Potential as a Freedom

Life is an unstable equilibrium between agency and determinism. Human agency is a collective of systemic thinkers and doers creating conditions where individuals can transform the status quo. Causal determinism is the idea that every event is necessitated by antecedent events and conditions together with the laws of nature.The essence of free will is that the person really could do more than one possible response to a given situation. To the determinist, causes, including unconscious causes, are operating to bring the person inevitably to what he or she will eventually do. From deterministic perspective, the environment controls everything. Determinists contend that freedom of choice and individual creativity is nothing but an illusion. Agency assumes intellectual creativity that enables individuals to conceive original ideas and then have the freedom to act on these inspirations – often in opposition to limitations that are imposed within a particular environment. Personal agency is the humanistic term for the exercise of free will.

For John Locke (1632-1704) humans entered into social contracts only to help adjudicate disputes between individuals or groups. The purpose of authority was to protect human equality and freedom; this is why social groups agreed to a ‘social contract’ that placed authority over them.  Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) maintains that the wealthy trick the poor into creating a government with the sole purpose of protecting their property and locking in moral inequality as a permanent feature of civil society. In this manner, the social contract is promoted as treating everyone equally, but in reality, it is in the interest of the few who have become stronger and richer. For Rousseau the income gap is a problem – the very rich and the very poor would value money more than liberty. Rousseau warned large income gaps created the opportunity for liberty to be sold.

Thomas Malthus (1766-1834), an English clergyman and scholar, argued that increases in population would eventually diminish the ability of the world to feed itself, based on his conclusion that populations expand in such a way as to overtake the development of sufficient land for crops. Malthus advocated welfare reform, and criticised the recent Poor Laws, which provided increased money depending upon the number of children in the family. He argued that this only encouraged the poor to give birth to more children, as they had no fear that the increased number of offspring made eating any more difficult. Malthus reasoned that the constant threat of poverty and starvation served to teach the virtues of hard work and virtuous behaviour. His work was incredibly popular and widely read by social Darwinists.

Newtonian determinism explained the equilibrium of the free market system described by Adam Smith. Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) developed and applied evolutionary theory to the study of society. Spencer applied Newtonian determinism to his analysis, making him one of the first people since the Enlightenment to exclude free will from his analysis. He believed that human society reflects the same evolutionary principles as biological organisms do in their development. Following a universal law, Spencer believed, social institutions such as economics can function without control. His claim social laws are as deterministic as those governing nature supported his concept survival of the fittest and allowed Spencer to believe that the rich and the powerful become so because they are better suited to the social and economic culture of the time.

The elections of Margaret Thatcher in 1979 and Ronald Reagan in 1980 can be viewed as inaugurating the formal period of neoliberal dominance. Neoliberalism would counter the economic problems created by the 1970s oil crisis and runaway inflation. Economies would automatically self-adjust to full employment and it would be unnecessary to use fiscal policy to raise employment. The neoliberal market ensures that factors of production are paid what they are worth obviating the need for institutions of social protection and trade unions. In fact, institutions of social protection can cause unemployment by interfering with the market process. In reality, neoliberalism creates a labour market climate of employment insecurity which results in widening wage and income inequality. Compared to 1945 to 1980, this last 35 years has seen substantially slower economic growth and widening income inequality both within and between countries.

Nicos Poulantzas claims political power is founded on an unstable equilibrium of compromises. As neoliberalism unfolded,  the compromises made by the economic elite to set the equilibrium benefited the working class possessing the higher degree of privilege (white middle class) by allowing them improved standards of living through access to education, social mobility, home ownership and consumer credit, on the understanding these compromises do not spill into the political sphere. This released the oligarchs from the constraints of democracy. This equilibrium was thrown off tilt as neoliberalism succeeded in reforming society by erasing any distinctions among the state, society and the market – subordinating society to the market. This unleashed unbridled greed which led to the reversal of the previous compromises that were serving as a buffer between the elite and the working poor, underemployed, unemployed and the generally disenfranchised.

The neoliberals promoted minimal government and regulations which led to the looting of the public coffers by tax cuts and the accumulation of ‘public’ debt. Wealth is concentrated through multiple processes: refusal to pay a living wage, elimination of corporate and wealth taxation and redistribution of the tax burden. The tax breaks also include use of off the grid banks and laundering public funds into corporate hands. This coincides with historic levels of corporate profit and wealth accumulation on one side and widespread appearance of stagnant wages, under employment and ‘austerity’ measures for everyone else. The increased economic gap and reduced mobility left many workers with the stark realization their children are on the way to being less well-off than they are.1

Back door subsidization occurs, such as student loans and foreign aid used to finance weapons industry. The Federal Reserve constant use of quantitative easing which increases the price of shares and property, while the interest rate that middle class tend to use for saving are affected disproportionately. The political consequences of this ‘social contract’ betrayal has been the success of the ‘leave’ vote in Brexit and angry voters  turning to candidates outside the mainstream parties during the 2016 primary elections.

The neoliberal social contract proposed that unrestrained inequality in income and flexible wages would reduce unemployment, but in fact, throughout the rich world both inequality and under employment have soared. Today the middle class realizes that the entire structure of neoliberal thought is a fraud. The neoliberal elite demand a dressed-up sophisticated economic theory be applied regardless of the outcome which has nothing to do with economics but everything to do with power. In 2001 George W Bush responds to a recession by opportunistically cutting tax rates for the wealthy. The neoliberals try to control the debate explaining away the economic failure highlighted by the Great Recession. Full employment is replaced with ‘natural rate of employment’. Neoliberal counter argument to failure is to claim even though the markets may be failing having government remedy market failure would even be worse, owing to bureaucratic inefficiencies and lack of market-styled incentives.

During the 19th century, cracks appeared in the wall of the belief of determinism. The random possibilities followed by choice introduced by Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection soon destroyed the efforts to apply Newtonian determinism to social issues. It introduced the concept of freedom based on chance and choice. Boltzmann’s second law of thermodynamics could only work with the introduction of chance and treating the motion of atoms statistically. Then, in 1927, Werner Heisenberg formulated the uncertainty principle – occasionally referred to as the Principle of Indeterminacy. It was a revolution in which classical mechanics (that presupposes exact simultaneously values can be assigned to all physical quantities) was replaced with quantum mechanics that denies these possibilities (that the position and momentum of particles cannot be known). The Uncertainty Principle of Quantum Mechanics says one can only predict the path of electron around an atom; the exact locations of electrons can only be known within certain limits. This was a case of irreducible randomness disproving causality.

In the past, the main criticism of Darwin’s natural selection was the requirement of multiple generations before change occurred, which did not fit changes occurring over a life time. In the past two decades epigenetics, a new revolutionary process, has changed this thinking. It is now known that genetic change can occur much more quickly than previously thought, responding from messages coming from other genes, hormones, and from nutritional cues and learning. The realization that the epigenome is highly sensitive and responsive to environmental influences, including toxic exposures, dietary factors, and behavioral impacts, serves to focus future state priorities. How we develop mentally and physically have a tremendous impact upon our inherent capabilities and our set of life options. Epigenetics explains how environmental factors can switch genes on and off, based on choices we make.

The future is what we decide to make it. Personal agency refers to the choices we make in life, the path we go down, and then their consequences. A cultural process gave rise to the inequalities, Rousseau noted, it will take a change in cultural process to reverse the harmful inequalities. We must not give up our freedom and allow our lives to be governed by ideology that limits our freedom. The environment, heredity, chance, friends, luck, (things over which one has little control), plays a greater role in wellness than personal life style choices. Controlling epigenetic harms, or environmental harms, is about treating an individual’s potential as a freedom. It is necessary to challenge the status quo of neoliberalism with its causal determinism, and create conditions where individuals can incorporate epigenetic risk into a new social contract. The relevant consequence of this change is the freedom that optimizes the human experience allowing individuals more opportunities to reach their full potential.

1 Jenkins, Colin. (22 May 2014)  Neoliberalism’s Balancing Act: Shifting the Societal Burden and Tempting Fate http://www.hamptoninstitution.org/neoliberalisms-balancin g-act.html#.V-MkryXrtd8

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Today’s Social Fantasy

A fantasy is something produced by the imagination that might possibly be accomplished, although the chances of its fulfillment are quite remote. Illusions, in contrast, are based on false beliefs, and it is their lack of fruition in the face of overwhelming odds that define them as illusions. Both fantasy and illusion contain an element of wish fulfillment, but the chief difference is that fantasies can sometimes come true, while illusions are always based on misconceptions of reality. In some situations there may be a substantial overlap between fantasy and illusion, and the line of demarcation needs to be based on how far removed from reality the fantasy lies in order for it be considered an illusion. Fantasies and illusions also operate on the conscious as well as unconscious levels. In contrast with illusions, fantasy is a product of the imagination based on reality, but as a way of avoiding it.

The market is an anxious social fantasy, supporting the purported natural order in the economic realm. Japhy Wilson observes, “The source of profit in exploitation is concealed by the understanding of economic value as an expression of subjective preference or desire, rather than a measure of labour time… The aim is not to create a world that never existed, but rather to liberate the pre-existing reality of ‘spontaneous market forces’ and ‘entrepreneurial zeal’ from beneath the dead hand of the interventionist state.”1 Both progressives and conservatives desire a powerful regulatory apparatus. Progressives prefer that these tools be used to create greater equality; conservatives that they allow the redistribution of wealth upwards.

