Pelosi was visibly taken aback. “I thank you for your question,” she said, “but I’m sorry to say we’re capitalists, and that’s just the way it is.”
The footage went viral. It was powerful because of the clear contrast it set up. Trevor Hill is no hardened left-winger. He’s just your average o—bright, informed, curious about the world, and eager to imagine a better one. But Pelosi, a figurehead of establishment politics, refused to–or was just unable to–entertain his challenge to the status quo.
It’s not only young voters who feel this way. A YouGov poll in 2015 found that 64% of Britons believe that capitalism is unfair, that it makes inequality worse. Even in the U.S., it’s as high as 55%. In Germany, a solid 77% are skeptical of capitalism. Meanwhile, a full three-quarters of people in major capitalist economies believe that big businesses are basically corrupt.Why do people feel this way? Probably not because they deny the abundant material benefits of modern life that many are able to enjoy. Or because they want to travel back in time and live in the U.S.S.R. It’s because they realize—either consciously or at some gut level—that there’s something fundamentally flawed about a system that has a prime directive to churn nature and humans into capital, and do it more and more each year, regardless of the costs to human well-being and to the environment we depend on.
We also see this plan in the idea that corporations have a fiduciary duty to grow their stock value for the sake of shareholder returns, which prevents even well-meaning CEO’s from voluntarily doing anything good—like increasing wages or reducing pollution—that might compromise their bottom line. Just look at the recent case involving American Airlines. Earlier this year, CEO Doug Parker tried to raise his employees salaries to correct for “years of incredibly difficult times” suffered by his employees, only to be slapped down by Wall Street. The day he announced the raise, the company’s shares fell 5.8%. This is not a case of an industry on the brink, fighting for survival, and needing to make hard decisions. On the contrary, airlines have been raking in profits. But the gains are seen as the natural property of the investor class. This is why JP Morgan criticized the wage increase as a “wealth transfer of nearly $1 billion” to workers. How dare they?What becomes clear here is that ours is a system that is programmed to subordinate life to the imperative of profit.
For a startling example of this, consider the horrifying idea to breed brainless chickens and grow them in huge vertical farms, Matrix-style, attached to tubes and electrodes and stacked one on top of the other, all for the sake of extracting profit out of their bodies as efficiently as possible. Or take the Grenfell Tower disaster in London, where dozens of people were incinerated because the building company chose to use flammable panels in order to save a paltry £5,000 (around $6,500). Over and over again, profit trumps life.It all proceeds from the same deep logic. It’s the same logic that sold lives for profit in the Atlantic slave trade, it’s the logic that gives us sweatshops and oil spills, and it’s the logic that is right now pushing us headlong toward ecological collapse and climate change.
Once we realize this, we can start connecting the dots between our different struggles. There are people in the U.S. fighting against the Keystone pipeline. There are people in Britain fighting against the privatization of the National Health Service. There are people in India fighting against corporate land grabs. There are people in Brazil fighting against the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. There are people in China fighting against poverty wages. These are all noble and important movements in their own right. But by focusing on all these symptoms we risk missing the underlying cause. And the cause is capitalism. It’s time to name the thing.What’s so exciting about our present moment is that people are starting to do exactly that. And they are hungry for something different. For some, this means socialism. That YouGov poll showed that Americans under the age of 30 tend to have a more favorable view of socialism than they do of capitalism, which is surprising given the sheer scale of the propaganda out there designed to convince people that socialism is evil. But millennials aren’t bogged down by these dusty old binaries. For them the matter is simple: They can see that capitalism isn’t working for the majority of humanity, and they’re ready to invent something better.
What might a better world look like? There are a million ideas out there. We can start by changing how we understand and measure progress. As Robert Kennedy famously said, GDP “does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play . . . it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”
Measures like these could dethrone capitalism’s prime directive and replace it with a more balanced logic, that recognizes the many factors required for a healthy and thriving civilization. If done systematically enough, they could consign one-dimensional capitalism to the dustbin of history.
