now called (((neo-cons))) originally via the "anti-Stalinist" Partisan Review, then Commentary, then Nat Review.Uebersetzer , May 7, 2018 at 6:05 am GMTIt was quite striking how, when Gaddafi was brutally murdered, you got similar reactions from Hillary Clinton and British Socialist Workers Party honcho Alex Callinicos – malicious gloating.Dave from Oz , May 7, 2018 at 6:18 pm GMT
It was a bit like a flash of lightning on a dark night – a brief illumination of surroundings and what these people really stand for, as opposed to the ideological posturing.Whenever I read anything purporting to identify international bad guys and good guys, I always like to ask: "Who has this purported bad guy invaded recently? How many bombs has this bad guy dropped on other people's countries?" I feel it clarifies matters.PiltdownMan , May 8, 2018 at 4:18 am GMTSeraphim , May 8, 2018 at 5:37 am GMT
Obsessed with Stalin, the disciples of Leon Bronstein see betrayed revolutions everywhere
Lev Bronstein = Leon Trotsky.@The practical result of this verbal agitation is simply to align this brand of Trotskyism with U.S imperialism.jilles dykstra , May 8, 2018 at 6:39 am GMT
Wasn't 'Trotskyism' 'aligned' with US imperialism from the very moment when he transported the Warburg-Schiff money to Russia to carry on the 'permanent revolution'?
And when Stalin cut Trotsky's crap who jumped to his defense? The Dewey "Commission of Inquiry into the Charges Made against Leon Trotsky in the Moscow Trials". And who are the imperialist 'neo-cons' other than 'old Trotskyists'?I did not read about the suspicion that Bron(f)stein in reality was a German agent. What one reads in these two books does not make the suspicion go awayVojkan , May 8, 2018 at 7:27 am GMT
John W Wheeler-Bennett, 'Brest-Litovsk, The forgotten peace, March 1918', 1938, 1963, London
Erich Ludendorff, 'Meine Kriegserinnerungen 1914 = 1918′, Berlin, 1918If they weren't so nefarious, the trotsies wouldn't be worth reading, let alone mentioning. Maybe Bronstein himself was a delusional revolutionary true believer, we'll probably never know for sure, but I doubt very much his neocon disciples are motivated by some internationalist idealism.animalogic , May 8, 2018 at 7:41 am GMT
Neocons are jewish supremacists aided by corrupt to the core goyim, plain and simple. They do have in common with their guru one conviction, that the end justifies the means. That is the recipe of evil.
It's a pity that so many youth are misled still today in believing in the hoax that Trotskyism is somehow something moral. Trotsky was himself a murderer. Killing is immoral. It sometimes is necessary and cannot be avoided as with regards to the psychotic butchers who came from abroad to Syria and are known as ISIS but it is still immoral.
Normal people sense killing as immoral therefore psychopaths have to come up with stories such as Germans slaughtering Belgian babies with bayonets, Iraqis throwing Kuwaiti babies out of incubators, Serbs genociding Bosniaks or Albanians, Qadhafi readying for genocide in Benghazi, Assad pulling children's fingernails or gassing them, Iran being responsible for 9/11 etc, all in order to dehumanise the enemy of the moment and compel people to accept that killing "sub-humans" half way around the world is a moral act. It isn't. Period.
Unlike all those fake atrocities, Western and Saudi trained, armed and financed foreign terrorists in Syria did film themselves doing horrors. They videotaped themselves burning people alive, throwing people off building tops. They videotaped themselves beheading children. Assad didn't make those videos, ISIS did, to brag. Only mentally ill people can support those "rebels" against Assad. Yet, as a Christian, I don't consider killing them as moral, I consider it as necessary and unavoidable, but it is an act that mandates penitence.
Trotsies ignore those qualms and, whether real or alleged followers, are sick people. End of story.@Dave from OzThirdeye , May 8, 2018 at 7:58 am GMT
You're standing on solid ground, there Dave. I like to respond to holocaust discussion with the question: "the Jews and who else ?"From Trotsky's doctrine of Permanent Revolution onward, the hallmark of Trotskyism has been a quest for intellectual purity in revolution – no contradictions allowed. No mixed economies under socialism. No pragmatic alliances. No consideration of national security. Stake everything on a worldwide wave of revolution. Every real-world tactical issue since 1939 has led to fracturing of the Trotskyist movement, generally into a "pure" faction and a "get something done" faction. International Socialists represented the "pure" faction after the 1939 split (after it spun off the forebears of the neoconservative movement). Its sole contribution of significance was as an intellectual incubator for Christopher Hitchens. More "pure" factions spun off in the early 1960s, which sooner or later degenerated into cults. Lyndon LaRouche made his mark leading one of the "pure" factions. The "get something done" faction made its mark as highly effective organizers of protests against the war in Vietnam but started chasing silly fads of the student New Left, trying unsuccessfully to connect them to a revolutionary strategy. Their "revolutionary" rationale for those movements blew up when they went in a decidedly bourgeois-aligned bureaucratic direction and became adjuncts to the Democratic Party. WSWS represents the revival of purist Trotskyism, which offers cogent critiques of the glorified left-liberal postmodernist "Trotskyism" of Louis Proyect and Socialist Alternative, but seems to choke on the question of what they themselves actually intend to accomplish.jimmyriddle , May 8, 2018 at 9:29 am GMTA well known saying in left wing activist circles in the UK was "Never trust a Trot."Thirdeye , May 8, 2018 at 9:45 am GMT@SeraphimThirdeye , May 8, 2018 at 10:00 am GMT
The Russian revolution served German interests more than it did American ones. Germany sponsored Lenin's return from Zurich to lead the revolution that would get Russia out of the war. It makes no sense to contend that the Russian revolution served American interests or that Warburg-Schiff were acting on their behalf. They were acting against the US interest in keeping Russia in the war against Germany. They had been financing anti-Tsarist activity in Russia for years.@jilles dykstraJames Brown , May 8, 2018 at 10:24 am GMT
If one wants to make the case that Trotsky was a German agent, they would have to explain his agitation for spreading the revolution into Germany. You could make a stronger case that George Washington was a French agent against Britain. Revolutions have tended to occur in the cracks and contradictions opened in the struggles between the great powers, including the revolutions in China and Vietnam.The problem is not that an ignorant, Tony McKenna, will still in 2018 be a Trotskyst , that is a defender of a mass murderer.Parbes , May 8, 2018 at 11:46 am GMT
The problem is that the writer of this piece seems to believe that it is worth spending time writing an article about such an ignorant and irrelevant man. Maybe because he "writes well", which, she admires.
