Posts Tagged ‘economics’

The National Energy Guarantee

July 17, 2018

The Australian Federal government is pressuring States to sign the National Energy Guarantee (NEG) by August 10. Many people are saying the States should sign because it is the only offer there will be. The Labor party is looking friendly towards the NEG on the grounds it is better than nothing.

The question is, “Is it better than nothing?” That was the subject of a business seminar run by the Smart Energy Council, that I attended this morning.

The NEG sets an unchangeable emissions reduction target in the energy sector of 26% by 2030. One problem is that this reduction will already be achieved by 2020, factoring in current renewables development, so the NEG effectively sets a target of no further emissions reduction for 12 years. There is no formal requirement to build any renewable energy between 2020 and 2030. It seems to be expected that reductions to meet Australia’s promises under the Paris agreement, will have to come from farming, transport and mining which are much harder, although they should be reducing as well. The probability is that the Government will simply abandon the targets altogether.

We have no explanation or comparative analysis from the government as to why the NEG is good policy. At one stage the emissions reduction target was changeable over time, now it is not and we do not know why. The NEG is also not finalised. It could be changed in the Government’s party rooms after the States have agreed, so the States are signing blind. Of course the short period for consideration is also a way of avoiding good policy and good discussion – which does not suggest the government is interested in the best policy.

We are told the NEG will fix reliability. However, despite political and Murdoch Empire based assertions to the contrary, the energy supply is well over 99% reliable, and faults so far have resulted from distribution not generation (except when the coal stations fall over because it was too hot).

Our government is a proclaimer of the virtues of free markets, so of course they say the NEG is not regulatory. However, the speakers from the industry this morning, thought the NEG as it stands was highly regulatory, and indeed the points about ensuring possibly unnecessary reliability for everything, means that people have to go through all kinds of hoops they don’t have to at the moment – but it looks like fossil fuels don’t have to, not because they are more reliable, but because they are defined as reliable. So it regulates one part of the industry and not another part.

The Government also says the NEG is technology neutral, but as already implied it is not. Because it set extremely low levels of emissions reduction for 2030 -which will by most accounts be achieved by 2020 – it is not technology neutral it favours greenhouse gas emitting energy sources. It continues the Government’s ideal of apparently sacrificing the environment and climate for fossil fuels.

The view of the speakers at the forum was that the NEG is worse than nothing. It would be better not to have it. Consequently, they advised that even if the government offers nothing else it should be rejected, unless it has a decent emissions reduction target.

At the same time as all this the ACCC is recommending the end of the small scale feed in tariff scheme. This along with other recommendations will massively increase the price of household solar which has so far been very popular. While the parliament had previously agreed this scheme would last until 2030, the government is now refusing to deny that it will end the scheme very soon.

What the NEG does do is probably increase the price of food if targets are imposed on agriculture, and destroy jobs in the renewables business, which have been amongst the growth areas of the economy. It also over regulates the industry. The NEG attempts to lock in a particular market which allows high levels of emissions. This benefits high polluting power companies.

If the NEG gets through we are left with three options.

  • 1) Hope that despite all the subsidy losses, and subsidies already present for fossil fuels, people will want to build renewable power,
  • 2) Find that people won’t build any power at all and when the coal stations close in 15 or so years, find we are without power, or
  • 3) use taxpayers’ money to refurbish or build new coal stations.
  • The technology neutral position seems to prefer option 3. The government voted for something like this in the Senate recently, so we can assume that is the aim.


    Max Weber and the unintended consequences of Protestantism

    June 18, 2018

    When writing about Max Weber’s Protestant Ethic and The Spirit of Capitalism two obvious things have to be born in mind (and I wouldn’t bother writing about them except a friend pointed to an article which completely ignored them). You need to understand what Weber understood by the ‘Protestant Ethic’, and explain how and why Weber connected it to ‘capitalism’. Weber did not write about the ‘Christian Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism’, or the ‘Modernist Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism’, but the ‘Protestant ethic and… ‘

    The book is about the Ethic/ideology of Protestantism, and why this led to the formation of capitalism as an unintended consequence of the actions and dispositions protestant (really puritan) religion generated. It is a reply to those Marxists who insisted that economic behaviour and structures was the complete determinate of religious ideology. In counter argument Weber proposes we have a positive feedback loop (although he could not use those terms of course). In this argument Protestantism both was, and generated, a major break with the Christian past and previous economic formations processes. For Weber, Protestantism formed the generator and essence of capitalism or in other words its ‘spirit,’ or ‘internal rationality.’ It is also a mild criticism of that ‘spirit’ and of those people who think wealth is a sign of God’s blessing, and the consequences these views have built.

