neoliberalism

How Labour Built Neoliberalism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 14/01/2019 - 8:00am in

In her recent book How Labour Built Neoliberalism: Australia’s Accord, the Labour Movement and the Neoliberal ProjectElizabeth Humphrys challenges the narrative that neoliberalism was generally imposed onto labour by right-wing governments such as the Thatcher government in the UK and the Reagan government in the US during the 1980s. Through a detailed analysis of Australian political economy between 1983 and 1996, she demonstrates how restructuring was also carried out by a Labour Party in close co-operation with trade unions. In this blog post, I provide a critical engagement with this important book.

In the standard narrative about the rollout of neoliberalism, it is generally argued that right-wing governments such as Pinochet’s authoritarian rule in Chile in the early 1970s or conservative Thatcher’s government in Britain or Reagan’s administration in the USA during the 1980s spearheaded this move. In the process, trade unions and workers are generally regarded as the victims of labour market deregulation and cut-backs of workers’ rights. Not so, argues Humphrys in her assessment of neoliberal restructuring in Australia. The book critically analyses the dynamics underlying the Statement of Accord by the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) Regarding Economic Policy across the period of 1983 to 1996. The book, thereby, amends our traditional understanding of the imposition of the early forms of neoliberalism by focusing in particular on the class-based nature of the Accord and the role of labour in bringing about restructuring. Importantly, therefore, the book highlights that the way neoliberalism is implemented differs from country to country. As an analysis of the Australian case illustrates, this can also occur through the concrete involvement of trade unions. ‘Labour made neoliberalism’ in Australia, it is concluded.

In particular, the book examines the relationship between corporatist policy-making on one hand, and the implementation of vanguard neoliberalism in Australia on the other. Rather than being part of opposite policy projects, ‘the social contract and neoliberalism were interrelated elements of a hegemonic state-centred project to restore accumulation after the 1970s economic crisis’, Humphrys states. Thus, the book is a fascinating analysis of how corporatist decision-making was combined with the implementation of neoliberalism. In a period of five consecutive terms of Labour governments from 1983 to 1996, neoliberalism was firmly implemented in Australia.  ‘Corporatism was the form and method that vanguard neoliberalism took in Australia, and corporatism and neoliberalism were internally related’. The book is based on extensive archival research and additionally draws on official statements by political parties and various trade unions providing us with a detailed insight into how the ALP and the ACTU internally, but also in their co-operation, rationalised these policies.

There are several questions, I would like to raise for further thought. First, how was Australian production integrated in the global economy and what was the related underlying power structure in Australia throughout the 1980s? Elsewhere, it had been the transnationalisation of production, which changed the balance of power in society in favour of capital, which had often limited the room for manoeuvre of labour in defining economic policy. Understanding the balance of power in society between capital and labour during the 1980s may shed further light on why the ALP and the ACTU felt that neoliberal restructuring was the only way forward.

Second, towards the end of the book, Humphrys refers to the Social Contract between the British Labour Party and the TUC from 1974 to 1979 as a similar experience, during which labour as political party and trade union movement had participated in neoliberal restructuring. ‘The social contract, and the TUC’s role in facilitating austerity and wage restraint, ultimately assisted the implementation of vanguard neoliberalism’. While some policies did have neoliberal leanings during that period such as the acceptance of the 1976 IMF bailout, it is not correct in my view to compare this experience with the Australian. In the UK, alternative policies were tried out in a situation, when traditional policies no longer seemed to work. Unlike Thatcher’s onslaught during the 1980s, however, this was not the rolling out of a concrete and comprehensive neoliberal policy programme.

Third, Humphrys compares the current situation in Finland, where again the labour movement is involved in neoliberal restructuring, with the 1980s in Australia. Nevertheless, if we look at these two examples from the perspective of an incorporated comparison, then it becomes clear that restructuring in Finland now takes place in a completely different global environment from when neoliberalism was implemented in Australia during the 1980s. Back then, Australia was a frontrunner in the move towards neoliberal economics. Finland now finds itself in a situation with neoliberalism ruling supreme at the global and, perhaps even more importantly, European level. Austria in the second half of the 1980s and early 1990s in preparation of EU membership would serve as a more appropriate example for the implementation of neoliberalism within corporatist structures based on support by labour (see Bieler 2000).
These questions should not, however, distract from the excellent contributions Humphrys makes in this volume. Written in a beautiful and highly accessible prose, she makes clear that trade unions are not automatically progressive or reactionary. Ultimately, trade unions too are sites of class struggle, which decides on whether a particular trade union is a force for social justice or not.

One of the most surprising findings of the book is that the ALP and ACTU celebrated the 30 anniversary of the Accord in 2012 and 2013. ‘They celebrated their roles in the dramatic restructuring of the Australian economy, which, alongside the suppression of wages and industrial action through the social contract, involved financial “deregulation” (re-regulation), floating the Australian dollar, and mass privatisations’. Considering that we now know of the dramatic consequences of the Accord for the Australian labour movement, which is only a shadow of its former self after an enormous decline in membership, this is worrying indeed. It will be interesting to see whether a new moment of rank-and-file militancy can be created, which may result in a strengthening of the labour movement, or whether Australian trade unions remain content to be the co-managers of capitalism. Humphrys’ book is a must-read in guiding our explorations of this question and the search for alternative, progressive strategies. 

This post first appeared on Trade Unions and Global Restructuring

The post How Labour Built Neoliberalism appeared first on Progress in Political Economy (PPE).

Fresh audio product

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 11/01/2019 - 8:12am in

Just added to my radio archive (click on date for link):

January 10, 2019 Quinn Slobodian, author of Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism, on the history, theory, and practice of the doctrine

The War on Populism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 11/01/2019 - 5:02am in

Remember when the War on Terror ended and the War on Populism began? That’s OK, no one else does.

