Five giants unleashed

Upon a blasted heath, or in a very dark corner of a smoke filled room, or around the kitchen table in a Cotswolds mansion at ‘kitchen supper’ time, plots have been ruminated over, designed and put into action. Cold stone hearts drive the calculated rationalities of bureaucratised, intellectually bereft mindsets who can not see further than their own bank balances and a slow descent into senility. Horizons of expectation and hope have been so lowered that they barely reach the fetid scum ring line of a misused toilet in a backstreet brothel in Rochdale. Pettiness, fear and misanthropy are the guiding principles of social policy that not so much gets developed as oozes from under a slaughterhouse door like a pool of blood specked vomit looking for a dog. Blank eyes, behind them a vacuity of such sucking force a black hole would be jealous of, stare with barely concealed contempt at the need to think about social responsibility. The only thing they see is a gold coin being held in the hand of a starving child, a gold coin they think is rightfully theirs and therefore the prising of infant fingers from which can be justified. Tears do not move them, anguish is ignored, pain is relished as being good for building self reliance and character building. ‘Top Cornflakes’ rise to the top in the face of such adversity.

And so it is that families are shirkers, and homes paid for over 30 years must be sold. Pooling risk, so that individuals may be spared the trauma and bankrupting expense of personal tragedies, is anathema now. Beveridge’s five giant evils awaken, stir, blink, the reports of their death somewhat premature. They’ve been given new life by the austerity defibrillator and the life giving infusion of Brexit. Squalor surveys the landscape and smiles with delight at both gilded and burning towers; Want is pleased to see repositories for foodstuffs proliferate across the land like pustules on a teenagers face; Idleness delights itself as it transforms into a new form of gig activities which strengthens Squalor and Want’s grip around the citizen’s throat. Sickness revels in its ability to inflict its pain unequally and with increasing force, while Ignorance cannot believe the ease with which it has captured so many Oxbridge educated minds.

Ministerial nightmares pave the way for the dismantling of both Beveridge’s and Bevan’s dream. “I have a dream” has been replaced with “go fuck yourself, you lazy skiving (migrant) peasant”. Another dream, “The British Dream” drifts into our space like a wet vindaloo and Guinness generated fart. The dream only includes nice white people in the Home Counties and bits of Cheshire. ‘I’m alright Jack’ is now ‘I’m alright Rupert’ as Jack is far too working class and is not aspirational enough. Aspiration itself is the new Jerusalem upon a green hill far away, but upon closer inspection only a few have been given the map showing the hill’s location.

The blasted heath is deserted now, the smoke clears and the last supper in the Cotwolds has been eaten. Five giants stomp across the land while the plotters retire to Tuscan homes, comforted by fat pay checks and bonuses for setting them free.

Thoughts and Actions

Photo by Christian Spies on Unsplash

A new categorical imperative has been imposed…upon unfree mankind: to arrange their thoughts and actions so that Auschwitz will not repeat itself, so that nothing similar will happen”.

Theodore Adorno in Negative Dialectics.

After 1945, Adorno returned to Germany following his escape to the United States, and was dismayed at the silence and denial of far too many Germans of the horrors they had witnessed or taken part in. Many in positions of power and influence were silent about Hitler, and Adorno’s countrymen appeared still to be bending the knee to power:

The inarticulate character of apolitical conviction, the readiness to submit to every manifestation of actual powers, the instant accommodation to whatever new situation emerges, all this is merely an aspect of the same regression,  If it is true that the manipulative control of the masses always brings about a regressive formation of humanity, and if Hitler’s drive to power essentially involved the relationship of this development ‘at a single stroke’, we can only say that he, and the collapse that followed, has succeeded in providing the required infantalisation”.

Germans were not the only ones to be infantilised. It is my belief that in many countries this process occurs. It matters not in small countries, except of course to those who experience it. However, in those countries that have nuclear weapons and a military-industrial complex it is highly dangerous.

The infantilisation of the American public was to have its own tragic consequences in the 1960’s. The lessons regarding the conditions allowing the rise of national socialism seemed to have been already forgotton.

On the BBC right now is a documentary on the Vietnam war. It should be required viewing. One tragic note is the willingness of many young American men to sign up and go fight ‘communists’ with absolutely no idea what they were doing or why. They had no history of colonialism or the role the US pre-war, and they relied on ideas about American flag waving exceptualism. Many believed they had great leaders and that they all were fighting a just war. The poor working class and blacks were drafted and over represented in the ranks. Not until the draft started hitting the middle class did opposition to the war move from ideological to self-interest. It remained the case that white middle class status, and money, protected many from the nasty, brutish and often short life in the front line. US tactics in bombing and clearing villages amounted to genocide and was counterproductive. It acted as recruiter for the North Vietnamese. The US metric for success was ‘body count’ in the absence of clearly identified strategic targets. It often did not matter whose body ended up as ‘body count’.

Infantilisation helped create the Vietnam tragedy, increasing infantilisation of publics since then underpinned the wars in Afghanisation, Iraq, and Libya. No doubt Putin infantilises Russians in order to establish and maintain his own fiefdom.

We don’t need an Auschwitz when we have heavily armed hubris.

Despite Stephen Pinker’s description of actually reducing global violence and war, I fear that right now, in 2017, the manipulation of the masses is bringing about a regression towards our more base natures, and is based on an infantilised political culture that is ill equipped to prevent another Auschwitz. We have people who can barely discuss politics without recourse to cliché and banality; we have many only too willing to accept the erosion of freedoms, the junking of human rights, in the name of security; and we have knee jerk unthinking reactions to existential and humanitarian challenges which are often the result of our own actions. It is not Pinker’s description of reducing violence that is wrong, but the conclusions we might draw about future peace, based on inductive logic, which might prove fatally flawed unless we continue to address Adorno’s ‘thoughts and actions’.

So, what thoughts and actions are now required to uphold this new imperative outlined by Adorno?

 

Reject ‘Great Man’ history and leadership, and look who supports him. Hitler came to power with the full support of the ‘supermanagers’ of the business elites. He was elected. It was not a Nazi coup.

Be sceptical towards notions of heroic militarisation. We laugh at parades of military hardware in Red Square or Pyon Yang but suspend such judgment as to the true nature of military hardware in our own armed forces.

Be suspicious of references to national mythologies and symbols. We love the Zulu story but forget why we there in the first place. We cite Agincourt, Crecy, Trafalgar and Waterloo as triumphs but forget what the wars were about.

Be critical of the overly simplistic demonisation of others. The North Vietnamese were swivel eyed donkey headed communists rather than fighting a colonial war; North Koreans are uncritical or oppressed followers of the Dear Leader rather than fearing a foreign power who killed 20% of the population in the last war; the Chinese people are poised to impose empire through economic domination rather than recovering from a century of Imperial domination by western powers.

Consider the difference between patriotism, nationalism, ethnocentrism, and supremacism. When does pride in a country elide into hatred, mistrust and fear?

Prevent security from becoming the overriding driver in the public sphere? What are we being secured from and what is being lost? Do we want the police to be armed and asking for our papers? Do we want airport security at railways stations? Is all of the security proportionate?