    So the Protestant and particularly the puritan ethic had the following consequences (and this is a bit of elaboration of Weber, and taken from other places).

    1) Salvation became purely individual. You could not work together for salvation, such as say prayers for those in purgatory. Hence the idea that everything depends on the individual – and there is no such thing as supportive community with anyone other than believers.

    2) Everything that happened is and was predestined, including your salvation or damnation. Nothing you did in the way of good works could make a difference to your future, only your strong faith, and separation from sin.

    3) Poverty was a result of sin and God’s will, so the poor were beyond help through charity, only through their personal/individual conversion and God’s will. It was even considered sinful to give ‘indiscriminate charity’. The Poor had no legitimate demand on the rich, or anyone else, for help. This helped to break the social relations which operated against capital accumulation. It also led to punishing the poor through workhouses, which may have formed the template for the factory.

    4) As you did not know whether you were saved or damned and good works did nothing, you looked for signs of God’s favour in this life such as wealth.

    5) Work and capital accumulation became the measure for true ‘vocation’ rather than mysticism, open charity, love or prayer for others.

    6) Eventually work became everything, and everything that was not work was an indicator of potential damnation – the devil makes work for idle hands – the poor must work, human life is work/labour. Time is money and must not be ‘wasted’…. etc. The Workhouse was considered good for the poor as well as preventing them from committing sin.

    7) Nature was purely a resource for work and conversion into wealth. Unless land was ‘productive’ for good puritans it was valueless, and needing ownership and improvement to make productive. Hence, first people’s did not treat land as ‘property’ or ‘properly’ and it should belong to protestants by right of God.

    With the loss of joyful activity, all that was left was work, money and condemnation of the sinful.

    None of these results were intended by the original protestants, and only a fairly small portion of the population were ever driven puritans, but the ideology and the habits it inculcated had a major effect on the formation of modern life.

    While this opened a pathway to allow the formation of a prosperous and plentiful mercantile middle class, as opposed to peasants and aristocrats, priests and warriors, the problem is (and I think that the criticism is implied by Weber), is that this protestant ethic is not a particularly pleasant foundation for a society. It destroys human sociability, mutuality, joy, spontaneity and connection to the Earth, and reduces all value to money and self-righteousness…. It is a very bleak basis for life and permeates the modern world.

    Can we reform capitalism

    June 14, 2018

    This is another website’s summary of the arguments of Yorrick Blumenfeld, slightly modified. URL below.

    Summary: Capitalism cannot be reformed, because its nature is destructive.

    Capitalism erodes and corrupts democracy: Capitalism is fundamentally antidemocratic. Money controls Parliaments and politicians, not the other way around. Corporate money tends to buy the ability to write and engineer favourable legislation, as parties need money to campaign, and corporate sponsored think tanks decide the environment of thought. The highest bidder – which is usually a group of corporations – buys the government.

    Drive to the Bottom: Capitalism pits small countries, states, and counties against each other, seeking special tax breaks and subsidies in highly wasteful “corporate welfare” programs. Capitalism seeks the lowest level of conditions for the people: cheap labour, cheap resources, cheap dumping of waste and cheap regulations.

    Capitalism drives off accountability: The political strucutre of corporations shields upper level managers from accountability, while shareholders are protected from personal liability for damage done by the corporation in making the profit they share. Multinationals are not responsible to any electorate, or to governments that respect them. Corporations can always be elsewhere, when they are challenged – just as they take their profits away from where they are earned.

