The Real Deal

Politics fills our consciousness these days, with the grand distraction booming forth from every newsertainment source on the planet. If you’re not careful, you might begin to think it’s important.

Don’t worry, it’s just part of the carnival show.

The real deal takes place behind the curtain, in gatherings of (mostly) men in high places, the movers and shakers of the financial world, the meetings of the unimaginably rich and powerful, deciding for themselves how our world will be.

It’s been this way for more than a century, since the time of the great capitalist business tycoons in the late 1800s, the industrialists who made this country “great.” They learned long ago that “laisez-faire” capitalism doesn’t work in the long term, that is, from the perspective of those who seek power and control. Capitalism poops out over time, lost in its own internal contradictions.

Marx wrote about it, in epic tomes that defy comprehension these days, but it’s pretty simple and self-evident once you think about it. In capitalism, the means of production, that’s raw materials, land and capital (factories, etc.) are privately owned. In order for the owner to make a profit to reinvest in growing his or her business, he must create excess production over that required to break even. So if the factory must produce 100 widgets to break even, it must then produce 150 widgets to make a profit. Even worse, the workers in the factory can never make enough money to buy back all the widgets the factory produces, so those widgets must be sold somewhere else.

Thus, capitalism requires continued growth and an ever expanding market.

What’s happened now is there are few new markets to exploit (China is the latest), and the purchasing power of the employees at home is constantly shrinking due to inflation and fiscal and economic manipulation.

What to do, what to do?

The answer, since World War I, has been, every time: destroy a whole bunch of useless production so we can produce more, aka WAR.

War is the economists wet dream, growing the economy without requiring new consumers and new markets. Build it, blow it up, build more.

Furthermore, war changes power relationships among nations, as governments vie for access to raw materials, labor and markets.

What a deal!

“In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

Think about this as you contemplate history, the present… and the future.

The "Free" Market is not so free

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that Friedmanist free market economics is only applied in other countries. It’s alive and well, and growing, in the united States today.

I’ve been lead drummer on the anti-corporatist bandwagon for some time, as well as accompanist for the Close the Pentagon Glee Club, but I didn’t understand until recently the economic pressures that underlie both of these social institutions.

Think back with me to the halcyon days of 1989, when the Soviet Union “collapsed,” the Cold War was over and the “Peace Dividend” had legs… with the people. Of course, this movement had to be quashed, lest the military-industrial complex grind to a much deserved halt. Friedmanists were dispatched off to Moscow to squelch incipient democratic movements, while the security establishment at home sought diligently amongst the bushes for an enemy, any enemy, to hold up to public obloquy. This movement coalesced in Washington, DC, resulting, lo these many years later, in the Bush & Co. Neoliberal coup d’etat.

As it turns out, the Soviet Union did not so much collapse as have its economic carpet pulled out from under it by Boris Yeltsin and the Chicago School economists. Milton Friedman student Jeffrey Sachs was in the room in the Kremlin when Yeltsin announced the end of the Soviet Union, and he had been lobbying Yeltsin on free-market economics for some time. The next few years were characterized by a feeding frenzy of global marketeers grabbing up as much of Russia as they could carry away with both hands. Harvard was even sanctioned and fined for allowing its economist to double dip in the newly privatized Russian economy. Harvard, alma mater of George W. Bush and his economic adviser, Al Hubbard.

So, the uS lost its Enemy Number 1, that had served so well during the Cold War. What to do, what to do?

9/11 served up the perfect crisis for the imposition of Friedmanist economic reform in the uS, not to mention an out of control police state organized under the Teutonic appellation: Homeland Security. The Bush economic shock troops are working diligently on privatization of everything in the uS from Social Security to education, all the while building a culture of fear and dependency. Today, the “War on Terror” serves as the one-size-fits-all excuse for economic deconstruction and reassembly in a jigsaw puzzle of global free market capitalism.

Fortunately, as the Friedmanists knit new free market economies under the chins of manufactured dictators on one end of the Global Economy quilt, the other end is unraveling into populist democracies. Our greatest hope, as we move into the Age of Peak Oil and Climate Change, is that our neighbors to the south will help us out when the “Global Economy” collapses and the uS government abandons their people as they pursue the last dregs of Middle East crude. The tide of history will turn, turn, turn as the south rises once again.

That’s South America, not Dixie, y’all.

The Shock Doctrine

There are many conspiracy claims flying about these days: 9/11 government complicity and such.

Then there are real conspiracies.

I’m still reading The Shock Doctrine, but I’ve read enough to say, “Oooooooh, so that’s what that was all about!”

I was always puzzled about why there were so many revolutions in South America (“Governments in South America are measured in revolutions per minute”), why Allende, Mossadegh, and so many others were deposed by the US government, why Pinochet was so oppressive to his own people, why the Chinese killed so many at Tiananmen Square.

Now I understand.

It really is a conspiracy. Worse yet, it’s a conspiracy by economists!

What’s at stake is not oil, or land, or water, even though these are important things. What’s at stake here is an economic theory that is being tested on billions of people around the world, trying to prove that Milton Friedman was a genius and not a madman.

What’s at stake here is a vision of society based on free market capitalism that favors corporations over living things and the environment in which we all live. What’s at stake here is the vision that “a rising tide lifts all boats,” the “trickle down theory” of economics, Reagan’s “Voodoo Economics,” NAFTA, GATT, the IMF and the World Bank.

This vision is threatened by democracy, self-determination, freedom of choice, the “Welfare Society,” mixed economies, social programs, socialism (true socialism, not the Stalinist distortion), Marxism, and, worst of all, anarchism.

The invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq and soon to be Iran is not about oil in the deepest sense. Yes, oil is important, but only as a product. Saddam Hussein was a threat to the united States, not because he attacked Kuwait, but because he refused to knuckle under to the IMF and the World Bank; because he refused to sell out his country to the forces of global economic hegemony; because he threatened to nationalize Iraqi oil companies and build an economy to support his own people in his own country. Any leader who dared to defy Milton Friedman and the Chicago School economists was quickly brought down and forced to kneel before the alter of free market capitalism.

Fortunately, several new South American leaders rose off their knees and led their countries back to developmentalism and economies geared to support their own people. They are defying the Chicago School hegemony and building their own alliances to maintain their own economies, free of IMF and World Bank manipulation. Time will tell if they can continue to hold out until the world goes into deep global recession.

Read The Shock Doctrine, then look around with clear eyes. You will be shocked!

Dominant Culture

I am completely out of step with the society in which I live.

I work at a local Public Radio station, allegedly a bastion of progressive thought. Today we aired a program about education, interviewing an “innovative” teacher who has become very popular because he teaches “relevant” subjects that address the “needs” of his students.

This teacher uses “money” in the classroom, having the students apply for “jobs” for which they are “paid.” They “rent” their desks, and can save up money to buy other students’ desks, for which they charge “rent.” Status in the classroom is based on how much each student “owns.”

The program made me so angry, I had to go outside for a walk.

No wonder we can never break the stranglehold of the dominant, capitalist, owner culture when it is constantly reinforced, by the state, in our children. How do we teach alternatives as effectively and as meaningfully as the status quo?

It’s all about money. Teachers don’t get as much money as CEOs, so teachers are valued less (chicken and egg). So teachers teach “relevant” subjects, to be more popular, to get more money.

It’s a downward spiral.