That one can "write well" and "speak well, as intellectuals do, but be a jerk, doesn't occur to Ms Johnson.
The problem is also because the writer herself, ignores how profoundly ignorant is Tony McKenna.
"Revolution is very rare. It is more a myth than a reality "
No, Revolutions are criminal enterprises. They always were and they always will be.
Robespierre, Lenine, Trotsky, Stalin, Hitler, Mao were criminals.
The first European revolution – The French Revolution – was the first big lie and the first to put into practice the industrial killing of a people – People of Vendée – . The first EUropean Genocide was committed by the French revolutionaries.
It is not by chance that all major criminals (Lenine etc ) studied the French Revolution and would apply later in their countries the model that the French terrorists (Revolutionaries) applied to France.
Those who are interested in knowing the truth about the Franch Revolution (and all revolutions and why so called Trotskysts are a bunch of fools) should read Reynald Secher – A French Genocide: The Vendee.
"In our era, the most successful revolutions have been in Third World countries"
Well, if one can write such nonsense, then when can admire Tony McKenna and waste time writing a silly article.Great article! Thanks to Diana Johnstone for writing such a fine article which blows right out of the water so much of the BS being bandied about in relation to the Syrian War, Stalin, etc. Ms. Johnstone is a REAL intellectual. Wish there were more like her in the Anglosphere nowadays.OpenYourEyes , May 8, 2018 at 12:02 pm GMTPresident Asad is a doctor by profession. He is a family man and has raised a beautiful family. Prior to this Saudi Terrorist Revolution he rode his own car, at times taking his family shopping .hardly signs of a baby killer or a 'chemical animal'.Jake , May 8, 2018 at 12:18 pm GMTTrotskyites, much more than Stalinists, love war, worship war, live to make war for everybody and everything they see as not theirs. Trotskyites have as large an appetite for carnage leading to their greater empire than any people that ever lived with the exception of Mongols.Joe Magarac , May 8, 2018 at 12:37 pm GMT
Trotskyites and WASPs – who created the largest empire in world history – in bed together, with the evil House of Saud, could destroy civilization.No more Stalin. No more USSR even. Yet the Trots are still objectively counterrevolutionary left deviationists after all these years.Pindos , Website May 8, 2018 at 12:46 pm GMT@Thirdeyenickels , May 8, 2018 at 1:35 pm GMT
It served Jew interests – destroy RussiansInteresting.seeing-thru , May 8, 2018 at 1:38 pm GMT
I just finished Kotkin's Stalin book chapter on the purges, which made no sense (the book is good but has no narrative). The purges would have made more sense as a full on battle with the Trotskyite elements. My other theory is that they were a paychological projection of guilt from the collectivization murders, realized as more murders.Fools and idiots come in various shapes and sizes, as do socialists and wildlife. The zebra stands out from afar, its stripes give it away. Likewise, the Trotskyites stand out markedly in the fairly jumbled-up socialist landscape, given away by their towering stupidity and luminous obstinacy. Whenever some wretched poor, weak country is being bombed by the West, these useful idiots of empire jump up and down in merriment. Whenever a union anywhere is trying to extort more money for less work, these fools give their support. The burning down of churches and the spreading of atheism at gunpoint is another trait of theirs. Christian Socialists they hate with a special vengeance, taking their cue from Marx the great "visionary", whose vision was fairly deficient in many ways.Moi , May 8, 2018 at 3:41 pm GMT
Stalin had Trot's head badgered-in, if I recall. Well, with a head as stupid as Trotsky's, half the world would be itching to bash it in. One of those good things that Stalin did, IMHO.@OpenYourEyesThirdeye , May 8, 2018 at 4:27 pm GMT
and although his country is poor, his wife shops in Paris.@MoiShakesvshav , May 8, 2018 at 4:27 pm GMT
Oh, the horror!Trotsky was a liar conspiring with the Nazis and Japan. Grover Furr has published the evidence.Thirdeye , May 8, 2018 at 4:41 pm GMT@PindosAnon  Disclaimer , May 8, 2018 at 4:45 pm GMT
It served Jew interests – destroy Russians
Then they could just as well have kept their money. Nicholas II was doing a fine job at that.@MoiSeamus Padraig , May 8, 2018 at 6:06 pm GMT
There are plenty of medium and low priced stores in Paris.@OpenYourEyesSeamus Padraig , May 8, 2018 at 6:18 pm GMT
Prior to this Saudi Terrorist Revolution he rode his own car
Sometimes he still does. The following video of Pres. Assad driving his Honda was shot in E. Ghouta (Damascus) just this past March:@nickelsploni almoni , May 8, 2018 at 6:25 pm GMT
The purges would have made more sense as a full on battle with the Trotskyite elements.
That's exactly how I interpret Stalin's purges, too. I think he was trying to wrest control of the Communist Party generally–and the NKVD specifically–from the (((Trotskyite))) mafia which then dominated them.
I just finished Kotkin's Stalin book chapter on the purges, which made no sense (the book is good but has no narrative).
