Posts Tagged ‘economics’

Communism AND Capitalism

June 22, 2017

The problem is that, usually, communism and capitalism are considered in purely abstract terms. Thus communism is supposed to be a state-free, large scale organization, which is organised around anarcho-democratic principles. Everyone is supposed to have the same rights, and is automatically allocated food, housing etc and helps produce everything for everyone else. The ideal is co-operative. Capitalism is supposed to allocate resources perfectly through the purely unintended economic consequences of selfishness. It can ideally have a state or not have a state depending on who you read. Supposedly ‘free markets’ are vital and bring liberty.

The problem is that though the defenders of each system are well-intentioned, neither works as perfectly as predicted, or has the consequences which are expected. This is quite obvious when you considered how they are formed and that humans are as co-operative as they are selfish and competitive. We are not one or the other. Consequently those who are successful in capitalism co-operate to prevent challenge to their power over the markets and other’s lives, and some people compete in communism to establish their own power and security at the cost of others. Furthermore, freedom is usually associated with plurality of organisations, but both systems tend to crush plurality in favour of their ideal.

The ideal societies, that people usually discuss, do not exist and probably cannot exist.

What we call ‘communism’, so far, has been born in revolution. Consequently there are always active players inside, and outside, the country aiming to get what they consider their rightful power and wealth back. Consequently communists have to use the State and repression to defend themselves, the new society and produce stability for transformation into the new society. They usually end up using the old apparatus which is the one they know, and is already in place. They justify this in terms of transition; its always supposedly temporary. Of course, some people succeed in this framework and gain power and privilege and don’t particularly care about the ordinary people who can be seen as obstacles to the progress of the State and its ideals. Mao appears to have tried to appeal directly to the people to destroy the State mechanisms and the ingrained bureaucrats. This was a dangerous policy it produced the cultural revolution, which was not a great time (to put it very mildly) and the State came back to produce stability and protect those in power. It is also relatively easy for a dictator to take over when you have a strong State, no other organisations which can challenge it, and an external threat.

The problem with capitalism is that it is born in theft and in impoverishment of some people, and leaves them behind to maintain that theft. In the US we have theft of native American lands, and theft of people’s lives in slavery, amongst other things, that create the basis of private property and its inequitable distribution – the stolen wealth does not go entirely to the victorious group. Wealthy people team up to keep the wealth for themselves, and to keep it coming and soon try to take over the State, or start a State, and use that State to defend their privilege and keep ordinary people in their place. They use the State and their own economic power to destroy open non-capitalist markets which could challenge them. The processes they implement consolidate property and shift people into wage labor and dependency. The more important the leaders of business become, the more everything has to be organized as a business, and anything that is not profitable business is automatically classed as not worthwhile. Similarly, everything that adds to business cost, like wages or looking after the ecology we depend upon, is to be destroyed or run down. There are many other problems with capitalism, but the main one is that it ends up being a self-destructive plutocracy – and the more capitalist it becomes, the more this eventuates.

After the second world war, many countries embraced what they called either a ‘mixed economy’ or ‘socialism’ (communists usually insist this is not ‘real socialism’). There were state funded business ventures and private funded ventures. They both kept each other in check. Business could not lower wages too much and accumulated too much profit, and State business had to look to what people wanted to buy. The State and big business were further kept in check by the people and by other flourishing organisations such as Churches, small business associations, unions, universities, legal bodies, the judiciary, returned services organisations, science bodies and so on (I’m sure other people can think of more such organisations which organized themselves in many different ways). This spread power about, so no one faction dominated and people generally prospered. There was a large and growing involvement with ‘people power’. To some extent this arose because some capitalists feared the possibility of communist revolution and thought it better to share some of the wealth they had extracted from the community around to keep them safe.

However, in the mid seventies, in the English speaking world in particular, the corporate sector launched a take over, through funding think tanks, media takeovers, takeover of political units, and general promotion of ideal capitalism. Then European communism fell. There was no longer any fear of revolution, and little opposition to capitalism. The result was what we have now. Capitalism as it is….. Capitalism was to be the only solution, the only value and ordinary people lost power and prosperity. Any other organisations where to be organized along business lines and started praising business. As a result, there is now almost no challenge to big business from anyone and no non-business stories, especially as communism collapsed under its incapacities.

There is close to no question that capitalism will collapse under its incapacities as well – there is nothing challenging it. The issue is whether it takes us all with it.

