Softpanorama

Home Switchboard Unix Administration Red Hat TCP/IP Networks Neoliberalism Toxic Managers
May the source be with you, but remember the KISS principle ;-)
Skepticism and critical thinking is not panacea, but can help to understand the world better

Free vs Fair market

News Key Myths of Neoliberalism Neoliberalism Bookshelf Recommended Links Neoliberalism Neoliberal rationality Mayberry Machiavellians Neoclassical Pseudo Theories and Crooked and Bought Economists as Fifth Column of Financial Oligarchy
Small government smoke screen Universal quantification  "Starving the beast" bait and switch Invisible Hand Hypothesys: The Theory of Self-regulation of the Markets Shareholder value scam Neoliberalism as Trotskyism for the rich Neoliberalism as secular religion, "idolatry of money" Over-consumption of Luxury Goods as Market Failure
The Great Transformation Deception as an art form Gangster Capitalism: Financial oligarchy and the Globalization of Organized Crime National neoliberalism Neoliberal "New Class" as variant of Soviet Nomenklatura Quiet coup: Casino capitalism as a new social system Ayn Rand and her Objectivism Cult Neoliberalism war on labor
Financization of everything in sight Machiavellism Deification of market Globalization of Financial Flows Pope Francis on danger of neoliberalism Neoliberalism credibility trap Greenspan humor Etc

During the late Soviet period, the form of ideological representations—documents, speeches, ritualized practices, slogans, posters, monuments, and urban visual propaganda—became increasingly normalized, ubiquitous, and predictable. This standardization of key elements of the ideology in the form of religious symbols developed gradually after the death of Stalin, who was the only person who has the authority to change those symbols at will,  due to his "Cult of Personality" phenomenon. 

With that shift, the form of the ideological representation of main ideas of Marxism became fixed and replicated — unchanged from one context to the next. These representations no longer had to be read literally, at least in most contexts, but need to be taken for granted as symbols of faith,  the fixed elements of the hegemonic ideology.

Formally the symbol of faith a strict external idea or dogma (whether religious, political, or otherwise) and occupies a particular position within the discursive regime of a period. It has two main features.

Regardless of whether those symbols of faith are successful in persuading its authors and audiences, everybody experience them as immutable and therefore unquestionable Similarly to late socialism in the USSR, late neoliberalism in the USA also has symbols of faith. The key of which is " free market". This argument provides a fresh perspective on long-standing comparisons between neoliberalism and religion. It has been commonly asserted—by academic scholars and journalists alike—that Soviet communism was a secular religion with its own rituals, icons, and religious texts. Neoliberalism being Trotskyism for the rich is no different. 

The word hypernormalisation was coined by Alexei Yurchak, a professor of anthropology of Stanford University. He introduced the word in his book Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation (2006), which describes paradoxes of Soviet life during the 1970s and 1980s.  He says that everyone in the Soviet Union knew the system was failing, but no one could imagine an alternative to the status quo, and politicians and citizens alike were resigned to maintaining the pretense of a functioning society.  Over time, this delusion became a self-fulfilling prophecy and the fakeness was accepted by everyone as real, an effect that Yurchak termed hypernormalisation. The same is true about neoliberalism and the term "free market" after 2016 elections.

The books to read on the subject are

Collapse of neoliberal ideology desecrated most symbols of faith of neoliberalism including "free market";
Most neoliberals saint like Milton Friedman looks now like charlatans

In 2008 the global economy lied in tatters. While fiscal and monetary stimulus of unprecedented scale has prevented the financial melt- down of 2008 from turning into a total collapse of the global economy, the 2008 global crash still remains the second-largest economic crisis in history, after the Great Depression. After 2008 the US economic entered the state of "Secular stagnation"

In the absence of financial reforms, loose monetary and fiscal policies have led to new financial bubbles, while the real economy is starved of money. If these bubbles burst, the global economy could fall into another (‘double-dip’) recession. Even if the recovery is sustained, the aftermath of the crisis will be felt for years. It may be several years before the corporate and the household sectors rebuild their balance sheets. The huge budget deficits created by the crisis will force governments to reduce public investments and welfare entitlements significantly, negatively affecting economic growth, poverty and social stability - possibly for decades. Some of those who lost their jobs and houses during the crisis may never join the economic mainstream again. These are frightening prospects of late neoliberalism.

This catastrophe has ultimately been created by the tree-market ideology that has ruled the world since the 1980s. We have been told that, if left alone, markets will produce the most efficient and just outcome. Efficient, because individuals know best how to utilize the resources they command, and just, because the competitive market process ensures that individuals are rewarded according to their productivity. We have been told that business should be given maximum freedom. Firms, being closest to the market, know what is best for their businesses. If we let them do what they want, wealth creation will be maximized, benefiting the rest of society as well. We were told that government intervention in the markets would only reduce their efficiency.

Government intervention is often designed to limit the very scope of wealth creation for misguided egalitarian reasons. Even when it is not, governments cannot improve on market outcomes, as they have neither the necessary information nor the incentives to make good business decisions. In sum, we were told to put all our trust in the market and get out of its way.

Following pressure from "Washington consensus" stalwarts such as IMF and World banks, most countries have introduced "free market" (read neoliberal)  policies over the last three decades — privatization of state-owned industrial and financial firms, deregulation of finance and industry, liberalization of international trade and investment, and reduction in income taxes and welfare payments. These policies, their advocates admitted, may temporarily create some problems, such as rising inequality, but ultimately they will make everyone better off by creating a more dynamic and wealthier society. The rising tide lifts all boats together, was the metaphor.  Which now looks like a cruel joke.

The result of these policies has been the polar opposite of what was promised. that's why Milton Freidman now viewed mostly as evil political charlatan, not as a scholar.  Forget for a moment the financial meltdown of 2008, which will scar the world for decades to come. Prior to that, and unbeknown to most people, free-market policies had resulted in slower growth, rising inequality and heightened instability in most countries. In many rich countries, these problems were masked by huge credit expansion; thus the fact that US wages had remained stagnant and working hours increased since the 1970s was conveniently fogged over by the heady brew of credit-fuelled consumer boom. The problems were bad enough in the rich countries, but they were even more serious for the developing world. Living standards in Sub-Saharan Africa have stagnated for the last three decades, while Latin America seen its per capita growth rate fall by two-thirds during the period. There were some developing countries that grew fast (although with rapidly rising inequality) during this period, such as China and India, but these are precisely the countries that, while partially liberalizing, have refused to introduce full-blown free-market policies. For example China  preserved  strict capital controls.

Thus, what we were told by the free-marketeers — or, as they arc often called, neoliberal economists - was at best only partially true and at worst plain wrong. As I will show throughout this book, the ‘truths’ peddled by free-market ideologues are based on lazy assumptions and blinkered visions, if not necessarily self- serving notions. My aim in this book is to tell you some essential truths about capitalism that the free-marketeers won’t. This book is not an anti-capitalist manifesto. Being critical of free-market ideology is not the same as being against capitalism. Despite its problems and limitations, I believe that capitalism is still the best economic system that humanity has invented. My criticism is of a particular version of capitalism that has domi- nated the world in the last three decades, that is, free-market capitalism. This is not the only way to run capitalism, and certainly not the best, as the record of the last three decades shows. The book shows that there are ways in which capitalism should, and can, be made better.

Even though the 2008 crisis has made us seriously question the way in which our economies are run, most of us do not pursue such questions because we think that they are ones for the experts. Indeed they are — at one level. The precise answers do require knowledge on many technical issues, many of them so complicated that the experts themselves disagree on them. It is then natural that most of us simply do not have the time or the necessary training to learn all the technical details before we can pronounce our judgements on the effectiveness of TARP (Trou- bled Asset Relief Program), the necessity of G20, the wisdom of bank nationalization or the appropriate levels of executive salaries. And when it comes to things like poverty in Africa, the workings of the World Trade Organization, or the capital adequacy rules of the Bank for International Settlements, most of us are frankly lost.

However, it is not necessary for us to understand all the technical details in order to understand what is going on in the world and exercise what I call an ‘active economic citizenship’ to demand the right courses of action from those in decision-making positions. After all, we make judgements about all sorts of other issues despite lacking technical expertise. We don’t need to be expert epidemiologists in order to know that there should be hygiene standards in food factories, butchers and restaurants. Making judgments about economics is no different: once you know the key principles and basic facts, you can make some robust judgements without knowing the technical details. The only prerequisite is that you are willing to remove those rose- tinted glasses that neo-liberal ideologies like you to wear every day. The glasses make the world look simple and pretty. But lift them off and stare at the clear harsh light of reality.

There is no such thing as "free market"

Once you understand that there is really no such thing as a tree market, you won’t be deceived by people who denounce a regulation on the grounds that it makes the market ‘unfree’. When you learn that large and active governments can promote, rather than dampen, economic dynamism, you will see that the widespread distrust of government is unwarranted. Knowing that we do not live in a post-industrial knowledge economy will make you question the wisdom of neglecting, or even implicitly welcoming, industrial decline of a country, as some governments have done. Once you realize that trickle-down economics is myth that never works, you will see the excessive tax cuts for the rich for what they are — a simple upward redistribution of income typical for neoliberalism , rather than a way to make all of us richer, as we were told 

Myth  I : Neoliberals tell you Markets need to be free.

When the government interferes to dictate what market participants can or cannot do, resources cannot flow to their most efficient use. If people cannot do the things that they find most profitable, they lose the incentive to invest and innovate. Thus, if the government puts a cap on house rents, landlords lose the incentive to maintain their properties or build new ones. Or, if the government restricts the kinds of financial products that can be sold, two contracting parties that may both have benefited from innovative transactions that fulfil their idiosyncratic needs cannot reap the potential gains of free contract. People must be left ‘free to choose’, as the title of free-market visionary Milton Friedman’s famous book goes.

What they don’t tell you: The free market doesn’t exist. Every market has some rules and boundaries that restrict freedom of choice. A market looks free only because we so unconditionally accept its underlying restric- tions that we fail to see them. How ‘free’ a market is cannot be objectively defined. It is a political definition. The usual claim by free-market economists that they are trying to defend the market from politically motivated interference by the government is false. Government is always involved and those free-marketeers are as politically motivated as anyone. Overcoming the myth that there is such a thing as an objectively defined ‘free market’ is the first step towards understanding capitalism.

Myth II: Labor ought to be free

In 1819 new legislation to regulate child labour, the Cotton Factories Regulation Act, was tabled in the British Parliament. The proposed regulation was incredibly ‘light touch’ by modern standards. It would ban the employment of young children -- that is, those under the age of nine. Older children (aged between ten and sixteen) would still be allowed to work, but with their working hours restricted to twelve per day (yes, they were really going soft on those kids). The new rules applied only to cotton factories, which were recognized to be exceptionally hazardous to workers’ health.

The proposal caused huge controversy. Opponents saw it as undermining the sanctity of freedom of contract and thus destroying the very foundation of the free market. In debating this legislation, some members of the Flouse of Lords objected to it on the grounds that ‘labour ought to be free’. Their argu- ment said: the children want (and need) to work, and the factory owners want to employ them; what is the problem? Today, even the most ardent free-market proponents in Brit- ain or other rich countries would not think of bringing child labour back as part of the market liberalization package that they so want. However, until the late nineteenth or the early twenti- eth century, when the first serious child labour regulations were introduced in Europe and North America, many respectable people judged child labour regulation to be against the principles of the free market.

Thus seen, the ‘freedom’ of a market is, like beauty, in the eyes of the beholder. If you believe that the right of children not to have to work is more important than the right of factory owners to be able to hire whoever they find most profitable, you will not see a ban on child labour as an infringement on the freedom of the labour market. If you believe the opposite, you will see an ‘unfree’ market, shackled by a misguided government regulation. We don’t have to go back two centuries to see regulations we take for granted (and accept as the ‘ambient noise’ within the free market) that were seriously challenged as undermining the free market, when first introduced. When environmental regulations (e.g., regulations on car and factory emissions) appeared a few decades ago, they were opposed by many as seri- ous infringements on our freedom to choose. Their opponents asked: if people want to drive in more polluting cars or if facto- ries find more polluting production methods more profitable, why should the government prevent them from making such choices? Today, most people accept these regulations as ‘natural’. They believe that actions that harm others, however unintention- ally (such as pollution), need to be restricted. They also understand that it is sensible to make careful use of our energy resources, when many of them are non-renewable. They may believe that reducing human impact on climate change makes sense too. If the same market can be perceived to have varying degrees of freedom by different people, there is really no objective way to define how free that market is. In other words, the free market is an illusion. If some markets look free, it is only because we so totally accept the regulations that are propping them up that they become invisible.

Piano wires and kungfu masters

Like many people, as a child I was fascinated by all those gravity-defying kungfu masters in Hong Kong movies. Like many kids, I suspect, I was bitterly disappointed when I learned that those masters were actually hanging on piano wires. The free market is a bit like that. We accept the legitimacy of certain regulations so totally that we don’t see them. More carefully examined, markets are revealed to be propped up by rules — and many of them.

To begin with, there is a huge range of restrictions on what can be traded; and not just bans on ‘obvious’ tilings such as narcotic drugs or human organs. Electoral votes, government jobs and legal decisions are not for sale, at least openly, in modern economies, although they were in most countries in the past. University places may not usually be sold, although in some nations money can buy them — either through (illegally) paying the selectors or (legally) donating money to the university. Many countries ban trading in firearms or alcohol. Usually medicines have to be explicitly licensed by the government, upon the proof of their safety, before they can be marketed. All these regulations are potentially controversial - just as the ban on selling human beings (the slave trade) was one and a half centuries ago.

There are also restrictions on who can participate in markets. Child labour regulation now bans the entry of children into the labour market. Licences are required for professions that have significant impacts on human life, such as medical doctors or lawyers (which may sometimes be issued by professional associa- tions rather than by the government). Many countries allow only companies with more than a certain amount of capital to set up banks. Even the stock market, whose under-regulation has been a cause of the 2008 global recession, has regulations on who can trade. You can’t just turn up in the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) with a bag of shares and sell them. Companies must fulfil listing requirements, meeting stringent auditing standards over a certain number of years, before they can offer their shares for trading. Trading of shares is only conducted by licensed brokers and traders.

Conditions of trade are specified too. One of the things that surprised me when I first moved to Britain in the mid 1980s was that one could demand a full refund for a product one didn’t like, even if it wasn’t faulty. At the time, you just couldn’t do that in Korea, except in the most exclusive department stores. In Britain, the consumer’s right to change her mind was considered more important than the right of the seller to avoid the cost involved in returning unwanted (yet functional) products to the manufac- turer. There are many other rules regulating various aspects of the exchange process: product liability, failure in delivery, loan default, and so on. In many countries, there are also necessary permissions for the location of sales outlets - such as restrictions on street-vending or zoning laws that ban commercial activities in residential areas.

Then there are price regulations. I am not talking here just about those highly visible phenomena such as rent controls or minimum wages that free-market economists love to hate. Wages in rich countries are determined more by immigration control than anything else, including any minimum wage legis- lation. How is the immigration maximum determined? Not by the ‘free’ labour market, which, if left alone, will end up replac- ing 80—90 per cent of native workers with cheaper, and often more productive, immigrants. Immigration is largely settled by politics. So, if you have any residual doubt about the massive role that the government plays in the economy’s free market, then pause to reflect that all our wages are, at root, politically deter- mined (see Thing 3).

Following the 2008 financial crisis, the prices of loans (if you can get one or if you already have a variable rate loan) have become a lot lower in many countries thanks to the continuous slashing of interest rates. Was that because suddenly people didn’t want loans and the banks needed to lower their prices to shift them? No, it was the result of political decisions to boost demand by cutting interest rates. Even in normal times, interest rates are set in most countries by the central bank, which means that political considerations creep in. In other words, interest rates are also determined by politics.

If wages and interest rates are (to a significant extent) politically determined, then all the other prices are politically determined, as they affect all other prices.

Is free trade fair?

We see a regulation when we don’t endorse the moral values behind it. The nineteenth-century high-tariff restriction on free trade by the U S federal government outraged slave-owners, who at the same time saw nothing wrong with trading people in a free market. To those who believed that people can be owned, banning trade in slaves was objectionable in the same wav as restricting trade in manufactured goods. Korean shopkeepers of the 1980s would probably have thought the requirement for ‘unconditional return’ to be an unfairly burdensome government regulation restricting market freedom.

This clash of values also lies behind the contemporary debate on free trade vs. fair trade. Many Americans believe that China is engaged in international trade that may be free but is not fair. In their view, by paying workers unacceptably low wages and making them work in inhumane conditions, China competes unfairly. The Chinese, in turn, can riposte that it is unacceptable that rich countries, while advocating free trade, try to impose artificial barriers to China’s exports by attempting to restrict the import of ‘sweatshop’ products. They find it unjust to be prevented from exploiting the only resource they have in greatest abundance — cheap labour.

 


Top Visited
Switchboard
Latest
Past week
Past month

NEWS CONTENTS

Old News ;-)

[Oct 21, 2019] Idolatry of money and the so-called market and its allegedly 'neutral' distributive mechanisms do not produce the best of all possible worlds as a result of people trading with each other in pursuit of ever more money

Oct 21, 2019 | off-guardian.org

Toby Russell

If it is true that humans very often fall in worship at the feet of Mammon, which very few reasonable people would contest, and if this idolatry produces almost wholly unwanted outcomes, a few important observations immediately follow.

The first might be that the so-called market and its allegedly 'neutral' distributive mechanisms do not produce the best of all possible worlds as a result of people trading with each other in pursuit of ever more money. The primary reason for this is that market fundamentalism takes no account of power and its symbiotic relationship with money; indeed, it is logically required by its fundamental tenets to deem money a 'neutral veil' that enables market activity as a kind of infinite and inert catalyst.

The second, and far more important, is what we hold to be valuable at the cultural level, and how we go about systemically measuring and distributing that value. Currently, money is the primary, almost only, tool for that job. Thus, if we cannot financially afford to do a thing, that thing is not worth doing by definition, even to the point of actively not doing what is actually affordable and desirable in terms of available resources and know-how to protect and nourish the environment that makes our very existence possible. Essentially, this 'illogic' is how societies operate today. With money as their guiding value system deep in their core functioning we are congenitally condemned to choose 'profitable' endeavours that are in fact destructive and socially corrosive over the long term.

The third is that there is thus something badly wrong in our cultural sense of what value is, how to generate it, and how to distribute it. The cure for this ill lies, in part, in dissolving the boundaries between various relevant disciplines – e.g., ecology, physics, sociology, economics, etc. – to some degree. For, while market-based economics wholly dominates how we think about and operate money, the general problem so sharply illustrated in the article above will persist, even though most of us, the vast majority of us, want that problem to go away. One pivotal element of what ought to be undertaken, in my view, is a very critical and open-minded look at how price and scarcity are interlocked, and how their symbiotic relationship influences how we perceive value, then over-consume as guided by that highly incomplete perception, and consequently fail to prioritize vital human vales such as trust, meaning and belonging.

Toby Russell
I wish I could, vexarb, but know only of a few decent ones that critique rather than offer solid ideas for complete overhauls, which is what is needed. One little volume that at least examines some alternative money systems and is also easy reading is Richard Douthwaite's "The Ecology of Money".

Aside from that there's Herman Daley's multi-decade commitment to steady-state economics, though he only recently began looking at the money system as a driver of perpetual growth, and I'm not sure what he's put forth on that pivotal point.

There's also "Sacred Economics" by Charles Eisenstein, but his offered solution – negative interest rates funding a guaranteed income as a kind of flowing 'money out from the top / money in at the bottom' dynamic – is likely both impractical and paradoxically too rooted in compound interest and money-profit to really work as expected, though that's my personal opinion. Besides, when radically new is needed, open-minded experimentation is the order of the day.

There's also biophysical economics , but I've only looked at it briefly and that was quite a while ago.

If you read German, there's Franz Hoermann's Infogeld , which is the idea that most interests me. It includes novelties such as asymmetrical prices that are determined scientifically/democratically in terms of actual biophysical costs rather than via so-called 'price discovery', guaranteed basic provision (not income), earning Infomoney for studying, parenting, staying healthy, etc., and a broad philosophical approach that recognizes how complex and subtle real value is, and that linear numbers simply cannot measure it. I translated/paraphrased much of his work a few years ago. It can be found here . It's not a fully fleshed-out idea, just a collection of sketched pieces, but with work and experimentation it might become what's needed

vexarb
Toby, many thanks for your considered reply. I have marked two of your recommendations for my own reading and as presents for the Festive Season to my grand daughter who is studying both ecology and biophysics: "The Ecology of Money" and Biophysical Economics. The latter seems to be an expansion of Findlay's notion (as a chemist) that wealth ought to be measured in units of energy (an idea which was taken up by our professor of Chemical Thermodynamics in the 50s by comparing nations in terms of their "energy slaves per capita". Ecology and Biophysics are sciences, which is why I was attracted by your 3 principles in the first place.

Anecdote to explain where I am coming from: Many years ago Shell Oil inflated the price of their oil reserves; this caused a flutter in business news but I could not understand what the fuss was about because Shell's figures did not affect the real amount of oil that was actually there, underground.

Toby Russell
Interesting. And if we go back to the 1930s we find the work of another chemist, Frederick Soddy, who also tackled economics and wealth, in particular how to design a money system that acted in accordance with physical laws, so to speak (e.g. "The Role of Money"). I believe he won a Nobel Prize for his chemistry, but was soundly poopooed by the economists of the time for meddling in their business.

I personally think that wealth and value, as synonyms, cannot ever be objectively defined or measured as they are rooted in subjective experience. Any new economics worth the effort will need to take proper account of this fact, alongside all the necessary biophysics and ecology of course. All schools of the dismal 'science' do address this issue, but with varying degrees of philosophical rigour. The treatments of subjective value I have looked into within economics thus far are unsatisfactory (behavioural economics somewhat excepted), with the market invariably posited as a neutral (thus scientific) 'objectifier' of all that subjective trading between households and firms.

vexarb
Toby, firstly thanks for the gentle correction: yes it was Soddy who proposed "energy pence", though Findlay was very keen on Chemistry in the Service of Humankind. And I agree thoroughly with your own doubt "that wealth and value, as synonyms, cannot ever be objectively defined or measured as they are rooted in subjective experience."

"A person who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing" -- Oscar Wilde.

Your remark seems to throw an interesting light on a well known saying by Rabbi Jeshuah of Nazareth: "You cannot serve both God and Mammon" -- if by God you mean the Creator of All Things Bright and Beautiful, All Creatures Great and Small, All things Wise and Wonderful"; and my Mammon you mean the Creator of Fiat Money alone.

Toby Russell
Excellent, thank you for that, BigB! Wow, and John McMurtry got a mention in there. I'll see your McMurtry and raise you a Jackson

(I have to say, your thinking and hopes align quite tightly with those of Franz Hoermann. Shame his work is in German. He's a kind of nutty professor, works in a Viennese university in Rechnungswesen or something, which is some form of accountancy, but is very widely read and open-minded.)

Around 2007/2008, I became obsessed with money systems for obvious reasons. I started a blog sharing my angry insights and laying out as clearly and angrily as I could Why Money Has To Go! What I discovered is that people don't want to know, can't imagine a world without money, and I concluded that the cultural lag preventing radical change is a true representation of where we are as a species, as consciousness in human form. Our state of consciousness is as natural as everything else. After all, there is only nature. Even deliberate, malicious distortions of nature are part of nature. And that's when I really started working on myself, which is of course the work of lifetimes. Because, to paraphrase that infamous Michael Jackson song; you can't change them, you can only change yourself.

BigB
Have you read any late Merleau-Ponty? He was largely overshadowed by his better known friends Sarte and Simone de Beauvoir. After his death he slipped into the shadow of Sartre's shadow of fame – and was largely forgotten.

He was a huge influence on Varela. Around 2005: some of his late lecture notes turned up – made by an anonymous student – and there were several books published. This has sparked a minor revival in his significance: which I have been revisiting for the last few years.

He held the view of the nature we know as a *constructum* a scientific representationalism that is an active barrier – not to the nature 'without' but the nature within. The *chair du monde* the 'flesh of the world' the heart of all creation and experience.

He was undergoing a Gestalt: to put pure phenomenological experience at the heart of nature – thus liberating science from itself. Echoes of Schrodinger, Bohr, Eccles,: presaging Bohm, Varela, Bitbol etc.

Unfortunately, he died suddenly of a stroke. Sartre and de Beauvoir stole the limelight 'till now.

https://www.radicalphilosophy.com/article/late-merleau-ponty-revived

Regarding money value systems. I wholly concur with you and your "nutty professor" Hoermann. The general or Husserlian 'natural attitude' is based on money. What is hard to discern: is that it is based on it whether people have 'skin in the game'. Everyone wishes the market to do well: because they have 'dreams in the game'. If the economy does well: there will be a return to progress and prosperity – where 'I' will do well. This has nothing to do with access to capital. Access to dreams and values linked to capital are all that is required. Free-enterprise market based economies are really 'desire-dream production' facilities. Linking Freudian pleasure principles to actual production and valorisation of capital. This is Mark Fisher's 'Capitalist Realism'.

That is why the production function is not linked to any real world values. If it were: production – desire-dream production – would stop. Which is why Ayers, Keen, Kummel, Spash et al will be rejected. Because exergy and entropy considerations end the desire-dream "actual fantasy" production. And it can never be restarted.

The real reasons for which are not lack of resources (input source degradation) – or waste pollution of sinks (output sink degradation) they are lack of imagination. If you take away the current money-value nexus: you take away the Self that is invested – self-invested: at all market levels (not just capital markets) – in those values. Value and asset stripping the epochal Cartesian subjectivity of its worth. The paradox is that worth is already less than zero – due to the market failure and artificial intervention of the Central Banks.

Cartesian subjectivity is self-invested in a Capitalist Realism that is about to asset strip and devalue every form of desire-dream production – downgrading entire continents of human aspirations to 'negative yielding junk' status. That is Capitalist Realism. In the coming market failure: everyone fails. There will be carnage – and deaths. And a tsunami of recrimination and blame.

A tiny percentage of 'Cassandras' will be powerless to stop this. All the information is in the public domain. I had no trouble finding any of it. The picture is crystal clear. Whilst the majoritarian involvement is with desire-dream production of perpetual motion prosperity: something entirely different is actually occurring. I cannot think of anyone that is looking at the coming collapse as anything other than the end of another business cycle. We'll just start another business cycle. How?

It's a fair question: one very few want to confront. There is no Plan B: because there is no doubt of the answer. The current political debate is pure pantomime and fantasy if you apply real world dynamical constraints. I wish Steve Keen every success: though I truly believe it has come too late in the day.

I think we would have more success following Merleau-Ponty and foregoing the entire reliance on desire-dream production. Whole people who are actuating life and creation as a syngenesis – the 'together creation' of a valueless value-equality system – don't need spurious dreams. They are living the dream right now. No need to rape the earth. Only preserve it as the only shared value production system we have. But you already know this.

BigB
Unbeknownst to me: Ted Trainer has been reviewing a similar reading list to me. And drawn the same "true prophecy" conclusion: we are already in a post-production world.

https://www.resilience.org/stories/2019-10-17/why-de-growth-is-essential-a-rejection-of-left-ecomodernists-phillips-sharzer-bastini-and-parenti/

Maybe we will notice one day!

vexarb
From the above discussion, one could conclude that conventional economic theory is standing on its head: it uses money as a measure of wealth, when in reality wealth is the measure of money.

Take the Icelanders for example: the only "Western" country to follow China's excellent practice of jailing crooked bankers. The Icelandic Leader did not look at the enormous sums stolen, and exclaim in awe, These crooks are too big to fail. Instead, Iceland looked at their real wealth: water, fish, a fragile but productive soil, and geothermal energy. So they cocked a snook at British PM George Brown who called Icelanders "terrorists", jailed their crooked bankers and their crooked politicians, and are doing much better than the UK's Classical Monetarist economy.

Toby Russell
Precisely. In a very real sense, we are a simple 180 degree twist away from something wonderful. Its our collective somnambulist imagination that stands in our way.
BigB
Precisely.

WEALTH:
From Middle English – *wele* = wellbeing; welfare

closely allied to HEALTH – *hoelp* = wholeness; being whole (among other roots).

The word has been engineered in use into a narrowly defined measure of accumulation.

Real wealth is simply being here. Economies do not allow for that anymore.

Toby Russell
Thank you. No, I hadn't heard of Merleau-Ponty but will now look into him. It sounds very observant, clear sighted. There is so much of this stuff out there, but the deep dog-whistle excellence of public-relations brain washing has been able to keep the infantile solipsism – which I take to be Cartesian subjectivity – alive and kicking in its pram of consumer conveniences. Who knows what the cost will be.
BigB

"Share On Twitter" target="_blank" href="https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?text=It+is+way+to+early+to+falsely+declare+that+the+individual+Carte...+&url=https%3A%2F%2Foff-guardian.org%2F2019%2F10%2F16%2Fat-the-feet-of-mammon%2F%23comment-98615">

It is way to early to falsely declare that the individual Cartesian subject is dead. But it its disembodied subjectivity is under threat: from the very science that stands between us and nature.

We supposedly live in a positivist empirical scientific paradigm. Supposedly: because we left us out of the representation. And the rational empirical Self we invented from science and philosophy is nowhere to be found for anyone who cares to look. Which is too few unfortunately.

No one wants to totally debunk science: only to liberate an observer participant/dependent second order science – with first person phenomenology at its heart. After all: we do not experience ourselves via self-reports to others who dictate back to us what and who we can be. Actually, we pretty much do exactly that for the moment.

To bridge the gap: Varela proposed his 'neurophenomenology' – which was a rigorous first person accounting "mutually constraining" the third person neursoscientific lab approach (how much we are supposed to learn from 'rubber hand' illusions – I have never quite been sure. In fact I believe this 'third person' approach to be quite distorting and very possibly even dangerous we 'hallucinate' consciousness; reality is an illusion; etc).

We need to end up with a holistic account – not a 'Frankenstein' paradigm stitched together from phantom limb pains; whole body illusions; aphasia and lesion studies; etc.

We are whole: not the sum of our dead deterministic parts! What a pity Varela died too soon too.

Toby Russell

"Share On Twitter" target="_blank" href="https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?text=Yes%2C+a+holistic+account.+For+me+that+starts+with+accepting+ther...+&url=https%3A%2F%2Foff-guardian.org%2F2019%2F10%2F16%2Fat-the-feet-of-mammon%2F%23comment-98768">

Yes, a holistic account. For me that starts with accepting there is no matter, just information; no space, just the mathematics of dimension, volume, distance, etc.; no energy, just the mathematics and physics of force, attraction, repulsion, etc.: all information. There is only experience, which is a necessary property of consciousness. We cannot know what is 'beyond' that, because it lies outside what we are. We cannot even know if anything 'beyond' consciousness is possible.

And yes, the proposition that dead bits and pieces can be arranged in such a way as to create the 'illusion' of life and consciousness is wholly untenable. Just the simple query: "Who or what is being deceived by the illusion?" bursts that bubble. Or ought to. People do so cling to their beliefs

Tim Jenkins

"Share On Twitter" target="_blank" href="https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?text=Fine+comment%2C+Toby+and+may+I+submit+that+for+real+values+to+shi...+&url=https%3A%2F%2Foff-guardian.org%2F2019%2F10%2F16%2Fat-the-feet-of-mammon%2F%23comment-98385">

Fine comment, Toby and may I submit that for real values to shine through, on collective societal 'growth' & evolution of consciousness, harmonised with critical reasoning, then the very first thing we need to get rid of is the IMF & Co.

Now that Kristalina Georgieva is the new M.D. people should be able to quickly see clearly, that after her 1,001 days at the WBO and her previous pathetic E.U. C.V. one does not need to understand ANYthing to do with how the system truly functions presently & how it could be made to work for the people.

Stalinka's wholly unsuitable levels of deception, distraction & professional incompetence, combined with her love & respect for Mafia Bosses, (literally), in her own personal drive of pure self-interest and fuck Bulgaria and the Bulgarians mentality, was well proven when she sided against Irina Bokova for Secretary General of the U.N. :- purely to get on side with Merkel, May & BG PM Borisov's alliance with Anglo-Zionist-Capitalists & NATO's non-existent interest in the Palestinian Problem. Bokova, on the other hand, had actually done more than just getting down to work in changing Law and scything Budgets @UNESCO and since serving as boss of UNESCO, thanks to Bokova we can now proceed legally, theoretically, against any genocidal policy of war, because in Law,
"The Destruction of Culture is a Terrorist Act "
A solid foundation from which to work from,
in securing Palestinian 'values' & property rights.
Forget the IMF & Stalinka's rhetoric: we don't grow olives in Bulgaria, but have much to trade with those who do and after Erdogan's "Operation Olive Branch", it is high time people penalised Rhetoric & rewarded Sincerity in actions, not empty words inverting
& perverting reality . . . to twist trust, spin meaning & annulate cultural belonging.
"This idolatry produces almost wholly unwanted outcomes" no 'ifs', Toby.

Greetings,
Tim

Toby Russell

"Share On Twitter" target="_blank" href="https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?text=Thank+you%2C+Tim.%0AYes%2C+the+evolution+of+consciousness+is+central....+&url=https%3A%2F%2Foff-guardian.org%2F2019%2F10%2F16%2Fat-the-feet-of-mammon%2F%23comment-98420">

Thank you, Tim.

Yes, the evolution of consciousness is central. Indeed, I don't think we'll manage to lastingly root out our need for corruptible institutions like the IMF and World Bank and BIS etc., until we have developed or evolved a robust cultural desire to do things very differently. I don't feel a top-down change can happen. And for radical change to be bottom up, effective, sustainable and true to who we are as humans, we have to change in our consciousness, away from fear, distrust and greed, towards love, trust and sharing. And these things take time

smoe

"Share On Twitter" target="_blank" href="https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?text=yes+%2C++boundaries+present+profit+opportunities.+++The+nation+st...+&url=https%3A%2F%2Foff-guardian.org%2F2019%2F10%2F16%2Fat-the-feet-of-mammon%2F%23comment-98437">

yes , boundaries present profit opportunities. The nation states are bounded human containers.. the humans caught in the containers are fed the information that makes up the environment and so they only know what is made available to them. That means those in control of the propaganda can differentiate the humans and then sort them by binaries..
like gun control, or politicians, or race, place of origin, social factors, education, mental ability, religion or just about anything.. But separation is not enough, those in control of the information (propaganda) then polarize the thinking or feelings of the persons in the differentiated groups; its like a football game, everyone is either for the Red Team and strongly against the blue team, or vice-a-versa.

If you exchange a new born child, born to a Jewish family in New York, for a child born the same day in Iran.and and the parents of the exchanged children mature in their own native societies the non genetic child, 24 years later. the adult version of these two now matured children will hate each other, not be able to speak the language of the other and be committed to a vastly different set of goals and hold a vastly different set of basic beliefs.

Nation state encapsulation allows to different humanity and propaganda allows to polarize the thinking of those incarcerated within the nation states. These two things (boundary and propaganda) account for, or are the basis of citizen support for all wars, and binary differences that lead to reasoned differences of opinions. War comes about when some greedy person (usually those supporting the leader and the leader) wants something the polarized other side has or refuses to yield on.

Toby Russell

"Share On Twitter" target="_blank" href="https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?text=Yes.+Your+summation+reminds+me+strongly+of+Lewis+Mumford%26%238217%3B...+&url=https%3A%2F%2Foff-guardian.org%2F2019%2F10%2F16%2Fat-the-feet-of-mammon%2F%23comment-98465">

Yes. Your summation reminds me strongly of Lewis Mumford's The Myth of the Machine, which is about how unchecked ego – the mythic solar hero run rampant – structures societies as mechanical-processional systems revolving around its hidden fears and need for final control of everything. Of course there is never enough control and it all breaks in the end, as narcissism must.

I should add, though, that diversity is vital. Life without diversity is impossible. The way for us all, unique as we are, to communicate as successfully as possible with each other, is to have zero beliefs, as you suggest in another comment above. That means almost zero propaganda, and that little which might remain – there may always be a need for some common vision of what life is about as part of meaning making and the fact that humans are social beings – must be explicit and transparent, and always open to robust questioning.

[Oct 05, 2019] Everything is fake in the current neoliberal discourse, be it political or economic, and it is not that easy to understand how they are deceiving us. Lies that are so sophisticated that often it is impossible to tell they are actually lies, not facts

Highly recommended!
Oct 05, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

likbez -> anne... , October 05, 2019 at 04:40 PM

Anne,

Let me serve as a devil advocate here.

Japan has a shrinking population. Can you explain to me why on the Earth they need economic growth?

This preoccupation with "growth" (with narrow and false one dimensional and very questionable measurements via GDP, which includes the FIRE sector) is a fallacy promoted by neoliberalism.

Neoliberalism proved to be quite sophisticated religions with its own set of True Believers in Eric Hoffer's terminology.

A lot of current economic statistics suffer from "mathiness".

For example, the narrow definition of unemployment used in U3 is just a classic example of pseudoscience in full bloom. It can be mentioned only if U6 mentioned first. Otherwise, this is another "opium for the people" ;-) An attempt to hide the real situation in the neoliberal "job market" in which has sustained real unemployment rate is always over 10% and which has a disappearing pool of well-paying middle-class jobs. Which produced current narco-epidemics (in 2018, 1400 people were shot in half a year in Chicago ( http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/breaking/ct-met-weekend-shooting-violence-20180709-story.html ); imagine that). While I doubt that people will hang Pelosi on the street post, her successor might not be so lucky ;-)

Everything is fake in the current neoliberal discourse, be it political or economic, and it is not that easy to understand how they are deceiving us. Lies that are so sophisticated that often it is impossible to tell they are actually lies, not facts. The whole neoliberal society is just big an Empire of Illusions, the kingdom of lies and distortions.

I would call it a new type of theocratic state if you wish.

And probably only one in ten, if not one in a hundred economists deserve to be called scientists. Most are charlatans pushing fake papers on useless conferences.

It is simply amazing that the neoliberal society, which is based on "universal deception," can exist for so long.

[Sep 26, 2019] The decrepitating of the world's society can be traced back to the crap, contemporary economics, the purview of the Ivy league. Somehow, labor arbitrage was accepted as a worthy objective. America lost it's way.

Sep 26, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

Mr. Bill , September 22, 2019 at 09:55 PM

The decrepitating of the world's society can be traced back to the crap, contemporary economics, the purview of the Ivy league. Somehow, labor arbitrage was accepted as a worthy objective. America lost it's way.
Paine -> Mr. Bill... , September 23, 2019 at 06:12 AM
Joe stiglitz is an honored product of the ivy system

And he has conducted a 50 year demolition of standard micro economics as taught in the 101 class rooms of collegiate AMERIKA

[Sep 22, 2019] Is the Unemployment Rate Tied to the Divorce Rate

Yes it is, but only for couples with low level of marital satisfaction.
Notable quotes:
"... They also looked at marital breakup more generally, focusing on when couples decided to end their relationships (not necessarily if or when they got divorced). Their findings revealed that when men were unemployed, the likelihood that either spouse would leave the marriage increased. What about the woman's employment status? For husbands, whether their wife was employed or not was seemingly unimportant-it was unrelated to their decision to leave the relationship. It did seem to matter for wives, though, but it depended upon how satisfied they were with the marriage. ..."
"... When women were highly satisfied, they were inclined to stay with their partner regardless of whether they had employment. However, when the wife's satisfaction was low, she was more likely to exit the relationship, but only when she had a job. ..."
Science of Relationships
The first study considers government data from all 50 U.S. states between the years 1960 and 2005.1 The researchers predicted that higher unemployment numbers would translate to more divorces among heterosexual married couples. Most of us probably would have predicted this too based on common sense-you would probably expect your partner to be able to hold down a job, right? And indeed, this was the case, but only before 1980. Surprisingly, since then, as joblessness has increased, divorce rates have actually decreased.

How do we explain this counterintuitive finding? We don't know for sure, but the researchers speculate that unemployed people may delay or postpone divorce due to the high costs associated with it. Not only is divorce expensive in terms of legal fees, but afterward, partners need to pay for two houses instead of one. And if they are still living off of one salary at that point, those costs may be prohibitively expensive. For this reason, it is not that uncommon to hear about estranged couples who can't stand each other but are still living under the same roof.

The second study considered data from a national probability sample of over 3,600 heterosexual married couples in the U.S. collected between 1987 and 2002. However, instead of looking at the overall association between unemployment and marital outcomes, they considered how gender and relationship satisfaction factored into the equation. 2

They also looked at marital breakup more generally, focusing on when couples decided to end their relationships (not necessarily if or when they got divorced). Their findings revealed that when men were unemployed, the likelihood that either spouse would leave the marriage increased. What about the woman's employment status? For husbands, whether their wife was employed or not was seemingly unimportant-it was unrelated to their decision to leave the relationship. It did seem to matter for wives, though, but it depended upon how satisfied they were with the marriage.

When women were highly satisfied, they were inclined to stay with their partner regardless of whether they had employment. However, when the wife's satisfaction was low, she was more likely to exit the relationship, but only when she had a job.

[Sep 22, 2019] Game of musical chairs became more difficult: the US economy seems to put out fewer and fewer chairs.

Notable quotes:
"... A good economy compensates for much social dysfunction. ..."
"... More than that, it prevents the worst of behaviors that are considered an expression of dysfunction from occurring, as people across all social strata have other things to worry about or keep them busy. Happy people don't bear grudges, or at least they are not on top of their consciousness as long as things are going well. ..."
"... This could be seen time and again in societies with deep and sometimes violent divisions between ethnic groups where in times of relative prosperity (or at least a broadly shared vision for a better future) the conflicts are not removed but put on a backburner, or there is even "finally" reconciliation, and then when the economy turns south, the old grudges and conflicts come back (often not on their own, but fanned by groups who stand to gain from the divisions, or as a way of scapegoating) ..."
"... "backwaters of America, that economy seems to put out fewer and fewer chairs." ~~Harold Pollack~ ..."
"... Going up through the chairs has become so impossible for those on the slow-track. Not enough slots for all the jokers within our once proud country of opportunities, ..."
"... George Orwell: "I doubt, however, whether the unemployed would ultimately benefit if they learned to spend their money more economically. ... If the unemployed learned to be better managers they would be visibly better off, and I fancy it would not be long before the dole was docked correspondingly." ..."
"... Perhaps you are commenting on the aspect that when (enough) job applicants/holders define down their standards and let employers treat them as floor mats, then the quality of many jobs and the labor relations will be adjusted down accordingly, or at the very least expectations what concessions workers will make will be adjusted up. That seems to be the case unfortunately. ..."
Nov 23, 2015 | economistsview.typepad.com
Avraam Jack Dectis said...
A good economy compensates for much social dysfunction.

A bad economy moves people toward the margins, afflicts those near the margins and kills those at the margins.

This is what policy makers should consider as they pursue policies that do not put the citizen above all else.

cm -> Avraam Jack Dectis...
"A good economy compensates for much social dysfunction."

More than that, it prevents the worst of behaviors that are considered an expression of dysfunction from occurring, as people across all social strata have other things to worry about or keep them busy. Happy people don't bear grudges, or at least they are not on top of their consciousness as long as things are going well.

This could be seen time and again in societies with deep and sometimes violent divisions between ethnic groups where in times of relative prosperity (or at least a broadly shared vision for a better future) the conflicts are not removed but put on a backburner, or there is even "finally" reconciliation, and then when the economy turns south, the old grudges and conflicts come back (often not on their own, but fanned by groups who stand to gain from the divisions, or as a way of scapegoating)

Dune Goon said...

"backwaters of America, that economy seems to put out fewer and fewer chairs." ~~Harold Pollack~

Going up through the chairs has become so impossible for those on the slow-track. Not enough slots for all the jokers within our once proud country of opportunities, not enough elbow room for Daniel Boone, let alone Jack Daniels! Not enough space in this county to wet a tree when you feel the urge! Every tiny plot of space has been nailed down and fenced off, divided up among gated communities. Why?

Because the 1% has an excessive propensity to reproduce their own kind. They are so uneducated about the responsibilities of birth control and space conservation that they are crowding all of us off the edge of the planet. Worse yet we have begun to *ape our betters*.

"We've only just begun!"
~~The Carpenters~

William said...

"Many of us know people who receive various public benefits, and who might not need to rely on these programs if they made better choices, if they learned how to not talk back at work, if they had a better handle on various self-destructive behaviors, if they were more willing to take that crappy job and forego disability benefits, etc."

George Orwell: "I doubt, however, whether the unemployed would ultimately benefit if they learned to spend their money more economically. ... If the unemployed learned to be better managers they would be visibly better off, and I fancy it would not be long before the dole was docked correspondingly."

cm said in reply to William...

A valid observation, but what you are commenting on is more about getting or keeping a job than managing personal finances.

Perhaps you are commenting on the aspect that when (enough) job applicants/holders define down their standards and let employers treat them as floor mats, then the quality of many jobs and the labor relations will be adjusted down accordingly, or at the very least expectations what concessions workers will make will be adjusted up. That seems to be the case unfortunately.

[Sep 22, 2019] Paul Krugman: Despair, American Style

Notable quotes:
"... In a recent interview Mr. Deaton suggested that middle-aged whites have "lost the narrative of their lives." That is, their economic setbacks have hit hard because they expected better. Or to put it a bit differently, we're looking at people who were raised to believe in the American Dream, and are coping badly with its failure to come true. ..."
"... the truth is that we don't really know why despair appears to be spreading across Middle America. But it clearly is, with troubling consequences for our society... ..."
"... Some people who feel left behind by the American story turn self-destructive; others turn on the elites they feel have betrayed them. ..."
"... What we are seeing is the long term impacts of the "Reagan Revolution." ..."
"... The affected cohort here is the first which has lived with the increased financial and employment insecurity that engendered, as well as the impacts of the massive offshoring of good paying union jobs throughout their working lives. Stress has cumulative impacts on health and well-being, which are a big part of what we are seeing here. ..."
"... Lets face it, this Fed is all about goosing up asset prices to generate short term gains in economic activity. Since the early 90s, the Fed has done nothing but make policy based on Wall Street's interests. I can give them a pass on the dot com debacle but not after that. This toxic relationship between wall street and the Fed has to end. ..."
"... there was a housing bubble that most at the Fed (including Bernanke) denied right upto the middle of 2007 ..."
"... Yellen, to her credit, has admitted multiple times over the years that low rates spur search for yield that blows bubbles ..."
"... Bursting of the bubble led to unemployment for millions and U3 that went to 10% ..."
"... "You are the guys who do not consider the counterfactual where higher rates would have prevented the housing bubble in 2003-05 and that produced the great recession in the first place." ..."
"... Inequality has been rising globally, almost regardless of trade practices ..."
"... It is not some unstoppable global trend. This is neoliberal oligarchy coup d'état. Or as it often called "a quite coup". ..."
"... First of all, whether a job can or is offshored has little to do with whether it is "low skilled" but more with whether the workflow around the job can be organized in such a way that the job can be offshore. This is less a matter of "skill level" and more volume and immediacy of interaction with adjacent job functions, or movement of material across distances. ..."
"... The reason wages are stuck is that aggregate jobs are not growing, relative to workforce supply. ..."
"... BTW the primary offshore location is India, probably in good part because of good to excellent English language skills, and India's investment in STEM education and industry (especially software/services and this is even a public stereotype, but for a reason). ..."
"... Very rough figures: half a million Chicago employees may make less than $800 a week -- almost everybody should earn $800 ... ..."
"... Union busting is generally (?) understood as direct interference with the formation and operation of unions or their members. It is probably more common that employers are allowed to just go around the unions - "right to work", subcontracting non-union shops or temp/staffing agencies, etc. ..."
"... Why would people join a union and pay dues when the union is largely impotent to deliver, when there are always still enough desperate people who will (have to) take jobs outside the union system? Employers don't have to bring in scabs when they can legally go through "unencumbered" subcontractors inside or outside the jurisdiction. ..."
"... Credibility trap, fully engaged. ..."
"... The anti-knowledge of the elites is worth reading. http://billmoyers.com/2015/11/02/the-anti-knowledge-of-the-elites/ When such herd instinct and institutional overbearance connects with the credibility trap, the results may be impressive. http://jessescrossroadscafe.blogspot.com/2015/11/gold-daily-and-silver-weekly-charts-pop.html ..."
"... Suicide, once thought to be associated with troubled teens and the elderly, is quickly becoming an age-blind statistic. Middle aged Americans are turning to suicide in alarming numbers. The reasons include easily accessible prescription painkillers, the mortgage crisis and most importantly the challenge of a troubled economy. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention claims suicide rates now top the number of deaths due to automobile accidents. ..."
"... The suicide rate for both younger and older Americans remains virtually unchanged, however, the rate has spiked for those in middle age (35 to 64 years old) with a 28 percent increase (link is external) from 1999 to 2010. ..."
"... When few people kill themselves "on purpose" or die from self-inflicted but probably "unintended" harms (e.g. organ failure or accidental death caused by substance abuse), it can be shrugged off as problems related to the individual (more elaboration possible but not necessary). ..."
"... When it becomes a statistically significant phenomenon (above-noise percentage of total population or demographically identifiable groups), then one has to ask questions about social causes. My first question would be, "what made life suck for those people"? What specific instrument they used to kill themselves would be my second question (it may be the first question for people who are charged with implementing counter measures but not necessarily fixing the causes). ..."
"... Since about the financial crisis (I'm not sure about causation or coincidence - not accidental coincidence BTW but causation by the same underlying causes), there has been a disturbing pattern of high school students throwing themselves in front of local trains. At that age, drinking or drugging oneself to death is apparently not the first "choice". Performance pressure *related to* (not just "and") a lack of convincing career/life prospects has/have been suspected or named as a cause. I don't think teenagers suddenly started to jump in front of trains that have run the same rail line for decades because of the "usual" and centuries to millennia old teenage romantic relationship issues. ..."
Nov 09, 2015 | economistsview.typepad.com

"There is a darkness spreading over part of our society":

Despair, American Style, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: A couple of weeks ago President Obama mocked Republicans who are "down on America," and reinforced his message by doing a pretty good Grumpy Cat impression. He had a point: With job growth at rates not seen since the 1990s, with the percentage of Americans covered by health insurance hitting record highs, the doom-and-gloom predictions of his political enemies look ever more at odds with reality.

Yet there is a darkness spreading over part of our society. ... There has been a lot of comment ... over a new paper by the economists Angus Deaton (who just won a Nobel) and Anne Case, showing that mortality among middle-aged white Americans has been rising since 1999..., while death rates were falling steadily both in other countries and among other groups in our own nation.

Even more striking are the proximate causes of rising mortality. Basically, white Americans are, in increasing numbers, killing themselves... Suicide is way up, and so are deaths from drug poisoning and ... drinking... But what's causing this epidemic of self-destructive behavior?...

In a recent interview Mr. Deaton suggested that middle-aged whites have "lost the narrative of their lives." That is, their economic setbacks have hit hard because they expected better. Or to put it a bit differently, we're looking at people who were raised to believe in the American Dream, and are coping badly with its failure to come true.

That sounds like a plausible hypothesis..., but the truth is that we don't really know why despair appears to be spreading across Middle America. But it clearly is, with troubling consequences for our society...

I know I'm not the only observer who sees a link between the despair reflected in those mortality numbers and the volatility of right-wing politics. Some people who feel left behind by the American story turn self-destructive; others turn on the elites they feel have betrayed them. No, deporting immigrants and wearing baseball caps bearing slogans won't solve their problems, but neither will cutting taxes on capital gains. So you can understand why some voters have rallied around politicians who at least seem to feel their pain.

At this point you probably expect me to offer a solution. But while universal health care, higher minimum wages, aid to education, and so on would do a lot to help Americans in trouble, I'm not sure whether they're enough to cure existential despair.

bakho said...

There are a lot of economic dislocations that the government after the 2001 recession stopped doing much about it. Right after the 2008 crash, the government did more but by 2010, even the Democratic president dropped the ball. and failed to deliver. Probably no region of the country is affected more by technological change that the coal regions of KY and WV. Lying politicians promise a return to the past that cannot be delivered. No one can suggest what the new future will be. The US is due for another round of urbanization as jobs decline in rural areas. Dislocation forces declining values of properties and requires changes in behavior, skills and outlook. Those personal changes do not happen without guidance. The social institutions such as churches and government programs are a backstop, but they are not providing a way forward. There is plenty of work to be done, but our elites are not willing to invest.

DrDick -> bakho...

The problem goes back much further than that. What we are seeing is the long term impacts of the "Reagan Revolution."

The affected cohort here is the first which has lived with the increased financial and employment insecurity that engendered, as well as the impacts of the massive offshoring of good paying union jobs throughout their working lives. Stress has cumulative impacts on health and well-being, which are a big part of what we are seeing here.

ilsm said...

