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Casino Capitalism: Neoliberalism in Western countries

"When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done"

John Maynard Keynes

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Financialization is a process whereby financial markets, financial institutions, and financial elites gain greater influence over economic policy and economic outcomes. Financialization transforms the functioning of economic systems at both the macro and micro levels.

Its principal impacts are to (1) elevate the significance of the financial sector relative to the real sector, (2) transfer income from the real sector to the financial sector, and (3) increase income inequality and contribute to wage stagnation. Additionally, there are reasons to believe that financialization may put the economy at risk of debt deflation and prolonged recession.

Financialization operates through three different conduits: changes in the structure and operation of financial markets, changes in the behavior of nonfinancial corporations, and changes in economic policy.

Countering financialization calls for a multifaceted agenda that (1) restores policy control over financial markets, (2) challenges the neoliberal economic policy paradigm encouraged by financialization, (3) makes corporations responsive to interests of stakeholders other than just financial markets, and (4) reforms the political process so as to diminish the influence of corporations and wealthy elites.

Thomas Palley, See http://www.levyinstitute.org/pubs/wp_525.pdf

Speculation and gambling were always a part of Wall Street but since the 1930’s they were just a side-show, now they are the show.

Comment to Matt Taibbi article Fannie, Freddie, and the New Red and Blue t


Introduction

“The sense of responsibility in the financial community
for the community as a whole is not small. It is nearly nil.”

-- John Kenneth Galbraith, The Great Crash of 1929

The term Casino Capitalism as a specific phase of neoliberal transformation of capitalism. Politically it was slow motion corporate coup d'état, which started in 70th and is now accomplished in the USA and other Western countries which buries social-democratic (New Deal style) model of capitalism.  It hypertrophied police functions of state (in the form of national-security state)  while completely avoiding economic sphere in ways other then enforcement of laws (with a notable exclusion from this top 1% -- Masters of the Universe). In this sense it is the opposite of communism (i.e. an entirely state-planned economy) and presupposed a deregulated economy (in a sense of the "law of jungle" as a business environment) , but with extremely strong militarized state, suppressing all the attempts to challenge the new "nomenklatura" (much like was the case in the USSR).  It is also called economic liberalism or neoliberalism

“Liberalism” can refer to political, economic, or even religious ideas. In the U.S. political liberalism has been a strategy to prevent social conflict. It is presented to poor and working people as progressive compared to conservative or Right wing. Economic liberalism is different. Conservative politicians who say they hate “liberals” — meaning the political type — have no real problem with economic liberalism, including neoliberalism.

In other words this is a variant of neoliberal model of corporatism used in wealthy Western countries during the period of "cheap hydrocarbons".  The period that is probably near the end and which by some estimate can last only another 50 years or so.  The major crisis of casino capitalism in 2008 was connected both with financial excesses (caused by moving to semi-criminal ways of extracting return on capital, typical for casino capitalism),  but also with the rise of the price of oil and decrease of  Energy returned on energy invested (EROEI)In this sense the current low oil price period that started in late 2014 can be viewed as the "last hurrah" of the casino capitalism.

In understanding neoliberal transformation of the society since early 80th it is important to understanding of the key role of financialization in this process. When major services are privatized (education, healthcare, pension plans) financial institution insert themselves as intermediaries in this arrangement and make it the main source of their profits.  Also contrary to neoliberal propaganda this process is aided and abetted by state. State is used by neoliberalism as a tool of enforcing market relations even where they are not useless or even harmful (education). All this talk about irresolvable controversy between market and state is for gullible fools. In reality, being Trotskyism for rich, neoliberalism uses power of the state to enforce market relations  by force on reluctant population even in areas where this can do no good. That make really it close to Soviet Communism. As Marx noted "History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce."

A very good discussion of the role of Financialisation in entrenchment of neoliberalism in modern societies can be found in the book by Costas Lapavitsas. Some highlights are provided inhis Guardian article Finance's hold on our everyday life must be broken

This extraordinary public largesse towards private banks was matched by austerity and wage reductions for workers and households. As for restructuring finance, nothing fundamental has taken place. The behemoths that continue to dominate the global financial system operate in the knowledge that they enjoy an unspoken public guarantee. The unpalatable reality is that financialisation will persist, despite its costs for society.

Financialisation represents a historic and deep-seated transformation of mature capitalism. Big businesses have become "financialised" as they have ample profits to finance investment, rely less on banks for loans and play financial games with available funds. Big banks, in turn, have become more distant from big businesses, turning to profits from trading in open financial markets and from lending to households. Households have become "financialised" too, as public provision in housing, education, health, pensions and other vital areas has been partly replaced by private provision, access to which is mediated by the financial system. Not surprisingly, households have accumulated a tremendous volume of financial assets and liabilities over the past four decades.

The penetration of finance into the everyday life of households has not only created a range of dependencies on financial services, but also changed the outlook, mentality and even morality of daily life. Financial calculation evaluates everything in pennies and pounds, transforming the most basic goods – above all, housing – into "investments". Its logic has affected even the young, who have traditionally been idealistic and scornful of pecuniary calculation. Fertile ground has been created for neoliberal ideology to preach the putative merits of the market.

Financialisation has also created new forms of profit associated with financial markets and transactions. Financial profit can be made out of any income, or any sum of money that comes into contact with the financial sphere. Households, for example, generate profits for finance as debtors (mostly by paying interest on mortgages) but also as creditors (mostly by paying fees and charges on pension funds and insurance). Finance is not particular about how and where it makes its profits, and certainly does not limit itself to the sphere of production. It ranges far and wide, transforming every aspect of social life into a profit-making opportunity.

The traditional image of the person earning financial profits is the "rentier", the individual who invests funds in secure financial assets. In the contemporary financialised universe, however, those who earn vast returns are very different. They are often located within a financial institution, presumably work to provide financial services, and receive vast sums in the form of wages, or more often bonuses. Modern financial elites are prominent at the top of the income distribution, set trends in conspicuous consumption, shape the expensive end of the housing market, and transform the core of urban centres according to their own tastes.

Financialised capitalism is, thus, a deeply unequal system, prone to bubbles and crises – none greater than that of 2007-09. What can be done about it? The most important point in this respect is that financialisation does not represent an advance for humanity, and very little of it ought to be preserved. Financial markets are, for instance, able to mobilise advanced technology employing some of the best-trained physicists in the world to rebalance prices across the globe in milliseconds. This "progress" allows financiers to earn vast profits; but where is the commensurate benefit to society from committing such expensive resources to these tasks?

The term "casino capitalism" was coined by Susan Strange who used it as a title of her book Casino Capitalism published in 1986. She was one of the first who realized that

  1. "The roots of the world's economic disorder are monetary and financial";
  2. "The disorder has not come about by accident, but has in fact been nurtured and encouraged by a series of government decisions." (p. 60). In other words its was a counter-revolution of the part of ruling elite which lost its influence in 30th (dismantling New Deal from above in the USA (Reaganomics) or Thatcherism in the GB).

According to Susan Strange transformation of industrial capitalism into neoliberal capitalism ("casino capitalism") involved five trends. All of them increased the systemic instability of the system and the level of political corruption:

  1. Innovations in the way in which financial markets work due to introduction of computers;
  2. The sheer size of markets; (with the introduction of 401K the size of stock market multiplied, etc)
  3. Commercial banks turned into investment banks;
  4. The emergence of Asian nations as large players;
  5. The shift to self-regulation by banks (pp.9-10).

Now it is pretty much established fact that the conversion from "industrial capitalism" to neoliberal, completely financialialized "casino capitalism" is the natural logic of development of capitalism. In early and incomplete matter this trend was noticed at early 1990th by many thinkers. This is just the second iteration of the same trend which was interrupted by the Great Depression and subsequent WWII. So, in a way, replacement of industrial capitalism with financial capitalism in a natural tendency within the capitalism itself and corruption was contributing, but not decisive factor.  The same is true about globalization, especially about globalization of financial flows, typical for casino capitalism.

Also this conversion did not happen due to lack of oversight or as a folly. It was a couscous choice made by the US and GB elite, both of which faced deterioration of rates of return on capital. Also unlike "industrial capitalism" which was more-or-less stable system, able to outcompete the neo-theocratic system of the USSR, the financial capitalism is unstable in the same sense as radioactive elements are unstable.  And this instability tend to increase with time. So there is probably natural half-life period for neoliberalism as a social system. It might be already reached in 2008.  In we assume that global victory of neoliberalism happened in 1990. It is just 18 years.  If we think that it happened in late 60th, then it is closer to 50 years.

The global crisis of neoliberal capitalism which started from bursting the USA subprime housing bubble in 2008 undermined ideological legitimacy of its central claim that "free markets" lead to faster and more uniform economic development of all countries. While the peak of its "ideological" power might be over (much like the peak of attractiveness of "command socialism" was over after WWII), it will exist in a zombie state for a long time due to economic and military power of the USA and G7.  And as we know from Hollywood films, zombies can be especially bloodthirsty. It probably will remain the dominant force for at least the next two decades pursuing the same policy of "forceful" opening of energy rich  and resource countries for western multinationals intact using color revolutions and local wars.  But as Napoleon quipped "You can do anything with bayonets, you just can't sit on them".

Conversion to neoliberal capitalism was a reaction on stagnation of industrial production and as such it was nurtured and encouraged by a series of government decisions for the last 50 years. Stagnation of industrial production made expansion of financial sector of paramount importance for the ruling elite and by extension for Congress which represents this elite. House vote 377:4 for Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 is pretty telling in this respect.

There were also at least two important parallel developments.

Most respectable authors like Henry Giroux in his article in Counterpunch generally consider the term "casino capitalism" to be an equivalent to the term Neoliberalism. Here is a relevant quote from Henry Giroux's Authoritarian Politics in the Age of Casino Capitalism :

There is more at work here than simply a ramped up version of social Darwinism with its savagely cruel ethic of “reward the rich, penalize the poor, [and] let everyone fend for themselves,” [ii] there is also a full scale attack on the social contract, the welfare state, economic equality, and any viable vestige of moral and social responsibility. The Romney-Ryan appropriation of Ayn Rand’s ode to selfishness and self-interest is of particular importance because it offers a glimpse of a ruthless form of extreme capitalism in which the poor are considered “moochers,” viewed with contempt, and singled out to be punished. But this theocratic economic fundamentalist ideology does more. It destroys any viable notion of the and civic virtue in which the social contract and common good provide the basis for creating meaningful social bonds and instilling in citizens a sense of social and civic responsibility. The idea of public service is viewed with disdain just as the work of individuals, social groups, and institutions that benefit the citizenry at large are held in contempt.

As George Lakoff and Glenn W. Smith point out, casino capitalism creates a culture of cruelty: “its horrific effects on individuals-death, illness, suffering, greater poverty, and loss of opportunity, productive lives, and money.”[iii]

But it does more by crushing any viable notion of the common good and public life by destroying “the bonds that hold us together.”[iv] Under casino capitalism, the spaces, institutions, and values that constitute the public are now surrendered to powerful financial forces and viewed simply as another market to be commodified, privatized and surrendered to the demands of capital. With religious and market-driven zealots in charge, politics becomes an extension of war; greed and self-interest trump any concern for the well-being of others; reason is trumped by emotions rooted in absolutist certainty and militaristic aggression; and skepticism and dissent are viewed as the work of Satan.

If the Republican candidacy race of 2012 is any indication, then political discourse in the United States has not only moved to the right—it has been introducing totalitarian values and ideals into the mainstream of public life. Religious fanaticism, consumer culture, and the warfare state work in tandem with neoliberal economic forces to encourage privatization, corporate tax breaks, growing income and wealth inequality, and the further merging of the financial and military spheres in ways that diminish the authority and power of democratic governance.[v] Neoliberal interests in freeing markets from social constraints, fueling competitiveness, destroying education systems, producing atomized subjects, and loosening individuals from any sense of social responsibility prepare the populace for a slow embrace of social Darwinism, state terrorism, and the mentality of war — not least of all by destroying communal bonds, dehumanizing the other, and pitting individuals against the communities they inhabit.

Totalitarian temptations now saturate the media and larger culture in the language of austerity as political and economic orthodoxy. What we are witnessing in the United States is the normalization of a politics that exterminates not only the welfare state, and the truth, but all those others who bear the sins of the Enlightenment — that is, those who refuse a life free from doubt. Reason and freedom have become enemies not merely to be mocked, but to be destroyed. And this is a war whose totalitarian tendencies are evident in the assault on science, immigrants, women, the elderly, the poor, people of color, and youth.

What too often goes unsaid, particularly with the media’s focus on inflammatory rhetoric, is that those who dominate politics and policymaking, whether Democrats or Republicans, do so largely because of their disproportionate control of the nation’s income and wealth. Increasingly, it appears these political elite choose to act in ways that sustain their dominance through the systemic reproduction of an iniquitous social order. In other words, big money and corporate power rule while electoral politics are rigged. The secrecy of the voting booth becomes the ultimate expression of democracy, reducing politics to an individualized purchase—a crude form of economic action. Any form of politics willing to invest in such ritualistic pageantry only adds to the current dysfunctional nature of our social order, while reinforcing a profound failure of political imagination. The issue should no longer be how to work within the current electoral system, but how to dismantle it and construct a new political landscape that is capable of making a claim on equity, justice, and democracy for all of its inhabitants. Obama’s once inspiring call for hope has degenerated into a flight from responsibility.

The Obama administration has worked to extend the policies of the George W. Bush administration by legitimating a range of foreign and domestic policies that have shredded civil liberties, expanded the permanent warfare state, and increased the domestic reach of the punitive surveillance state. And if Romney and his ideological cohorts, now viewed as the most extremists faction of the Republican Party, come to power, surely the existing totalitarian and anti-democratic tendencies at work in the United States will be dangerously intensified.

History

Alternatively, we could have spent more time studying the work of Hyman Minsky. We could also have considered the possibility that, just as Keynes’s ideas were tested to destruction in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, Milton Friedman’s ideas might suffer a similar fate in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. All gods fail, if one believes too much. Keynes said, of course, that "practical men … are usually the slaves of some defunct economist". So, of course, are economists, even if the defunct economists are sometimes still alive.

Martin Wolf

 


 

 

Casino capitalism  is a nickname for nailibelism. Probably more properly nickname would be  financial corporatism. While the key idea of corporatism: that political actors are not individual people, but some associations and first of all corporations (which are officially considered to be "persons" and have rights as well as trade unions and some other associations) remains intact, financial corporatism is different from classic corporatism in several major ways:

Historically corporatism in various modifications became dominant social system after WWII and defeated "command socialism" as was implemented in the USSR. Here is an instructive review of corporatism history (The Economic System of Corporatism):

In the last half of the 19th century people of the working class in Europe were beginning to show interest in the ideas of socialism and syndicalism. Some members of the intelligentsia, particularly the Catholic intelligentsia, decided to formulate an alternative to socialism which would emphasize social justice without the radical solution of the abolition of private property. The result was called Corporatism. The name had nothing to do with the notion of a business corporation except that both words are derived from the Latin word for body, corpus.

The basic idea of corporatism is that the society and economy of a country should be organized into major interest groups (sometimes called corporations) and representatives of those interest groups settle any problems through negotiation and joint agreement. In contrast to a market economy which operates through competition a corporate economic works through collective bargaining. The American president Lyndon Johnson had a favorite phrase that reflected the spirit of corporatism. He would gather the parties to some dispute and say, "Let us reason together."

Under corporatism the labor force and management in an industry belong to an industrial organization. The representatives of labor and management settle wage issues through collective negotiation. While this was the theory in practice the corporatist states were largely ruled according to the dictates of the supreme leader.

One early and important theorist of corporatism was Adam Müller, an advisor to Prince Metternich in what is now eastern Germany and Austria. Müller propounded his views as an antidote to the twin dangers of the egalitarianism of the French Revolution and the laissez faire economics of Adam Smith. In Germany and elsewhere there was a distinct aversion among rulers to allow markets to function without direction or control by the state. The general culture heritage of Europe from the medieval era was opposed to individual self-interest and the free operation of markets. Markets and private property were acceptable only as long as social regulation took precedence over such sinful motivations as greed.

Coupled with the anti-market sentiments of the medieval culture there was the notion that the rulers of the state had a vital role in promoting social justice. Thus corporatism was formulated as a system that emphasized the positive role of the state in guaranteeing social justice and suppressing the moral and social chaos of the population pursuing their own individual self-interests. And above all else, as a political economic philosophy corporatism was flexible. It could tolerate private enterprise within limits and justify major projects of the state. Corporatism has sometimes been labeled as a Third Way or a mixed economy, a synthesis of capitalism and socialism, but it is in fact a separate, distinctive political economic system.

Although rulers have probably operated according to the principles of corporatism from time immemorial it was only in the early twentieth century that regimes began to identify themselves as corporatist. The table below gives some of those explicitly corporatist regimes.

Corporatist Regimes of the Early Twentieth Century
System Name Country Period Leader
National Corporatism Italy 1922-1945 Benito Mussolini
Country, Religion, Monarchy Spain 1923-1930 Miguel Primo de Rivera
National Socialism Germany 1933-1945 Adolph Hitler
National Syndicalism Spain 1936-1973 Francisco Franco
New State Portugal 1932-1968 Antonio Salazar
New State Brazil 1933-1945 Getulio Vargas
New Deal United States 1933-1945 Franklin Roosevelt
Third Hellenic Civilization Greece 1936-1941 Ioannis Metaxas
Justice Party Argentina 1943-1955 Juan Peron

In the above table several of the regimes were brutal, totalitarian dictatorships, usually labeled fascist, but not all the regimes that had a corporatist foundation were fascist. In particular, the Roosevelt New Deal despite its many faults could not be described as fascist. But definitely the New Deal was corporatist. The architect for the initial New Deal program was General Hugh Johnson. Johnson had been the administrator of the military mobilization program for the U.S. under Woodrow Wilson during World War I. It was felt that he did a good job of managing the economy during that period and that is why he was given major responsibility for formulating an economic program to deal with the severe problems of the Depression. But between the end of World War I and 1933 Hugh Johnson had become an admirer of Mussolini's National Corporatist system in Italy and he drew upon the Italian experience in formulating the New Deal.

It should be noted that many elements of the early New Deal were later declared unconstitutional and abandoned, but some elements such as the National Labor Relations Act which promoted unionization of the American labor force are still in effect. One part of the New Deal was the development of the Tennessee River Valley under the public corporation called the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Some of the New Dealer saw TVA as more than a public power enterprise. They hoped to make TVA a model for the creation of regional political units which would replace state governments. Their goal was not realized. The model for TVA was the river development schemes carried out in Spain in the 1920's under the government of Miguel Primo de Rivera. Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, the son of Miguel Primo de Rivera, was the founder of Franco's National Syndicalism.

Corporatist regime typically promote large governmental projects such as TVA on the basis that they are too large to be funded by private enterprise. In Brazil the Vargas regime created many public enterprises such as in iron and steel production which it felt were needed but private enterprise declined to create. It also created an organized labor movement that came to control those public enterprises and turned them into overstaffed, inefficient drains on the public budget.

Although the above locates the origin of corporatism in 19th century France it roots can be traced much further back in time. Sylvia Ann Hewlett in her book, The Cruel Dilemmas of Development: Twentieth Century Brazil, says,

Corporatism is based on a body of ideas that can be traced through Aristotle, Roman law, medieval social and legal structures, and into contemporary Catholic social philosophy. These ideas are based on the premise that man's nature can only be fulfilled within a political community.
..........
The central core of the corporatist vision is thus not the individual but the political community whose perfection allows the individual members to fulfill themselves and find happiness.
...............
The state in the corporatist tradition is thus clearly interventionist and powerful.

Corporatism is collectivist; it is a different version of collectivism than socialism but it is definitely collectivist. It places some importance on the fact that private property is not nationalized, but the control through regulation is just as real. It is de facto nationalization without being de jure nationalization.

Although Corporatism is not a familiar concept to the general public, most of the economies of the world are corporatist in nature. The categories of socialist and pure market economy are virtually empty. There are only corporatist economies of various flavors.

These flavors of corporatism include the social democratic regimes of Europe and the Americas, but also the East Asian and Islamic fundamentalist regimes such as Taiwan, Singapore and Iran. The Islamic socialist states such as Syria, Libya and Algeria are more corporatist than socialist, as was Iraq under Saddam Hussain. The formerly communist regimes such as Russia and China are now clearly corporatist in economic philosophy although not in name.

The concept of Quite Coup

Sine ira et studio

Tacitus, see Wikipedia

The term "Quiet coup" which means the hijacking of the political power in the USA by financial oligarchy was introduced by Simon H. Johnson, a British-American economist, who currently is the Ronald A. Kurtz Professor of Entrepreneurship at the MIT Sloan School of Management and a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. From March 2007 through the end of August 2008, he was Chief Economist of the International Monetary Fund. The term was introduced in his article in Atlantic magazine, published in May 2009(The Quiet Coup - Simon Johnson - The Atlantic). Which opens with a revealing paragraph:

The crash has laid bare many unpleasant truths about the United States. One of the most alarming, says a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, is that the finance industry has effectively captured our government

The wealth of financial sector gave it unprecedented opportunities of simply buying the political power iether directly or indirectly (via revolving door mechanism):

Becoming a Banana Republic

In its depth and suddenness, the U.S. economic and financial crisis is shockingly reminiscent of moments we have recently seen in emerging markets (and only in emerging markets): South Korea (1997), Malaysia (1998), Russia and Argentina (time and again). In each of those cases, global investors, afraid that the country or its financial sector wouldn’t be able to pay off mountainous debt, suddenly stopped lending. And in each case, that fear became self-fulfilling, as banks that couldn’t roll over their debt did, in fact, become unable to pay. This is precisely what drove Lehman Brothers into bankruptcy on September 15, causing all sources of funding to the U.S. financial sector to dry up overnight. Just as in emerging-market crises, the weakness in the banking system has quickly rippled out into the rest of the economy, causing a severe economic contraction and hardship for millions of people.

But there’s a deeper and more disturbing similarity: elite business interests—financiers, in the case of the U.S.—played a central role in creating the crisis, making ever-larger gambles, with the implicit backing of the government, until the inevitable collapse. More alarming, they are now using their influence to prevent precisely the sorts of reforms that are needed, and fast, to pull the economy out of its nosedive. The government seems helpless, or unwilling, to act against them.

Top investment bankers and government officials like to lay the blame for the current crisis on the lowering of U.S. interest rates after the dotcom bust or, even better—in a “buck stops somewhere else” sort of way—on the flow of savings out of China. Some on the right like to complain about Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, or even about longer-standing efforts to promote broader homeownership. And, of course, it is axiomatic to everyone that the regulators responsible for “safety and soundness” were fast asleep at the wheel.

But these various policies — lightweight regulation, cheap money, the unwritten Chinese-American economic alliance, the promotion of homeownership—had something in common. Even though some are traditionally associated with Democrats and some with Republicans, they all benefited the financial sector. Policy changes that might have forestalled the crisis but would have limited the financial sector’s profits — such as Brooksley Born’s now-famous attempts to regulate credit-default swaps at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, in 1998—were ignored or swept aside.

The financial industry has not always enjoyed such favored treatment. But for the past 25 years or so, finance has boomed, becoming ever more powerful. The boom began with the Reagan years, and it only gained strength with the deregulatory policies of the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. Several other factors helped fuel the financial industry’s ascent. Paul Volcker’s monetary policy in the 1980s, and the increased volatility in interest rates that accompanied it, made bond trading much more lucrative. The invention of securitization, interest-rate swaps, and credit-default swaps greatly increased the volume of transactions that bankers could make money on. And an aging and increasingly wealthy population invested more and more money in securities, helped by the invention of the IRA and the 401(k) plan. Together, these developments vastly increased the profit opportunities in financial services.

Not surprisingly, Wall Street ran with these opportunities. From 1973 to 1985, the financial sector never earned more than 16 percent of domestic corporate profits. In 1986, that figure reached 19 percent. In the 1990s, it oscillated between 21 percent and 30 percent, higher than it had ever been in the postwar period. This decade, it reached 41 percent. Pay rose just as dramatically. From 1948 to 1982, average compensation in the financial sector ranged between 99 percent and 108 percent of the average for all domestic private industries. From 1983, it shot upward, reaching 181 percent in 2007.

The great wealth that the financial sector created and concentrated gave bankers enormous political weight — a weight not seen in the U.S. since the era of J.P. Morgan (the man). In that period, the banking panic of 1907 could be stopped only by coordination among private-sector bankers: no government entity was able to offer an effective response. But that first age of banking oligarchs came to an end with the passage of significant banking regulation in response to the Great Depression; the reemergence of an American financial oligarchy is quite recent.

He further researched this theme in his book 2010 book 13 Bankers The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown  (ISBN 978-0307379054), coauthored with James Kwak. They also founded and regularly contributes to the economics blog The Baseline Scenario. See also History of Casino Capitalism

The net effect of the ideological counter-revolution based on market fundamentalism ideology was that it restored the power of financial oligarchy typical for Gilded Age. As Simon Johnson argues that was partially done by subverting regulators and that oversize institutions always disproportionately influence public policy:

The second problem the U.S. faces—the power of the oligarchy—is just as important as the immediate crisis of lending. And the advice from the IMF on this front would again be simple: break the oligarchy.

Oversize institutions disproportionately influence public policy; the major banks we have today draw much of their power from being too big to fail. Nationalization and re-privatization would not change that; while the replacement of the bank executives who got us into this crisis would be just and sensible, ultimately, the swapping-out of one set of powerful managers for another would change only the names of the oligarchs.

Ideally, big banks should be sold in medium-size pieces, divided regionally or by type of business. Where this proves impractical—since we’ll want to sell the banks quickly—they could be sold whole, but with the requirement of being broken up within a short time. Banks that remain in private hands should also be subject to size limitations.

This may seem like a crude and arbitrary step, but it is the best way to limit the power of individual institutions in a sector that is essential to the economy as a whole. Of course, some people will complain about the "efficiency costs" of a more fragmented banking system, and these costs are real. But so are the costs when a bank that is too big to fail—a financial weapon of mass self-destruction—explodes. Anything that is too big to fail is too big to exist.

To ensure systematic bank breakup, and to prevent the eventual reemergence of dangerous behemoths, we also need to overhaul our antitrust legislation. Laws put in place more than 100years ago to combat industrial monopolies were not designed to address the problem we now face. The problem in the financial sector today is not that a given firm might have enough market share to influence prices; it is that one firm or a small set of interconnected firms, by failing, can bring down the economy. The Obama administration’s fiscal stimulus evokes FDR, but what we need to imitate here is Teddy Roosevelt’s trust-busting.

Caps on executive compensation, while redolent of populism, might help restore the political balance of power and deter the emergence of a new oligarchy. Wall Street’s main attraction—to the people who work there and to the government officials who were only too happy to bask in its reflected glory—has been the astounding amount of money that could be made. Limiting that money would reduce the allure of the financial sector and make it more like any other industry.

Still, outright pay caps are clumsy, especially in the long run. And most money is now made in largely unregulated private hedge funds and private-equity firms, so lowering pay would be complicated. Regulation and taxation should be part of the solution. Over time, though, the largest part may involve more transparency and competition, which would bring financial-industry fees down. To those who say this would drive financial activities to other countries, we can now safely say: fine.

Two Paths

To paraphrase Joseph Schumpeter, the early-20th-century economist, everyone has elites; the important thing is to change them from time to time. If the U.S. were just another country, coming to the IMF with hat in hand, I might be fairly optimistic about its future. Most of the emerging-market crises that I’ve mentioned ended relatively quickly, and gave way, for the most part, to relatively strong recoveries. But this, alas, brings us to the limit of the analogy between the U.S. and emerging markets.

Emerging-market countries have only a precarious hold on wealth, and are weaklings globally. When they get into trouble, they quite literally run out of money—or at least out of foreign currency, without which they cannot survive. They must make difficult decisions; ultimately, aggressive action is baked into the cake. But the U.S., of course, is the world’s most powerful nation, rich beyond measure, and blessed with the exorbitant privilege of paying its foreign debts in its own currency, which it can print. As a result, it could very well stumble along for years—as Japan did during its lost decade—never summoning the courage to do what it needs to do, and never really recovering. A clean break with the past—involving the takeover and cleanup of major banks—hardly looks like a sure thing right now. Certainly no one at the IMF can force it.

In my view, the U.S. faces two plausible scenarios. The first involves complicated bank-by-bank deals and a continual drumbeat of (repeated) bailouts, like the ones we saw in February with Citigroup and AIG. The administration will try to muddle through, and confusion will reign.

Boris Fyodorov, the late finance minister of Russia, struggled for much of the past 20 years against oligarchs, corruption, and abuse of authority in all its forms. He liked to say that confusion and chaos were very much in the interests of the powerful—letting them take things, legally and illegally, with impunity. When inflation is high, who can say what a piece of property is really worth? When the credit system is supported by byzantine government arrangements and backroom deals, how do you know that you aren’t being fleeced?

Our future could be one in which continued tumult feeds the looting of the financial system, and we talk more and more about exactly how our oligarchs became bandits and how the economy just can’t seem to get into gear.

The second scenario begins more bleakly, and might end that way too. But it does provide at least some hope that we’ll be shaken out of our torpor. It goes like this: the global economy continues to deteriorate, the banking system in east-central Europe collapses, and—because eastern Europe’s banks are mostly owned by western European banks—justifiable fears of government insolvency spread throughout the Continent. Creditors take further hits and confidence falls further. The Asian economies that export manufactured goods are devastated, and the commodity producers in Latin America and Africa are not much better off. A dramatic worsening of the global environment forces the U.S. economy, already staggering, down onto both knees. The baseline growth rates used in the administration’s current budget are increasingly seen as unrealistic, and the rosy "stress scenario" that the U.S. Treasury is currently using to evaluate banks’ balance sheets becomes a source of great embarrassment.

Under this kind of pressure, and faced with the prospect of a national and global collapse, minds may become more concentrated.

The conventional wisdom among the elite is still that the current slump "cannot be as bad as the Great Depression." This view is wrong. What we face now could, in fact, be worse than the Great Depression—because the world is now so much more interconnected and because the banking sector is now so big. We face a synchronized downturn in almost all countries, a weakening of confidence among individuals and firms, and major problems for government finances. If our leadership wakes up to the potential consequences, we may yet see dramatic action on the banking system and a breaking of the old elite. Let us hope it is not then too late.

It is pretty interesting to see how financial oligarchy filters information provided to the population to fit their biases. For example, the key facts about repeal of Glass-Steagall law  (BTW Joe Biden voted for it) mostly hidden from the public: 

Commodity Futures Trading Commission — under the leadership of Mr. Gramm’s wife, Wendy — had approved rules in 1989 and 1993 exempting some swaps and derivatives from regulation. In December 2000, the Commodity Futures Modernization Act was passed as part of a larger bill by unanimous consent after Senator Gramm dominated the Senate debate...

"He was the architect, advocate and the most knowledgeable person in Congress on these topics," Mr. Donovan said. "To me, Phil Gramm is the single most important reason for the current financial crisis."

"The virtually unregulated over-the-counter market in credit-default swaps has played a significant role in the credit crisis, including the now $167 billion taxpayer rescue of A.I.G.," Christopher Cox, the chairman of the S.E.C. and a former congressman, said Friday.

But you will never find discussion of flaws and adverse consequences Phil Gram (or Greenspan for a change) initiatives in Heritage Foundation and other right-wing think tanks publications.

Stages of transformation

So what we are experiencing is a the completion of the transformation of one phase of capitalism to another. It happened in stages:

  1. Manufacturing stagnated and can't provide the "decent" rate of growth. Competition from re-built Europe and Asian markets severely stressed the US manufacturing. due to competition return of capital dropped and in several industries became negative.

  2. Computers brought innovations into financial markets. They make possible real time trading of induces like S&P500, complex financial instruments like derivatives, etc. Later they enables superfast trading (HFT). All those instruments dramatically increased the possibilities of extracting the rent by financial institutions from the society.

  3. Globalization kicked in due to new opportunities offered by high speed global communications (Internet). And that is not limited to outsourcing. Due to globalization the sheer size of the financial markets increased to the extent that they started to represent a different, new transnational phenomena allowing new types of redistribution of wealth to be practiced. Integration of Russian elite (oligarchs) is just one example of this process. In case of pro-western oligarchs (fifth column) West went to significant length to protect them and their racket (Mikhail Khodorkovsky - Wikipedia,)

  4. Commercial banks turned into investment banks to exploit this opportunity.

  5. Financial sector completely corrupted academic science converting most economists to pay prostitutes which serve their interests.

  6. Collapse of the USSR provided the financial sector major shoot in the arm and a golden, once in century opportunity to finance new half-billion consumers and stole for a penny on a dollar huge industrial assets and natural resources as well as put most of those countries in the debt (Latin-Americanization of xUSSR space). Harvard Mafia (with some support from London) did the bidding of western banks in xUSSR space. As more becomes known about the laundering of Russian money in Western banks, many in the United States will likely try to hide behind stories of faraway organized crime. But U.S. policy toward Russia has contributed to that country's sorry conditions--with the Harvard Institute for International Development's Russia project (HIID) playing a major role (Harvard's 'Best and Brightest' Aided Russia's Economic Ruin ). Professor Jeffery Sacks provided a bogus idea of "shock therapy" to achieve spectacular for Western banks result. As a result all xUSSR space became new Latin America with typical for Latin America problems like huge level of inequality, prostitution, child poverty, and prominent role of organized crime.

  7. Banks became dominant political force on western societies with no real counterbalance from other parts of the elite. The first president completely subservient to banking elite was elected in the USA in 1992. Bill Clinton regime lasted eight years and along with economic rape of xUSSR space in best colonial powers tradition, it removed what was left of financial regulations after the flurry of deregulation of the early 1980s. And they behaved as an occupying force not only in xUSSR space but in the USA as well. They deprived workers out of their jobs, they abolished the US pension system as it impede playing with population money and replaced in with widely inadequate 401K plans. They deprived municipalities out of their revenues and assets, while municipalities became just a den of bond traders looking for then next mark which give them the ability to put municipalities deeper in debt.

  8. Newly acquired political power of financial elite speeded the shift to bank "self-regulation" created huge shadow banking system which dwarf "official" under the smoke screen of "free-market" propaganda and PR from a coterie of corrupts academics (Chicago Scholl, Harvard Mafia, etc) . It engaged in pursuit of short term profits and self-enrichment of top brass which became new elite by-and-large displacing not only the old one, but also the newly minted IT elite of dot-com boom. Using newly acquired power financial elite remove all regulations that hamper their interests. Glass-Steagall was repealed at the last days of Clinton presidency, financial derivatives became unregulated.

  9. Deindustrialization kicked in. As financial speculation proved to be much more profitable to other activities deindustrialization kicked in the USA as the financial center of the world. Outsourcing which first was limited to manufacturing jobs now extent its reach on IT and decimate previously profitable sector and its export potential.

  10. Externalities can no longer be suppressed and economics became unstable. Growth of inequality, job insecurity, as well as frequency of financial crises were natural consequences of financialization of the economy. They create huge imbalances, like bubble in residential real estate which was blown with the help and full support of the USA government as a way to overcome dot-com crisis consequences.

  11. Debt crisis strikes. Growth of debt became unsustainable and produces the financial crisis of enormous proportions. By their reckless policies and greed financial sector caused huge financial crisis of 2008 and now they are forcing national governments to auction off their cultural heritage to the highest bidder. Everything must go in fire sales at prices rigged by twenty-something largest banks, the most corrupt institutions the world has ever known.

  12. Devastating "local" wars became "new normal". Due to financial crisis, the overconsumption in western economies came under threat. Debt expansion which led to overconsumption within the western economies affected (or infected) by financialization. To sustain the current standard of living financial expansion became the necessity. It took the form of a competition for spheres of influence in the area of energy supplies, which we see in post USSR space, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere. And central banks play critical role in financing wars. After all Banks of England was created with this exact purpose.

I think by 2008 when the second major financial crisis hit the USA, the transformation on the USA economy into casino capitalism, which is essentially implementation of neoliberal doctrine (or more correctly the US brand of corporatism) was by-and-large complete.