Anarchism and Capitalism

June 18, 2017

Something approaching anarchist communism is the way most human societies have functioned during our evolution and prehistory. Humans co-operate and compete, live in relationship to other humans and nature, talk, produce art, engage with God and ‘science’, and try to prevent the accumulation of inequalities. So for them property is exchanged rather than accumulated. They resolve disputes by long discussions and listening, trying to reach as real a consensus as possible. If that fails then the society splits, or there some minor violence occurs. Those people who like bossing others around or displaying their wealth or who cannot relate to other people can move out and join the capitalists or Statists, where their personality traits are considered normal or even praiseworthy.

The weakness of anarcho-communist societies is obvious – State and business based societies usually slaughter them, unless they can hide in otherwise inhospitable mountains or deserts. So there is no ‘paradise’ once State and business gets going.

A fundamental difference between anarchism and capitalism is that in capitalism the fundamental relationships between people are not communitarian and consultative, they are Boss and Employee, or Servant and Master. Pro-capitalists hope to avoid the servitude they cultivate or force on others.

As well, capitalism requires a State and violence to allow the accumulation of property, and the severance of human relations that allows that accumulation. There is, and has been, no capitalism without accumulation and a State, or without forming a state. Accumulation of wealth also allows the financing of specialists in violence like a military or a police force which helps State formation. Capitalism nearly always leads to plutocracy. Indeed one can see that “anar caps” are usually keen to have proto-State apparatuses such as police, courts, prisons and lawyers when those forces are mercenary and available to the highest bidder because that means that the wealthy own both the law and the enforcers of the law, and thus make the law, and the State apparatuses, serve them. There is little anyone outside the circle of wealth can do to go against this ‘law’. Wealthier and more violent enforcers will tend to take over smaller mercenary enforcers, or severely damage them. Enforcers will routinely protect those who contribute most to their prosperity, and the law, and so ‘judicial’ decisions and laws will respect those powerful ‘customers’. The observed aim of capitalists is not to abolish the State but to abolish any part of the State that does not serve the sole interests of successful, wealthy and dominant capitalists.

Once the wealthy own the means of violence and law, then they will probably team up in their mutual interest to make them all safer in their suppression of everyone else. This is what elites do, and this give further coherence to the burgeoning State they are creating.

This process is given legitimacy as, in capitalism, wealth is the only acceptable marker of value, whereas in anarchism people may be renown for many different things.

As we said earlier, sociopaths, greedheads and exploiters will tend to migrate to capitalism where they think their personality traits may be rewarded. The wealthy may well tend to have a higher concentration of such individuals than the rest of the population. In capitalism, people without wealth, or not interested in making wealth, are naturally considered inferior and nobody worries if they get trodden on.

Consolidation of plutocracy is even more likely, because in a system of inequality and resultant shortage, wealth is a portable and transferable basis for power, and can be applied to all other sources of power. Wealth can and will buy violence. It will buy the law. It will control the information flow and propaganda, so that ‘free market’ ideologies and ideologues will be supported and counter examples and ideas repressed. Wealth can control cosmologies and religions. Wealth can command specialists, administrators and managers to further reinforce its power and boss people around. Plutocracy is the only possible result of capitalism.

Capitalism not only tends to produce a State it tends to produce an imperial State to gain new markets, new resources, new workers and new places to dump waste and pollution from its methods of production. If the capitalists verge onto the anarchists then the capitalists will generally not recognize the property of the anarchists – after all anarchists have no contract and their property is not registered as belonging to anyone in capitalist law. If property does not exist in capitalist bought law then it is terra nullius and ripe for the taking. Historically this is what capitalists do.

This leaves the anarchists with a problem, they could pay tribute to the capitalists to be left alone, but that implies subservience and depends on some wealthy person not taking them to capitalist bought court and challenging their lack of ownership. Anarchists may not even have currency to pay with, which of course shows they have no rights or value as people, as they have no wealth. The capitalists may decide to rule them for their own good, and use their ‘defensive’ military or police for that purpose. This then throws the anarchists off the land they don’t own (in the capitalists eyes) and forces them into wage labor and subservience to a boss – so the bosses may become still more prosperous. The conquered anarchists will no longer be seduced by ideas of communitarianism, liberty and disregard for profit, they will have to work for hire in subservience. They won’t effectively challenge capitalist power by existing free of it.

There is an inherent difference between anarchy and capitalism. Anarchists aim to maximize the amount of time that all people can use for non-economic, purely human purposes, while capitalists aim to maximize the amount of time that the vast majority have to labor to survive.