Challenge ahistorical accounts of current achievements. Ask how the cities of London, Liverpool and Bristol became global centres of wealth.

Remember colonialism, imperialism and slavery have always arisen and have to be defeated in each generation.

Learn about political ideologies, philosophies and theories.

Ask power upon what basis it demands our obedience.

Stop knee jerk reactions to new challenges. Migrants fleeing war pose serious questions about our humanity. This requires humane reactions.

Accept the plurality, diversity and fluidity of culture, that culture is dynamic and changes in time (temporally) and in location (spatially). Englishness and Britishness’ have always had diversity within them and they are not defined by old maids cycling in the morning mists. Fish and Chips was foreign once and have we forgotten the origins of Tikka Masala?

Critique the communication of class based, ethnic based, gender based manipulations through press and broadcast media. The Daily Mail, the Daily Express and the Sun have owners with an agenda, we do not have to accept their world view as generally applicable to everyone in this country and it is not treason or unpatriotic to be a republican, suspicious of the police or queer.

Understand that terrorism has its flip side: freedom fighting. Nelson Mandela was a terrorist according to Thatcher. We talked to the IRA. Our history in Empire brought forth insurgencies, uprisings and terrorism. They are mostly settled now. History is written by the winners.

Don’t laugh at the seeming out of touch buffoon who abuses race, class or gender for public support of his political campaign. The buffoon may have powerful allies in the background.

 

If we don’t act and think critically, we are making it easier for a Strong Man to argue we should ‘take control’ and be ‘great again’ in order to lead us into the abyss.

 

 

May’s ‘Free’ market blather is anti Corbyn rhetoric

Photo by Thomas Charters on Unsplash

Theresa May is ‘frit’.

Jeremy Corbyn argued (September 2017) that the neoliberal model of capitalism is broken.

In response, May argues:

“A free market economy, operating under the right rules and regulations, is the greatest agent of collective human progress ever created.  It was the new combination which led societies out of darkness and stagnation and into the light of the modern age. It is unquestionably the best, and indeed the only sustainable, means of increasing the living standards of everyone in a country. And we should never forget that raising the living standards, and protecting the jobs, of ordinary working people is the central aim of all economic policy. Helping each generation to live longer, fuller, more secure lives than the one which went before them. Not serving an abstract doctrine or an ideological concept – but serving the real interests of the British people”.

Theresa May is not original of course in her praise of capitalism and in praise of the activities of the bourgeoisie:

It has accomplished wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Roman aqueducts, and Gothic cathedrals; it has conducted expeditions that put in the shade all former migrations of nations and crusades”.

So wrote Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto. Before anyone talked of ‘Globalisation’, and its discontents, Marx and Engels had this to say:

“The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. To the great chagrin of reactionaries, it has drawn from under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood. All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilized nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose products are consumed, not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the production of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion and selfsufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal interdependence of nations. And as in material, so also in intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures there arises a world literature”.

May is singing the praises of the ‘free market economy’ but with a very important caveat often missed in further elaboration and eulogising others. Look carefully, May is not talking about a free market at all, and as I have argued, this is rhetoric not reality for if we examine just how free market neoliberal capitalism actually is, we find it just is not.

May actually acknowledges this with the two words ‘rules and regulations’ which when actually examined sends shivers down the spines of free market ideologues. May’s government continues to spend 40% of GDP and subsidises industry. May even raises the spectre, if not of communism, but of industrial policy .  Perhaps she does so with an eye to China, a country whose interventions in key industries even the free market Economist appears to grudgingly accept has brought some successes. Marianna Mazzucato in ‘The Entrepreneurial State’ also clearly shows the role of the State in innovation as a rebuke to free market fundamentalism. I think May has also read this and understands the nature of the partnership between private and public sector.

As does Corbyn, difference between the two is neoliberalism. Both want State intervention, only one wants the interests of Labour to be taken into account. The other is in thrall to Capital. Neoliberalism in practice does not mean a free market (perish the thought!), it means State support for capital and withdrawl of state support for labour. Socialism for the rich, neoliberalism for the poor. May understands that many people are wise to this and thus fears their drift to Corbyn.

Hence this speech.

“Malefactors of Great Wealth” in the Oval office

I came across a quote in Oreskes and Conway’s (2014) ‘The Collapse of Western Civilization’ from a speech made by a national leader. At this point, I will not name or date the speechmaker. I thought it interesting as a view on the relationship between a nation state and its wealthy individuals and thus on the nature of democracy. What follows are parts of the speech with some commentary in bold. I think it speaks to us today.

 

“National sovereignty is to be upheld in so far as it means the sovereignty of the people used for the real and ultimate good of the people; and state’s rights are to be upheld in so far as they mean the people’s rights. Especially is this true in dealing with the relations of the people as a whole to the great corporations which are the distinguishing feature of modern business conditions.

 

The democratic deficit in both the USA and in Europe is that increasingly voters’ rights are being increasingly limited and bound by the rights of corporations and through the actions of corporate lobbying and political influence. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership  (TTIP) further threatened the nation state and citizen democracy by allowing corporations to sue governments if they implement social and environmental protection legislation that the corporation deems a barrier to trade. CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between the EU and Canada) may well do the same. Thus, national sovereignty is being eroded by such new legislation that does not recognise the sovereignty of people. Globalised capital flows are also eroding national sovereignty through capital mobility and a lack of a globalised governance in such issues as tax evasion and climate protection.

 

“Experience has shown that it is necessary to exercise a far more efficient control than at present over the business use of those vast fortunes, chiefly corporate, which are used in interstate business”.

 

More efficient control is now seen as anti-business and anti-democratic by the corporate class executive and the political power elites within a neoliberal idiocy that wants smaller and smaller state interference.

“But there is a growing determination that no man shall amass a great fortune by special privilege, by chicanery and wrong doing, so far that it is in the power of legislation to prevent; and that a fortune, however amassed shall not have a business use that is antisocial”.

 

This determination has been somewhat been diluted as exemplified in Peter Mandelson’s famous quote that New Labour was “Intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich” and Boris Johnson’s eulogy to the rich as an ‘oppressed minority’. In addition we have Tax laws favouring the 1% and their offshore havens and finance capital that rewards fancy financial products while being socially useless.

 

“Almost every big business is in engaged in interstate commerce and…must not be allowed…to escape thereby all responsibility either to state or to nation”.

 

Globalisation: this appears to mean that ‘If you don’t like our employment practices and wage structures then we will take our investments elsewhere; we will take advantage of the weakness of global labour and call it flexibility. You should be grateful you even have a job’.

 

“The…..people became firmly convinced of the need of control over these great aggregations of capital, especially where they had a monopolistic tendency…”

 

The people have become blind and disorganised, many have been persuaded to vote against their class interests. Many wish there was greater control, but are unsure of how to do it.

 

“There is unfortunately a certain number of our fellow countrymen who seem to accept the view that unless a man can be proved guilty of some particular crime he shall be counted a good citizen no matter how infamous a life he has led, no matter how pernicious his doctrines or his practices”.

