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The neoliberal myth of human capital

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Which involves atomization of workers, each of which became a "good" sold at the "labor market". Neoliberalism discard the concept of human solidarity. It also eliminated government support of organized labor, and decimated unions.

Under neoliberalism the government has to actively intervene to clear the way for the free "labor market." Talk about government-sponsored redistribution of wealth under neoliberalism -- from Greenspan to Bernanke, from Rubin to Paulson, the government has been a veritable Robin Hood in reverse.

Human capital, as defined by the Organisation for Economic Development and Cooperation is the knowledge, skills, competences, and other attributes embodied in individuals that are relevant to economic activity (OECD 1998). The term coalesces around the concepts of the use of skills in an economy and the need for "personal investment" to develop these and that this investment, like capital itself, should bring returns.

Human capital has now become a core plank of neoliberal ideology. One of the first theorists of human capital, Gary Becker, of the Milton Friedman Chicago School of Economics (2002:3) explains:

Human capital refers to the knowledge, information, ideas, skills, and health of individuals. This is the ‘age of human capital’ in the sense that human capital is by far the most important form of capital in modern economies. The economic successes of individuals, and also of whole economies, depend on how extensively and effectively people invest in themselves.

‘Investing in themselves’ stands for education, now understood as the crucial enabler of the development of human capital.

This fake concept of "Human capital" allows education and neoliberalm to be woven together ever more tightly and brainwash student into neoliberal thinking more effectively.  This link is not new: formal public schooling has always served, primarily, the interests of capital. Critics of neoliberal education have a tendency to present the present phase of the industry-education takeover as something qualitatively different, a new ‘rule of terror’ and the eclipse of democracy (Giroux 2004).

But justifiable outrage against the present effects of neoliberalism tends towards implying that there was a previous, kindlier version of capitalism which took education seriously and left the autonomous sphere of culture and learning alone. There was none.

History shows that education has never been free of the ideological constraints, and never was an ideologically neutral zone. The introduction of universal education in the late nineteenth century owed more to the pressures exerted by the needs of industry whose increasing complexity required specific literacy and mathematical skills, than it did to motivations of democratic inclusion. Universal compulsory schooling provided other important social benefits to controllers of capital. It socialized children into the discipline and expectations fostered by industrial capitalism and acted as a valuable shock absorber to the social upheavals being wrought by industrialization (Bowles and Gintis 1976:27).

Higher education, at a later phase of capitalism in the 20th century, played a different social role. It was reserved for potential employers, professionals, top public servants and managers and formed the top rung of education whose main function was to train the ruling class to rule. Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis refer to this process as the ‘correspondence principle’ in education whereby education replicates in various ways class division (Bowles and Gintis 1976: 130-132; see also Belamy Foster 2011:8). Universities, they claimed, function mainly as select institutions to replicate the top end of society, and, under the aegis of intellectual achievement and meritocracy, legitimise social hierarchy. The Italian socialist, Antonio Gramsci, provided, I think, a more subtle elaboration of the role of universities in capitalism. He described how modern capitalism required a different kind of leaders to the cultural, formal-juridical graduates from the classical universities. It needed an intellectual and technical university combined, one which would produce both professionals and teachers but also specialised functionaries and managers for scientific industrial production (Gramsci 1971: 28). While there was always a gulf between university graduates and the working class, universities as they widened their social functions, Gramsci points out, also produced independent thinkers and radical critics of the system (1971: 342). This seeming contradiction, as well as accounting for how universities can simultaneously represent the establishment and give voice to radical opposition, constitutes a dynamic in capitalist education that a literal reading of the ‘correspondence principle’ would seem to ignore.

In many countries including Ireland, university remained highly selective right up until relatively recently. In 1960, just 5% of Irish students who completed secondary education went on to college; twenty years later it was still only 20% (DES 2011: 35). The official view of a university then was th

Human capital encapsulates this binding together of knowledge and expertise with their function and value in the economy. Knowledge is reclassified as an economic category and human endeavour linked to productivity: the greater its outcomes, the greater its value. Where workers become human capital they are also reduced to the level of a commodity to be sold to a willing buyer (Perelman 2011:11). A person’s potential to learn things becomes something measurable in terms of returns on investment, and someone’s labour a quantifiable thing that can be priced, bought on the labour market.

This representation of human beings, knowledge and work has specific ideological effects. Human capital, when it was first coined by Becker in the 1960s, was considered to be too debasing to be used publicly. The term was seen, correctly, as objectifying people and only suitable to refer to anonymous ‘others’. Even today, despite the apparent wide acceptance of the term, it is, in practice, only used in official documents and hardly at all in ordinary conversation. (Who, indeed, would spontaneously describe themselves as human capital?) When Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis criticised, from a Marxist perspective, the use of the term in the context of education in America in the 1970’s, they argued that human capital

· treats labour as a produced means of production whose characteristics depend on the total configuration of economic forces,

· centres on differentiation in the labour force and

· brings basic social institutions previously relegated to the purely cultural and superstructural spheres into the realm of economic analysis

· formally excludes the relevance of class and class conflict to the explication of labour market phenomena

(Bowles and Gintis 1975:74-75)

Their study highlights how capital, as applied to individuals, invites identification with guaranteed returns on a fixed sum of money (with money being taken as something with which individuals are miraculously endowed). The metaphor erases social relations. Capital here, unlike how Marx described it, is drained of class content Neoliberalism, human capital and the skills agenda in higher education

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and becomes a given, separate from the society in which it was produced7. Likening human work to this understanding of capital reduces what is a potential to something already existing, and makes quantifiable that which is unquantifiable. Furthermore, neither waged or salaried work in capitalism have a fixed or stable value; rather, both tend to be subject to what the employer, taking account of labour supply, will pay. One might say, therefore, human capital is not very like capital - even in the neoliberal understandings of the term - nor very human.

7 For Marx, capital as a material product divorced from social relations, was part of ‘vulgar economics’ which could not explain where wealth came from: ‘capital is not a thing, it is a definite social relation of production pertaining to a particular historical social formation’ (Marx 1991: 953)

8 As of 2011, Irish universities charge registration fees rather than tuition fees. Historically these have been low but the cutbacks in education have seen them rise to as much as €000 per year

The ideological function of human capital is that it draws education closely into the ambit of the economy and also transforms the notion of education. When the neoclassical school of economics first focused on human capital, they did so as part of measuring the link between levels of education and earning potential or ‘the activities that influence future real income through the imbedding of resources in people’ or ‘investing in human capital’ (Becker 1962: 9). The adoption of the human capital frame positions education on the first rung of the education-jobs-rewards ladder. Learning thus becomes something primarily aimed at increasing an individual’s earning potential and, by extension, something for which an individual, not society, is responsible. Investment becomes thus not an investment for all society but an investment for the individual, a financial commitment which will supposedly pay dividends to the individual in the future. It follows that if human capital is an investment for an individual, an individual should be responsible for paying for it.

The Hunt Report describes as ‘essential’ the introduction of a direct contribution from students8. ‘The only realistic option’, it goes on to say, is ‘to support growth in participation and to require students or graduates to directly share in the cost of their education, reflecting the considerable private returns that they can expect to enjoy’ (DES 2011:16). The assumption in the human capital template is that earning potential afforded by higher education is the only consideration for students. The Hunt Report, in this respect, follows the trend elsewhere. For example, the 2010 Browne report on Higher Education in Britain adopts the same train of thought. Students are understood to be consumers of Higher Education and they ‘are best placed to make the judgment about what they want to get from participating in higher education’ and the major element of this is in terms of which courses will lead to higher earnings (Collini 2010).

However, education seen as an individual investment completely ignores, from a variety of viewpoints, the social dimension to education. As argued in the last section, class privilege and the special access that it affords to higher education is decisive in the securing of better paid employment. What’s more, education as an investment assumes that it is instrumentalism alone that drives people to become educated. Concerns about employment prospects are very important, but so too, from a broader social perspective, is the question of learning. Narrow skill-getting for an imagined job is a poor and alienating representation of the rounded lived experience of education. Equally, over reliance on the student to know in advance what her learning

experience will be omits the element of the unknown present in all learning. The student’s ability to assess accurately where the learning process will take her or what exactly will be learnt can, of necessity – from the standpoint of the student - only be a partial judgement. ‘Student choice’, despite the accepted refrain that it has now become, focuses only on one side of the education process, and is an impoverished, transactional view of what the education process involves.

If education human-capital-style is about looking after oneself, it follows that it is also about greater competition between individuals. Human capital inevitably stresses skill differentiation. The social, cooperative, creative component of education reconverts into a narrow, self-seeking activity whose end results will ultimately pit one person against another on the labour market. William Morris, writing in the 1880s, noted amid the erosion of craftsmanship in assembly line capitalist production, how education was becoming debased and wrote, with striking prescience (1888):

.. just as the capitalists would at once capture this education in craftsmanship, suck out what little advantage there is in it and then throw it away, so they do with all other education. A superstition still remains from the times when 'education' was a rarity that it is a means for earning a superior livelihood; but as soon as it has ceased to be a rarity, competition takes care that education shall not raise wages; that general education shall be worth nothing, and that special education shall be worth just no more than a tolerable return on the money and time spent in acquiring it.

In our times, debt has replaced ‘a tolerable return’ on the money spent on education, but the same critique of functionalist and alienating education applies.

Besides human capital presenting a drab grey view of education, its reasoning does not correspond to how the world, or capitalism, actually works. The prime mover of economic growth, unlike what neoclassical economics dictates, is not individual enterprise but capital investment for the profit motive. When capital, as a result of the crisis, is not being put into production of goods and services, it might be argued, following the logic of capitalism, that education should diversify into broader objectives or concentrate on less employment specific outlets, even as these dry up. Similarly, it might be argued that the breakneck speed of expansion of higher education should be reviewed and alternatives discussed. Instead, official pronouncements advocate that the numbers of those designated to acquire skills in higher education is not only to be continued, but expanded. ‘If Ireland is to achieve its ambitions for recovery and development within an innovation-driven economy, it is essential to create and enhance human capital by expanding participation in higher education (DES 2011: 10). Skill development is still regarded as the aim of higher education even if it is far from clear exactly how skills are going to kick-start the economy or where the capital investment, in a world-wide slump, is going to come from.

In reality, the very functionalist priorities for higher education which may have seemed to make sense in the boom days of the Celtic Tiger, repeated now in the chill winds of a slump run the risk of heightening the spectre of economic failure. Brown and Lauder point out the political disadvantage, from the point of view of policy makers and governments, of stressing the overlap between education and the Neoliberalism, human capital and the skills agenda in higher education

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economy. Creating the expectation that supplying skills will bring jobs, especially when it will be individual families who will be making further sacrifices to get their children into higher education, leads inevitably to political disillusion. They state that (2006:50):

…an unintended consequence of the application of human capital ideas to public and economic policy is that it is creating increasing problems in the management of expectations. The developed economies are in danger of creating a heady cocktail of discontent: students and their parents may find that a degree fails to deliver the standard of living they have been led to expect and employers will have too many overqualified and disgruntled employees.

In Ireland, expectations around skills and human capital as a magnet for investment and the creator of jobs have become the mantra of official government policy. The elements of ‘a heady cocktail of discontent’, which turned out to be true for Britain (Swain 2011), are also present in Ireland. While emigration may have siphoned off some of this, it remains to be seen how, in the longer term, Irish young people, and their indebted parents, will respond politically to the bitter reality of widespread graduate unemployment.

Education policy, capital and the state.

The official policy for higher education in Ireland may be driven by international capital and its desire to ensure the smooth supply of labour in the future, but for implementation and legitimisation, it is dependent on a local state. In the case of the Hunt Report in Ireland, international capital and national policy are interwoven to such an extent that it is difficult to disentangle the two.

The strategy group which devised the report for the government was chaired by Dr. Colin Hunt, now Director of the Irish branch of the Australian financial corporation, Macquarie Capital Advisers, an organization which has interests in the privatisation of education. The other report group members were from the World Bank, Irish Government Departments and Advisory Boards, members of boards of multinationals in Ireland, and just two Presidents from Institutes of Higher Education (DES 2011: 39). Despite the declared wish to consult with those working in universities and ‘engage with wider society’, there was just one practising academic (from Finland), out of the total of 15 group members, and no representative from community or wider social or cultural organisations.

The process by which reports such as these become national policy is interesting. The 2004 OECD report on Higher Education was adopted, with no amendments, by the Irish cabinet a few months after publication (Holborow 2006:93). The Hunt report, having been endorsed by the current Labour Minister for Education, Ruairi Quinn, and publicly posted on the Irish Department for Education and Skills’ website, it too has effectively become government policy (Quinn 2011). Naomi Klein (2007) speaks of the way corporate think tanks forge theories that become the real shock doctrines of government, and there are striking similarities in what she writes for education. Parliamentary processes, involving elected representatives who draft bills, who discuss, amend and vote in full view of the public on what will become law, are 105 | P a g e

cursorily dispensed with, it seems. Corporate ‘expert’ reports have supplanted public policy. Between the publishing of the Hunt Report and now, it should be remembered, a general election took place with a change of government; yet through all of this, the Hunt Report remains the point of reference for Irish Higher Education Policy. The corporate take-over of public policy, with corporate interests and the state speaking as one, represents considerable democratic deficit.

In Ireland, the way in which higher education policy has also come to include industrial relations in the education sector is another example of the overlap between corporate reports and public policy. One of the most detailed sections of the Hunt Report is devoted to the ‘effective deployment of resources in higher education’ and deals very specifically with Human Resources issues (DES 2011:118-9). Educational policy has now come to include the neoliberal view of cutting the cost of education through paring back on the salaries and working conditions of those who work in education. The section of the report which deals with this bears a striking resemblance to those found in the present Public Service Agreement (Dept. of Finance 2010). Greater productivity through tracking of individual performance, a comprehensive review of contracts to include a broader concept of the academic year, adjustments to existing workloads and the introduction of flexibility and mobility to deal with structural changes are all to be found in the same detail as in the Public Service Agreement. If the ‘modernisation of work practices’, ‘comprehensive review of contracts’ and ‘greater managerial discretion to deal with ‘under-performance’ now forms of part of educational policy, it is not difficult to see that both policy and politics in neoliberal thinking merge as one. Yet again, neoliberal directives in education assume the starting point to be the point of view of the employer and subordinate the interests of those who work in education – the academics and the administrators - to their interest-laden dictates.

What these developments show is that corporate dominance occurs not through by-passing the state but by enlisting the state as its ever more effective instrument. In education, even in neoliberal, privatising times like our own, the state continues to play a crucial role. It has often been argued by those critical of neoliberal globalisation that today’s world is ‘transnational’, driven by a transnational capital class (Sklair 2010); that in the age of neoliberalism, education is controlled by global actors such as the IMF or the World Bank (Robertson and Dale 2009:33); or that the new global system was ‘deterritoralised’ and that nation states in today’s world have a lesser role (Hardt and Negri 2001). Such interpretations underestimate the fact that corporate monopolies in competition with others depend on their own national states for competitive advantage and that states and capital are economically, structurally and politically interdependent. Nowhere is this fact more evident than in the educational arena. Capital needs states for facilities that are not necessarily provided by the market: the vital infrastructures and the social foundations – including a national education system - provides capital with an ongoing and suitably skilled supply of labour power (Harman 2009: 264-270). Sidelining the importance of the state in contemporary capitalism makes too many concessions to the state-free view of the world promoted by neoliberal ideology. Neoliberal governments, contrary to their pronouncements, have actually overseen a rise in state spending and influence (Béland 2010; Harman 2007). Small government is a flourish of ideological rhetoric which has been revealed as such as states intervene with gusto in Neoliberalism, human capital and the skills agenda in higher education

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the debt crisis. As has been pointed out, the lengths to which states would go in the protection of large chunks of capital, particularly those tied up in finance, makes nonsense of the idea that the neoliberal state stands to one side to let the market do its work (Callinicos 2009; Žižek 2009). The invention of the word ‘sovereign’ debt, through which private banking debt became public responsibility, deftly captures the tightness of the state-capital overlap. In education, too the state is indulging in ideological hyperbole when it argues that education needs to be more and more privatised. Alongside the neoliberal pronouncements extolling a withdrawal of the state in education, in practice the state remains decisively hands on. Educational systems, even in neoliberal times, are still overwhelmingly funded by the state, dependent on state policy, and centralised under state moderated curricula and exams. Education also fulfils a socialising role that the state ignores at its peril. As Lipman points out, governments are keenly aware that too much state withdrawal from education could create a ‘crisis of social reproduction’ as the functions of education - social stability, political legitimisation, and the reproduction of the labour force – are not guaranteed in private hands (Lipman 2011:124). Governments know that they cannot afford to underestimate the wider social role that education plays and sometimes they seek to engineer developments in education to suit specific political ends. For example, in Ireland, the Hunt Report’s specific call for a further doubling of the capacity of higher education in the next twenty years (DES 2011: 10) may carry political advantages for the government of the day. For example, having young people registered in college may be preferable, for political reasons, than having that number of young people on the dole.

Education and the wider movement of resistance to austerity

Neoliberal dictates in education and financial pressures on students are the ingredients that elsewhere have led to student radicalism. In Ireland, the exclusive emphasis on the skills-for-jobs perspective, against the backcloth of ever higher rates of student participation in third level education and sharply rising graduate unemployment, makes the crisis in Irish Higher Education potentially more acute. It was the presence of just such pressure points which made student explosions erupt – in 1968 but also in Britain in 2011 - and it is not unreasonable to expect that higher education in Ireland will be affected by the same tensions between education and the economy.

In Ireland, which has seen the implementation of one of the severest austerity programmes, resistance across the working class movement, up until now, has been sporadic. In February, and then in November 2009, large demonstrations and well supported public sector strikes involved thousands of students, teachers and lecturers in a united show of opposition to the Government. In 2011 however, the trade union leaders’ complicit agreement to cutbacks in the public sector tended to drive resistance to a more localised level, although by early 2012 that appeared to be changing as widespread resistance to local household charges grew.

This paper has attempted to lay out a critique of the neoliberal view of education, not from the belief that it suffices to show how capitalism distorts education but because of an awareness that in the present crisis, the controllers of capital attack on every front – including a concerted ideological campaign to regain the ground that they have lost over the debt crisis (Žižek 2009; Holborow 2012). Gramsci, writing in a 107 | P a g e

similar period of crisis in the 1930s argued that struggle against the existing order had to take place on all fronts, the ideological as well as the practical and organisational. He explained (1971:178) that

A crisis occurs, sometimes lasting for decades. This exceptional duration means that incurable structural contradictions have revealed themselves … and that, despite this, the political forces which are struggling to conserve and defend the existing structure itself are making every effort to cure them, within certain limits, and to overcome them. These incessant and persistent efforts ... form the terrain of the 'conjunctural' and it is upon this terrain that the forces of opposition organise.

Gramsci’s insight is apt for the present situation – the crisis is protracted and the ruling class is persistently taking advantage of its uncertainties to drive through their own agenda of protecting profits at the expense of workers’ living standards. Gramsci is sometimes quoted to justify a ‘counter-hegemonic strategy’ that prioritises critical analyses, cultural practices or rather broadly defined ‘social movements and pedagogic work’ (Apple, Au and Gandin 209:14) over and above specific questions of social class and the role of education in the capitalist system as a whole. Gramsci’s writings, which included the question of education, discussed the necessary strategies and tactics to achieve, not just a shift of policy, but, following his experience during the occupation of the factories in 1919-21, the need for social revolution. Immediately after the passage quoted above, Gramsci warns of the twin dangers, in revolutionary movements, of an ‘excess of economism’ which sees trade union struggles alone as sufficient and also (perhaps particularly relevant to some strands of Critical Education) to the danger of an ‘excess of ideologism’ in which there is an exaggeration of voluntarist or individual elements (Gramsci 1971: 178-9 ). His perspective for revolutionary change is one that sees the organisational and the ideological as part of an integrated whole.

Following Gramsci’s perspective, we can say that degree of success of any challenge to neoliberalism in education depend on the robustness of resistance in the wider working class movement and its ability to mobilise against the current assault from the rule of capital. Identifying neoliberalism as the specific ideology of a section of the capitalist class is vital to understanding what is happening in higher education. Neoliberalism is not just an aberration, an excess of the market mindset, the voluntaristic take-over of the university by market fundamentalism that needs to be ‘reigned in’ (Mautner 2010:22). It is an ideology in the sense that Marx used the term when he referred to ruling ideas which are ‘are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas’ (Marx and Engels 1974:64). The ‘human capital’ notion is one such expression of the dominant material relationships, and, in this way, central to the embedding of neoliberalism in higher education. During the boom, neoliberalism provided a unique ideological template which fused ultra- individualism with the needs of the capitalist economy. In the context of the present great depression, I hope I have shown here, the underlying ideological imperatives of human capital become sharply exposed and this realisation can play a role in bolstering resistance both to the neoliberalisation of education and to the logic of capitalism itself. Neoliberalism, human capital and the skills agenda in higher education

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Author Details

Marnie Holborow is a lecturer

 

First, for neoliberals, humans are only and everywhere homo economicus. This was not so for classical economists, where we were market creatures in the economy, but not in civic, familial, political, religious, or ethical life. Second, neoliberal homo economicus today takes shape as value-enhancing human capital, not as a creature of exchange, production, or even interest. This is markedly different from the subject drawn by Smith, Bentham, Marx, Polanyi, or even Gary Becker.

likbez said in reply to Dan Kervick...