None of this is actually radical. Our leaders will tell us that these ideas are not feasible, but what is not feasible is the assumption that we can carry on with the status quo. If we keep pounding on the wedge of inequality and chewing through our living planet, the whole thing is going to implode. The choice is stark, and it seems people are waking up to it in large numbers: Either we evolve into a future beyond capitalism, or we won’t have a future at all.
Dr. Jason Hickel is an anthropologist at the London School of Economics who works on international development and global political economy, with an ethnographic focus on southern Africa. He writes for the Guardian and Al Jazeera English. His most recent book, The Divide: A Brief History of Global Inequality and Its Solutions, is available now.
Martin Kirk is cofounder and director of strategy for The Rules, a global collective of writers, thinkers, and activists dedicated to challenging the root causes of global poverty and inequality. His work focuses on bringing insights from the cognitive and complexity sciences to bear on issues of public understanding of complex global challenges
Fractal Repetition of the Internet Paradigm (cc) Jaap van Till 2000
Dear Digerati and politicians,
This Internet Fractal may help you get a better view on what this infrastructural life form is. And it explains why the Internet of Things (IoT) will be an in-house or In-building mini version of the worldwide longdistance connectivity fabric we know.
Key point is that all architecture and design rules of Internet should be applied to the smaller subsets of this Mandelbrot Fractal
PS2. In 2009 the FCC (USA Federal Communictations Committee) published a paper explaining how the PERFORMANCE of Internet access is affected by the different physical parts of the communication chain. In that report they showed the following graphic to explain how the last mile and wide area physical networks are interconnected with gateways. It is not very different from my “fractal” picture above. Point is that for instance congestion can strike in any of these different aggregation points depicted.
This is the book I intended to write. Michel Bauwens of the P2P Foundation and others insisted that I would write a book, instead of only Tweeting and Blogging short “ideas” about Connectivism. Well, the book chapter I wrote about the value of Network Effects would be useful as basis for a book but I found the process cumbersome. As if giving birth for 5 months. And I do not envy the micro-editing that seems to be needed.
So I am lucky that I found a book that explains ‘What Networks Do’ (social & political effects) and why they are important for POWER. At last something the higher echelons of our society should take notice, and read it is in a language they can understand. Networks, technical and social, are now too important to be left to geeks like me to build and run. The crux is that this book will alter the way you look at everything around you: in terms of links/ connections / relations and how they ALTER THE CHARACTER of the (externaly) connected things. And from that new way of looking you start to actively see where you can add and implement new “wires” to weave networks.
The excellent “Chessboard and Web” book by Ann-Marie Slaughter, described in another blog here, can be seen as a geopolitical guideline derived from the Seventh Sense new worldview of Ramo’s book. And in my humble opinion this worldview is the basis for a constructive ‘Second Uprising’ U2 , part of the #resist movement, that is bound to overtake the “populist uprising based on destructive hate and fear” which is simply not working.
The Seventh Sense worldview agrees with a guideline I have often described: Vital for a team or organisation is the quality (cooperation) of its EXTERNAL connections. Which agrees with the Third Evolution Law of Darwin as formulated by prof. Matin Nowak, see https://theconnectivist.wordpress.com/2017/01/17/nowaks-law/
No, what I write in these blogpages an what I do as an activist for connections and cooperation is by no means unique or totally new. Many have proposed parts of it but it is now beginning to show the characteristics of a bottom up ‘groundswell’ which people start to recognise and use as a tool for P2P communities.
Description of the publisher: Not since the twin hammers of the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution battered apart the foundations of old Europe has the world faced a shift as elemental, as epochal as what confronts us now. From Facebook to hacking attacks to ISIS, powerful network forces we barely understand are ripping through our connected world, tearing at our most fundamental ideas. What institution do you trust more today than you did ten years ago? Exactly. In this groundbreaking new book, Joshua Cooper Ramo explains a powerful new instinct that we need to understand if we want to see everything from the opportunities for fortune in our age to the most virulent dangers. Animated with experiences studying with Chinese Zen masters and advising generals and CEOs, The Seventh Sense will forever alter the way you look at our the world we now live in.