It happened in the Summer of 2016, also known as “the Summer of Fear.” The War on Terror was going splendidly. There had been a series of “terrorist attacks,” in Orlando, Nice, Würzberg, Munich, Reutlingen, Ansbach, and Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, each of them perpetrated by suddenly “self-radicalized” “lone wolf terrorists” (or “non-terrorist terrorists“) who had absolutely no connection to any type of organized terrorist groups prior to suddenly “self- radicalizing” themselves by consuming “terrorist content” on the Internet. It seemed we were entering a new and even more terrifying phase of the Global War on Terror, a phase in which anyone could be a “terrorist” and “terrorism” could mean almost anything.

This broadening of the already virtually meaningless definition of “terrorism” was transpiring just in time for Obama to hand off the reins to Hillary Clinton, who everyone knew was going to be the next president, and who was going to have to bomb the crap out of Syria in response to the non-terrorist terrorist threat. The War on Terror (or, rather, “the series of persistent targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America,” as Obama rebranded it) was going to continue, probably forever. The Brexit referendum had just taken place, but no one had really digested that yet … and then Trump won the nomination.

Like that scene in Orwell’s 1984 where the Party switches official enemies right in the middle of the Hate Week rally, the War on Terror was officially canceled and replaced by the War on Populism. Or … all right, it wasn’t quite that abrupt. But seriously, go back and scan the news. Note how the “Islamic terrorist threat” we had been conditioned to live in fear of on a daily basis since 2001 seemed to just vanish into thin air. Suddenly, the “existential threat” we were facing was “neo-nationalism,” “illiberalism,” or the pejorative designator du jour, “populism.”

Here we are, two and a half years later, and “democracy” is under constant attack by a host of malevolent “populist” forces …. Russo-fascist Black vote suppressors, debaucherous eau de Novichok assassins, Bernie Sanders, the yellow-vested French, emboldened non-exploding mail bomb bombers, Jeremy Corbyn’s Nazi Death Cult, and brain-devouring Russian-Cubano crickets. The President of the United States is apparently both a Russian intelligence operative and literally the resurrection of Hitler. NBC and MSNBC have been officially merged with the CIA. The Guardian has dispensed with any pretense of journalism and is just making stories up out of whole cloth. Anyone who has ever visited Russia, or met with a Russian, or read a Russian novel, is on an “Enemies of Democracy” watch list (as is anyone refusing to vacation in Israel, which the Senate is now in the process of making mandatory for all U.S. citizens). Meanwhile, the “terrorists” are nowhere to be found, except for the terrorists we’ve been using to attempt to overthrow the government of Bashar al Assad, the sadistic nerve-gassing Monster of Syria, who illegally invaded and conquered his own country in defiance of the “international community.”

All this madness has something to do with “populism,” although it isn’t clear what. The leading theory is that the Russians are behind it. They’ve got some sort of hypno-technology (not to be confused with those brain-eating crickets) capable of manipulating the minds of … well, Black people, mostly, but not just Black people. Obviously, they are also controlling the French, who they have transformed into “racist, hate-filled liars” who are “attacking elected representatives, journalists, Jews, foreigners, and homosexuals,” according to French President Emmanuel Macron, the anointed “Golden Boy of Europe.” More terrifying still, Putin is now able to project words out of Trump’s mouth in real-time, literally using Trump’s head as a puppet, or like one of those Mission Impossible masks. (Rachel Maddow conclusively proved this by spending a couple of hours on Google comparing the words coming out of Trump’s mouth to words that had come out of Russian mouths, but had never come out of American mouths, which they turned out to be the exact same words, or pretty close to the exact same words!) Apparently, Putin’s master plan for Total Populist World Domination and Establishment of the Thousand Year Duginist Reich was to provoke the global capitalist ruling classes, the corporate media, and their credulous disciples into devolving into stark raving lunatics, or blithering idiots, or a combination of both.

But, seriously, all that actually happened back in the Summer of 2016 was the global capitalist ruling classes recognized that they had a problem. The problem that they recognized they had (and continue to have, and are now acutely aware of) is that no one is enjoying global capitalism … except the global capitalist ruling classes. The whole smiley-happy, supranational, neo-feudal corporate empire concept is not going over very well with the masses, or at least not with the unwashed masses. People started voting for right-wing parties, and Brexit, and other “populist” measures (not because they had suddenly transformed into Nazis, but because the Right was acknowledging and exploiting their anger with the advance of global neoliberalism, while liberals and the Identity Politics Left were slow jamming the TPP with Obama and babbling about transgender bathrooms, and such).

The global capitalist ruling classes needed to put a stop to that (i.e, the “populist” revolt, not the bathroom debate). So they suspended the Global War on Terror and launched the War on Populism. It was originally only meant to last until Hillary Clinton’s coronation, or the second Brexit referendum, then switch back to the War on Terror, but … well, weird things happen, and here we are.

We’ll get back to the War on Terror, eventually … as the War on Populism is essentially just a temporary rebranding of it. In the end, it’s all the same counter-insurgency. When a system is globally hegemonic, as our current model of capitalism is, every war is a counter-insurgency (i.e., a campaign waged against an internal enemy), as there are no external enemies to fight. The “character” of the internal enemies might change (e.g., “Islamic terrorism,” “extremism,” “fascism,” “populism,” “Trumpism,” “Corbynism,” et cetera) but they are all insurgencies against the hegemonic system … which, in our case, is global capitalism, not the United States of America.

The way I see it, the global capitalist ruling classes now have less than two years to put down this current “populist” insurgency. First and foremost, they need to get rid of Trump, who despite his bombastic nativist rhetoric is clearly no “hero of the common people,” nor any real threat to global capitalism, but who has become an anti-establishment symbol, like a walking, talking “fuck you” to both the American and global neoliberal elites. Then, they need to get a handle on Europe, which isn’t going to be particularly easy. What happens next in France will be telling, as will whatever becomes of Brexit … which I continue to believe will never actually happen, except perhaps in some purely nominal sense.