    Capitalism’s values are insufficient: Capitalism doesn’t foster many things we value such as: ethics; controlling child labour; strict health and safety standards; reducing hours of labour; providing security for workers; preserving nature; or guaranteeing holidays and weekly breaks from labour. The market economy has failed to focus on durability and ecologically sustainable products and services, and it cannot because these count as costs, not profits. The only spiritual values capitalism can recognise are those that see money as a sign of God’s favour, demand obedience from workers, or generate sales.

    It fails to serve the poor: This model underserves over three billion people. Two hundred plus years of capitalism have not brought about global prosperity or environmental balance. It has brought massive prosperity for the very wealthy. Most of the world’s current wealth is controlled by an extremely small number of people – which gives them even more power to govern in their interests alone.

    Capitalism has a stability and debt accumulation problem: The supply of money is dependent on people and firms relying on loans and perpetually increasing their debt. Issuing interest requires endless economic growth to pay back the debt, which is neither in the national nor in the global interest. This inflated speculative debt drives the never-ending economic crises and bubble bursts. Without debt current capitalism would collapse. Most of the world’s monetary transactions are purely speculative: wealth is being burnt.

    Corporations are subsidized and unaccountable: Capitalist companies are often heavily subsidized (including subsidized by the global ecology by making pollution and destruction an ‘externality’). They also avoid giving back to the community. For instance, corporations avoid taxes that support infrastructure fundamental to their expansion. They use shell companies, tax havens, and modern electronic transfers to shuffle capital around and evade responsibility and to avoid contributing to the life conditions they need. They are parasitic on healthy societies, which they help run down

    Globalized capitalism creates local vulnerability: Globalized export-oriented high-tech capitalism undercuts national and regional self-reliance in key commodities. Heavy dependence on global supply lines for items such as food and energy creates a fragile and dangerous situation. Countries may not be able to feed themselves in the near future. Just like workers cannot be self-sufficient without jobs in capitalist organisations. Capitalism creates low resilience to crisis.

    Capitalism undercuts diversity and threatens groups: It favours cultural homogenization as well as the homogenization of goods and services to advance market control and to increase profit through uniformity of production. By pushing consumerism and materialism and crushing all other value and survival systems, some would argue that capitalism inspires terrorism. At the least, undermining local conditions creates nationalisms, and fundamentalisms in response.

    Capitalism ignores and destroys nature’s life support systems: Capitalism denies that the biosphere has any limits. By failing to internalize the costs of environmental pollution, and purposefully misleading people about the effects of pollution to further their profit, corporations drive a process that radically reduces planetary carrying capacity. Endless expansion of growth and destruction of resources and ecologies is destined to cause overshoot and collapse. Fisheries are over fished, land is over grazed, chemicals are pumped into the environment with little restraint or knowledge of effects, other minerals are extracted from the environment destructively with little attempt at rehabilitation. More waste clogs the land air and sea. The ‘invisible hand’ of corporate power has been destructive. Capitalism will almost certainly drive global suicide.

    Other points

    Capitalism destroys commons: Capitalism produces the tragedy of the commons, in which common property is consumed and destroyed by profit seeking, because the only property that can be recognised is alienable private property. Capitalism enforces the idea that people should not cooperate to restrain the business of others when it impacts on them. Common-land is simply land to be exploited, and to be destroyed or polluted in order to cheapen the cost of production, as is the air and water. All cheap or free things tend to be undervalued, unless they can be monopolised. Capitalist theorists say they can solve all our problems by turning everything, including you, into private property. Then somebody will care. But capitalist property rights also include the right to destroy ‘your’ own property. If someone owns the air, then they can pollute it without challenge. However, if no one owns the air then everyone, especially the powerful, can pollute without challenge as well. Common property is of no value, yet it is the basis of all value.

    Capitalism owns the law: for the same reason it owns politics. It buys the lawmakers, and exemptions from the law, so that law favours it’s actions. Similarly because law itself is a process involving lawyers, it can buy the best lawyers and exploit the incoherencies of law, and stretch out cases for such a long time that ordinary people are rendered bankrupt, and cannot afford to challenge the wealthy – even if the wealthy do break the law. The more the law can be bought the more wealth dominates.