 

CEO’s of certain banks, some hedge fund managers, asset strippers, CEO’s in the fossil fuel lobby and industry, climate change deniers…..many who form part of the corporate class executive who view corporate social responsibility either as marketing ploy and as a face to mask their antisocial and anti-environmental business practices. Their rewards are knighthoods and bonuses, because their activities are legal and increase shareholder value.

 

“There is a world-wide financial disturbance, it is felt in Paris and Berlin…on the New York stock exchange the disturbance has been particularly severe…it may well be the determination of the government…to punish certain malefactors of great wealth…”

 

They are conspicuous by their absence in criminal courts and yet no common thief has ever cost the country so much.

“….who shall rule this country – the people through their governmental agents or a few ruthless and domineering men, whose wealth makes them particularly formidable, because they hide behind breastworks of corporate organisation”.

 

We know the answer now. Government agents are discredited, lobbied or have become representatives of capital, not the people.

 

“I…hope that the legislation that deals with the regulation of corporations engaged in interstate business will also deal with the rights and interest of the wageworkers…it will be highly disastrous if we permit ourselves to be misled by the pleas of those who see in an unrestricted individualism the all sufficient panacea for social evils…”

 

Hayek, Friedman, Reagan, Thatcher, Bush, Blair, Cameron, May, Obama and Trump. The high priests of neoliberal individualism who first philosophised and then preside and encourage low wage, part time, zero hours economies and call this ‘labour flexibility’.

“The rich man who with hard arrogance declines to consider the rights and the needs of those who are less well off, and the poor man who excites or indulges in envy and hatred of those who are better off, are alien to the spirit of our national life. There exists no more sordid and unlovely type of social development than a plutocracy for there is a peculiar unwholesomeness on a social and governmental idea where wealth by and of itself is held up as the greatest good. The materialism of such a view finds its expression in the life of a man who accumulates a vast fortune in ways that are repugnant to every instinct of generosity and fair dealing or whether it finds expression in the vapidly useless and self-indulgent life of the inheritor of that fortune…”

 

We now have demonization of the working class, poverty porn on our TVs and victim blaming focusing on immigrants, welfare claimants and benefit cheats as a way of deflecting public anger on the state of public finances and the accumulation of wealth in fewer and fewer hands. The 1% now blame the poor for their fecklessness and lack of hard work resulting in the poor man increasingly turning to such ‘tools’ as jihadist ideology in reprisals. Meanwhile the middle classes in the UK bleat on about inheritance tax that is set at such a level that most of them will not pay it in any case.

 

Turkeys are voting for Christmas. Lemmings are searching for cliffs.  Donkeys are asking for whips.

 

This speech was given by President Roosevelt 1907  – the words in bold are mine. There is nothing new under the sun, the same issues regarding wealth and its influence and practices exercised Roosevelt over a hundred years ago. Between then and now various policies and legislation were put in place to deal with those worries. However, we have now reverted back to a time when we can again speak of the ‘Malefactors of Great Wealth’. This time around Obama is aware of inequality as a ‘defining challenge of our time’ but is wary of raising it for fear of being accused of class warfare.

 

Roosevelt had no qualms about calling these people out for what they are:  “malefactors of great wealth”. One of them is now President.

“Terror level threat critical”

“Terror level threat critical”.
 
Let’s just stop and think about that for a moment. Think about each word, especially ‘threat’ and ‘critical’. What purpose does it serve to publicise this, in this manner? What impact is it having on the general population? Intelligence and Emergency services require a categorisation for their own needs, they can share this category among themselves. Why do broadcast and print media need to sensationalise the incident with pictures of hurt people to accompany words such as ‘threat’ and ‘critical’. Why does the PM think it necessary to state this publically and thereby validating the action as ‘terror’. Supporters of such action wait eagerly for just such a reaction and probably high five each other when the BBC solemnly intone ’29 injured’.
 
For the injured themselves, this of course is a horrible, terrible experience which for some will stay with them for a long time. It is a personal tragedy. Thoughts are with them.
 
For the rest of us, perspective is required. I don’t need to provide statistics showing what you are likely to die of or be injured by, they are easily accessed but rarely reported. I’d like to know what drives editors decisions. There is a psychology to this as well as a politics. But, please don’t be afraid. You are very very safe from terror. Even in London.
 
There is no terror ‘threat’, it is not ‘critical’. You are ok.
 
Terror itself is a media and perpetrator co-creation to serve political ends. Bombs and shootings are criminal acts, the perpetrators want you to think it it is terror, but that only works if you accept their definition. The State colludes unwittingly in their aims by labelling and publicising it as such. What do the media get out of it? A misplaced sense of public service and duty? Ratings? Sales? Profits?
 
This particular ‘spectacle’ is part of post colonial modernity, a tiny piece of geopolitical repositioning in which the losers of globalisation are part financed by certain groups in certain countries. They have a dangerous warped ideology rooted in afterlife mythology. It will continue as old and new empires reposition around the globe.
 
Let the intelligence and security services get on with the job, don’t be afraid.
 
Pasties in Cornwall will still be sold.

The ‘will of the people’ is a chimera.

Photo by davide ragusa on Unsplash

“The term chimera has come to describe anything composed of very disparate parts, or perceived as wildly imaginative, implausible, or dazzling.”

“The people have spoken” and we must respect the “will of the people”. So goes the mantra. It adds that democracy itself is undermined if “the will of the people” is not followed through. And how is this “will of the people” expressed? Through a simple majority vote in a plebiscite in which a complex issue having long term serious consequences was reduced to a simple binary choice.

In political philosophy, the general will (French: volonté générale) is the ‘will of the people as a whole’ The term was made famous by 18th-century French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau:

“The law is the expression of the general will. All citizens have the right to contribute personally, or through their representatives, to its formation. It must be the same for all, whether it protects or punishes. All citizens, being equal in its eyes, are equally admissible to all public dignities, positions, and employments, according to their capacities, and without any other distinction than that of their virtues and their talents.” Article Six of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen (French: Déclaration des droits de l’Homme et du citoyen), composed in 1789 during the French Revolution.

I’m arguing that there is an unbreachable gap between the Theory and its Practice, and that it’s theory is undermined by the lack of analysis of ‘power’ in modern (finance, rentier) capitalist societies, for there never can be equality while capitalism endures. Equality before the law, and equality of representation, as an expression of the ‘general will’, is an ambition that is forever thwarted. For many this is a good thing anyway.

Rousseau sets out a laudable Enlightenment aim regarding the equality of citizens before the state but its practice becomes a bourgeois justification for obfuscation of the nature of power, capital accumulation and exploitation.

By ‘Bourgeois’,  I mean a sociologically defined class, and for simplification, I’m referring to people (and their apologists) with a certain social, cultural and financial capital belonging to an affluent and often opulent stratum of the ‘middle class’ but more correctly are the capitalist class, who stand opposite the working class. Jacob Rees Mogg, although an aristocrat, exemplifies the high end of the bourgeoisie. Other prominent members would include Richard Branson, Nigel Farage, Theresa May, Tony Blair, David Cameron. Even Royalty has been reduced to being bourgeois ‘as image’ (‘Kate and Wills’ for fucks sake) in a deliberate attempt to make them look more ‘normal’ and thus acceptable in austere times.

