Sunday, 4 March 2012
Instinct for Freedom - A Post from the Past (Aug 2007)
Today's Flashback was originally posted on August 12th 2007. It represented a rather naive attempt to put forward a Libertarian Socialist vision and yet, with the recent exposures of massive co-ordinated global corruptions in the financial markets, its relevance has grown more valid.
US philosopher, J. Dewey: "Politics is the shadow cast on society by big business."
Dewey believed that this hyperreality would remain so as long as power resides in "business for private profit through private control of banking, land, industry, reinforced by command of the press, press agents and other means of publicity and propaganda."
The massive injection of taxpayer's money into the rancid financial system is an outrage.
$700 billion US bailout, £550 billion GB bailout, the effective nationalisation on poor terms of vast swathes of the banking sector, $125 billion pumped into AIG, the take over of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the gaming of the Depression by a Goldman Sachs team of insiders, the planning of the next crisis with the right hand (Dark Pools are the next crisis) while emptying our wallets with their left.
Socialise the costs, privatise the gains.
This simply represents a colossal global regressive redistribution of wealth.
It is a highly regressive bailout - remember how Psychopathic Paulson did not even mention housing in his initial application for government funding.
There should have been no bailouts without extensive global regulation in a socialised infrastructure.
After 1929 Depression, we got the New Deal and Bretton Woods.
Free market ideologists constantly worked to remove the restrictions on unfettered shareholder capitalism and the New Deal became the Bum Deal (unless you happen to be lucky enough to sit on the Forbes Rich List).
And, it is this Rich List that offers a far more just, meritocratic and sustainable solution to the current crisis.
The richest 400 people in the US are worth $1500 billion. If they each dipped their hands into their offshore bank accounts and handed 50% of their ill-begotten gains over to the financial sector that aided them in the stealing of their wealth, there would have been no need of a taxpayer-led bailout.
And, they'd still have an average of a couple of billion dollars apiece.
This is hardly poverty.
The rich bailing themselves out would have a further systemic benefit - no moral hazard. If they know that they cannot get away with operating tilted tables at the Capitalist Casino, then these tilted tables will become something more akin to level playing fields.
And, the rescue package entirely ignores this systemic level of the crisis.
From Paulson's point of view, he is pulling the levers of a vast state based economic system.
This is not a free market, it is the equivalent of China or North Korea or the Soviet Union.
As Carlos Ferrero's letter to the Economist stated: "The Economist supporting a massive bail-out? Now I’ve seen everything. The only thing left to do is change the name of your newspaper to The Communist."
Shareholder capitalism has two major non-sustainable idiocies at its foundation.
Firstly, externalities are ignored and risk is underpriced. So, you buy a car. But the true cost is far greater than the cash that changes hands - think pollution, climate change, petrol extraction, road deaths, destruction of environment etc etc etc.
So shareholder capitalism refuses to factor in the Real costs of climate change.
As a species, we are pushing up against Malthusian limits, and all the financial-heads are able to come up with are schemes that enable them, in reality, to trade the factors that are destroying the planet.
Lets trade those emissions schemes!!!
This would be almost humourous if it were not systemic suicide.
The second fundamental problem with state-based shareholder capitalism is the belief in efficient markets. For, the markets are not only not free, they are also entirely inefficient.
The irrationality of our collective behavioural psychologies take the True Price away from the Market Price.
Insider market manipulation, the banning of short-selling, the cornering of markets, rampant competitive speculation, all with no assessment of where the Real risk lies, results in markets that are largely arbitrary in the numbers that they provide.
These figures are not based on any scientific statistical evaluation of robust parameters within a physical system, it is more akin to modelling the human behaviours (both abusive and abused) in a casino, or at a racehorse track.
If a murderer were on trial, and, if it was known that he was planning another murder even while he stood on trial, would you give him a gun?
We no longer partake in your system.
Instinct For Freedom
Football Is Fixed was established to seek out and identify structures of authority, hierarchy and power both in sport and in wider society and to challenge their authenticity. Unless a justification may be provided for such institutions, they are illegitimate and should be dismantled in order to enhance our freedom and rights as human beings. This is, in essence, a Libertarian Socialist position.
In the words of Chomsky “we have, perhaps, reached a point in history when it is possible to think seriously about a society in which freely constituted social bonds replace the fetters of autocratic institutions”.
Throughout this post, we will be incorporating the thoughts of prescient thinkers from over the last 250 years. We are not political scientists and we have nothing to add to the summation of their intellectual endeavours except, hopefully, to combine these thoughts logically and to illuminate them with pertinent examples.