Thuggee doom and gloom is about their fading chance to reinstate the slavocracy.

The fever swamp of right wing ideas is more loony than 1964.

Extremism is the new normal.

bmorejoe -> ilsm...

Yup. The slow death of white supremacy.

Peter K. -> Anonymous...

If it wasn't for monetary policy things would be even worse as the Republicans in Congress forced fiscal austerity on the economy during the "recovery."

sanjait -> Peter K....

That's the painful irony of a comment like that one from Anonymous ... he seems completely unaware that, yes, ZIRP has done a huge amount to prevent the kind of problems described above. He like most ZIRP critics fails to consider what the counterfactual looks like (i.e., something like the Great Depression redux).

Anonymous -> sanjait...

You are the guys who do not consider the counterfactual where higher rates would have prevented the housing bubble in 2003-05 and that produced the great recession in the first place. Because preemptive monetary policy has gone out of fashion completely. And now we are going to repeat the whole process over when the present bubble in stocks and corporate bonds bursts along with the malinvestment in China, commodity exporters etc.

Peter K. -> Anonymous...

"liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate farmers, liquidate real estate... it will purge the rottenness out of the system. High costs of living and high living will come down. People will work harder, live a more moral life. Values will be adjusted, and enterprising people will pick up from less competent people."

sanjait -> Anonymous...

"You want regulation? I would like to see

1) Reinstate Glass Steagall

2) impose a 10bp trans tax on trading financial instruments."

Great. Two things with zero chance of averting bubbles but make great populist pablum.

This is why we can't have nice things!

"3) Outlaw any Fed person working for a bank/financial firm after they leave office."

This seems like a decent idea. Hard to enforce, as highly intelligent and accomplished people tend not to be accepting of such restrictions, but it could be worth it anyway.

likbez -> sanjait...

" highly intelligent and accomplished people tend not to be accepting of such restrictions, but it could be worth it anyway."

You are forgetting that it depends on a simple fact to whom political power belongs. And that's the key whether "highly intelligent and accomplished people" will accept those restrictions of not.

If the government was not fully captured by financial capital, then I think even limited prosecution of banksters "Stalin's purge style" would do wonders in preventing housing bubble and 2008 financial crush.

Please try to imagine the effect of trial and exile to Alaska for some period just a dozen people involved in Securitization of mortgages boom (and those highly intelligent people can do wonders in improving oil industry in Alaska ;-).

Starting with Mr. Weill, Mr. Greenspan, Mr. Rubin, Mr. Phil Gramm, Dr. Summers and Mr. Clinton.

Anonymous -> Peter K....

"2003-2005 didn't have excess inflation and wage gains."

Monetary policy can not hinge just on inflation or wage gains. Why are wage gains a problem anyway?

Lets face it, this Fed is all about goosing up asset prices to generate short term gains in economic activity. Since the early 90s, the Fed has done nothing but make policy based on Wall Street's interests. I can give them a pass on the dot com debacle but not after that. This toxic relationship between wall street and the Fed has to end.

You want regulation? I would like to see
1) Reinstate Glass Steagall
2) impose a 10bp trans tax on trading financial instruments.
3) Outlaw any Fed person working for a bank/financial firm after they leave office. Bernanke, David Warsh etc included. That includes Mishkin getting paid to shill for failing Iceland banks or Bernanke making paid speeches to hedge funds.


Anonymous -> EMichael...

Fact: there was a housing bubble that most at the Fed (including Bernanke) denied right upto the middle of 2007
Fact: Yellen, to her credit, has admitted multiple times over the years that low rates spur search for yield that blows bubbles
Fact: Bursting of the bubble led to unemployment for millions and U3 that went to 10%

what facts are you referring to?

EMichael -> Anonymous...

That FED rates caused the bubble.

to think this you have to ignore that a 400% Fed Rate increase from 2004 to 2005 had absolutely no effect on mortgage originations.

Then of course, you have to explain why 7 years at zero has not caused another housing bubble.

https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/FEDFUNDS

Correlation is not causation. Lack of correlation is proof of lack of causation.

pgl -> Anonymous...

"You are the guys who do not consider the counterfactual where higher rates would have prevented the housing bubble in 2003-05 and that produced the great recession in the first place."

You are repeating the John B. Taylor line about interest rates being held "too low and too long". And guess what - most economists have called Taylor's claim for the BS it really is. We should also note we never heard this BS when Taylor was part of the Bush Administration. And do check - Greenspan and later Bernanke were raising interest rates well before any excess demand was generated which is why inflation never took off.

So do keep repeating this intellectual garbage and we keep noting you are just a stupid troll.

anne -> anne...
http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2015/10/29/1518393112

September 17, 2015

Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among white non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century
By Anne Case and Angus Deaton

Midlife increases in suicides and drug poisonings have been previously noted. However, that these upward trends were persistent and large enough to drive up all-cause midlife mortality has, to our knowledge, been overlooked. If the white mortality rate for ages 45−54 had held at their 1998 value, 96,000 deaths would have been avoided from 1999–2013, 7,000 in 2013 alone. If it had continued to decline at its previous (1979‒1998) rate, half a million deaths would have been avoided in the period 1999‒2013, comparable to lives lost in the US AIDS epidemic through mid-2015. Concurrent declines in self-reported health, mental health, and ability to work, increased reports of pain, and deteriorating measures of liver function all point to increasing midlife distress.

Abstract

This paper documents a marked increase in the all-cause mortality of middle-aged white non-Hispanic men and women in the United States between 1999 and 2013. This change reversed decades of progress in mortality and was unique to the United States; no other rich country saw a similar turnaround. The midlife mortality reversal was confined to white non-Hispanics; black non-Hispanics and Hispanics at midlife, and those aged 65 and above in every racial and ethnic group, continued to see mortality rates fall. This increase for whites was largely accounted for by increasing death rates from drug and alcohol poisonings, suicide, and chronic liver diseases and cirrhosis. Although all education groups saw increases in mortality from suicide and poisonings, and an overall increase in external cause mortality, those with less education saw the most marked increases. Rising midlife mortality rates of white non-Hispanics were paralleled by increases in midlife morbidity. Self-reported declines in health, mental health, and ability to conduct activities of daily living, and increases in chronic pain and inability to work, as well as clinically measured deteriorations in liver function, all point to growing distress in this population. We comment on potential economic causes and consequences of this deterioration.

ilsm -> Sarah...

Murka is different. Noni's plan would work if it were opportune for the slavocracy and the Kochs and ARAMCO don't lose any "growth".

Maybe cost plus climate repair contracts to shipyards fumbling through useless nuclear powered behemoths for war plans made in 1942.

Someone gotta make big money plundering for the public good, in Murka!

CSP said...

The answers to our malaise seem readily apparent to me, and I'm a southern-born white male working in a small, struggling Georgia town.

1. Kill the national war machine
2. Kill the national Wall Street financial fraud machine
3. Get out-of-control mega corporations under control
4. Return savings to Main Street (see #1, #2 and #3)
5. Provide national, universal health insurance to everyone as a right
6. Provide free education to everyone, as much as their academic abilities can earn them
7. Strengthen social security and lower the retirement age to clear the current chronic underemployment of young people

It seems to me that these seven steps would free the American people to pursue their dreams, not the dreams of Washington or Wall Street. Unfortunately, it is readily apparent that true freedom and real individual empowerment are the last things our leaders desire. Shame on them and shame on everyone who helps to make it so.

DeDude -> CSP...

You are right. Problem is that most southern-born white males working in a small, struggling Georgia town would rather die than voting for the one candidate who might institute those changes - Bernie Sanders.

The people who are beginning to realize that the american dream is a mirage, are the same people who vote for GOP candidates who want to give even more to the plutocrats.

kthomas said...

The kids in Seattle had it right when WTO showed up.


Why is anyone suprised by all this?

We exported out jobs. First all the manufacturing. Now all of the Service jobs.


But hey...we helped millions in China and India get out of poverty, only to put outselves into it.


America was sold to highest bidder a long long time ago. A Ken Melvin put it, the chickens came home to roost in 2000.

sanjait -> kthomas...

So you think the problem with America is that we lost our low skilled manufacturing and call center tech support jobs?

I can sort of see why people assume that "we exported out jobs" is the reason for stagnant incomes in the U.S., but it's still tiresome, because it's still just wrong.

Manufacturing employment crashed in the US mostly because it has been declining globally. The world economy is less material based than ever, and machines do more of the work making stuff.

And while some services can be outsourced, the vast majority can't. Period.

Inequality has been rising globally, almost regardless of trade practices. The U.S. has one of the more closed economies in the developed world, so if globalization were the cause, we'd be the most insulated. But we aren't, which should be a pretty good indication that globalization isn't the cause.

cm -> sanjait...

Yes, the loss of "low skilled" jobs is still a loss of jobs. Many people work in "low skilled" jobs because there are not enough "higher skill" jobs to go around, as most work demanded is not of the most fancy type.

We have heard this now for a few decades, that "low skilled" jobs lost will be replaced with "high skill" (and better paid) jobs, and the evidence is somewhat lacking. There has been growth in higher skill jobs in absolute terms, but when you adjust by population growth, it is flat or declining.

When people hypothetically or actually get the "higher skills" recommended to them, into what higher skill jobs are they to move?

I have known a number of anecdotes of people with degrees or who held "skilled" jobs that were forced by circumstances to take commodity jobs or jobs at lower pay grades or "skill levels" due to aggregate loss of "higher skill" jobs or age discrimination, or had to go from employment to temp jobs.

And it is not true that only "lower skill" jobs are outsourced. Initially, yes, as "higher skills" obviously don't exist yet in the outsourcing region. But that doesn't last long, especially if the outsourcers expend resources to train and grow the remote skill base, at the expense of the domestic workforce which is expected to already have experience (which has worked for a while due to workforce overhangs from previous industry "restructuring").

likbez -> sanjait...

"Inequality has been rising globally, almost regardless of trade practices."

It is not some unstoppable global trend. This is neoliberal oligarchy coup d'état. Or as it often called "a quite coup".

sanjait -> cm...

"Yes, the loss of "low skilled" jobs is still a loss of jobs. Many people work in "low skilled" jobs because there are not enough "higher skill" jobs to go around, as most work demanded is not of the most fancy type.

We have heard this now for a few decades, that "low skilled" jobs lost will be replaced with "high skill" (and better paid) jobs, and the evidence is somewhat lacking. "

And that is *exactly my point.*

The lack of wage growth isn't isolated to low skilled domains. It's weak across the board.

What does that tell us?

It tells us that offshoring of low skilled jobs isn't the problem.

"And it is not true that only "lower skill" jobs are outsourced. Initially, yes, as "higher skills" obviously don't exist yet in the outsourcing region."

You could make this argument, but I think (judging by your own hedging) you know this isn't the case. Offshoring of higher skilled jobs does happen but it's a marginal factor in reality. You hypothesize that it may someday become a bigger factor ... but just notice that we've had stagnant wages now for a few decades.

My point is that offshoring IS NOT THE CAUSE of stagnating wages. I'd argue that globalization is a force that can't really be stopped by national policy anyway, but even if you think it could, it's important to realize IT WOULD DO ALMOST NOTHING to alleviate inequality.

cm -> sanjait...

I was responding to your point:

"So you think the problem with America is that we lost our low skilled manufacturing and call center tech support jobs?"

With the follow-on:

"I can sort of see why people assume that "we exported out jobs" is the reason for stagnant incomes in the U.S., but it's still tiresome, because it's still just wrong."

Labor markets are very sensitive to marginal effects. If let's say "normal" or "heightened" turnover is 10% p.a. spread out over the year, then the continued availability (or not) of around 1% vacancies (for the respective skill sets etc.) each month makes a huge difference. There was the argument that the #1 factor is automation and process restructuring, and offshoring is trailing somewhere behind that in job destruction volume.

I didn't research it in detail because I have no reason to doubt it. But it is a compounded effect - every percentage point in open positions (and *better* open positions - few people are looking to take a pay cut) makes a big difference. If let's say the automation losses are replaced with other jobs, offshoring will tip the scale. Due to aggregate effects one cannot say what is the "extra" like with who is causing congestion on a backed up road (basically everybody, not the first or last person to join).

"Manufacturing employment crashed in the US mostly because it has been declining globally. The world economy is less material based than ever, and machines do more of the work making stuff."

Are you kidding me? The world economy is less material based? OK maybe 20 years after the paperless office we are finally printing less, but just because the material turnover, waste, and environmental pollution is not in your face (because of offshoring!), it doesn't mean less stuff is produced or material consumed. If anything, it is market saturation and aggregate demand limitations that lead to lower material and energy consumption (or lower growth rates).

In the aftermath of the financial crisis, several nations (US and Germany among others) had programs to promote new car sales (cash for clunkers etc.) that were based on the idea that people can get credit for their old car, but its engine had to be destroyed and made unrepairable so it cannot enter the used car market and defeat the purpose of the program. I assume the clunkers were then responsibly and sustainably recycled.

cm -> sanjait...

"The lack of wage growth isn't isolated to low skilled domains. It's weak across the board.

What does that tell us?

It tells us taht offshoring of low skilled jobs isn't the problem."

This doesn't follow. First of all, whether a job can or is offshored has little to do with whether it is "low skilled" but more with whether the workflow around the job can be organized in such a way that the job can be offshore. This is less a matter of "skill level" and more volume and immediacy of interaction with adjacent job functions, or movement of material across distances. Also consider that aside from time zone differences (which are of course a big deal between e.g. US and Europe/Asia), there is not much difference whether a job is performed in another country or in a different domestic region, or perhaps just "working from home" 1 mile from the office, for office-type jobs. Of course the other caveat is whether the person can physically attend meetings with little fuss and expense - so remote management/coordination work is naturally not a big thing.

The reason wages are stuck is that aggregate jobs are not growing, relative to workforce supply. When the boomers retire for real in another 5-10 years, that may change. OTOH several tech companies I know have periodic programs where they offer workers over 55 or so packages to leave the company, so they cannot really hurt for talent, though they keep complaining and are busy bringing in young(er) people on work visa. Free agents, it depends on the company. Some companies hire NCGs, but they also "buy out" older workers.

cm -> cm...

Caveat: Based on what I see (outside sectors with strong/early growth), domestic hiring of NCGs/"fresh blood" falls in two categories:

Then there is also the gender split - "technical/engineering" jobs are overweighed in men, except technical jobs in traditionally "non-technical/non-product" departments which have a higher share of women.

All this is of course a matter of top-down hiring preferences, as generally everything is either controlled top-down or tacitly allowed to happen by selective non-interference.

cm -> sanjait...

"You could make this argument, but I think (judging by your own hedging) you know this isn't the case. Offshoring of higher skilled jobs does happen but it's a marginal factor in reality. You hypothesize that it may someday become a bigger factor ... but just notice that we've had stagnant wages now for a few decades."

I've written a lot of text so far but didn't address all points ...

My "hedging" is retrospective. I don't hypothesize what may eventually happen but it is happening here and now. I don't presume to present a representative picture, but in my sphere of experience/observation (mostly a subset of computer software), offshoring of *knowledge work* started in the mid to late 90's (and that's not the earliest it started in general - of course a lot of the early offshoring in the 80's was market/language specific customization, e.g. US tech in Europe etc., and more "local culture expertise" and not offshoring proper). In the late 90's and early 2000's, offshoring was overshadowed by the Y2K/dotcom booms, so that phase didn't get high visibility (among the people "affected" it sure did). Also the internet was not yet ubiquitous - broadband existed only at the corporate level.

Since then there has been little change, it is pretty much a steady state.

BTW the primary offshore location is India, probably in good part because of good to excellent English language skills, and India's investment in STEM education and industry (especially software/services and this is even a public stereotype, but for a reason).

Syaloch -> sanjait...

Whether low skilled jobs were eliminated due to offshoring or automation doesn't really matter. What matters is that the jobs disappeared, replaced by a small number of higher skill jobs paying comparable wages plus a large number of low skill jobs offering lower wages.

The aggregate effect was stagnation and even decline in living standards. Plus any new jobs were not necessarily produced in the same geographic region as those that were lost, leading to concentration of unemployment and despair.

sanjait -> Syaloch...

"Whether low skilled jobs were eliminated due to offshoring or automation doesn't really matter. "

Well, actually it does matter, because we have a whole lot of people (in both political parties) who think the way to fight inequality is to try to reverse globalization.

If they are incorrect, it matters, because they should be applying their votes and their energy to more effective solutions, and rejecting the proposed solutions of both the well-meaning advocates and the outright demagogues who think restricting trade is some kind of answer.

Syaloch -> sanjait...

I meant it doesn't matter in terms of the despair felt by those affected. All that matters to those affected is that they have been obsoleted without either economic or social support to help them.

However, in terms of addressing this problem economically it really doesn't matter that much either. Offshoring is effectively a low-tech form of automation. If companies can't lower labor costs by using cheaper offshore labor they'll find ways to either drive down domestic wages or to use less labor. For the unskilled laborer the end result is the same.

Syaloch -> Syaloch...

See the thought experiment I posted on the links thread, and then add the following:

Suppose the investigative journalist discovered instead that Freedonia itself is a sham, and that rather than being imported from overseas, the clothing was actually coming from an automated factory straight out of Vonnegut's "Player Piano" that was hidden in a remote domestic location. Would the people who were demanding limits on Freedonian exports now say, "Oh well, I guess that's OK" simply because the factory was located within the US?

Dan Kervick -> kthomas...

I enjoyed listening to this talk by Fredrick Reinfeldt at the LSE:

http://www.lse.ac.uk/newsAndMedia/videoAndAudio/channels/publicLecturesAndEvents/player.aspx?id=3253

Reinfeldt is a center-right politicians and former Swedish Prime Minister. OF course, what counts as center-right in Sweden seems very different from what counts as center-right in the US.

Perhaps there is some kind of basis here for some bipartisan progress on jobs and full employment.

William said...

I'm sure this isn't caused by any single factor, but has anyone seriously investigated a link between this phenomena and the military?

Veterans probably aren't a large enough cohort to explain the effect in full, but white people from the south are the most likely group to become soldiers, and veterans are the most likely group to have alcohol/drug abuse and suicide problems.

This would also be evidence why we aren't seeing it in other countries, no one else has anywhere near the number of vets we have.

cm -> William...

Vets are surely part of the aggregate problem of lack of career/economic prospects, in fact a lot of people join(ed) the military because of a lack of other jobs to begin with. But as the lack of prospects is aggregate it affects everybody.

Denis Drew said...

" At this point you probably expect me to offer a solution. But while universal health care, higher minimum wages, aid to education, and so on would do a lot to help Americans in trouble, I'm not sure whether they're enough to cure existential despair."


UNOINIZED and (therefore shall we say) politicized: you are in control of your narrative -- win or lose. Can it get any more hopeful than that? And you will probably win.

Winning being defined as labor eeking out EQUALLY emotionally satisfying/dissatisfying market results -- EQUAL that is with the satisfaction of ownership and the consumer. That's what happens when all three interface in the market -- labor interfacing indirectly through collective bargaining.

(Labor's monopoly neutralizes ownership's monopsony -- the consumers' willingness to pay providing the checks and balances on labor's monopoly.)

If you feel you've done well RELATIVE to the standards of your own economic era you will feel you've done well SUBJECTIVELY.

For instance, my generation of (American born) cab drivers earned about $750 for a 60 hour (grueling) work week up to the early 80s. With multiples strip-offs I won't detail here (will on request -- diff for diff cities) that has been reduced to about $500 a week (at best I suspect!) I believe and that is just not enough to get guys like me out there for that grueling work.

Let's take the minimum wage comparison from peak-to-peak instead of from peak-to-trough: $11 and hour in 1968 -- at HALF TODAY'S per capita income (economic output) -- to $7.25 today. How many American born workers are going to show up for $7.25 in the day of SUVs and "up-to-date kitchens" all around us. $8.75 was perfectly enticing for Americans working in 1956 ($8.75 thanks to the "Master of the Senate"). The recent raise to $10 is not good enough for Chicago's 100,000 gang members (out of my estimate 200,000 gang age minority males). Can hustle that much on the street w/o the SUBJECTIVE feeling of wage slavery.

Ditto hiring result for two-tier supermarket contracts after Walmart undercut the unions.

Without effective unions (centralized bargaining is the gold standard: only thing that fends off Walmart type contract muscling. Done that way since 1966 with the Teamsters Union's National Master Freight Agreement; the long practiced law or custom from continental Europe to French Canada to Argentina to Indonesia.

It occurred to me this morning that if the quintessential example of centralized bargaining Germany has 25% or our population and produces 200% more cars than we do, then, Germans produces 8X as many cars per capita than we do!

And thoroughly union organized Germans feel very much in control of the narrative of their lives.

cm -> Denis Drew...

"thoroughly union organized Germans"

No longer thoroughly, with recent labor market reforms the door has likewise been blown open to contingent workforces, staffing agencies, and similar forms of (perma) temp work. And moving work to nations with lower labor standards (e.g. "peripheral" Europe, less so outside Europe) has been going on for decades, for parts, subassembly, and even final assembly.

Denis Drew said...

Very rough figures: half a million Chicago employees may make less than $800 a week -- almost everybody should earn $800 ...

... putative minimum wage? -- might allow some slippage in high labor businesses like fast food restaurants; 33% labor costs! -- sort of like the Teamsters will allow exceptions when needed from Master agreements if you open up your books, they need your working business too, consumer ultimately sets limits.

Average raise of $200 a week -- $10,000 a year equals $5 billion shift in income -- out of a $170 billion Chicago GDP (1% of national) -- not too shabby to bring an end to gang wars and Despair American Style.

Just takes making union busting a felony LIKE EVERY OTHER FORM OF UNFAIR MARKET MUSCLING (even taking a movie in the movies). The body of laws are there -- the issues presumably settled -- the enforcement just needs "dentures."

cm -> Denis Drew...

Union busting is generally (?) understood as direct interference with the formation and operation of unions or their members. It is probably more common that employers are allowed to just go around the unions - "right to work", subcontracting non-union shops or temp/staffing agencies, etc.

cm -> Denis Drew...

Why would people join a union and pay dues when the union is largely impotent to deliver, when there are always still enough desperate people who will (have to) take jobs outside the union system? Employers don't have to bring in scabs when they can legally go through "unencumbered" subcontractors inside or outside the jurisdiction.

cm -> cm...

It comes down to the collective action problem. You can organize people who form a "community" (workers in the same business site, or similar aggregates more or less subject to Dunbar's number or with a strong tribal/ethnic/otherwise cohesion narrative). Beyond that, if you can get a soapbox in the regional press, etc., otherwise good luck. It probably sounds defeatist but I don't have a solution.

When the union management is outed for corruption or other abuses or questioable practices (e.g. itself employing temps or subcontractors), it doesn't help.

Syaloch said...

There was a good discussion of this on last Friday's Real Time with Bill Maher.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bl5kFZ-SZq4

Surprisingly, I pretty much agree with David Frum's analysis -- and Maher's comment that Trump, with his recent book, "Crippled America", has his finger on the pulse of this segment of the population. Essentially what we're seeing is the impact of economic stagnation upon a culture whose reserves of social capital have been depleted, as described in Robert Putnam's "Bowling Alone".

When the going gets tough it's a lot harder to manage without a sense of identity and purpose, and without the support of family, friends, churches, and communities. Facebook "friends" are no substitute for the real thing.

Peter K. said...

Jared Bernsetin:

"...since the late 1970s, we've been at full employment only 30 percent of the time (see the data note below for an explanation of how this is measured). For the three decades before that, the job market was at full employment 70 percent of the time."

We need better macro (monetary, fiscal, trade) policy.

Maybe middle-aged blacks and hispanics have better attitudes and health since they made it through a tough youth, have more realistic expectations and race relations are better than the bad old days even if they are far from perfect. The United States is becoming more multicultural.

Jesse said...

Credibility trap, fully engaged.

Jesse said...

The anti-knowledge of the elites is worth reading. http://billmoyers.com/2015/11/02/the-anti-knowledge-of-the-elites/ When such herd instinct and institutional overbearance connects with the credibility trap, the results may be impressive. http://jessescrossroadscafe.blogspot.com/2015/11/gold-daily-and-silver-weekly-charts-pop.html

Fred C. Dobbs said...

White, Middle-Age Suicide In America Skyrockets
Psychology Today - May 6, 2013
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/reading-between-the-headlines/201305/white-middle-age-suicide-in-america-skyrockets

Suicide, once thought to be associated with troubled teens and the elderly, is quickly becoming an age-blind statistic. Middle aged Americans are turning to suicide in alarming numbers. The reasons include easily accessible prescription painkillers, the mortgage crisis and most importantly the challenge of a troubled economy. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention claims suicide rates now top the number of deaths due to automobile accidents.

The suicide rate for both younger and older Americans remains virtually unchanged, however, the rate has spiked for those in middle age (35 to 64 years old) with a 28 percent increase (link is external) from 1999 to 2010. The rate for whites in middle-age jumped an alarming 40 percent during the same time frame. According to the CDC, there were more than 38,000 suicides (link is external) in 2010 making it the tenth leading cause of death in America overall (third leading cause from age 15-24).

The US 2010 Final Data quantifies the US statistics for suicide by race, sex and age. Interestingly, African-American suicides have declined and are considerably lower than whites. Reasons are thought to include better coping skills when negative things occur as well as different cultural norms with respect to taking your own life. Also, Blacks (and Hispanics) tend to have stronger family support, community support and church support to carry them through these rough times.

While money woes definitely contribute to stress and poor mental health, it can be devastating to those already prone to depression -- and depression is indeed still the number one risk factor for suicide. A person with no hope and nowhere to go, can now easily turn to their prescription painkiller and overdose, bringing the pain, stress and worry to an end. In fact, prescription painkillers were the third leading cause of suicide (and rising rapidly) for middle aged Americans in 2010 (guns are still number 1). ...

cm -> Fred C. Dobbs...

When few people kill themselves "on purpose" or die from self-inflicted but probably "unintended" harms (e.g. organ failure or accidental death caused by substance abuse), it can be shrugged off as problems related to the individual (more elaboration possible but not necessary).

When it becomes a statistically significant phenomenon (above-noise percentage of total population or demographically identifiable groups), then one has to ask questions about social causes. My first question would be, "what made life suck for those people"? What specific instrument they used to kill themselves would be my second question (it may be the first question for people who are charged with implementing counter measures but not necessarily fixing the causes).

Since about the financial crisis (I'm not sure about causation or coincidence - not accidental coincidence BTW but causation by the same underlying causes), there has been a disturbing pattern of high school students throwing themselves in front of local trains. At that age, drinking or drugging oneself to death is apparently not the first "choice". Performance pressure *related to* (not just "and") a lack of convincing career/life prospects has/have been suspected or named as a cause. I don't think teenagers suddenly started to jump in front of trains that have run the same rail line for decades because of the "usual" and centuries to millennia old teenage romantic relationship issues.

[Sep 22, 2019] The Despair of Learning That Experience No Longer Matters by Benjamin Wallace-Wells

Notable quotes:
"... If returns to experience are in decline, if wisdom no longer pays off, then that might help suggest why a group of mostly older people who are not, as a group, disadvantaged might become convinced that the country has taken a turn for the worse. It suggests why their grievances should so idealize the past, and why all the talk about coal miners and factories, jobs in which unions have codified returns to experience into the salary structure, might become such a fixation. ..."
Apr 12, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
RGC , April 12, 2017 at 06:41 AM
The Despair of Learning That Experience No Longer Matters

April 10, 2017

.....................

The arguments about Case and Deaton's work have been an echo of the one that consumed so much of the primary campaign, and then the general election, and which is still unresolved: whether the fury of Donald Trump's supporters came from cultural and racial grievance or from economic plight. Case and Deaton's scholarship does not settle the question. As they write, more than once, "more work is needed."

But part of what Case and Deaton offer in their new paper is an emotional logic to an economic argument.

If returns to experience are in decline, if wisdom no longer pays off, then that might help suggest why a group of mostly older people who are not, as a group, disadvantaged might become convinced that the country has taken a turn for the worse. It suggests why their grievances should so idealize the past, and why all the talk about coal miners and factories, jobs in which unions have codified returns to experience into the salary structure, might become such a fixation.

Whatever comes from the deliberations over Case and Deaton's statistics, there is within their numbers an especially interesting story.

http://www.newyorker.com/news/benjamin-wallace-wells/the-despair-of-learning-that-experience-no-longer-matters

[Sep 22, 2019] Neoliberalism Political Success, Economic Failure Portside by Robert Kuttner

Highly recommended!
The key to the success of neoliberal was a bunch on bought intellectual prostitutes like Milton Friedman and the drive to occupy economic departments of the the universities using money from the financial elite. which along with think tank continued mercenary army of neoliberalism who fought and win the battle with weakened New Del capitalism supporters. After that neoliberalism was from those departments like the centers of infection via indoctrination of each new generation of students. Which is a classic mixture of Bolsheviks methods and Trotskyite theory adapted tot he need of financial oligarchy.
Essentially we see the tragedy of Lysenkoism replayed in the USA. When false theory supported by financial oligarchy and then state forcefully suppressed all other economic thought and became the only politically correct theory in the USA and Western Europe.
Notable quotes:
"... The neoliberal counterrevolution, in theory and policy, has reversed or undermined nearly every aspect of managed capitalism -- from progressive taxation, welfare transfers, and antitrust, to the empowerment of workers and the regulation of banks and other major industries. ..."
"... Neoliberalism's premise is that free markets can regulate themselves; that government is inherently incompetent, captive to special interests, and an intrusion on the efficiency of the market; that in distributive terms, market outcomes are basically deserved; and that redistribution creates perverse incentives by punishing the economy's winners and rewarding its losers. So government should get out of the market's way. ..."
"... Now, after nearly half a century, the verdict is in. Virtually every one of these policies has failed, even on their own terms. ..."
"... Economic power has resulted in feedback loops of political power, in which elites make rules that bolster further concentration. ..."
"... The culprit isn't just "markets" -- some impersonal force that somehow got loose again. This is a story of power using theory. The mixed economy was undone by economic elites, who revised rules for their own benefit. They invested heavily in friendly theorists to bless this shift as sound and necessary economics, and friendly politicians to put those theories into practice. ..."
"... The grand neoliberal experiment of the past 40 years has demonstrated that markets in fact do not regulate themselves. Managed markets turn out to be more equitable and more efficient. ..."
"... The British political economist Colin Crouch captured this anomaly in a book nicely titled The Strange Non-Death of Neoliberalism . Why did neoliberalism not die? As Crouch observed, neoliberalism failed both as theory and as policy, but succeeded superbly as power politics for economic elites. ..."
"... The neoliberal ascendance has had another calamitous cost -- to democratic legitimacy. As government ceased to buffer market forces, daily life has become more of a struggle for ordinary people. ..."
"... After the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, ours was widely billed as an era when triumphant liberal capitalism would march hand in hand with liberal democracy. But in a few brief decades, the ostensibly secure regime of liberal democracy has collapsed in nation after nation, with echoes of the 1930s. ..."
"... As the great political historian Karl Polanyi warned, when markets overwhelm society, ordinary people often turn to tyrants. In regimes that border on neofascist, klepto-capitalists get along just fine with dictators, undermining the neoliberal premise of capitalism and democracy as complements. ..."
"... Classically, the premise of a "free market" is that government simply gets out of the way. This is nonsensical, since all markets are creatures of rules, most fundamentally rules defining property, but also rules defining credit, debt, and bankruptcy; rules defining patents, trademarks, and copyrights; rules defining terms of labor; and so on. Even deregulation requires rules. In Polanyi's words, "laissez-faire was planned." ..."
"... Around the same time, the term neoconservative was used as a self-description by former liberals who embraced conservatism, on cultural, racial, economic, and foreign-policy grounds. Neoconservatives were neoliberals in economics. ..."
"... Lavishly funded centers and tenured chairs were underwritten by the Olin, Scaife, Bradley, and other far-right foundations to promote such variants of free-market theory as law and economics, public choice, rational choice, cost-benefit analysis, maximize-shareholder-value, and kindred schools of thought. These theories colonized several academic disciplines. All were variations on the claim that markets worked and that government should get out of the way. ..."
"... Market failure was dismissed as a rare special case; government failure was said to be ubiquitous. Theorists worked hand in glove with lobbyists and with public officials. But in every major case where neoliberal theory generated policy, the result was political success and economic failure. ..."
"... For example, supply-side economics became the justification for tax cuts, on the premise that taxes punished enterprise. ..."
"... Robert Bork's "antitrust paradox," holding that antitrust enforcement actually weakened competition, was used as the doctrine to sideline the Sherman and Clayton Acts. Supposedly, if government just got out of the way, market forces would remain more competitive because monopoly pricing would invite innovation and new entrants to the market. In practice, industry after industry became more heavily concentrated. ..."
"... Human capital theory, another variant of neoliberal application of markets to partly social questions, justified deregulating labor markets and crushing labor unions. Unions supposedly used their power to get workers paid more than their market worth. Likewise minimum wage laws. But the era of depressed wages has actually seen a decline in rates of productivity growth ..."
"... Financial deregulation is neoliberalism's most palpable deregulatory failure, but far from the only one ..."
"... Air travel has been a poster child for advocates of deregulation, but the actual record is mixed at best. Airline deregulation produced serial bankruptcies of every major U.S. airline, often at the cost of worker pay and pension funds. ..."
"... Ticket prices have declined on average over the past two decades, but the traveling public suffers from a crazy quilt of fares, declining service, shrinking seats and legroom, and exorbitant penalties for the perfectly normal sin of having to change plans. ..."
"... A similar example is the privatization of transportation services such as highways and even parking meters. In several Midwestern states, toll roads have been sold to private vendors. The governor who makes the deal gains a temporary fiscal windfall, while drivers end up paying higher tolls often for decades. Investment bankers who broker the deal also take their cut. Some of the money does go into highway improvements, but that could have been done more efficiently in the traditional way via direct public ownership and competitive bidding. ..."
"... The Affordable Care Act is a form of voucher. But the regulated private insurance markets in the ACA have not fully lived up to their promise, in part because of the extensive market power retained by private insurers and in part because the right has relentlessly sought to sabotage the program -- another political feedback loop. The sponsors assumed that competition would lower costs and increase consumer choice. But in too many counties, there are three or fewer competing plans, and in some cases just one. ..."
"... In practice, this degenerates into an infinite regress of regulator versus commercial profit-maximizer, reminiscent of Mad magazine's "Spy versus Spy," with the industry doing end runs to Congress to further rig the rules. Straight-ahead public insurance such as Medicare is generally far more efficient. ..."
"... Several forms of deregulation -- of airlines, trucking, and electric power -- began not under Reagan but under Carter. Financial deregulation took off under Bill Clinton. Democratic presidents, as much as Republicans, promoted trade deals that undermined social standards. Cost-benefit analysis by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) was more of a choke point under Barack Obama than under George W. Bush. ..."
"... Dozens of nations, from Latin America to East Asia, went through this cycle of boom, bust, and then IMF pile-on. Greece is still suffering the impact. ..."
"... In fact, Japan, South Korea, smaller Asian nations, and above all China had thrived by rejecting every major tenet of neoliberalism. Their capital markets were tightly regulated and insulated from foreign speculative capital. They developed world-class industries as state-led cartels that favored domestic production and supply. East Asia got into trouble only when it followed IMF dictates to throw open capital markets, and in the aftermath they recovered by closing those markets and assembling war chests of hard currency so that they'd never again have to go begging to the IMF ..."
"... The basic argument of neoliberalism can fit on a bumper sticker. Markets work; governments don't . If you want to embellish that story, there are two corollaries: Markets embody human freedom. And with markets, people basically get what they deserve; to alter market outcomes is to spoil the poor and punish the productive. That conclusion logically flows from the premise that markets are efficient. Milton Friedman became rich, famous, and influential by teasing out the several implications of these simple premises. ..."
"... The failed neoliberal experiment also makes the case not just for better-regulated capitalism but for direct public alternatives as well. Banking, done properly, especially the provision of mortgage finance, is close to a public utility. Much of it could be public. ..."
Aug 25, 2019 | portside.org
The invisible hand is more like a thumb on the scale for the world's elites. That's why market fundamentalism has been unmasked as bogus economics but keeps winning politically. This article appears in the Summer 2019 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here .

Since the late 1970s, we've had a grand experiment to test the claim that free markets really do work best. This resurrection occurred despite the practical failure of laissez-faire in the 1930s, the resulting humiliation of free-market theory, and the contrasting success of managed capitalism during the three-decade postwar boom.

Yet when growth faltered in the 1970s, libertarian economic theory got another turn at bat. This revival proved extremely convenient for the conservatives who came to power in the 1980s. The neoliberal counterrevolution, in theory and policy, has reversed or undermined nearly every aspect of managed capitalism -- from progressive taxation, welfare transfers, and antitrust, to the empowerment of workers and the regulation of banks and other major industries.

Neoliberalism's premise is that free markets can regulate themselves; that government is inherently incompetent, captive to special interests, and an intrusion on the efficiency of the market; that in distributive terms, market outcomes are basically deserved; and that redistribution creates perverse incentives by punishing the economy's winners and rewarding its losers. So government should get out of the market's way.

By the 1990s, even moderate liberals had been converted to the belief that social objectives can be achieved by harnessing the power of markets. Intermittent periods of governance by Democratic presidents slowed but did not reverse the slide to neoliberal policy and doctrine. The corporate wing of the Democratic Party approved.

Now, after nearly half a century, the verdict is in. Virtually every one of these policies has failed, even on their own terms. Enterprise has been richly rewarded, taxes have been cut, and regulation reduced or privatized. The economy is vastly more unequal, yet economic growth is slower and more chaotic than during the era of managed capitalism. Deregulation has produced not salutary competition, but market concentration. Economic power has resulted in feedback loops of political power, in which elites make rules that bolster further concentration.

The culprit isn't just "markets" -- some impersonal force that somehow got loose again. This is a story of power using theory. The mixed economy was undone by economic elites, who revised rules for their own benefit. They invested heavily in friendly theorists to bless this shift as sound and necessary economics, and friendly politicians to put those theories into practice.

Recent years have seen two spectacular cases of market mispricing with devastating consequences: the near-depression of 2008 and irreversible climate change. The economic collapse of 2008 was the result of the deregulation of finance. It cost the real U.S. economy upwards of $15 trillion (and vastly more globally), depending on how you count, far more than any conceivable efficiency gain that might be credited to financial innovation. Free-market theory presumes that innovation is necessarily benign. But much of the financial engineering of the deregulatory era was self-serving, opaque, and corrupt -- the opposite of an efficient and transparent market.

The existential threat of global climate change reflects the incompetence of markets to accurately price carbon and the escalating costs of pollution. The British economist Nicholas Stern has aptly termed the worsening climate catastrophe history's greatest case of market failure. Here again, this is not just the result of failed theory. The entrenched political power of extractive industries and their political allies influences the rules and the market price of carbon. This is less an invisible hand than a thumb on the scale. The premise of efficient markets provides useful cover.

The grand neoliberal experiment of the past 40 years has demonstrated that markets in fact do not regulate themselves. Managed markets turn out to be more equitable and more efficient. Yet the theory and practical influence of neoliberalism marches splendidly on, because it is so useful to society's most powerful people -- as a scholarly veneer to what would otherwise be a raw power grab. The British political economist Colin Crouch captured this anomaly in a book nicely titled The Strange Non-Death of Neoliberalism . Why did neoliberalism not die? As Crouch observed, neoliberalism failed both as theory and as policy, but succeeded superbly as power politics for economic elites.

The neoliberal ascendance has had another calamitous cost -- to democratic legitimacy. As government ceased to buffer market forces, daily life has become more of a struggle for ordinary people. The elements of a decent middle-class life are elusive -- reliable jobs and careers, adequate pensions, secure medical care, affordable housing, and college that doesn't require a lifetime of debt. Meanwhile, life has become ever sweeter for economic elites, whose income and wealth have pulled away and whose loyalty to place, neighbor, and nation has become more contingent and less reliable.

Large numbers of people, in turn, have given up on the promise of affirmative government, and on democracy itself. After the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, ours was widely billed as an era when triumphant liberal capitalism would march hand in hand with liberal democracy. But in a few brief decades, the ostensibly secure regime of liberal democracy has collapsed in nation after nation, with echoes of the 1930s.

As the great political historian Karl Polanyi warned, when markets overwhelm society, ordinary people often turn to tyrants. In regimes that border on neofascist, klepto-capitalists get along just fine with dictators, undermining the neoliberal premise of capitalism and democracy as complements. Several authoritarian thugs, playing on tribal nationalism as the antidote to capitalist cosmopolitanism, are surprisingly popular.

It's also important to appreciate that neoliberalism is not laissez-faire. Classically, the premise of a "free market" is that government simply gets out of the way. This is nonsensical, since all markets are creatures of rules, most fundamentally rules defining property, but also rules defining credit, debt, and bankruptcy; rules defining patents, trademarks, and copyrights; rules defining terms of labor; and so on. Even deregulation requires rules. In Polanyi's words, "laissez-faire was planned."

The political question is who gets to make the rules, and for whose benefit. The neoliberalism of Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman invoked free markets, but in practice the neoliberal regime has promoted rules created by and for private owners of capital, to keep democratic government from asserting rules of fair competition or countervailing social interests. The regime has rules protecting pharmaceutical giants from the right of consumers to import prescription drugs or to benefit from generics. The rules of competition and intellectual property generally have been tilted to protect incumbents. Rules of bankruptcy have been tilted in favor of creditors. Deceptive mortgages require elaborate rules, written by the financial sector and then enforced by government. Patent rules have allowed agribusiness and giant chemical companies like Monsanto to take over much of agriculture -- the opposite of open markets. Industry has invented rules requiring employees and consumers to submit to binding arbitration and to relinquish a range of statutory and common-law rights.

Neoliberalism as Theory, Policy, and Power

It's worth taking a moment to unpack the term "neoliberalism." The coinage can be confusing to American ears because the "liberal" part refers not to the word's ordinary American usage, meaning moderately left-of-center, but to classical economic liberalism otherwise known as free-market economics. The "neo" part refers to the reassertion of the claim that the laissez-faire model of the economy was basically correct after all.

Few proponents of these views embraced the term neoliberal . Mostly, they called themselves free-market conservatives. "Neoliberal" was a coinage used mainly by their critics, sometimes as a neutral descriptive term, sometimes as an epithet. The use became widespread in the era of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

To add to the confusion, a different and partly overlapping usage was advanced in the 1970s by the group around the Washington Monthly magazine. They used "neoliberal" to mean a new, less statist form of American liberalism. Around the same time, the term neoconservative was used as a self-description by former liberals who embraced conservatism, on cultural, racial, economic, and foreign-policy grounds. Neoconservatives were neoliberals in economics.

Beginning in the 1970s, resurrected free-market theory was interwoven with both conservative politics and significant investments in the production of theorists and policy intellectuals. This occurred not just in well-known conservative think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute, Heritage, Cato, and the Manhattan Institute, but through more insidious investments in academia. Lavishly funded centers and tenured chairs were underwritten by the Olin, Scaife, Bradley, and other far-right foundations to promote such variants of free-market theory as law and economics, public choice, rational choice, cost-benefit analysis, maximize-shareholder-value, and kindred schools of thought. These theories colonized several academic disciplines. All were variations on the claim that markets worked and that government should get out of the way.

Each of these bodies of sub-theory relied upon its own variant of neoliberal ideology. An intensified version of the theory of comparative advantage was used not just to cut tariffs but to use globalization as all-purpose deregulation. The theory of maximizing shareholder value was deployed to undermine the entire range of financial regulation and workers' rights. Cost-benefit analysis, emphasizing costs and discounting benefits, was used to discredit a good deal of health, safety, and environmental regulation. Public choice theory, associated with the economist James Buchanan and an entire ensuing school of economics and political science, was used to impeach democracy itself, on the premise that policies were hopelessly afflicted by "rent-seekers" and "free-riders."

Click here to read how Robert Kuttner has been unmasking the fallacies of neoliberalism for decades

Market failure was dismissed as a rare special case; government failure was said to be ubiquitous. Theorists worked hand in glove with lobbyists and with public officials. But in every major case where neoliberal theory generated policy, the result was political success and economic failure.

For example, supply-side economics became the justification for tax cuts, on the premise that taxes punished enterprise. Supposedly, if taxes were cut, especially taxes on capital and on income from capital, the resulting spur to economic activity would be so potent that deficits would be far less than predicted by "static" economic projections, and perhaps even pay for themselves. There have been six rounds of this experiment, from the tax cuts sponsored by Jimmy Carter in 1978 to the immense 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed by Donald Trump. In every case some economic stimulus did result, mainly from the Keynesian jolt to demand, but in every case deficits increased significantly. Conservatives simply stopped caring about deficits. The tax cuts were often inefficient as well as inequitable, since the loopholes steered investment to tax-favored uses rather than the most economically logical ones. Dozens of America's most profitable corporations paid no taxes.

Robert Bork's "antitrust paradox," holding that antitrust enforcement actually weakened competition, was used as the doctrine to sideline the Sherman and Clayton Acts. Supposedly, if government just got out of the way, market forces would remain more competitive because monopoly pricing would invite innovation and new entrants to the market. In practice, industry after industry became more heavily concentrated. Incumbents got in the habit of buying out innovators or using their market power to crush them. This pattern is especially insidious in the tech economy of platform monopolies, where giants that provide platforms, such as Google and Amazon, use their market power and superior access to customer data to out-compete rivals who use their platforms. Markets, once again, require rules beyond the benign competence of the market actors themselves. Only democratic government can set equitable rules. And when democracy falters, undemocratic governments in cahoots with corrupt private plutocrats will make the rules.

Human capital theory, another variant of neoliberal application of markets to partly social questions, justified deregulating labor markets and crushing labor unions. Unions supposedly used their power to get workers paid more than their market worth. Likewise minimum wage laws. But the era of depressed wages has actually seen a decline in rates of productivity growth. Conversely, does any serious person think that the inflated pay of the financial moguls who crashed the economy accurately reflects their contribution to economic activity? In the case of hedge funds and private equity, the high incomes of fund sponsors are the result of transfers of wealth and income from employees, other stakeholders, and operating companies to the fund managers, not the fruits of more efficient management.

There is a broad literature discrediting this body of pseudo-scholarly work in great detail. Much of neoliberalism represents the ever-reliable victory of assumption over evidence. Yet neoliberal theory lived on because it was so convenient for elites, and because of the inertial power of the intellectual capital that had been created. The well-funded neoliberal habitat has provided comfortable careers for two generations of scholars and pseudo-scholars who migrate between academia, think tanks, K Street, op-ed pages, government, Wall Street, and back again. So even if the theory has been demolished both by scholarly rebuttal and by events, it thrives in powerful institutions and among their political allies.

The Practical Failure of Neoliberal Policies

Financial deregulation is neoliberalism's most palpable deregulatory failure, but far from the only one. Electricity deregulation on balance has increased monopoly power and raised costs to consumers, but has failed to offer meaningful "shopping around" opportunities to bring down prices. We have gone from regulated monopolies with predictable earnings, costs, wages, and consumer protections to deregulated monopolies or oligopolies with substantial pricing power. Since the Bell breakup, the telephone system tells a similar story of re-concentration, dwindling competition, price-gouging, and union-bashing.

Air travel has been a poster child for advocates of deregulation, but the actual record is mixed at best. Airline deregulation produced serial bankruptcies of every major U.S. airline, often at the cost of worker pay and pension funds.

Ticket prices have declined on average over the past two decades, but the traveling public suffers from a crazy quilt of fares, declining service, shrinking seats and legroom, and exorbitant penalties for the perfectly normal sin of having to change plans. Studies have shown that fares actually declined at a faster rate in the 20 years before deregulation in 1978 than in the 20 years afterward, because the prime source of greater efficiency in airline travel is the introduction of more fuel-efficient planes.

The roller-coaster experience of airline profits and losses has reduced the capacity of airlines to purchase more fuel-efficient aircraft, and the average age of the fleet keeps increasing. The use of "fortress hubs" to defend market pricing power has reduced the percentage of nonstop flights, the most efficient way to fly from one point to another.

Robert Bork's spurious arguments that antitrust enforcement hurt competition became the basis for dismantling antitrust. Massive concentration resulted. Charles Tasnadi/AP Photo

In addition to deregulation, three prime areas of practical neoliberal policies are the use of vouchers as "market-like" means to social goals, the privatization of public services, and the use of tax subsides rather than direct outlays. In every case, government revenues are involved, so this is far from a free market to begin with. But the premise is that market disciplines can achieve public purposes more efficiently than direct public provision.

The evidence provides small comfort for these claims. One core problem is that the programs invariably give too much to the for-profit middlemen at the expense of the intended beneficiaries. A related problem is that the process of using vouchers and contracts invites corruption. It is a different form of "rent-seeking" -- pursuit of monopoly profits -- than that attributed to government by public choice theorists, but corruption nonetheless. Often, direct public provision is far more transparent and accountable than a web of contractors.

A further problem is that in practice there is often far less competition than imagined, because of oligopoly power, vendor lock-in, and vendor political influence. These experiments in marketization to serve social goals do not operate in some Platonic policy laboratory, where the only objective is true market efficiency yoked to the public good. They operate in the grubby world of practical politics, where the vendors are closely allied with conservative politicians whose purposes may be to discredit social transfers entirely, or to reward corporate allies, or to benefit from kickbacks either directly or as campaign contributions.

Privatized prisons are a case in point. A few large, scandal-ridden companies have gotten most of the contracts, often through political influence. Far from bringing better quality and management efficiency, they have profited by diverting operating funds and worsening conditions that were already deplorable, and finding new ways to charge inmates higher fees for necessary services such as phone calls. To the extent that money was actually saved, most of the savings came from reducing the pay and professionalism of guards, increasing overcrowding, and decreasing already inadequate budgets for food and medical care.

A similar example is the privatization of transportation services such as highways and even parking meters. In several Midwestern states, toll roads have been sold to private vendors. The governor who makes the deal gains a temporary fiscal windfall, while drivers end up paying higher tolls often for decades. Investment bankers who broker the deal also take their cut. Some of the money does go into highway improvements, but that could have been done more efficiently in the traditional way via direct public ownership and competitive bidding.

Housing vouchers substantially reward landlords who use the vouchers to fill empty houses with poor people until the neighborhood gentrifies, at which point the owner is free to quit the program and charge market rentals. Thus public funds are used to underwrite a privately owned, quasi-social housing sector -- whose social character is only temporary. No permanent social housing is produced despite the extensive public outlay. The companion use of tax incentives to attract passive investment in affordable housing promotes economically inefficient tax shelters, and shunts public funds into the pockets of the investors -- money that might otherwise have gone directly to the housing.

The Affordable Care Act is a form of voucher. But the regulated private insurance markets in the ACA have not fully lived up to their promise, in part because of the extensive market power retained by private insurers and in part because the right has relentlessly sought to sabotage the program -- another political feedback loop. The sponsors assumed that competition would lower costs and increase consumer choice. But in too many counties, there are three or fewer competing plans, and in some cases just one.

As more insurance plans and hospital systems become for-profit, massive investment goes into such wasteful activities as manipulation of billing, "risk selection," and other gaming of the rules. Our mixed-market system of health care requires massive regulation to work with tolerable efficiency. In practice, this degenerates into an infinite regress of regulator versus commercial profit-maximizer, reminiscent of Mad magazine's "Spy versus Spy," with the industry doing end runs to Congress to further rig the rules. Straight-ahead public insurance such as Medicare is generally far more efficient.

An extensive literature has demonstrated that for-profit voucher schools do no better and often do worse than comparable public schools, and are vulnerable to multiple forms of gaming and corruption. Proprietors of voucher schools are superb at finding ways of excluding costly special-needs students, so that those costs are imposed on what remains of public schools; they excel at gaming test results. While some voucher and charter schools, especially nonprofit ones, sometimes improve on average school performance, so do many public schools. The record is also muddied by the fact that many ostensibly nonprofit schools contract out management to for-profit companies.

Tax preferences have long been used ostensibly to serve social goals. The Earned Income Tax Credit is considered one of the more successful cases of using market-like measures -- in this case a refundable tax credit -- to achieve the social goal of increasing worker take-home pay. It has also been touted as the rare case of bipartisan collaboration. Liberals get more money for workers. Conservatives get to reward the deserving poor, since the EITC is conditioned on employment. Conservatives get a further ideological win, since the EITC is effectively a wage subsidy from the government, but is experienced as a tax refund rather than a benefit of government.

Recent research, however, shows that the EITC is primarily a subsidy of low-wage employers, who are able to pay their workers a lot less than a market-clearing wage. In industries such as nursing homes or warehouses, where many workers qualified for the EITC work side by side with ones not eligible, the non-EITC workers get substandard wages. The existence of the EITC depresses the level of the wages that have to come out of the employer's pocket.