Is Kotkin Jewish? Maybe the reason his recounting of the purges doesn't make sense is because he doesn't really want to talk about what prompted them. Like anything else in life, if you want to understand Stalin's purges, you first have to understand the context in which they took place.Syrians have told me that Bashar al-Assad was a decent chap. But taking his family shopping could not be different from John McCain walking through Baghdad with one hundred soldiers around him and helicopters overhead to show how safe it was. If Bashar al-Assad "went shopping" in Damascus (instead of London or Paris) then two thousand plain clothes were also shopping with him. And for what would he "go shopping" in Damascus? Shopping for an illusion, that's what.Joe Magarac , May 8, 2018 at 6:39 pm GMT@QuartermasterSeamus Padraig , May 8, 2018 at 6:52 pm GMT
Anyone seriously thinking Trotsky was conspiring with Nazis or Japan is seriously imbalanced.
That was the official Stalinist line during WWII.Bravo! Another ringer from Diana Johnstone.AnonFromTN , May 8, 2018 at 7:10 pm GMT
"In the context of a global neoliberalism, where governments across the board were enacting the most pronounced forms of deregulation and overseeing the carving up of state industries by private capital, the Assad government responded to the heightening contradictions in the Syrian economy by following suit -- by showing the ability to march to the tempo of foreign investment while evincing a willingness to cut subsidies for workers and farmers." [ -Tony McKenna ]
This is like cursing the pizza store owner who gives 'protection' money to the mafia, without cursing the mafia which extorts him! As Johnstone later points out, back then Assad had little choice but to try and make his peace with Uncle Scam as best he could, since the USSR was no longer around to protect Syria.
McKenna concludes by quoting Louis Proyect: "If we line up on the wrong side of the barricades in a struggle between the rural poor and oligarchs in Syria, how can we possibly begin to provide a class-struggle leadership in the USA, Britain, or any other advanced capitalist country?"
Ah yes: Louis Proyect. The one and only! It was he who recently defended the 'rebels' as proletarian Bolsheviks struggling for a new, socialist Syria:
"The Syrian rebels are generally drawn from the poor, rural and unrepresented majority of the population, the Arab version of John Steinbeck's Joad family. Despite the tendency of some on the left to see them as sectarians who rose up against a generous Baathist welfare state because it supported a different interpretation of who was the true successor to Muhammad, the revolutionary struggle in Syria was fueled by class hatred."
The Joads were jihadis? Who knew!
The trouble with Trotskyists is that they are always "supporting" other people's more or less imaginary revolutions. They are always telling others what to do. They know it all. The practical result of this verbal agitation is simply to align this brand of Trotskyism with U.S imperialism.
Which is why, once they reach a certain age and a certain level of burn-out, rather than simply give up on politics entirely, they usually tend to become neoconservatives , as did Chris Hitchens. For them, the Rockefeller/Rothschild 'new world order' is the next best thing to Trotsky's 'world revolution'.The thing that escaped the author is that Trotskyism is a dead horse. The number of Trotskyists in any country is as close to zero as makes no difference. These deluded weirdos are outnumbered even by flat-Earthers.Anon  Disclaimer , May 8, 2018 at 7:26 pm GMT@Quartermasternickels , May 8, 2018 at 7:49 pm GMT
Wasn't the small point of disagreement which should be top dog?@Seamus PadraigBackwoods Bob , May 8, 2018 at 8:18 pm GMT
I don't know if Kotkin is a member of the tribe, but he definitely is on the Putin/Russia bashing wagon and is deeply steeped in all the classic WASP institutions.
Most of the Hoover people seem to have the anti-Russian disease.
The give away in his chapter on the purges was that he blamed it on the defective personality of Stalin, i.e. Stalin was just crazy.
Certainly Stalin was a brutal murderer, but any time the sole reason for a historical event is someone's personality you can bet you're reading propaganda.
If you have an sources that make for a better reading on the purges, please do post.@UebersetzerShakesvshav , May 8, 2018 at 9:07 pm GMT
Absolutely. Ghadafi was sodomized by bayonet and Clinton cackled over it with malicious glee.
The posing of Assad as some kind of monster is just lynch-mob rationalization. McKenna doesn't believe what he is saying any more than Stalin believed show trial confessions obtained under torture.
It's all the more pleasurable to these psychopaths that they cloak their crimes with phony virtue. Hence, putting Assad out there as this cartoon villian.
As if ISIS, who we fostered and nurtured, was any better? Or communist Kurds? My God how we forget each disaster from Afghanistan to Iraq, to Libya, to Syria now the scorched-earth war and subsequent disease, etc.? These people thrive on death and mayhem.@nickelsunpc downunder , May 8, 2018 at 10:20 pm GMT
I see you go for the comic book villain invented by Cold War propagandists like Robert Conquest.@ThirdeyeRevoluteous , May 8, 2018 at 11:00 pm GMT
Excellent point. The global revolution socialists are hard core ideologies who put ideological purity over practical considerations. Hence their failure to achieve any kind of real world success. Wherever socialists have had some sustainable success it has been achieved by combining socialism with elements of nationalism and capitalism. The communist military successes in Russia, China and Vietnam were achieved by appealing to nationalism. The Chinese economic miracle has been achieved through state capitalism. The Scandinavian welfare state has depended on government support for big companies like Volvo and Nokia.
There are lessons here for English-speaking countries with their dogmatic attachment to liberal values like free trade, open borders and anti-nationalism.@James BrownAnon  Disclaimer , May 8, 2018 at 11:09 pm GMT
Eh No. The first *modern* European revolution was the American revolution, and it's not a joke. Fully European, of European people and European powers. All European powers indeed, UK, France, Spain, many German states, and so on. And French revolution was broadly more than Robespierre, it was UK, Spain, the German states, the Pope, the Austrian Empire, the many factions of the French people (if such concept had any sense then, in a territory only less than 25% spoke French), all of them were criminals, or only was Robespierre? Was criminal the previous kingdom, in a permanent basis of bloody wars and social injustice?
