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Neoliberalism as secular religion,
 "Idolatry of money", "Cult of possessions", "Neoliberal jihad"

News Neoliberalism Recommended Links Neoliberalism as Trotskyism for the rich Ayn Rand and her Objectivism Cult Classification of Corporate Psychopaths Pope Francis on danger of neoliberalism
Greenspan as the Chairman of Financial Politburo techno-fundamentalism Psychological Warfare and the New World Order: The Secret War Against the American People Over-consumption of Luxury Goods as Market Failure The Great Transformation Greenspan humor Etc

“What does Christianity mean today? National Socialism is a religion. All we lack is a religious genius capable of uprooting outmoded religious practices and putting new ones in their place. We lack traditions and ritual. One day soon National Socialism will be the religion of all Germans. My Party is my church, and I believe I serve the Lord best if I do his will, and liberate my oppressed people from the fetters of slavery. That is my gospel.”
Joseph Goebbels

There is something similar between struggle of the Papal regime with Reformation and the current attack of neoliberal MSM on alternative media. That raises the question to what extent Neoliberalism as an ideology can be viewed as "secular religion".  Pope Francis attacked neoliberalism as an idolatry of money (see Pope Francis on danger of neoliberalism)

We can also can talk about neoliberal jihad -- the idea of world domination:

"Bolshevism combines the characteristics of the French Revolution with those of the rise of Islam." "Marx has taught that Communism is fatally predestined to come about; this produces a state of mind not unlikethat of the early successors of Mahommet." Among religions, Bolshevism is to be reckoned with Mohammedanism rather than with Christianity and Buddhism. Christianity and Buddhism are primarily personal religions, with mystical doctrines and a love of contemplation. Mohammedanism and Bolshevism are practical, social, unspiritual, concerned to win the empire of this world.

Russell [114]

Perhaps it was Charles Watson who first described Islam as totalitarian in 1937, and proceeded to show how: "By a million roots, penetrating every phase of life, all of them with religious significance, it is able to maintain its hold upon the life of Moslem peoples. "Bousquet, one of the foremost authorities on Islamic Law, distinguishes two aspects of Islam which he considers totalitarian: Islamic Law, and the Islamic notion of Jihad which has for its ultimate aim the conquest of the entire world, in order to submit it to one single authority.


The question can political philosophy became a civic religion was previously extensively studied in regard to Marxism-Leninism. See, for example, Does Marxism/Socialism Qualify as a Religion? (November 05, 2009):

One of the results of the establishment of the Church of England was the official persecution by use of government force of other religions, especially Jews and Roman Catholics. One of the main reasons that people from Europe settled in the Colonies was to flee the government-imposed Anglican Church.

The people who settled the Colonies and established the United States recognized that a government-imposed religion was contrary to free religious thought. The 1st Amendment that was eventually ratified provides not only for religious freedom, but freedom from this government-imposed religion:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; ...

The first clause became known as the "Establishment Clause" and the second the "Free Exercise Clause."

I raise this issue because I (and others) believe that the imposition of Marxism and Socialism (Marxism "light") in America, constitutes the establishment of a civil religion that is violative of the Establishment Clause.

Is Marxism and/or Socialism a religion? In Malnak v. Yogi, 592 F.2d 197, 212 (C.A.N.J., 1979), a federal District Court in New Jersey raised this very question:

A more difficult question would be presented by government propagation of doctrinaire Marxism, either in the schools or elsewhere. Under certain circumstances Marxism might be classifiable as a religion and an establishment thereof could result.

Unfortunately, the Court did not answer this question. The Court did, however, leave us with this dicta upon which to ponder:

Such signs might include formal services, ceremonial functions, the existence of clergy, structure and organization, efforts at propagation, observation of holidays and other similar manifestations associated with the traditional religions. Of course, a religion may exist without any of these signs, so they are not determinative, at least by their absence, in resolving a question of definition. But they can be helpful in supporting a conclusion of religious status given the important role such ceremonies play in religious life.

Webster’s defines Marxism as:

the political, economic, and social principles and policies advocated by Marx; especially : a theory and practice of socialism including the labor theory of value, dialectical materialism, the class struggle, and dictatorship of the proletariat until the establishment of a classless society "marxism." (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2009.)

Webster’s defines ‘dialectical materialism’ as:

"the Marxist theory that maintains the material basis of a reality constantly changing in a dialectical process and the priority of matter over mind." (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2009.)

Because Marxism proclaims that “reality” is “constantly changing” then dialectical materialism is a Marxist theory that promotes an “ultimate reality” (See Rosenberger v. Rector and Visitors of University of Virginia, 515 U.S. 819, 819, (U.S.Va.,1995)) or an “ultimate concern” for believers and followers which occupies a place parallel to that filled by God in traditionally religious persons according to the C.A. 7 in 1994.

A general working definition of religion for Free Exercise purposes is any set of beliefs addressing matters of “ultimate concern” occupying a “ ‘place parallel to that filled by ... God’ in traditionally religious persons.” See Welsh v. United States, 398 U.S. 333, 340, 90 S.Ct. 1792, 1796, 26 L.Ed.2d 308 (1970).

In TOWARD A CONSTITUTIONAL DEFINITION OF RELIGION from the Harvard Law Review 91 HVLR 1056 it is clear that political philosophies can become civic religions.

Even political and social beliefs may be religious. Tillich suggests: “If a national group makes the life and growth of the nation its ultimate concern … [e]verything is centered in the only god, the nation ….” [FN91] This point has been variously made about “civil religion in America,” [FN92] Communism, [FN93] Marxism, [FN94] Nazism, Italian Fascism, and Japanese militarism. [FN95]

[FN91]. P. TILLICH, supra note 66, at 44. [FN92]. Bellah, Civil Religion in America, 96 DAEDALUS 1, 1-9 (1967). See also Cousins, La Politique Comme Religion aux Etats-Unis, in RELIGION ET POLITIQUE: ACTES DE COLLOQUE ORGANISÉ PAR LE CENTRE INTERNATIONAL D'ETUDES HUMANISTES ET PAR L'INSTITUT D'ETUDES PHILOSOPHIQUES DE ROME, JANVIER 3-7, 1978 (forthcoming, 1978).

[FN93]. J. BENNETT, CHRISTIANITY AND COMMUNISM 87-88 (1970). See also J. MURRY, THE NECESSITY OF COMMUNISM (1932) (arguing that Communism is the world's one living religion).

[FN94]. See L. DEWART, THE FUTURE OF BELIEF 56-58 (1966).

RELIGION (1933).

Is there anyone who would disagree that Marxists believe (1) there is no God, and (2) that people should believe in Marxism rather than in a God? If so, then Marxism certainly qualifies as a "religion." Accordingly, because the people have freedom to believe or not to believe in any particular religion, should we not be free to believe in Marxism or not? I personally would not bemoan the right of a Marxist to believe in Marxism. Otherwise, I would violate the Free Exercise Clause of the 1st Amendment: "Congress shall make no law ... prohibiting the free exercise thereof; ..."

The next question (to be addressed tomorrow) is whether the imposition, by use of government edict, of Marxism upon those of us who do not believe in Marxism would violate the "Establishment Clause."

Posted by Rgnad Kzin at

Neoliberalism as the official state religion of the USA which displaced Christianity

Pope Francis aptly called neoliberalism as "idolatry of money".  In other words a cult. Here is a direct quote:

No to the new idolatry of money

55. One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.

56. While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule. 

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Old News ;-)

[Dec 04, 2016] The myth of Ronald Reagan: pragmatic moderate or radical conservative?

Notable quotes:
"... he changed American politics forever by demonstrating that style was more important than substance. In fact, he showed that style was everything and substance utterly unimportant. ..."
"... Conservatives used "bracket creep" to convince the middle class that reducing marginal rates on the top tax brackets along with their own would be a good idea, then with the assistance of Democrats replaced the revenue with a huge increase in FICA so that the Social Security Trust Fund could finance the deficit in the rest of the budget. The result was a huge boon to the richest, little difference for the middle class, and a far greater burden for the working poor. ..."
"... Any conversation about who the fantasy-projection "Reagan" was, misses an important reality: He was a hologram, fabricated by a kaleidoscope of various sorts of so-called "conservative" handlers and puppeteers. It was those "puppeteers" who ranged from heartlessly, stunningly "conservative" (destroya-tive), all the way further right to the kind of militaristic, macho, crackpots who have finally emerged from under their rocks at this year's "candidates." ..."
The Guardian

cgoodwood 19 Sep 2015 11:40

Do not contradict the memories of all the old teabaggers who desperately need the myth of Saint Ronnie to justify their Greed is Good declining mentality and years.

When Reagan cut-and-ran on Lebanon he showed rare discretion. A lot of the puffery stuff was B-Movie grade, but there was a lot of cross-the-aisle ventures, too.

He was a politician. The current GOP is just a bunch of white Fundie bullies, actually and metaphorically (e.g., Carson).

Zepp -> thedono 19 Sep 2015 11:37

Well, compared to Cruz, or Santorum, or Huckabee, he's a moderate. Of course, compared to the right people, you can describe Mussolini or Khruschev as moderates...

mastermisanthrope 19 Sep 2015 11:37

Lifelong shill

LostintheUS -> William J Rood 19 Sep 2015 11:36

Reagan underwent a political conversion when Nancy broke up his marriage with Jane Wyman and married him.

LostintheUS 19 Sep 2015 11:33

Here is the Reagan administration in a five second video clip:

LostintheUS -> inchoateruffian 19 Sep 2015 11:32

Here is the video clip where Don Regan (former CEO of Merrill Lynch) tells PRESIDENT Reagan to "speed it up".

RightSaid -> ID3732233 19 Sep 2015 11:31

The cold war ended while Reagan was president, but he did not win the cold war. His rhetoric and strategy was wishful thinking - there's no way he could have had the definitive intelligence about the entire military-political-economic that would have justified the confidence he projected. He merely lucked out, significantly damaging the US economy by trying (and luckily succeeding) to out-militarize the soviets.

pretzelattack -> kattw 19 Sep 2015 11:31

both clinton and obama have showed a willingness to "reform social security". try naked capitalism, there are probably a number of articles in the archives.

LostintheUS -> piethein 19 Sep 2015 11:29

And that the emergency room federally funded program that saved his life was soon after him.

LostintheUS -> pretzelattack 19 Sep 2015 11:28

Many of us saw through him...I noted the senility during his speeches during his first did many people I knew.

pretzelattack -> 4Queeen4country 19 Sep 2015 11:27

thatcher said of reagan "bit of a dim bulb..."

Jim Loftus 19 Sep 2015 11:26

Dementia masquerading as politics.
But you can't say anything negative about Saint Ronald!

Peter Davis -> Peter Davis 19 Sep 2015 11:22

I believe Reagan also is responsible for creating the Hollywood notion in American politics and political thinking that life works just like a movie--with good guys and bad guys. And all one needs is a gun and you can save the world. That sort of delusional thinking has been at the heart of the modern GOP ever since.

loljahlol -> ID3732233 19 Sep 2015 11:21

Reagan did not end the Cold War. Brezhnev rule solidified the Soviet death. Their corrupt, inefficient form of capitalism could not compete with the globalization of Western capitalism.