There is an anxious desire to hide the ugly realities of capitalism beneath a harmonious order. Adam Smith’s classical introduction to economics, The Wealth of Nations (1776), was popular because it provided an ‘ethical’ rationale for the capitalist system explaining how, when one acted in their own interest it actually helped someone he did not even know. Smith posited that rational self-interest, informed by moral judgments based on fairness and justice, would lead to the best interests of society guided by ‘the invisible hand’ of the marketplace. For the system to function effectively, Smith identified two requirements; one was the market needed to be free of government intervention, and the other was there had to be competition.

Friedrich Hayek (1889-1992), who admired Adam Smith and built on the ideas of his teacher Ludwig von Mises, explored the truths of the Austrian school. Hayek published his book The Road to Serfdom in 1944 with new ideas, sounding the alarm that the West was rapidly abandoning its inheritance of individualism. He claimed there was a slow process under way in which important personal liberties were being extinguished by the state. He looked backwards at the awful history of the first half of the 20th century, musing upon the nature of the enemy. With the success of his book he decided to create a movement connecting liberals scattered around the world who met periodically at Mont Perlin in Switzerland. The Mont Perlin Society was drawn together by the common sense of crisis.

Neoliberalism rose to prominence by representing the subsequent crisis of the 1970s as a crisis of Keynesianism, against which the neoliberal project could be advanced as the return to the natural order of market society. In this system the source of profit in exploitation is concealed, economic value is an expression of subjective preferences, rather than a measure of labour time. This system constantly proclaims that anyone can make it if they try hard enough, all the while reinforcing privilege and putting increasing pressure on its overstretched and exhausted consumers. We are forever told we are freer to choose the course of our lives than ever before, but the freedom to choose outside the success narrative is limited.

Why is the Great Recession still slamming the middle class? Today’s regulations support neoliberal policies insulating both capital and the state from democratic control. The consequence is a hegemony that relentlessly hollows out the state and marketizes all forms of social existence under the claim the market provides a natural mechanism for rational economic allocation. The evolution of the neoliberal project should be understood, not as a meticulous manipulation of social reality, but a series of increasingly desperate attempts to hold the very fabric of reality together. Neoliberalism has become an anxious form of crisis management attempting to cover over the gaps in its ideological contradictions.

Neoliberal policies maintain that every human capacity, every public policy should be guided to meet the needs of corporations to accumulate greater and greater profits. Its imminent instability lies in its inadequacy, profit is not enough – neoliberal capitalism is imbued with its own instinctual drive for endless growth. The goal is the integration of all human activity, and they are not happy unless there is greater and greater growth. In the end the expression of the incapacity of capitalism becomes the inadequacy of benefits to everyone. The neoliberals insist that unrestrained inequality in incomes and flexible wages reduce unemployment. However, a UN report states that the greater inequality becomes the less stable the economy and the lower the rate of growth.

Freud described the reality principle, the ability to evaluate the external world and differentiate between it and the internal world. The reality principle did not replace the pleasure principle, but represses it, such that, a momentary pleasure; uncertain of its results, is given up, but only in order to gain in a new way, an assured pleasure coming later. The reality principle strives to satisfy the id’s desires in realistic and socially appropriate ways. In neoliberalism the reality principle is replaced by the performance principle. The performance principle presupposes particular forms of rationality for domination that stratifies society, Herbert Marcuse observed, “according to the competitive economic performance of its members.”2 Domination is exercised by a particular group in order to sustain and enhance themselves in a privileged position. The neoliberal performance principle teaches us to conceive of social problems as personal problems – emphasizing individual responsibility while failing to address systemic state violence in all its manifestations – healthcare, education and the war on the poor.

Neoliberal capitalism as market rationality describes individuals as consumers, not citizens. This self-interest and competitive relations among fellow workers leads to alienation. Social ties with colleagues weaken, as do emotional commitment to the enterprise and the organization. The consequence of this process is enough to make us more selfish, more miserable and less concerned about the welfare of our fellow human beings and the welfare of the state. This leads to tolerance of structural violence and supports pervasive inequality, as there appears to be no alternative to the new reality principle – the performance principle. In other words, the enforcement of the neoliberal performance principle teaches us to conceive of social problems as personal problems, either focusing on market based solutions to system ills, or emphasizing individual responsibility, which in turn, distances us from the structural violence in the system.

An economic system that rewards psychopathic personality traits has changed our ethics and personalities. Freud claims there exists a dynamic balance between the individual and society that consists of aggressive instinctual impulses, but society attempts to oppress the individual into its requirements. Herbert Marcuse noted violence is a pain-causing process present whenever there is a difference between the actual and the potential for a person. It pervades the social fabric in insidious ways now made apparent when relations of repression result in outbursts, with root causes barely understood. Marcuse termed this ‘surplus-repression’ referring to the organized domination in modern society over and above the basic level of repression of instincts Freud believed necessary for civilization. Henry Giroux likens this more extreme form of repression to a widespread system of ‘culture of cruelty’, which tends to normalize violence to such a degree that even the common occurrence of gun violence fails to trigger a systemic analysis or response.2

Neoliberals have trouble with health inequalities because of the priority for economic growth. Consequently they put forward proximal or downstream public health responses limited to health behaviorism. Rather than attack the fundamental causes of health inequities they focus on smoking, unhealthy dietary sources, poor housing conditions, failure to use contraception. However, more and more health inequalities are increasingly viewed as an outcome of material, social and cultural inequalities across societies, which, in turn, are the product of inequalities in power, income, wealth, knowledge, social status and social connections. Politicians only focus on short-term policies. This results in expenditures downstream, chiefly outcome-focused activities in the name of reducing the consequences of health inequalities, not addressing the root cause of the health inequalities. In this manner neoliberals promote a parallel fantasy world in which downstream, easily tackled exposures are posited as a potential solution to health inequities.

The social determinants of health are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age. These circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels. The social determinants of health are mostly responsible for health inequities – the unfair and avoidable differences in health status seen within and between countries. Today’s social fantasy is an impossible dream in which the long established social gradient in health is gradually flattened via a series of downstream interventions and policies which, for the most part, focus on trying to change behavior that affects health outcomes, particularly in poorer communities, rather than change the social and economic environments which inform people’s circumstances and decision-making. Under the confines of neoliberalism it is impossible to address the social determinants of health.

1 Wilson, Japhy. (6 June 2014) The economics of anxiety: neoliberalism as obsessional neurosis. https://www.opendemocracy.net/openeconomy/japhy-wilson/economics-of-anxiety-neoliberalism-as-obsessional-neurosis

2 Anderson, James. (29 July 2014) Recuperating Marcuse against a culture of cruelty. https://roarmag.org/essays/marcuse-neoliberalism-culture-violence/

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The Myth of the Market

A myth is a widely held but false belief or idea that serves to explain the status quo in a society. The function of a myth is to justify an existing social system and to account for its rights and customs already in practice. A myth provides people with explanations that enable them to direct their own actions and understand their own surroundings. The ideas behind the myth supporting neoliberal capitalism are articulated by Tim Harford in Adapt (2011), “the economy itself is an evolutionary environment in which a huge variety of ingenious profit-seeking strategies emerge through a decentralized process of trial and error… what emerges is far more brilliant than any single planner could have dreamed up.”1 The function of a mythological order is to validate and maintain a certain sociological system – a shared set of rights and wrongs, proprieties and improprieties, on which social units depend for their existence.

Darwin was not the first naturalist to propose that species change over time to a new species. In 1809 Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829) described a two-part mechanism by which change was gradually introduced. The first part of Lamarck’s theory claimed species start out simple and consistently move towards complexity and perfection. The second part dealt with the inheritance of acquired characteristics. He believed that changes in environment or the conditions of life react upon organism in the direction of their needs or functions. This Lamarckian inheritance (mechanism of evolution) involved the inheritance of acquired traits. He believed that the traits changed or acquired over an individual’s lifetime could be passed down to its offspring. That is, when environments changed organisms had to change their behavior to survive. If a giraffe stretched its neck for leaves, for example, a ‘nervous fluid’ would flow to its neck and make it longer. Its offspring would inherit the longer neck and continued stretching would make it longer still over several generations.

Fifty years after the publication of the ideas around Lamarckian inheritance, Charles Darwin published his Theory of Natural Selection. The predictive power of Darwin’s theory rests on its specification of systemic selective forces, based on the algorithm of variation, selection and retention. Darwin never came to any satisfying conclusion about how traits were passed on from parent to offspring. Within a couple of decades of the publication of Darwin’s ideas most scientists accepted that evolution and descent of species from common ancestors were real. Natural selection had a harder time finding acceptance. By the late 19th century many scientists who called themselves Darwinists actually preferred the Lamarckian explanation for the way life changed over time.

Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) was a Victorian biologist and philosopher best known for developing and applying evolutionary theory to philosophy and the study of society. In Spencer’s view progress was a direct consequence of adaptation. He believed in Lamarckism inheritance of acquired characteristics in both biological and social evolution. This meant that populations can be modified by the actions of their members much more rapidly than if the process has to wait for the appearance of favorable characteristics by chance variation. He replaced Darwin’s natural selection with survival of the fittest. The concept survival of the fittest allowed Spencer to believe that the rich and the powerful become so because they are better suited to the social and economic culture of the time. He believed it was natural or normal that the strong survived at the cost of the weak. The belief that what was natural was morally correct was used by Spencer’s followers to justify opposition for support for the poor as it was believed welfare programs corrupted morals, as well as fitness.