    Modern Politics

    June 8, 2018

    For the last 40 years, in the English speaking world, we have been told that “free markets” and putting business first would bring us liberty, opportunity and prosperity.

    It hasn’t done that, and can’t do that. All it does is bring liberty, opportunity and prosperity for the wealthy. Ordinary people’s prosperity is a cost and should be cut. Any attempt by people to get the State to help others in misfortune is a cost and to be opposed. Every virtue which does not generate a profit for the established powers, is a cost to be eliminated. Wealth buys politics, laws, regulations and so on. “Getting the government off people’s backs” has been used as an excuse to regulate ordinary people, give corporations more power and wreck the environment. There is no longer any hope. Wages (for ordinary people) do not increase like they used to. Social mobility is dead. Education is declining. and so on.

    Given the failure of the so called free market neoliberal project, the only way that its benefactors can get people to vote for them, is through fake news, and stirring up nationalism and hatred. If you hate your opponents, then you can’t co-operate with them and you won’t learn from them, and you won’t team up against those oppressing you. You will vote for the people oppressing you because of your loyalty to something else, and you won’t get any real information….

    There are some who think this is an aberration of the market or the state, but the problem is that a capitalist market nearly always seems to generate the same structures. The people who succeed and accumulate wealth and leave it to their offspring, eventually create a class society and succeed in buying the government – so the rich have a dominating say, and have (in a vaguely electoral political structure) to lie to people and deceive them to keep their support. In a free market there are no values other than profit, so its hard to object to this, or get your objections heard.

    There was a time in the 60s and 70s (and still in some parts of Europe) when workers were organised and collaborative and there was a market which was regulated favourably for the people, and business sometimes had to compete against State owned companies and so found it hard to found unofficial cartels. The system was not perfect by any means, but most of us did not seem to have the problems we have now. There is also no doubt that if we had been aware of looming ecological catastrophe and climate change with the same kind of organisation, that attempts to deal with the problem would have proceeded much more rapidly than in an era of corporate dominance and belief in ‘free markets’. Everyone would have been better off. The truth is that humans are a cooperative and competitive species, they do not like hierarchies of the type capitalism generates, and they like organising together to carry out projects.

    Conclusion: Some free market is good, lots of free market is bad and unfree. We need a balance. No one should be able to make vast profits destroying our future and that involves restraining ‘the market’.

    The dominant political and economic forces in the Anglo-capitalist world generate destruction, and their political tactics involve distorting the truth to stop people from doing anything about it.

    They aren’t the only destructive people on the planet of course, but they are the ones we can do something about.


    Bitcoin and its costs

    June 7, 2018

    Bit coin is usually put forward as a piece of criminal activity or as a triumph of libertarian economics.

    It has two main problems, which reflect neither of these positions..

    1) It is amazingly slow. The transaction rate is so slow that it constantly grinds to a halt with high demand. As far as I know, this problem cannot be solved without increasing the intensity of the second problem.

    2) It has extraordinary energy consumption. I quote from an article appended below: “A fluctuating bitcoin price, along with increases in computer efficiency, has slowed the cryptocurrency’s energy footprint growth rate to ‘just’ 20 percent per month so far in this year. If that keeps up, bitcoin would consume all the world’s electricity by January 2021.”

    Bitcoin is clearly destructive….

    The energy usage is a cost of bit coin transactions which has to be paid for so it means that bitcoins should have a constant drain in value. This cost works like the signorage on medieval coins (the charge for turning gold or silver into coins), because bitcoin exchange is the only ‘value’ being produced. This drain on value is probably not a good deal, and probably can only be funded in an apparently non detrimental way as long as new bitcoin users appear, and bid for coins. This makes bitcoin a Ponzi scheme which will eventually collapse, given the limits on transactions, and the eventual limit on new participants compared to old participants.