And then there’s the battle for hearts and minds, which they’ve been furiously waging for the last two years, and which is only going to intensify. If you think things are batshit crazy now (which, clearly, they are), strap yourself in. What is coming is going to make COINTELPRO look like the work of some amateur meme-freak. The neoliberal corporate media, psy-ops like Integrity Initiative, Internet-censoring apps like NewsGuard, ShareBlue and other David Brock outfits, and a legion of mass hysteria generators will be relentlessly barraging our brains with absurdity, disinformation, and just outright lies (as will their counterparts on the Right, of course, in case you thought that they were any alternative). It’s going to get extremely zany.

The good news is, by the time it’s all over and Trump has been dealt with, and normality restored, and the working classes put back in their places, we probably won’t remember that any of this happened. We’ll finally be able to sort out those bathrooms, and get back to paying the interest on our debts, and to living in more or less constant fear of an imminent devastating terrorist attack … and won’t that be an enormous relief?

#

CJ Hopkins
January 10, 2018
Photo: Zakaria Abdelkafi – AFP

CJ Hopkins Summer 2018 thumbnailDISCLAIMER: The preceding essay is entirely the work of our in-house satirist and self-appointed political pundit, CJ Hopkins, and does not reflect the views and opinions of the Consent Factory, Inc., its staff, or any of its agents, subsidiaries, or assigns. If, for whatever inexplicable reason, you appreciate Mr. Hopkins’ work and would like to support it, please go to his Patreon page (where you can contribute as little $1 per month), or send your contribution to his PayPal account, so that maybe he’ll stop coming around our offices trying to hit our staff up for money. Alternatively, you could purchase his satirical dystopian novel, Zone 23, which we understand is pretty gosh darn funny, or any of his subversive stage plays, which won some awards in Great Britain and Australia. If you do not appreciate Mr. Hopkins’ work and would like to write him an abusive email, please feel free to contact him directly.

“Austerity is theft, the greatest transfer of wealth from poor to the rich since the enclosures.”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 05/01/2019 - 4:00am in

Fuad Alakbarov (Azerbaijani-Scottish human rights activist, political commentator and humanitarian.)

 

Demonstrators and People's assembly banner at an Anti-austerity protestPhoto – Peter Damian

In the week before Christmas, the Secretary of State for housing claimed that the sky rocketing levels of homelessness were down to social issues and had nothing to do with the government’s housing policy.  Then just a few days later George Osborne added his pennorth dismissing outright the link between his punitive austerity programme and Britain’s homelessness crisis saying, ‘It’s not a lack of money – that’s not a consequence of austerity – that’s just a consequence of bad policy”. When interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he went on to argue that poverty would have been worse without austerity. He suggested that when the Tories had come to power in 2010 the country was close to bankruptcy and that the public spending cuts were necessary to get the country back on its feet.

 

Within these words lie two dishonest and harmful narratives which have pervaded the public consciousness for decades and form the basis for people’s understanding of the world they inhabit.  They have set us on the road to a divided and unequal society.

 

Firstly, the ideological narrative that competition defines the human race, and thus the individual is responsible for his or her own fortune. It applies the biological evolutionary language of Darwin to the functioning of the economy and society. It posits that the State has no role to play in delivering public purpose and well- being and that it should not interfere in what is conceived to be a natural process of the survival of the fittest whereby the most motivated, strongest and powerful win.  It rejects outright the concept of mutual aid and cooperation as being fundamental to human and planetary thriving.

 

The political elites and the Fourth Estate have consistently demonised poor people, the sick and those with disabilities by the use of inflammatory language to create division both across and within the social classes. The constant reference by politicians and journalists to strivers and hard-working families is an example.  Or the provocative words of George Osborne who said “Where is the fairness, we ask, for the shift-worker, leaving home in the dark hours of the early morning, who looks up at the closed blinds of their next-door neighbour sleeping off a life on benefits.” Such images perpetuate hate, encourage violence, justify selfishness and a sense of entitlement as well drive the notion that personal fulfilment trumps the interests of the collective.

 

Secondly, the narrative that austerity was necessary to get the government’s accounts back into balance and that its role was to be fiscally responsible so as to not burden future generations with debt.

 

In 2010 and following George Osborne’s spending review Will Hutton noted that ‘Never before has a country with such a large economy, carrying so much private debt, taken the experience of near financial collapse to squeeze its budget with such severity and speed”.  The tried and tested Keynsian economics of fiscal spending were abandoned in a frenzy of cuts to public services, local government and welfare. The notion that the state money system was one great big household budget was invoked by deficit hawk economists and politicians alike and reference made to Liam Byrne’s note left in the Treasury that there was no money left.  Repeated allusions were made to paying down the state credit cards, taking the nation back from bankruptcy and the wisdom of living within one’s means.

 

George Osborne’s cuts drove deep cutting £81bn from government spending on the NHS, welfare, higher education, social housing, policing and local government to lead to the loss of over 500,000 jobs.  He vowed to restore ‘sanity to our public finances and stability to our economy’.  Using these false analogies, the Conservatives were able to justify their cuts to public services, the selling off of public assets and privatisation of public services, the paring down of the welfare state to bare bones to kick away the foundation stones of civil society.   Not for any financial imperative but because they made a political choice to do so.

 

Contrary to George Osborne’s claim that austerity was vital for the health of the economy the consequences have proved calamitous.  Every day the evidence piles up from overstretched hospitals, failing social care, crumbling infrastructure, the tragic personal stories of those affected by changes to benefits which have led to suffering and death, increased homelessness and death on the streets of Britain, hunger and the growth of food banks, closures of high street shops and a deteriorating economy. And yet, every day, government ministers shamelessly deny responsibility for the harm they are causing claiming that their policies are successful and defending their economic record.

 

In 1845 Friedrich Engels coined the phrase ‘social murder ‘whereby the class which holds social and political control places citizens in such a position that they inevitably meet an early or unnatural death.  Murder committed not by one individual against another but by the political elite against the poorest in society. One hundred and seventy three years on Dr Chris Grover from Lancaster University in a recently published report accuses the political elites of the same as a direct consequence of austerity and cuts to benefits which he says can be viewed as a form of “structural violence that is built into society and is expressed in unequal power and unequal life chances as it deepens inequalities and injustices and creates even more poverty.” He suggests that “as a result of austerity working class people face harm to their physical and mental well-being and in some instances are ‘socially murdered.”