My impression is that "human capital" is one of the most fundamental neoliberal myths. See, for example What Exactly Is Neoliberalism by Wendy Brown https://www.dissentmagazine.org/blog/booked-3-what-exactly-is-neoliberalism-wendy-brown-undoing-the-demos

As for people betraying their own economic interests, this phenomenon was aptly described in "What's the matter with Kansas" which can actually be reformulated as "What's the matter with the USA?". And the answer he gave is that neoliberalism converted the USA into a bizarre high demand cult. There are several characteristics of a high demand cult that are applicable. Among them:

It is very difficult to get rid of this neoliberal sect mentality like is the case with other high demand cults. 

Reply Monday, November 30, 2015 at 12:42 PM

cm said in reply to likbez...

What has any of this to do with human capital? "Capital" is basically a synonym for productive capacity, with regard to what "productive" means in the socioeconomic system or otherwise the context that is being discussed.

E.g. social or political capital designates the ability (i.e. capacity) to exert influence in social networks or societal decision making at the respective scales (organization, city, regional, national etc.), where "productive" means "achieving desired or favored outcomes for the person(s) possessing the capital or for those on whose behalf it is used".

Human capital, in the economic domain, is then the combined capacity of the human population in the domain under consideration that is available for productive endeavors of any kind. This includes BTW e.g. housewives and other household workers whose work is generally not paid, but you better believe it is socially productive.

"Human capital, in the economic domain, is then the combined capacity of the human population in the domain under consideration that is available for productive endeavors of any kind. This includes BTW e.g. housewives and other household workers whose work is generally not paid, but you better believe it is socially productive."

This is not true. The term "human capital" under neoliberalism has different semantic meaning: it presuppose viewing a person as a market actor.

See discussion of the term in http://www.jceps.com/wp-content/uploads/PDFs/10-1-07.pdf

Neoliberalism and Human Capital The Public School

Learning Change

The making of human capital is increasingly seen as a principal function of higher education. A keyword in neoliberal ideology, human capital represents a subtle masking of social conflict and expresses metaphorically the commodification of human abilities and an alienating notion of human potential, both of which sit ill with the goals of education. The recent National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030 (the Hunt Report) which appeared in Ireland in January 2010, is a representative example of official articulation, on the part of government and corporations, of the human capital/skills agenda in post-crash Ireland. Human capital, now commonplace across official discourse in Ireland, is a complex ideological construct which, in the educational arena, gives voice to two specific interests of capital: the provision of a workforce ever more narrowly suited to the current needs of employers and the intensification of competition between individuals in the labour market. The construct subtly reinvents socio-economic processes as acts driven solely by individuals and reconstitutes higher education as an adjunct of the economy. However, this paper argues, a skills-driven higher education can neither deliver large numbers of high value jobs nor overcome the deeper causes of the present crisis. This raising of false expectations, alongside a crudely reductionist view of education, sets limits on the unchallenged hegemony of this particular strand of neoliberal ideology. In the current recession, during which the state is attempting to shift the burden of educational funding from public to corporate and individual contributions, those involved in higher education need to provide a robust political economy critique of human capital ideology in order to strengthen practical resistance to it.

Neoliberalism, human capital and the skills agenda in higher education

leave a comment "

The making of human capital is increasingly seen as a principal function of higher education. A keyword in neoliberal ideology, human capital represents a subtle masking of social conflict and expresses metaphorically the commodification of human abilities and an alienating notion of human potential, both of which sit ill with the goals of education. The recent National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030 (the Hunt Report) which appeared in Ireland in January 2010, is a representative example of official articulation, on the part of government and corporations, of the human capital/skills agenda in post-crash Ireland. Human capital, now commonplace across official discourse in Ireland, is a complex ideological construct which, in the educational arena, gives voice to two specific interests of capital: the provision of a workforce ever more narrowly suited to the current needs of employers and the intensification of competition between individuals in the labour market. The construct subtly reinvents socio-economic processes as acts driven solely by individuals and reconstitutes higher education as an adjunct of the economy. However, this paper argues, a skills-driven higher education can neither deliver large numbers of high value jobs nor overcome the deeper causes of the present crisis. This raising of false expectations, alongside a crudely reductionist view of education, sets limits on the unchallenged hegemony of this particular strand of neoliberal ideology. In the current recession, during which the state is attempting to shift the burden of educational funding from public to corporate and individual contributions, those involved in higher education need to provide a robust political economy critique of human capital ideology in order to strengthen practical resistance to it.

The Chronicles of a Capitalist Lawyer Human Capital and Neoliberalism

considered as a part of Law and Economics development at the University of Chicago.

Within Becker's theory, human is viewed as a rational being that always wants to maximize his own interest. It does not mean that human has a perfect capacity of calculating the entire costs and benefits of his action. It simply means that when they are making their decision, they pay attention and respond to incentives, and thus, to certain extent, human behaviors are predictable.

A separate note though, even Becker agrees with Foucault that a perfect rational men is a fictional concept. What matters is that the theory is useful to understand the world in an insightful way by taking certain aspects of human behavior and make a simple model. After all, all theories are fictions, and a good theory of fiction is the one that works the best among many other fictions.

Then, why this kind of theory is liberating? According to Foucault, economists are seekers of truth, their analysis is not based on moral or legal issues, rather they focus on human behavior and incentives, and they also prioritize liberty (through free market concept). This is important for Foucault who sees the possibility of maintaining order without any coercion or doctrine as presupposed by laws and morality.

But the Neoliberalism view of Gary Becker is not totally free from any problem. Although it may be a liberating theory it can also be used to suppress the people and here we are moving to Gary Becker theory of Human Capital which is an essential part of Neoliberalism. Becker believes that human capital is very important, i.e. investing in people, making them to be a better and more productive person which will contribute to the welfare of the society.

The problem with that view, at least according to Harcourt and Foucault, is that once human is viewed as a part of capital, the government may favor certain group above other groups, discriminating and investing only in people who will produce the highest benefits and left the ones who are bad to suffer in the slumps. An example would be the case of mass incarcerations in the United States that target most of African Americans and poor people based on various criminal actions. Eugenics can also be a problem here since there was a time where the Government of US actually allow the sterilization of imbeciles and people with mental disorders.

Furthermore, viewing human as only a part of capital production could be degrading, i.e. human is viewed like a machine with the sole purpose of producing more capital and whose value is solely determined on how much capital will be produced and accumulated by him in the long run. I take this as the modern critics of Neoliberalism and Capitalism in general.

Becker's response was simple. His theory on human capital is established to liberate the people and while he agree that some aspects of economics theory on production and capital can be used to analyze issues on human capital, human capital is still a separate subject (and thus the reason why he makes a separate class on human capital in the University of Chicago).

From any point of view, human cannot be fully compared with machines. We can put machine in the warehouses and easily disassemble them whenever we want, we can't do that with human. Furthermore, the theory put a lot of stress in building human capital so that everyone may reap the benefit of social welfare. It includes investment in education, on the job training, health, etc.

The most interesting response from Becker is that his theory of human capital focuses on efficiency, but most of the time, things that are efficient, are also equitable. Through his theory, Becker want to show that human is the most important part of our capital. By investing in people, we hope that they can develop themselves and free to make their own life decisions without any interference. He also notes that there is an underinvestment in poor people and that is actually an inefficient thing to do, since better human capital always lead to better welfare maximization.

I completely agree with Becker's notion. This is indeed the main purpose of introducing the concept of human capital, preserving freedom and reducing paternalism, finding the most efficient way to allocate resources among the people. And I think this should be the main idea of Neoliberalism. It is just too bad that politicians and even some academics are using this concept in such a misleading way that they confuse the original concept of Neoliberalism that focuses on liberation and freedom of the people with crony capitalism, dictatorism, and the freedom to do anything without any legal liabilities which are not even parts of original concept of Neoliberalism.

Neoliberal Education Restructuring

Neoliberal Restructuring of Public Education

When President Obama appointed Arne Duncan, former-CEO of Chicago Public Schools, to head the U.S. Department of Education in 2008, he signaled an intention to accelerate a neoliberal education program that has been unfolding over the past two decades. This agenda calls for expanding education markets and employing market principles across school systems. It features mayoral control of school districts, closing "failing" public schools or handing them over to corporate-style "turnaround" organizations, expanding school "choice" and privately run but publicly funded charter schools, weakening teacher unions, and enforcing top-down accountability and incentivized performance targets on schools, classrooms, and teachers (e.g., merit pay based on students' standardized test scores). To spur this agenda, the Obama administration offered cash-strapped states $4.35 billion in federal stimulus dollars to "reform" their school systems. Competition for these "Race to the Top" funds favored states that passed legislation to enable education markets.

Race to the Top, although originating in U.S. government, is actually part of a global neoliberal thrust toward the commodification of all realms of existence. In a new round of accumulation by dispossession, liberalization of trade has opened up education, along with other public sectors, to capital accumulation, and particularly to penetration of the education sectors of the periphery (e.g., Latin America, parts of Asia, Africa). Under the Global Agreement on Trade in Services, all aspects of education and education services are subject to global trade.4 The result is the global marketing of schooling from primary school through higher education. Schools, education management organizations, tutoring services, teacher training, tests, curricula online classes, and franchises of branded universities are now part of a global education market. Education markets are one facet of the neoliberal strategy to manage the structural crisis of capitalism by opening the public sector to capital accumulation. The roughly $2.5 trillion global market in education is a rich new arena for capital investment.5

In the United States, charter schools are a vehicle to commodify and marketize education. Charter schools are publicly funded but privately operated. They eliminate democratic governance, and, although they may be run by nonprofit community organizations or groups of teachers or parents, the market favors scaling up franchises of charter school management organizations or contracting out to for-profit education management organizations that get management fees to run schools and education programs.6 For example, EdisonLearning, a transnational for-profit management organization, claims it serves nearly one-half million students in twenty-five states in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Dubai.7

The market mechanisms and business management discourses and practices that are saturating public education in the United States are all too familiar to teachers and students worldwide. Globally, nations are restructuring their education systems for "human capital" development to prepare students for new types of work and labor relations.8 This policy agenda has been aggressively pushed by transnational organizations such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Objectives and performance targets are the order of the day, and testing is a prominent mechanism to steer curriculum and instruction to meet these goals efficiently and effectively.

In the United States, the neoliberal restructuring of education is deeply racialized. It is centered particularly on urban African American, Latino, and other communities of color, where public schools, subject to being closed or privatized, are driven by a minimalist curriculum of preparing for standardized tests. The cultural politics of race is also central to constructing consent for this agenda. As Stephen Haymes argues, the "concepts 'public' and 'private' are racialized metaphors. Private is equated with being 'good' and 'white' and public with being 'bad' and 'Black.'"9 Disinvesting in public schools, closing them, and opening privately operated charter schools in African-American and Latino communities is facilitated by a racist discourse that pathologizes these communities and their public institutions. But "failing" schools are the product of a legacy of educational, economic, and social inequities experienced by African Americans, Latinos/as, and Native Americans.10 Schools serving these communities continue to face deeply inequitable opportunities to learn, including unequal funding, curriculum, educational resources, facilities, and teacher experience. High stakes accountability has often compounded these inequities by narrowing the curriculum to test preparation-producing an exodus of some of the strongest teachers from schools in low-income communities of color.11

Neoliberalization of public education is also an ideological project, as Margaret Thatcher famously said, to "change the soul," redefining the purpose of education and what it means to teach, learn, and participate in schooling. Tensions between democratic purposes of education and education to serve the needs of the workforce are longstanding. But in the neoliberal framework, teaching is driven by standardized tests and performance outcomes; principals are managers, and school superintendents are CEOs; and learning equals performance on the tests with teachers, students, and parents held responsible for "failure." Education, which is properly seen as a public good, is being converted into a private good, an investment one makes in one's child or oneself to "add value" in order better to compete in the labor market. It is no longer seen as part of the larger end of promoting individual and social development, but is merely the means to rise above others. Democratic participation in local schools is rearticulated to individual "empowerment" of education consumers-as parents compete for slots in an array of charter and specialty schools. In Chicago, twelve thousand parents and students attended the 2010 "High School Fair" sponsored by Chicago Public Schools, and six thousand attended the "New Schools Expo" of charter and school choice options. The political significance of this neoliberal shift stretches beyond schools to legitimize marketing the public sector, particularly in cities, and to infuse market ideologies into everyday life.

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Nothing requires a greater effort of thought than arguments to justify the rule of non-thought. -- Milan Kundera

Philoguy

Aug 16 · 12:18:45 PM

Nice one, Philoguy. Nice one, Philoguy.

Only thing I would add, putting on my cultural studies hat for a second, is that neoliberalism reinforces all of these economic presecriptions with a theory of the individual subject, who is deemed to be responsible for negotiating their place in the market. This is crucial, because an isolated subject who is responsible for their own assets and liabilities cannot be considered a victim of circumstances.

This can be summed up in the notion of human capital, which circulates in neoliberal ideological circles: in the reckoning of human capital, an individual is an "entrepreneurial self," an "enterprise of one" who must essentially "sell" themselves within a broader marketplace of ideas. By this reckoning, there is no such thing as an unemployed person: someone who is unemployed is, according to this thinking, in transition between a less profitable activity and a more profitable one.

This, of course, doesn't acknowledge that the worker was kicked to the curb by machinations beyond her control. Instead, it implies that the worker herself failed to recognize the unprofitable nature of the previous job, and now must vote with her feet, find employ in a different place. But the responsibility for this lies squarely with her (so the thinking goes): if she remains unemployed, it's because she's holding out for a job in which her wage demands see eye to eye with the corporation's own. Barring this, she is someone who is failing to "perform," someone who is unable to sell herself to the marketplace in an effective way.

All of this helps to explain a great deal about our present circumstances. Minimum- or living-wage legislation is opposed by neoliberal ideologues on the grounds that it is a destructive interference in the individual's quests to negotiate a wage with prevailing market forces. The whole legacy of "welfare reform," complete with manifestations of "workfare" in various Western countries, comes out of the idea that welfare provisions are an unnatural distortion of the labor market that rewards "entrepreneurial selves" for being unproductive. Austerity measures are deemed good not only for the fiscal bottom line for corporations, but impose a moral accounting that establishes the grounds for a proper neoliberal subject, one who isn't coddled by well-meaning but destructive policies of intervention.

Both the macrolevel and microlevel of neoliberalism work in lockstep with one another; the dissemination of ideas about the ideal worker, "liberated" from the old impediments of a bureaucratic postwar compact, help to cushion the blow of austerity measures great and small, from interest rate "shock doctrine" to corporate downsizing.

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jm214 Dale

Aug 16 · 01:02:46 PM

I love irony, hence can't help but get a kick from I love irony, hence can't help but get a kick from

this little phrase: "the dissemination of ideas about the ideal worker,... help to cushion the blow of austerity measures great and small..." I hope not too many take the bit of text as an endorsement of the "virtues" of fuckyourneighbor Gekkothinking.

[Jul 09, 2020] Who belongs to working class and who to manageria class

I think the difference is owning of stock. If a person owns anough money to maintin the current standard of living without employment this person belong to upper middle class.
In this sense Steven Johnson comment are bunk.
Jul 09, 2020 | crookedtimber.org

Chetan Murthy 07.06.20 at 6:45 am (
48
)

likbez @ 39:

Without working class votes they can't win. And those votes are lost

It's helpful that you told us who you were, in so few words. The Dems didn't lose working-class votes in 2016: the median income of a Hillary voter was less than that of a Trump voter [or maybe it was average? In any case, not much difference.] What the Dems lost, was "white non-college-educated" voters. They retained working class voters of color.

But hey, they don't count as working-class voters to you. Thanks for playing.

MisterMr 07.06.20 at 8:21 am ( 49 )

Two points:

1) White collar are, by definition, working class, because they don't own the means of production. What I see is an opposition between blue collars and white collars, that are two wings of the working class, not that democrats are going against the working class.
For some reason, the main divide in politics today is a sort of culture war, and republicans and other right wing parties managed to present the traditionalist side of the culture war as the "working class" one, and therefore the other side as the evil cosmopolitan prosecco sipping faux leftish but in reality very snobbish one, so that they pretend that they are the working class party because of their traditionalist stance.
But they aren't: already the fact that they blame "cosmopolitans" shows that they think in terms of nationalism (like Trump and his China virus), which is a way to deflect the attention from class conflict.
So comparatively the Dems are still the working class party, and the fact that some working class guys vote for trump sows that they suffer from false consciousness, not that the Dems are too right wing (the dems ARE too right wing, but this isn't the reason some working class guys are voting Trump).

2) Neoliberalism and free markets are not the same thing, and furthermore neoliberalism and capitalism are not the same thing; at most neoliberalism is a form of unadultered capitalism. However since neoliberalism basically means "anti new deal", and new deal economies were still free market and still capitalist (we can call them social democratic, but in this sense social democracy is a form of controlled capitalism), it follows that the most economically succesful form of capitalism and free markets to date is not neoliberalism.

Orange Watch 07.06.20 at 5:40 pm (
59
)

Chetan Murthy@48:

It's helpful that you told us who you were, in so few words. 43% of the US are non-voters. The median household income of non-voters is less than half of the median income of a Clinton voter (which was higher than the overall US median, albeit by less than the Trump median was). Clinton didn't lose in 2016 because of who voted as much as who didn't ; every serious analysis (and countless centrist screeds) since Trump's installation has told us that. Losing the working class doesn't require that the Republicans gain them; if the working class drops out, that shifts the electoral playing field further into the favor of politics who cater to the remaining voting blocks. Democrats playing Republican-lite while mouthing pieties about how they're totally not the party of the rich will always fare worse in that field than Republicans playing Republicans while mouthing pieties about how they ARE the party of the rich, but also of giving everyone a chance to make themselves rich. I know it's been de rigour for both Dems and the GOP to ignore the first half of Clinton's deplorable quote, but it truly was just as important as the half both sides freely remember. The Democrats have become a party of C-suite diversity, and they have abandoned the working class. And when their best pick for President's plenty bold plan for solving police violence is to encourage LEOs to shoot people in the leg instead of the chest (something that could only be said by a grifter or someone with more knowledge of Hollywood than ballistics or anatomy), the prospect of keeping the non-white portions of the working class from continuing to drop out is looking bleak.

MisterMr@49:

The traditional threading of that needle is to expand class-based analysis to more accurately reflect real-world political and economic behavior. In the past (and in some countries who updated the applicable definitions, still), the most relevant additional class was the petty bourgeoisie; in the modern US, however, the concept of the professional-managerial class is the most useful frame of reference.

MisterMr 07.07.20 at 12:06 pm (
76
)

Orange Watch 59

"The traditional threading of that needle is to expand class-based analysis to more accurately reflect real-world political and economic behavior. In the past (and in some countries who updated the applicable definitions, still), the most relevant additional class was the petty bourgeoisie; in the modern US, however, the concept of the professional-managerial class is the most useful frame of reference."

Sure, but one has to adopt a logicwhen building "class" groups. One relrvant dimension is educational attainment, which is IMHO where the "professional-managerial" class comes from.
But, not everyone with a degree is a manager, and "professional" normally implies a level of income that is higher that that of an average rank and file white collar.

So the question is whether this "new class" is really managers, or just white collar workers who work in services instead than in industrial production.
Furthermore, as technology increases, it is natural that a larger share of people will work in services and a smaller share in industry, for the same reason that increased agricultural productivity means less agricultural jobs.

Orange Watch 07.08.20 at 11:01 pm (
105
)

steven t johnson@98:

There are a great many unstated assumptions baked into this comment, but I'll take a shot at a foundational one. You suggest PMC is a distinction without difference vis a vis middle class appears to suggest that you've bought into a commonly accepted "truth" that can't withstand close scrutiny, and your claim that economic status is not a useful distinguisher only further drives it home. What is the cutoff between middle class and rich? I've seen far too many well-educated idiots with professional degrees make ridiculous claims like $150k household income representing a solidly middle-class income. That's in the upper 15% of national incomes, but it's being called middle class. 240% of the national median household income, but it's "middle class". And to pre-empt cost-of-living arguments, it's 175% of the median household income in Manhattan. So when you say PMC is not a useful concept, and that income is not a useful class distinction, I need to ask you where you draw your lines, or if you're asserting that class has no economic aspect at all. If you're arguing that households in the upper quintile and bottom quintile don't have different concerns, outlooks, values, and lifestyles – that someone in either could be working class or middle class (but I assume not upper class? Arguments like what yours appears to be typically don't start the upper class anywhere below the 1% ) is hard to treat as serious. If that is an assertion you'd stand by, what that tells me is that you're using private definitions of working and middle class, and they're essentially unintelligible.

Gorgonzola Petrovna 07.09.20 at 10:13 am (
113
)

@MisterMr
White collar are, by definition, working class, because they don't own the means of production

That's not the definition. For example: despite not owning any means of production, lumpenproletariat is not part of the working class.

What I see is an opposition between blue collars and white collars, that are two wings of the working class

If this is the way you feel, that's fine. It is, however, a controversial view. An alternative (and quite convincing, imo) view is that "white collars" belong to the 'professional-managerial class', with entirely different interests.

Anyhow, a bourgeois democracy (aka 'dictatorship of the bourgeoisie') does not and can not represent interests of the working class; this is indeed "by definition". Any benefits encountered by the working class are coincidental.

And in the current circumstance, the struggle between the remains of domestic bourgeoisie and global finance capitalism, the former faction is definitely – obviously – better aligned with interests of the domestic working class.