Who are ‘the people’ ? Bourgeois theory reduces everyone to an undefined abstract mass in which there is a right to equality, an equality however that has been so eviscerated of any force that it has been reduced to meaning only the freedom of expression via the ballot box. ‘One person, one Vote’.  In reality it is ‘political franchise’ equality, not an economic one, or a social one, or a legal one. However these other aspects of ‘the people’s’ equality, cannot be disaggregated except abstractly. The reality of social life is that this bourgeois undifferentiated mass is in fact riven with divisions of class, gender, ethnicity, religion, region and identities with the result that there is inequality, and inequity, of opportunity, outcome and resources. There is a lack of fairness, freedom or justice in many areas of social and political life.

There is no ‘the people’.

There is (bourgeois) Capital and Labour, and within those two categories there are further divisions.

Parliament has been captured by the bourgeoisie and cannot express any collective will. There is no ‘collective will’. There is ideology wrapped up in the glitter of democracy.

Capital: There are powerful actors with so much finance, social, and cultural capital (Pierre Bourdieu) that they can buy power (Graham Scambler’s ‘Greedy Bastards Hypothesis) and bypass Rousseau’s entreaty for equality. “Men of wealth buy men of power”. And yes, it is usually white men in the U.K. If you doubt the power of capital to fashion society, culture and economy you’ve swallowed bourgeois ideology propagated through mass media of communication, for example via Murdoch’s empire. Read up on the Koch brothers in the US, or the actions of wealthy landowners in the UK. Read Guy Debord’s ‘Society of the Spectacle’, or Foucault in ‘Archeaology of Knowledge’ or Antonio Gramsci on Hegemony, or Marcuse in ‘One Dimensional Man’ …or the rest of the work of the Frankfurt School. Let’s not of course forget the works of feminists as such as Simone de Beauvoir or huge literature of post colonialist critique.

If there is no ‘people’ then there can be be no ‘will’. If powerful groups of bourgeois actors can use money, power, influence to direct citizens into acceptable (to bourgeois ) modes of thinking then notions of ‘will’ are diluted. Whose will is being expressed here?

Further, on the EU: Bourgeois thinking is divided itself, resulting in the spectacle of bourgeois actors lying to each other safe in the knowledge that their power base and wealth is not being challenged, just the surface form of political organisation. The UK is a thouroughly bourgeois country either in or out of the EU. Men of wealth will not affected to the same degree as ordinary citizens whose lives will be made or broken by bourgeois decision making.

The law in practice does not represent General Will, it represents the outcome of the battle of powerful bourgeois actors and their battle with ‘the proletariat’. The EU referendum result expressed that ideological battle within the ranks of the bourgeoisie, in which some resorted to dangerous populism, lies, fears and deflection. It was as legitimate an expression of ‘general will’ as the Prince of Wales’ wank stain is to a claim to the throne. They are playing a dangerous game in which some forces of white proletarian dissatisfaction with elites is being channeled toward ethnic groups. This so called ‘will’ is being distorted towards racism if not fascism.

Finally, simple majority voting can be tyrannical, and more so if complex issues are reduced to overly simplistic binaries of leave/remain.

 

 

Pay – who pays?

“Taken together, a picture emerges of earnings stagnation or decline for most occupations since 2005. The big difference between Pay Review Body employees and those in non-Pay Review Body occupations in the private sector is that PRB employees are public servants. As such, the government can determine their annual pay settlement.”

These figures of course don’t say anything about absolute pay. I’d be rather less bothered if my pay was £500,000 in 2005 and stagnated to be the same in 2017. I might be forced to buy a little less champagne or not visit Tuscany quite so often. For those at the low end, however, stagnation or decline in pay really bites and have pushed some to use food banks (or borrow more). The counter is always: “yes well, but there is no money and we have to balance deficit reduction and pay increases to ensure a stronger economy and jobs growth”. I leave you to consider what those banal phrases actually mean.

In short, nurses, firefighters et al have been asked shoulder some of the burden for the Financial crash that put us into the mess in the first place, while at the same time asset values have increased along with the levels of wealth of the top 0.01%. Yes, I know its complex, its a dynamic complex system….but you ignore social consequences of technically/econometric based ‘solutions’ at your peril. By that that I mean using tools such as the Laffer curve (tax rate v tax take) might seem superficially a good idea, but it operates in a social and political world where perceptions matter and where experience hurts.

Joseph Schumpeter once described an aspect of capitalism as ‘creative destruction’ – the old and inefficient must make way for the new and better (e.g. canals v railways, landlines v mobiles, internal combustion v electric). All good stuff unless you are a canal owner/worker. The answer? Retrain, Education (Blair’s ‘third way)…it is also Macron’s approach: let the old die and be reformed (labour laws, certain industries) but don’t let the losers fester…invest in them. You decide if the current losers are able to adapt and adopt quickly enough.
This is of course another unresolvable ‘inner contradiction of capitalism’, unresolvable because that is what capitalism is. Governments that get too technocratic, relying on mathematical models, theoretical concepts (e.g. the Laffer curve and neoclassical economic modelling) and inductive logic derived from historical data, can get their fingers burned…or turn on their populations to control potential and actual simmering unrest through various processes of social control (Greece, China, India) or before they go and elect the ‘wrong person’ (Trump, Erdogan, Putin).

This is a warning to both Left and Right – each will try and solve the inner contradictions of global capitalism from their own perspectives (Chavez in Venezuela – Löfven of Sweden – Obama/Trump in the US) but will run into problems that just don’t go away.

Meanwhile, the Planet burns.

Have a nice day, at least there is Wimbledon and the Tour de France on the telly!

Atlas shrugged (because he couldn’t, objectively, give a sh*t).

Atlas shrugged (because he couldn’t, objectively, give a sh*t).

 

I am rarely so perturbed by a set of ideas that I find it hard to write. In Ayn Rand’s case, I am so. The full critique requires a book but it has been done. John Robbins in ‘Without a prayer’ argues Rand committed numerous fallacies: equivocation, question begging, argument from intimidation, appeal to emotion, ad hominin and false dichotomies.  Micheal Prescott writes clearly and perceptively in his rather damning critique. Normally I like to read first hand any book or author I critique.  I did read somewhere that if one can be spared wasting precious hours of one’s life by not reading Ayn Rand, then do so. Now, I accept that as, yes a cop out, that yes I should read from the primary source and that is precisely what I advise my students to do. However, this is a blog not a paper, and there are many sources online referencing the direct quotes of Ayn Rand and her puerile ‘philosophy’ of ‘Objectivism’.

 

Rand was broken by the Bolsheviks as a girl, and she never left their bootprint behind. She believed her philosophy was Bolshevism’s opposite, when in reality it was its twin. Both she and the Soviets insisted a small revolutionary elite in possession of absolute rationality must seize power and impose its vision on a malleable, imbecilic mass. The only difference was that Lenin thought the parasites to be stomped on were the rich, while Rand thought they were the poor.  (Johann Hari‘How Ayn Rand Became an American Icon’Slate 2009).