Maybe revolutions are simply a security valve, steaming a bit and that's all. By the way, the word itself goes back to Coppernicus, a revolution is a full orbit of a planet around the Sun. It ends where started.
The entire Human History is criminal, against Humankind itself and our own planet. We must understand, not look for criminals.@MarkinLAAnon  Disclaimer , May 8, 2018 at 11:10 pm GMT
Mrs Kennedy bought all her clothes in Paris although she laundered then through an American manufacturer
Mrs Trump buys a lot of her clothes in Italy.@MoiAnon  Disclaimer , May 8, 2018 at 11:13 pm GMT
She has to, all the stores in Syria have been bombed.@Seamus PadraigAnon  Disclaimer , May 8, 2018 at 11:20 pm GMT
So many of the books about the revolution and USSR have been written by commie Jews. It's good to be sceptical about everything they write.@AnonFromTNAnon  Disclaimer , May 8, 2018 at 11:35 pm GMT
You are right. I was surprised to see the article as I thought they were all in old age homes.
They really really are gone in America, even in the universities. May be because in America because our "struggle" is multi millionaire Jews and upper middle class blacks Asians Hispanics and Indians against poor Whites.
In America a $200,000 a year black women school administrator is an opressed victim. The poorest disabled White man is a privileged aristocrat who must be sent to the guillotine.@James Brownjacques sheete , May 8, 2018 at 11:38 pm GMT
I'm very interested in the Vendeens. I have the memoirs of Renee Bourderau.
It's not a book. I got it from the library of Congress copying service and put the pages in a binder.
Loyola uni Los Angeles has a copy in their rare books section. UCLA and USC libraries have lots of books about it, many in English. The Lucius Green library at Stanford has many Vendean resistance books too
Quite a different story from the conventional Masonic enlightenment narrative. Our American Whiskey rebels were lucky they surrendered so quickly or they might have met the fate of the Vendeans. There used to be a website devoted to Renee Bourdereau maintained by some college history department.nickels , May 9, 2018 at 12:02 am GMT
The trouble with Trotskyists is that they are always "supporting" other people's more or less imaginary revolutions. They are always telling others what to do. They know it all. The practical result of this verbal agitation is simply to align this brand of Trotskyism with U.S imperialism. The obsession with permanent revolution ends up providing an ideological alibi for permanent war.
For the sake of world peace and progress, both the United States and its inadvertent Trotskyist apologists should go home and mind their own business.
You nailed it.@Shakesvshavutu , May 9, 2018 at 12:03 am GMT
Myths truth about 1937 Stalin s counter revolution Mify i pravda o 1937 gode Kontrrevolyutsiya Stalina (Russian)
by A. M. Burovski
http://www.theoccidentalobserver.net/2011/09/20/stalin's-1937-counter-revolution-against-trotskyism/@nickelsJesse James , May 9, 2018 at 12:41 am GMT
projection of guilt
Come on, psychoanalyzing Stalin? Psychoanalysis can explain everything (X and not-X) that's why it has no explanatory power.
In the contemporary West, we often assume that perpetrators of mass violence must be insane or irrational, but as Kotkin tells the story, Stalin was neither.
After reading few reviews of Koktin books I am ready to invest my time and effort to give him a chance.@QuartermasterSeraphim , May 9, 2018 at 1:59 am GMT
Trotsky was a danger to the survival USSR, because he was an internationalist as is the Israeli-allied globalist cabal that runs the USA. His differences with Stalin and the nationalists inside the Kremlin was not a small disagreement, as you assert. You must not have ever even picked up a book on the subject.@QuartermasterMulegino1 , May 9, 2018 at 2:52 am GMT
Would you be surprised to learn that Lenin too was conspiring with the Japanese in 1904-5?
'Revolutionary defeatism' was a central tenet of his worldview and of Trotsky's too.As brutal as Stalin was, his rule was providential, in the sense that he saved Russian nationalism, culture, and spirituality from absolute destruction at the hands of the usual suspects' willing instrument, Lev Davidovich Bronstein.Paw , May 9, 2018 at 3:10 am GMT
Bronstein was an agent of the Jewish banking cabal headquartered in New York. He was financed primarily by Jacob Schiff of Kuehn and Loeb.
Trotsky and his acolytes desired the total destruction of Russian culture and Russian Orthodoxy in particular.
Stalin was sagacious enough to realize that the Russians would never fight against the Germans and their allies for the cause of world revolution, but knew they would fight for their Russian motherland and its spiritual traditions and folkways. Stalin restored the patriarchate, opened up many churches, and commissioned the composition of the "Hymn of the Soviet Union" (now the Russian National Anthem with different lyrics) in the Orthodox chorale tradition; it would ultimately replace "The Internationale."
In the meantime, the almost entirely kosher Trotskyites became viciously anti-Soviet (actually anti-Russian) and pledged their temporary allegiance to their great American golem.
The origins of the Cold War (and today's Russia xenophobia) was- in my humble opinion- the great schism and struggle between the international rootless tool of Wall St. and his acolytes and the ruthless- but providential -Georgian autocrat.@UebersetzerPaw , May 9, 2018 at 3:11 am GMT
This Permanent revolutions is very good. But what you going to do with the Old revolutioners..
It does not bode well. If they are in the way of more and other revolutions@ThirdeyeRobinG , May 9, 2018 at 3:13 am GMT
This Permanent revolutions is very good. But what you going to do with the Old revolutioners..
It does not bode well. If they are in the way of more and other revolutions@AnonPaw , May 9, 2018 at 3:14 am GMT
The Trotskyists didn't leave America, they just morphed into Neocons (or so I've been told).@ThirdeyeIsrael Shamir , May 9, 2018 at 7:59 am GMT
Not only to German , but the German general Staff. And Lenin lived from robberies with murders .Louis Proyect – this is a vile scribe, who blackens the pages of the Counterpunch. A part of the Trotskyite gang that took over this once venerable magazine!Hervé Fuyet , Website May 9, 2018 at 9:19 am GMTHervé FuyetJames Brown , May 9, 2018 at 11:27 am GMT
I remember with emotion the old days, where in Minnesota, the Communist Party with me among others, and the Trotskyist of the WS with you, among others, if my memories are good, we were fighting inside the movement against the war from VietNam.