 

People are not suffering and dying because of their own personal failings they are dying as victims of an ideology which has promoted austerity as a financial necessity when, in fact, it is the worst prescription of all. Umair Haque describes it as a force that is ripping the world apart, slashing through democracy, the future and society reducing the planet to a smoking wreck.

 

George Osborne boasted that austerity was necessary to save the economy by driving down deficits and the ‘national debt’ (never mind the fact it is our savings or that the government as the currency issuer can always settle its pound denominated liabilities).  This deliberate deception disguised its real purpose which was always about demolishing public services to shift the public narrative to acceptance of privatisation.  In this respect, it was shameful that Manchester University appointed the architect of Tory austerity as an Honorary Professor of Economics. In so doing it thoroughly insults all those who have suffered as a result of his unnecessary and harmful economic policies as well as discredits even further those subscribing to economic orthodoxy within the teaching profession.  Its decision to legitimise a man who has caused so much pain and suffering should have been called into question. Such servile behaviour in a seat of supposed learning was distasteful and has proved to be an odious appointment as his austerity chickens come home to roost.

 

It’s now time for the people to contest the lies and the cruel deception practised by ideologically driven politicians. Firstly, by recognising that nothing is set in stone and that there is an alternative to austerity. Secondly, by opening our eyes to the painful realities of cuts to public services and social security whereby people are suffering and dying as a result.  And thirdly, by getting to grips with how money works and the currency issuing nature of sovereign governments. Governments which need neither to tax nor to borrow to spend and whose limitations are not money but the real resources available to it to deliver its policies.

 

The truth is that government spending into the economy injects money into the purses and bank accounts of public sector workers who then take their earnings and spend them directly into the real economy, pay down their debts or save. In fact, a healthy economy depends on people spending, it depends on sales of goods and services. To give an example every £1 spent by government on the NHS will generate around £4.30 of spending as wages circulate around the economy. By cutting public spending, austerity has had the reverse effect which has led to soaring of unsustainable private debt and a downward economic spiral for all but the rich.

 

Once we grasp the essential truths of monetary realities we will be able to see the wood for the trees and recognise that the role of government is not to balance the budget but to balance the economy. Only in this way can we create a fairer, equitable and more sustainable world.

 

References

How Austerity Ripped the World Apart – Umair Haque

 

Austerity results in ‘social murder’ according to new research – Lancaster University

 

 

 

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The post “Austerity is theft, the greatest transfer of wealth from poor to the rich since the enclosures.” appeared first on The Gower Initiative for Modern Money Studies.

Fresh audio product

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 04/01/2019 - 9:13am in

Just added to my radio archive (click on date for link):

January 3, 2019 Samuel Moyn, author of Not Enough, on the paradox of human rights discourse arising alongside great inequality, and on the difference between poverty reduction and income compression

Bakunin: Democracy without Economic Equality Is Worthless

More anarchism now, this time from the Russian anarchist, Mikhail Bakunin. Bakunin violently criticized and rejected democracy because he passionately believed and argued that without economic equality for the workers, it would simply preserve the power of the exploiting classes, including the bourgeoisie, the owners of capital and industry. These would continue legislating for themselves against the workers.

Bakunin wrote

The child endowed with the greatest talents, but born into a poor family, a family of workers living from day to day on their hard labour, is doomed to an ignorance which, instead of developing his own natural talents, kills them all: he will become the worker, the unskilled labourer, forced to be the bourgeoisie’s man-servant and field-worker. The child of bourgeois parents, on the other hand, the child of the rich, however, stupid by nature, will receive both the upbringing and the education necessary to develop his scanty talents as much as possible. He will become the exploiter of labour, the master, the property-owner, the legislator, the governor-a gentleman. However stupid he may be, he will make laws on behalf of the people and against them, and he will rule over the popular masses.

In a democratic state, it will be said, the people will choose only the good men. But how will they recognize them? They have neither the education necessary for judging the good and the bad, nor the spare time necessary for learning the differences among those who run for election. These men, moreover, live in a society different from their own; they doff their hat to Their Majesty the sovereign people only at election-time, and once elected they turn their backs. Moreover, however excellent they may be as members of their family and their society, they will always be bad for the people, because, belonging to the privileged and exploiting class, they will quite naturally wish to preserve those privileges which constitute the very basis of their social existence and condemn the people to eternal slavery.

But why haven’t the people been sending men of their own, men of the people, to the legislative assemblies and the government? First, because men of the people, who have to live by their physical labour, do not have the time to devote themselves exclusively to politics. [Second, b]eing unable to do so, being more often ignorant of the political and economic questions which are discussed in these lofty regions, they will nearly always be the dupes of lawyers and bourgeois politicians. Also, [third] it is usually enough for these men of the people to enter the government for them to become members of the bourgeoisie in their turn, sometimes hating and scorning the people from whom they came more than do the natural-born members of the bourgeoisie.

So you see that political equality, even in the most democratic states, is an illusion. It is the same with juridical equality, equality before the law. The bourgeoisie make the law for themselves, and they practice it against the people. The State, and the law which expresses it, exist only to perpetuate the slavery of the people for the benefit of the bourgeoisie.

Moreover, you know, if you wish to file suit when you find your interests, your honour, or your rights wronged, you must first prove that you are able to pay the costs, that is, that you can lay aside an impossible sum; and if you cannot do so, they you cannot file the suit. But do the people, the majority of the workers, have the resources to put on deposit in a court of law? Most of the time, no. Hence the rich man will be able to attack you and insult you with impunity. There is no justice at all for the people.

Political equality will be an illusion so long as economic and social equality do not exist, so long as any minority can become rich, property-owning, and capitalist through inheritance. Do you know the true definitions of hereditary property? It is the hereditary ability to exploit the collective labour of the people and to enslave the masses.

In Robert M. Cutler, Mikhail Bakunin: From Out of the Dustbin: Bakunin’s Basic Writings 1869-71 (Ann Arbor: Ardis 1985) pp. 50-1.

