Posts Tagged ‘Disinformation’

The Political Right and the ‘Bottom Line’

March 8, 2018

Do the right look after the budget bottom line in government?

Probably not anymore. Not if it interferes with giving taxpayer’s money and possessions to the corporate sector.

In the US, we have corporate tax cuts, massively increased military spending and license for corporations to pollute and poison people – none of this will apparently cost the public anything.

In Australia, the Right wing Coalition has blown out the debt since taking over, and plans to blow it out even more, with more military spending, more spending on supporting the Adani corporation dig up and burn enough coal to wipe out climate stability, tax cuts for corporations who don’t pay any tax and so on.

Then there is the Coalition in NSW. They apparently have plenty of money to throw at developers, while selling off public goods, making life easy for coal miners to pollute, and destroy our water table, and harder for ordinary people to protest. They constantly make massive commercial in confidence deals with public money. They sign contracts with private enterprise before business cases and Environmental Impact Statements are finished. They support the idea of public money being spent on private enterprise sports stadiums, when the sports organisations are tax exempt because they are supposed to provide their own facilities. They make totally stupid decisions with public transport – new trains without toilets on long routes, new trains that can’t fit in the tunnels, new tunnels that can’t fit normal stock. They dig up rail access into the centre of Newcastle so that developers can build on the ex-tracklines. They think that a major new tax on transport in Sydney (through the Westconnex set of motorways) is a great idea as long as the tax is a toll going to private enterprise, and it won’t end up funding public hospitals, schools or renewable energy research – and the public funds the building of the new roads. Cost, of course, blows out massively as it is remuneration for private business, and people get thrown out of their homes and undercompensated. This is either a pure waste of money and incompetence, or a deliberate policy about giving money to those who already have it, at the cost of everything else. The other way of seeing this is as normal crony-capitalism in action. The corporations control the parties who control the State, and the State exists to benefit the ruling corporations.

The last two Federal Coalition leaders, have both failed to deal with any of the problems we face at all – in fact they have run away from them, tried to put the cost on the less wealthy, or have simply made the problems worse.

It is always easy to pretend to live prosperously if you sell off your assets and overspend – eventually it hits, and that could be the grand idea, bankrupt the government and throw ordinary people to the wolves. Sometimes, as Walter Steensby says, it looks as though the neoliberal philosophy thinks that people and nature are just costs and an obstruction to its own development, and they need to be disposed of.

The Right often only seems to worry about the bottom line when there is a chance that money might be going to people who actually need it to survive.


Stages of social collapse….

February 2, 2018

Slightly Edited from “How societies collapse” by Umair Haque

Step one. The economy stagnates, [and social mobility declines. Largely because the elites, (religious, military, or mercantile) monopolise property, markets, and information, and control the government to protect themselves. They keep up, or increase, patterns of behavior that destroy the ecology they depend upon]. Life becomes harder and meaner for most people. The elites will deny the stagnation and destruction because, otherwise, they have admitted that they have failed, or are making things worse: in this way, a social contract and any sense of mutual obligation is broken and never gets repaired. [Note after and during the Great Depression and post WWII, there was an attempt to fix things up, because it seemed obvious that the ruling elites faced revolution if they did not.]

Step two. Ordinary people end up competing more and more viciously to maintain their living standards [as there is no means of co-operation which is allowed. Unions and other cooperative activities are broken or declared to be evil, as they could form challenges to the elites. Competition between each other and loyalty to the elite is lauded as prime virtues.]. Social bonds break and social norms begin to disintegrate.

Step three. People turn to supposed strongmen in the hope of gaining the safety democracy has failed to give them. This is the moment when decline implodes into true collapse. [Most of these ‘strongmen’ will defend the ruling elites while pretending to defend the people or the nation. People can regain valued cooperation by supporting the visible elite through patriotism, nationalism, party loyalty or religious fundamentalism. Things can feel better for some. There is hope.]

Step four. The strongest groups begin to exterminate the weaker perfectly legally. The insiders’ economic portions are kept stable by excluding, or eliminating, whole social groups altogether. [Or the dominant groups intensify application of the techniques which have given them wealth and which destroy life] This fact is kept from the people, officially — but who cannot be aware at some level?