Neoliberalism's Influence on Liberals

As free-market theory resurged, many moderate liberals embraced these policies. In the inflationary 1970s, regulation became a scapegoat that supposedly deterred salutary price competition. Some, such as economist Alfred Kahn, President Carter's adviser on deregulation, supported deregulation on what he saw as the merits. Other moderates supported neoliberal policies opportunistically, to curry favor with powerful industries and donors. Market-like policies were also embraced by liberals as a tactical way to find common ground with conservatives.

Several forms of deregulation -- of airlines, trucking, and electric power -- began not under Reagan but under Carter. Financial deregulation took off under Bill Clinton. Democratic presidents, as much as Republicans, promoted trade deals that undermined social standards. Cost-benefit analysis by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) was more of a choke point under Barack Obama than under George W. Bush.

"Command and control" became an all-purpose pejorative for disparaging perfectly sensible and efficient regulation. "Market-like" became a fashionable concept, not just on the free-market right but on the moderate left. Cass Sunstein, who served as Obama's anti-regulation czar,uses the example of "nudges" as a more market-like and hence superior alternative to direct regulation, though with rare exceptions their impact is trivial. Moreover, nudges only work in tandem with regulation.

There are indeed some interventionist policies that use market incentives to serve social goals. But contrary to free-market theory, the market-like incentives first require substantial regulation and are not a substitute for it. A good example is the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, which used tradable emission rights to cut the output of sulfur dioxide, the cause of acid rain. This was supported by both the George H.W. Bush administration and by leading Democrats. But before the trading regime could work, Congress first had to establish permissible ceilings on sulfur dioxide output -- pure command and control.

There are many other instances, such as nutrition labeling, truth-in-lending, and disclosure of EPA gas mileage results, where the market-like premise of a better-informed consumer complements command regulation but is no substitute for it. Nearly all of the increase in fuel efficiency, for example, is the result of command regulations that require auto fleets to hit a gas mileage target. The fact that EPA gas mileage figures are prominently disclosed on new car stickers may have modest influence, but motor fuels are so underpriced that car companies have success selling gas-guzzlers despite the consumer labeling.

Image removed

Bill Clinton and his Treasury Secretary, Robert Rubin, were big promoters of financial deregulation.

Politically, whatever rationale there was for liberals to make common ground with libertarians is now largely gone. The authors of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made no attempt to meet Democrats partway; they excluded the opposition from the legislative process entirely. This was opportunistic tax cutting for elites, pure and simple. The right today also abandoned the quest for a middle ground on environmental policy, on anti-poverty policy, on health policy -- on virtually everything. Neoliberal ideology did its historic job of weakening intellectual and popular support for the proposition that affirmative government can better the lives of citizens and that the Democratic Party is a reliable steward of that social compact. Since Reagan, the right's embrace of the free market has evolved from partly principled idealism into pure opportunism and obstruction.

Neoliberalism and Hyper-Globalism

The post-1990 rules of globalization, supported by conservatives and moderate liberals alike, are the quintessence of neoliberalism. At Bretton Woods in 1944, the use of fixed exchange rates and controls on speculative private capital, plus the creation of the IMFand World Bank, were intended to allow member countries to practice national forms of managed capitalism, insulated from the destructive and deflationary influences of short-term speculative private capital flows. As doctrine and power shifted in the 1970s, the IMF, the World Bank, and later the WTO, which replaced the old GATT, mutated into their ideological opposite. Rather than instruments of support for mixed national economies, they became enforcers of neoliberal policies.

The standard package of the "Washington Consensus" of approved policies for developing nations included demands that they open their capital markets to speculative private finance, as well as cutting taxes on capital, weakening social transfers, and gutting labor regulation and public ownership. But private capital investment in poor countries proved to be fickle. The result was often excessive inflows during the boom part of the cycle and punitive withdrawals during the bust -- the opposite of the patient, long-term development capital that these countries needed and that was provided by the World Bank of an earlier era. During the bust phase, the IMF typically imposes even more stringent neoliberal demands as the price of financial bailouts, including perverse budgetary austerity, supposedly to restore the confidence of the very speculative capital markets responsible for the boom-bust cycle.

Dozens of nations, from Latin America to East Asia, went through this cycle of boom, bust, and then IMF pile-on. Greece is still suffering the impact. After 1990, hyper-globalism also included trade treaties whose terms favored multinational corporations. Traditionally, trade agreements had been mainly about reciprocal reductions of tariffs. Nations were free to have whatever brand of regulation, public investment, or social policies they chose. With the advent of the WTO, many policies other than tariffs were branded as trade distorting, even as takings without compensation. Trade deals were used to give foreign capital free access and to dismantle national regulation and public ownership. Special courts were created in which foreign corporations and investors could do end runs around national authorities to challenge regulation for impeding commerce.

At first, the sponsors of the new trade regime tried to claim the successful economies of East Asia as evidence of the success of the neoliberal recipe. Supposedly, these nations had succeeded by pursuing "export-led growth," exposing their domestic economies to salutary competition. But these claims were soon exposed as the opposite of what had actually occurred. In fact, Japan, South Korea, smaller Asian nations, and above all China had thrived by rejecting every major tenet of neoliberalism. Their capital markets were tightly regulated and insulated from foreign speculative capital. They developed world-class industries as state-led cartels that favored domestic production and supply. East Asia got into trouble only when it followed IMF dictates to throw open capital markets, and in the aftermath they recovered by closing those markets and assembling war chests of hard currency so that they'd never again have to go begging to the IMF. Enthusiasts of hyper-globalization also claimed that it benefited poor countries by increasing export opportunities, but as the success of East Asia shows, there is more than one way to boost exports -- and many poorer countries suffered under the terms of the global neoliberal regime.

Nor was the damage confined to the developing world. As the work of Harvard economist Dani Rodrik has demonstrated, democracy requires a polity. For better or for worse, the polity and democratic citizenship are national. By enhancing the global market at the expense of the democratic state, the current brand of hyper-globalization deliberately weakens the capacity of states to regulate markets, and weakens democracy itself.

When Do Markets Work?

The failure of neoliberalism as economic and social policy does not mean that markets never work. A command economy is even more utopian and perverse than a neoliberal one. The practical quest is for an efficient and equitable middle ground.

The neoliberal story of how the economy operates assumes a largely frictionless marketplace, where prices are set by supply and demand, and the price mechanism allocates resources to their optimal use in the economy as a whole. For this discipline to work as advertised, however, there can be no market power, competition must be plentiful, sellers and buyers must have roughly equal information, and there can be no significant externalities. Much of the 20th century was practical proof that these conditions did not describe a good part of the actual economy. And if markets priced things wrong, the market system did not aggregate to an efficient equilibrium, and depressions could become self-deepening. As Keynes demonstrated, only a massive jolt of government spending could restart the engines, even if market pricing was partly violated in the process.

Nonetheless, in many sectors of the economy, the process of buying and selling is close enough to the textbook conditions of perfect competition that the price system works tolerably well. Supermarkets, for instance, deliver roughly accurate prices because of the consumer's freedom and knowledge to shop around. Likewise much of retailing. However, when we get into major realms of the economy with positive or negative externalities, such as education and health, markets are not sufficient. And in other major realms, such as pharmaceuticals, where corporations use their political power to rig the terms of patents, the market doesn't produce a cure.

The basic argument of neoliberalism can fit on a bumper sticker. Markets work; governments don't . If you want to embellish that story, there are two corollaries: Markets embody human freedom. And with markets, people basically get what they deserve; to alter market outcomes is to spoil the poor and punish the productive. That conclusion logically flows from the premise that markets are efficient. Milton Friedman became rich, famous, and influential by teasing out the several implications of these simple premises.

It is much harder to articulate the case for a mixed economy than the case for free markets, precisely because the mixed economy is mixed. The rebuttal takes several paragraphs. The more complex story holds that markets are substantially efficient in some realms but far from efficient in others, because of positive and negative externalities, the tendency of financial markets to create cycles of boom and bust, the intersection of self-interest and corruption, the asymmetry of information between company and consumer, the asymmetry of power between corporation and employee, the power of the powerful to rig the rules, and the fact that there are realms of human life (the right to vote, human liberty, security of one's person) that should not be marketized.

And if markets are not perfectly efficient, then distributive questions are partly political choices. Some societies pay pre-K teachers the minimum wage as glorified babysitters. Others educate and compensate them as professionals. There is no "correct" market-derived wage, because pre-kindergarten is a social good and the issue of how to train and compensate teachers is a social choice, not a market choice. The same is true of the other human services, including medicine. Nor is there a theoretically correct set of rules for patents, trademarks, and copyrights. These are politically derived, either balancing the interests of innovation with those of diffusion -- or being politically captured by incumbent industries.

Governments can in principle improve on market outcomes via regulation, but that fact is complicated by the risk of regulatory capture. So another issue that arises is market failure versus polity failure, which brings us back to the urgency of strong democracy and effective government.

After Neoliberalism

The political reversal of neoliberalism can only come through practical politics and policies that demonstrate how government often can serve citizens more equitably and efficiently than markets. Revision of theory will take care of itself. There is no shortage of dissenting theorists and empirical policy researchers whose scholarly work has been vindicated by events. What they need is not more theory but more influence, both in the academy and in the corridors of power. They are available to advise a new progressive administration, if that administration can get elected and if it refrains from hiring neoliberal advisers.

There are also some relatively new areas that invite policy innovation. These include regulation of privacy rights versus entrepreneurial liberties in the digital realm; how to think of the internet as a common carrier; how to update competition and antitrust policy as platform monopolies exert new forms of market power; how to modernize labor-market policy in the era of the gig economy; and the role of deeper income supplements as machines replace human workers.

The failed neoliberal experiment also makes the case not just for better-regulated capitalism but for direct public alternatives as well. Banking, done properly, especially the provision of mortgage finance, is close to a public utility. Much of it could be public. A great deal of research is done more honestly and more cost-effectively in public, peer-reviewed institutions such as the NIH than by a substantially corrupt private pharmaceutical industry.

Social housing often is more cost-effective than so-called public-private partnerships. Public power is more efficient to generate, less prone to monopolistic price-gouging, and friendlier to the needed green transition than private power. The public option in health care is far more efficient than the current crazy quilt in which each layer of complexity adds opacity and cost. Public provision does require public oversight, but that is more straightforward and transparent than the byzantine dance of regulation and counter-regulation.

The two other benefits of direct public provision are that the public gets direct evidence of government delivering something of value, and that the countervailing power of democracy to harness markets is enhanced. A mixed economy depends above all on a strong democracy -- one even stronger than the democracy that succumbed to the corrupting influence of economic elites and their neoliberal intellectual allies beginning half a century ago. The antidote to the resurrected neoliberal fable is the resurrection of democracy -- strong enough to tame the market in a way that tames it for keeps.


Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, and professor at Brandeis University's Heller School. His latest book is The Stakes: 2020 and the Survival of American Democracy . In addition to writing for the Prospect, he writes for HuffPost, The Boston Globe, and The New York Review of Books.

Read the original article at Prospect.org.

Used with the permission. © The American Prospect, Prospect.org, 2019. All rights reserved.

Click here to support the Prospect's brand of independent impact journalism.

[Sep 15, 2019] Wall Street Ignores Cyclical Jobs Growth Downturn As Employment Indicator Hits Great Recession Levels

Notable quotes:
"... Most of the ads for good jobs are fake. ..."
"... Instead of submitting a general application, as used to be the case in the past, and have the ability to work with the company to find the role that works best. HR has ruined a lot of good companies and their recruiting processes by going to rigid job descriptions instead of just hiring smart people and letting them work. ..."
Sep 15, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

The Economic Cycle Research Institute's (ECRI) Lakshman Achuthan recently sat down with CNBC's Michael Santoli to discuss the jobs growth downturn. Keep in mind, this conversation was held on Wednesday, several days before Friday's disappointing jobs report.

Achuthan told Santoli there's a " very clear cyclical downturn in jobs growth, there's really no debating that, and it looks set to continue ."

Achuthan said January 2019 marked the cyclical peak in jobs growth, has been moving lower ever since, and the trend is far from over. Both nonfarm payrolls and the household survey year-over-year growth are in cyclical downturns, he said. While the economic narratives via the mainstream financial press continue to cheerlead that the consumer will lift all tides thanks to the supposedly strong jobs market, Achuthan believes the downturn in jobs growth will start to "undermine consumer confidence." And it's the loss in consumer confidence that could tilt the economy into recession.

He also said when examining cyclically sensitive sectors of the economy, there are already "questionable jobs numbers," such as a significant surge in the construction unemployment rate.

Achuthan said nonfarm payroll growth has plunged to a 17-month low, and the household survey is even weaker. He said the top nonfarm payroll line would be revised down by half a million jobs in the coming months, which would underline the weakness in employment.

Achuthan emphasized to Santoli that ECRI's recession call won't be "taken off the table. We've been talking about a growth rate cycle slowdown. We're slow-walking toward -- some recessionary window of vulnerability -- we're not there today -- but this piece of the puzzle [jobs growth downturn] is looking a bit wobbly. This is the main message that Wall Street is missing."

As Wall Street bids stocks to near-record highs on "trade optimism" and the belief that the consumer will save the day, in large part because of solid jobs growth. ECRI's Leading Employment Index, which correctly anticipated this downturn in jobs growth, is at its worst reading since the Great Recession .

And Wall Street's bet today is that the Fed can achieve a soft landing – as in 1995-96 – when it started the rate cut cycle the same month the inflation downturn was signaled by the U.S. Future Inflation Gauge (USFIG) turning lower.

However, this time around, the inflation downturn signal arrived in September 2018, the moment when the Fed should have started the cut cycle. With a ten-month lag in the cut cycle, belated rate cuts have always been associated with recession.

And now it should become increasingly clear to readers why President Trump has sounded the alarm about the need for 100bps rate cuts, quantitative easing, and emergency payroll tax cuts - it's because he's been briefed about the economic downturn that has already started.


GotAFriendInBen , 15 minutes ago link

Actually, MSM cheerleads rate cuts as the cure-all, instead of throwing shoes at Powell

Keyser , 41 minutes ago link

How do you continue to have jobs growth when the country is at full employment?

Typical ******** from C-NBC...

Alex Droog , 19 minutes ago link

The network that employs dotards like Jim Cramer to cheerlead the lemmings.

Build-It-Well , 1 hour ago link

Have we learned anything?

https://soundcloud.com/daniel-sullivan-505714723/little-saigon-report-170-have-we-learned-anything

Art_Vandelay , 1 hour ago link

I don't agree with him that the Fed can do anything to correct this, nor do they have an incentive to do so. The Fed is not on the consumer's side. They will appropriate funds to whoever they want to, just like 08, and give the middle finger to everyone else.

pitz , 1 hour ago link

Job quality is horrible, particularly for US citizen STEM workers. This has been the case since the downturn that began in the late 1990s. Trump needs to fully cancel the OPT program and almost eliminate the H-1B program. Major employers don't even bother considering US citizen STEM talent before they hire foreign nationals.

pump and dump , 1 hour ago link

Most of the ads for good jobs are fake.

pitz , 1 hour ago link

Yes, but they don't bother to come out and tell you its a fake ad. One of the tragedies of the online job application process is that it forces a person, with little to no knowledge of a company and its internals, to pick, out of potentially hundreds of roles, which one would be best for them.

Instead of submitting a general application, as used to be the case in the past, and have the ability to work with the company to find the role that works best. HR has ruined a lot of good companies and their recruiting processes by going to rigid job descriptions instead of just hiring smart people and letting them work.

ZD1 , 1 hour ago link

Congress first established the H-1B program with the The Immigration Act of 1990. It was supposed to be temporary.

Congress needs to abolish it.

Future Jim , 2 hours ago link

This seems to contradict the labor participation rate.

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/CIVPART

J S Bach , 2 hours ago link

"Wall Street Ignores Cyclical Slave Growth Downturn As Enslavement Indicator Hits Great Recession Levels"

Ahhh... what truth a few seconds of editing can convoke.

The EveryThing Bubble , 2 hours ago link

It's all rigged folks

don't believe anything you read

[Sep 10, 2019] Neoliberal Capitalism at a Dead End by Utsa Patnaik and Prabhat Patnaik

Highly recommended!
This is a Marxist critique of neoliberalism. Not necessary right but they his some relevant points.
Notable quotes:
"... The ideology of neoliberal capitalism was the promise of growth. But with neoliberal capitalism reaching a dead end, this promise disappears and so does this ideological prop. ..."
"... The ex ante tendency toward overproduction arises because the vector of real wages across countries does not increase noticeably over time in the world economy, while the vector of labor productivities does, typically resulting in a rise in the share of surplus in world output. ..."
"... While the rise in the vector of labor productivities across countries, a ubiquitous phenomenon under capitalism that also characterizes neoliberal capitalism, scarcely requires an explanation, why does the vector of real wages remain virtually stagnant in the world economy? The answer lies in the sui generis character of contemporary globalization that, for the first time in the history of capitalism, has led to a relocation of activity from the metropolis to third world countries in order to take advantage of the lower wages prevailing in the latter and meet global demand. ..."
"... The current globalization broke with this. The movement of capital from the metropolis to the third world, especially to East, South, and Southeast Asia to relocate plants there and take advantage of their lower wages for meeting global demand, has led to a desegmentation of the world economy, subjecting metropolitan wages to the restraining effect exercised by the third world's labor reserves. Not surprisingly, as Joseph Stiglitz has pointed out, the real-wage rate of an average male U.S. worker in 2011 was no higher -- indeed, it was marginally lower -- than it had been in 1968. 5 ..."
"... This ever-present opposition becomes decisive within a regime of globalization. As long as finance capital remains national -- that is, nation-based -- and the state is a nation-state, the latter can override this opposition under certain circumstances, such as in the post-Second World War period when capitalism was facing an existential crisis. But when finance capital is globalized, meaning, when it is free to move across country borders while the state remains a nation-state, its opposition to fiscal deficits becomes decisive. If the state does run large fiscal deficits against its wishes, then it would simply leave that country en masse , causing a financial crisis. ..."
"... The state therefore capitulates to the demands of globalized finance capital and eschews direct fiscal intervention for increasing demand. It resorts to monetary policy instead since that operates through wealth holders' decisions, and hence does not undermine their social position. But, precisely for this reason, monetary policy is an ineffective instrument, as was evident in the United States in the aftermath of the 2007–09 crisis when even the pushing of interest rates down to zero scarcely revived activity. 6 ..."
"... If Trump's protectionism, which recalls the Smoot-Hawley tariff of 1931 and amounts to a beggar-my-neighbor policy, does lead to a significant export of unemployment from the United States, then it will invite retaliation and trigger a trade war that will only worsen the crisis for the world economy as a whole by dampening global investment. Indeed, since the United States has been targeting China in particular, some retaliatory measures have already appeared. But if U.S. protectionism does not invite generalized retaliation, it would only be because the export of unemployment from the United States is insubstantial, keeping unemployment everywhere, including in the United States, as precarious as it is now. However we look at it, the world would henceforth face higher levels of unemployment. ..."
"... The second implication of this dead end is that the era of export-led growth is by and large over for third world economies. The slowing down of world economic growth, together with protectionism in the United States against successful third world exporters, which could even spread to other metropolitan economies, suggests that the strategy of relying on the world market to generate domestic growth has run out of steam. Third world economies, including the ones that have been very successful at exporting, would now have to rely much more on their home market ..."
"... In other words, we shall now have an intensification of the imperialist stranglehold over third world economies, especially those pushed into unsustainable balance-of-payments deficits in the new situation. By imperialism , here we do not mean the imperialism of this or that major power, but the imperialism of international finance capital, with which even domestic big bourgeoisies are integrated, directed against their own working people ..."
"... In short, the ideology of neoliberal capitalism was the promise of growth. But with neoliberal capitalism reaching a dead end, this promise disappears and so does this ideological prop. To sustain itself, neoliberal capitalism starts looking for some other ideological prop and finds fascism. ..."
"... The first is the so-called spontaneous method of capital flight. Any political formation that seeks to take the country out of the neoliberal regime will witness capital flight even before it has been elected to office, bringing the country to a financial crisis and thereby denting its electoral prospects. And if perchance it still gets elected, the outflow will only increase, even before it assumes office. The inevitable difficulties faced by the people may well make the government back down at that stage. The sheer difficulty of transition away from a neoliberal regime could be enough to bring even a government based on the support of workers and peasants to its knees, precisely to save them short-term distress or to avoid losing their support. ..."
"... The third weapon consists in carrying out so-called democratic or parliamentary coups of the sort that Latin America has been experiencing. Coups in the old days were effected through the local armed forces and necessarily meant the imposition of military dictatorships in lieu of civilian, democratically elected governments. Now, taking advantage of the disaffection generated within countries by the hardships caused by capital flight and imposed sanctions, imperialism promotes coups through fascist or fascist-sympathizing middle-class political elements in the name of restoring democracy, which is synonymous with the pursuit of neoliberalism. ..."
"... And if all these measures fail, there is always the possibility of resorting to economic warfare (such as destroying Venezuela's electricity supply), and eventually to military warfare. Venezuela today provides a classic example of what imperialist intervention in a third world country is going to look like in the era of decline of neoliberal capitalism, when revolts are going to characterize such countries more and more. ..."
"... Despite this opposition, neoliberal capitalism cannot ward off the challenge it is facing for long. It has no vision for reinventing itself. Interestingly, in the period after the First World War, when capitalism was on the verge of sinking into a crisis, the idea of state intervention as a way of its revival had already been mooted, though its coming into vogue only occurred at the end of the Second World War. 11 Today, neoliberal capitalism does not even have an idea of how it can recover and revitalize itself. And weapons like domestic fascism in the third world and direct imperialist intervention cannot for long save it from the anger of the masses that is building up against it. ..."
Aug 25, 2019 | portside.org
Originally from: Monthly Review printer friendly
The ideology of neoliberal capitalism was the promise of growth. But with neoliberal capitalism reaching a dead end, this promise disappears and so does this ideological prop.

Harry Magdoff's The Age of Imperialism is a classic work that shows how postwar political decolonization does not negate the phenomenon of imperialism. The book has two distinct aspects. On the one hand, it follows in V. I. Lenin's footsteps in providing a comprehensive account of how capitalism at the time operated globally. On the other hand, it raises a question that is less frequently discussed in Marxist literature -- namely, the need for imperialism. Here, Magdoff not only highlighted the crucial importance, among other things, of the third world's raw materials for metropolitan capital, but also refuted the argument that the declining share of raw-material value in gross manufacturing output somehow reduced this importance, making the simple point that there can be no manufacturing at all without raw materials. 1

Magdoff's focus was on a period when imperialism was severely resisting economic decolonization in the third world, with newly independent third world countries taking control over their own resources. He highlighted the entire armory of weapons used by imperialism. But he was writing in a period that predated the onset of neoliberalism. Today, we not only have decades of neoliberalism behind us, but the neoliberal regime itself has reached a dead end. Contemporary imperialism has to be discussed within this setting.

Globalization and Economic Crisis

There are two reasons why the regime of neoliberal globalization has run into a dead end. The first is an ex ante tendency toward global overproduction; the second is that the only possible counter to this tendency within the regime is the formation of asset-price bubbles, which cannot be conjured up at will and whose collapse, if they do appear, plunges the economy back into crisis. In short, to use the words of British economic historian Samuel Berrick Saul, there are no "markets on tap" for contemporary metropolitan capitalism, such as had been provided by colonialism prior to the First World War and by state expenditure in the post-Second World War period of dirigisme . 2

The ex ante tendency toward overproduction arises because the vector of real wages across countries does not increase noticeably over time in the world economy, while the vector of labor productivities does, typically resulting in a rise in the share of surplus in world output. As Paul Baran and Paul Sweezy argued in Monopoly Capital , following the lead of Michał Kalecki and Josef Steindl, such a rise in the share of economic surplus, or a shift from wages to surplus, has the effect of reducing aggregate demand since the ratio of consumption to income is higher on average for wage earners than for those living off the surplus. 3 Therefore, assuming a given level of investment associated with any period, such a shift would tend to reduce consumption demand and hence aggregate demand, output, and capacity utilization. In turn, reduced capacity utilization would lower investment over time, further aggravating the demand-reducing effect arising from the consumption side.

While the rise in the vector of labor productivities across countries, a ubiquitous phenomenon under capitalism that also characterizes neoliberal capitalism, scarcely requires an explanation, why does the vector of real wages remain virtually stagnant in the world economy? The answer lies in the sui generis character of contemporary globalization that, for the first time in the history of capitalism, has led to a relocation of activity from the metropolis to third world countries in order to take advantage of the lower wages prevailing in the latter and meet global demand.

Historically, while labor has not been, and is still not, free to migrate from the third world to the metropolis, capital, though juridically free to move from the latter to the former, did not actually do so , except to sectors like mines and plantations, which only strengthened, rather than broke, the colonial pattern of the international division of labor. 4 This segmentation of the world economy meant that wages in the metropolis increased with labor productivity, unrestrained by the vast labor reserves of the third world, which themselves had been caused by the displacement of manufactures through the twin processes of deindustrialization (competition from metropolitan goods) and the drain of surplus (the siphoning off of a large part of the economic surplus, through taxes on peasants that are no longer spent on local artisan products but finance gratis primary commodity exports to the metropolis instead).

The current globalization broke with this. The movement of capital from the metropolis to the third world, especially to East, South, and Southeast Asia to relocate plants there and take advantage of their lower wages for meeting global demand, has led to a desegmentation of the world economy, subjecting metropolitan wages to the restraining effect exercised by the third world's labor reserves. Not surprisingly, as Joseph Stiglitz has pointed out, the real-wage rate of an average male U.S. worker in 2011 was no higher -- indeed, it was marginally lower -- than it had been in 1968. 5

At the same time, such relocation of activities, despite causing impressive growth rates of gross domestic product (GDP) in many third world countries, does not lead to the exhaustion of the third world's labor reserves. This is because of another feature of contemporary globalization: the unleashing of a process of primitive accumulation of capital against petty producers, including peasant agriculturists in the third world, who had earlier been protected, to an extent, from the encroachment of big capital (both domestic and foreign) by the postcolonial dirigiste regimes in these countries. Under neoliberalism, such protection is withdrawn, causing an income squeeze on these producers and often their outright dispossession from their land, which is then used by big capital for its various so-called development projects. The increase in employment, even in countries with impressive GDP growth rates in the third world, falls way short of the natural growth of the workforce, let alone absorbing the additional job seekers coming from the ranks of displaced petty producers. The labor reserves therefore never get used up. Indeed, on the contrary, they are augmented further, because real wages continue to remain tied to a subsistence level, even as metropolitan wages too are restrained. The vector of real wages in the world economy as a whole therefore remains restrained.

Although contemporary globalization thus gives rise to an ex ante tendency toward overproduction, state expenditure that could provide a counter to this (and had provided a counter through military spending in the United States, according to Baran and Sweezy) can no longer do so under the current regime. Finance is usually opposed to direct state intervention through larger spending as a way of increasing employment. This opposition expresses itself through an opposition not just to larger taxes on capitalists, but also to a larger fiscal deficit for financing such spending. Obviously, if larger state spending is financed by taxes on workers, then it hardly adds to aggregate demand, for workers spend the bulk of their incomes anyway, so the state taking this income and spending it instead does not add any extra demand. Hence, larger state spending can increase employment only if it is financed either through a fiscal deficit or through taxes on capitalists who keep a part of their income unspent or saved. But these are precisely the two modes of financing state expenditure that finance capital opposes.

Its opposing larger taxes on capitalists is understandable, but why is it so opposed to a larger fiscal deficit? Even within a capitalist economy, there are no sound economic theoretical reasons that should preclude a fiscal deficit under all circumstances. The root of the opposition therefore lies in deeper social considerations: if the capitalist economic system becomes dependent on the state to promote employment directly , then this fact undermines the social legitimacy of capitalism. The need for the state to boost the animal spirits of the capitalists disappears and a perspective on the system that is epistemically exterior to it is provided to the people, making it possible for them to ask: If the state can do the job of providing employment, then why do we need the capitalists at all? It is an instinctive appreciation of this potential danger that underlies the opposition of capital, especially of finance, to any direct effort by the state to generate employment.

This ever-present opposition becomes decisive within a regime of globalization. As long as finance capital remains national -- that is, nation-based -- and the state is a nation-state, the latter can override this opposition under certain circumstances, such as in the post-Second World War period when capitalism was facing an existential crisis. But when finance capital is globalized, meaning, when it is free to move across country borders while the state remains a nation-state, its opposition to fiscal deficits becomes decisive. If the state does run large fiscal deficits against its wishes, then it would simply leave that country en masse , causing a financial crisis.

The state therefore capitulates to the demands of globalized finance capital and eschews direct fiscal intervention for increasing demand. It resorts to monetary policy instead since that operates through wealth holders' decisions, and hence does not undermine their social position. But, precisely for this reason, monetary policy is an ineffective instrument, as was evident in the United States in the aftermath of the 2007–09 crisis when even the pushing of interest rates down to zero scarcely revived activity. 6

It may be thought that this compulsion on the part of the state to accede to the demand of finance to eschew fiscal intervention for enlarging employment should not hold for the United States. Its currency being considered by the world's wealth holders to be "as good as gold" should make it immune to capital flight. But there is an additional factor operating in the case of the United States: that the demand generated by a bigger U.S. fiscal deficit would substantially leak abroad in a neoliberal setting, which would increase its external debt (since, unlike Britain in its heyday, it does not have access to any unrequited colonial transfers) for the sake of generating employment elsewhere. This fact deters any fiscal effort even in the United States to boost demand within a neoliberal setting. 7

Therefore, it follows that state spending cannot provide a counter to the ex ante tendency toward global overproduction within a regime of neoliberal globalization, which makes the world economy precariously dependent on occasional asset-price bubbles, primarily in the U.S. economy, for obtaining, at best, some temporary relief from the crisis. It is this fact that underlies the dead end that neoliberal capitalism has reached. Indeed, Donald Trump's resort to protectionism in the United States to alleviate unemployment is a clear recognition of the system having reached this cul-de-sac. The fact that the mightiest capitalist economy in the world has to move away from the rules of the neoliberal game in an attempt to alleviate its crisis of unemployment/underemployment -- while compensating capitalists adversely affected by this move through tax cuts, as well as carefully ensuring that no restraints are imposed on free cross-border financial flows -- shows that these rules are no longer viable in their pristine form.

Some Implications of This Dead End

There are at least four important implications of this dead end of neoliberalism. The first is that the world economy will now be afflicted by much higher levels of unemployment than it was in the last decade of the twentieth century and the early years of the twenty-first, when the dot-com and the housing bubbles in the United States had, sequentially, a pronounced impact. It is true that the U.S. unemployment rate today appears to be at a historic low, but this is misleading: the labor-force participation rate in the United States today is lower than it was in 2008, which reflects the discouraged-worker effect . Adjusting for this lower participation, the U.S. unemployment rate is considerable -- around 8 percent. Indeed, Trump would not be imposing protection in the United States if unemployment was actually as low as 4 percent, which is the official figure. Elsewhere in the world, of course, unemployment post-2008 continues to be evidently higher than before. Indeed, the severity of the current problem of below-full-employment production in the U.S. economy is best illustrated by capacity utilization figures in manufacturing. The weakness of the U.S. recovery from the Great Recession is indicated by the fact that the current extended recovery represents the first decade in the entire post-Second World War period in which capacity utilization in manufacturing has never risen as high as 80 percent in a single quarter, with the resulting stagnation of investment. 8

If Trump's protectionism, which recalls the Smoot-Hawley tariff of 1931 and amounts to a beggar-my-neighbor policy, does lead to a significant export of unemployment from the United States, then it will invite retaliation and trigger a trade war that will only worsen the crisis for the world economy as a whole by dampening global investment. Indeed, since the United States has been targeting China in particular, some retaliatory measures have already appeared. But if U.S. protectionism does not invite generalized retaliation, it would only be because the export of unemployment from the United States is insubstantial, keeping unemployment everywhere, including in the United States, as precarious as it is now. However we look at it, the world would henceforth face higher levels of unemployment.

There has been some discussion on how global value chains would be affected by Trump's protectionism. But the fact that global macroeconomics in the early twenty-first century will look altogether different compared to earlier has not been much discussed.

In light of the preceding discussion, one could say that if, instead of individual nation-states whose writ cannot possibly run against globalized finance capital, there was a global state or a set of major nation-states acting in unison to override the objections of globalized finance and provide a coordinated fiscal stimulus to the world economy, then perhaps there could be recovery. Such a coordinated fiscal stimulus was suggested by a group of German trade unionists, as well as by John Maynard Keynes during the Great Depression in the 1930s. 9 While it was turned down then, in the present context it has not even been discussed.

The second implication of this dead end is that the era of export-led growth is by and large over for third world economies. The slowing down of world economic growth, together with protectionism in the United States against successful third world exporters, which could even spread to other metropolitan economies, suggests that the strategy of relying on the world market to generate domestic growth has run out of steam. Third world economies, including the ones that have been very successful at exporting, would now have to rely much more on their home market.

Such a transition will not be easy; it will require promoting domestic peasant agriculture, defending petty production, moving toward cooperative forms of production, and ensuring greater equality in income distribution, all of which need major structural shifts. For smaller economies, it would also require their coming together with other economies to provide a minimum size to the domestic market. In short, the dead end of neoliberalism also means the need for a shift away from the so-called neoliberal development strategy that has held sway until now.

The third implication is the imminent engulfing of a whole range of third world economies in serious balance-of-payments difficulties. This is because, while their exports will be sluggish in the new situation, this very fact will also discourage financial inflows into their economies, whose easy availability had enabled them to maintain current account deficits on their balance of payments earlier. In such a situation, within the existing neoliberal paradigm, they would be forced to adopt austerity measures that would impose income deflation on their people, make the conditions of their people significantly worse, lead to a further handing over of their national assets and resources to international capital, and prevent precisely any possible transition to an alternative strategy of home market-based growth.

In other words, we shall now have an intensification of the imperialist stranglehold over third world economies, especially those pushed into unsustainable balance-of-payments deficits in the new situation. By imperialism , here we do not mean the imperialism of this or that major power, but the imperialism of international finance capital, with which even domestic big bourgeoisies are integrated, directed against their own working people.

The fourth implication is the worldwide upsurge of fascism. Neoliberal capitalism even before it reached a dead end, even in the period when it achieved reasonable growth and employment rates, had pushed the world into greater hunger and poverty. For instance, the world per-capita cereal output was 355 kilograms for 1980 (triennium average for 1979–81 divided by mid–triennium population) and fell to 343 in 2000, leveling at 344.9 in 2016 -- and a substantial amount of this last figure went into ethanol production. Clearly, in a period of growth of the world economy, per-capita cereal absorption should be expanding, especially since we are talking here not just of direct absorption but of direct and indirect absorption, the latter through processed foods and feed grains in animal products. The fact that there was an absolute decline in per-capita output, which no doubt caused a decline in per-capita absorption, suggests an absolute worsening in the nutritional level of a substantial segment of the world's population.

But this growing hunger and nutritional poverty did not immediately arouse any significant resistance, both because such resistance itself becomes more difficult under neoliberalism (since the very globalization of capital makes it an elusive target) and also because higher GDP growth rates provided a hope that distress might be overcome in the course of time. Peasants in distress, for instance, entertained the hope that their children would live better in the years to come if given a modicum of education and accepted their fate.

In short, the ideology of neoliberal capitalism was the promise of growth. But with neoliberal capitalism reaching a dead end, this promise disappears and so does this ideological prop. To sustain itself, neoliberal capitalism starts looking for some other ideological prop and finds fascism. This changes the discourse away from the material conditions of people's lives to the so-called threat to the nation, placing the blame for people's distress not on the failure of the system, but on ethnic, linguistic, and religious minority groups, the other that is portrayed as an enemy. It projects a so-called messiah whose sheer muscularity can somehow magically overcome all problems; it promotes a culture of unreason so that both the vilification of the other and the magical powers of the supposed leader can be placed beyond any intellectual questioning; it uses a combination of state repression and street-level vigilantism by fascist thugs to terrorize opponents; and it forges a close relationship with big business, or, in Kalecki's words, "a partnership of big business and fascist upstarts." 10

Fascist groups of one kind or another exist in all modern societies. They move center stage and even into power only on certain occasions when they get the backing of big business. And these occasions arise when three conditions are satisfied: when there is an economic crisis so the system cannot simply go on as before; when the usual liberal establishment is manifestly incapable of resolving the crisis; and when the left is not strong enough to provide an alternative to the people in order to move out of the conjuncture.

This last point may appear odd at first, since many see the big bourgeoisie's recourse to fascism as a counter to the growth of the left's strength in the context of a capitalist crisis. But when the left poses a serious threat, the response of the big bourgeoisie typically is to attempt to split it by offering concessions. It uses fascism to prop itself up only when the left is weakened. Walter Benjamin's remark that "behind every fascism there is a failed revolution" points in this direction.

Fascism Then and Now

Contemporary fascism, however, differs in crucial respects from its 1930s counterpart, which is why many are reluctant to call the current phenomenon a fascist upsurge. But historical parallels, if carefully drawn, can be useful. While in some aforementioned respects contemporary fascism does resemble the phenomenon of the 1930s, there are serious differences between the two that must also be noted.

First, we must note that while the current fascist upsurge has put fascist elements in power in many countries, there are no fascist states of the 1930s kind as of yet. Even if the fascist elements in power try to push the country toward a fascist state, it is not clear that they will succeed. There are many reasons for this, but an important one is that fascists in power today cannot overcome the crisis of neoliberalism, since they accept the regime of globalization of finance. This includes Trump, despite his protectionism. In the 1930s, however, this was not the case. The horrors associated with the institution of a fascist state in the 1930s had been camouflaged to an extent by the ability of the fascists in power to overcome mass unemployment and end the Depression through larger military spending, financed by government borrowing. Contemporary fascism, by contrast, lacks the ability to overcome the opposition of international finance capital to fiscal activism on the part of the government to generate larger demand, output, and employment, even via military spending.

Such activism, as discussed earlier, required larger government spending financed either through taxes on capitalists or through a fiscal deficit. Finance capital was opposed to both of these measures and it being globalized made this opposition decisive . The decisiveness of this opposition remains even if the government happens to be one composed of fascist elements. Hence, contemporary fascism, straitjacketed by "fiscal rectitude," cannot possibly alleviate even temporarily the economic crises facing people and cannot provide any cover for a transition to a fascist state akin to the ones of the 1930s, which makes such a transition that much more unlikely.

Another difference is also related to the phenomenon of the globalization of finance. The 1930s were marked by what Lenin had earlier called "interimperialist rivalry." The military expenditures incurred by fascist governments, even though they pulled countries out of the Depression and unemployment, inevitably led to wars for "repartitioning an already partitioned world." Fascism was the progenitor of war and burned itself out through war at, needless to say, great cost to humankind.

Contemporary fascism, however, operates in a world where interimperialist rivalry is far more muted. Some have seen in this muting a vindication of Karl Kautsky's vision of an "ultraimperialism" as against Lenin's emphasis on the permanence of interimperialist rivalry, but this is wrong. Both Kautsky and Lenin were talking about a world where finance capital and the financial oligarchy were essentially national -- that is, German, French, or British. And while Kautsky talked about the possibility of truces among the rival oligarchies, Lenin saw such truces only as transient phenomena punctuating the ubiquity of rivalry.

In contrast, what we have today is not nation-based finance capitals, but international finance capital into whose corpus the finance capitals drawn from particular countries are integrated. This globalized finance capital does not want the world to be partitioned into economic territories of rival powers ; on the contrary, it wants the entire globe to be open to its own unrestricted movement. The muting of rivalry between major powers, therefore, is not because they prefer truce to war, or peaceful partitioning of the world to forcible repartitioning, but because the material conditions themselves have changed so that it is no longer a matter of such choices. The world has gone beyond both Lenin and Kautsky, as well as their debates.

Not only are we not going to have wars between major powers in this era of fascist upsurge (of course, as will be discussed, we shall have other wars), but, by the same token, this fascist upsurge will not burn out through any cataclysmic war. What we are likely to see is a lingering fascism of less murderous intensity , which, when in power, does not necessarily do away with all the forms of bourgeois democracy, does not necessarily physically annihilate the opposition, and may even allow itself to get voted out of power occasionally. But since its successor government, as long as it remains within the confines of the neoliberal strategy, will also be incapable of alleviating the crisis, the fascist elements are likely to return to power as well. And whether the fascist elements are in or out of power, they will remain a potent force working toward the fascification of the society and the polity, even while promoting corporate interests within a regime of globalization of finance, and hence permanently maintaining the "partnership between big business and fascist upstarts."

Put differently, since the contemporary fascist upsurge is not likely to burn itself out as the earlier one did, it has to be overcome by transcending the very conjuncture that produced it: neoliberal capitalism at a dead end. A class mobilization of working people around an alternative set of transitional demands that do not necessarily directly target neoliberal capitalism, but which are immanently unrealizable within the regime of neoliberal capitalism, can provide an initial way out of this conjuncture and lead to its eventual transcendence.

Such a class mobilization in the third world context would not mean making no truces with liberal bourgeois elements against the fascists. On the contrary, since the liberal bourgeois elements too are getting marginalized through a discourse of jingoistic nationalism typically manufactured by the fascists, they too would like to shift the discourse toward the material conditions of people's lives, no doubt claiming that an improvement in these conditions is possible within the neoliberal economic regime itself. Such a shift in discourse is in itself a major antifascist act . Experience will teach that the agenda advanced as part of this changed discourse is unrealizable under neoliberalism, providing the scope for dialectical intervention by the left to transcend neoliberal capitalism.

Imperialist Interventions

Even though fascism will have a lingering presence in this conjuncture of "neoliberalism at a dead end," with the backing of domestic corporate-financial interests that are themselves integrated into the corpus of international finance capital, the working people in the third world will increasingly demand better material conditions of life and thereby rupture the fascist discourse of jingoistic nationalism (that ironically in a third world context is not anti-imperialist).

In fact, neoliberalism reaching a dead end and having to rely on fascist elements revives meaningful political activity, which the heyday of neoliberalism had precluded, because most political formations then had been trapped within an identical neoliberal agenda that appeared promising. (Latin America had a somewhat different history because neoliberalism arrived in that continent through military dictatorships, not through its more or less tacit acceptance by most political formations.)

Such revived political activity will necessarily throw up challenges to neoliberal capitalism in particular countries. Imperialism, by which we mean the entire economic and political arrangement sustaining the hegemony of international finance capital, will deal with these challenges in at least four different ways.

The first is the so-called spontaneous method of capital flight. Any political formation that seeks to take the country out of the neoliberal regime will witness capital flight even before it has been elected to office, bringing the country to a financial crisis and thereby denting its electoral prospects. And if perchance it still gets elected, the outflow will only increase, even before it assumes office. The inevitable difficulties faced by the people may well make the government back down at that stage. The sheer difficulty of transition away from a neoliberal regime could be enough to bring even a government based on the support of workers and peasants to its knees, precisely to save them short-term distress or to avoid losing their support.

Even if capital controls are put in place, where there are current account deficits, financing such deficits would pose a problem, necessitating some trade controls. But this is where the second instrument of imperialism comes into play: the imposition of trade sanctions by the metropolitan states, which then cajole other countries to stop buying from the sanctioned country that is trying to break away from thralldom to globalized finance capital. Even if the latter would have otherwise succeeded in stabilizing its economy despite its attempt to break away, the imposition of sanctions becomes an additional blow.

The third weapon consists in carrying out so-called democratic or parliamentary coups of the sort that Latin America has been experiencing. Coups in the old days were effected through the local armed forces and necessarily meant the imposition of military dictatorships in lieu of civilian, democratically elected governments. Now, taking advantage of the disaffection generated within countries by the hardships caused by capital flight and imposed sanctions, imperialism promotes coups through fascist or fascist-sympathizing middle-class political elements in the name of restoring democracy, which is synonymous with the pursuit of neoliberalism.

And if all these measures fail, there is always the possibility of resorting to economic warfare (such as destroying Venezuela's electricity supply), and eventually to military warfare. Venezuela today provides a classic example of what imperialist intervention in a third world country is going to look like in the era of decline of neoliberal capitalism, when revolts are going to characterize such countries more and more.

Two aspects of such intervention are striking. One is the virtual unanimity among the metropolitan states, which only underscores the muting of interimperialist rivalry in the era of hegemony of global finance capital. The other is the extent of support that such intervention commands within metropolitan countries, from the right to even the liberal segments.

Despite this opposition, neoliberal capitalism cannot ward off the challenge it is facing for long. It has no vision for reinventing itself. Interestingly, in the period after the First World War, when capitalism was on the verge of sinking into a crisis, the idea of state intervention as a way of its revival had already been mooted, though its coming into vogue only occurred at the end of the Second World War. 11 Today, neoliberal capitalism does not even have an idea of how it can recover and revitalize itself. And weapons like domestic fascism in the third world and direct imperialist intervention cannot for long save it from the anger of the masses that is building up against it.

Notes
  1. Harry Magdoff, The Age of Imperialism (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1969).
  2. Samuel Berrick Saul, Studies in British Overseas Trade, 1870–1914 (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1960).
  3. Paul A. Baran and Paul M. Sweezy, Monopoly Capital (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1966).
  4. One of the first authors to recognize this fact and its significance was Paul Baran in The Political Economy of Growth (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1957).
  5. Joseph E. Stiglitz, " Inequality is Holding Back the Recovery ," New York Times , January 19, 2013.
  6. For a discussion of how even the recent euphoria about U.S. growth is vanishing, see C. P. Chandrasekhar and Jayati Ghosh, " Vanishing Green Shoots and the Possibility of Another Crisis ," The Hindu Business Line , April 8, 2019.
  7. For the role of such colonial transfers in sustaining the British balance of payments and the long Victorian and Edwardian boom, see Utsa Patnaik, "Revisiting the 'Drain,' or Transfers from India to Britain in the Context of Global Diffusion of Capitalism," in Agrarian and Other Histories: Essays for Binay Bhushan Chaudhuri , ed. Shubhra Chakrabarti and Utsa Patnaik (Delhi: Tulika, 2017), 277-317.
  8. Federal Reserve Board of Saint Louis Economic Research, FRED, "Capacity Utilization: Manufacturing," February 2019 (updated March 27, 2019), http://fred.stlouisfed.org .
  9. This issue is discussed by Charles P. Kindleberger in The World in Depression, 1929–1939 , 40th anniversary ed. (Oakland: University of California Press, 2013).
  10. Michał Kalecki, " Political Aspects of Full Employment ," Political Quarterly (1943), available at mronline.org.
  11. Joseph Schumpeter had seen Keynes's The Economic Consequences of the Peace as essentially advocating such state intervention in the new situation. See his essay, "John Maynard Keynes (1883–1946)," in Ten Great Economists (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1952).

Utsa Patnaik is Professor Emerita at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Her books include Peasant Class Differentiation (1987), The Long Transition (1999), and The Republic of Hunger and Other Essays (2007). Prabhat Patnaik is Professor Emeritus at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. His books include Accumulation and Stability Under Capitalism (1997), The Value of Money(2009), and Re-envisioning Socialism(2011).

[Sep 09, 2019] What's the True Unemployment Rate in the US? by Jack Rasmus

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... The real unemployment rate is probably somewhere between 10%-12%. ..."
"... The U-6 also includes what the labor dept. calls involuntary part time employed. It should include the voluntary part time as well, but doesn't (See, they're not actively looking for work even if unemployed). ..."
"... But even the involuntary part time is itself under-estimated. I believe the Labor Dept. counts only those involuntarily part time unemployed whose part time job is their primary job. It doesn't count those who have second and third involuntary part time jobs. That would raise the U-6 unemployment rate significantly. The labor Dept's estimate of the 'discouraged' and 'missing labor force' is grossly underestimated. ..."
"... The labor dept. also misses the 1-2 million workers who went on social security disability (SSDI) after 2008 because it provides better pay, for longer, than does unemployment insurance. That number rose dramatically after 2008 and hasn't come down much (although the government and courts are going after them). ..."
"... The way the government calculates unemployment is by means of 60,000 monthly household surveys but that phone survey method misses a lot of workers who are undocumented and others working in the underground economy in the inner cities (about 10-12% of the economy according to most economists and therefore potentially 10-12% of the reported labor force in size as well). ..."
"... The SSDI, undocumented, underground, underestimation of part timers, etc. are what I call the 'hidden unemployed'. And that brings the unemployed well above the 3.7%. ..."
Sep 09, 2019 | www.counterpunch.org

The real unemployment rate is probably somewhere between 10%-12%. Here's why: the 3.7% is the U-3 rate, per the labor dept. But that's the rate only for full time employed. What the labor dept. calls the U-6 includes what it calls discouraged workers (those who haven't looked for work in the past 4 weeks). Then there's what's called the 'missing labor force'–i.e. those who haven't looked in the past year. They're not calculated in the 3.7% U-3 unemployment rate number either. Why? Because you have to be 'out of work and actively looking for work' to be counted as unemployed and therefore part of the 3.7% rate.

The U-6 also includes what the labor dept. calls involuntary part time employed. It should include the voluntary part time as well, but doesn't (See, they're not actively looking for work even if unemployed).

But even the involuntary part time is itself under-estimated. I believe the Labor Dept. counts only those involuntarily part time unemployed whose part time job is their primary job. It doesn't count those who have second and third involuntary part time jobs. That would raise the U-6 unemployment rate significantly. The labor Dept's estimate of the 'discouraged' and 'missing labor force' is grossly underestimated.

The labor dept. also misses the 1-2 million workers who went on social security disability (SSDI) after 2008 because it provides better pay, for longer, than does unemployment insurance. That number rose dramatically after 2008 and hasn't come down much (although the government and courts are going after them).

The way the government calculates unemployment is by means of 60,000 monthly household surveys but that phone survey method misses a lot of workers who are undocumented and others working in the underground economy in the inner cities (about 10-12% of the economy according to most economists and therefore potentially 10-12% of the reported labor force in size as well). The labor dept. just makes assumptions about that number (conservatively, I may add) and plugs in a number to be added to the unemployment totals. But it has no real idea of how many undocumented or underground economy workers are actually employed or unemployed since these workers do not participate in the labor dept. phone surveys, and who can blame them.

The SSDI, undocumented, underground, underestimation of part timers, etc. are what I call the 'hidden unemployed'. And that brings the unemployed well above the 3.7%.

Finally, there's the corroborating evidence about what's called the labor force participation rate. It has declined by roughly 5% since 2007. That's 6 to 9 million workers who should have entered the labor force but haven't. The labor force should be that much larger, but it isn't. Where have they gone? Did they just not enter the labor force? If not, they're likely a majority unemployed, or in the underground economy, or belong to the labor dept's 'missing labor force' which should be much greater than reported. The government has no adequate explanation why the participation rate has declined so dramatically. Or where have the workers gone. If they had entered the labor force they would have been counted. And their 6 to 9 million would result in an increase in the total labor force number and therefore raise the unemployment rate.

All these reasons–-i.e. only counting full timers in the official 3.7%; under-estimating the size of the part time workforce; under-estimating the size of the discouraged and so-called 'missing labor force'; using methodologies that don't capture the undocumented and underground unemployed accurately; not counting part of the SSI increase as unemployed; and reducing the total labor force because of the declining labor force participation-–together means the true unemployment rate is definitely over 10% and likely closer to 12%. And even that's a conservative estimate perhaps." Join the debate on Facebook More articles by: Jack Rasmus

Jack Rasmus is author of the recently published book, 'Central Bankers at the End of Their Ropes: Monetary Policy and the Coming Depression', Clarity Press, August 2017. He blogs at jackrasmus.com and his twitter handle is @drjackrasmus. His website is http://kyklosproductions.com .

[Aug 31, 2019] The motivator is "Gap Psychology," the human desire to distance oneself from those below (on any scale), and to come nearer to those above.

Aug 31, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell , August 31, 2019 at 8:45 am

The motivator is " Gap Psychology ," the human desire to distance oneself from those below (on any scale), and to come nearer to those above.

The rich are rich because the Gap below them is wide, and the wider the Gap, the richer they are .

And here is the important point: There are two ways the rich widen the Gap: Either gain more for themselves or make sure those below have less.

That is why the rich promulgate the Big Lie that the federal government (and its agencies, Social Security and Medicare) is running short of dollars. The rich want to make sure that those below them don't gain more, as that would narrow the Gap.

Off The Street , August 31, 2019 at 10:56 am

Negative sum game, where one wins but the other has to lose more so the party of the first part feels even better about winning. There is an element of sadism, sociopathy and a few other behaviors that the current systems allow to be gamed even more profitably. If you build it, or lobby to have it built, they will come multiple times.