Orange Watch 07.08.20 at 11:01 pm (no link)

steven t johnson@98:

There are a great many unstated assumptions baked into this comment, but I'll take a shot at a foundational one. You suggest PMC is a distinction without difference vis a vis middle class appears to suggest that you've bought into a commonly accepted "truth" that can't withstand close scrutiny, and your claim that economic status is not a useful distinguisher only further drives it home. What is the cutoff between middle class and rich? I've seen far too many well-educated idiots with professional degrees make ridiculous claims like $150k household income representing a solidly middle-class income. That's in the upper 15% of national incomes, but it's being called middle class. 240% of the national median household income, but it's "middle class". And to pre-empt cost-of-living arguments, it's 175% of the median household income in Manhattan. So when you say PMC is not a useful concept, and that income is not a useful class distinction, I need to ask you where you draw your lines, or if you're asserting that class has no economic aspect at all. If you're arguing that households in the upper quintile and bottom quintile don't have different concerns, outlooks, values, and lifestyles – that someone in either could be working class or middle class (but I assume not upper class? Arguments like what yours appears to be typically don't start the upper class anywhere below the 1% ) is hard to treat as serious. If that is an assertion you'd stand by, what that tells me is that you're using private definitions of working and middle class, and they're essentially unintelligible.

[Jun 23, 2020] It is shocking to see such a disgusting piece of human garbage like Joe Biden get so many working class voters to vote for him. Biden has never missed a chance to stab the working class in the back in service to his wealthy patrons.

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... From wiping out the ability of regular folks to declare bankruptcy (something supported by our founding fathers who were NOT socialists), to shipping our industrial base to communist China (which in less enlightened days would have been termed treason), to spending tens of trillions of dollars bailing out and subsiding the big banks (that's not a misprint), to supporting "surprise medical billing," to opening the borders to massive third-world immigration so that wages can be driven down and reset and profits up (As 2015 Bernie Sanders pointed out), Backstabbing Joe Biden is neoliberal scum pure and simple. ..."
"... It's astonishing that so many people will just blindly accept what they are told, that Biden is. "moderate." Biden is so far to the right, he makes Nixon look like Trotsky. ..."
"... Joe Biden is a crook and a con man. He has been lying his whole life. Claimed in his 1988 Campaign to have got 3 degrees at college and finished in top half of his class. Actually only got 1 degree & finished 76th out of 85 in his class. ..."
Mar 03, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

TG , Mar 3 2020 22:02 utc | 56

Yet another circus. The proles get to scream and holler, and when all is done, the oligarchy gets the policies it wants, the public be damned. Our sham 'democracy' is a con to privatize power and socialize responsibility.

Although it is shocking to see such a disgusting piece of human garbage like Joe Biden get substantial numbers of people to vote for him. Biden has never missed a chance to stab the working class in the back in service to his wealthy patrons.

The issue is not (for me) his creepiness (I wouldn't much mind if he was on my side), nor even his Alzheimer's, but his established track record of betrayal and corruption.

From wiping out the ability of regular folks to declare bankruptcy (something supported by our founding fathers who were NOT socialists), to shipping our industrial base to communist China (which in less enlightened days would have been termed treason), to spending tens of trillions of dollars bailing out and subsiding the big banks (that's not a misprint), to supporting "surprise medical billing," to opening the borders to massive third-world immigration so that wages can be driven down and reset and profits up (As 2015 Bernie Sanders pointed out), Backstabbing Joe Biden is neoliberal scum pure and simple.

It's astonishing that so many people will just blindly accept what they are told, that Biden is. "moderate." Biden is so far to the right, he makes Nixon look like Trotsky. Heck, he makes Calvin Coolidge look like Trotsky.

Mao , Mar 3 2020 22:01 utc | 55

Ian56:

Joe Biden is a crook and a con man. He has been lying his whole life. Claimed in his 1988 Campaign to have got 3 degrees at college and finished in top half of his class. Actually only got 1 degree & finished 76th out of 85 in his class.

[VIDEO]

https://twitter.com/Ian56789/status/1234914227963518977

[Jun 21, 2020] How Workers Can Win the Class War Being Waged Against Them by Richard D. Wolff

Notable quotes:
"... Mass unemployment will bring the United States closer to less-developed economies. Very large regions of the poor will surround small enclaves of the rich. Narrow bands of "middle-income professionals," etc., will separate rich from poor. Ever-more rigid social divisions enforced by strong police and military apparatuses are becoming the norm. Their outlines are already visible across the United States. ..."
"... In this context, U.S. capitalism strode confidently toward the 21st century. The Soviet threat had imploded. A divided Europe threatened no U.S. interests. Its individual nations competed for U.S. favor (especially the UK). China's poverty blocked its becoming an economic competitor. U.S. military and technological supremacy seemed insurmountable. ..."
"... Amid success, internal contradictions surfaced. U.S. capitalism crashed three times. The first happened early in 2000 (triggered by dot-com share-price inflation); next came the big crash of 2008 (triggered by defaulting subprime mortgages); and the hugest crash hit in 2020 (triggered by COVID-19). ..."
"... Second, we must face a major obstacle. Since 1945, capitalists and their supporters developed arguments and institutions to undo the New Deal and its leftist legacies. They silenced, deflected, co-opted, and/or demonized criticisms of capitalism. ..."
"... Third, to newly organized versions of a New Deal coalition or of social democracy, we must add a new element. We cannot again leave capitalists in the exclusive positions to receive enterprise profits and make major enterprise decisions. ..."
Jun 19, 2020 | www.counterpunch.org

Organized labor led no mass opposition to Trump's presidency or the December 2017 tax cut or the failed U.S. preparation for and management of COVID-19. Nor do we yet see a labor-led national protest against the worst mass firing since the 1930s Great Depression. All of these events, but especially the unemployment, mark an employers' class war against employees. The U.S. government directs it, but the employers as a class inspire and benefit the most from it.

Before the 2020 crash, class war had been redistributing wealth for decades from middle-income people and the poor to the top 1 percent. That upward redistribution was U.S. employers' response to the legacy of the New Deal. During the Great Depression and afterward, wealth had been redistributed downward. By the 1970s, that was reversed. The 2020 crash will accelerate upward wealth redistribution sharply.

With tens of millions now a "reserve army" of the unemployed, nearly every U.S. employer can cut wages, benefits, etc. Employees dissatisfied with these cuts are easily replaced. Vast numbers of unemployed, stressed by uncertain job prospects and unemployment benefits, disappearing savings, and rising household tensions, will take jobs despite reduced wages, benefits, and working conditions. As the unemployed return to work, most employees' standards of consumption and living will drop.

Germany, France, and other European nations could not fire workers as the United States did. Strong labor movements and socialist parties with deep social influences preclude governments risking comparable mass unemployment; it would risk deposing them from office. Thus their antiviral lockdowns keep most at work with governments paying 70 percent or more of pre-virus wages and salaries.

Mass unemployment will bring the United States closer to less-developed economies. Very large regions of the poor will surround small enclaves of the rich. Narrow bands of "middle-income professionals," etc., will separate rich from poor. Ever-more rigid social divisions enforced by strong police and military apparatuses are becoming the norm. Their outlines are already visible across the United States.

Only if workers understand and mobilize to fight this class war can the trends sketched above be stopped or reversed. U.S. workers did exactly that in the 1930s. They fought -- in highly organized ways -- the class war waged against them then. Millions joined labor unions, and many tens of thousands joined two socialist parties and one communist party. All four organizations worked together, in coalition, to mobilize and activate the U.S. working class.

Weekly, and sometimes daily, workers marched across the United States. They criticized President Franklin D. Roosevelt's policies and capitalism itself by intermingling reformist and revolutionary demands. The coalition's size and political reach forced politicians, including FDR, to listen and respond, often positively. An initially "centrist" FDR adapted to become a champion of Social Security, unemployment insurance, a minimum wage, and a huge federal jobs program. The coalition achieved those moderate socialist reforms -- the New Deal -- and paid for them by setting aside revolutionary change.

It proved to be a good deal, but only in the short run. Its benefits to workers included a downward redistribution of income and wealth (especially via homeownership), and thereby the emergence of a new "middle class." Relatively well-paid employees were sufficient in number to sustain widespread notions of American exceptionalism, beliefs in ever-rising standards of working-class living across generations, and celebrations of capitalism as guaranteeing these social benefits. The reality was quite different. Not capitalists but rather their critics and victims had forced the New Deal against capitalists' resistance. And those middle-class benefits bypassed most African Americans.

The good deal did not last because U.S. capitalists largely resented the New Deal and sought to undo it. With World War II's end and FDR's death in 1945, the undoing accelerated. An anti-Soviet Cold War plus anti-communist/socialist crusades at home gave patriotic cover for destroying the New Deal coalition. The 1947 Taft-Hartley Act targeted organized labor. Senate and House committees spearheaded a unified effort (government, mass media, and academia) to demonize, silence, and socially exclude communists, socialists, leftists, etc. For decades after 1945 -- and still now in parts of the United States -- a sustained hysteria defined all left-wing thought, policy, or movement as always and necessarily the worst imaginable social evil.

Over time, the New Deal coalition was destroyed and left-wing thinking was labeled "disloyal." Even barely left-of-center labor and political organizations repeatedly denounced and distanced themselves from any sort of anti-capitalist impulse, any connection to socialism. Many New Deal reforms were evaded, amended, or repealed. Some simply vanished from politicians' knowledge and vocabulary and then journalists' too. Having witnessed the purges of leftist colleagues from 1945 through the 1950s, a largely docile academic community celebrated capitalism in general and U.S. capitalism in particular. The good in U.S. society was capitalism's gift. The rest resulted from government or foreign or ideological interferences in capitalism's wonderful invisible hand. Any person or group excluded from this American Dream had only themselves to blame for inadequate ability, insufficient effort, or ideological deviancy.

In this context, U.S. capitalism strode confidently toward the 21st century. The Soviet threat had imploded. A divided Europe threatened no U.S. interests. Its individual nations competed for U.S. favor (especially the UK). China's poverty blocked its becoming an economic competitor. U.S. military and technological supremacy seemed insurmountable.

Amid success, internal contradictions surfaced. U.S. capitalism crashed three times. The first happened early in 2000 (triggered by dot-com share-price inflation); next came the big crash of 2008 (triggered by defaulting subprime mortgages); and the hugest crash hit in 2020 (triggered by COVID-19). Unprepared economically, politically, and ideologically for any of them, the Federal Reserve responded by creating vast sums of new money that it threw at/lent to (at historically low interest rates) banks, large corporations, etc. Three successive exercises in trickle-down economic policy saw little trickle down. No underlying economic problems (inequality, excess systemic debts, cyclical instability, etc.) have been solved. On the contrary, all worsened. In other words, class war has been intensified.

What then is to be done? First, we need to recognize the class war that is underway and commit to fighting it. On that basis, we must organize a mass base to put real political force behind social democratic policies, parties, and politicians. We need something like the New Deal coalition. The pandemic, economic crash, and gross official policy failures (including violent official scapegoating) draw many toward classical social democracy. The successes of the Democratic Socialists of America show this.

Second, we must face a major obstacle. Since 1945, capitalists and their supporters developed arguments and institutions to undo the New Deal and its leftist legacies. They silenced, deflected, co-opted, and/or demonized criticisms of capitalism. Strategic decisions made by both the U.S. New Deal and European social democracy contributed to their defeats. Both always left and still leave employers exclusively in positions to (1) receive and dispense their enterprises' profits and (2) decide and direct what, how, and where their enterprises produce. Those positions gave capitalists the financial resources and power -- politically, economically, and culturally -- repeatedly to outmaneuver and repress labor and the left.

Third, to newly organized versions of a New Deal coalition or of social democracy, we must add a new element. We cannot again leave capitalists in the exclusive positions to receive enterprise profits and make major enterprise decisions. The new element is thus the demand to change enterprises producing goods and services. From hierarchical, capitalist organizations (where owners, boards of directors, etc., occupy the employer position) we need to transition to the altogether different democratic, worker co-op organizations. In the latter, no employer/employee split occurs. All workers have equal voice in deciding what gets produced, how, and where and how any profits get used. The collective of all employees is their own employer. As such an employer, the employees will finally protect and thus secure the reforms associated with the New Deal and social democracy.

We could describe the transition from capitalist to worker co-op enterprise organizations as a revolution. That would resolve the old debate of reform versus revolution. Revolution becomes the only way finally to secure progressive reforms. Capitalism's reforms were generated by the system's impacts on people and their resulting demands for change. Capitalism's resistances to those reforms -- and undoing them after they happened -- spawned the revolution needed to secure them. In that revolution, society moves beyond capitalism itself. So it was in the French Revolution: demands for reform within feudal society could only finally be realized by a social transition from feudalism to capitalism.

This article was produced by Economy for All , a project of the Independent Media Institute. Join the debate on Facebook More articles by: Richard D. Wolff

Richard Wolff is the author of Capitalism Hits the Fan and Capitalism's Crisis Deepens . He is founder of Democracy at Work .

[Jun 19, 2020] The Police Weren t Created to Protect and Serve. They Were Created to Maintain Order. A Brief Look at the History of Police

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... It's a commonplace to say the primary job of police is to "protect and serve," but that's not their goal in the way it's commonly understood -- not in the deed, the practice of what they daily do, and not true in the original intention, in why police departments were created in the first place. "Protect and serve" as we understand it is just the cover story. ..."
"... Urban police forces in America were created for one purpose -- to "maintain order" after a waves of immigrants swept into northern U.S. cities, both from abroad and later from the South, immigrants who threatened to disturb that "order." The threat wasn't primarily from crime as we understand it, from violence inflicted by the working poor on the poor or middle class. The threat came from unions, from strikes, and from the suffering, the misery and the anger caused by the rise of rapacious capitalism. ..."
"... What's being protected? The social order that feeds the wealthy at the expense of the working poor. Who's being served? Owners, their property, and the sources of their wealth, the orderly and uninterrupted running of their factories. The goal of police departments, as originally constituted, was to keep the workers in line, in their jobs, and off the streets. ..."
"... In most countries, the police are there solely to protect the Haves from the Have-Nots. In fact, when the average frustrated citizen has trouble, the last people he would consider turning to are the police. ..."
"... Jay Gould, a U.S. robber baron, is supposed to have claimed that he could hire one half of the working class to kill the other half. ..."
"... I spent some time in the Silver Valley of northern Idaho. This area was the hot bed of labor unrest during the 1890's. Federal troops controlled the area 3 separate times,1892, 1894 and 1899. Twice miners hijacked trains loaded them with dynamite and drove them to mining company stamping mills that they then blew up. Dozens of deaths in shoot outs. The entire male population was herded up and placed in concentration camps for weeks. The end result was the assassination of the Governor in 1905. ..."
"... Interestingly this history has been completely expunged. There is a mining museum in the town which doesn't mention a word on these events. Even nationwide there seems to be a complete erasure of what real labor unrest can look like.. ..."
"... Straight-up fact: The police weren't created to preserve and protect. They were created to maintain order, [enforced] over certain subjected classes and races of people, including–for many white people, too–many of our ancestors, too.* ..."
Jun 18, 2020 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Yves here. Tom mentions in passing the role of Pinkertons as goons for hire to crush early labor activists. Some employers like Ford went as far as forming private armies for that purpose. Establishing police forces were a way to socialize this cost.

By Thomas Neuberger. Originally published at DownWithTyranny!

One version of the "thin blue line" flag, a symbol used in a variety of ways by American police departments , their most fervent supporters , and other right-wing fellow travelers . The thin blue line represents the wall of protection that separates the orderly "us" from the disorderly, uncivilized "them" .

[In the 1800s] the police increasingly presented themselves as a thin blue line protecting civilization, by which they meant bourgeois civilization, from the disorder of the working class.
-- Sam Mitrani here

It's a commonplace to say the primary job of police is to "protect and serve," but that's not their goal in the way it's commonly understood -- not in the deed, the practice of what they daily do, and not true in the original intention, in why police departments were created in the first place. "Protect and serve" as we understand it is just the cover story.

To understand the true purpose of police, we have to ask, "What's being protected?" and "Who's being served?"

Urban police forces in America were created for one purpose -- to "maintain order" after a waves of immigrants swept into northern U.S. cities, both from abroad and later from the South, immigrants who threatened to disturb that "order." The threat wasn't primarily from crime as we understand it, from violence inflicted by the working poor on the poor or middle class. The threat came from unions, from strikes, and from the suffering, the misery and the anger caused by the rise of rapacious capitalism.

What's being protected? The social order that feeds the wealthy at the expense of the working poor. Who's being served? Owners, their property, and the sources of their wealth, the orderly and uninterrupted running of their factories. The goal of police departments, as originally constituted, was to keep the workers in line, in their jobs, and off the streets.

Looking Behind Us

The following comes from an essay published at the blog of the Labor and Working-Class History Association, an academic group for teachers of labor studies, by Sam Mitrani, Associate Professor of History at the College of DuPage and author of The Rise of the Chicago Police Department: Class and Conflict, 1850-1894 .

According to Mitrani, "The police were not created to protect and serve the population. They were not created to stop crime, at least not as most people understand it. And they were certainly not created to promote justice. They were created to protect the new form of wage-labor capitalism that emerged in the mid to late nineteenth century from the threat posed by that system's offspring, the working class."

Keep in mind that there were no police departments anywhere in Europe or the U.S. prior to the 19th century -- in fact, "anywhere in the world" according to Mitrani. In the U.S., the North had constables, many part-time, and elected sheriffs, while the South had slave patrols. But nascent capitalism soon created a large working class, and a mass of European immigrants, "yearning to be free," ended up working in capitalism's northern factories and living in its cities.

"[A]s Northern cities grew and filled with mostly immigrant wage workers who were physically and socially separated from the ruling class, the wealthy elite who ran the various municipal governments hired hundreds and then thousands of armed men to impose order on the new working class neighborhoods ." [emphasis added]

America of the early and mid 1800s was still a world without organized police departments. What the Pinkertons were to strikes , these "thousands of armed men" were to the unruly working poor in those cities.

Imagine this situation from two angles. First, from the standpoint of the workers, picture the oppression these armed men must have represented, lawless themselves yet tasked with imposing "order" and violence on the poor and miserable, who were frequently and understandably both angry and drunk. (Pre-Depression drunkenness, under this interpretation, is not just a social phenomenon, but a political one as well.)

Second, consider this situation from the standpoint of the wealthy who hired these men. Given the rapid growth of capitalism during this period, "maintaining order" was a costly undertaking, and likely to become costlier. Pinkertons, for example, were hired at private expense, as were the "thousands of armed men" Mitrani mentions above.

The solution was to offload this burden onto municipal budgets. Thus, between 1840 and 1880, every major northern city in America had created a substantial police force, tasked with a single job, the one originally performed by the armed men paid by the business elites -- to keep the workers in line, to "maintain order" as factory owners and the moneyed class understood it.

"Class conflict roiled late nineteenth century American cities like Chicago, which experienced major strikes and riots in 1867, 1877, 1886, and 1894. In each of these upheavals, the police attacked strikers with extreme violence, even if in 1877 and 1894 the U.S. Army played a bigger role in ultimately repressing the working class. In the aftermath of these movements, the police increasingly presented themselves as a thin blue line protecting civilization , by which they meant bourgeois civilization, from the disorder of the working class. This ideology of order that developed in the late nineteenth century echoes down to today – except that today, poor black and Latino people are the main threat, rather than immigrant workers."

That "thin blue line protecting civilization" is the same blue line we're witnessing today. Yes, big-city police are culturally racist as a group; but they're not just racist. They dislike all the "unwashed." A recent study that reviewed "all the data available on police shootings for the year 2017, and analyze[d] it based on geography, income, and poverty levels, as well as race" revealed the following remarkable pattern:

" Police violence is focused overwhelmingly on men lowest on the socio-economic ladder : in rural areas outside the South, predominately white men; in the Southwest, disproportionately Hispanic men; in mid-size and major cities, disproportionately black men. Significantly, in the rural South, where the population is racially mixed, white men and black men are killed by police at nearly identical rates."

As they have always been, the police departments in the U.S. are a violent force for maintaining an order that separates and protects society's predator class from its victims -- a racist order to be sure, but a class-based order as well.

Looking Ahead

We've seen the violence of the police as visited on society's urban poor (and anyone else, poor or not, who happens to be the same race and color as the poor too often are), and we've witnessed the violent reactions of police to mass protests challenging the racism of that violence.

But we've also seen the violence of police during the mainly white-led Occupy movement (one instance here ; note that while the officer involved was fired, he was also compensated $38,000 for "suffering he experienced after the incident").

So what could we expect from police if there were, say, a national, angry, multiracial rent strike with demonstrations? Or a student debt s trike? None of these possibilities are off the table, given the economic damage -- most of it still unrealized -- caused by the current Covid crisis.

Will police "protect and serve" the protesters, victims of the latest massive transfer of wealth to the already massively wealthy? Or will they, with violence, "maintain order" by maintaining elite control of the current predatory system?

If Mitrani is right, the latter is almost certain.


MK , June 19, 2020 at 12:31 am

Possible solutions? One, universal public works system for everyone 18-20. [Avoiding armed service because that will never happen, nor peace corp.] Not allow the rich to buy then or their children an out. Let the billionaires children work along side those who never had a single family house or car growing up.

Two, eliminate suburban school districts and simply have one per state, broken down into regional areas. No rich [or white] flight to avoid poor systems. Children of differing means growing up side by side. Of course the upper class would simply send their children to private schools, much as the elite do now anyway.

Class and privilege is the real underlying issue and has been since capital began to be concentrated and hoarded as the article points out. It has to begin with the children if the future is to really change in a meaningful way.

timbers , June 19, 2020 at 8:06 am

I would add items targeted as what is causing inequality. Some of these might be:

1). Abolish the Federal Reserve. It's current action since 2008 are a huge transfer of wealth from us to the wealthy. No more Quantitative Easing, no Fed buying of stocks or bonds.