John Cairns, Director of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (1963-1968), reported on an experiment in 1968 that suggested gene mutations were not solely the result of random chemical events as is currently perceived. In the experiment bacteria were slowly killed and then were given a chance to respond to the stress. The organism his team used was a strain of Escherichia coli that lacked the enzyme to use lactose as a metabolite. Into the organism they inserted scrambled code for the enzyme necessary to grow. Initially there was no growth, then two days later colonies appeared on the agar. Cairns called this process adaptive mutation – proposing they were mutations, or genetic changes that were much less random and more purposeful than traditional evolution. He claimed the results are consistent with Lamarckian inheritance of acquired characteristics. Some social scientists who were applying evolutionary theory began analyzing problems from the Lamarckian inheritance perspective.

With the election of Ronald Reagan neoliberal economic ideology became mainstream. In the 20th century, economics needed to catch up with the advances in science, turned to biology. Neoliberals treat the market as natural which allows natural science metaphors to be integrated into the neoliberal narrative. There is no real consensus of what the market really is, so neoliberals sought strategic interactions of the kind found in social systems which actually constitute Lamarckian evolution. The market was replaced with competition as the defining character of human relations including redefining individuals as consumers. William Davis observed the competitive principle was extended to all aspects of life, “Its advocates shifted from defending markets as competitive arenas amongst many, to viewing society-as-a-whole as one big competitive arena. To convert money into political power, or into legal muscle, or into media influence, or into educational advantage, is justifiable, within neoliberal capitalism.”2

In the 19th century, Herbert Spencer popularized the word evolution, and coined the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’, not Charles Darwin. Spencer’s reputation at the time rivaled that of Darwin. Spencer preferred the Lamarckian evolution of adapted characteristics in which he believed that societies like living organisms evolve from simple states into highly complex forms – equating evolution with progress. He saw evolutionary progress as an economic problem, worked out at the level of the individual. Today the market is considered an instrument of ‘natural selection’ that judges not on the basis of an individual’s ability to contribute to society, but on the basis of the individual’s ability to contribute to the production of surplus value and the accumulation of capital. Neoliberalism is characterized by the implementation of competition as a formal process in all kinds of management activities, and the adoption of post-benefit analysis as a measure of performance.

From the adaptionist point of view incremental adaptation and environmental selection are the cause of all characteristics, and such evolution has produced not only the optimal, but also the best of all possible worlds. Now the tendency is to equate morality and justice to fitness and adaptive value – following the erroneous assumption that evolution is progress. Each person as their own undertaking is a self-entrepreneur, existing in a series of prescribed relationships that are governed by the logic of self-improvement. It is up to us to make ourselves better, we are told, and the system simply supplies us with the appropriate tools to use – tasks to undertake and ladders to climb so that we may realize our potential. Neoliberal ideology claims the market ensures everyone gets what they deserve.

Just over a decade after Cairn’s announcement of adaptive mutation, further work in molecular genetics of bacteria imploded the Lamarckian theory that had been proposed. In order to respond to the stress of a nutrient poor environment, bacteria down-regulate their gene repair enzymes allowing a higher rate of mutation and a higher chance of a population that can overcome the challenge. In stress-enhanced bacteria, mutation is a regulated phenomenon in which the rate of mutation transiently increases several order higher than normal, triggered by stress. Similarly sub-inhibitory levels of antibiotics stress bacteria and increase the rate of mutation, which, in turn, selects for resistance. This is the result of selective advantage of induction of an error prone DNA polymerase, and illustrates the power of natural selection. The discovery of selective mutations made natural selection not just attractive as an explanation, but unavoidable.

The myth of the market as an evolutionary device serves as an explanation and a justification for, the presence of competition in all parts of social activities. For the past forty years, we believed this evolutionary process to be a source of progress, but now we realize we bought into an illusion. With a discrepancy between theory and data, the biologist will declare the theory is wrong, while the economist is comfortable with myths and develops narrative schemes to defend the myth. One specific example is the explanation following the general failure of financial markets in the global economic crisis that triggered the Great Recession. Neoliberal narrative claims markets as superior computational devices, thus the best people to clean up the crisis are the bankers and financiers who created it in the first place. Consequently there is no need to consider further regulations.

In the 19th century the doctrine of social Darwinism was promoted to justify laissez-faire economics and the minimal state, thought best to promote unfettered competition between individuals, and the gradual improvement of society through the survival of the fittest. The neoliberal insistence upon free markets has been closely associated with conceptions of evolutionary order. In 21st century the myth of the market hinges on the illusion of a supposedly natural order in the economic realm. In the so-called evolutionary environment of the market the income gap between the wealthy and the rest of society continues to grow. With the ongoing hollowing out of the middle class, this myth continues to provide a powerful ideological cover for neoliberal capitalism.

1 Roscoe, Philip. Dr Pangloss and the Best of All Possible Markets: Evolutionary Fantasies and Justifications in Contemporary Economic Discourse. https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/20479786.pdf

2 Davis, William. (3 Aug 2016) How competitiveness became one of the great unquestioned virtues of contemporary culture. https://off-guardian.org/2016/08/03/how-competitiveness-became-one-of-the-great-unquestioned-virtues-of-contemporary-culture/

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The New Parasitic Bureaucracy

The Occupy Wall Street movement was a protest against the oligarchy that is responsible for the increasing economic inequality between the rich and the rest of society. The ideology of neoliberalism drives the social agenda and economic goals of the oligarchs. Neoliberals believe that if the market is left to its own devices, not stymied by regulation, the outcome would be wonderful for everyone. In addition, do not worry about social or environmental issues, as these will sort themselves out on their own. Apologists like Mike Ridley write books such as The Rational Optimist providing excuses for the excesses of neoliberalism. Ridley attempts to provide a scientific justification for the deregulation of business and attacks bogymen like parasitic bureaucracy that he claims stifles free enterprise. His ideas support an ideology serving the interest of financial capital and globalized elites in the redistribution of wealth upward and an oligarchy blind and deaf to anything but privilege.

The 16th century was an age of economic expansion – for the first time Europe was living off on Asia, Africa and America. This was also the era of the Renaissance State in Europe, which first broke and corroded the power of the cities. The kings put in place machinery to keep themselves in power. This included a huge system of administration centralization, staffed by an ever growing number of officers. The good points were this bureaucracy provided the king with some much needed cash and officials who showed more efficiency and loyalty to their king than the old feudal nobility had. The main drawback was that such a system bred corruption, since money, not ability, was often the key to gaining office. For all the problems this new bureaucracy created, it was still more efficient than the old feudal system and gave kings far greater degree of control over the states.

By the end of the 16th century this administration had become known as the parasitic bureaucracy. Offices in the 16th century were sold and the purchase-price went to the Crown. The middle and lower ranks of the bureaucracy imitated the way of life and the tastes of their leaders. Salaries were not large, and the officials extracted everything they could from the country via their offices. Three quarters of the cost of the bureaucratic machine was made not from the government, but by the country in the form of various taxes and levies. The Crown would sell more and more offices at higher and higher prices, leaving the officers to be paid by the country. The Crown could not afford an absolute loss of revenue. It is clear this expansion of waste had to be at the expense of society. The European economy was expanding at the time, and able to maintain incredibility wasteful, ornamental, parasitic Renaissance Courts and Churches. Prosperity and peace allowed this outrageous system to survive.

In 1620 both the economy and peace failed. In 1618 a political crisis in Prague had set the European powers in motion. By 1621 the war of Philip II had resumed, bringing in their train of new taxes, new officers, and new extractions. In addition there was an economic downturn in 1620. In the ensuing twenty years a new attitude of mind appeared – created by the disgust at that gilded merry-go-round which cost society so much more than it was willing to bear. It was a hatred of princely failures, bureaucratic corruption, and hatred of the Renaissance court. The 17th century protest was not just economic, but about the means of production. It was a desire for emancipation from the burden of centralization, reduction of fees, the abolition of wasteful indirect taxes. Reformers wanted changes: let them protect industry, let them develop productive wealth, rationalize finance and bring down the apparatus of Church and State to a more just proportion. In addition reduce the hatcheries which turned out the superfluous bureaucrats: grammar schools in England, colleges in France and monasteries and seminaries in Spain. In response, let them build up local elementary education: skilled workers at the base of society now seemed more important than those unemployable university graduates that Renaissance foundations were turning out.

The princes knew how to avoid revolution: the parasitic bureaucracies must be cut down, but it was difficult to carry out. It means the reduction of a parasitic, but living and powerful class. This required two things: (1) cut down on costly sinecures of Church and State and, (2) the discovery or rediscovery of an economic system – mercantilism, when city-states made decisions based on the interests of society. In England the Long Parliament (1640) tried not to reverse economic policy rather repair the administration.  However, the opportunity to resume the reforms of Salisbury was rebuffed. Eventually, the rational reformers were swept aside: then the Puritans swept aside the last Renaissance Court in Europe. The enemies of the court were ‘the country’, that indeterminate, unpolitical, but highly sensitive miscellany of men who mutinied not against the monarch, or against the economic system, rather against the ever controlling apparatus of parasitic bureaucracy which had grown up around the throne and above the economy in England. In England this system did not disappear until the restoration of Charles II.1

The fundamental idea of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (1776) was the concept around the development of division of labour. The division of labour developed as a result of the initiative and enterprise of private individuals, and would develop more rapidly when such individuals were free to apply their enterprise and initiative and reap the corresponding rewards. Smith laid the foundation of neoliberalism with his argument that free exchange was a transaction from which both parties necessarily benefited, since nobody would voluntarily engage in an exchange from which they would emerge worse off. This idea was incorporated into classical liberalism supporting the notion that society as a whole would begin to prosper as the level of personal freedom or autonomy increased. Individuals left to their own devices to pursue their own goals, limited only by known and universally applied prohibitions against harming the same freedom for others, would produce superior results for all, rather than allowing one authority to dictate terms to everyone.