[Aug 26, 2019] Free trade movement can be called the corporate liberation movement

Aug 26, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

JohnH -> Plp... , August 24, 2019 at 12:17 PM

Shibboleths falling left and right ... how soon before some 'free' trade fundamentalists like Krugman finally come around to acknowledging that it was all laissez-faire rebranded as 'free' trade? It was all about cheap labor, property rights, profits, and avoiding taxes and paying for externalities ... pure laissez-faire... stuff that Krugman and his ilk refuse to address or rectify in their corporatist columns lauding 'free' trade.
Plp -> JohnH... , August 24, 2019 at 12:17 PM
I call it the corporate liberation movement

... ... ..

JohnH -> Plp... , August 24, 2019 at 03:20 PM
Exactly, problem is that many Democrats remain totally loyal even though the party switched directions 30 years ago and these gullible folks have yet to figure out that the New Democrats incorporated the policies of Bush 41 Republicans while trying to maintain a fake veneer of FDR.

[Aug 19, 2019] Is Big Necessarily Bad The American Conservative

Aug 19, 2019 | www.theamericanconservative.com

Is Big Necessarily Bad? Antitrust cannot be used as a cudgel based on size. There are other ways of whacking at corporate excess. By Marshall Auerback August 19, 2019

Teddy Roosevelt with trust-busting stick, circa 1904. (Image: Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons) When it comes to relations between consenting adults, size may not matter (or so one hears). But it's a different story in regard to companies and the politically fraught area of antitrust law.

Today, a number of policymakers , economists , and legal scholars connect a host of problems -- excessive wealth inequality, wage stagnation, political dysfunction, market distortions -- directly to the corporate "curse of bigness ," which they argue is a product of lax antitrust enforcement. But they may be misdiagnosing the cause of these diseases and, in so doing, offering up the wrong cure.

Instead of moving toward a new antitrust paradigm, we might do better to consider a more robust utility system of regulation that is "function-centric," rather than size-centric. In other words, regulation that restricts the range of corporate activities (e.g., structural separation so as to prevent companies like Amazon and Google from owning both the platform as well as participating as a seller on that platform), or the prices such companies can charge (as regulators often do for utilities or railways). These considerations would be "size neutral": they would apply independently of corporate size per se. Regulation, rather than antitrust, also better addresses other issues like privacy protection (via a national model that could replicate California's Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 ), labor abuses (it shouldn't matter whether workers are employed by Apple or mom-and-pop sweatshops), and controlling "fake news" dissemination (by placing social media companies under the purview of the Federal Communications Commission).

"Break 'em up" has great historical resonance in the United States. Yet one of the nation's earliest trust-busters, President Theodore Roosevelt, argued that "the remedy for [corporate] abuse was not mindlessly breaking up big firms, but preventing specific abuses by means of a strong national regulation of interstate corporations." Likewise, in the early days of the New Deal, his cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, initially embraced the antitrust philosophy of Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis (who, like many of today's modern trust-busters, prioritized power and business structure over consumer welfare). Ultimately though, frustrated that the incessant focus on corporate concentration was hindering World War II efforts to mobilize greater industrial production, FDR concluded that optimal outcomes were more likely to be achieved via "prudent government oversight and using antitrust laws to police abuses -- not to break up every big company simply because it's big."

Advertisement

After World War II, historian Richard Hofstadter noted a gradual public acceptance of big business . In large part, this was due "to the emergence of countervailing bigness in government and labor" that ultimately led to the "big three tripartite" model among government, business, and unions exemplified in the Treaty of Detroit agreement between General Motors and the United Auto Workers (UAW).

From the 1950s through the 1970s, "Tripartism" was exceptionally successful at promoting economic growth and high wages (the wage growth was explicitly linked to rising productivity in the Treaty of Detroit). Big unions flourished alongside growing conglomerates that emerged as the new face of corporate consolidation (a prime example being International Telephone and Telegraph -- ITT). Equally significant, as the economist Thomas Piketty observed in his sweeping account of rising inequality, Capital in the Twenty-first Century , a new wave of corporate consolidation did not exacerbate prevailing inequalities. To the contrary, this period coincided with a diminution of wealth inequality , as relative wealth gains for the top tier stabilized for the first time in decades.

That all changed in the 1980s with the rise of Ronald Reagan's market fundamentalist agenda. His presidency was characterized by a sustained attack on unions , cuts in public services, and the ascendancy of the doctrine of "shareholder capitalism," used to legitimize the establishment of SEC Rule 10b-18 . That rule engendered an explosion in share buybacks (until it was introduced, companies buying back their own shares was considered a form of stock manipulation). Rather than focusing on job-creating investment, corporate cash flow was thus directed toward stock repurchases to fatten executive compensation.

The legacy of Reagan's market fundamentalism persists today. It is the most cogent explanation we have for growing wealth inequality, wage stagnation, and reduced emphasis on corporate R&D.

This period also coincided with the rise of the "Bork Doctrine," when, citing Robert Bork, the Supreme Court asserted that the main focus of antitrust law should be on economic efficiency and consumer welfare, as opposed to granting the government broad discretion to shape the economy. That shift in priorities is a major source of the neo-Brandeisians' criticism of Bork's antitrust philosophy. It reflects their Jeffersonian vision of a social-economic order organized along the lines of small-scale businesses, with atomistic competition between a large number of equally advantaged units, in theory producing greater innovation and economic dynamism.

But that's a highly idealized vision that doesn't comport with reality. Our modern economy isn't comprised of village blacksmiths, yeoman farmers, and cobblers. A crucial component of the economy today is big business, including many large multinational corporations that operate globally. And it is questionable whether their size automatically equates to market power (in the sense of having the ability to manipulate prices at will and exclude competitors), especially in the context of a global economy featuring a multiplicity of competing national champions. Seldom do we hear calls to break up Detroit's "Big Three," despite global revenues in the hundreds of billions. Why? Because there is a widespread recognition that these companies face significant challenges in a global market dominated by similarly large competitors.

Contrary to popular myth, big companies, not small businesses, can be engines of growth and innovation, as Robert Atkinson and Michael Lind explore in their book Big Is Beautiful: Debunking the Myth of Small Business :

On virtually every meaningful indicator, including wages, productivity, environmental protection, exporting, innovation, employment diversity and tax compliance, large firms as a group significantly outperform small firms.

That insight parallels the scholarship of Joseph Schumpeter, the intellectual godfather of the economics of innovation, who showed that R&D spending and productivity increase with scale. Latterly, Schumpeter's insights have been validated by a recent study from Professors Ann Marie Knott and Carl Vieregger, who conclude (emphasis added):

Not only do large firms (using the U.S. Small Business Association definition of greater than 500 employees) conduct 5.75 more R&D in aggregate than small firms, they have 13% higher productivity with that R&D. However this merely captures the private returns to their R&D. A further benefit of large firm R&D is that it generates the spillovers upon which small firm innovation free-rides .

Size-centric antitrust proposals also ignore the increasing prevalence of economic network theory, which suggests that social networks like Facebook or search engines such as Google lend themselves to becoming natural monopolies in order to function optimally. Here again, function-centric regulation -- i.e., separation between the control of content and distribution -- makes more sense to rectify market abuse. And this could be achieved via utility-style regulation, as no less a figure than right-wing populist Steve Bannon has suggested , rather than creating a bunch of new mini-Facebooks or Googles via court-mandated break-ups (especially if the owners of the newly broken-up companies retain full control of algorithms to determine what people see in their News Feeds, what privacy settings they can use, and even what messages get delivered to news consumers, as Mark Zuckerberg does today ).

It is also the case that many businesses characterized by minimal levels of corporate concentration -- construction, education, entertainment, accommodation, food, business services, transportation, warehousing -- generally experience sub-standard productivity levels, sluggish growth, and low real wages, according to an INET-funded study by Professors Lance Taylor and Özlem Ömer. Working conditions are generally worse, and wages and employment benefits lower, as small business owners are often the first to protest increased regulation or "burdensome" mandates, such as health care provisions. The real point is not to beat up on small businesses, but simply to note that the abuses commonly ascribed to big business are just as, if not more, likely to manifest themselves in smaller industries less prone to corporate concentration.

What about the claim that corporate consolidation contributes to a corrosion of American democracy ? It is true that as companies get bigger, it maximizes their abilities to "pay to play," as Professor Thomas Ferguson asserts in his seminal work, Golden Rule . Ferguson says that powerful blocs of business elites, large and small, with durable (largely economic) interests, are a constant feature of American politics. All have an incentive to get bigger in order to maximize political leverage. That includes smaller businesses that scale up via trade associations to maximize the impact of their "political investment." But again, what is needed here is not an antitrust remedy, but a change in the "pay to play" rules so as to ensure that money and corporate scale have less of a polluting impact on the American polity.

So it may be time to reconsider the simplistic notion that "big is bad." Yes, we want a dynamic economy and a thriving democracy. But mindlessly breaking up big businesses may not be the best path to get us there.

Marshall Auerback is a market analyst and a research associate at the Levy Economics Institute at Bard College.

This article was supported by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

[Aug 05, 2019] A legacy of 'free' trade deals, pitting US labor against slave labor abroad while the profiteers stuck their windfall profits into tax havens offshore.

Aug 05, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

anne , August 02, 2019 at 09:57 AM

http://cepr.net/data-bytes/jobs-bytes/jobs-2019-08

August 2, 2019

Economy Adds 164,000 Jobs in July, Employment Rate Hits New High for Recovery
By Dean Baker

Total hours in manufacturing is down by 0.2 percent over the last year.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the economy added 164,000 jobs in July, with the employment-to-population ratio (EPOP) inching up to 60.7 percent, a new high for the recovery. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.7 percent. There were downward revisions of 41,000 to the prior two months' data, bringing the average rate of job growth for the last three months to 140,000.

The big job gainers in July were professional and technical services, which added 30,800 jobs, and health care, which added 30,400 jobs. The former is slightly above the 25,000 average of the last 12 months, while the latter is somewhat below the average of 33,800.

The goods-producing sector fared poorly in July. Mining and logging lost 5,000 jobs. Coal mining was especially hard hit, losing 800 jobs, which is 1.5 percent of employment in the industry. Construction added just 4,000 jobs, well below its average of 16,800 over the last year.

Manufacturing added 16,000 jobs, slightly above its average gain of 13,100, but this was accompanied by a decline of 0.3 hours in the length of the average workweek. The index of aggregate hours in manufacturing is now down by 0.2 percent over the last year. For production workers, it is down by 0.7 percent.

Manufacturing wages have also lagged. The average hourly wage is up just 2.5 percent over the last year. With the decline in hours, the average weekly wage in manufacturing is up just 1.0 percent over the last year.

Restaurants added 15,400 jobs, down from an average of 21,100 over the last year. Hotel employment fell by 5,200, possibly reflecting the drop in foreign tourism. Retail employment fell 3,600, bringing its drop to 59,900 (0.4 percent of total employment) over the last year.

Employment in insurance jumped 11,400 in July, compared to an average of just 2,800 over the last year. There was also an anomalous jump in local education employment of 11,700, likely reflecting changes in the timing of the school year.

Year-over-year wage growth was up slightly at 3.2 percent, but the annualized rate of wage growth comparing the last three months (May, June, July) with prior three months (February, March, April), is just 2.8 percent.

... ... ...

Involuntary part-time employment fell by 363,000 and is now well below its prerecession share of employment. By contrast, voluntary part-time employment is lower in the first seven months of 2019 than the year-round average for 2018. Voluntary part-time had jumped in 2014, following the implementation of the ACA, as workers were no longer as dependent on employers for health insurance. However, it is now falling as a share of total employment.

Another discouraging item is a drop of 0.9 percentage points in the share of unemployment due to quits. The current 13.8 percent share is low given the 3.7 percent unemployment rate and suggests workers are reluctant to quit jobs without a new job lined up.

On the whole, this is clearly a positive employment report. However, it does indicate job growth is slowing and it is not clear that wage growth is picking up steam.

Christopher H. said in reply to anne... , August 02, 2019 at 10:51 AM
no wage gains b/c capital has dominated labor
JohnH -> Christopher H.... , August 02, 2019 at 02:39 PM
A legacy of 'free' trade deals, pitting US labor against slave labor abroad while the profiteers stuck their windfall profits into tax havens offshore.
John Dixon -> JohnH... , August 02, 2019 at 08:40 PM
Lol, free trade my ass. US has been doing "free trade" since 1934. John, my advice, stop the sheet. The entire goods part of the economy crested in 1979 and that has little to do with trade, considering pre 1934 economy had vast inequality, even worse in some respect than now.

That is what happens when the rest of the world recovers from war. You either do free trade and develop a financial stranglehold,, or socialize the means of production and consume less.Your free lunch posts sicken me.

[Aug 04, 2019] We see that the neoliberal utopia tends imposes itself even upon the rulers.

Highly recommended!
Aug 04, 2019 | jessescrossroadscafe.blogspot.com

"Thus we see how the neoliberal utopia tends to embody itself in the reality of a kind of infernal machine, whose necessity imposes itself even upon the rulers. Like the Marxism of an earlier time, with which, in this regard, it has much in common, this utopia evokes powerful belief - the free trade faith - not only among those who live off it, such as financiers, the owners and managers of large corporations, etc., but also among those, such as high-level government officials and politicians, who derive their justification for existing from it.

For they sanctify the power of markets in the name of economic efficiency, which requires the elimination of administrative or political barriers capable of inconveniencing the owners of capital in their individual quest for the maximisation of individual profit, which has been turned into a model of rationality. They want independent central banks.

And they preach the subordination of nation-states to the requirements of economic freedom for the masters of the economy, with the suppression of any regulation of any market, beginning with the labour market, the prohibition of deficits and inflation, the general privatisation of public services, and the reduction of public and social expenses."

Pierre Bourdieu, L'essence du néolibéralisme

[Aug 04, 2019] to the liberal economists, free markets were markets free from rent seeking, while to the neoliberals free markets are free from government regulation.

Highly recommended!
Aug 04, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Ian Perkins , August 4, 2019 at 10:16 am

Excellent article, I agree.
As regards clear language and definitions, I much prefer Michael Hudson's insistence that, to the liberal economists, free markets were markets free from rent seeking, while to the neoliberals free markets are free from government regulation.
"As governments were democratized, especially in the United States, liberals came to endorse a policy of active public welfare spending and hence government intervention, especially on behalf of the poor and disadvantaged. neoliberalism sought to restore the centralized aristocratic and oligarchic rentier control of domestic politics."
http://michael-hudson.com/2014/01/l-is-for-land/ – "Liberal"

[Aug 02, 2019] Does the New York Times Have an Editing Program that Automatically Puts "Free" Before "Trade?

Aug 02, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

anne , August 02, 2019 at 04:21 AM

http://cepr.net/blogs/beat-the-press/does-the-new-york-times-have-an-editing-program-that-automatically-puts-free-before-trade

August 1, 2019

Does the New York Times Have an Editing Program that Automatically Puts "Free" Before "Trade?"
By Dean Baker

Readers must be wondering because it happens so frequently in contexts where it is clearly inappropriate. The latest example is in an article * about the state of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination following the second round of debates.

The piece told readers:

"After a few candidates used the Detroit debate to demand that Mr. Biden account for Mr. Obama's record on issues such as deportations and free trade, Mr. Biden was joined by some of the former president's advisers, who chastised the critics for committing political malpractice."

The word "free" in this context adds nothing and is in fact wrong. The Obama administration did virtually nothing to promote free trade in highly paid professional services, like physicians services, which would have reduced inequality. It only wanted to reduce barriers that protected less educated workers, like barriers to trade in manufactured goods.

And, it actively worked to increase patent and copyright protections, which are the complete opposite of free trade. These protections also have the effect of increasing inequality.

Given the reality of trade policy under President Obama it is difficult to understand why the New York Times felt the need to modify "trade" with the adjective "free." Maybe it needs to get this editing program fixed.

* https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/01/us/politics/biden-obama.html

[Aug 02, 2019] 'Free' trade deals and income inequality

Aug 02, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

JohnH , July 22, 2019 at 10:03 PM

The Democratic leadership and their megaphones in the media refuse to consider the possibility that 'free' trade deals had anything to do with rising income inequality and the resentment that led to Trump's election. It's much easier to promote the notion that hapless Hillary's loss could be pinned on Putin or on racism and to dismiss Trumps voters as hopeless deplorables.

However, Dean Baker noted last week: "The basic point is a simple one that has a long pedigree in economics dating back to the famous Stolper-Samuelson trade theorem. The United States has relatively more highly-educated workers (college degree or more) than developing countries and relatively fewer less-educated workers (less than a college degree). This means that when we open trade to China and other developing countries, we would expect to see more highly educated workers benefit and less highly educated workers lose.

We saw this story in action in the last decade in a really big way. From 2000 to 2007 we lost 20 percent of all manufacturing jobs in the United States. (This is before the Great Recession; the job loss was due to the explosion of the trade deficit in these years, not the collapse of the housing bubble.) We lost 40 percent of the jobs held by union members in manufacturing in these years.

It is important to remember that the Stolper-Samuelson prediction on non-college educated workers being losers (roughly two-thirds of the labor force) is a balanced trade story. The picture is of course worse when the U.S. runs a large trade deficit, since most of what we import is manufactured goods, a sector which employs a disproportionate number of non-college educated workers."
http://cepr.net/blogs/beat-the-press/the-u-s-china-trade-war-will-workers-lose

This theory is bolstered by a Brookings report: In "The Decline of the U.S. Labor Share," authors Michael Elsby of the University of Edinburgh, Bart Hobijn of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, and Aysegul Sahin of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York find that the decline of the labor share, which has been driven by a decline in the share of payroll compensation in national income over the last 25 years, is likely due to the offshoring of the labor-intensive component of the US supply chain.
https://www.brookings.edu/bpea-articles/the-decline-of-the-u-s-labor-share/

Back in 1992 many Democrats opposed NAFTA, but Bill Clinton triangulated with Republicans to get it passed. Then Clinton signed China PNTR, granting China full access to WTO, whereupon the great sucking sound of jobs going to China began at full throttle.

It was a neat trick that Republicans played--let Democrats take the fall for the eventual unpopularity and resulting resentment for the adverse effects of 'free' trade. Surprisingly enough, the corrupt, sclerotic Team Pelosi still embraces 'free' trade, basically serving up the Rust Belt to Trump on a silver platter.

And people who should know better, think Krugman, still find little to criticize about the way 'free' trade was implemented, despite rising inequality and right-wing populism that it engendered. Back in 2000 Krugman even had the chutzpah to claim that 'free' trade would be good for labor! Such behavior tends to beg the question of whose side the Democratic leadership and Krugman and his ilk are really on hint: Wall Street really loves 'free' trade.

RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to JohnH... , July 23, 2019 at 04:40 AM
The political economic establishment is replete with diverse but largely complementary motives. Global humanists raise the standard of living in poor countries while wealthy capitalists collect rents from the arbitrage of lower standards of living in poor countries. Establishment elites all have their price, but not all have the same price.

Yet, diverse elites hanging out together is more fun than a backyard barbeque with factory workers no matter how good the barbeque and coleslaw is. Coleslaw does not pair well with caviar, at least not real caviar, the kind made of fish roe. Cowboy and cowgirl caviar is another thing entirely, pairing well with barbeque and coleslaw as long as you have some tortilla chips too.

It is a rainy day here today and I have not had brunch yet.

Christopher H. said in reply to RC (Ron) Weakley... , July 23, 2019 at 07:56 AM
"Global humanists raise the standard of living in poor countries "

maybe b/c it takes very little to raise up the global poor, but have you seen what happened in Greece and Puerto Rico?

These places like Mexico should have moved to first world status after the Cold War ended but are still stuck and getting worse.

I think the global situation is more of a mixed back. Countries are going authoritarian b/c of neoliberalism: Putin, Turkey, Trump, Brexit, Hungary, etc.

Immigrants and refugees are being scapegoated.

RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to Christopher H.... , July 23, 2019 at 09:38 AM
Yes, of course you are correct in that.
Gibbon1 -> Christopher H.... , July 27, 2019 at 12:59 AM
> Immigrants and refugees are being scapegoated.

I like to say about immigrants and refugees. At least the jobs they're working are here and not in China. Which means they're spending the money they earn here and not in China.

JohnH -> RC (Ron) Weakley... , July 23, 2019 at 09:18 AM
'Free' trade was not advertised as being a zero sum game. It was supposed to have been an example of large benefits and small losses on both sides.

However, the way it was designed by those who designed it (chiefly multi-nationals), the enormous benefits got captured by a small minority, while a large majority suffered losses, at least in the United States.

Sad to see that the 'free' trade zealots still refuse to do anything constructive to mitigate the losses, or even acknowledge that there were major adverse effects and so we have Trump as a result

RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to JohnH... , July 23, 2019 at 09:43 AM
Yes, indeed. Multinational corporations perversely redefined comparative advantage to mean global arbitrage opportunities against labor and regulatory standards. Low wages buy poison air and water while corporations just collect the rents.
mulp -> RC (Ron) Weakley... , July 23, 2019 at 02:04 PM
"Yes, indeed. Multinational corporations perversely redefined comparative advantage to mean global arbitrage opportunities against labor and regulatory standards. Low wages buy poison air and water while corporations just collect the rents."

Which corporations exactly have or are extracting high rents from pollution in China or India or Africa in ways that have not profited you personally?

The only big rent seeker related to pollution are big oil, and its been the opposition to a high carbon tax in the US that's failed to drive out pillage and plunder rents.

If Trump were true to his rhetoric, his first tariff would have been $50 a barrel on imported oil based on Saudi Arabia taking advantage of stupid Americans, getting rich selling US oil and then forcing US to spend trillions waging wars to protect Saudi rent extraction screwing Americans.


China, in contrast, has built so much capital, it's destroyed most global corporate rent seeking. China is, as a national policy, determined to bankrupt big oil, Saudi Arabia, etc.

China is "stealing" US corporate monopoly power by creating competing corporations which price at costs, ie, at zero rent.

Some argue that hiring employees of US global corporations is theft.

But that was something that corporations in California accused each other of doing in the 90s.

And something employers did as industry rose in the US, leading to company towns, and goons to prevent workers from stealing from their employer by setting themself up in business based on their unique skills and knowledge honed by working for big business.

Eg, Tesla "stealing" from Edison by going to work for Westinghouse.

US businesses invented golden handcuffs in the era defined by IBM. It was California that challenged the golden handcuff corporate establishment.


What did these Californians promise? Wealth from high rent extraction.

But China has destroyed that California rent extraction gravy train as a means of stealing from each other.

RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to mulp ... , July 24, 2019 at 04:54 AM
[Not to belabor the obvious -]

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/08/05/chinese_apple_suppliers_investigated_for_water_pollution/

Chinese Apple suppliers face toxic heavy metal water pollution charges

Foxconn denies allegations, Apple reiterates zero-tolerance stance


By Rik Myslewski 5 Aug 2013 at 18:54


Chinese environmental regulators have launched an investigation into two Apple suppliers – one being the giant iDevice assembler Foxconn – in response to allegations that the companies' factories are using nearby rivers as dumping grounds for huge amounts of toxic heavy metals.

"If you're severely exceeding emissions standards, then we will punish you," Chinese environmental regulator Ding Yudong told The Wall Street Journal, speaking of the investigations into Foxconn and UniMicron.

Both companies are based in Taiwan, are listed among Apple's suppliers, and have manufacturing plants in mainland China. The factories in question are in the industrial area of Kushan, located between Shanghai and Suzhou.

According to the WSJ, the investigations were sparked by allegations from Chinese activist and 2012 Goldman Environmental Prize winner Ma Jun, a director of China's Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs (IPE).

Four other environmental groups joined the IPE in accusing Foxconn and UniMicron of dumping heavy metals into the Huangcangjing and Hanputang rivers. Those two rivers flow into the Yangtze and Huangpu rivers, which supply Shanghai with drinking water.

Foxconn has denied the charges, telling Bloomberg that its Kushun factory follows all applicable environmental regulations. Plant manager Yang Jixian was said much the same, according to China's Xinhua News Agency. UniMicron remains mum.

Apple spokeswoman Kitty Potter told Bloomberg, "We do not tolerate environmental violations of any kind and regularly audit our suppliers to make sure they are in compliance."

The WSJ interviewed a few Kushan locals about the levels of pollution in nearby rivers. One, Zhao Pingxing, said, "We used to catch cuttlefish there, and it was so clear we could see a meter down," he said – and told the WSJ that although he occasionally fishes there these days, he doesn't eat what he catches.

Another, identified only by his surname Yao, said, "Even if my hands were dirty, I wouldn't wash them in this water."

That water, however, is second in line in China's environmental cleanup plans. Late last month, the Middle Kingdom announced that it would spend $277bn on an effort it's calling the Airborne Pollution Prevention and Control Action Plan in response, no doubt, to such events as the choking "Airpocalypse" that blanketed the Beijing area this January.

Water pollution, however, is on the Chinese government's list for cleanup efforts over the next five years, according to China Daily. Perhaps after that program begins, the regulations that Foxconn, UniMicron, and others will face will be more stringent, Zhao will be able to eat his fish, Yao will be able to wash his hands, and Potter will no longer have to issue canned "We do not tolerate environmental violations" statements.

*

[US firms can collect rents just by sourcing from Chinese firms that pay low wages and pollute just as well as they can exploit their hands-on partnerships. Rents laundered at arms length are no less destructive to either exploited workers or displaced workers. Most partnerships between Chinese and US firms places the direct exploitation in Chinese hands while most of the rents go to US firms.

I got the money, honey, if you got the crime.]

Rising returns to US capital demonstrate that the rentier is far from dead. ]

mulp -> RC (Ron) Weakley... , July 24, 2019 at 05:43 AM
I'm reading aboout US coal companies declaring bankruptcy to shed their mine reclamation costs, while already having shed hundreds of billions in coal pollution from mining techniques since circa 1980, plus coal ash pollution, also largely since the 80s.

The US has burned coal for two centuries, but swag, 40% of the coal burned in the US has been since the passaage of tthe clean water and clean air acts.

China has acted several times faster, and punished pollution violations much harsher, than the US, England, ....

RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to mulp ... , July 24, 2019 at 10:05 AM
Understood, but when I refer to pollution then I am not just referring to CO2 or even primarily CO2 or even CO2 at all. Anthropogenic climate change is a much different beast that biological and chemical pollutants that poison the water and air. We are all dying slowly anyway and at least we will not be lying cold in the ground.

Don't get me wrong though. I have long believed that climate change poses a serious threat and possibly even an existential risk to much of humanity. OTOH, semantics prevents me from lumping a dangerous excess of otherwise beneficial and necessary atmospheric compounds together with pathogens. We breath out CO2 and plants make sugar from it using photosynthesis. It is an essential part of the nature of living things.

kurt -> RC (Ron) Weakley... , July 25, 2019 at 09:54 AM
I agree on all of this - however, I don't think that the way to solve this is by destroying free trade. Instead, fix the distributional and environmental issues and redistribute the low marginal utility $.
RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to kurt... , July 27, 2019 at 05:08 AM
You are most likely correct to the extent that anything at all will be done to correct for the use of trade as a tool of financial arbitrage in global labor and pollution markets. OTOH, in some far distant time that may not be as far off as we would like to think, the economy of localization of production will reassert itself against greatly rising transportation costs. Of course, that will not happen all at once and it will come about in move to optimize transportation of goods to market and resources to production that will be accompanied by much substitution in production and consumption.

However, the world would have been better off if developed nations would have shared their capital assets with developing nations to the ends of optimizing transportation and expanding product development around the world from the get go. We once had the opportunity to make a better world, but now we are faced only with the opportunity to survive the world that we made instead - or not.

Mr. Bill -> RC (Ron) Weakley... , July 31, 2019 at 11:46 PM
That is what neo-liberal economics has always been about. Labor arbitrage.

It is interesting that the conglomerate media frames it as higher prices for American consumers.

Unemployed people prefer cheaper goods from Asia.

RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to Mr. Bill... , August 01, 2019 at 05:27 AM
Yes sir, exactly.
mulp -> JohnH... , July 23, 2019 at 01:33 PM
"Free' trade was not advertised as being a zero sum game. It was supposed to have been an example of large benefits and small losses on both sides."

You are clearly very right wing in demanding a billion dollars in benefits at a dollar in costs because you reject zero sum as a hard rule in all trade, whether in a store, a community, within a nation, and between nations.

West Virginia has suffered, not from global trade, but because of local trade. Global trade has slowed its economic decline because it can produce met coal which costs customers ten times steam coal.

US policies that are supoosedly to cut costs, increased "costs" to WV workers, by killing their jobs, which is a lower cost requiring lower benefits, eg less income to keep paying higher living costs. Cutting living costs is not a good thing when its forced on you by lower incomes.

If the US economic policy was to hike costs, say hiking taxes, fees, tolls, fares to pay to build better transportation capital, then demand for steel in the US would be so high that WV would be mining several times as much met coal, which costs consumers ten times as much as steam coal.

"However, the way it was designed by those who designed it (chiefly multi-nationals), the enormous benefits got captured by a small minority, while a large majority suffered losses, at least in the United States."

Strange you consider at least 250 million Chinese workers to be a minority relative to a much smaller number of American workers who are worse off from the left and right worship of cutting living costs.

Zero sum is axiomatic, so lower living costs means lower benefits, especially lower wages. High wages are a costly benefit that increase living costs.

mulp -> RC (Ron) Weakley... , July 23, 2019 at 01:06 PM
"Global humanists raise the standard of living in poor countries while wealthy capitalists collect rents from the arbitrage of lower standards of living in poor countries. Establishment elites all have their price, but not all have the same price."

But as a "global humanist", the goal is to raise the living costs of poor nations up to the living costs of say the US in 1950 in two generations instead of the maybe five generations it took the US to get to 1950 living costs.

The only way to increase living costs is some agency which pays more workers more money to work more. In the US, the agents were the railroad building from 1840 to 1990, the good roads building fromm1920 to 1970, the lifting of education standards from 8th grade circa 1920 to 14th grade by 1970.

What confuses conservatives is the concept of price and cost. A lower price increases costs. The current cost of going to the moon is zero because the price to send the first person to the moon since 1972 is at least $10 billion, and a realistic business plan sets the cost at $25-50 billion. A price of $10 million to go to the moon and return a year later will result in massive increased costs to humans who pay the lower price of living on the moon for an extended time.

Global trade increases living costs for poor people in order to improve their lives. But increasing their living standard requires paying them to work produce more of somethings than they can possibly consume, which is then sold to nations capable of producing more high cost and price items than the global economy can afford.

For the US to be able to produce 10 billion bushels of grain when the global market is only able to pay for 8 billion is a big problem. The pre-globalization solution was to kill jobs in poor naations by the US government dumping grain on poor nations at a price of zero.

Would you advocate isolationism that creates a great depression, a la the 20s and 30s US economic policies. No exports, no trade, thus forcing costs down as prices are forced down with higher and higher unemployment?

[Jul 06, 2019] It wasn't just free trade that the white working class voters of the rust belt states were angry about, it was also high immigration

Notable quotes:
"... government for the centre ground has been about management- the days when the US New Deal funded by taxing the rich and which built the wealth Americans now miss, and the Labour post war government that built the NHS [and taxed the rich] is part of history. Instead we have no new innovation but a little bit of tweaking with banks and global business. ..."
"... In return the gutted communities become less smart and given bread and circuses but their privilege and lack of mobility means they don't travel to pick fruit elsewhere- yet they still demand food on the table and the only ones prepared to travel and work hard are the even greater poor. ..."
Nov 10, 2016 | discussion.theguardian.com

CosmoCrawley, 10 Nov 2016 10:44

It wasn't just free trade that the white working class voters of the rust belt states were angry about, it was also high immigration. Naomi doesn't mention this, probably because fluid borders is one policy which the Davos class and left-liberals like herself agree on.

Such a[n intersection left] coalition is possible. In Canada, we have begun to cobble it together under the banner of a people's agenda called The Leap Manifesto, endorsed by more than 220 organisations from Greenpeace Canada to Black Lives Matter Toronto, and some of our largest trade unions.

And if such a coalition of the usual suspects got off the ground in the USA it would just about seal a second term for Donald.

Cuniform -> CosmoCrawley 0 1

Would this be a movement that would see us being turned from supine consumers back into citizens who actively care about more than a new TV?

Otherwise, look to see a recurrence, here and elsewhere, of the riots we saw in England in 2011.

JulesBywaterLees -> CosmoCrawley

government for the centre ground has been about management- the days when the US New Deal funded by taxing the rich and which built the wealth Americans now miss, and the Labour post war government that built the NHS [and taxed the rich] is part of history. Instead we have no new innovation but a little bit of tweaking with banks and global business.

No government wants to upset the powers that run the economy- so a multinational can move its workforce to a country with lower pay, lower environmental regulation- it can use the inequality to move not only manufacturing but people.

In return the gutted communities become less smart and given bread and circuses but their privilege and lack of mobility means they don't travel to pick fruit elsewhere- yet they still demand food on the table and the only ones prepared to travel and work hard are the even greater poor.

And the right simply blames the immigrants, the others and you believe them.

nollafgm -> Cuniform

don't stop at 2011, the precedent started in 1934 in Nuremberg Germany. Trump used the same how to manual written by Goebbels, he got the idea from the Romans.

[Jul 06, 2019] It always seems very odd to me that so many people who think like that profess to be Christian. 'Poverty equals moral failure' is the complete opposite of what Jesus Christ got into so much trouble for saying.

Notable quotes:
"... The idea of the 'American dream' seems to have morphed into a nasty belief that if you're poor it's your own fault. You didn't 'want it enough'. You must be secretly lazy and undeserving, even if you're actually working three jobs to survive, or even if there are no jobs. ..."
"... It always seems very odd to me that so many people who think like that profess to be Christian. 'Poverty equals moral failure' is the complete opposite of what Jesus Christ got into so much trouble for saying. ..."
Jul 06, 2019 | discussion.theguardian.com

zephirine -> josephinireland

The idea of the 'American dream' seems to have morphed into a nasty belief that if you're poor it's your own fault. You didn't 'want it enough'. You must be secretly lazy and undeserving, even if you're actually working three jobs to survive, or even if there are no jobs.

This view has taken hold in the UK too, where the tabloids peddle the view that anyone who claims state benefits must be a fraud. But at least, people here and in mainland Europe have the direct experience of war within living memory and we understand that you can lose everything through no fault of your own. In the US, even when there's a natural disaster like Katrina it seems to be the poor people's fault for not having their own transport and money to go and stay somewhere else.

It always seems very odd to me that so many people who think like that profess to be Christian. 'Poverty equals moral failure' is the complete opposite of what Jesus Christ got into so much trouble for saying.

[Jul 02, 2019] Yep! The neolib scum hate poor people and have superiority complex>

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... Both neoliberal-driven governments and authoritarian societies share one important factor: They care more about consolidating power in the hands of the political, corporate and financial elite than they do about investing in the future of young people and expanding the benefits of the social contract and common good. ..."
"... Michael Yates (economist) points out throughout his book 'The Great Inequality', capitalism is devoid of any sense of social responsibility and is driven by an unchecked desire to accumulate capital at all costs. As power becomes global and politics remains local, ruling elites no longer make political concessions to workers or any other group that they either exploit or consider disposable. ..."
"... At bottom, neoliberals believe in a social hierarchy of "haves" and "have nots". They have taken this corrosive social vision and dressed it up with a "respectable" sounding ideology which all boils down to the cheap labor they depend on to make their fortunes. ..."
"... The ugly truth is that cheap-labour conservatives just don't like working people. They don't like "bottom up" prosperity, and the reason for it is very simple. "Corporate lords" have a harder time kicking them around. ..."
Apr 10, 2018 | www.theguardian.com

Originally from: Seven signs of the neoliberal apocalypse - Van Badham - Opinion - The Guardian

slorter, 27 Apr 2018 01:37

Both neoliberal-driven governments and authoritarian societies share one important factor: They care more about consolidating power in the hands of the political, corporate and financial elite than they do about investing in the future of young people and expanding the benefits of the social contract and common good.

Michael Yates (economist) points out throughout his book 'The Great Inequality', capitalism is devoid of any sense of social responsibility and is driven by an unchecked desire to accumulate capital at all costs. As power becomes global and politics remains local, ruling elites no longer make political concessions to workers or any other group that they either exploit or consider disposable.

At bottom, neoliberals believe in a social hierarchy of "haves" and "have nots". They have taken this corrosive social vision and dressed it up with a "respectable" sounding ideology which all boils down to the cheap labor they depend on to make their fortunes.

The ugly truth is that cheap-labour conservatives just don't like working people. They don't like "bottom up" prosperity, and the reason for it is very simple. "Corporate lords" have a harder time kicking them around.

Once you understand this about the cheap-labor conservatives, the real motivation for their policies makes perfect sense. Remember, cheap-labour conservatives believe in social hierarchy and privilege, so the only prosperity they want is limited to them. They want to see absolutely nothing that benefits those who work for an hourly wage.

You also need to remember that voting the coalition out, which you need to do, will not necessarily give you a neoliberal free zone; Labor needs to shed some the dogma as well.

bryonyed -> slorter , 27 Apr 2018 01:41

Yep! The neolib scum hate poor people and have complexes of deservedness.

[Jun 25, 2019] Menu

Jun 25, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Fearless commentary on finance, economics, politics and power Recent Items The Sham of Shareholder Capitalism Posted on June 24, 2019 by Yves Smith Yves here. While Richard Murphy makes some important points in his post, he unwittingly implies that shareholder capitalism could work as advertised absent the way investors lose ownership rights when they acquire stock through pooled vehicles.

In fact, the choice that legislators and regulators made to promote liquidity in stock markets inevitably resulted in weak governance. From a 2013 post :

Amar Bhide, now a professor at the Fletcher School and a former McKinsey consultant and later proprietary trader, questions the policy bias towards more liquidity in financial markets. Officials (and of course intermediaries) favor it because they lower funding costs. Isn't cheaper money always better? Bhide argues that it can come with hidden costs, and those costs are sometime substantial.

He first took up the argument in a 1993 Harvard Business Review article, "Efficient Markets, Deficient Governance." Its assessment was pretty much ignored because it was too far from orthodox thinking. He started with some straightforward observations:

US rules protecting investors are the most comprehensive and well enforced in the world .Prior to the 1930s, the traditional response to panics had been to let investors bear the consequences The new legislation was based on a different premise: the acts [the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934] sought to protect investors before they incurred losses.

He then explained at some length that extensive regulations are needed to trade a promise as ambiguous as an equity on an arm's length, anonymous basis. Historically, equity investors had had venture-capital-like relationships with the owner/managers: they knew them personally (and thus could assess their character), were kept informed of how the businesses was doing. At a minimum, they were privy to its strategy and plans; they might play a more active role in helping the business succeed.

By contrast, investors in equities that are traded impersonally can't know all that much. A company can't share competitively sensitive information with transient owners. Stocks are also more liquid if ownership is diffuse, which makes it harder for any investor or even group of investors to discipline underperforming managers. It's much easier for them to sell their stock and move on rather than force changes. And an incompetent leadership group can still ignore the message of a low stock price, not just because they are rarely replaced, but also because they can rationalize the price as not reflecting the true state of the company compared to its competitors, which is simply not available to the public.

Bhide's concern is hardly theoretical. The short term orientation of the executives of public companies, their ability to pay themselves egregious amounts of money, too often independent of actual performance, their underinvestment in their businesses and relentless emphasis on labor cost reduction and headcount cutting are the direct result of anonymous, impersonal equity markets. Many small businessmen and serial entrepreneurs hold the opposite attitude of that favored by the executives of public companies: they do their best to hang on to workers and will preserve their pay even if it hurts their own pay. Stagnant worker wages and underemployment are a direct result of companies' refusal to share productiivty gains with workers, and that dates to trying to improve the governance problems Bhide discussed by linking executive pay to stock market performance. That did not fix the governance weaknesses and created new problems of its own.

An issue that we've also discussed regularly is that the idea that companies are to be operated for the benefit of shareholders is an idea made up by economists with no legal foundation. Equity is a weak and ambiguous claim: you get a vote on some matters, you get dividends if we make money and even then if we feel like it, and we can dilute your interest at any time. Equity is a residual claim, the last in line after everything else is taken care of.

By Richard Murphy, a chartered accountant and a political economist. He has been described by the Guardian newspaper as an "anti-poverty campaigner and tax expert". He is Professor of Practice in International Political Economy at City University, London and Director of Tax Research UK. He is a non-executive director of Cambridge Econometrics . He is a member of the Progressive Economy Forum. Originally published at Tax Research UK

The FT published a report last week that commented on an important issue. That is the collapse of shareholder capitalism.

The issue is a simple one to summarise. Apparently about two thirds of all private owners of quoted shares in the UK now own their shares through nominee pooled funds. As such they are not recorded as the legal owners of these shares. They have no voting rights. And no right to attend shareholder meetings. They don't even have the right to accounts. And they have given an institution, who does not own the shares in reality, the right to exercise their vote in the company.

This matters for a number of reasons.

First, this makes a mockery of shareholder capitalism. The company has no idea who its shareholders are. And it is wholly unaccountable to them. The idea that somehow shareholders are at the centre of corporate concern is shown to be a sham, yet again, by this.

Second, this undermines audit. Bizarrely, audit reports are still addressed to shareholders. What is apparent is that many do not get them. No wonder auditing is becoming so removed from reality.

Third, this breaks down any pretence that there is effective corporate governance. There cannot be when many company members are disenfranchised.

Fourth, the concentration of power in the hands of passive nominee owners reinforces the control of a small ruling elite in quoted businesses, who are insulated by this arrangement from any real accountability whilst being able to pretend that it exists.

Fifth, this means tax fraud can be much more easily disguised.

And lastly, it shows the owners of shares just don't care and so are not the custodians for business that we need.

In essence, we have a form of capitalism that claims to be for shareholders and yet that is clearly a sham. No wonder it is not working.


Tomonthebeach , June 24, 2019 at 3:13 am

Most shareholders lack the savvy to fuss over board member actions. So, today we have mutual fund manager capitalism . It might work better. If I own 100 shares, who cares? If I own 1,000,000 shares, board's better listen. Now if we can only get our mutual funds to kick ass about abuses like bonuses for failure, worker abuse, etc.

Phacops , June 24, 2019 at 8:15 am

Activist fund managers? Nope. Several years ago, and despite pointing out that high executive compensation injures shareholder value, I was told that there is no interest in voting shares to limit compensation of executives.

Off The Street , June 24, 2019 at 9:58 am

Fourth, the concentration of power in the hands of passive nominee owners reinforces the control of a small ruling elite in quoted businesses, who are insulated by this arrangement from any real accountability whilst being able to pretend that it exists.

Those nominee owners don't seem all that passive. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

John Wright , June 24, 2019 at 10:55 am

Note, Warren Buffet disagreed with a Coca Cola pay package, but he could not actually vote against it (he abstained).

See https://www.businessinsider.com/warren-buffet-v-coca-cola-plan-to-pay-executives-13-billion-2014-10

"Warren Buffett is the largest shareholder in Coke with a 9.1% stake in the business. He had abstained from voting through the original pay guidelines, saying at the time "I could never vote against Coca-Cola, but I couldn't vote for the plan either."

So much for investor activism on Buffett's part.

The article is titled "Warren Buffett Wins A Battle Against Coca-Cola's Plan To Pay Its Bosses $13 Billion" even though Buffett could not find his way to actually vote AGAINST the pay package and abstaining simply means one's vote isn't counted.

If independently wealthy Buffett cannot find the courage to vote against a pay package he finds egregious, one wonders if other fund managers, of lower independence and wealth will show much activism in bucking corporate management.

Ape , June 24, 2019 at 7:13 am

Coase's theorem isn't a theorem -- and it's not even right! Worshipping liquidity so that equilibrium models fit (which is backwards, right?) is insane. Coase is a religion, not a scientific model (and definitely not a theorem).

And these kind of things show how bad an equilibrium analysis is of economic systems. Even the tiniest bump in the manifold, and you get turbulence which can lead to storms. Dumping liquidity into a turbulent system and you get more turbulence (which eventually becomes self-sustaining structures in the face of the very even flow you were trying to create )

Steve Ruis , June 24, 2019 at 8:37 am

I mis-read the lead as "The Sham e of Shareholder Capitalism". Whatever happened to corporations that had responsibilities/commitments to anything besides shareholders? Since said shareholders are, in effect, absentee landlords, executives are running the game for what? Their own benefit? I'm shocked, shocked I tell you.

Oh , June 24, 2019 at 9:26 am

The major shareholders, mostly the CEO, CEO et al, are there to feather their own nest. While the right wingers repeat that the corporation should take care of shareholder interest, they actually mean these majority shareholders, who loot the corporation for their own benefit.

Arizona Slim , June 24, 2019 at 3:54 pm

Yet another example of control fraud.

caloba , June 24, 2019 at 10:11 am

I've always been struck by one contradiction inherent in the pooled fund model, with its customary emphasis on performance relative to indices or comparable funds. If an extremely large mutual fund goes underweight a listed stock (relative to its target benchmark index or the competition) you could easily end up with the largest holder of that stock having a financial interest in the stock's underperformance.

Norm , June 24, 2019 at 10:14 am

A theoretical economic justification for almost any aspect of large scale capitalism is prima facie ridiculous. Like everything else, capitalism is a game of power and although it's pleasant to dream about countervailing power being held by consumers, investors, competitors and employees, the only enduring form of resistance to CEO governance is government. Unfortunately, the part of government that has been charged with controlling the corporation has been AWOL for a long, long time. The Democrats, the supposed champion of everyone who is not a CEO have long ago crossed the line and serve the other side (hopefully, prayerfully, with some exceptions).

Just as an exercise that might shed light on the effectiveness of the funds (hedge & mutual) ability/willingness to constrain the CEOs, it would be interesting to know how frequently these funds put forth any resistance to debt funded stock buy backs, which, at least temporarily, enhance the funds' holdings.

Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg , June 24, 2019 at 11:14 am

When you examine the deep structure, isn't Wall Street really just an American version of GOSPLAN?

Susan the other` , June 24, 2019 at 11:19 am

Liquidity. Without it the system doesn't work and is prone to freezing up. So naturally, shareholders looked like liquidity incarnate in 1990. Liquidity made more urgent by all the mismanagement of the economy and the inability to understand and control inflation; Paul Volker's rate hike. And to make those nominee funds look like honest business Milton Friedman began to tout shareholder rights and values. It makes sense – how it all happened. I remember thinking, What happened to good old fashioned capitalism? more than once. This went hand in hand with the new and improved MBA, preferably from Harvard and the valuation of efficiencies that were short sighted and superficial. How many corporations got rid of their excess baggage, fired all their old hands, hired new managers, etc? Then off-shoring. It amounted to decimation in order to free up liquidity – sounds like an oxymoron now. It was based on nothing more than optimism. Which to my thinking runs sorta parallel to ponzi. It was inevitable that shareholder capitalism was used as an excuse for tax loops and fraud. Agents, "nominee funds", are happily removed from reality. It became open season for private equity, money laundering, whatever. Liquidity became synonymous with profit taking. All those equities were "ambiguous promises " which were nothing more than "residual claims" offered by nominee proxies offering no good corporate governance. So the question pops up, What happens now that liquidity has blown itself up? Its fitting that all the central banks are infusing money into the system as fast as they can because they must balance out the massive inequality that occurred – even though that money isn't getting to the right party. It's so beyond nuts. How do we make things work again? And so to the point – what does a share really mean – does it carry both rights and obligations?, what does it mean to be a shareholder and what are the corporate obligations to shareholders and to society? -to labor (therefore to management and good corporate governance). All those questions just got left in the dust.

readerOfTeaLeaves , June 24, 2019 at 2:21 pm

Sincerely appreciate this post.
I hadn't connected several dots in quite this way before.

OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL , June 24, 2019 at 5:29 pm

Until 1982 it was illegal for a company to borrow money in order to buy back their own shares. Il-Le-Gal. Because it was so obviously share price manipulation by insiders.

Just reinstate that, and clean up shareholder options issuance while you're at it.

Result? Share prices would more accurately reflect the company's financial performance. You remember that stuff: things like earnings per share, market share, new product launches, cost containment. Good governance would follow.

Instead what we have today is just one big casino, run for the benefit of insiders.

RBHoughton , June 24, 2019 at 9:08 pm

Very grateful for this bit of rare clarity about financial intermediaries and the games they play.

Back in the beginning of joint-stock companies everyone knew they were dodgy investments run by dodgy people. You put only a small amount of your capital in them and the bulk in government stock.

Now they have bought the protection they need, secured limited liability for their acts and got a corrupt Treasury to enact that a company is a person. Speaks volumes about our political representatives.

Tom Bradford , June 24, 2019 at 9:57 pm

A sensible article from the viewpoint of one outside looking in. But as I see it Murphy is still living in the 19th Century.

Me? I'm retired and have $100,000 to invest for an income to sustain me. I can invest that $100,000 in one company, pore over its accounts, watch its director's every move and snap at their heels if I don't think I'm getting the return I should be. Of course if it's a $1billion company my snapping isn't going to have much effect. And if the Company goes under I've lost my retirement savings.

Or I could invest $10,000 in ten companies. I'd have to choose the ten, of course, on the basis of public information and wouldn't be able to scrutinize them all equally, and my stake would make my snapping at the heels of the directors even less of a consideration. However I have only a 10% chance of a total loss, and a 10% chance of sharing any spectacular success.

Or I could put the $100,000 in a managed – or even a passive – fund. There I'd have less than a 1% loss if the Company goes under and a return that should pretty much reflect what the general economy was doing. I'd only get a tiny slice of any spectacular commercial successes, but that's the consequence of not gambling which is what choosing to invest in one or two companies in fact is.

In short, for someone in retirement, pooled investment makes the best sense. And while I don't know the actual figures I would be prepared to gamble a small amount that a considerable slice the total amount invested in the stock market is 'owned' by the retired, or the sooner or later to be retired.

[Jun 23, 2019] This is a remarkably similar summation of Rand's worldview of entire classes of people: if you are poor, you deserve it

Jun 23, 2019 | discussion.theguardian.com

HolyInsurgent -> GeorgeMonbiot , 5 Mar 2012 22:44

But the world didn't work like that, and the people who didn't fit had to be shoved under the wheel of history.

This is a remarkably similar summation of Rand's worldview of entire classes of people: if you are poor, you deserve it. Expect nothing from the State to raise you from the cycle of poverty. The State is evil and should be eliminated. No evil can come from the Business Culture (or more accurately the Business Cult). The U.S. Republican worldview summed up right there.

The only sane response to Ayn Rand is the creation of the Human Values Project , where creating a better world for all is its manifesto and mandate.

Many thanks for the article. The Right keep erecting her on a pedestal and saying her ideas are infallible like the Pope. She can't be pulled down off that pedestal enough times.

[Jun 23, 2019] If Jeff Bezos could hire 1st graders he obviously would

Notable quotes:
"... Your claim is not that people decide rights via participation in political process (social contract), it is that there are universal natural individual rights that cannot be violated based in... something; there is no negotiability like there is with the social contract. Your apparantly foundationless rights cannot be changed by political process - so where do they come from? ..."
"... Your claim is that some quality of people grants immutable rights, not that rights are decided by people. Are you of the strain that thinks we should be allowed to starve our kids (Rothbard)? Or that non-capitalist societies are fair game to be killed and enslaved, to have thier land put to 'better' use (Locke)? Perhaps that latter one underlies the feeling that it would be easy to up sticks and move to some undefined piece of land. ..."
"... You have changed the nice things you listed now, you said maternity leave/pay, weekends, etc. Those were granted by collective potitical action, not the generosity of the capitalists. If Jeff Bezos could hire 1st graders he obviously would. ..."
"... The State is the gun. Always has been, always will be. And yes, there is a place for the gun in society - defence - but not in extorting money from peaceful people. ..."
Apr 12, 2019 | discussion.theguardian.com

wariquari -> Pushers11 , 12 Apr 2019 16:56

Your claim is not that people decide rights via participation in political process (social contract), it is that there are universal natural individual rights that cannot be violated based in... something; there is no negotiability like there is with the social contract. Your apparantly foundationless rights cannot be changed by political process - so where do they come from?

Your claim is that some quality of people grants immutable rights, not that rights are decided by people. Are you of the strain that thinks we should be allowed to starve our kids (Rothbard)? Or that non-capitalist societies are fair game to be killed and enslaved, to have thier land put to 'better' use (Locke)? Perhaps that latter one underlies the feeling that it would be easy to up sticks and move to some undefined piece of land.

You have changed the nice things you listed now, you said maternity leave/pay, weekends, etc. Those were granted by collective potitical action, not the generosity of the capitalists. If Jeff Bezos could hire 1st graders he obviously would.

So you having to leave because you don't wamt to participate in tax paying is coercion, but people having to leave because they don't want to live under Libertarianism isn't?