In short we are living in a new politico-economic system in which financial capital won victory over both labor and industrial capital. We might not like what we got, but financial elite is now a new ruling class and this fact is difficult to dispute. As a result. instead of the robber barons of the early 20th century (some of whom actually created/consolidated new industries), we have the top executives from investment banks, insurers and mortgage industry who represent a new Rentier class, much like old aristocracy.

They are living off parasitic monopolization of access to any (physical, financial, intellectual, etc.) kind of property and gaining significant amount of profit without contribution to society (see Rentier capitalism which is a very fuzzy term for neoliberal model of capitalism).

Casino Capitalism as a result of stagnation of industrial manufacturing

Stagnation of industrial manufacturing droved up financial speculation as the method to compensate for falling rate on return on capital. This stagnation became prominent during Reagan administration (which started the major shift toward neoliberalism), although signs of it were present from early 60th.

For example Chicago which was a manufacturing center since 1969 lost approximately 400K manufacturing jobs which were replaced mainly by FIRE-related jobs, In 1995 over 22% of those employed by FIRE industries (66K people) were working in executive and managerial positions. Another 17% are in marketing, sales and processional specialty occupations (computer system analysts, PR specialists, writer and editors).

Those changes in the structure of employment had several consequences:

  1. The stagnation of the underlying economy meant that capitalists were increasingly dependent on the growth of finance to preserve and enlarge their money capital.
  2. The financial superstructure of the capitalist economy could not expand independently of its base -- underlying productive economy — hence the bursting of speculative bubbles became a recurrent and growing problem.
  3. Financialization could never overcome stagnation of industrial production. It is just an opium for rich, not a structural adjustment of the stagnation-prone economy. But like addition to narcotics does to human body it does tremendous damage to real economy.
  4. Rapid increase in inequality is necessary to sustain the appetites of the elite in the system with fixed size of the pie. Politico-economic conditions might became even more unfavorable for labor. Stagnation of industrial production mean shrinking pie, which necessitates redistribution of wealth in favor of a new, all-powerful financial Rentier class. This redistribution resulted in partial wipe-out of large swats of middle class. For the past three decades, America has steadily converted itself into a nation of haves (as Bush II quipped "This is an impressive crowd -- the haves and the have mores! Some people call you the elite -- I call you my base". ) and have-nots. The cost of a college education rises rapidly at a time when wages for skilled labor stagnate, so access to college became against discriminated in favor of upper class of the society. Repressive apparatus and ideological brainwashing are too strong to mount effective resistance.

The key to understanding of Casino Capitalism is that it was a series of government decisions (or rather non-decisions) that converted the state into neoliberal model. In other words casino capitalism has distinct "Government property" mark. It was the USA elite, which refused to act responsibly in the face of changing economic conditions resulting from its own actions, and instead chose to try to perpetuate, by whatever means it had at its disposal, the institutional advantages of dollar as a reserve currency which it had vis-à-vis its main economic rivals and grab as large part of the world economic pie as it can. And this power grab was supported first of all by the role of dollar as currency in which oil is traded.

There might be some geo-strategically motives as well as the US elite in late 80th perceived that competitiveness is slipping out of the USA and the danger of deindustrialization is real. Many accuse Reagan with the desire to ride dollar status as a world reserve currency (exorbitant privilege) until the horse is dead. That's what real cowboys do in Hollywood movies... But the collapse of the main rival, the USSR vindicated this strategy and give a strong short in the arm to financialization of the economy. Actually for the next ten years can be called a triumphal ascend of financialization in the USA.

Dominance of FIRE industries clustered up and in recent years reached in the USA quite dramatic proportions. The old Bolsheviks saying "When we say Lenin we mean the Party and when we say the Party we mean Lenin" now can be reworded: "Now it we say US banks, we mean the US government and vise versa if we say US government we mean US banks".

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the FIRE sector was and is the biggest contributor to federal candidates in Washington. Companies cannot give directly, so they leave it to bundlers to solicit maximum contributions from employees and families. They might have been brought down to earth this year, but they’ve given like Gods: Goldman Sachs, $4.8 million; Citigroup, $3.7 million; J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., $3.6 million; Merrill Lynch, $2.3 million; Lehman Brothers, $2.1 million; Bank of America, $2.1 million. Some think the long-term effect of such contributions to individual candidates was clear in the roll-call votes for the bailout.

Take the controversial first House vote on bailout of major banks on Sept. 29, 2008. According to CRP, the "ayes" had received 53 percent more contributions from FIRE since 1989 than those who voted against the bill, which ultimately failed 228 to 205. The 140 House Democrats who voted for the bill got an average of $188,572 in this election cycle, while the 65 Republicans backing it got an average of $185,461 from FIRE—about 23 percent more than the bill’s opponents received. A tinkered bill was passed four days later, 263 to 171.

According to the article Fire Sale (The American Conservative) half of Obama’s top ten contributors, together giving him nearly $2.2 million, are FIREmen. The $13 million contributed by FIRE executives to Obama campaign is probably an undercount. Democratic committee leaders are also dependent of FIRE contributions. The list includes Sen. Dodd ( please look at Senator Dodd's top donors for 2007-8 on openSecrets.org ) and Sen. Chuck Schumer ($12 million from FIRE since 1989), Rep. Barney Frank ($2.5 million), and Rep. Charlie Rangel ($4 million, the top recipient in the House). All of them have been accused of taking truckloads of contributions while failing to act on the looming mortgage crisis. Dodd finally pushed mortgage reform last year but by then as his hometown paper, The Hartford Courant stated, "the damage was done."

Casino Capitalism and Financial Instability

At the same time rise of financial capital dramatically increased instability. An oversized financial sector produces instability due to multiple positive feedback loops. In this sense we can talk about Financial Sector Induced Systemic Instability of Economy. The whole society became "House of cards", "Giant Enron" and "extension of Las Vegas". Reckless management, greed and out-right stupidity in playing derivatives games was natural consequence of the oversized financial sector, not just a human folly. In a way it was dramatic manifestation of the oversized financial sector negative influence of the economy. And in 2008 it did brought out economy to the brink of destruction. Peak oil added to suffocating effect on the economy of reckless gambling (and related debts) of financial sector producing the economic calamity that rivals Great Depression. Also, like Socialism, Casino Capitalism demands too much of its elite. And in reality, the financial elite much like Bolsheviks elite, is having its own interests above the interests of the society.

As Kevin Phillips noted "In the United States, political correctness, religious fundamentalism, and other inhibitions sometimes dumb down national debate". And the same statement is true for financial elite that became the center of power under the Casino Capitalism. Due to avalanche of greed the society became one giant Enron as money that are made from value addition in the form of manufacturing fade in significance to the volume of the money that is made from shuffling money around. In other was the Wall Street's locked USA in the situation from which there is no easy exit.

Self-reinforcing ‘positive’ feedback loops prevalent in Casino Capitalism trigger an accelerating creation of various debt instruments, interest of which at some point overwhelm the system carrying capacity. Ability to lend against good collateral is quickly exhausted. At some point apparently there is no good collateral against which lending freely was possible, even at high rates. This means that each new stage of financial innovation involves scam and fraud, on increasing scale. In other words Ponzi economy of "saving and loans" is replaced with Madoff economy.

Whether you shift the resulting huge private debt to public to increase confidence or not, the net result is of this development of events is a crisis and a huge debt that society needs to take. Actually the debt bubble in 2008 can only be compared to the debt bubble of 1933. The liquidation of Bear Sterns and Lehman was only a start of consolidation of finances and we need to find something that replace financial sector dominance in the national economy. It would be nice is some technological breakthrough happened which would lift the country out of this deep hole.

See Financial Sector Induced Systemic Instability of Economy for more details.

Neoliberalism as the Ideology of Casino Capitalism

Like Bolshevism was marked by deification of teaching of Marx and Lenin, converting them into pseudo-religious doctrine, the Casino Capitalism has its own deified ideological doctrine. It is the ideology of Neoliberalism. The latter as an ideology and an agenda seeks to topple democratic capitalism and replace it with a de facto unaccountable autocratic government which serves as channel of a wealth transfer from the public to a rentier elite. In a way it is a spectacular example of a successful (in a very negative sense) pseudo-religious doctrine.

Addiction of the societies to disastrous politico-economical doctrines are similar to addictions to alcohol and drugs in individuals. It is not easy to recover and it takes a long, long time and a lot of misery. As dissolution of the USSR aptly demonstrated not all societies can make it. In this case the USSR elite (nomenklatura) simply shed the old ideology as it understood that it will be better off adopting ideology of neoliberal capitalism; so it was revolution from above.  this abrupt switch created chaos in economics (which was applauded by Washington which under Clinton administration adopted the stance the Carnage needs to be destroyed and facilitated the process), criminal privatization of major industries, and pushed into object poverty the 99% of population of those countries. For some period under "drunk Yeltsyn" Russia sees to exist as an independent country and became a vassal of Washington.

This also means that "society at large" did not had effective brakes to the assent of financial plutocracy (aka financial oligarchy).  I would add to this the computer revolution and internet that made many financial transaction qualitatively different and often dramatically cheaper that in previous history. Computers also enabled creation of new financial players like mutual funds (which created a shadow banking system with their bond funds) , hedge funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), as well as high-frequency trading and derivatives.

From the historical view Reaganomics also can be considered to be the US flavor of Lysenkoism with economics instead of genetics as a target. Here is how Reaganomics is defined in Wikipedia

Reaganomics (a portmanteau of "Reagan" and "economics") refers to the economic policies promoted by United States President Ronald Reagan. The four pillars of Reagan's economic policy were to:[1]
  1. reduce the growth of government spending,
  2. reduce marginal tax rates on income from labor and capital,
  3. reduce government regulation of the economy,
  4. control the money supply to reduce inflation.

In attempting to cut back on domestic spending while lowering taxes, Reagan's approach was a departure from his immediate predecessors.

Reagan became president during a period of high inflation and unemployment (commonly referred to as stagflation), which had largely abated by the time he left office.

Please not that the Number 1 idea ("reduce government spending") was essentially a scam, a smoke screen designed to attract Rednecks as a powerful voting block. In a way this was a trick similar to one played by Bolsheviks in Russia with its "worker and peasants rule" smokescreen which covered brutal dictatorship. In reality all administrations which preached Reagonomics (including Clinton's) expanded the role of state and government spending. The number two was applied by-and-large to top 1%. The number three means deregulation in the interests of financial oligarchy and dismantling all social program that hamper profit of the latter (including privatizing of Social Security). The number fours is a scam, in the same sense as number one. As soon as financial institutions get in trouble, money are printed as if there is no tomorrow.

While the essence of Reagonomics was financial deregulation, the other important element was restoring the Gilded Age level of power of financial oligarchy which influence was diminished by FDR reforms. In this sense we can say that Reagan revolution was essentially a counter-revolution: an attempt to reverse the New Deal restrictions on financial sector and restore its dominance in the society.

Like it was the case in Bolshevism the ideology was developed and forced upon the society by a very small group of players. The key ideas of Casino Capitalism were formulated and implemented by Reagan administration with some contribution by Nixon (the role of rednecks aka "moral majority", "silent majority" as an important part of republican political base, which can be attracted to detrimental to its economic position policies by the smoke screen of false "moral" promises).

It was supported by each president after Reagan (paradoxically with Clinton having the most accomplished record -- he was the best Republican President in a very perverted way). Like in case of Lysenkoism opponents were purged and economic departments of the country were captured by principless careerists ready to tow the party line for personal enrichment. Like in case of Bolshevism, many of those special breed of careerists rotated from Republican Party into Fed and other government structures. A classic example of compulsive careerists that were used by finance sector to promote its interests was Alan Greenspan.

One of the key ideas of Reaganomics was the rejection of the sound approach that there should be a balance between too much government regulation and too little and that government role is important for smooth functioning of the market. In this area Reagan and its followers can be called Anarchists and their idea of 'free market" is a misnomer that masks the idea of "anarchic market" (corporate welfare to be exact -- as it was implemented). Emergence of corporate welfare Queens such as GS, Citi, AIG, are quite natural consequence of Reaganomics.

Reaganomics was a the US flavor of Lysenkoism with economics instead of generics as a target... It can and should be called Economic Lysenkoism.

The most interesting part of Reaganomics was that the power of this ideology made it possible to conditioned "working class" and middle class to act against their own economic interests. It helped to ensure the stagnation of wages during the whole 25 years period, which is close to what Soviets managed to achieve with working class of the USSR, but with much more resentment. This makes it in many ways very similar to Bolshevism as a whole, not just Lysenkoism (extremes meet or in less flattering way: "history repeats, first as a tragedy, then as farce).

Along with the term Reaganimics which implicitly stresses the deregulation, the other close term "market fundamentalism" is often used. Here is how market fundamentalism is defined (Longview Institute):

Market Fundamentalism is the exaggerated faith that when markets are left to operate on their own, they can solve all economic and social problems. Market Fundamentalism has dominated public policy debates in the United States since the 1980's, serving to justify huge Federal tax cuts, dramatic reductions in government regulatory activity, and continued efforts to downsize the government’s civilian programs.

Some level of government coercion (explicit or implicit ) is necessary for proper labeling of any pseudo-scientific theory with the term Lysenkoism. This holds true for both Market Fundamentalism (after all Reagan revolution was "revolution from above" by financial oligarchy and for financial oligarchy and hired guns from academia just do what powers that be expected) and, especially, Supply side economic. The political genius of those ideas is evident. Supply-side economics transformed Republicans from a minority party into a majority party. It allowed them to promise lower taxes, lower deficits and, in effect, unchanged spending. Why should people not like this combination? Who does not like a free lunch?

In this sense the Republican Party played the role very similar to the Communist Party of the USSR.

For example supply side economics was too bizarre and would never survive without explicit government support. This notion is supported by many influential observers. For example, in the following comment for Krugman article (Was the Great Depression a monetary phenomenon):

Market fundamentalism (neoclassical counter-revolution — to be more academic) was more of a political construct than based on sound economic theory. However, it would take a while before its toxic legacy is purged from the economics departments. Indeed, in some universities this might never happen.

Extreme deregulation and extreme regulation (Brezhnev socialism) logically meets and both represent a variant of extremely corrupt society that cannot be sustained for long (using bayonets as in the case of USSR or using reserve currency and increasing leverage as is the case of the USA). In both cases the societies were economically and ideologically bankrupt at the end.

Actually, elements of market fundamentalism looks more like religious doctrine than political philosophy — and that bonds its even closer to Lysenkoism. In both cases critics were silenced with the help of the state. It is interesting to note that Reaganomics was wiped into frenzy after the dissolution of the USSR, the country which gave birth to the term of Lysenkoism. In a way the last act of the USSR was to stick a knife in the back of the USA. As a side note I would like to stress that contrary to critics the USSR was more of a neo-feudal society with elements of slavery under Stalin. Gulag population were essentially state slaves; paradoxically a somewhat similar status is typical for illegal immigrants in industrialized countries. From this point of view this category of "state slaves" is generally more numerous that gulag inmates. Prison population also can be counted along those lines.

It look like either implicitly or explicitly Reagan's bet was on restoration of gilded Age with its dominance of financial oligarchy, an attempt to convert the USA into new Switzerland on the "exorbitant privilege" of dollar status as the global fiat currency.

Casino Capitalism is characterized by political dominance of FIRE industries (finance, insurance, and real estate) and diminished role of other and first of all manufacturing industries. It was also accompanied by the drastic growth of inequality (New Gilded Age). Its defining feature is "the triumph of the trader in assets over the long-term producer" in Martin Wolf's words.

Voodoo economic theories

Attempts of theoretical justification of Economic Lysenkoism fall into several major categories:

Those can be called pillars, cornerstones of Economic Lysenkoism. Each of the deserves as separate article (see links above).

Historically especially important was Chicago school of market fundamentalism promoted pseudo-scientific theories of Milton Freedman (Chicago School) as well as supply side economics.

Collapse of the USSR as ideological justification of Casino Capitalism superiority

The huge boost of Casino Capitalism was given by the collapse of the USSR in 1991. That gave a second life to Reagan era. Collapse of the USSR was used as a vindication of market fundamentalism. After it New Deal regulations were systematically destroyed. Dumped down variants of Nietzsche philosophy like bastardatized variant promoted by Russian emigrant became fashionable with an individual "creative" entrepreneur as a new Übermensch, which stands above morality.

"The word Übermensch [designates] a type of supreme achievement, as opposed to 'modern' men, 'good' men, Christians, and other nihilists ... When I whispered into the ears of some people that they were better off looking for a Cesare Borgia than a Parsifal, they did not believe their ears."[9] Safranski argues that the combination of ruthless warrior pride and artistic brilliance that defined the Italian Renaissance embodied the sense of the Übermensch for Nietzsche. According to Safranski, Nietzsche intended the ultra-aristocratic figure of the Übermensch to serve as a Machiavellian bogeyman of the modern Western middle class and its pseudo-Christian egalitarian value system.[10]

Brainwashing

The instability and volatility of active markets can devalue the economic base of real lives, or in more macro-scenarios can lead to the collapse of national and regional economies. In a very interesting and grotesque way it also incorporates the key element of Brezhnev Socialism in everyday life: huge manipulation of reality by mass media to the extend that Pravda and the USSR First TV Channel look pretty objective in comparison with Fox news and Fox controlled newspapers. Complete poisoning of public discourse and relying on the most ignorant part of the population as the political base (pretty much reminiscent of how Bolsheviks played "Working Class Dictatorship" anti-intellectualism card; it can be called "Rednecks Dictatorship").

The "heroes" or transformation of US economy to casino capitalism model

While transformation to casino capitalism was an objective development, there were specific individuals who were instrumental in killing New Deal regulations. We would single out the following twelve figures:

  1. Ronald Reagan (although first steps toward casino capitalism were made under Carter).
  2. Milton Friedman
  3. Alan Greenspan
  4. Phil Gramm
  5. Robert Rubin
  6. Larry Summers
  7. Helicopter Ben
  8. Bush II
  9. Bill Clinton
  10. Sandy Weill
  11. Jeffrey Sachs with his "shock therapy" racket
  12. Martin Feldstein

There is no question that Reagan and most of his followers (Greenspan, Rubin, Phil Gramm, etc) were rabid radicals blinded by ideology. But they were radicals of quite different color then FDR with disastrous consequences for society. Here again the analogy with Bolsheviks looms strong. In a way, they can be called financial terrorists inflicting huge damage on the nation and I wonder if RICO can be use to prosecute at least some of them.

In Bailout Nation (Chapter 19) Barry Ritholtz tried to rank major players that led country into the current abyss:

1. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan
2. The Federal Reserve (in its role of setting monetary policy)
3. Senator Phil Gramm
4-6. Moody’s Investors Service, Standard & Poor’s, and Fitch Ratings (rating agencies)
7. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
8-9. Mortgage originators and lending banks
10. Congress
11. The Federal Reserve again (in its role as bank regulator)
12. Borrowers and home buyers
13-17. The five biggest Wall Street firms (Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch,Morgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs) and their CEOs
18. President George W. Bush
19. President Bill Clinton
20. President Ronald Reagan
21-22. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson
23-24. Treasury Secretaries Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers
25. FOMC Chief Ben Bernanke
26. Mortgage brokers
27. Appraisers (the dishonest ones)
28. Collateralized debt obligation (CDO) managers (who produced the junk)
29. Institutional investors (pensions, insurance firms, banks, etc.) for
buying the junk
30-31. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC); Office of Thrift
Supervision (OTS)
32. State regulatory agencies
33. Structured investment vehicles (SIVs)/hedge funds for buying the junk

Early Researchers of Casino Capitalism

Hyman Minsky

Hyman Minsky argued that a key mechanism that pushes an economy towards a crisis is the accumulation of debt and the fact the financial system represents a positive feedback loop that tend to destabilize the system, creating ossilations in the form of boom and bust cycles. . He identified 3 types of borrowers that contribute to the accumulation of insolvent debt: Hedge Borrowers; Speculative Borrowers; and Ponzi Borrowers. That corresponds to three stages of Casino Capitalism of increasing fragility:

Growth of debt and increased levarate at some point create predocition of the crash. The stage of business cycle at which those preconditions are met is called "Minsky moment":

A Minsky moment is the point in a credit cycle or business cycle when investors are starting to have cash flow problems due to spiraling debt they have incurred in order to finance speculative or Ponzy investments.

At this point, a major selloff begins due to the fact that no counterparty can be found to bid at the high asking prices previously quoted, leading to a sudden and precipitous collapse in market clearing asset prices and a sharp drop in market liquidity.[1]

After the collapse of the USSR there were a lot of chest thumping of the status of America as a hyper power (American exceptionalism) and the "end of history" where neoliberalism that displaced Brazhvev socialism (and wiped out the socialist camp) was supposed to reign supreme forever.

But this triumphal march of neoliberalism was short lived. The system proved to be self-destructive due to strong positive feedback look from the unregulated financial sector.

But in 2000 the first moment to pay the piper arrives. It was postponed by Iraq war and housing bubble, but reappeared in much more menacing form in 2008. In 2009 the USA experienced a classic Minsky moment with high unemployment rate and economy suppressed by (and taken hostage) by Ponzi finance institutions which threaten the very survival of the capitalist system and way of life. Huge injection freom the state halped to save the economy from disintration, but the price was very high. And  after 2009 the US economy entered the period prologed stagnation, called  the perios of "secular stagnation".

In events preceding 2008 the shift from speculative toward Ponzi finance was speed up by increased corruption of major players.  The drive to redistribute wealth up destroyed any remnants of the rule of the law in the USA. It became a neo-feudal two casts society with "Masters of the Universe" as the upper cast (top 1% ) and "despicables" (lower 80%) as the lower cast. With some comprador strata of professional in between (top 20% or so), who generally support the upper cast.

Loweer cast experienced deterioration of the standard of living, loss of well paying jobs to outsourcing and offshoring and in 2016 revolted electing Trump, who defeated Hillary Clinton, who became a real symbol of the corruption of neoliberal system. 

"As Minsky observed, capitalism is inherently unstable. As each crisis is successfully contained, it encourages greater speculation and risk taking in borrowing and lending. Financial innovation makes it easier to finance various schemes. To a large extent, borrowers and lenders operate on the basis of trial and error. If a behavior is rewarded, it will be repeated. Thus stable periods naturally lead to optimism, to booms, and to increasing fragility.

A financial crisis can lead to asset price deflation and repudiation of debt. A debt deflation, once started, is very difficult to stop. It may not end until balance sheets are largely purged of bad debts, at great loss in financial wealth to the creditors as well as the economy at large."

For more information see

Susan Strange

For Strange the speed at which computerized financial markets work combined with their much larger size and  near-universal pervasiveness is an important qualitative change, that changes the social system into what he called "casino capitalism".  She actually popularized the term "Casino Capitalism" with her important book Casino Capitalism  published in 1997.

One of the side effects of this change is that volatility extends globally. Approximately $1.5 trillion dollars are invested daily as foreign transactions. It is estimated that 98% of these transactions are speculative. In comparison with this casino Las Vegas looks like a aborigine village in comparison with Manhattan.

Notes:

Susan Strange (June 9, 1923 - October 25, 1998) was a British academic who was influential in the field of international political economy. Her most important publications include

For a quarter of a century, Susan Strange was the most influential figure in British international studies. She held a number of key academic posts in Britain, Italy and Japan. From 1978 to 1988, she was Montague Burton Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), the first woman to hold this chair and a professorial position in international relations at the LSE. She was a major figure in the professional associations of both Britain and the US: she was an instrumental founding member and first Treasurer of the British International Studies Association (BISA) [1] and the first female President of the International Studies Association (ISA) in 1995.

It was predominantly as a creative scholar and a forceful personality that she exercised her influence. She was almost single-handedly responsible for creating ‘international political economy’ and turning it into one of the two or three central fields within international studies in Britain, and she defended her creation with such robustness, and made such strong claims on its behalf, that her influence was felt—albeit not always welcomed—in most other areas of the discipline. She was one of the earliest and most influential campaigners for the closer integration of the study of international politics and international economics in the English language scholarship.

In the later period of her career, alongside the financial analyses offered in Casino Capitalism (the analysis in which she felt was vindicated by the South-East Asian financial crisis) and Mad Money, Strange's contributions to the field include her characterisation of the four different areas (production, security, finance and knowledge) through which power might be exercised in International Relations. This understanding of what she termed "structural power", formed the basis of her argument against the theory of American Hegemonic Decline in the early eighties.

Her analysis particularly in States and Markets focused on what she called the ‘market-authority nexus’, the see-saw of power between the market and political authority. The overall argument of her work suggested that the global market had gained significant power relative to states since the 1970s.

This led her to dub the Westphalia system Westfailure. She argued that a ‘dangerous gap’ was emerging between territorially-bound nation states and weak or partial intergovernmental cooperation in which markets had a free hand which could be constructive or destructive.

John K. Galbraith

Among important early critiques of casino capitalism was John K. Galbraith. He promoted a pretty novel idea that the major economic function of Governments is to strengthen countervailing powers to achieve some kind of balance between capital and labor.

While unions are far from being perfect and tend to slide into corruption due to "iron law of oligarchy" when thier management stop representing interests of thwe worksers and start to reprreesnt interest of thier own narry strate of fat cats,  there were the only sizable countewailing power that made the New Seal possible.

His prediction proved to be wrong as government actually represent the capitalist class and is not that interested in creating this balance, which was convincingly demonstrated by Thatcher and Reagan.  Both Britain and the USA start sliding into a new form of corporations, called neoliberalism which actually does not allocate any space for uniot at the negotiation table and strive for their complete elimination and "atomization" of work force, when each invididual is up to himself to find employment and group solidarity is suppressed by instilling neoliberal ideology in schools and universitites as well as via MSM (which in the USA surprisingly never were allowed to use the work neoliberlaism, as if it represents some secret Masonic cult)

And it does not look like there is any renewed support of unions right  (including important right to organize) at the  post subprime/derivatives/shadow_banking crisis stage of neoliberalism, when neoliberal ideology became sufficiently discredited to allow rise of populist politicians such as Trump. 

Still John K. Galbraith critique of primitive market fundamentalism of Milton Freedman and the whole pseudoscience of neoclassical economics which like Marxist political economy is one of there pillars of neoliberalism (along with Randism as philosophy and Neoconservatism or "Trotskyism for the rich" in politics), still has its value today. As Joseph Stiglitz noted (CSMonitor, Dec 28, 2006):

...In many ways, Galbraith was a more critical observer of economic reality.

Driven to understand market realities

Galbraith's vivid depictions of the good, bad, and ugly of American capitalism remain a sorely needed reminder that all is not quite as perfect as the perfect market models – with their perfect competition, perfect information, and perfectly rational consumers – upon which so much of Friedman's analysis depended.

Galbraith, who cut his teeth studying agricultural economics, strove to understand the world as it was, with all the problems of unemployment and market power that simplistic models of competitive markets ignore. In those models, unemployment didn't exist. Galbraith knew that made them fatally flawed

... ... ...

In his early research, Galbraith attempted to explain what had brought on the Great Crash of 1929 – including the role of the stock market's speculative greed fed by (what would today be called) irrational exuberance. Friedman ignored speculation and the failure of the labor market as he focused on the failures of the Federal Reserve. To Friedman, government was the problem, not the solution.

What Galbraith understood, and what later researchers (including this author) have proved, is that Adam Smith's "invisible hand" – the notion that the individual pursuit of maximum profit guides capitalist markets to efficiency – is so invisible because, quite often, it's just not there. Unfettered markets often produce too much of some things, such as pollution, and too little of other things, such as basic research. As Bruce Greenwald and I have shown, whenever information is imperfect – that is, always – markets are inefficient; hence the need for government action.

Galbraith reminded us that what made the economy work so well was not an invisible hand but countervailing powers. He had the misfortune of articulating these ideas before the mathematical models of game theory were sufficiently developed to give them expression. The good news is that today, more attention is being devoted to developing models of these bargaining relationships, and to complex, dynamic models of economic fluctuations in which speculation may play a central role.

Government's role

While Friedman never really appreciated the limitations of the market, he was a forceful critic of government. Yet history shows that in every successful country, the government had played an important role. Yes, governments sometimes fail, but unfettered markets are a certain prescription for failure. Galbraith made this case better than most.

Galbraith knew, too, that people aren't just rational economic actors, but consumers, contending with advertising, political persuasion, and social pressures. It was because of his close touch with reality that he had such influence on economic policymaking, especially during the Kennedy-Johnson years.

Galbraith's penetrating insights into the nature of capitalism – as it is lived, not as it is theorized in simplistic models – has enhanced our understanding of the market economy. He has left an intellectual legacy for generations to come. And he has left a gap in our intellectual life: Who will stand up against the economics establishment to articulate an economic vision that is both in touch with reality and comprehensible to ordinary citizens?

Galbraith was vindicated in his belief that the only economics possible is political economics and that government is always an agent of dominant class. As such it always pursue poklitics favorable to this class, just making marginal efforts to prevent the open revolt of lower classes.

In 2008 neoliberal economist such as Krugman and (to a lesse extent) Stiglitz both have eaten humble pie, because according to neoclassical economics the crises should not have happened. Both should now reread Galbraith's The Great Crash: 1929 (see also extracts).  Krugman also need to shred his previous writings with this mathiness execises of using differential equations to justify the dominance of financial oligarchy,  and eat them with borsch ;-)

BTW it is interesting that in 1996 neoliberal stooge Paul Krugman criticized limitations of Galbright vision in the following way:

To be both a liberal and a good economist you must have a certain sense of the tragic--that is, you must understand that not all goals can be attained, that life is a matter of painful tradeoffs. You must want to help the poor, but understand that welfare can encourage dependency. You must want to protect those who lose their jobs, but admit that generous unemployment benefits can raise the long-term rate of unemployment. You must be willing to tax the affluent to help those in need, but accept that too high a rate of taxation can discourage investment and innovation.

To the free-market conservative, these are all arguments for government to do nothing, to accept whatever level of poverty and insecurity the market happens to produce. A serious liberal does not reply to such conservatives by denying that there are any trade-offs at all; he insists, rather, that some trade-offs are worth making, that helping the poor and protecting the unlucky may have costs but will ultimately make for a better society.

The revelation one gets from reading John Kenneth Galbraith's The Good Society is that Galbraith--who is one of the world's most celebrated intellectuals, and whom one would expect to have a deeper appreciation of the complexity of the human condition than a mere technical economist would -- lacks this tragic sense. Galbraith's vision of the economy is one without shadows, in which what is good for social justice always turns out to have no unfavorable side effects. If this vision is typical of liberal intellectuals, the ineffectuality of the tribe is not an accident: It stems from a deep-seated unwillingness to face up to uncomfortable reality.

Similar limited understanding of Galbright is demonstrated in London Times (cited from comment to Economist's View blog) :

Some motifs of Galbraith’s work have entered popular consciousness. Galbraith wrote of private opulence amid public squalor, illustrating it with a memorable metaphor of a family that travels by extravagant private car to picnic by a polluted river.

Yet while arguing for increased public expenditure on welfare, Galbraith gave scant attention to the limits of that approach. His writings perpetuate a debilitating weakness of modern liberalism: a reluctance to acknowledge that resources are scarce.

In Galbraith’s scheme, said Herbert Stein, the former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers: “The American people were only asked whether they wanted cleaner air and water . . . The answers to such questions seemed obvious — but they were not the right questions.”

Soros contribution to the understanding of growth of financial sector as source of new, global economic instability

This idea of "casino capitalism" as a driver of financial instability was developed further in the book The Crisis of Global Capitalism by prominent financial speculator and staunch neoliberal George Soros (1998), who after Minsky highlights the potential for disequilibrium in the financial system, and the inability of non-market sectors to regulate markets.

the latter is a prominant feature of Casino Capitalism, which can be defined as economic system were financial barons run amok.

Although the insights of the Soros critique of global capitalism are scarcely new, they were articulated with such candor and accuracy that the book made a significant impact. The following is a sampling of Soros' insights.
  1. Unregulated financial markets are inherently unstable. There is nothing new in this statement. It is just a repetition of what Keynes and Minsky said much more eloquently. But Soros made in important observation about the source of constant disequilibrium of markets under neoliberalism, the observation which permitted for him to achieve spectacular success as a financial speculator.  Soros observes that, contrary to conventional economic theory, financial markets are not driven toward a relatively stable and rational price by the objective value assessment of such things as the soundness of a company's management, products, or record of profitability. Rather they are constantly driven away from equilibrium by the momentum of self-fulfilling expectations -- a rising stock price attracts buyers who further raise the price-to the point of collapse. The recent massive inflation and subsequent collapse in the price of the shares of unprofitable dot-com companies illustrates Soros' point.

    Bank lending also contributes to the instability, because the price of real and financial assets is set in part by their collateral value. The higher their market price rises the larger the loans banks are willing to make to their buyers to bid up prices. When the bubble bursts, the value of the assets plummets below the amount of the money borrowed against them. This forces banks to call their loans and cut back on the lending, which depresses asset prices and dries up the money supply. The economy then tanks-until credit worthiness is restored and a new boom phase begins.

  2. Financial markets are amoral by definition. Following Napoleon Bonaparte ("Money has no motherland; financiers are without patriotism and without decency; their sole object is gain. "), Soros stressed that there is no meaningful place for individual moral behavior of financial oligarchy in the context of financial markets, because such behavior has no consequences for them other than to reduce the financial return of  a more  ethical actor.  In other words modern finance is breeding ground for ruthless sociopath, which we really observed during 2008.

    When I bought shares in Lockheed and Northrop after the managements were indicted for bribery, I helped sustain the price of their stocks. When I sold sterling short in 1992, the Bank of England was on the other side of my transactions, and I was in effect taking money out of the pockets of British taxpayers. But if I had tried to take social consequences into account, it would have thrown off my risk-reward calculation, and my profits would have been reduced.

    Soros argues that if he had not bought Lockheed and Northrop, then somebody else would have, and Britain would have devalued sterling no matter what he did. "Bringing my social conscience into the decision-making process would make no difference in the real world; but it may adversely affect my own results." One can challenge the Soros claim that such behavior is amoral rather than immoral, but his basic argument is accurate. His understanding that it is futile to look to individual morality as the solution to the excesses of financial markets is all too accurate.

  3. Corporate employees are duty-bound to serve only corporate financial interests. As such financial institution are closely related to organized crime and top layers of managers are essentially institualized criminals. Soros writes:

    Publicly owned companies are single-purpose organizations-their purpose is to make money. The tougher the competition, the less they can afford to deviate. Those in charge may be well-intentioned and upright citizens, but their room for maneuver is strictly circumscribed by the position they occupy.

     They are duty-bound to uphold the interests of the company. If they think that cigarettes are unhealthy or that fostering civil war to obtain mining concessions is unconscionable, they ought to quit their jobs. Their place will be taken by people who are willing to carry on.

    Though not specifically mentioned by Soros, this is why corporations were in the past (at least partially) excluded from the political processes (although it was never complete and it is well known fact that Crusades and Siege of Constantinople (1204) were financed by Genoese bankers upset by lack of access to the Byzantium markets). But at least formally other parts of the society can define their goals and the rules of the marketplace and suppress excessive appetities of banker, if nessesary by brute force.  Financial oligarchy is incapable of distinguishing between private corporate interests and broader public interests. And that situation became even worse with the the global dominance of corporatism in the form of neoliberalism.

  4. Financial markets are oblivious to externalities and are infected by "short-termism". Specifically the fact that a strategy or policy produces economic returns in the short-term does not mean the long-term results will be beneficial. The focus of financial markets is on short-term individual gain to the exclusion of both social and longer-term consequences. The fact that particular policies and strategies are effective in producing short-term financial returns does not mean they are more generally beneficial or desirable. Soros offers the example that running up a budget or trade deficit "feels good while it lasts, but there can be hell to pay later."

  5. The relationship between the center and the periphery of the capitalist system is profoundly unequal. The powerful countries at the center of the capitalist system are both wealthier and more stable than countries at the periphery because control of the financial system and ownership of productive assets allows them to shape economic and political affairs to their benefit.

    "Foreign ownership of capital deprives peripheral countries of autonomy and often hinders the development of democratic institutions. The international flow of capital is subject to catastrophic interruptions."