Bakunin’s stance is extreme, obviously, and the educational opportunities open to working people has changed immensely since the late 19th century when he wrote this. The school leaving age in Britain has gradually been extended until it’s 18, and nearly half of all school leavers now go on to university to obtain degrees. But nevertheless, his criticism still remains valid.

The majority of politicians and members of parliament come from the middle and upper classes. There was a book published a few years ago that estimated that 75 per cent of MPs have senior management positions or sit on the boards of companies, so that the majority of them are millionaires. As a result, legislation passed by them has benefited industry at the expense of working people, so that the rich are getting much richer, and the poor poorer. They have attacked employees’ rights at work, introduced the gig economy, which has trapped people in insecure, irregularly paid work without benefits like annual leave, sick pay or maternity leave. At the same time the benefits system has been attacked to create a demoralized, cowed workforce ready to accept any job than starve without state support, due to benefit sanctions and delays in payment. And then there’s the infamous workfare, which is nothing less than the abuse of the benefits system to supply industry and particularly the big supermarkets with subsidized cheap labour for exploitation.

This situation has partly come about because New Labour abandoned economic justice for working people and took over the Neoliberal policies of Margaret Thatcher. The result was that even when the Tories were ousted with the 1997 election, elements of Thatcherism continued under Blair and Brown. And the Neocons have admitted that while they were in favour of exporting democracy to Iraq, they wanted that new freedom to be strictly limited so that only parties promoting free trade and economic individualism would be elected.

In the US the situation has got worse. Due to political sponsorship and donations from big business, politicians in congress notoriously do not represent their constituents but their corporate donors. Only 19-25 per cent of American voters feel the government works for them, and a study by Harvard University concluded that the country was not so much a democracy as a corporate oligarchy.

Democracy would thus benefit the ruling classes, and provide the illusion of freedom for everyone else.

This has to be reversed. Corporate money and power has to be taken out of politics and ordinary working men and women put in, with an agenda to empower this country’s ordinary people instead of reassuring lies, like the Tories.

It’s why we need Corbyn in government, and the Tories, Lib-Dems and New Labour out.

How Fake News Perpetuates Neoliberalism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 22/12/2018 - 11:05pm in

Neoliberalism is a toxic economic dogma that has serious social and political consequences. In Britain and the US, mainstream media have a long record of selling neoliberalism to the public and political lawmakers. Recall Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s slogan, “There is no alternative” (TINA). As I document in my new book, Real Fake News (Red Pill Press), elites throughout history have always used information to control the thoughts and actions of the public. But the modern project has stretched itself to the limit, and people are starting to say No.

The post How Fake News Perpetuates Neoliberalism appeared first on Renegade Inc.

Post-Growth and MMT

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 22/12/2018 - 3:22am in

Crowd of people shopping with placards which read Hurry! Buy More StuffCopyright – (C) John B. Henderson

In an age of endless consumption which keeps the economic wheels turning it is no surprise that our leaders have failed dismally to address adequately the very real and long-term global issues of climate collapse and it has been left for too long on the political backburner. This week GIMMS extends a very warm welcome to Andrea Grainger, our guest MMT Lens author. Andrea takes a look at how modern monetary reality sheds a vital light on how to address the challenges we face to avoid global environmental catastrophe and extinction whilst still meeting human needs and keeping within the resource limitations of our life-giving planet.

 

The last month has been a big one for environmental news. We saw the Global Climate Conference in Poland, where politicians and scientists from all nations have gathered to further develop the agreement reached in Paris last year. We also saw the launch of the Extinction Rebellion activist group. Six-thousand people gathered in London to declare rebellion against the British Government. The group states that we are on the path to global ecological catastrophe; the mass extinction of animal species and the collapse of human civilization, due to the criminal negligence of British and foreign governments.

 

These two events highlight where western society is at the moment, with dealing with our environmental crisis. Politicians of all political stripes mostly accept the problem of climate change, but their rhetoric on the issue is largely self-congratulatory; praising their own parties’ policies regardless of how little they are actually doing. Rarely in the mainstream political discourse do we hear anything close to what scientists say is necessary on climate change, and other environmental issues are largely ignored. Only recently has plastic pollution managed to get any hearing, and other issues like soil erosion, freshwater depletion, ocean eutrophication, peak minerals and biodiversity loss get no hearing at all.

 

Part of the reason for the huge gap between what politicians are doing and scientists are saying is obviously public ignorance; but there are also huge economic factors. One is vested interests; particularly the fossil fuel lobbies who still have huge wealth, and spend massive amounts to lobby politicians, create think-tanks, and influence media groups.

 

Another economic factor is neoliberalism which maintains tens of millions of people across the world in pointless unemployment to create a scarcity of jobs, so that desperate workers can be underpaid, and private shareholders can rake in more profit for themselves. This is appalling at any time, but climate change makes it more so, now that we have desperate need for a rapid transition to a sustainable economy.

 

The MMT critique of neoliberalism is essential for breaking its ideological hold on society. It is necessary, but not sufficient, for tackling the third barrier to a sustainable society, that of limits to growth. Ecologists have been warning for decades that it is not possible to protect our planet if we keep trying to consume more stuff each year than the year before. Technology has allowed us to be more efficient with our resources, and allowed us to ‘decouple’ our economic growth from environmental damage. But there are limits to how fast we can do this; humanity has never managed to achieve ‘absolute decoupling’, where growth happens without any environmental damage. We have only ever been able to slow down the rate at which we destroy our Earth. Partly this is because of the ‘Jevons Paradox’; as first recognised by William Jevons; as technologies are introduced to improve resource efficiency, they also drive down costs for consumers, leading to more consumption, so the benefits of resource efficiency are lost.

 

If we want to protect our planet, then slowing down our economic growth is inevitable. As British citizens, we can see that our country is much richer than other nations, and poorer nations need growth much more than we do, so it would be wise to shoulder much of the burden ourselves, and slow our growth down more to give space to developing nations. We may need to move to a ‘steady state’ economy, where no growth happens for a decade or more.