John78745 19 Sep 2015 11:21

There's not much nuance to Reagan. He was a coward, a bully and a loser. He got hundreds of U.S. Marines killed then he ran from the terrorists in Beirut and on the Archille Lauro personally creating the seeds of the morass of terrorists we now live with. He fostered the republican traditions of sending U.S. jobs overseas at the expense of U.S. taxpayers and of invading helpless, hapless nations, a tradition so adeptly followed by Bush I & II. He also promised that there would never be a need for another amnesty.

I guess it's true that he talked mean to the Russians, broke unions, and helped make the military industrial complex into the insatiable war machine that it is today. Remember murderous Iran-Contra (a real) scandal where he and his minions worked in secret without congressional authorization to overthrow a democratically elected government while conspiring to supply arms to the dastardly Iranians!

We could also say that he bravely fought to save the U.S. from socialized medicine and to expunge the tradition of free tuition for California students. Whatta hero!

thankgodimanatheist 19 Sep 2015 11:19

Reagan, the acting President, was the worst President since WWII until the Cheney/Bush debacle.

Most of the problems we face today can be directly traced to his voodoo economics, huge deficit spending, deregulation, and in retrospect disastrous foreign policies.

LostintheUS 19 Sep 2015 11:17

"these days everyone seems to love Ronald."

Absolutely, not true. The farther along we go in time, the more Americans realize the damage this man and his backers did to America and the world. The inversion of the tax tables, the undoing of union laws, the polarization of Americans against each other so the plutocrats had no real opposition and on and on. His camp stole the election in 1980 through making a back door deal with the Iranian government to hold onto the American hostages until the election when Jimmy Carter had negotiated an end to the hostage crisis, which was the undoing of Jimmy Carter's administration.

"Behind Carter's back, the Reagan campaign worked out a deal with the leader of Iran's radical faction - Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini - to keep the hostages in captivity until after the 1980 Presidential election." This is, unquestionably, treason.

No, Reagan marks the downward turn for our country and has resulted in the economic and social mess we still have not clawed our way back out of. No, Reagan is no hero, he is an American nemesis and a traitor. Reagan raised taxes three times while slashing the tax rate of the super rich...starting the downward spiral of the middle-class and the funneling of money toward the 1%. Thus his reputation as a "tax cutter", yeah, if you were a multi-millionaire.

Check this out for a synopsis of the damage:

namora -> nogapsallowed 19 Sep 2015 11:15

Never thought of Reagan as the first Shrub but it fits. I wonder if future pundits will sing the Dub's praises as well. I think I'm gonna be sick for a bit.

kattw -> namora 19 Sep 2015 11:10

Pretzel is maybe talking about the 'strengthen SS' bandwagon? Perhaps? Not entirely sure myself, but yeah - one of the major democrat platform planks is that SS should NOT be privatized, and that if people want to invest in stocks, they can do that on their own. The whole point of SS is to be a mattress full of cash that is NOT vulnerable to the vagaries of the market, and will always have some cash in it to be used as needed.

SS would be totally secure, too, if congress would stop robbing it for other projects, or pay back all they've borrowed. As it is, I wish *I* was as broke as republicans claim SS is - I wouldn't mind having a few billion in the bank.

William J Rood 19 Sep 2015 11:08

Reagan was former president of the Screen Actors' Guild. Obviously, he thought unions for highly educated workers were great. Meatpackers? Not so much.

RealSoothsayer 19 Sep 2015 11:04

This article does not mention the fact that in his last couple of years as President at least, his mental state had seriously deteriorated. He could not remember his own policies, names, etc. CBS' Leslie Stahl should be prosecuted for not being honest with her everyone when she found out.

Peter Davis 19 Sep 2015 11:04

Reagan was a failed president who nonetheless managed to convince people that he was great. He was a professional actor, after all. And he acted his way into the White House. Most importantly, he changed American politics forever by demonstrating that style was more important than substance. In fact, he showed that style was everything and substance utterly unimportant. He was the figurehead while his handlers did the dirty work of Iran-Contra, ballooning deficits, and tanking unemployment.

nishville 19 Sep 2015 11:03

For me, he was a pioneer. He was the first sock-puppet president, starting a noble tradition that reached its climax with W.

mbidding -> hackerkat 19 Sep 2015 11:03

In addition to:

Treasonous traitor when, as a presidential candidate, he negotiated with Khomeini to hold the hostages till after the election.

Subverter of the Constitution via the Iran-Contra scandal.

Destroyer of social cohesion by turning JFK's famous admonishment of "ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country" on its head with his meme that all evil emanates from the government and taxation represents stealing rather than a social obligation for any civilized society that wishes to continue to develop in a sound fashion that lifts all boats.

Incarcerator in Chief through his tough on crime and war on drugs policies, not to mention defunding mental health care.

Pisser in Chief through his successful efforts to imbed trickle down economics as the economic thought du jour which even its original architects, notably Stockman, now confirm is a failed theory that we nonetheless cling to to this day.

Ignoramus in Chief by gutting real federal financial aid for higher education leading to the obscene amounts of student debt our college students now incur.

Terrorist creator extraordinaire not only with the creation of the Latin American death squads you note, but the creation, support, trading, and funding of the mujahedin and Bin Laden himself, now known as the Taliban, Al Qa'ida, and ISIS, only the most notable among others.

namora -> trholland1 19 Sep 2015 10:59

That is not taking into account his greatest role for which he was ignored for a much deserved Oscar, Golden Globe or any of the other awards passed out by the entertainment industry, President of The United States of America. He absolutely nailed that one.

William J Rood 19 Sep 2015 10:58

Conservatives used "bracket creep" to convince the middle class that reducing marginal rates on the top tax brackets along with their own would be a good idea, then with the assistance of Democrats replaced the revenue with a huge increase in FICA so that the Social Security Trust Fund could finance the deficit in the rest of the budget. The result was a huge boon to the richest, little difference for the middle class, and a far greater burden for the working poor.

Tax brackets could have been indexed to inflation, but that wouldn't have been so great for Reagans real supporters.

Doueman 19 Sep 2015 10:55

What sad comments by these armchair experts.

They don't gel with my experiences in North America during this period at all. When Reagan ran for the presidency he was generally ridiculed by much of the press in the US and just about all of the press in the UK for being a right wing fanatic, a lightweight, too old, uninformed and even worse an actor. I found this rather curious and watched him specifically on TV in unscripted scenarios to form my own impression as to how such a person, with supposedly limited abilities, could possibly run for President of the US. I get a bit suspicious when organisations and individuals protest and ridicule too much.

My reaction was that he handled himself well and gradually concluded that the mainly Eastern liberal press in the US couldn't really stomach a California actor since they themselves were meant to know everything. He actually was pretty well read ( visitors were later astonished to read his multiple annotations in heavy weight books in his library). He was a clever and astute union negotiator dealing with some of the toughest Hollywood moguls who would eat most negotiators for dinner. He had become Governor of California and had done a fine job. I thought it was unlikely he was the simpleton many portrayed. He couldn't be easily categorised as he embraced many good aspects of the Democrats and the Republicans. Life wasn't so polarised then.

The US had left leaning Republicans and right wing Democrats. A political party as Churchill noted was simply a charger to ride into action.

In my view, his presidential record was pretty remarkable. A charming, fair minded charismatic man without the advantage of a wealthy background or influential family. The world was lucky to have him.

raffine -> particle 19 Sep 2015 10:50

Reagan's second term was a disaster. But as someone below mentioned, conservative pundits and their financers engaged in a campaign to make Reagan into a right-wing FDR. The most effective, albeit bogus, claim on Reagan's behalf was that he had ended the Cold War.

jpsartreny 19 Sep 2015 14:22

Reagan is the shadow governments greatest triumph. After the adolescent Kennedy, egomaniacs Johnson and Nixon , they needed front guys who followed orders instead .

The experiment with the peanut farmer from Georgia provided disastrous to Zebrew Brzezinski and the liberals. The conservatives had better luck with a B- movie actor with an great talent to read of the teleprompter.

RealSoothsayer -> semper12 19 Sep 2015 14:19

How? By talking? Gobachev brought down the USSR with his 'Glasnost' and 'Perestroika' policies. His vision was what communist China later on achieved: mixed economy that flies a red flag. Reagan was just an observer, absolutely nothing more. Tito of Yugoslavia was even more instrumental.

Marc Herlands 19 Sep 2015 14:17

IMHO Reagan was the second most successful president, behind FDR and ahead of LBJ. Not that I liked anything about him, but he moved this country to the right and set the play book. He lowered taxes on the wealthy, the corporations, capital gains, and estate taxes. He reduced growth in programs for the poor, and made it impossible to increase their funding after his presidency because of he left huge federal deficits caused by lowering taxes and increasing outlays on the military. This Republican playbook still is their way of making sure that the Democrats can't give the poor more money after they lose power. Also, he enlarged the program for deregulating industries, doing away with antitrust laws, hindering labor laws, encouraged anti-union behavior, and did nothing for AIDS research. He was a scoundrel who did a deal with Iran to prevent Carter from being re-elected. He directly disobeyed Congressional laws not to intervene in Nicaragua. He set the tone for US interventions after him.

bloggod 19 Sep 2015 14:17

Obama, Clinton, and the Bushes all hope to be forgiven for their unpardonable crimes.

Popularity is created. It is not populism, or informed consent of the pubic as approval for more of the same collusion.

It is a One Party hoe down.

bloggod -> SigmetSue 19 Sep 2015 14:12


the indicted Sec of Defense Weinberger; the indicted head of the CIA Casey who "died" as he was due to testify: Mcfarlane, Abrams, Clair George, Oilyver North, Richard Secord, Albert Hakim

Reagan had no genius, he had Bush-CIA and the Jerry Falwell, Billy Graham, and the "immoral majority" of anti-abortion war profiteers.

Marios Antoniou Lattimore 19 Sep 2015 13:52

I agree with everything you mentioned, and I intensely dislike Reagan YET the point of the article wasn't that Reagan was good, it rather points to the fact that Republicans have shifted so far to the right that Reagan would appear moderate compared to the current batch.

Rainer Jansohn pretzelattack 19 Sep 2015 13:52

Interesting had been his speeches during the Cold War.Scientists have subsumed it under "Social Religion",a special form of political theology.Simple dialectical:UDSSR the incarnation of the evil/hell on the other side USA :the country of God himself.A tradition in USA working until now.There is no separation between government and church as in good old centuries sincetwo centuries resulting from enlightening per Philosophie/Voltaire/Kant/Hume/Descartes and so on.Look at Obamas speeches/God is always mixed in!

talenttruth 19 Sep 2015 13:49

Any conversation about who the fantasy-projection "Reagan" was, misses an important reality: He was a hologram, fabricated by a kaleidoscope of various sorts of so-called "conservative" handlers and puppeteers. It was those "puppeteers" who ranged from heartlessly, stunningly "conservative" (destroya-tive), all the way further right to the kind of militaristic, macho, crackpots who have finally emerged from under their rocks at this year's "candidates."