The Trotskyists said then that once peace is won, it would be necessary to work for the overthrow of the regime of "pro-Soviet revisionist HoChiMinh".
Even today, most of the troskysts (and CPF Eurocommunists for that matter) still deny the socialist character of China, Viet Nam, Cuba, North Korea, and so on.
And this is even more true since these countries are inscribing their economy in the continuity of Lenin's NEP!
We come to this fable of the end of History with "globalized capitalism", as we enter a multipolar world where the socialist countries (China, VietNam, North Korea, Cuba, Kerala ) in alliance with the BRICS non-imperialist, take over.
Have you evolved from Minnesota, or are you still a fellow traveler on the WS Trotskyite?@RevoluteousBeefcake the Mighty , May 9, 2018 at 11:58 am GMT
Maybe you're right. The first European Revolution was the American Revolution Except that it wasn't really a Revolution. If we want to be precise, we should call it war for "Independence"/For Power.
What is sure is that future criminals (Europeans/Asians/Africans) will have the French revolution has their model and not the American Revolution.
Revolution or not, the fact of matter is that Americans have nothing to learn from Europeans in terms of barbarism. Indian Genocide is an example how "revolutionary" (criminal), the American Elite were/are.
"The entire Human History is criminal" – It's false.
"We must understand, not look for criminals." Obvious. But if you understand the nature of revolution you know that revolutions are made by criminals Not just Robespierre, of course.@nickelsJames Brown , May 9, 2018 at 12:01 pm GMT
Excellent article.@AnonRevoluteous , May 9, 2018 at 4:26 pm GMT
Renée Bourdereau is what Howard Zinn calls "Unsung Heroine".
In France, today they prefer to celebrate criminals like Robespierre, Turreau, Westermann etc..(executioners of Vendéen Genocide)
Normal, Revolution won and French politicians and Elites are very proud of their "République".
If you're interested in Vendée, you have to read Reynald Secher. He's one of the greatest French Historian. Of course he's almost unknown because he doesn't write the official history, which is most about propaganda and not trying to find the truth.@James Brownnickels , May 9, 2018 at 4:28 pm GMT
Yes, it was. All Revolutions are about power. Obviously the Americans could not overthrown the British Crown, an Ocean in the Middle. But they would have do if they could. Dettaching part of the Empire was (is) a way to make easier the way for others. And, actually, American Revolution was and is a model. It was a successful model for most of Latin American independences, many bloodbaths and not at all exempts of tyrants and psycopaths. Nor the American Revolution was an angelical promenade.
Of course, choose a model depends on the user. In fact the point here is your meeting point, actual or pretended. The ayatollahs cannot choose the French Revolution at all as a model, not to say the Soviet one (the American neither, obviously).
What I am trying to say it's maybe Revolutions are more an accident than a deliberate political move. Maybe if the French Revolution had not existed, France neither nowadays. And without her, the French bourgeoise. A forgotten Revolution is the Polish one, earlier than French too. If none speaks about it's because it was a complete failure (by the way, no violence at all), and Poland was dismembered and ceased to exist for 125 years.
If you have such "accidents" you seriously cannot expect normal people at command. The more brutal the affair, the more brutal the "criminals". Makes no difference being an arson or an accident. You have a fire and minimizing the disaster is over any other considerations. Call them criminals if you want, but I guess they did not many chances to behave other way. It is a common place to say Lenin was the saint, Trotsky the martyr, and Stalin the beast. Trostky was a toff, and Stalin was a redneck who did the dirty job. The Central Committee under Stalin was killed more than 500 out of 600 members in 30 years, all commies and most of them personally selected by Stalin himself, I mean, it's hard to believe any real treason beyond a paranoia of pure power. But, Russia do exist today if things had ran other way? Can anyone say the number of dead people would be lesser? Hitler came to power with no Revolution at all, on the contrary, the 1919 German Revolution was another failure, ending with Hitler.@utuThirdeye , May 9, 2018 at 8:33 pm GMT
Kotkin's writing is readable and the details are interesting. But he appears to be a full on propagandist on the important details, like the Tsar, the Czech and Austrian conflicts, as well as the Stalin purges.
You tell me, a man who purges millions for no apparent reason (Kotkin gives none other than paranoia) isn't an implied psychopath?@AnonSeamus Padraig , May 9, 2018 at 10:02 pm GMT
Frankfurt School ideology replaced Marxism as the driving ideology of the American Left during the 1960s. Nominal Marxists tried to fudge that ideology into Marxism because they thought it would help to sell Marxism, but boy were they wrong! Marxist theory instead became a talisman for selling the various identitarian ideologies used to divide and weaken the working class – the exact opposite of what the opportunist-identitarian Marxists had anticipated. Their claims that identitarian movements were somehow akin to the anti-colonial nationalist movements of the postwar era were diametrically wrong. They became tools of the ruling class in their 40+ year neoliberal campaign to impose hyper-exploitive colonial conditions on the former imperial homelands. We are all Third World now.@nickels
The idea that Stalin was fighting a Jew-mafia takeover of the USSR has been put forth by several prominent Third Positionists, such as Francis Parker Yockey:
May 20, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
By Christine Berry. Originally published at openDemocracy
The really fascinating battles in intellectual history tend to occur when some group or movement goes on the offensive and asserts that Something Big really doesn't actually exist."
So says Philip Morowski in his book 'Never Let a Serious Crisis Go To Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown' . As Mirowski argues, neoliberalism is a particularly fascinating case in point. Just as Thatcher asserted there was 'no such thing as society', it's common to find economics commentators asserting that there is 'no such thing as neoliberalism' – that it's simply a meaningless insult bandied about by the left, devoid of analytical content.