2). Make the only retirement and medical program allowed Congress and the President, Social Security and Medicare. That will cause it to be improved for all of us.

3). No stock ownership allowed for Congress folk while serving terms. Also, rules against joining those leaving Congress acting as lobbyists.

4). Something that makes it an iron rule that any law passed by Congress and the President, must equally apply to Congress and the President. For example, no separate retirement or healthcare access, but have this more broadly applied to all aspects of legislation and all aspects of life.

MLTPB , June 19, 2020 at 11:11 am

Abolish the Fed and/or abolish the police?

Inbetween, there is

Defund Wall Street
Abolish banking
Abolish lending
Abolish cash
Defund fossil fuel subsidies

Etc.

Broader, more on the economic side, and perhaps more fundamental???

TiPs , June 19, 2020 at 8:34 am

I think you'd also have to legalize drugs and any other thing that leads creation of "organized ciminal groups." Take away the sources that lead to the creation of the well-armed gangs that control illegal activities.

David , June 19, 2020 at 9:32 am

Unfortunately, legalising drugs in itself, whatever the abstract merits, wouldn't solve the problem. Organised crime would still have a major market selling cut-price, tax-free or imitation drugs, as well, of course, as controlled drugs which are not allowed to be sold to just anybody now. Organised crime doesn't arise as a result of prohibitions, it expands into new areas thanks to them, and often these areas involve smuggling and evading customs duties. Tobacco products are legal virtually everywhere, but there's a massive criminal trade in smuggling them from the Balkans into Italy, where taxes are much higher. Any time you create a border, in effect, you create crime: there is even alcohol smuggling between Sweden and Norway. Even when activities are completely legal (such as prostitution in many European countries) organised crime is still largely in control through protection rackets and the provision of "security."

In effect, you'd need to abolish all borders, all import and customs duties and all health and safety and other controls which create price differentials between states. And OC is not fussy, it moves from one racket to another, as the Mafia did in the 1930s with the end of prohibition. To really tackle OC you'd need to legalise, oh, child pornography, human trafficking, sex slavery, the trade in rare wild animals, the trade in stolen gems and conflict diamonds, internet fraud and cyberattacks, and the illicit trade in rare metals, to name, as they say, but a few. As Monty Python well observed, the only way to reduce the crime rate (and hence the need for the police) is to reduce the number of criminal offences. Mind you, if you defund the police you effectively legalise all these things anyway.

km , June 19, 2020 at 11:48 am

I dunno, ending Prohibition sure cut down on the market for bootleg liquor. It's still out there, but the market is nothing like what it once was.

Most people, even hardcore alcoholics, aren't going to go through the hassle of buying rotgut of dubious origin just to save a few dimes, when you can go to the corner liquor store and get a known product, no issues with supply 'cause your dealer's supplier just got arrested.

For that matter, OC is still definitely out there, but it isn't the force that it was during Prohibition, or when gambling was illegal.

As an aside, years ago, I knew a guy whose father had worked for Meyer Lansky's outfit, until Prohibition put him and others out of a job. As a token of his loyal service, the outfit gave him a (legal) liquor store to own and run.

David , June 19, 2020 at 12:09 pm

Yes, but in Norway, for example, you'd pay perhaps $30 for a six-pack of beer in a supermarket, whereas you'd pay half that to somebody selling beers out of the back of a car. In general people make too much of the Prohibition case, which was geographically and politically very special, and a a stage in history when OC was much less sophisticated. The Mob diversified into gambling and similar industries (higher profits, fewer risks). These days OC as a whole is much more powerful and dangerous, as well as sophisticated, than it was then, helped by globalisation and the Internet.

rob , June 19, 2020 at 12:25 pm

I think ending prohibitions on substances, would take quite a bite out of OC's pocketbook. and having someone move trailers of ciggarettes of bottles of beer big deal. That isn't really paying for the lifestyle.and it doesn't buy political protection. An old number I saw @ 2000 . the UN figured(guess) that illegal drugs were @ 600 billion dollars/year industry and most of that was being laundered though banks. Which to the banking industry is 600 billion in cash going into it's house of mirrors. Taking something like that out of the equation EVERY YEAR is no small thing. And the lobby from the OC who wants drugs kept illegal, coupled with the bankers who want the cash inputs equals a community of interest against legalization
and if the local police forces and the interstate/internationals were actually looking to use their smaller budgets and non-bill of rights infringing tactics, on helping the victim side of crimes then they could have a real mission/ Instead of just abusing otherwise innocent people who victimize no one.
so if we are looking for "low hanging fruit" . ending the war on drugs is a no brainer.

flora , June 19, 2020 at 1:36 am

Thanks for this post.

"What's being protected? The social order that feeds the wealthy at the expense of the working poor. " – Neuberger

In the aftermath of these movements, the police increasingly presented themselves as a thin blue line protecting civilization, by which they meant bourgeois civilization, from the disorder of the working class. – Mitrani

I think this ties in, if only indirectly, with the way so many peaceful recent protests seemed to turn violent after the police showed up. It's possible I suppose the police want to create disorder to frighten not only the protestors with immediate harm but also frighten the bourgeois about the threate of a "dangerous mob". Historically violent protests created a political backlash that usually benefited political conservatives and the wealthy owners. (The current protests may be different in this regard. The violence seems to have created a political backlash against conservatives and overzealous police departments' violence. ) My 2 cents.

John Anthony La Pietra , June 19, 2020 at 2:20 am

Sorry, but the title sent my mind back to the days of old -- of old Daley, that is, and his immortal quote from 1968: "Gentlemen, let's get the thing straight, once and for all. The policeman isn't there to create disorder; the policeman is there to preserve disorder."

Adam1 , June 19, 2020 at 7:39 am

LOL!!! great quote. Talk about saying it the way it is.

It kind of goes along with, "Police violence is focused overwhelmingly on men lowest on the socio-economic ladder: in rural areas outside the South, predominately white men; in the Southwest, disproportionately Hispanic men; in mid-size and major cities, disproportionately black men. Significantly, in the rural South, where the population is racially mixed, white men and black men are killed by police at nearly identical rates."

I bang my head on the table sometimes because poor white men and poor men of color are so often placed at odds when they increasingly face (mostly) the same problems. God forbid someone tried to unite them, there might really be some pearl clutching then.

rob , June 19, 2020 at 8:07 am

yeah, like Martin Luther King's "poor people's campaign". the thought of including the poor ,of all colors .. just too much for the status quo to stomach.
The "mechanism" that keeps masses in line . is one of those "invisible hands" too.

run75441 , June 19, 2020 at 8:23 am

Great response! I am sure you have more to add to this. A while back, I was researching the issues you state in your last paragraph. Was about ten pages into it and had to stop as I was drawn out of state and country. From my research.

While not as overt in the 20th century, the distinction of black slave versus poor white man has kept the class system alive and well in the US in the development of a discriminatory informal caste system. This distraction of a class level lower than the poorest of the white has kept them from concentrating on the disproportionate, and growing, distribution of wealth and income in the US. For the lower class, an allowed luxury, a place in the hierarchy and a sure form of self esteem insurance.

Sennett and Cobb (1972) observed that class distinction sets up a contest between upper and lower class with the lower social class always losing and promulgating a perception amongst themselves the educated and upper classes are in a position to judge and draw a conclusion of them being less than equal. The hidden injury is in the regard to the person perceiving himself as a piece of the woodwork or seen as a function such as "George the Porter." It was not the status or material wealth causing the harsh feelings; but, the feeling of being treated less than equal, having little status, and the resulting shame. The answer for many was violence.

James Gilligan wrote "Violence; Reflections on A National Epidemic." He worked as a prison psychiatrist and talked with many of the inmates of the issues of inequality and feeling less than those around them. His finding are in his book which is not a long read and adds to the discussion.

A little John Adams for you.

" The poor man's conscience is clear . . . he does not feel guilty and has no reason to . . . yet, he is ashamed. Mankind takes no notice of him. He rambles unheeded.

In the midst of a crowd; at a church; in the market . . . he is in as much obscurity as he would be in a garret or a cellar.

He is not disapproved, censured, or reproached; he is not seen . . . To be wholly overlooked, and to know it, are intolerable ."

likbez, June 19, 2020 at 3:18 pm

That's a very important observation.

Racism, especially directed toward blacks, along with "identity wedge," is a perfect tool for disarming poor white, and suppressing their struggle for a better standard of living, which considerably dropped under neoliberalism.

In other words, by providing poor whites with a stratum of the population that has even lower social status, neoliberals manage to co-opt them to support the policies which economically ate detrimental to their standard of living as well as to suppress the protest against the redistribution of wealth up and dismantling of the New Deal capitalist social protection network.

This is a pretty sophisticated, pretty evil scheme if you ask me. In a way, "Floydgate" can be viewed as a variation on the same theme. A very dirty game indeed, when the issue of provision of meaningful jobs for working poor, social equality, and social protection for low-income workers of any color is replaced with a real but of secondary importance issue of police violence against blacks.

This is another way to explain "What's the matter with Kansas" effect.

John Anthony La Pietra, June 19, 2020 at 6:20 pm

I like that one! - and I have to admit it's not familiar to me, though I've been a fan since before I got to play him in a neighboring community theater. Now I'm having some difficulty finding it. Where is it from, may I ask?

run75441, June 20, 2020 at 7:56 am

JAL:

Page 239, "The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States."

Read the book "Violence: Reflections of A National Epidemic" . Not a long read and well documented.

Carla , June 19, 2020 at 12:39 pm

MLK Jr. tried, and look what happened to him once he really got some traction. If the Rev. William Barber's Poor People's Campaign picks up steam, I'm afraid the same thing will happen to him.

I wish it were only pearl-clutching that the money power would resort to, but that's not the way it works.

JacobiteInTraining , June 19, 2020 at 9:20 am

Yeah – that quote struck me too, never seen it before. At times when they feel so liberated to 'say the quiet part out loud', then as now, you know the glove is coming off and the vicious mailed fist is free to roam for victims.

Those times are where you know you need to resist or .well, die in many cases.

That's something that really gets me in public response to many of these things. The normal instinct of the populace to wake from their somnambulant slumber just long enough to ascribe to buffoonery and idiocy ala Keystone Cops the things so much better understood as fully consciously and purposefully repressive, reactionary, and indicating a desire to take that next step to crush fully. To obliterate.

Many responses to this – https://twitter.com/oneunderscore__/status/1273809160128389120 – are like, 'the police are dumb', 'out of touch', 'a lot of dumb gomer pyles in that room, yuk yuk yuk'. Or, 'cops/FBI are so dumb to pursue this antifa thing, its just a boogieman' thinking that somehow once the authorities realize 'antifa' is a boogieman, their attitudes towards other protesters will somehow be different 'now that they realize the silliness of the claims'.

No, not remotely the case – to a terrifyingly large percentage of those in command, and in rank & file they know exactly where it came from, exactly how the tactics work, and have every intention of classifying all protesters (peaceful or not) into that worldview. The peaceful protesters *are* antifa in their eyes, to be dealt with in the fully approved manner of violence and repression.

km , June 19, 2020 at 11:56 am

In most countries, the police are there solely to protect the Haves from the Have-Nots. In fact, when the average frustrated citizen has trouble, the last people he would consider turning to are the police.

This is why in the Third World, the only job of lower social standing than "policeman" is "police informer".

cripes , June 19, 2020 at 3:35 am

The anti-rascist identity of the recent protests rests on a much larger base of class warfare waged over the past 40 years against the entire population led by a determined oligarchy and enforced by their political, media and militarized police retainers. This same oligarchy, with a despicable zeal and revolting media-orchestrated campaign–co-branding the movement with it's usual corporate perpetrators– distorts escalating carceral and economic violence solely through a lens of racial conflict and their time-tested toothless reforms. A few unlucky "peace officers" may have to TOFTT until the furor recedes, can't be helped.

Crowding out debt relief, single payer health, living wages, affordable housing and actual justice reform from the debate that would benefit African Americans more than any other demographic is the goal.

The handful of Emperors far prefer kabuki theater and random ritual Seppuku than facing the rage of millions of staring down the barrel of zero income, debt, bankruptcy, evictions and dispossession. The Praetorians will follow the money as always.

I suppose we'll get some boulevards re-named and a paid Juneteenth holiday to compensate for the destruction 100+ years of labor rights struggle, so there's that..

Boatwright , June 19, 2020 at 7:51 am

Homestead, Ludlow, Haymarket, Matewan -- the list is long

Working men and women asking for justice gunned down by the cops. There will always be men ready to murder on command as long as the orders come from the rich and powerful. We are at a moment in history folks were some of us, today mostly people of color, are willing to put their lives on the line. It's an ongoing struggle.

MichaelSF , June 19, 2020 at 12:18 pm

Jay Gould, a U.S. robber baron, is supposed to have claimed that he could hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jay_Gould

rob , June 19, 2020 at 7:58 am

So how can a tier of society(the police) . be what a society needs ? When as this story and many others show how and why the police were formed. To break heads. When they have been "the tool" of the elite forever. When so many of them are such dishonest, immoral, wanna be fascists. And the main direction of the US is towards a police state and fascists running the show . both republican and democrat. With technology being the boot on the neck of the people and the police are there to take it to the streets.

Can those elusive "good apples" turn the whole rotten barrel into sweet smelling apple pie? That is a big ask.

Or should the structure be liquidated, sell their army toys. fill the ranks with people who are not pathological liars and abusers and /or racists; of one sort or another. Get rid of the mentality of overcompensation by uber machismo. and make them watch the andy griffith show. They ought to learn that they can be respected if they are good people, and that they are not respected because they seek respect through fear and intimidation.

Is that idiot cry of theirs, .. the whole yelling at you; demanding absolute obedience to arbitrary ,assinine orders, really working to get them respect or is it just something they get off on?

When the police are shown to be bad, they strike by work slowdown, or letting a little chaos loose themselves. So the people know they need them So any reform of the police will go through the police not doing their jobs . but then something like better communities may result. less people being busted and harassed , or pulled over for the sake of a quota . may just show we don't need so much policing anyway. And then if the new social workers brigade starts intervening in peoples with issues when they are young and in school maybe fewer will be in the system. Couple that with the police not throwing their family in jail for nothing, and forcing them to pay fines for breaking stupid laws. The system will have less of a load, and the new , better cops without attitudes will be able to handle their communities in a way that works for everyone. Making them a net positive, as opposed to now where they are a net negative.
Also,

The drug war is over. The cops have only done the bidding of the organized criminal elements who make their bread and butter because of prohibition.

Our representatives can legally smoke pot , and grow it in their windowboxes in the capital dc., but people in many places are still living in fear of police using possession of some substance,as a pretext to take all their stuff,throw them in jail. But besides the cops, there are the prosecutors . they earn their salaries by stealing it from poor people through fines for things that ought to be legal. This is one way to drain money from poor communities, causing people to go steal from others in society to pay their court costs.

And who is gonna come and bust down your door when you can't pay a fine and choose to pay rent and buy your kids food instead . the cops. just doing their jobs. Evil is the banality of business as usual

Tom Stone , June 19, 2020 at 8:20 am

The late Kevin R C O'Brien noted that in every case where the Police had been ordered to "Round up the usual suspects" they have done so, and delivered them where ordered. It did not matter who the "Usual suspects" were, or to what fate they were to be delivered. They are the King's men and they do the King's bidding.

The Rev Kev , June 19, 2020 at 10:10 am

To have a reasonable discussion, I think that it should be recognized that modern police are but one leg of a triad. The first of course is the police who appear to seem themselves as not part of a community but as enforcers in that community. To swipe an idea from Mao, the police should move amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea. Not be a patrolling shark that attacks who they want at will knowing that there will be no repercussions against them. When you get to the point that you have police arresting children in school for infractions of school discipline – giving them a police record – you know that things have gotten out of hand.

The next leg is the courts which of course includes prosecutors. It is my understanding that prosecutors are elected to office in the US and so have incentives to appear to be tough on crime"" . They seem to operate more like 'Let's Make a Deal' from what I have read. When they tell some kid that he has a choice of 1,000 years in prison on trumped up charges or pleads guilty to a smaller offence, you know that that is not justice at work. Judges too operate in their own world and will always take the word of a policeman as a witness.

And the third leg is the prisons which operate as sweatshops for corporate America. It is in the interest of the police and the courts to fill up the prisons to overflowing. Anybody remember the Pennsylvania "kids for cash" scandal where kids lives were being ruined with criminal records that were bogus so that some people could make a profit? And what sort of prison system is it where a private contractor can build a prison without a contract at all , knowing that the government (California in this case) will nonetheless fill it up for a good profit.

In short, in sorting out police doctrine and methods like is happening now, it should be recognized that they are actually only the face of a set of problems.

MLTPB , June 19, 2020 at 11:00 am

How did ancient states police? Perhaps Wiki is a starting point of this journey. Per Its entry, Police, in ancient Greece, policing was done by public owned slaves. In Rome, the army, initially. In China, prefects leading to a level of government called prefectures .

Pookah Harvey , June 19, 2020 at 10:54 am

I spent some time in the Silver Valley of northern Idaho. This area was the hot bed of labor unrest during the 1890's. Federal troops controlled the area 3 separate times,1892, 1894 and 1899. Twice miners hijacked trains loaded them with dynamite and drove them to mining company stamping mills that they then blew up. Dozens of deaths in shoot outs. The entire male population was herded up and placed in concentration camps for weeks. The end result was the assassination of the Governor in 1905.

Interestingly this history has been completely expunged. There is a mining museum in the town which doesn't mention a word on these events. Even nationwide there seems to be a complete erasure of what real labor unrest can look like..

rob , June 19, 2020 at 11:58 am

Yeah, labor unrest does get swept under the rug. Howard zinn had examples in his works "the peoples history of the United States" The pictched battles in upstate new york with the Van Rennselear's in the 1840's breaking up rennselearwyk . the million acre estate of theirs . it was a rent strike.

People remembering , we have been here before doesn't help the case of the establishment so they try to not let it happen.

We get experts telling us . well, this is all new we need experts to tell you what to think. It is like watching the footage from the past 100 years on film of blacks marching for their rights and being told.. reform is coming.. the more things change, the more things stay the same. Decade after decade. Century after century. Time to start figuring this out people. So, the enemy is us. Now what?

Carolinian , June 19, 2020 at 11:01 am

Doubtless the facts presented above are correct, but shouldn't one point out that the 21st century is quite different from the 19th and therefore analogizing the current situation to what went on before is quite facile? For example it's no longer necessary for the police to put down strikes because strike actions barely still exist. In our current US the working class has diminished greatly while the middle class has expanded. We are a much richer country overall with a lot more people–not just those one percenters–concerned about crime. Whatever one thinks of the police, politically an attempt to go back to the 18th century isn't going to fly.

MLTPB , June 19, 2020 at 11:15 am

Perhaps we are more likely to argue among ourselves, when genetic fallacy is possibly in play.

Pookah Harvey , June 19, 2020 at 11:37 am

" the 21st century is quite different from the 19th "

From the Guardian: "How Starbucks, Target, Google and Microsoft quietly fund police through private donations"

More than 25 large corporations in the past three years have contributed funding to private police foundations, new report says.

These foundations receive millions of dollars a year from private and corporate donors, according to the report, and are able to use the funds to purchase equipment and weapons with little public input. The analysis notes, for example, how the Los Angeles police department in 2007 used foundation funding to purchase surveillance software from controversial technology firm Palantir. Buying the technology with private foundation funding rather than its public budget allowed the department to bypass requirements to hold public meetings and gain approval from the city council.

The Houston police foundation has purchased for the local police department a variety of equipment, including Swat equipment, sound equipment and dogs for the K-9 unit, according to the report. The Philadelphia police foundation purchased for its police force long guns, drones and ballistic helmets, and the Atlanta police foundation helped fund a major surveillance network of over 12,000 cameras.

In addition to weaponry, foundation funding can also go toward specialized training and support programs that complement the department's policing strategies, according to one police foundation.

"Not a lot of people are aware of this public-private partnership where corporations and wealthy donors are able to siphon money into police forces with little to no oversight," said Gin Armstrong, a senior research analyst at LittleSis.

Maybe it is just me, but things don't seem to be all that different.

Bob , June 19, 2020 at 11:40 am

If we made America Great Again we could go back to the 18th century.

rob , June 19, 2020 at 12:11 pm

While it is true, this is a new century. Knowing how the present came to be, is entirely necessary to be able to attempt any move forward.
The likelihood of making the same old mistakes is almost certain, if one doesn't try to use the past as a reference.
And considering the effect of propaganda and revisionism in the formation of peoples opinions, we do need " learning against learning" to borrow a Jesuit strategy against the reformation, but this time it should embrace reality, rather than sow falsehoods.
But I do agree,
We have never been here before, and now is a great time to reset everything. With all due respect to "getting it right" or at least "better".
and knowing the false fables of righteousness, is what people need to know, before they go about "burning down the house".

Carolinian , June 19, 2020 at 12:42 pm

You know it's not as though white people aren't also afraid of the police. Alfred Hitchcock said he was deathly afraid of police and that paranoia informed many of his movies. Woody Allen has a funny scene in Annie Hall where he is pulled over by a cop and is comically flustered. White people also get shot and killed by the police as the rightwingers are constantly pointing out.

And thousands of people in the streets tell us that police reform is necessary. But the country is not going to get rid of them and replace police with social workers so why even talk about it? I'd say the above is interesting .not terribly relevant.