The fact that Reagan was going ga-ga – definitely in his second term, and likely for part of the first – was entirely convenient for his Non-Human-Based-Crackpot-Right-Holographers, since he had was not actually "driven" to vacuousness by a tragic mental condition (dementia) – THAT change was merely a "short putt" – from his entire previous life.

Regarding his Great Achievement, the collapse of the Soviet Union? After decades of monstrous over-spending by the USA's Military-Industrial-Complex, the bogus and equally insane USSR finally bankrupted itself trying to "compete" and fell. Reagan (and his puppeteer handlers), always excellent at Taking Credit for anything, showed up with exquisite cynical timing, and indeed Took Credit.

Lest anyone forget, Reagan got elected in 1980, via a totally illegal and stunningly immoral "side deal" with the Iranians, in which they agreed to not release our hostages to make Carter look like a feeble old man. Then we got Reagan who WAS a "feeble old man" (ESPECIALLY intellectually and morally). Reagan "won," the hostages were "released" and he of course took credit for that too.

So all these so-called "candidates" ARE the heirs of all the very worst of Ronald Reagan: they are all simpleminded, they are totally beholden to Hidden Sociopathic Billionaires hiding behind various curtains, and they all have NO CLUE what the word "ethics" means. Vacuous, anti-intellectual, scheming, appealing only to morons, and puppets all. Perfect "Reaganites."

Bill Ehrhorn -> semper12 19 Sep 2015 13:32

It seems that the teabaggers and their ilk give only Reagan credit.

SigmetSue 19 Sep 2015 13:16

They called him the Teflon President because nothing ever stuck. It still doesn't. That was his genius -- and I'm no fan.

Lattimore 19 Sep 2015 13:13

The article seems to present Reagan as an theatrical figure. I disagree. Reagan, President of the United States, was a criminal; as such, he was among the most corrupt and anti democratic person to hold the office POTUS. The fact that he tripled the national debt, raised taxes and skewed the tax schedules to benifit the wealthy, are comparitively minor.
Reagan's crimes and anti democratic acts:
1. POTUS: CIA smuggling cocaine into the U.S., passing the drug to wholesalers, who then processed the drug and distributed crack to Black communities. At the same time Reagan's "War on Crime" insured that the Black youth who bought "Central Intelligenc Agencie's" cocaine were criminalized and handed lengthy prison sentences.
2. POTUS supported SOUTH AMERICAN terrorist, and the genocidal atrocities commited by terrorist in Chili, Guatamala, El Mazote, etc.
3. POTUS supported SOUTH AFRICAN apartheid, and the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela as well. Vetoing a bill that would express condemnation of South Africa.
4. POTUS sold Arms to Iran.
5. POTUS used taxpayer dollars to influence election outcomes.
6. POTUS rigged government grants to enrich his cronies.
7. POTUS thew mental patients onto the streets.
8. POTUS supported McCarthyism, witch hunts, etc.
9. POTUS created and supported Islamic terrorist--fore runners of al Queada, ISIS, etc.

Niko2 LostintheUS 19 Sep 2015 13:12

I don't have much love for Nancy, but she did not break up this marriage, to be fair. And she actually got rid off the extreme right wingers in Reagan's administration, like Haig and Regan, whom she called "extra chromosome republicans". Surely she was a vain and greedy flotus with no empathy whatsoever for people not in her Bel Air circles (I can easily imagine her, "Do I really have to go and see these Aids-Babies, I'd rather shop at Rodeo Drive, lose the scheduler") but she realized at an early stage that hubbies shtick-it-to-the-commies policies would do him no favour. Maybe she's the unsung heroine of his presidency.

tommydog -> MtnClimber 19 Sep 2015 13:04

The principle subsidies to big oil are probably the strategic oil reserve and subsidies to low income people for winter heating oil. You can choose which of those you'd like to cut. After that you're arguing about whether exploration costs should be expensed in the year incurred or capitalized and amortized over time.

WilliamK 19 Sep 2015 13:03

He was one of J Edgar Hoover's red baiting fascist admiring boys along with Richard Nixon and Walt Disney used to destroy the labor unions, control the propaganda machine of Hollywood and used to knuckle under the television networks and undermine as much as possible the New Deal polices of Franklin Roosevelt. An actor groomed by the General Electric Corporation and their fellow travelers. "Living better through electricity" was his mantra and he played the role of President to push forward their right wing agenda. Now we are in new stage in our "political development" in America. The era of the "reality television star" with Hollywood in bed with the military industrial complex, selling guns, violence and sex to the fool hardy and their children and prime time television ads push pharmaceutical drugs, children hear warnings of four hour erections, pop-stars flash their tits and asses and a billionaire takes center stage as the media cashes in and goes along for the ride. Yeah Ronnie was a second tier film star and with his little starlet Nancy by his side become one of America's greatest salesman.

Backbutton 19 Sep 2015 12:57

LOL! Reagan was a walking script renderer, with lines written by others, and a phony because he was just acting the part of POTUS. His speeches were all crafted, and he had good writers.

He was no Abraham Lincoln.

And now these morons running for office all want to rub off his "great communicator" fix.

Good help America!

Milwaukee Broad 19 Sep 2015 12:49

Ronald Reagan was an actor whom the depressingly overwhelming majority of American voters thought was a messiah. They so believed in him that they re-elected him to a second term. Nothing positive whatsoever became of his administration, yet he is still worshiped by millions of lost souls (conservatives).

Have a nice day.

Michael Williams 19 Sep 2015 12:48

The US was the world's leading creditor when Reagan took office. The US was the world's leading debtor by the time Bush 1 was tossed out of office.

This is what Republicans cannot seem to remember.

All of the other scandals pale in comparison, even as we deal with the blowback from most of these original, idiotic policies.

Reagan was an actor, mouthing words he barely understood, especially as his dementia progressed.

This is the exact reason the history is so poorly taught in the US.
People might make connections....

Jessica Roth 19 Sep 2015 12:46

Oh, he had holes in his brain long before the dementia. "Facts are stupid things", trees cause pollution, and so on.

A pathetic turncoat who sold out his original party (the one that kept his dad in work throughout the Great Depression via a series of WPA jobs) because Nancy allegedly "gave the best head in Hollywood" and who believed that only 144,000 people were going to Heaven, presumably accounting for his uncaring treatment of the less-well-off.

His administration was full of corruption, from Richard Allen's $1000 in an envelope (and three wristwatches) that he claimed was an inappropriate gift for Mrs. Reagan he had "intercepted" and then "forgotten" to report to William Casey trading over $3,000,000 worth of stocks while CIA director. (Knowing about changes in the oil market ahead of time sure came in handy.) You had an attorney general who took a $50,000 "severance payment" (never done before) from the board of a corporation he resigned from to avoid conflict of interest charges and this was William French Smith; his successor, Edwin Meese, was the one with real scandals (about the sale of his home).

Hell, Reagan himself put his ranch hand (Dennis LeBlanc) on the federal payroll as an "advisor" to the Commerce Department. I didn't know the Commerce Dept needed "advice" on clearing wood from St. Ronnie's ranch, but LeBlanc got a $58,500 salary out of the deal. (Roughly £98,000 at today's prices.) Nice work if you can get it.

Meanwhile, RR "talked tough" at the Soviets (resulting in the world nearly ending in 1983 due to a false alarm about a US nuclear attack) while propping up any rightwing dictator they could find, from the South African racists to Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos (after they had Aquino assassinated at the airport) to Roberto "Death Squad" D'Aubuisson in El Salvador (the man who masterminded the assassination of Archbishop Romero while he was performing Mass).

Oh, and while Carter did a nice job of shooting himself in the foot, Reagan benefited in the election not only from his treasonous dealings with the Iranian hostage-takers (shades of Nixon making a deal with North Viet Nam to stall the peace talks until after the 1968 elections, promising them better terms) but through more pedestrian means such as his campaign's stealing of Carter's briefing book for the campaign's only debate, Reagan being coached for the debate by a supposedly neutral journalist (George Will, of ABC and The Washington Post), who then went on television afterwards (in the days when there were only three commercial channels) and "analysed" how successful Reagan had been in executing his "game plan" and seeming "Presidential" without either Will or ABC bothering to mention that Will had coached Reagan and designed the "game plan" in question. The "liberal bias" in the media, no doubt.

Always a joke, only looking slightly better by the dross that has followed him. (Including Bill "Third Way" Clinton and his over-£50,000,000 in post-Presidential "speaking fees" graft, and Barack Obama, drone-murderer of children in over a dozen countries and serial-summary-executioner of U.S. citizens. When Gordon-effing-Brown is the best that's held office on either side of the Atlantic since 1979, you can see how this planet is in the state it's in.)

pretzelattack DukeofMelbourne 19 Sep 2015 12:45

his stand on russia was inconsistent, and he didn't cause it to collapse. his economic programs were a failure. his foreign policy generally a disaster. he set the blueprint for the current mess.

pretzelattack semper12 19 Sep 2015 12:38

a total crock. reagan let murdering thugs run rampant as long as they paid lip service to democracy, the world over from africa to central america. the ussr watched this coward put 240 marines to die in lebanon, and then cut and run, exactly the pattern he was so ready to condemn as treason in others, and was so ready to portray as showing weakness, and you think the ussr was terrified of him. he was a hollywood actor playing a role, and you bought it.

Tycho1961 19 Sep 2015 12:13

No President exists in a political vacuum. While he was in office, Reagan had a large Democrat majority in the House of Representatives and a small Republican majority in the Senate. The Supreme Court was firmly liberal. Whatever his political agenda Reagan knew he had to constructively engage with people of both parties that were in opposition to him. If he didn't he would suffer the same fate as Carter, marginalized by even his own party. His greatest strength was as a negotiator. Reagan's greatest failures were when he tried to be clever and he and his advisors were found to be rather ham handed about it.

RichardNYC 19 Sep 2015 11:57

The principal legacy of Ronald Reagan is the still prevalent view that corporate interests supersede individual interests.

Harry Haff 19 Sep 2015 11:45

Reagan did many horrible things while in office, committed felonies and supported murderous regimes in Central America that murdered tens of thousands of people with the blessing of the US chief executive. he sold arms to Iran and despoiled the natural environment whenever possible. But given those horrendous accomplishments, he could not now get a seat at the table with the current GOP. He would be considered a RINO, that most stupid and inaccurate term, at best, and a closet liberal somewhere down the line. The current GOP is more to the right than the politicians in the South after the Civil War.