Step five. Because the problem of stagnation is rarely solved by exterminating the weak [or destroying the ecology], the society has doomed itself to forever attempting to take its neighbouring societies harvests’ or falling apart. [In so doing, it generates enemies which can boost internal loyalty, and keep the system going until total collapse.] This is how fascism leads to atrocity, war, and mass murder.


Some Comments on The State of the Union

February 1, 2018

Some comments on parts of Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, from his point of view…..

“All Americans deserve accountability and respect — and that is what we are giving them. So tonight, I call on the Congress to empower every Cabinet Secretary with the authority to reward good workers — and to remove Federal employees who undermine the public trust or fail the American people.”

I want to get rid of public servants that are not convinced that I, Donald Trump, am god, and replace them with loyal sycophants – because people who agree with me know a super genius when they meet one.

“In our drive to make Washington accountable, we have eliminated more regulations in our first year than any administration in history.”

I am making Washington accountable, by removing its ability to prevent corporations from poisoning the environment or you. That’s what makes America Great!

“We have ended the war on American Energy — and we have ended the war on clean coal. We are now an exporter of energy to the world”

We can now cheer loudly as we destroy the world for profit. I’m going to make a real killing here.

“To speed access to breakthrough cures and affordable generic drugs, last year the FDA approved more new and generic drugs and medical devices than ever before in our history.”

Pharmaceutical corporation profit is much more important than your health. America runs on profit not people.

“People who are terminally ill should not have to go from country to country to seek a cure — I want to give them a chance right here at home. It is time for the Congress to give these wonderful Americans the “right to try.””

That is they have the “right to try” prayer, because it is all they can afford. And American religion is the best.

“Any bill must also streamline the permitting and approval process — getting it down to no more than two years, and perhaps even one.”

Because every loyal American wants a motorway going through their backyard, and should have no right to protest, because protestors are all Anti-fa scum.

“For decades, open borders have allowed drugs and gangs to pour into our most vulnerable communities.”

I keep telling you, immigrants are gang members and should be shot on sight. Get with it!

“Around the world, we face rogue regimes, terrorist groups, and rivals like China and Russia that challenge our interests, our economy, and our values. In confronting these dangers, we know that weakness is the surest path to conflict, and unmatched power is the surest means of our defense.”

Another arms race is a really productive way of getting taxpayer dollars into the pockets of hard working arms manufacturers. And, because we will let them sell their stuff everywhere, we need to pour even more taxpayer money into arms to keep ahead. The NRA will love it!

“We must modernize and rebuild our nuclear arsenal”

Because I like threatening people with nuclear war, and its ok because I’m not Hillary.

And don’t forget I’m all about unifying America. Unity means praising me. That’s how you tell we are unified. We need to get rid of negative people now….

More Government?

January 22, 2018

In my work I often come across people writing something like:

There’s a category of people, often found mollycoddled inside government institutions such as universities, for whom “more government” is the answer to absolutely every problem.

This annoys me.

For one, in my entire and pretty lengthy life, I have never met anyone who thinks the answer to anything is “more government”. Never. It is a completely false accusation.

There are, however, a large number of people who object to giving all governmental power to the corporate sector (as is the usual results of actions by those who supposedly support ‘small government’), and there are those who think that ‘the people’ should be able to participate in their own government and challenge corporate dominance.

As you might expect both positions are easily misrepresented by people who work for the dominant powers who heavily fund think tanks and now permeate the university system. We might even say, by those cosseted by capitalism, for thinking ‘righteously’. They can pretend that wanting to be able to challenge corporate dominance, is a call for more government, knowing that hardly anyone will protest in favour of more government, once it is framed that way. This is also fundamentally dishonest.

The real questions are: do you want input into the government, do you want to participate in government, or do you want to leave it to the corporately sponsored and paid for elites? Do you want to keep wondering why government decisions always seem to benefit that class, or do you want to do something about it?