Mattski , June 19, 2020 at 11:37 am

Straight-up fact: The police weren't created to preserve and protect. They were created to maintain order, [enforced] over certain subjected classes and races of people, including–for many white people, too–many of our ancestors, too.*

And the question that arises from this: Are we willing to the subjects in a police state? Are we willing to continue to let our Black and brown brothers and sisters be subjected BY such a police state, and to half-wittingly be party TO it?

Or do we want to exercise AGENCY over "our" government(s), and decide–anew–how we go out our vast, vast array of social ills.

Obviously, armed police officers with an average of six months training–almost all from the white underclass–are a pretty f*cking blunt instrument to bring to bear.

On our own heads. On those who we and history have consigned to second-class citizenship.
Warning: this is a revolutionary situation. We should embrace it.

*Acceding to white supremacy, becoming "white" and often joining that police order, if you were poor, was the road out of such subjectivity. My grandfather's father, for example, was said to have fled a failed revolution in Bohemia to come here. Look back through history, you will find plenty of reason to feel solidarity, too. Race alone cannot divide us if we are intent on the lessons of that history.

[Jun 19, 2020] A discriminatory informal caste system that racism create was used by neoliberals for supression of white working poor protest against deteriorating standard of living and cooping them to support economic policies of redistribution of wealth up, directly against them

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... While not as overt in the 20th century, the distinction of black slave versus poor white man has kept the class system alive and well in the US in the development of a discriminatory informal caste system. ..."
"... a class level lower than the poorest of the white has kept them from concentrating on the disproportionate, and growing, distribution of wealth and income in the US. ..."
"... It was not the status or material wealth causing the harsh feelings; but, the feeling of being treated less than equal, having little status, and the resulting shame. ..."
"... In other words, by providing poor whites with a stratum of the population that has even lower social status, neoliberals manage to co-opt them to support the policies which economically ate detrimental to their standard of living as well as to suppress the protest against the redistribution of wealth up and dismantling of the New Deal capitalist social protection network. ..."
"... This is a pretty sophisticated, pretty evil scheme if you ask me. In a way, “Floydgate” can be viewed as a variation on the same theme. A very dirty game indeed, when the issue of provision of meaningful jobs for working poor, social equality, and social protection for low-income workers of any color is replaced with a real but of secondary importance issue of police violence against blacks. ..."
Jun 19, 2020 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

run75441 June 19, 2020 at 8:23 am

...A while back, I was researching the issues you state in your last paragraph. Was about ten pages into it and had to stop as I was drawn out of state and country.

From my research.

While not as overt in the 20th century, the distinction of black slave versus poor white man has kept the class system alive and well in the US in the development of a discriminatory informal caste system.

This distraction of a class level lower than the poorest of the white has kept them from concentrating on the disproportionate, and growing, distribution of wealth and income in the US.

For the lower class, an allowed luxury, a place in the hierarchy and a sure form of self esteem insurance.

Sennett and Cobb (1972) observed that class distinction sets up a contest between upper and lower class with the lower social class always losing and promulgating a perception amongst themselves the educated and upper classes are in a position to judge and draw a conclusion of them being less than equal.

The hidden injury is in the regard to the person perceiving himself as a piece of the woodwork or seen as a function such as "George the Porter."

It was not the status or material wealth causing the harsh feelings; but, the feeling of being treated less than equal, having little status, and the resulting shame.

The answer for many was violence.

James Gilligan wrote "Violence; Reflections on A National Epidemic." He worked as a prison psychiatrist and talked with many of the inmates of the issues of inequality and feeling less than those around them. His finding are in his book which is not a long read and adds to the discussion.

A little John Adams for you.

"The poor man's conscience is clear . . . he does not feel guilty and has no reason to . . . yet, he is ashamed. Mankind takes no notice of him. He rambles unheeded.

In the midst of a crowd; at a church; in the market . . . he is in as much obscurity as he would be in a garret or a cellar.

He is not disapproved, censured, or reproached; he is not seen . . . To be wholly overlooked, and to know it, are intolerable."

likbez June 19, 2020 1:25 pm
That’s a very important observation. Racism, especially directed toward blacks, along with “identity wedge,” is a perfect tool for disarming poor white, and suppressing their struggle for a better standard of living, which considerably dropped under neoliberalism.

In other words, by providing poor whites with a stratum of the population that has even lower social status, neoliberals manage to co-opt them to support the policies which economically ate detrimental to their standard of living as well as to suppress the protest against the redistribution of wealth up and dismantling of the New Deal capitalist social protection network.

This is a pretty sophisticated, pretty evil scheme if you ask me. In a way, “Floydgate” can be viewed as a variation on the same theme. A very dirty game indeed, when the issue of provision of meaningful jobs for working poor, social equality, and social protection for low-income workers of any color is replaced with a real but of secondary importance issue of police violence against blacks.

This is another way to explain “What’s the matter with Kansas” effect.

[Jun 16, 2020] How Woke Politics Keeps Class Solidarity Down by GREGOR BASZAK

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... Anti-racism as an ideology serves a perfect function for corporations that ultimately take workers for granted. ..."
"... Today, we find Lincoln statues desecrated . Neither has the memorial to the 54th Massachusetts Infantry , one of the first all-black units in the Civil War, survived the recent protests unscathed. To many on the left, history seems like the succession of one cruelty by the next. And so, justice may only be served if we scrap the past and start from a blank slate. As a result, Lincoln's appeal that we stand upright and enjoy our liberty gets lost to time. ..."
"... Ironically, this will only help the cause of Robert E. Lee -- and the modern corporations who rely on cheap, inhumane labor to keep themselves going. ..."
"... Before black slaves did this work, white indentured servants had. (An indentured servant is bound for a number of years to his master, i.e. he can't pack up and leave to find a new opportunity elsewhere.) ..."
"... But in the eyes of the Southern slavocracy, the white laboring poor of the North also weren't truly human. Such unholy antebellum figures as the social theorist George Fitzhugh or South Carolina Senator James Henry Hammond urged that the condition of slavery be expanded to include poor whites, too. Their hunger for a cheap, subservient labor source did not stop at black people, after all. ..."
"... Always remember Barbara Fields's formula: The need for cheap labor comes first; ideologies like white supremacy only give this bleak reality a spiritual gloss. ..."
"... Michael Lind argues in his new book The New Class War that many powerful businesses in America today continue to rely on the work of quasi indentured servants. Hungry for unfree, cheap workers, corporations in Silicon Valley and beyond employ tens of thousands of foreign workers through the H-2B visa program. These workers are bound to the company that provided them with the visa. If they find conditions at their jobs unbearable, they can't switch employers -- they would get deported first. In turn, this source of cheap labor effectively underbids American workers who could do the same job, except that they would ask for higher pay. ..."
"... We're getting turned into rats. Naturally, this is no fertile soil for solidarity. And with so many jobs precarious and subcontracted out on a temporary basis, there is preciously little that most workers can do to fight back this insidious managerial control. Free labor looks different. ..."
"... It's hard to come out of the 2020 primaries without realizing that the corporations that run our mainstream media will do anything to protect their right to abuse cheap labor. ..."
"... At this point in history, to the extent that black people suffer any meaningful oppression at all, its down to disproportionate poverty rates, not their racial background. ..."
"... I agree one hundred percent with your take on Biden. Let me add something else: he is a war hawk who not only voted for the Iraq war but used his position as the chairman of an important committee to promote it. ..."
"... Because of slavery alot of bad political policy was incorporated in the founding documents. If a police officer is about to wrongly arrest you because you are black , you do not care if his hatred stems from 400 years of discrimination against blacks. Rather you care that he won't kill you in this encounter because of his racism. ..."
"... Baszak believes racism has no life of its own, it exists only as a tool of the bosses. This is vulgar Marxism. At least since the decades after Bacon's Rebellion ended in 1677, poor whites have invested in white supremacy as a way of boosting their social status. Most Southern families owned no slaves, yet most joined the Civil War cause. ..."
"... They made a movie that beautifully touches this in the 1970s with Harvey Keitel and Richard Pryor called " Blue Collar ." ..."
"... "That's exactly what the company wants: to keep you on their line," says Smokey, the coolest and most strategically minded of the crew. "They'll do anything to keep you on their line. They pit the lifers against the new boys, the old against the young, the black against the white -- everybody -- to keep us in our place." ..."
"... The core thesis in this piece is the animating foundation of The Hill's political talk show "Rising." Composed of a populist Bernie supporter (Krystal Ball) and populist conservative (Saagar Enjeti) as hosts, they frequently highlight the purpose of woke cultural battles is to distract everyone for their neoliberal economic models ..."
Jun 16, 2020 | www.theamericanconservative.com

Anti-racism as an ideology serves a perfect function for corporations that ultimately take workers for granted.

Former injured Amazon employees join labor organizers and community activists to demonstrate and hold a press conference outside of an Amazon Go store to express concerns about what they claim is the company's "alarming injury rate" among warehouse workers on December 10, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

On April 2, 1865, in the dying days of the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln wandered the streets of burnt out Richmond, the former Confederate capital. All of a sudden, Lincoln found himself surrounded by scores of emancipated men and women. Here's how the historian James McPherson describes the moving episode in his magisterial book Battle Cry of Freedom :

Several freed slaves touched Lincoln to make sure he was real. "I know I am free," shouted an old woman, "for I have seen Father Abraham and felt him." Overwhelmed by rare emotions, Lincoln said to one black man who fell on his knees in front of him: "Don't kneel to me. That is not right. You must kneel to God only, and thank Him for the liberty you will enjoy hereafter."

Lincoln's legacy as the Great Emancipator has survived the century and a half since then largely intact. But there have been cracks in this image, mostly caused by questioning academics who decried him as an overt white supremacist. This view eventually entered the mainstream when Nikole Hannah-Jones wrote misleadingly in her lead essay to the "1619 Project" that Lincoln "opposed black equality."

Today, we find Lincoln statues desecrated . Neither has the memorial to the 54th Massachusetts Infantry , one of the first all-black units in the Civil War, survived the recent protests unscathed. To many on the left, history seems like the succession of one cruelty by the next. And so, justice may only be served if we scrap the past and start from a blank slate. As a result, Lincoln's appeal that we stand upright and enjoy our liberty gets lost to time.

Ironically, this will only help the cause of Robert E. Lee -- and the modern corporations who rely on cheap, inhumane labor to keep themselves going.

***

The main idea driving the "1619 Project" and so much of recent scholarship is that the United States of America originated in slavery and white supremacy. These were its true founding ideals. Racism, Hannah-Jones writes, is in our DNA.

Such arguments don't make any sense, as the historian Barbara Fields clairvoyantly argued in a groundbreaking essay from 1990. Why would Virginia planters in the 17th century import black people purely out of hate? No, Fields countered, the planters were driven by a real need for dependable workers who would toil on their cotton, rice, and tobacco fields for little to no pay. Before black slaves did this work, white indentured servants had. (An indentured servant is bound for a number of years to his master, i.e. he can't pack up and leave to find a new opportunity elsewhere.)

After 1776 everything changed. Suddenly the new republic claimed that "all men are created equal" -- and yet there were millions of slaves who still couldn't enjoy this equality. Racism helped to square our founding ideals with the brute reality of continued chattel slavery: Black people simply weren't men.

But in the eyes of the Southern slavocracy, the white laboring poor of the North also weren't truly human. Such unholy antebellum figures as the social theorist George Fitzhugh or South Carolina Senator James Henry Hammond urged that the condition of slavery be expanded to include poor whites, too. Their hunger for a cheap, subservient labor source did not stop at black people, after all.

Always remember Barbara Fields's formula: The need for cheap labor comes first; ideologies like white supremacy only give this bleak reality a spiritual gloss.

The true cause of the Civil War -- and it bears constant repeating for all the doubters -- was whether slavery would expand its reach or whether "free labor" would reign supreme. The latter was the dominant ideology of the North: Free laborers are independent, self-reliant, and eventually achieve economic security and independence by the sweat of their brow. It's the American Dream. But if that is so, then the Civil War ended in a tie -- and its underlying conflict was never really settled.

***

Michael Lind argues in his new book The New Class War that many powerful businesses in America today continue to rely on the work of quasi indentured servants. Hungry for unfree, cheap workers, corporations in Silicon Valley and beyond employ tens of thousands of foreign workers through the H-2B visa program. These workers are bound to the company that provided them with the visa. If they find conditions at their jobs unbearable, they can't switch employers -- they would get deported first. In turn, this source of cheap labor effectively underbids American workers who could do the same job, except that they would ask for higher pay.

America's wealth rests on this mutual competition between workers -- some nominally "free," others basically indentured -- whether it be through unjust visa schemes or other unfair managerial practices.

Remember that the next time you read a public announcement by the Amazons of this world that they remain committed to "black lives matter" and similar identitarian causes.

Fortunately, very few Americans hold the same racial resentments in their hearts as their ancestors did even just half a century ago. Rarely did we agree as much than when the nation near unanimously condemned the death of George Floyd at the hands of a few Minneapolis police officers. This is in keeping with another fortunate trend: Over the last 40 years, the rate of police killings of young black men declined by 79% percent .

But anti-racism as an ideology serves a perfect function for our corporations, even despite the evidence that people in this country have grown much less bigotted than they once were: As a management tool, anti-racism sows constant suspicion among workers who are encouraged to detect white supremacist sentiments in everything that their fellow workers say or do.

We're getting turned into rats. Naturally, this is no fertile soil for solidarity. And with so many jobs precarious and subcontracted out on a temporary basis, there is preciously little that most workers can do to fight back this insidious managerial control. Free labor looks different.

And so, through a surprising back door, the true cause for which Robert E. Lee chose to betray his country might still be coming out on top, whether we remove his statues or not -- namely, the steady supply to our ruling corporations of unfree workers willing to hustle for scraps.

It's time to follow Abraham Lincoln's urging and get off our knees again. We should assert our rights as American citizens to live free from economic insecurity and mutual resentment. The vast majority of us harbor no white supremacist views, period. Instead, we have so many more things in common, and we know it.

Another anecdote from the last days of the Civil War, also taken from Battle Cry of Freedom, might prove instructive here: The surrender of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865 essentially ended the Civil War. The ceremony was held with solemn respect for Lee, though one of Grant's adjutants couldn't help himself but have a subtle dig at Lee's expense:

After signing the papers, Grant introduced Lee to his staff. As he shook hands with Grant's military secretary Ely Parker, a Seneca Indian, Lee stared a moment at Parker's dark features and said, "I am glad to see one real American here." Parker responded, "We are all Americans."

Gregor Baszak is a PhD Candidate in English at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a writer. His articles have appeared in Los Angeles Review of Books, Public Books, Spectator USA, Spiked, and elsewhere. Follow Gregor on Twitter at @gregorbas1.


Megan S 15 hours ago

It's a bit off-topic but this is a big reason I supported Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Primary this year, he was the only candidate talking about how businesses demand that cheap labor, illegal labor, replace American labor. For this, the corporate media called him a racist, an anti-semite, a dangerous radical. None of his opponents aside from Elizabeth Warren had anything to run on aside from pseudo-woke touchy-feely bs. And somehow, with the media insisting that Joe Biden was the only one who could beat Trump, we ended up with the one candidate who was neither good on economics, good for American workers, or offering platitudes about wokeness.

It's hard to come out of the 2020 primaries without realizing that the corporations that run our mainstream media will do anything to protect their right to abuse cheap labor.

JonF311 Victor_the_thinker 8 hours ago

Racism is very real. If it weren't it couldn't be used to "divide and conquer" the working calss. we can walk and chew gum and the same time: oppose racism, and also oppose exploitive labor practices.

Bureaucrat Victor_the_thinker an hour ago • edited

What kind of polemic, unsupported statement is "black fast food workers are the ones who gave us the fight for $15"? How about it was a broad coalition of progressives (of all colors)? Moreover, $15 minimum wage is a poor, one-size-fits-all band-aid that I doubt even fits ONE scenario. Tackling the broader shareholder capitalism model of labor arbitrage (free trade/mass immigration), deunionization, and monopolistic hurdles drafted by corporations is where it actually matters. And on that, we are seeing the inklings of a populist left-right coalition -- if corporate-funded race hustlers could only get out of the way.

Bureaucrat JonF311 2 hours ago • edited

That's the problem. We CAN'T chew gum and walk at the same time. Every minute focusing on racial friction is a minute NOT talking about neoliberal economics. What's the ratio of air time, social media discussion, or newspaper inches are devoted to race vis-a-vis the economic system that has starved the working class -- which is disproportionately black and brown? 10 to 1? 100 to 1? 1000 to 1? If there are no decent working class jobs for young black and brown men, then it makes it nearly impossible to raise families. Let's be clear: Systemic racism is real, but it is far less impactful than economic injustices and family dissolution.

Selvar Victor_the_thinker 33 minutes ago • edited

Class really isn't the primary issue for black people.

That's a frankly ridiculous statement. At this point in history, to the extent that black people suffer any meaningful oppression at all, its down to disproportionate poverty rates, not their racial background. No one--except a few neurotic, high-strung corporate HR PMC types--cares about "microaggressions". Even unjust police shootings of blacks are likely down to class and not race--despite the politically correct narrative saying otherwise.

Putting racial identity politics as an equal (or even greater) priority than class-based solidarity creates an absurd system where an upper-middle class black woman attending Yale can act as if a working class white man is oppressing her by not acknowledging his "white privilege", and not bowing to her every demand. It's utterly delusional to think that sort of culture is going to create a more just or equal world.

joeo Megan S 9 hours ago shiva

Biden is a Rorschach test, people see whatever they want in a party apparatchik. Trump has been Shiva, the destroyer of the traditional Republican party. How else do you explain the support among Multi-Billionaires for the Democratic party. Truly ironic.

Jessica Ramer Megan S 8 hours ago

I agree one hundred percent with your take on Biden. Let me add something else: he is a war hawk who not only voted for the Iraq war but used his position as the chairman of an important committee to promote it. I understand that he still wants to divide Iraq into three separate countries--a decision for Iraqis to make and not us. If we try to implement that policy, it would doubtless lead to more American deaths--to say nothing of Iraqi deaths.

So not only is he not good for American workers, he is not good for the American soldier who is disproportionately likely not to be from the elite classes but rather from the working and lower-middle class.

The only other Democratic candidate who opposed war-mongering besides Sanders was Tulsi Gabbard. I watched CNN commentary after a debate in which she participated. While the other participants received lots of commentary from CNN talking heads. she got almost nothing. She was featured in a video montage of candidates saying "Trump"; other than that, she was invisible in the post-debate analysis.

Megan S Jessica Ramer 7 hours ago

I don't know how far it travelled outside of Democratic primary voters, but I recall Biden's campaign saying that they were planning to be sort of a placeholder that would pass the torch to the next generation. He's insinuated that he only wants to serve one term and saw jumping into the race as the only way to beat Trump. Not the most exciting platform for the Democrats to run on.

As depressing as this primary was, it's good to see that the rising generation of Democrats was resistant to platitudes and demanded actual policy proposals.

Shame the party elders fell for the same old tricks yet again. I just hope that once there are more of us, we can have a serious policy debate in both major parties about free trade, immigration, inequality. The parties' voters aren't all that far apart on economics, yet neither of us is being given what we want. Whichever party sincerely takes a stand for the American working class stands to dominate American politics for a generation.

kouroi Megan S 5 hours ago

"Shame the party elders fell for the same old tricks yet again."

Oops, they tripped, poor oldies, not good in keeping their balance, eh?!

Bureaucrat Megan S 2 hours ago • edited

The problem with Biden's "placeholder" comments is that he specifically mentioned it for Pete Buttigeig, the McKinsey-trained career opportunist who believes in his bones the same neoliberal economics and interventionist foreign policies as the last generation. Same bad ideas, new woke packaging.

Megan S Bureaucrat 2 hours ago

On the bright side, young people despise Buttigieg and his attempt to cast us all as homophobic didn't really catch on outside of corporate media.

Bureaucrat Megan S an hour ago

Kamala Harris and Susan Rice, both tops on the VP list, will do just fine in place of Buttigieg - he's slated to revive TPP as the new USTR cabinet lead.

kouroi 14 hours ago

And just like that Mr. Baszak has become the second favorite writer here at TAC, after Mr. Larison...

stephen pickard 9 hours ago

Because of slavery alot of bad political policy was incorporated in the founding documents. If a police officer is about to wrongly arrest you because you are black , you do not care if his hatred stems from 400 years of discrimination against blacks. Rather you care that he won't kill you in this encounter because of his racism.

To me, I have always thought that America's original sin was slavery. Its stain can not be completely wiped out.

And I further believe that if Native Americans would have enslaved the newly arrived Europeans, and remained the ruling majority, white people would be discriminated against today.

So the problem is not that white people are inherently evil, or other races are inherently good. It is that because of slavery black people are bad, white people are good.

As a nation we have never been able to wash out the stain completely. Never will. Getting closer to the promised land is the best we are going to do. Probably take another 400 years.

In everyday encounters no one cares how discrimination began, just treat me like you want to be treated. Pretty simple.

Randolph Bourne 2 hours ago

"As a management tool, anti-racism sows constant suspicion among workers who are encouraged to detect white supremacist sentiments in everything that their fellow workers say or do."

The author does not offer one smidgen of proof that any company uses antiracism to divide workers. It might be plausible that it's happened, but Baszak has no data at all.

Over the last 40 years, the rate of police killings of young black men declined by 79% percent.

You think this is an accident? It came about through intense pressure on the police to stop killing Black people -- exactly the sort of racial emphasis the author seems to be decrying. Important to note that the non-fatal mistreatment has remained high.