In the 1970s the Western world faced a devastating new problem: inflation. It took a crisis to bring new ideas into government, and that was the price-inflation that followed the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. By the end of the 1970s both Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher were seeking office with new liberal economic policies. These policies were adopted to deal with economies that were getting out of hand. During the 1980s governments of Reagan and Thatcher neoliberal economic ideology became mainstream, and was rebranded trickle-down economics. The idea is simple: The more money the people on top make, the more the people below will benefit from the dripping down of that prosperity. The hidden agenda here, of course, is the rationalization of inequality. By linking the welfare of working-class Americans directly to the prosperity of the rich, the neoliberals protect the insulated interests of corporations and the wealthy without the fear of backlash.

The market is an instrument of ‘natural selection’ that judges not on the basis of an individual’s ability to contribute to society, but on the basis of the individual’s ability to contribute to the production of surplus value and the accumulation of capital. In the past 30 years the system spread out of control: neoliberals finessed the application of the formula the source of profit is the surplus labour, over and above that required to cover the subsistence of their employees, which the capitalists are able to extract from their labour force. Corporations, meanwhile, regularly augment their capital not only from the profits obtained from realising the products of the surplus labour of their employees, but the more surplus labour they are able to extract, the greater will be that profit. The rate of profit depends on the cost of labour. Therefore, offshoring or outsourcing is all about globalization of production, rather the division of labour that has assumed an international dimension. Whereas the previous division of labour was localized, the current one is globalized to allow corporations to extract more surplus labour.

Globalization has been facilitated by numerous technical developments and the spread of economic neoliberalism. The ugly underbelly of neoliberal fundamental economics was exposed during the Great Recession. Neoliberals blamed individuals who bought risky subprime mortgages rather than the bankers with a sense of entitlement who chose not to apply critical thinking, but to intentionally take advantage of people. It coincided with two unfunded wars that triggered the neoliberal austerity button interfering with the stimulus package to the North American economy. The Brexit vote result is a revolt against globalization that has empowered corporations against communities and the well-paid jobs that once sustained them. The scale of and reasons for the global financial meltdown are posing questions that are every bit as intense as those posed to economists at the time of the Great Depression, and the 1970s oil shock. In both those instances, the inability of the dominant paradigm to accommodate the new realities led to major changes in ways people organized their societies around the world.

Picketty’s most important findings in his book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century is that inherited wealth is rapidly reassuming its traditional role as the preeminent source of economic power. Krugman notes this trend is being reflected in conservative economic policy in the US: Bush’s tax cuts were about removing taxes from unearned income. Representative Paul Ryan’s “road map” in 2014 called for the elimination of taxes on interest, dividends, capital gains and estates. Under this plan, someone living solely off inherited wealth would have owed no federal taxes at all. “Of grammar schools,” declared Sir Francis Bacon in the 17th century, “there are too many.” At the turn of the 20th century Andrew Carnegie argued that inheritance tax was the only way to prevent a permanent aristocracy of the wealthy. The goal of both was to reduce the source that turned out parasitic elite.

The 17th century protest was not against the economic system, rather the means of production. The protests in the 21st century – the Brexit vote along with the rise of Trump and Sanders in the US prompts further skepticism in neoliberal market fundamentalism. Neoliberalism happens to be the ideology that has the fortune of coinciding with technological change on a scale that it makes its penetration into every realm of being – redefining the state, institutions of society and the self. Traditional bureaucracy is a system of government in which most of the important decisions are made by (state) officials rather than by elected representatives. Today neoliberal ideology defines actions of the state as well as institutions of society which serve the interest of a financial oligarchy – the new parasitic bureaucracy. Voters in the 2016 primaries cast their vote for leaders outside the mainstream party candidates are not against the economic system, rather are protesting against the parasitic elite responsible for the means of production and for workers being left behind by soaring inequality.

1 Trevor-Roper on the General Crisis of the 17th Century http://oll.libertyfund.org/pages/trevor-roper-on-the-general-crisis-of-the-17thc

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The Best Form of Government

The divine right of kings is a Christian political doctrine that hereditary monarchy is the system approved by God; monarchs are accountable to God alone for their actions, and rebellion against the lawful sovereign is therefore blasphemous. Ideology of the divine right of kings aimed at instilling obedience by explaining why all social ranks were religiously and morally obliged to obey the government. The 16th century nation states ruled on persuasion rather than coercion to instill obedience. This propaganda was spread through teaching and preaching – failure to obey is sedition, and morally wrong and will result in divine retribution. The message is this is the best form of government and requires no change. The largest institution at the time, the church sanctioned the rule of the king and the king defended the church in return against change. The opinion that private property in land is necessary to society is a comparatively modern idea, as artificial and as baseless as the divine right of kings. In England, the commons, once so extensive, largely contributed to the independence and support of the lower classes.

Corporations, such as the East India Company, have been around in The Netherlands since the 17th century. The advantage of having a corporation over being an individual investor in trade voyages was the fact that individual debts could be inherited by descendants. A corporate charter, however, was limited in its risks just to the amount that was invested – a right not accorded to individuals. Corporations had therefore the potential from the onset to become very powerful. Following the labour accord around pensions and benefits post Second World War, corporations became a model of long-term employment, providing pathways to economic security and opportunities for upward mobility. By the end of the 20th century American corporations had changed from being pillars of the economy and providing career employment with benefits.

Now the market place is deemed to be a superior information processor, so therefore all human knowledge can be used to its fullest only if it is comprehensively owned and priced. However, the financial return to the shareholder in the terms of dollars is no more rational in the boardroom of the 21st century corporations than in the factories of a 19th mill town – the corporate directors do not do any more than reduce every decision to a financial one. Under neoliberal capitalism employment shifted from career to job, to the task. Now a tiny majority reaps enormous benefits of neoliberalism, while damage to the ecosystem and individuals seems insurmountable.

Neoliberalism broadly describes a regulatory system, encompassing economic policies emphasizing the market deregulation, privatization and an altered role for the state. Markets are the arbitrator of all issues and can resolve almost all social, economic and political problems. The less the state regulates and taxes, the better off the system will be. Public services should be privatized, public spending should be cut, and business should be freed from social control. Where neoliberal capitalism has been more fiercely applied, in countries like the US and the UK, social mobility has greatly declined. Today, success or failures are ascribed solely to the efforts of the individual. The neoliberal model insists on comparison, evaluation and quantification, and now people are technically free but powerless. Neoliberalism is associated with the policies of austerity and attempts to reduce budget deficits usually by cutting government spending on social programs. Neoliberal policies increase inequality. This inequality can harm long-term growth prospects. Those with low income have limited spending power and those who become richer have a higher marginal propensity to save, so wealth does not ‘trickle down’ as some suggest.

At the individual-level, neoliberalism insists that rationality, individuality and self-interest guide all actions. Each person is their own undertaking as a self-entrepreneur, existing in a series of prescribed relationships that are governed by the logic of self-improvement. It is up to us to make ourselves better, we are told, and the system simply supplies us with the appropriate tools to use – tasks to undertake and ladders to climb so that we may realize our potential. Precarious workers in this era of insecurity go from job to job, depending on the availability and demand. With no job security and few benefits, the precarious worker now views his development and subsequent success or failure as his own responsibility. Meanwhile, the workings of the system and the pressure to take on such precarious jobs are invisible. Neoliberalism sees the new normal as empowering individuals, and the shifting economy as a valid reason for underemployment.

In 1989 Philip Morris sponsored a touring exhibition of the Bill of Rights. Philip Morris placed advertisements celebrating the freedom guaranteed by the Bill of Rights in dozens of magazines and newspapers. The themes of liberty and freedom of expression were highlighted to gain support for the company’s claim of the First Amendment to advertise and to rally support opposing restaurant smoking bans. The Koch brothers support the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the National Right to Work Committee designed to undermine unions. ALEC develops model bills supporting the rubric ‘right to work’ touted as giving workers freedom not to join unions. It is based on individual rights of non-union members to enjoy benefits of union representation, such as higher wages and improved working conditions. This legislation is meant to destroy unions. These are examples of how corporations and the wealthy elite manipulate the constitution to serve the interest of financial capital and globalized elite in redistribution of wealth upward.

Neoliberals claim the market will arbitrate any and all responses to climate change. The neoliberals have developed a whole spectrum of responses to global warming. This includes a short-term plan, a medium-term plan and a long-term plan. The consequence of this approach is to leave the problem to be solved, ultimately not by the state, but rather by the market. The short-term plan is denialism; the medium-term involves carbon credits, applying financialization to the issue; the long-term plan incorporates geo-engineering solutions such as natural gas providing clean energy. Each component of the neoliberal response is firmly grounded in neoliberal economic doctrine, and as such, has its own special function to perform. The purpose of climate science denial has been to quash all immediate impulse to respond to perceived crisis and buy time for commercial interests to construct some other eventual market solution to global warming. Denial is cheap and easy to propagate and draw attention away from appropriate responses from the truth.1

Neoliberal capitalism applies to all sectors of society. Their system claims the common good depends entirely on the uncontrolled egoism of the individual, and especially on the prosperity of the corporation, hence freedom for corporations consists of freedom from responsibility and commitment to society. The maximization of profit must occur in the shortest time to ensure shareholder value. The primacy of politics over economics has been lost. Corporations, the largest institution of the 21st century, now dictate policies. Nation states have reverted to virtual feudalism. Neoliberal reform is decided above the heads of citizens and implemented behind their backs, appears as irrevocable reality. Once citizens become aware of consequences, those responsible for the changes are long gone and there is no way to rectify anything – protest and resistance are too late on the scene.