[Sep 19, 2015] A Knee-Jerk Free Trader Response is Faith-Based

"...Many of the conditions under which free trade between nations is guaranteed to be desirable are unlikely to hold in practice."
"...All conservative economics is faith based (along with everything else they believe). Delusional is another good descriptor."
"...Fair trade might actually be a good thing, but that is not what "Free trade" generally means. Mostly it means freedom for capital, chains for labor, and devastation for the environment."
Dani Rodrik:
Trade within versus between nations: ...economics does not offer unconditional policy prescriptions. Every graduate student learns that depending on the background specifications, any policy x can be good or bad. A minimum wage can lower or raise employment (depending on whether employers have monopsony power); a natural resource discovery can raise or lower growth (depending on the likelihood of the Dutch disease); fiscal consolidation can expand or contract output (depending on the respective strengths of expectational versus Keynesian effects). And yes, the dictum that free trade benefits a nation depends on a long list of qualifying conditions.
So the proper response to the question "is free trade good?" is, as always, "it depends." When an economist says "I support free trade" s/he must mean that s/he judges the circumstances under which free trade would not be desirable to be very rare or unlikely to obtain in the context at hand.
Many of the conditions under which free trade between nations is guaranteed to be desirable are unlikely to hold in practice. Market imperfections, returns to scale, macro imbalances, absence of first-best policy instruments are ubiquitous in the real world, particularly in the developing world on which I spend most of my time. This does not guarantee that import restrictions will be necessarily desirable. There are many ways in which governments can screw up, even when they mean well. But it does mean that a knee-jerk free trader response is faith-based rather than science-based. ...

[He goes on to answer a question about differential support for trade within nations versus trade between nations.]

Posted by Mark Thoma on Friday, September 18, 2015 at 10:50 AM in Economics, International Trade, Market Failure | Permalink Comments (16)


"economics does not offer unconditional policy prescriptions. Every graduate student learns that depending on the background specifications, any policy x can be good or bad."

Thank you Dani! This statement holds in general but in particular on the issue of free trade. I've loved his old post where he admitted he had to endure a class taught by William Kristol and Kristol gave this brilliant man only a C.


All conservative economics is faith based (along with everything else they believe). Delusional is another good descriptor.

DrDick -> Paine ...

Fair trade might actually be a good thing, but that is not what "Free trade" generally means. Mostly it means freedom for capital, chains for labor, and devastation for the environment.


About the fact that economists do not offer unconditional policy prescriptions, especially when it comes to free trade and "the dictum that free trade benefits a nation depends on a long list of qualifying conditions". One thing I have to strenuously say about that: BULLSHALONEY!

All I heard in my econ classes were the benefits of free trade. EVERYONE drank the kool aid! I even had a prof who had worked in the Council of Economic Advisors and his role was to review trade policies. He told us flat out he would ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS support any and all free trade agreements that came up, without ANY regard to damage done to domestic firms and/or workers. Paul Krugman wrote one of our text books which, like many econ textbooks at the time, had WHOLE chapters dedicated to debunking free trade myths! Now you are going to tell me that economists never take a stand on a policy position as being good or bad?! ARE YOU KIDDING?

Pgl I have seen you post and have agreed with you many times, but not on this one, hell no!

MacAuley -> Stubborn1...

You are so right, Stubborn1. I have taken at least six international econ courses, and in every case the prof was strongly in favor of "free trade", usually the more the merrier. Last year, as a refresher I took an internet Int'l Econ course at "Marginal Revolution University", which was surprisingly good except for the relentless free-trade propaganda.

Kenneth said...

Friday, May 15th, 2015, "Details of President Barack Obama's proposed trade deal, the Trans Pacific Partnership, have been kept secret, and the deal itself is kept in a locked room guarded by men with guns, with members of Congress having to schedule an appointment and jump through hoops just to actually read the massive proposed treaty.
Let me tell you what you have to do to read this agreement. Follow this: You can only take a few of your staffers who happen to have a security clearance, because - God knows why - this is secure. This is classified. It's nothing to do with defense," said Boxer.

Boxer then described how she was forced to turn over her cell phone and was prevented from even taking notes while looking over the 800-plus page trade treaty.

"So I go down with my staff that I could get to go with me, and as soon as I get there, the guard says to me, 'Hand over your electronics. Okay. I give over my electronics. Then the guard says, 'You can't take notes.' I said, 'I cannot take notes?'" said Boxer.

Some have taken to calling the TPP treaty "Obamatrade," in reference to the secretive nature in which Obamacare was written and how then-House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi infamously claimed, "We have to pass it to find out what's in it."
At the heart of the TPP is something referred to as a "living agreement provision," which means the treaty can be amended or changed at any time after it is ratified, without congressional approval, essentially handing over U.S. sovereignty and subjugating U.S. businesses and workers to international laws, according to CNS News.

While this treaty is being promoted as being about FREE TRADE, it is really just a massive corporatist agreement that gives increased authority to major international corporations, which will hurt both American labor unions and small businesses.

Conservatives need to look past the pleasant sounding platitudes put forward by the Establishment Republicans who are supporting this massive secret deal that only benefits major international corporations, and (gulp) team up with socialists like Sen. Elizabeth Warren to kill this deal, which will only hurt America in the long run.

It's sole purpose is to "level the playing field" - which means taking America down to the same level as everyone else."

Second Best -> Kenneth...

'At the heart of the TPP is something referred to as a "living agreement provision," which means the treaty can be amended or changed at any time after it is ratified, without congressional approval, essentially handing over U.S. sovereignty and subjugating U.S. businesses and workers to international laws, according to CNS News.'


what's new, this is SOP in the U.S., don't bother to read the fine print, it's out of date before the ink is dry, like hospitals that don't accept same day payment on site, then submit individual bills showing up months later from every damn person within 50 ft of the patient and refuse to confirm if there's more

and Scott Walker is busting up unions with right to work laws so labor can have the same power under a 'living agreement' as hospitals to charge for services provided.

MacAuley -> Kenneth...

It's not accurate to call TPP "Obamatrade" since the concept was developed and fleshed out in 2007 and 2008 under the Bush Administration. Most of the work was managed at the SES level, since the Bush Administration was pretty lame-duck by then and most of the political appointees were looking for jobs. But the Bush Administration at the cabinet level gave approval for the exploratory discussions and conceptual analysis of a TPP.

By the time Obama arrived in 2009 there was a coherent TPP initiative ready for the Obama Administration to consider. I doubt that Obama had heard of TPP before he came to Washington, but it wasn't long before the Obama Administration decided to go forward with it.

Paine said...

Dani is a source of wisdom and shrewdness
A combo rarely combined in one head

... ... ...

[Sep 19, 2015] 'A Knee-Jerk Free Trader Response is Faith-Based'

Dani Rodrik:
Trade within versus between nations: ...economics does not offer unconditional policy prescriptions. Every graduate student learns that depending on the background specifications, any policy x can be good or bad. A minimum wage can lower or raise employment (depending on whether employers have monopsony power); a natural resource discovery can raise or lower growth (depending on the likelihood of the Dutch disease); fiscal consolidation can expand or contract output (depending on the respective strengths of expectational versus Keynesian effects). And yes, the dictum that free trade benefits a nation depends on a long list of qualifying conditions.
So the proper response to the question "is free trade good?" is, as always, "it depends." When an economist says "I support free trade" s/he must mean that s/he judges the circumstances under which free trade would not be desirable to be very rare or unlikely to obtain in the context at hand.
Many of the conditions under which free trade between nations is guaranteed to be desirable are unlikely to hold in practice. Market imperfections, returns to scale, macro imbalances, absence of first-best policy instruments are ubiquitous in the real world, particularly in the developing world on which I spend most of my time. This does not guarantee that import restrictions will be necessarily desirable. There are many ways in which governments can screw up, even when they mean well. But it does mean that a knee-jerk free trader response is faith-based rather than science-based. ...

[He goes on to answer a question about differential support for trade within nations versus trade between nations.]

Posted by Mark Thoma on Friday, September 18, 2015 at 10:50 AM in Economics, International Trade, Market Failure | Permalink Comments (16)

Eric Schoenberg Zombie Economics and Just Deserts Why the Right Is Winning the Economic Debate

I believe that defeating the zombie-like resilience of laissez faire capitalism will require directly refuting the moral belief in the inherent fairness of free market outcomes.

Economist Paul Krugman recently decried "zombie economics," policies advocated by "free-market fundamentalists [who] have been wrong about everything yet now dominate the political scene more thoroughly than ever." I share his chagrin, but suggest that the problem is that Krugman was wrong to also assert that "economics is not a morality play." In fact, I believe that defeating the zombie-like resilience of laissez faire capitalism will require directly refuting the moral belief in the inherent fairness of free market outcomes.

Consider a recent suggestion by Harvard economist Greg Mankiw, former Chairman of George W. Bush's Council of Economic Advisors, that tax policy should be based on a "Just Deserts Theory" under which "people should get what they deserve." This principle, a restatement of Equity Theory, proposed by psychologist John Adams in 1963 to explain how people evaluated distributional fairness, has long played a central role in tax debates, and is one that I, like many liberals, heartily endorse. Indeed, I think that widespread support for free markets is based more on belief in their inherent morality than on belief that they promote economic growth, potentially explaining the religious fervor of free-market fundamentalists defending their faith despite the considerable counter-evidence provided by recent events.

Mankiw concisely summarizes the theory underlying the ethical argument for market capitalism: "under a standard set of assumptions... the factors of production [i.e., workers] are paid the value of their marginal product... One might easily conclude that, under these idealized conditions, each person receives his just deserts." Mankiw's long-standing opposition to higher taxes on the wealthy suggests that he thinks these conditions usually pertain in the real world, too.

Consider me skeptical. The list of "standard assumptions" open to question is long, but two are particularly problematic (Northwestern economist Jonathan Weinstein has critiqued several others). First, how can we be sure that marginal productivity is the same as social contribution? A safe cracker in a criminal gang may indeed receive loot equal to his marginal productivity, but this doesn't mean that he is creating social wealth. Thus, financial industry profits accounted for over 40 percent of all corporate profits in 2004-5, but does anyone seriously contend that Wall Street created (rather than redistributed) 40 percent of wealth during that period?

The second problem is one that Mankiw himself acknowledges when he comments that the dramatic growth in income at the very top of the economic pyramid might be thought of as a lottery, with a few lucky winners reaping the lion's share of rewards. As economists Robert Frank and Philip Cook point out in their book The Winner Take All Society, technological change and ever-larger markets have caused small differences in ability, effort or luck to translate into large differences in income. Economic theory says that such "tournament rewards" create an incentive for individuals to exert maximal effort, consistent with just deserts as long as you don't mind that "losers" get much less despite trying nearly (or just) as hard. But theory also says that tournament rewards create an incentive for people to sabotage the efforts of others and to take on as much risk as possible. Given the role that excess risk played in Wall Street's meltdown, this is hardly a ringing endorsement for the fairness (or efficiency) of free market outcomes.

So Mankiw's "easy" conclusion that markets deliver just deserts depends critically on his own moral intuition about what is just. Given humanity's well-known ability to convince ourselves that what is in our own self-interest is fair, it is hardly surprising that wealthy conservatives like Mankiw would believe that free market capitalism delivers fair outcomes. But it is noteworthy that in one real-world situation with tournament rewards -- lotteries -- society typically imposes taxes in excess of 50 percent, since winners pay regular income taxes on earnings already halved by the governmental sponsor's share of the pot.