 

Her biographical details may provide clues to her overreaction to the perils of communism, which she experienced first hand before escaping to the USA, and to her eulogies to laissez faire capitalism thereafter. I suspect a modicum of PTSD, and a personality disorder coupled with projection as psychological explanations for her writing. The total logic and rationality of left brain thinking that permeates and dominates her work suggests a deficiency of something.

 

I’ll begin with a few probably well-known statements attributed to Rand.

 

My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.”   Ayn Rand , Appendix to Atlas Shrugged.

 

Man—every man—is an end in himself, not a means to the ends of others; he must live for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself; he must work for his rational self-interest, with the achievement of his own happiness as the highest moral purpose of his life”.  The Ayn Rand Column ‘Introducing Objectivism’.

 

Nietzsche? Not that there is anything necessarily wrong with Nietzsche, unless you take his superman idea to its nazi conclusions. Rand’s work rests on her philosophy of (untenable) Objectivism:

 

Objectivism is the philosophy of rational individualism. Rand dramatized her ideal man, the producer who lives by his own effort and does not give or receive the undeserved, who honors achievement and rejects envy. Rand laid out the details of her world-view in nonfiction books such as The Virtue of Selfishness and Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.’

 

Objectivism holds that there is no greater moral goal than achieving happiness. But one cannot achieve happiness by wish or whim. Fundamentally, it requires rational respect for the facts of reality, including the facts about our human nature and needs. Happiness requires that one live by objective principles, including moral integrity and respect for the rights of others. Politically, Objectivists advocate laissez-faire capitalism. Under capitalism, a strictly limited government protects each person’s rights to life, liberty, and property and forbids that anyone initiate force against anyone else. The heroes of Objectivism are achievers who build businesses, invent technologies, and create art and ideas, depending on their own talents and on trade with other independent people to reach their goals’.   (The Atlas Society)

 

Objectivism’s central tenets are that reality exists independently of consciousness, that human beings have direct contact with reality through sense perception, that one can attain objective knowledge from perception through the process of concept formation and inductive logic, that the proper moral purpose of one’s life is the pursuit of one’s own happiness (rational self-interest), that the only social system consistent with this morality is one that displays full respect for individual rights embodied in laissez-faire capitalism.

 

Rand’s arguments over simplify, ignores facts of history, are anthropocentric, racist, rooted in a reaction to Bolshevism which provides the founding cognitive bias against any social or state interventions, ignores power relationships and is thus blind to privilege especially the privilege of capital, fails to account for the interplay of agency, structure and culture and ignores the constitution of subjectivities within normative and hegemonic discourses. It is reductionist and mechanistic redolent of 19th century Physics. Quantum physics, complexity theory, systems theory, cognitive psychology, psychodynamic theory, and just about the whole of sociology, undermines her thesis.

 

In short, her writings are articulate, and somewhat entertaining, overly rational bullshit. It is the output of a frightened and probably psychologically, emotionally stunted and scarred person: ‘Ayn Rand is the ultimate spokesperson for the left hemisphere of the brain’.

 

In ‘Alpha Males, Psychopaths and Greedy Bastards’ I allude to Randian selfishness as a guiding motivation for a group of (most often white) powerful men. Returning to some of her quotes rooted in ‘objectivism’, it is clear why this is an attractive philosophy to successful capitalists, and the ‘wannabe’ entreprenuers aspiring to be the next ‘apprentice’.

 

The most obvious, and to me the fatal flaw, among those listed above, is the complete lack of an analysis of power and of the social when she advocates laissez faire capitalism. There is of course acknowledgement of power and force in her writings, but she then somehow magics them away in her eulogies to small state laissez faire. This relegates her ideas to that of a self-serving (and racist) political ideology used to prop up systemic oppression, plutocracy, exploitation and patriarchy. It also swipes away critiques of colonialist interventions and the histories of genocides, as the ramblings of savages who should thank the white race for creating a prosperous civilisation. The New York skyline for Rand is the reward, or the necessary price, for genocide:

 

They (Native Americans) didn’t have any rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights which they had not conceived and were not using. What was it that they were fighting for, when they opposed white men on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence, their ‘right’ to keep part of the earth untouched, unused and not even as property, but just keep everybody out so that you will live practically like an animal, or a few caves above it. Any white person who brings the element of civilization has the right to take over this continent”.

 

(Q and A session following her address to the graduating class of The United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, March 6, 1974 – found in Endgame: Resistance, by Derrick Jensen, Seven Stories Press, 2006, pg 220).

 

It is easy to see how this is a dangerous and self-serving ideology based on power and privilege if one simply turns the statement around:

 

“New Yorkers don’t have any rights to Manhattan, and there is no reason to grant them any rights. What is it that they send troops abroad for after 9/11? The US military is sent to fight for New Yorkers wish to continue an affluent existence, their ‘right’ to keep the WTC untouched as sources of power and wealth, and just to keep everybody else out of the US and in their own countries. Any Muslim who brings an element of Islamic civilisation based on Sharia, has the right to take over the State of New York”.

 

 

in 2010 when travelling across the deserts of Arizona, Utah and Nevada, I was confronted by Monument Valley and the glories that was Arches National Park. It was a reminder of what greeted the first white settlers and I could understand why they today stand proud on the land, especially when they look to Las Vegas. They, along with Rand, could say ‘we built this’ with blood sweat and tears while Native Americans had done nothing. I understand it, I don’t agree with it without acknowledging that it was not done without genocide and the application of raw technical power which not only crushed rocks but crushed long lasting civilisations.

 

Racism

Now, I don’t care to discuss the alleged complaints American Indians have against this country. I believe, with good reason, the most unsympathetic Hollywood portrayal of Indians and what they did to the white man. They had no right to a country merely because they were born here and then acted like savages. The white man did not conquer this country…”

Address To The Graduating Class Of The United States Military Academy at West Point, 1974

 

Alongside the dismissal of Native Americans there is again invocation of ‘savage v civilisation’ according to one’s membership of a ‘race’. It harks back to the White Man’s Burden justification of colonialist expansion.

The Arabs are one of the least developed cultures. They are typically nomads. Their culture is primitive, and they resent Israel because it’s the sole beachhead of modern science and civilization on their continent. When you have civilized men fighting savages, you support the civilized men, no matter who they are.”  Ayn Rand Ford Hall Forum lecture, 1974, text published on the website of The Ayn Rand Institute.

Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism.  It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man’s genetic lineage—the notion that a man’s intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry.  Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors”.

In degrading Native Americans and Arabs that is precisely what Rand is doing, She is ascribing moral, social and political significance to a group of people linked by their race (what she calls genetic lineage), Rand actually does judge groups of people not by their individual characters but by their links to their ancestors and peers.

 

 


 

Anthropocentrism

 

Rand also has a dangerous disdain for the absolutely fundamental determinant of human health and well-being: the natural environment.