Why do people support an economic system that is rigged for the very few while the majority continue to fall further behind? We live in a world of illusion and see the world not as it is but as we want it to be. The neoliberal worldview has been embedded in contemporary culture to such an extent and now is so pervasive that any countervailing evidence serves only to further convince people of its ultimate truth. Like a law of nature, people believe nothing can change without the market, there is no alternative to neoliberal capitalism. To put it simply, cognitive dissonance is the brain’s inability to handle two conflicting realities, so it creates an alternate one, which often defies actual reality. Cognitive dissonance is often resolved in our short-term economic interests, ignoring competing concerns for long-term health and ethics. We must not give up the struggle for truth. This working-class mythology needs to change.

John Locke (1632–1704) effectively refuted the theory of divine right of kings propounding the idea the power to govern was obtained from the permission of the people as a social contract. In his view, the social contact only works because the people accept the laws and because they are for the public good. That means persons’ moral and/or political obligations are dependent upon an agreement among them to form the society in which they live. Locke supported economic inequality with his vigorous support of the right to property. There is a limitation or caveat in his statement – the individual is entitled to ownership, but only if this leaves “at least where there is enough, and as good, left in common for others.” This was intended to ensure that the situation of others is not worsened by one’s appropriation of property.2

“We are moving rapidly away from our democratic heritage into an oligarchic form of society,” Bernie Sanders claims. “Today, the most serious problem we face is the grotesque and growing level of wealth and income inequality. This is a profound moral issue, this is an economic issue and this is a political issue.”3 If one is going to change an economic system that is rigged for the very few while the majority continue to fall further behind, one must refuse the transparent falsehood that around us is the best form of government.

1 Mirowski, Philip. (2013) Never Let A Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown. VERSO: London p. 333-337.

2 De Fremery, Robert. Nozick and Locke’s Proviso. http://www.ditext.com/fremery/nozick.html

3 Prupis, Nadia. (10 Feb 2015) Bernie Sanders: Keeping US from Becoming Oligarchy Is ‘A Struggle We Must Win’. http://billmoyers.com/2015/02/10/bernie-sanders-keeping-us-becoming-oligarchy-struggle-must-win/

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A Conspiracy of the Rich

Thomas More’s life spanned a tumultuous era in European history during the Renaissance with many notable changes that included the emergence of the nation state. Europe and England were still founded on the economic models of feudalism, in which virtually all power resided with rich nobles while the peasants endured a backbreaking existence that supported the lavish lifestyles of their rulers but provided little more than a subsistence level of existence for themselves. Humanists often argued against feudalism, seeing it as a society dominated by the rich and exploitative of everyone else. In May 1515, More was sent to Bruges as part of a delegation to revise an Anglo-Flemish commercial treaty. It was during this trip he began to write Utopia. He coined the word ‘utopia’ from the Greek ou-topos meaning ‘nowhere’. But this was a pun – the almost similar Greek word eu-topas means ‘a good place’. The story of the fictional island society of Utopia was meant to contrast with the reality of European rule, divided by ideologies, greed and corruption.

During a visit to the Low Countries, the persona More was introduced by his friend Peter Giles to Raphael Hythloday, a world traveller who describes during a conversation the island of Utopia and its culture. In pursuit of his argument, Hythloday proceeds in a critical analysis of such things as the patterns of law, government, economics and mores among European nations, most particularly in England. He touched on the severity of the penal codes, gross inequities in the distribution of wealth and unequal participation in productive labour. For example, in Utopia workers are able to apprentice and learn more than one trade. They only work for six hours a day. No one is forced to work for unconscionable hours each day. However, nobody is allowed to lounge – the few that do are punished.

They do not suffer from lack of productivity, unlike the European population where there is a significant percent who do no productive work at all: rich gentlemen, all their retainers, and all the beggars. In addition, in Utopia they diligently maintain everything they build, thus have to spend far less energy undertaking rebuilding. With the general lack of Utopian vanity and understanding of utility and style, the goods Utopians use are also far less difficult to produce. The process through which their intellectuals are uncovered depends only on individual merit, a remarkable idea in an age dominated by privilege and birthright. Utopia is not ideal because its people are perfect, rather because its laws make it so that Utopian citizens must act perfectly despite their inherent failings as humans. Thus, utopian society is much more productive compared to any in Europe.

Hythloday believes Utopia to be the greatest social order in the world. As he says, ” I can have no other notion of all the other governments that I see or know, than that they are a conspiracy of the rich, who on pretence of managing the public only pursue their private ends, and devise all the ways and arts they can find out; first, that they may engage the poor to toil and labour for them at as low rates as possible, and oppress them as much as they please. And if they can but prevail to get these contrivances established by the show of public authority, which is considered as the representative of the whole people, then they are accounted laws.”1 Hythloday believes any other society than Utopia is merely a conspiracy of the rich whose objective is to increase their own wealth. Laws that they themselves established to protect their own interests support them.

Thomas More criticized the penal system in his book. In the 16th century there were few prisons. The only people incarcerated were for debt; such prisoner’s had to pay for board and lodging. The justice system was calculated to ensure tranquility. There was little need for prisons; the penalty for most crimes was guilty by death, while the innocent simply went free. Hythloday believes that it is unfair to create a society where the inequities are such that people have to steal in order to live, and then to hang people for merely trying to survive. He proposed as an alternative to death and execution to use imprisonment as a punishment. Thieves would work for the commonwealth, the vice is destroyed and people are permitted to live.

Faced with increasing populations situated outside the reaches of the disciplinary structure of the wage labor system, the neoliberal state reformed welfare into prison-fare to exert social control and to become a solution to structural economic inequality and political instability. From 1980 to 2010 the US penal population more than quadrupled during the same period when there was a massive drop in crime rate. The consequence of new mandatory minimum sentences for low level drug offences is the incarceration of a large population of non-violent, poor and mentally ill. The system affected black people disproportionately. In fact, black people were ten times more likely to be imprisoned for drug offences. Today the consensus is the system is broken; the only debate is how to fix it.

Today many need to work two jobs to make ends meet. This trend intensified in the aftermath of the Great Recession. The number of part-time jobs has increased significantly since 2007 while the number of full-time jobs dropped – corporations decided not to add full-time jobs that come with costly benefits. Now many workers find themselves stressed working 60-70 hours a week as the only way to survive. These long hours are mentally and physically exhausting and lead to stress at work and at home. Long-term stress can result in anxiety, high blood pressure, and a weakened immune system. It also contributes to depression, obesity and heart disease. People who experience excessive stress often deal with it in unhealthy ways such as overeating, eating unhealthy foods, smoking cigarettes or abusing drugs and alcohol.

Most of the wealth generated in finance is not even investment in the old sense of providing capital to productive or soon-to-be productive enterprises; it is just placing derivative bets on price fluctuations and nothing what ever to do with growing anyone’s business in the old text book sense. Greedy decision-makers on Wall Street with a sense of entitlement chose not to apply critical thinking but to intentionally take advantage of people, which led to the melt down of the economy in 2008. Many in the middle class saw their comfortable retirement, their home equity, and their dreams destroyed. Neoliberals emphasize that the role of government is to create a good business climate rather that look after the needs and well-being of the population at large. In a crisis conflict between the integrity of the financial institutions, on one hand, and the well-being of citizens on the other, the former was privileged. Deregulation has been, above all else, a means of reducing corporate business’s accountability to the public.

Neoliberal philosophy has a willful blindness to the connective activities of government and other social institutions. Neoliberalism is a class ideology – reduction of state interventions in economic and social activities and the deregulation of labour and financial markets. The pay back was to be the unprecedented creation of jobs and wealth. The application of these neoliberal policies has been responsible for a substantial growth of social inequalities within the countries where such policies have been applied. The major beneficiaries of these policies are the dominant class which have established a new aristocracy around the world who are primarily responsible for the promotion of neoliberalism. We need to recognize that factors like income inequality have far reaching implications and can undermine the economy everywhere in addition to the moral implications of one group’s comfort depending on the poverty of another.

The psychological defense mechanism used by the rich is splitting – a mechanism that diffuses the anxiety that arises from our inability to grasp the nuances and complexities of a given situation or state of affairs by simplifying the situation and thereby making it easier to think about; it also reinforces our sense of self as good and virtuous by effectively demonizing all those who do not share in our opinions and values. The combination of idealized markets and demonized government leads now during the current post-financial crisis austerity to a hollowing out of the government role in society and the economy. Neoliberals attack the connecting functions of society both through propaganda and through changes in government policies. The consequences of these attacks sets up a cycle of physical and social infrastructure crumbling under the false pretense that there is not enough financial resources to bring to bear on these vital social needs.

The dogma of deregulation and minimal government feeds the growth of globalization. Corporations are increasingly relying on outsourcing, acquisition and mergers, relocation of plant and equipment, and aggressive money management – all made possible by deregulation and computer communication technology. As the power of the nation state declines, sovereign power comes to be exercised by corporations – the welfare and security of individuals now depends on contracts with these organizations. These arrangements now mirror the political economy of the Middle Ages – ushering in virtual feudalism. The consequence of this exploitation is a middle class under attack with a growing economic gap between the wealthy and the rest of society.