The need for cheap labor comes first; ideologies like white supremacy only give this bleak reality a spiritual gloss

Baszak believes racism has no life of its own, it exists only as a tool of the bosses. This is vulgar Marxism. At least since the decades after Bacon's Rebellion ended in 1677, poor whites have invested in white supremacy as a way of boosting their social status. Most Southern families owned no slaves, yet most joined the Civil War cause. The psychological draw of racism, its cultural strength, are obviated by Barszak. And I bet Barbara Fields does not consider racism an epiphenomenon of economics.

Bureaucrat 2 hours ago

They made a movie that beautifully touches this in the 1970s with Harvey Keitel and Richard Pryor called "Blue Collar."

"That's exactly what the company wants: to keep you on their line," says Smokey, the coolest and most strategically minded of the crew. "They'll do anything to keep you on their line. They pit the lifers against the new boys, the old against the young, the black against the white -- everybody -- to keep us in our place."

Bureaucrat an hour ago

The core thesis in this piece is the animating foundation of The Hill's political talk show "Rising." Composed of a populist Bernie supporter (Krystal Ball) and populist conservative (Saagar Enjeti) as hosts, they frequently highlight the purpose of woke cultural battles is to distract everyone for their neoliberal economic models -- a system that actually has greater deleterious impact on black communities.

This video is one recent example of what you'll rarely see in mainstream media:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Chq_VxzDsSc

[Jun 16, 2020] Krystal Ball: The American dream is dead, good riddance

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... Debt-free is the new American dream ..."
Jun 12, 2020 | www.youtube.com

Krystal Ball exposes the delusion of the American dream.

About Rising: Rising is a weekday morning show with bipartisan hosts that breaks the mold of morning TV by taking viewers inside the halls of Washington power like never before. The show leans into the day's political cycle with cutting edge analysis from DC insiders who can predict what is going to happen.

It also sets the day's political agenda by breaking exclusive news with a team of scoop-driven reporters and demanding answers during interviews with the country's most important political newsmakers.

Owen Cousino , 4 days ago

Debt-free is the new American dream

poppaDehorn , 4 days ago

Got my degree just as the great recession hit. Couldn't find real work for 3 years, not using my degree... But it was work. now after 8 years, im laid off. I did everything "right". do good in school, go to college, get a job...

I've never been fired in my life. its always, "Your contract is up" "Sorry we cant afford to keep you", "You can make more money collecting! but we'll give a recommendation if you find anything."

Now I'm back where i started... only now I have new house and a family to support... no pressure.

[Jun 02, 2020] It didn t happen overnight by Ken Melvin

Under neoliberalism (and generally under any form of capitalism without countervailing force) the wages tend to deteriorate to the starvation level
Jun 02, 2020 | angrybearblog.com

Sound too familiar? Sometime in the late 80s (??) Americans began to see day labors line up at Home Depot and Lowe's lots in numbers not seen since The Great Depression. Manufacturing Corporations began subbing out their work to sub-contractors, otherwise known as employees without benefits; Construction Contractors subbed out construction work to these employees without benefits; Engineering Firms subbed out engineering to these employees without benefits; Landscapers' workers were now sub-contractors/independent contractors; Here, in the SF Bay Area, time and again, we saw vans loads of undocumented Hispanics under a 'Labor Contractor' come in from the Central Valley to build condos; the white Contractor for the project didn't have a single employee; none of the workers got a W-2. Recall watching, sometime in the 90s (??), a familiar, well dressed, rotund guest from Wall Street, on the PBS News Hour, forcefully proclaiming to the TV audience:

American workers are going to have to learn to compete with the Chinese; Civil Service employees, factory employees, are all going to have to work for less

All this subcontracting, independent contractors, was a scam, a scam meant to circumvent paying going wages and benefits, to enhance profit margins; a scam that transferred more wealth to the top. Meanwhile back at The Ranch, after the H1B Immigration Act of 1990, Microsoft could hire programmers from India for one-half the cost of a citizen programmer. Half of Bill Gates' fortune was resultant these labor savings; the other half was made off those not US Citizens. Taking a cue, Banks, Bio-Techs, some City and State Governments began subcontracting out their programming to H1Bs. Often, the subcontractors/labor contractors (often themselves immigrants) providing the programmers, held the programmers' passports/visas for security.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, friends of Bush/Cheney made fortunes on clean up contracts they subbed out for next to nothing; the independent/subcontractor scam was now officially governmentally sanctioned.

By about 2000 we began to hear the term gig-workers applied to these employees without benefits. Uber appeared in 2007 to be followed by Lift. Both are scams based on paying less than prevailing wages, on not providing worker benefits,

These days, the nightly news, when talking about the effect of the pandemic on the populace in America, shows footage of Food Banks in California with lines 2! miles long. Many of those waiting in these lines didn't have a real job before; they were gig-workers; they can't apply for Unemployment Benefits. It is estimated that 1.6 million American workers (1% of the workforce) are gig-workers; they don't have a real job. That 1% is in addition to the 16 million American workers (10% of the workforce) that are independent contractors. Of the more than 40 million currently unemployed Americans, some 17 million are either gig-workers or subcontractors/independent contractors. All of these are scams meant to transfer more wealth to the top. All of these are scams with American Workers the victims; scams, in a race to the bottom.


Denis Drew , May 31, 2020 10:51 am

Ken,

Read this by the SEIU counsel Andrew Strom -- and tell me what you think:
https://onlabor.org/why-not-hold-union-representation-elections-on-a-regular-schedule/

Democrats in the so called battle ground states would clean up at the polls with this. Why do you think those states strayed? It was because Obama and Hillary had no idea what they really needed. Voters had no idea what they SPECIFICALLY needed either -- UNIONS! They had been deunionized so thoroughly for so long that they THEMSELVES no long knew what they were missing (frogs in the slowly boiling pot).

In 1988 Jesse Jackson took the Democratic primary in Michigan with 54% against Dukakis and Gephardt. Obama beat Wall Street Romney and red-white-and-blue McCain in Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan. But nobody told these voters -- because nobody seems to remember -- what they really needed. These voter just knew by 2016 that Democrats had not what they needed and looked elsewhere -- anywhere else!

Strom presents an easy as can be, on-step-back treatment that should go down oh, so smoothly and sweetly. What do you think?

ken melvin , May 31, 2020 1:04 pm

Denis

Thanks for your comment and the link. Wow! Where to start, huh?

SEIU was a player from the get go, but I don't want to go there just now.

Before Reagan, there was the first rust belt move to the non-union south. Why was the south so anti-union? I think this stuff is engendered from infancy and most of us are incapable of thinking anew when it comes to stuff our parents 'taught' us. MLK was the best thing that ever happened to the dirt-road poor south, yet they hated him and they hated the very unions that might have lifted them up. They did seem to take pleasure in the yanks' loss of jobs.

I think the Reagan era was prelude to what is going on now, i.e., going backward while yelling whee look at me go. No doubt, Reagan turned union members against their own unions. But, the genesis of demise probably lay with automation and the early offshoring to Mexico. By Reagan, the car plants were losing jobs to Toyota and Honda and automation. By 1990, car plants that had previously employed 5,000, now automated, produced more cars employing only 1200. At the time, much of the nation's wealth was still derived from car production.

Skipping forward a bit, the democrats blew it for years with all their talk about the 'middle-class' without realizing it was the 'disappearing middle-class'. They ignored the poor working-class vote and lost election after election.

I've come to not like the term labor, think it affords capital an undeserved status, though much diminished, I think thought all workers would be better off in a union. Otherwise, as we are witnessing, there is no parity between workers and wealth; we are in a race to the bottom with the wealth increasingly go to the top.

ken melvin , May 31, 2020 1:15 pm

Matthew – thanks for your comment

I think that we are into a transition (about 45 yrs into) as great as the industrial revolution. We, as probably those poor souls of the 18th and 19th centuries did, are floundering, unable to come to terms with what is going on.

I also think that those such as the Kochs have a good grasp of what is going on and are moving to protect themselves and their class.

ken melvin , May 31, 2020 1:21 pm

EMichael, thanks for the comment

Are you implying that the politicians are way behind the curve? If so, I think that you are right.

Let me share what I was thinking last night about thinking:

Descartes' problem was that he desperately wanted to make philosophy work within the framework of his religion, Catholicism. Paul Krugman desperately wants to make economics all work within the Holy Duality of Capitalism and Free Markets. Even Joe Stiglitz can't step out of this text. All things being possible, it is possible that either could come up with a solution to today's economic problems that would fit within the Two; but the odds are not good. Better to think anew.

We see politicians try and try to find solutions for today's problems from within their own dogmas/ideologies. Even if they can't, they persist, they still try to impose these dogmas/ideologies in the desperate hope they might work if only applied to a greater degree. How else explain any belief that markets could anticipate and respond to pandemics? That markets could best respond to housing demand?

  1. Interesting and fine writing.
anne , May 31, 2020 1:49 pm

https://twitter.com/paulkrugman/status/1267060950026326018

Paul Krugman @paulkrugman

Glad to see Noah Smith highlighting this all-too-relevant work by the late Alberto Alesina 1/

https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2020-05-30/racism-is-the-biggest-reason-u-s-safety-net-is-so-weak

Racism Is the Biggest Reason the U.S. Safety Net Is So Weak
Harvard economist Alberto Alesina, who died last week, found that ethnic divisions made the country less effective at providing public goods.

7:50 AM · May 31, 2020

The Alesina/Glaeser/Sacerdote paper on why America doesn't have a European-style welfare state -- racism -- had a big impact on my own thinking 2/

https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/glaeser/files/why_doesnt_the_u.s._have_a_european-style_welfare_state.pdf

For a long time anyone who pointed out that the modern GOP is basically a party that serves plutocratic ends by weaponizing white racism was treated as "shrill" and partisan. Can we now admit the obvious? 3/

  1. a long, long time. Possibly forever.
anne , May 31, 2020 1:56 pm

https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/glaeser/files/why_doesnt_the_u.s._have_a_european-style_welfare_state.pdf

September, 2001

Why Doesn't the United States Have a European-Style Welfare State?
By Alberto Alesina, Edward Glaeser and Bruce Sacerdote

Abstract

European countries are much more generous to the poor relative to the US level of generosity. Economic models suggest that redistribution is a function of the variance and skewness of the pre-tax income distribution, the volatility of income (perhaps because of trade shocks), the social costs of taxation and the expected income mobility of the median voter. None of these factors appear to explain the differences between the US and Europe. Instead, the differences appear to be the result of racial heterogeneity in the US and American political institutions. Racial animosity in the US makes redistribution to the poor, who are disproportionately black, unappealing to many voters. American political institutions limited the growth of a socialist party, and more generally limited the political power of the poor.

rick shapiro , May 31, 2020 2:07 pm

This dynamic is not limited to low-skill jobs. I have seen it at work in electronics engineering. When I was a sprat, job shoppers got an hourly wage nearly twice that of their company peers, because they had no benefits or long-term employment. Today, job shoppers are actually paid less than company engineers; and the companies are outsourcing ever more of their staffing to the brokers.
Without labor market frictions, the iron law of wages drives wages to starvation levels. As sophisticated uberization software eliminates the frictions that have protected middle class wages in the recent past, we will all need to enlist unionization and government wage standards to protect us.

ken melvin , May 31, 2020 2:29 pm

Rick

The big engineering offices of the 70s were decimated and worse by the mid-90s; mostly by the advent of computers w/ software. One engineer could now do the work of 10 and didn't need any draftsman.

rick shapiro , May 31, 2020 2:40 pm

I was speaking of engineers with equal skill in the same office. Many at GE Avionics were laid off, and came back as lower paid contract employees.

[Jun 02, 2020] So we're going to tell our soldiers that we're redeploying them from the Middle East to the midwest? What do we think they're going to say, 'yeah, sure, no problem?' Guess again."

Trump's threat to deploy the military here is an excessive and dangerous one. Mark Perry reports on the reaction from military officers to the president's threat:
Jun 02, 2020 | www.theamericanconservative.com

Senior military officer on Trump statement: "So we're going to tell our soldiers that we're redeploying them from the Middle East to the midwest? What do we think they're going to say, 'yeah, sure, no problem?' Guess again."

-- Mark Perry (@markperrydc) June 2, 2020

Earlier in the day yesterday, audio has leaked in which the Secretary of Defense referred to U.S. cities as the "battlespace." Separately, Sen. Tom Cotton was making vile remarks about using the military to give "no quarter" to looters. This is the language of militarism.

It is a consequence of decades of endless war and the government's tendency to rely on militarized options as their answer for every problem. Endless war has had a deeply corrosive effect on this country's political system: presidential overreach, the normalization of illegal uses of force, a lack of legal accountability for crimes committed in the wars, and a lack of political accountability for the leaders that continue to wage pointless and illegal wars. Now we see new abuses committed and encouraged by a lawless president, but this time it is Americans that are on the receiving end. Trump hasn't ended any of the foreign wars he inherited, and now it seems that he will use the military in an llegal mission here at home.

Megan San hour ago

The military is the only American institution that young people still have any real degree of faith in, it will be interesting to see the polls when this is all over with.

[Jun 02, 2020] Cornel West America Is A Failed Social Experiment, Neoliberal Wing Of Democratic Party Must Be Fought

See also End of empire Blueprint or scramble — RT Renegade Inc. Of the many important interviews you've done, this is one of the most important and best.
Notable quotes:
"... our culture so market-driven, everybody for sale, everything for sale, you can't deliver the kind of really real nourishment for soul, for meaning, for purpose. ..."
"... The system cannot reform itself. We've tried black faces in high places ..."
"... You've got a neoliberal wing of the Democratic party that is now in the driver's seat with the collapse of brother Bernie and they really don't know what to do because all they want to do is show more black faces -- show more black faces. ..."
"... So when you talk about the masses of black people, the precious poor and working-class black people, brown, red, yellow, whatever color, they're the ones left out and they feel so thoroughly powerless, helpless, hopeless, then you get rebellion. ..."
May 29, 2020 | www.realclearpolitics.com
Dr. Cornel West said on Friday we are witnessing the failed social experiment that is the United States of America in the protests and riots that have followed the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. West told CNN host Anderson Cooper that what is going on is rebellion to a failed capitalist economy that does not protect the people. West, a professor, denounced the neoliberal wing of the Democratic party that is all about "black faces in high places" but not actual change. The professor remarked even those black faces often lose legitimacy because they ingriatiate themselves into the establishment neo-liberal Democratic party.

"I think we are witnessing America as a failed social experiment," West said. "What I mean by that is that the history of black people for over 200 and some years in America has been looking at America's failure, its capitalist economy could not generate and deliver in such a way people can live lives of decency. The nation-state, it's criminal justice system, it's legal system could not generate protection of rights and liberties."

From commentary delivered on CNN Friday night:

DR. CORNEL WEST: And now our culture so market-driven, everybody for sale, everything for sale, you can't deliver the kind of really real nourishment for soul, for meaning, for purpose.

So when you get this perfect storm of all these multiple failures at these different levels of the American empire, and Martin King already told us about that...

The system cannot reform itself. We've tried black faces in high places. Too often our black politicians, professional class, middle class become too accommodated to the capitalist economy, too accommodated to a militarized nation-state, too accommodated to the market-driven culture of celebrities, status, power, fame, all that superficial stuff that means so much to so many fellow citizens.

And what happens is we have a neofascist gangster in the White House who doesn't care for the most part. You've got a neoliberal wing of the Democratic party that is now in the driver's seat with the collapse of brother Bernie and they really don't know what to do because all they want to do is show more black faces -- show more black faces.

But often times those black faces are losing legitimacy too because the Black Lives Matter movement emerged under a black president, a black attorney general, and a black Homeland Security [Secretary] and they couldn't deliver.

So when you talk about the masses of black people, the precious poor and working-class black people, brown, red, yellow, whatever color, they're the ones left out and they feel so thoroughly powerless, helpless, hopeless, then you get rebellion.

... ...

[Jun 02, 2020] There is increasing evidence that certain gangs and other nefarious outside agitators are engaged in deliberate property damage and vandalism during the recent protests against police brutality--demonstrating that they are trying to hijack these protests

Organized crime in the USA is not a myth and its connections to law enforcement also is not a myth. They are ideal provocateurs for riots. Also they want their piece of action too ;-)
Jun 02, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org
ak74 , Jun 2 2020 0:49 utc | 132
News Flash!!!

There is increasing evidence that certain gangs and other nefarious outside agitators are engaged in deliberate property damage and vandalism during the recent protests against police brutality--demonstrating that they are trying to hijack these protests and are not sincerely concerned about the issue of racism against African Americans/minorities in the US or police repression.

I wonder if William Barr or the American Regime will now finally declare these groups as "terrorists"?

Police at Protests All Over the Country Caught Destroying Property

https://libya360.wordpress.com/2020/06/01/police-at-protests-all-over-the-country-caught-destroying-property/

[Jun 02, 2020] Two goons who work at a fancy nightclub (aka Mob Headquarters) and one ends up dead. Smells like a mob hit; ordered and paid for by who is the right question

Jun 02, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

Trailer Trash , Jun 1 2020 19:10 utc | 37

It is my informal observation that riots tend to collapse from exhaustion after about three days. That's not happening this time, as every new day sees more and more house arrest orders (called "curfew", a nice antiseptic term) across the country.

Current events bring to mind the 1933 failed fascist coup d'etat exposed by General Smedley "War is a Racket" Butler. Instead of organizing half a million war veterans by the VFW, today's "Business Plot" organizers would have at their disposal one million already trained and equipped paramilitary police forces.

In such a scenario there is no reason for local cops to know who is pulling strings; all they have to do is follow orders, which they are more than willing to do, especially with commanders giving them football-style pep talks before going out to break heads.

It's well-documented that the spooks have been trying to get rid of Trump since the election, first with "Russia-gate", then arresting and/or driving out all his trusted staff, then the impeachment. Why should anyone think the spooks have given up? How many times did they try to kill Castro?

If the idea that a spook-led coup d'etat is in progress really has merit (I have "medium confidence"), it will be enforced by the police, not the Army or even National Guard units. So far, Guard units have not fired on protesters and many are not armed. I strongly suspect the army is not reliable, and commanders know it :

In Denver, Guard troops are carrying nonlethal weapons, including batons, tasers, and pepper spray. "They were fully embedded with Denver PD," said Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael Loh, Colorado's adjutant general. "The Denver police chief Paul Pazen said if we have to use deadly force and I want my police officers to do it , and I want you to be in support."

National Guard are recruited with boatloads of TV ads all promoting how Guardsmen are used to help their neighbors during natural disasters. Those ads never feature Guardsmen facing down or shooting angry protesters, and Guardsmen want to believe they are there "to help". The police, however, are under no such illusions and affirm their willingness to kill civilians every time they strap on their side-arm.

If Guardsmen get itchy trigger fingers and shoot civilians without orders, well that just happens sometimes, not a big deal. But if commanders give the order to shoot and they don't, that is a huge crisis which I assume commanders would want to avoid.

--------
From the BBC timeline :

During this attempt [to put Floyd in the patrolcar], at 20:19, Mr Chauvin pulled Mr Floyd out of the passenger side, causing him to fall to the ground, the report said.

He lay there, face down, still in handcuffs.

This suggests he was pulled out of the car by Chauvin for the express purpose of killing him. His cool demeanor is striking. He knows he is openly killing Floyd while being filmed but remains confident he is protected.

Two goons who work at a fancy nightclub (aka Mob Headquarters) and one ends up dead. Smells like a mob hit; ordered and paid for by who is the right question.


Alpi , Jun 1 2020 20:28 utc | 55

The death of George Floyd was ruled a HOMICIDE by independent autopsy.

https://www.rt.com/usa/490441-george-floyd-died-asphyxia-neck/

This report, combined with the fact that Derek Chauvin knew and worked with the victim, makes this homicide premeditated or at the very least a 2nd degree murder.

The fact that the other officers did not intervene makes them complicit in the act and should be brought up on manslaughter charges and accessory to commit murder.

Charging the other officers will help slightly in tamping down the riots, although it may be too late. The wheels have been placed in motion and this is morphing into something bigger than George Floyd.

RJPJR , Jun 1 2020 20:33 utc | 57
Look closely at the film of the end of the murder when the ambulance came for the victim:

https://twitter.com/littllemel/status/1266393141906726912

First responders immediately examine the victim for any signs of life, and they come prepared with equipment to resuscitate the victim if possible. Not these men.

They got out of the ambulance and moved in fast, picked up his body like it was a huge sack of potatoes, and THREW him on to the gurney. Obviously, they knew that he was dead, knew that he was supposed to be dead.

They were NOT first responders in any sense, but openly armed and uniformed policemen.

Consider...

[Jun 02, 2020] As the world watches the US being confronted with massive riots, looting, chaos and heightened violence, US officials, instead of reflecting on the systematic problems in their society that led to such a crisis, have returned to their old 'blame game' against left-wingers, 'fake news' media and 'external forces....

Jun 02, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

karlof1 , Jun 1 2020 17:14 utc | 15

It's True how this analysis sees and describes what's occurring within the Outlaw US Empire, more than validating Cornel West's assessment, except it misses the major component--Class--while seeing lizard's list:

"As the world watches the US being confronted with massive riots, looting, chaos and heightened violence, US officials, instead of reflecting on the systematic problems in their society that led to such a crisis, have returned to their old 'blame game' against left-wingers, 'fake news' media and 'external forces....'

"[O]bservers see a weak, irresponsible and incompetent leadership navigating the country into a completely opposite direction, with all-out efforts to deflect public attention from its own failure.