But on the list of 'ten tell-tale signs you're a neoliberal', insisting that Neoliberalism Is Not A Thing must surely be number one. The latest commentator to add his voice to the chorus is Sky Economics Editor Ed Conway . On the Sky blog, he gives four reasons why Neoliberalism Is Not A Thing. Let's look at each of them in turn:
1. It's only used by its detractors, not by its supporters
This one is pretty easy to deal with, because it's flat-out not true. As Mirowski documents, "the people associated with the doctrine did call themselves 'neo-liberals' for a brief period lasting from the 1930s to the early 1950s, but then they abruptly stopped the practice" – deciding it would serve their political project better if they claimed to be the heirs of Adam Smith than if they consciously distanced themselves from classical liberalism. Here's just one example, from Milton Friedman in 1951:
"a new ideology must give high priority to real and efficient limitation of the state's ability to, in detail, intervene in the activities of the individual. At the same time, it is absolutely clear that there are positive functions allotted to the state. The doctrine that, one and off, has been called neoliberalism and that has developed, more or less simultaneously in many parts of the world is precisely such a doctrine But instead of the 19 th century understanding that laissez-faire is the means to achieve this goal, neoliberalism proposes that competition will lead the way".
You might notice that as well as the word 'neoliberalism', this also includes the word 'ideology'. Remember that one for later.
It's true that the word 'neoliberalism' did go underground for a long time, with its proponents preferring to position their politics simply as sound economics than to admit it was a radical ideological programme. But that didn't stop them from knowing what they stood for, or from acting collectively – through a well-funded network of think tanks and research institutes – to spread those ideas.
It's worth noting that one of those think tanks, the Adam Smith Institute, has in the last couple of years consciously reclaimed the mantle . Affiliated intellectuals like Madsen Pirie and Sam Bowman have explicitly sought to define and defend neoliberalism. It's no accident that this happened around the time that neoliberalism began to be seriously challenged in the UK, with the rise of Corbyn and the shock of the Brexit vote, after a post-crisis period where the status quo seemed untouchable.
2. Nobody can agree on what it means
Well, this one at least is half-true. Like literally every concept that has ever mattered, the concept of 'neoliberalism' is messy, it's deeply contested, it has evolved over time and it differs in theory and practice. From the start, there has been debate within the neoliberal movement itself about how it should define itself and what its programme should be. And, yes, it's often used lazily on the left as a generic term for anything vaguely establishment. None of this means that it is Not A Thing. This is something sociologists and historians instinctively understand, but which many economists seem to have trouble with.
Having said this, it is possible to define some generally accepted core features of neoliberalism. Essentially, it privileges markets as the best way to organise the economy and society, but unlike classical liberalism, it sees a strong role for the state in creating and maintaining these markets. Outside of this role, the state should do as little as possible, and above all it must not interfere with the 'natural' operation of the market. But it has always been part of the neoliberal project to take over the state and transform it for its own ends, rather than to dismantle or disable it.
Of course, there's clearly a tension between neoliberals' professed ideals of freedom and their need for a strong state to push through policies that often don't have democratic consent. We see this in the actions of the Bretton Woods institutions in the era of 'structural adjustment', or the Troika's behaviour towards Greece during the Eurozone crisis. We see it most starkly in Pinochet's Chile, the original neoliberal experiment. This perhaps helps to explain the fact that neoliberalism is sometimes equated with libertarianism and the 'small state', while others reject this characterisation. I'll say it again: none of this means that neoliberalism doesn't exist.
3. Neoliberalism is just good economics
Neoliberalism may not exist, says Conway, but what do exist are "conventional economic models – the ones established by Adam Smith all those centuries ago", and the principles they entail. That they may have been "overzealously implemented and sometimes misapplied" since the end of the Cold War is "unfortunate", but "hardly equals an ideology". I'm sure he'll hate me for saying this, but Ed – this is the oldest neoliberal trick in the book.
The way Conway defines these principles (fiscal conservatism, property rights and leaving businesses to make their own decisions) is hardly a model of analytical rigour, but we'll let that slide. Instead, let's note that the entire reason neoliberal ideology developed was that the older classical "economic models" manifestly failed during the Great Depression of the 1930s, leading them to be replaced by Keynesian demand-management models as the dominant framework for understanding the economy.
Neoliberals had to update these models in order to restore their credibility: this is why they poured so much effort into the development of neoclassical economics and the capture of academic economics by the Chicago School. One of the great achievements of neoliberalism has been to induce such a level of collective amnesia that it's now once again possible to claim that these tenets are simply "fundamental economic rules" handed down directly from Adam Smith on tablets of stone, unchallenged and unchallengeable in the history of economic thought.
In any case, even some people that ascribe to neoclassical economics – like Joseph Stiglitz – are well enough able to distinguish this intellectual framework from the political application of it by neoliberals. It is perfectly possible to agree with the former but not the latter.
4. Yes, 'neoliberal' policies have been implemented in recent decades, but this has been largely a matter of accident rather than design
Privatisation, bank deregulation, the dismantling of capital and currency controls: according to Conway, these are all developments that came about by happenstance. "Anyone who has studied economic history" will tell you they are "hardly the result of a guiding ideology." This will no doubt be news to the large number of eminent economic historians who have documented the shift from Keynesianism to neoliberalism, from Mirowski and Daniel Stedman-Jones to Robert Skidelsky and Robert Van Horn (for a good reading list, see this bibliographic review by Will Davies .)
It would also be news to Margaret Thatcher, the woman who reportedly slammed down Hayek's 'Constitution of Liberty' on the table at one of her first cabinet meetings and declared "Gentlemen, this is our programme"; and who famously said "Economics is the method; the object is to change the soul". And it would be news to those around her who strategized for a Conservative government with carefully laid-out battleplans for dismantling the key institutions of the post-war settlement, such as the Ridley Report on privatising state-run entities.