First edition: May 2016; publisher Little Brown and Company, NY
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown US; Reprint edition (25 May 2017)
Dear all, This DIGICOOP smartphone activity is a wonderful example of a “#P2PCommons (Cooperative). I wish them a huge success and hope they will get the Kampongs online!! My advice is to use the WakaWakaPower+ solar battery to get power for this smartphone. Or during the rain seasons get power from your motorbike for it !!
Specs: Android OS, Smartphone 4G
jaap van till, The Connectivist
=============Reblogged article dated May 4, 2017=======================
Written by Nithin Coca and cross-posted from Shareable
Indonesia is one of the world’s hottest and fastest growing digital markets. “With around 90 million Internet users and more than 281 million active mobile phone subscriptions, we can anticipate the development of the digital ecosystem in Indonesia that will lead the growth,” Shinta W. Dhanuwardoyo wrote in “Strategic Review: The Indonesian Journal of Leadership, Policy and World Affairs” last year. “E-commerce has been one of the vital driving forces of Indonesia’s digital economy.”
Koperasi Digital Indonesia Mandiri (KDIM), a cooperative based in the country’s capital, Jakarta, is trying to bridge this digital divide. It’s developing a locally-produced, low-end smartphone for Indonesians left out of the digital boom. It’s also building a platform for users to access services from other cooperatives on their phones.
“Unlike commercially distributed phones, this smartphone can only be obtained by becoming a member of the cooperative via its website, after which one needs to pay Rp 100,000 (US $7.48) per month for one year,” The Jakarta Post reported.
The phone had its soft-launch in late March, and will be available for all members in the coming months. We spoke with Adie Marzuki, chair of KDIM, to learn about how the organization uses the cooperative model to bring digital technologies and services to underserved Indonesians.
Can you tell us about how KDIM started, and why you decided to form a cooperative rather than a regular, for-profit company?
KDIM was initiated by two organizations, APJII [Indonesian Internet Service Providers Association] and MASTEL [Telematics Society]. We believe that we need to build inclusive economy for Indonesia. We have a very huge market here — more than 80 million smartphones users in the [Indonesian] market right now. But we still we have 60 million of our population un-served — this means that 60 million people in Indonesia have never had a smartphone. That’s why we need to have a domestic smartphone industry that serves the underserved in Indonesia — and that’s why we are creating an entry-level smartphone. They are not served by the current industry right now.
For that, the model of a cooperative makes the most sense. It is a fundamental economic system in Indonesia. We have the power of population, that’s why we built KDIM as part of an inclusive economy, so that we can leverage our numbers.
We don’t have power of capital — but we have power of the people.
What are your operating costs? How did you raise the capital to start the cooperative?
Our operating costs covered by collecting membership share from members. Membership share is a term used to refer to the contribution required for a person to become a member of the cooperative. The initial funding/equity capital [was] provided by the founding members, which consists of KDIM members of APJII and MASTEL.
Indonesia has many cooperatives. Can you tell us how you are similar, and different, from other cooperatives in the country?
We are the first Indonesian digital cooperative. There are other efforts to support the un-served people, but they are not in the digital industry — we thought that now, we need to engage all the population to emerge in the digital life, and benefit from it.
We created KDIM based on our own formulation — this is a completely new model for Indonesia. Other cooperatives in Indonesia are all in conventional businesses. We want to work with them, and we are asking the other cooperatives to follow in our way, and we are ready to serve them and give them the platform they need.
We are not trying to make our cooperative the biggest cooperative — we are offering the other cooperatives to use our platform to benefit and go to the digital era.
Once consumers become members of the cooperative, do they have to remain involved in the cooperative for as long as they’re using the phone? What do your members gain besides the phone itself, and how are they involved in KDIM?
Our members will use the phone itself as their membership tool. Members will benefit from the use of the phone as we have digital advertising system embedded in the platform. Members also gain points when they use the apps in the phone e.g. digital transaction, purchasing, and other digital activities, which are provided by the KDIM phone. Their points will be reflected in annual closing book, and members will redeem their points in rupiahs. In our annual meeting, each member will have one vote.