This is why pro-capitalists only ever talk of the ‘market’, or try to make the ‘market’ and economic reward the central, and deciding, part of human life. This arrangement tires people out and keeps them submissive to their bosses. Pro-capitalists may come to believe that there is nothing else in human life than economic labor, and profit, which reinforces the ideological system of power. This is also why they are always so destructive of the environment that others live in, and even their own. Anything can be destroyed if it makes profit and it does not inconvenience another person with ownership of the law.

There is a magic here; pro-capitalists appear to believe that by supporting the dominant power, and forcing others to do so, they will gain power and prosperity for themselves.

Anarchists always have to be wary of capitalists, and see them as supporting plutocracy. It is certainly arguable that largely unfettered capitalism will, with enough power allocated to business, produce a State and a society very like the one we have to day – which after 40 years of endless praise of free markets, should not be a surprise to any one.

A view of Marx: left, right or something else?

May 31, 2017

If a ‘rightist’ is a person who supports corporate dominance and plutocracy, or established chains of authority, then Marx was clearly not a rightist.

If a ‘leftist’ is a person who supports state control over everyone and everything for the common good, then Marx was not a leftist – the state was to wither away under communism.

Marx believed that oppressed people should understand the system of suppression, then organize and rebel against it, constructing their own forms of governance using their active experience (praxis). This is one reason why he did not spend much time trying to describe the systems that might arise after the revolution.

The ongoing problem has been that revolutions produce chaos, as well as resistance, so that the revolutionaries, need to establish a system of order for the new regime to survive, and they tend to use the one that is already available, and so suppression starts again. Lenin promised this suppression would be temporary, but the system is always attacked from outside, so the suppression needs to be maintained, and it becomes easy for the dictators to take over.

Paradoxically, in many ways Marx was a conservative egalitarian. He believed that capitalism corrupted virtue, destroyed relationships between people, diminished craft skills, eliminated local cultures, and produced dependency and poverty – much of the Communist Manifesto could have been written by a 19th conservative hostile to the newly emergent industrial capitalism. However, he also believed it was possible to change things for the better, if you understood what was going on.

Marx’s primary legacies are: a) the understanding that capitalism is oppressive and destructive in its very nature and not because of the vices of the dominant people themselves, and b) that economics is never independent of political struggle.

He showed that capitalism is not trade, or mutual exchange, which is normal to most societies, it is a specific political form of organizing exchange, profit, production, dependency and distribution which requires and creates inequality and state based oppression.

Finally, in Marx’s view, history is driven by the struggle between groups of people and their ways of life, survival and economic organization. In that sense the drivers of history are primarily material.

Possession

April 8, 2017

I’ve been in Queensland and have just finished reading the last week of the Murdoch owned Courier mail – which may well be the only local daily newspaper for the whole state. Lots of stuff on the massive cyclone, the devastation and the spirit of Queenslanders.

Hardly any mention of climate change. Except to denounce the Greens for exploiting the tragedy for political gain and for dissing Queenslanders, and quoting Bill Shorten, leader of the Labor party, agreeing that the Greens were indeed terrible. So much for the ‘obstructionism’ of the mainstream left.

However, there was Lots and Lots of stuff about how wonderful the Adani mine is going to be for jobs and development, and suggesting that any opposition is from privileged city folk and racists…. They also spent many column inches denouncing a small Melbourne Council who was going to remove its funds from Westpac, because that bank was funding the Adani mine. Most of the denouncing focused on how small this council was. Yes even what they perceive as the smallest dissent, really upsets the Righteous.

They did cheer for the Queensland Labor government allocating Adani unlimited water access and use, at the cost of farmers and rivers all the way down to South Australia. Only recently 87% of Queensland was declared drought affected, but that must not stand in the way of…. whatever this mine is doing. Some Federal Minister said if this mine can’t go ahead then no mines anywhere in Australia will be successful. There is nobody living out there…. News to the local aboriginal people I would suspect and, as usual, devoid of any sense that local events can produce wide range catastrophe. Coal mining does produce poisons and threaten the common water table for the whole state. Coal is burnt and the atmosphere is shared, whatever he might want to the contrary.

There is a kind of total weirdness going on here. A real threat to ‘colonial civilisation’ in Australia is being deliberately shunted to one side, in favour of extremely dubious short term benefits, which will probably not be delivered.

We sell our coal, and get nothing for it, except a dead barrier reef, dispossessed locals, poisoned water, and less than 2,000 jobs. Royalties and taxes will be unlikely to be paid to cover the costs or even repay the loans from the government – Adani’s tax arrangements are legendarily complex. The profit does not even go to a local company, or even a reputable company. We do not help relieve poverty in India, because there is no grid in the poor areas (people cannot afford it).