"Mass protests erupted in a growing numbers of cities in the US over the weekend, and at least 40 cities have imposed curfews, while the National Guard has been activated in 14 states and Washington DC, according to US media reports ... [P]rotests across the country continued into a sixth straight night.

"More Americans have slammed the US president for inciting hatred and racism, and US officials, who turn a blind eye to the deep-seated issues in American society, including racial injustice, economic woes and the coronavirus pandemic, began shifting the blame to the former US president, extremists, and China for inflaming the social unrests."

Blaming Chinese, Russians and/or Martians isn't going to help Trump. Without doing a thing, Biden has risen to a lead of 8-10% in the most recent polling. Trumps many mistakes have dug him a hole that now seems to be collapsing in upon him. He's cursed worse than Midas as everything he attempts turns out a big negative and only worsens the situation.

[Jun 02, 2020] How you define "oppression" ?

Jan 03, 2020 | crookedtimber.org

soru 12.31.19 at 6:39 pm 21 ( 21 )

The problem is in how you define "oppression".

For example if you take a marxian definition of l class, it means people who don't own the means of production, that easily means the bottom 80% of the population. However a large part of this group is usually considered middle class, and is not really seen as oppressed.

I don't think this is right; unlike 'exploited', Marx doesn't use the word 'oppression' in any technical or unusual way, just in it's usual sense.

So a prosperous middle class person in a liberal democracy is not oppressed. A Marxist would merely point out that they would be in a more capitalist society; one without a universal franchise that requires the rich to seek political allies.

people of the working class don't feel they are working class, but rather identify as blue collars

If you look into the actual details of vote tallies; you find more or less the precise opposite. There are a key block of people who, objectively speaking, earn most of their income from stocks that they own, in the form of pension funds. Up until recently, this block was the victim of false consciousness; they identified as something like 'blue collar', based on the jobs they used to do, and the communities they they used to belong to. As of the last few elections, political activity by the Republicans and Tories has managed to overcome that, so they now vote based on their objective class interests. Those who rely on a small lump of capital have mostly the same class interests as those in possession of more; fewer environmental regulations, lower minimum wages, and so forth.

Meanwhile, most of the current working class don't get to vote, because they lack citizenship in the countries in question.

[Jun 01, 2020] Riots underline the need for systemic social change. An end to vulture capitalism which has caused most of the problems associated with extreme income inequity.

Jun 01, 2020 | www.unz.com

Nancy O'Brien Simpson , says: Show Comment June 1, 2020 at 2:09 pm GMT

@mark green It is interesting how both sides think they know the other side. Liberals think that Deplorables are redneck Nascar people with zero education. Rightists think the left are deluded commie pinkos, radical queers and pink pussy hatted idiots.

To help with your education I have protested the death of George Floyd in Cincinnati for two days. The protests were mostly young persons and half were white. About two thousand were in our park yesterday to hear speeches. The speeches were about systemic social change. An end to vulture capitalism which has caused most of the problems associated with extreme income inequity.

Also, an end to the endless insane wars fought for profit and American hegemony in places we do not belong. No one is horrified at the violence, we are surprised it did not begin sooner. Desperate people act in desperate ways. The system needs to change.

[Jun 01, 2020] Class struggle and the reaction of the neoliberal society to riots in the USA

Notable quotes:
"... It's also true that the oligarchy will continue to preserve the system it's created in the U.S. through all available means, using its militarized police forces as its loyal street level enforcers. Change would happen very quickly if enough police turned and join with the "mobs". ..."
Jun 01, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

by lizard

hauled from a comment

I think this relevant to how fractured the discourse is. it's a repost from my litter watering hole.

I know it's going to be difficult to accept what I'm about to say because people get very invested in their chosen narratives, but it's important that you at least be exposed to the notion that it's all true.

It's true that now is the time to realize what's at stake, but instead of acting collectively for our mutual benefit, the cognitive challenge of accepting that all these things can be true at the same time will keep us tied to one of these things to the exclusion of all the others.

It's hard work, I know. But I have faith in you.

Posted by b on June 1, 2020 at 16:08 UTC | Permalink

this analysis sees and describes what's occurring within the Outlaw US Empire, more than validating Cornel West's assessment, except it misses the major component--Class--while seeing lizard's list:

"As the world watches the US being confronted with massive riots, looting, chaos and heightened violence, US officials, instead of reflecting on the systematic problems in their society that led to such a crisis, have returned to their old 'blame game' against left-wingers, 'fake news' media and 'external forces....'

"[O]bservers see a weak, irresponsible and incompetent leadership navigating the country into a completely opposite direction, with all-out efforts to deflect public attention from its own failure.

"Mass protests erupted in a growing numbers of cities in the US over the weekend, and at least 40 cities have imposed curfews, while the National Guard has been activated in 14 states and Washington DC, according to US media reports ... [P]rotests across the country continued into a sixth straight night.

"More Americans have slammed the US president for inciting hatred and racism, and US officials, who turn a blind eye to the deep-seated issues in American society, including racial injustice, economic woes and the coronavirus pandemic, began shifting the blame to the former US president, extremists, and China for inflaming the social unrests."

Blaming Chinese, Russians and/or Martians isn't going to help Trump. Without doing a thing, Biden has risen to a lead of 8-10% in the most recent polling. Trumps many mistakes have dug him a hole that now seems to be collapsing in upon him. He's cursed worse than Midas as everything he attempts turns out a big negative and only worsens the situation.

Posted by: karlof1 | Jun 1 2020 17:14 utc | 15

It's also true that the oligarchy will continue to preserve the system it's created in the U.S. through all available means, using its militarized police forces as its loyal street level enforcers. Change would happen very quickly if enough police turned and join with the "mobs". Otherwise any positive change in the prevailing structure will be extremely incremental if at all, and will be resisted at every level until it collapses because there is nothing left worth to exploit.

Posted by: krypton | Jun 1 2020 17:24 utc | 18


Posted by: Noirette | Jun 1 2020 17:26 utc | 19

Imho the present protests, social 'unrest,' in the USA will just die out as usual, nothing will be accomplished - what are the politcal demands? zero.. - on to the next chapter of misery and oppression.

Posted by: Noirette | Jun 1 2020 17:26 utc | 19

Indeed, and there was no other goal by stirring up these protest to the public murder of Floyd in plain daylight, after decades of deideologization of the US masses by brainwashing through US education system, TV, Hollywood, and so on.

Provocate the poor masses to find no way than to emotionally revolt through a brute action broadcasted to the four corners of the US through the media, to then show the rightful protesters as disorganized anarchist riotters without any vison or idea ( with unestimable help by white supremacists and cops infiltrated, and even by rich blonde boys stealing surf boards as if there was no tomorrow...)so as to show the middle and upper classes that this will be the aspect of the country in case socialist policies would be put in practice. This is to appeal once again, and possibly the last one, to the greedy individualist allegevd "winner" to once more vote against its own interest, as after the elections all what would not be looted by the poor would be looted by the state. Then it will come the gnashing of teeth and regrets on not having suppoorted those poor people when they were being murdered in the streets.

But, may be, some would even be grateful of being quirurgically robed by the state ( thorugh their bank accounts and propieties value going down the hole...) instead of by these obviously majority of needed people....needed at least of respect....

Posted by: H.Schmatz | Jun 1 2020 17:42 utc | 20

"Antifa" only shows up and exists when it is needed, then magically disappears; same as Ali Queada and ISIS ...

This!

<> <> <> <> <>

Reposting my earlier comment on the Open Thread:

ZH reports that 6 people have died in the protests. Dozens of protesters and police have been injured. Tens of millions of dollars in property damage, police overtime, and cost of the likely spread of coronavirus ('second wave' now being blamed on the protesters).

All because the authorities will not appropriately charge the killers of George Floyd.

Instead, Trump and MSM turn the focus to "antifa". How convenient. MSM says nothing of the killing of 26-year old Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia weeks before and the attempted cover-up of his killing.

How many more have to die before the authorities act appropriately? How much more destruction and silent spread of coronavirus?

<> <> <> <> <>

The protesters say that a manslaughter charge against Chauvin is an injustice. Chauvin was a veteran officer who KNEW WHAT HE WAS DOING when he remained on Floyd for more than 3 minutes after he had become non-responsive.

The protesters say that the other officers are accessories to murder because they did nothing to stop it.

Every reasonable person understands that the protesters have valid points. I would say that there's a consensus that Chauvin should be charged with Second-degree murder and the other officers charged as accessories. But the authorities drag their feet - while America burns.

!!

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Jun 1 2020 17:44 utc | 21

Posted by: Lozion | Jun 1 2020 17:49 utc | 22

a)refrain from looting and that specifically the the small properties is a stupidity that will backfire quickly!
b) the demonstrations leaders must organize their own security
squads to prevent provocateurs from outside.
Fm these tasks the 1st one is rather difficult to reach, yes.The second one is much easier.

Posted by: augusto | Jun 1 2020 16:43 utc | 6

[May 29, 2020] It s not a civil war until the *other* civilians start shooting at the rioters

May 29, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

Richard Steven Hack , May 29 2020 13:54 utc | 18

It's not a civil war until the *other* civilians start shooting at the rioters. At this point, it's just the usual police repression.

Now given that thousands of people who previously never owned a firearm have now acquired them - although it is unclear how many of them will be concealed carriers, given the variance in state laws - it's only a matter of time before some people start shooting. Like the Korean shop owners in LA notably did during the Rodney King riots IIRC.

But it won't be a civil war until a significant number of people on both sides are actually shooting.

There's a guy named Selco Begovic who survived the civil war in Bosnia. He writes articles for prepper Web sites and he has book out. He has vividly described conditions of life in a civil war. Most people in the US are not going to handle that sort of thing well. Try this one as it pertains to b's post.

How the SHTF in Bosnia: Selco Asks Americans, "Does this sound familiar?"

Trisha , May 29 2020 15:02 utc | 32

The true enemies of humanity are corporations, so the violence is not a "civil war", but revolt. Along those lines, it's not "looting" but sabotage. And the "police" are not peace-keepers but militarized enforcers.

It's a complete waste of time engaging in electoral "politics." Politicians are corporate whores doing their master's bidding, as are the "police."

Thanks b, for another incisive post.

Nemesiscalling , May 29 2020 16:07 utc | 44
Blacks occupy a disproportionate piece of those in poverty.

Poverty breeds a lot of different evils and many of them are self-defeating cycles.

... ... ...

karlof1 , May 29 2020 21:26 utc | 90
Just finished listening to the latest interview given by Michael Hudson , "Defining a Tyrant," whose focus is on the necessity of applying debt forgiveness to those residing within the Outlaw US Empire as the economic affects of COVID-19 will be much worse than we've already seen. Those who want to get to the current moment can begin listening at the 40 minute mark (yes, it's just audio). You'll need to note that the unemployment numbers as I've been writing for awhile now are greatly understated, although the host Gary Null does allude to that reality as NYC itself is emptying out--imagine Wall Street sitting in the middle of a ghost metropolis. As you'll learn, Trump's MAGA Mantra is 100% hollow without enacting a wide ranging debt write-off--even if factories could be put back into business, the Outlaw US Empire's economy would still remain very uncompetitive because of the issue of debt service and privatized health care--issues I've written about before.

And so the main topic: Civil War. Or, is it? Reality demands it be named Class War, for that's what it is in reality. Hudson maps out how its done and by whom while naming the abettors. The Popular Forces number 280 million, not including those too young/old/infirm to bear arms. The Forces of Reaction minus the paid forces of coercion number well under 100,000. Even adding in police and military, it's still 280 million to perhaps 10 million. And even if only half of the 280 million stand up, that's 140 million. The rallying cry ought to be It's better to die standing up for your rights versus groveling on your knees. Too bad all of the above's too large for one Tweet.

willie , May 29 2020 21:31 utc | 91
The way they provoked the violence on smashing shop windows with forehammer is exactly what was witnessed inParis when apparent "black block" types did the same and then got back in their policevan.
I note that in France Riot police is clad in robocop armour and that this armour is a weapon in itself,it deshumanizes the man inside to himself,and to others.A strike of his arm is much more powerful than if he were dressed as your american cop on patrol,probably they give them steroid or something to be able to move rapidly with all the weight.They must feel like the Hulk!

Now it would be a sign of peaceful government if just any political party would make a ban on those outfits.

vinnieoh , May 29 2020 21:51 utc | 93
So the medical examiner concluded that there was no evidence of choking or suffocation, and instead was the result of his "restraint" exacerbating underlying conditions, and suggesting there was the possibility of intoxication or drugs, which is the basis for the pre-determination that Chauvin will only be charged with 3rd degree murder, which of course they'll try to whittle down to manslaughter (the coincidental charge.)

Let me see if I've got this straight: a man that is being restrained by the neck, who eventually dies from no other action, who repeatedly pleads that "I can't breath," who onlookers see and record that the man can not in fact breath, and the medical examiner finds no evidence of choking or strangulation.

Further, Officer Chauvin, in close physical contact with the eventual corpse of his victim, must surely have felt the life ebbing from George Floyd. No way no how this mother fucker gets charged with anything other than 1st degree murder. His accomplices get charged with accessory to 1st degree murder.

Dr Wellington Yueh , May 29 2020 21:59 utc | 97
Note to peaceful protestors: CAPTURE THE PROVOCATEUR!!!!!

If you see somebody doing this shit, don't wag your finger at him, get that fucker and firmly-but-peacefully eject him from the crowd.

CitizenX , May 29 2020 22:10 utc | 102
Do yourself a favor and read-

"War is a Racket" -Smedley Butler 1933
"Beyond Vietnam - Time to Break the Silence" -MLK 1967
"Art Truth and Politics" -Harold Pinter 2005

What has changed in 100 yrs of uSSa Empire? Foreign policy? Domestic policy?
Economic policy? All have become worse.

The u$$a Regime lies, cheats, steals, rapes, murders, tortures, overthrows, bombs,
invades, destroys, and loots with impunity Global wide.
How a citizen of this Rogue nation can feel good about that is beyond hypocrisy.

This Regime and the humans behind this sickening system must be replaced.
The Military Surveilance Police state must end. The Humans behind this system must be replaced
by any means necessary. Both the safety of the world and domestically rely on their removal.

When finished "Entertaining Ourselves to Death" and coming to terms with the truly Evil nature of the human beings operating and supporting this system- perhaps you will becomea full human being. Get Up Stand Up.

The difference between ignorance and delusions are substantial.
Ignorance being the lack of knowledge. Delusion being the presence of false
knowledge. Where do you stand?

I don't need protection from the police.
But We ALL need protection FROM the police state.
Will you fight to defend yourself, your family, your neighbor or fellow human being
against a cruel vile corrupt system? Selfishness and greed are no excuse for complacency.
What is worth defending- your property or your virtues?

I have long been disgusted by the u$$a regimes domestic and foreign policies. Which means I have long been disgusted by my fellow citizens (human beings) which support and operate this vile system.

Revolution-
Complacency and passive complicit citizens Or values, humaneness and justice?

Where do you stand? When do you stand for a meaningful life of society?

lysias , May 29 2020 22:24 utc | 106
The white working and lower middle classes will not support violent rioting by blacks over a black issue. This is not a way to start a revolution.

What's more, the latest reporting I read in the Washington Post is that Floyd initially resisted arrest. The early reporting that he did not resist arrest was apparently incorrect.

Moreover, the medical evidence suggests that he died not from asphyxiation or a broken neck, but because of comorbidities.

Floyd had a lengthy criminal record.

If you want a revolution in the U.S., wait a month or two until there are mass evictions.

H.Schmatz , May 29 2020 22:30 utc | 108
It seems that the revolution will not happen after all, just has been declared curfew...

This is a warning to anybody who would dare to revolt against the coming misery conditions of life while the oligarchs continue enriching themselves and looting every penny available.

This is a secondary gain from the pandemic, as we were accustomed to multiple declared state of alarm throughout the world, they thinks that going a step further would not cause any shock....

There have been equally violent revolts in France and Chile continuously during the past year, and in France again in the banlieus, and then curfew was not declared...

This is the land of the free....There you have your fascist state turning on yourselves...
When they came for the Venezuelans, seized their assets and embassies, I did nothing; when they came for the Iranians and murdered Soleimani, I said nothing; when they came for the communists in the Odessa House of Unions, I did not move a finger; when they slaughtered people at the four cardinal points of the world, I did continue living my "American Dream" as if the thing would not go with me...until I did awaken to find myself in the same nightmare....

https://twitter.com/edukabak/status/1266055032883023872/photo/1

Do you think that were not for the riots of the last nights, Chauvin would had been detained and charged?

Richard Steven Hack , May 29 2020 22:50 utc | 112
I've suggested in the past that civil war was unlikely in the US because that would requires a significant percentage of the electorate to actually take sides and shoot someone - and most of the population is so anti-gun these days that such a scenario was unlikely, especially over political issues that aren't usually considered as *directly* adversely affecting most of the population, at least in their minds. It would also require some direct organization on both sides and I don't see anyone capable of that on the national scene.

What I can easily see happening, however, is the sort of multi-city, large-scale rioting that occurred in the Sixties and in other parts of the world, leading to a declaration of martial law in at least some, possibly many, larger cities, if not nation-wide (a lot of rural areas would likely not be affected.) Economic issues and issues of social repression are usually the causes of large-scale violence historically in most countries. Most "political" issues usually boil down to either ethnic or economic or repression issues.

The US doesn't have really that much ethnic issues, except in the Southwest over Latino immigration. The US has racial, economic and repression issues, however. Most of the time they just simmer, with local limited outbreaks of violence. But in cases of blatant repression, or under severe economic pressure, they can explode into wider-scale violence.

And we've got both on the horizon. The impact of the pandemic (and the government's clueless response, thanks to Trump and previous Presidents) on the economy is likely to produce extreme economic pressure, especially on the middle class and the poor. Adding the extreme militarization of the US police over the last several decades, and this is a recipe for large-scale violence that continues for more than a few days or a week. Once police over-reaction and the appearance of the National Guard to control rioting results in the sort of deaths like in the well-known Kent State incident, then like in Ukraine we could start to see cops and National Guard fatalities from snipers. Next we could see things like the 1985 Philadelphia police bombing of the MOVE headquarters and the use of armed drones (Connecticut has a law banning armed drones - but not for police.) The next step beyond that is curfew, and the next step beyond that is martial law.

The next step beyond that is not civil war - it's explicit fascism. And that ends in revolution - which then usually recycles into either more fascism or "modified: fascism (see France in the 1800's.)

Bottom line: It's not going to get better. One of the many things preppers have been warning against is national repression. They warned against natural disasters like hurricanes and no one listened until Katrina. They warned against pandemics and no one listened - until today. They've been warning against national repression - like the Selco article I linked to. Better listen this time.

The US government has been preparing for some time:
Pentagon preparing for mass civil breakdown

Maybe you should: How To Prepare for Civil Unrest: 30 Steps You Can Take Now

[Mar 10, 2020] Neoliberalism the ideology at the root of all our problems by George Monbiot

Highly recommended!
Under neoliberalism inequality is recast as virtuous. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve: Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations and redefines citizens as consumers
Notable quotes:
"... Imagine if the people of the Soviet Union had never heard of communism. The ideology that dominates our lives has, for most of us, no name. Mention it in conversation and you'll be rewarded with a shrug. Even if your listeners have heard the term before, they will struggle to define it. Neoliberalism: do you know what it is? ..."
"... Its anonymity is both a symptom and cause of its power. It has played a major role in a remarkable variety of crises: the financial meltdown of 2007‑8, the offshoring of wealth and power, of which the Panama Papers offer us merely a glimpse, the slow collapse of public health and education, resurgent child poverty, the epidemic of loneliness , the collapse of ecosystems, the rise of Donald Trump . ..."
"... Inequality is recast as virtuous. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve. ..."
"... Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that "the market" delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning. ..."
"... We internalise and reproduce its creeds. The rich persuade themselves that they acquired their wealth through merit, ignoring the advantages – such as education, inheritance and class – that may have helped to secure it. The poor begin to blame themselves for their failures, even when they can do little to change their circumstances. ..."
"... Never mind structural unemployment: if you don't have a job it's because you are unenterprising. Never mind the impossible costs of housing: if your credit card is maxed out, you're feckless and improvident. Never mind that your children no longer have a school playing field: if they get fat, it's your fault. In a world governed by competition, those who fall behind become defined and self-defined as losers. ..."
"... Among the results, as Paul Verhaeghe documents in his book What About Me? are epidemics of self-harm, eating disorders, depression, loneliness, performance anxiety and social phobia. ..."
"... It may seem strange that a doctrine promising choice should have been promoted with the slogan 'there is no alternative' ..."
"... Where neoliberal policies cannot be imposed domestically, they are imposed internationally, through trade treaties incorporating " investor-state dispute settlement ": offshore tribunals in which corporations can press for the removal of social and environmental protections. When parliaments have voted to restrict sales of cigarettes , protect water supplies from mining companies, freeze energy bills or prevent pharmaceutical firms from ripping off the state, corporations have sued, often successfully. Democracy is reduced to theatre. ..."
"... Neoliberalism was not conceived as a self-serving racket, but it rapidly became one ..."
"... Another paradox of neoliberalism is that universal competition relies upon universal quantification and comparison. The result is that workers, job-seekers and public services of every kind are subject to a pettifogging, stifling regime of assessment and monitoring, designed to identify the winners and punish the losers. The doctrine that Von Mises proposed would free us from the bureaucratic nightmare of central planning has instead created one. ..."
"... When you pay an inflated price for a train ticket, only part of the fare compensates the operators for the money they spend on fuel, wages, rolling stock and other outlays. The rest reflects the fact that they have you over a barrel . ..."
"... Those who own and run the UK's privatised or semi-privatised services make stupendous fortunes by investing little and charging much. In Russia and India, oligarchs acquired state assets through firesales. In Mexico, Carlos Slim was granted control of almost all landline and mobile phone services and soon became the world's richest man. ..."
"... Financialisation, as Andrew Sayer notes in Why We Can't Afford the Rich , has had a similar impact. "Like rent," he argues, "interest is ... unearned income that accrues without any effort". ..."
"... Chris Hedges remarks that "fascist movements build their base not from the politically active but the politically inactive, the 'losers' who feel, often correctly, they have no voice or role to play in the political establishment". When political debate no longer speaks to us, people become responsive instead to slogans, symbols and sensation . To the admirers of Trump, for example, facts and arguments appear irrelevant. ..."
"... Like communism, neoliberalism is the God that failed. But the zombie doctrine staggers on, and one of the reasons is its anonymity. Or rather, a cluster of anonymities. ..."
"... The invisible doctrine of the invisible hand is promoted by invisible backers. Slowly, very slowly, we have begun to discover the names of a few of them. We find that the Institute of Economic Affairs, which has argued forcefully in the media against the further regulation of the tobacco industry, has been secretly funded by British American Tobacco since 1963. We discover that Charles and David Koch , two of the richest men in the world, founded the institute that set up the Tea Party movement . We find that Charles Koch, in establishing one of his thinktanks, noted that "in order to avoid undesirable criticism, how the organisation is controlled and directed should not be widely advertised". ..."
"... The anonymity of neoliberalism is fiercely guarded. ..."
"... Neoliberalism's triumph also reflects the failure of the left. When laissez-faire economics led to catastrophe in 1929, Keynes devised a comprehensive economic theory to replace it. When Keynesian demand management hit the buffers in the 70s, there was an alternative ready. But when neoliberalism fell apart in 2008 there was ... nothing. This is why the zombie walks. The left and centre have produced no new general framework of economic thought for 80 years. ..."
"... What the history of both Keynesianism and neoliberalism show is that it's not enough to oppose a broken system. A coherent alternative has to be proposed. For Labour, the Democrats and the wider left, the central task should be to develop an economic Apollo programme, a conscious attempt to design a new system, tailored to the demands of the 21st century. ..."
Apr 16, 2016 | www.theguardian.com

Financial meltdown, environmental disaster and even the rise of Donald Trump – neoliberalism has played its part in them all. Why has the left failed to come up with an alternative? @GeorgeMonbiot

Imagine if the people of the Soviet Union had never heard of communism. The ideology that dominates our lives has, for most of us, no name. Mention it in conversation and you'll be rewarded with a shrug. Even if your listeners have heard the term before, they will struggle to define it. Neoliberalism: do you know what it is?