    The problem for non-users is the pollution from energy consumption, which is (if the article is correct) apparently huge. That pollution is a cost that appears to be being socialised or shuffled onto everyone, even if those being enriched hope that they can get rich enough to avoid the problems it generates. It is also possible that taxpayers will end up funding the energy costs, which is also probably not a good idea.

    In the long term unless the energy consumption can be reduced (and the slow speed increased) bitcoin does cost too much to maintain.

    One more time: Economics of Waste

    May 31, 2018

    (Based on a reply to a comment)
    In the last post I argued pollution erupts everywhere there:

    a) is no support for ecological thinking;
    b) where the costs of pollution are not factored into the economic process; and
    c) where there has been conquest.

    I should have added a point

    d) that pollution appears to be a strong part of developmentalism wherever it operates, whether in capitalist, socialist, communist, or nationalist systems.

    Making products or energy by cheaply destroying the ecology is an easy way to make money, and generate the products associated with development. Again the ecology (and often the people who depend on it) are sacrificed to the gods of development, which are usually material prosperity (for some more than others), modern technology, industrialism and military power.

    The more speedy the development the more pollution seems to occur, and if it takes force or law to overwhelm those who resist, then force or law will nearly always be used. This was first illustrated in 19th century England where people were poisoned and restrained by law, and the environment was polluted on a visible scale perhaps never seen before and rarely replicated since – although parts of the communist world which did similar development in an even shorter time were probably up there with it. Its hard to compare descriptions, and to measure the past.

    Developing countries can see attempts to reduce their pollution as attempts to keep them undeveloped – particularly when countries like Australia refuse to diminish their own pollution.

    It may be possible to make the argument that capitalism is now often justified by its ideologues in terms of it being a major force for development, which is why it is so bad for the environment. Both the demand for profit and the desire for development give each other support in their destructiveness.

    If pollution was only marginal to capitalism we probably would not have had so much political action trying to justify pollution and make it sacred. How often do we hear something like: “If we stop polluting then the economy will crash. We can’t afford these restrictions?” Likewise, I have not seen that many companies protest against President Trump’s attempts to ‘free the market’ by making it easier to pollute and poison people, but I dare say there may be some – after all being capitalist does not mean a person is inherently evil.

    The days in which ‘the people’ could use ‘their State’ to attempt to unambiguously reduce pollution, or enforce costs onto business use of pollution seem pretty dead, as the idea of the ‘free market’ fossilises corporate power, and any such anti-pollution movement is accused of wanting to bring about poverty and primitivism- that is they are said to be “anti-development.”

    The ability of people as consumers to affect capitalism is probably limited – after all they still have to buy something to live… but if the consumer wants less pollution, they have to find correct information about pollution and who is making it (which companies may try to hide) and find a difference between companies with similar products. They must also be able to afford buying products with less pollution. There is no sense they should participate in the processes of the State to gain enough power to enforce less pollution, as that might diminish the liberty of the powerful to pollute on those less powerful.

    We should also probably note that in capitalism the word ‘cost’ usually means ‘monetary cost’ alone. If the creatures and the land do not belong to anyone who both cares and is wealthy enough to go to law, or to make law, to protect them, then there is no recognisable cost; even if the destruction may be fatal to humans in the long term. If the person destroys their “own land” then everyone should be happy, as it is their ‘private property’ to destroy as they will, as if that property was separate from everything else in the world. Non-monetary cost, or cumulative dysfunction, seem difficult concepts to deal with once monetary profit becomes the only mark of virtue and success. If something is priceless, then it has no value.

    In response to these kind of arguments, some people will appear to argue that there can be an ideal capitalist market in which problems dissolve, ie we just get rid of State regulations and protections for the environment and workers. This is bold, but the problem is that this ideal process never arises, and all the talk of free markets appears to do, is justify a more stringent plutocracy. So I assume that producing plutocracy is the function of that talk.

    I may be wrong, but it does seem to be the case that the more pro-free markets the political party claims to be, the more they defend pollution and ecological destruction with vigour. They see themselves as vigorously defending capitalism and development, and demonstrate why we have to be careful with both of those institutions.

    Economics of waste again

    May 29, 2018

    Why do humans pollute?