Capitalism appears to inherently intertwine itself into the State, resulting in more liberty for corporations, and more oppressive government for everyone else, unless it is challenged. At least I do not know of a historical circumstance in which this is not true. The fact that other systems can be even worse, does not disprove this.

We need to challenge these glib pro-corporate memes which try and construct corporate interests and peoples interests as always the same and always coinciding only with corporate interests, and replace them with ones that reflect reality.

What is Socialism?

January 19, 2018

Usually socialism means that ‘the people’ have the right to try and influence market power, so that the inherently top down processes of capitalism involving corporations and other elites do not tread all over them. Socialism also tries to provide increased opportunity for those who are disadvantaged, or who don’t have the luck to be born to wealthy parents, without lowering the opportunities for those who start off more fortunate. Capitalism seems to try to make it harder for people to succeed if they are not born into the right class. Metaphorically, if capitalism wants dancers, it breaks the legs of everyone who is poor, has them set badly, and then claims that the wealthy dance better because they have worked harder and have more intrinsic talent. Sure some people with broken legs will find a new way of dancing, but the corporate media will scoff endlessly. Socialism approves of social mobility and people bettering themselves, even when they are not of the right class.

Attempting to curb corporate power and insure against bad luck, usually translates into government policies such as there should be a minimum wage (rather than that competition between workers should bottom out below what is needed to live). There should be some kind of unemployment benefits (so that people can risk changing work, or not be forced to work for wages less than the benefits) and this benefit should not just time out. There is usually some kind of provision for health care, so that poor people do not have to ‘choose’ to die or suffer unnecessarily. There is usually a provision for basic pensions, or a compensation scheme, for people who are ill or injured and cannot work.

Socialism believes that a people can only govern themselves if there is a good education system not influenced entirely by commercial factors, as commerce has little relationship to truth. So it usually believes that spending taxpayers’ money on such a system is a good investment, although it allows people to spend their own money, without subsidy, on their ideas of education, provided it meets some basic quality standards – there will always be debate about these. A socialist state usually has a well funded and independent media provider – which is free of government intervention and commercial control – this has to be fought for, as capitalists like controlling all information. Ideally a socialist government should not be able to declare war unless there is a direct attack on the country, or it consults with the people.

There are usually regulations on the ‘free market’ (as the desire of corporations to control markets completely is known), so that people cannot be injured, maimed or killed at work without some employer responsibility or compensation from the system. There are usually regulations so that corporations cannot poison, or pollute with complete impunity. It is usually expected that money earned in a country should be taxed in that country, as the money is earned in a situation built by that taxation and spending. Socialism encourages unions so that workers have some bargaining power at work and some rough power equality with their employers.

The classic socialist states usually ran businesses in competition with private companies. The idea of this was to prevent cartels forming, to have real competition, and to try and foster innovation which is commercially risky. Socialist governments usually try and make sure there is an independent science sector as well to avoid commercial control and the issuing of harmful but profitable substances, and to try and prevent patents from inhibiting research and innovation.

Basically socialism is about minimising the top down organisation that you get in capitalism where, when things are unchecked, you end up with a simple plutocracy and those who have the money have all the power – like we have now. Socialism encourages all people to participate in their governmental process at whatever level they wish to. It does not panic at the thought of popular action and power sharing.

Naturally plutocrats hate the idea of sharing power, so they spend a lot of money pretending that capitalist practice leads to liberty and good for all. It has never done so. Capitalism always leads to capitalists capturing the government and using it to further their interests at the expense of everyone else.

Some Quotations from Adam Smith

January 18, 2018

“People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the publick, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”

“The capricious ambition of kings and ministers has not, during the present and the preceding century, been more fatal to the repose of Europe, than the impertinent jealousy of merchants and manufacturers”

“Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defence of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.”

“Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production; and the interest of the producer ought to be attended to only so far as it may be necessary for promoting that of the consumer. The maxim is so perfectly self-evident that it would be absurd to attempt to prove it. But in the mercantile system the interest of the consumer is almost constantly sacrificed to that of the producer; and it seems to consider production, and not consumption, as the ultimate end and object of all industry and commerce.”