Moreover, a large body of laboratory research investigating moral intuitions regarding the division of a pool of money has demonstrated the powerful appeal of an equal split, a preference consistent with anthropological evidence that hunter-gatherer groups are remarkably and consistently egalitarian. While a handful of studies have demonstrated that preferences for equality in the laboratory are (slightly) reduced when subjects have to earn the money at stake, this involves experimenters (who provide the money in the first place) making it clear that they consider the earner to have made a commensurate contribution in the laboratory setting.

So, sure, people like just deserts when there is compelling evidence that they are indeed just. But the egalitarianism of hunter-gatherers, whose groups undoubtedly included considerable and obvious variation in individual abilities, suggests that the standard of proof for justifying inequality can be quite high.

I therefore think it likely that conservative icon Joe the Plumber favors lower taxes not simply because his own personal experience suggests that smarter and harder-working plumbers (granted, he isn't actually a plumber) tend to provide better services and to have proportionately higher incomes as a result, but also because authorities like Mankiw assert that a complicated mathematical theory says that this intuition is true throughout the economic system. To be sure, populist Joe might claim to disdain elite theory, but as Keynes once observed, "practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist."

Thus, Tea Party advocates sustain their belief in the market's fairness by blaming the government for bailing out Wall Street and interfering with the market's ethical magic, explaining why their initial targets were Republicans who supported the bailout (like Mankiw). Meanwhile, Democrats have completely failed to link higher taxes on the wealthy to populist anger at those who prospered while driving the economy into a ditch. To regain the initiative, I believe, progressives must directly challenge the claim that unfettered markets create just deserts. This won't be easy. Free market fundamentalists have the advantage of a simple message -- ending bailouts will deliver just deserts -- and of nearly limitless funds from rich folks who benefited from the bailout but are happy to claim that it should never happen again.

Let me therefore suggest one way to start: replace the estate tax with an inheritance tax. Republicans use the term "death" tax to imply that society is confiscating a lifetime of just deserts wealth. But if taxes are to be based on Mankiw's proposal that those "who contribute more to society deserve a higher income that reflects those greater contributions," then inheritors who have contributed nothing themselves should pay substantially higher rates (full disclosure: I am myself an inheritor).

I believe a debate about inheritance taxes will allow us to distinguish two arguments that appear similar but are critically different. The claim that people should get their just deserts is tricky to implement, but offers a valid moral principle to guide public debate. But the closely related argument that government should "keep its hands off my money" represents pure selfishness by people who refuse to acknowledge that public goods like education and defense are essential for the creation and protection of private wealth. Progressives have to make clear that the attempt to eliminate taxes on inheritors suggests that conservatives believe that all-you-can-eat socialism is fine for the rich as long as there is just-deserts capitalism for everyone else.

Faith Based Religious Neoliberalism and the Politics of Welfare in the United States

"Hackworth's study begins to remedy the absence of attention to religion within the critical scholarship on neoliberalism, and it will push this literature in a new and much-needed direction. Faith Based is very accessible and interesting, and it moves along nicely. It's a great book."-Jason Dittmer, author of Popular Culture, Geopolitics, and Identity

"Faith Based explores how the Religious Right has supported neoliberalism in the U.S. offering case studies of gospel rescue missions, religious charities in action in post-Katrina New Orleans, and more. . . . The result is a fine guide that discusses coalition building on the right as it relates to faith-based alternatives to welfare: a fine pick for any spirituality collection."- Midwest Book Review

"This insightful book explains the partial fusion of religious conservatism and libertarian economies in the US. . . . [It] will be valuable for research libraries, graduate students, and upper-level undergraduate students interested in religion and politics, social welfare, and nonprofit organizations."-D. B. Robertson, Choice

"This is an interesting study of the interplay of religion, economics and politics."-Al Menendez, Journal of Americans for Religious Liberty

Josie E. Davis on September 27, 2012

A welcome guidebook to the world of conservative politics

Those of us who watched in mild confusion as the Tea Party became a significant political force in a matter of two years--despite its angry and, at times, incoherent blend of libertarian ethos and quasi-religious placards--will find in Faith Based a welcome guidebook to the wilderness of conservative politics. At once a critical history of the more conservative arm of the contemporary Right; a penetrating sociopolitical analysis of the party's dismantling of social programs, particularly welfare; and a theoretical exploration of the ramifications thereof, Jason Hackworth's study is a timely and welcome addition to the crowded field of political tomes.

States of Devotion Religion, Neoliberalism, and the Politics of the Body in the Americas CSGS Center for the Study of Gender

This conference aims to promote and strengthen interdisciplinary dialogue about the changing role and place of religious discourses and practices in the wake of the transformations wrought by neoliberal globalization upon communities, societies and polities across the Hemisphere. This event is part of a multi-year project on 'Religion and Politics in the Americas' funded by the Henry Luce Foundation. Starting from the understanding that conceptions and models of "pluralism" or "secularism" vary across national contexts and regional geographies, we want to focus our attention on the ways in which the retraction of the state and the unrestrained acceleration of economic forces and market logics-neoliberal globalization-have transformed the experience of religiosity as well as the role and influence of religion across the Americas.

As religious life has become increasingly channeled through the complex mechanisms of a neoliberal marketplace, the market has increasingly taken on roles and functions previously occupied by the state across broad social arenas. These transformations have not only affected discrete areas of social and economic policy, such as health care, education and security, but have also given rise to new private-public interfaces such as faith-based initiatives and discourses of volunteerism that have supplanted the discourses of rights. This shift has also required the production of new kinds of subjects, emblematized by the shift from citizen to consumer.

We are particularly interested in the ways in which religious diversity has been variously enabled, foreclosed, harnessed and even commodified by the neoliberal state. In this context, we also wish to explore how public debates over gender and sexuality serve as flashpoints illuminating the wider workings of the state's ongoing negotiation with religion and religious difference. Sexuality and sexual life more broadly connect individuals to the state as citizens, to the market as consumer-laborers, and to the supposedly traditional values represented by religion. But how this happens, and with what policy implications on a range of issues, will not be the same in every national context.

Islam's Marriage With Neo Liberalism State Transformation in Turkey

The transformation of the Turkish state is examined here in the context of globalized frames of neo-liberal capitalism and contemporary schemes of Islamic politics. It shows how the historical emergence of two distinct yet intertwined imaginaries of state structuring, secularism (laiklik) and Islam, continue to influence Turkish politics as strongly today as they did in the nineteenth century. The Ottoman integration into the nineteenth century market economy produced a secular state-restructuring project. Mid-twentieth century statism produced the laik Kemalist state. Late twentieth and early twenty-first century neoliberalist capitalist ideas, emanating from the EU and the IMF-World Bank, are shaping the current Islamic state-restructuring project. Nowhere is this more evident than in the context of Turkey's EU membership bid.

It is contingent, at the national level, on the political mobilization of various social groups who uphold Islamic ethical principles of justice and embody globalized, interpretive frames of referencing. Although this demonstrates how power relations in the state have been reconstituted under domestic and world-historical conditions, the outcome is, nonetheless, by no means certain.

Urban Neoliberalism with Islamic Characteristics Ozan Karaman -

Islam's Marriage with Neoliberalism Yildiz Atasoy Palgrave Macmillan

The Clash of Islam and Liberalism

Islam is not merely a religion. It is also - and perhaps, foremost - a state ideology. It is all-pervasive and missionary. It permeates every aspect of social cooperation and culture. It is an organizing principle, a narrative, a philosophy, a value system, and a vade mecum. In this it resembles Confucianism and, to some extent, Hinduism.

Judaism and its offspring, Christianity - though heavily involved in political affairs throughout the ages - have kept their dignified distance from such carnal matters. These are religions of "heaven" as opposed to Islam, a practical, pragmatic, hands-on, ubiquitous, "earthly" creed.

Secular religions - Democratic Liberalism, Communism, Fascism, Nazism, Socialism and other isms - are more akin to Islam than to, let's say, Buddhism. They are universal, prescriptive, and total. They provide recipes, rules, and norms regarding every aspect of existence - individual, social, cultural, moral, economic, political, military, and philosophical.

At the end of the Cold War, Democratic Liberalism stood triumphant over the fresh graves of its ideological opponents. They have all been eradicated. This precipitated Fukuyama's premature diagnosis (the End of History). But one state ideology, one bitter rival, one implacable opponent, one contestant for world domination, one antithesis remained - Islam.

Militant Islam is, therefore, not a cancerous mutation of "true" Islam. On the contrary, it is the purest expression of its nature as an imperialistic religion which demands unmitigated obedience from its followers and regards all infidels as both inferior and avowed enemies.

The same can be said about Democratic Liberalism. Like Islam, it does not hesitate to exercise force, is missionary, colonizing, and regards itself as a monopolist of the "truth" and of "universal values". Its antagonists are invariably portrayed as depraved, primitive, and below par.

Such mutually exclusive claims were bound to lead to an all-out conflict sooner or later. The "War on Terrorism" is only the latest round in a millennium-old war between Islam and other "world systems".

Such interpretation of recent events enrages many. They demand to know (often in harsh tones):

- Don't you see any differences between Islam on the one hand and Judaism and Christianity on the other?

Islam is a young religion, less than 1400 years old. When Judaism and Christianity were at this phase of their development, they resembled Islam today: they were rife with militancy, obscurantism, misogyny, missionary belligerence, and all-pervading, dogmatic intolerance.

- Don't you see any difference between terrorists who murder civilians and regular armies in battle?

Both regulars and irregulars slaughter civilians as a matter of course. "Collateral damage" is the main outcome of modern, total warfare - and of low intensity conflicts alike.

There is a major difference between terrorists and soldiers, though:

Terrorists make carnage of noncombatants their main tactic - while regular armies rarely do. Such conduct is criminal and deplorable, whoever the perpetrator.

But what about the killing of combatants in battle? How should we judge the slaying of soldiers by terrorists in combat?

Modern nation-states enshrined the self-appropriated monopoly on violence in their constitutions and ordinances (and in international law). Only state organs - the army, the police - are permitted to kill, torture, and incarcerate.

Terrorists are trust-busters: they, too, want to kill, torture, and incarcerate. They seek to break the death cartel of governments by joining its ranks.

Thus, when a soldier kills terrorists and ("inadvertently") civilians (as "collateral damage") - it is considered above board. But when the terrorist decimates the very same soldier - he is decried as an outlaw.

Moreover, the misbehavior of some countries - not least the United States - led to the legitimization of terrorism. Often nation-states use terrorist organizations to further their geopolitical goals. When this happens, erstwhile outcasts become "freedom fighters", pariahs become allies, murderers are recast as sensitive souls struggling for equal rights. This contributes to the blurring of ethical percepts and the blunting of moral judgment.