In order to ensure the survival of the richest, it is democracy that has to be heavily regulated rather than capitalism. Poverty is socially constructed, not naturally created. Through virtual feudalism global corporations have engineered the economic decline of many individuals. Greed, weakened unions, and the effects of globalization drive inequality. Free markets are not really free – they come to be dominated by giants like Time Warner and Rupert Murdock. The greedy, the corrupt and the useless are as much in evidence today as they were 500 years ago. The present social order, a conspiracy of the rich, has lasted an extraordinarily long time. If a utopia is to be realized, one must refuse the transparent falsehood that the primacy of economics over politics is the best form of government.

1 Utopia: Top Ten Quotes. http://www.novelguide.com/utopia/top-ten-quotes

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How to Fix the Democratic Deficit

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Neoliberalism is a System of Violence

The elections of Margaret Thatcher in 1979 and Ronald Reagan in 1980 can be viewed as inaugurating the formal period of neoliberal economic policy dominance at the state level. A financial elite set in motion a process to reinvent government and have the market to serve as a model for structuring all social relations. Neoliberalism creates inequality in wealth and income and puts political power in the hands of ruling financial elites. Now 400 families control half of America`s wealth. A neoliberal ideology today defines the social relationships of poor people and the attitude towards them that supports an economic system that creates inequality. Key parts of neoliberal economic policy have increased inequality and risk stunting economic growth across the globe, economists at the International Monetary Fund have warned. Inequality is not only the natural state of market economics from a neoliberal perspective, but it is actually one of its strongest motor forces for progress. Neoliberals claim the concentration of income and wealth since the 1990s produces a more efficient and vibrant capitalism.

Neoliberals insist that they are agents of change. They aim to reform society by subordinating it to the market. Their goal is essentially to erase any distinctions among the state, society and the market. A major challenge of the neoliberals is how to maintain their pretence of freedom as non-coercion when, in practice, it seems unlikely that most people would freely choose the neoliberal version of the state. Their answer is to treat politics as if it were a market, and promote an economic theory of democracy while redefining the shape and functions of the state. In this manner, pretend one can replace ‘citizen’ with ‘customer’ and create a system based on market logic. In this system there is no special status of human labour. The human being is reduced to a bundle of investments and skill sets involved in an entrepreneurial strategic pursuit of advantage. The individual no longer has a special status; classes disappear as every individual is both employer and worker simultaneously. This vocabulary disarms discourse around such issues as social justice.

Neoliberalism directed its criticism against what was seen as an overextended role of the state in the economy and focused its discourse on defining the role of government in governance of society. The main thrust is to ensure the state provides the appropriate environment for the market to operate optimally. However, neoliberalism has negatively affected large numbers of people through retrenchments, degradation of work, misuse of the environment and increased poverty. It has been documented (in the UK) that social inequality is directly linked to public support for increasingly harsh criminal justice policy. It appears that over-representation of low status individuals might actually be perceived as justified because of stereotypes linking low economic status to perceived spiteful and insensitive disposition. Unsurprisingly, then, unemployment, inequality, and poverty have become increasingly blamed on the individual rather than on structural constraints. Many believe the simultaneous demise of the welfare state and the growth of the penal system are not a coincidence but rather a development designed to control marginalized populations.1

As austerity measures intensify in the wake of the most recent global financial crisis; it is becoming ever more clear that neoliberalism exhibits a distinct relational connection with violence. Following 2013 acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer and the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014 Black Lives Matter (BLM) became a rallying cry for a new chapter in the long black freedom struggle. BLM is doing more than linking racism not only to police violence but also to poverty and economic violence, and the need for deep political and economic structural changes. Specifically BLM targets a failing system of public education which is virtual school to prison pipeline for many black youth. In addition BLM wants the government to dismantle the prison industrial complex, to address safe and affordable housing, food security, and address health issues such as the reproductive justice challenges affecting poor women of color. The BLM message is black lives tend to be undervalued and more likely ended by police. The movement is about ending the fear that many black Americans feel when it comes to interacting with law enforcement.

Poor people can spend over 30% of their disposable income on housing. Providing supportive housing for individuals and families and making rent affordable for households at risk of homelessness would address this. Single mothers represent a disproportion of those living in poverty. Providing access to subsidized childcare for poor families would allow women to further their education and/or make it feasible for them to work. The economic and social conditions under which people live, rather than the biomedical risk conditions and lifestyles choices are the factors determining whether one develops chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease, which develop primarily from material depravation (of poverty), excessive psychological stress and the adoption of unhealthy coping behaviors. The link from family household income and poorer social and health outcomes is well documented – the growing income inequality in Canada and the US associated with globalization poses a significant threat to the health of many.

Conditions for the neoliberal vision of a good society were constructed – “disorder” was defined in a manner conducive to private business and development. For the most part there was no meaningful community input to policing rather a full embrace of private business and financial section input. The result was the criminalization of “disorder.” Suddenly police became more concerned about panhandling, public singing and dancing, loitering, public drinking, bicycle riders, boom boxes, prostitutes, graffiti and street vending than they were about serious criminal harms. Criminalizing previously noncriminal acts resulted in a strategy of order-maintenance policing that was both punitive and judgmental in vilifying those who might be marginally annoying but in no way dangerous. This was pandering to corporate interests while waging a war on the poor. In concert with the severe cuts to social service programs and the new definition of “crime” as disorder, policing became a major policy initiative in dealing with structural poverty.2 Today it is an unmitigated failure, which has backfired. Now in many places police are afraid to get out of their cars.

Luhmann’s theory of communication – a system is defined by a boundary between itself and the environment, dividing it from an infinity complex, chaotic exterior. Social systems consist of communications. Only social systems communicate not humans. When a social system communicates there is boundary between itself and the environment, a zone of reduced complexity. This leads to differentiated communication defined as the permissible communication one is limited to in dealing with complex elements within a system. Differentiated communication is found in politics, economy and religion. It has a binary code: profit / no profit, for / against – creating a dogmatic verdict. The rebuttal to ‘black lives matter ‘ which is about erasing the vulnerability and dehumanization of black people has been ‘all lives matter’ pretending the choice is binary and act as the other side framed it that way – a handy dodge, but dishonest, if one group you are talking about is subject to particular peril.

Neoliberal ideology claims the market ensures everyone gets what they deserve. In the era of neoliberalism, human beings are made accountable for their challenges or conditions according to the workings of the market as opposed to finding faults in larger structural and institutional forces like racism and economic inequality. The market exchange is an ethic in itself, capable of acting as a guide for all of human action. In our neo-liberal societies, each person is their own undertaking as a self-entrepreneur, existing in a series of contractualised relationships that are governed by the logic of self-improvement. It is up to us to make ourselves better, we are told, and the system simply supplies us with the appropriate tools to use – tasks to undertake and ladders to climb so that we may realize our potential. All lives matter – appeared in response to BLM. On CBS’s Face the Nation, Rudi Giuliani observed: “Black lives matter. White lives matter. Asian lives matter. Hispanic lives matter,” the idea being that all lives matter just the same. To Giuliani who sees ‘black lives matters’ as “inherently racist” and “Anti-American” is part of the neoliberal script no laws should be written that take particular care of one group but not another. Giuliani is on message with neoliberal thinking that no one has special status.3 This makes it possible to ignore the fact racial bias exists even when it is no longer conscious.

The Great Recession was the wake-up call: neoliberal fundamental economics was an ideology that was never supported by economic theory nor supported by historical experience (based on the 2008 debacle). It is a consequence of restructuring of class power in favour of the elite. The rise of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump in the US is a flag of the white middle class anger of those left behind by the economic inequality in the present economic system. The BLM movement is about interpersonal violence within the US increasing as neoliberalism expands. Neoliberalism has no vision of the good society or the public good and it has no mechanism for addressing society`s major economic, political and social problems. Economic conditions (i.e. inequality) are both the causes and the effects of violence with those on the poorer end of the spectrum experiencing the most violence.4 The restructuring of class power in favour of the economic elite sets up aggression, frustration and ultimately violence – confirming neoliberalism is a system of violence. As a result, neoliberal capitalism has nothing to do with democracy as justice is now linked to a market logic that divorces itself from social cost. What the movement is trying to address is state violence in all its manifestations – healthcare, the education system, in addition to police – to ensure racial equality.

1 How rising social inequality may be fueling public demands for increasingly harsh criminal justice policies. http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/usappblog/2016/01/28/how-rising-social-inequality-may-be-fueling-public-demands-for-increasingly-harsh-criminal-justice-policies/

2 Police Violence, Capital and Neoliberalism (15 Jan 2015) http://uprootingcriminology.org/essays/police-violence-capital-neoliberalism/

3 Kluger, Jeffry. Enough Already With ‘All Lives Matter’ http://time.com/4400811/all-lives-matter/

4 Smith, Candace. (6 Nov 2012) Neoliberalism and Inequality: A Recipe for Interpersonal Violence? https://thesocietypages.org/sociologylens/2012/11/06/neoliberalism-and-inequality-a-recipe-for-interpersonal-violence/

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The Social Contract of the Neoliberals

We should not forget that the definition of poor people and the attitude towards them has always been one of the mechanisms of economic systems that create inequality. Once the status of the poor was part of a religious view of society – the poor person thought to be in a blessed state led to the cultural acceptance of poverty. The Church taught that giving alms to the poor was the most important good work that a layperson could do. The merit system of salvation not only depended on good works in exchange for forgiveness of sins but created ‘the social contract of the High Middle Ages’: the duty of the poor to remain poor so that the salvation of the rich could be secured. The poor person was the one who made it possible for the rich person to reach heaven, thanks to his generosity. The perpetuation of poverty was thoroughly entangled with the doctrine of salvation.