    In times of uncertainty financial capital tends to return to its country of origin, thus depriving countries at the periphery of the financial liquidity necessary to the function of monetized economies. "The center's most important feature is that it controls its own economic policies and holds in its hands the economic destinies of periphery countries."

  6. In the capitalist system greed (aka "monetary values") tend to displace social values in sectors where this is destructive to important public interests. Soros writes:

    Monetary values [under neoliberalism] have usurped the role of intrinsic values, and markets have come to dominate spheres of existence where they do not properly belong.

    Law and medicine, politics, education, science, the arts, even personal relations-achievements or qualities that ought to be valued for their own sake are converted into monetary terms; they are judged by the money they fetch rather than their intrinsic value."

    Because financial "capital is free to go where most rewarded, countries vie to attract and retain capital, and if they are to succeed they must give precedence to the requirements of international capital over other social objectives.

Ha-Joon Chang

One notable later researcher of casino capitalism, especially "free market" fundamentalism propaganda Cambridge University researcher Ha-Joon Chang. In 2011 he published a fascinating book 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism. Here is a Youtube lecture at LSE (23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism  ). We will reproduce  two Amazon reviews that shed some light at the key ideas of the book:

William Podmore

Ha-Joon Chang, Reader in the Political Economy of Development at Cambridge University, has written a fascinating book on capitalism's failings. He also wrote the brilliant Bad Samaritans. Martin Wolf of the Financial Times says he is `probably the world's most effective critic of globalization'.

Chang takes on the free-marketers' dogmas and proposes ideas like

He notes that the USA does not have the world's highest living standard. Norway, Luxemburg, Switzerland, Denmark, Iceland, Ireland, Sweden and the USA, in that order, had the highest incomes per head. On income per hours worked, the USA comes eighth, after Luxemburg, Norway, France, Ireland, Belgium, Austria and the Netherlands. Japan, Switzerland, Singapore, Finland and Sweden have the highest industrial output per person.

Free-market politicians, economists and media have pushed policies of de-regulation and pursuit of short-term profits, causing less growth, more inequality, more job insecurity and more frequent crises. Britain's growth rate in income per person per year was 2.4 per cent in the 1960s-70s and 1.7 per cent 1990-2009. Rich countries grew by 3 per cent in the 1960s-70s and 1.4 per cent 1980-2009. Developing countries grew by 3 per cent in the 1960s-70s and 2.6 per cent 1980-2009. Latin America grew by 3.1 per cent in the 1960s-70s and 1.1 per cent 1980-2009, and Sub-Saharan Africa by 1.6 per cent in the 1960s-70s and 0.2 per cent 1990-2009. The world economy grew by 3.2 per cent in the 1960s-70s and 1.4 per cent 1990-2009.

So, across the world, countries did far better before Thatcher and Reagan's `free-market revolution'. Making the rich richer made the rest of us poorer, cutting economies' growth rates, and investment as a share of national output, in all the G7 countries.

Chang shows how free trade is not the way to grow and points out that the USA was the world's most protectionist country during its phase of ascendancy, from the 1830s to the 1940s, and that Britain was one of world's the most protectionist countries during its rise, from the 1720s to the 1850s.

He shows how immigration controls keep First World wages up; they determine wages more than any other factor. Weakening those controls, as the EU demands, lowers wages.

He challenges the conventional wisdom that we must cut spending to cut the deficit. Instead, we need controls capital, on mergers and acquisitions, and on financial products. We need the welfare state, industrial policy, and huge investment in industry, infrastructure, worker training and R&D.

As Chang points out, "Even though financial investments can drive growth for a while, such growth cannot be sustained, as those investments have to be ultimately backed up by viable long-term investments in real sector activities, as so vividly shown by the 2008 financial crisis."

This book is a commonsense, evidence-based approach to economic life, which we should urge all our friends and colleagues to read.

Loyd E. Eskildson

The 2008 'Great Recession' demands re-examination of prevailing economic thought - the dominant paradigm (post 1970's conservative free-market capitalism) not only failed to predict the crisis, but also said it couldn't occur in today's free markets, thanks to Adam Smith's 'invisible hand.' Ha-Joon Chang provides that re-examination in his "23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism." Turns out that the reason Adam Smith's hand was not visible is that it wasn't there. Chang, economics professor at the University of Cambridge, is no enemy of capitalism, though he contends its current conservative version should be made better. Conventional wisdom tells us that left alone, markets produce the most efficient and just outcomes - 'efficient' because businesses and individuals know best how to utilize their resources, and 'just' because they are rewarded according to their productivity. Following this advice, countries have deregulated businesses, reduced taxes and welfare, and adopted free trade. The results, per Chang, has been the opposite of what was promised - slower growth and rising inequality, often masked by rising credit expansion and increased working hours. Alternatively, developing Asian countries that grew fast did so following a different version of capitalism, though to be fair China's version to-date has also produced much greater inequality. The following summarizes some of Chang's points:

  1. "There is no such thing as a free market" - we already have hygiene standards in restaurants, ban child labor, pollution, narcotics, bribery, and dangerous workplaces, require licenses for professions such as doctors, lawyers, and brokers, and limit immigration. In 2008, the U.S. used at least $700 billion of taxpayers' money to buy up toxic assets, justified by President Bush on the grounds that it was a necessary state intervention consistent with free-market capitalism. Chang's conclusion - free-marketers contending that a certain regulation should not be introduced because it would restrict market freedom are simply expressing political opinions, not economic facts or laws.
  2. "Companies should not be run in the interest of their owners." Shareholders are the most mobile of corporate stakeholders, often holding ownership for but a fraction of a second (high-frequency trading represents 70% of today's trading). Shareholders prefer corporate strategies that maximize short-term profits and dividends, usually at the cost of long-term investments. (This often also includes added leverage and risk, and reliance on socializing risk via 'too big to fail' status, and relying on 'the Greenspan put.') Chang adds that corporate limited liability, while a boon to capital accumulation and technological progress, when combined with professional managers instead of entrepreneurs owning a large chunk (e.g.. Ford, Edison, Carnegie) and public shares with smaller voting rights (typically limited to 10%), allows professional managers to maximize their own prestige via sales growth and prestige projects instead of maximizing profits. Another negative long-term outcome driven by shareholders is increased share buybacks (less than 5% of profits until the early 1980s, 90% in 2007, and 280% in 2008) - one economist estimates that had GM not spent $20.4 billion on buybacks between 1986 and 2002 it could have prevented its 2009 bankruptcy. Short-term stockholder perspectives have also brought large-scale layoffs from off-shoring. Governments of other countries encourage longer-term thinking by holding large shares in key enterprises (China Mobile, Renault, Volkswagen), providing greater worker representation (Germany's supervisory boards), and cross-shareholding among friendly companies (Japan's Toyota and its suppliers).
  3. "Free-market policies rarely make poor countries rich." With a few exceptions, all of today's rich countries, including Britain and the U.S., reached that status through protectionism, subsidies, and other policies that they and their IMF, WTO, and World Bank now advise developing nations not to adopt. Free-market economists usually respond that the U.S. succeeded despite, not because of, protectionism. The problem with that explanation is the number of other nations paralleling the early growth strategy of the U.S. and Britain (Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Sweden, Taiwan), and the fact that apparent exceptions (Hong Kong, Switzerland, The Netherlands) did so by ignoring foreign patents (a free-market 'no-no'). Chang believes the 'official historians' of capitalism have been very successful re-writing its history, akin to someone trying to 'kick away the ladder' with which they had climbed to the top. He also points out that developing nations that stick to their Ricardian 'comparative advantage,' per the conservatives prescription, condemn themselves to their economic status quo.
  4. "We do not live in a post-industrial age." Most of the fall in manufacturing's share of total output is not due to a fall in the quantity of manufactured goods, but due to the fall in their prices relative to those for services, caused by their faster productivity growth. A small part of deindustrialization is due to outsourcing of some 'manufacturing' activities that used to be provided in-house - e.g.. catering and cleaning. Those advising the newly developing nations to skip manufacturing and go directly to providing services forget that many services mainly serve manufacturing firms (finance, R&D, design), and that since services are harder to export, such an approach will create balance-of-payment problems. (Chang's preceding points directly contradict David Ricardo's law of comparative advantage - a fundamental free market precept. Chang's example of how Korea built Pohang Steel into a strong economic producer, despite lacking experienced managers and natural resources, is another.)
  5. "The U.S. does not have the highest living standard in the world." True, the average U.S. citizen has greater command over goods and services than his counterpart in almost any other country, but this is due to higher immigration, poorer employment conditions, and working longer hours for many vs. their foreign counterparts. The U.S. also has poorer health indicators and worse crime statistics. We do have the world's second highest income per capita - Luxemburg's higher, but measured in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP) the U.S. ranks eighth. (The U.S. doesn't have the fastest growing economy either - China is predicted to pass the U.S. in PPP this coming decade.) Chang's point here is that we should stop assuming the U.S. provides the best economic model. (This is already occurring - the World Bank's chief economist, Justin Lin, comes from China.)
  6. "Governments can pick winners." Chang cites examples of how the Korean government built world-class producers of steel (POSCO), shipbuilding (Hyundai), and electronics (LG), despite lacking raw materials or experience for those sectors. True, major government failures have occurred - Europe's Concorde, Indonesia's aircraft industry, Korea's promotion of aluminum smelting, and Japan's effort to have Nissan take over Honda; industry, however, has also failed - e.g.. the AOL-Time Warner merger, and the Daimler-Chrysler merger. Austria, China, Finland, France, Japan, Norway, Singapore (in numerous other areas), and Taiwan have also done quite well with government-picked winners. Another problem is that business and national interests sometimes clash - e.g.. American firms' massive outsourcing has undermined the national interest of maintaining full employment. (However, greater unbiased U.S. government involvement would be difficult due to the 10,000+ corporate lobbyists and billions in corporate campaign donations - $500 million alone from big oil in 2009-10.) Also interesting to Chang is how conservative free marketing bankers in the U.S. lined up for mammoth low-cost loans from the Federal Reserve at the beginning of the Great Recession. Government planning allows minimizing excess capacity, maximizing learning-curve economies and economies of scale and scope; operational performance is enhanced by also forcing government-owned or supported firms into international competition. Government intervention (loans, tariffs, subsidies, prohibiting exports of needed raw materials, building infrastructure) are necessary for emerging economies to move into more sophisticated sectors.
  7. "Making rich people richer doesn't make the rest of us richer." 'Trickle-down' economics is based on the belief that the poor maximize current consumption, while the rich, left to themselves, mostly invest. However, the years 1950-1973 saw the highest-ever growth rates in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, despite increased taxation of the rich. Before the 'Golden Age,' per capita income grew at 1-1.5%/year; during the Golden Age it grew at 2-3% in the U.S. Since then, tax cuts for the rich and financial deregulation have allowed greater paychecks for top managers and financiers, and between 1979 and 2006 the top 0.1% increased their share of national income from 3.5% to 11.6%. The result - investment as a ratio of national output has fallen in all rich economies and the pace at which the total economic pie grew decreased.
  8. "U.S. managers are over-priced." First, relative to their predecessors (about 10X those in the 1960s; now 300-400X the average worker), despite the latter having run companies more successfully, in relative terms. Second, compared to counterparts in other rich countries - up to 20X. (Third, compared to counterparts in developing nations - e.g.. JPMorgan Chase, world's 4th largest bank, paid its CEO $19.6 million in 2008, vs. the CEO of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the world's largest, being paid $234,700. Read more ›

Willem Buiter and the idea of long term stagnation

Willem Buiter in his FT article After the Crisis Macro Imbalance, Credibility and Reserve-Currency suggested that after financial crisis of 2008 there might be very long a painful deleveraging period aka secular stagnation.  He was right.

In short each financial crisis make recovery longer and longer. That's why the US will most likely face a long period of stagnation: the digestion of huge excessive debt of the private sector might well take a decade:

Since the excess of debt is relative to income and GDP, the lower the rate of growth, the longer the required period of digestion. This explains for the paradox of trying to stimulate consumption when the economy faces a monumental crisis provoked exactly by excessive debt and excessive consumption. A cartoon line best captured the spirit of it: "country addicted to speculative bubbles desperately searches a new bubble to invest in. "

... ... ...

The roots of the crisis are major international macroeconomic imbalances. Despite the fact that the excesses of the financial system were instrumental to lead these imbalances further than otherwise possible, insufficient regulation should not be viewed as the main factor behind the crisis. The expenditure of central countries, spinned by all sort of financial innovations created by a globalized financial system, was the engine of world growth. When debt became clearly excessive in central countries and the debt-financed expenditure cycle came to an end, the ensuing crisis paralyzed the world economy. With the lesson of 1929 well assimilated, American monetary policy became aggressively expansionist. The Fed inundated the economy with money and credit, in the attempt to avoid a deep depression. Even if successful, the economies of the US and the other central countries, given the burden of excessive debt, are likely to remain stagnant under the threat of deflation for the coming years. The assumption of troubled assets by the public sector, in order to avoid the collapse of the financial system, might succeed, but at the cost of a major increase in public debt. Fiscal policy is not efficient to restart the economy when the private sector remains paralyzed by excessive debt. Even if a coordinated effort to increase public expenditure is successful, the central economies will remain stagnant for as long as the excessive indebtedness of the private sector persists. The period of digestion of excess debt will be longer than the usual recessive cycle. Since imports represent a drain in the effort to reanimate domestic demand through public expenditure, while exports, on the contrary, contribute to the recovery of internal demand, the temptation to central economies to also adopt a protectionist stance will be strong.

Willem Buiter also defined ‘cognitive regulatory capture’ which existed during the Greenspan years and when the Fed were just an arm of Wall Street.

This regulatory capture has resulted in an excess sensitivity of the Fed to financial market and financial sector concerns and fears and in an overestimation of the strength of the link between financial market turmoil and financial sector deleveraging and capital losses on the one hand, and the stability and prosperity of the wider economy on the other hand. The paper gives five examples of recent behavior by the Fed that are most readily rationalized with the assumption of regulatory capture. The abstract of the paper follows next. The latest version of the entire enchilada can be found here. Future revisions will also be found there.

Joseph Stiglitz on 5 steps to Casino Capitalism

Stiglitz is very unene and early Striglist was actually defender of neoliberalism (aka casino capitalism). Later he became a critic. In his 2008 Vanity Fair article Capitalist Fools Stiglitz identifies five key steps in transformation of American capitalism to Casino Capitalism (moments of failure as he called them):

No. 1: Reagan Fires Fed Chairman Volcker and Replaces Him With Greenspan in 1987:

Volcker also understood that financial markets need to be regulated. Reagan wanted someone who did not believe any such thing, and he found him in a devotee of the objectivist philosopher and free-market zealot Ayn Rand.

snip

If you appoint an anti-regulator as your enforcer, you know what kind of enforcement you’ll get. A flood of liquidity combined with the failed levees of regulation proved disastrous.

Greenspan presided over not one but two financial bubbles.

  1. Congress repealed the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 under Bill Clinton (Glass-Steagall was a depression-era reform that separated commercial and investment banks)

I had opposed repeal of Glass-Steagall. The proponents said, in effect, Trust us: we will create Chinese walls to make sure that the problems of the past do not recur. As an economist, I certainly possessed a healthy degree of trust, trust in the power of economic incentives to bend human behavior toward self-interest—toward short-term self-interest, at any rate, rather than Tocqueville’s "self interest rightly understood."

Stiglitz also refers to a 2004 decision by the SEC "to allow big investment banks to increase their debt-to-capital ratio (from 12:1 to 30:1, or higher) so that they could buy more mortgage-backed securities, inflating the housing bubble in the process."

Once more, it was deregulation run amuck, and few even noticed.

  1. The Bush tax cuts, both on income and capital gains

The Bush administration was providing an open invitation to excessive borrowing and lending—not that American consumers needed any more encouragement.

  1. Faking the Numbers

Here he refers to bad accounting, the failure to address problems with stock options, and the incentive structures of ratings agencies like Moodys that led them to give high ratings to toxic assets.

  1. Paulson and the Flawed Bailout

Valuable time was wasted as Paulson pushed his own plan, "cash for trash," buying up the bad assets and putting the risk onto American taxpayers. When he finally abandoned it, providing banks with money they needed, he did it in a way that not only cheated America’s taxpayers but failed to ensure that the banks would use the money to re-start lending. He even allowed the banks to pour out money to their shareholders as taxpayers were pouring money into the banks.

Stiglitz concludes:

The truth is most of the individual mistakes boil down to just one: a belief that markets are self-adjusting and that the role of government should be minimal. Looking back at that belief during hearings this fall on Capitol Hill, Alan Greenspan said out loud, "I have found a flaw." Congressman Henry Waxman pushed him, responding, "In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right; it was not working." "Absolutely, precisely," Greenspan said. The embrace by America—and much of the rest of the world—of this flawed economic philosophy made it inevitable that we would eventually arrive at the place we are today.

The flawed economic philosophy brought by Reagan, and embraced by so many, brought us to this day. Ideas have consequences, especially when we stop empirically testing them. Republican economics have created great pain to America and harmed our national interest.

The flaw that Greenspan found was always there: self-regulation does not work. As Stiglitz said:

As an economist, I certainly possessed a healthy degree of trust, trust in the power of economic incentives to bend human behavior toward self-interest — toward short-term self-interest

Yes, for all their claims to science, the premise conflicts with tendencies of people.

This is the real legacy of Ronald Reagan and Alan Greenspan:

The whole scheme was kick-started under Ronald Reagan. Between his tax cuts for the rich and the Greenspan Commission’s orchestrated Social Security heist, working Americans lost out in a generational wealth transfer shift now exceeding $1 trillion annually from 90 million working class households to for-profit corporations and the richest 1% of the population. It created an unprecedented wealth disparity that continues to grow, shames the nation and is destroying the bedrock middle class without which democracy can’t survive.

Greenspan helped orchestrate it with economist Ravi Batra calling his economics "Greenomics" in his 2005 book "Greenspan’s Fraud." It "turns out to be Greedomics" advocating anti-trust laws, regulations and social services be ended so "nothing....interfere(s) with business greed and the pursuit of profits."

 Conclusions: From Animal Farm To Animal House

Instead of conclusion I will reproduce the post from Sudden Debt (March 17, 2008):

In Orwell's Animal Farm all animals are equal - except that some are more equal than others. All in the spirit of law, order and the proper functioning of society, of course. Fittingly, the animals that have chosen this role by themselves and for themselves, are the pigs.

Cut to US financial markets today. After years of swinish behavior more reminiscent of Animal House than anything else, the pigs are threatening to destroy the entire farm. As if it wasn't enough that they devoured all the "free market" food available and inundated the world with their excreta, they now wish to be put on the public trough. Truly, some businessmen believe they are more equal than others.

But do not blame the pigs; they are expected to act as swine nature dictates. The fault lies entirely with the farmers, those authorities entrusted by the people to oversee the farm because they supposedly knew better. While the pigs were rampaging and tearing the place apart, they were assuring us all that farms function best when animals are free to do as they please, guided solely by invisible hooves. No regulation, no oversight, no common sense. Oh yes, and pigs fly..

So what is to be done now? Two things:

In other words, the focus from now on should be on adding value by means of work and savings (capital formation), instead of inflating assets and borrowing.

Furthermore, we should realize that in a world already inhabited by close to 7 billion people and beset by resource depletion and environmental degradation, defending growth for growth's sake is a losing proposition. The wheels are already wobbling on the Permagrowth model; pumping harder on the accelerator is not going to make it go any faster and will likely result in a fatal crash.

Debt, and finance in general, should be left to re-size downwards to a level that better reflects the carrying capacity of our world. The Fed's current actions are shortsighted and "conservative" in the worst interpretation of the words: they are designed to artificially maintain debt at levels that myopically projects growth as far as the eye can see.

What level of resizing may be necessary? I hope not as much as at Bear Stearns, which got itself bought by Morgan at buzz-saw prices: $2 per share represents a 98% discount from its $84 book value. What scares me, though, is the statement by Morgan's CFO, who said the price reflected the risk the firm was taking, even though he was comfortable with the valuation of assets in Bear's books. It "...gives us the flexibility and margin of error that's appropriate given the speed at which the transaction came together", he said.

If it takes a 98% discount and the explicit guarantee of the Fed for a large portion of assets to buy one of the largest investment banks in the world, where should all other financial firms be trading at? ....Hello? Anyone? Is that a great big silence I hear, or the sound of credit imploding into a vacuum?


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[Oct 18, 2017] Why adjuncts should quit complaining and just quit (essay) by Claire B. Potter

Notable quotes:
"... The New York Times ..."
"... The other problem is systemic. This is the vicious, capitalist devaluation of academic labor. Anyone who holds some asinine fantasy about the "logic" of the market solving the adjunctification of the academy needs to shut up. ..."
"... Whether "meant" to be a career or not, adjuncting is a career for many--and our institutions have made it that way by refusing to hire enough full-time professors to cover the courses offered. Adjuncts are being exploited by institutions across the country. THAT is what we need to focus on, not individual career choices. ..."
"... I don't know if neoliberal professors are increasing in numbers or if they just have greater access to publish. I imagine it's the latter. The take on the situation from those off the tenure track is quite the opposite, obviously. This is what we need to reiterate: "Adjuncts are being exploited by institutions across the country. THAT is what we need to focus on" ..."
"... I'm a career advisor and every once and a while an adjunct faculty person will come visit career services for assistance. They are generally completely absent of career management skills. They tend to be people who were very good at college, so they went to grad school sort of assuming they'd be able to get a job that way. ..."
Oct 16, 2017 | www.insidehighered.com
Angry About Adjuncting? The radical move might be to quit, writes Claire B. Potter. 150 Comments

Recently I stumbled across an article in The New York Times about my favorite topic: online academic rage -- and whether it spikes among those frustrated by the struggle to find a tenure-stream job. "Is there something about adjunct faculty members that makes them prone to outrageous political outbursts?" Colby College sociologist Neil Gross asked.

Citing recent examples in which the most vulnerable among us have been fired for an impolitic tweet or Facebook post, Gross argues that full-time faculty members are not the "tenured radicals" that American conservatives have feared since the 1990s. Instead, he proposes, the vast majority of full-timers are "tamed" by the prospects, or long-term comforts, of tenure. Research accounts, regular raises, the orderliness of being able to plan our lives and the satisfaction of promises kept inevitably sutures most of us to civility in all its forms.

But what incentives do workers who are already vulnerable in so many ways have to be polite? Although many people with humanities Ph.D.s do other jobs, this stubborn belief that they have trained for one thing, and one thing only, keeps many adjuncts on the hamster wheel long past a time when frustration and sorrow have turned to rage. Aside from the stress of trying to piece together a career one course at a time, the adjunct army -- permanently contingent, underemployed, overworked and underpaid faculty members -- has every reason to demand radical change.

But do these conditions produce a truly political radicalism, or are they simply radical utterances that get contingent faculty into trouble and leave a system that relies on a reserve army of labor unchanged? And since people with doctorates aren't tied to a particular factory or industry, would the radical solution be to stop teaching as a per-course adjunct?

... ... ...

Academic Ranter , October 16, 2017 10:57 AM

There are two types of problems here. One concerns the individual misfortunes that plague adjuncts. Adjuncts' problems are lamentable, even if solvable, and it would be nice to see people in our society have some compassion rather than excuse their own apathy with callous blaming of people in unfortunate circumstances.

The other problem is systemic. This is the vicious, capitalist devaluation of academic labor. Anyone who holds some asinine fantasy about the "logic" of the market solving the adjunctification of the academy needs to shut up. You do terrible damage to our society. The simplest and most obvious solution to a lack of PhDs to work as adjuncts is to hire MAs.

Universities are already hiring undergrads to do some of the academic work. You are off your gourd if you think the people who want to siphon profits to the top will not try to further degrade academic labor, or, haven't you been paying attention to the hoopla around MOOCs? The only solution to the precariate is unionization and a demand for all academic labor to provide middle-class standards of living.

That means that the cowardly and lazy tenured faculty will finally have to do their jobs and guard the academy.

DudewithtwoBAsMAMFAandPhD -> Academic Ranter , October 16, 2017 7:37 PM

I agree with most of what you say, except that my experience says that administrations would rather hire MAs than PhDs because PhDs demand the salaries that align with their higher education; and, because PhDs are generally more experienced in academe, they are less agreeable than MAs to accepting administrative initiatives that are tangential to faculty teaching and research.

RBatty024 -> Academic Ranter , October 16, 2017 12:50 PM

"The simplest and most obvious solution to a lack of PhDs to work as adjuncts is to hire MAs."

This is already occurring, even outside of the humanities. I know some great instructors without their doctorate, but hiring a large number of instructors without a terminal degree does seem to go against the ideal that a professor teaches undergraduates, keeps up with the latest in his or her field, and produces knowledge in that field.

While in a master's program at a large research institute, I was given my own classes, even though I only had a bachelor's degree. I was happy to get the experience, but with my background, I probably should not have been teaching those students

CuriousHamster -> RBatty024 , October 16, 2017 7:14 PM

Actually, if you look at 50-60 year old faculty lists a fair number of faculty had masters. Masters were originally meant to be a teaching qualification, PhDs were a research qualification. The masters as a teaching qualification got squeezed out because of too many PhDs between 2 and 3 generations back.

hrhdhd -> CuriousHamster , October 16, 2017 9:48 PM

Not at community colleges.

TheJonesest , October 16, 2017 8:13 AM

Adjuncting is not now, and was never meant to be, a career. We can complain about working conditions, lack of benefits/stability, and the stress of cobbling together enough courses to pay the rent all we want (and we do) but the bottom line is this: If you haven't landed a FT teaching gig within three years of earning your Ph.D., bail out and choose another career. The person who can't eat after 20 years of adjunct work has no one to blame but themselves. Keep fighting, but take care of yourself, too.

Aaron Barlow -> TheJonesest , October 16, 2017 11:50 AM

Whether "meant" to be a career or not, adjuncting is a career for many--and our institutions have made it that way by refusing to hire enough full-time professors to cover the courses offered. Adjuncts are being exploited by institutions across the country. THAT is what we need to focus on, not individual career choices.

AdjunctNYC -> Aaron Barlow , October 16, 2017 1:59 PM

I agree. Blaming adjuncts for being adjuncts, wishing they would not have enrolled in PhD programs, and encouraging them to take jobs in fields for which they did not study (alt-ac), is a very ugly game.

This is compounded by the fact that people of color and women are far less likely to be on the tenure line. None of this seems to bother the rising tide of neoliberal academics, who almost without exception have never worked off the tenure track, and maintain pushing people toward careers they do not want to do, are not educated to do, and could do with out a PhD, is a way to solve the problem.

I don't know if neoliberal professors are increasing in numbers or if they just have greater access to publish. I imagine it's the latter. The take on the situation from those off the tenure track is quite the opposite, obviously. This is what we need to reiterate: "Adjuncts are being exploited by institutions across the country. THAT is what we need to focus on"

Michael Dixon -> TheJonesest , October 17, 2017 6:12 PM

There is no reason the job has to be set up the way it is. Most colleges & universities use far more adjuncts than fluctuation in enrollment and funding would account for.

The "too many Ph.D's" argument falls apart when you think about how easy it is to get an adjunct job. Two of the four districts I've worked in didn't even do a formal interview. I just met with the department chair to discuss when I was available. I work more than the equivalent of full time at two different districts every semester, so theoretically, one full time job could exist for me.

My wife is a K-12 public school teacher, and her first year teaching, she made as much as I did after ten years as an adjunct with a master's (except she didn't have to work summers and did get health insurance for our whole family).

We could probably fix it in a cost neutral way if administrative positions and salaries weren't growing faster than the number of full time teaching positions.

As an academic you should know that the way things are wasn't handed down by god, and isn't an immutable law of nature. Someone made it this way and it can be unmade too.

Frankly, I feel sorry for you as I do for the administrators and full time faculty who look down on their adjunct colleagues. You have been a subject in a real life Milgram or Stanford Prison experiment and took the bait

RedinHigherEd , October 16, 2017 9:39 AM

Fair warning, what I'm about to say is completely anecdotal. I'm a career advisor and every once and a while an adjunct faculty person will come visit career services for assistance. They are generally completely absent of career management skills. They tend to be people who were very good at college, so they went to grad school sort of assuming they'd be able to get a job that way.

They continued to do no meaningful career planning while in grad school, and after completing were able to use their familiarity with college systems to piece together some adjunct work. When asked simple questions such as "what types of careers outside of academia have you explored?" they are unable to answer.

They lack the ability to identify and describe their transferable skills, have only shallow understanding of what career paths are available, and struggle to engage in even simple job search tasks. These are extremely intelligent people with a huge gap in their career competencies.

I think a major reason we don't see more adjuncts quit and move to other industries or even other roles on campus is because they simply do not know how.

rob -> RedinHigherEd , October 16, 2017 12:43 PM

On the flip side of this though is the fact that those with a lot of applied (in terms of non academic aspects) work in their field often do not fair as well in FT searches. Those from working class backgrounds or who worked throughout grad school are often seen as less desirable in searches even though they are the ones who are most likely to know how to advise students on realistic career paths. I finished my PhD with 10 years of industry experience in the non profit, consulting, and governmental sectors but even at undergraduate serving institutions this often had less cache then the handful of publications I had produced.

RedinHigherEd -> rob , October 17, 2017 11:48 AM

Yeah it's a catch 22 for grad students. If they take the time to get industry experience, that will help them volumes in alt ac careers, but ding them in academic ones.

Yiddishist -> RedinHigherEd , October 16, 2017 7:14 PM

All that your comment shows is that adjuncts are easy targets, even for career advisors. The fact that you recognize your comment as anecdotal does not exempt you from giving information about how many cases your negative generalizations were made from, at what type of higher education institution you encountered them, and so on. I have not noted any defects of the type you claim in career skills, and I have known scores of adjuncts, but I would be far more cautious than you are about generalizing either way. I would go so far as to say that the ones I have known compare favorably to law students and the many job applicants I worked with as a job-placement specialist at an employment agency in Manhattan some years ago. I worked as an adjunct myself for some time, and found few jobs that so hone one's survival skills, in the employment market and elsewhere.

[Oct 18, 2017] Spy Schools How the CIA, FBI and Foreign Intelligence Secretly Exploit America's Universities by Nick Roll

Notable quotes:
"... Spy Schools: How the CIA, FBI and Foreign Intelligence Secretly Exploit America's Universities ..."
"... The Boston Globe ..."
"... Inside Higher Ed ..."
"... The Wall Street Journal ..."
"... The Price of Admission ..."
"... Inside Higher Ed ..."
"... Inside Higher Ed ..."
"... look back to Stalin, Hitler, Franco, Mao, Mussolini et.al with THIER use of domestic agencies to impose lock-step thinking and to ferret out free-thinkers. ..."
"... It is amazing how many biochemists and microbiologists from the People's Republic of China would e-mail me asking if I had a position in my "lab," touting their bench skills, every time I published a paper on the federal bioterrorism program, medical civic action programs, etc. ..."
"... When I started teaching 48 years ago, the president of my college was James Dovonan, Bill Donovan's (founder of the OSS) brother, portrayed by Tom Hanks in the movie, "Bridge of Spies." ..."
"... Beyond NIH funded grant-based research, Homeland Security, Energy, Defense, and the Intelligence Community agencies have long histories of relationships with American academia. This could be funded research, collaborative research, shared personnel relationships, or all other manner of cooperation. Sometimes it's fairly well known and sometimes it's kept quiet, and sometimes it's even classified. But it is much more extensive and expansive than what Golden describes, and much less "cozy" or suspicious. ..."
"... For years I have said that it is foolish to look to universities for moral guidance, and this story is one more instance. In this case, the moral ground is swampy at best, and the universities do not appear to have spent a lot of time worrying about possible problems as long as the situation works to their advantage financially. ..."
"... Does Golden discuss at all the way in which the CIA and other intelligence services funnel money into academic research without the source of the funding ever being revealed? This was common practice in the 1960s and 1970s, and colleges like MIT were among those involved in this chicanery. ..."
"... Where has IHE been for the past several decades? Read Rosenfeld's book, Subversives..... about the FBI's illegal acts at Berkeley. Or read this, a summary of his book: https://alumni.berkeley.edu... Or read George R. Stewart, The Year of the Oath. ..."
www.chronicle.com
October 3, 2017

The CIA Within Academe 21 Comments

Book documents how foreign and domestic intelligence agencies use -- and perhaps exploit -- higher education and academe for spy operations.
Foreign and domestic intelligence services spar and spy on one another all across the world. But it would be naïve to think it's not happening in the lab or classroom as well.

In his new book, Spy Schools: How the CIA, FBI and Foreign Intelligence Secretly Exploit America's Universities ( Henry Holt and Company ), investigative journalist Daniel Golden explores the fraught -- and sometimes exploitative -- relationship between higher education and intelligence services, both foreign and domestic. Chapters explore various case studies of the Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation using the open and collaborative nature of higher education to their advantage, as well as foreign governments infiltrating the U.S. via education.

"It's pretty widespread, and I'd say it's most prevalent at research universities," Golden, an editor at ProPublica and an alumnus of The Boston Globe 's "Spotlight" team, told Inside Higher Ed . "The foreign intelligence services have the interest and the opportunity to learn cutting-edge, Pentagon-funded or government-funded research."

Golden, who has also covered higher education for The Wall Street Journal , previously wrote about the intersection of wealth and admissions in his 2006 book The Price of Admission .

Each of the case studies in Spy Schools , which goes on sale Oct. 10, is critical. One could read the chapters on the Chinese government's interest in U.S. research universities as hawkish, but then turn to the next chapter on Harvard's relationship with the CIA and read it as critical of the American intelligence establishment as well.

"People of one political persuasion might focus on [the chapters regarding] foreign espionage; people of another political persuasion might focus on domestic espionage," Golden said. "I try to follow where the facts lead."

Perhaps the most prestigious institution Golden examines is Harvard University, probing its cozy relationship with the CIA. (While Harvard has recently come under scrutiny for its relationship with the agency after it withdrew an invitation for Chelsea Manning to be a visiting fellow -- after the agency objected to her appointment -- this book was written before the Manning incident, which occurred in September.) The university, which has had varying degrees of closeness and coldness with the CIA over the years, currently allows the agency to send officers to the midcareer program at the Kennedy School of Government while continuing to act undercover, with the school's knowledge. When the officers apply -- often with fudged credentials that are part of their CIA cover -- the university doesn't know they're CIA agents, but once they're in, Golden writes, Harvard allows them to tell the university that they're undercover. Their fellow students, however -- often high-profile or soon-to-be-high-profile actors in the world of international diplomacy -- are kept in the dark.

"Kenneth Moskow is one of a long line of CIA officers who have enrolled undercover at the Kennedy School, generally with Harvard's knowledge and approval, gaining access to up-and-comers worldwide," Golden writes. "For four decades the CIA and Harvard have concealed this practice, which raises larger questions about academic boundaries, the integrity of class discussions and student interactions, and whether an American university has a responsibility to accommodate U.S. intelligence."

But the CIA isn't the only intelligence group operating at Harvard. Golden notes Russian spies have enrolled at the Kennedy School, although without Harvard's knowledge or cooperation.

When contacted by Inside Higher Ed , Harvard officials didn't deny Golden's telling, but defended the university's practices while emphasizing the agreement between the university and the CIA -- which Golden also writes about -- on not using Harvard to conduct CIA fieldwork.

"Harvard Kennedy School does not knowingly provide false information or 'cover' for any member of our community from an intelligence agency, nor do we allow members of our community to carry out intelligence operations at Harvard Kennedy School," Eric Rosenbach, co-director of the Kennedy School's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, said in a statement.

While Golden said the CIA's involvement on campus raises existential questions about the purpose and integrity of higher education, Harvard maintained that the Kennedy School was living up to its mission.

"Our community consists of people from different spheres of public service. We are proud to train people from the U.S. government and the intelligence community, as well as peace activists and those who favor more open government," Rosenbach said in his statement. "We train students from a wide range of foreign countries and foreign governments, including -- among others -- Israel, U.K., Russia and China. That is consistent with our mission and we are proud to have that reach."

On the other hand, other countries are interested in exploiting U.S. higher education. Golden documents the case of Ruopeng Liu, a graduate student at Duke University who siphoned off U.S.-government-funded research to Chinese researchers. Liu eventually returned to China and has used some of the research for his Chinese-government-funded start-up ventures.