 

The idea of no economic growth seems very foreign to us today, as humanity has seen exponential growth for two-hundred years, ever since the industrial revolution. But the idea that growth would one day stop has been considered by economists for almost as long. Adam Smith, John Stuart Mills, David Ricardo and Keynes all spoke of a future end to economic growth. Keynes claimed that his grandchildren would live to see this, described it as ‘state of abundance’ and said that

“People would find themselves liberated from such economic activities as saving and capital accumulation, and be able to get rid of ‘pseudo-moral principles’ — avarice, exaction of interest, love of money — that had characterized capitalistic societies so far. Instead, people would devote themselves to the true art of life, to live “wisely and agreeably and well.”

Since the Bretton Woods conference in 1940s, GDP growth has been used as the main metric of a nation’s economic success. Economic growth has become synonymous with progress and wellbeing. But the original populariser of GDP, Simon Kuznets, said that GDP was never meant to be used in this way. He did not consider it a good measure of wellbeing, because it didn’t consider income distribution, or the social and environmental costs of production.

 

Since the 1970s the field of ‘happiness economics’ has evolved to look at what really drives human wellbeing and how to design economies to provide it. What has been found is that for poor individuals and poor nations gains in income are very important, but as individuals and nations become richer gains in income become less significant, and other factors like income inequality and strong social bonds become much more so. If a steady-state society focused on improving these things, then we could see our wellbeing improve much faster than it is today. A steady-state society does need to mean the end of technological innovation, so we could keep developing technologies to improve labour efficiency, but rather than using that to produce more goods for ourselves we would instead focus on increasing our leisure time and approach the 15-hour week working once envisioned by Keynes.

 

A steady-state society is necessary, and could be better than our society today, but it needs significant restructuring of our economy to work. If economic growth stops, then the return on investment for private companies will fall sharply, and private investment from shareholders will plummet. If we significantly reduce income inequality then this will be worse, as workers’ wages go up, and shareholders profits fall.

 

MMT helps us to understand that this is not necessarily a problem. If a foreign company decides to pull their investment out of Britain and shut down their factories, the Government can always move those workers onto the Job Guarantee scheme for a time, while they look for a British company that can expand or be formed to rehire those workers. The transition to a steady-state economy is however more complex than this, as all the for-profit sectors of our economy start to stagnate, decline and eventually collapse. A steady-state economy would necessitate a broader transition away from for-profit businesses to non-profits and cooperatives; businesses focused not on the profits of private shareholders, but on the benefits provided to their workers, customers and local communities. This kind of economy is known as ‘market socialism’ and is similar to what Keynes talked about when he advocated for the death of rentierism. With a more cooperative and democratic economy, the people making key business decisions would be held more accountable for their actions, and we could develop a more meritocratic society, where people’s income and wealth more accurately reflects their contribution to society.

 

To make such a society function effectively, we would need a much more developed cooperative sector, with cooperative business studies becoming a normal part of our education curriculum, and to create a culture where customers and community members are encouraged to engage with their local coops and hold them accountable. We would also need new institutions to replace the role now performed by private investors, hedge funds and for-profit banks, who constantly seek out new opportunities for investment and get finance where it is needed to create jobs. This could be done by credit unions, non-profit banks and local councils in a decentralised and accountable way, so finance serves the interests of the society.

 

This is still a significant economic and cultural shift for humanity to undergo, but it is necessary. Those of us who understand MMT can be more confident that it is possible, and lead the way in making it happen sooner. The faster humanity accepts what is necessary and gets started, the more lives we can save from being destroyed by ecological damage.

 

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The post Post-Growth and MMT appeared first on The Gower Initiative for Modern Money Studies.

Taking Away the Ladder

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 22/12/2018 - 1:31am in

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury

Cross-posted at Inter Press Service.

The notion of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and later, South Africa) was concocted by Goldman Sachs’ Jim O’Neill. His 2001 acronym was initially seen as a timely, if not belated acknowledgement of the rise of the South.

But if one takes China out of the BRICS, one is left with little more than RIBS. While the RIBS have undoubtedly grown in recent decades, their expansion has been quite uneven and much more modest than China’s, while the post-Soviet Russian economy contracted by half during Boris Yeltsin’s first three years of ‘shock therapy’ during 1992-1994.

Unsurprisingly, Goldman Sachs quietly shut down its BRICS investment fund in October 2015 after years of losses, marking “the end of an era”, according to Bloomberg.

Growth spurts in South America’s southern cone and sub-Saharan Africa lasted over a decade until the Saudi-induced commodity price collapse from 2014. But the recently celebrated rise of the South and developing country convergence with the OECD has largely remained an East Asian story.

Preventing Emulation
Increasingly, that has involved China’s and South Korea’s continued ascendance after Japan’s financial ‘big bang’ and ensuing stagnation three decades ago. They have progressed and grown rapidly for extended periods precisely because they have not followed rules set by the advanced economies.

Industrial policy — involving state owned enterprises (SOEs), technology transfer agreements, government procurement, strict terms for foreign direct investment and other developmental interventions — was condemned by the Washington Consensus, promoting liberalization, privatization and deregulation favouring large transnational corporations.

Well-managed SOEs, government procurement practices and effective protection conditional on export promotion accelerated structural transformation. When foreign corporations were allowed to invest, they were typically required to transfer technology to the host economy.

Countries have only progressed by using industrial policy judiciously when sufficient policy space was available, as was the norm in most developed countries. But such successful development practices have been denied to most developing countries in recent decades. Instead, the North now emphasizes the dangers of industrial policy, subsidies, SOEs and technology transfer agreements, to justify precluding their use by others.

Blocking the Alternative
Instead, corporate-led globalization continues to be sold as the way to develop and progress.
Some advocates insist that global value chain participation will provide handsome opportunities for sustained economic development despite the evidence to the contrary.

Major OECD economies appear intent on tightening international rules to further reduce developing countries’ policy space under the pretext of reforming the multilateral trading system in order to save it.