There was ambiguity in the ideology of the Church in defining and judging the ‘involuntary poor’. Theological and cultural attitudes to poverty gradually became more hostile, as ideas on the virtues of poverty receded. Furthermore, putting the blame on the poor led to the criminalization of poverty and the identification of the poor person as a delinquent. There was no standard interpretation of poverty among Reformers. However, the Protestant Reformers held an important conviction in common: they all agreed the Roman understanding of poverty desperately needed revision. This ‘lust for profits,’ Martin Luther (1483-1546) observed, had many clever expressions: selling on time and credit, manipulating the market by withholding or dumping goods, developing cartels and monopolies, falsifying bankruptcies, trading in futures, and just plain misrepresenting goods. Such usury, Luther argued, affects everyone. “The usury which occurs in Leipzig, Augsburg, Frankfurt, and other comparable cities is felt in our market and our kitchen. The usurers are eating our food and drinking our drink.”1

Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) advocated utilitarianism as the basis for penal reforms in the early 19th century. He claimed that it was possible to decide by scientific means what was morally justifiable by applying the principles of utility. He advocated that actions were right if they tended to produce ‘the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people.’ In his day, the ‘people’ were individuals who could vote – workers at that time did not have the vote. While he died in 1832, his ideas were applied to the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act, with the goal to reduce the rates of poverty in the country in order to reduce the cost to the landowners.

In 19th century England most members of the working class likely slipped into poverty at some point in their lives because of such things as unemployment, sickness or old age. They had to rely on their friends, children or credit in hard times, and this was considered proper as it encouraged the poor to work. Poverty was not seen as a social problem – destitution was felt to be the result of character weakness. The Poor Law reform that reorganized the workhouses was expected to have a very good effect on the moral character of the workingman, because it was believed that poverty was caused by the bad habits of the poor.

The Reform Act of 1832 organized workhouses based on utilitarian principles – paupers would be forced work in the poorhouses – the conditions of the inhabitants were not to be better than the conditions of the lowest classes not working in the workhouses. This Poor Law reform was expected to work wonders for the moral character of the workingman, while reducing the costs of the relief system. The choice to incorporate the principles of utilitarianism in this legislation created an unmitigated disaster.

Edwin Chadwick (1800-1890), a leader in sanitary reform, noted that it was necessary to address issues of sewage and good water supplies before actually being able to determine the contribution of crowded housing to health problems. He was appalled at the number of people admitted to the workhouses and became convinced that if the health of the working population could be improved then there would be a drop in the numbers of people on relief. Chadwick used an economic argument to drive change – loss of revenue to the government because of early death of so many people. He believed that a healthier population would be able to work harder and would cost less to support, and if all of his recommendations were carried out the average life expectancy for the laboring classes would increase by at least 13 years.

In 1984, Charles Murray published Losing Ground. Its central thesis was that all government welfare programs should be abolished, supposedly because welfare hurt the very people it was intended to help by “rewarding bad behavior” such as “illegitimate babies.” Murray also called for ending food stamp programs. The New York Times wrote in 1985 that Losing Ground became “this year’s budget-cutters’ bible” noting, “in agency after agency, officials cite the Murray book as a philosophical base” for slashing social programs. Also Murray observed, by lowering the punishment for criminal activity (which was deemed to be society’s fault and not the perpetrator – who was seen as a victim) it encouraged more criminal activity and longer criminal records. These ideas supported the neoliberal mantra: the market ensures everyone gets what they deserve.

Murray’s manipulation of data claimed to show welfare programs were the cause of minority poverty, rather than the cure. In order to get the numbers to work to “prove” that liberal social welfare spending created poverty, Murray excluded government spending on the elderly from his “evidence.” As Lester Thurow, former dean of MIT’s Sloan School of Management noted, 86% of federal social welfare spending went to programs to help the elderly; and the poverty rate for the elderly dropped from 25.3% in 1969 to 14.1% in 1983, refuting Murray’s thesis. (The welfare system was actually working.) Thurow’s conclusion: “The purpose of Losing Ground is to help President Reagan shoot a silver bullet into the heart of the monster called social welfare spending.”2

Under the cultural trope of ‘individual responsibility’ welfare for the poor is cut and restructured to make welfare recipients more responsible for their economic status. The first way that neoliberalism facilitates an expansion of the criminal justice system is that the rise of neoliberal ideology helps justify increasingly punitive government intervention into crime and punishment – incarceration becomes a solution to structural economic inequality and political instability. Faced with increasing populations situated outside the reaches of the disciplinary structure of the wage labor system, the neoliberal state reforms welfare into prison-fare to exert social control and regulation of poor and deviant populations and, therefore, limit social instability. However, poverty and socioeconomic inequality are both positively correlated with crime and particularly with violent crime.

The Bretton Woods Institutions (the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank) were actually designed with Keynesian policies in mind; to help provide international regulation and control of capital. As Susan George notes, “when these institutions were created at Bretton Woods in 1944, their mandate was to help prevent future conflicts by lending for reconstruction and development and by smoothing out temporary balance of payments problems. They had no control over individual government’s economic decisions nor did their mandate include a license to intervene in national policy.” This is very different from what they are doing today.3

Ronald Reagan facilitated neoliberalism becoming a mainstream ideology. It was in 1972 that the World Bank took up the theme of poverty, which more or less corresponds to the beginning of the neoliberal global political economy, later to be known as the Washington Consensus. With the passing of time and according to the intentions of the user, the vocabulary evolved. ‘Elimination’ of poverty became ‘reduction’ of poverty and, over the last few years the concept of extreme poverty appeared, associated with hunger. These, it was declared, must gradually be eliminated, while poverty must be mitigated.

Francine Mestrum arrives at the conclusion that poverty should be defined as ‘the lack of means to provide for one’s existence’, adding that ‘in a market economy this signifies the lack of financial means’. Thus, to understand poverty, it is necessary to know existing social relationships and the mechanisms for reproducing them, because poverty is socially constructed. It is not created by nature [Alternatives Sud, Vol. VI (1999), No. 4].

The World Bank and IMF documents – not to mention those of the World Trade Organization – are convinced about the best way to reduce poverty. They cite the evidence: growth must be increased because it is not possible to share out a cake if there is no product in the first place. The best way to trigger growth, according to this view, is to allow the market to function and thus to liberalize the economy and remove all obstacles to trading in goods, services and capital. Thus it is necessary to privatize state enterprises and the public services to the maximum, and to deregulate the social protection that is hindering the whole process. In the end, they say, this can only benefit the poor who can at least profit from the trickle-down effect.

As global demand for cheap clothing rises rapidly, Bangladesh’s position as the second biggest exporter in the world continues to hold strong, which is mainly due to its large population and low labour costs. Bangladesh rose to its position largely because of its lack of regulation and the low wages it pays its garment workers, most of whom are women. Bangladesh’s minimum wage for the sector is one of the world’s lowest – or according to some groups, the very lowest – even after the government raised it in response to fallout from the Rana Plaza disaster. As a witness has testified: ‘They work for 12 hours a day, very often 7 days a week for a wage of 15 to 35 euros a month. They are locked in, body searched when they leave, and are not allowed to talk among themselves. Union freedom is purely theoretical, as the ‘subversives’ are sacked…”[Le Monde Diplomatique, August 2005]. 4

The living wage is a wage that is high enough to maintain a family’s basic needs of living: food, clothes, rental housing, childcare, transportation and small savings to cover illness and emergencies. The minimum wage is significantly lower than the living wage. The two largest private employers in the US are Wal-Mart Stores with 1.4 million employees and McDonald’s (including franchises) with 420,000. In the year ended Jan 31, 2016, Wal-Mart generated $482.13 billion in revenue and posted net income of $14.69 billion, recently raised wages to $10.00 an hour. The challenge is many only get 34 hours a week work, and the $18,000 a year cannot maintain a family’s basic needs. The majority of MacDonald’s employees make less than $10.00 an hour in the US while in Demark they are paid $20.00 an hour. Since 1989 Mitch McConnell, presently the Senate Majority leader, has voted 17 times against minimum wage increases.

The rich persuade themselves they acquired their wealth through merit, ignoring the advantages – such as education, inheritance and class – that may have helped to secure it. The social contract of the neoliberals: the creed of docile respectful working poor to depend on inequality to drive the motor of the ideal market system. What is the mechanism behind the perpetuation of poverty in Canada and the US? Government social insecurity maintains the minimum wage – if you raise wages, jobs will disappear. This message disciplines various factions of the post-industrial working class. Of the 1.4 million Wal-Mart employees in the US, one million of them slip into poverty at any given time. It is a neoliberal ideology that defines the social relationships of poor people and the attitude towards them that supports an economic system that creates inequality.