There seems to be a madness infesting the right, a possession by an ideological machine, which blinds, deafens, numbs and rips out the smell centres of its possessed, and clatters on without any direction other than destruction. Nothing must stop it. It chants away that resistance is useless.

It would be nice to think not, but what is the alternative?

Diagnosing Trump

March 19, 2017

Another Vital Post from John Woodcock. This time on the pointlessness of diagnosing Trump. Basically John’s argument is that diagnosing Trump “generate[s] a sense of knowing who Trump is and what he is likely to do on the basis of his ‘clinical profile’. This sense of knowing who Trump is, psychologically or clinically, thus gives us a dangerously false sense of getting a handle on what is going on right now.”

Diagnosis is therefore dangerous. We need to see with “fresh eyes”

So some continuation of this idea.

The circumstances of the world are unique and are not reflected in past history. We cannot predict the consequences of events, or actions, at all. It is also true that the world is a set of complex systems and is inherently unpredictable.

What makes the situation different, is that we have never faced this confluence of crises. They are crises which provoke existential crisis in us, and may possibly end ways of life as we know them quite catastrophically. We, as humanity, face being completely uprooted.

Despite the impossibility of predicting exactly what will happen, there is always the possibility of predicting trends. Trump is, I think, ‘trendable’. However, it must be remembered that Trump is not alone he has a whole group of people reinforcing his tendencies, supporting his acts, fearing him, and feeding him the “right” information. That is what makes him particularly dangerous

So far I’ve found Trump and his collective relatively predictable going by his past history, but the intersection of that past history with current events is hard to fathom, and will possibly get harder to fathom as it goes along. Of course Trump and others may become more monstrous as he proceeds and fails.

Trump supports established big business and attacks ordinary Americans. He aims to remove anything that hinders the power of business to destroy, or increase the wealth they remove from the system. He supports anything that will increase his own wealth, and seems happy to make money out of the Presidency (as with Mar-a-lago). His is a government of billionaire crooks for billionaire crooks. .

He also wants to be seen as tough and a ‘strong man’. He wants his own way in everything public. This is vital, and feeds into the billionaire thug routine. He resents those who think they know better than him, or say he cannot do something. He will seek scapegoats for his failures and seek revenge on those scapegoats.

He will probably start a war, or series of wars, as his policies break down, so as to maintain the illusion of strength. It is no surprise he makes increasing military spending (which also transfers taxpayers’ money to the corporate sector) a priority, despite the fact that the US already spends more on the military than the ten to twelve next highest spending countries put together. Nuclear war is a possibility – he has already suggested it to solve the problems of the Middle East. Who it is, that he will declare war upon is much harder to decide.

He will do nothing to stop ecological breakdown, indeed he will be more likely to speed it up as that shows his power and marks the Earth permanently with his name.

Trump and his cronies (it is not Trump alone) push us further into the crisis, and it is up to us to resist while knowing our resistance will encourage him to go further.

That is the first paradox.

We need “fresh eyes” to see this.

There is another paradox. Trump is not a reforming radical as he, and his supporters claim, he is the same old Republican fraud. However, he does not have the same constraints of past Republicans.

So we cannot hold the possibilities within constraints. The crises ridden system would probably not allow this anyway. We cannot rely on our past assumptions about US governments. We might have been able to assume that while Reagan would risk nuclear war, his government would behave “reasonably” in other ways. With Trump’s government we have no assurances.

We need fresh eyes to see, that do not block our perceptions of trends in ‘heroic’ specialness, and do not suppress paradox.

The Energy Crisis

March 19, 2017

This article developed from a comment on an article by Jessica Irvine in the Sydney Morning Herald “Energy crisis: The 9 questions you were too embarrassed to ask”.

Point 1: There may be no energy crisis but there is an ecological crisis – which is growing. It is vital to keep the ecological crisis in focus as other crises flow on from that.

Point 2: The worse the ecological crisis gets, the more the energy crisis mounts, and the more people will suffer or die as a result. The economy and food supply will be hurt as well.

Point 3: There is currently a problem with gas supply in Australia, but that results from gas companies deciding not to supply gas to local consumers, and from gas power stations failing in the heat (from the ecological crisis). We need to get out of the control of the gas companies.

Point 4: A point of agreement with the author. Coal is stupid, expensive and poisonous to people and the environment.

Point 5: One significant problem is that the Coalition parties (both in government and opposition) have become obsessed with defending fossil fuel companies, and have actively worked to prevent alternate energy supplies from increasing. Labor was not much better, but it was better.