Incidentally, which countries at the top of the PISA or OECD rankings do not have massive state education?

As for Hong Kong, its entire existence is predicated on extreme acts of aggression by the British. The opium trade and its profits started the ball rolling after an aggressive war. The Hong Kong authority also owns most of the land, leasing it; they therefore have massive influence on who gets what and what they do with it - more so than most other nations.

Pushers11 -> wariquari , 12 Apr 2019 10:44

"As you are free to leave, no individual state institution is is forcing you to participate under pain of violence. If the fact you have no place to go that does not take tax means that you are coerced, then someone who cannot live but by participation in free-market capitalism would also be coerced into participation"

I think we won't agree on this because we have a fundamentally different understanding of coercion. The way I see it, I should not have a leave the place I live in to not have coercive action taking away my money. I should be able to say, no thanks. It is the difference between my willingly purchasing something and a mugger taking my money at gunpoint. The State is the gun. Always has been, always will be. And yes, there is a place for the gun in society - defence - but not in extorting money from peaceful people.

And people can and do live without being part of the capitalist system. They can live off the land. They can set up communes. They can use a barter system if they want. Capitalism just gives people more opportunities, but they can opt out if they want. Or move to a place that doesn't have capitalism, like many places in Africa or South America or Cuba. Funny who must people try to leave those places though. Millions do not flock there. They do the other way round.

"In your opinion."

Yes, true. In my opinion. But I have backed that opinion up with a well reasoned argument for my position. It didn't just come out of thin air. It comes from recognising the nature of government is force, violence and coercion. Again, it is the gun in society. And in my opinion, I think it is wrong, immoral and will always lead to bad outcomes to use the gun to solve societies more tricky problems. And we can clearly see the bad results of public / State education, socialised healthcare, welfare, government involvement in the economy, etc, etc, etc. All do badly.

"Did I? I didn't sign up before birth to participate, and I have no other options but to participate or die."

You have other options, as previously mentioned. Live off the land, move to a non-capitalist country, set up a commune, etc.

"Still unsure upon what these rights are based. The mere fact that people can reason does not necessarily instill or ground right."

Where else can they come from? If you say "government". Well when does government get its power and decide on your rights? From the people that make up government. So we are back to people again.

"You tell us elsewhere that we don't really have capitalism, the state and other actors dominate and fiddle etc. Now you clam capitalism has provided all these nice things* - pick one."

No. It is not a case of picking one. It is not an "either / or" situation. Economic freedom and economic oppression exist on a sliding scale. You have more free economies, like the US (especially prior to 1913) and you have less free economies, like the USSR or Cuba. The parts of freedom we have, give us the good stuff, gives us innovation and allows society to grow richer and lift more people out of poverty. The more bad stuff that gets involved, the less we have, the more society stagnates. The USSR was a lot poorer and dirtier (environmentally) and had a lot more famine and waste because it was highly centrally controlled.

"So it had nothing to do with quasi-British authorities selling narcotics to mainland China then?"

Not much. There may have been some of that but nowhere near enough to explain the explosion of wealth in HK.

[Jun 23, 2019] T>here has never been free-market capitalism

Notable quotes:
"... And there has never been free-market capitalism. A misnomer if ever there was one. ..."
Mar 06, 2012 | discussion.theguardian.com

PSmd , 6 Mar 2012 09:35

@silverwhistle

We ARE social animals. Which is why I laugh when I hear right-wing opinions compared to the laws of the jungle. As far as I can gather, in the jungle, there are no such things as property laws, inheritance, land enclosure, or indeed money! Humanity's development is as socialised societies, with surpluses, consent, and so on.

And there has never been free-market capitalism. A misnomer if ever there was one.

[Jun 23, 2019] Two things characterize neo-liberalism. Deception and repression of labor.

Apr 11, 2019 | discussion.theguardian.com

mi Griffin , 11 Apr 2019 01:15

2 simple points that epitomize neo liberalism.

1. Hayek's book 'The Road to Serfdom' uses an erroneous metaphor. He argues that if we allow gov regulation, services and spending to continue then we will end up serfs. However, serfs are basically the indentured or slave labourers of private citizens and landowners not of the state. Only in a system of private capital can there be serfs. Neo liberalism creates serfs not a public system.

2. According to Hayek all regulation on business should be eliminated and only labour should be regulated to make it cheap and contain it so that private investors can have their returns guaranteed. Hence the purpose of the state is to pass laws to suppress workers.

These two things illustrate neo-liberalism. Deception and repression of labour.

[Jun 19, 2019] America s Suicide Epidemic

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... A suicide occurs in the United States roughly once every 12 minutes . What's more, after decades of decline, the rate of self-inflicted deaths per 100,000 people annually -- the suicide rate -- has been increasing sharply since the late 1990s. Suicides now claim two-and-a-half times as many lives in this country as do homicides , even though the murder rate gets so much more attention. ..."
"... In some states the upsurge was far higher: North Dakota (57.6%), New Hampshire (48.3%), Kansas (45%), Idaho (43%). ..."
"... Since 2008 , suicide has ranked 10th among the causes of death in this country. For Americans between the ages of 10 and 34, however, it comes in second; for those between 35 and 45, fourth. The United States also has the ninth-highest rate in the 38-country Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Globally , it ranks 27th. ..."
"... The rates in rural counties are almost double those in the most urbanized ones, which is why states like Idaho, Kansas, New Hampshire, and North Dakota sit atop the suicide list. Furthermore, a far higher percentage of people in rural states own guns than in cities and suburbs, leading to a higher rate of suicide involving firearms, the means used in half of all such acts in this country. ..."
"... Education is also a factor. The suicide rate is lowest among individuals with college degrees. Those who, at best, completed high school are, by comparison, twice as likely to kill themselves. Suicide rates also tend to be lower among people in higher-income brackets. ..."
"... Evidence from the United States , Brazil , Japan , and Sweden does indicate that, as income inequality increases, so does the suicide rate. ..."
"... One aspect of the suicide epidemic is puzzling. Though whites have fared far better economically (and in many other ways) than African Americans, their suicide rate is significantly higher . ..."
"... The higher suicide rate among whites as well as among people with only a high school diploma highlights suicide's disproportionate effect on working-class whites. This segment of the population also accounts for a disproportionate share of what economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton have labeled " deaths of despair " -- those caused by suicides plus opioid overdoses and liver diseases linked to alcohol abuse. Though it's hard to offer a complete explanation for this, economic hardship and its ripple effects do appear to matter. ..."
"... Trump has neglected his base on pretty much every issue; this one's no exception. ..."
Jun 19, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Yves here. This post describes how the forces driving the US suicide surge started well before the Trump era, but explains how Trump has not only refused to acknowledge the problem, but has made matters worse.

However, it's not as if the Democrats are embracing this issue either.

BY Rajan Menon, the Anne and Bernard Spitzer Professor of International Relations at the Powell School, City College of New York, and Senior Research Fellow at Columbia University's Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies. His latest book is The Conceit of Humanitarian Intervention Originally published at TomDispatch .

We hear a lot about suicide when celebrities like Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade die by their own hand. Otherwise, it seldom makes the headlines. That's odd given the magnitude of the problem.

In 2017, 47,173 Americans killed themselves. In that single year, in other words, the suicide count was nearly seven times greater than the number of American soldiers killed in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars between 2001 and 2018.

A suicide occurs in the United States roughly once every 12 minutes . What's more, after decades of decline, the rate of self-inflicted deaths per 100,000 people annually -- the suicide rate -- has been increasing sharply since the late 1990s. Suicides now claim two-and-a-half times as many lives in this country as do homicides , even though the murder rate gets so much more attention.

In other words, we're talking about a national epidemic of self-inflicted deaths.

Worrisome Numbers

Anyone who has lost a close relative or friend to suicide or has worked on a suicide hotline (as I have) knows that statistics transform the individual, the personal, and indeed the mysterious aspects of that violent act -- Why this person? Why now? Why in this manner? -- into depersonalized abstractions. Still, to grasp how serious the suicide epidemic has become, numbers are a necessity.

According to a 2018 Centers for Disease Control study , between 1999 and 2016, the suicide rate increased in every state in the union except Nevada, which already had a remarkably high rate. In 30 states, it jumped by 25% or more; in 17, by at least a third. Nationally, it increased 33% . In some states the upsurge was far higher: North Dakota (57.6%), New Hampshire (48.3%), Kansas (45%), Idaho (43%).

Alas, the news only gets grimmer.

Since 2008 , suicide has ranked 10th among the causes of death in this country. For Americans between the ages of 10 and 34, however, it comes in second; for those between 35 and 45, fourth. The United States also has the ninth-highest rate in the 38-country Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Globally , it ranks 27th.

More importantly, the trend in the United States doesn't align with what's happening elsewhere in the developed world. The World Health Organization, for instance, reports that Great Britain, Canada, and China all have notably lower suicide rates than the U.S., as do all but six countries in the European Union. (Japan's is only slightly lower.)

World Bank statistics show that, worldwide, the suicide rate fell from 12.8 per 100,000 in 2000 to 10.6 in 2016. It's been falling in China , Japan (where it has declined steadily for nearly a decade and is at its lowest point in 37 years), most of Europe, and even countries like South Korea and Russia that have a significantly higher suicide rate than the United States. In Russia, for instance, it has dropped by nearly 26% from a high point of 42 per 100,000 in 1994 to 31 in 2019.

We know a fair amount about the patterns of suicide in the United States. In 2017, the rate was highest for men between the ages of 45 and 64 (30 per 100,000) and those 75 and older (39.7 per 100,000).

The rates in rural counties are almost double those in the most urbanized ones, which is why states like Idaho, Kansas, New Hampshire, and North Dakota sit atop the suicide list. Furthermore, a far higher percentage of people in rural states own guns than in cities and suburbs, leading to a higher rate of suicide involving firearms, the means used in half of all such acts in this country.

There are gender-based differences as well. From 1999 to 2017, the rate for men was substantially higher than for women -- almost four-and-a-half times higher in the first of those years, slightly more than three-and-a-half times in the last.

Education is also a factor. The suicide rate is lowest among individuals with college degrees. Those who, at best, completed high school are, by comparison, twice as likely to kill themselves. Suicide rates also tend to be lower among people in higher-income brackets.

The Economics of Stress

This surge in the suicide rate has taken place in years during which the working class has experienced greater economic hardship and psychological stress. Increased competition from abroad and outsourcing, the results of globalization, have contributed to job loss, particularly in economic sectors like manufacturing, steel, and mining that had long been mainstays of employment for such workers. The jobs still available often paid less and provided fewer benefits.

Technological change, including computerization, robotics, and the coming of artificial intelligence, has similarly begun to displace labor in significant ways, leaving Americans without college degrees, especially those 50 and older, in far more difficult straits when it comes to finding new jobs that pay well. The lack of anything resembling an industrial policy of a sort that exists in Europe has made these dislocations even more painful for American workers, while a sharp decline in private-sector union membership -- down from nearly 17% in 1983 to 6.4% today -- has reduced their ability to press for higher wages through collective bargaining.

Furthermore, the inflation-adjusted median wage has barely budged over the last four decades (even as CEO salaries have soared). And a decline in worker productivity doesn't explain it: between 1973 and 2017 productivity increased by 77%, while a worker's average hourly wage only rose by 12.4%. Wage stagnation has made it harder for working-class Americans to get by, let alone have a lifestyle comparable to that of their parents or grandparents.

The gap in earnings between those at the top and bottom of American society has also increased -- a lot. Since 1979, the wages of Americans in the 10th percentile increased by a pitiful 1.2%. Those in the 50th percentile did a bit better, making a gain of 6%. By contrast, those in the 90th percentile increased by 34.3% and those near the peak of the wage pyramid -- the top 1% and especially the rarefied 0.1% -- made far more substantial gains.

And mind you, we're just talking about wages, not other forms of income like large stock dividends, expensive homes, or eyepopping inheritances. The share of net national wealth held by the richest 0.1% increased from 10% in the 1980s to 20% in 2016. By contrast, the share of the bottom 90% shrank in those same decades from about 35% to 20%. As for the top 1%, by 2016 its share had increased to almost 39% .

The precise relationship between economic inequality and suicide rates remains unclear, and suicide certainly can't simply be reduced to wealth disparities or financial stress. Still, strikingly, in contrast to the United States, suicide rates are noticeably lower and have been declining in Western European countries where income inequalities are far less pronounced, publicly funded healthcare is regarded as a right (not demonized as a pathway to serfdom), social safety nets far more extensive, and apprenticeships and worker retraining programs more widespread.

Evidence from the United States , Brazil , Japan , and Sweden does indicate that, as income inequality increases, so does the suicide rate. If so, the good news is that progressive economic policies -- should Democrats ever retake the White House and the Senate -- could make a positive difference. A study based on state-by-state variations in the U.S. found that simply boosting the minimum wage and Earned Income Tax Credit by 10% appreciably reduces the suicide rate among people without college degrees.

The Race Enigma

One aspect of the suicide epidemic is puzzling. Though whites have fared far better economically (and in many other ways) than African Americans, their suicide rate is significantly higher . It increased from 11.3 per 100,000 in 2000 to 15.85 per 100,000 in 2017; for African Americans in those years the rates were 5.52 per 100,000 and 6.61 per 100,000. Black men are 10 times more likely to be homicide victims than white men, but the latter are two-and-half times more likely to kill themselves.

The higher suicide rate among whites as well as among people with only a high school diploma highlights suicide's disproportionate effect on working-class whites. This segment of the population also accounts for a disproportionate share of what economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton have labeled " deaths of despair " -- those caused by suicides plus opioid overdoses and liver diseases linked to alcohol abuse. Though it's hard to offer a complete explanation for this, economic hardship and its ripple effects do appear to matter.

According to a study by the St. Louis Federal Reserve , the white working class accounted for 45% of all income earned in the United States in 1990, but only 27% in 2016. In those same years, its share of national wealth plummeted, from 45% to 22%. And as inflation-adjusted wages have decreased for men without college degrees, many white workers seem to have lost hope of success of any sort. Paradoxically, the sense of failure and the accompanying stress may be greater for white workers precisely because they traditionally were much better off economically than their African American and Hispanic counterparts.

In addition, the fraying of communities knit together by employment in once-robust factories and mines has increased social isolation among them, and the evidence that it -- along with opioid addiction and alcohol abuse -- increases the risk of suicide is strong . On top of that, a significantly higher proportion of whites than blacks and Hispanics own firearms, and suicide rates are markedly higher in states where gun ownership is more widespread.

Trump's Faux Populism

The large increase in suicide within the white working class began a couple of decades before Donald Trump's election. Still, it's reasonable to ask what he's tried to do about it, particularly since votes from these Americans helped propel him to the White House. In 2016, he received 64% of the votes of whites without college degrees; Hillary Clinton, only 28%. Nationwide, he beat Clinton in counties where deaths of despair rose significantly between 2000 and 2015.

White workers will remain crucial to Trump's chances of winning in 2020. Yet while he has spoken about, and initiated steps aimed at reducing, the high suicide rate among veterans , his speeches and tweets have never highlighted the national suicide epidemic or its inordinate impact on white workers. More importantly, to the extent that economic despair contributes to their high suicide rate, his policies will only make matters worse.

The real benefits from the December 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act championed by the president and congressional Republicans flowed to those on the top steps of the economic ladder. By 2027, when the Act's provisions will run out, the wealthiest Americans are expected to have captured 81.8% of the gains. And that's not counting the windfall they received from recent changes in taxes on inheritances. Trump and the GOP doubled the annual amount exempt from estate taxes -- wealth bequeathed to heirs -- through 2025 from $5.6 million per individual to $11.2 million (or $22.4 million per couple). And who benefits most from this act of generosity? Not workers, that's for sure, but every household with an estate worth $22 million or more will.

As for job retraining provided by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, the president proposed cutting that program by 40% in his 2019 budget, later settling for keeping it at 2017 levels. Future cuts seem in the cards as long as Trump is in the White House. The Congressional Budget Office projects that his tax cuts alone will produce even bigger budget deficits in the years to come. (The shortfall last year was $779 billion and it is expected to reach $1 trillion by 2020.) Inevitably, the president and congressional Republicans will then demand additional reductions in spending for social programs.

This is all the more likely because Trump and those Republicans also slashed corporate taxes from 35% to 21% -- an estimated $1.4 trillion in savings for corporations over the next decade. And unlike the income tax cut, the corporate tax has no end date . The president assured his base that the big bucks those companies had stashed abroad would start flowing home and produce a wave of job creation -- all without adding to the deficit. As it happens, however, most of that repatriated cash has been used for corporate stock buy-backs, which totaled more than $800 billion last year. That, in turn, boosted share prices, but didn't exactly rain money down on workers. No surprise, of course, since the wealthiest 10% of Americans own at least 84% of all stocks and the bottom 60% have less than 2% of them.

And the president's corporate tax cut hasn't produced the tsunami of job-generating investments he predicted either. Indeed, in its aftermath, more than 80% of American companies stated that their plans for investment and hiring hadn't changed. As a result, the monthly increase in jobs has proven unremarkable compared to President Obama's second term, when the economic recovery that Trump largely inherited began. Yes, the economy did grow 2.3% in 2017 and 2.9% in 2018 (though not 3.1% as the president claimed). There wasn't, however, any "unprecedented economic boom -- a boom that has rarely been seen before" as he insisted in this year's State of the Union Address .

Anyway, what matters for workers struggling to get by is growth in real wages, and there's nothing to celebrate on that front: between 2017 and mid-2018 they actually declined by 1.63% for white workers and 2.5% for African Americans, while they rose for Hispanics by a measly 0.37%. And though Trump insists that his beloved tariff hikes are going to help workers, they will actually raise the prices of goods, hurting the working class and other low-income Americans the most .

Then there are the obstacles those susceptible to suicide face in receiving insurance-provided mental-health care. If you're a white worker without medical coverage or have a policy with a deductible and co-payments that are high and your income, while low, is too high to qualify for Medicaid, Trump and the GOP haven't done anything for you. Never mind the president's tweet proclaiming that "the Republican Party Will Become 'The Party of Healthcare!'"

Let me amend that: actually, they have done something. It's just not what you'd call helpful. The percentage of uninsured adults, which fell from 18% in 2013 to 10.9% at the end of 2016, thanks in no small measure to Obamacare , had risen to 13.7% by the end of last year.

The bottom line? On a problem that literally has life-and-death significance for a pivotal portion of his base, Trump has been AWOL. In fact, to the extent that economic strain contributes to the alarming suicide rate among white workers, his policies are only likely to exacerbate what is already a national crisis of epidemic proportions.


Seamus Padraig , June 19, 2019 at 6:46 am

Trump has neglected his base on pretty much every issue; this one's no exception.

DanB , June 19, 2019 at 8:55 am

Trump is running on the claim that he's turned the economy around; addressing suicide undermines this (false) claim. To state the obvious, NC readers know that Trump is incapable of caring about anyone or anything beyond his in-the-moment interpretation of his self-interest.

JCC , June 19, 2019 at 9:25 am

Not just Trump. Most of the Republican Party and much too many Democrats have also abandoned this base, otherwise known as working class Americans.

The economic facts are near staggering and this article has done a nice job of summarizing these numbers that are spread out across a lot of different sites.

I've experienced this rise within my own family and probably because of that fact I'm well aware that Trump is only a symptom of an entire political system that has all but abandoned it's core constituency, the American Working Class.

sparagmite , June 19, 2019 at 10:13 am

Yep It's not just Trump. The author mentions this, but still focuses on him for some reason. Maybe accurately attributing the problems to a failed system makes people feel more hopeless. Current nihilists in Congress make it their duty to destroy once helpful institutions in the name of "fiscal responsibility," i.e., tax cuts for corporate elites.

dcblogger , June 19, 2019 at 12:20 pm

Maybe because Trump is president and bears the greatest responsibility in this particular time. A great piece and appreciate all the documentation.

Svante , June 19, 2019 at 7:00 am

I'd assumed, the "working class" had dissappeared, back during Reagan's Miracle? We'd still see each other, sitting dazed on porches & stoops of rented old places they'd previously; trying to garden, fix their car while smoking, drinking or dazed on something? Those able to morph into "middle class" lives, might've earned substantially less, especially benefits and retirement package wise. But, a couple decades later, it was their turn, as machines and foreigners improved productivity. You could lease a truck to haul imported stuff your kids could sell to each other, or help robots in some warehouse, but those 80s burger flipping, rent-a-cop & repo-man gigs dried up. Your middle class pals unemployable, everybody in PayDay Loan debt (without any pay day in sight?) SHTF Bug-out bags® & EZ Credit Bushmasters began showing up at yard sales, even up North. Opioids became the religion of the proletariat Whites simply had much farther to fall, more equity for our betters to steal. And it was damned near impossible to get the cops to shoot you?

Man, this just ain't turning out as I'd hoped. Need coffee!

Svante , June 19, 2019 at 7:55 am

We especially love the euphemism "Deaths O' Despair." since it works so well on a Chyron, especially supered over obese crackers waddling in crusty MossyOak™ Snuggies®

https://mobile.twitter.com/BernieSanders/status/1140998287933300736
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=apxZvpzq4Mw

DanB , June 19, 2019 at 9:29 am

This is a very good article, but I have a comment about the section titled, "The Race Enigma." I think the key to understanding why African Americans have a lower suicide rate lies in understanding the sociological notion of community, and the related concept Emil Durkheim called social solidarity. This sense of solidarity and community among African Americans stands in contrast to the "There is no such thing as society" neoliberal zeitgeist that in fact produces feelings of extreme isolation, failure, and self-recriminations. An aside: as a white boy growing up in 1950s-60s Detroit I learned that if you yearned for solidarity and community what you had to do was to hang out with black people.

Amfortas the hippie , June 19, 2019 at 2:18 pm

" if you yearned for solidarity and community what you had to do was to hang out with black people."
amen, to that. in my case rural black people.
and I'll add Hispanics to that.
My wife's extended Familia is so very different from mine.
Solidarity/Belonging is cool.
I recommend it.
on the article we keep the scanner on("local news").we had a 3-4 year rash of suicides and attempted suicides(determined by chisme, or deduction) out here.
all of them were despair related more than half correlated with meth addiction itself a despair related thing.
ours were equally male/female, and across both our color spectrum.
that leaves economics/opportunity/just being able to get by as the likely cause.

David B Harrison , June 19, 2019 at 10:05 am

What's left out here is the vast majority of these suicides are men.

Christy , June 19, 2019 at 1:53 pm

Actually, in the article it states:
"There are gender-based differences as well. From 1999 to 2017, the rate for men was substantially higher than for women -- almost four-and-a-half times higher in the first of those years, slightly more than three-and-a-half times in the last."

jrs , June 19, 2019 at 1:58 pm

which in some sense makes despair the wrong word, as females are actually quite a bit more likely to be depressed for instance, but much less likely to "do the deed". Despair if we mean a certain social context maybe, but not just a psychological state.

Ex-Pralite Monk , June 19, 2019 at 10:10 am

obese cracker

You lay off the racial slur "cracker" and I'll lay off the racial slur "nigger". Deal?

rd , June 19, 2019 at 10:53 am

Suicide deaths are a function of the suicide attempt rate and the efficacy of the method used. A unique aspect of the US is the prevalence of guns in the society and therefore the greatly increased usage of them in suicide attempts compared to other countries. Guns are a very efficient way of committing suicide with a very high "success" rate. As of 2010, half of US suicides were using a gun as opposed to other countries with much lower percentages. So if the US comes even close to other countries in suicide rates then the US will surpass them in deaths. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_methods#Firearms

Now we can add in opiates, especially fentanyl, that can be quite effective as well.

The economic crisis hitting middle America over the past 30 years has been quite focused on the states and populations that also tend to have high gun ownership rates. So suicide attempts in those populations have a high probability of "success".

Joe Well , June 19, 2019 at 11:32 am

I would just take this opportunity to add that the police end up getting called in to prevent on lot of suicide attempts, and just about every successful one.

In the face of so much blanket demonization of the police, along with justified criticism, it's important to remember that.

B:H , June 19, 2019 at 11:44 am

As someone who works in the mental health treatment system, acute inpatient psychiatry to be specific, I can say that of the 25 inpatients currently here, 11 have been here before, multiple times. And this is because of several issues, in my experience: inadequate inpatient resources, staff burnout, inadequate support once they leave the hospital, and the nature of their illnesses. It's a grim picture here and it's been this way for YEARS. Until MAJOR money is spent on this issue it's not going to get better. This includes opening more facilities for people to live in long term, instead of closing them, which has been the trend I've seen.

B:H , June 19, 2019 at 11:53 am

One last thing the CEO wants "asses in beds", aka census, which is the money maker. There's less profit if people get better and don't return. And I guess I wouldn't have a job either. Hmmmm: sickness generates wealth.

[Jun 14, 2019] Mean Girl Ayn Rand and the Culture of Greed by Lisa Duggan

Notable quotes:
"... From the 1980s to 2008, neoliberal politics and policies succeeded in expanding inequality around the world. The political climate Ayn Rand celebrated—the reign of brutal capitalism—intensified. Though Ayn Rand’s popularity took off in the 1940s, her reputation took a dive during the 1960s and ’70s. Then after her death in 1982, during the neoliberal administrations of Ronald Reagan in the United States and Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom, her star rose once more. (See chapter 4 for a full discussion of the rise of neoliberalism.) ..."
"... During the global economic crisis of 2008 it seemed that the neoliberal order might collapse. It lived on, however, in zombie form as discredited political policies and financial practices were restored. ..."
"... We are in the midst of a major global, political, economic, social, and cultural transition — but we don’t yet know which way we’re headed. The incoherence of the Trump administration is symptomatic of the confusion as politicians and business elites jockey with the Breitbart alt-right forces while conservative evangelical Christians pull strings. The unifying threads are meanness and greed, and the spirit of the whole hodgepodge is Ayn Rand. ..."
"... The current Trump administration is stuffed to the gills with Rand acolytes. Trump himself identifies with Fountainhead character Howard Roark; former secretary of state Rex Tillerson listed Adas Shrugged as his favorite book in a Scouting magazine feature; his replacement Mike Pompeo has been inspired by Rand since his youth. Ayn Rand’s influence is ascendant across broad swaths of our dominant political culture — including among public figures who see her as a key to the Zeitgeist, without having read a worth of her writing.’’ ..."
"... Rand biographer Jennifer Burns asserts simply that Ayn Rand's fiction is “the gateway drug” to right-wing politics in the United States — although her influence extends well beyond the right wing ..."
"... The resulting Randian sense of life might be called “optimistic cruelty.” Optimistic cruelty is the sense of life for the age of greed. ..."
"... The Fountainhead and especially Atlas Shrugged fabricate history and romanticize violence and domination in ways that reflect, reshape, and reproduce narratives of European superiority' and American virtue. ..."
"... It is not an accident that the novels’ fans, though gender mixed, are overwhelmingly white Americans of the professional, managerial, creative, and business classes." ..."
"... Does the pervasive cruelty of today's ruling classes shock you? Or, at least give you pause from time to time? Are you surprised by the fact that our elected leaders seem to despise people who struggle, people whose lives are not cushioned and shaped by inherited wealth, people who must work hard at many jobs in order to scrape by? If these or any of a number of other questions about the social proclivities of our contemporary ruling class detain you for just two seconds, this is the book for you. ..."
"... As Duggan makes clear, Rand's influence is not just that she offered a programmatic for unregulated capitalism, but that she offered an emotional template for "optimistic cruelty" that has extended far beyond its libertarian confines. Mean Girl is a fun, worthwhile read! ..."
"... Her work circulated endlessly in those circles of the Goldwater-ite right. I have changed over many years, and my own life experiences have led me to reject the casual cruelty and vicious supremacist bent of Rand's beliefs. ..."
"... In fact, though her views are deeply-seated, Rand is, at heart, a confidence artist, appealing only to narrow self-interest at the expense of the well-being of whole societies. ..."
Jun 14, 2019 | www.amazon.com

From the Introduction

... ... ...

Mean Girls, which was based on interviews with high school girls conducted by Rosalind Wiseman for her 2002 book Queen Bees and War/tubes, reflects the emotional atmosphere of the age of the Plastics (as the most popular girls at Actional North Shore High are called), as well as the era of Wall Street's Gordon Gekko, whose motto is “Greed is Good.”1 The culture of greed is the hallmark of the neoliberal era, the period beginning in the 1970s when the protections of the U.S. and European welfare states, and the autonomy of postcolonial states around the world, came under attack. Advocates of neoliberalism worked to reshape global capitalism by freeing transnational corporations from restrictive forms of state regulation, stripping away government efforts to redistribute wealth and provide public services, and emphasizing individual responsibility over social concern.

From the 1980s to 2008, neoliberal politics and policies succeeded in expanding inequality around the world. The political climate Ayn Rand celebrated—the reign of brutal capitalism—intensified. Though Ayn Rand’s popularity took off in the 1940s, her reputation took a dive during the 1960s and ’70s. Then after her death in 1982, during the neoliberal administrations of Ronald Reagan in the United States and Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom, her star rose once more. (See chapter 4 for a full discussion of the rise of neoliberalism.)

During the global economic crisis of 2008 it seemed that the neoliberal order might collapse. It lived on, however, in zombie form as discredited political policies and financial practices were restored. But neoliberal capitalism has always been contested, and competing and conflicting political ideas and organizations proliferated and intensified after 2008 as well.

Protest politics blossomed on the left with Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, and opposition to the Dakota Access oil pipeline at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in the United States, and with the Arab Spring, and other mobilizations around the world. Anti-neoliberal electoral efforts, like the Bernie Sanders campaign for the U.S. presidency, generated excitement as well.

But protest and organizing also expanded on the political right, with reactionary populist, racial nationalist, and protofascist gains in such countries as India, the Philippines, Russia, Hungary, and the United States rapidly proliferating. Between these far-right formations on the one side and persistent zombie neoliberalism on the other, operating sometimes at odds and sometimes in cahoots, the Season of Mean is truly upon us.

We are in the midst of a major global, political, economic, social, and cultural transition — but we don’t yet know which way we’re headed. The incoherence of the Trump administration is symptomatic of the confusion as politicians and business elites jockey with the Breitbart alt-right forces while conservative evangelical Christians pull strings. The unifying threads are meanness and greed, and the spirit of the whole hodgepodge is Ayn Rand.

Rand’s ideas are not the key to her influence. Her writing does support the corrosive capitalism at the heart of neoliberalism, though few movers and shakers actually read any of her nonfiction. Her two blockbuster novels, 'The Fountainpen and Atlas Shrugged, are at the heart of her incalculable impact. Many politicians and government officials going back decades have cited Rand as a formative influence—particularly finance guru and former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, who was a member of Rand's inner circle, and Ronald Reagan, the U.S. president most identified with the national embrace of neoliberal policies.

Major figures in business and finance are or have been Rand fans: Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia), Peter Thiel (Paypal), Steve Jobs (Apple), John Mackey (Whole Foods), Mark Cuban (NBA), John Allison (BB&T Banking Corporation), Travis Kalanik (Uber), Jelf Bezos (Amazon), ad infinitum.

There are also large clusters of enthusiasts for Rand’s novels in the entertainment industry, from the 1940s to the present—from Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Crawford, and Raquel Welch to Jerry Lewis, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Rob Lowe, Jim Carrey, Sandra Bullock, Sharon Stone, Ashley Judd, Eva Mendes, and many more.

The current Trump administration is stuffed to the gills with Rand acolytes. Trump himself identifies with Fountainhead character Howard Roark; former secretary of state Rex Tillerson listed Adas Shrugged as his favorite book in a Scouting magazine feature; his replacement Mike Pompeo has been inspired by Rand since his youth. Ayn Rand’s influence is ascendant across broad swaths of our dominant political culture — including among public figures who see her as a key to the Zeitgeist, without having read a worth of her writing.’’

But beyond the famous or powerful fans, the novels have had a wide popular impact as bestsellers since publication. Along with Rand’s nonfiction, they form the core texts for a political/ philosophical movement: Objectivism. There are several U.S.- based Objectivist organizations and innumerable clubs, reading groups, and social circles. A 1991 survey by the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club found that only the Bible had influenced readers more than Atlas Shrugged, while a 1998 Modern Library poll listed The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged as the two most revered novels in English.

Atlas Shrugged in particular skyrocketed in popularity in the wake of the 2008 financial crash. The U.S. Tea Party movement, founded in 2009, featured numerous Ayn Rand—based signs and slogans, especially the opening line of Atlas Shrugged: “Who is John Galt?” Republican pundit David Frum claimed that the Tea Party was reinventing the GOP as “the party of Ayn Rand.” During 2009 as well, sales of Atlas Shrugged tripled, and GQ_magazine called Rand the year’s most influential author. A 2010 Zogby poll found that 29 percent of respondents had read Atlas Shrugged, and half of those readers said it had affected their political and ethical thinking.

In 2018, a business school teacher writing in Forbes magazine recommended repeat readings: “Recent events — the bizarro circus that is the 2016 election, the disintegration of Venezuela, and so on make me wonder if a lot of this could have been avoided bad we taken Atlas Shrugged's message to heart. It is a book that is worth re-reading every few years.”3

Rand biographer Jennifer Burns asserts simply that Ayn Rand's fiction is “the gateway drug” to right-wing politics in the United States — although her influence extends well beyond the right wing.4

But how can the work of this one novelist (also an essayist, playwright, and philosopher), however influential, be a significant source of insight into the rise of a culture of greed? In a word: sex. Ayn Rand made acquisitive capitalists sexy. She launched thousands of teenage libidos into the world of reactionary politics on a wave of quivering excitement. This sexiness extends beyond romance to infuse the creative aspirations, inventiveness, and determination of her heroes with erotic energy, embedded in what Rand called her “sense of life.” Analogous to what Raymond Williams has called a “structure of feeling,” Rand’s sense of life combines the libido-infused desire for heroic individual achievement with contempt for social inferiors and indifference to their plight.5

Lauren Berlant has called the structure of feeling, or emotional situation, of those who struggle for a good life under neoliberal conditions “cruel optimism”—the complex of feelings necessary to keep plugging away hopefully despite setbacks and losses.'’ Rand's contrasting sense of life applies to those whose fantasies of success and domination include no doubt or guilt. The feelings of aspiration and glee that enliven Rand’s novels combine with contempt for and indifference to others. The resulting Randian sense of life might be called “optimistic cruelty.” Optimistic cruelty is the sense of life for the age of greed.

Ayn Rand’s optimistic cruelty appeals broadly and deeply through its circulation of familiar narratives: the story of “civilizational” progress, die belief in American exceptionalism, and a commitment to capitalist freedom.

Her novels engage fantasies of European imperial domination conceived as technological and cultural advancement, rather than as violent conquest. America is imagined as a clean slate for pure capitalist freedom, with no indigenous people, no slaves, no exploited immigrants or workers in sight. The Fountainhead and especially Atlas Shrugged fabricate history and romanticize violence and domination in ways that reflect, reshape, and reproduce narratives of European superiority' and American virtue.

Their logic also depends on a hierarchy of value based on radicalized beauty and physical capacity — perceived ugliness or disability' are equated with pronounced worthlessness and incompetence.

Through the forms of romance and melodrama, Rand novels extrapolate the story of racial capitalism as a story of righteous passion and noble virtue. They retell The Birth of a Ntation through the lens of industrial capitalism (see chapter 2). They solicit positive identification with winners, with dominant historical forces. It is not an accident that the novels’ fans, though gender mixed, are overwhelmingly white Americans of the professional, managerial, creative, and business classes."


aslan , June 1, 2019

devastating account of the ethos that shapes contemporary America

Ayn Rand is a singular influence on American political thought, and this book brilliantly unfolds how Rand gave voice to the ethos that shapes contemporary conservatism. Duggan -- whose equally insightful earlier book Twilight of Equality offered an analysis of neoliberalism and showed how it is both a distortion and continuation of classical liberalism -- here extends the analysis of American market mania by showing how an anti-welfare state ethos took root as a "structure of feeling" in American culture, elevating the individual over the collective and promoting a culture of inequality as itself a moral virtue.

Although reviled by the right-wing press (she should wear this as a badge of honor), Duggan is the most astute guide one could hope for through this devastating history of our recent past, and the book helps explain how we ended up where we are, where far-right, racist nationalism colludes (paradoxically) with libertarianism, an ideology of extreme individualism and (unlikely bed fellows, one might have thought) Silicon Valley entrepreneurship.

This short, accessible book is essential reading for everyone who wants to understand the contemporary United States.

Wreck2 , June 1, 2019
contemporary cruelty

Does the pervasive cruelty of today's ruling classes shock you? Or, at least give you pause from time to time? Are you surprised by the fact that our elected leaders seem to despise people who struggle, people whose lives are not cushioned and shaped by inherited wealth, people who must work hard at many jobs in order to scrape by? If these or any of a number of other questions about the social proclivities of our contemporary ruling class detain you for just two seconds, this is the book for you.

Writing with wit, rigor, and vigor, Lisa Duggan explains how Ayn Rand, the "mean girl," has captured the minds and snatched the bodies of so very many, and has rendered them immune to feelings of shared humanity with those whose fortunes are not as rosy as their own. An indispensable work, a short read that leaves a long memory.

kerwynk , June 2, 2019
Valuable and insightful commentary on Rand and Rand's influence on today's world

Mean Girl offers not only a biographical account of Rand (including the fact that she modeled one of her key heroes on a serial killer), but describes Rand's influence on neoliberal thinking more generally.

As Duggan makes clear, Rand's influence is not just that she offered a programmatic for unregulated capitalism, but that she offered an emotional template for "optimistic cruelty" that has extended far beyond its libertarian confines. Mean Girl is a fun, worthwhile read!

Sister, June 3, 2019

Superb poitical and cultural exploration of Rand's influence

Lisa Duggan's concise but substantive look at the political and cultural influence of Ayn Rand is stunning. I feel like I've been waiting most of a lifetime for a book that is as wonderfully readable as it is insightful. Many who write about Rand reduce her to a caricature hero or demon without taking her, and the history and choices that produced her seriously as a subject of cultural inquiry. I am one of those people who first encountered Rand's books - novels, but also some nonfiction and her play, "The Night of January 16th," in which audience members were selected as jurors – as a teenager.

Under the thrall of some right-wing locals, I was so drawn to Rand's larger-than-life themes, the crude polarization of "individualism" and "conformity," the admonition to selfishness as a moral virtue, her reductive dismissal of the public good as "collectivism."

Her work circulated endlessly in those circles of the Goldwater-ite right. I have changed over many years, and my own life experiences have led me to reject the casual cruelty and vicious supremacist bent of Rand's beliefs.

But over those many years, the coterie of Rand true believers has kept the faith and expanded. One of the things I value about Duggan's compelling account is her willingness to take seriously the far reach of Rand's indifference to human suffering even as she strips away the veneer that suggests Rand's beliefs were deep.

In fact, though her views are deeply-seated, Rand is, at heart, a confidence artist, appealing only to narrow self-interest at the expense of the well-being of whole societies.

I learned that the hard way, but I learned it. Now I am recommending Duggan's wise book to others who seek to understand today's cultural and political moment in the United States and the rise of an ethic of indifference to anybody but the already affluent. Duggan is comfortable with complexity; most Randian champions or detractors are not.

[Jun 11, 2019] Open borders and illegal immigration are NeoLiberal tactics to promote wage arbitrage.

Jun 11, 2019 | www.moonofalabama.org

MG , Jun 11, 2019 8:40:24 AM | 129

@donkeytale

You stated, "Let's also ignore the fact that the sons and grandsons of the unionised postwar generation for the most part subsequently rejected blue collar work no matter what the pay. This is a sign of decadence I will grant you, and I am guilty as charged. "

This canard doesn't hold up in the face of empirical evidence. One example: 20,000 waiting in line for lousy warehouse jobs at Amazon. The fact is, open borders and illegal immigration are NeoLiberal tactics to promote wage arbitrage. In California, those impacted the most by illegal immigration are African Americans. Whole sectors, such as hotel maintenance and janitorial service, had been unionized, and had principally employed black workers whose salaries enabled them to move into the middle class. The hotel industry welcomed the influx of illegal immigrants willing to work for drastically lower wages. Black workers were replaced and the union destroyed. Unfortunately, many in the US and globally have been so propagandized about illegal immigration that even mentioning illegal immigration gets one falsely labeled racist. in the US, Democrats use illegal immigration as a "demographic strategy," which enables Democrats to remain in power while remaining wholly loyal to Wall Street and doing nothing to ameliorate the misery of the bottom 90%.

[May 14, 2019] Tariffs The Taxes That Made America Great

Notable quotes:
"... China loses the sale. This is why Beijing, which runs $350 billion to $400 billion in annual trade surpluses at our expense is howling loudest. Should Donald Trump impose that 25% tariff on all $500 billion in Chinese exports to the USA, it would cripple China's economy. Factories seeking assured access to the U.S. market would flee in panic from the Middle Kingdom. ..."
"... The Fordney-McCumber Tariff gave Presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge the revenue to offset the slashing of Wilson's income taxes, igniting that most dynamic of decades -- the Roaring '20s. ..."
"... Once a nation is hooked on the cheap goods that are the narcotic free trade provides, it is rarely able to break free. The loss of its economic independence is followed by the loss of its political independence, the loss of its greatness and, ultimately, the loss of its national identity. ..."
May 14, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

Authored by Patrick Buchanan via The Unz Review,

As his limo carried him to work at the White House Monday, Larry Kudlow could not have been pleased with the headline in The Washington Post: "Kudlow Contradicts Trump on Tariffs."

The story began: "National Economic Council Director Lawrence Kudlow acknowledged Sunday that American consumers end up paying for the administration's tariffs on Chinese imports, contradicting President Trump's repeated inaccurate claim that the Chinese foot the bill."

A free trade evangelical, Kudlow had conceded on Fox News that consumers pay the tariffs on products made abroad that they purchase here in the U.S. Yet that is by no means the whole story.

A tariff may be described as a sales or consumption tax the consumer pays, but tariffs are also a discretionary and an optional tax.

If you choose not to purchase Chinese goods and instead buy comparable goods made in other nations or the USA, then you do not pay the tariff.

China loses the sale. This is why Beijing, which runs $350 billion to $400 billion in annual trade surpluses at our expense is howling loudest. Should Donald Trump impose that 25% tariff on all $500 billion in Chinese exports to the USA, it would cripple China's economy. Factories seeking assured access to the U.S. market would flee in panic from the Middle Kingdom.

Tariffs were the taxes that made America great. They were the taxes relied upon by the first and greatest of our early statesmen, before the coming of the globalists Woodrow Wilson and FDR.

Tariffs, to protect manufacturers and jobs, were the Republican Party's path to power and prosperity in the 19th and 20th centuries , before the rise of the Rockefeller Eastern liberal establishment and its embrace of the British-bred heresy of unfettered free trade.

The Tariff Act of 1789 was enacted with the declared purpose, "the encouragement and protection of manufactures." It was the second act passed by the first Congress led by Speaker James Madison. It was crafted by Alexander Hamilton and signed by President Washington.

After the War of 1812, President Madison, backed by Henry Clay and John Calhoun and ex-Presidents Jefferson and Adams, enacted the Tariff of 1816 to price British textiles out of competition, so Americans would build the new factories and capture the booming U.S. market. It worked.

Tariffs financed Mr. Lincoln's War. The Tariff of 1890 bears the name of Ohio Congressman and future President William McKinley, who said that a foreign manufacturer "has no right or claim to equality with our own. He pays no taxes. He performs no civil duties."

That is economic patriotism, putting America and Americans first.

The Fordney-McCumber Tariff gave Presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge the revenue to offset the slashing of Wilson's income taxes, igniting that most dynamic of decades -- the Roaring '20s.

That the Smoot-Hawley Tariff caused the Depression of the 1930s is a New Deal myth in which America's schoolchildren have been indoctrinated for decades.

The Depression began with the crash of the stock market in 1929, nine months before Smoot-Hawley became law. The real villain: The Federal Reserve, which failed to replenish that third of the money supply that had been wiped out by thousands of bank failures. Milton Friedman taught us that.

A tariff is a tax, but its purpose is not just to raise revenue but to make a nation economically independent of others, and to bring its citizens to rely upon each other rather than foreign entities.

The principle involved in a tariff is the same as that used by U.S. colleges and universities that charge foreign students higher tuition than their American counterparts.

What patriot would consign the economic independence of his country to the "invisible hand" of Adam Smith in a system crafted by intellectuals whose allegiance is to an ideology, not a people?

What great nation did free traders ever build?

Free trade is the policy of fading and failing powers, past their prime. In the half-century following passage of the Corn Laws, the British showed the folly of free trade.

They began the second half of the 19th century with an economy twice that of the USA and ended it with an economy half of ours, and equaled by a Germany, which had, under Bismarck, adopted what was known as the American System.

Of the nations that have risen to economic preeminence in recent centuries -- the British before 1850, the United States between 1789 and 1914, post-war Japan, China in recent decades -- how many did so through free trade? None. All practiced economic nationalism.

The problem for President Trump?

Once a nation is hooked on the cheap goods that are the narcotic free trade provides, it is rarely able to break free. The loss of its economic independence is followed by the loss of its political independence, the loss of its greatness and, ultimately, the loss of its national identity.

Brexit was the strangled cry of a British people that had lost its independence and desperately wanted it back.

[May 04, 2019] Someone is getting a raise. It just isn't you

stackoverflow.com

As is usual, the headline economic number is always the rosiest number .

Wages for production and nonsupervisory workers accelerated to a 3.4 percent annual pace, signaling gains for lower-paid employees.

That sounds pretty good. Except for the part where it is a lie.
For starters, it doesn't account for inflation .

Labor Department numbers released Wednesday show that real average hourly earnings, which compare the nominal rise in wages with the cost of living, rose 1.7 percent in January on a year-over-year basis.

1.7% is a lot less than 3.4%.
While the financial news was bullish, the actual professionals took the news differently.

Wage inflation was also muted with average hourly earnings rising six cents, or 0.2% in April after rising by the same margin in March.
Average hourly earnings "were disappointing," said Ian Lyngen, head of U.S. rates strategy at BMO Capital Markets in New York.

Secondly, 1.7% is an average, not a median. For instance, none of this applied to you if you are an older worker .

Weekly earnings for workers aged 55 to 64 were only 0.8% higher in the first quarter of 2019 than they were in the first quarter of 2007, after accounting for inflation, they found. For comparison, earnings rose 4.7% during that same period for workers between the ages of 35 and 54.

On the other hand, if you worked for a bank your wages went up at a rate far above average. This goes double if you are in management.

Among the biggest standouts: commercial banks, which employ an estimated 1.3 million people in the U.S. Since Trump took office in January 2017, they have increased their average hourly wage at an annualized pace of almost 11 percent, compared with just 3.3 percent under Obama.

Finally, there is the reason for this incredibly small wage increase fo regular workers. Hint: it wasn't because of capitalism and all the bullsh*t jobs it creates. The tiny wage increase that the working class has seen is because of what the capitalists said was a terrible idea .

For Americans living in the 21 states where the federal minimum wage is binding, inflation means that the minimum wage has lost 16 percent of its purchasing power.

But elsewhere, many workers and employers are experiencing a minimum wage well above 2009 levels. That's because state capitols and, to an unprecedented degree, city halls have become far more active in setting their own minimum wages.
...
Averaging across all of these federal, state and local minimum wage laws, the effective minimum wage in the United States -- the average minimum wage binding each hour of minimum wage work -- will be $11.80 an hour in 2019. Adjusted for inflation, this is probably the highest minimum wage in American history.
The effective minimum wage has not only outpaced inflation in recent years, but it has also grown faster than typical wages. We can see this from the Kaitz index, which compares the minimum wage with median overall wages.

So if you are waiting for capitalism to trickle down on you, it's never going to happen. span y gjohnsit on Fri, 05/03/2019 - 6:21pm

Carolinas

Teachers need free speech protection

Thousands of South Carolina teachers rallied outside their state capitol Wednesday, demanding pay raises, more planning time, increased school funding -- and, in a twist, more legal protections for their freedom of speech
SC for Ed, the grassroots activist group that organized Wednesday's demonstration, told CNN that many teachers fear protesting or speaking up about education issues, worrying they'll face retaliation at work. Saani Perry, a teacher in Fort Mill, S.C., told CNN that people in his profession are "expected to sit in the classroom and stay quiet and not speak [their] mind."

To address these concerns, SC for Ed is lobbying for the Teachers' Freedom of Speech Act, which was introduced earlier this year in the state House of Representatives. The bill would specify that "a public school district may not willfully transfer, terminate or fail to renew the contract of a teacher because the teacher has publicly or privately supported a public policy decision of any kind." If that happens, teachers would be able to sue for three times their salary.

Teachers across the country are raising similar concerns about retaliation. Such fears aren't unfounded: Lawmakers in some states that saw strikes last year have introduced bills this year that would punish educators for skipping school to protest.

[Apr 19, 2019] The free market fundamentalists thinks these questions of culture, family and social cohesiveness are cute but ultimately irrelevant by TAC staff

Apr 16, 2019 | www.theamericanconservative.com

...you may have missed weeks of debate on the Right over a reasonable comment made by the popular Fox News host.

"Market capitalism is not a religion. Market capitalism is a tool, like a staple gun or a toaster," Carlson said. "Any economic system that weakens and destroys families isn't worth having." Does this observation make Tucker a socialist? Hardly. As is often the case, TAC founding editor Patrick J. Buchanan was more than a decade ahead of the curve.

"To me, the country comes before the economy; and the economy exists for the people," Buchanan said in a 1998 speech to the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations. "I believe in free markets, but I do not worship them. In the proper hierarchy of things, it is the market that must be harnessed to work for man -- and not the other way around."


Kouros, says: April 16, 2019 at 2:05 pm

Maybe someone should read a bit of Amartya Sen?

https://aeon.co/ideas/why-amartya-sen-remains-the-centurys-great-critic-of-capitalism

John Roche, says: April 16, 2019 at 2:18 pm
The free market thinks these questions of culture, family and social cohesiveness are cute but ultimately irrelevant. Conservatives need to come to terms that global capital has no mercy or care for its concerns and ultimate ends. You cant tax credit your way out of that confrontation. City of God vs the city of man is still the battle.
ked_x, says: April 16, 2019 at 2:53 pm
It would have been nice if the Conservative Movement had started this "search for answers" after the failure of the 2012 election where the Republican Party picked a vulture capitalist as a Presidential nominee.

[Apr 05, 2019] "Free" Markets and the Attack on Democracy

Notable quotes:
"... Media consolidation itself has played an enormous role in driving up the cost of political campaigns. How did we get to this second Gilded Age and what lessons can we infer regarding our democratic prospects? ..."
"... Notre Dame University 's Philip Mirowski Never Let a Serious Crisis G to Waste has provided a careful and detailed analysis of this neoliberal movement in American politics. ..."
"... Adam Smith and JS Mill saw markets as non-coercive means to allocate resources and produce goods and services. Neoliberals regarded markets as perfect information processing machines that could provide optimal solutions to all social problems ..."
"... Market is miraculous and a boon to many, but paradoxically only a strong state can assure its arrival and maintenance. Sometimes it may appear that the market is yielding iniquitous or unsustainable outcomes, which my lead to premature or disastrous rejection of its wisdom ..."
"... The neoliberal deification of markets has many parents. This mindset encouraged and was encouraged by a revolt against democracy. The wealthy had always been concerned that a propertyless working class might vote to expropriate them, but neoliberalism gave them further reason to bypass democracy. Markets were seen as better indicators of truth than democratic elections, though that point was seldom expressed as directly ..."
"... Here is FA Hayek's oblique expression of this concern: "if we proceed on the assumption that only the exercises of freedom that the majority will practice are important, we would be certain to create a stagnant society with all the characteristics of unfreedom." ..."
Apr 05, 2019 | www.commondreams.org

Why "free" why not "fair". Neoliberals are as dangerious as Big brother in 1994. Actually neoliberal state is as close to Big Brother regine described in 1994. We have total surveillance, with technological capabiltiies which probably exceed anything rulers of 1984 world possessed, Russiagate as "hour of anger", permanent war for permanent people (and total victory of "democracy") , and of course "[neoliberal] freedom is [debt[ slavery..." in neoliberal MSM.

Fast forward from one Gilded Age to another. Citizens United, granting unions and corporations the right to spend unlimited amounts of money to advocate for and against political candidates, is often regarded as a singularly dangerous challenge to our democratic norms, especially with its infamous assertion that money is speech. Less attention, however, is pad to the context in which this decision occurred, including corporate consolidation in most sectors of the economy, obscene levels of economic inequality, and near religious reverence for deregulated markets.

Media consolidation itself has played an enormous role in driving up the cost of political campaigns. How did we get to this second Gilded Age and what lessons can we infer regarding our democratic prospects?