“Folly and injustice seem to have been the principles which presided over and directed the first project of establishing those colonies [in the Americas]; the folly of hunting after gold and silver mines, and the injustice of coveting the possession of a country whose harmless natives, far from having ever injured the people of Europe, had received the first adventurers with every mark of kindness and hospitality.”

U.S. Dictatorship

January 13, 2018

Can the USA become Fascist?

A lot depends on what you mean by fascism. After all Hitler and Mussolini’s ideas were significantly different from each other, and yet had significant resemblance to Stalin’s. If you mean a militaristic and nationalist state of the kind found in Germany and Italy in the 1930s, then yes its possible if the US keeps increasing military spending, militarizing its police, supporting arms manufacturers, threatening other States, or expelling inferior people who are not “real Americans”. If you mean a state which unifies and includes the established corporate sector, then yes its probable (if that is not already standard practice). If you mean a State in which it is respectable and beneficial to be a self proclaimed neo-Nazi, then yes. If you mean a state which sacrifices its people to fantasy, then we already have that. Fascism requires people have a flexible attitude to reality and truth; truth is what the party says it is.

It is, however, probably better to scrap the term fascism and ponder about dictatorial governance. If, by fascism you really mean a personalized dictatorship in which everyone has to say how wonderful the dictator is, and there is constant heavy likelihood of war – then the US is also pretty close to that.

Conservatives often say that dictatorship cannot happen under the Republicans because they believe in individual responsibility and free markets. However, not all well-intentioned ideas work out in practice, or are even implemented by those who espouse them. To me, it often seems that Republican politicians primarily act to increase the powers of the wealthy and the corporate sector and remove any inhibitions on those powers – this is what they mean by ‘free markets’ – and this has nothing to do with freedom or liberty. Likewise conservatives are supposed to respect traditions and procedures. However, the Republicans seem largely to respect traditions and procedures when those traditions support their ‘side’. The difference between the way they have encouraged investigation of the Clintons over relatively trivial matters and seem to be trying to shut down investigations into this President on relatively serious matters is otherwise remarkable. Dictatorship encourages ‘sides’ and ‘allegiances’, and the idea that the other side is evil. To some extent, it depends on this.

Dictatorships often start off abusing people that disagree with them, turn blind eyes when people on their side try to threaten others physically, and then try to shut opposition down (Charlottesville). If a member of the party brings bad news or agrees with the other side (even once) then they are to be exiled and punished; setting an example and warning against independent thought for the others (think of Bannon). This seems to be the current US President’s only mode of debate. Fellow Republicans appear to be falling in line.

In accordance with the idea of allegiance being truth, dictatorships do not like the idea of umpires, neutral observers or scientists, if these people do not always obey the ideology and swallow the ideological truth. This position is never clearly enunciated, because the ideology must be true and disbelievers are criminal, so umpires are always potentially ‘biased’. Lies, confusion of knowledge, accusations of lies, false theories, common-sense that is wrong, and so on are part of dictatorship. People live in fantasy and denial (climate change, ‘free markets’). The position clearly does not respect individual rights, or reality. Dictatorships also try to stack positions of authority with people who are loyal and subservient rather than competent. This is true to a great extent of many of Trump’s appointments.

The Dictator is said to be a super-genius who everyone must look up to as their savior. He is unique, beyond the law and an exemplar for everyone, no matter what his real history, because he is the best. He knows more than generals. Knows more than scientists. Knows more than specialists in any field. He instinctively knows what is right…. criticism of him suggests the critic is an evil fool who must be repudiated and stomped on. Remind you of anyone?

This pattern is entirely in keeping with what social category theory would predict, and indeed suggests it may well be deliberately engineered. So how do you make dictators?