What’s your current membership base, and what are your medium-to-long-term goals? What kind of impact would you like KPIM to have on the country’s technology sector?
Currently we have 25,000 members. Of those, 5,000 of are directly, KDIM members, and the rest are from other cooperatives. Our medium-term goals are to invite lots of other cooperatives to benefit from our platform, while still allowing them to use their own cooperative brand. We will give white label B2B services to other cooperatives while we also inviting more members to join. Our long-term goal is to have our own digital industry ecosystem, which will serve all the 49 percent digitally un-served sector of society.
We are hoping our business model will inspire other tech players to be more inclusive and eventually close Indonesian digital divide. We haven’t officially launched yet, and we are aiming for an official launch of our phone in May, probably before the start of Ramadan.
I was active as ‘Lector’ (professor) at the Hogeschool Arnhem en Nijmegen (HAN) until the end of 2009 when I retired (65). During my work there we had a very successful high level course “Network and Telecommunication Management” which was also done in Ghana and for many Indonesian students. And we started the Fiber-to-the-FARM project intended and projected to be implemented in de Achterhoek rural area of Bronkhorst and Berkelland. Yes I still run in many places into many very successful former students of Delft and Arnhem 🙂
NeoLiberalism is finished. Please note that I am not against commercial enterprises that innovate and take risks, they are great. No, I am against the Chicago School of Economics orthodoxy that blindly keeps telling everybody that EVERYTHING should be placed in unregulated Market Forces, where the ‘invisible hand’ will rule to let the best win.
So to re-think government policies is not just an academic exercise for scientists. Consequences of errors and mistakes will cause huge suffering and death all over the planet and in your back yard.
Let me warn that we are NOT faced with a binary (market/state or Right/Left) or even one dimensional scale of more or less market. Or Re-nationalisation after some disasterous failures of privatisation. Just to swing back the pendulum from Tory to Labour or nationalise British Telecom, France Telecom, DT , AT&T or KPN is not the answer. We would only create new disasters, by incompetent state people.
Unfortunately our Netherlands Government the last decade was purely believing in MARKT WERKING, and I fear that the next government, now under formation, will still blindly keep running in that one direction, even when we all can see that it is not working anymore. In my next blogs I will explain the top level mindset necessary for a constructive new policy.
Friday 15 April 2016 12.00 BSTLast modified on Tuesday 2 May 2017 18.53 BST
Imagine if the people of the Soviet Union had never heard of communism. The ideology that dominates our lives has, for most of us, no name. Mention it in conversation and you’ll be rewarded with a shrug. Even if your listeners have heard the term before, they will struggle to define it. Neoliberalism: do you know what it is?
Its anonymity is both a symptom and cause of its power. It has played a major role in a remarkable variety of crises: the financial meltdown of 2007‑8, the offshoring of wealth and power, of which the Panama Papers offer us merely a glimpse, the slow collapse of public health and education, resurgent child poverty, the epidemic of loneliness, the collapse of ecosystems, the rise of Donald Trump. But we respond to these crises as if they emerge in isolation, apparently unaware that they have all been either catalysed or exacerbated by the same coherent philosophy; a philosophy that has – or had – a name. What greater power can there be than to operate namelessly?
So pervasive has neoliberalism become that we seldom even recognise it as an ideology. We appear to accept the proposition that this utopian, millenarian faith describes a neutral force; a kind of biological law, like Darwin’s theory of evolution. But the philosophy arose as a conscious attempt to reshape human life and shift the locus of power.
Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning.
Attempts to limit competition are treated as inimical to liberty. Tax and regulation should be minimised, public services should be privatised. The organisation of labour and collective bargaining by trade unions are portrayed as market distortions that impede the formation of a natural hierarchy of winners and losers. Inequality is recast as virtuous: a reward for utility and a generator of wealth, which trickles down to enrich everyone. Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve.