Point 6: Prices will continue to increase in the market as it exists, as companies continue to manipulate that market to increase profit. That is what companies do. That is why the prices have increased after the Carbon tax was repealed. We have a situation in which various companies are profiteering from the destruction of both our environment and Australia’s energy systems. This, is the main story, so let’s not forget it.

Point 7: South Australia is going it alone because the Federal government has done little but attack them (mostly using false information) in order to defend fossil fuel companies, and has provided no help, or even moral support. Essentially more states will have to go it alone if we want a solution under this Federal Government.

Point 8: Battery storage is still in development and will get better. They are still cheaper than the alternatives. We might think about a contract in which batteries get replaced with newer models as time passes. But that would not be supporting fossil fuel companies, so there is little chance of that.

Point 9: The Coalition government is in the business of picking losers that won’t challenge fossil fuel companies. The new Snowy scheme will be overpriced, depend on water and snow we may not have, and be powered by coal if possible. It is a massive waste of money, as you might expect.

Why is talk of ‘free markets’ beneficial for Corporate domination?

March 8, 2017

We have had about 40 years of politicians and media continually spruiking the benefits of free markets. During that time, we have seen a steady transfer of wealth to the exceedingly wealthy, a consolidation of ownership and control of the corporate sector, a decline in social mobility and a boost in state attempts to control ordinary people and reduce control over the corporate sector.

This result is not a coincidence. Indeed corporations sponsor free market think tanks. Corporate and think-tank self-interest justifies the idea that free market talk primarily supports their power and wealth.

Free market talk boosts corporate power as follows:

1) It makes business the only important part of society. Economics and “the market” matters, nothing else does. Therefore the desires of the business sector are vital and must be attended to, and protected, before anything else.

2) If people would like or need something, or it is socially important, but does not make a profit or interferes with corporate profit, then it is clearly not needed, or not of value. It can be also dismissed as impractical, because the market is the only mark of value and practicality.

3) Regulations which curtail or add work to business to favour the ordinary person are automatically bad. Regulations which control the ordinary person and protect big business are automatically good as they support standard business practice, which is the ultimate good. Unions are bad, business associations (and their ties with politicians) are wonderful.

4) The market can never be free, as regulation is required to protect ‘private property’ and contract, so there is always further to go in favour of reducing restrictions on the corporate sector and tightening its control.

5) Free market liberty allows people to compete on “equal terms” with corporations. Josephine Bloggs and BHP are equal in law and equal in their freedom to spend any amount of money to buy lawyers, politicians and that law. Who is surprised that most people don’t bother to challenge power?

6) Free market talk destroys commons, because commons are not private property owned by anyone, and nobody is responsible for theme. Therefore they must be transferred to the private sector as cheaply as possible to regularise everything. Consequently, the people lose property and power.

7) Government services can be contracted out to the private sector and the costs and benefits can be kept secret through commercial in confidence arrangements, as not having these would interfere with business and the free market.

8) Government services which cannot be privatised become punitive, as people should be using the market, and must be evil if they are not. Services to ordinary people are removed.

9) As profit is the only value, truth becomes that which makes a profit or supports established power, and thus the media has no obligations to anything but the propaganda interests of its corporate owners or their corporate friends.

10) Free market talk suggests Governments should do nothing and everything should be left to the elites with wealth. So we move into plutocracy, which reinforces the process by which everything is governed in favour of corporate elites.

11) Corporations will compete politically and legally if it gives them a competitive edge or subsidy. The more other sources of influence remove themselves from politics, the less likely will it be that corporations will face opposition from anything other than corporate sources. So pro-corporate laws get passed continually.

12) People are told, by almost all public sources, that governments are inefficient and useless and that there is no point them getting involved and trying to take over the State in their own interests rather than the interests of the wealthy.

13) The more people withdraw from participation in politics and the State, the more the governors become isolated from ‘the people’ and the more they depend on corporate money for their campaigning, so the more easily they are bought by the plutocrats.

14) Wealth becomes the primary source, and mark, of power and virtue. Everything else is inferior and to be dismissed, and the free market continues to be promoted above all else.

[It is true that free market people sometimes talk a lot about ‘liberty’, but they only mean the liberty of business to do as it likes. Everyone else has the ‘liberty’ to adapt to government by business.]

When did the Righteous start attacking Science?

February 28, 2017

Its probably complicated. It probably began with religions resisting evolution, to increase their inerrancy, and to avoid change. They could argue that by challenging religion, science became immoral. Then it moved into commerce. Business resisted being put to extra costs when science discovered health problems with products. Smoking, for example, became branded as a right, a freedom, its health consequences denied.