Golden is comprehensive, interviewing Duke researchers who worked with Liu, as well as dispatching a freelance journalist in China to interview Liu (he denied wrongdoing, saying his actions were taken as part of higher education's collaborative norms regarding research projects). Despite questions that arose while Liu was a student, he received his doctorate in 2009 without any formal questions or pushback from the university. A week before Liu defended his dissertation, Golden notes that Duke officials voted to move forward in negotiations with the Chinese government regarding opening a Duke campus in China -- raising questions about whether Duke was cautious about punishing a Chinese student lest there were negative business implications for Duke. ( The building of the campus proved to be a controversial move in its own right. )

The Duke professor Liu worked under told Golden it would be hard to prove Liu acted with intentional malice rather than out of genuine cultural and translational obstacles, or ethical slips made by a novice researcher. Duke officials told Inside Higher Ed that there weren't any connections between Liu and the vote.

"The awarding of Ruopeng Liu's degree had absolutely no connection to the deliberations over the proposal for Duke to participate in the founding of a new university in Kunshan, China," a spokesman said in an email.

These are just two chapters of Golden's book, which also goes on to document the foreign exchange relationship between Marietta College, in Ohio, and the controversial Chinese-intelligence-aligned University of International Relations. Agreements between Marietta and UIR, which is widely regarded a recruiting ground for Chinese intelligence services, include exchanging professors and sending Chinese students to Marietta. Conversely, Golden writes, as American professors teach UIR students who could end up spying on the U.S., American students at Marietta are advised against studying abroad at UIR if they have an interest in working for the government -- studying at UIR carries a risk for students hoping to get certain security clearances. Another highlight is the chapter documenting the CIA's efforts to stage phony international academic conferences, put on to lure Iranian nuclear scientists as attendees and get them out of their country -- and in a position to defect to the U.S. According to Golden's sources, the operations, combined with other efforts, have been successful enough "to hinder Iran's nuclear weapons program."

But Golden's book doesn't just shed light on previously untold stories. It also highlights the existential questions facing higher education, not only when dealing with infiltration from foreign governments, but also those brought on by cozy relationships between the U.S. intelligence and academe.

"One issue is American national security," Golden said. "Universities do a lot of research that's important to our government and our military, and they don't take very strong precautions against it being stolen," he said. "So the domestic espionage side -- I'm kind of a traditionalist and I believe in the ideal of universities as places where the brightest minds of all countries come together to learn, teach each other, study and do research. Espionage from both sides taints that that's kind of disturbing."

After diving deep into the complex web that ties higher education and espionage together, however, Golden remains optimistic about the future.

"It wouldn't be that hard to tighten up the intellectual property rules and have written collaboration agreements and have more courses about intellectual safeguards," he said. "In the 1970s, Harvard adopted guidelines against U.S. intelligence trying to recruit foreign students in an undercover way they didn't become standard practice [across academe, but], I still think those guidelines are pertinent and colleges would do well to take a second look at them."

"In the idealistic dreamer mode, it would be wonderful if the U.N. or some other organization would take a look at this issue, and say, 'Can we declare universities off-limits to espionage?'"

Nicholas Dujmovic , October 3, 2017 8:18 AM

Equating the presence and activities of US intelligence on campuses with that of foreign intelligence is pretty obtuse moral relativism. US academia and US intelligence alike benefit from cooperation, and the American people are the winners overall. By the way, is it really necessary to twice describe this relationship as "cozy"? What does that mean, other to suggest there's something illicit about it?

Grace Alcock -> Nicholas Dujmovic , October 4, 2017 1:30 AM

It'd be nice if American intelligence was paying a bit more attention to what goes on in academic research--as far as I can tell, the country keeps making policies that don't seem particularly well-informed by the research in relevant areas. Can we get them to infiltrate more labs of scientists working on climate change or something?

Maybe stick around, engage in some participant observation and figure that research out? It's not clear they have any acquaintance with the literature on the causes of war. Really, pick a place to start, and pay attention.

alsotps -> Nicholas Dujmovic , October 3, 2017 5:20 PM

If you cannot see how a gov't intelligence agency, prohibited from working in the USA by statute and who is eye-deep in AMERICAN education is wrong, then I am worried. Read history. Look back to the 1970's to start and to the 1950's with FBI and the military agents in classrooms; then read about HUAC.

Now, look back to Stalin, Hitler, Franco, Mao, Mussolini et.al with THIER use of domestic agencies to impose lock-step thinking and to ferret out free-thinkers.

Get it? it is 'illicit!"

Nicholas Dujmovic -> alsotps , October 4, 2017 12:38 PM

Actually, I read quite a bit of history. I also know that US intelligence agencies are not "prohibited from working in the USA." If they have relationships in academia that remind you of Stalin, Hitler, etc., how have US agencies "imposed lock-step thinking and ferreted out free-thinkers?" Hasn't seemed to work, has it? Your concern is overwrought.

Former Community College Prof -> Nicholas Dujmovic , October 3, 2017 12:12 PM

"Cozy" might refer to the mutual gains afforded by allowing the federal government to break many rules (and laws) while conducting their "intelligence operations" in academe. I do not know if I felt Homeland Security should have had permission to bring to this country, under false premises supported by ICE and accrediting agencies, thousands of foreign nationals and employed them at companies like Facebook, Apple, Morgan Stanley and the U.S. Army. While Homeland Security collected 16K tuition from each of them (and the companies that hired these F-1s didn't have to pay FICA) all our nation got was arrests of 20 mid level visa brokers.

https://www.nytimes.com/201...

Personally, I think cozy was quite complimentary as I would have chosen other words. Just imagine if there are additional "undercover students" with false credentials in numbers significant enough to throw off data or stopping universities and colleges from enforcing rules and regulations. If you set up and accredit a "fake university" and keep the proceeds, it strikes me as illicit.

alsotps -> Former Community College Prof , October 3, 2017 5:21 PM

Hey...don't imagine it. Read about Cointelpro and military 'intelligence' agents in classes in the early 1970's....

Trevor Ronson -> Nicholas Dujmovic , October 3, 2017 2:36 PM

And behaving as if the "the presence and activities of US intelligence on campuses" is something to accept without question is also "obtuse moral relativism". We are talking about an arrangement wherein a / the most prestigious institutions of higher learning has an established relationship with the CIA along with some accepted protocol to ongoing participation.

Whether it is right, wrong, or in between is another matter but please don't pretend that it's just business as usual and not worthy of deeper investigation.

alsotps -> Trevor Ronson , October 3, 2017 5:16 PM

Unfortunately for many people, it IS business as usual.

George Avery , October 3, 2017 9:46 AM

It is amazing how many biochemists and microbiologists from the People's Republic of China would e-mail me asking if I had a position in my "lab," touting their bench skills, every time I published a paper on the federal bioterrorism program, medical civic action programs, etc.

Never mind that I primarily do health policy and economics work, and have not been near a lab bench since I returned to school for my doctorate.....anything with a defense or security application drew a flurry of interest in getting involved.

As a result, I tended to be very discerning in who I took on as an advisee, if only to protect my security clearance.

alsotps -> George Avery , October 3, 2017 5:22 PM

PAr for the course for both UG and grad students from China who have not paid a head hunter. ANY school or program offering money to international students was flooded by such inquiries. Get over yourself.

John Lobell , October 3, 2017 6:25 AM

When I started teaching 48 years ago, the president of my college was James Dovonan, Bill Donovan's (founder of the OSS) brother, portrayed by Tom Hanks in the movie, "Bridge of Spies."

We had a program in "Tropical Architecture" which enrolled students form "third world" countries. Rumor was -- --

jloewen , October 3, 2017 10:38 AM

When I got my Ph.D. from Harvard in 1968, the Shah of Iran got an honorary doctorate at the same commencement. The next year, by pure coincidence!, he endowed three chairs of Near Eastern Studies at H.U.

alsotps -> jloewen , October 3, 2017 5:24 PM

Absolutely a coincidence! You don't think honoraria have anything whatsoever to do with the Development Office do you? (Snark)

Kevin Van Elswyk , October 3, 2017 9:31 AM

And we are surpised?

Robert4787 , October 4, 2017 6:28 PM

So glad to see they're on campus. Many young people now occupy the CIA; the old "cowboys" of the Cold War past are gone. U may find this interesting>> http://osintdaily.blogspot....

TinkerTailor1620 , October 3, 2017 5:29 PM

Hundreds of government civil servants attend courses at the Kennedy School every year. That a few of them come from the CIA should be no surprise. It and all the other intelligence agencies are nothing more than departments within the federal government, just like Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, the FDA, Energy, and so on. Nothing sneaky or suspicious about any of it. Why anyone with cover credentials would tell the Kennedy School admin that is beyond me. When I was in cover status, I was in cover status everywhere; to not be was to blow your cover, period, and was extremely dangerous.

Beyond NIH funded grant-based research, Homeland Security, Energy, Defense, and the Intelligence Community agencies have long histories of relationships with American academia. This could be funded research, collaborative research, shared personnel relationships, or all other manner of cooperation. Sometimes it's fairly well known and sometimes it's kept quiet, and sometimes it's even classified. But it is much more extensive and expansive than what Golden describes, and much less "cozy" or suspicious.

Phred , October 3, 2017 1:49 PM

For years I have said that it is foolish to look to universities for moral guidance, and this story is one more instance. In this case, the moral ground is swampy at best, and the universities do not appear to have spent a lot of time worrying about possible problems as long as the situation works to their advantage financially.

alsotps -> Phred , October 3, 2017 5:25 PM

The key, here, is financially. The bean counters and those whose research is funded don't look hard at the source of the funding. Just so it keeps coming.

Jason , October 4, 2017 6:34 PM

Academic treason.

Sanford Gray Thatcher , October 4, 2017 6:13 PM

Does Golden discuss at all the way in which the CIA and other intelligence services funnel money into academic research without the source of the funding ever being revealed? This was common practice in the 1960s and 1970s, and colleges like MIT were among those involved in this chicanery.

Remember also how intelligence agency money was behind the journal Encounter? Lots of propaganda got distributed under the guise of objective social science research.

donald scott , October 3, 2017 6:05 PM

Where has IHE been for the past several decades? Read Rosenfeld's book, Subversives..... about the FBI's illegal acts at Berkeley. Or read this, a summary of his book: https://alumni.berkeley.edu... Or read George R. Stewart, The Year of the Oath.

In the research for my biography of Stewart I found significant information about CIA presence on the UC Berkeley campus, in the mid-twentieth century, which reached in to the highest levels of the administration and led to a network of "professors" recruited by that unAmerican spy agency.

The oaths, the current gender wars and the conviction by accusation of harassment are all later attempts to politicize education and turn fiat lux into fiat nox. IHE should be writing more about that and about the current conviction by sexual accusation, and the effect of such on free thought and free inquiry.

[Oct 17, 2017] The CIA's Favorite College President by Daniel Golden

Oct 10, 2017 | www.chronicle.com
Spies on Campus

How the CIA secretly exploits higher education

Premium content for subscribers. Subscribe Today

Graham Spanier rolled out the red carpet for the intelligence services to conduct covert operations involving colleges.

[Oct 17, 2017] Use Spare Older Workers to Overcome 'Labour Shortages' naked capitalism

Notable quotes:
"... By Leith van Onselen. Originally published at MacroBusiness ..."
"... "remains low by historical standards" ..."
"... There's a myth that innovation comes from the 20 something in their basement, but that's just not the case. ..."
Oct 17, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Yves here. On the one hand, as someone who is getting to be pretty long in tooth, I'm not sure about calling un and under-employed older workers "spare". But when the alternative is being thrown on the trash heap, maybe that isn't so unflattering.

Even though this analysis is from Australia, most of if not all of its finding would almost certainly prove out in the US. However, there is a whole 'nother set of issues here. Australia is 85% urban, with most of the population living in or near four large cities. So its labor mobility issues are less pronounced than here. Moreover, a lot of the whinging in the US about worker shortages, as even readers of the Wall Street Journal regularly point out in its comment section is:

1. Not being willing to pay enough to skilled workers, which includes not being willing to pay them to relocate

2. Not being willing to train less skilled workers, as companies once did as a matter of course

By Leith van Onselen. Originally published at MacroBusiness

A few weeks back, the Benevolent Society released a report which found that age-related discrimination is particularly rife in the workplace, with over a quarter (29%) of survey respondents stating they had been turned down for a job because of their old age, whereas 14% claimed they had been denied a promotion because of their old age.

Today, the Regional Australia Institute (RAI) has warned that Australia is facing a pension crisis unless employers stop their "discrimination" against older workers. From The ABC :

[RAI] has warned the Federal Government's pension bill would rise from $45 billion to $51 billion within three years, unless efforts were made to help more mature workers gain employment, particularly in regional communities.

Chief executive Jack Archer said continued unemployment of people older than 55 would cut economic growth and put a greater strain on public resources.

"We hear that there is a lot of people who would like to work, who would love to stay in the workforce either part-time or full-time even though they're in their late 50s, 60s and even into their 70s," he said.

"But we're not doing a very good job of giving them the training, giving them the incentives around the pension, and working with employers to stop the discrimination around employing older workers"

"It basically means you've got a lot of talent on the bench, a lot of people who could be involved and contributing who are sitting around homes and wishing they were doing something else," he said

Mr Archer said as the population aged the workforce shrank, and that risked future economic growth.

But he said that could be reversed provided employers embraced an older workforce

"[When] those people are earning [an income], their pension bills will either disappear or be much lower and the government will get a benefit from that."

For years the growth lobby and the government has told us that Australia needs to run high levels of immigration in order to alleviate so-called 'skills shortages' and to mitigate an ageing population. This has come despite the Department of Employment showing that Australia's skills shortage "remains low by historical standards" and Australia's labour underutilisation rate tracking at high levels:

Economic models are often cited as proof that a strong immigration program is 'good' for the economy because they show that real GDP per capita is moderately increased via immigration, based on several dubious assumptions.

The most dubious of these assumptions is that population ageing will necessarily result in fewer people working, which will subtract from per capita GDP (due to the ratio of workers to dependents falling).

Leaving aside the fact that the assumed benefit to GDP per capita from immigration is only transitory, since migrants also age (thereby requiring an ever-bigger immigration intake to keep the population age profile from rising), it is just as likely that age-specific workforce participation will respond to labour demand, resulting in fewer people being unemployed. This is exactly what has transpired in Japan where an ageing population has driven the unemployment rate down to only 2.8% – the lowest level since the early-1990s:

The ABS last month revealed that more Australians are working past traditional retirement age, thereby mitigating concerns that population ageing will necessarily reduce the employment-to-population ratio:

Clearly, however, there is much further scope to boost workforce participation among older workers.

Rather than relying on mass immigration to fill phantom 'labour shortages' – in turn displacing both young and older workers alike – the more sensible policy option is to moderate immigration and instead better utilise the existing workforce as well as use automation to overcome any loss of workers as the population ages – as has been utilised in Japan.

It's worth once again highlighting that economists at MIT recently found that there is absolutely no relationship between population ageing and economic decline. To the contrary, population ageing seems to have been associated with improvements in GDP per capita, thanks to increased automation:

If anything, countries experiencing more rapid aging have grown more in recent decades we show that since the early 1990s or 2000s, the periods commonly viewed as the beginning of the adverse effects of aging in much of the advanced world, there is no negative association between aging and lower GDP per capita on the contrary, the relationship is significantly positive in many specifications.

The last thing that Australia should be doing is running a mass immigration program which, as noted many times by the Productivity Commission cannot provide a long-term solution to ageing, and places increasing strains on infrastructure, housing and the natural environment.

The sustainable 'solution' to population ageing is to better utilise the existing workforce, where significant spare capacity exists.

Enquiring Mind , October 17, 2017 at 10:26 am

At what point might an impatient constituency demand greater accountability by its elected representatives? In the business world, the post-2000 accounting scandals like Enron resulted in legislation to make company execs sign off on financial statements under threat of harsh personal penalties for misrepresentation. If legislators were forced by constituents to enact similar legislation about their own actions, the transparency could be very enlightening and a type of risk reduction due to acknowledgement of material factors. Imagine seeing in print the real reasons for votes, the funding sources behind those votes and prospect of jail time for misrepresentation about what is just their damn job. Call it Truth-In-Legislating, similar to the prior Truth-In-Lending act.

Vatch , October 17, 2017 at 11:29 am

It's a nice idea, but I don't think that very many executives have been penalized under the Sarbanes Oxley Act. Jamie Dimon certainly wasn't penalized for the actions of the London Whale. I guess we'll see what happens in the near future to the executives of Wells Fargo. I suspect that a Truth-In-Legislating law would be filled with loopholes or would be hampered by enforcement failures, like current Congressional ethics rules and the Sarbanes Oxley Act.

sgt_doom , October 17, 2017 at 2:11 pm

At what point might an impatient constituency demand greater accountability by its elected representatives?

At that point when they start shooting them (as they did in Russian in the very early 1900s, or lop their heads off, as they once did in France).

Personally, I'll never work for any Ameritard corporation ever again, as real innovation is not allowed, and the vast majority are all about financialization in some form or other!

My work life the past thirty years became worse and worse and worse, in direct relation to the majority of others, and my last jobs were beyond commenting up.

My very last position, which was in no manner related to my experience, education, skill set and talents -- like too many other American workers -- ended with a most tortuous layoff: the private equity firm which was owner in a failed "pump and dump" brought a "toxic work environment specialist" whose job was to advise the sleazoid senior executives (and by that time I was probably one of only four actual employee workers there, they had hired a whole bunch of executives, though) on how to create a negative work environment to convince us to leave instead of merely laying us off (worked for two, but not the last lady there I myself).

The American workplace sucks big time as evidenced by their refusal to raise wages while forever complaining about their inability to find skilled employees -- they are all criminals today!

RUKidding , October 17, 2017 at 10:55 am

Interesting article and thanks.

I lived and worked in Australia in the late '70s and early '80s. Times were different. Back then, the government jobs came with mandatory retirement. I believe (but could be wrong) that it was at 63, but you could request staying until 65 (required approval). After that, one could continue working in the private sector, if you could find a job.

The population was much less than it is now. I believe the idea was to make room for the younger generation coming up. Back then, government workers, as well as many private sector workers, had defined benefit pension plans. So retiring younger typically worked out ok.

I had one friend who continued working until about 70 because she wanted to; liked her job; and wasn't interested in retiring. However, I knew far more people who were eager to stop at 63. But back then, it appeared to me that they had the financial means to do so without much worry.

Things have changed since then. More of my friends are putting off retirement bc they need the money now. Plus defined benefit pension plans have mostly been dispensed with and replaced by, I believe (I'm not totally clear on this), the Aussie version of a 401 (k) (someone can correct me if I'm wrong).

What the article proposes makes sense. Of course here in the USA, older workers/job seekers face a host of discriminatory practices, especially for the better paying jobs. Nowadays, though, US citizens in their golden years can sell their house, buy an RV, and become itinerant workers – sometimes at back breaking labor, such as harvesting crops or working at an Amazon gulag – for $10 an hour. Yippee kay-o kay-aaay!

So let us also talk about cutting Medicare for all of those lazy slacker Seniors out there. Woo hoo!

jrs , October 17, 2017 at 1:34 pm

There is really two issues:
1) for those whom age discrimination in employment is hitting in their 50s or even younger, before anyone much is retiring, it needs to be combatted
2) eventually (sometimes in their 60's and really should be at least by 65) people ought to be allowed to retire and with enough money to not be in poverty. This work full time until you drop garbage is just that (it's not as if 70 year olds can even say work 20 hours instead, no it's the same 50+ hours or whatever as everyone else is doing). And most people won't live that much longer, really they won't, U.S. average lifespans aren't that long and falling fast. So it really is work until you die that is being pushed if people aren't allowed to retire sometime in their 60s. Some people have good genes and good luck and so on (they may also have a healthy lifestyle but sheer luck plays a large role), and will live far beyond that, but averages

RUKIdding , October 17, 2017 at 4:44 pm

Agree with you about the 2 issues.

Working past 65 is one of those things where it just depends. I know people who are happily (and don't "really" need the money) working past 65 bc they love their jobs and they're not taking a toll on their health. They enjoy the socialization at work; are intellectually stimulated; and are quite happy. That's one issue.

But when people HAVE TO work past 65 – and I know quite a few in this category – when it starts taking a toll on their health, that is truly bad. And I can reel off several cases that I know of personally. It's just wrong.

Whether you live much longer or not is sort of up to fate, no matter what. But yes, if work is taking a toll on your heath, then you most likely won't live as long.

cocomaan , October 17, 2017 at 11:06 am

In January, economists from MIT published a paper, entitled Secular Stagnation? The Effect of Aging on Economic Growth in the Age of Automation, which showed that there is absolutely no relationship between population aging and economic decline. To the contrary, population aging seems to have been associated with improvements in GDP per capita, thanks to increased automation:

From the cited article.

I don't know why it never occurred to me before, but there's no reason to ditch your most knowledgeable, most skilled workers toward the eve of their careers except if you don't want to pay labor costs. Which we know that most firms do not, in their mission for profit for shareholders or the flashy new building or trying to Innuhvate .

There's a myth that innovation comes from the 20 something in their basement, but that's just not the case. Someone who has, for instance, overseen 100 construction projects building bridges needs to be retained, not let go. Maybe they can't lift the sledge anymore, but I'd keep them on as long as possible.

Good food for thought! I enjoyed this piece.

HotFlash , October 17, 2017 at 4:19 pm

There's a myth that innovation comes from the 20 something in their basement, but that's just not the case.

Widely held by 20 somethings. Maybe it's just one of those Oedipus things.

fresno dan , October 17, 2017 at 11:08 am

1. Not being willing to pay enough to skilled workers, which includes not being willing to pay them to relocate

2. Not being willing to train less skilled workers, as companies once did as a matter of course

3. older workers have seen all the crap and evil management has done, and is usually in a much better position than young less established employees to take effective action against it

Disturbed Voter , October 17, 2017 at 1:26 pm

This. Don't expect rational actors, in management or labor. If everyone was paid the same, regardless of age or training or education or experience etc then the financial incentives for variant outcomes would decrease. Except for higher health costs for older workers. For them, we could simply ban employer provide health insurance then that takes that variable out of the equation too. So yes, the ideal is a rational Marxism or the uniformity of the hive-mind-feminism. While we would have "from each according to their ability, to each according to their need" we will have added it as an axiom that all have the same need. And a whip can encourage the hoi polloi to do their very best.

Jeremy Grimm , October 17, 2017 at 2:25 pm

Fully agee! To your list I would add a corollory to your item #3 -- older workers having seen all the crap and evil management has done are more likely to inspire other employees to feel and act with them. -- This corollory is obvious but I think it bears stating for emphasis of the point.

I believe your whole list might be viewed as symtoms resulting from the concept of workers as commodity -- fungible as cogs on a wheel. Young and old alike are dehumanized.

The boss of the branch office of the firm I last worked for before I retired constantly emphasized how each of us must remain "fungible" [he's who introduced me to this word] if we wanted to remain employed. The firm would win contracts using one set of workers in its bids and slowly replace them with new workers providing the firm a higher return per hour billed to the client. I feel very lucky I managed to remain employed -- to within a couple of years of the age when I could apply for Medicare. [Maybe it's because I was too cowed to make waves and avoided raises as best I could.]

[I started my comment considering the idea of "human capital" but ran into trouble with that concept. Shouldn't capital be assessed in terms of its replacement costs and its capacity for generating product or other gain? I had trouble working that calculus into the way firms treat their employees and decided "commodity" rather than "capital" better fit how workers were regarded and treated.]

BoycottAmazon , October 17, 2017 at 11:16 am

"skills vs. demand imbalance" not labor shortage. Capital wants to tip the scale the other way, but isn't willing to invest the money to train the people, per a comment I made last week. Plenty of unemployed or under-employed even in Japan, much less Oz.

Keeping the elderly, who already have the skills, in the work place longer is a way to put off making the investments. Getting government to tax the poor for their own training is another method. Exploiting poor nations education systems by importing skills yet another.

Some business hope to develop skills that only costs motive power (electric), minimal maintenance, and are far less capital intensive and quicker to the market than the current primary source's 18 years. Capitalism on an finite resource will eat itself, but even capitalism with finite resources will self-destruct in the end.

Jim Haygood , October 17, 2017 at 1:35 pm

Importantly, the chart labeled as Figure 2 uses GDP per capita on the y-axis.

Bearing in mind that GDP growth is composed of labor force growth times productivity, emerging economies that are growing faster than the rich world in both population and GDP look more anemic on a per capita basis, allowing us rich country denizens to feel better about our good selves. :-)

But in terms of absolute GDP growth, things ain't so bright here in the Homeland. Both population and productivity growth are slowing. Over the past two-thirds century, the trend in GDP groaf is relentlessly down, even as debt rises in an apparent attempt to maintain unsustainable living standards. Chart (viewer discretion advised):

https://gailtheactuary.files.wordpress.com/2016/02/us-annual-gdp-growth-rate-2015.png

Van Onselen doesn't address the rich world's busted pension systems. To the extent that they contain a Ponzi element premised on endless growth, immigration would modestly benefit them by adding new victims workers to support the greying masses of doddering Boomers.

Will you still need me
Will you still feed me
When I'm sixty-four?

-- The Beatles

Arthur Wilke , October 17, 2017 at 1:44 pm

There's been an increase in the employment of older people in the U.S. in the U.S. population. To provide a snapshot, below are three tables referring to the U.S. by age cohorts of 1) the total population, 2) Employment and 3) employment-population ratios (percent).based on Bureau of Labor Statistics weightings for population estimates and compiled in the Merge Outgoing Rotation Groups (MORG) dataset by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) from the monthly Current Population Survey (CPS).

The portion of the population 16 to 54 has declined while those over 54 has increased.
1. Percent Population in Age Cohorts: 1986 & 2016

1986 2016 AGE
18.9 15.2 16-24
53.7 49.6 25-54
12.2 16.3 55-64
9.4 11.2 65-74
5.8 7.7 75 & OVER
100.0 100.0 ALL

The portion of the population 16 to 54 employed has declined while the portion over 54 has increased..

2 Percent Employed in Age Cohorts: 1986 & 2016

1986 2016 AGE
18.5 12.5 16-24
68.4 64.7 25-54
10.4 16.9 55-64
2.3 4.8 65-74
0.4 1.0 75 & OVER
100.0 100.0 ALL

The employment-population ratios (percents) show significant declines for those under 25 while increases for those 55 and above.

3. Age-Specific Employment Population Ratios (Percents)

1986 2016 AGE
59.5 49.4 16-24
77.3 77.9 25-54
51.8 61.8 55-64
14.8 25.9 65-74
3.8 7.9 75 & OVER
60.7 59.7 ALL

None of the above data refute claims about age and experience inequities. Rather these provide a base from which to explore such concerns. Because MORG data are representative samples with population weightings, systematic contingency analyses are challenging.

In the 30 year interval of these data there have been changes in population and employment by education status, gender, race, citizenship status along with industry and occupation, all items of which are found in the publicly available MORG dataset.

AW

Yves Smith Post author , October 17, 2017 at 4:54 pm

I think you are missing the point. Life expectancy at birth has increased by nearly five years since 1986. That renders simple comparisons of labor force participation less meaningful. The implication is that many people are not just living longer but are in better shape in their later middle age. Look at the dramatic drop in labor force participation from the 25-54 age cohort v. 55 to 64. How can so few people in that age group be working given that even retiring at 65 is something most people cannot afford? And the increase over time in the current 55=64 age cohort is significantly due to the entry of women into the workplace. Mine was the first generation where that became widespread.

The increase in the over 65 cohort reflects desperation. Anyone who can work stays working.

Arthur Wilke , October 17, 2017 at 6:27 pm

Even if life-expectancy is increasing due to improved health, the percentage of those in older cohorts who are working is increasing at an even faster rate. If a ratio is 6/8 for a category and goes up to 10/12 the category has increased (8 to 12 or 50%) and the subcategory has increased (6 to 10 i or 67% and the ratios go from 6/8 or 75/100 to 10/12 or 83.3/100)

I assume you are referencing the employment-population (E/P) ratio when noting "the dramatic drop in labor force participation from the 25-54 age cohort v. 55 to 64." However the change in the E/P ratio for 25-54 year olds was virtually unchanged (77.3/100 in 1986 to 77.9/100 in 2016) and for the 55-64 year olds the E/P ratio INCREASED significantly, from 51.8/100 in 1986 to 61.8/100 in 2016.

You query: "How can so few people in that age group be working given that even retiring at 65 is something most people cannot afford?" That's a set of concerns the data I've compiled cannot and thus cannot address. It would take more time to see if an empirical answer could be constructed, something that doesn't lend itself to making a timely, empirically based comment. The data I compiled was done after reading the original post.

You note: ". . . ;;[T] the increase over time in the current 55-64 age cohort is significantly due to the entry of women into the workplace." Again, I didn't compute the age-gender specific E/P ratios. I can do that if there's interest. The OVERALL female E/P ratio (from FRED) did not significantly increase from December 1986 ( 51.7/100) to December 2016 (53.8/100).

Your write: "The increase in the over 65 cohort reflects desperation. Anyone who can work stays working." Again, the data I was using provided me no basis for this interpretation. I suspect that the MORG data can provide some support for that interpretation. However, based on your comments about longer life expectancy, it's likely that a higher proportion of those in professional-middle class or in the upper-middle class category Richard Reeves writes about (Dream Hoarders) were able and willing to continue working. For a time in higher education some institutions offered incentives for older faculty to continue working thereby they could continue to receive a salary and upon becoming eligible for Social Security draw on that benefit. No doubt many, many vulnerable older people, including workers laid off in the wake of the Great Recession and otherwise burdened lengthened their or sought employment.

Again the MORG data can get somewhat closer to your concerns and interests, but whether this is the forum is a challenge given the reporting-comment cycle which guides this excellent site.

paul , October 17, 2017 at 1:54 pm

Institutional memory (perhaps, wisdom) is a positive threat to institutional change (for the pillage).

In my experience,those in possession of it are encouraged/discouraged/finally made to go.

The break up of British Rail is a salient,suppurating example.

The break up of National Health Service is another.

It would be easy to go on, I just see it as the long year zero the more clinical sociopaths desire.

Livius Drusus , October 17, 2017 at 3:20 pm

I don't understand how the media promotes the "society is aging, we need more immigrants to avoid a labor shortage" argument and the "there will be no jobs in the near future due to automation, there will be a jobs shortage" argument at the same time. Dean Baker has discussed this issue:

http://cepr.net/publications/op-eds-columns/badly-confused-economics-the-debate-on-automation

In any event, helping to keep older workers in the workforce can be a good thing. Some people become physically inactive after retirement and their social networks decline which can cause depression and loneliness. Work might benefit some people who would otherwise sink into inactivity and loneliness.

Of course, results might vary based on individual differences and those who engaged in hard physical labor will likely have to retire earlier due to wear and tear on their bodies.

flora , October 17, 2017 at 7:42 pm

Increase in life expectancy is greatly influenced by a decrease in childhood mortality. People are living longer because they aren't dying in large numbers in childhood anymore in the US. So many arguments that start out "we're living longer, so something" confuse a reduction in childhood mortality with how long one can expect to live to in old age, based on the actuarial charts. Pols who want to cut SS or increase the retirement age find this confusion very useful.

" Life expectancy at birth is very sensitive to reductions in the death rates of children, because each child that survives adds many years to the amount of life in the population. Thus, the dramatic declines in infant and child mortality in the twentieth century were accompanied by equally stunning increases in life expectancy. "

http://www.pbs.org/fmc/timeline/dmortality.htm

TarheelDem , October 17, 2017 at 5:24 pm

I've noticed ever since the 1990s that "labor shortage" is a signal for cost-cutting measures that trigger a recession. Which then becomes the excuse for shedding workers and really getting the recession on.

It is not just older workers who are spare. There are other forms of discrimination that could fall by the wayside if solving the "labor shortage" was the sincere objective.

JBird , October 17, 2017 at 5:57 pm

Often productively, sales, and profits decrease with those cost cuttings, which justified further cuts which decreases productivity, sales, and profits which justifies

It's a pattern I first noticed in the 1990s and looking back in the 80s too. It's like some malevolent MBAs went out and convinced the whole of American middle and senior business management that this was the Way to do it. It's like something out of the most hidebound, nonsensical ideas of Maoism and Stalinism as something that could not fail but only be failed. It is right out of the Chicago Boys' economics playbook. Thirty-five years later and the Way still hasn't succeeded, but they're still trying not to fail it.

SpringTexan , October 17, 2017 at 6:59 pm

Love your reflections. Yeah, it's like a religion that they can't pay more, can't train, must cut people till they are working to their max at ordinary times (so have no slack for crises), etc. etc., and that it doesn't work doesn't change the faith in it AT ALL.

JBird , October 17, 2017 at 5:42 pm

This is ranting, but most jobs can be done at most ages. If want someone to be a SEAL or do 12 hours at farm labor no of course not, but just about everything else so what's the problem?

All this "we have a skilled labor shortage" or "we have a labor surplus" or "the workers are all lazy/stupid" narratives" and "it's the unions' fault" and "the market solves everything" and the implicit "we are a true meritocracy and the losers are waste who deserve their pain" and my favorite of the "Job creators do make jobs" being said, and/or believed all at the same time is insanity made mainstream.

Sometimes I think whoever is running things are told they have to drink the Draught of UnWisdom before becoming the elites.

Dan , October 17, 2017 at 7:12 pm

So I'm a middle aged fella – early thirties – and have to admit that in my industry I find that most older workers are a disaster. I'm in tech and frankly find that most older workers are a detriment simply from being out of date. While I sympathize, in some cases experience can be a minus rather than a plus. The willingness to try new things and stay current with modern technologies/techniques just isn't there for the majority of tech workers that are over the hill.

flora , October 17, 2017 at 7:46 pm

Well, if you're lucky, your company won't replace you with a cheaper HiB visa holder or outsource your job to the sub-continent before you're 40.

[Oct 17, 2017] Agents of Neoliberal Globalization Corporate Networks, State Structures, and Trade Policy by Michael C. Dreiling, Derek Y. Darve

Notable quotes:
"... Amid the global financial crisis of 2008, a new chapter in the history of neoliberal globalization emerged. Simple assumptions about markets as pure and neutral arbiters of economic transactions faced new challenges from beyond the pages of economic history and sociology. ..."
"... The apparent triumph of global capitalism came into temporary question, and with it, the reigning economic paradigm of neoliberalism. ..."
"... The specter of the Occupy movement in 1011, with its sweeping critique of corporate power, took root in ways not seen in the United States since the 1999 World Trade Organization protests in Seattle. ..."
"... In response, proponents of neoliberalism heightened their demands for a market-governed society, further tax cuts, deregulation, trade liberalization, and more. From the GOP and Tea Party's politics of austerity arose a fresh defense of free market politics in the United States, as well as a rcinvigorated denial of class as a structuring force in US society. These social tensions persist even as neoliberalism, as an ideology and a model for institutional restructuring, exhibits remarkable resilience. ..."
"... From the early 1980s onward, it provided the basic policy framework for "structural adjustment" in the global south, for "rescuing" the welfare state in the global north, and as a vision for a global economy unbound from centrally planned markets, dying industries, or rent-seeking interest groups. ..."
"... One cornerstone of this paradigm that remains mostly unchallenged among political elites is the principal of "free trade." Broadly speaking, neoliberalism and free trade have provided the ideological framework for most reciprocal trade agreements since the early 1980s, when President Reagan initiated a wave of new trade policies in February 1982 during a speech to the Organization of American States (OAS). ..."
"... This formulaic discourse of free markets, free trade, and personal liberty - hallmark features of Reagan's popular rhetoric - also captured what would later be acknowledged as core principles of an incipient neoliberal ideology that promised a restoration of US economic hegemony (Mudge 2008). Domestically and internationally, neoliberal trade proposals were generally presented in tandem with calls for privatization, deregulation, and a reduction in the size of government spending as a share of GDP. ..."
"... Was it the fever pitch of a new' policy ideology acted out by government partisans and policy makers committed to its mantra? Or did the very economic actors benefitting from market liberalization act politically and concertedly to unleash it? And if so, did this coordinated corporate political campaign arise from a reorganized and newly emboldened economic class, or simply through ad hoc alignments created by shared organizational interests? Specifically, can we detect class political signatures on the wave of free trade policies, like the CBI, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), or the World Trade Organization (WTO), that erected the institutional framework of neoliberal globalization? 6 ..."
"... We believe that our approach, rooted in the "elite studies" and "power structure" research traditions, expands (and, in some areas, corrects) conventional explanations of neoliberal trade and globalization that emphasize market, institutional, and ideological factors, while neglecting to incorporate a concept of class political action ..."
Oct 17, 2017 | www.amazon.com

Amid the global financial crisis of 2008, a new chapter in the history of neoliberal globalization emerged. Simple assumptions about markets as pure and neutral arbiters of economic transactions faced new challenges from beyond the pages of economic history and sociology.