We must bear in mind that Islam is a relatively young religion, at a stage of its development similar to 11th century Christianity: belligerent, missionary, exclusive, and committed to Jihad (doing battle with one's frailties, foibles, and weaknesses in order to get closer to God). In the Medieval Church, the various orders of ascetic monks reified this ideal of attaining goodness and holiness by suppressing one's humanity and renouncing the world and its temptations. In this sense, they were a mirror image of today's Islamic militants. Many of them indeed went on to participate in the Crusades (warrior-monks such as the Knight Templars and the Hospitaliers).

- Would you rather live under sharia law? Don't you find Liberal Democracy vastly superior to Islam?

Superior, no. Different - of course. Having been born and raised in the West, I naturally prefer its standards to Islam's. Had I been born in a Muslim country, I would have probably found the West and its principles perverted and obnoxious.

The question is meaningless because it presupposes the existence of an objective, universal, culture and period independent set of preferences. Luckily, there is no such thing.

- In this clash of civilization whose side are you on?

This is not a clash of civilizations. Western medieval culture is inextricably intertwined with Islamic knowledge, teachings, and philosophy – the direct descendants of antiquity.

Christian fundamentalists have more in common with Muslim militants than with East Coast or French intellectuals.

Muslims have always been the West's most defining Other. Islamic existence and "gaze" helped to mold the West's emerging identity as a historical construct. From Spain to India, the incessant friction and fertilizing interactions with Islam shaped Western values, beliefs, doctrines, moral tenets, political and military institutions, arts, and sciences.

This war is about world domination. Two incompatible thought and value systems compete for the hearts and minds (and purchasing power) of the denizens of the global village. Like in the Westerns, by high noon, either one of them is left standing - or both will have perished.

Where does my loyalty reside?

I am a Westerner, so I hope the West wins this confrontation. But, in the process, it would be good if it were humbled, deconstructed, and reconstructed. One beneficial outcome of this conflict is the demise of the superpower system - a relic of days bygone and best forgotten. I fully believe and trust that in militant Islam, the United States has found its match.

In other words, I regard militant Islam as a catalyst that will hasten the transformation of the global power structure from unipolar to multipolar. It may also commute the United States itself. It will definitely rejuvenate religious thought and cultural discourse. All wars do.

Aren't you overdoing it? After all, al-Qaida is just a bunch of terrorists on the run!

The West is not fighting al-Qaida. It is facing down the circumstances and ideas that gave rise to al-Qaida. Conditions - such as poverty, ignorance, disease, oppression, and xenophobic superstitions - are difficult to change or to reverse. Ideas are impossible to suppress. Already, militant Islam is far more widespread and established that any Western government would care to admit.

History shows that all terrorist groupings ultimately join the mainstream. Many countries - from Israel to Ireland and from East Timor to Nicaragua - are governed by former terrorists. Terrorism enhances social upward mobility and fosters the redistribution of wealth and resources from the haves to haves not.

Al-Qaida, despite its ominous portrayal in the Western press - is no exception. It, too, will succumb, in due time, to the twin lures of power and money. Nihilistic and decentralized as it is - its express goals are the rule of Islam and equitable economic development. It is bound to get its way in some countries.

The world of the future will be truly pluralistic. The proselytizing zeal of Liberal Democracy and Capitalism has rendered them illiberal and intolerant. The West must accept the fact that a sizable chunk of humanity does not regard materialism, individualism, liberalism, progress, and democracy - at least in their Western guises - as universal or desirable.

Live and let live (and live and let die) must replace the West's malignant optimism and intellectual and spiritual arrogance.

Edward K. Thompson, the managing editor of "Life" from 1949 to 1961, once wrote:

"'Life' must be curious, alert, erudite and moral, but it must achieve this without being holier-than-thou, a cynic, a know-it-all or a Peeping Tom."

The West has grossly and thoroughly violated Thompson's edict. In its oft-interrupted intercourse with these forsaken regions of the globe, it has acted, alternately, as a Peeping Tom, a cynic and a know it all. It has invariably behaved as if it were holier-than-thou. In an unmitigated and fantastic succession of blunders, miscalculations, vain promises, unkept threats and unkempt diplomats - it has driven the world to the verge of war and the regions it "adopted" to the threshold of economic and social upheaval.

Enamored with the new ideology of free marketry cum democracy, the West first assumed the role of the omniscient. It designed ingenious models, devised foolproof laws, imposed fail-safe institutions and strongly "recommended" measures. Its representatives, the tribunes of the West, ruled the plebeian East with determination rarely equaled by skill or knowledge.

Velvet hands couched in iron gloves, ignorance disguised by economic newspeak, geostrategic interests masquerading as forms of government, characterized their dealings with the natives. Preaching and beseeching from ever higher pulpits, they poured opprobrium and sweet delusions on the eagerly duped, naive, bewildered masses.

The deceit was evident to the indigenous cynics - but it was the failure that dissuaded them and others besides. The West lost its former colonies not when it lied egregiously, not when it pretended to know for sure when it surely did not know, not when it manipulated and coaxed and coerced - but when it failed.

To the peoples of these regions, the king was fully dressed. It was not a little child but an enormous debacle that exposed his nudity. In its presumptuousness and pretentiousness, feigned surety and vain clichés, imported economic models and exported cheap raw materials - the West succeeded to demolish beyond reconstruction whole economies, to ravage communities, to wreak ruination upon the centuries-old social fabric, woven diligently by generations.

It brought crime and drugs and mayhem but gave very little in return, only a horizon beclouded and thundering with vacuous eloquence. As a result, while tottering regional governments still pay lip service to the values of Capitalism, the masses are enraged and restless and rebellious and baleful and anti-Western to the core.

The disenchanted were not likely to acquiesce for long - not only with the West's neo-colonialism but also with its incompetence and inaptitude, with the nonchalant experimentation that it imposed upon them and with the abyss between its proclamations and its performance.

Throughout this time, the envoys of the West - its mediocre politicians, its insatiably ruthless media, its obese tourists, its illiterate soldiers, and its armchair economists - continue to play the role of God, wreaking greater havoc than even the original.

While confessing to omniscience (in breach of every tradition scientific and religious), they also developed a kind of world weary, unshaven cynicism interlaced with fascination at the depths plumbed by the locals' immorality and amorality.

The jet-set Peeping Toms reside in five star hotels (or luxurious apartments) overlooking the communist, or Middle-Eastern, or African shantytowns. They drive utility vehicles to the shabby offices of the native bureaucrats and dine in $100 per meal restaurants ("it's so cheap here").

In between kebab and hummus they bemoan and grieve the corruption and nepotism and cronyism ("I simply love their ethnic food, but they are so..."). They mourn the autochthonous inability to act decisively, to cut red tape, to manufacture quality, to open to the world, to be less xenophobic (said while casting a disdainful glance at the native waiter).

To them it looks like an ancient force of nature and, therefore, an inevitability - hence their cynicism. Mostly provincial people with horizons limited by consumption and by wealth, these heralds of the West adopt cynicism as shorthand for cosmopolitanism. They erroneously believe that feigned sarcasm lends them an air of ruggedness and rich experience and the virile aroma of decadent erudition. Yet all it does is make them obnoxious and even more repellent to the residents than they already were.

Ever the preachers, the West - both Europeans and Americans - uphold themselves as role models of virtue to be emulated, as points of reference, almost inhuman or superhuman in their taming of the vices, avarice up front.

Yet the chaos and corruption in their own homes is broadcast live, day in and day out, into the cubicles inhabited by the very people they seek to so transform. And they conspire and collaborate in all manner of venality and crime and scam and rigged elections in all the countries they put the gospel to.

In trying to put an end to history, they seem to have provoked another round of it - more vicious, more enduring, more traumatic than before. That the West is paying the price for its mistakes I have no doubt. For isn't it a part and parcel of its teachings that everything has a price and that there is always a time of reckoning?

Note - Globalization - Liberalism's Disastrous Gamble

From Venezuela to Thailand, democratic regimes are being toppled by authoritarian substitutes: the military, charismatic left-wingers, or mere populists. Even in the USA, the bastion of constitutional rule, civil and human rights are being alarmingly eroded (though not without precedent in wartime).

The prominent ideologues of liberal democracy have committed a grave error by linking themselves inextricably with the doctrine of freemarketry and the emerging new order of globalization. As Thomas Friedman correctly observes in "The Lexus and the Olive Tree", both strains of thought are strongly identified with the United States of America (USA).

Thus, liberal democracy came to be perceived by the multitudes as a ruse intended to safeguard the interests of an emerging, malignantly narcissistic empire (the USA) and of rapacious multinationals. Liberal democracy came to be identified with numbing, low-brow cultural homogeneity, encroachment on privacy and the individual, and suppression of national and other idiosyncratic sentiments.

Liberal democracy came to be confused and confuted with neo-colonial exploitation, social Darwinism, and the crumbling of social compacts and long-standing treaties, both explicit and implicit. It even came to be associated with materialism and a bewildering variety of social ills: rising crime rates, unemployment, poverty, drug addiction, prostitution, organ trafficking, monopolistic behavior, corporate malfeasance, and other antisocial forms of conduct.

The backlash was, thus, inevitable.

Note - Exclusionary Ideas of Progress

Communism, Fascism, Nazism, and Religious Fundamentalism are as utopian as the classical Idea of Progress, which is most strongly reified by Western science and liberal democracy. All four illiberal ideologies firmly espouse a linear view of history: Man progresses by accumulating knowledge and wealth and by constructing ever-improving polities. Similarly, the classical, all-encompassing, idea of progress is perceived to be a "Law of Nature" with human jurisprudence and institutions as both its manifestations and descriptions. Thus, all ideas of progress are pseudo-scientific.

Still, there are some important distinctions between Communism, Fascism, Nazism, and Religious Fundamentalism, on the one hand, and Western liberalism, on the other hand:

All four totalitarian ideologies regard individual tragedies and sacrifices as the inevitable lubricant of the inexorable March Forward of the species. Yet, they redefine "humanity" (who is human) to exclude large groups of people. Communism embraces the Working Class (Proletariat) but not the Bourgeoisie, Nazism promotes one Volk but denigrates and annihilates others, Fascism bows to the Collective but viciously persecutes dissidents, Religious Fundamentalism posits a chasm between believers and infidels.

In these four intolerant ideologies, the exclusion of certain reviled groups of people is both a prerequisite for the operation of the "Natural Law of Progress" and an integral part of its motion forward. The moral and spiritual obligation of "real" Man to future generations is to "unburden" the Law, to make it possible for it to operate smoothly and in optimal conditions, with all hindrances (read: undesirables) removed (read: murdered).

All four ideologies subvert modernity (in other words, Progress itself) by using its products (technology) to exclude and kill "outsiders", all in the name of servicing "real" humanity and bettering its lot.

But liberal democracy has been intermittently guilty of the same sin. The same deranged logic extends to the construction and maintenance of nuclear weapons by countries like the USA, the UK, France, and Israel: they are intended to protect "good" humanity against "bad" people (e.g., Communists during the Cold war, Arabs, or failed states such as Iran). Even global warming is a symptom of such exclusionary thinking: the rich feel that they have the right to tax the "lesser" poor by polluting our common planet and by disproportionately exhausting its resources.