Its anonymity is both a symptom and cause of its power. It has played a major role in a remarkable variety of crises: the financial meltdown of 2007‑8, the offshoring of wealth and power, of which the Panama Papers offer us merely a glimpse, the slow collapse of public health and education, resurgent child poverty, the epidemic of loneliness , the collapse of ecosystems, the rise of Donald Trump . But we respond to these crises as if they emerge in isolation, apparently unaware that they have all been either catalysed or exacerbated by the same coherent philosophy; a philosophy that has – or had – a name. What greater power can there be than to operate namelessly?

Inequality is recast as virtuous. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve.

So pervasive has neoliberalism become that we seldom even recognise it as an ideology. We appear to accept the proposition that this utopian, millenarian faith describes a neutral force; a kind of biological law, like Darwin's theory of evolution. But the philosophy arose as a conscious attempt to reshape human life and shift the locus of power.

Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that "the market" delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning.

Attempts to limit competition are treated as inimical to liberty. Tax and regulation should be minimised, public services should be privatised. The organisation of labour and collective bargaining by trade unions are portrayed as market distortions that impede the formation of a natural hierarchy of winners and losers. Inequality is recast as virtuous: a reward for utility and a generator of wealth, which trickles down to enrich everyone. Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve.

We internalise and reproduce its creeds. The rich persuade themselves that they acquired their wealth through merit, ignoring the advantages – such as education, inheritance and class – that may have helped to secure it. The poor begin to blame themselves for their failures, even when they can do little to change their circumstances.

Never mind structural unemployment: if you don't have a job it's because you are unenterprising. Never mind the impossible costs of housing: if your credit card is maxed out, you're feckless and improvident. Never mind that your children no longer have a school playing field: if they get fat, it's your fault. In a world governed by competition, those who fall behind become defined and self-defined as losers.

See also Neoliberalism has brought out the worst in us by Paul Verhaeghe, Sep 24, 2014

Among the results, as Paul Verhaeghe documents in his book What About Me? are epidemics of self-harm, eating disorders, depression, loneliness, performance anxiety and social phobia. Perhaps it's unsurprising that Britain, in which neoliberal ideology has been most rigorously applied, is the loneliness capital of Europe . We are all neoliberals now.

***

The term neoliberalism was coined at a meeting in Paris in 1938. Among the delegates were two men who came to define the ideology, Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek. Both exiles from Austria, they saw social democracy, exemplified by Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal and the gradual development of Britain's welfare state, as manifestations of a collectivism that occupied the same spectrum as nazism and communism.

In The Road to Serfdom , published in 1944, Hayek argued that government planning, by crushing individualism, would lead inexorably to totalitarian control. Like Mises's book Bureaucracy , The Road to Serfdom was widely read. It came to the attention of some very wealthy people, who saw in the philosophy an opportunity to free themselves from regulation and tax. When, in 1947, Hayek founded the first organisation that would spread the doctrine of neoliberalism – the Mont Pelerin Society – it was supported financially by millionaires and their foundations.

With their help, he began to create what Daniel Stedman Jones describes in Masters of the Universe as "a kind of neoliberal international": a transatlantic network of academics, businessmen, journalists and activists. The movement's rich backers funded a series of thinktanks which would refine and promote the ideology. Among them were the American Enterprise Institute , the Heritage Foundation , the Cato Institute , the Institute of Economic Affairs , the Centre for Policy Studies and the Adam Smith Institute . They also financed academic positions and departments, particularly at the universities of Chicago and Virginia.

As it evolved, neoliberalism became more strident. Hayek's view that governments should regulate competition to prevent monopolies from forming gave way – among American apostles such as Milton Friedman – to the belief that monopoly power could be seen as a reward for efficiency.

Something else happened during this transition: the movement lost its name. In 1951, Friedman was happy to describe himself as a neoliberal . But soon after that, the term began to disappear. Stranger still, even as the ideology became crisper and the movement more coherent, the lost name was not replaced by any common alternative.

At first, despite its lavish funding, neoliberalism remained at the margins. The postwar consensus was almost universal: John Maynard Keynes 's economic prescriptions were widely applied, full employment and the relief of poverty were common goals in the US and much of western Europe, top rates of tax were high and governments sought social outcomes without embarrassment, developing new public services and safety nets.

But in the 1970s, when Keynesian policies began to fall apart and economic crises struck on both sides of the Atlantic, neoliberal ideas began to enter the mainstream. As Friedman remarked, "when the time came that you had to change ... there was an alternative ready there to be picked up". With the help of sympathetic journalists and political advisers, elements of neoliberalism, especially its prescriptions for monetary policy, were adopted by Jimmy Carter's administration in the US and Jim Callaghan's government in Britain.

It may seem strange that a doctrine promising choice should have been promoted with the slogan 'there is no alternative'

After Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan took power, the rest of the package soon followed: massive tax cuts for the rich, the crushing of trade unions, deregulation, privatisation, outsourcing and competition in public services. Through the IMF, the World Bank, the Maastricht treaty and the World Trade Organisation, neoliberal policies were imposed – often without democratic consent – on much of the world. Most remarkable was its adoption among parties that once belonged to the left: Labour and the Democrats, for example. As Stedman Jones notes, "it is hard to think of another utopia to have been as fully realised."

***

It may seem strange that a doctrine promising choice and freedom should have been promoted with the slogan "there is no alternative". But, as Hayek remarked on a visit to Pinochet's Chile – one of the first nations in which the programme was comprehensively applied – "my personal preference leans toward a liberal dictatorship rather than toward a democratic government devoid of liberalism". The freedom that neoliberalism offers, which sounds so beguiling when expressed in general terms, turns out to mean freedom for the pike, not for the minnows.

Freedom from trade unions and collective bargaining means the freedom to suppress wages. Freedom from regulation means the freedom to poison rivers , endanger workers, charge iniquitous rates of interest and design exotic financial instruments. Freedom from tax means freedom from the distribution of wealth that lifts people out of poverty.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Naomi Klein documented that neoliberals advocated the use of crises to impose unpopular policies while people were distracted. Photograph: Anya Chibis/The Guardian

As Naomi Klein documents in The Shock Doctrine , neoliberal theorists advocated the use of crises to impose unpopular policies while people were distracted: for example, in the aftermath of Pinochet's coup, the Iraq war and Hurricane Katrina, which Friedman described as "an opportunity to radically reform the educational system" in New Orleans .

Where neoliberal policies cannot be imposed domestically, they are imposed internationally, through trade treaties incorporating " investor-state dispute settlement ": offshore tribunals in which corporations can press for the removal of social and environmental protections. When parliaments have voted to restrict sales of cigarettes , protect water supplies from mining companies, freeze energy bills or prevent pharmaceutical firms from ripping off the state, corporations have sued, often successfully. Democracy is reduced to theatre.

Neoliberalism was not conceived as a self-serving racket, but it rapidly became one

Another paradox of neoliberalism is that universal competition relies upon universal quantification and comparison. The result is that workers, job-seekers and public services of every kind are subject to a pettifogging, stifling regime of assessment and monitoring, designed to identify the winners and punish the losers. The doctrine that Von Mises proposed would free us from the bureaucratic nightmare of central planning has instead created one.

Neoliberalism was not conceived as a self-serving racket, but it rapidly became one. Economic growth has been markedly slower in the neoliberal era (since 1980 in Britain and the US) than it was in the preceding decades; but not for the very rich. Inequality in the distribution of both income and wealth, after 60 years of decline, rose rapidly in this era, due to the smashing of trade unions, tax reductions, rising rents, privatisation and deregulation.

The privatisation or marketisation of public services such as energy, water, trains, health, education, roads and prisons has enabled corporations to set up tollbooths in front of essential assets and charge rent, either to citizens or to government, for their use. Rent is another term for unearned income. When you pay an inflated price for a train ticket, only part of the fare compensates the operators for the money they spend on fuel, wages, rolling stock and other outlays. The rest reflects the fact that they have you over a barrel .

In Mexico, Carlos Slim was granted control of almost all phone services and soon became the world's richest man. Photograph: Henry Romero/Reuters

Those who own and run the UK's privatised or semi-privatised services make stupendous fortunes by investing little and charging much. In Russia and India, oligarchs acquired state assets through firesales. In Mexico, Carlos Slim was granted control of almost all landline and mobile phone services and soon became the world's richest man.

Financialisation, as Andrew Sayer notes in Why We Can't Afford the Rich , has had a similar impact. "Like rent," he argues, "interest is ... unearned income that accrues without any effort". As the poor become poorer and the rich become richer, the rich acquire increasing control over another crucial asset: money. Interest payments, overwhelmingly, are a transfer of money from the poor to the rich. As property prices and the withdrawal of state funding load people with debt (think of the switch from student grants to student loans), the banks and their executives clean up.

Sayer argues that the past four decades have been characterised by a transfer of wealth not only from the poor to the rich, but within the ranks of the wealthy: from those who make their money by producing new goods or services to those who make their money by controlling existing assets and harvesting rent, interest or capital gains. Earned income has been supplanted by unearned income.

Neoliberal policies are everywhere beset by market failures. Not only are the banks too big to fail, but so are the corporations now charged with delivering public services. As Tony Judt pointed out in Ill Fares the Land , Hayek forgot that vital national services cannot be allowed to collapse, which means that competition cannot run its course. Business takes the profits, the state keeps the risk.

The greater the failure, the more extreme the ideology becomes. Governments use neoliberal crises as both excuse and opportunity to cut taxes, privatise remaining public services, rip holes in the social safety net, deregulate corporations and re-regulate citizens. The self-hating state now sinks its teeth into every organ of the public sector.

Perhaps the most dangerous impact of neoliberalism is not the economic crises it has caused, but the political crisis. As the domain of the state is reduced, our ability to change the course of our lives through voting also contracts. Instead, neoliberal theory asserts, people can exercise choice through spending. But some have more to spend than others: in the great consumer or shareholder democracy, votes are not equally distributed. The result is a disempowerment of the poor and middle. As parties of the right and former left adopt similar neoliberal policies, disempowerment turns to disenfranchisement. Large numbers of people have been shed from politics.

Chris Hedges remarks that "fascist movements build their base not from the politically active but the politically inactive, the 'losers' who feel, often correctly, they have no voice or role to play in the political establishment". When political debate no longer speaks to us, people become responsive instead to slogans, symbols and sensation . To the admirers of Trump, for example, facts and arguments appear irrelevant.

Judt explained that when the thick mesh of interactions between people and the state has been reduced to nothing but authority and obedience, the only remaining force that binds us is state power. The totalitarianism Hayek feared is more likely to emerge when governments, having lost the moral authority that arises from the delivery of public services, are reduced to "cajoling, threatening and ultimately coercing people to obey them".

***

Like communism, neoliberalism is the God that failed. But the zombie doctrine staggers on, and one of the reasons is its anonymity. Or rather, a cluster of anonymities.

The invisible doctrine of the invisible hand is promoted by invisible backers. Slowly, very slowly, we have begun to discover the names of a few of them. We find that the Institute of Economic Affairs, which has argued forcefully in the media against the further regulation of the tobacco industry, has been secretly funded by British American Tobacco since 1963. We discover that Charles and David Koch , two of the richest men in the world, founded the institute that set up the Tea Party movement . We find that Charles Koch, in establishing one of his thinktanks, noted that "in order to avoid undesirable criticism, how the organisation is controlled and directed should not be widely advertised".

The nouveau riche were once disparaged by those who had inherited their money. Today, the relationship has been reversed

The words used by neoliberalism often conceal more than they elucidate. "The market" sounds like a natural system that might bear upon us equally, like gravity or atmospheric pressure. But it is fraught with power relations. What "the market wants" tends to mean what corporations and their bosses want. "Investment", as Sayer notes, means two quite different things. One is the funding of productive and socially useful activities, the other is the purchase of existing assets to milk them for rent, interest, dividends and capital gains. Using the same word for different activities "camouflages the sources of wealth", leading us to confuse wealth extraction with wealth creation.

A century ago, the nouveau riche were disparaged by those who had inherited their money. Entrepreneurs sought social acceptance by passing themselves off as rentiers. Today, the relationship has been reversed: the rentiers and inheritors style themselves entre preneurs. They claim to have earned their unearned income.

These anonymities and confusions mesh with the namelessness and placelessness of modern capitalism: the franchise model which ensures that workers do not know for whom they toil ; the companies registered through a network of offshore secrecy regimes so complex that even the police cannot discover the beneficial owners ; the tax arrangements that bamboozle governments; the financial products no one understands.

The anonymity of neoliberalism is fiercely guarded. Those who are influenced by Hayek, Mises and Friedman tend to reject the term, maintaining – with some justice – that it is used today only pejoratively . But they offer us no substitute. Some describe themselves as classical liberals or libertarians, but these descriptions are both misleading and curiously self-effacing, as they suggest that there is nothing novel about The Road to Serfdom , Bureaucracy or Friedman's classic work, Capitalism and Freedom .

***

For all that, there is something admirable about the neoliberal project, at least in its early stages. It was a distinctive, innovative philosophy promoted by a coherent network of thinkers and activists with a clear plan of action. It was patient and persistent. The Road to Serfdom became the path to power.

Neoliberalism, Locke and the Green party | Letters Read more

Neoliberalism's triumph also reflects the failure of the left. When laissez-faire economics led to catastrophe in 1929, Keynes devised a comprehensive economic theory to replace it. When Keynesian demand management hit the buffers in the 70s, there was an alternative ready. But when neoliberalism fell apart in 2008 there was ... nothing. This is why the zombie walks. The left and centre have produced no new general framework of economic thought for 80 years.

Every invocation of Lord Keynes is an admission of failure. To propose Keynesian solutions to the crises of the 21st century is to ignore three obvious problems. It is hard to mobilise people around old ideas; the flaws exposed in the 70s have not gone away; and, most importantly, they have nothing to say about our gravest predicament: the environmental crisis. Keynesianism works by stimulating consumer demand to promote economic growth. Consumer demand and economic growth are the motors of environmental destruction.

What the history of both Keynesianism and neoliberalism show is that it's not enough to oppose a broken system. A coherent alternative has to be proposed. For Labour, the Democrats and the wider left, the central task should be to develop an economic Apollo programme, a conscious attempt to design a new system, tailored to the demands of the 21st century.

George Monbiot's How Did We Get into This Mess? is published this month by Verso. To order a copy for £12.99 (RRP £16.99) ) go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99.

Topics Economics

[Jan 02, 2020] The Purpose Of Life Is Not Happiness: It s Usefulness Happiness as an achievable goal is an illusion, but that doesn t mean happiness itself is not attainable by Darius Foroux

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... "The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well." ..."
"... Recently I read Not Fade Away by Laurence Shames and Peter Barton. It's about Peter Barton, the founder of Liberty Media, who shares his thoughts about dying from cancer. ..."
Aug 22, 2019 | getpocket.com

For the longest time, I believed that there's only one purpose of life: And that is to be happy. Right? Why else go through all the pain and hardship? It's to achieve happiness in some way. And I'm not the only person who believed that. In fact, if you look around you, most people are pursuing happiness in their lives.

That's why we collectively buy shit we don't need, go to bed with people we don't love, and try to work hard to get approval of people we don't like.

Why do we do these things? To be honest, I don't care what the exact reason is. I'm not a scientist. All I know is that it has something to do with history, culture, media, economy, psychology, politics, the information era, and you name it. The list is endless.

We are who are.

Let's just accept that. Most people love to analyze why people are not happy or don't live fulfilling lives. I don't necessarily care about the why .

I care more about how we can change.

Just a few short years ago, I did everything to chase happiness.

But at the end of the day, you're lying in your bed (alone or next to your spouse), and you think: "What's next in this endless pursuit of happiness?"

Well, I can tell you what's next: You, chasing something random that you believe makes you happy.

It's all a façade. A hoax. A story that's been made up.

Did Aristotle lie to us when he said:

"Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence."

I think we have to look at that quote from a different angle. Because when you read it, you think that happiness is the main goal. And that's kind of what the quote says as well.

But here's the thing: How do you achieve happiness?

Happiness can't be a goal in itself. Therefore, it's not something that's achievable. I believe that happiness is merely a byproduct of usefulness. When I talk about this concept with friends, family, and colleagues, I always find it difficult to put this into words. But I'll give it a try here. Most things we do in life are just activities and experiences.

Those things should make you happy, right? But they are not useful. You're not creating anything. You're just consuming or doing something. And that's great.

Don't get me wrong. I love to go on holiday, or go shopping sometimes. But to be honest, it's not what gives meaning to life.

What really makes me happy is when I'm useful. When I create something that others can use. Or even when I create something I can use.

For the longest time I foud it difficult to explain the concept of usefulness and happiness. But when I recently ran into a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, the dots connected.

Emerson says:

"The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well."

And I didn't get that before I became more conscious of what I'm doing with my life. And that always sounds heavy and all. But it's actually really simple.

It comes down to this: What are you DOING that's making a difference?

Did you do useful things in your lifetime? You don't have to change the world or anything. Just make it a little bit better than you were born.

If you don't know how, here are some ideas.

That's just some stuff I like to do. You can make up your own useful activities.

You see? It's not anything big. But when you do little useful things every day, it adds up to a life that is well lived. A life that mattered.

The last thing I want is to be on my deathbed and realize there's zero evidence that I ever existed.

Recently I read Not Fade Away by Laurence Shames and Peter Barton. It's about Peter Barton, the founder of Liberty Media, who shares his thoughts about dying from cancer.

It's a very powerful book and it will definitely bring tears to your eyes. In the book, he writes about how he lived his life and how he found his calling. He also went to business school, and this is what he thought of his fellow MBA candidates:

"Bottom line: they were extremely bright people who would never really anything, would never add much to society, would leave no legacy behind. I found this terribly sad, in the way that wasted potential is always sad."

You can say that about all of us. And after he realized that in his thirties, he founded a company that turned him into a multi-millionaire.

Another person who always makes himself useful is Casey Neistat . I've been following him for a year and a half now, and every time I watch his YouTube show , he's doing something.

He also talks about how he always wants to do and create something. He even has a tattoo on his forearm that says "Do More."

Most people would say, "why would you work more?" And then they turn on Netflix and watch back to back episodes of Daredevil.

A different mindset.

Being useful is a mindset. And like with any mindset, it starts with a decision. One day I woke up and thought to myself: What am I doing for this world? The answer was nothing.

And that same day I started writing. For you it can be painting, creating a product, helping elderly, or anything you feel like doing.

Don't take it too seriously. Don't overthink it. Just DO something that's useful. Anything.

Darius Foroux writes about productivity, habits, decision making, and personal finance. His ideas and work have been featured in TIME, NBC, Fast Company, Inc., Observer, and many more publications. Join his free weekly newsletter.

More from Darius Foroux

This article was originally published on October 3, 2016, by Darius Foroux, and is republished here with permission. Darius Foroux writes about productivity, habits, decision making, and personal finance.

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[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

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Last modified: July, 09, 2020