The apparent triumph of global capitalism came into temporary question, and with it, the reigning economic paradigm of neoliberalism. From the left wing of US politics, a newly invigorated discourse of class and income inequality began to challenge corporate power with calls for greater accountability on Wall Street. The specter of the Occupy movement in 1011, with its sweeping critique of corporate power, took root in ways not seen in the United States since the 1999 World Trade Organization protests in Seattle.

In response, proponents of neoliberalism heightened their demands for a market-governed society, further tax cuts, deregulation, trade liberalization, and more. From the GOP and Tea Party's politics of austerity arose a fresh defense of free market politics in the United States, as well as a rcinvigorated denial of class as a structuring force in US society. These social tensions persist even as neoliberalism, as an ideology and a model for institutional restructuring, exhibits remarkable resilience.

Neoliberalism - which promises to efficiently generate wealth while disciplining states and bureaucracies with market forces - took shape over the course of decades. As a kind of governing philosophy, it has been offered, variously, as a remedy for economic stagnation, bureaucratic bloat, corruption, inflation, and more (Bourdieu 1999; Mirowski and Plehwe 2009; Mudge 2008). From the early 1980s onward, it provided the basic policy framework for "structural adjustment" in the global south, for "rescuing" the welfare state in the global north, and as a vision for a global economy unbound from centrally planned markets, dying industries, or rent-seeking interest groups.

One cornerstone of this paradigm that remains mostly unchallenged among political elites is the principal of "free trade." Broadly speaking, neoliberalism and free trade have provided the ideological framework for most reciprocal trade agreements since the early 1980s, when President Reagan initiated a wave of new trade policies in February 1982 during a speech to the Organization of American States (OAS). There, Reagan unilaterally called for a Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) that would "make use of the magic of the marketplace of the Americas, to earn their own way toward self-sustaining growth" (quoted in Polanyi-Levitt 1985: 232)/ This formulaic discourse of free markets, free trade, and personal liberty - hallmark features of Reagan's popular rhetoric - also captured what would later be acknowledged as core principles of an incipient neoliberal ideology that promised a restoration of US economic hegemony (Mudge 2008). Domestically and internationally, neoliberal trade proposals were generally presented in tandem with calls for privatization, deregulation, and a reduction in the size of government spending as a share of GDP. 5

Although a large and varied group of economists, policy wonks, and government leaders supported the general principles of neoliberal globalization, the "market fever" of the 1980s did not spread simply because certain individuals espoused free trade and domestic deregulation. The fact that many of these noncorporate actors assume a central role in many popular and academic accounts of this era does not reduce the many empirical problems with this view.

In particular, the problem with this "triumphant" vision of neoliberal history is the manner in which the very engines of capital behind the market mania - globalizing corporations appear as liberated historical agents acting out their market freedoms, not as class political actors foisting new institutional realities on the world. We contest this prevailing view and instead ask who liberated, or in Blyth's (2001) terminology, "disembedded," these markets from national social and political institutions?

Was it the fever pitch of a new' policy ideology acted out by government partisans and policy makers committed to its mantra? Or did the very economic actors benefitting from market liberalization act politically and concertedly to unleash it? And if so, did this coordinated corporate political campaign arise from a reorganized and newly emboldened economic class, or simply through ad hoc alignments created by shared organizational interests? Specifically, can we detect class political signatures on the wave of free trade policies, like the CBI, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), or the World Trade Organization (WTO), that erected the institutional framework of neoliberal globalization? 6

The answer to these questions and, in particular, the role of class agency within these macroeconomic shifts, is not simply a question of whether one likes Karl Marx or Adam Smith. Notwithstanding the recent tendency to equate the mention of class with "class warfare," it is our contention that removing class from accounts of recent economic history creates, at best, a narrow and distorted perspective on this important era. The primary purpose of this book, then, is to introduce and empirically validate a concept of class agency that deepens our understanding of both the trade policy-making apparatus as well as the neoliberal globalization "project" more generally.

We believe that our approach, rooted in the "elite studies" and "power structure" research traditions, expands (and, in some areas, corrects) conventional explanations of neoliberal trade and globalization that emphasize market, institutional, and ideological factors, while neglecting to incorporate a concept of class political action .

Our general line of argument historicizes US trade policy and neoliberal globalization, highlighting the active and at times contradictory processes that shape the state and class relationships responsible for propelling institutions, like the WTO, into existence. Following McMichael (2001: 207), we concur that globalization is best understood as a "historical project rather than a culminating process." Treating neoliberal trade policies as part of a much larger historical project - made and remade by collective actors - offers a more realistic and empirically grounded framework for exploring the intersection of class and state actors in the political articulation of globalization.

Whereas much of the literature on globalization assigns an important role to the economic activity of multinational corporations, the force of their collective political agency in pressuring states to ratify trade agreements and enact institutional reforms is mostly attributed to narrow sectoral interests, like factor mobility', economies of scale, or various industry-specific characteristics...

[Oct 17, 2017] The Victory of Perception Management by Robert Parry

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... Thus, you have the current hysteria over Russia's supposed "aggression" in Ukraine when the crisis was actually provoked by the West, including by U.S. neocons who helped create today's humanitarian crisis in eastern Ukraine that they now cynically blame on Russian President Vladimir Putin. ..."
"... But these were largely ad hoc efforts. A more comprehensive "public diplomacy" operation took shape beginning in 1982 when Raymond, a 30-year veteran of CIA clandestine services, was transferred to the NSC. ..."
"... A slight, soft-spoken New Yorker who reminded some of a character from a John le Carré spy novel, Raymond was an intelligence officer who "easily fades into the woodwork," according to one acquaintance. But Raymond would become the sparkplug for this high-powered propaganda network, according to a draft chapter of the Iran-Contra report. ..."
"... But things were about to change. In a Jan. 13, 1983, memo, NSC Advisor Clark foresaw the need for non-governmental money to advance this cause. "We will develop a scenario for obtaining private funding," Clark wrote. (Just five days later, President Reagan personally welcomed media magnate Rupert Murdoch into the Oval Office for a private meeting, according to records on file at the Reagan library.) ..."
"... As administration officials reached out to wealthy supporters, lines against domestic propaganda soon were crossed as the operation took aim not only at foreign audiences but at U.S. public opinion, the press and congressional Democrats who opposed funding the Nicaraguan Contras. ..."
"... At the time, the Contras were earning a gruesome reputation as human rights violators and terrorists. To change this negative perception of the Contras as well as of the U.S.-backed regimes in El Salvador and Guatemala, the Reagan administration created a full-blown, clandestine propaganda network. ..."
"... Lost History ..."
"... My American Journey ..."
"... Secrecy & Privilege ..."
"... Rupert Murdoch's media empire is bigger than ever, but his neocon messaging barely stands out as distinctive, given how the neocons also have gained control of the editorial and foreign-reporting sections of the Washington Post, the New York Times and virtually every other major news outlet. For instance, the demonizing of Russian President Putin is now so total that no honest person could look at those articles and see anything approaching objective or evenhanded journalism. Yet, no one loses a job over this lack of professionalism. ..."
"... America's Stolen Narrative, ..."
"... America's Stolen Narrative ..."
"... Reagan actually has two sides as he was portrayed on SNL, the nice grandfatherly side, and the mafia boss warmonger side. He managed to use the media to display his nice side. ..."
"... Studies estimate that between 100K and 150K Nam vets have committed suicide since the war. There are many reasons why but I suspect a goodly number did so when they couldn't handle the knowledge of how they had been used. I'm careful about who in my "peers" I enlighten. ..."
"... It's painful to watch any western MSM. It's all through our sports and entertainment programming to the point of madness. The wreckage caused by our "leaders" across the earth's face, in our name, IS evil. ..."
"... Studies estimate that between 100K and 150K Nam vets have committed suicide since the war. There are many reasons why but I suspect a goodly number did so when they couldn't handle the knowledge of how they had been used. I'm careful about who in my "peers" I enlighten. ..."
"... Always follow the money. ..."
Dec 28, 2014 | consortiumnews.com

Special Report: In the 1980s, the Reagan administration pioneered "perception management" to get the American people to "kick the Vietnam Syndrome" and accept more U.S. interventionism, but that propaganda structure continues to this day getting the public to buy into endless war, writes Robert Parry.

To understand how the American people find themselves trapped in today's Orwellian dystopia of endless warfare against an ever-shifting collection of "evil" enemies, you have to think back to the Vietnam War and the shock to the ruling elite caused by an unprecedented popular uprising against that war.

While on the surface Official Washington pretended that the mass protests didn't change policy, a panicky reality existed behind the scenes, a recognition that a major investment in domestic propaganda would be needed to ensure that future imperial adventures would have the public's eager support or at least its confused acquiescence.

President Ronald Reagan meeting with media magnate Rupert Murdoch in the Oval Office on Jan. 18, 1983, with Charles Wick, director of the U.S. Information Agency, in the background. (Photo credit: Reagan presidential library)

This commitment to what the insiders called "perception management" began in earnest with the Reagan administration in the 1980s but it would come to be the accepted practice of all subsequent administrations, including the present one of President Barack Obama.

In that sense, propaganda in pursuit of foreign policy goals would trump the democratic ideal of an informed electorate. The point would be not to honestly inform the American people about events around the world but to manage their perceptions by ramping up fear in some cases and defusing outrage in others depending on the U.S. government's needs.

Thus, you have the current hysteria over Russia's supposed "aggression" in Ukraine when the crisis was actually provoked by the West, including by U.S. neocons who helped create today's humanitarian crisis in eastern Ukraine that they now cynically blame on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Yet, many of these same U.S. foreign policy operatives outraged over Russia's limited intervention to protect ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine are demanding that President Obama launch an air war against the Syrian military as a "humanitarian" intervention there.

In other words, if the Russians act to shield ethnic Russians on their border who are being bombarded by a coup regime in Kiev that was installed with U.S. support, the Russians are the villains blamed for the thousands of civilian deaths, even though the vast majority of the casualties have been inflicted by the Kiev regime from indiscriminate bombing and from dispatching neo-Nazi militias to do the street fighting.

In Ukraine, the exigent circumstances don't matter, including the violent overthrow of the constitutionally elected president last February. It's all about white hats for the current Kiev regime and black hats for the ethnic Russians and especially for Putin.

But an entirely different set of standards has applied to Syria where a U.S.-backed rebellion, which included violent Sunni jihadists from the start, wore the white hats and the relatively secular Syrian government, which has responded with excessive violence of its own, wears the black hats. But a problem to that neat dichotomy arose when one of the major Sunni rebel forces, the Islamic State, started seizing Iraqi territory and beheading Westerners.

Faced with those grisly scenes, President Obama authorized bombing the Islamic State forces in both Iraq and Syria, but neocons and other U.S. hardliners have been hectoring Obama to go after their preferred target, Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, despite the risk that destroying the Syrian military could open the gates of Damascus to the Islamic State or al-Qaeda's Nusra Front.

Lost on the Dark Side

You might think that the American public would begin to rebel against these messy entangling alliances with the 1984 -like demonizing of one new "enemy" after another. Not only have these endless wars drained trillions of dollars from the U.S. taxpayers, they have led to the deaths of thousands of U.S. troops and to the tarnishing of America's image from the attendant evils of war, including a lengthy detour into the "dark side" of torture, assassinations and "collateral" killings of children and other innocents.

But that is where the history of "perception management" comes in, the need to keep the American people compliant and confused. In the 1980s, the Reagan administration was determined to "kick the Vietnam Syndrome," the revulsion that many Americans felt for warfare after all those years in the blood-soaked jungles of Vietnam and all the lies that clumsily justified the war.

So, the challenge for the U.S. government became: how to present the actions of "enemies" always in the darkest light while bathing the behavior of the U.S. "side" in a rosy glow. You also had to stage this propaganda theater in an ostensibly "free country" with a supposedly "independent press."

From documents declassified or leaked over the past several decades, including an unpublished draft chapter of the congressional Iran-Contra investigation, we now know a great deal about how this remarkable project was undertaken and who the key players were.

Perhaps not surprisingly much of the initiative came from the Central Intelligence Agency, which housed the expertise for manipulating target populations through propaganda and disinformation. The only difference this time would be that the American people would be the target population.

For this project, Ronald Reagan's CIA Director William J. Casey sent his top propaganda specialist Walter Raymond Jr. to the National Security Council staff to manage the inter-agency task forces that would brainstorm and coordinate this "public diplomacy" strategy.

Many of the old intelligence operatives, including Casey and Raymond, are now dead, but other influential Washington figures who were deeply involved by these strategies remain, such as neocon stalwart Robert Kagan, whose first major job in Washington was as chief of Reagan's State Department Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America.

Now a fellow at the Brookings Institution and a columnist at the Washington Post, Kagan remains an expert in presenting foreign policy initiatives within the "good guy/bad guy" frames that he learned in the 1980s. He is also the husband of Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, who oversaw the overthrow of Ukraine's elected President Viktor Yanukovych last February amid a very effective U.S. propaganda strategy.

During the Reagan years, Kagan worked closely on propaganda schemes with Elliott Abrams, then the Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America. After getting convicted and then pardoned in the Iran-Contra scandal, Abrams reemerged on President George W. Bush's National Security Council handling Middle East issues, including the Iraq War, and later "global democracy strategy." Abrams is now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

These and other neocons were among the most diligent students learning the art of "perception management" from the likes of Raymond and Casey, but those propaganda skills have spread much more widely as "public diplomacy" and "information warfare" have now become an integral part of every U.S. foreign policy initiative.

A Propaganda Bureaucracy

Declassified documents now reveal how extensive Reagan's propaganda project became with inter-agency task forces assigned to develop "themes" that would push American "hot buttons." Scores of documents came out during the Iran-Contra scandal in 1987 and hundreds more are now available at the Reagan presidential library in Simi Valley, California.

What the documents reveal is that at the start of the Reagan administration, CIA Director Casey faced a daunting challenge in trying to rally public opinion behind aggressive U.S. interventions, especially in Central America. Bitter memories of the Vietnam War were still fresh and many Americans were horrified at the brutality of right-wing regimes in Guatemala and El Salvador, where Salvadoran soldiers raped and murdered four American churchwomen in December 1980.

The new leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua also was not viewed with much alarm. After all, Nicaragua was an impoverished country of only about three million people who had just cast off the brutal dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza.

So, Reagan's initial strategy of bolstering the Salvadoran and Guatemalan armies required defusing the negative publicity about them and somehow rallying the American people into supporting a covert CIA intervention inside Nicaragua via a counterrevolutionary force known as the Contras led by Somoza's ex-National Guard officers.

Reagan's task was made tougher by the fact that the Cold War's anti-communist arguments had so recently been discredited in Vietnam. As deputy assistant secretary to the Air Force, J. Michael Kelly, put it, "the most critical special operations mission we have is to persuade the American people that the communists are out to get us."

At the same time, the White House worked to weed out American reporters who uncovered facts that undercut the desired public images. As part of that effort, the administration attacked New York Times correspondent Raymond Bonner for disclosing the Salvadoran regime's massacre of about 800 men, women and children in the village of El Mozote in northeast El Salvador in December 1981. Accuracy in Media and conservative news organizations, such as The Wall Street Journal's editorial page, joined in pummeling Bonner, who was soon ousted from his job.

But these were largely ad hoc efforts. A more comprehensive "public diplomacy" operation took shape beginning in 1982 when Raymond, a 30-year veteran of CIA clandestine services, was transferred to the NSC.

A slight, soft-spoken New Yorker who reminded some of a character from a John le Carré spy novel, Raymond was an intelligence officer who "easily fades into the woodwork," according to one acquaintance. But Raymond would become the sparkplug for this high-powered propaganda network, according to a draft chapter of the Iran-Contra report.

Though the draft chapter didn't use Raymond's name in its opening pages, apparently because some of the information came from classified depositions, Raymond's name was used later in the chapter and the earlier citations matched Raymond's known role. According to the draft report, the CIA officer who was recruited for the NSC job had served as Director of the Covert Action Staff at the CIA from 1978 to 1982 and was a "specialist in propaganda and disinformation."

"The CIA official [Raymond] discussed the transfer with [CIA Director] Casey and NSC Advisor William Clark that he be assigned to the NSC as [Donald] Gregg's successor [as coordinator of intelligence operations in June 1982] and received approval for his involvement in setting up the public diplomacy program along with his intelligence responsibilities," the chapter said.

"In the early part of 1983, documents obtained by the Select [Iran-Contra] Committees indicate that the Director of the Intelligence Staff of the NSC [Raymond] successfully recommended the establishment of an inter-governmental network to promote and manage a public diplomacy plan designed to create support for Reagan Administration policies at home and abroad."

During his Iran-Contra deposition, Raymond explained the need for this propaganda structure, saying: "We were not configured effectively to deal with the war of ideas."

One reason for this shortcoming was that federal law forbade taxpayers' money from being spent on domestic propaganda or grassroots lobbying to pressure congressional representatives. Of course, every president and his team had vast resources to make their case in public, but by tradition and law, they were restricted to speeches, testimony and one-on-one persuasion of lawmakers.

But things were about to change. In a Jan. 13, 1983, memo, NSC Advisor Clark foresaw the need for non-governmental money to advance this cause. "We will develop a scenario for obtaining private funding," Clark wrote. (Just five days later, President Reagan personally welcomed media magnate Rupert Murdoch into the Oval Office for a private meeting, according to records on file at the Reagan library.)

As administration officials reached out to wealthy supporters, lines against domestic propaganda soon were crossed as the operation took aim not only at foreign audiences but at U.S. public opinion, the press and congressional Democrats who opposed funding the Nicaraguan Contras.

At the time, the Contras were earning a gruesome reputation as human rights violators and terrorists. To change this negative perception of the Contras as well as of the U.S.-backed regimes in El Salvador and Guatemala, the Reagan administration created a full-blown, clandestine propaganda network.

In January 1983, President Reagan took the first formal step to create this unprecedented peacetime propaganda bureaucracy by signing National Security Decision Directive 77, entitled "Management of Public Diplomacy Relative to National Security." Reagan deemed it "necessary to strengthen the organization, planning and coordination of the various aspects of public diplomacy of the United States Government."

Reagan ordered the creation of a special planning group within the National Security Council to direct these "public diplomacy" campaigns. The planning group would be headed by the CIA's Walter Raymond Jr. and one of its principal arms would be a new Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America, housed at the State Department but under the control of the NSC.

CIA Taint

Worried about the legal prohibition barring the CIA from engaging in domestic propaganda, Raymond formally resigned from the CIA in April 1983, so, he said, "there would be no question whatsoever of any contamination of this." But Raymond continued to act toward the U.S. public much like a CIA officer would in directing a propaganda operation in a hostile foreign country.

Raymond fretted, too, about the legality of Casey's ongoing involvement. Raymond confided in one memo that it was important "to get [Casey] out of the loop," but Casey never backed off and Raymond continued to send progress reports to his old boss well into 1986. It was "the kind of thing which [Casey] had a broad catholic interest in," Raymond shrugged during his Iran-Contra deposition. He then offered the excuse that Casey undertook this apparently illegal interference in domestic politics "not so much in his CIA hat, but in his adviser to the president hat."

As a result of Reagan's decision directive, "an elaborate system of inter-agency committees was eventually formed and charged with the task of working closely with private groups and individuals involved in fundraising, lobbying campaigns and propagandistic activities aimed at influencing public opinion and governmental action," the draft Iran-Contra chapter said. "This effort resulted in the creation of the Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America and the Caribbean in the Department of State (S/LPD), headed by Otto Reich," a right-wing Cuban exile from Miami.

Though Secretary of State George Shultz wanted the office under his control, President Reagan insisted that Reich "report directly to the NSC," where Raymond oversaw the operations as a special assistant to the President and the NSC's director of international communications, the chapter said.

"Reich relied heavily on Raymond to secure personnel transfers from other government agencies to beef up the limited resources made available to S/LPD by the Department of State," the chapter said. "Personnel made available to the new office included intelligence specialists from the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Army. On one occasion, five intelligence experts from the Army's 4th Psychological Operations Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, were assigned to work with Reich's fast-growing operation."

A "public diplomacy strategy paper," dated May 5, 1983, summed up the administration's problem. "As far as our Central American policy is concerned, the press perceives that: the USG [U.S. government] is placing too much emphasis on a military solution, as well as being allied with inept, right-wing governments and groups. The focus on Nicaragua [is] on the alleged U.S.-backed 'covert' war against the Sandinistas. Moreover, the opposition is widely perceived as being led by former Somozistas."

The administration's difficulty with most of these press perceptions was that they were correct. But the strategy paper recommended ways to influence various groups of Americans to "correct" the impressions anyway, removing what another planning document called "perceptional obstacles."

"Themes will obviously have to be tailored to the target audience," the strategy paper said.

Casey's Hand

As the Reagan administration struggled to manage public perceptions, CIA Director Casey kept his personal hand in the effort. On one muggy day in August 1983, Casey convened a meeting of Reagan administration officials and five leading ad executives at the Old Executive Office Building next to the White House to come up with ideas for selling Reagan's Central American policies to the American people.

Earlier that day, a national security aide had warmed the P.R. men to their task with dire predictions that leftist governments would send waves of refugees into the United States and cynically flood America with drugs. The P.R. executives jotted down some thoughts over lunch and then pitched their ideas to the CIA director in the afternoon as he sat hunched behind a desk taking notes.

"Casey was kind of spearheading a recommendation" for better public relations for Reagan's Central America policies, recalled William I. Greener Jr., one of the ad men. Two top proposals arising from the meeting were for a high-powered communications operation inside the White House and private money for an outreach program to build support for U.S. intervention.

The results from the discussions were summed up in an Aug. 9, 1983, memo written by Raymond who described Casey's participation in the meeting to brainstorm how "to sell a 'new product' Central America by generating interest across-the-spectrum."

In the memo to then-U.S. Information Agency director Charles Wick, Raymond also noted that "via Murdock [sic] may be able to draw down added funds" to support pro-Reagan initiatives. Raymond's reference to Rupert Murdoch possibly drawing down "added funds" suggests that the right-wing media mogul had been recruited to be part of the covert propaganda operation. During this period, Wick arranged at least two face-to-face meetings between Murdoch and Reagan.

In line with the clandestine nature of the operation, Raymond also suggested routing the "funding via Freedom House or some other structure that has credibility in the political center." (Freedom House would later emerge as a principal beneficiary of funding from the National Endowment for Democracy, which was also created under the umbrella of Raymond's operation.)

As the Reagan administration pushed the envelope on domestic propaganda, Raymond continued to worry about Casey's involvement. In an Aug. 29, 1983, memo, Raymond recounted a call from Casey pushing his P.R. ideas. Alarmed at a CIA director participating so brazenly in domestic propaganda, Raymond wrote that "I philosophized a bit with Bill Casey (in an effort to get him out of the loop)" but with little success.

Meanwhile, Reich's Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America (S/LPD) proved extremely effective in selecting "hot buttons" that would anger Americans about the Sandinistas. He also browbeat news correspondents who produced stories that conflicted with the administration's "themes." Reich's basic M.O. was to dispatch his propaganda teams to lobby news executives to remove or punish out-of-step reporters with a disturbing degree of success. Reich once bragged that his office "did not give the critics of the policy any quarter in the debate."

Another part of the office's job was to plant "white propaganda" in the news media through op-eds secretly financed by the government. In one memo, Jonathan Miller, a senior public diplomacy official, informed White House aide Patrick Buchanan about success placing an anti-Sandinista piece in The Wall Street Journal's friendly pages. "Officially, this office had no role in its preparation," Miller wrote.

Other times, the administration put out "black propaganda," outright falsehoods. In 1983, one such theme was designed to anger American Jews by portraying the Sandinistas as anti-Semitic because much of Nicaragua's small Jewish community fled after the revolution in 1979.

However, the U.S. embassy in Managua investigated the charges and "found no verifiable ground on which to accuse the GRN [the Sandinista government] of anti-Semitism," according to a July 28, 1983, cable. But the administration kept the cable secret and pushed the "hot button" anyway.

Black Hats/White Hats

Repeatedly, Raymond lectured his subordinates on the chief goal of the operation: "in the specific case of Nica[ragua], concentrate on gluing black hats on the Sandinistas and white hats on UNO [the Contras' United Nicaraguan Opposition]." So Reagan's speechwriters dutifully penned descriptions of Sandinista-ruled Nicaragua as a "totalitarian dungeon" and the Contras as the "moral equivalent of the Founding Fathers."

As one NSC official told me, the campaign was modeled after CIA covert operations abroad where a political goal is more important than the truth. "They were trying to manipulate [U.S.] public opinion using the tools of Walt Raymond's trade craft which he learned from his career in the CIA covert operation shop," the official admitted.

Another administration official gave a similar description to The Miami Herald's Alfonso Chardy. "If you look at it as a whole, the Office of Public Diplomacy was carrying out a huge psychological operation, the kind the military conduct to influence the population in denied or enemy territory," that official explained. [For more details, see Parry's Lost History .]

Another important figure in the pro-Contra propaganda was NSC staffer Oliver North, who spent a great deal of his time on the Nicaraguan public diplomacy operation even though he is better known for arranging secret arms shipments to the Contras and to Iran's radical Islamic government, leading to the Iran-Contra scandal.

The draft Iran-Contra chapter depicted a Byzantine network of contract and private operatives who handled details of the domestic propaganda while concealing the hand of the White House and the CIA. "Richard R. Miller, former head of public affairs at AID, and Francis D. Gomez, former public affairs specialist at the State Department and USIA, were hired by S/LPD through sole-source, no-bid contracts to carry out a variety of activities on behalf of the Reagan administration policies in Central America," the chapter said.

"Supported by the State Department and White House, Miller and Gomez became the outside managers of [North operative] Spitz Channel's fundraising and lobbying activities. They also served as the managers of Central American political figures, defectors, Nicaraguan opposition leaders and Sandinista atrocity victims who were made available to the press, the Congress and private groups, to tell the story of the Contra cause."

Miller and Gomez facilitated transfers of money to Swiss and offshore banks at North's direction, as they "became the key link between the State Department and the Reagan White House with the private groups and individuals engaged in a myriad of endeavors aimed at influencing the Congress, the media and public opinion," the chapter said.

The Iran-Contra draft chapter also cited a March 10, 1985, memo from North describing his assistance to CIA Director Casey in timing disclosures of pro-Contra news "aimed at securing Congressional approval for renewed support to the Nicaraguan Resistance Forces."

The chapter added: "Casey's involvement in the public diplomacy effort apparently continued throughout the period under investigation by the Committees," including a 1985 role in pressuring Congress to renew Contra aid and a 1986 hand in further shielding the Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America from the oversight of Secretary Shultz.

A Raymond-authored memo to Casey in August 1986 described the shift of the S/LPD office where Robert Kagan had replaced Reich to the control of the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs, which was headed by Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams, who had tapped Kagan for the public diplomacy job.

Even after the Iran-Contra scandal unraveled in 1986-87 and Casey died of brain cancer on May 6, 1987, the Republicans fought to keep secret the remarkable story of the public diplomacy apparatus. As part of a deal to get three moderate Republican senators to join Democrats in signing the Iran-Contra majority report, Democratic leaders agreed to drop the draft chapter detailing the CIA's domestic propaganda role (although a few references were included in the executive summary). But other Republicans, including Rep. Dick Cheney, still issued a minority report defending broad presidential powers in foreign affairs.

Thus, the American people were spared the chapter's troubling conclusion: that a secret propaganda apparatus had existed, run by "one of the CIA's most senior specialists, sent to the NSC by Bill Casey, to create and coordinate an inter-agency public-diplomacy mechanism [which] did what a covert CIA operation in a foreign country might do. [It] attempted to manipulate the media, the Congress and public opinion to support the Reagan administration's policies."

Kicking the Vietnam Syndrome

The ultimate success of Reagan's propaganda strategy was affirmed during the tenure of his successor, George H.W. Bush, when Bush ordered a 100-hour ground war on Feb. 23, 1991, to oust Iraqi troops from Kuwait, which had been invaded the previous August.

Though Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had long been signaling a readiness to withdraw and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev had negotiated a withdrawal arrangement that even had the blessings of top U.S. commanders in the field President Bush insisted on pressing ahead with the ground attack.

Bush's chief reason was that he and his Defense Secretary Dick Cheney saw the assault against Iraq's already decimated forces as an easy victory, one that would demonstrate America's new military capacity for high-tech warfare and would cap the process begun a decade earlier to erase the Vietnam Syndrome from the minds of average Americans.

Those strategic aspects of Bush's grand plan for a "new world order" began to emerge after the U.S.-led coalition started pummeling Iraq with air strikes in mid-January 1991. The bombings inflicted severe damage on Iraq's military and civilian infrastructure and slaughtered a large number of non-combatants, including the incineration of some 400 women and children in a Baghdad bomb shelter on Feb. 13. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com's " Recalling the Slaughter of Innocents ."]

The air war's damage was so severe that some world leaders looked for a way to end the carnage and arrange Iraq's departure from Kuwait. Even senior U.S. military field commanders, such as Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, looked favorably on proposals for sparing lives.

But Bush was fixated on a ground war. Though secret from the American people at that time, Bush had long determined that a peaceful Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait would not be allowed. Indeed, Bush was privately fearful that the Iraqis might capitulate before the United States could attack.

At the time, conservative columnists Rowland Evans and Robert Novak were among the few outsiders who described Bush's obsession with exorcising the Vietnam Syndrome. On Feb. 25, 1991, they wrote that the Gorbachev initiative brokering Iraq's surrender of Kuwait "stirred fears" among Bush's advisers that the Vietnam Syndrome might survive the Gulf War.

"There was considerable relief, therefore, when the President made clear he was having nothing to do with the deal that would enable Saddam Hussein to bring his troops out of Kuwait with flags flying," Evans and Novak wrote. "Fear of a peace deal at the Bush White House had less to do with oil, Israel or Iraqi expansionism than with the bitter legacy of a lost war. 'This is the chance to get rid of the Vietnam Syndrome,' one senior aide told us."

In the 1999 book, Shadow , author Bob Woodward confirmed that Bush was adamant about fighting a war, even as the White House pretended it would be satisfied with an unconditional Iraqi withdrawal. "We have to have a war," Bush told his inner circle of Secretary of State James Baker, national security adviser Brent Scowcroft and Gen. Colin Powell, according to Woodward.

"Scowcroft was aware that this understanding could never be stated publicly or be permitted to leak out. An American president who declared the necessity of war would probably be thrown out of office. Americans were peacemakers, not warmongers," Woodward wrote.

The Ground War

However, the "fear of a peace deal" resurfaced in the wake of the U.S.-led bombing campaign. Soviet diplomats met with Iraqi leaders who let it be known that they were prepared to withdraw their troops from Kuwait unconditionally.

Learning of Gorbachev's proposed settlement, Schwarzkopf also saw little reason for U.S. soldiers to die if the Iraqis were prepared to withdraw and leave their heavy weapons behind. There was also the prospect of chemical warfare that the Iraqis might use against advancing American troops. Schwarzkopf saw the possibility of heavy U.S. casualties.

But Gorbachev's plan was running into trouble with President Bush and his political subordinates who wanted a ground war to crown the U.S. victory. Schwarzkopf reached out to Gen. Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to make the case for peace with the President.

On Feb. 21, 1991, the two generals hammered out a cease-fire proposal for presentation to the NSC. The peace deal would give Iraqi forces one week to march out of Kuwait while leaving their armor and heavy equipment behind. Schwarzkopf thought he had Powell's commitment to pitch the plan at the White House.

But Powell found himself caught in the middle. He wanted to please Bush while still representing the concerns of the field commanders. When Powell arrived at the White House late on the evening of Feb. 21, he found Bush angry about the Soviet peace initiative. Still, according to Woodward's Shadow , Powell reiterated that he and Schwarzkopf "would rather see the Iraqis walk out than be driven out."

In My American Journey , Powell expressed sympathy for Bush's predicament. "The President's problem was how to say no to Gorbachev without appearing to throw away a chance for peace," Powell wrote. "I could hear the President's growing distress in his voice. 'I don't want to take this deal,' he said. 'But I don't want to stiff Gorbachev, not after he's come this far with us. We've got to find a way out'."

Powell sought Bush's attention. "I raised a finger," Powell wrote. "The President turned to me. 'Got something, Colin?'," Bush asked. But Powell did not outline Schwarzkopf's one-week cease-fire plan. Instead, Powell offered a different idea intended to make the ground offensive inevitable.

"We don't stiff Gorbachev," Powell explained. "Let's put a deadline on Gorby's proposal. We say, great idea, as long as they're completely on their way out by, say, noon Saturday," Feb. 23, less than two days away.

Powell understood that the two-day deadline would not give the Iraqis enough time to act, especially with their command-and-control systems severely damaged by the air war. The plan was a public-relations strategy to guarantee that the White House got its ground war. "If, as I suspect, they don't move, then the flogging begins," Powell told a gratified president.

The next day, at 10:30 a.m., a Friday, Bush announced his ultimatum. There would be a Saturday noon deadline for the Iraqi withdrawal, as Powell had recommended. Schwarzkopf and his field commanders in Saudi Arabia watched Bush on television and immediately grasped its meaning.

"We all knew by then which it would be," Schwarzkopf wrote. "We were marching toward a Sunday morning attack."

When the Iraqis predictably missed the deadline, American and allied forces launched the ground offensive at 0400 on Feb. 24, Persian Gulf time.

Though Iraqi forces were soon in full retreat, the allies pursued and slaughtered tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers in the 100-hour war. U.S. casualties were light, 147 killed in combat and another 236 killed in accidents or from other causes. "Small losses as military statistics go," wrote Powell, "but a tragedy for each family."

On Feb. 28, the day the war ended, Bush celebrated the victory. "By God, we've kicked the Vietnam Syndrome once and for all," the President exulted, speaking to a group at the White House. [For more details, see Robert Parry's Secrecy & Privilege .]

So as not to put a damper on the post-war happy feelings, the U.S. news media decided not to show many of the grisliest photos, such as charred Iraqi soldiers ghoulishly still seated in their burned-out trucks where they had been incinerated while trying to flee. By that point, U.S. journalists knew it wasn't smart for their careers to present a reality that didn't make the war look good.

Enduring Legacy

Though Reagan's creation of a domestic propaganda bureaucracy began more than three decades ago and Bush's vanquishing of the Vietnam Syndrome was more than two decades ago the legacy of those actions continue to reverberate today in how the perceptions of the American people are now routinely managed. That was true during last decade's Iraq War and this decade's conflicts in Libya, Syria and Ukraine as well as the economic sanctions against Iran and Russia.

Indeed, while the older generation that pioneered these domestic propaganda techniques has passed from the scene, many of their protégés are still around along with some of the same organizations. The National Endowment for Democracy, which was formed in 1983 at the urging of CIA Director Casey and under the supervision of Walter Raymond's NSC operation, is still run by the same neocon, Carl Gershman, and has an even bigger budget, now exceeding $100 million a year.

Gershman and his NED played important behind-the-scenes roles in instigating the Ukraine crisis by financing activists, journalists and other operatives who supported the coup against elected President Yanukovych. The NED-backed Freedom House also beat the propaganda drums. [See Consortiumnews.com's " A Shadow Foreign Policy. "]

Two other Reagan-era veterans, Elliott Abrams and Robert Kagan, have both provided important intellectual support for continuing U.S. interventionism around the world. Earlier this year, Kagan's article for The New Republic, entitled " Superpowers Don't Get to Retire ," touched such a raw nerve with President Obama that he hosted Kagan at a White House lunch and crafted the presidential commencement speech at West Point to deflect some of Kagan's criticism of Obama's hesitancy to use military force.