What Conway appears to be denying here is the whole idea that policymaking takes place within a shared set of assumptions (or paradigm), that dominant paradigms tend to shift over time, and that these shifts are usually accompanied by political crises and resulting transfers of political power – making them at least partly a matter of ideology rather than simply facts.
Whether it's even meaningful to claim that ideology-free facts exist on matters so inherently political as how to run the economy is a whole debate in the sociology of knowledge which we don't have time to go into here, and which Ed Conway doesn't seem to have much awareness of.
But he shows his hand when he says that utilities were privatised because "governments realised they were mostly a bit rubbish at running them". This is a strong – and highly contentious – political claim disguised as a statement of fact – again, a classic neoliberal gambit. It's a particularly bizarre one for an economist to make at a time when 70% of UK rail routes are owned by foreign states who won the franchises through competitive tender. Just this week, we learned that the East Coast main line is to be temporarily renationalised because Virgin and Stagecoach turned out to be, erm, a bit rubbish at running it.
* * *
It may be a terrible cliché, but the old adage "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win" seems appropriate here. Neoliberalism successfully hid in plain sight for decades, with highly ideological agendas being implemented amidst claims we lived in a post-ideological world. Now that it is coming under ideological challenge, it is all of a sudden stood naked in the middle of the room, having to explain why it's there (to borrow a phrase from a very brilliant colleague).
There are a number of strategies neoliberals can adopt in response to this. The Adam Smith Institute response is to go on the offensive and defend it. The Theresa May response is to pay lip service to the need for systemic change whilst quietly continuing with the same old policies. Those, like Ed Conway, who persist in claiming neoliberalism doesn't even exist, may soon find themselves left behind by history. 95 comments
diptherio , May 17, 2018 at 10:23 ambruce wilder , May 17, 2018 at 1:20 pm
Neoliberalism may not exist, says Conway, but what do exist are "conventional economic models – the ones established by Adam Smith all those centuries ago",
Um please name one "conventional economic model" established by Adam Smith. I mean, really, who would actually write such nonsense?Jeremy Grimm , May 17, 2018 at 4:19 pm
In fairness, I expect Conway is referring to the "invisible hand" of market competition, wherein the competitive market qua an institution supposedly transforms the private pursuit of self-interest into a public benefit. From the OP, Milton Friedman saying, "instead of . . . laissez-faire . . . neoliberalism proposes . . . competition".
A pedant can rightly claim that the actual Adam Smith had a more nuanced and realistic view, but that does not help to understand, let alone defeat, the intellectual smoke and mirrors of neoliberalism. And, in spirit, the neoliberals are more right than wrong in claiming Adam Smith: on the economics, he was a champion of market competition against the then degenerate corporate state and an advocate of a modified laissez faire against mercantilism, not to mention feudalism.
My personal view is that you have lost the argument if you agree to the key element of neoclassical economics: that the economy is organized around and by (metaphoric) markets and policy is justified (sic!) by remedying market failure. If you concede "the market economy" even as a mere convention of political speech, you are lost, because you have entered into the Alice-in-Wonderland neoliberal model, and you can no longer base your arguments on socially-constructed references to the real, institutional world.
Adam Smith was systematically interpreting his observed world, he kept himself honest by being descriptively accurate. It was Ricardo who re-invented classical economics as an abstract theory deductible from first principles and still later thinkers, who re-invented that abstract, deductive theory as a neoclassical economics in open defiance of observed reality. And, still later thinkers, many of them critics (Hayek being a prime example) of neoclassical economics as it existed circa 1930, who founded neoliberalism as we know it. We really should not blame Adam Smith.JBird , May 17, 2018 at 8:05 pm
You comment is confusing to me -- not quite sure what you are arguing. You close asserting "We really should not blame Adam Smith." Was he blamed in this post?Liberal AND Proud , May 18, 2018 at 9:40 am
I think it's the very selective reading, and quoting, of Adam Smith's writings to give neoliberal economics more legitimacy; the parts where he mentions the supremacy of the common good and the need to prevent too much accumulation of money in too few hands is ignored. Restated, the free market with its invisible hand is best so long as the whole community benefits. However, wealth and the power it brings tends to become monopolized into a very few hands. That needs to be prevented and if needed by government.
I think I need to go back over the Wealth of Nations to be sure I am not being too selective myself. That said, what the neoliberals are doing is like some people's very selective reading of the New Testament to support their interests. (Like the vile Prosperity Gospel)Yves Smith Post author , May 18, 2018 at 2:51 am
There is so much claptrap in this article, on all sides of what is supposedly being debated. Yet, the one underlying historical fact that is being completely overlooked is pure Keynesian demand driven economics.
An economics that not only has a basis in fact, but also has an actual history of success.
Keynesian economics did not fail. It was undermined by a movement back toward neo-liberal Adam Smith "invisible hand of the free market" nonsense that has done nothing throughout history except proven itself to be greed disguised as an economic theory to give the powerful an opportunity to fleece the poor and the government treasury.DanB , May 17, 2018 at 10:29 am
"Free markets" is incoherent, yet it is a very well accepted and unquestioned notion, to the degree it is regularly depicted as virtuous and achieving it, a worthy policy goal.Eustache De Saint Pierre , May 17, 2018 at 11:48 am
I have written about how the East Germans were absorbed by Germany as neoliberalism was ascendant in 1990, with such shibboleths as TINA and The End of History taken as cosmological verities by the West German government. Now I'm doing research on Detroit, where neoliberalism remains powerful and the source of a meretricious "renaissance" taking place there even as it is increasingly found to be a generator of and rationalization for all manner of class-based exploitation. Mirowski's checklist of the attributes of neoliberalism is on display in state and local government there as they serve corporations, such as the city "selling" the Little Ceasar's empire 39 acres of downtown land for $1 upon which was built the new hockey arena. Detroit is a bellwether city, and despite the depredations of corporations and government there is much organized opposition to neoliberal rule in the city.Jeremy Grimm , May 17, 2018 at 3:02 pm
I believe there was an article here recently by Mirowski – The something or other that dare not speak it's name ? I have spent quite a few hours in the past listening to his podcasts & videos, which tend to repeat themselves, although something new slips in from time to time, especially from Q & A's.