The fact is that, at least since the 1920s, the very existence of Mankind is being recurrently threatened by exclusionary ideas of progress. Even Colonialism, which predated modern ideologies, was inclusive and sought to "improve" the Natives" and "bring them to the White Man's level" by assimilating or incorporating them in the culture and society of the colonial power. This was the celebrated (and then decried) "White Man's Burden". That we no longer accept our common fate and the need to collaborate to improve our lot is nothing short of suicidal.

"CHRISTMAS is at our throats again."

That was the cheery yuletide greeting favored by the late English playwright Noël Coward, commemorating the holiday after which he was named. Less contrarian were the words of President Calvin Coolidge: "Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and good will, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas."

Which quotation strikes a chord with you? Are you a Coward or a Coolidge?

If you sympathize more with Coward, welcome to the club. There are many more of us out there than one might expect. A 2005 survey by the Pew Research Center found that more than half of Americans were bothered "some" or "a lot" by the commercialization of Christmas. A 2013 follow-up confirmed that materialism is Americans' least favorite part of the season.

Call it the Christmas Conundrum. We are supposed to revel in gift-giving and generosity, yet the season's lavishness and commercialization leave many people cold. The underlying contradiction runs throughout modern life. On one hand, we naturally seek and rejoice in prosperity. On the other hand, success in this endeavor is often marred by a materialism we find repellent and alienating.

On a recent trip to India, I found an opportunity to help sort out this contradiction. I sought guidance from a penniless Hindu swami named Gnanmunidas at the Swaminarayan Akshardham Hindu temple in New Delhi. We had never met before, but he came highly recommended by friends. If Yelp reviewed monks, he would have had five stars.

To my astonishment, Gnanmunidas greeted me with an avuncular, "How ya doin'?" He referred to me as "dude." And what was that accent - Texas? Sure enough, he had grown up in Houston, the son of Indian petroleum engineers, and had graduated from the University of Texas. Later, he got an M.B.A., and quickly made a lot of money.

But then Gnanmunidas had his awakening. At 26, he asked himself, "Is this all there is?" His grappling with that question led him to India, where he renounced everything and entered a Hindu seminary. Six years later, he emerged a monk. From that moment on, the sum total of his worldly possessions has been two robes, prayer beads and a wooden bowl. He is prohibited from even touching money - a discipline that would obviously be impossible for those of us enmeshed in ordinary economic life.

As an economist, I was more than a little afraid to hear what this capitalist-turned-renunciant had to teach me. But I posed a query nonetheless: "Swami, is economic prosperity a good or bad thing?" I held my breath and waited for his answer.

"It's good," he replied. "It has saved millions of people in my country from starvation."

This was not what I expected. "But you own almost nothing," I pressed. "I was sure you'd say that money is corrupting." He laughed at my naïveté. "There is nothing wrong with money, dude. The problem in life is attachment to money." The formula for a good life, he explained, is simple: abundance without attachment.

The assertion that there is nothing wrong with abundance per se is entirely consistent with most mainstream philosophies. Even traditions commonly perceived as ascetic rarely condemn prosperity on its face. The Dalai Lama, for example, teaches that material goods themselves are not the problem. The real issue, he writes, is our delusion that "satisfaction can arise from gratifying the senses alone."

Moreover, any moral system that takes poverty relief seriously has to celebrate the ahistoric economic bounty that has been harvested these past few centuries. The proportion of the world living on $1 per day or less has shrunk by 80 percent in our lifetimes. Today, Bill Gates can credibly predict that almost no countries will be conventionally "poor" by 2035.

In other words, if we are lucky enough to achieve abundance, we should be thankful for it and work to share the means to create it with others around the world. The real trick is the second part of the formula: avoiding attachment.

In Tibetan, the word "attachment" is translated as "do chag," which literally means "sticky desire." It signifies a desperate grasping at something, motivated by fear of separation from the object. One can find such attachment in many dysfunctional corners of life, from jealous relationships to paranoia about reputation and professional standing.

In the realm of material things, attachment results in envy and avarice. Getting beyond these snares is critical to life satisfaction. But how to do it? Three practices can help.

First, collect experiences, not things.

Material things appear to be permanent, while experiences seem evanescent and likely to be forgotten. Should you take a second honeymoon with your spouse, or get a new couch? The week away sounds great, but hey - the couch is something you'll have forever, right?

Wrong. Thirty years from now, when you are sitting in rocking chairs on the porch, you'll remember your second honeymoon in great detail. But are you likely to say to one another, "Remember that awesome couch?" Of course not. It will be gone and forgotten. Though it seems counterintuitive, it is physically permanent stuff that evaporates from our minds. It is memories in the ether of our consciousness that last a lifetime, there for us to enjoy again and again.

This "paradox of things" has been thoroughly documented by researchers. In 2003, psychologists from the University of Colorado and Cornell studied how Americans remembered different kinds of purchases - material things and experiences - they have made in the past. Using both a national survey and a controlled experiment with human subjects, they found that reflecting on experiential purchases left their subjects significantly happier than did remembering the material acquisitions.

I learned this lesson once and for all from my son Carlos. Five years ago, when Carlos was 9 years old, he announced that all he wanted for Christmas was a fishing trip - just the two of us, alone. No toys; no new things - just the trip. So we went fishing, and have done so every year since. Any material thing I had bought him would have been long forgotten. Yet both of us can tell you every place we've gone together, and all the fish we've caught, every single year.

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Second, steer clear of excessive usefulness.

Our daily lives often consist of a dogged pursuit of practicality and usefulness at all costs. This is a sure path toward the attachment we need to avoid. Aristotle makes this point in his Nicomachean Ethics; he shows admiration for learned men because "they knew things that are remarkable, admirable, difficult, and divine, but useless."

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Countless studies show that doing things for their own sake - as opposed to things that are merely a means to achieve something else - makes for mindfulness and joy.

In one famous experiment, college students were given puzzles to solve. Some of the students were paid, and others were not. The unpaid participants tended to continue to work on the puzzles after the experiment was finished, whereas the paid participants abandoned the task as soon as the session was over. And the paid subjects reported enjoying the whole experience less.

FOR those living paycheck to paycheck, a focus on money is understandable. But for those of us blessed to be above poverty, attachment to money is a means-ends confusion. Excessive focus on your finances obscures what you are supposed to enjoy with them. It's as if your experience of the holidays never extended beyond the time spent at the airport on the way to see family. (If you're thinking that's actually the best part, then you have a different problem.)

This manifestly does not mean we should abandon productive impulses. On the contrary, it means we need to treat our industry as an intrinsic end. This is the point made famously in the Hindu text the Bhagavad Gita, where work is sanctified as inherently valuable, not as a path to a payoff.

And finally, get to the center of the wheel.

In the rose windows of many medieval churches, one finds the famous "wheel of fortune," or rota fortunae. The concept is borrowed from ancient Romans' worship of the pagan goddess Fortuna. Following the wheel's rim around, one sees the cycle of victory and defeat that everyone experiences throughout the struggles of life. At the top of the circle is a king; at the bottom, the same man as a pauper.

Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales" uses the idea to tell of important people brought low throughout history: "And thus does Fortune's wheel turn treacherously. And out of happiness bring men to sorrow."

The lesson went beyond the rich and famous. Everyone was supposed to remember that each of us is turning on the wheel. One day, we're at the top of our game. But from time to time, we find ourselves laid low in health, wealth and reputation.

If the lesson ended there, it would be pretty depressing. Every victory seems an exercise in futility, because soon enough we will be back at the bottom. But as the Catholic theologian Robert Barron writes, the early church answered this existential puzzle by placing Jesus at the center of the wheel. Worldly things occupy the wheel's rim. These objects of attachment spin ceaselessly and mercilessly. Fixed at the center was the focal point of faith, the lodestar for transcending health, wealth, power, pleasure and fame - for moving beyond mortal abundance. The least practical thing in life was thus the most important and enduring.

But even if you are not religious, there is an important lesson for us embedded in this ancient theology. Namely, woe be unto those who live and die by the slings and arrows of worldly attachment. To prioritize these things is to cling to the rim, a sure recipe for existential vertigo. Instead, make sure you know what is the transcendental truth at the center of your wheel, and make that your focus.

So here is my central claim: The frustration and emptiness so many people feel at this time of year is not an objection to the abundance per se, nor should it be. It is a healthy hunger for nonattachment. This season, don't rail against the crowds of shoppers on Fifth Avenue or become some sort of anti-gift misanthrope. Celebrate the bounty that has pulled millions out of poverty worldwide. But then, ponder the three practices above. Move beyond attachment by collecting experiences, avoid excessive usefulness, and get to the center of your wheel. It might just turn out to be a happy holiday after all.

I never finished my story about Swami Gnanmunidas. Before I left him that day in Delhi, we had a light lunch of soup and naan. I told him I would be writing about our conversation; many Americans would be hearing his name. He contemplated this for a moment and, modeling nonattachment, responded simply.

"Dude, do you like the soup? It's spicy."

Arthur C. Brooks is a contributing opinion writer who is the president of the American Enterprise Institute.

[Mar 6, 2012] The Blowback of TINA By John Feffer,

March 6, 2012
There is a terrible rule of war. Whatever new weapon that you introduce onto the battlefield, your adversary will eventually acquire it as well. Indeed, they will often use an industrial-strength version of that very same weapon against you.

Hiram Maxim invented the modern machine gun – automated and oil-cooled – but the British army dismissed the invention. Not so the Germans, who used it with deadly accuracy against the British in World War I. The French, meanwhile, were the first to use modern chemical warfare in 1915 by deploying tear gas against the Germans with little effect. The Germans quickly improved on the innovation by developing chlorine gas, and later mustard gas, with devastating effect. And, of course, Americans invented nuclear weapons and then spent the next half-century trying to forestall their use by others.

The perfect weapon, however, has no odor and makes no sound. It has no half-life. It doesn't require huge factories and production lines. There are no truly effective defenses.

The perfect weapon, of course, is ideology. And the United States, in the nuclear age, believed that it had created just such a perfect weapon. Washington would export the American version of liberal democracy and refashion the world in its own image. In so doing, America would make the world safe not so much for democracy, but for Americans.

But a funny thing happened on the way to hegemony. The very ideology that the United States assumed would defeat all comers has in fact been turned against the United States. Liberal democracy contains within it the very seeds of the American empire's destruction. Call it blowback, TINA-style.

But before tackling the paradox of There Is No Alternative, let's first look at how liberal democracy was supposed to work.

The first component of America's ideology of export is the market. According to the late 17th-century theory of le doux commerce, sweet commerce, trade smoothes the rough edges of human interaction. "There was much talk, from the late seventeenth century on, about the douceur of commerce," writes theorist Albert O. Hirschman. "Sweetness, softness, calm, and gentleness [are] the antonym of violence." Countries that trade together, in other words, are less likely to attack each other.