Firstly, you remember that people are more easily persuaded by people they identify with, who claim to be on their side. You deliberately increase the negative reactions towards people from outgroups. You take over the news media and make it more extreme. You say all other disagreeing media is hopelessly biased. You persuade people that other media is attacking our group. You make it up if you have to. You get people angry. Your audience is said to be abandoned by the other media and side of politics, they are the victims. This makes your viewers less likely to use other media. You lie shamelessly. You repeat the falsehoods continually so they become part of the background. You destroy any linkages with the other side, by making lack of linkage a matter of loyalty and of distrust of others. You expand into extremism, linking people together who are hostile to your ‘enemies’. This further destroys links between moderates, and moves people to defend extremists and separate themselves further from those on the other side. You pretend that your side is fighting against power, even when its policies do nothing other than support power. Everyone who argues differently must suffer or be exiled. This helps reinforce group loyalties. You gradually keep increasing the tensions until the system breaks and a savior from your group comes along, and its does not matter that he treats the outgroups badly, because they are the villains. You say you are defending the nation and tradition, while you tear those traditions down. You help this with abuse, force and violence, making the violence more and more natural. If corruption on your side becomes visible, then you argue that the other side is equally corrupt if not worse.

These are some steps towards making a dictator. They boil down to: reinforce group identities, together with group boundaries and exclusions. Control information, and build anger against outgroups.

What do you do to prevent loony personalized Dictators?

Don’t think that because you are a nice person and well intentioned, that other people on your side cannot do bad things. Be suspicious of ingroups and outgroups, the more the boundaries seem forced.

Imagine your response if the other side behaved the way your side is behaving, and see if you are consistent. (ie what would your response be if the Russians had helped Clinton win, if they had had contact with high up people in her electoral campaign, if people in Campaign headquarters had lied about those contacts, and if Democrats where trying to shut the inquiry down claiming it was a harmful witch hunt). This helps restore perspectives and spread ‘evil’ around, rather than concentrate it.

Make sure powerful people obey the law and get punished equally to poorer people, and don’t have special exemptions for them – especially if they are identified with your side.

If powerful people look like they have committed treason or other crimes then it must be investigated, no matter how inconvenient it may be for your side’s victory.

Support traditional checks and balances, and traditional procedures – especially if they seem inconvenient.

Make sure you don’t strip away rights from ordinary people. (And recognize that rights always involve an inhibition of other people’s rights to take away those rights. For example, a right of private property depends against stopping the rights of others to take that property away, or paying a portion of that property to guarantee the rest of it. So rights are always in conflict, especially with previous privilege.)

Make sure you don’t help a powerful class of people get more powerful.
Do not support increases in military spending, especially if the threat is vague.

Do not support the expansion of weaponry sales elsewhere, as that just encourages instability and increases the likelihood of war.

Support candidates who actually listen to the other side, because not listening to any one else is a mark of dictatorial attitudes.

Don’t support people who argue by abuse or threat.

Support people who listen to science rather than ideology – they are more in tune with reality, and used to letting ideology go.

Recognise that Dictatorship, and ‘cult of personality’ is a particular form of intensive group loyalty and unquestioning allegiance. It usually comes together with scapegoating, intolerance and militarism. It seems well suited to large scale societies and requires vigilance to avoid.

Virtue is not easy. Organize, before you get organized.

Never think it cannot happen simply because of the virtue of your side of politics, and then it is far less likely to occur.


January 2, 2018

I guess this is repetitive…. but does everyone really think that Republicans would be poo-pooing and calm if:

a) The Russians had intervened to help the Democrats win a Presidential election

b) High level members of the Democrat campaign had been having contact with known Russian agents to the extent the FBI was interested.

c) High level members of the Democrat campaign knew in advance of stolen documents from the Republican Campaign and encouraged the Russians to make them public.

d) These people lied about their contacts with Russians and their advance knowledge.

e) Various people including the presidential candidate had lied about their business dealings in Russia.

f) The newly elected President had tried to discredit the investigation, get rid of the investigators, and threaten those involved. And the President’s party had tried to obstruct the enquiry.

g) More and more evidence kept implicating the Democrat campaign, and non supported their claims that they were ignorant.

We can guess they would be screaming about treason, and taking the latest piece of evidence that members of the President’s campaign thought the Russians had dirt on the opposition in May 2016, very seriously indeed.

Clearly Putin would not support Trump if he thought Trump had any chance of making America Great Again. He, like most people who had followed any Trump news probably expected an ignorant, thin skinned mass of confusion who would try to make money out of his office and alienate his allies. At the least he would know Trump would be erratic and would probably fold under personal threat.