Trump and other challenges to this neoliberal narrative do not offer any better options for the South. Nevertheless, their nationalist and chauvinist rhetoric has undermined the pious claims and very legitimacy of their neoliberal ‘globalist’ rivals on the Right.

Infrastructure Finance
UNCTAD’s 2018 Trade and Development Report emphasizes the link between infrastructure and industrialization. It argues that successful industrialization since 19th century England has crucially depended on public infrastructure. Infrastructure investment is thus considered crucial for economic growth and structural transformation.

The ascendance of the neoliberal Washington Consensus agenda has not only undermined public interventions generally, but also state revenue and spending in particular, especially in the developing world. But even the World Bank now admits that it had wrongly discouraged infrastructure financing, which it now advocates.

Most Western controlled international financial institutions have recently advocated public-private partnerships to finance, manage and implement infrastructure projects. The presumption is that only the private sector has the expertise and capacity to be efficient and profitable. In practice, states borrowed and bore most of the risk, e.g., of contingent liabilities, while private partners reaped much profit, often with state guaranteed revenues.

Unexpected Policy Space
Infrastructure, including both its construction and financing, has been central, not only to China’s own progress, but also to its international development cooperation. China’s financial redeployment of its massive current account surplus has created an alternative to traditional sources of investment finance, both private and public.

The availability of Chinese infrastructure finance on preferential or concessionary terms has been enthusiastically taken up, not least by countries long starved of investible resources. Not surprisingly, this has resulted in over-investments in some infrastructure, resulting in underutilization and poor returns to investment.

The resulting debt burdens and related problems have been well publicized, if not exaggerated by critics with different motivations. Now threatened by China’s rise, Western governments and Japan have suddenly found additional resources to offer similar concessionary financing for their own infrastructure firms.

Thus, not unlike the US-Soviet Cold War, the perceived new threat from China has created a new bipolar rivalry. That has inadvertently created policy space and concessions reminiscent of the post-Second World War ‘Golden Age’ for Keynesian and development economics.

The Year of Putin-Nazi Paranoia

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 19/12/2018 - 11:48pm in

As my regular readers will probably recall, according to my personal, pseudo-Chinese zodiac, 2017 was “The Year of the Headless Liberal Chicken.” This year, having given it considerable thought, and having consulted the I Ching, and assorted other oracles, I’m designating 2018 “The Year of Putin-Nazi Paranoia.”

Not that 2017 wasn’t already paranoid. It was. It was completely paranoid, and otherwise clinically batshit crazy. But 2018 has been batshit crazier. It started out with the Internet companies that control the flow of information that most of us now perceive as “reality” launching an all-out War on Dissent, purportedly to protect the public from “divisive” and “confusing” content, and other forms of Russian “influencing.”

Twitter started sending out scary emails warning customers that there was “reason to believe” that they had “followed,” “retweeted,” or “liked the content of” accounts “connected to a propaganda effort by a Russian government-linked organization.” Facebook launched its own Ministry of Truth, manned by “a dedicated counter-terrorism team” of “former intelligence and law-enforcement officials” (also known as The Atlantic Council, NATO’s unofficial propaganda wing). Google stepped up its covert deranking of insufficiently Russia-hating and other “non-authoritative” websites.

This Orwellian corporate censorship campaign was enthusiastically welcomed by liberals and other Russia-and-Trump-obsessives, who by this time were already completely convinced that secret Russian Facebook agents were conspiring to transform the Western masses into zombified, Russia-loving neo-Nazis by means of some sort of irresistible Putin-Nazi hypno-technology that would melt their brains to oatmeal the second they clicked on one of those dancing cat GIFs.

But the paranoia was just getting started. By the Spring, professional Putin-Naziologists were issuing warnings explaining that anyone using words like “globalist,” “globalism,” or “global capitalism” was an anti-Semite. There was no such thing as “globalism,” they told us. “Globalist” was just Nazi codespeak for “JEW!” Moreover, anyone criticizing “the media,” or mentioning “banks,” “Wall Street,” or “Hollywood,” or, God help you, making fun of “George Soros,” was clearly a Russia-loving, Sieg-heiling Nazi.

Meanwhile, in London, Blairites were busy combing through six year-old Facebook posts in an effort to prove that Jeremy Corbyn had transformed the British Labour Party into his personal Putin-Nazi death cult. The Guardian published over one hundred articles smearing Corbyn as an anti-Semite and “linking” Labour to anti-Semitism. The BBC jacked up the Russia paranoia, doctoring Corbyn’s hat on TV to make it appear more insidiously Slavic. Owen Jones sprang to Corbyn’s defense, explaining that, yes, the Labour Party was a disgusting hive of anti-Semites, but they were doing their utmost to root out the Nazis, ban all criticism of the IDF, and reverse the mass exodus of Jews from London.

All this was happening in the wake of the notorious Novichok Porridge and Perfume Attacks, allegedly perpetrated by two totally incompetent, pot-smoking, prostitute-banging “assassins” that Putin personally dispatched to Salisbury to miserably fail to take out their target and then waltz around getting photographed by every CCTV camera in Great Britain. According to the corporate media, Putin tried to cover the crimes of these Jason Bourne-like GRU assassins by ordering his network of Putin-Nazi Twitter bots to flood the Internet with disinformation. Sky News captured and mercilessly interrogated one of these alleged “Twitter bots,” who it turned out was just a feisty British pensioner by the name of Ian, or at least that’s what Putin wants us to believe!

Back in America, millions of liberals and other Russia-and-Trump-obsessives were awaiting the Putin-Nazi Apocalypse, which despite the predictions of Resistance pundits had still, by the Summer, failed to materialize. The corporate media were speculating that Putin’s latest “secret scheme” was for Trump to destroy the Atlantic alliance by arriving late for the G7 meeting. Or maybe Putin’s secret scheme was to order Trump to sadistically lock up a bunch of migrants in metal cages, exactly as Obama had done before him … but these were special Nazi cages! And Trump was separating mothers and children, which, as General Michael Hayden reminded us, was more or less exactly the same as Auschwitz! Paul Krugman had apparently lost it, and was running around the offices of The New York Times shrieking that “America as we know it is finished!” Soros had been smuggled back into Europe to single-handedly thwart the Putin-Nazi plot to “dominate the West,” which he planned to do by canceling the Brexit (which Putin had obviously orchestrated) and overthrowing the elected government of Italy (which, according to Soros, was a Putin-Nazi front).