    Firstly, because these particular people don’t think ecologically or systemically. They think that dumping their individual or organisation waste products into the environment will not harm anything that much. They may ask, ‘how much difference can one person/organisation make?’ The answer is, over years, and with other people thinking and acting similarly, a lot.

    Secondly, pollution can be encouraged by society when the costs of polluting are not factored into the economic process. If it is cheaper to pollute, there is no penalty for polluting, and it does not seem to harm them directly then people will pollute. The more that profit becomes a god the more people are likely to cut costs by polluting. The freer the market, the more intense the pollution, as those who can buy the laws and ethics make the laws and ethics.

    Thirdly, if one group has conquered another and they can direct their pollution at the weaker group then they will often do so. I suspect this comes from both the brutal joy in displaying power, the aim of further weakening the conquered, and a lack of consideration for others -especially ‘the weak’. It was traditional for the wealthy to live on the top of a hill and sewerage to flow down and accumulate, and the most polluting factories and mines tend not to be in wealthy areas.

    A relatively equitable society, with friendly relations with its neighbours, that did not value money above all else would probably not have as many pollution problems. If people also thought ecologically, realised that individual actions were rarely individual or unique, did not emit more than the ecology could process and turn back into ‘goods’, realised that all such processes are uncertain, ‘complex’, unpredictable, often irreversible, and cumulative and that you need to factor in lots of ‘slack’ for systems to stay relatively stable, then it would almost certainly not be poisoning itself, and would make polluters take responsibility for their waste.

    Can this happen without some kind of revolution in the capitalist west? I don’t know. Let’s hope so. Otherwise our lives will be driven not by constructive production, but the production of waste.

    Donut Economics

    May 17, 2018

    Kate Raworth’s ‘donut’ presents a relatively new way of looking at the economy, which has attained some fame. I’ve attached the picture below.

    As you approach the hole in the middle, you have an economy which does not satisfy people’s needs such as water, food, housing, relative equity, liberty, education and so on.

    As you approach the edge of the image you begin to destroy the ecologies of the planet that the economy depends upon, producing events such as biodiversity loss, climate change, disruption of nitrogen and phosphorus cycles, destruction of fertile land, and so on.

    Whereas without such a diagram, the capitalist economy is perceived as a matter of self-contained markets isolated from ecology, she argues that the aim of economics should be to satisfy people’s needs without destroying that planetary ecology.

    Normal economic theory, can argue that inequality decreases as growth increases, and that growth cleans up economies, because the economic model looks at the world in isolated ways. Some economies appear to clean up ecologies, but they do so at the expense of other ecologies, and businesses are always happy to lower the costs of pollution and increase profit when offered an opportunity.

    People may object that it is impossible to meet the needs of everyone – especially while respecting the planetary boundaries, but at least in this model it appears as something which can be discussed as a major concern. Just as we can ask “What is the economy for? What is it about?” and get a reasonably useful answer.

    The old economics had an extremely confining view of human nature, it was humanity stripped of everything but the profit motive. This was a decision originally taken to distinguish economics from other fields such as history or philosophy, and to make things simpler, but it became the model of humanity. Under it we are *just* individual profit seekers. We only cooperate in order to make personal profit, we naturally destroy for profit, we have fixed preferences which we neutrally evaluate, and we have no purpose, happiness or virtue other than wealth seeking.

    This view is simply not true, or adequate. Humans co-operate as naturally as they compete. We are social as much as individual, we do not naturally only value money and we do not destroy what we share. We are creatures with many purposes and many aims. Wealth is usually only important to the extent it brings about those other purposes and we are not made happy by consumption.
    Raworth’s model, to me, is reasonably obvious and elegant and allows humans to be complex. It is not reductive.

    It does have a few problems.

    1) It does not explicitly recognise that the current economy is a mode of power, situated within frameworks of power relations, and that historical evidence appears to show that those who benefit from this mode of power will do almost anything to preserve it – including wreck the earth.