The post World War II decades saw white working class gains in income made possible by unionization, the GI bill, and a federal commitment to full employment. Positive as these gains were, they carried with them unintended consequences. Workers and employers, having less fear of depression, periodically drove wages and prices up.

Bursts of inflation and an unprecedented profit squeeze led to unemployment even in the midst of inflation, an unprecedented and unexpected circumstance. Blacks had been left out of the full benefits of the New Deal welfare state and raised demands not only for political equality but also for economic opportunity, one of Reconstruction's forgotten promises.

These events provided an opening for a group of academics who had long despised the New Deal welfare state. Notre Dame University 's Philip Mirowski Never Let a Serious Crisis G to Waste has provided a careful and detailed analysis of this neoliberal movement in American politics.

These neoliberals shared with their nineteenth- century predecessors a faith in markets, but with an important difference. Adam Smith and JS Mill saw markets as non-coercive means to allocate resources and produce goods and services. Neoliberals regarded markets as perfect information processing machines that could provide optimal solutions to all social problems. Hence a commitment not only to lift rent control on housing but also to privatize prisons, water and sewer systems, and to deregulate all aspects of personal finance and treat education and health care as commodities to be pursued on unregulated markets. An essential part of this faith in markets is the post Reagan view of corporate consolidation. Combinations are to be judged only on the basis of cheap products to the consumer.

Older antitrust concerns about worker welfare or threat to democracy itself are put aside. Corporate mergers and the emergence of monopoly are seen as reflections of the omniscient market. In practice, however as we shall see, such a tolerant attitude is not applied to worker associations.

Neoliberals differ from their classical predecessors in a second important way. Market is miraculous and a boon to many, but paradoxically only a strong state can assure its arrival and maintenance. Sometimes it may appear that the market is yielding iniquitous or unsustainable outcomes, which my lead to premature or disastrous rejection of its wisdom. The answer to this anger is more markets, but that requires a strong state staffed by neoliberals. They would have the capacity and authority to enact and impose these markets and distract the electorate and divert them into more harmless pursuits. Recognition of the need for a powerful state stands in partial contradiction to the neoliberal's professed deification of pure markets and was seldom presented to public gatherings. As Mirowski put it, neoliberals operated on the basis of a dual truth, an esoteric truth for its top scholars and theorists and an exoteric version for then public. Celebration of the spontaneous market was good enough for Fox News, whereas top neoliberal scholars discussed how to reengineer government in order to recast society.

The signs of neoliberalism are all around us. Worried about student debt? There is a widely advertised financial institution that will refinance your loan. Trapped in prison with no money for bail. There are corporations and products that will take care of that. Cancer cures, money for funerals and burial expenses can all be obtained via the market. Any problem the market creates the market can solve. The implications of this view have been ominous for democracy and social justice.

The neoliberal deification of markets has many parents. This mindset encouraged and was encouraged by a revolt against democracy. The wealthy had always been concerned that a propertyless working class might vote to expropriate them, but neoliberalism gave them further reason to bypass democracy. Markets were seen as better indicators of truth than democratic elections, though that point was seldom expressed as directly.

Here is FA Hayek's oblique expression of this concern: "if we proceed on the assumption that only the exercises of freedom that the majority will practice are important, we would be certain to create a stagnant society with all the characteristics of unfreedom."

The revolt against democracy has occurred on several different levels of the political process. The question of who can vote is just as contested as during Reconstruction, and not just in the South. As during Reconstruction, it does not take the form of explicit racial appeals. The strategy includes further limiting the time polls are open, reduction in the number of polling places, voter identification cards that take time and money to obtain. Who can vote is also a function of the racist legacy of our history, with prohibitions on voting by felons serving to exclude large numbers of potential voters, disproportionately minorities. It should be mentioned more than it is that these techniques also work to the disadvantage of poor whites. Political scientists Walter Dean Burnham and Thomas Ferguson point out: "In Georgia in 1942, for example, turnout topped out at 3.4 percent (that's right, 3.4 percent; no misprint). Why is no mystery: the Jim Crow system pushed virtually all African-Americans out of the system, while the network of poll taxes, registration requirements, literacy tests and other obstacles that was part of that locked out most poor whites from voting, too. Since the civil rights revolution, turnouts in the South have risen fitfully to national levels, amid much pushback, such as the raft of new voter ID requirements (though these are not limited to the South)."

Minorities, poor, and even substantial segments of the working class are further disadvantaged by efforts to defund the labor opposition. Unions have been the one big money source that Democrats had available, but as the party from Bill Clinton on increasingly became a kind of neoliberalism light, embracing corporate trade agreements with a little bit of job training assistance thrown in, unions lost members, many corporations forced decertification elections. Democrats lost not only financial resources but also the ground troops that had mobilized their voters.

One result of and partial driving force behind these changes is that both parties become big money parties. Burnham and Ferguson-( December 2014)- The President and the Democratic Party are almost as dependent on big money – defined, for example, in terms of the percentage of contributions (over $500 or $1000) from the 1 percent as the Republicans. To expect top down money-driven political parties to make strong economic appeals to voters is idle. Instead the Golden Rule dominates: Money-driven parties emphasize appeals to particular interest groups instead of the broad interests of working Americans that would lead their donors to shut their wallets.

As David Stockman, President Reagan's Budget Director once all but confessed,

"in the modern era the party has never really pretended to have much of a mass constituency. It wins elections by rolling up huge percentages of votes in the most affluent classes while seeking to divide middle and working class voters with various special appeals and striving to hold down voting by minorities and the poor."

Challenging this bipartisan money driven establishment becomes even more difficult as state level ballot access laws are notoriously hostile to third parties. Add to this the private, deceptively named Presidential Debate Commission, which specializes in depriving even candidates about whom large segment s of the population are curious access to the widely watched debates. Unfortunately the celebrated voting reform proposal, HR1, though containing some democratic initiatives such as early voting and automatic voter registration, makes it own contribution to economic and political consolidation.

Bruce Dixon, editor of Black Agenda Report, maintains that only two provisions of this bill are likely to become law and both are destructive: "by raising the qualifying amount from its current level of $5,000 in each of 20 states to $25,000 in 20 states. HR 1 would cut funding for a Green presidential candidate in half, and by making ballot access for a Green presidential candidate impossible in several states it would also guarantee loss of the party's ability to run for local offices." Dixon also predicts that some Democrats "will cheerfully cross the aisle to institutionalize the Pentagon, spies and cops to produce an annual report on the threat to electoral security.

Dixon maintains:

"Democrats are a capitalist party, they are a government party, and this is how they govern. HR 1 reaches back a hundred years into the Democrat playbook politicians created a foreign menace to herd the population into World War 1, which ended in the Red Scare and a couple of red summers, waves of official and unofficial violence and deportations against US leftists and against black people. The Red Scare led to the founding of the FBI, the core of the nation's permanent political police . Fifty years ago these were the same civil servants who gave us the assassinations, the disinformation and illegality of COINTELPRO, and much, much more before that and since then. HR 1 says let's go to the Pentagon and the cops, let's order them to discover threats to the electoral system posed by Americans working to save themselves and the planet."

Dixon is surely right that both parties are capitalist parties, but capitalism itself has taken different forms. New Deal and neoliberal capitalism had far different implications for working class Americans. The New Deal itself was heavily influenced by Norman Thomas and the socialist tradition. In this regard, if what Paul Wellstone used to call the democratic wing of the Democratic Party wishes to see its ideals translated into practice, it must resist efforts to exclude third parties or to deny primary opponents an even playing field.

I am not claiming that there has been a carefully coordinated conspiracy among the individuals and groups that supported these policies, but leaders did act out of a general animus toward popular movements that further reinforced their reverence for corporate markets, and the faith in markets drove the worries about popular movements.

One positive conclusion to be drawn is that if this attack on democracy exists on several levels, activism might be fruitful in many domains and may have a spillover effect. Unions are still not dead, and there is a fight now for the soul of the Democratic Party and that fight might stimulate voter access and eligibility reforms. These in turn could reshape the party's orientation and ideology. Even at the Federal level Dark money is worrisome to many voters and could be an incentive to mobilize for better disclosure laws. There are ample fronts on which to fight and good reason to keep up the struggle.

Video:

https://www.youtube.com/embed/1CxOpAcViPQ

[Feb 26, 2019] "'Free market?!'" he exclaimed. "No such thing. Because it's all crooked.

Feb 26, 2019 | www.unz.com

obwandiyag , says: February 26, 2019 at 6:34 pm GMT

@Digital Samizdat Excellent intelligence. As opposed to the "high IQ" idiocy promulgated on here.

You may like the way an acquaintance, a PhD from Chicago School of Business, who had just finished working on a project for Big Pharma, observed when I brought up the concept of "free market."

"'Free market?!'" he exclaimed. "No such thing. Because it's all crooked."

[Jan 19, 2019] According to Wolin, domestic and foreign affairs goals are each important and on parallel tracks

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... The first, directed outward, finds its expression in the global War on Terror and in the Bush Doctrine that the United States has the right to launch preemptive wars. This amounts to the United States seeing as illegitimate the attempt by any state to resist its domination. ..."
"... The second dynamic, directed inward, involves the subjection of the mass of the populace to economic "rationalization", with continual "downsizing" and "outsourcing" of jobs abroad and dismantling of what remains of the welfare state created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal and President Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society. Neoliberalism is an integral component of inverted totalitarianism. The state of insecurity in which this places the public serves the useful function of making people feel helpless, therefore making it less likely they will become politically active and thus helping maintain the first dynamic. ..."
"... By using managerial methods and developing management of elections, the democracy of the United States has become sanitized of political participation, therefore managed democracy is "a political form in which governments are legitimated by elections that they have learned to control". ..."
"... Under managed democracy, the electorate is prevented from having a significant impact on policies adopted by the state because of the opinion construction and manipulation carried out by means of technology, social science, contracts and corporate subsidies. ..."
Jan 19, 2019 | www.moonofalabama.org

Jackrabbit , Jan 15, 2019 9:31:08 PM | lin k

karlof1

According to Wolin, domestic and foreign affairs goals are each important and on parallel tracks, as summarized at Wikipedia, the United States has two main totalizing dynamics:

The first, directed outward, finds its expression in the global War on Terror and in the Bush Doctrine that the United States has the right to launch preemptive wars. This amounts to the United States seeing as illegitimate the attempt by any state to resist its domination.

The second dynamic, directed inward, involves the subjection of the mass of the populace to economic "rationalization", with continual "downsizing" and "outsourcing" of jobs abroad and dismantling of what remains of the welfare state created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal and President Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society. Neoliberalism is an integral component of inverted totalitarianism. The state of insecurity in which this places the public serves the useful function of making people feel helpless, therefore making it less likely they will become politically active and thus helping maintain the first dynamic.

<> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <>

Wolin's Inverted Totalitarianism provides the ground work for my suspicions regarding faux populists Obama and Trump:

By using managerial methods and developing management of elections, the democracy of the United States has become sanitized of political participation, therefore managed democracy is "a political form in which governments are legitimated by elections that they have learned to control".

Under managed democracy, the electorate is prevented from having a significant impact on policies adopted by the state because of the opinion construction and manipulation carried out by means of technology, social science, contracts and corporate subsidies.

[Jan 13, 2019] There is no free market! It's all crooked by financial oligarchy!

Highly recommended!
Free market is possible only under strict government regulation. Without government regulation free market quickly deteriorates into the law of jungles. Such a paradox ;-)
And if financial oligarchy gets to power as they got via coup d'état in the USA in late 7th, it is only a matter of time before the society collapses. They are very destructive to the society at large. Probably more so then organized crime. But wait. They actually can be viewed as special type of organized prime as is "The best way to rob the bank is to own it".
Notable quotes:
"... Idiots on here are always going on about how we don't got capitalism, if we only had capitalism, we don't got free markets, if only we had free markets, then everything would be hunky-dory. Without any proof, of course, because there never was and never will be a "free" "market." The US has plenty capitalism. And everything sucks. And they want more. Confused, stupid, disingenuous liars. ..."
"... Free markets are crookedness factories. As a PhD from Chicago Business School told me, "Free markets?! What free markets?! There is no free market! It's all crooked!" ..."
Jan 13, 2019 | www.unz.com

obwandiyag , says: January 13, 2019 at 6:37 am GMT

Idiots on here are always going on about how we don't got capitalism, if we only had capitalism, we don't got free markets, if only we had free markets, then everything would be hunky-dory. Without any proof, of course, because there never was and never will be a "free" "market." The US has plenty capitalism. And everything sucks. And they want more. Confused, stupid, disingenuous liars.
obwandiyag , says: January 13, 2019 at 6:42 am GMT
Look, what you call "capitalism" and "free markets" just means scams to make rich people richer. You read some simple-minded description of some pie-in-the-sky theory of some perfect world where rational actors make the best possible decisions in their own interest without any outside interference, and you actually think you are reading a description of something real.

I'll tell you what's real. Crookedness. Free markets are crookedness factories. As a PhD from Chicago Business School told me, "Free markets?! What free markets?! There is no free market! It's all crooked!"

[Jan 13, 2019] Republican politicians may invoke the rhetoric of free markets to justify cutting taxes for the rich and benefits for the poor, or removing environmental regulations that hurt polluters' profits, but they don't really care about free markets per se. After all, the party had little problem lining up behind Trump's embrace of tariffs

Notable quotes:
"... If anything, Trump and the GOP have finally shown common decent folk what the democratic experiment in America has become: a system that looks alot like feudal systems of the past. Including walls! ..."
"... There is no such thing as a free market. Let me repeat it again for effect: there is NO such thing as a free market. Whether one calls it libertarianism or neoliberalism, the idea is pretty much the same: if we just unleash the power of human greed, the market will equal everything out, and we'll all be freer because of it. Sorry, but it doesn't work that way. Our government gives huge incentives to large corporations with the idea that wealth will trickle down into middle class jobs and prosperity. But guess what? Those corporations keep most of the incentives and profits for themselves and their shareholders. The comparatively minuscule recent tax cuts for the middle class pale in comparison to the huge corporate cuts that added $2 trillion to our national deficit. The only thing stopping corporate excess and monopolies is government. Many libertarians cry "starve the beast." Well, they shouldn't complain if they get food poisoning because their food wasn't properly inspected by a government they loath. And neither should President Trump complain, if, like most Americans, his next Big Mac doesn't agree with him. ..."
"... Anarchy is oligarchy. The rule of law -- law crafted by dedicated public servants, who are elected by sober and informed citizens -- is the closest we can come to freedom. ..."
"... The libertarian philosophy is this: while you're young and healthy and productive, you can help make money for your boss. However, once you are old and no longer capable of making a contribution to someone else, it is your obligation to simply die. ..."
"... Privatizing Social Security so that investment firms can get a piece of the action, privatizing Medicare so that insurance companies can get a piece of the action, and privatizing the military, so that private paramilitary companies can get more than their fair share of the action. It's theft in plain sight. We can't believe it, because it's so obvious. ..."
"... Paraphrasing Marie Antoinette "Let them eat contaminated cake" ..."
"... Funny how libertarians never argue for privatizing the military, or law enforcement. ..."
"... I cannot enumerate the number of rich Republicans who tried to get the government to support their elderly while the children of those elderly got the money. I could tell you stories, including one about a certain Republican Governor of Pennsylvania who tried to put his adult, but mentally handicapped child on Medicaid. ..."
"... Cutting tax rates on the wealthy are stealing from the rest of us. We make contributions every hour of every day which are hoovered up by the wealthy and the powerful. Meanwhile we cannot afford the cost of living, which has skyrocketed vs wages and benefits. The cost of an apartment is exorbitant. The cost of health care is exorbitant. Meanwhile the commons suffer. Infrastructure suffers. Sidewalks are a menace. There is lead in the water. Rich people who do not pay their fair share of taxes are stealing from the people in so many ways it's impossible to count them. But count them in years lost, in lives cut short, in lives blighted. ..."
"... Republicans aren't against government, it has grown more under every Republican president including Reagan himself. They simply have their preferences as to who benefits from it. ..."
"... As the saying goes, you never miss your water until your well runs dry. ..."
Jan 13, 2019 | www.nytimes.com

That said, the truth is that libertarian ideology isn't a real force within the G.O.P.; it's more of a cover story for the party's actual agenda.

In the case of the party establishment, that agenda is about redistributing income up the scale, and in particular helping important donor interests. Republican politicians may invoke the rhetoric of free markets to justify cutting taxes for the rich and benefits for the poor, or removing environmental regulations that hurt polluters' profits, but they don't really care about free markets per se. After all, the party had little problem lining up behind Trump's embrace of tariffs.

Meanwhile, the philosophy of the party's base is, in essence, big government for me but not for thee. Stick it to the bums on welfare, but don't touch those farm subsidies. Tellingly, the centerpiece of the long G.O.P. jihad against Obamacare was the false claim that it would hurt Medicare.

And as it happens, many of the spending cuts being forced by the shutdown fall heavily and obviously on base voters. Small business owners are much more conservative than the nation as a whole, but they really miss those government loans. Rural voters went Republican during a Democratic midterm blowout, but they want those checks. McConnell may have trash-talked food stamps in the past, but a sudden cutoff would have a catastrophic effect on the most Republican parts of his home state.


C Wolfe Bloomington IN Jan. 10

I had an idiot,er, libertarian friend once who actually believed the market would take care of food safety, because people wouldn't buy food from a source if that source was known to have sold tainted food. "What about the people who die in the meantime?" I asked. "Well, it's up to people to decide what to eat. The government shouldn't tell people what to eat." "But how are you supposed to know? How much tainted food has to be sold and eaten before people even know to avoid it? People get sick or die.

What about people's lives?" "Argh, 'people's lives.'" (Eye roll.) "Liberals are always talking about 'people's lives.'" I swear this is an actual conversation that I repeated so many times I have it memorized.

AndyE Berkley MI Jan. 10

Ironically, the likelihood of chronic dependency on federal dollars is directly proportional to the redness of the state.

DB NC Jan. 11 Times Pick

One of the big obstacles I've observed is that conservatives, in general, have to experience negative consequences directly to understand the link between cause and effect. Liberals, in general, are better at imagining negative consequences and taking preventive action before they directly experience it. It has to do with empathy and solidarity, I think. Liberals see someone suffering, and they think, "We should find out what caused that and fix it so it doesn't happen to the rest of us." Conservatives see someone suffering, and they think, "That guy must be a terrible person. He totally deserves what happened to him. It can never happen to me because I'm a good guy." It is only when the negative thing does directly happen to the conservative that he may reconsider. That's when it is important to find a scapegoat- illegal immigrants, minorities, Jews- to blame in order to obscure the causal link.

Socrates Downtown Verona. NJ Jan. 10

Libertarianism attracts the finest stunted teenaged and hypocritical minds that are either disconnected from reality or that suffer from cognitive dissonance that allows hypocrisy and selfishness to flourish like mutant bacteria. Taxes and good government are the price of any decent civilization...and both of these concepts are completely demonized by Republicans even though Republicans are some of the greatest welfare queens in the nation. Productive, modern, blue Democratic state federal tax dollars have long subsidized rural, religious Republican states that hate the federal government....they curse they horse that feeds them and then they curse even more when the federal teat is turned off. America's 0.1% Robber Barons and crony vulture capitalists curse 'high tax rates' that aren't particularly high compared to the rest of the world while using America's infrastructure, legal system, government-funded research and technology, and corrupted electoral system to make parasitic profits that dwarf those of foreign corporations who pay their fair share of taxes to countries with increasingly better infrastructure and educational systems. The libertarian theology followed to fruition is Somalia-like; an unregulated anarchy of human misery. Decent human beings understand that healthy taxes produce healthy civilization. Today's version of libertarian Republicanism is a demented form of arrested emotional development that's been destroying the USA since 1980. Nice GOPeople.

Larry St. Paul, MN Jan. 11 Times Pick

Those who believe, like Ronald Reagan, that government is the problem, are about to discover that the absence of government is an even worse problem.

Wilbray Thiffault Ottawa. Canada Jan. 10

Senator Mitch McConnel said that the food stamp program is "making it excessively easy to be non productive." Well, Mitch McConnel is not on the food stamp program and he manages to be one of the most "non productive" senator in the history of the US Senate. Congratulation Senator!

Eric Bremen Jan. 11 Times Pick

Almost unfailingly, the stoutest Republican supporters seem to be the biggest beneficiaries of government: the military, farmers, pensioners or small business owners. Growing up in a military family, I remember subsidized gas, medical treatment for free and school trips paid by the DoD. Yet anytime there was a Democratic president, it sounded like there would be a coup when our military parents met at picnicks and had a few beers. If anything, Trump and the GOP have finally shown common decent folk what the democratic experiment in America has become: a system that looks alot like feudal systems of the past. Including walls!

jrinsc South Carolina Jan. 11 Times Pick

There is no such thing as a free market. Let me repeat it again for effect: there is NO such thing as a free market. Whether one calls it libertarianism or neoliberalism, the idea is pretty much the same: if we just unleash the power of human greed, the market will equal everything out, and we'll all be freer because of it. Sorry, but it doesn't work that way. Our government gives huge incentives to large corporations with the idea that wealth will trickle down into middle class jobs and prosperity. But guess what? Those corporations keep most of the incentives and profits for themselves and their shareholders. The comparatively minuscule recent tax cuts for the middle class pale in comparison to the huge corporate cuts that added $2 trillion to our national deficit. The only thing stopping corporate excess and monopolies is government. Many libertarians cry "starve the beast." Well, they shouldn't complain if they get food poisoning because their food wasn't properly inspected by a government they loath. And neither should President Trump complain, if, like most Americans, his next Big Mac doesn't agree with him.

TM Muskegon, MI Jan. 10

For those who despise government regulations, I offer 3 observations: 1. I lived near Muskegon, MI, prior to the EPA, when 3 foundries were constantly belching smoke and foundry dust into the air. Breathing the air was equivalent to smoking 2 packs of cigarettes a day.

2. I lived in Cairo, Egypt for 3 years. I purchased 4 pairs of prescription eyeglasses before finally giving up. None of them were right - and no regulations meant that I had no recourse.

3. I lived in Accra, Ghana for 3 years. No construction codes meant that the brand new luxury apartment building I moved into suffered numerous problems with plumbing, resulting in mold, flooded floors and sudden loss of water pressure.

In Cairo and in Accra, there was no social safety net. Beggars were a constant. Often they would be horribly disfigured and with no family what were they to do? I am happily retired now, back in Western Michigan, thoroughly enjoying the clean air, safe food, and clean parks. Obama said it best - it's not the size of government, it's the effectiveness of it. And if it's not working, that's on us - we're the ones who put those people in office. 2020 can't arrive soon enough.

Lex DC Jan. 10

The Trump voter in my family was a libertarian before switching to the Party of Trump and still believes that government is an interference. One conversation we had was about electricians needing to be licensed. He said electricians did not need to be licensed because if their work led to customers being injured or killed due to a fire, that information would circulate and those electricians would be forced out of the market. I asked him if he cared about the people injured or killed, he shrugged his shoulders and said that's just the way things are. I then asked him what if he was one the customers injured or killed. He looked rather shocked at that question and immediately dropped the subject. That is all that I ever needed to know about libertarianism.

Michael W. Espy Flint, MI Jan. 11 Times Pick

I like to pay taxes, I get civilization in return.

Pat Somewhere Jan. 10

"Libertarianism" according to the GOP means that YOU need the discipline of the "free market," but I deserve all the protections and support of the nanny state (financed with your tax dollars, thank you very much.)

Goodglud Flagstaff, AZ Jan. 10

As George Lakoff reminded us, what the anti-government folks call "regulations" are, for the most part, "protections." We shouldn't let the Kochs, Trumps, McConnells, and Ryans frame the discussion. "The term "regulation" is framed from the viewpoint of corporations and other businesses. From their viewpoint, "regulations" are limitations on their freedom to do whatever they want no matter who it harms. But from the public's viewpoint, a regulation is a protection against harm done by unscrupulous corporations seeking to maximize profit at the cost of harm to the public." https://georgelakoff.com/2017/01/28/the-publics-viewpoint-regulations-are-protections

Michael McLemore Athens, Georgia Jan. 11 Times Pick

At some point the American people need to realize that conservative/libertarian pundits are just on-air hucksters selling a product. Instead of selling Vegematics, Ginsu knives or non-stick cookware, they are peddling right-wing bile for a profit. And the profits derived from their corporate advertisers are huge. Forget truth or journalism, Rush Linbaugh openly proclaims himself to be an "entertainer" and not a "journalist" (mainly to make it more difficult to sue him for falsehood). Ann Coulter similarly declares herself a "polemicist". Forget for a moment the subversive influence of Russian money and hacking on American politics. Our own homegrown corporate advertisers are eagerly subverting America by underwriting glib purveyors of corrosive right-wing propaganda, who will slyly proclaim the gospel of unbridled greed and not of social responsibility. Of course drug companies don't want the FDA. Why would they want oversight to keep the public safe, when safety costs them money? Why would banks want regulation to safeguard the financial system and consumers, when regulation interferes with short-term profits? The Koch brothers don't want pesky interference from the EPA in regulating their mega-refinery in Minnesota. Their family homes are in Aspen, Palm Beach and Manhattan, so why should it concern them if effluent rolls through St. Louis, Memphis, and New Orleans? Don't dare call this something so plain as "greed". Wrap it in a bow and call it "libertarianism".

FunkyIrishman member of the resistance Jan. 11 Times Pick

Republican mantra (even Libertarian) is to be left alone, so long as THEIR way of life is left alone, and they are subsidized by you for living that way. That may mean a MASSIVE military to be a deterrent, or to go invade some other country to keep the oil flowing. That may mean subsidizing all sorts of industries, businesses and the like, because they cannot compete at all on a truly free open market. That might mean support for all sorts of social programs, health programs, education programs and the like as well, because bootstraps only take you so far. I would use the word hypocrisy, but that would entail that many know what they speak of when describing what Libertarian, or Socialist. or another ''ist'' form of government actually means. We are all in this together or we are not. There is no in between, but many would have you believe it is possible. It is not.

earlyman Portland Jan. 10

@Bill Once you our you loved one eats salmonella contaminated lettuce and nearly dies, good luck going after, or even finding, the agra-business across the country who caused it.

Linda Sausalito, CA Jan. 10

European food is heavily regulated, uh, by governments. Much tastier and doesn't contain known carcinogens. Watching the train wreck of the United States.

Will Schmidt perlboy on a ranch 6 miles from Ola, AR Jan. 10

@C Wolfe This rings so true for me too. I majored in economics at UICC in the early seventies. My favorite prof was a PhD candidate at U of Chicago, and one of his advisors was Milton Friedman. Being at UICC, I did not study under the great man, but I did under one of his acolytes, who was close to tenure (ABD, if I remember correctly), and I thought, a very intelligent one. One of his two areas of doctoral specialty (you had to have two; his other was labor) was macro, and I took him for among other things, money & banking. In fact, I took M&B twice, because the first time (I got an A) was from a Keynesian, and I wanted to get it from a Quantity Theory guy; another A.) Because my prof was a diciple of M.F., I got to attend several special lectures at UC, and partake of the kool-aid. Well, I heard directly from the horse's mouth how consumers would boycotte inferior suppliers and only the best would survive. The free market would favor the best and punish the worst. Of course, this required perfect information. Unfortunately, no good case was made how a perfect information economy could be achieved nor how consumers could afford to acquire perfect information. The price of discovering bad suppliers of tainted food would surely include the deaths of some number of consumers before that information became generally available. We debated perfect markets and perfect information but never did get a convincing case for abandoning government inspection of food products.

Michael Kelly Bellevue, Nebraska Jan. 10

The famous Republican philosopher Grover Norquist once said that he's want to have government so small that one could drown it in the bathtub. Right now, nearly one million government workers are facing the prospect of drowning in debt. Trump suggests that they could make do like he always used to, namely declare bankruptcy or go to daddy for a loan. All this while court jester Pence 'handles' the negotiations. His idea is to make more requests while staying firm on a wall.

LT Chicago Jan. 10

Perhaps the GOP base will finally learn just how dependent they really are on the government they profess to hate. Trump loving farmers and small town business owners are in for a particularly nasty surprise. It's not just farm subsidies. As described by Michael Lewis in "The Fifth Risk": "As the U.S.D.A.'s loans were usually made through local banks, the people on the receiving end of them were often unaware of where the money was coming from. There were many stories very like the one Tom Vilsack told, about a loan they had made, in Minnesota, to a government-shade-throwing, Fox News-watching, small-town businessman. The bank held a ceremony and the guy wound up being interviewed by the local paper. "He's telling the reporter how proud he is to have done it on his own," said Vilsack. "The U.S.D.A. person goes to introduce herself, and he says, 'So who are you?' She says, 'I'm the U.S.D.A. person.' He asks, 'What are you doing here?' She says, 'Well, sir, we supplied the money you are announcing.' He was white as a sheet." There are rural counties in this country that are only viable with government money. Trump counties. It's going to be an expensive and painful education. Trump University lives.

Norm Weaver Buffalo NY Jan. 10

If ever there was a group that lives in a fantasy world, it's the libertarians. In another article in another newspaper that dealt with "intrusive" government, I submitted a comment saying that I wouldn't be surprised if Libertarians would be opposed to STOP signs and traffic lights because these would constitute an unnecessary infringement on their freedom. Wouldn't you know that a person of that persuasion actually replied to my comment and confirmed my suspicion. Working in an IT position for three decades I dealt with this type daily. Many were 30-something white males, often both cognitively and physically well above average, who had learned to program computers. They were blessed with being raised in two-parent families. I acknowledge the hard work they did to learn to wrestle with computers, but they lacked the perspective to realize that they had not hit a home run but rather had been born on second or third base due to the intellectual and physical gifts they possess that many others don't.They could not understand why others in society could not emulate their success. In one conversation about affirmative action, one such person asked "Why do we need that anymore? There are laws against discrimination.". Many of this type get bit in the behind when some government regulation is repealed then it turns out that THEY are the ones adversely affected by the repeal. But don't waste your breath trying to pierce the fantasy balloon. They hold tight to those fantasies.

George Chicago Jan. 10

I'm waiting for Grover Norquist and the other small government proponents to relocate to Somalia, home of no real government. Why it's not thriving without the yoke of onerous regulations is surprising.

Red Sox, '04, '07, '13, '18, Boston Jan. 10

"...making it excessively easy to be non-productive." -- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The irony is too rich here. While he and his president and the "non-productive" Republican Senators draw a paycheck for soaking up the public dime, kids will go hungry; start-up hopefuls will lose loans; farmers will feel the bite; food will become contaminated and people will fill hospital ER's and strain their health insurance. For openers. The Right is getting its own back on FDR's New Deal. All because "government is the problem." Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Dominic Holland San Diego Jan. 10

A relatively minor point: "Maybe you believe that private companies could take over the F.D.A.'s role in keeping food safe, but such companies don't exist now and can't be conjured up in a matter of weeks." Such inspection companies could only exist if they were funded by the food companies they were inspecting. Competition among inspection companies would then obviously lead to grade inflation: hire some other company that is more likely to give you a passing grade, who in turn will be happy to lower standards to attract more customers. This is not an avenue for effective replacement of the FDA. Libertarianism is for chumps and fanatics, no one else.

Paul K Michigan USA Jan. 11 Times Pick

We lived in a small West African nation for 25 years. There were no collectable taxes because the tax collectors kept what they could extort from poor people, no safety nets such as social security or medicaid/medicare, no fire fighters, no functional road departments, no regulation of pharmaceuticals, an unprepared and unarmed military, no paid federal, regional of local police forces, no judges who were not bought by the highest bidder, no standards for the public hospitals, no communication systems, no running water in major cities, no electric power that functioned more than 4-6 hours a day, and not a single government official who was not on the take.

What we did have were cholera epidemics that killed 5000 people, annual measle epidemics that killed children under 5 years old , villages burned to the ground by wildfire, a school system which did not pay its teachers and finally a 12 year civil war which killed over 200,000 people and a [post war ebola epidemic which killed 12,000 more.

The proper use of taxes was not even a dream. Now in the USA, the "leadership" under its current president and his sycophants are playing personal and infantile grade school games with your and my tax dollars and the congress is helping them do it. Amazing! I feel like I am back home in my 3rd world village .

Tom B New York Jan. 11 Times Pick

Anarchy is oligarchy. The rule of law -- law crafted by dedicated public servants, who are elected by sober and informed citizens -- is the closest we can come to freedom. Governance that provides basic order and rules and a safety net for when people fail (either from behavior that is unwise or from ill fortune) is part of the rule of law. There are also necessary things that the government can provide (without a profit motive) better than either charity of for profit organizations. Roads and basic science are good examples. Other things are best left alone by government -- things like sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll. These should be principles that we all can live by, but it seems like the so-called conservatives believe quite the opposite. They believe in unregulated guns, flows of money to unregulated trusts, defunded public goods, and violent repression of sex, drugs, and free expression.

Kinsale Charlottesville, VA Jan. 10

@earlyman correct. The first thing those large corporations responsible will do is use their lobbying power to legislate liability caps on what they have to pay in settlement costs. That's the way the real world works. We're not living in some libertarian utopia.

James Wallis Martin Christchurch, New Zealand Jan. 10

Problems with the food industry in the US isn't just a new issue since the Trump administration, it has been an issue for decades. The problems of Big Ag and Food Manufacturers lobbying has been so bad, that whenever I see doctors in Germany and New Zealand, the first question they ask is have I been and eaten food in the US in the last six months, when they are trying to ascertain health issues". When the medical community around the world asks about US food intake, you know corporate libertarianism has run afoul and at the cost of the health of America. The fact that foods that can't be sold in Europe for health reasons are dumped in the US just highlights how it is no longer the United States of America, but rather the Corporate States of America. When will the people demand for Separation of Corporation and State?

John Moran Tennessee Jan. 11

I had serious Libertarian leanings up until a few years ago when my family and I moved to Bangalore, India to work for three years. It was an eye opening experience to see what actually happens when you don't have a strong central government regulating things like the air you breathe, the water you drink, and the food you eat.

Bangalore was once known as the Garden City and is considered the Silicon Valley of India, but corporate greed, unchecked expansion, and government corruption, along with no meaningful environmental laws that are actually enforced, has turned it into a nightmare-- or maybe into what Libertarianism looks like in the real world, outside of Ayn Rand novels.

The river beside our street was so polluted it had layers of chemical foam that would reach ten feet in height and blow across the road, stopping traffic.

The nearby lake would literally catch on fire, burning for days. Open sewers ran into nearby water sources. Forget tap water, it would make Flint, Michigan's water crisis seem desirable by comparison. Food safety? Roll the dice and take your chances.

Within a year any trace of Libertarian beliefs were wiped clean from my mind and I longed for strong government regulations to protect me and my family. This U.S. shutdown isn't even a minor taste of what it truly means to live without powerful and enforceable government regulations and protections.

Pete Victoria, BC Jan. 10

@Bill it is important to keep in mind that contaminated food can kill you before you even have a chance to pursue remedies. The critical elements for us now leaving much longer than our ancestors involve personal and public hygiene (e.g. safe food, sewer systems), medicine and healthy environments (e.g. pollution controls). I recommend watching the Trashopolis series, its quite informative.

Thomas Zaslavsky Binghamton, N.Y. Jan. 10

@C Wolfe Decades ago I had a very similar conversation with a doctrinaire libertarian, though it was about a less essential question. I also repeated it many times. The incredulity factor is large. I mean, I couldn't believe the degree to which rationality disappeared.

Karen Garcia New York Jan. 10

On the bright side, a federal judge just ruled Iowa's so-called Ag-Gag law to be unconstitutional, making it easier to expose the filthy and inhumane conditions on factory farms. So agribusiness will be smacked with the double whammy of losing their corporate welfare checks and bribery payments, and having their own cruelty exposed at the same time.

It's obvious that Trump's tantrum of a shutdown is the latest episode of disaster capitalism, or what Naomi Klein has dubbed the Shock Doctrine. Create a crisis, like neglecting New Orleans levees, or most recently, the criminally negligent homicides of Hurricane Maria victims in Puerto Rico, and you allow the vulture capitalists to swoop in and cash in. The entire school system of N.O. is now privatized, and libertarian billionaires are buying up huge chunks of Puerto Rico at bargain basement prices to create palaces. With walls, of course. The trash and overflowing toilets at our national parks are just the ticket for corporations to take them over and charge exorbitant admissions... before selling out to ranchers and drillers to further speed up the Anthropocene. The other semi-bright upshot of this disaster capitalism is that rich conservatives will get just as sick from eating tainted food as the poor. Trump probably figures he is immune, because he likes the polluting cow flesh he consumes to be well-done to burnt. But without getting paid, how long will the White House chefs continue to serve him? : -)

Chris Hunter WA State Jan. 10

Exactly so. It has been my experience that my libertarian friends are only able to be libertarian because they have been protected all their lives (at great expense, they would argue) by the very government they deride.

hen3ry Westchester, NY Jan. 10

What's fascinating about all of this is how the Gutless Obnoxious Popinjays refuse to take any responsibility at all for the problems. It's always the Democrats fault. I'm surprised that none of them have pointed a finger at Obama. After all, he didn't try to build a wall so it must be his fault that Trump is demanding money for a beautiful wall that will protect all Americans from the outside world. It's fascinating to realize that McConnell, Pence, Trump, and the rest of the obnoxious crowd are getting paid by the government they want to drown. They are contributing to the very cycles of misfortune that they blame people for. Are they going to write letters for every federal employee who loses a home, falls farther behind on loan payments than they should, who can't afford to pay for medical care or the premium? No. The GOP has no plans to share the misery it's causing. Trump doesn't understand or care. This is what happens when a complete incompetent is elected to run a country: chaos, uncertainty, and worse. The party that abhorred communism and the Russians now has a president who may be owned by the Russians. Even if he's not, the entire debacle that is Trump's presidency must warming the hearts of Putin and his "friends" each day it continues. As Obama said, elections have consequences. This is one of them. I don't know about the GOP and the libertarians but I prefer to eat, drink, and breathe safely. It's why I like a functioning government.

Mark McHenry Jan. 10

The libertarian philosophy is this: while you're young and healthy and productive, you can help make money for your boss. However, once you are old and no longer capable of making a contribution to someone else, it is your obligation to simply die.

If you look at all the proposals of the Republicans, this seems to be the guiding force. Privatizing Social Security so that investment firms can get a piece of the action, privatizing Medicare so that insurance companies can get a piece of the action, and privatizing the military, so that private paramilitary companies can get more than their fair share of the action. It's theft in plain sight. We can't believe it, because it's so obvious.

Lake trash Lake ozarks Jan. 10

It's the chaos this president keeps thrusting on all of us. We can't keep up day to day of his lack of self control, his lack of understanding how government works, the principles of the constitution, the rule of law that has sustained us through the years. He seems to believe that he has the support to destroy everything that keeps us safe. The foundation that made this a great country is at risk. I'm old now and can not believe what I see every day from this American President.

Cowsrule SF CA Jan. 11

@Zhou "I'll sue the company producing it". How will you do that in the absence of any governmental mechanism to enforce compliance with a law suit? And how will you prove contamination in the absence of any recognized standard to show it is present?

Aram Hollman Arlington, MA Jan. 10

@Bill So, you prefer the pound of cure known as a lawsuit to a regulatory ounce of prevention. Personally, I'd prefer to avoid both the discomfort of food poisoning and the expense of a lawsuit. Besides, do you really think you'd win? None of the many people poisoned by contaminated vegetables at Taco Bell stores a few years ago had any chance of even bringing a lawsuit, much less winning one and gettting compensation. It took regulatory agencies, public health departments, and the national Center for Disease Control simply to track down the offending vegetables and force Taco Belll to clean up its act. As for your checks and balances, most of the checks go from lobbyists to congressmen, and that throws any balances way out of whack. Your annual deficit figure of $1 trillion is out of date. The latest Trump tax cuts raised it to $1.5 trillion. So, start worrying real fast. But, I'd start worrying more not merely about the deficit, but about how money is being spent. You seem to worry more about the comparative peanuts spent on the FDA (which, by the way, also regulates drugs and medical devices) or the USDA (which also helps regulate food safety). than on the far larger amounts spent on the military (e.g. latest technology F-35 jets that can't fly in the rain), US taxpayer funding of arms sales to foreign countries that neither share our values nor help keep us safe (e.g. Saudi Arabia).

Otis-T Los Osos, CA Jan. 10

I work with alot of big Ag companies -- they're constantly raging about government regs and the red tape, etc, etc., but they have HUGE lobby and political power. On an average year, they get an amazing amount of subsidies coming in all kinds of forms, from direct compensation packages to float an industry a la corn, or from electric rates that are lower for them at the expense of the other rate classes. And when any hint of hardship comes, nevermind true hardship, they're front and center for the hand-outs. And they get plenty. All this before we even address immigrant labor! Ha! Libertarian Ag would look WAY different out in the fields. And one thing that would surely be needed: Cheap immigrant (sometimes illigal) labor. You get what you vote for.

JaneF Denver Jan. 10

@michjas Except the Republicans could reopen the government if they chose to. They could pass the same bill they passed in December, and then override the President's veto. Their conspiracy is that they won't do that.

John Quixote NY Jan. 10

So the party of fiscal responsibility which is already running up the deficit insists on building a wall over 2000 miles of border, seizing private property along the way . When we stopped teaching Geography and Citizenship and dismissed literature as irrelevant to getting a good job, we created an electorate that could be gulled by such propaganda and conned into thinking that fear is our avatar: fear of otherness, fear of government, fear of taxes, fear of liberals, fear of fear itself.

Cathy NJ Jan. 10

@Aoy when food is contaminated, the FDA is able to locate "ground zero" with utmost efficiency--Food Science 101. Without the FDA--which was established under T. Roosevelt's administration--there is no coordination between the food chain and the population. You can wash your lettuce to your heart's content, but if it was grown in contaminated soil, the cells within are contaminated. So, yes, the FDA is extremely necessary.

Jake Reeves Atlanta Jan. 10

"Government," declared Ronald Reagan in his first Inaugural Address, "is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem." Yup, Republicans say government is the problem and then they get in power and prove it. The Party of Problem Government.

keith San Miguel de Allende Jan. 11 Times Pick

Anyone who thinks enforced food safety is unnecessary should go to India and eat in a restaurant anywhere but a first-tier hotel for foreigners. Your odds of getting sick are very high. Ditto in Alexandria, Egypt, and other places I've experienced where profit is important and product is, well, less so. Remedies? Seriously? How will you prove anything? Especially when all the restaurants have the same cavalier attitude toward washing food and hands. You ate the salad? More fool you.

Castor Troy D.C. Jan. 10

I wish that shutdowns were actually that-- shut things down. That means no air traffic controllers, no TSA, no border agents. Wonder how quickly the politicians would solve their differences if they couldn't rely on slave labor from unpaid federal employees forced to work?

alank Wescosville, PA Jan. 11 Times Pick

Paraphrasing Marie Antoinette "Let them eat contaminated cake"

Ecce Homo Jackson Heights Jan. 10

Funny how libertarians never argue for privatizing the military, or law enforcement. When they think it's really important, even libertarians come running back to government. The facts are that markets are only free if they are transparent, and in all of history nobody has come up with a better way than government regulation to make markets transparent. We tried unregulated markets in food production, and it was a disaster - which is why we have federal regulation of food production today. We tried unregulated labor markets and it was also a disaster - which is why we have child labor laws, minimum wage laws, and the full range of other labor regulations we have today. politicsbyeccehomo.wordpress.com

Ben Chicago Jan. 10

People forget that government workers are themselves participants in the economy. They buy cars and houses. They go to the grocery and the hardware store. When they don't get paid, the businesses they patronize -- private businesses -- also go without. Yesterday, I had lunch at a famous old restaurant right near the federal plaza in Chicago's Loop. One of the workers there told me that because of the shutdown the place's business had fallen way off. (And that's with the federal courthouse still open. Just wait until the courts shut, too.) It's a closed system, folks.

Cal Prof Berkeley, USA Jan. 10

Spot on. Naïveté about libertarianism runs deep. It was brought home to me when I worked with programmers in Silicon Valley in the 1980s. A fair number espoused libertarian ideas. Yet they had all had their computer science degrees paid for by the Defense Department, many at state universities. I was not too sophisticated myself but even I could see the disconnect between the ideas they were pushing and the real world implications.

Tom B New York Jan. 10

Have you ever actually tried a personal injury case? For a food borne illness? I ask those questions rhetorically because I can tell from your comment that you haven't. As a lawyer, who doesn't often get involved in personal injury cases, I can tell you that people often think they aren't hurting anyone by cutting corners, and are only restrained from doing things like serving contaminated food or doing illegal gas line plumbing by the threat of fines if caught cutting those corners. It's not the lawsuit that makes them take care.

Rich Davidson Lake Forest, IL Jan. 10

The gilded age of the 1890's seem like a wonderful time for libertarians. The productivity of the nation was high and gaining. But, it came with dirty air and water, bad food and medicine, quackery and robber barons. It was followed by the Roaring 20's where stocks grew without limits and borrowed money paid for it. That did not end well, either. Finally, in FDR's first 100 days, government stepped in and wrote the rules that made life good for most of us. The GOP does not know history and forgot what happened when there was a libertarian society. They are getting an education, finally.

Linda Oklahoma Jan. 10

One of the things that might end is the Indian Health Services. The government made contracts with tribes that in exchange for their land, the federal government would provide education and healthcare. It's not a welfare program. It is payment for millions of acres of land. If Indian Health Services ends, that's the same as reneging on a contract. Trump may see tribes going to court to get what was promised to them in exchange for land and lifestyle. If the shutdown continues, lots of people may be taking Trump to court.

Yuri Asian Bay Area Jan. 10

Do you believe in magic? Religious extremists do. So do Libertarians. And so do Republicans though what they believe is a variant of magic that might be called delusion or magic mixed with whisky and soda, which we call cynicism. What they all have in common is a collective inability to see the forest from the trees: central to their emptiness is the absence of humanity and all the messy ambiguity that entails, instead substituting a bogus certainty that's nothing more than a palliative for existential panic at the absence of self identity grounded in community. Bertrand Russell called it cosmic anxiety. It drives the compulsion for religion, ideology, in fact all systems of coping that avoid the crushing weight of freedom that comes without compass or owner's manual. Whether the god of the invisible hand that directs the market, or the god of clubs with exclusive membership and status, or the god of ancient fables told and retold for a millennium of successive generations, all are rationales for the irrational aversion of responsibility to do the work necessary to make freedom meaningful without making it meaningless for others. The two bargain bins in the basement of modern life are religion and ideology. Libertarianism can be found on the clearance rack for one size fits all.

OUTsider deep south Jan. 10

Paul, you included this quote from Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader... When talking about Food Stamps he has denounced the program for "making it excessively easy to be nonproductive." He has no business being so judgmental. Being productive implies a positive result for society. When it comes to being productive, his entire career is in question.

Elizabeth Moore Pennsylvania Jan. 11

@ebmem You don't know anything. For one thing, you are DEAD WRONG. Medicare DOES NOT PAY FOR NURSING HOME CARE AT ALL! MEDICAID DOES, but only for the poor. It is WEALTHY REPUBLICANS who "Medicaid Plan" their assets so the government will cover their living expenses so they can preserve wealth for their heirs. How do I know this to be the truth? I spend 23 years as a government regulator for Medicaid (Medical Assistance) in the state of Pennsylvania.

I cannot enumerate the number of rich Republicans who tried to get the government to support their elderly while the children of those elderly got the money. I could tell you stories, including one about a certain Republican Governor of Pennsylvania who tried to put his adult, but mentally handicapped child on Medicaid.

Sherry Washington Jan. 10

It is remarkable how farmers, who are particularly reliant on federal government programs to buy seed, equipment, get loans, get crop subsidies, and market their food, still support Trump, even though these programs are shut down and he's started a trade war. One farmer in today's issue supports Trump, saying "we need some border security", even though it means he might lose his farm. What kind of politics is this where people support a President who intentionally ruins their prospects and their way of life? It reminds me how dictators keep power through propaganda, rewriting history and painting its leadership as heroic. Fox News is like North Korean TV rewiring Republican brains to believe that Republicans, no matter how bone-headed, are always good, and Democrats are always bad, so much so they are willing to lose the farm, like North Koreans are willing to starve.

Will Hogan USA Jan. 11

@Mark Nuckols all the government programs that help business mean that the wealthy owe some money back. when 5000 workers of a large corporation all drive the company trucks on free public roads built with tax dollars, when those roads need repair, it sure should be taxes on the company that helps pay, along with the gas tax we all pay. Your mistake is in thinking that the income of the company owner was earned by him and him alone, but in reality, the taxpayers helped him plenty every step of the way. You just did not see it all.

ridgeguy No. CA Jan. 10

The article focuses on food inspections, but what about drug inspections? Is the FDA inspecting pharma manufacturing houses? Are they inspecting precursor chemicals commonly imported from, say, China? Libertarians (along with the rest of us) may be in for much more consequential disappointments than bad lettuce.

Chris DC Jan. 10

Well, at this point it certainly comes as no surprise that the narrowly tailored ideological conceit republicans like to think of as - laughably - 'Libertarianism' was little more than an economic grubsteak to the plutocratic interests. Indeed, it makes my head spin to think how quickly the so-called libertarians of the republican party would support rollbacks on women's reproductive liberties, not to mention the liberties of minorities and the LGBTQ community, not to mention how they would import the Christian Right's version of theology into the public domain. (Ah yes, get government off our backs, but shove God into every home.) The issue that looms broadly over all this, however, is the republican's intent to liquidate this nation's status as technologically advanced, industrialized liberal democracy. Apparently the maintenance/perpetuation of modernity is not compatible with right wing notions of 'liberty,' let alone libertarianism.

Areader Huntsville Jan. 10

The first libertarian I knew was a slum landlord who did not want the Government regulations concerning maintenance of apartments and the like. This seems like a common trait among the political group as I think libertarians are more interested in profit.

Peter CT Jan. 10

No one complains more loudly and more often about attempts to curtail his first amendment rights "guaranteed by the constitution," than my libertarian friend, who refuses to pay taxes, then expects the government he won't support to protect his freedoms. If you really miss those debate club arguments from jr. high school, go try to talk sense to some libertarians. For the rest of us, plain old Republicans are a perfectly adequate source of flawed reasoning.

Sophia chicago Jan. 11

@Mark Nuckols Wrong! Cutting tax rates on the wealthy are stealing from the rest of us. We make contributions every hour of every day which are hoovered up by the wealthy and the powerful. Meanwhile we cannot afford the cost of living, which has skyrocketed vs wages and benefits. The cost of an apartment is exorbitant. The cost of health care is exorbitant. Meanwhile the commons suffer. Infrastructure suffers. Sidewalks are a menace. There is lead in the water. Rich people who do not pay their fair share of taxes are stealing from the people in so many ways it's impossible to count them. But count them in years lost, in lives cut short, in lives blighted.

sapere aude Maryland Jan. 10

Republicans aren't against government, it has grown more under every Republican president including Reagan himself. They simply have their preferences as to who benefits from it.

Helena Princeton New Jersey Jan. 10

I'm surprised that the air traffic controllers haven't all called in sick. They have the collective power to bring air travel to a standstill. I've long felt that a general nationwide strike would finally get the attention of our corporate overlords. After all, all they care about is money--just like Trump and the GOP.

YoursTruly Pakistan Jan. 11 Times Pick

When two elephants fight, its the grass that gets uprooted. In this show of arrogance and egos its the lives of many ordinary Americans that is adversely affected. I only wish that this crisis comes to an end soon to the relief of many.

dpaqcluck Cerritos, CA Jan. 10

@jrinsc, exactly right with an academic exception. Adam Smith and his ideas of free market competition assumed that there would be large number of companies competing with each other with their sole means of competition being consumer satisfaction, price and employee efficiency. Anyone who couldn't compete went out of business, hence "free market". The government's only role is to enforce anti-trust laws to keep businesses small and competitive, and assure that the competitive triangle of business, labor, and consumer are kept in balance. Fundamentally big business is bad, always! What real "free markets" DO NOT include is the idea that a small number of huge companies pay the government to create a competition free environment. The term "free market" has been stolen to mean that companies can do anything they want to succeed, including creating laws with profitable loopholes, laws to inhibit labor participation in the competition, and laws that inhibit consumers from using fraud laws to suppress shoddy products. In reality there is no "free market", as @jrinsc said, except to mean that big companies are free to do whatever they want to be profitable.

PB USA Jan. 10

My first lecture in economics dealt with free. The professor, then the Chief Economist at the Cleveland Fed, made the point that nothing was free: no free lunch; no free air; no free love. The point that he made was that somebody always pays. For everything; maybe not you, not now; but somebody does. So every time that I hear this Republican rant about free markets, I begin to laugh.