We internalise and reproduce its creeds. The rich persuade themselves that they acquired their wealth through merit, ignoring the advantages – such as education, inheritance and class – that may have helped to secure it. The poor begin to blame themselves for their failures, even when they can do little to change their circumstances.
Never mind structural unemployment: if you don’t have a job it’s because you are unenterprising. Never mind the impossible costs of housing: if your credit card is maxed out, you’re feckless and improvident. Never mind that your children no longer have a school playing field: if they get fat, it’s your fault. In a world governed by competition, those who fall behind become defined and self-defined as losers.
Among the results, as Paul Verhaeghe documents in his book What About Me? are epidemics of self-harm, eating disorders, depression, loneliness, performance anxiety and social phobia. Perhaps it’s unsurprising that Britain, in which neoliberal ideology has been most rigorously applied, is the loneliness capital of Europe. We are all neoliberals now.
The term neoliberalism was coined at a meeting in Paris in 1938. Among the delegates were two men who came to define the ideology, Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek. Both exiles from Austria, they saw social democracy, exemplified by Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and the gradual development of Britain’s welfare state, as manifestations of a collectivism that occupied the same spectrum as nazism and communism.
In The Road to Serfdom, published in 1944, Hayek argued that government planning, by crushing individualism, would lead inexorably to totalitarian control. Like Mises’s book Bureaucracy, The Road to Serfdom was widely read. It came to the attention of some very wealthy people, who saw in the philosophy an opportunity to free themselves from regulation and tax. When, in 1947, Hayek founded the first organisation that would spread the doctrine of neoliberalism – the Mont Pelerin Society – it was supported financially by millionaires and their foundations.
As it evolved, neoliberalism became more strident. Hayek’s view that governments should regulate competition to prevent monopolies from forming gave way – among American apostles such as Milton Friedman – to the belief that monopoly power could be seen as a reward for efficiency.
Something else happened during this transition: the movement lost its name. In 1951, Friedman was happy to describe himself as a neoliberal. But soon after that, the term began to disappear. Stranger still, even as the ideology became crisper and the movement more coherent, the lost name was not replaced by any common alternative.
At first, despite its lavish funding, neoliberalism remained at the margins. The postwar consensus was almost universal: John Maynard Keynes’s economic prescriptions were widely applied, full employment and the relief of poverty were common goals in the US and much of western Europe, top rates of tax were high and governments sought social outcomes without embarrassment, developing new public services and safety nets.
But in the 1970s, when Keynesian policies began to fall apart and economic crises struck on both sides of the Atlantic, neoliberal ideas began to enter the mainstream. As Friedman remarked, “when the time came that you had to change … there was an alternative ready there to be picked up”. With the help of sympathetic journalists and political advisers, elements of neoliberalism, especially its prescriptions for monetary policy, were adopted by Jimmy Carter’s administration in the US and Jim Callaghan’s government in Britain.
After Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan took power, the rest of the package soon followed: massive tax cuts for the rich, the crushing of trade unions, deregulation, privatisation, outsourcing and competition in public services. Through the IMF, the World Bank, the Maastricht treaty and the World Trade Organisation, neoliberal policies were imposed – often without democratic consent – on much of the world. Most remarkable was its adoption among parties that once belonged to the left: Labour and the Democrats, for example. As Stedman Jones notes, “it is hard to think of another utopia to have been as fully realised.”
It may seem strange that a doctrine promising choice and freedom should have been promoted with the slogan “there is no alternative”. But, as Hayek remarkedon a visit to Pinochet’s Chile – one of the first nations in which the programme was comprehensively applied – “my personal preference leans toward a liberal dictatorship rather than toward a democratic government devoid of liberalism”. The freedom that neoliberalism offers, which sounds so beguiling when expressed in general terms, turns out to mean freedom for the pike, not for the minnows.
Freedom from trade unions and collective bargaining means the freedom to suppress wages. Freedom from regulation means the freedom to poison rivers, endanger workers, charge iniquitous rates of interest and design exotic financial instruments. Freedom from tax means freedom from the distribution of wealth that lifts people out of poverty.
