Monday, February 19, 2007

Forgive My Feeble Mind (If, Indeed, It Is Feeble)

Addenda to 'Illusions & Hopes' nonsense:

If I didn't make it clear, essentially the point is that it is government policy that has made the very existence neoliberal model possible. The effect is to remove economic policy from transparent and democratic purview (which is essentially impossible in traditional models of representative democracy, in any case), but the act of removal can only be carried out with the aid of governmental institutions in the first place. Chandra & Basu explain in this article (also linked somewhere in the original series of 'Illusions & Hopes' posts):

[I]t is the state as the instrument of politico-legal repression that facilitates neoliberal expansion. Firstly, the state intervenes with all its might to secure control over resources - both natural and human ("new enclosures") - and secondly, to ensure the non-transgression of the political into the economic, which essentially signifies discounting the politics of labour and the dispossessed from affecting the political economy.

Simultaneously one can note that billions of dollars of government expenditure go into generating private wealth in the forms of publicly-funded research (taking place both in public entities like the NIH and countless institutions of higher learning and in private companies as in the aerospace and computer industries, to name a few) which is then passed on to private entities and sold for profit. National policy has similarly been shaped around the inefficient use of automobiles since the 1920s, and especially since the Second World War, a huge government endeavor birthing American life as we know it and representing the major source of profit for the US oil industry.

Noam Chomsky has aptly called this a system of socialized cost and privatized profit (highly recommended link). Hence the most profitable areas of the alleged "free market" of neoliberal acclaim, despite the harpings of corporate media, essentially represent a rentier-class benefitting from a particularly cruel, inefficient and destructive model of state capitalism--and due in part to its inefficiency and destructiveness, it is expansionist by necessity. The imperial character of American state capitalism is accordingly subsidized not only by the American public (as noted before) but by the people of "occupied" (and occupied) countries. In a mind-numbing array of directions, the costs of neoliberalism (American military action being interpreted as simply another arm of global capital, as is apparent in the legislative agenda of occupied Iraq) are nearly all borne by publics, which are nonetheless ignored by their governments.

As such, governmental policy can also be made to reverse the economic and humanitarian crises brought about by the Washington Consensus and the international financial institutions that promote it unrelentingly. In some Latin American countries, this has taken place; the poverty rate in Venezuela has been halved during the 8-year tenure of Hugo Chavez, despite the best efforts of that country's wealthy classes. In Argentina, worker-owned factories have represent a real alternative to the profit-driven production model of private capital, and in Brazil, despite Lula's apparent capitulation to the IMF and capital in general, useful models of participatory budgeting had been developed by his party in Porto Alegre in 1989. These advancements are significant not only in themselves but as means of building the base of knowledge and self-confidence of the working classes in these countries and showing alternatives to the world.

Of course the specifics of a post-capitalist globalization are as hazy to me as they are to anyone (if not more so), but it's pretty fascinating (and probably crucial) that many people are coming up with--and actually employing--alternatives.

1 comment:

Dan said...

great series of posts, Rod. Especially about the hypocrisy of "libertarians" who completely ignore the government's role in the health care, energy and technology markets, attributing all those profits to the "magic of the free market."