So, it became relatively common to attack science for commercial and ideological purposes long before it was mainstream amidst the righteous. Indeed the right used to champion military and commercial science as the way of the future, just as much as the left.

However problems also arose with scientists talking down to and at people, and arrogantly assuring them that their fears about technological projects were misplaced. The failure of official science was marked by the disasters of thalidomide, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, the racist studies of infection, and so on. Commercial science, in particular, was governed by profit, not accuracy or safety. Then there was the use of science as a death machine – agent orange, napalm, nuclear weapons and so on – with little recompense to those damaged by it. There were constant changes in medical recommendations, and a relatively high level of iatrogenic disease (disease generated by medical techniques). Consequently even more people felt alienated from a science they had no input into.

Then, the big move occurred. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the State had expanded to include not only all men with property, but propertyless women, black people and so on, and by the late sixties and early seventies, ordinary people were active within that State, demanding equality, services and the end to elite authority. The righteous panicked.

Samuel Huntington wrote about this “democratic distemper” or “excess of democracy” in his report to the Trilateral commission on The Crisis of Democracy. The power of the people who *should* have power was being disturbed, chaos was emerging. His recommendation was to encourage voter apathy – to get people out of participating in the State.

This was achieved by encouraging distrust of government; so what was the point of people getting involved? The after events of Nixon was used to promote this idea, as was the Vietnam war. The free market was to be trusted rather than political action. Money and business were marks of virtue, everything else was pretense. You were to look after yourself and avoid government ‘interference’. You got out of politics that could impact the ruling class and just guarded your personal property. This was portrayed as part of the way to end elite authority, with the only elites in this view being left wing or governmental – wealth was not a thing that defined elites or marked power differentials. Hence the eager funding of libertarian think tanks. This meant removing what we knew about social action from the public domain. Social ‘science’ (such that it was) was declared to be interfering and communist etc.

These ideas promised to deliver liberty and prosperity for all. They couldn’t and didn’t. We have had 35 to 40 years of them, and they have never delivered. Wages became stagnant, wealth was distributed to the rulers, social mobility collapsed, the State was used to impose restrictions on ordinary people, people became more alienated from governmental processes, commercial media saw their job as largely supporting this order, rather than any alternative, as they were part of the corporate class.

Growing failure meant scapegoats had to be found. It was said to be the fault of immigrants, the fault of intellectuals, the fault of minorities, the fact that we had not got 100% free markets. Anything but the fault of the ideology itself, or behaviour of the corporate class. Once it became clear that science implied that the social order was coming to an end through environmental destruction, it became important to attack science to continue the arrangement and entrench the power.

The attack made use of techniques pioneered by tobacco, religion, libertarians, and so on. It fitted in with the official ideology by making your freedom the freedom to be anti-science and anti-the-authority-of-knowledge, it supposedly demonstrated your ability to think against the grain (as it agreed with the ruling ideology). It allowed political action and involvement. It gave people some sense of importance in the alienated world they lived in….

It helped save the power of the rulers for a bit longer, and they gamble that they will be rich enough to ride out the coming troubles, as money gives you everything…. at least so they think.

Fake News

February 15, 2017

What would be being said if we had a vaguely left wing media?

This is my attempt an opinion piece for such a fictitious venue.

The situation is dire. For the last nearly 40 years both mainstream parties have been pursuing the neoliberal vision of endless vaunting of free markets and business. They have repeatedly said that acting on these assumptions will lead to greater liberty and efficiency. Here at the Global Left we recognise that these predictions have always been wrong or were possibly deliberate lies to begin with. On the other hand, our own predictions about neoliberalism have been validated. With its enforcement; the economy has become permanently unstable, the median wage has stagnated, most ordinary jobs are insecure, industry has closed down, social security and education have been eviscerated, government services for ordinary people have declined or become punitive, public/collective property has been sold off, business fraud is mainstream, welfare for corporations has increased, business competition has declined, the tax burden has shifted to the middle class, people have become alienated from politics, every policy is decided by whether it profits established business, virtue and values go out the window, the right has started culture wars because it needs to distract people from reality, and there is a general retreat from democracy into authoritarianism.

By now we have plenty of experience of ‘privatisation’ and of ‘public-private’ partnerships, and we know what this means. Invariably in privatisation, income for the high-level executives increases magnificently, the workers who provide the service are cut back, maintenance and resilience decrease, services for ordinary people decrease, and prices increase. In public private partnerships we suddenly find it impossible to find out how much we the tax-payers are paying or what we have given the company because of ‘commercial in-confidence’. What a wonderful arrangement – for business. Nothing for us.