Due to the rampant filtration of left libertarian views in the media of the First World, we should start with some definitions and explanations regarding libertarianism and the utilisation of language by civil society to disguise meanings and create confusions.
• Democracy – Equality of all citizens before the law.
• Liberalism – Rights of people over their own person.
Each of these basic concepts of human existence is demolished by the realities imposed by capitalism in all its forms – a capitalist democracy is obviously a contradiction in terms. To quote Edmund Phelps of Columbia University who was awarded last year’s Nobel Prize for Economics: “Europe will continue to lag in productivity and innovation because it is stuck in a corporate [ie stakeholder] model of capitalism that takes the wishes of government and workers into consideration”. Like this should be regarded as a bad thing…
• Libertarian Socialism – There are two entirely different types of libertarianism. Libertarian Socialism is a truly bottom-up democratic system where the institutions and the frameworks that provide advancement and enlightenment are the possessions of each and every one of us. Social responsibility is at its core. This type of libertarianism shares many facets with the Anarchist philosophies of Bakunin and others.
• Libertarian Capitalism - This form of libertarianism is neatly described by “gain wealth forgetting all but self and, under no circumstances other than short term tactical, show any indication of a sense of responsibility to others”. It is evident that this breed of libertarianism shares equivalence with fascism.
Since the beginning of the twentieth century, there has been a conscious effort by the captains of industry to warp the meanings of these terminologies. Is democracy really what the coalition of the willing are exporting to Iraq? Does Anarchism deserve its association with destruction and violence? Of course not… By reframing the political arguments, the non-democratic elite steals the language of equality and rights and transforms this language into their propaganda.
This is not just a recent phenomenon. In the late eighteenth century, Rousseau stated that “civil society is hardly more than a conspiracy by the rich to guarantee their plunder” while von Humboldt noted: “the labourer who tends a garden is perhaps in a truer sense its owner than the listless voluptuary who enjoys its fruits”. Our modern world is run by a whole battalion of such listless voluptuaries who refuse any freedom of expression for the masses while accumulating incredible wealth in their offshore bank accounts. As Alexis de Tocqueville said: “what can be expected of a man who spent twenty years of his life making heads for pins?” The same question is of equal relevance to the call centres of Mumbai and the workhouse slaves of South East Asia lacing up Nike trainers.
Capitalism has moved forward in a series of clearly defined steps. Previous centuries endured the impacts of free trade and slavery as the forerunners of today’s system of globalisation. The politicisation of the people following the French Revolution, the Famine, two World Wars, the Bolshevik Revolution and the crushing of the Anarchosyndicalist collectives in the Spanish Civil War forced this fiercely non-democratic system to allow certain rights for the peoples of the First World – welfare states were created to offer safety nets for work, health and old age. Workers were even allowed a say in the running of the companies that employed them. This system of stakeholder capitalism, although still evidently an abuse of democratic rights, at least allowed wage slaves an input to their existence.
In the eyes of a corporate capitalist, stakeholder capitalism was an accommodation and not a goal in itself. The last quarter century has seen the establishment of a progression towards a far more abusive system of shareholder capitalism which entirely eliminates the rights of workers and their families (see Phelps’ opinion above). Capitalism was only able to move forward in this manner due to two coincident facts. Firstly, media propaganda had demonised democratic institutions such as the unions and, secondly, industrial sectors were maturing which significantly reduced the number of individual companies operating in any one sector. At present, aircraft manufacture is effectively dominated by Boeing and Airbus; there are just four global accounting firms; similar restrictive choice is seen in the oil and food retailing and many other sectors. This maturing of the marketplace puts massively increased abusive power in the hands of a very small number of companies with the obvious related potential abusive structures of cartels, oligarchies, monopolies and duopolies.
At the beginning of the twenty first century, we may only view life through the distorting prism of the coercive and personally destructive system in which we live. Freedom is a commodity – one can have as much as one can afford to purchase. Fraud by the poor is rampantly criminalised; tax evasion by the rich is creative accounting. Black youth smoking crack lose their freedom and, in the US, their right to vote; white investment bankers snorting cocaine is not an issue. According to Eduardo Galeano: “the majority must resign itself to the consumption of fantasy. Illusions of wealth are sold to the poor, illusions of freedom to the oppressed, illusions of power to the weak.” The privatisation of government goes hand in hand with the privatisation of the market. This is the central theme of modern political culture.