 

That particular sense of sacred rapture men say they experience in contemplating nature- I’ve never received it from nature, only from buildings, Skyscrapers. I would give the greatest sunset in the world for one sight of New York’s skyline. And then people tell me about pilgrimages to some dank pest-hole in a jungle where they go to do homage to a crumbling temple, to a leering stone monster with a pot belly, created by some leprous savage. Is it beauty and genius they want to see? Let them come to New York, stand on the shore of the Hudson, look and kneel”  The Fountainhead (1943).

 

When global mean temperatures rise above 2 degrees by the end of the century and Central Park becomes a swamp, when the great barrier reef is nothing but a bleached white sculpture devoid of life while Sydney floods, when the ocean becomes so acidic that fish stocks disappear….how will you eat a Manhattan skyline? Rand may not like nature all that much and as a subjective value her paucity of vision is harmless. On a Global scale it is leading to ecosystem collapse.

 

Even if smog were a risk to human life, we must remember that life in nature, without technology, is wholesale death

 

Rand may not know that indeed Smog is dangerous and kills. Also, In this sentence Rand echoes Bacon’s entreaty to tame nature, to overcome it, to control it for our purposes for us to have dominion over it. While it is true that life in the state of nature would be ‘nasty brutish and short’ and therefore human existence is predicated upon a degree of control and taming, nonetheless we live in a dialectic with nature, that there has to be a symbiosis, that nature is a complex adaptive system with feedback loops and emergent properties and which if unthinkingly exploited, will kill us. Further, it is dangerous to think we are ontologically separate from nature. This dualist ontology, i.e. a separate object-subject – is fatally undermined by advances in physics and our actual experience with nature. ‘If I shit in a river, I will drink my own shit. Thus I am the river and the river is me. The river and my shit are one, I am my own shit’.

 

Rand claims the smallest minority on earth is the individual. Not ontologically true, not scientifically true…this is a political statement. It is also not empirically true. Human beings are nothing if they are not embedded within and part of community, the social. No one can survive for very long if separated from everyone else and from the artefacts and infrastructure people co-create. To test that is simple. Put a new born baby in the middle of a field and then walk away. Put a 5 year old child in the middle of Manhattan and then simply walk away and ensure no other person interacts with that child. Put an Adult, naked and without money in Central Park and again ensure nil interaction. Do not even allow the adult to interact with any human artefact. Individuals cannot exist, they cannot ‘be’, without others.

 

Objectivism separates the I from the We, there is no social, just the individual whose moral purpose is to seek his own happiness. But strangely this is to be done while respecting the rights of other individuals and not by force. How the fuck does Rand think the New York skyline got built? Did she think that it resulted from a group of men on an equal footing, each in pursuit of their own happiness, cooperated in an egalitarian way without any force, coercion or power plays? How does she think the capital-labour dialectic actually works?

Prescott writes: ‘Ayn Rand starts with the assumption – or “metaphysical axiom,” as she would say – that reality consists exclusively of what is perceivable by the physical senses. This rules out God and any supernatural dimension. She goes on to argue that only reason can integrate sensory data and arrive at objectively valid conclusions. Thus all human action should be predicated on reason, including the class of human action that falls under the heading of ethics. An objective, rational ethics is therefore a necessity of human existence, and Rand proceeds to define one – an ethics of rational self-interest from which any altruistic motives or duties are excluded. There follows a defense of pure laissez-faire capitalism, the only socioeconomic system that gives free rein to profit-seeking selfishness. Reason, egoism, individualism, capitalism – Objectivism in a nutshell’.

Objectivism—a view that makes a religious fetish of selfishness and disposes of altruism and compassion as character flaws. If nothing else, this approach to ethics was a triumph of marketing, as Objectivism is basically autism rebranded. And Rand’s attempt to make literature out of this awful philosophy produced some commensurately terrible writing’. Sam HarrisHow to Lose Readers (Without Even Trying) (August 24, 2011).

 

Rand’s ‘Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (1966)’

Rand here airbrushes history and can only view social relationships from the lofty heights of the winners.

In a capitalist society, all human relationships are voluntary. Men are free to cooperate or not, to deal with one another or not, as their own individual judgments, convictions and interests dictate”.

All relationships are voluntary? Voluntary?  Lets go back into reality not ideological fantasy shall we? I am actually, unusually, lost for words here. At the level of banality, of course this is correct. Anyone can stand up and say “I am not going to do this”. Rupert Murdoch of course has a great deal more freedom and resources to say that, and to choose which relationships he voluntarily will engage in. Prince William similarly will have a degree of freedom to say the same. I really don’t have to spell this out do I? Really? We ‘make our own history’ but not in the circumstances of our own choosing. This is completely ignorant of the relationship between social structures, cultures and personal agency. It completely ignores the constitution of our subjectivities within normative and hegemonic discourses. It also completely ignores the material conditions of daily life for billions, it fails to concede that the objective material conditions of social life provide both enablements and contraints on action.

“America’s abundance was created not by public sacrifices to the common good, but by the productive genius of free men who pursued their own personal interests and the making of their own private fortunes. They did not starve the people to pay for America’s industrialization. They gave the people better jobs, higher wages, and cheaper goods with every new machine they invented, with every scientific discovery or technological advance- and thus the whole country was moving forward and profiting, not suffering, every step of the way”.

A bit of Adam Smith here but without the inconvenience of Smith’s ‘Theory of Moral Sentiments’.

There is a bit missing here. American abundance was also built on genocide and the rapacious exploitation of natural resources, while ignoring externalities which most recently take the form of carbon dioxide. American abundance was also built on exploitation of human labour, notably slave labour, and the unpaid domestic labour undertaken by women and children.  The genius was of some free men, some very rich men, some men born into privilege, mostly white. All were able to do so because the collective good delivered education and infrastructure that each individual alone could never have built.  People did starve and die for industrialisation. Many people died early (and still do) and were severely injured for industrialisation. Not the ‘whole country’ benefited and the benefits were not and are not evenly distributed. Rand, and her modern followers, of course must ignore historical descriptions of the conditions of the working class (written by Engels et al) and she must ignore the current vast detailed literature on health and social inequalities. This clearly shows a ‘social gradient’ in health outcomes –  the lower down you are on the social scale the higher your chances of an early death and of experiencing more years in disability. Now, Rand lets her eulogies to the undoubted advances of capitalism gloss over the many, many past and current miseries experienced in that advance. Who is the ‘the country’ in any case? That is a convenient abstract concept often used to rally nationalists and racists while concealing the detail of the complexity of human experiences and a nations’ social structures.

 

Ayn Rand is very popular in the United States, and also among the young. The current POTUS says he is a fan. His withdrawal from the Paris accord indicates a disdain for the environment Rand would have recognised. His valorisation of competitive financial capitalism mirrors the valorisation of laissez faire. Trump however, is not a Randian laissez faire capitalist, none of them are as I argued in a previous blog on neoliberalism. Should I now buy a copy of Ayn Rand’s work…?

Life’s too short.

And in a Randian fashion, I don’t give a shit about her.

 

 

 

From Prescott’s critique:

Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness (1961); an excerpt can be read online at www.whatthefunk.net/TheLair/VOS.htm. Rand ‘s ethics, presented in a series of essays in her usual haranguing, polemical style.

Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged (1957). Rand’s ambitious, thousand-page story of global collapse, which dramatizes all the key elements of her philosophy – and has convinced a couple of generations of fans that our mixed-economy social system will inevitably crash and burn.

John W. Robbins, Without A Prayer: Ayn Rand and the Close of Her System (1997). A scathing dissection of logical fallacies in Rand’s writings. The author also promotes his own Calvinist agenda, but it is not necessary to buy into his religious views in order to profit from his critical analysis of Rand.

Jeff Walker, The Ayn Rand Cult (1998). A massive compilation of anti-Rand sentiments from a huge variety of sources. Walker’s scattershot approach is sometimes unfair but often enlightening – and frequently very funny. Whatever its weaknesses, this book is an absolute must-read for anyone who is now or ever has been associated with the Objectivist movement.

For more information:

Pro-Objectivist Web sites include …

The Objectivist at www.theobjectivist.com. Very large collection of Rand-related links, including a link to this essay.

The Ayn Rand Institute at www.aynrand.org. Official headquarters of the Objectivist movement, located in Irvine, California.

Leonard Peikoff’s site, www.peikoff.com. Dr. Peikoff inherited Ayn Rand’s estate and has written books and taught courses on her philosophy.

The Objectivist Center at http://www.objectivistcenter.org/index.asp. Run by David Kelley, this organization serves as an alternative to the more doctrinaire Ayn Rand Institute.

Criticisms of Objectivism can be found at many sites …

“Why I Am Not an Objectivist,” by Michael Huemer at http://home.sprynet.com/~owl1/rand.htm. Technical overview of errors in Rand’s philosophy. Also check out Huemer’s “Critique of ‘The Objectivist Ethics’” athttp://home.sprynet.com/~owl1/rand5.htm.

At www.noblesoul.com/orc/critics/personal.html, you can find a list of links to other essays critical of Ayn Rand.

 

Neoliberal rhetoric dies in May’s manifesto

In a previous post I argued that ‘neoliberalism’ was more rhetoric than reality. Now that the 2017 Tory manifesto has been published, even the rhetoric has been publically ditched. The ideology of the ‘libertarian right’ is overtly rejected (p7). The State now has a publically declared role. The ‘Government Spring’ has arrived!

In addition some of the insider cheerleaders now admit it has failed. Aditya Chakraborrty commenting on their turn around writes:

“…. it is the very technocrats in charge of the system who are slowly, reluctantly admitting that it is bust.

You hear it when the Bank of England’s Mark Carney sounds the alarm about “a low-growth, low-inflation, low-interest-rate equilibrium”. Or when the Bank of International Settlements, the central bank’s central bank, warns that “the global economy seems unable to return to sustainable and balanced growth”. And you saw it most clearly last Thursday from the IMF.

What makes the fund’s intervention so remarkable is not what is being said – but who is saying it and just how bluntly. In the IMF’s flagship publication, three of its top economists have written an essay titled “Neoliberalism: Oversold?”.

However, the reality of the current economic structure and social relations of production remains the same, but the rhetoric is replaced by the rediscovery of ‘one nation’ paternalist Toryism designed to appeal to older Labour (and UKIP) voters.

I suspect however, that the foundations remain, and will remain untouched. The 1% need not worry.

There are 5 challenges laid out in the Tory Manifesto:

 

  1. The need for a strong Economy.
  2. Brexit.
  3. Enduring Social divisions.
  4. Ageing Society.
  5. Fast changing technology.

 

There is no mention of climate change, tax havens, health and social inequalities, housing and education as one of 5 challenges.

 

The manifesto states:

 

We believe in the good that government can do (p8)

(my emphasis in bold)

Just look at that statement again, this time from a neoliberal perspective that  abhors state intervention except to provide a framework to allow markets to work. Thatcher and Reagan ‘government is the problem‘ would have choked. Ayn Rand would be apoplectic. Hayek would blush, Friedman would pace palm, Ted Heath would smile wryly. Although Thatcher was not a laissez faire capitalist in practice, she espoused and enacted privatisation, marketisation, deregulation and tax cuts.

‘To do that, we will need a state that is strong and strategic, nimble and responsive to the needs of people. While it is never true that government has all the answers, government can and should be a force for good – and its power should be put squarely at the service of this country’s working people’.

 A force for good!  But good for whom Mrs May?

‘If we are going to keep our economy strong as the world changes, we will need government to play an active role, leading a modern industrial strategy to make the most of Britain’s strengths and take advantage of new opportunities – bringing secure, well-paid jobs to the whole of the country’.

An active role! What happened to ‘government cannot pick winners’? or ‘Let the market decide’ or no ‘Lame ducks’?

‘If we want to overcome Britain’s enduring social divisions, we will need to give people real opportunity and make Britain the world’s Great Meritocracy. That will require government to take on long-ignored problems like Britain’s lack of training and technical education, as well as long-lasting injustices, such as the lack of care for people with mental health problems, and the inequality of opportunity that endures on the basis of race, gender and class’.

Oh, you’ve noticed?

This next is a hammer blow to neoliberal conservatives:

‘Because Conservatism is not and never has been the philosophy described by caricaturists. We do not believe in untrammelled free markets. We reject the cult of selfish individualism. We abhor social division, injustice, unfairness and inequality. We see rigid dogma and ideology not just as needless but dangerous’.

‘…do not believe in untrammelled free markets..’  Say, what?

‘True Conservatism means a commitment to country and community; a belief not just in society but in the good that government can do; a respect for the local and national institutions that bind us together’.

 ‘We know that our responsibility to one another is greater than the rights we hold as individuals. We know that we all have obligations to one another, because that is what community and nation demands. We understand that nobody, however powerful, has succeeded alone and that we all therefore have a debt to others. We respect the fact that society is a contract between the generations: a partnership between those who are living, those who have lived before us, and those who are yet to be born’.

 

Free market ideologues and libertarians should shudder at such sentiments, for they value a small state that should get out of the way to allow free markets to do their magical thing.

 

Instead here we have interventionist principles that a socialist may well nod in agreement to. Yes, it is not clause 4 ‘securing for the workers the full fruits of their labour’ but it clearly puts the state back into society. The ‘rugged individualism’ of Ayn Rand is denied in favour here of responsibility and obligations to each other backed by acceptance that we don’t achieve by our own efforts alone. Hayekian economics is publically trashed. Thatcher allegedly held up a copy of Hayek’s ‘The Constitution of Liberty’, May appears to have rediscovered aspects of Keynes.

 

Manifestos are of course written for electioneering and to provide a unifying vision for the party faithful. This one nails neoliberalism as a dead ideology no longer welcome in the Tory Party.

 

One wonders what the neoliberals think of it…but more importantly whether these principles will be put into practice.

Conservative Home welcomes the manifesto but say “You may be apprehensive about the effects of the Prime Minister’s Christian Democrat-flavoured politics on the unity of a previously (my emphasis) free market-committed party, as we are”. Germany’s CDU is a centre right party believing in social markets and government intervention rather than laissez faire capitalism. I also think this a reference to all of that ‘Government is good’ stuff as they seem to be saying that they were a free market party but no longer?  They don’t otherwise make a big thing of it…perhaps knowing that state power will still favour their class or that manifesto is more rhetoric.