This is, we might suspect, the kind of situation ‘free markets’ always lead to.

We have also learnt, if we needed to, that capitalism is completely unable to deal with ecological crisis because it is too tied up in maintaining business as usual or profit, and it is the main cause of the problems. Put simply the response of capitalism to ecological crisis has been to hire people to lie for it, and pretend there is no problem. Neoliberalism is still loudly cheered on by business funded think tanks, as despite its overt failure to deliver for the people, it does deliver for the corporate sector. Neoliberal governments have also tried to supress knowledge, stopping public servants from mentioning climate change, forbidding scientists from speaking in public, destroying libraries, clearing websites of information, trying to stop research funding. You might think that this would attract attention among those who claim to be suspicious of governments, but it apparently doesn’t.

Corporations have lots of money to throw about and purchase liars, because of the political restructuring which has gifted them with a much greater share of the wealth generated by their workers, and because ‘truth’ has become whatever makes a profit. Most of the media is also owned by the corporate sector, acts in that sector’s self-interest and takes this propaganda for granted. Neoliberalism has proved of wondrous benefit to corporations, but a curse to everyone else. We say that capitalism is strong and does not need the coddling it gets from neoliberals. Indeed it is better for it to face its customers as equals.

As we all should know, the Great Economic crisis of 2008 onwards was primarily caused by two factors: firstly financial corporations joined together extremely risky investments and sounder investments and sold them as ‘safe’ with the full approval of credit ratings agencies; secondly the mortgage industry deceptively sold people mortgages which they could not pay off with the aim of repossessing their houses and selling them for more than they were mortgaged for, taking the repayments with them. These two frauds were combined to make an even more unstable product which people were encouraged to invest in. The whole basis for the booming economy and the resulting collapse was fraud, and having so much money which was not going into wages or to the productive economy. Neoliberals sat back and cheered the triumph of the free market and claimed the only problem was that there were still some regulations which tried to prevent fraud. President Bush’s solution was to throw tax payers money at the elite benefactors from the fraud, without any oversight. President Obama was declared a socialist for asking these corporations to treat further tax payer monies as loans. A real socialist would have made sure the money got to the ordinary folk being defrauded, so they could keep their homes at the rates they agreed to, and not be losing their life savings and be thrown onto the streets, even when mortgage companies could not produce the paperwork that gave them the right to throw people out.

In the US, Donald Trump correctly diagnosed the dissatisfaction of working America with this neoliberal economic mess.  However, as we predicted, he is trying to fix it with more of the ‘solutions’ that caused the problems in the first place: tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, removal of regulations which tried to prevent corporations from poisoning people, removal of regulations the previous president re-introduced which tried to make corporations even vaguely responsible for the fraud and deception they carried out, cut backs to welfare programs and increased spending on the military. This is made more attractive by a little protectionism promised on the side, but not yet delivered; and we can be sure that when it is delivered, it will be delivered to protect useless or powerful companies.

Let us be clear, tax cuts for corporations do not generate jobs, they simply lead to higher executive salaries, more money for stock holders and more money to gamble on financial markets. In neoliberalism, mainstream ‘jobs’ are simply a cost to be eliminated.

By preserving the problem, President Trump has not ‘drained the swamp’ of his cabinet, but brought new infections. He has business finance controlled by representatives of financial corporations, environment by polluters, and so on. Mr. Trump will not do anything that will endanger his apparent business interests or the business interests of those he is allied to; to hell with anyone else. He is, of course, continuing the culture war, to try and convince his supporters he has something in common with them. Hopefully this is failing and, as we can see, many people are protesting and standing firm for American tradition and the rule of law, rather than the rule of presidential whim.

It is ever the way that the ruling class will cling to their basis for power, even when it is bringing about general destruction.

During the primaries, we tried to ignore Trump and, when that was impossible, covered his business scandals and incompetancies, especially the ways that he cheerfully sacrificed his workers and creditors for his own benefit. We covered his obvious vengefulness (which increases the probability of war and governmental repression of his enemies), his inability to understand ecological issues, and all his other lazy ignorance, but the rest of the media gave him free publicity, or asked him questions about his favourite bible verse. His reply “an eye for an eye” did show something about him, but it was not elaborated.