A New York Times article about Kagan's influence over Obama reported that Kagan's wife, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, apparently had a hand in crafting the attack on her ostensible boss, President Obama.

According to the Times article, the husband-and-wife team share both a common world view and professional ambitions, Nuland editing Kagan's articles and Kagan "not permitted to use any official information he overhears or picks up around the house" a suggestion that Kagan's thinking at least may be informed by foreign policy secrets passed on by his wife.

Though Nuland wouldn't comment specifically on Kagan's attack on President Obama, she indicated that she holds similar views. "But suffice to say," Nuland said, "that nothing goes out of the house that I don't think is worthy of his talents. Let's put it that way."

Misguided Media

In the three decades since Reagan's propaganda machine was launched, the American press corps also has fallen more and more into line with an aggressive U.S. government's foreign policy strategies. Those of us in the mainstream media who resisted the propaganda pressures mostly saw our careers suffer while those who played along moved steadily up the ranks into positions of more money and more status.

Even after the Iraq War debacle when nearly the entire mainstream media went with the pro-invasion flow, there was almost no accountability for that historic journalistic failure. Indeed, the neocon influence at major newspapers, such as the Washington Post and the New York Times, only has solidified since.

Today's coverage of the Syrian civil war or the Ukraine crisis is so firmly in line with the State Department's propaganda "themes" that it would put smiles on the faces of William Casey and Walter Raymond if they were around today to see how seamlessly the "perception management" now works. There's no need any more to send out "public diplomacy" teams to bully editors and news executives. Everyone is already onboard.

Rupert Murdoch's media empire is bigger than ever, but his neocon messaging barely stands out as distinctive, given how the neocons also have gained control of the editorial and foreign-reporting sections of the Washington Post, the New York Times and virtually every other major news outlet. For instance, the demonizing of Russian President Putin is now so total that no honest person could look at those articles and see anything approaching objective or evenhanded journalism. Yet, no one loses a job over this lack of professionalism.

The Reagan administration's dreams of harnessing private foundations and non-governmental organizations have also come true. The Orwellian circle has been completed with many American "anti-war" groups advocating for "humanitarian" wars in Syria and other countries targeted by U.S. propaganda. [See Consortiumnews.com's " Selling 'Peace Groups' on US-Led Wars. "]

Much as Reagan's "public diplomacy" apparatus once sent around "defectors" to lambaste Nicaragua's Sandinistas by citing hyped-up human rights violations now the work is done by NGOs with barely perceptible threads back to the U.S. government. Just as Freedom House had "credibility" in the 1980s because of its earlier reputation as a human rights group, now other groups carrying the "human rights" tag, such as Human Rights Watch, are in the forefront of urging U.S. military interventions based on murky or propagandistic claims. [See Consortiumnews.com's " The Collapsing Syria-Sarin Case. "]

At this advanced stage of America's quiet surrender to "perception management," it is even hard to envision how one could retrace the many steps that would lead back to the concept of a democratic Republic based on an informed electorate. Many on the American Right remain entranced by the old propaganda theme about the "liberal media" and still embrace Reagan as their beloved icon. Meanwhile, many liberals can't break away from their own wistful trust in the New York Times and their empty hope that the media really is "liberal."

To confront the hard truth is not easy. Indeed, in this case, it can cause despair because there are so few voices to trust and they are easily drowned out by floods of disinformation that can come from any angle right, left or center. Yet, for the American democratic Republic to reset its goal toward an informed electorate, there is no option other than to build institutions that are determinedly committed to the truth.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America's Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com ). You also can order Robert Parry's trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America's Stolen Narrative . For details on this offer, click here .

LIANE CASTEN , December 28, 2014 at 1:21 pm

Terrific analysis. Am working on my own book on Vietnam (under contract.) Would love to use this piece liberally–of course with serious attribution. Do I have your permission?. Liane

W. R. Knight , December 28, 2014 at 1:51 pm

Bear in mind that during WWII, Reagan was nothing more than an itinerant movie actor who played war heros but never participated in the war itself. The movies he played in weren't much more than unabashed propaganda.

It is obscene that we allow the most vociferous warmongers to avoid any personal risk in the wars they promote; and it is depressing to see the public persuaded by the propaganda to sacrifice their money and children for the benefit of the warmongers.

Man on the street , December 29, 2014 at 2:49 pm

Reagan actually has two sides as he was portrayed on SNL, the nice grandfatherly side, and the mafia boss warmonger side. He managed to use the media to display his nice side.

Carroll Price , December 31, 2014 at 11:49 am

It takes both. All really successful presidents have a nice grandfatherly side and a mafia boss side that's displayed to the public as the need arises. Why? Because the American people admire the mafia war monger trait as much, if not more, than the grandfatherly trait. FDR and Reagan were both successful presidents because they had great skill in displaying whichever side fitted occasion, while Jimmy Carter, who was not blessed with a mafia/war monger side was a complete failure.

Joe Tedesky , December 28, 2014 at 2:07 pm

When ever this subject comes up, of how the right wing in American politics controls the narrative, I think of the 'Powell Memo'. In 1971 Lewis Powell wrote a secretive memo descripting how the conservatives must take hold of the American media. Powell would become a Supreme Court justice. If you Google his 'Powell Memo' you will read how Justice Powell laid out a very specific plan on how to do this. Powell wrote this before becoming a sitting Supreme Court Justice. His instructions were so good that many believe this document he wrote, was his stairway to heaven.

I cannot help but reflect on how the Warren Report was a great way for the Dark State to see how well they could pull the wool over America's eyes. Even though many did not buy the official one gunman claim, what else was there to counter this official report. So, it's business as usual, and for the average US citizen there isn't much else left to do.

I value this site. Although, there are way to many Americans not getting the news this site has to offer. Instead our society strolls along catching the sound bites, and listening to agenda driven pundits to become the most ill informed populace in human history.

Everythings Jake , December 28, 2014 at 3:54 pm

Another stellar moment of "integrity" in Colin Powell's long and ignominious career.

JWalters , December 28, 2014 at 5:43 pm

" given how the neocons also have gained control of the editorial and foreign-reporting sections of the Washington Post, the New York Times and virtually every other major news outlet."

And how do the neocons, working from niches out of the limelight, have the power to do all this? In a political system dominated by money, from where comes their money? Who coordinates their game plan? Who has an interest in promoting needless wars?
http://warprofiteerstory.blogspot.com

Mark , December 29, 2014 at 8:35 am

A tour de force outstanding work; essential reading, imo. It draws together in detail the mind-management of aggressive imperial adventures from Vietnam, through Central America and Iraq up to Ukraine and Syria today. Thank you Robert Parry.

Perhaps, as a further signal of the 'same ole same ole', you might even have thrown in somewhere the epithet 'jihadi contras' to describe extremist militias used (recruited, funded, trained, armed and directed) by the US (and allies) in the Syrian nightmare (and Libyan); where the secular and tolerant Assad government is – painfully for perception managers – still supported by the vast majority of Syrians, however topsy-turvy the mainextreme narrative is.

Thomas Seifert , December 29, 2014 at 9:12 am

A question from Germany: We observe a very similar process over here – the mainstream media closest following (and inciting!) the official NATO-propaganda in the case of Ukraine. This happens even stubbornly against the bitter protests from greater parts of their own readers.

But: HOW does this happen? What are precisely the mechanisms to unite the media and the journalists behind a special doctrine? On other themes there is still a pluralism of opinions – but in the case of "national interests"/foreign policy there is a kind of frightening standardization. Why this difference?

And why this against an obvious resistance from large parts of their readers and from experts (e.g. the last three German chancellors – Schmidt, Kohl and Schroeder – have admonished the NATO for better considering the Russian security interests). I don't want to believe in simple conspiracy theories

onno , December 29, 2014 at 9:23 am

Another great article by Consortiumnews proving the manipulation of people by the Western Media. It's amazing and scary to realize that people's minds are influenced by government propaganda. It reminds me of the German occupation during WW II and the lies broadcasted by US financed Radio Free Europe during the Cold War and apparently still happening in Azerbaijan.

This is psychological warfare at its best and used at the hands of the White House and Washington's Congress. What a shame for a so-called democratic nation, when are the American people waking up?

John , December 29, 2014 at 12:57 pm

Excellent piece indeed. The collusion of mass media and officials installed by the same economic powers completes the totalitarian mechanism which has displaced democracy.

Suggest clarifying use of the name Raymond, at first apparently Raymond Bonner also called Bonner, then a (different?) Raymond with the CIA referred to only by surname(?) as Raymond, then a Walter Raymond jr.

Studies estimate that between 100K and 150K Nam vets have committed suicide since the war. There are many reasons why but I suspect a goodly number did so when they couldn't handle the knowledge of how they had been used. I'm careful about who in my "peers" I enlighten.

Paul , December 29, 2014 at 3:39 pm

The positive side of democracy in America is exemplified precisely by journalism such as this. How sad that it is almost completely overshadowed by the cynical imperial 'democracy' that Parry's essay describes.

Your description of how the first Iraq War was pursued despite easily available options to avoid the carnage are hair-raising and infuriating. Almost as infuriating as the internal propaganda efforts of the U.S. government. I hope this essay is widely read.

To me, the positive side of democracy in America is exemplified precisely by journalism such as this. How sad that it is almost completely overshadowed by the cynical imperial 'democracy' that Parry's essay describes.

Barbc , December 29, 2014 at 7:32 pm

This past year I have learned from a number of Vietnam veterans that Reagan is not as well liked as has had been implied.
A most of the dislike is how he did not follow throw with bringing home the POWs left behind in Vietnam.

Steve Pahs , December 29, 2014 at 10:47 pm

Mr. Parry,

I follow your writing and have passed it along at times to the misinformed in my life. I appreciate such as your MH17 work early on when Putin and Russia were immediately blamed.

I am a Nam grunt vet from 66′-67′ who is the not so proud recipient of the Purple Heart. My physical wounds affect me to this day as I approach the age of 68. My mental wounds are not from my combat experience so much as they are from the eventual feeling of being used and betrayed. Adversity does not build character, it reveals it. I'm good with mine. The mental wounds evolved over time as I educated myself about how such an awful thing as that war could happen and engulf me in it at 19.

Three months in a military hospital makes one think about what had just transpired. It was the start of a journey that will continue till my last breath. I've crossed that threshold where most of my family and friends are looking through a keyhole offered up by our "leaders" while I am in the room dealing with the evil. Even those who understand what I present will sometimes tell me that "you are right, but it's too late in my life to accept it". That was said by a former Marine pilot.

It's painful to watch any western MSM. It's all through our sports and entertainment programming to the point of madness. The wreckage caused by our "leaders" across the earth's face, in our name, IS evil. I stopped taking the local paper a couple of years ago after they no longer would print my letters and columns. Twenty years ago it all made me quite angry. It's sadness I feel now for those who refuse to "see". Many vets don't know the source of their anger and the VA gladly numbs them with drugs. Not I.

Studies estimate that between 100K and 150K Nam vets have committed suicide since the war. There are many reasons why but I suspect a goodly number did so when they couldn't handle the knowledge of how they had been used. I'm careful about who in my "peers" I enlighten.

Mark Twain (SLC) said some profound things. One of my favorites is "It is easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled".
Always follow the money.

Thanks for what you do. It does make a difference.
Steve Pahs

MarkinPNW , December 30, 2014 at 1:43 am

This "Perception Management" is nothing knew. The argument has been made persuasively that the attack on Pearl Harbor actually resulted from a deliberate and successful campaign by FDR to change or "manage" the mass opinions or "Perceptions" of the US electorate from strongly pro-peace and anti-war (what could be called a "Great War syndrome" from the stupid and useless devastation of WW1) to all out pro-war for US involvement in WW2, by provoking the Japanese and refusing all peace negotiations with the Japanese who desperately were trying to avoid war.

In reference to "Orwellian Dystopia", Orwell's novels "Animal Farm" and "1984" were based in large part on Orwell's experience in the Spanish Civil War and WW2, respectively.

Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg , December 30, 2014 at 12:01 pm

Until the U.S. gets its butt seriously whipped again, as in Vietnam, the ever escalating strategy of tension against all countries who exhibit less than total and unconditional obedience to Washington will continue. Victoria Nuland is nothing more than a modern version of Cecil Rhodes; the ever probing tentacle of a voracious empire. In fact, It's really the same one.

hp , December 30, 2014 at 3:52 pm

The ripened fruit of the pervert Freud's pervert nephew Edward Bernays. (how the usurping usurers roll)

Jacob , December 31, 2014 at 11:51 pm

"In the 1980s, the Reagan administration pioneered 'perception management' to get the American people to 'kick the Vietnam Syndrome' and accept more U.S. interventionism, . . ."

The management of public perception within the U.S. regarding its imperialistic/colonial ambitions goes back much further than the 1980s. The Committee on Public Information, also known as "the Creel Commission," was the likely model Reagan wanted to imitate. The purpose of the CPI was to convince the American public, which was mostly anti-war, to support America's entry into the European war, also known as WWI. The CPI was in official operation from 1917 to 1919 during the Woodrow Wilson administration. But the paradigm for the use of mass propaganda to alter public perceptions is the Congregatio de propaganda fide (The Office for the Propagation of the Faith), a 1622 Vatican invention to undermine the spread of Protestantism by managing public perceptions on religious and spiritual matters.

[Oct 16, 2017] The Limits of Neoliberalism Authority, Sovereignty and the Logic of Competition by William Davies

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... Faced with this mess, the obituarists for neoliberalism are out again. Some I recognise from 2008 - the definition of a left-wing economist being one who has spotted ten out of the last two crises of capitalism. Others have joined them, perhaps spurred on by the Brexit vote, or the rise of Donald Trump or the nice-sounding promises made by Theresa May. ..."
"... This is where, I think, we need to pay close attention to a key dimension of neoliberalism, which I focus on at length in this book, namely competition. One of my central arguments here is that neoliberalism is not simply reducible to 'market fundamentalism', even if there are areas (such as financial markets) where markets have manifestly attained greater reach and power since the mid1970s. Instead, the neoliberal state takes the principle of competition and the ethos of competitiveness (which historically have been found in and around markets), and seeks to reorganise society around them. Quite how competition and competitiveness are defined and politically instituted is a matter for historical and theoretical exploration, which is partly what The Limits of Neoliberalism seeks to do. But at the bare minimum, organising social relations in terms of competition' means that individuals, organisations, cities, regions and nations are to be tested in terms of their capacity to out-do each other. Not only that, but the tests must be considered fair in some way, if the resulting inequalities are to be recognised as legitimate. When applied to individuals, this ideology is often known as 'meritocracy'. ..."
"... Under these neoliberal conditions, remorse becomes directed inwards, producing the depressive psychological effect (or what Freud termed 'melancholia') whereby people search inside themselves for the source of their own unhappiness and imperfect lives (Davies, 2015). Viewed from within the cultural logic of neoliberalism, uncompetitive regions, individuals or communities are not just 'left behind by globalisation', but are discovered to be inferior in comparison to their rivals, just like the contestants ejected from a talent show. Rising household indebtedness compounds this process for those living in financial precarity, by forcing individuals to pay for their own past errors, illness or sheer bad luck ..."
"... Hardship itself doesn't necessarily lead to the hopelessness and fury of which Donald Trump seemingly speaks. But when hardship feels both permanent and undeserved, the psychological appeal of demagogues promising to divert blame elsewhere, be it towards Muslims, 'experts', immigrants, the Chinese, Brussels or wherever, becomes irresistible. Seemingly irrational or even nihilistic popular upheavals make some sense, if understood in terms of the relief they offer for those who have felt trapped by their own impotence for too long, with nobody available to blame but themselves. ..."
"... Statistical studies have shown how societies such as Britain and the United States have become afflicted by often inexplicable rising mortality rates amongst the white working class, connected partly to rising suicide rates, alcohol and drug abuse (Dorling, 2016). The Washington Post identified close geographic correlations between this trend and support for Donald Trump (Guo, 2016). In sum, a moral-economic system aimed at identifying and empowering the most competitive people, institutions and places has become targeted, rationally or otherwise, by the vast number of people, institutions and places that have suffered not only the pain of defeat but the punishment of defeat for far too long. ..."
"... The re-emergence of national borders as obstacles to the flow r of goods, finance, services and above all people, represents at least an interruption in the vision of globalisation that accompanied the heyday of neoliberal policy making between 1989-2008. If events such as Brexit signal the first step towards greater national mercantilism and protectionism, then we may be witnessing far more profound transformations in our model of political economy, the consequences of which could become very ugly. ..."
"... Once governments (and publics) no longer view economics as the best test of optimal policies, then opportunities for post-liberal experimentation expand rapidly, with unpredictable and potentially frightening consequences. It was telling that, when the British Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, suggested in October 2016 that companies be compelled to publicly list their foreign workers, she defended this policy as a 'nudge'. ..."
"... The Limits of Neolibcralism is a piece of interpretive sociology. It starts from the recognition that neoliberalism rests on claims to legitimacy, which it is possible to imagine as valid, even for critics of this system. Inspired by Luc Boltanski, the book assumes that political-economic systems typically need to offer certain limited forms of hope, excitement and fairness in order to survive, and cannot operate via domination and exploitation alone. ..."
"... The attempt to reduce all of human life to economic calculation runs up against limits. A political rationality that fails to recognise politics as a distinctive sphere of human existence was always going to be dumbfounded, once that sphere took on its own extra-economic life. As Bob Dylan sang to Mr Jones, so one might now say to neoliberal intellectuals or technocrats: 'something is happening here, but you don't know what it is'. ..."
Oct 16, 2017 | www.amazon.com

Foreword

... ... ...

The crash has sharpened the central contradiction in neoliberal economics: it has become purely a system that rewards dead money even while it fails to create new money. No ideology can survive unless it has something to offer the young and the almost young. You cant keep winning elections if you cant promise reasonable jobs, wage rises, affordable groceries and housing. Put another way, you can have neoliberalism but you cant have democratic validity.

This is the contradiction over which mainstream politicians wedded to neoliberalism - both left and Right - keep stumbling. Where they can, they rely on the old tricks to get by: operating party machinery, access to big money funders, consulting the manual of TV presentability. But the formula isn't reliable, as the New Labour generation can tell you. And where it can deliver majorities it doesn't confer legitimacy, as David Cameron and Hilary Clinton now know.

Faced with this mess, the obituarists for neoliberalism are out again. Some I recognise from 2008 - the definition of a left-wing economist being one who has spotted ten out of the last two crises of capitalism. Others have joined them, perhaps spurred on by the Brexit vote, or the rise of Donald Trump or the nice-sounding promises made by Theresa May.

I understand the thinking and I certainly get the thinking. But to imagine that an ideology that has ruled Britain for longer than Yugoslavia was communist will now just fall apart is sheer fantasy. It is to mistake word for deed, symbolism for policy. In Brexit Britain, not much has changed yet except for rhetoric. The Treasury continues with its austerity programme; the government presses on with its privatisations of whatever is left in public hands, from social housing to the Green Investment Bank; the establishment still hankers after those grand free-trade deals such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). True, there is more talk now about those 'left behind' by globalization, but the very phrasing gives away how shallow the concern is - this is your fault for not keeping up.

Besides, politics is never a simple test of logic. Winning or exercising power is not a chess game. As Will Davies points out in this book, neoliberalism began as, and largely remains, an elite project. What four decades of neoliberalism in practice have achieved is the bulldozing of many sites of dissent. To see what I mean, visit any of the places in Britain that have done worst out of it - from the North East to South Wales. The regional business elites have nearly all died or fled to London. The trade unions are a shadow of their former selves, as are the fierce tenants' associations. The universities are now largely anodyne. The local newspapers are typically mere repositories of agency copy and local advertisements, while the regional BBC studios have either shrunk or consolidated elsewhere. Without such civic institutions there is no hope of building an alternative.

The answer to neoliberalism isn't another ideology. It certainly isn't a Mont Pelerin Society of the Left, which would surely be as ghastly as it sounds. No, the answer is democracy. Without that, we will continue with the same bankrupt ideology -- expecting failure, and not being surprised or even angry' any more when it comes.

Adilya Chakrabortty

Senior Economics Commentator, The Guardian

Introduction

When exploring paradigm shifts in political economy, maybe it makes more sense to identify how protracted crises were book-ended historically than to seek specific turning points. Consider the crisis of Keynesianism, which provided the opening for the neoliberal take-over and overhaul of economic policy, including those Thatcher and Reagan victories. 1968 was a critical year, not only for the civic unrest that swept the world, but also for the early signs that the US economy would be unable to sustain its role in the global financial system on which Keynesian domestic policies depended. A slow-down in US productivity growth that year, combined with the fiscal costs of an escalation of the Vietnam war, meant that the dollar started to come under increased strain. The 'Bretton Woods system of fixed exchange rates, with the dollar (convertible to gold) at its centre, struggled on for another five years, before being abandoned under Richard Nixon.

It was a further three years before the final death-knell of Keynesianism was sounded, most loudly in Britain. In 1976, Britain's Labour government had to turn to the IMF for a loan, and agreed to adopt a new monetarist, neoliberal strategy for restoring the public finances. That September, Jim Callaghan, the leader of the Labour Party, famously addressed his party conference with the words:

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In one sense, the 'book-ends' of this recent crisis are the inverse of the ones that killed Keynesianism. 1968 was a year of political and civic uprisings, under circumstances of rising prosperity and a still relatively coherent paradigm for economic policy making, albeit one that was showing early signs of deterioration. It was a public and political crisis, which posed a threat to a society of rising prosperity and falling inequality. The technical failings of Keynesianism only really emerged subsequently, before snowballing to the point where the macroeconomic paradigm could simply not be sustained any longer.

The crisis of neoliberalism has reversed this ordering. 2008 was an implosion of technical capabilities on the part of banks and financial regulators, which was largely unaccompanied by any major political or civic eruption, at least until the consequences were felt in terms of public sector cuts that accelerated after 2010, especially in Southern Europe. The economic crisis was spookily isolated from any accompanying political crisis, at least in the beginning. The eruptions of 2016 therefore represented the long-awaited politicisation and publicisation of a crisis that, until then, had been largely dealt with by the same cadre of experts whose errors had caused it in the first place.

Faced with these largely unexpected events and the threat of more, politicians and media pundits have declared that we now need to listen to those people 'left behind by globalisation. Following the Brexit referendum, in her first speech as Prime Minister, Theresa May made a vow to the less prosperous members of society, 'we will do everything we can to give you more control over your lives. When we take the big calls, we'll think not of the powerful, but you.' This awakening to the demands and voices of marginalised demographics may represent a new recognition that economic policy cannot be wholly geared around the pursuit of 'national competitiveness' in the global race', a pursuit that in practice meant seeking to prioritise the interests of financial services and mobile capital. It signals mainstream political acceptance that inequality cannot keep rising forever. But it is still rooted in a somewhat economistic vision of politics, as if those people 'left behind by globalisation' simply want more material wealth and 'opportunity', plus fewer immigrants competing for jobs. What this doesn't do is engage with the distinctive political and cultural sociology of events such as Brexit and Trump, which are fuelled by a spirit of rage, punishment and self-punishment, and not simply by a desire to get a slightly larger slice of the pie.

This is where, I think, we need to pay close attention to a key dimension of neoliberalism, which I focus on at length in this book, namely competition. One of my central arguments here is that neoliberalism is not simply reducible to 'market fundamentalism', even if there are areas (such as financial markets) where markets have manifestly attained greater reach and power since the mid1970s. Instead, the neoliberal state takes the principle of competition and the ethos of competitiveness (which historically have been found in and around markets), and seeks to reorganise society around them. Quite how competition and competitiveness are defined and politically instituted is a matter for historical and theoretical exploration, which is partly what The Limits of Neoliberalism seeks to do. But at the bare minimum, organising social relations in terms of competition' means that individuals, organisations, cities, regions and nations are to be tested in terms of their capacity to out-do each other. Not only that, but the tests must be considered fair in some way, if the resulting inequalities are to be recognised as legitimate. When applied to individuals, this ideology is often known as 'meritocracy'.

The appeal of this as a political template for society is that, according to its advocates, it involves the discovery of brilliant ideas, more efficient business models, naturally talented individuals, new urban visions, successful national strategies, potent entrepreneurs and so on. Even if this is correct (and the work of Thomas Piketty on how wealth begets wealth is enough to cast considerable doubt on it) there is a major defect: it consigns the majority of people, places, businesses and institutions to the status of'losers'. The normative and existential conventions of a neoliberal society stipulate that success and prowess are things that are earned through desire, effort and innate ability, so long as social and economic institutions are designed in such a way as to facilitate this. But the corollary of this is that failure and weakness are also earned: when individuals and communities fail to succeed, this is a reflection of inadequate talent or energy on their part.

This has been critically noted in how 'dependency' and 'welfare' have become matters of shame since the conservative political ascendency of the 1980s. But this is just one example of how a culture of obligatory competitiveness exerts a damaging moral psychology, not only in how people look down on others, but in how they look down on themselves. A culture which valorises 'winning' and 'competitiveness' above all else provides few sources of security or comfort, even to those doing reasonably well. Everyone could be doing better, and if they're not, they have themselves to blame. The vision of society as a competitive game also suggests that anyone could very quickly be doing worse.

Under these neoliberal conditions, remorse becomes directed inwards, producing the depressive psychological effect (or what Freud termed 'melancholia') whereby people search inside themselves for the source of their own unhappiness and imperfect lives (Davies, 2015). Viewed from within the cultural logic of neoliberalism, uncompetitive regions, individuals or communities are not just 'left behind by globalisation', but are discovered to be inferior in comparison to their rivals, just like the contestants ejected from a talent show. Rising household indebtedness compounds this process for those living in financial precarity, by forcing individuals to pay for their own past errors, illness or sheer bad luck (Davies, Montgomerie 8t Wallin, 2015).

In order to understand political upheavals such as Brexit, we need to perform some sociological interpretation. We need to consider that our socio-economic pathologies do not simply consist in the fact that opportunity and wealth are hoarded by certain industries (such as finance) or locales (such as London) or individuals (such as the children of the wealthy), although all of these things are true. We need also to reflect on the cultural and psychological implications of how this hoarding has been represented and justified over the past four decades, namely that it reflects something about the underlying moral worth of different populations and individuals.

Hardship itself doesn't necessarily lead to the hopelessness and fury of which Donald Trump seemingly speaks. But when hardship feels both permanent and undeserved, the psychological appeal of demagogues promising to divert blame elsewhere, be it towards Muslims, 'experts', immigrants, the Chinese, Brussels or wherever, becomes irresistible. Seemingly irrational or even nihilistic popular upheavals make some sense, if understood in terms of the relief they offer for those who have felt trapped by their own impotence for too long, with nobody available to blame but themselves.

One psychological effect of this is authoritarian attitudes towards social deviance: Brexit and Trump supporters both have an above-average tendency to support the death penalty, combined with a belief that political authorities are too weak to enforce justice (Kaufman, 2016). However, it is also clear that psychological and physical pain have become far more widespread in neoliberal societies than has been noticed by most people. Statistical studies have shown how societies such as Britain and the United States have become afflicted by often inexplicable rising mortality rates amongst the white working class, connected partly to rising suicide rates, alcohol and drug abuse (Dorling, 2016). The Washington Post identified close geographic correlations between this trend and support for Donald Trump (Guo, 2016). In sum, a moral-economic system aimed at identifying and empowering the most competitive people, institutions and places has become targeted, rationally or otherwise, by the vast number of people, institutions and places that have suffered not only the pain of defeat but the punishment of defeat for far too long.

NEOLIBERALISM: DEAD OR ALIVE?

The question inevitably arises, is this thing called 'neoliberalism' now over? And if not, when might it be and how would w r e know? In the UK, the prospect of Brexit combined with the political priority of reducing immigration means that the efficient movement of capital (together with that of labour) is being consciously impeded in a w r ay that would have been unthinkable during the 1990s and early 2000s. The re-emergence of national borders as obstacles to the flow r of goods, finance, services and above all people, represents at least an interruption in the vision of globalisation that accompanied the heyday of neoliberal policy making between 1989-2008. If events such as Brexit signal the first step towards greater national mercantilism and protectionism, then we may be witnessing far more profound transformations in our model of political economy, the consequences of which could become very ugly.

Before we reach that point, it is already possible to identify a reorientation of national economic policy making away from some core tenets of neoliberal doctrine. One of the main case studies of this book is antitrust law and policy, which has been a preoccupation for neoliberal intellectuals, reformers and lawyers ever since the 1930s. The rise of the Chicago School view of competition (which effectively granted far greater legal rights to monopolists, while also being tougher on cartels) in the American legal establishment from the 1970s onwards, later repeated in the European Commission, meant that market regulation became a more expert, esoteric and ostensibly non-political means of power. One of the ideals of neoliberal scholars, both in the Austrian tradition of Friedrich Hayek and the Chicago School of Milton Friedman, was that the economic 'rules of the game' be established beyond the reach of democratic politics, where they might be manipulated to suit particular short-sighted intellectual, social or political agendas. Independent central banks are one of the more prominent examples of this, but the establishment of rational, apolitical and European-wide antitrust and state aid rules would be another.

As I explore in Chapter 5, the banking crisis caused some immediate damage to this vision of apolitical, permanent rules of competitive economic activity. The need to rescue the financial system at all costs saw EU state aid rules being overlooked, at least for a few months, suggesting that neoliberalism entered a state of'exception where the state took rapid executive decisions, wherever they were deemed necessary. Takeover rules were suspended to allow banks to buy failing competitors, again on the basis that this was necessary to secure the existential viability of the economy as such. But as is common in the state of 'exception, this was all done to preserve the status quo on the basis that an emergency had struck. It wasn't done with the aim of transforming the economic paradigm.

While anti-trust and state aid are only one small area of European Commission powers, they are symbolically very important. Competition regulations represent the normative ideal of the marketplace, which - in the case of post-war Europe - is imagined as an international, even post-national space of freedom, transcending cultural, linguistic and political differences. The liberal vision of cosmopolitan Europe becomes realised in economic institutions such as the single currency, but also the rules that govern market competitors. For these reasons, Britain's post-Brexit opportunity to withdraw from European anti-trust and state-aid regulations is symbolic of the new post-liberal or post-neoliberal era that is emerging. Already, Theresa May has used her first few speeches as UK Prime Minister to push for a more interventionist state, that seeks to shape economic outcomes around national, political and social priorities (a reduction of immigration above all else) no doubt mindful of the fact that the British state will soon have far more discretion to do this, once it is no longer bound by state aid rules.

At the time of writing, the odds are against Trump becoming President of the United States, though one lesson of 2016 is not to be too confident regarding political odds. This means that the prospect of the United States abandoning its

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The rise of behavioural economics, for example, represents an attempt to preserve a form of market rationality in the face of crisis, by incorporating expertise provided by psychologists and neuroscientists. A form of 'neo-communitarianism' emerges, which takes seriously the role of relationships, environmental conditioning and empathy in the construction of independent, responsible subjects. This remains an economists logic, inasmuch as it prepares people to live efficient, productive, competitive lives. But by bringing culture, community and contingency within the bounds of neoliberal rationality, one might see things like behavioural economics or 'social neuroscience and so on as early symptoms of a genuinely post-liberal politics. Once governments (and publics) no longer view economics as the best test of optimal policies, then opportunities for post-liberal experimentation expand rapidly, with unpredictable and potentially frightening consequences. It was telling that, when the British Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, suggested in October 2016 that companies be compelled to publicly list their foreign workers, she defended this policy as a 'nudge'.

The Limits of Neolibcralism is a piece of interpretive sociology. It starts from the recognition that neoliberalism rests on claims to legitimacy, which it is possible to imagine as valid, even for critics of this system. Inspired by Luc Boltanski, the book assumes that political-economic systems typically need to offer certain limited forms of hope, excitement and fairness in order to survive, and cannot operate via domination and exploitation alone.

For similar reasons, we might soon find that we miss some of the normative and political dimensions of neoliberalism, for example the internationalism that the EU was founded to promote and the cosmopolitanism that competitive markets sometimes inculcate. There may be some elements of neoliberalism that critics and activists need to grasp, refashion and defend, rather than to simply denounce: this books Afterword offers some ideas of what this might mean. But if the book is to be read in a truly post-neoliberal world, I hope that in its interpretive aspirations, it helps to explain what was internally and normatively coherent about the political economy known as 'neoliberalism', but also why the system really had no account of its own preconditions or how to preserve them adequately.

The attempt to reduce all of human life to economic calculation runs up against limits. A political rationality that fails to recognise politics as a distinctive sphere of human existence was always going to be dumbfounded, once that sphere took on its own extra-economic life. As Bob Dylan sang to Mr Jones, so one might now say to neoliberal intellectuals or technocrats: 'something is happening here, but you don't know what it is'.

[Oct 16, 2017] Friedrich Von Hayek

Highly recommended!
Oct 16, 2017 | www.amazon.com

From The Limits of Neoliberalism Authority, Sovereignty and the Logic of Competition (Theory, Culture & Society) William Davies 9

Friedrich Von Hayek believed that the intellectual, political and organizational forces of liberalism began a downward trajectory around 1870 (Hayek, 1944:21). In place of the decentralized structure of the Victorian marketplace and British classical economics, came trends towards bureaucratization, management and the protection of the social' realm, all accompanied by a growing authority for German institutionalist and historicist ideas. By the 1940s this had reached the point of emergency. Having witnessed a financial crisis usher in Fascism, Keynesianism and then a world war, Hayek viewed the choices of political modernity in starkly binary terms:

We have in effect undertaken to dispense with the forces which produced unforeseen results and to replace the impersonal and anonymous mechanism of the market by collective and "conscious" direction of all social forces to deliberately chosen goals. (1944:21)

Reversing this trend would mean restoring the political authority of'impersonal' and 'anonymous' mechanisms, and of 'individual' and 'unconscious' forces in public life, which lack any 'deliberately chosen goals'. When Hayek looked back to the high period of British liberalism, what he mourned was a society that had no explicitly collective or public purpose, and whose direction could not be predicted or determined. The central function of markets in this nostalgic vision was to coordinate social activity without intervention by political authorities or conscious' cooperation by actors themselves. And if there were other ways of coordinating individuals unconscious goals, impersonally and anonymously, these might be equally welcome as markets. The virtue of markets, for Hayek, was their capacity to replace egalitarian and idealist concepts of the common good that he believed could lead to tyranny.

Hayek's thought is widely recognized to have played a key role in inspiring and co-ordinating the intellectual and political movement which came to be known as 'neoliberalism' (Mirowski & Plehwe, 2009; Stedman-Jones, 2012; Bergin, 2013). This movement achieved a number of significant political and policy victories from the late 1970s onwards, resulting in a roughly coherent paradigm that spread around the world over the subsequent thirty years. Its major crisis, if that is what it actually was, began in 2007, when it emerged that Western investment banks had drastically under-calculated the risks attached to the US housing market, the fall-out from which was a macro-economic stagnation more enduring than any since the 1880s. While the neoliberal policy era was punctuated by unusually frequent financial crises (Harvey, 2005), what was most significant about the 2007-09 banking crisis - in addition to its scale - was the fact that it originated in Wall Street, bringing vast fiscal and social costs to a nation that had played a key role in propagating neoliberal policies. But the fact that this policy paradigm appears largely intact, several years after the dawning of the financial crisis, is now an object of scholarly interest in its own right (Crouch, 2011; Engelen et aL, 2011; Mirowski, 2013).