    Nearly all forms of organisation are nowadays reduced to economic/capitalistic organisations. Media and information is controlled by capitalists, the law is controlled by capitalists, the State is controlled by capitalists, education is controlled by capitalists, and so on. Paying attention to the “bottom line” (measured in terms of money) is a mantra that both permeates society, and ignores reality.

    It will be hard to move against inertia and the active power dedicated to preserving existing hierarchy. The model does not easily provide for the distortions that power puts into economics – any more than standard economics does. But as standard economics aims to preserve that power it is not a handicap for it, but a strength, as its users can pretend that inequality of outcome is always proportional to inequality of talent.

    2) More importantly, the model does not provide a set of simple positive instructions for politicians. It does not give them an easy and painless set of action slogans and programs, whereas conventional economics does.

    Conventional economics says: business is always good and always delivers, you must increase growth, nature is limitless or unimportant, commons don’t work so sell them off to business, government is inefficient so hand it over to business, rich people are talented so give them more support and protection (and pick up the rewards), reduce taxes, stop government services, increase charges, abandon poor people as they are without virtue, and individual wealth and its owners should be worshiped.

    Donut economics, just says don’t destroy the world, and let everyone participate. Neither is easy under the current power relations, and these actions do not reward players in the State. The model grinds to a halt.

    It needs simple and positive directives.

    So time to think what those might be….

    the donut

    Libertarianism, communism and freedom

    April 17, 2018

    “Liberal” is a weird word. To people in the European tradition it means someone for whom free markets are important, and personal liberty is tied up with wealth and the removal of barriers, and so a nowadays a “non-conservative” member of the right. At one time this kind of liberalism was radical, now it is simply a way of enforcing the power of money, hence it sits well with the establishment. In America this position is “libertarian” while the term liberal implies a person who thinks that we should all get on with each other, that government should be helpful, and that participation in government should not be restricted to the wealthiest.

    “Communist” is equally a weird word, because communism as a aspiration is radically different from the communist powers which used to exist. There were as many varieties of communism as liberalism. Originally communism meant the withering away of the state, liberty and co-operative freedom. This kind of communism recognized that freedom and life required other people, and sometimes required help, not simply the removal of barriers. Too much poverty and violence does not grant freedom, or the capacity to act on what freedom is available. Later, official communism simply supported the power of the Communist State and its rulers. Official communism was not an egalitarian arrangement.

    “Freedom” is also weird. Some people have asserted that freedom is recognition of necessity, which often seems to mean keep carrying on with oppression. Personally I think there is no liberty without enablement, and without some degree of equality. Sure there will always be some inequality as people don’t have equal abilities or good fortune, but massive inequality usually means that the society is being run for the benefit of those at the top (who may not have great ability and who have some protection from ill fortune). Consequently the liberty of those people has to be curtailed slightly for the benefit of others. It is, for example, often (but not always) agreed that a person’s freedom to use their ability to beat other people up, or kill them, should be limited, so it is with other freedoms. Freedoms can always contradict, that is why it is a struggle.

    In complex systems attempts to impose either order and freedom can have unintended consequences. Imposing the freedom of the market can lead to freedom for the wealthy and non for everyone else. Imposing equality through the State can also lead to lack of freedom for some people. We perhaps need to carry awareness of these oppositions and contradictions in mind, and allow something new to arise, rather than simply assert what we believe to be true, but which has never worked, is the way to go.

    short libertarianism

    April 13, 2018

    Libertarianism seems to function as the friendly propaganda for the neoliberal project of tipping all power relations over to the side of the corporate sector and weakening any power that ordinary people may use to contain that sector.

    It occupies a similar space to that libertarian communism occupied with respect to Stalinism – except (and its a vital except) that some libertarian communists were some of the fiercest critics of Stalinism. If libertarians say they are against corporate power, they never want to eliminate that power before they eliminate the check of government restriction on it.

    This is why there is rarely any real facture between libertarians and ordinary politician conservatives, because they are both about preserving and increasing the power of money.

    Any real conservative would recognise that libertarianism reduces all virtue and value to profit and stay as far away from it as possible. And any real anarchist would have nothing to do with supporting religious or corporate authority.

    Libertarianism is fake news.