His assertion that economics is merely one part of a whole in the Neoliberal assault woke me up, & indeed then appeared very obvious.
I believe I have seen an example of the Detroit devastation used as film sets in two films: " Only Lovers Left alive " & " Don't Breathe ", which suit the darkness of them very well.
Good to know that there is resistance & I wish you the very best outcome for your & or their endeavours.Kevin Carhart , May 18, 2018 at 3:06 am
I too have watched many hours of Phillip Mirowski's videos, several of them more than once. I have a little trouble with your assertion they "tend to repeat themselves, although something new slips in from time to time". He does repeatedly emphasize points which are hard to believe on first hearing but grow evident upon further reflection. For example his emphasis on the concept of the Market as the Neoliberal epistemology -- an ultimate tool for discovering Truth. A little recall of some recent and surprisingly commonplace constructs like a "market of ideas", or various ways of suggesting we are each a commodity we need to package, promote, and sell as exemplified by Facebook "likes" and "networking" as a way to get ahead. Looking at the whole of the videos, and excluding obvious repetitions like multiple versions of book promotion interviews at different venues I think the range of ideas Mirowski explores is remarkable -- from the Neoliberal thought collective to climate change to the Market applied to direct the truth science can discover.
[Where do you find podcasts of Mirowski? I recall collecting a few but most of what I find are videos. He has numerous of his papers posted at academia.edu which can be downloaded for free by signing up for the website.]Jeremy Grimm , May 18, 2018 at 11:24 am
There are just a few. You may already have heard some of these: Search for Symptomatic Redness, and search for This Is Hell. Search for [PPE Polanyi Hayek]. He talked to Doug Henwood. He talked to Will Davies and that is audio only I believe. There's the Science Mart talk that he gave in Australia. If you look in archive.org and soundcloud as well as youtube and vimeo, you will find most of them. I think all four of those sites have a few recordings that are exclusive from the others. Archive.org has a couple of his appearances on community radio. A few are also linked from the media page for a given book on the publishers' sites, like go to the links on the book page for Science Mart, for an appearance on I think Boston radio.
I'm a nerd. Heh. But if you've come this far and listened to the videos (the one with Homer's brain and markomata, the Boundary2 conference talk, the Leukana one, Prof Nik-Khah at the Whitlam center, Sam Seder, the one on climate, talking about Cowles in Brazil), you will enjoy the others. Hope these notes help you find a few.Dune Navigator , May 19, 2018 at 1:33 am
Thanks! You mentioned several videos I haven't watched yet. [I've watched the one on climate several times.]Ray Phenicie , May 17, 2018 at 4:37 pm
I have found this book to be a masterpiece – A brief history of neoliberalism by David Harvey -- > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PkWWMOzNNrQ
I have gifted copies of it to my mother- and father-in-law (who survived Operation Condor – the Argentine Dirty Wars) and my parents, among others.Robert G. Valiant , May 17, 2018 at 10:29 am
I wrote a web page back in April of 2016 about the neoliberal forces in Detroit. Let me know at my twitter page what you think. Feel free to use whatever you find helpful
I found then that the City of Detroit and the State of Michigan had been hornswaggled by private enterprises nesting their own feathers.HotFlash , May 17, 2018 at 11:53 am
Utilitarianism, expressed as the greatest aggregate well-being to humanity (economic production and growth) and preference for economic efficiency (monopolies, duopolies, cartels, etc.) over market competition, are two additional hallmarks of neoliberalism.
Recognizing these two important values helps explain the growing economic and social inequality we're witnessing around the western world.
This is the best scholarly book I've read on neoliberalism: The Limits of Neoliberalism: Authority, Sovereignty and the Logic of CompetitionRobert G. Valiant , May 17, 2018 at 12:40 pm
Thank you, Mr. Valiant,
I will checkout your recommendation and I hope that it will discuss, for instance, the assumption that *economic* production and growth and preference for economic efficiency is and should be the proper goal of human life.PKMKII , May 17, 2018 at 3:12 pm
The book is descriptive and critical, but not particularly prescriptive. But yes, one of the real strengths of Davies' work is his documentation of the many economic, social, and political assumptions that provide the foundations of neoliberal thought. I was impressed by the many logical inconsistencies that advocates of neoliberalism are comfortable in accepting. I don't believe that the bulk of neoliberal ideas could exist for long outside the philosophical context of postmodernism as the cognitive dissonance they (should) generate would find them quickly abandoned.
The intersection of postmodernism, neoliberalism , and neoconservatism defines our current Western civilization, and I wish somebody would come up with a name for it. Whatever we have now is the successor to Modernism, in its broadest sense.vlade , May 17, 2018 at 10:33 am
I saw one of those political compass memes recently that had at the "center", "Everything is rent seeking, except for literal rent seeking, which is okay."Grebo , May 17, 2018 at 10:22 pm
Well, there is at least some labeling issue, as one of the first people to use term "neoliberalism" (for his proposed policy) was Germany's Alexander Rustow, who hardlty anyone knows about these days, so they don't know either that Rustow would likely sign off most of Corbyn's proposed policies
IIRC Rustow was one of the more 'moderate' founder members of the Mont Pelerin Society. His views did not prevail, though they initially adopted his term for their project. I wonder if, when he saw which way the wind was blowing, he demanded it back.
The term was sometimes applied to the New Deal but didn't really catch on.
It was also used in the early '80s for a movement trying to resurrect the New Deal in the face of Reagan but that didn't catch on either.