In the Cold War era, the United States promoted this approach, for instance, by supporting the creation of the European Union, a collection of previously antagonistic countries that turned toward building a cooperative trade organization. Washington might have "wars" with its allies during this period – with Japan, for instance – but these were only trade wars. As the Cold War faded, the World Trade Organization represented the triumph of sweet commerce as China and Russia entered a new international community dedicated to reducing trade barriers. As Francis Fukuyama argued, the great passions that prompted armed struggle and tremendous acts of heroism had been transmuted into the considerably less martial interests of the marketplace. The existential threat of Soviet communism was no more. Not only was capitalism triumphant but it had established a measure of security for the United States. No one would attack the country of the Treasury bond, Morgan Stanley, Apple Computer, and America's Got Talent. No one would see red when there was serious green to be had.

The yin to the market's yang has been, of course, democracy. The corollary to le doux commerce is that cornerstone of modern political theory: democracies don't go to war with one another. According to this theory, democracies are more likely to compromise with one another; democracies inherently respect other democracies; and democratic leaders fear losing elections if they lose wars. During the Cold War, the United States gathered around itself a league of democracies to counter the influence of communism. And when democracies produced leaders that were skeptical of American intentions – Mossadegh in Iran, Allende in Chile – we didn't go to war with those countries. We simply engaged in the more cost-effective techniques of subterfuge and subversion to install more malleable leaders.

The Cold War necessitated alliances with some bad apples, Washington realists contended. But the end of the Cold War unleashed a new wave of democracy – in the former Soviet bloc, in South Africa, throughout Latin America, and most recently in the Middle East. The autocratic rogues that Washington once needed –Hussein, Mubarak, Gaddafi – were no more (though a few, like Islam Karimov in Uzbekistan, continue to cling to power). The expanded arsenal of democracy provided another layer of security for the United States. Democrats might get testy with one another, they might bristle at leaders like George W. Bush, but they would never dream of using arms against the United States.

The combination of the market and democracy became the political economy equivalent of peanut butter and jelly: the default combo of simple comfort food for the leaders of the Free World. Margaret Thatcher coined the phrase TINA because she was convinced that the demise of the Soviet Union meant that she and Ronald Reagan had solved all of human history's thorny questions. Market democracies would prevail forever after. A decade later, here in America, the crowd around George W. Bush modified the TINA principle so that it would be our version of market democracy – without the peculiar deformations of capitalism and electoral politics practiced in quasi-socialist Europe – that would occupy the top spot in political economy's greatest hits.

In the same way that the dollar's status as the global currency sustains U.S. economic supremacy, the victory of the U.S. version of market democracy would sustain U.S. geopolitical hegemony.

It hasn't quite worked out this way, however. The United States currently faces the challenge of the "rise of the rest." Countries like China have used market forces to challenge the economic advantages of the United States. And the Arab Spring has demonstrated once again that democracy can easily produce nationalist or religiously inspired parties that steer their countries away from U.S. influence.

Let's begin with China. The once-communist country has ruthlessly used its comparative advantage – cheap labor – to attract an incredible amount of U.S. manufacturing, including the firms that originally relocated across the border in Mexico. The United States could have "broken the rules" and passed laws that would have made outsourcing very difficult. But U.S. corporations were more interested in profit than in helping maintain U.S. geopolitical hegemony. They don't call them "transnational" for nothing. Washington's adherence to laissez-faire capitalism has come back to haunt it. Unfettered markets unleash the forces of "creative destruction." And the United States is currently the epicenter of this tornado, with the 99 percent bearing the brunt of the gale-force winds.

Once China democratizes, so the argument goes, it will gradually come into line with internationally established economic practices. Independent labor unions will drive up wages. The government will respect intellectual property rights. The exchange rate will float into place. This might be true. But by the time these trends materialize, China will have already become the world's largest economy and the United States will already be shrinking in its rear-view mirror.

The spread of democracy worldwide promises a similar blowback, which is why Washington realists fear the spread of popular uprisings against the remaining authoritarian allies of the United States in Bahrain, Yemen, and elsewhere. U.S. post-Cold War anxiety about the geopolitical implications of democracy began in Algeria where, in local elections in 1990, an Islamic party won 62 percent of the vote. In the national elections the following year, the new party Front Islamique du Salut won more seats than any other. The Algerian government took a dim view of this democratic development, however. With French support, it banned the new party, threw its leaders in jail, and sent thousands of activists to detention camps in the Sahara desert. A civil war ensued that left more than 100,000 dead.

"The overturning of an election followed by gross human rights abuses would ordinarily have elicited a strong condemnation from Washington," I write in my new book, Crusade 2.0. "Instead, the United States acquiesced to the changes, just as it did a couple years earlier when the Turkish military's 'soft coup' of 1997 removed an Islamist prime minister. To avoid charges of anti-Islamic bias, U.S. officials couched their 'Islamist exception' in universalist terms. The U.S. government opposed what it called 'one person, one vote, one time.' In common parlance, this translated into a fear that Islamist parties would use democratic means to rise to power and then kick away the democratic ladder beneath them."

Washington once feared that communists would rise to power through democratic means – in Italy, Congo, Guatemala. After the end of the Cold War, Islamists quickly substituted for communists with the Algerian scenario now being replayed today throughout the Middle East. Islamist parties have won majorities in Tunisia and Egypt, as elections have provided an opportunity for these long-suppressed movements to appeal directly to the people. A similar future beckons for Libya and, possibly, Syria as well.

Elections have invariably produced leaders, whether Islamist or nationalist or socialist, who have questioned their country's alliance with the United States. The shift may not be immediate. Yukio Hatoyama in Japan, for instance, lasted less than a year before Washington exerted sufficient pressure to quash him. The Justice and Development Party in Turkey was skeptical about the U.S. war in Iraq and has broken relations with Israel, but it remains a NATO member. Lula in Brazil ultimately presided over a generally amicable relationship with Washington. Egypt under the Muslim Brotherhood is not going to suddenly reverse all the agreements made under Hosni Mubarak. But in all these countries, the governments have been hedging their bets, cultivating closer ties with China or Russia or Iran. And the United States cannot take for granted any military basing agreement, from Bahrain to Okinawa.

Elections in America's rivals will not necessarily produce liberals. The recent re-coronation of Vladimir Putin in Russia, even acknowledging the widespread voting regularities, testifies to the popularity of the "iron fist," particularly outside the Moscow-Petersburg intelligentsia. The prevailing ideology in China, meanwhile, is remarkably similar. The Chinese people, if elections were held today, would not elect prominent dissidents or human rights lawyers. They would likely elect candidates as nationalist or more so than the Communist Party officials currently in charge. "A more democratic China would be less able to restrain public tendencies toward a kind of aggrieved nationalism," writes Richard Bernstein in The New York Review of Books, "with their components of anti-American and anti-Japanese sentiment."

The center of economic gravity is shifting toward China. The spread of democracy has complicated America's alliance structure and created new challenges to U.S. global leadership. The result of all this political and economic blowback will not likely be a war against the United States. China is not marshalling its strength to attack the Pacific Fleet. Iran is not waiting for the day when it can launch a nuclear-tipped missile at Topeka (much less Tel Aviv). Rather, the American empire will suffer a death of a thousand cuts. It will be like the failure of your computer: one virus, then another, then the inevitable slowing of the operating system, a patch that doesn't work properly, a program that stops responding, and one day it all adds up to the blue screen of death.

The weapons that will destroy the U.S. empire will be weapons of our own fashioning. The Chinese economy only became a threat to the United States when it copied our economic example. The leaders that will create the new international alliances that replace U.S. hegemony will be democratically elected. We will be hoisted by our own TINA. Perhaps only then will the world be able to enter the post-TINA era. Perhaps only then will we find a more nourishing meal than the PB-and-J ideology that has dominated our menu of options since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Torture and Complicity

In 1963, the CIA funded research into psychological techniques to break down potential informants. U.S. interrogators used this KUBARK Manual throughout Latin America and Southeast Asia. After 9/11, KUBARK returned in a different form.

"Although some of the material in KUBARK remained in use, psychologists augmented already-existing material with newer techniques, some of which had been developed from torture resistance protocols used to train U.S. military personnel to survive capture and interrogation themselves," write Foreign Policy In Focus (FPIF) contributors Laura Melendez-Pallitto and Robert Pallitto in Psychologists and Torture, Then and Now.

"Discoveries initially applied to help possible torture victims were later used to break interrogation subjects held in U.S. custody. Psychologists were complicit in designing and using techniques to break subjects rather than aid them, and in so doing they made a mockery of their ethical obligation to 'do no harm.'"

New Deals

The United States and North Korea are on the verge of making nice. A new deal will freeze North Korea's uranium enrichment program and establish a moratorium on nuclear and missile tests. All the United States has to do is fulfill an earlier promise to provide humanitarian assistance.

"As the Obama administration attempts a 'Pacific pivot' to refocus its geopolitical energies from the Middle East to Asia, North Korea has been executing a pivot of its own," I write in North Korea's Pivot. "The centennial of the birth of the country's founder Kim Il Sung, 2012 is also the year that North Korea has pledged to achieve the status of kangsong taeguk: an economically prosperous and militarily strong country. To attract the economic investment necessary to achieve this goal, North Korea has reached out to friend and foe alike."

The United Kingdom, meanwhile, is trying to broker a deal on Somalia. But as FPIF contributor Francis Njubi Nesbitt argues, it will not be so easy to put the pieces of the Somali Humpty Dumpty together again. "It seems the West is still tied to the concept of a unified Somalia with a strong centralized state based Mogadishu," he writes in UK Takes the Lead in Somalia. "This notion, however, is a pipe dream. The Somali people have a long history of decentralized administration based on the traditional clan structure run by councils of elders and Islam. The idea that a centralized government based on the Western model can be transplanted to Somalia is unrealistic at best."

Oil, Cuba, War

The discovery of oil in Ghana promises a future of wealth or a future of discord. "There is a multi-directional tug of war in Ghana's petroleum industry among the Ghanaian government, the multinational oil companies, the citizens of the country, and the environment," writes FPIF columnist Kwei Quartey in Oil Over Troubled Waters. "Like most contests, it is unlikely that they will all be winners. Ghanaians in the homeland and abroad fear that the country and the environment will be the eventual losers and that the dreaded specter of another Niger Delta looms."

FPIF contributor Sam Farber has a new book out on Cuba. FPIF contributor Rebecca Whedon writes that "Farber's analysis leaves no topic uncovered. Cuba Since the Revolution of 1959 is a comprehensive, thoughtful treatment of a topic that has usually generated more heat than light in U.S. coverage in the past."

Our poem this week comes from Jose Padua. Here is a short excerpt from To the Valley in the Morning with Blood and Guts and Fear:

When there's war all the time, there's no such thing as
after the war anymore, no victory over our enemies day,
no victory worth selling tickets for day, just
days to celebrate that we're still the killers and not
the killed.

Finally, in our Focal Points blog, you can read Paul Mutter on Iraq, Conn Hallinan on Syria, and Michael Walker on Iran.

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The Last but not Least

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