Running in parallel to this economic breakdown was a series of events that raised widespread moral concerns about the coherence of key public institutions and society more generally. Britain, for example, saw a succession of disturbances, apparently affected by forms of hedonistic self-interest: in 2009 Members of Parliament were discovered to be routinely lying about their expenses in order to inflate their pay; in 2011 journalists were discovered to be engaged in the criminal hacking of phones, possibly beknown to the police; in August 2011 disparate riots erupted across English cities, featuring seemingly hedonistic acts of destruction and the widespread looting of branded goods, with scarce collective or political grievance; and in 2012 it emerged that individuals working in major high street banks had conspired to alter the 'LIBOR' rate, which dictates the price at which banks lend to each other, and influences the rate at which banks will lend to customers, and questions were raised as to whether government officials had actively encouraged this. These unconnected events seem to suggest a normative and political crisis, whereby the very possibility of deliberate collective action is thrown into question. A form of institutionalized anti-institutionalism seemed to have become established. The routine nature of so much of this activity made it impossible to dismiss as mere 'corruption or criminality! Meanwhile, concerns about the effects of consumerism! inequality and loneliness upon health and mental health (which in turn bring major economic costs) have begun to raise elite concerns about the sustainability of the contemporary political-economic model (Davies, 2011a). 'Epidemics' of depression, anxiety, obesity and addictive behaviour register as an indictment on societies that have made calculated self-interest and competitiveness tacitly constitutional principles (Davies, 2012).

The inability to achieve a new political settlement or new economic paradigm is by some measures a testimony to the success of the neoliberal project. Hayek's complaint could now even be reversed: we have in effect undertaken to dispense with the forces which produced foreseen results and to replace the collective and 'conscious direction of all social forces towards deliberately chosen goals by the impersonal and anonymous mechanism of the market (or market-like behaviour). Having consciously opened ourselves up to spontaneous and uncertain processes, we are now unable to escape from them again. The powerlessness of political or moral authorities to shape or direct society differently demonstrates how far the neoliberal critique of economic planning has permeated. Whether Hayek would have still trusted 'unconscious social forces, when confronted with the libidinous, destructive rush of contemporary consumerism and financialization, is another question. The framing of neoliberal crises - including financial crises - in psychological and neurological terms (discussed in Chapter 5) can be seen partly as a last ditch effort to distinguish which 'unconscious' forces are to be trusted and which ones are not.

Defining neoliberalism

Neoliberalism is clearly not a unified doctrine to the extent that Keynesianism is. While Hayek is one of the obvious figureheads of the neoliberal 'thought collective (Mirowski & Plehwe, 2009) his work is at odds with many other neoliberal forms of policy and governance. The origins of the neoliberal movement can be traced to the contributions of Hayek and Ludwig Von Mises to the 'socialist calculation debate of the 1920s and 1930s (Mises, 1990; Hayek, 2009). The intellectual project of reinventing liberalism was scattered between London, New York, Chicago, Freiburg and Vienna, up until the 1970s (Peck, 2010). The application and adaptation of these ideas spread no less haphazardly, serving various masters as they w r ent. But what, I suggest, is the common thread in all of this - and what makes the term 'neoliberalism' a necessary one - is an attempt to replace political judgement with economic evaluation, including, but not exclusively, the evaluations offered by markets. Of course, both political and economic logics are plural and heterogeneous. But the central defining characteristic of all neoliberal critique is its hostility to the ambiguity of political discourse, and a commitment to the explicitness and transparency of quantitative, economic indicators, of which the market price system is the model. Neoliberalism is the pursuit of the disenchantment of politics by economics.

The language of politics, unlike the language of economics, has a self-consciously performative dimension. It is used with a public in mind, and an awareness that the members and perspectives contained in that public are plural and uncertain. The praxis and aesthetics of discourse are acknowledged in what we consider to be 'political' situations. These include legal process, in which text and speech resonate in public settings, and seek to do something as much as represent something. This doesn't mean that economics as a discipline is not performative, requires no public or has no praxis. On the contrary, a great deal of recent scholarship has demonstrated that economics is often powerfully performative (Callon, 1998; Mitchell, 2002; MacKen/.ie, 2006; MacKenzie et al., 2007) and employs political rhetorics (McCloskey, 1985). Quantification and measurement have their own affective and aesthetic qualities (Porter, 1995), but the example of market price indicates to an economic sensibility that ambiguity and performativity can be beneficially minimized or constrained. From a neoliberal perspective, price provides a logical and phenomenological ideal of how human relations can be mediated without the need for rhetorical, ritualized or deliberately performative modes of communication. Indeed, price may even suggest that peaceful human interaction is feasible without speech at all. The reduction of complex and uncertain situations to a single number, as achieved by a market, appears as a route out of the hermeneutic pluralism and associated dangers of politics. Whether generated by markets or by economics, a price is an example of what Poovey terms the 'modern fact', a simple 'preinterpretive' or 'noninterpretive' representation of a state of affairs (Poovey, 1998).

If today politics and public institutions appear to have disintegrated into merely calculated and strategic behaviour, one response would be to view this as a sideeffect of 'modernity' or 'advanced capitalism' or plain 'greed'. But perhaps a more fruitful one would be to examine this as a self-conscious project of rationalization on the part of intellectuals and policy elites. The disenchantment of politics by economics involves a deconstruction of the language of the 'common good' or the 'public', which is accused of a potentially dangerous mysticism. In the first instance, as manifest in the work of Mises and Hayek, this is an attack on socialism and the types of state expertise that enact it, but it is equally apparent in a critique of the liberal idea of justice, as in the work of Richard Posner and others. With some reservations, it is also manifest as a critique of executive political authority which is contrasted unfavourably with the economically rational authority of the manager. The targets of neoliberal critique are institutionally and ontologically various, which elicits different styles of critique. In each case, substantive claims about political authority and the public are critically dismantled and replaced with technical economic substitutes. These substitutes may need to be invented from scratch, hence the constructivist and often experimental dimensions of neoliberalism, a selection of which will be explored in detail in subsequent chapters.

As the more observant critics of neoliberalism have noted, it did not, therefore, seek or achieve a shrinking of the state, but a re-imagining and transformation of it (Peck, 2010; Mirowski, 2013). In the seventy years separating the golden age of Victorian liberalism and the intellectual birth of neoliberalism, the character of the state and of capitalism had changed markedly. The rise of American and German industrial capitalism had been achieved thanks to new economies of scale and organizational efficiencies associated with large corporations and hierarchical structures, including the birth of management (Chandler, 1977; Arrighi, 2009). Science and expertise were now formally channelled into business. Technical advancements in the fields of statistics and national accounts, followed by the birth of macroeconomics in the 1930s, meant that 'the economy' had appeared as a complex object of political management (Mitchell, 1998; Suzuki, 2003). And the on-going growth of a 'social' realm, measured and governed by sociology, social statistics, social policy and professions, meant that the American and European states of the 1930s had far more extensive capacities and responsibilities for audit and intervention than the British liberal state of the 1860s (Donzelot, 1991; Desrosieres, 1998).

The pragmatism of the neoliberal pioneers prevented them from proposing a romantic return to a halcyon age of classical liberalism, instead committing them to a reinvention of liberalism suitable for a more complex, regulated, Eordist capitalism. Hayek believed that 'the fundamental principle that in the ordering of our affairs we should make as much use as possible of the spontaneous forces of society, and resort as little as possible to coercion, is capable of an infinite variety of applications' (1944: 17). Victorian laissez-faire was only one empirical manifestation of the liberal idea. Restoring economic freedom would not be achieved simply through withdrawing the state from 'the market', but through active policy interventions, to remould institutions, state agencies and individuals, in ways that were compatible with a market ethos (however defined) and were amenable to economic measurement. The state is therefore a powerful instrument of neoliberalism, though also an object of its constant critique; this is one of many contradictions of neoliberalism, and one which has been raised to new heights since the banking crises of 2007-09.

Hayek's own interpretations of both liberalism and the political public sphere were highly idiosyncratic. Liberalism is associated primarily with the uncertainty of outcomes. Freedom, by this account, requires ignorance of the future, and the preservation of freedom requires a dogmatic agnosticism on the part of public institutions. 1 By contrast, political activity is interpreted as a project of determining outcomes and reducing uncertainty. At least in the modern era, politics is viewed as an instrument of planning and the pursuit of certainty, though this is concealed by the deceptive nature of political language. This pessimistic view directly inverts the (equally pessimistic) perspective of Hannah Arendt, for example, who saw liberal governance of the economic and 'social' realm as a poor, expertly managed substitute for the inherent uncertainty and vitality of political action (Arendt, 1958). Both positions celebrate, and arguably romanticize, uncertainty, but see its rationalist enemies in different places - the Hayekian neoliberal fears the politician, while the Arendtian political actor fears the economist.

Most analyses of neoliberalism have focused on its commitment to 'free markets, deregulation and trade. 1 shan't discuss the validity of these portrayals here, although some have undoubtedly exaggerated the similarities between 'classical' nineteenth-century liberalism and twentieth-century neoliberalism. The topic addressed here is a different one - the character of neoliberal authority, on what basis does the neoliberal state demand the right to be obeyed, if not on substantive political grounds? To a large extent, it is on the basis of particular economic claims and rationalities, constructed and propagated by economic experts. The state does not necessarily (or at least, not always) cede power to markets, but comes to justify its decisions, policies and rules in terms that are commensurable with the logic of markets. Neoliberalism might therefore be defined as the elevation of market-based principles and techniques of evaluation to the level of state-endorsed norms (Davies, 2013: 37). The authority of the neoliberal state is heavily dependent on the authority of economics (and economists) to dictate legitimate courses of action. Understanding that authority - and its present crisis - requires us to look at economics, economic policy experts and advisors as critical components of state institutions.

[Oct 16, 2017] C Wright Mills called the US state a plutocracy all fifty years ago

Notable quotes:
"... Indeed; smart, intelligent, "clever" folks in no way confers any degree of civility on their "vested" interests. Manipulation and control are suitably useful tools for their purposes. ..."
"... The media is not a major player in running the country, contrary to what much of the right has been brainwashed to believe. It's a tool of the elite. A hammer is also a very useful tool but it doesn't do much to determine what the carpenter builds. ..."
"... We convinced ourselves that our form of oligarchy was somehow "better" than other forms, when in fact, the end game was always the same..concentrating the power in as few hands as possible. Denial was the name of the game here in the US. ..."
"... They learned their lessons well after the 60's, the last time the people really raised up against the machine, so they have given us all the; junk food at a low cost, all the TV and mindless sexually charged entertainment, all the "debt wealth", a simple minded, unread, semi-literate, beer swilling fool could ever ask for. And we all gladly gobble it up and follow the crowd, for who wants to be on the outside looking in... ..."
"... There is always a ruling elite because power is the wellspring of all human actions. There is also a certain moral consciousness that many people argue is innate in human nature, and that consciousness is fairness. The fairness instinct survives where ordinary human sympathy may fail. Based upon this basic morality of fairness those of us who are willing to take risks in the interest of fairness need to prune and tend the ruling elites as soon as possible. We proles need to act together. ..."
"... Waiting for the oligarchy to rot from within isn't what i would call a viable plan. Not when there is a far better and far more sure way to get the job done. Start with capping wealth accumulation. ..."
"... With all the upheaval in today's politics, it's hard not to think that this moment is one in which the future of the political system might be more up for grabs than it has been in generations. ..."
"... Dominance of oligarchic political power, through neoliberalism, over the last four decades has effectively put such policies out of bounds. ..."
"... The last one I recall was an article by Kenan Malik on identity politics . For what exists in this country, the UK, I have previously used the term "oligarchy by profession" ... meaning a pool of the usually upper half of the middle class, or a group in whom that group is disproportionally represented, who not only likely have a select education but who go on to become part of certain professions - accountants, lawyers, journalists, bankers, doctors etc. ... and of course, politicians tend to be drawn from these. ..."
"... Apparently we're so distracted that we're also all genuinely shocked that Hollywood is rife with pedophilia and extreme sexual harassment as though it's some revelation that we didn't know already, but that's another conversation. ..."
"... If we're all so distracted then it's not difficult for our political 'representatives' -- I use that word very tentatively because they barely ever do -- to subject themselves to the oligarchs for a few scraps more than we have ourselves. ..."
"... Limiting govt still leaves economic power and the tendency towards monopoly untouched. ..."
"... Culture is the key, much more than any genetic impulse, which is practically meaningless and so explains nothing. ..."
"... As wealth defense is so important to oligarchs, there is a constant pressure to cheat and break the law. One solution therefore is to apply the law but also to construct legislation with specific principles in mind. If the point of tax legislation is to contribute your share towards the general good then those who avoid and evade tax would be guilty of a technical breach but also a breach of the principle. ..."
"... However our laws are skewed to allowing the wealthy to defend their wealth and so a party of the people is always needed. Always. ..."
Oct 16, 2017 | discussion.theguardian.com

cognitivedissonance1 , 15 Oct 2017 13:25

Nothing new here, C Wright Mills, the US state as a plutocracy , government by the few , said it all fifty years ago , especially the economic oligarchs

http://www2.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/theory/mills_critique.html

http://plutocratsandplutocracy.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/the-power-elite.html

imipak -> NoBets , 15 Oct 2017 13:21
I would again point to Plato. Those whose affluence exceeds the critical threshold stagnate. They have no need to work, no need to hold anything as valuable, they contribute nothing and take everything.

What is the point in being so rich? There's nothing you can gain from it, other than bank account pinball.

The purpose of being rich is to enable you. It is the only purpose. Once you are fully enabled, money has no value.

Those who are poor can't afford the tools to work well, the education/training needed, anything by which they could better themselves and be upwardly mobile.

There are some who are poor by choice. Voluntary hermits are common enough. They're not included in here because they're self-sufficient and have the tools they need so fall out of scope.

The middle band, where prone work the best, function the best, are mentally and physically the best, is very very big. Nothing stops you cramming society into there because they've plenty of room to stretch out.

But people always want to improve. No big. Make tax follow a curve, so that you always improve but the game gets harder not easier. Would you play a computer game where level 100 was easier than level 1? No, you'd find it boring. As long as it's a single curve, nobody gets penalized.

You now get to play forever, level billion is better than level million is better than level thousand, but it's asymptotic so infinite improvement never breaks outside the bounds.

"Asymptotic" is a word that meets your objection AND my rebuttal. You do not have to have either a constant, infinity or hard ceilings. Leave straight lines to geometers and enter the world of inflection points.

Viddyvideo , 15 Oct 2017 13:19
Elites exist the world over -- East, West, North and South. Question is how do we create a world where power is shared -- Plato and his Guardians perhaps or are we doomed to be ruled by elites until the end of time?
handygranny -> R Zwarich , 15 Oct 2017 13:14
Indeed; smart, intelligent, "clever" folks in no way confers any degree of civility on their "vested" interests. Manipulation and control are suitably useful tools for their purposes.
memo10 -> ashleyhk , 15 Oct 2017 13:11

Yet most of the media is resolutely "liberal" or leftist How do you explain that?

The media is not a major player in running the country, contrary to what much of the right has been brainwashed to believe. It's a tool of the elite. A hammer is also a very useful tool but it doesn't do much to determine what the carpenter builds.

RecantedYank -> mjmizera , 15 Oct 2017 13:09
Rapid is still quite right... We convinced ourselves that our form of oligarchy was somehow "better" than other forms, when in fact, the end game was always the same..concentrating the power in as few hands as possible. Denial was the name of the game here in the US.
CommanderMaxil -> Elgrecoandros , 15 Oct 2017 13:08
jessthecrip's comment was clearly not calling for JRM to be imprisoned or in any way punished for his views , but for his votes . Specifically his votes in the House of commons to support benefit cuts for disability claimants. Admittedly that a pretty extreme position from my point of view, but nonetheless you are misrepresentating what was said, whether deliberately or because you genuinely have not understood only you can know
Spudnik2 -> Gunsarecivilrights , 15 Oct 2017 13:05
More people should simply look up from time to time and quit living in fantasy books. The whole and real truth is not written in a book its all around you if you are willing to except what you see.
vinny59er , 15 Oct 2017 13:04
Form a government in same way we select juries. No entrenchment of the same old guard, no lobbyists,no elite, no vested interests.Just people like you,and you.People like your children.People like your parents.People like your neighbors
mjmizera -> RecantedYank , 15 Oct 2017 13:03
The industrial-military complex of the 50-70s didn't just disappear, but morphed into today's structures.
mjmizera -> voogdy , 15 Oct 2017 13:00
Not anymore, as conspiracy nuts are now serving their new masters, the altRight. They joined the enemy.
theseligsussex -> Sailor25 , 15 Oct 2017 12:59
Not really driven by the oligarch, more looted. And there's normally 1 greedy bugger, Sulla or Pompey, who has to have it all and upsets the apple cart, and then you get Augustus.
mjmizera -> ashleyhk , 15 Oct 2017 12:58
There is never the right far enough that one can't be to the left of.
mjmizera -> RecantedYank , 15 Oct 2017 12:55
All the good/bad labels lose their meaning without a qualifier - for whom.
winemaster2 , 15 Oct 2017 12:54
The US and it being a democracy, the word that is no where mentioned in the Constitution is one big hoax and the perpetuation of the same, where the missed people in this country are further conned by the elite and the rich. Then on top of it all we f or sure not practice what we preach. To that end our political system with two senators from each of 50 states m irrespective to the population is lot to be desired in terms of any real democratic process, let alone equality in representation. To add insult to injury, the US House of Representatives where Congressional Districts are gerrymandered just about every two years, is even worst. Just as the US Congress in which over 90% of the people have no confidence.
sejong -> ashleyhk , 15 Oct 2017 12:50
Yet most of the media is resolutely "liberal" or leftist How do you explain that?

Liberal MSM has been emasculated. It doesn't know it's dead. It doesn't move any needles. It just brays on in ineffective anti-Trump outrage and one identity politics issue after another.

Rightwing media is king in USA.

makingalist , 15 Oct 2017 12:47
One way they get away with it is by having their own separate education system. It's high time private schools were closed down.
handygranny -> ID3924525 , 15 Oct 2017 12:47
Who was it again who said he loves the undereducated and uninformed during the campaign season of 2016?
laerteg -> ValuedCustomer , 15 Oct 2017 12:44
Yes- the demonization of liberalism on the right and the turning away from liberalism on the left *has* paved the way for oligarchy.

Divide and conquer, as usual, is working.

Shrimpandgrits -> imperium3 , 15 Oct 2017 12:44
Slavery -- chattel slavery -- was an element.

Socialist, mass slavery was not.

Leon Sphinx , 15 Oct 2017 12:41
The House of Lords in the U.K. and the Senate in the US were originally there to prevent poor people - always the majority - from voting to take away wealth and lands from the rich. Basically, if such a vote was cast, the HoL and Senate - filled with the elites of society - had the power to block it.
ashleyhk , 15 Oct 2017 12:41
This is a fascinating dissection of how the "leftist/liberal" media was completely disrupted by Trump. It is a long read and quite difficult (so not likely to appeal to most of the knee-jerk commentators) but, whatever your politics it is well worth a look
https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/10/what-facebook-did/542502 /
Laurence Bury , 15 Oct 2017 12:41
The human (and probably animal) world is made up of oligarchies that deal with each other. History has shown that only lone soldiers can upset established orders: Alexander, Napoleon, Lenin, Castro and Bin Laden come to mind.
laerteg -> Hibernica , 15 Oct 2017 12:40
I agree with the article's premise. We have allowed the oligarchs to consolidate power.

Why? Because Americans revere wealth and power. We have bought into the capitalist model hook, line, and sinker. We willingly elect candidates and sign on to policies that allow oligarchs to consolidate their power, increase their wealth and income inequality, pomote greed and selfishness, and undermine democracy - the power of the people.

We have been busy electing agents of oligarchy to Congress since 1980. Buying ino the "small government" con, the "taxes are theft" con, "the business is overregulated" con, the "corporations are the job creators" con and its twin the "government never created jobs" con, the anti-union con, etc, etc, etc.

Our political system would be a lot more representative of the people if the people would get off their butts and start participating in it. Our electoral ststem is open to anyone who wants to participate.

But who and how many participate any more?

When the people create a vacuum with their apathy and cynicism, the oligarchs fill it with their greed.

Oligarchs will always be attracted to power, no matter what system is in place. What's needed to minimize their ability to entrench themselves is vigilance in defending our institutions against corruption.

And vigilance is something that the American people seem to have less and less of every day.

Matt Quinn , 15 Oct 2017 12:40
Maximise aggregate happiness as John Nash suggested. Cooperation beats competition in almost every sphere. Uniting the 99% will happen after the 1% have brought civilisation to a standstill and a billion people starve.
vinny59er , 15 Oct 2017 12:38
The biggest impediment to true and real democracy is the existence of political parties.
RapidSloth -> RecantedYank , 15 Oct 2017 12:27
Denial is a powerful mental mechanism, that and also people tend to associate oligarchy with brutal, straight forwards autocratic rule.
US has a very sophisticated socio-political system that has isolated the elite and the common man through many filters rather than one solid brick wall - so people dont see it. This paired with large enough populations who are cretinous enough to actually vote for somebody like Trump or give a second term to the likes of G.W Bush makes fooling extremely easy.

There is also the tendency of treating laws like dogma and the constitution like the bible. A stark example of it is how they boast about freedom of speech. Everybody is keen to point out that one can publicly criticize politicians without fear of prosecution but nobody seems to notice how useless that speech is and how effectively the political elite shelters itself from negative opinion and is able to proceed against the public will. I find it quite fascinating.

RecantedYank , 15 Oct 2017 12:20
ALL oligarchies are bad...they just function from a different starting point.
In the US, we have an oligarchy based on wealth,who then uses their money to buy the political animals.
In Communist countries, you had a political oligarchy, who used their political powers to corner the wealth.
And in religious oligarchies you have a few selected "high priests" using religious fervor/special communication lines with whatever deity, to capture both wealth and politics.

None of these are preferable over the other as they all concentrate power into the hands of the few (1-2%), against the interests of the many.

virgenskamikazes , 15 Oct 2017 12:20
The fact is Western Democracy (democratic capitalism) is not and was never a true democracy.

Historians from at least 300 years from now, when studying our historical time, will state our system was capitalism, whose political system was plutocracy -- the rule of the capitalist class from behind the curtains, through puppet governors.

Sure, the same historians will, through archaeological evidence, state, correctly, that we called and considered ourselves to live in a democracy. But they will also find evidence that this claim was always contested by contemporaries. Emperor Augustus restored the façade of the Republic and called himself princeps instead of king, and, officially, Rome was still a Republic until the time of Marcus Aurelius to Diocletian (maybe the first emperor to openly consider himself a monarch) -- it doesn't fool today's historians, and it seems it didn't fool the Roman people also.

sejong , 15 Oct 2017 12:15
Oligarchy in USA is secure. For a generation, it has leveraged rightwing media to get unquestioning support from white America based on aggrieved truculence toward the liberal, the brown, and the black. And that was pre-Trump.

Now Trump rampages against the very symbol of the grievance: Obama.

It's midnight in the world's leading third world country

voogdy , 15 Oct 2017 12:10
Anyone who's been accusing united states of being an oligarchy so far was branded as a conspiracy nut. So does this article rehabilitates them and confirms their assertions?
j. von Hettlingen , 15 Oct 2017 12:07
In ancient Greece: "While the ruling class must remain united for an oligarchy to remain in power, the people must also be divided so they cannot overthrow their oppressors." Today the oligarchs aren't always united, because they see each other as rivals. But they have nothing against dividing and weakening the people in order to prevent them from rising up to "their oppressors."
Mass indoctrination is the answer. Oligarchs around the world seek to build up a media empire to brainwash a gullible public and sow discord in the society. The most notorious members of a civil oligarchy in the West are Silvio Berlusconi and Rupert Murdoch. Like oligarchs in ancient Greece, their modern counterparts need democratic support to legitimise their goals. And they support candidates in elections who will do their bidding once in office.
Oligarchy and plutocracy will continue to rule America, because the worship of money is a popular faith. As long as an individual is well off, he/she sees little incentive to help improve social equality. A revolution will only be possible if a critical mass is behind it.
PeterlooSunset -> maddiemot , 15 Oct 2017 12:06
The current US education system was put in place by the oligarch foundations of the Rockefellers, Carnegies and Guggenheims . It exists to keep the majority of the citizenry misinformed, thus docile workers and passive consumers.
ID3924525 -> 37Dionysos , 15 Oct 2017 12:05
Sounds about right - a least some, a very small minority, realise they're being suckered - the overwhelming majority die pig ignorant, whether they believe they've made it or live in a trailer park.
lasos2222 , 15 Oct 2017 12:03
it's very rare that an article in the Guardian doesn't have an obvious agenda. Simple click bait stuff. This article is different, and worthwhile reading. Excellent.
RecantedYank , 15 Oct 2017 12:02
I am only surprised that anyone would still be in the dark about whether or not the US is an oligarchy. It's been obvious now for at least the past three-four decades.
RapidSloth , 15 Oct 2017 12:01
If the general public opposes rule-by-economic-elites, yep sure... too elections held in the last two decades contradict that statement.
37Dionysos -> OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 12:01
Yep---for where very few have very much and most have nothing, you have a pressure-cooker. The property-police must indeed grow in number and brutality.
37Dionysos -> ID3924525 , 15 Oct 2017 11:58
And the other half of it is what Ben Franklin warned about, "the corruption of the people." The gangsters really sense and know how to play people against themselves---arousing appetites, appealing to short-term pleasure, to short-term feel-good thinking and acts, and to greed and lust for seemingly easy power. When you realize you're had, it's too late: "In every transaction, there's a sucker. If you're wondering who that is, it's you."
Feindbild -> PSmd , 15 Oct 2017 11:55
Yep sure. The 'big white kid' pritecting the brown kid does tend to be working class or middle class Jewish, and indeed, more likely to be socialist than liberal (in my experience).

I wouldn't limit credit for this kind of thing to any particular ethnicity. But I will say that most major successful reform 'crusades' of modern Western history were inspired by Christian ideals, and often led by Christian clergy, including the anti-slavery Abolition movement in 19th-century America, the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and '60s, and the anti-Communist revolutions in 1980's Eastern Central Europe. Even in the anti-Apartheid movement, the churches played a leading role, personified, of course, by Bishop Tutu.

MTorrespico -> OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 11:52
Correct, because that would be too easy . . . for 'Muricans, because Other people might benefit, and because it is too, too logical a solution for the Turd World USA.
37Dionysos , 15 Oct 2017 11:51
In the Oxford English Dictionary you find that "profit" and "advantage" are close cousins etymologically. Makes sense, since "profit" (the word for value you did not put into an exchange) creates "advantage"---and then you use advantages to give even less and take even more profit. Round and round she goes, and there's no bottom. "Advantage" of course is also inherently relative to somebody else's "DIS-advantage": hence our planet full of "disadvantaged" working people.
OldTrombone -> rg12345 , 15 Oct 2017 11:50
No, I think the Democrats are the ones most successful at diverting the people from their own power in favor of the banks. The Republicans are far less successful by their own control, instead benefitting only from luck such as Wasserman-Schultz denying Elizabeth Warren from her rightful place in the Oval Office. Sanders was the consolation candidate for Warren voters. Warren would have beaten Trump 50-nil.
MTorrespico -> Nash25 , 15 Oct 2017 11:50
Correct. Two equal evils from the same nest-egg, a political party with two right-wings. At the least, the public know why the First Nazi of Great America has an aura of flies.
name1 -> Skip Breitmeyer , 15 Oct 2017 11:46
Divisions or hijacking? I suspect the latter.
PeterlooSunset , 15 Oct 2017 11:39

a colleague of mine asked if America was really at risk of becoming an oligarchy. Our political system, he said, is a democracy. If the people don't want to be run by wealthy elites, we can just vote them out.

Thanks for the cracking joke. That was hilariously funny.

teamofrivals , 15 Oct 2017 11:38
There's a term on everything and a rhythm to all things and its an impertinence to think that any political system lasts forever for our security.
brianBT , 15 Oct 2017 11:34
full and transparent disclosure of all finical and gift transactions between elected official and anyone not in govt.. this include "payments" to family, friends their charities.. etc.. if you cant see the lie no one fight to have the laws and rules changed... additionally lobbyist must no longer be allowed to have the type of closed door access to our leaders.. all these conversations must be moderated or flat out banned and a new form of communication is developed.... put it this way I have never been able to get a meeting with my leading politician yet big business can at almost any time.. I'm glad this issues is being more openly discussed.. we need more of the same
ID3924525 -> ID3924525 , 15 Oct 2017 11:32
Karl Marx, in The Communist Manifesto , indentified this in his concept, "False Consciousness", and Orwell, taking Stalinism to exemplify it, points to the same in Animal Farm , though I bet they weren't the first, and hope they won't be the last.
OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 11:31
Machiavelli was right, when you need political favors to get to the top, then you will always owe the favor-givers when you get there. Machiavelli also said this:

Sortition works!

When the most powerful person has literally zero interest in the outcome, they will defer to moral utilitarianism every time. Ask Canada's John Ralton Saul "The Unconcious Civilization" and Australia's Ricky Muir from the Motoring Enthusiasts Party [seriously] who scuppered Aussie right-wingers from bringing US-style education-loans to rent-seek our economy to death.

laerteg , 15 Oct 2017 11:29
The problem is that today's so-called "populists" have been so propagandized into despising the liberalism that could fight the oligarchs, and buying into the very policies and philosophies that allow the oligarchs to consolidate their power (endless tax cuts, undermined government, deregulation, big money in politics, destruction of unions, etc, etc.) that they play right into their hands.

They've mistaken a demagogue for a man of the people and continue to cheer on the dismantling of the checks on oligarchy that our system provides.

This country is in a world of hurt and those who should be exercizing their democratic power to diminish the power of the oligarchs are busy dismantling it, thanks to decades of right wing media propaganda.

All I see is more oligarchy, more autoctacy, and less power to the people. We just keep sticking it to ourselves.

Elgrecoandros -> jessthecrip , 15 Oct 2017 11:28
I literally copy pasted the comments in order, how have I twisted anything?

The person complained about some reaction to Rees-Mogg for having different political views being over the top and you promptly justified their claim.

OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 11:25
Capitalist oligarchies = bad, right?

So... communism, then, right?

It's time for SORTITION

When anyone could instantly become president, then everyone has to be educated as much as possible. Right? Hey classical policy scholars, sortition worked in Ancient Greece too! As well as everywhere else ever since. Ever heard of court juries?

ID3924525 , 15 Oct 2017 11:22
Divide and rule - the oldest trick in the book, and incredibly easy, as long as people are kept ignorant by propaganda (currently known as The Media) and education.
rg12345 -> Rainborough , 15 Oct 2017 11:21
Many (most?) Of us do understand it, that's why we're opposed to Citizens United, whereas the Republicans are for it.
Nash25 , 15 Oct 2017 11:20
Hillary Clinton lost because the working class (correctly) perceived her to be a supporter of oligarchy in the USA. Her ties to Wall Street, corporate power, and the upper class were too obvious.

Yes, Trump fooled many voters into believing that he was populist, but their perception of Clinton was still accurate.

If the Democratic party leaders had chosen Sanders as their candidate, they would have won the election. But the "Democratic" party leaders (ironically) feared what he offered: real democracy.

jessthecrip -> Elgrecoandros , 15 Oct 2017 11:19
You are an expert twister and no mistake. I can only salute you
SoxMcCarthy -> TragicomedyBeholder , 15 Oct 2017 11:18
"The Bad Hayek emerged when he aimed to convert a wider public. Then, as often happens, he tended to overreach, and to suggest more than he had legitimately argued. The Road to Serfdom was a popular success but was not a good book. Leaving aside the irrelevant extremes, or even including them, it would be perverse to read the history, as of 1944 or as of now, as suggesting that the standard regulatory interventions in the economy have any inherent tendency to snowball into "serfdom." The correlations often run the other way. Sixty-five years later, Hayek's implicit prediction is a failure, rather like Marx's forecast of the coming "immiserization of the working class.""
fivefeetfour , 15 Oct 2017 11:18
Lenin has written that politics is a concentrated economy more than a century ago.
rg12345 -> OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 11:16
Do you think Democrats are the only ones trying to consolidate wealth and power? You must have missed the part about keeping people divided.
Lafcadio1944 , 15 Oct 2017 11:15
This of course is a simplified version and can't really touch on everything, however he glaringly leaves out the deliberate human suffering results from the oligarchy protecting its wealth and aggressively taking over ever more markets. Yes, of course, what today is called "alignment of interests" among the oligarchy is necessary but that alone is not enough they mus also be ruthless beyond that of others. Nothing stands in the way of profits nothing stands in the way of ever greater control. The oligarchy has decided that nature itself is just another obstacle profit making - there is no room for empathy in the world of the oligarchy poverty suffering from curable disease mutilation from bombs are acceptable external consequences to their obsessive accumulation of wealth.

The real reason the oligarchy wins is because they are willing to be ruthless in the extreme and society rewards ruthlessness and ridicules the empathetic.

Elgrecoandros -> jessthecrip , 15 Oct 2017 11:14
"Perhaps the OP was proposing prison for JRM for expressing a viewpoint..."

Nobody was proposing that, it was hyperbole from rjm2017.

Well it was hyperbole until your comment calling on punishment for those with different political views.

R Zwarich -> Kay Nixon , 15 Oct 2017 11:14
This may be true, they often seem so blinded by their raw greed that their powers of reason become dysfunctional. I don't think, however, that the stupid things they do to slake their greed means that they are stupid. When the chips are down, they are capable of bringing their considerable powers of reason to bear.

However stupid or smart they might be, we surely must realize that they have been at least smart enough to gain total ownership and control of all our mass media. They use this tool, the most powerful tool of social control that has ever existed, with consummate skill in pursuit of their agenda(s).

If you look at the overall content of our mass media, you can see an impressive level of 'mind' at work, 'behind the curtain'. This 'mind' is constantly manipulating our consciousness, using very highly sophisticated, highly skilled techniques.Their understanding of human psychology, and their ability to manipulate us using our most basic appetites and desires, is characterized by true genius, even ig that genius is diabolical in its designs.

'They' choose what movies get made. Which TV shows are produced. Which songs get airplay. Which social and political issues are sensationalized and which are buried.

Most of the citizens of our ostensible 'democracy' have been 'trained', just as any animals are trained to any behavior, to be 'consumers' rather than 'citizens'. We are well trained by an omnipresent mass media that assaults us constantly. In any direction that we turn our gaze, or our attention, 'they' are there, to direct our thoughts as they think serves their purposes.

I sure wouldn't sell these people's intelligence short. They may often do stupid things to serve their greed, but they did not acquire the power that they have through any lack of intelligence.

fragglerokk , 15 Oct 2017 11:13
what everyone seems to forget is that whilst ancient Greece was the cradle of democracy it was not only a slave state (whose slaves had no rights to vote) but that only an elite minority were eligible to vote themselves - power very much rested with the vested interests of the few.

I agree that societies are a reflection of the 'will' of the people these days, even if that will is ill informed, reactionary or, as seems to be the case, largely uninterested in voting. You get the governments you deserve and people in the West have become lazy, permanently distracted, often ignorant and usually in the grip of one addiction or another, thus allowing 'democracy' to be subverted. The media have had their role in this by allowing themselves to be manipulated and owned by vested interests, rarely reporting the truth and doing as they are told by various govt offices and departments. Uninformed people make poor decisions.

OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 11:13
What the Black Lives Matter movement is telling us is that the Oligarch's enforce their rules of 'law' precisely at the barrels of guns, and by the words of one man after one man, each with a uniform on and a camera off.
TheResult -> J.K. Stevens , 15 Oct 2017 11:13
National Anthems only make sense in context of International Games
Where 2 anthems are played out of respect for each other
Elgrecoandros -> Elgrecoandros , 15 Oct 2017 11:11
Further, you stated above that you were "...responding to a poster who called for imprisonment for those concerned", when in fact the quote shows they were complaining about people calling for imprisonment, not calling for it.

That shows you are twisting what was said, it is incredibly disingenuous of you.

Skip Breitmeyer -> sparkle5nov , 15 Oct 2017 11:09
It's the divisions of the left that allow Tory and Republican minority rule to prevail. In the US the divide is quite bitter between Hillary and Bernie wings of the Dems- at the moment I don't really see where reconciliation can emerge. And of course in Great Britain you actually have two major parties competing rather self-destructively for the available votes on the left. (As well as the mighty Greens...). Divided and conquered, indeed. And such a bloody cliche!
OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 11:06

Democracy is vulnerable to oligarchy because democrats focus so much on guaranteeing political equality that they overlook the indirect threat that emerges from economic inequality

And yet Marx doesn't rate a single mention in the entire article...

jessthecrip -> Elgrecoandros , 15 Oct 2017 11:06
No, even though you've quoted me you have misunderstood what was perfectly plain. I stated 'like everyone else who voted to cut even more from disabled people's benefits'. Perhaps the OP was proposing prison for JRM for expressing a viewpoint, but that was not and is not where I'm coming from.
OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 11:05

At its core, oligarchy involves concentrating economic power and using it for political purposes.