David Hume noted: “force is always on the side of the governed, the governors have nothing to support them but opinion”. Shareholder capitalists are more than aware of this fact and their coercion necessarily involves the incorporation of propaganda in their media and publicity machines. But Hume is obviously correct. If the disenfranchised of the world were simply to fold their arms and say “no!”, the whole abusive structure would grind to a halt.
It is, consequently, a critical input to the system to buy off a managerial and/or skilled level in society in the ultimate form of divide and rule. A few statements related to the selfish obedience and acquiescence of the blinkered middle classes are given below:
Dostoyevsky’s Grand Inquisitor - “Ignorance, and admiration arising from ignorance, are the parents of evil devotion and obedience.”
Chomsky – “The specialised class is offered the opportunities to manage public affairs by virtue of their subservience to those with the real power in our society – dominant business interests – and this is a critical fact that is, not surprisingly, ignored in the self-praise of the elect.”
Von Humboldt - “When a man is acquiescent, we may admire what he does but despise what he is.”
Chomsky (again) – “Since they are usually not very bright, or are bright enough to know that they better avoid the arena of fact and argument, they’ll turn to misrepresentation, vilification and other devices that are available to those who know that they’ll be protected by the various means available to the powerful.”
And, yet, it is the individuals who have effectively sold out on their fellow human beings who are most at risk from the impacts of the future path of capitalism. The regression from stakeholder to shareholder to private capitalism is almost complete. Having been bought off by the selfish fruits of their labour and limited power (wages, promotions, property, access to the stock and bond markets), the acquiescent will be entirely excluded from such constructs as capitalism advances to a world of private equity, market manipulation, hedge funds, cartelisation, monopoly, offshore financial centres, corporate corruption and currency manipulations. Those of us who have learned to accept our degree of disenfranchisement in a fascistic system will be psychologically (if not financially) more able to deal with the final progression of capitalism on its route from stakeholder – shareholder – psychopathic.
The power of the oligarchy always rests on fraud as it is necessary to make use of the masses, and the masses would not cooperate if they realized that they were simply serving the purposes of a minority. This opinion was put forward over half a century ago by a right wing ideologue called James Burnham and, despite an abhorrence of his political agenda, respect must be given as his vision is coming sharply into focus.
Bolshevism and capitalism are equivalent – they are both totalitarian systems. In the words of Martin Buber: “one cannot in the nature of things expect that a little tree that has been turned into a club to put forward leaves”. Libertarian Socialism according to von Humboldt establishes “the fullest, richest and most harmonious development for the potentialities of the individual, the community or the human race. Progress will follow the creation of freedom at every step”. We are a creative, inquisitive, learning species but freedom of thought and enlightenment should not only be for the rich. Education is the key input here – not the current educational system orientated to maintaining the existing social and economic structures but an educational system that allows us to transform such structures in a more creative and egalitarian manner.
One of the prime kneejerk responses to suggestions of a more utopian system for our planet is that such a goal is idealistic. Not so. Incrementalism has transformed our world as the autocrats have been forced to (allegedly) abolish slavery, give the vote to Blacks and Women, create social safety nets for the poor and allow workers to organise and share information (albeit in a repressive infrastructure). Libertarian Socialism is a work in progress. For example, Libertarian Socialists perceive a strategic future without the need for the corrupting powers of government and, yet, in the immediate term, government is our only structure whereby we may decelerate the progression of capitalism to its psychopathic conclusion of unaccountable private tyrannies. A further objection raised by opponents of even making the decision to seek a better future for the planet is that Anarchists and Libertarian Socialists are unable to provide a comprehensive template of the structural requirements and the ongoing development of a new social system. And yet, such an opponent would agree, if they were able to produce a valid argument at all, that science moves forward in incremental steps as people work together for a social and informational advancement of the world. Why should political science be any different?
John Stuart Mill provides, I think, the clearest description of what happiness is. “Those only are happy who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness - on the happiness of others; on the improvement of mankind; even on some art or pursuit - followed not as a means but, as itself, an ideal end. Aiming thus at something else, they find happiness by the way”. One of the things that most befuddles the acquiescent in the capitalist machine is that their obedience to the system results in a deficit of happiness and fulfillment. There is a significant amount of medical research that shows a positive correlation between life/career satisfaction and life longevity. In the words of Emma Goldman “Anarchism is the only belief that shows men and women their true selves and who they can be”.
No Cartesian Gods, No Capitalist Masters…