As if that wasn’t paranoia-inducing enough, suddenly, Trump flew off to Helisnki to personally meet with the Devil Himself. The neoliberal establishment went totally apeshit. A columnist for The New York Times predicted that Trump, Putin, Le Pen, the AfD, and other such Nazis were secretly forming something called “the Alliance of Authoritarian and Reactionary States,” and intended to disband the European Union, and NATO, and impose international martial law and start ethnically cleansing the West of migrants. That, or Trump and Putin were simply using the summit as cover to attend some Nazi-equestrian homosexual orgy, which The Times took pains to illustrate by creating a little animated film depicting Trump and Putin as lovers. In any event, Jonathan Chait was certain that Trump had been a “Russian intelligence asset” since at least as early as 1987, and was going to Helsinki to “meet his handler.”

In the wake of the summit, the neoliberal Resistance, like some multi-headed mythical creature in the throes of acute amphetamine psychosis, started spastically jabbering about “treason” and “traitors,” and more or less demanding that Trump be tried, and taken out and shot on the White House lawn. A frenzy of neo-McCarthyism followed. Liberals started accusing people of being “traitorous agents of Trump and Moscow,” and openly calling for a CIA coup, because we were “facing a national security emergency!” A devastating Russian cyber-attack was due to begin at any moment. National Intelligence Director Dan Coats personally assured the Associated Press that the little “Imminent Russia Attack” lights he had on his desk were “blinking red.”

Into this maelstrom of monomania boldly slunk the Charlottesville Nazis, who had resolved to reenact their infamous national white supremacist tikki torch conclave right across the street from the White House this year. The Resistance and Antifa had been promoting this event as the long anticipated Putin-Nazi uprising, and Kristallnacht II, and other such nonsense, so it was a bit of a letdown when only twenty or thirty rather timid Nazis turned up. It felt like maybe the Great Nazi Panic of 2018 was finally over.

But no, of course it wasn’t over. The Nazis had just gone underground. Weeks later, right there on national television, a Jewish-Mexican-American Nazi was spotted transmitting secret Nazi hand signals to her Nazi co-conspirators. One of them, a U.S. Coast Guard member, then relayed the secret Nazi signal to … well, it wasn’t entirely clear, perhaps the Underground Putin-Nazi Navy, which was steaming toward the Florida coast hidden in the eye of Hurricane Florence.

By the Autumn, with the midterm elections fast approaching, the Putin-Nazi terrorists finally struck. It soon became clear that those secret hand signs were just parts of a much larger Trumpian conspiracy to “embolden” a couple of totally psychotic wackos to unleash their hatred on the public. Wacko Number One accomplished this by mailing a series of non-exploding explosive devices to various prominent members of the neoliberal Resistance. Wacko Number Two stormed into a synagogue in Pittsburgh and murdered a lot of people. While the corporate media were unable to prove that Trump, Putin, or possibly Jeremy Corbyn, had personally “emboldened” these wackos, clearly, they had been “emboldened” by somebody, and thus were definitely domestic Putin-Nazi “terrorists,” and not just mentally disturbed individuals … like all the other mentally-disturbed individuals who go around murdering people all the time.

In November, at last, the tide began to turn. Despite the relentless “chaos campaign to undermine faith in American democracy” that the Russian bots and Nazis were waging, the Democrats managed to win back the House and rescue America from “the brink of fascism.” Apparently, the War on Dissent was working, because the millions of Black people that the Russians had brainwashed into not voting for Clinton in 2016 with those Jesus-doesn’t-like-masturbation memes had all miraculously been deprogrammed.

Liberals celebrated by singing hymns to Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller and compiling lists of people to subpoena to testify before congressional committees in what will someday be known as “the Hitlergate Hearings.” The New York Times even published a “roadmap” that Mueller and his team can follow to “send incriminating evidence directly to Congress,” thus protecting this “evidence” from the Justice Department, which is totally infested with Russians and Nazis!

But it’s not quite time for liberals to break out the vuvuzelas and Trump effigies yet … or to let up on the paranoia. The Putin-Nazi menace is still out there! The Internet is still literally crawling with all sorts of deviant, division sowing content! And now the Russian bots have brainwashed the French into staging these unruly Yellow Vest protests, and the Putin-Nazis have “weaponized” humor, and the economy, and religion, and Brexit, and Wikileaks, and pretty much everything else you can imagine. So this is no time to switch off the television, and log off the Internet, and start thinking critically … or to forget for one moment that THE NAZIS ARE COMING, and that A DEVASTATING RUSSIAN ATTACK IS IMMINENT!

So here’s wishing my Russia-and-Trump-obsessed readers a merry, teeth-clenching, anus-puckering Christmas and a somewhat mentally-healthier New Year! Me, I’m looking forward to discovering how batshit crazy things can get … I have a feeling we ain’t seen nothing yet.

#

CJ Hopkins
December 19, 2018
Photo: Film Forum

CJ Hopkins Summer 2018 thumbnailDISCLAIMER: The preceding essay is entirely the work of our in-house satirist and self-appointed political pundit, CJ Hopkins, and does not reflect the views and opinions of the Consent Factory, Inc., its staff, or any of its agents, subsidiaries, or assigns. If, for whatever inexplicable reason, you appreciate Mr. Hopkins’ work and would like to support it, please go to his Patreon page (where you can contribute as little $1 per month), or send your contribution to his PayPal account, so that maybe he’ll stop coming around our offices trying to hit our staff up for money. Alternatively, you could purchase his satirical dystopian novel, Zone 23, which we understand is pretty gosh darn funny, or any of his subversive stage plays, which won some awards in Great Britain and Australia. If you do not appreciate Mr. Hopkins’ work and would like to write him an abusive email, please feel free to contact him directly.

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