Trump as ‘Radical’

October 10, 2017

I recently asked a person why they thought Trump was working for the benefit of the American people.

Their reply mentioned the employment figures, ending the TPP, and peace in Syria.

I have to agree that the employment figures are nice but it seems that they simply continue the trend established under Obama. So far, I have not heard any evidence which supports the idea that Trump had anything to do with the continuation of this trend or had actually increased the trend. I’d be surprised if, without any large scale legislation, the first six month’s of any president’s office did not express the last six months of their predecessor.
What policies did he implement, or actions did he perform, that have changed things in that six months? without this data it could easily be that he is riding on the results of Obama’s policies?

I won’t object to abandoning the negotiations on the Trans Pacific Partnership. People on the left have been arguing against the TPP for ages, as being a surrender of national sovereignty to corporate power, especially given the secret courts which would have allowed corporations to challenge wage increases, health restrictions and environmental laws as impinging on ‘free trade’. There has been massive amounts of right wing screaming against these objections. So it was good that Trump has now almost made it an orthodox position. However Clinton argued similarly, and in either case the TPP was not in force, so it was probably not yet impacting, and having only having a minor effect on the economy.

I’m certainly not sure about ceasefire in Syria. The war still seems to be going on as far as I can tell and I’ve recently been reading reports about the Russians complaining about American backed rebels. Trump may have bombed an airport, but that seems to be it, everything else seemed to be giving Putin the free hand he wanted, although Trump denounced the Syrian government as a major enemy in his speech to the UN, implying something should be done, or that he might strike again.

The idea of the ‘deep state’ and the autonomous power of the military, is now recognized by some on the right, thanks to Trump’s rhetoric. But the question remains how much of this is mere rhetoric. The general idea of the “military-industrial complex” has been part of Left orthodoxy for years (I can’t think how long Chomsky has been going on about it), so its only recently that the right has taken it onboard, even if they tend to blame Clinton rather than Bush Jr. for the wars in the middle east. However, the point is that it is the collaboration of corporations and the military that seems to be the prime problem, whereas the usual impression I get from the right is that they think that giving the corporate sector more power and money will solve the problem, which it probably won’t. I don’t know of any evidence that private military contracting has declined under Trump, and his deep commitment to boosting military spending will only increase the deep state and the bonds between government subsidy of corporations and military power.

Trump is threatening Iran and sometimes China, tearing up treaties, and threating nuclear war again (he already threatened that for the middle east during the elections). Nuclear war probably poses a reasonable threat to the safety of the American people, and his threats could increase the possibility of anticipatory strikes. He also seems to oppose disarmament or attempts to contain the spread of nukes. As far as I can tell, by his own account he appears to be continuing the mess in Iraq caused by the Bush Jr Admin ignoring all the advice they received. In March this year he said “our soldiers are fighting like never before” in Iraq and doing really well.

We shall see what wars arise in future, as the idea of combat seems appealing to him.

Mr. Trump also appears to be proposing to continue the Republican project of tax cuts and tax holidays for the wealthy, while removing health care and increasing military spending beyond its current level of excess – usually if military spending increases, the products get used. The money to pay for this spending has to come from somewhere, as so far the Laffer curve has never appeared to kick in and provide those increased tax revenues. We can guess the money will not be taken from corporate subsidy, but there is always a possibility.

Mr. Trump has also continued the Republican project of making it easier for US corporations to pollute and poison people and has abandoned an enquiry into the health effects of coal, not just because we already know coal is bad for people, but because his policies imply he just doesn’t seem to care about people’s ill health if that bad health increases profit. That he won’t tackle the elites producing climate change is to be expected. He is following the old trickle down economics always popular with the wealthy elites, and which might just help him make more as well.

Health care is one of the things the supposed master deal maker cannot apparently negotiate a deal on, even when the Republicans have spent years arguing against the Affordable Health Care Act. Now given the opportunity Trump cannot persuade them to repeal it, let alone make it better as he continues to promise – let us hope he can improve it. He did however make a deal with the Democrats on another issue, perhaps they are less prone to elitism, and they might help improve health care, if that is what he wants.