1 Lindberg, Carter. (1987) Luther on the Use of Money. https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/article/luther-on-the-use-of-money/

2 “Project S.H.A.M.E: The Recovered History of Charles Murray.” (10 Jan 2013) http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/01/project-s-h-a-m-e-the-recovered-history-of-charles-murray.html

3 Shah, Anup. (2010) Primer on Neoliberalism http://www.globalissues.org/article/39/a-primer-on-neoliberalism#FreeMarketsWereNotNaturalTheyWereEnforced

4 François Houtart Neoliberalism and Poverty http://www.spokesmanbooks.com/Spokesman/PDF/88Houtart.pdf

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Why Hillary Clinton Needs Elizabeth Warren

Nietzsche (1844-1900) rejected the power of reason, and the belief that science would automatically lead to progress. He claimed there was no objective fact about what has value in itself – culture consisted of beliefs developed to perpetuate a particular power structure. The system, if followed by the majority of the people, supports the interests of the dominant class. For Nietzsche the values (culture and traditions) of the dominant society (with an ideology consistent with its interests) were oppressing the emergence of a new generation of stronger individual and a more vigorous society and culture. Darwin has effectively shown that searching for a true definition of species is not only futile but unnecessary since the definition of a species is something temporary, something which will change over time, without any permanent lasting and stable reality. Nietzsche strived through his philosophical work to do the same for cultural values. He substituted Darwin’s adaptive fitness with creative power – for Nietzsche everything is in flux. Ideas should change as soon as information and inputs change.

Neoliberalism happens to be the ideology that has the fortune of coinciding with technological change on a scale that it makes its penetration into every realm of being – redefining the state, institutions of society and the self. Globalization has been facilitated by numerous technical developments and the spread of economic neoliberalism. Neoliberals like to focus on public debt, while private debt makes individuals more disciplined while narrowing the scope of opportunities further. What explains the neoliberal preference for private debt and aversion to government debt? Private indebtedness, unlike government deficit expenditure, binds the majority of individuals more tightly to the wage labour system. Workers with mortgages and other debt obligations will be more subservient in relation to their employers, and less likely to risk their present positions in negotiating over wages and conditions.

The neoliberal policies of deregulation, privatisation, user pays principle, and austerity all played their parts in weakening the position of the vast majority relative to the corporate capitalists, while pushing the general population into indebtedness. The labour market deregulation assisted corporations in the defeat of organized labour. Financial deregulation opened the way for credit fueled private consumption, the real estate bubble, and interest and service charges for rentiers. The user pay principle has loaded students with debt; lifestyles other than wage slavery are deliberately made less viable. Austerity plays a role, intentionally creating joblessness and insecurity for many. This process creates unemployment that is higher than before, and this is used as evidence that wages were too high, legitimizing stagnant wages, particularly minimum wages. In addition, to control unemployment, neoliberal principles dictate cutting unemployment benefits to remove disincentives to work.  Neoliberals are intent that persistent high unemployment exist alongside stagnant wages and weaker safety net.

The scale of and reasons for the global financial meltdown are posing questions that are every bit as intense as those posed to economists at the time of the Great Depression, and the 1970s oil shock. In both those instances, the inability of the dominant paradigm (of society) to accommodate the new realities led to major changes in ways people organized their societies around the world. Today, the fact that the economic crisis is coinciding with an unprecedented ecological crisis raises the stakes even higher. The rise of Trump and Sanders in the US prompts further skepticism in neoliberal market fundamentalism.

Many countries were running a budget deficit in the aftermath of the financial crisis. In Britain, neoliberals claimed an immediate risk for the country becoming another Greece unless it immediately began cutting spending and raising taxes. Such action, neoliberals declared, creates business-boosting confidence. In actual fact, with the global turn to austerity in 2010, every country that introduced significant austerity has seen its economy suffer – with the depth of suffering closely related to the harshness of the austerity. In 2012, the IMF chief economist, Oliver Blanchard, admitted the IMF now believes it massively understated the damage that spending cuts inflict on a weak economy. Even economic research that allegedly supported the austerity plan has been discredited. However, George Osborne and David Cameron boasted that their policies saved Britain from a Greek-style crisis of soaring interest rates.1

P. Thompson, among others, promoted the bottom-up approach to history – begin with the needs of society then build upwards to construct the economic climate that will provide for needs of the people. Top-down systems like fundamental neoliberal economics deal with the abstract while bottom-up systems deal with ‘facts on the ground’. Democracy is a bottom-up political system designed to displace dictatorships, theocracies, and oligarchies. The driving force is people want to be free and have opportunities to reach their potential. Economic systems are the result of human action, not human design.  Neoliberalism’s task, from this point on, is to mask and manage inequalities that are likely to befall humanity, and increasingly deflect issues on environmental degradation.

The Brexit vote has challenged the principles of globalization. Many Britons wanted to take back control of the country from the faceless bureaucrats in Brussels. However, the Brexit debate wasn’t about economics, it was about zenophobia triggered by an immigration surge. EU rules restrict the ability of a member state to bar immigration from other EU member states. The ‘Leave’ camp would have workers believe that uncontrolled emigration reduced job opportunities and suppressed wages in Britain. The ‘Leave’ campaign claimed Britain does not get enough benefits in return for monies paid into the EU system. David Cameron debated from the weakness of the abstract concept of trade advantages of a larger marketplace, while Boris Johnson appealed to the elemental fear in the country, torn apart by the abstraction of the market. Brexit became a proxy plebiscite on immigration.

In the 2016 US presidential primaries both Trump and Sanders are capitalizing on US citizens discontent with the inequalities resulting from neoliberalism.  Sanders organized along the lines of political polarization between big business and the working class. Trump promises to dismantle the so-called destructive free trade deals which have enabled many companies to move their production facilities to other countries to exploit cheap labour and make exorbitant profits under neoliberalism. Trump brushes aside how he amassed a personal fortune based on the very economic system he is criticising. He casts himself as a shrewd deal-maker who will get a much better deal for common Americans within a global economy (which US policies have themselves been instrumental in shaping).

Donald Trump feasts on social divisions and has perfected harnessing the rage of the workers driven by the failure of neoliberal market fundamentalism. For him this creates facts on the ground to incorporate into his speeches. Trump continues the unorthodox, controversial and successful campaign used to secure the nomination – target globalization and free trade in his speeches. To unify the social conservatives along with his supporters, Trump combines attacks  on Clinton’s character with promises to appoint judges who reflect their values such as pro-life, and to reduce immigration threats to American security, customs and values.  America is losing its independence through globalization, Trump claims, and he will vigorously go after trade violations to protect the jobs of American workers. Trump claims he is the change agent, in contrast to Clinton who he says represents the status quo.

On the other hand, Hillary Clinton is presented as calm and steady in times of uncertainty compared to Trump who comes across as a hot-headed demagogue. Clinton debates from weakness of abstract concepts of her economic plan, such as expanding employment opportunities, support for education, fund breakthroughs in scientific and medical research – essentially manage trickle-down economics more effectively. Clinton’s policies only tinker with the neoliberal economic system. Workers voting in the primaries declared a need for change – neoliberalism is not working for them. In short, she needs to avoid defending abstract concepts and introduce a bottom-up economic plan describing changes that people can relate to. The message from Brexit: belief in the ideology that supports the EU created a barrier to understanding the extent of the backlash among workers bypassed by globalization.

Nietzsche claimed facts cannot be separated from interpretations. Objectivity is beyond human capability because the mind cannot know ‘truth’ in an objective sense. Minds are useful, but according to Nietzsche invariably flawed because they cannot separate facts from human error and moral values, which inevitably are subjective. If all perspectives are subjective and hence flawed, what perspective is society to follow? Nietzsche’s perspective was that no source of knowledge was authoritative. Sources of knowledge won ascendancy based on which ones were backed by holders of power. Thus, perceived truth depended on power. Real truth, if it existed, was not bestowed by princely or divine power, but was relative and subjective. It depends on circumstances.

Recognition that moral values are subjective and that rights can only be interpreted in their social context frees the observer to break from the bondage of false views to see society more clearly, if still subjectively. In this system, with no absolute truth, one must evaluate one moral position in relation to other moral positions.

Nietzsche considered nihilism a transitional stage that accompanies human development. It arises from frustration and weariness. When people feel alienated from values, and have lost the foundation of their value system but have not replaced it with anything, then they become nihilists. Nietzsche saw that the old values and old morality simply didn’t have the same power that they once did.  He believed that there was no longer any real substance to traditional social, political, moral, and religious values, and science does not introduce a new set of values to replace the Christian values it displaces. Nietzsche rightly foresaw that people need to identify some source of meaning and value in their lives, and if they could not find it in science, they would turn to aggressive nationalism and other such salves as xenophobia.

Donald Trump is employing populist nihilism in his 2016 presidential campaign. The ideology of the dominant society, fundamental neoliberal economics, has alienated his followers from values such as the American dream. With this strategy he does not need a detailed jobs program before the election. Trump’s strategy is countered by evaluating one economic position in relation to another economic position. Hillary Clinton must describe the economic and environmental positions that she seeks to provide for the needs of the people in terms of countering the excesses of neoliberal economics. For example, to close the inequality gap, increase the minimum the wage and implement significant education  reform. Clinton needs a VP who can communicate these messages effectively to students and the working class. Elizabeth Warren battled the neoliberals over Americans’ retirement security. Warren knows the country should be run for the people not the corporations, and as unions weaken, the chances of getting progressive social policy also weakens. These are the type of ideas that excite  Bernie Sanders’ followers. This is why Hillary Clinton needs Elizabeth Warren.

1 Krugman, Paul (29 April 2015) The Austerity Delusion http://www.theguardian.com/business/ng…/2015/apr/29/the-austerity-delusion


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