White Buffalo SE PA Jan. 11

@dpaqcluck Adam Smith believed corporate entities needed to be regulated. something always left out.

J. Benedict Bridgeport, Ct Jan. 10

I am wondering if Mitch McConnell and his close Republican allies have been living off food stamps because it seems to me they all have been incredibly unproductive for years which he sights as a consequence of anyone using food stamps.

John California California Jan. 11

@Joel Sanders This is completely specious reasoning. There are any number of non-state food groups that compete to set, e.g., organic, standards for food... for their participants. And they can restrict anyone from using their seal of approval without meeting their requirements. What they can't do, and the State can, is to require tainted products to be removed from distribution. Having the power of the State depends on law that transcends private agreement. And in the case of food, drugs, highways, airlines, and a number of other avenues of social life, that strikes me as a valuable thing. Why is this SO difficult for you, Mr. Sanders?

James Lee Arlington, Texas Jan. 11

I once heard a conservative economist give a speech in which he denounced the FDA for its suppression of competition in the pharmaceutical industry. I asked him what would protect the consumer if the market replaced the Feds as regulator of new drugs. He responded that, if my wife died from the effects of a toxic drug, I could always sue the firm that produced it. I found this notion deeply comforting. I might lose my wife, but the drug company would have to compensate me with a pile of dollars, assuming I could prove its negligence. For this libertarian, a life and money weighed equally in the scales of justice.

Aubrey Alabama Jan. 10

The people who support libertarianism are like those who support biblical literalism (fundamentalism). The libertarians want to get rid of some laws and regulations but not all of them. Just the ones they don't like. Usually these are laws which make corporations and businesses sell clean and safe food, treat employees fairly, pay taxes, etc. The libertarians don't want to get rid of laws which help business, corporations, and the well-to-do. They want to be sure that Boeing, Lockheed, and others get cushy defense contracts, the petroleum companies get subsidies, Big Pharma gets to charge a lot for drugs, etc. It is just a new name for the same old playbook -- make things tough on the weak and poor -- those with dark skins, immigrants, etc. All the while being solicitous for the well-off and powerful. Religious literalist do the same -- pick out the Bible verses which support the desired message. Ignore those which don't. So many things don't change. We get give them a new name.

Stan Sutton Westchester County, NY Jan. 10

Actually, Krugman didn't confuse Libertarians and Republicans. He said that Republicans used Libertarian rhetoric but weren't true Libertarians, and he didn't accuse Libertarians of favoring Republican policies across the board.

RLiss Fleming Island, Florida Jan. 11

@Bill: See Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 11/9, which covers the Flint water crisis in depth. These people didn't even know they were drinking contaminated water until a health worker broke ranks and made it public. THEN nothing was done.....(Oh, the state provided bottled water for a while, to drink).... The children of Flint were suffering IRREVERSIBLE brain damage due to lead in the water.....would suing 20 years later fix that? AND why did this happen at all? The Republican governor of the state wanted to help his buddies make a lot of money....

DB NC Jan. 10

@Goodglud Excellent link! We need to call it what it is. No more reduce "regulations" which people hear as reducing red tape. Make them advocate to "reduce protections."

Red Sox, '04, '07, '13, '18, Boston Jan. 10

@AndyE, Berkley, MI: Nice turn on Jennings' corollary to Murphy's Law (the chances of the toast falling buttered side down on the carpet is directly proportional to the cost of the carpet).

Buck Santa Fe, NM Jan. 10

@Mamawalrus72 We are living Government by the Kochs now. We have been living Government by corporations for some time.

NM NY Jan. 10

Money talks louder than reason. So long as moneyed libertarians like the Koch Brothers buy political influence, they will purchase an agenda to benefit themselves at our expense.

Chris Toronto Jan. 10

"In the case of the party establishment, that agenda is about redistributing income up the scale, and in particular helping important donor interests. Republican politicians may invoke the rhetoric of free markets to justify cutting taxes for the rich and benefits for the poor, or removing environmental regulations that hurt polluters' profits, but they don't really care about free markets per se." Head of nail, meet hammer. The US used to be the world's beacon of democratic values. No longer. The political system has been severely corrupted by PACs, Super PACs, self-funding billionaire politicians, skewed campaign funding rules, cynical electoral manipulation, self-interest and a lack of statesmanship amongst the political classes. You'd think a credible third political party would be able to drive a bus straight through the middle of this division. Two choices, left or right, just can't be enough to sustain a democracy.

Richard NM Jan. 10

@Will Schmidt perlboy "We debated perfect markets ..." Like in engineering somebody would design a car without engine because there is no friction and you just have to give it a push to get around. I am so happy I am an engineer, forces me into reality.

Audrey Germany Jan. 11

"Knowing that the food you're eating is now more likely than before to be contaminated, does that potential contamination smell to you like freedom?" Exactly. One of the most thing I appreciated of being in the EU is a strong consumer protection and safety regulations. But I guess, it's to "socialist" for some. Let's wait and see how the UK consumers will enjoy post-Brexit "freedom".

Mike Albany, New York Jan. 10

In answer to to Bill from Michigan, the problem with food and water contamination is that it may take years to find out that the food or water is actually contaminated, and then additional time for the public to be informed. After all this time passes, the damage is already done and lives are irreversibly damaged. As an example, the FDA has very strict limits on the amount of mycotoxin and bacterial contamination in our food supply. While E. coli contamination may be detected due to severe acute health effects, the carcinogenic effects of mycotoxin contamination may not be detected in years. The Flint Michigan lead contamination occurred in 2014 and wasn't declared an emergency until two years later, when public health officials alerted the public in 2016. Although this was largely a local issue, the H.R. 4470, the Safe Drinking Water Act Improved Compliance Awareness Act, mandates that consumers be informed. So, personally I'd rather have the Federal Government be on the side of the public and not rely on greedy lawyers.

JRM Melbourne Jan. 11

@ebmem Republicans get in office and go to work to prove that Government doesn't work and is the problem. Government works fine as long as Republicans are not in charge. The sabotage any effort to resolve or solve a problem. They complain about the debt and deficit until they are in office and then they blow the budget to smithereens with invented reasons for war so they can enrich themselves. They are the problem, not Government.

SandraH. California Jan. 11

@Bill, good luck with that. If you survive long enough to sue--and if you can prove the source of your cancer or other illness--you'll find that personal injury lawsuits get you nowhere. The big boys always win. Your best remedy is prevention. Don't let yourself or your loved ones ingest or breathe toxins. Don't let toxins into your groundwater or soil. How do you do that without government regulation?

ben220 brooklyn Jan. 10

Today, medical expenses are stratospheric. Meanwhile, the conservative movement strangles the welfare state so that nearly everyone in the middle class (regardless of political affiliation) who wants to live on more than $900 a month must go through legalized fiscal contortions to be able to pay for adequate care.

Robert David South Watertown NY Jan. 11

@TM Exactly the correct response to libertarians. They like to talk about what "would" happen, as though lack of government were a theoretical that can be calculated. There are plenty of real world examples of what "would" happen. There are historical examples too, but they "would" be different, of course.

Socrates Downtown Verona. NJ Jan. 10

@Aubrey Excellent analogy, although we can also use a good old-fashioned term to describe these 'libertarians', 'conservatives' and religious types -- -- hypocrites ..... of the highest despicable order.

Buttons Cornell Toronto, Canada Jan. 11

What courts? Courts are set up, run by and paid for by government. No government means no court system. You, the little, dying from tainted food, up against a huge agricultural corporation with deep pockets. Libertarianism is a bully system. Those with the money win and the rest die. That's it.

george Iowa Jan. 11

@jrinsc How quickly we forget, of course sometimes it isn`t that we forget but rather our memory is clouded by the smoke from the fires set by vulture capitalism. Upton Sinclair The Jungle should be required reading for all congress critters and all incoming Presidents. The Jungle is a mirror to where todays American Nobility, the 21st century Robber Barons, would like to take us. A disposable population for profit.

HN Philadelphia, PA Jan. 10

Where you see Libertarians, I see people who are so self-unaware and entitled that they believe the only apt government subsidies are the ones that benefit them. Remember the ACA debate line - "keep government out of my medicare?" Most people have no idea of what the government does! What about the staunch GOP voters who nonetheless complain when the government doesn't provide immediate aid to them after a disaster, but hesitate when the aid is going to others? And do they comprehend that all disasters - even those claimed to be "natural" - are actually man made? And do those that value privacy and their right to do what they want - do they really think that corporations and businesses will keep their products fair and safe? No, because corporations and businesses take the short view, while fairness and safety - both of which contribute to the health of the nation and its people - take the long view. Libertarians and their ilk are self-entitled peoples who only think about the immediate impact on themselves and their wallets. They change their tunes quickly when government is needed to help their bottom line.

Independent the South Jan. 11

@Bill The idea is not to sue after you get sick but to prevent you from getting sick. And if you want to reduce deficits, vote for Democrats.

Son Of Liberty nyc Jan. 10

What people with GOP/libertarian leanings should realize is that government regulations were ONLY put into place in response to the horrifying abuses of laissez faire capitalism.

Elizabeth Moore Pennsylvania Jan. 11

@Bill You keep right on believing. THE FACTS ARE that people who would sell you contaminated food have ways of covering up all the evidence. Besides, they could always hide behind the fact that the USDA and FDA inspectors weren't working and "they didn't know" because of that. You would lose any lawsuit because the inspectors didn't reveal any problems and the business owner "did not know to the best of his/her knowledge." EVERYTHING would be blamed on the shutdown, and you would LOSE>

Nova yos Galan California Jan. 10

@Goodglud Yes, regulations are limitations on their freedom to pollute.

Mark Rubin Tucson, AZ Jan. 10

Boy howdy, but it's easy to spout the libertarian line when the FDA, FTC, SEC, EPA, etc. do what they do, day in and day out. Government succeeds quietly! Many post smack about what seem like excesses, while they enjoy safe food and drugs, modest limits on fraudsters, clean air and water, etc.: Now, maybe, we'll see what happens when those who mouth off get the freedom they have demanded for decades. With a months' long shutdown lives will be lost, but those who disparage the regulatory state might get their come-uppance. The coming months, if they involve a partial shutdown, will highlight the value government offers. Opportunities like this one don't appear often. This writer, for one, hopes it represents a crisis which won't be wasted.

gbb Boston, MA Jan. 10

Government in this country seems to me to be run pretty well. I wish that more businesses were run as well as the US Postal Service.

JS Boston Ma Jan. 11

@C Wolfe I made friends with Libertarian from Texas in college my freshman year. He got me to read Ayn Rand's Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. My first take was that Ayn Rand was a pretty weak writer and clearly had serious empathy issues to the point of being a bit creepy. My friend insisted that everyone should be self reliant and was responsible for their own destiny until the day he flunked out because his academically weak high school left him unprepared to survive in our highly selective college. I really felt sorry for him but he was so far behind I could not help him. I have no idea where he ended up.

Lawyermama Buffalo Jan. 10

As the saying goes, you never miss your water until your well runs dry. A very big part of me says this is the only way red states will learn how to stop biting the hand that feeds them: they've been blindly following a party that made no secret that it wished to "starve the beast". This is what it looks like. This new perspective has delighted me even as I worry for my friends, family and colleagues who are feeling the effects. I hope our nation survives this president and learns from the mistakes.

Jim Brokaw California Jan. 10

The problem I have with libertarian utopias is that 'the market' isn't going to work to address all conflicts. So you need to hire enforcement, since government isn't doing it... or are we keeping the courts? And if the courts rule for you, and the other party just refuses to pay, now you have to go get your payment. Good luck with that. It all seems likely to devolve into a 'might makes right' series of standoffs, until people band together into unified groups to collectively agree to a set of rules, and work together with those rules. Sounds a lot like government. Or you can just hire some soldiers and go take what you want. Dare the other guys to take it back. Sounds a lot like anarchy. Libertarians always seems to me like trying to cherry-pick what they like about government, what benefits them, and then dump the rest, the stuff that costs them but they can't see the benefit for. Maybe they'll understand better if they get some contaminated lettuce next time they go grocery shopping...

Pat Stonington, CT Jan. 11

@Bill Who exactly administers said courts that you would turn to for justice? Oh that's right, the government. I hope the irony is not lost on you. Libertarians seem to forgot that no man is an island to himself.

Steve Nirvana Jan. 10

The people I have met who (loudly) espouse libertarian ideas tend to be of three types - all of whom benefit from this philosophy at the expense of others: 1) wealthy heirs like tRump who don't want to pay their taxes since it reduces their ability to live large AND pass on a dynasty to their heirs. 2) those with the luck to obtain the particular skills and education that provide a secure job with high remuneration. (Yes, it is usually a lot of luck) 3) good looking women who are confident that they can latch on to one of those described in 1) or in a pinch, 2) 2) will complain bitterly when the job market shifts - as it did for many in computer science after the glory years of the 80s. 3) will complain if their lawyer doesn't get them a big enough divorce settlement and their looks will no longer give them a second chance. A good economic system works equally for all people, not just those benefiting as members of the lucky gene club.

Spiro Jetti Jan. 11

@Socrates Amen. Something also came to mind in reading your comment: Productive modern blue states subsidize receiving red states, who then, thanks to their outsize representation via the electoral college, bludgeon the blue states with red policies like deregulation and taking of health care etc. Like I am paying someone to punch me. "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark."

SunnyG Kentucky Jan. 10

We don't see the few inspectors who quietly keep our food safe, the EPA folks testing our air and rivers. The impact will be felt much later, and with no one to do the forensics, the story won't be told until well after the shutdown ends. I'm wondering how long the shutdown will last when visible folks start to go on strike. Will the federal employees who will perform the promised IRS, Food Stamp and farm distributions go to work, or ally themselves with their less visible brethren? With transportation, chaos will be most evident. After no paycheck on Friday, what if TSA doesn't shows or they picket Atlanta, OHare, JFK, SFO, IAD and DFW? Ditto for their compatriots in the Control Towers. Chaos. Who benefits? Perhaps we'll learn from Michael Cohen.

Rick Cedar Hill, TX Jan. 10

We as a nation are in this condition because the American character is one of greed, selfishness, one who does not think for himself/herself, and one that is controlled through fear. Maybe once our empire crumbles it will be divided into smaller countries that are easier to manage like the western European countries. I will move to one of the new countries that support a balanced budget, hates the concept of Citizens United and K Street lobbyists, wants to educate their masses, and provides healthcare for everyone rich and not so rich. An ignorant populous is easier to control and manhandle. The US is a good example.

Rima Regas Southern California Jan. 10

@hen3ry "It's fascinating to realize that McConnell, Pence, Trump, and the rest of the obnoxious crowd are getting paid by the government they want to drown." When you go the rest of the way you finally get a true sense of how perverted these people are.

javierg Miami, Florida Jan. 10

Thank you Dr. Krugman for a great perspective. It reminds me of the saying "be careful of what you wish for" ... for it may actually come true. Save for the sacrifice of many good Americans who depend on jobs and government benefits and the public in general, this may be the medicine those Republicans need to cure themselves of their hands off philosophy.

Ron Silverlake WA Jan. 11

@Bill I don't believe for a nano-second you would be willing to expose your family to contaminated or adulterated food on the chance you might be able sue someone after the fact. It could take you years and many thousands of dollars to get justice that way. There is a good reason we have agencies like the FDA. Many years before you were born, we in fact had the very situation you say you would be fine with. It was buyer beware for all foodstuffs. You could not trust food producers to put on the label what was actually in the can or bottle. Meat packers were packing and sending out absolute filth. If you want a hint of what it would be like here without these protective agencies, do a little research on food safety in China. It will make you sick when you see what the Chinese are exposed to.

Jody Quincy, IL Jan. 10

@C Wolfe Libertarian or not, in this country money is always more valued than human life. Again, it took Western Europe more than 2,000 years to become somewhat civilized and it will take this continent at least that long.

Thomas Zaslavsky Binghamton, N.Y. Jan. 10

@Eleanor How will you get around this? Reagan said, 'The nine most terrifying words in the English language are "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help."'

Anne CA Jan. 10

Does the shutdown mean that government will stop collecting tax money while services are suspended? Does it work both ways?

Teresa MN Jan. 11

@ebmem I am an employee of Medicaid who sees countless fellow workers toil long after quitting time to cover the most people, with the least potential harm or burden to them, to get the best services and quality of life possible, AND doing all that earning maybe half the compensation of a comparable private sector position. It saddens me that even the program ensuring our loved ones - or ourselves! - have care at the end of life is not safe from this kind of bitter, distorted partisan anger.

James K. Lowden Camden, Maine Jan. 11

@Bill Two words for you: Blue Milk. Look it up. Food contamination is an old story, as old as tort law. The FDA was created because tort law was unequal to the task. If you think the modern day is different, how is that romaine lettuce lawsuit going for you? As far as I know, no one knows where the contamination came from, much less who to sue. The romaine situation illustrates another flaw in your libertarian fantasy. The individual harm is collectively huge but individually small. Any action -- preventive or retributive -- requires collective action. Which, actually, is what democracy is, and why democracy created the FDA.

Joe Glendale, Arizona Jan. 11

@Linda You said it, Linda. I just returned from Europe. And I could not believe again how much tastier the meat and produce was - not only in restaurants but in humble meals in the country. Commercial food produced in the United States is terrible, tasteless, and full of pernicious additives. Ma and Pa Kettle have become inured to it, and don't know any better.

Blue Moon Old Pueblo Jan. 11

@Wilbray Thiffault "Well, Mitch McConnell is not on the food stamp program, and he manages to be one of the most 'non productive' senators in the history of the US Senate." Correction: Mitch McConnell and his fellow Republicans are indeed on the food stamp program, the best one ever, and the government shutdown is not preventing them all from being paid. They will never give it up willingly.

Sunny NYC Jan. 10

Prof. Krugman says, "Meanwhile, the philosophy of the party's base is, in essence, big government for me but not for thee." I totally agree. It is indeed Trump and the Republican party who is disrupting the free market. The free market can be sustained only when it is run by smart and fair-minded people including top-notched economists and politicians. Otherwise, the socialism-monster would threaten and collapse the free market anytime. What I mean by 'the socialism-monster' is not the economies of Northern European countries such as the Netherlands, Sweden, etc. Some Americans call their economies 'socialism', but that's very wrong; their economies are indeed one of the most advanced capitalistic systems. How can't they be? Capitalism in a sense started from there, i.e., the business markets of the Netherlands, Denmark, Portugal, etc. Only when capitalism is truly advanced can well-rounded safety nets exist. In any case, genuinely socialist countries such as North-Korea and China do not protect human rights and thus prohibit freedom. The real problem with Trump and his allies is that they offer the strongest momentum for socialism by killing the chance for developing truly healthy free market. Trump, with Putin, is turning the whole world back into the days of nationalism, ideologism, and colonialism. They all champion big , huge, monstrous government. If there is any American crisis, it is not border security but gun violence. But Trump underwrites the NRA.

[Jan 08, 2019] Human capital. This word as well as any other captures the dehumanizing nature of capitalism. Just a factor of production. We don't have blood and bone and families. We have exploitable skills. Screw that.

Notable quotes:
"... Human capital. This word as well as any other captures the dehumanizing nature of capitalism. Just a factor of production. We don't have blood and bone and families. We have exploitable skills. Screw that. ..."
"... Leave not one stone upon another when you rise up and destroy the dystopian economy these swine have created. ..."
Jan 08, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Stephen Gardner , , January 8, 2019 at 2:23 pm

Human capital. This word as well as any other captures the dehumanizing nature of capitalism. Just a factor of production. We don't have blood and bone and families. We have exploitable skills. Screw that.

Leave not one stone upon another when you rise up and destroy the dystopian economy these swine have created.

cnchal , , January 8, 2019 at 8:47 am

"Human capital" is a deceptive way of saying "buy low, sell high". As an employee, you are bought for as little as possible, and sold for as much as possible, with Davos Man collecting that difference, making him filthy rich off the sweat of your brow. When you can no longer sweat for Davos Man, you are no longer human capital, and Davos Man would prefer you die quietly, so he can enjoy his jets and yachts without looking at the wreckage left behind.

[Jan 04, 2019] Our system was created by human beings for the benefit of human beings. We do not exist to serve markets.

Jan 04, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

flora , January 4, 2019 at 3:13 pm

re: Tucker Carlson on FoxNews

Our system was created by human beings for the benefit of human beings. We do not exist to serve markets.

Wait, you mean the old 'Twilight Zone' episode about Martians landing and handing out booklets titled "To Serve Man" weren't Martians at all? They were neoliberals?!? /s

Great rant. Fox is a bellwether of sorts, knowing where the public is going, and following for the ratings, imo.

Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg , January 4, 2019 at 4:07 pm

Re: Tucker Carlson's epiphany: Well it'd be nice if the Republicans ascendancy from the 80s to Bush II marked the high water tide of the Libertarian Future. I always hope they'd figure out that Free Market worship is idolatry and it's not a god that gets you any results. Unless you have 'grace' (being born into a connected lineage, like the Vanderbilt or deVos noble houses.

Harold , January 4, 2019 at 6:42 pm

The " fetish of capitalism" as Karl Marx aptly termed it. Fetish = idol.

Craig H. , January 4, 2019 at 5:01 pm

Class Warfare section missing Drouet arrest?

French police arrest "yellow vest" spokesman Eric Drouet
By Anthony Torres
4 January 2019
( World Socialist Web Site)

More than 70 percent of French people support the "yellow vests," who have evoked broad sympathy from workers around the world. But the established political parties and the union bureaucracies, totally integrated into the state and already furious that the "yellow vests" have outflanked them, are violently hostile.

Does anybody know where a good poll can be seen?

Oregoncharles , January 4, 2019 at 5:52 pm

Oh boy, now they're creating a martyr. Good strategy, Macron.

Oregoncharles , January 4, 2019 at 6:01 pm

So Macron actually WANTS an insurrection. If the Yellow Vests still control the roads, he may be sorry.

ChiGal in Carolina , January 4, 2019 at 5:24 pm

Re Medium piece on mental health care: none of that is new. I and my colleagues have been fighting those battles as psychotherapists in community mental health since the 90s.

Everything to be concrete and measurable so once your goals are "operationalized" the treatment plan sounds more like marching orders, not to mention being nonsensical:

"Client will achieve 25% reduction in depression as evidenced by daily crying spells reduced to 2x/wk and social interactions increased from 0x/wk to 2x/wk"

Believe me, therapists for the elite don't take insurance because they know the paperwork requirements are bullshit.

Not to mention the records insurance require totally blows confidentiality. It took me several years to accept that there was no way around making dual sets of notes, one in the official chart for purposes of compliance, and another handwritten one for purposes of actual treatment. Sad!

HIPPAA btw is about portability, not privacy. Don't let 'em fool ya.

[Dec 27, 2018] Neoliberalism mantra: The dog eat dog economy simply represents our nature, it's who we are, we thrive under libertarianism.

Dec 27, 2018 | discussion.theguardian.com

Jas636 -> Friarbird , 4 Jun 2018 01:38

Why would I refute points that I agree with?

I'm not the one who has a problem with neo-liberalism, it's provided for me more than adequately. Having spent a lot of time living overseas, it's provided ALL Australians with a far better deal than a few billion others.

If you are too naive to see this, then maybe you need to try an alternative for a while. It's quite ok, i'll be waiting for when the alternative fails (they always do) and I can come back and pick off the assets from the carcus of that little experiment for less than a cent in the dollar.

The dog eat dog economy simply represents our nature, it's who we are, we thrive under libertarianism.

internationalist07 07 -> Jas636 , 4 Jun 2018 01:34
I think you mean Neo liberal utopia
Friarbird -> GoronwyPrice , 4 Jun 2018 01:31
Po-faced, Libertarian BOLLOCKS.
Privatisation is sucker-farming.
Milking the punters, like ants milk aphids.
Farming them, like bellbirds do with leaf-bugs.
And even THAT is only part of the equation.
The fondest goal, the one which gives the management class hard-ons ?
Privatisation de-unionises their workforces.
GreyBags -> Shiner01 , 4 Jun 2018 01:29
It is quite strange that the biggest supporters of neo-liberal economics with its belief that giving money to the rich will solve all our problems call themselves 'Christians'.

I can't remember when Jesus preached trickle down. I don't remember the bit where Jesus said to treat those seeking asylum and fleeing violence like they are the scum of the earth. I don't remember when Jesus said the poor needed a good kick in the guts while they are down to motivate them to work harder. I don't remember when Jesus said we should cut funds from the sick to balance the budget. I don't remember Jesus saying that if you bear false witness often enough then you will fool enough of the people enough to keep power so you can look after your corporate buddy buddies.

In fact, almost all of the politicians in the Coalition who proclaim to be 'Christian' must have their own secret bible because nothing I have heard from the New Testament justifies their actions.

Me, I'm an atheist and I have more care, consideration, ethics and compassion than the entire collection of right wing bible bashers sitting in parliament today.

Friarbird -> RobertJREYNOLDS , 4 Jun 2018 01:20
"......the scam that is neo-liberalism."

No throwaway line.
A 'farming the suckers' scam is all it ever was.
With a view to massive wealth transfer.

Hasn't it worked well ?

Ozponerised , 4 Jun 2018 01:19
Thanks for this. We need more of these articles pointing out the bullshit behind this story that the Coalition has been feeding the gullible peasantry with for over 30 years, sneering, smirking and sniggering as truckloads of public money goes to private corporations. The money received from selling off public assets has been shoved into private businesses who then feel very free to charge like bulls.
It's a shame so many folk still fall for this bullshit meaning that their own families, work colleagues and community get shafted through diminishing public services.
Mal_Function , 4 Jun 2018 01:16
Brother Can You Spare a Dime

They used to tell me I was building a dream
And so I followed the mob
When there was earth to plow or guns to bear
I was always there right on the job

They used to tell me I was building a dream
With peace and glory ahead
Why should I be standing in line
Just waiting for bread?

Once I built a railroad, I made it run
Made it race against time
Once I built a railroad, now it's done
Brother, can you spare a dime?

Once I built a tower up to the sun
Brick and rivet and lime
Once I built a tower, now it's done
Brother, can you spare a dime?

Once in khaki suits, gee we looked swell
Full of that yankee doodle de dum
Half a million boots went sloggin' through hell
And I was the kid with the drum

Say, don't you remember, they called me Al
It was Al all the time
Say, don't you remember, I'm your pal
Buddy, can you spare a dime?

Songwriters: E. Y. Harburg / Jay Gorney
Brother Can You Spare a Dime lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Next Decade Entertainment, Inc, Shapiro Bernstein & Co. Inc.

prettygoody -> GoronwyPrice , 4 Jun 2018 01:11
'This is more or less the definition of increased productivity and it is what ultimately leads to improved living standards for everyone'

Lazy, neoliberal, supply-side economic guff. Neoliberals undermine government and democracy and then scavenge on the wreckage. When does 'ultimately' begin for 'everyone'? Never.

'Private companies provide the same service with much less labour'

Firing people is the answer? What a hardened realist you are. Must be great to be so certain in your neoliberal convictions. Are you really telling us that every privatisation has been a success?

These pieces of infrastructure have been built through generations of work and wise investment - they are not any one government's to sell. It's just easier for a corrupt, rudderless, feckless neoliberal shill to sell it than it is for them to to run it.

Friarbird -> ADamnSmith2016 , 4 Jun 2018 01:05
Can't even begin to address the characteristic Libertarian slyness in all that.
But I'll try.
"What you call neoliberalism was a set of responses to the failure of socialism or as Tony Blair said 'what matters is what works'."
Incorrect.
What I--what the world--calls "Neoliberalism', is the corpse of Classical economics, resurrected post-WW2 by Friedman and Hayek's 'Mont Pelerin Society. '
Why was it buried ?
Because during the Great Depression, its dogmatic insistence on continued austerity and wage cuts only made things worse.
After all, in an economic slump, whats the worst thing you can do ?
Deprive people of whatever little purchasing power they have.
So, goodbye Classical economics.
After which, govts SPENT their societies out of slump, putting people to work.
(O, the horror ! O, the heresy !)
The public works of that era include Germany's autobahns and the US New Deal projects, including the Tennessee Valley system and similar in Western States.
( O the horror ! O the heresy !)
Friedman, Hayek and the gang looked at those and post-WW2 programs of public benefit, such as the UK's NHS and shat themselves. Typical fear-driven conservatives, they were convinced such programs represented the thin end of the wedge which MUST end in imposition of Soviet-style conditions.
What utter paranoid crap.
Their resurrected corpse of Classical economics ?.
THAT is what is 'Neoliberalism'.
Whether or not I call it so is immaterial.
Then, this lofty bit of finger-wagging assertion;
"This process of economic evolution is necessarily imperfect and incomplete...."
Your Lordship's overview is appreciated...
"....but currently leaves you free to own a computer, read news on-line, communicate using the internet (maybe using NBN?) and express your views freely. "
Sez who ?
You ?
Besides, the only one talking about that old bogey, "socialism" is you.
Because its a conveniently perjorative label, eh ?
Pretty infantile, though.

"Anybody who doesn't agree with EVERYTHING I say, must be a 'socialist.' And they can't play with my toys."

PS 'Adam', why do LIbertarians always project a Superiority Complex ?
Why are the buggers always so PLEASED WITH THEMSELVES ?

Tasmanian Cryptik -> 20thCenturyFox , 4 Jun 2018 00:58
Socialise the losses, privatise the gains.
RatioDecidend -> Elizabeth Connor , 4 Jun 2018 00:55
intelligent comment. Due to corporate media indoctrinating propaganda it will take sometime for others to understand where the problem lies.
20thCenturyFox , 4 Jun 2018 00:41
Neoliberalism = Socialism for the Rich - Capitalism for the Poor.

Politics needs reform, plain & simple. Fed ICAC and Integrity Commission is a good start but it's not enough. The rules have to change too. Major decisions like privatising services or tax handouts to the rich, shouldn't by law be allowed to get through parliament or the senate unless the claims being made to justify them are quantifiable & demonstrated to be in the National Interest. Currently politicians have no obligation to do either.

e.g. claiming that jobs will be created if Penalty rates are cut = there's no way to quantify such a BS claim and Doug Cameron got them to admit that in Senate Estimates. Even so they were allowed to lie through their teeth and impose it anyway with no requirement to prove their BS claims. This corporate tax handout = once again they claim it will lead to more wealth to average Australians and more jobs but it can't be quantified or guaranteed via regulation so it's all bullshit. The rich will hoard the wealth & kick Australians in the guts as usual. That's what they've always done and always will do. Privatisation of electricity..what a crock of shit. They claimed it would create competition and drive down prices. What's happened? The complete opposite but politicians KNOW they're not accountable and therein 'lies' the problem. The shortsheeting of the original NBN, = yet another lie. They've totally crippled Australia's ability to compete in a digital age and completely screwed regional 2nd tier cities and towns in terms of growth. As far as the National interest is concerned the shortsheeting of the NBN is the complete opposite. Even so they were allowed to bastardise that too without any accountability whatsoever. Australians need to start demanding political reform so these bastards are accountable to the people.

grumpyom -> Fred1 , 4 Jun 2018 00:28
Neoliberalism is just the academic name for the political ideology of greed, corruption, self interest, self entitlement, corporate welfare, inequality, user pays, and poverty is your fault.

George Monbiot does it well too.
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/apr/15/neoliberalism-ideology-problem-george-monbiot

grumpyom , 4 Jun 2018 00:18
Do you see any contradiction between privatised electricity and socialised stadiums?

Neoliberalism explains it all. Corruption in politics means that only profitable assets are privatised. Stadiums lose money, so are kept in private hands as corporate welfare for the various billionaire team owners and TV networks.

Elizabeth Connor , 4 Jun 2018 00:10
I love Richard Denniss! What a brilliantly concise and yet well supported argument. Now we just need someone who can say it in terms that will persuade unwilling voters to think carefully about their vote. If they do think carefully they simply cannot return this government to power, now that they're all revealed as nothing but crony capitalists.

I must admit that like many people I also thought neoliberalism was an ideology, but then I couldn't understand why they were so inconsistent in their spending of 'tax-payers' funds'.

From now on I'll be pointing out those inconsistencies with more confidence - armed with Richard's incontrovertible points, and also by a closer reading of Canadian Kean Birch's article:

https://theconversation.com/what-exactly-is-neoliberalism-84755.

Here's Birch's definition of neoliberalism:

[The term neoliberalism ] is used to refer to an economic system in which the "free" market is extended to every part of our public and personal worlds.

And here's wikipedia's definition of crony capitalism:

Crony capitalism is an economy in which businesses thrive not as a result of risks they take, but rather as a return on money amassed through a nexus between a business class and the political class.

NB But there's a more explicit definition here, which I like much better:

Crony capitalism is a term describing an economy in which success in business depends on close relationships between business people and government officials. It may be exhibited by favoritism in the distribution of legal permits, government grants, special tax breaks, or other forms of state interventionism.

https://www.quora.com/What-does-the-term-crony-capitalism-mean-What-are-the-long-term-economic-costs-of-crony-capitalism-for-a-country

And from where I sit, crony capitalism cannot be defended by anyone with any kind of integrity.

sierrasierra -> telbraithwaite , 4 Jun 2018 00:04
Yes, we have a spot of bother, and I think that their name - Institute of Public Affairs - is quite a misnomer.

The way these people operate is more akin to Opus Dei and many other 'secret societies' that have another public face altogether.

Given that IPA's agenda is a private members wish list which has a huge impact on matters of a broad public nature, it's rather akin to incest, and we know where the confusion between Church and State takes us regarding separation of powers, exactly where we are right now .two Royal Commissions that are joined at the hip, Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (2013 – 2017) and our current horror show Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation, and Financial Services Industry which could for all intents and purposes be as long as aforementioned.

Stay with me, as these are issues that relate to other 'energy' systems, namely money, sex and power, and if we have any doubts as to how far this cancer has spread, a quick purview of the following members ought to resolve it for you:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Institute_of_Public_Affairs#Political_links

https://www.reddit.com/r/australia/comments/1bz7et/ipas_75_point_list_for_abbott /

For the 70th Birthday big bash, we know that guests to the party were:
• Gina Rinehart
• Rupert Murdoch
• Tony Abbott
• George Pell - Australian Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church
• Michael Kroger - President of the Victorian division of the Liberal Party of Australia and former director of the IPA
• Mitch Fifield - Communications Minister

Think horizontal and vertical industries/associations and you begin to get the picture, and that's before thinking about BCA and VECCI.

Billyswagg , 4 Jun 2018 00:03
First, elect the other mob next time around. They're in the pockets of the multinationals and the US alliance as well, but they're not quite as bad, yet. The next thing is a full-on assault on mainstream media. The frontline of the revolution, if there is to be one, is the media. No more guns or territorial claims, it's a battle for the mind. Education is the key. The "Neolibs" attack education at every opportunity - teachers, curriculum, funding etc. etc. but there's nothing wrong with education - the real problem is that the mainstream media relentlessly, all day every day works to an agenda of dis-education, deliberately undermining and destroying the work of our schools. They preach doubt and mistrust - of learning, facts, truth, intelligence, pure science, art, music, culture, thoughtfulness, forbearance, empathy and altruism. They teach us to monetise and gamble on everything. Their aim is to dumb everyone down to the point where not only can't they read an analog clock or drive their own car but become entirely dependent on the word of authority (of which they are the mouthpiece) for a continued existence. Today, with our vast social platforms we can target their lies and threats, one by one. Pick each one, attack it, viciously, loudly, risibly, with facts, comedy, derision and invitations to dance. Spread it wide. Call them out at every opportunity. Sneer them into oblivion. Mainstream media is the primary problem. That's what must be destroyed.
Dunkey2830 -> Dave Bradley , 3 Jun 2018 23:53

Maybe the ALP have learnt from their mistakes


No, regrettably they have not.
The neoliberalist 'mistake' has been going on for around 40 yrs now - it has proved a relentless descent into inequality and austerity.

Chris Bowen at the National Press Club :
"...Labor will go to the next election:
Achieving budget balance in the same year as the government;
Delivering bigger cumulative budget surpluses over forward estimates as well as substantially bigger surpluses over the ten year medium term; and
That the majority of savings raised from our revenue measures over the medium term will go towards budget repair and paying down debt...."

Pure neoliberal economic poison that will create further hardship for our citizens, worsen inequality and recess the economy yet further.

People have got to come to understand that the bigger surpluses Bowen speaks of are federal tax collection surpluses; i.e. he intends to withdraw further spending capacity from the private sector, all while the current account deficit already draws 3.5% GDP (~$30bn) a yr from that same heavily indebted private sector.

This Bowen statement report from the SMH :
"The whiff of a surplus, not reaching at least 1 per cent of GDP until 2026-27, does not adequately protect Australia against the potential roiling seas of international uncertainty," he will say.
"Australia needs bigger surpluses, sooner than the government is scheduling.
"We can't afford to let the next four years go to waste in the efforts for a healthier, safer budget surplus."

Absolute macroeconomic stupidity, arrogant, vandalous ideological madness.
When will the people come to their senses and stop supporting such socially destructive errant neoliberal economic alchemy?

BiggerPictureCait -> Stopthelibs , 3 Jun 2018 23:53
Just look at the Citizens Assembly overseeing the law change in the recent Irish referendum. Worked a treat, cause those involved wanted to find the bvest alternative, rather than feather their own nest.

[Dec 27, 2018] Neoliberal ideology is free market, neoliberal practice is crony capitalism

Dec 27, 2018 | discussion.theguardian.com

jclucas , 3 Jun 2018 23:25

It is indeed important to make the distinction between the ideology of neoliberalism - the ideology of private enterprise is good, and public spending is bad - and the operational system of crony capitalism - the game of mates played by government and the special interests.

And it is certainly equally important to call out the monumental hypocrisy involved in the government's application of the ideology's set of rules to the powerless and public and the government's application of corrupt practice rules to the special interests.

The system is destroying the egalitarian character of Australia and fanning the flames of nativist authoritarianism here.

But what's even more dangerous is the fundamental dishonesty that the system necessitates, and the alienating influence it has - on top of the growing economic inequality.

The system has destroyed the economic and environmental viability and sustainability of the planet on which human civilization depends.

What is becoming increasingly clear to more and more of the public is that - simple put- the system cannot be allowed to go on as it has been proceeding because it threatens the future of civilization on earth.

Change is imperative now. However, how that will unfold is unclear, as well as, the toll the destruc5turing system will take.

What is clear is that a great restructuring must happen - and soon.

[Dec 09, 2018] Prosperity theology - Wikipedia

In Christian tradition, the love of money is condemned as a sin primarily based on texts such as Ecclesiastes 5.10 and 1 Timothy 6:10. The Jewish and Christian condemnation relates to avarice and greed rather than money itself. Christian texts (scriptures) are full of parables and use easy to understand subjects, such as money, to convey the actual message, there are further parallels in Solon and Aristotle,[1] and Massinissa-who ascribed love of money to Hannibal and the Carthaginians.[2].
Avarice is one of the Seven deadly sins in the Christian classifications of vices (sins). The Catholic Church forbids usury.
While certain political ideologies, such as neoliberalism, assume and promote the view that the behavior that capitalism fosters in individuals is natural to humans,[2][3] anthropologists like Richard Robbins point out that there is nothing natural about this behavior - people are not naturally dispossessed to accumulate wealth and driven by wage-labor
Neoliberalism abstract the economic sphere from other aspects of society (politics, culture, family etc., with any political activity constituting an intervention into the natural process of the market, for example) and assume that people make rational exchanges in the sphere of market transactions. In reality rational economic exchanges are actually heavily influenced by pre-existing social ties and other factors.
Under neoliberalism both the society and culture revolve around business activity (the accumulation of capital). As such, business activity and the "free market" exchange (despite the fact that "free market" never existed in human history) are often viewed as being absolute or "natural" in that all other human social relations revolve around these processes (or should exist to facilitate one's ability to perform these processes
Notable quotes:
"... Conwell equated poverty with sin and asserted that anyone could become rich through hard work. This gospel of wealth, however, was an expression of Muscular Christianity and understood success to be the result of personal effort rather than divine intervention. [5] ..."
"... They criticized many aspects of the prosperity gospel, noting particularly the tendency of believers to lack compassion for the poor, since their poverty was seen as a sign that they had not followed the rules and therefore are not loved by God ..."
Dec 09, 2018 | en.wikipedia.org
[Video] Interview with Kate Bowler on Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel , March 18, 2014 , C-SPAN

According to historian Kate Bowler , the prosperity gospel was formed from the intersection of three different ideologies: Pentecostalism , New Thought , and "an American gospel of pragmatism, individualism, and upward mobility". [4] This "American gospel" was best exemplified by Andrew Carnegie 's Gospel of Wealth and Russell Conwell 's famous sermon "Acres of Diamonds", in which Conwell equated poverty with sin and asserted that anyone could become rich through hard work. This gospel of wealth, however, was an expression of Muscular Christianity and understood success to be the result of personal effort rather than divine intervention. [5]

... ... ...

In 2005, Matthew Ashimolowo , the founder of the largely African Kingsway International Christian Centre in southern England, which preaches a "health and wealth" gospel and collects regular tithes, was ordered by the Charity Commission to repay money he had appropriated for his personal use. In 2017, the organisation was under criminal investigation after a leading member was found by a court in 2015 to have operated a Ponzi scheme between 2007 and 2011, losing or spending £8 million of investors' money. [43]

... ... ...

The inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States featured prayers from two preachers known for advocating prosperity theology. [45] Paula White , one of Trump's spiritual advisers, gave the invocation. [46]

... ... ...

36] Hanna Rosin of The Atlantic argues that prosperity theology contributed to the housing bubble that caused the late-2000s financial crisis . She maintains that home ownership was heavily emphasized in prosperity churches, based on reliance on divine financial intervention that led to unwise choices based on actual financial ability. [36]

... ... ...

Historian Carter Lindberg of Boston University has drawn parallels between contemporary prosperity theology and the medieval indulgence trade . [69] Coleman notes that several pre–20th century Christian movements in the United States taught that a holy lifestyle was a path to prosperity and that God-ordained hard work would bring blessing. [16]

... ... ...

In April 2015, LDS apostle Dallin H. Oaks stated that people who believe in "the theology of prosperity" are deceived by riches. He continued by saying that the "possession of wealth or significant income is not a mark of heavenly favor, and their absence is not evidence of heavenly disfavor". He also cited how Jesus differentiated the attitudes towards money held by the young rich man in Mark 10:17–24, the good Samaritan, and Judas Iscariot in his betrayal. Oaks concluded this portion of his sermon by highlighting that the "root of all evil is not money but the love of money". [90]

In 2015, well known pastor and prosperity gospel advocate Creflo Dollar launched a fundraising campaign to replace a previous private jet with a $65 million Gulfstream G650. [91] On the August 16, 2015 episode of his HBO weekly series Last Week Tonight , John Oliver satirized prosperity theology by announcing that he had established his own tax-exempt church, called Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption . In a lengthy segment, Oliver focused on what he characterized as the predatory conduct of televangelists who appeal for repeated gifts from people in financial distress or personal crises, and he criticized the very loose requirements for entities to obtain tax exempt status as churches under U.S. tax law. Oliver said that he would ultimately donate any money collected by the church to Doctors Without Borders . [92]

In July 2018, Antonio Spadaro and Marcelo Figueroa, in the Jesuit journal La Civilità Cattolica , examined the origins of the prosperity gospel in the United States and described it as a reductive version of the American Dream which had offered opportunities of success and prosperity unreachable in the Old World . The authors distinguished the prosperity gospel from Max Weber 's Protestant ethic , noting that the protestant ethic related prosperity to religiously inspired austerity while the prosperity gospel saw prosperity as the simple result of personal faith. They criticized many aspects of the prosperity gospel, noting particularly the tendency of believers to lack compassion for the poor, since their poverty was seen as a sign that they had not followed the rules and therefore are not loved by God . [93] [94]

[Dec 04, 2018] Neoliberalism has spawned a financial elite who hold governments to ransom by Deborah Orr

Notable quotes:
"... The IMF exists to lend money to governments, so it's comic that it wags its finger at governments that run up debt. And, of course, its loans famously come with strings attached: adopt a free-market economy, or strengthen the one you have, kissing goodbye to the Big State. ..."
"... Yet, the irony is painful. Neoliberal ideology insists that states are too big and cumbersome, too centralized and faceless, to be efficient and responsive ..."
"... The problem is that the ruthless sentimentalists of neoliberalism like to tell themselves – and anyone else who will listen – that removing the dead hand of state control frees the individual citizen to be entrepreneurial and productive. Instead, it places the financially powerful beyond any state, in an international elite that makes its own rules, and holds governments to ransom. That's what the financial crisis was all about ..."
"... Markets cannot be free. Markets have to be nurtured. They have to be invested in. Markets have to be grown. Google, Amazon and Apple haven't taught anyone in this country to read. But even though an illiterate market wouldn't be so great for them, they avoid their taxes, because they can, because they are more powerful than governments. ..."
"... The neoliberalism that the IMF still preaches pays no account to any of this. It insists that the provision of work alone is enough of an invisible hand to sustain a market. Yet even Adam Smith, the economist who came up with that theory , did not agree that economic activity alone was enough to keep humans decent and civilised. ..."
Jun 08, 2013 | www.theguardian.com

The crash was a write-off, not a repair job. The response should be a wholesale reevaluation of the way in which wealth is created and distributed around the globe

he IMF's limited admission of guilt over the Greek bailout is a start, but they still can't see the global financial system's fundamental flaws, writes Deborah Orr.

The International Monetary Fund has admitted that some of the decisions it made in the wake of the 2007-2008 financial crisis were wrong, and that the €130bn first bailout of Greece was "bungled". Well, yes. If it hadn't been a mistake, then it would have been the only bailout and everyone in Greece would have lived happily ever after.

Actually, the IMF hasn't quite admitted that it messed things up. It has said instead that it went along with its partners in "the Troika" – the European Commission and the European Central Bank – when it shouldn't have. The EC and the ECB, says the IMF, put the interests of the Eurozone before the interests of Greece. The EC and the ECB, in turn, clutch their pearls and splutter with horror that they could be accused of something so petty as self-preservation.

The IMF also admits that it "underestimated" the effect austerity would have on Greece. Obviously, the rest of the Troika takes no issue with that. Even those who substitute "kick up the arse to all the lazy scroungers" whenever they encounter the word "austerity", have cottoned on to the fact that the word can only be intoned with facial features locked into a suitably tragic mask.

Yet, mealy-mouthed and hotly contested as this minor mea culpa is, it's still a sign that financial institutions may slowly be coming round to the idea that they are the problem. They know the crash was a debt-bubble that burst. What they don't seem to acknowledge is that the merry days of reckless lending are never going to return; even if they do, the same thing will happen again, but more quickly and more savagely. The thing is this: the crash was a write-off, not a repair job. The response from the start should have been a wholesale reevaluation of the way in which wealth is created and distributed around the globe, a "structural adjustment", as the philosopher John Gray has said all along.

The IMF exists to lend money to governments, so it's comic that it wags its finger at governments that run up debt. And, of course, its loans famously come with strings attached: adopt a free-market economy, or strengthen the one you have, kissing goodbye to the Big State.

Yet, the irony is painful. Neoliberal ideology insists that states are too big and cumbersome, too centralized and faceless, to be efficient and responsive. I agree.

The problem is that the ruthless sentimentalists of neoliberalism like to tell themselves – and anyone else who will listen – that removing the dead hand of state control frees the individual citizen to be entrepreneurial and productive. Instead, it places the financially powerful beyond any state, in an international elite that makes its own rules, and holds governments to ransom. That's what the financial crisis was all about. The ransom was paid, and as a result, governments have been obliged to limit their activities yet further – some setting about the task with greater relish than others. Now the task, supposedly, is to get the free market up and running again.

But the basic problem is this: it costs a lot of money to cultivate a market – a group of consumers – and the more sophisticated the market is, the more expensive it is to cultivate them. A developed market needs to be populated with educated, healthy, cultured, law-abiding and financially secure people – people who expect to be well paid themselves, having been brought up believing in material aspiration, as consumers need to be.

So why, exactly, given the huge amount of investment needed to create such a market, should access to it then be "free"? The neoliberal idea is that the cultivation itself should be conducted privately as well. They see "austerity" as a way of forcing that agenda. But how can the privatization of societal welfare possibly happen when unemployment is already high, working people are turning to food banks to survive and the debt industry, far from being sorry that it brought the global economy to its knees, is snapping up bargains in the form of busted high-street businesses to establish shops with nothing to sell but high-interest debt? Why, you have to ask yourself, is this vast implausibility, this sheer un-sustainability, not blindingly obvious to all?

Markets cannot be free. Markets have to be nurtured. They have to be invested in. Markets have to be grown. Google, Amazon and Apple haven't taught anyone in this country to read. But even though an illiterate market wouldn't be so great for them, they avoid their taxes, because they can, because they are more powerful than governments.

And further, those who invest in these companies, and insist that taxes should be low to encourage private profit and shareholder value, then lend governments the money they need to create these populations of sophisticated producers and consumers, berating them for their profligacy as they do so. It's all utterly, completely, crazy.

The other day a health minister, Anna Soubry , suggested that female GPs who worked part-time so that they could bring up families were putting the NHS under strain. The compartmentalised thinking is quite breathtaking. What on earth does she imagine? That it would be better for the economy if they all left school at 16? On the contrary, the more people who are earning good money while working part-time – thus having the leisure to consume – the better. No doubt these female GPs are sustaining both the pharmaceutical industry and the arts and media, both sectors that Britain does well in.

As for their prioritising of family life over career – that's just another of the myriad ways in which Conservative neoliberalism is entirely without logic. Its prophets and its disciples will happily – ecstatically – tell you that there's nothing more important than family, unless you're a family doctor spending some of your time caring for your own. You couldn't make these characters up. It is certainly true that women with children find it more easy to find part-time employment in the public sector. But that's a prima facie example of how unresponsive the private sector is to human and societal need, not – as it is so often presented – evidence that the public sector is congenitally disabled.

Much of the healthy economic growth – as opposed to the smoke and mirrors of many aspects of financial services – that Britain enjoyed during the second half of the 20th century was due to women swelling the educated workforce. Soubry and her ilk, above all else, forget that people have multiple roles, as consumers, as producers, as citizens and as family members. All of those things have to be nurtured and invested in to make a market.

The neoliberalism that the IMF still preaches pays no account to any of this. It insists that the provision of work alone is enough of an invisible hand to sustain a market. Yet even Adam Smith, the economist who came up with that theory , did not agree that economic activity alone was enough to keep humans decent and civilised.

Governments are left with the bill when neoliberals demand access to markets that they refuse to invest in making. Their refusal allows them to rail against the Big State while producing the conditions that make it necessary. And even as the results of their folly become ever more plain to see, they are grudging in their admittance of the slightest blame, bickering with their allies instead of waking up, smelling the coffee and realising that far too much of it is sold through Starbucks.

[Dec 03, 2018] Neoliberal propaganda dictum: Nobody is owed a good living in this world

This is an attractive but idealistinc notion, because the person destiny often is shaped by forces beyond his control. Like Great Depression or WWII. The proper idea is that the society as a whole serves as a "social security" mechanism to prevent worst outcomes. At the same time neoliberalism accept bailout for financial sector and even demand them for goverment.
Dec 03, 2018 | discussion.theguardian.com

OneCommentator -> dmckm , 8 Jun 2013 13:03

@dmckm - Nobody is owed a good living in this world. That's what freedom means: one is free to chose the best way to make a living. Are you saying that by forcing people to pay you something they don't want to is freedom?

[Dec 03, 2018] No market is 'Free'. Free markets do not exist. Markets are there for those with a vested interest. i.e. the banksters. Note the growth of Hedge funds or slush funds for the rich.

Dec 03, 2018 | discussion.theguardian.com

Stonk , 8 Jun 2013 08:18

No market is 'Free'. Free markets do not exist. Markets are there for those with a vested interest. i.e. the banksters. Note the growth of Hedge funds or slush funds for the rich.

[Dec 03, 2018] The detachment from reality of "free market" propaganda is intentional. This notion is pure propaganda and there were never "free market" in any country in history of mankind

Neoliberalism like Bolshevism is based on brainwashing and propaganda. In this case by bought by financial elite and controlled by intelligence agencies MSM.
Notable quotes:
"... Neoliberalism? This is not just a financial agenda. This a highly organized multi armed counterculture operation to force us, including Ms Orr [unless she has...connections] into what Terence McKenna [who was in on it] termed the `Archaic Revival'. That is - you and me [and Ms Orr] - our - return to the medieval dark ages, if we indeed survive that far. ..."
"... The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organised habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are moulded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. ..."
"... A free market larger than a boot fair has never existed. A market can never have power, it's just a market after all. It's the people in the market that have power... or some of them... the few... have it disproportionately compared to others, and straight away the market isn't free. ..."
"... It's only even approximately free when properly regulated, but that's anathema to market fundamentalists so they end up with a market run for the benefit of vested interests that they will claim is "free" until their dying breath. ..."
"... Power belongs with democratically elected governments, not people in markets responsible only to themselves. Amazing that people still think as you do after all that's happened. ..."
Dec 03, 2018 | discussion.theguardian.com

LiberteEgalite1 -> taxhaven , 8 Jun 2013 13:31

@taxhaven - I love this "free markets" expression, but can we really have free markets please then? This means that no taxpayer money is to be spent to bail out the capitalist bankers when things so sour.