As Naomi Klein documents in The Shock Doctrine, neoliberal theorists advocated the use of crises to impose unpopular policies while people were distracted: for example, in the aftermath of Pinochet’s coup, the Iraq war and Hurricane Katrina, which Friedman described as “an opportunity to radically reform the educational system” in New Orleans.
Where neoliberal policies cannot be imposed domestically, they are imposed internationally, through trade treaties incorporating “investor-state dispute settlement”: offshore tribunals in which corporations can press for the removal of social and environmental protections. When parliaments have voted to restrict sales of cigarettes, protect water supplies from mining companies, freeze energy bills or prevent pharmaceutical firms from ripping off the state, corporations have sued, often successfully. Democracy is reduced to theatre.
Another paradox of neoliberalism is that universal competition relies upon universal quantification and comparison. The result is that workers, job-seekers and public services of every kind are subject to a pettifogging, stifling regime of assessment and monitoring, designed to identify the winners and punish the losers. The doctrine that Von Mises proposed would free us from the bureaucratic nightmare of central planning has instead created one.
Neoliberalism was not conceived as a self-serving racket, but it rapidly became one. Economic growth has been markedly slower in the neoliberal era (since 1980 in Britain and the US) than it was in the preceding decades; but not for the very rich. Inequality in the distribution of both income and wealth, after 60 years of decline, rose rapidly in this era, due to the smashing of trade unions, tax reductions, rising rents, privatisation and deregulation.
The privatisation or marketisation of public services such as energy, water, trains, health, education, roads and prisons has enabled corporations to set up tollbooths in front of essential assets and charge rent, either to citizens or to government, for their use. Rent is another term for unearned income. When you pay an inflated price for a train ticket, only part of the fare compensates the operators for the money they spend on fuel, wages, rolling stock and other outlays. The rest reflects the fact that they have you over a barrel.
Those who own and run the UK’s privatised or semi-privatised services make stupendous fortunes by investing little and charging much. In Russia and India, oligarchs acquired state assets through firesales. In Mexico, Carlos Slim was granted control of almost all landline and mobile phone services and soon became the world’s richest man.
Financialisation, as Andrew Sayer notes in Why We Can’t Afford the Rich, has had a similar impact. “Like rent,” he argues, “interest is … unearned income that accrues without any effort”. As the poor become poorer and the rich become richer, the rich acquire increasing control over another crucial asset: money. Interest payments, overwhelmingly, are a transfer of money from the poor to the rich. As property prices and the withdrawal of state funding load people with debt (think of the switch from student grants to student loans), the banks and their executives clean up.
Sayer argues that the past four decades have been characterised by a transfer of wealth not only from the poor to the rich, but within the ranks of the wealthy: from those who make their money by producing new goods or services to those who make their money by controlling existing assets and harvesting rent, interest or capital gains. Earned income has been supplanted by unearned income.
Neoliberal policies are everywhere beset by market failures. Not only are the banks too big to fail, but so are the corporations now charged with delivering public services. As Tony Judt pointed out in Ill Fares the Land, Hayek forgot that vital national services cannot be allowed to collapse, which means that competition cannot run its course. Business takes the profits, the state keeps the risk.
The greater the failure, the more extreme the ideology becomes. Governments use neoliberal crises as both excuse and opportunity to cut taxes, privatise remaining public services, rip holes in the social safety net, deregulate corporations and re-regulate citizens. The self-hating state now sinks its teeth into every organ of the public sector.
Perhaps the most dangerous impact of neoliberalism is not the economic crises it has caused, but the political crisis. As the domain of the state is reduced, our ability to change the course of our lives through voting also contracts. Instead, neoliberal theory asserts, people can exercise choice through spending. But some have more to spend than others: in the great consumer or shareholder democracy, votes are not equally distributed. The result is a disempowerment of the poor and middle. As parties of the right and former left adopt similar neoliberal policies, disempowerment turns to disenfranchisement. Large numbers of people have been shed from politics.