The Adam Smith Institute had not commented by 23rd May. Neither had the The Centre for Policy Studies or the Institute for Economic Affairs. Five days have passed with no commentary on May’s inclusion of the rejection of ‘untrammelled free markets’ .

What is going on?  Perhaps free marketeers also don’t believe in free markets?

The Economist are clearer. For them, May has ‘interventionist’ instincts, for example on energy prices, council housing, minimum wages and EU rights for workers. May has ‘several digs at business’ on executive pay and worker representation. May’s stance on Immigration is of course another big example of intervention shifting the cost of policing it onto employers. The Economist feels this is tactical  – winning back UKIP voters and stealing Labour ‘moderates’. They suggest this is not only tactical but reveals a new ‘Tory Paternalism’. They are not entirely happy with this arguing for reducing intervention, cutting ‘red tape‘ (that’s environmental protection and worker’s rights in other words) and lowering taxes. All three are standard neoliberal approaches.

The Economist has come out for the Lib Dems and not the Tories!!

Other nuggets:

Universities are spoken of in purely economic terms, so that they ‘enjoy the commercial fruits of their research’ (p20). This is more ‘cognitive capitalism’, more ‘knowledge economy’ more ‘corporate university’. It is a rather narrow vision of the goals of Higher Education. Fracking will be supported. Investing in transport is highlighted but without any mention of actual funding. Cycling is promised expanded cycle networks.

None of this is costed, most of it is vague.

So what it comes down to is credibility. Has the nasty party really changed?

Neoliberalism as rhetoric is dead….leaving what? We will discover what May means by ‘believing in the good government can do‘ when her policies bite even further and post Brexit (unless of course Corbyn, against the odds, wins).

The richest 1,000 people have more wealth than the poorest 40% of households (UK)

The richest 1,000 people in the UK have more wealth than the poorest 40% of UK households. The 1,000 richest saw their wealth increase by a staggering £82.5 billion last year, the equivalent of £226 million a day, or £2,615 a second.

The Equality Trust has found that this increase in wealth of £82.5 billion could:

Pay the energy bills of all 25.6 million UK households for two and a half years. Cost = £79.15 billion OR

Provide 5,143,819 million Living Wage jobs , or 2,923,333 million jobs paid at an average salary for a year. Cost = £82.476 billion OR

Pay the grocery bill for all of the UK’s users of food banks for 56 years . Cost = £81.5 billion OR

Pay two years’ rent for 4.5 million households (4,528,000 households) . Cost = £72.1 billion OR

Pay for 68% of the budget for the NHS in England Cost = £81.6 billion
Pay for 4 years of adult social care in England . Cost = £78.8 billion.

This totally unearned bonanza needs justifying somehow. It arises merely from the structure of wealth ownership, tax laws, and property holdings. The beneficiaries had to do little beyond what they currently own or do to enjoy this largesse.

One justification for the support of the current social structure of wealth ownership and control is that these people pay in absolute terms a good deal of tax. If you are destitute at least you don’t pay tax. Consider however that if one paid tax on income on say, £1,000,000, under current tax rates you would still get £540,676 per year. You pay nearly 44% of your income.

The median in the U.K. in 2017 is £27,000. Thus you take home £21, 641. You pay 20% of your income. You take home 4% of what the high earner does.

The millionaire pays as much tax in one year (£458,000) as a the median earner would (£5,200 pa) in 88 years. This is of course ‘inequality’.

So for every 1 person receiving £1,000,000, you’d need 88 on the median. Impossible of course due to what median means. The top 1000 get, receive, not ‘earn’, considerably more than what to them what would be a miserable £1,000,000 pa.

Those who earn up to the £150,000 threshold of 40% take home £90,176. Each extra pound they then get is taxed at 45%. What if that tax rate was 90%? This would mean someone getting £200,000 would receive £90,176 up to the £150,000 threshold and then another £5,000 taking it to £95,176. Someone getting £1,000,000 would after tax get £90,176 + £98,500 = £188,676.

The price of a loaf of bread would be the same.

So even at 90% marginal tax rates over the threshold, a millionaire would not have to worry about paying utility bills. Yes they pay more tax, but what’s left for them is hardly destitution. I digress. Millionaires to the 0.01% are paupers. Billionaires can avoid paying any taxes at all.

A second justification is that they are the ‘wealth creators’ and so deserve it all. I will not unpick this here because the rebuff is as obvious as the claim is spurious.

A third justification is that changing this structure would lead to economic chaos and left wing totalitarianism. This sets up a false dichotomy of either keeping hold of wealth or descent into tyranny.

A fourth justification is that the wealthy need to get ‘rewarded’ as they operate in a competing market, and that pay rates merely reflects market forces at work? Well, indeed but should that really be a plea to hold on to vast amounts of wealth? Are you really saying that you are miffed because someone else gets £5,000,000 pa while you get a ‘paltry’ £2,000,000 ?

There is a fifth technical justification – the Laffer Curve:

“In economics, the Laffer curve is a representation of the relationship between rates of taxation and the resulting levels of government revenue. Proponents of the Laffer curve claim that it illustrates the concept of taxable income elasticity—i.e., taxable income will change in response to changes in the rate of taxation.

The Laffer curve postulates that no tax revenue will be raised at the extreme tax rates of 0% and 100% and that there must be at least one rate which maximizes government taxation revenue. The Laffer curve is typically represented as a graph which starts at 0% tax with zero revenue, rises to a maximum rate of revenue at an intermediate rate of taxation, and then falls again to zero revenue at a 100% tax rate. The shape of the curve is uncertain and disputed.

One implication of the Laffer curve is that increasing tax rates beyond a certain point will be counter-productive for raising further tax revenue. A hypothetical Laffer curve for any given economy can only be estimated and such estimates are controversial. The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics reports that estimates of revenue-maximizing tax rates have varied widely, with a mid-range of around 70%. Generally, economists have found little support for the claim that tax cuts from current rates increase tax revenues or that most taxes are on the side of the Laffer curve where additional cuts could increase government revenue.

Although economist Arthur Laffer does not claim to have invented the Laffer curve concept, it was popularized in the United States with policymakers following an afternoon meeting with Ford Administration officials Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld in 1974 in which he reportedly sketched the curve on a napkin to illustrate his argument.”

See: Laffer Curve

If all else fails, fall back on classic economic models which are of course nothing more than mathematical representations of actual human behaviour in particular social and political contexts. They do not operate like the laws of physics. Hence they can easily change given different contexts.

With these vacuous and self serving justifications, the 1% keep the status quo going. Every society needs a unifying myth, and the powerful 1% need one even more so. Monarchy, Nation State, and ‘Free Market’ Capitalism (note: not financial/rentier/crony capitalism) are used as unifying myths to merely cover wealth and privilege. It is why right wing politics intuitively support monarchy, church and the flag because if those are dismissed by critics then that only leaves the theory of free market neoliberal capitalism as a defence against ‘the underclass’.

You decide if this level of wealth appropriation is good for social cohesion and health inequalities.