In Australia we warned that Tony Abbott was not going to be an improvement on Julia Gillard. He was a hardline neoliberal head kicker, who wanted to impose his version of Catholicism on everyone. However, our rivals in the Murdoch Empire and the Fairfax Flutter, did their absolute best to promote him, rewrite his past, and attack Gillard and Labor. The result was as we expected. We ended up with a Prime Minister with a marvelous sense of his own entitlement and completely unable to negotiate. His first budget collapsed under the weight of this inability, the number of election promises it broke, and the attempt to fix Australia’s debt by kicking ordinary Australians and making them carry the burden. Furthermore, as we might expect, he fled from the environmental crisis into support for the coal industry at all costs, with the added bonus of attacking renewable energy whenever possible. It is conceivable that he headed the worst, most delusional, government in Australia’s history.

We had hoped that when this self-generated political crisis reached breaking point that Malcolm Turnbull might take his party into some vague encounter with reality, but so far he has knelt before the lunatic and failed right and refused to do anything to tackle our problems. He continues the fixed genuflection towards capital and wealth, as is most clearly shown by his staunch attack on minor union fraud, as contrasted with his happiness for the banks to regulate themselves when almost every other week the business pages fill with stories about the latest fraud and deception against small customers. These financial frauds have amounted to billions. If real, as alleged, they are major crimes, and yet nothing is to be done. Similarly we have revealed how large companies are routinely defrauding workers of their legal wages. But nothing is to be done.

Such large scale theft by business is of no concern to the government at all, indeed they are more likely to make it retrospectively legal than they are to prosecute. Neoliberalism implies the doctrine that if a business is big enough, then any fraud is acceptable if it primarily affects ordinary people. Profit is God. Class war on ordinary people is a duty. We say, profit is useful but it is not everything.

What can we do? As we have said, in Australia, Labor is a neoliberal party of a slightly less rigorous bent than the current government. When in government they failed to take on the mining corporations, they failed to promote their own climate policies, they did nothing to recapture tax revenue lost through various corporate tricks. They spend as much time attacking the Greens as they do attacking the Government. However, they are clearly better than the current bunch of incompetent, endlessly self-pleased baboons. So we would suggest that you vote for them in the lower house and press them to shed this stupid affectation that corporate business is the only valuable social and individual activity. For the upper house vote Green. The Greens do not have the experience of government that Labor does (although any ignorance, intransigence and stupidity is less a problem for them than it is for Trump as many of them have some experience and don’t have to engage in self-deception to the same extent), but they will at least attempt to recognise that we live in a time which requires urgent change and not endless thumb twiddling and praise of CEOs.

You too can get out in the streets and protest, write to your MPs talk to your friends, participate. Democracy is about participation. The government depends on you. It is your servant, however much neoliberals want it to be your boss. Don’t allow them to shout you down and talk you out of politics. Organise locally, get your community involved in deciding their future, rather than leaving it to the corporate sector. If you are not the solution, then you are betraying your children or other people’s children. In the terms of a well-known Hopi Indian speech: “You are the people you are waiting for”.

Trump and coal

December 19, 2016

I keep reading that Trump cannot restore the place of coal in the US economy. At the risk of repeating myself, he can.

Trump can save the coal industry for a number of years, all he has to do is pump taxpayer’s money into coal subsidies to make it cheap, and into coal power stations to make them cheap. That way he gets coal up and running, and people locked into providing coal for the years they need it to supply the power stations he helped build. He can also subsidise coal power in the third world and tie that to the US export market to help local coal production. Its expensive, but he is rebuilding America in the only way he knows how, tax cuts to the wealthy and corporate sector and subsidies for the wealthy and the corporate sector. (Trump has already apparently explained his cabinet of billionaires by saying such people are successful and therefore have all the skills and virtues necessary to govern and do good things. Rich people are, in his ideology, good people – by implication poorer people are not – they cannot expect help.)

He can work towards crippling renewables simply by making regulations affecting the industry difficult in the extreme, or charging a tax on renewables to ‘recompense’ people who are not on renewables. He can ban wind farms from being anywhere near where there are birds or people, increasing their cost of transmission. He can rule that people using renewable energy must pay a large charge to established energy companies to connect to the grid and keep it viable, and so on. These actions would make coal more competitive and boosts its chance of overtaking renewables in the US.

He can take money away from climate science and give it to climate denialists, or to corporate think tanks, to create even more of an atmosphere in which business can just continue on its way. He can revoke all objections to the Keystone pipe line, as he has money invested in it.

The congress might object to the expenditure, but they will probably pass it as too many of them are beholden to fossil fuel companies.

He can encourage countries like Australia to keep up coal exports, opening new coal mines and new ‘clean’ power stations. This will then probably encourage India to keep up its determination to burn coal as a matter of ‘justice’. This will probably encourage more subsidy of coal power in other countries by other countries.

Don’t underestimate what he can do.