Chris Hedges remarks that “fascist movements build their base not from the politically active but the politically inactive, the ‘losers’ who feel, often correctly, they have no voice or role to play in the political establishment”. When political debate no longer speaks to us, people become responsive instead to slogans, symbols and sensation. To the admirers of Trump, for example, facts and arguments appear irrelevant.
Judt explained that when the thick mesh of interactions between people and the state has been reduced to nothing but authority and obedience, the only remaining force that binds us is state power. The totalitarianism Hayek feared is more likely to emerge when governments, having lost the moral authority that arises from the delivery of public services, are reduced to “cajoling, threatening and ultimately coercing people to obey them”.
Like communism, neoliberalism is the God that failed. But the zombie doctrine staggers on, and one of the reasons is its anonymity. Or rather, a cluster of anonymities.
The invisible doctrine of the invisible hand is promoted by invisible backers. Slowly, very slowly, we have begun to discover the names of a few of them. We find that the Institute of Economic Affairs, which has argued forcefully in the media against the further regulation of the tobacco industry, has been secretly funded by British American Tobacco since 1963. We discover that Charles and David Koch, two of the richest men in the world, founded the institute that set up the Tea Party movement. We find that Charles Koch, in establishing one of his thinktanks, noted that “in order to avoid undesirable criticism, how the organisation is controlled and directed should not be widely advertised”.
The words used by neoliberalism often conceal more than they elucidate. “The market” sounds like a natural system that might bear upon us equally, like gravity or atmospheric pressure. But it is fraught with power relations. What “the market wants” tends to mean what corporations and their bosses want. “Investment”, as Sayer notes, means two quite different things. One is the funding of productive and socially useful activities, the other is the purchase of existing assets to milk them for rent, interest, dividends and capital gains. Using the same word for different activities “camouflages the sources of wealth”, leading us to confuse wealth extraction with wealth creation.
A century ago, the nouveau riche were disparaged by those who had inherited their money. Entrepreneurs sought social acceptance by passing themselves off as rentiers. Today, the relationship has been reversed: the rentiers and inheritors style themselves entre preneurs. They claim to have earned their unearned income.
The anonymity of neoliberalism is fiercely guarded. Those who are influenced by Hayek, Mises and Friedman tend to reject the term, maintaining – with some justice – that it is used today only pejoratively. But they offer us no substitute. Some describe themselves as classical liberals or libertarians, but these descriptions are both misleading and curiously self-effacing, as they suggest that there is nothing novel about The Road to Serfdom, Bureaucracy or Friedman’s classic work, Capitalism and Freedom.
For all that, there is something admirable about the neoliberal project, at least in its early stages. It was a distinctive, innovative philosophy promoted by a coherent network of thinkers and activists with a clear plan of action. It was patient and persistent. The Road to Serfdom became the path to power.
Neoliberalism’s triumph also reflects the failure of the left. When laissez-faire economics led to catastrophe in 1929, Keynes devised a comprehensive economic theory to replace it. When Keynesian demand management hit the buffers in the 70s, there was an alternative ready. But when neoliberalism fell apart in 2008 there was … nothing. This is why the zombie walks. The left and centre have produced no new general framework of economic thought for 80 years.
Every invocation of Lord Keynes is an admission of failure. To propose Keynesian solutions to the crises of the 21st century is to ignore three obvious problems. It is hard to mobilise people around old ideas; the flaws exposed in the 70s have not gone away; and, most importantly, they have nothing to say about our gravest predicament: the environmental crisis. Keynesianism works by stimulating consumer demand to promote economic growth. Consumer demand and economic growth are the motors of environmental destruction.
What the history of both Keynesianism and neoliberalism show is that it’s not enough to oppose a broken system. A coherent alternative has to be proposed. For Labour, the Democrats and the wider left, the central task should be to develop an economic Apollo programme, a conscious attempt to design a new system, tailored to the demands of the 21st century.
=================== end of re-blog===========
Hat tip to Mark in Australia who posted a Tweet about the above Monbiot article.
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