I still do not understand why a group of billionaires, (some hereditary), high corporate figures and the billionaires who have been supporting them with their media is not an elite, and one not particularly shown to be sympathetic to the people. They even behave as an elite; Trump seems to be the most expensive president in history because he want to go to his elite clubs and resorts. From what I’ve seen Trump also does not appear treat his ordinary workers that well. That there is a war in the wealth elite does not imply that either side has an interest in really supporting the people.

Indeed one of Trump’s problems as one of the hereditary wealthy seems to be that he has always been the boss. He has been able to do what he wants and fire those who disagree or give alternate advice. He is renown for the catch phrase “your fired,” and genuinely seems to have enjoyed uttering it. He has no preparation for working in a field in which he is nominally first among equals – he is part of an elite used to obedience.

We also have the Russia problem. That is not yet proven. But if Clinton had won, and the Russians had supported her covertly, and members of her team had had contacts with them during the election, and Clinton had lied about her business interests in Moscow, then we know that Republicans and the media would be screaming for her impeachment. Trump would probably be demanding her execution for treason. I personally don’t hold it likely that Putin supported Trump because he thought Trump would help the American people, or make America great again… precisely the opposite.

Government as business?

October 7, 2017

One of the classic neoliberal arguments is that the country should be run like a business.

But why? The country is not a business. A country has to value things that do not make a profit, and sometimes has to do things which only have monetary cost and which business would not do – such as try and preserve the ecology for future generations and their survival. Likewise, a country should ideally not treat ‘big customers’ better than small customers because they pay more or use services more. Justice should apply equally, not by how much profit administering it makes. You should not only have free speech if you can afford to pay for it, or agree with the publisher, as is usually the case in business.

The only benefit of this neoliberal idea is that it gives the corporate sector more power and respectability, as they supposedly must know things about running a business and ideally should know how to run the country, or even be left to run the country. They are the ideal to which everyone should aspire and which should be emulated. The idea also allows a degree of pleasant abuse, of the form “those well intentioned left wingers are nice people but they don’t know how to run a business, so they are useless”. The idea also suggests that government should judge business actions by business morals: “do those actions make the business a profit?”, not whether they might harm people or the country or are a waste of government money. In this system, government should get out of the way of business, no matter what. It also justifies corruption, because it suggests all relationships are monetary, and if business wants to buy relationships with the government to give it advantages then why not? – that’s just competition? Similarly, if CEOs can get massive subsidies and special treatment, just for doing their job (even badly), then so should politicians, especially leaders, so it can be welcome to governments.

The idea promotes the lowering of government supervision of business and any efforts to prevent fraud, because clearly business knows best and the market will punish any real dishonesty or harmful behaviour – which it does not; the market may even reward such behaviour in the short term as the behaviour is profitable. The idea also suggests tax-payer subsidy of business, public private partnerships, commercial-in-confidence, because they are ‘clearly’ better than government by itself. All of these profitable relationships take responsibility away from government and distributes that responsibility where it can never be found – just as the corporate structure is intended to do (corporations are organisations designed to avoid personal responsibility). However, a government without visible responsibility for the arrangements they enter into is not even remotely democratic as that involves responsibility to the people and the whole of the people, not just the wealthy.

If we were to propose that military organization should be the model for government then we are suggesting that ‘the people’ should be fodder for the military. If we think that business is the model for government, then we are suggesting people should be fodder for business: people who consume what they have to choose whether it harms them or not; docile workers who are low paid and flexible at their boss’s request, who never think and never question business power or respectability, and who don’t have the support or information to do anything about it.

This idea can even permeate the union movement who sellout their members for business interests – after all the whole point is that business supposedly knows best, and business people are the best. So workers are perceived as merely an appendage, no longer the centre of what gets produced or gets done.

Where in life do we most heavily feel the unlistening hand of management? At work, which is usually in business, or governed like a business. Business models a form of authority which makes the state even more authoritarian and untouchable.