It also means that there is completely free movement of labor so I as an employer should be able to hire anyone I like for your job and pay the wage that the replacement is willing to take i.e. tough luck to you if the person is more qualified and is willing to work for less but does not have the work visa because in free markets there will be no such things as work permits.

PointOfYou , 8 Jun 2013 13:37

Neoliberalism has spawned a financial elite who hold governments to ransom

Neoliberalism? This is not just a financial agenda. This a highly organized multi armed counterculture operation to force us, including Ms Orr [unless she has...connections] into what Terence McKenna [who was in on it] termed the `Archaic Revival'. That is - you and me [and Ms Orr] - our - return to the medieval dark ages, if we indeed survive that far.

The same names come up time and time again. One of them being, father of propaganda, Edward Bernays.

Bernays wrote what can be seen as a virtual Mission Statement for anyone wishing to bring about a "counterculture." In the opening paragraph of his book Propaganda he wrote:

".. The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organised habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are moulded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.

This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organised. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses.

It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind..."[28]

Bernays' family background made him well suited to "control the public mind." He was the double nephew of psychoanalysis pioneer Sigmund Freud. His mother was Freud's sister Anna, and his father was Ely Bernays, brother of Freud's wife Martha Bernays.

TedSmithAndSon -> taxhaven , 8 Jun 2013 13:25
@taxhaven -

about being permitted to engage in voluntary exchange of goods and services with others, unmolested.

And if we ever had that, would it make the ideal society?

A free market larger than a boot fair has never existed. A market can never have power, it's just a market after all. It's the people in the market that have power... or some of them... the few... have it disproportionately compared to others, and straight away the market isn't free.

It's only even approximately free when properly regulated, but that's anathema to market fundamentalists so they end up with a market run for the benefit of vested interests that they will claim is "free" until their dying breath.

Power belongs with democratically elected governments, not people in markets responsible only to themselves. Amazing that people still think as you do after all that's happened.

[Nov 25, 2018] A new type of US disclaimer: No Russian, living or dead, had anything to do with the posting of this comment

Notable quotes:
"... Disclaimer: No Russian, living or dead, had anything to do with the posting of this proudly home-grown comment ..."
Nov 25, 2018 | caucus99percent.com

What else is amazing about her emails @leveymg

is how no one really talked about their content, eh? We learned that she rigged the primary against Bernie and then everyone started talking about Russia ! Just as she and Podesta wanted.

#1
Amazing how elusive they are (scrubbed from the State Dept website) and how they have never been picked up on by most of the corporate media.

up 8 users have voted. --

Disclaimer: No Russian, living or dead, had anything to do with the posting of this proudly home-grown comment

[Nov 20, 2018] This is what Google learned after interviewing one job candidate 16 times, according to Eric Schmidt

Nov 20, 2018 | finance.yahoo.com

[Oct 30, 2018] Neoliberal way of screwing up people is via HR

Notable quotes:
"... I too was a victim of IBM's underhanded trickery to get rid of people...39 years with IBM, a top performer. ..."
Oct 30, 2018 | features.propublica.org
xn0 , Monday, April 2, 2018 1:44 PM
These practices are "interesting". And people still wonder why there are so many deadly amok runs at US companies? What do they expect when they replace old and experienced workers with inexperienced millenials, who often lack basic knowledge about their job? Better performance?

This will run US tech companies into the ground. This sort of "American" HR management is gaining ground here in Germany as well, its troubling. And on top they have to compete against foreign tech immigrants from middle eastern and asian companies. Sure fire recipe for social unrest and people voting for right-wing parties.

nottigerwoods , Friday, March 30, 2018 1:39 PM
I too was a victim of IBM's underhanded trickery to get rid of people...39 years with IBM, a top performer. I never got a letter telling me to move to Raleigh. All i got was a phone call asking me if i wanted to take the 6 month exception to consider it. Yet, after taking the 6 month exception, I was told I could no longer move, the colocation was closed. Either I find another job, not in Marketing support (not even Marketing) or leave the company. I received no letter from Ginni, nothing. I was under the impression I could show up in Raleigh after the exception period. Not so. It was never explained....After 3 months I will begin contracting with IBM. Not because I like them, because I need the money...thanks for the article.
doncanard , Friday, March 30, 2018 1:33 PM
dropped in 2013 after 22 years. IBM stopped leading in the late 1980's, afterwards it implemented "market driven quality" which meant listen for the latest trends, see what other people were doing, and then buy the competition or drive them out of business. "Innovation that matters": it's only interesting if an IBM manager can see a way to monetize it.

That's a low standard. It's OK, there are other places that are doing better. In fact, the best of the old experienced people went to work there. Newsflash: quality doesn't change with generations, you either create it or you don't.

Sounds like IBM is building its product portfolio to match its desired workforce. And of course, on every round of layoffs, the clear criterion was people who were compliant and pliable - who's ready to follow orders ? Best of luck.

[Oct 30, 2018] In the late 1980s, IBM offered decent packages to retirement eligible employees. For those close to retirement age, it was a great deal - 2 weeks pay for every year of service (capped at 26 years) plus being kept on to perform their old job for 6 months (while collecting retirement, until the government stepped in an put a halt to it).

Oct 30, 2018 | features.propublica.org

HiJinks , Sunday, March 25, 2018 3:07 AM

I agree with many who state the report is well done. However, this crap started in the early 1990s. In the late 1980s, IBM offered decent packages to retirement eligible employees. For those close to retirement age, it was a great deal - 2 weeks pay for every year of service (capped at 26 years) plus being kept on to perform their old job for 6 months (while collecting retirement, until the government stepped in an put a halt to it). Nobody eligible was forced to take the package (at least not to general knowledge). The last decent package was in 1991 - similar, but not able to come back for 6 months.

However, in 1991, those offered the package were basically told take it or else. Anyone with 30 years of service or 15 years and 55 was eligible and anyone within 5 years of eligibility could "bridge" the difference.

They also had to sign a form stating they would not sue IBM in order to get up to a years pay - not taxable per IRS documents back then (but IBM took out the taxes anyway and the IRS refused to return - an employee group had hired lawyers to get the taxes back, a failed attempt which only enriched the lawyers).

After that, things went downhill and accelerated when Gerstner took over. After 1991, there were still a some workers who could get 30 years or more, but that was more the exception. I suspect the way the company has been run the past 25 years or so has the Watsons spinning in their graves. Gone are the 3 core beliefs - "Respect for the individual", "Service to the customer" and "Excellence must be a way of life".

Chris S. HiJinks

could be true... but i thought Watson was the IBM data analytics computer thingy... beat two human players at Jeopardy on live tv a year or two or so back.. featured on 60 Minutes just around last year.... :

ArnieTracey , Saturday, March 24, 2018 7:15 PM
IBM's policy reminds me of the "If a citizen = 30 y.o., then mass execute such, else if they run then hunt and kill them one by one" social policy in the Michael York movie "Logan's Run."

From Wiki, in case you don't know: "It depicts a utopian future society on the surface, revealed as a dystopia where the population and the consumption of resources are maintained in equilibrium by killing everyone who reaches the age of 30. The story follows the actions of Logan 5, a "Sandman" who has terminated others who have attempted to escape death, and is now faced with termination himself."

Jr Jr , Saturday, March 24, 2018 4:37 PM
Corporate loyalty has been gone for 25 years. This isnt surprising. But this age discrimination is blatantly illegal.

[Oct 27, 2018] Big Business Strikes Back The Class Struggle from Above by James Petras

Notable quotes:
"... Bankers, agro-business elites, commercial mega owners, manufacturing, real estate and insurance bosses and their financial advisers, elite members of the 'ruling class', have launched a full-scale attack on private and public wage and salary workers, and small and medium size entrepreneurs (the members of the 'popular classes'). The attack has targeted income ,pensions, medical plans, workplace conditions, job security, rents, mortgages, educational costs, taxation,undermining family and household cohesion. ..."
"... Big business has weakened or abolished political and social organizations which challenge the distribution of income and profits and influence the rates of workplace output. In brief the ruling classes have intensified exploitation and oppression through the 'class struggle' from above. ..."
"... The United States witnessed the ruling class take full control of the state, the workplace and distribution of social expenditures. ..."
"... The upsurge of the popular class struggle was contained and confined by the center-left political elite, while the ruling class marked time, making business deals to secure lucrative state contracts via bribes to the ruling center-left allied with the conservative political elite . ..."
"... The big business ruling class learned their lessons from their previous experience with weak and conciliating neo-liberal regimes. They sought authoritarian and, if possible rabble rousing political leaders, who could dismantle the popular organizations, and gutted popular welfare programs and democratic institutions, which previously blocked the consolidation of the neo-liberal New Order. ..."
"... The term "invidious distinction" was coined by Thornstein Veblen in his seminal "The Theory of the Leisure Class", in which Veblen argues that one of the primary human motivations is to evoke envy in our fellows. ..."
"... "Popular" class struggles need to be seen for what they are; temporary expedients whereby one set of rulers uses the populace for their own ends and against their competitors. ..."
"... Too many people get suckered into supporting "popular" movements and sometimes do gain temporary benefits, but when their handlers get what they want, the fun and games are over. ..."
Oct 24, 2018 | www.unz.com

Introduction

Bankers, agro-business elites, commercial mega owners, manufacturing, real estate and insurance bosses and their financial advisers, elite members of the 'ruling class', have launched a full-scale attack on private and public wage and salary workers, and small and medium size entrepreneurs (the members of the 'popular classes'). The attack has targeted income ,pensions, medical plans, workplace conditions, job security, rents, mortgages, educational costs, taxation,undermining family and household cohesion.

Big business has weakened or abolished political and social organizations which challenge the distribution of income and profits and influence the rates of workplace output. In brief the ruling classes have intensified exploitation and oppression through the 'class struggle' from above.

We will proceed by identifying the means, methods and socio-political conditions which have advanced the class struggle from above and, conversely, reversed and weakened the class struggle from below.

Historical Context

The class struggle is the major determinant of the advances and regression of the interests of the capitalist class. Following the Second World War, the popular classes experienced steady advances in income, living standards, and work place representation. However by the last decade of the 20 th century the balance of power between the ruling and popular classes began to shift, as a new 'neo-liberal' development paradigm became prevalent.

First and foremost, the state ceased to negotiate and conciliate relations between rulers and the working class: the [neoliberal] state concentrated on de-regulating the economy, reducing corporate taxes, and eliminating labor's role in politics and the division of profits and income.

The concentration of state power and income was not uncontested and was not uniform in all regions and countries. Moreover, counter-cyclical trends, reflecting shifts in the balance of the class struggle precluded a linear process. In Europe, the Nordic and Western European countries' ruling classes advanced privatization of public enterprises, reduced social welfare costs and benefits, and pillaged overseas resources but were unable to break the state funded welfare system. In Latin America the advance and regression of the power, income and welfare of the popular class, correlated with the outcome of the class and state struggle.

The United States witnessed the ruling class take full control of the state, the workplace and distribution of social expenditures.

In brief, by the end of the 20 th century, the ruling class advanced in assuming a dominant role in the class struggle.

Nevertheless, the class struggle from below retained its presence, and in some places, namely in Latin America, the popular classes were able to secure a share of state power – at least temporarily.

Popular Power: Contesting the Class Struggle from Above

Latin America is a prime example of the uneven trajectory of the class struggle.

Between the end of World War Two and the late 1940's, the popular classes were able to secure democratic rights, populist reforms and social organization. Guatemala, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela were among the leading examples. By the early 1950's with the onset of the US imperialist 'cold war', in collaboration with the regional ruling classes launched a violent class war from above, which took the form of military coups in Guatemala, Peru, Argentina, Venezuela and Brazil. The populist class struggle was defeated by the US backed military- business rulers who, temporarily imposed US agro-mineral export economies.

The 1950's were the 'golden epoch' for the advance of US multi-nationals and Pentagon designed regional military alliances. But the class struggle from below rose again and found expression in the growth of a progressive national populist industrializing coalition, and the successful Cuban socialist regime and its followers in revolutionary social movements in the rest of Latin America throughout the 1960's.

The revolutionary popular class insurgency of the early 1960's was countered by the ruling class seizure of power backed by military-US led coups between 1964-1976 which demolished the regimes and institutions of the popular classes in Brazil (1964), Bolivia (1970), Chile (1973), Argentina (1976) , Peru (1973) and elsewhere.

Economic crises of the early 1980s reduced the role of the military and led to a 'negotiated transition' in which the ruling class advanced a neo-liberal agenda in exchange for electoral participation under military and US tutelage.

Lacking direct military rule, the ruling class struggle succeeded in muting the popular class struggle by co-opting the center-left political elites. The ruling class did not or could not establish hegemony over the popular classes even as they proceeded with their neo-liberal agenda.

With the advent of the 21 st century a new cycle in the class struggle from below burst forth. Three events intersected: the global crises of 2000 triggered regional financial crashes, which in turn led to a collapse of industries and mass unemployment, which intensified mass direct action and the ouster of the neo-liberal regimes. Throughout the first decade of the 21 st century, neo-liberalism was in retreat. The popular class struggle and the rise of social movements displaced the neo-liberal regimes but was incapable of replacing the ruling classes. Instead hybrid center-left electoral regimes took power.

The new power configuration incorporated popular social movements, center-left parties and neo-liberal business elites. Over the next decade the cross-class alliance advanced largely because of the commodity boom which financed welfare programs, increased employment, implemented poverty reduction programs and expanded investments in infrastructure. Post-neoliberal regimes co-opted the leaders of the popular classes, replaced ruling class political elites but did not displace the strategic structural positions of the business ruling class..

The upsurge of the popular class struggle was contained and confined by the center-left political elite, while the ruling class marked time, making business deals to secure lucrative state contracts via bribes to the ruling center-left allied with the conservative political elite .

The end of the commodity boom, forced the center-left to curtail its social welfare and infrastructure programs and fractured the alliance between big business leaders and center-left political elites. The ensuing economic recession facilitated the return of the neo-liberal political elite to power.

The big business ruling class learned their lessons from their previous experience with weak and conciliating neo-liberal regimes. They sought authoritarian and, if possible rabble rousing political leaders, who could dismantle the popular organizations, and gutted popular welfare programs and democratic institutions, which previously blocked the consolidation of the neo-liberal New Order.

... ... ...


Renoman , says: October 26, 2018 at 6:38 pm GMT

The strait up truth!
A Bit Sandy , says: October 26, 2018 at 10:25 pm GMT
"The rightist rhetoric turns against itself as its followers engage in invidious distinctions ."

Interesting. You don't see Veblen's "invidious distinction" trotted out very often these days which is a pity. More the pity that it is misused in quote above. It's probably uncharitable to take cheap shots at the article, which is a beautiful, anti-fa inspired, fairytale history of the modern age. I just wish more care would be used for Marxist and non-marxist socialist phrases such as "class struggle" and "invidious distinction" because it impossible to detest them adequately when they are improperly deployed.

The term "invidious distinction" was coined by Thornstein Veblen in his seminal "The Theory of the Leisure Class", in which Veblen argues that one of the primary human motivations is to evoke envy in our fellows. Veblen thought that because all value is subjective/arbitrary, it's quite reasonable to assume that the most efficient value signal is that which creates the most envy in other men. A man's social standing is therefore efficiently established by status symbols that invoke envy such as a Rolex or a Mercedes. The peculiar consequence of this is that often, men desire a thing like a Rolex because other men want one, even up to the point when the object lacks any utility whatsoever other than signaling wealth, which itself is defined as having things that others want. Invidious distinction is therefore best evidenced through conspicuous consumption, however nearly all actions that do not have subsistence as their aim are undertaken to gain social standing or signal social standing by invoking envy.

Thus the quote above could be rewritten to be "The rightist rhetoric turns against itself as its followers engage in non-subsistence activities" which is kind of dumb. If the author is prognosticating that the authoritarian new order will turn on itself, it'd be nice to know have a more substantive explanation than "non-subsistence activities". Moreover, if the authoritarian new order is to shed it's "shock troops" in exchange for "meritocrats" it'd be nice to know why. That's my 2 cents, but I'm curious to know what others think of this curious tale!

TimeTraveller , says: October 27, 2018 at 6:02 am GMT

The corruption of upwardly mobile middle-class rabble rousers will disillusion their voluntary followers. Arbitrary police and military repression usually extends to extortion and intimidation beyond the drug slums to the middle and working-class neighborhoods.

Also, the rise of AI, data mining, and complex algorithms, as well as the proliferation of electronic devices that record and analyze our private spaces is a pillar of the new order. Essentially, we are being watched by machines.

People need to reject the material order. Spiritual awakening is the key.

Revolutionaries will find new ways to defeat these technology-based tactics. Dogwhistling, communication on a personal level (rather than by mass media or the internet), and old-fashioned tribalism should help. Also, leaderless resistance can play a role. Weaknesses will be found in the crumbling edifice, and many hands can chisel separately.

Infiltration and sabotage can also be applied.

Possibly unrelated, but maybe thought-provoking:

Consider the man they just arrested for the mail bomb scare. Reportedly, this person was a career criminal with drug dealing and grand theft on his record and he was caught in possession of a white van with decals on it depicting his targets. This man is a caricature of a Trump supporter, ready-made for the cable news broadcast. Does anyone else see the absurdity of it? Can this guy be for real?

The authoritarian New Order usually begins to decline through 'internal rot' – uber- profiteering and flagrant abuse of work.

jilles dykstra , says: October 27, 2018 at 6:41 am GMT
" However sustaining their advance is conditional on dynamic economic growth "

You cannot fool all people all the time. Our Dutch Rutte governments now for some ten years have told us that the economy is growing, alas the average Dutchman by now knows that 'there are lies, big lies, and statistics', in other words, it may well be that the economy is growing, but the average Dutchman does not see his buying power increased.

On the contrary, those that work have a more or less constant buying power, those that do not work, for whatever reason: cannot find a job, permanent illness, retired, see quite well how their material position deteriorates steadily.

anon [455] Disclaimer , says: October 27, 2018 at 8:35 am GMT
a better title for this article might have been " what's wrong with everything for dummies" ?
Anon [424] Disclaimer , says: October 27, 2018 at 9:12 am GMT
The alliance of big globalized business and big Governments is an unbearable burden for most of the populations. Since the 70`s you have to work more and more and to study more and more for less and less

I foresee that if this continue in the next 20 years millions and millions of people will die of marginalization, of hunger , misery and grief .

jim jones , says: October 27, 2018 at 10:42 am GMT
The Fake Left (clinton neoliberals) have abandoned the Working Class and embraced identity politics.
Ilyana_Rozumova , says: October 27, 2018 at 11:06 am GMT
This is the most important problem governments, and in the wider sense humanity is encountering. The pendulum is incessantly swinging from center to right and than reverses from right to left.

Marx theories are totally one sided and do not solve anything. Extreme swing to the left brought at start enthusiasm of the working classes and for certain time progress of the humanity was phenomenal. But in time the progress did stop and population become lethargic and progress become stagnation leading to depression. Similar thing happens when pendulum is swinging to the right.

Eventually the purchasing power of the population diminishes to the size when crisis of the system is inevitable. Most important task of the governments is to control the economy that the extent of the swings are small as possible.

Jeff Stryker , says: October 27, 2018 at 11:07 am GMT
@Anon Things seem to have improved in Asia since I first went abroad in 2000. In the US, on the other hand, life seems to have gotten more and more difficult.

If you had told me in 1993 when I left home that Gen Y of age 30 would live at home and that entire families of white people would be homeless or that MBA's would have to work in Bistros at age 25 I would have said you're crazed.

The odd thing in the US is that it is the middle-class seems to have gotten hit the worst. The white underclass and blacks have always had it hard and poor. Much of the time they deserve it because they have babies at 19 and don't go to college. But the destruction of the middle-class whites is quite phenomenal.

Jeff Stryker , says: October 27, 2018 at 11:09 am GMT
@Anon UNBEARABLE

It is unbearable for the middle-class. The underclass does not care. Big governments tend to be corrupt, so money talks. If you live in the ghetto or the trailer park you have no expectations anyhow. You were not going to be a great citizen anyhow. But for the middle-class things will be shocking.

jacques sheete , says: October 27, 2018 at 12:32 pm GMT
@Anon

but will a new popular class struggle emerge?

I doubt that such a thing ever occurred to any substantial degree. "Popular" class struggles need to be seen for what they are; temporary expedients whereby one set of rulers uses the populace for their own ends and against their competitors.

Too many people get suckered into supporting "popular" movements and sometimes do gain temporary benefits, but when their handlers get what they want, the fun and games are over. The author noted the concept, saying,

Between the end of World War Two and the late 1940's, the popular classes were able to secure democratic rights, populist reforms and social organization. [but then began] bullying of traditional allies

... ... ...

jacques sheete , says: October 27, 2018 at 12:44 pm GMT
@Jeff Stryker

But for the middle-class things will be shocking.

No "will be" about it. You noted it in your comment #10 and my observations agree,

But the destruction of the middle-class whites is quite phenomenal.

The assault on the middle class has been taking place for decades and many people have been feeling it although most apparently still hope for some Messiah, and many of them apparently think either Hillaryena or the Trumpster was it. Where they get their faith I'll never know.

Respect , says: October 27, 2018 at 12:45 pm GMT
@jilles dykstra Same thing in Spain, and in most of western Europe I would say . The macroeconomy is going well for the chosen ones , and the microeconomy is going very bad for most of the population .
jacques sheete , says: October 27, 2018 at 12:58 pm GMT
@Jeff Stryker

Much of the time they deserve it because they don't go to college.

Wrong.

Schooling in the USA for some time been nothing more than babysitting and brainwashing and that's by design. Completing college nowadays is mainly for immature, dependent losers especially since many of them will be burdened with a non-marketable degree and debt for decades and in any case, the majority will wind up as wage slaves anyway. The way to go now is to learn a trade, especially one that a person can practice independently and with low capital, and get to work, but the window for even that seems to be fast closing too.

If one has the talent (rare) sales can still be a good road to relative independence with no "collitch" needed.

JackOH , says: October 27, 2018 at 1:09 pm GMT
@Jeff Stryker "If you live in the ghetto or the trailer park you have no expectations anyhow. You were not going to be a great citizen anyhow."

"But for the middle-class things will be shocking."

Spot on, Jeff. I see remnants of the onetime middle class around me. People with a degree or advanced degree, people with identifiable special skills (accountancy, engineering) who guard their expertise as would a 15th century guild worker, people with decent table manners...

Then their Fortune 500 company kicks them out of their corporate featherbed, they spend a year or two or more discovering their specialized skills are worth half of what they'd thought, and when they land a job, they're expected to cook the books or sign off on dodgy products, acting as designated corporate fall guys in the event of an investigation.

Jeff Stryker , says: October 27, 2018 at 1:17 pm GMT
@jacques sheete

When I was in university there was no Leftist programming. People were there to become engineers, IT specialists, doctors, nurses, businessmen, accounting. You maybe had to take an "African-American studies" course but that was just to get enough credits to graduate. Also, by the time most people went to college (when I did from 93-98) they were adults with opinions. Sales is a diminishing field now with the internet.

Wizard of Oz , says: October 27, 2018 at 1:24 pm GMT
@jim jones A shrewd observation is my immediate reaction. Most likely true of the organised institutional left which, when it's old product no longer sells doesn't want to declare bankruptcy and shut up shop.
Anon [224] Disclaimer , says: October 27, 2018 at 2:47 pm GMT
"Government exists to spend. The purpose of government is to serve the general welfare of the citizens, not just the military-industrial complex and the financial class. Didn't we have a stimulus, oh, eight years ago? It was tiny and has not been entirely spent. As Yellen implied, we need more spending of the non-military kind (what Barney Frank memorably called "weaponized Keynesianism" doesn't stimulate)."

https://www.forbes.com/sites/leesheppard/2016/04/02/we-need-fiscal-policy/?fbclid=IwAR02l1AlZGMpapbTOdURjgRknx6Kai-24Z6fXBCXyBolgdgodvjSmYmXAdw#1c4e7dea8b40

This is what has been missing for over 40 years in the US, government's role in the economy. When any politician brings up the fact that it's time we used fiscal policy as it was designed, neoliberals have a socialism meltdown. Both parties have been taken over by the Kochtopus, The libertarian fascist ideology that hides behind the term "neoliberalism". The ultimate goal of this zombie ideology that was thoroughly discredited in 2008 but continues to roam the earth is to replace nations with privately owned cities. This experiment was going on in Honduras, following the 2009 coup, until it was finally ended by a SC ruling that it was unconstitutional.

"In a libertarian society, there is no commons or public space. There are property lines, not borders. When it comes to real property and physical movement across such real property, there are owners, guests, licensees, business invitees and trespassers – not legal and illegal immigrants." ~ Jeff Deist, president of the Mises Institute

This is the struggle – the struggle to maintain public space on a planet that was never meant to be owned in the first place.

jacques sheete , says: October 27, 2018 at 3:05 pm GMT
@Respect

The macroeconomy is going well for the chosen ones , and the microeconomy is going very bad for most of the population .

As always. Whenever someone makes a broad comment about "the" economy, I begin to yawn. The distinction you make is a critical one.

[Sep 22, 2018] The last sentence just about sums neo-liberals up: most of the homeless are informed, are 'drugged out losers.'

Sep 22, 2018 | www.moonofalabama.org

bevin , Sep 22, 2018 7:08:38 PM | link

"All the leading economic indicators are great to healthy ... Homelessness is worse than I have ever seen but I do not see any Latino or Asian homeless people. It is nearly 100% white or African Americans. Most appear to be drugged out losers."

A perfect example of what b meant when he said that the only people suffering are the poor. Meaning that nobody cares about them and, often because they are prevented from doing so, they rarely vote. And when they do vote there aren't any candidates to vote for.

The last sentence just about sums neo-liberals up: most of the homeless are informed, are 'drugged out losers.'
So that's OK is it? Ever wonder why they are drugged out? Or what the rules were in the game they lost?

[Aug 09, 2018] Ha-Joon Chang Economics: The User s Guide

Aug 09, 2018 | www.goodreads.com

"As these contrasts show, capitalism has undergone enormous changes in the last two and a half centuries. While some of Smith's basic principles remain valid, they do so only at very general levels.

For example, competition among profit-seeking firms may still be the key driving force of capitalism, as in Smith's scheme.

But it is not between small, anonymous firms which, accepting consumer tastes, fight it out by increasing the efficiency in the use of given technology.

Today, competition is among huge multinational companies, with the ability not only to influence prices but to redefine technologies in a short span of time (think about the battle between Apple and Samsung) and to manipulate consumer tastes through brand-image building and advertising."

[Aug 05, 2018] Human beings, in their thinking, feeling and acting are not free but as causally bound as the stars in their motions

Aug 05, 2018 | www.unz.com

UnzReader , August 3, 2018 at 2:31 am GMT

@AaronB

AaronB, your observations are always insightful and interesting. I wonder if you believe in freewill at all, even in "insignificant" matters because time and sequence are all important and such trivial events set up the really big ones in our lives.

"Human beings, in their thinking, feeling and acting are not free but as causally bound as the stars in their motions." – Albert Einstein.

I look forward to your response.

UR

[Jul 29, 2018] The Middle Precariat: The Downwardly Mobile Middle Class by Lynn Parramore

Notable quotes:
"... By Lynn Parramore, Senior Research Analyst at the Institute for New Economic Thinking. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website ..."
"... Squeezed: Why Our Families Can't Afford America ..."
"... 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. ..."
"... The Vanishing Middle Class ..."
"... Capital in the Twenty-First Century ..."
"... Global Wealth Report ..."
"... 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! ..."
"... I think one crucial thing that has to change is the culture of extreme individualisation. ..."
"... die Plutonomisten und Bolshewisten! ..."
"... 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. ..."
"... 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. ..."
"... 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. ..."
"... 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. ..."
"... 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. ..."
"... "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?" ..."
"... "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." ..."
"... "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. ..."
"... 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. ..."
"... Economics was always far too dangerous to be allowed to reveal the truth about the economy. ..."
"... "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." ..."
"... 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. ..."
"... 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 cost of living = housing costs + healthcare costs + student loan costs ..."
"... 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. ..."
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 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.

athena , July 26, 2018 at 6:06 am

I enjoyed reading your thoughts, and completely agree with them all. :)

NotTimothyGeithner , July 26, 2018 at 7:53 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.

Louis Fyne , July 26, 2018 at 8:53 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.

Urizenik , July 26, 2018 at 9:00 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."

MC , July 26, 2018 at 10:16 am

There's also Zizek.

Left in Wisconsin , July 26, 2018 at 1:00 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.

DolleyMadison , July 26, 2018 at 3:02 pm

Well said

Redlife2017 , July 26, 2018 at 5:08 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.

Jim Haygood , July 26, 2018 at 5:49 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:

https://ibb.co/mwsxuT

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."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nancy_Berryhill

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.

YankeeFrank , July 26, 2018 at 8:34 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.

Kurtismayfield , July 26, 2018 at 8:44 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.

Jamie , July 26, 2018 at 11:03 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.

Kurtismayfield , July 26, 2018 at 11:29 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.

kgw , July 26, 2018 at 11:39 am

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.

Anon , July 26, 2018 at 2:02 pm

Yeah, more Butter–Less Guns!

(Now how do we stop the media hysteria about those big,bad Enemies -- Russia?!)

JCC , July 26, 2018 at 9:52 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.

Grumpy Engineer , July 26, 2018 at 11:00 am

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?

Spring Texan , July 26, 2018 at 1:15 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.

Milton , July 26, 2018 at 10:37 pm

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.

ObjectiveFunction , July 26, 2018 at 6:44 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.]

Musicismath , July 26, 2018 at 7:29 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.

athena , July 26, 2018 at 7:47 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.pdf

ObjectiveFunction , July 26, 2018 at 8:47 am

"Plutonomy" sounds like some nasal epithet out of a Goebbels speech: " die Plutonomisten und Bolshewisten! "

sharonsj , July 26, 2018 at 4:59 pm

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?

Louis Fyne , July 26, 2018 at 8:09 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.

athena , July 26, 2018 at 8:17 am

I don't think Soros is diabolical or sadistic. He's just, let's say, "neurologically eccentric" and unimaginably wealthy.

chris , July 26, 2018 at 8:40 am

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iipn6yM43sM

athena , July 26, 2018 at 9:25 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%.

ChiGal in Carolina , July 26, 2018 at 11:52 am

Ditto

John B , July 26, 2018 at 8:50 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.

Daniel F. , July 26, 2018 at 9:32 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?

nycTerrierist , July 26, 2018 at 9:47 am

nice gesture:

https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2018/jul/25/betsy-devos-yacht-untied-causing-10000-damages/

Michael Fiorillo , July 26, 2018 at 10:14 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"

Newton Finn , July 26, 2018 at 9:36 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/

The Rev Kev , July 26, 2018 at 10:06 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.

Brooklin Bridge , July 26, 2018 at 10:49 am

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.

Newton Finn , July 26, 2018 at 12:22 pm

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.

BrianStegner , July 26, 2018 at 10:05 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?"

Expat2uruguay , July 26, 2018 at 10:28 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.

ChiGal in Carolina , July 26, 2018 at 11:40 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.

David Miller , July 26, 2018 at 10:11 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.

Eureka Springs , July 26, 2018 at 10:16 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 ".

ChiGal in Carolina , July 26, 2018 at 11:50 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.

John , July 26, 2018 at 11:56 am

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.

sharonsj , July 26, 2018 at 5:09 pm

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.

Louis , July 26, 2018 at 10:17 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.

John Wright , July 26, 2018 at 10:33 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.

FluffytheObeseCat , July 26, 2018 at 10:58 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.

Brooklin Bridge , July 26, 2018 at 11:11 am

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.

ambrit , July 26, 2018 at 12:24 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.html

Todde , July 26, 2018 at 1:01 pm

The robots are going to be shooting back

Brooklin Bridge , July 26, 2018 at 1:35 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?

ambrit , July 26, 2018 at 9:45 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?

G Roller , July 26, 2018 at 4:30 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.

Arizona Slim , July 26, 2018 at 12:02 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.

Brooklin Bridge , July 26, 2018 at 1:46 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.

funemployed , July 26, 2018 at 12:19 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.

... ,,, ,,,

ChristopherJ , July 26, 2018 at 2:03 pm

thank you funemployed, perceptive

lyman alpha blob , July 26, 2018 at 3:31 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.

Gayle , July 26, 2018 at 5:11 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.

David May , July 26, 2018 at 5:16 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.

ChiGal in Carolina , July 26, 2018 at 7:08 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.

ambrit , July 26, 2018 at 9:58 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.

Unfettered Fire , July 26, 2018 at 12:25 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."

Newton Finn , July 26, 2018 at 5:10 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.

Andrew Watts , July 26, 2018 at 12:54 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?

precariat , July 26, 2018 at 1:36 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.

Mel , July 26, 2018 at 1:44 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%.

Andrew Watts , July 26, 2018 at 5:07 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.

ProNewerDeal , July 26, 2018 at 1:16 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).

precariat , July 26, 2018 at 1:24 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.

Jean , July 26, 2018 at 1:34 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."

Sound of the Suburbs , July 26, 2018 at 1:38 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.

https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/-/media/boe/files/quarterly-bulletin/2014/money-creation-in-the-modern-economy.pdf

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.

Lambert Strether , July 26, 2018 at 3:35 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.

Livius Drusus , July 26, 2018 at 7:46 pm

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] Neoliberalism has brought out the worst in us by Paul Verhaeghe

Not only "An economic system that rewards psychopathic personality traits has changed our ethics and our personalities", it crushes the will to resist presenting psychopathic dictate in forms that make it difficult. Such as performance reviews waterboarding or putting individual in the way too complex and self-contradictory Web of regulations.
Notable quotes:
"... An economic system that rewards psychopathic personality traits has changed our ethics and our personalities. ..."
"... Bullying used to be confined to schools; now it is a common feature of the workplace. This is a typical symptom of the impotent venting their frustration on the weak – in psychology it's known as displaced aggression. There is a buried sense of fear, ranging from performance anxiety to a broader social fear of the threatening other. ..."
"... Constant evaluations at work cause a decline in autonomy and a growing dependence on external, often shifting, norms. This results in what the sociologist Richard Sennett has aptly described as the "infantilisation of the workers". Adults display childish outbursts of temper and are jealous about trivialities ("She got a new office chair and I didn't"), tell white lies, resort to deceit, delight in the downfall of others and cherish petty feelings of revenge. This is the consequence of a system that prevents people from thinking independently and that fails to treat employees as adults. ..."
"... Our society constantly proclaims that anyone can make it if they just try hard enough, all the while reinforcing privilege and putting increasing pressure on its overstretched and exhausted citizens. An increasing number of people fail, feeling humiliated, guilty and ashamed. We are forever told that we are freer to choose the course of our lives than ever before, but the freedom to choose outside the success narrative is limited. Furthermore, those who fail are deemed to be losers or scroungers, taking advantage of our social security system. ..."
"... The current economic system is bringing out the worst in us. ..."
Jul 23, 2018 | www.theguardian.com

An economic system that rewards psychopathic personality traits has changed our ethics and our personalities.

Thirty years of neoliberalism, free-market forces and privatisation have taken their toll, as relentless pressure to achieve has become normative. If you're reading this sceptically, I put this simple statement to you: meritocratic neoliberalism favours certain personality traits and penalises others.

There are certain ideal characteristics needed to make a career today. The first is articulateness, the aim being to win over as many people as possible. Contact can be superficial, but since this applies to most human interaction nowadays, this won't really be noticed.

It's important to be able to talk up your own capacities as much as you can – you know a lot of people, you've got plenty of experience under your belt and you recently completed a major project. Later, people will find out that this was mostly hot air, but the fact that they were initially fooled is down to another personality trait: you can lie convincingly and feel little guilt. That's why you never take responsibility for your own behaviour.

On top of all this, you are flexible and impulsive, always on the lookout for new stimuli and challenges. In practice, this leads to risky behaviour, but never mind, it won't be you who has to pick up the pieces. The source of inspiration for this list? The psychopathy checklist by Robert Hare , the best-known specialist on psychopathy today.

This description is, of course, a caricature taken to extremes. Nevertheless, the financial crisis illustrated at a macro-social level (for example, in the conflicts between eurozone countries) what a neoliberal meritocracy does to people. Solidarity becomes an expensive luxury and makes way for temporary alliances, the main preoccupation always being to extract more profit from the situation than your competition. Social ties with colleagues weaken, as does emotional commitment to the enterprise or organisation.

Bullying used to be confined to schools; now it is a common feature of the workplace. This is a typical symptom of the impotent venting their frustration on the weak – in psychology it's known as displaced aggression. There is a buried sense of fear, ranging from performance anxiety to a broader social fear of the threatening other.

Constant evaluations at work cause a decline in autonomy and a growing dependence on external, often shifting, norms. This results in what the sociologist Richard Sennett has aptly described as the "infantilisation of the workers". Adults display childish outbursts of temper and are jealous about trivialities ("She got a new office chair and I didn't"), tell white lies, resort to deceit, delight in the downfall of others and cherish petty feelings of revenge. This is the consequence of a system that prevents people from thinking independently and that fails to treat employees as adults.

More important, though, is the serious damage to people's self-respect. Self-respect largely depends on the recognition that we receive from the other, as thinkers from Hegel to Lacan have shown. Sennett comes to a similar conclusion when he sees the main question for employees these days as being "Who needs me?" For a growing group of people, the answer is: no one.

Our society constantly proclaims that anyone can make it if they just try hard enough, all the while reinforcing privilege and putting increasing pressure on its overstretched and exhausted citizens. An increasing number of people fail, feeling humiliated, guilty and ashamed. We are forever told that we are freer to choose the course of our lives than ever before, but the freedom to choose outside the success narrative is limited. Furthermore, those who fail are deemed to be losers or scroungers, taking advantage of our social security system.

A neoliberal meritocracy would have us believe that success depends on individual effort and talents, meaning responsibility lies entirely with the individual and authorities should give people as much freedom as possible to achieve this goal. For those who believe in the fairytale of unrestricted choice, self-government and self-management are the pre-eminent political messages, especially if they appear to promise freedom. Along with the idea of the perfectible individual, the freedom we perceive ourselves as having in the west is the greatest untruth of this day and age.

The sociologist Zygmunt Bauman neatly summarised the paradox of our era as: "Never have we been so free. Never have we felt so powerless." We are indeed freer than before, in the sense that we can criticise religion, take advantage of the new laissez-faire attitude to sex and support any political movement we like. We can do all these things because they no longer have any significance – freedom of this kind is prompted by indifference. Yet, on the other hand, our daily lives have become a constant battle against a bureaucracy that would make Kafka weak at the knees. There are regulations about everything, from the salt content of bread to urban poultry-keeping.

Our presumed freedom is tied to one central condition: we must be successful – that is, "make" something of ourselves. You don't need to look far for examples. A highly skilled individual who puts parenting before their career comes in for criticism. A person with a good job who turns down a promotion to invest more time in other things is seen as crazy – unless those other things ensure success. A young woman who wants to become a primary school teacher is told by her parents that she should start off by getting a master's degree in economics – a primary school teacher, whatever can she be thinking of?

There are constant laments about the so-called loss of norms and values in our culture. Yet our norms and values make up an integral and essential part of our identity. So they cannot be lost, only changed. And that is precisely what has happened: a changed economy reflects changed ethics and brings about changed identity. The current economic system is bringing out the worst in us.


tocq1 , 7 Aug 2014 22:21

Panic attacks, anxiety attacks, nervous breakdowns, depression, suicidal thoughts alienation, cancers, withdrawal are all symptoms of the de-humanizing aspects of a market-driven life. In its worst forms it manifests periodically in mass shootings at strangers. So what do people do to cope? Drugs, pain killers, shrinks, alcohol, potato chips and soda. They then develop obesity, diabetes and heart diseases and cancers. How to save a human species terminally intoxicated with technology and enslaved by the market while the inner spirit is running empty may not be possible given the advanced nature of the disease.
Gary Walker -> NotForTurning , 7 Aug 2014 19:59
...what?
You fail to really acknowledge that time and again we've failed to exercise constrain within the capitalist models. The the meritorious are often inadequately rewarded - when any person in work cannot afford to home and feed themselves and their family then a reasonable balance has not been struck - in that sense at no time in history has capitalism functioned adequately.
To suggest that socialism is anti-human is to ignore how and why as a species we formed societies at all, we come together precisely because there is a mutual benefit in so doing; to help another is to help oneself - the model itself fails to operate in practice for the same reason that capitalism does - the greed of the power holder.

You reserve your sharpest barbs for socialism, but at least within the socialist agenda there is a commitment to the protection of the citizen, whoever they are, even the 'unmerited' as you describe them - a capitalist's paraphrase for 'those that create no value'.

The socialist at least recognises that whilst the parent may be 'unmerited' their dependants should be entitled to receive equality of opportunity and protection from the 'law-of-the-jungle' i.e., the greed of others.

The ability to generate wealth, simply by already having wealth and therefore being able to thrive off the labour of others carries little merit as far as I can tell and does indeed create the soul-crushing command-and-control empires of the capitalism that millions around the world experience daily.

zii000 , 7 Aug 2014 18:25
Neoliberalism is indeed a huge self-serving con and ironically the Thatcher/Regan doctrine which set out to break the status quo and free the economy from the old elitist guard has had exactly the opposite effect.
camllin , 7 Aug 2014 17:58
Capitalism cannot differentiate between honest competition and cheating. Since humans will cheat to win, capitalism has become survival of the worst not the best.
TheBBG , 7 Aug 2014 17:51
The bottom line is the basic human condition prizes food, shelter, sex, and then goes directly to greed in most modern societies. It was not always that way, and is not that way in ever fewer societies. As it is, greed makes the world go around.

In capitalistic societies greed has been fed by business and commerce; in communist societies it has been "some pigs are more equal then others"; and in dictatorships or true monarchies (or the Australian Liberal Party) there is the born to rule mentality where there are rulers and serfs.

Jon Allan , 7 Aug 2014 17:44
Nobody ever seems to address the paradox of the notion of an absolute free market: that within a free market, those who can have the freedom to exploit do exploit, thereby thus eliminating the freedom of the exploited, which thence paradoxically negates the absoluteness of the free market. No absolute freedom truly exist in a free market.

As such, the free market is pipe dream - a con - to eliminate regulations and create economic freedoms only where they benefit the elite. The free market does not exist, is impossible, and therefore should cease to be held as the harbinger of a progressive socio economic reality.

If we are to accept the Christian assumption that we, humans, are all self-serving and acquisitive, then we must, therefore, negate the possibility of an absolutely "free" market, since exploitation is a naturally occurring byproduct of weak-strong interactions. Exploitation negates freedom, and therefore, it must be our reality, as it is in all peoples' best interests, to accept directly democratic regulations as the keystone to any market.

Colin Bennett , 7 Aug 2014 17:06
It sounds very like the Marxist critique of capital. And similarly, points to real problems, but doesn't seek evidence for why such a sick situation not only persists, but is so popular - except by denigrating 'the masses'.

Surely what is particular about our time, about industrialisation generally, is the fragmenting of long term social structures, and orientation around the individual alone. It seems to me the problem of our times is redeveloping social structures which balance the individual and the socials selves, as all not merely stable but thriving happy creative societies, have always done.

pinkrobbo -> Jim Greer , 7 Aug 2014 16:06
Their propaganda is the same- an obsessive hatred of the state in any form, a semi-religious belief in the power of the individual operating in the free-market to solve humanity's ills.

Granted, they aren't social libertarians, but then, in the US, libertarians don't seem to be either.

makingtime -> YoungPete , 7 Aug 2014 13:28

Pretty typical that the assumption is the Marx "nailed it" and any dissenters are just "scared".


I'm scared by it too, as I said, it's a sensible fear of change. The question remains. What if Marx's analysis, just the analysis, is broadly correct? What if markets really are the road to ruination of our planet, morality and collective welfare in roughly the way that he explained?

It's not a trivial question, and clearly the current economic orthodoxy has failed to explain some recent little problems we've been having, while Marx explains how these problems are structurally embedded and only to be expected. It is intellectual cowardice to compulsively avoid this, in my view. Better minds than ours have struggled with it.

So beware of the fallacious argument from authority - 'You are stupid while I am axiomatically very clever, because I say so, hence I must be correct and you must shut it.' It goes nowhere useful, though we are all prone to employing it.

But it is not 'sixth form' thinking, surely, to consider these problems as being worth thinking about in a modern context. It is a plain fact that Stalinism didn't work as planned. We know it, but it doesn't make the problems it was intended to solve disappear to say so.

If you believe human nature can be changed by enforcing your interpretation of Marx's road to human freedom (a quasi-religious goal) you condemn millions to starvation, slaughter, gulags, misery etc.


Please read what I actually wrote about that. I'm not remotely quasi-religious, nor do I seek to enforce anything. My intention is only to expose a particularly damaging mythology. The extent of my crimes is persuasion as a prelude to consensual change before necessity really bites us all.

Markets conjure up the exact forms of misery you describe. Totalitarians of the right are highly undesirable too. I am against totalitarians, as are you, but an admirer of Marx's work. Do I fit into your simplistic categories? Does anyone? The freedoms we are permitted serve the market before they serve people. Markets are a social construct, as is capital, that we can choose to modify or squash. A child starving in a slum for lack of competitiveness, for its inability to serve the interests of capital, is less abstract perhaps.

Richard McDonough , 7 Aug 2014 13:20
Clintons are neoliberalss and about to be embraced by the neocons in foreign policy.
Reagan lives in a pan suit.
Serpentsarecreeps , 7 Aug 2014 12:15
The thing about selfishness and a brutal form of dog eat dog capitalism.

You see, it is a truth axiomatic that we human beings, as all living beings, are fundamentally selfish. We have to be in order to survive, and excel, and advance and perpetuate.

It is not theory but hard biology. You breathe for yourself, eat for yourself, love for yourself, have a family for yourself and so on. People are most affected and hurt if something happens to something or someone who means something to them personally. This is why concepts such as religion and nationality have worked so well, and will continue to even if they evolve in different ways, for they tap into a person's conception of theirself. Of their identity, of their self-definition. People tend to feel worse if something bad happens to someone they know than to a stranger; people tend to feel less bad when something happens to a cockroach than to a dog, simply because we relate better to dogs than to insects...So even our compassion is selfish after a fashion.

Capitalism and Socialism are two ends of the the same human spectrum of innate and hardwired selfishness. One stresses on the individual and the other on the larger group. It's always going to be hard to find the right balance because when you vest excessive power in any selfish ideology, it will begin to eat into the other type of selfishness..

The world revolves around competing selfishnesses...

yourmiddleclassfarce , 7 Aug 2014 11:46
The global economy is based upon wasting lives and material resources.

Designer landfill is no longer an option and neo-liberalism, which places importance of the invention called money over that of people (which is a dehumanising process), was never an option.

It is time for the neo-liberal fake politicians (that is 99.99% of them) to take up politics.

It really is, as ever since it is only another word for change, time for revolution.

Serpentsarecreeps , 7 Aug 2014 11:34
Excellent article by one of my favourite writers on this site! :)
steverandomno -> richterscalemadness , 7 Aug 2014 11:32

By extension, moving away from a system the shuns those who 'fail' people would be emotionally better off, and with the removal of the constant assessment and individualistic competition, people may feel better able to relate to one another. This would imply that healthy communities would be more likely to flourish, as people would be less likely to ignore those on lower income or of 'lower status'.

Move to what system? What system would achieve this?

Whether you agree or not, it is pretty clear what was being said.

Of course it's clear. George and his followers dislike market based systems. It couldn't be clearer. Even when the subject has little to do with the market, George and his followers always blame it for everything that is wrong with this world. That's pretty much the whole point of this article.

What's never clear is what alternative George and his followers propose that wouldn't result in all of the same flaws that accompany market driven systems. How can they be so sure some of those problems won't be worse? They always seem a bit sketchy, which is remarkable given the furor with which they relentlessly critique the market. We are told of alternatives concepts painted in the broadest of brushes, rich with abstract intangible idealism, but lacking in any pragmatism. We are invited to consider the whole exercise simply as academically self-indulgent navel gazing by the priviledged overeducated minority that comprise much of the Guardian's readership. It's quite disappointing. This article correctly details much of the discontent in the world. But this isn't a revelation. Where are the concrete ideas that can actualy be implemented now?
frontalcortexes at least makes a stab at something a bit more practicle than a 17 paragraph esoteric essay citing ancient Greek.

LastNameOnTheShelf , 7 Aug 2014 11:27
One of the worst thing is that the winners in the market race are showered with things which are fundamentally valueless and far in excess of what they could consume if they weren't, while bare necessities are withheld from the losers.
fractals -> Guardiansofwhatnow , 7 Aug 2014 11:12
of course, the nature of 'the market' means that all of our ipads and television sets will be obsolete within a year or 2.

[Jun 06, 2018] The divisive societal aspects of free market fundamentalism

Jun 06, 2018 | profile.theguardian.com

AsDusty, 3 Jun 2018 17:43

Half the population prefers a politics that is racist and unethical, that demonises the poor and idolises the rich, that eschews community and embraces amoral individuality. These people don't care about the economic inconsistencies of neo-liberalism, they are far more attracted to the divisive societal aspects of free market fundamentalism.

[Jun 06, 2018] Stigmatization of poor as the way to justify and increase inequality

Jun 06, 2018 | discussion.theguardian.com

ellaquint , 3 Jun 2018 19:35

Like Joe Hockey, Rinehart saw the problem of inequality as having more to do with the character of the poor than with the rules of the game:

They don't "see" it this way. They just say they see it this way to perpetuate that inequality. They know that their wealth depends on the labour of the other 95-99%.

To keep us all working and voting for their lackeys, they make promises of wealth if you are a persistent hard worker, never mentioning that the entire game depends on only a tiny minority ever reaching the top. No, the real people holding them back are those who don't work hard. Who don't contribute to the game. They're the ones to blame for why you're not levelling up. The true scapegoats.

It's one giant con and they know it.

[Jun 06, 2018] Victim blaming is a classic neo-con tactic, they seek to deflect from the impact of their heartless policies by demonising the victims, from the unemployed and those stuck in the welfare cycle to refugees trapped in offshore detention, indefinitely .

Jun 06, 2018 | discussion.theguardian.com

reinhardpolley , 3 Jun 2018 17:18

Victim blaming is a classic neo-con tactic, they seek to deflect from the impact of their heartless policies by demonising the victims, from the unemployed and those stuck in the welfare cycle to refugees trapped in offshore detention, indefinitely . We've all seen how appalling their commentary can get, from Abbott and Hockey's "lifters and leaners" to Gina Mineheart's "two dollars a day" & "spend less time drinking or smoking and socialising" they show just how out touch they are. They honestly believe that people can lift themselves out of poverty if only they "spent more time working", ignoring the fact that many are working two jobs just to stay ahead.
Seems that on planet RWNJ there are more than 24 hours in a day..
OrwelHasNothingOnLNP -> w roberts , 3 Jun 2018 17:00
Half the population need welfare to survive.
1% have 90% of all the toys in the sandpit and won't share. They feel that they are entitled to all the toys.

[Jun 06, 2018] Neoliberalism idealises competition against each other to ensure the rights of the few, by suppressing our capacity to take responsibility together through cooperation and collaboration with each other.

Jun 06, 2018 | discussion.theguardian.com

maven501 , 3 Jun 2018 22:54

This piece is well worth the reading particularly in light of the trashing of society's values we see played out in Trump's America. However, the writer's definition of "ideology " as a "system of ideas and ideals" even though it accords with the OED's, fails to take into account the current pernicious influence of the ideologue who distorts "ideology" into the "rationalisation of a suppression" as Joseph Dunne noted in his book, " Back to the Rough Ground" .

This is the most apt description of the modus operandi of today's neoliberalists - the justifying of their project to maximise wealth accumulation in their own self-interest by promoting the propaganda that we are powerless cogs in the machine of the economy , slaves to the whim of the omnipotent market, rather than active agents who wish to contribute to a flourishing society .

Neoliberalism idealises competition against each other to ensure the rights of the few, by suppressing our capacity to take responsibility together through cooperation and collaboration with each other.

This classic divide and conquer tactic will prevail only as long as we permit it.

Time to take a stand and be counted.