Here is the exact reason why the Democratic Party is lost now. The Clintons, Wasserman-Schultz, and their new Goldman Sachs alumni hero in New Jersey, and now Kamala Harris seeking the same money from the same bankers.

And who did Hillary blame? Bernie, of course.

PSmd -> Dark Angel , 15 Oct 2017 11:02
It's sort of worked against the right though. Take a look at the last election. Yes, the Tories got most votes, but they've pretty much lost all ethnic minorities, including asian professionals, hindus and sikhs. Why is this, especially when Labour moved to left and are now more socialist than left liberal?

Purely because the right has been subsumed by angry grievance mentality, or aggreived entitlement. The internet is awash by people who hate assertive blacks and asians, Dianne Abbott received half of all abuse of female MPs. And so.. the Labour pick up votes that Tories had gained under Cameron. If you are a prosperous hindu dentist or stockbroker, sure you might have shrugged off your parents labour voting tendencies and might be Tory. But also, you might be seeing this sort of stuff, the bile on the internet, the resentment expressed behind internet anonymity. And you might be thinking that deep down underneath that expensive suit of yours, you are your father and mother, a tentative, slightly frightened, cheaply dressed immigrant who has arrived as an outsider and are visibly aware that half the population likes you, but the other half doesn't.
And so you vote Labour.

Divisiveness actually divides the core group you are aiming to win. If you do white chauvinism, well, you end up unite everyone who is not white. Black, brown, yellow, all huddle together scared, back under the labour fold. And you end up dividing the whites into the patriotic and the 'self hating libtard'.

Elgrecoandros -> jessthecrip , 15 Oct 2017 11:01
The sequence of comments was...

Rjm2017

"Just read the language of many in here...apparent JRM should be banished and locked away. You don't need to look to far to find odeous beliefs."

Your reply to that:

"Not locked away. Prison is expensive for the taxpayer. Assets sequestered for the good of the commons and put to work cleaning - streets, hospitals, care homes - on workfare. Like everyone else who voted to cut even more from disabled people's benefits, causing what the UN has described as a 'catastrophe' for disabled people in this country"

My reply to you:

"You are advocating confiscation of private property and forced physical labour for people who hold different political views to you. Is Stalin a hero of yours?"


Yours is a call to punish people for holding different political views to you.

Yours is an extremist position and, like all extremists, you think it is justified.

barciad -> FrankLittle , 15 Oct 2017 10:57

e.g. Park Chung-hee sent thousands of homeless people to camps where they were used as slave labour, many were were tortured and executed.


Like I said, benignish. He took a third world basket case (which is what South Korea was up until his seizure of power) and set it on the way to becoming a first world economy.
Skip Breitmeyer -> BayardDC , 15 Oct 2017 10:56
One of the most interesting mini-discourses I've read anywhere. I would only add that the 'mob' currently in charge of the polity of the House is actually a minority that has gamed the system.
AladdinStardust -> Gunsarecivilrights , 15 Oct 2017 10:56
which is exactly what the author did when her ill health meant that she no longer had medical insurance. Ain't life a bitch?
OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 10:55

They also tried to keep ordinary people dependent on individual oligarchs for their economic survival, similar to how mob bosses in the movies have paternalistic relationships in their neighborhoods

Like Wine-stine? (Wine-stain?)

Rainborough , 15 Oct 2017 10:55
"Democracy is vulnerable to oligarchy because democrats focus so much on guaranteeing political equality that they overlook the indirect threat that emerges from economic inequality."

No democrat with two working brain cells to rub together could honestly suppose that great concentrations of wealth, which necessarily confer political power on the wealthy class, can fail to undermine democracy. A capitalist democracy is an oxymoron and a delusion.

ChesBay -> maddiemot , 15 Oct 2017 10:52
They admire the rich, and the lifestyles of the rich, although it is out of their reach.
They do not admire the wise, and the experienced.
They don't know who are their state and federal representatives.
They don't know the reason for the Civil War.
They don't know much about our history, our constitution, or anything about civics.
They don't know much about world history.
They don't read much, and are suspicious of education, and the properly educated.
They are easy marks for lies, and negative influence, because they never question.
They refuse to address, or even admit, their own irrational prejudices.
They don't vote, but they do plenty of complaining, and like to blame others for the problems of our nation.
AveAtqueCave , 15 Oct 2017 10:51
Good luck with that.
FrankLittle -> barciad , 15 Oct 2017 10:45
I do not think that benign or even benign(ish) suits the majority of the above e.g. Park Chung-hee sent thousands of homeless people to camps where they were used as slave labour, many were were tortured and executed.

Not sure how Carl Mannerheim gets to be on your list? He was appointed Military chief during the Finnish civil war and he was elected President of Finland

DammedOutraged , 15 Oct 2017 10:44
Oh you mean a bit like all those plebs going out and voting to wreck the EU oligarchy's vision as to whats best?
vastariner , 15 Oct 2017 10:44

At the same time, they sought to destroy monuments that were symbols of democratic success. Instead of public works projects, dedicated in the name of the people, they relied on what we can think of as philanthropy to sustain their power.


That was more because there was no income tax regime - something difficult to impose when there was no centralized collection from a single consistent professional government. So if the Athenian navy wanted a ship, it got a rich chap to pay for it. Rather than out of general taxation.

Athens got rich on levies it imposed on its allies by way of protection money, which eventually collapsed in acrimony, but that's a different story.

StephenR45 -> TheWindsOfWinter93 , 15 Oct 2017 10:43
You'll be first "over the top" then?
Alfandomega -> timiengels , 15 Oct 2017 10:41
Owen Jones ? ......a man of high minded principle and unblemished
virtue . Don't think he would object to a spot of terror........in defence
of his liberal principles , of course..
somebody_stopme , 15 Oct 2017 10:41
I guess we are seeing some of oligarchy break down. Many oligarchs support many socialist policies to avoid tension between classes. For eg: many rich support universal basic income and some even support single payer healthcare.
imperium3 -> Sailor25 , 15 Oct 2017 10:41

You make a good point but in my wide but less than comprehensive knowledge of rapid development often occurrs in periods of oligarchy.

All those mills that drove the industrial revolution, created by oligarchy.

All those armies and aqueducts that drove the Roman Empire, created by oligarchy.

All those libraries and universities that drove Greek learning, funded by the oligarchy.

The great library of Alexandria, oligarchy.

OK, I'll concede that. Which makes for an interesting perspective on things overall, actually. One can see the advantage of an oligarchy - wealth and power is concentrated in few enough hands to achieve great things, but not so few that, like in a monarchy or dictatorship, the leader must spend most time and effort on keeping their power. Whereas a more equal democracy lacks the capacity to make bold steps or drive through unpopular new ideas. But this also means the oligarchs have the power to grind down those underneath them, and therefore in order to enjoy the fruits of that development, the oligarchy needs to be destroyed.

In other words, oligarchies deliver growth, democracies deliver prosperity. I would certainly not like to live under an oligarchy (assuming I'm not an oligarch) but it would be beneficial for a country to have had one in the past.

Kay Nixon , 15 Oct 2017 10:40
I have come to the conclusion that the oligarchy which rules the world are complete imbeciles who haven't a clue that the whole Neoliberal system they built in the 1970's is collapsing and they are clueless on how to handle it. Just because they are wealthy and greedy doesn't mean they are intelligent.
J.K. Stevens -> TheResult , 15 Oct 2017 10:40
In order to prevent the protests from going out over the airwaves Fox (sports) in all their 'logic' started excluding broadcast of the Anthem. Early on I said I would not watch any of these sporting events with, as you say, these jingoistic displays going out and Fox has obliged me but I wont say thanks.
desertrat49 -> BayardDC , 15 Oct 2017 10:39
Yes....Nothing in current affairs would surprise the ancient political philosophers who were students of real human nature ...and real history!
yule620 , 15 Oct 2017 10:37
Understanding Greece is not something you associate comfort with.
desertrat49 -> DrPepperIsNotARealDr , 15 Oct 2017 10:36
It serves as a relieve valve...just as it did in Ancient Greece and Rome.
Obfusgator , 15 Oct 2017 10:36
It's very simple really. The law system makes a complete mockery of democracy and the judiciary is comprised of a bunch of laissez-faire twits.
desertrat49 -> TheResult , 15 Oct 2017 10:35
The last recourse of scoundrels is patriotism!...always been thus because it always works...see H.L. Mencken et. al. !
Postconventional -> SenseiTim , 15 Oct 2017 10:34
Britain isn't different. Oligarchy is built into our system of governance, e.g. royals and house of lords. We even have special oligarch schools where children are sent to be educated for leadership
desertrat49 -> zootsuitbeatnick , 15 Oct 2017 10:33
You do not think the pomp and circumstance of Oligarchs, Monarchs and Military Dictators is without purpose or effect, do you?
StephenR45 -> DolyGarcia , 15 Oct 2017 10:32
Ban Keeping up with the Kardashians.
Gunsarecivilrights -> ID059068 , 15 Oct 2017 10:31
Or in other words, "I can't take care of myself, so I demand the government take money from others and give it to me!"
maddiemot , 15 Oct 2017 10:31
"An informed citizenry is at the heart of a dynamic democracy." - Thomas Jefferson

We have Americans who don't know when the Civil War was fought, or even who won, but insist we must stand for the national anthem before a ballgame.
So much for 'the Land of the Free'.

EquilibriaJones -> Sailor25 , 15 Oct 2017 10:31
Saying life can only get better if we are all collectively greedy together is not a logical argument. Ask the polar bears.
StephenR45 -> davshev , 15 Oct 2017 10:30
It didn't start with Trump.
Gunsarecivilrights -> DirDigIns , 15 Oct 2017 10:30
More people need to read Atlas Shrugged.
desertrat49 -> MarmaladeMog , 15 Oct 2017 10:30
All of the wishful thinking is hugely naive.....they have not been studying the lessons of history.
J.K. Stevens -> OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 10:29
And in the older grades, they prescribe (hand out) adderall, CSN stimulants, like chiclets to help student study (cram) and with comprehensive test taking.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/allen-frances/why-are-so-many-college-a_b_8331958.html

desertrat49 -> DolyGarcia , 15 Oct 2017 10:28
This is the rub.....and the mob does not value education while the rulers value propaganda. Notice the close association between Autocratic and Oligarchic systems and religion, historical mythology and hyper-patriotism!
EquilibriaJones -> Sailor25 , 15 Oct 2017 10:28
Or that's the evil of it. Economic inequality rises until people die. Like homeless on the streets, starving food banks, grenfell tower, waiting on hospital beds instead of famine and pitchfork wars.
The idea is to progress and solve problems before they escalate to pitchfork wars. Praising grotesque inequality is not part of the solution, it's the cause of the problems.
desertrat49 -> Crusty Crab , 15 Oct 2017 10:25
H. L. Mencken is a must read on this!
Alfandomega -> Peter Martin , 15 Oct 2017 10:24
Very remote possibility . I think you'll find their over inflated salaries
weigh more heavily in the balance than their " principles ".
SenseiTim , 15 Oct 2017 10:24
This article should be required reading for all Americans. I am posting a link to Twitter and Facebook to get as many Yank eyeballs on it as possible.
desertrat49 -> Langsdorff , 15 Oct 2017 10:24
What emerges from Plutocracy is Oligarchy...what emerges from Oligarchy is Autocracy. Autocracy is one form or another is the natural state of human society....all the others are ephemeral systems...or systems that disguise the actual Oligarchy or Autocracy!
davshev , 15 Oct 2017 10:23
The biggest contributor to America's plutocracy is our abysmally uninformed electorate.
HL Mencken knew this nearly a century ago when he said:
"As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."
desertrat49 , 15 Oct 2017 10:20
Just exactly when was it that "democracy defeated oligarchy in ancient Greece"?
What proportion of the population in Ancient Athens, for example, were actually citizens...and what proportion of those actually held the franchise?...I believe that you would find the numbers surprising!
Also ...when these (and other) writers speaks of Ancient Greece.....it is usually Athens that they are mythologizing....most the Ancient Greek world had little by way of representative government...let alone "Democracy"!
jessthecrip -> Elgrecoandros , 15 Oct 2017 10:18
No I wasn't. I already responded to you regarding this. To remind you, I said

when people in positions of power take £28 billion (at least) off one of the most powerless and already impoverished groups in our country (disabled people), resulting in hundreds of suicides, enormous suffering, worsened isolation, serious lack of care support, and thousands dying soon after being found 'fit to work' (a situation the UN has described as a 'catastrophe') then I think it perfectly reasonable to favour some punishment for those politicians who inflicted such suffering on their fellow citizens

I was not suggesting punishment for 'thought crime' or for expressing views, but for actions seriously damaging to our citizens.
OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 10:17
I have worked in several of the American rich's schools where they charge $30k per kid, families have 3-5 kids there, plus they donate another $30k per kid per year. These schools shame their $50k/year teachers into donating hundreds and thousands per year to their own schools in order to prompt further donations from parents, who expect the poor teachers to prove their fidelity to these rich kids by giving their own money to them. I have seen these schools' principals fire teachers who teach "how to change things". I have seen them promote teachers who teach absolutely nothing, because then the rich kids enjoy insulting and demeaning those teachers' weaknesses. I have heard rich $chool principals tell Harvard psychology lecturers that grade inflation is a marketplace necessity. I have seen rich principals tell school inspectors that the curriculum presented for verification is supplied by a currently-employed teacher (who was awfully bad at teaching) when in fact it was written and prepared by a teacher who had just been fired "for methodology problems"...

American rich schools are the sickest schools on earth, even sicker than British boarders, even sicker than other countries' orphanages.

davshev -> ID50611L , 15 Oct 2017 10:15
Yes, but we now have the consummate...emphasis on "con"...bullshit artist in the White House whose first order of business has been to discredit the media whenever it exposes him for what he truly is. Trump has thousands of people believing that any media story about him which is negative is "fake."
Sailor25 -> JosephCamilleri , 15 Oct 2017 10:14
Yes they did and in all those political systems there where rich bastards at the top making the decisions.

They may have been bastards but on balance they actually made some pretty good decisions.

RutherfordFHEA , 15 Oct 2017 10:13
In his book Culture Inc. , Herbert Schiller quoted a recent study on neoliberal deregulation in the US which began with the question:

"Is deregulation... a strategy on the part of corporations to re-appropriate the power lost to democratic reforms of the mid-20th century?"

Sailor25 -> Dan2017 , 15 Oct 2017 10:13
So you are in favour of populism?

I consider populism an important part of the process as it creates a balance for oligarchy.

I would consider that the greedy big picture thinking of oligarchy drives growth while the greedy small picture thinking of the plebs (of which I am one) tries to get that growth more equally distributed.

ID50611L -> debt2zero , 15 Oct 2017 10:12
Spot on
MoonMoth -> Tenthred , 15 Oct 2017 10:10
It is perhaps unlikely that a radical Athenian democrat from ancient Greece would recognise any current form of government as genuinely democratic.

The cleverest way to maintain a long term oligarchy in these enlightened times might be to have an elective one, only dressed up as something like say a 'parliamentary democracy'. Luckily no-one has come up with this idea yet.

Dark Angel , 15 Oct 2017 10:10
Exactly that is going on now - we have 'workers' and 'benefit scroungers', British against 'immigrants' who exactly are not immigrants as having legal rights to live in the UK (EU citizens), 'deserving' poor and 'undeserving' poor.
Divide and rule.
Without knowing the past, it is impossible to understand the true meaning of the present and the goals of the future.
It's so annoying that is has been so easy to manipulate with our society - Tories and UKIP say 'hate!' and people do as if they are trained animals - hate people on benefits, EU citizens, immigrants, asylum seekers, a conflict between Brexiters/Remainers...
Sailor25 -> Swoll Man , 15 Oct 2017 10:09
Laughing at the fact that you chose to write an insult rather than engage in debate.
barciad -> FrankLittle , 15 Oct 2017 10:08
Benign(ish) dictators of the 20th Century:-
Tito (Yugoslavia)
Carl Mannerheim (Finland)
Kemal Ataturk (Turkey)
Fidel Castro (Cuba)
Nasser (Egypt)
Park Chung-hee (South Korea)
Like I said, benign(ish). Each one the subject for a debate within themselves.
Sailor25 -> Boghaunter , 15 Oct 2017 10:07
There is always winners and losers but the worst loser in modern British society had a better standard of living than a winner of a century ago.

The key to human development is driving sustainable progress not worrying about who losses out today.

Of course there must be balance because morally we must consider who loses our today. The question is how much do we hamstring the children of tomorrow to help the losers of today.

Langsdorff , 15 Oct 2017 10:06
To war on the Oligarchs is to war on our own nature.
whitman100 , 15 Oct 2017 10:03
The super rich conservative oligarchy, currently running the UK, get away with it because enough of the British people vote against their own economic interest.

Parents, for example, effectively vote for the food to be taken from their children's mouths, converted to cash and given in tax cuts to the super rich conservative elite so they can send their children to £30k a year private schools.

Political economy and political science should be compulsory in primary and secondary school so that the ripping-off of the British people is made obvious through education and ended through democratic revolution.

GKB507 -> Giftshop , 15 Oct 2017 10:02
.. it's scary though.. automation will eliminate the economic support line for many, while companies like Google have eyes and ears in every household.
JamesKeye -> webapalooza , 15 Oct 2017 10:02
Definition of democracy: "a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives." You are presenting an anti-Democratic party talking point, not an enlightened understanding of subtle political differences. Of course, the intention was a democracy in the USA, as compromised as it was and is. What we are not, and never have been, is an absolute direct democracy -- a form of governance appropriate only to small communities.
dcroteau -> Hibernica , 15 Oct 2017 10:01
Considering that "the people" are not that much more enlightened than they were in ancient Greece, yes it is the will of the people that allowed the US to become an oligarchy.

Considering the voting turnout around 56%, that means that 44% decided that they didn't care whether or not their leader would be a good or a bad one.

That's more than 1 in 3 people who couldn't care less about the outcome of the elections.

So political apathy is the will of the people.

KK47 , 15 Oct 2017 10:00
Oligarchs would fund the creation of a new building or the beautification of a public space.

When I read this I think: why am I reminded of the words 'gentrification' and 'privately-owned public spaces'?

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/sep/26/its-really-shocking-uk-cities-refusing-to-reveal-extent-of-pseudo-public-space

Excerpt from the above link:
the spread of pseudo-public space in London – large squares, parks and thoroughfares that appear to be public but are actually owned and controlled by developers and their private backers

And I'm also reminded of Attlee's great words about the attitudes of oligarchs in general:

http://www.azquotes.com/quote/688837

Excerpt from the above link:
Charity is a cold grey loveless thing. If a rich man wants to help the poor, he should pay his taxes gladly, not dole out money at a whim. - Attlee

J.K. Stevens -> Peter Martin , 15 Oct 2017 10:00
I know that it's just geography but it appears that the 'left coast (west coast) teams (players))' are taking a leadership role in this struggle. Unlike other professional sports systems, the NFL players are at a disadvantage in terms of career length and working conditions (eg, head injuries). I believe they're going to need some outside help (in whatever form) to be successful which doesn't give me hope. There are a bunch of chicken s____ outfits and power players out there at present that, as an example, allowed (contributed) the Executive Branch takeover by a Russian backed interloper.
ID50611L -> Giftshop , 15 Oct 2017 09:58
agree 100%
Sailor25 -> imperium3 , 15 Oct 2017 09:58
You make a good point but in my wide but less than comprehensive knowledge of rapid development often occurrs in periods of oligarchy.

All those mills that drove the industrial revolution, created by oligarchy.

All those armies and aqueducts that drove the Roman Empire, created by oligarchy.

All those libraries and universities that drove Greek learning, funded by the oligarchy.

The great library of Alexandria, oligarchy.

I recognise that it takes a plebeian revolt now and again to get the wealth shared out fairly but the engine that drives the wealth so it can be shared often seem to be oligarchy.

sparkle5nov -> FE Lang , 15 Oct 2017 09:58
Agree! I've been saying for years; cheap fast food, cheap ale and cheap television have replaced religion as the opiate of the people.
ID50611L -> zootsuitbeatnick , 15 Oct 2017 09:57
Trump is using the toolbox created by the Bush & Obama administrations.
Crusty Crab , 15 Oct 2017 09:57
A free educated and honest press may be the answer to a true democracy ?
DolyGarcia -> Hector Hajnal , 15 Oct 2017 09:55
And how do you keep the people informed and educated when the oligarchs control the media?
ID50611L , 15 Oct 2017 09:54
how is it, then, that the wealthy control so much of government? ...consequence of a lap dog media who lick the ass rather than expose and speak the truth to power elites.
TheResult -> J.K. Stevens , 15 Oct 2017 09:53
Now is the right time to ban the National Anthem

Brainwashing jingoist nonsense is a bandwagon platform for wet farts

W.a. Thomaston , 15 Oct 2017 09:50
The captured author/minions have obviously not had full access to the reading room
*And the secret writings of
Part of a small cache of loose leaf scrolls smuggled out of Alexandria before the fire
Last entrusted to a small elite 13th century band of chainsaw wielding warrior...
Comedy writing nuns
Hector Hajnal , 15 Oct 2017 09:49
Is about education, oligarchy wins to ignorant people. In order to have a healthy democracy the people must be informed and educated other wise oligarchies groups will inundate everything with cheap adds, will manipulate and will win control, methinks
Id1649 -> Sailor25 , 15 Oct 2017 09:45
And all brought down when the elites forgot that they were only the top of a pyramid and that they ultimately relied on those below. We at the foot of the monolith can see that the oligarchs serve only themselves so no longer buy into their project. We see that it is one big club and we - unlike our political masters - ain't in it. So empires fall.
MarmaladeMog , 15 Oct 2017 09:45
Sitaraman's colleague sounds worryingly naive.
Sailor25 -> EquilibriaJones , 15 Oct 2017 09:44
True, perhaps that's the beauty of it.

The senators have to supply the bread and circuses the plebs want or out come the pitchforks.

webapalooza , 15 Oct 2017 09:44
The author demonstrates his ignorance of the American system of government. He uses the word "democracy" no less than 8 times, yet American is not a democracy and never has been a democracy. You will find no form of the word "democracy" in any of the founding documents. The Founding Fathers knew very well the dangers of democracies, and so they created the American government as a constitutional republic. Not once does the author mention that; I doubt he even knows what it means, let alone the difference.
NoBets -> imipak , 15 Oct 2017 09:43
If you're complaining because prices are (inevitably) regressive on the "poor" (however defined), what do you say to the obvious retort that this is indeed the main difference between being "poor", being comfortable, being affluent and being rich?

What is the point of working and earning if it isn't aimed at making oneself less "poor" or more affluent?

FrankieOwen -> TheResult , 15 Oct 2017 09:38
Dunno, doesnt appear that they do in the rough parts of Chicago.
furryandrew -> Commem , 15 Oct 2017 09:38
Or as Mayer Amschel Rothschild correctly summed up the situation in 1790 - "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws"

What this article fails to draw our attention to , and they never do, is that private banks CREATE 97% of our entire money supply (look up "fractional reserve banking"). Whilst that remains the case the "oligarchy" will always have firm control over the rest of us.

Peter Martin -> J.K. Stevens , 15 Oct 2017 09:36
Wonder what would happen if all players took a knee, if they all stood together then the owners would start to fret.
nhickman -> TheWindsOfWinter93 , 15 Oct 2017 09:32
There was a time when the deadliest military weapon was the longbow. It could only be handled by men who had been trained up since infancy.
It enabled the English to rout a numerically superior French force at Agincourt, 1415.
The notion that the early 15th century was a period of democratic government is an interesting reading of history.
zootsuitbeatnick , 15 Oct 2017 09:32
imo
In the US today, the oligarchy cannot win without an assist from a significant segment -- not necessarily a majority -- of the overall population.
9/11 taught us that many people are willing to give up freedoms for the myth of security.
The Trump presidency is teaching us that many people are willing to give up their voice -- democracy -- for the myth of returning to a perceived better way of life (group superiority over racial, gender, religious, etc equality) from some bygone era.
imo
Newmacfan , 15 Oct 2017 09:30
We are currently experiencing a destabalisation of our nation and fellow Western Nations by the dominant Western Nation to try to halt the failure of this vastly endebted bigger brother......how do we stop this?
J.K. Stevens , 15 Oct 2017 09:28
On this NFL Sunday it is not hard to imagine the secret meetings that owners and/or their representatives had to coalesce against Kaepernick's 'taking a knee' to stop this form of protest in its tracks as a oligarchical institution. On Tuesday, when Dallas Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones declared that any player taking a knee would not play today, the circle of the objective to chill dissent was complete.

And the plutocratic beat goes on.

TheLibrarianApe -> imperium3 , 15 Oct 2017 09:27
Top post.
DrPepperIsNotARealDr , 15 Oct 2017 09:26
Democracy was always like this. What is that famous quote, by Earl Grey or Sandwich or someone, in Parliament, about allowing peasants to have the vote? "I do this, not to weaken our power, but to preserve it"

Democracy in the UK and the US has always been a forum for the oligarchy to resolve their own disputes rather than rule for the people by the people. Brexit is an example, a referendum held essentially because of the split in conservative party.

FE Lang -> zippy200 , 15 Oct 2017 09:25
And conservatives are going to save us all from done minded feel good policies of the left, is that it?
Since the 80's American politics had swing do far to the right liberals are capitalists monied elites, but the right had an army of simple minded uneducated lemmings on thier side, people that will be against thier own personal interests because of 12th century religious horse spit or group think. Thier are more Right winners in State houses, leadership positions then ever before, they control the Congress, the courts, the Presidency and yet dolts like you still say the country is going in the wrong directions and listen to son misters tell you its the fault of the left. Somewhere in your reptilian brain you know this makes no sense, but you lack of depth, you inability to comprehend what you read or to shake free from the group think or right wing ideology will never let you understand that the bet people you vote in time after time are the very ones whom have sold your job to the Chinese, profited from your child's illnesses, war, chaos in some far off land.
Keeping voting Republicans, it's working out so well for you tailer, Nascar types...
BayardDC , 15 Oct 2017 09:21
The article obfuscates a distinction laid out by Aristotle, in The Politics: aristocracy - rule by the few, focused on the common good; and oligarchy - rule by the few (wealthy), focused on their selfish good. He argues that aristocracy, rule by the best, inevitably turns into oligarchy, rule by the wealthy. In Aristotle's three forms of government - rule by one, by few, by many - the three legitimate forms (monarchy, aristocracy, polity) degenerate into their evils twins (tyranny, oligarchy, democracy). For Aristotle, Democracy was not a legitimate form of government, but a corrupted form: mob rule, we might call it. The US Constitution deliberately set out to create a mixed form of government: monarchy (president); aristocracy (Senate and Supreme Court); polity (House of Reps.). From the beginning, Americans have focused on the potential for our "monarch" (president) to turn into a tyrant: Trump is the poster child for a single executive ruling on his own, selfish behalf. We have been less aware of the fact that the Senate has become a simple oligarchy, while the House has degenerated into a bastion of deputies chosen by what Aristotle would have called democracy, that is, a corrupted form of rule by the many. Aristotle's citizens - those who rule and are ruled in turn - can constitute about 10% of the population; in today's US that would mean 20+ million people actively and continuously involved in politics (i.e., not simply showing up every four years to mark a ballot). Millions of Americans have long done such things, and political life remains active at the local level in many areas. On the national level, the Tea Party has shown how this level of enhanced involvement can transform politics, and has further shown that a coherent, organized minority can demolish what we think of as democratic norms. They are about to elect a Senator in Alabama who has twice been removed as a judge on the state's Supreme Court (an elective body), for violations of judicial norms. Here in the US, all three forms of our original government - monarchy, aristocracy, polity - have degenerated into their evil twins. Yes, the wealthy 1% will always game the system in their favor, but until we restore each of the parts of our forma mixta, we can never reduce their advantages to a level consonant with a decent form of society. Under W Bush, the oligarchs got the tax rates (above all on capital gains) reduced to their 1929 levels. That legislation had a time limit, and Obama chose not to continue it: indeed, he raised capital gains rates a further 3.8% [making the rate 23.8% as against the 15% of Bush]. Now, the two greatest goals of the oligarchs are a return to the 15% rate and the abolition of the estate tax, so all of the fantastically rich Baby Boomers (say, Sec'y of Commerce Ross, net worth $2.5 billion) can leave their wealth unencumbered to their heirs, solidifying the oligarchy's control. The Tea Party, through all the yahoos now in the House, can focus on creationism, climate change denial, immigration, etc., while the oligarchs quietly change the tax system to perpetuate their dominance. Over here, we are already in fiscal year 2018 (started on Oct 1), so tax changes would really go into effect in 2019, that is, after the mid-term election. If Mnuchen and Co. get their changes to capital gains rates and other technical loopholes aimed at the 0.1% [sic], and eliminate the estate tax, we'll know that the oligarchs have eliminated any barriers to their collective dictatorship.
TheLibrarianApe -> Commem , 15 Oct 2017 09:20
This is a blindingly excellent article.

What's new is, like this article, we have the vocabulary to frame both the problem and the solution. Oligarchy is no longer inevitable and whilst the means of control are greater, the means for derogation are too and there are fewer oligarchs than plebs.

Its now easier to spot bad behaviour and harder to keep secrets. Oligarchs have to use force more often to hold into power and that tips their hand.

This article has left me (an avowed pessimist) feeling rather more optimistic.

BlueberryMuffin -> zippy200 , 15 Oct 2017 09:17
Liberalism is about freedom. Personal and economic. Not about "proletariat solidarity" and totalitarian Marxist regimes.
FE Lang -> GusDynamite , 15 Oct 2017 09:15
They learned their lessons well after the 60's, the last time the people really raised up against the machine, so they have given us all the; junk food at a low cost, all the TV and mindless sexually charged entertainment, all the "debt wealth", a simple minded, unread, semi-literate, beer swilling fool could ever ask for. And we all gladly gobble it up and follow the crowd, for who wants to be on the outside looking in...
Giftshop , 15 Oct 2017 09:12
There is always a ruling elite because power is the wellspring of all human actions. There is also a certain moral consciousness that many people argue is innate in human nature, and that consciousness is fairness. The fairness instinct survives where ordinary human sympathy may fail. Based upon this basic morality of fairness those of us who are willing to take risks in the interest of fairness need to prune and tend the ruling elites as soon as possible. We proles need to act together.

Democracy is not enough and besides democracy we also need reason, facts,and fighting spirit.

W.a. Thomaston -> awilson5280 , 15 Oct 2017 09:09
As the inventor of the "hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica" once said: " you have a Republic if you can keep it"
amwink -> awilson5280 , 15 Oct 2017 09:06
Sparta was more than just militarism, and slavery was also practised in Athens, as well as in Rome and quite much everywhere else in the ancient world.

Sparta did something that today's democracies have forgotten: it cared about protection of its citizens. That's the most elementary reason why a State exists, not to provide health or education.

Now, regarding a replacement, epistocracy has yet to be tried. And the same democracy, but with census suffrage, or via election of electors, who in turn elect the ones who will hold office, have worked quite well in many places, producing better politicians, less inclined to populism (take the Venetian Republic, for example).

logos00 -> apacheman , 15 Oct 2017 09:05

Waiting for the oligarchy to rot from within isn't what i would call a viable plan. Not when there is a far better and far more sure way to get the job done. Start with capping wealth accumulation.

One must have already broken, or at least sufficiently loosened, the oligarchic grip on politics to institute such a policy.

Here in the UK, things are the darkest they have been in my lifetime, including the Thatcher years, but we are in a moment of possibilities that can lead in opposite directions.

The author is surely right when he says

With all the upheaval in today's politics, it's hard not to think that this moment is one in which the future of the political system might be more up for grabs than it has been in generations.

Dominance of oligarchic political power, through neoliberalism, over the last four decades has effectively put such policies out of bounds.

We had a Labour government that won convincingly under Blair while declaring itself relaxed about the accumulation of great wealth.

richard160458 -> MattSpanner , 15 Oct 2017 09:05
And democracy failed after generations of poor decisions and war
richard160458 , 15 Oct 2017 09:02
Greece had a long period of decline at the hands of democracy. Plato wrote his Republic as a protest, and to put forward an alternative. Eventually the romans took control.

There are indeed parallels with today but given the external challenges I for one believe that western society will be overtaken by q new set of rules.

debt2zero , 15 Oct 2017 09:01
Very good, interesting article. You know, every now & then this paper, for all it's faults, serves up an article that is quite enlightened/ing.

The last one I recall was an article by Kenan Malik on identity politics . For what exists in this country, the UK, I have previously used the term "oligarchy by profession" ... meaning a pool of the usually upper half of the middle class, or a group in whom that group is disproportionally represented, who not only likely have a select education but who go on to become part of certain professions - accountants, lawyers, journalists, bankers, doctors etc. ... and of course, politicians tend to be drawn from these.

And revolving door arrangements is one of the ways this pool retains a certain cohesion, or as in the article "homogeneity in culture and values".

As for division, how many times have I read, "oh, we are so divided .. blah, blah", as though some journalists have an almost unconscious need to promote it.

Interesting article.

GusDynamite , 15 Oct 2017 09:00
Bit too late, really. Not to mention it's super easy to take what they want while we're all so distracted by arguing about who is the most racist misogynist, defending ourselves from the accusations or applauding comic book movies. Apparently we're so distracted that we're also all genuinely shocked that Hollywood is rife with pedophilia and extreme sexual harassment as though it's some revelation that we didn't know already, but that's another conversation.

If we're all so distracted then it's not difficult for our political 'representatives' -- I use that word very tentatively because they barely ever do -- to subject themselves to the oligarchs for a few scraps more than we have ourselves.

Maybe if we didn't bicker like kids we'd beat them.

PhilJoMar -> ConBrio , 15 Oct 2017 08:53
Either you've not read the article attentively enough or your bias is irremediable. Limiting govt still leaves economic power and the tendency towards monopoly untouched. The genetic impulse you mention is a spurious concept in itself. If there were such a genetic impulse we would not have seen such a change as the major advances of women in the last half century. Culture is the key, much more than any genetic impulse, which is practically meaningless and so explains nothing.

As wealth defense is so important to oligarchs, there is a constant pressure to cheat and break the law. One solution therefore is to apply the law but also to construct legislation with specific principles in mind. If the point of tax legislation is to contribute your share towards the general good then those who avoid and evade tax would be guilty of a technical breach but also a breach of the principle.

However our laws are skewed to allowing the wealthy to defend their wealth and so a party of the people is always needed. Always.

Lastly private schooling needs to be looked at. I mean FFS Eton has charitable status!

[Oct 16, 2017] The Guardian by Ganesh Sitaraman

Those who have economic power also have political power. Is this sop difficult to understand.
Notable quotes:
"... The system, in other words, can't really be "rigged" to work for the rich and powerful unless the people are at least willing to accept a government of the rich and powerful. If the general public opposes rule-by-economic-elites, how is it, then, that the wealthy control so much of government? ..."
"... To prevent this occurrence, ancient Greek elites developed institutions and practices to keep themselves united. Among other things, they passed sumptuary laws, preventing extravagant displays of their wealth that might spark jealously, and they used the secret ballot and consensus building practices to ensure that decisions didn't lead to greater conflict within their cadre. ..."
"... While the ruling class must remain united for an oligarchy to remain in power, the people must also be divided so they cannot overthrow their oppressors. Oligarchs in ancient Greece thus used a combination of coercion and co-optation to keep democracy at bay. They gave rewards to informants and found pliable citizens to take positions in the government. ..."
"... These collaborators legitimized the regime and gave oligarchs beachheads into the people. In addition, oligarchs controlled public spaces and livelihoods to prevent the people from organizing. They would expel people from town squares: a diffuse population in the countryside would be unable to protest and overthrow government as effectively as a concentrated group in the city. ..."
"... They also tried to keep ordinary people dependent on individual oligarchs for their economic survival, similar to how mob bosses in the movies have paternalistic relationships in their neighborhoods. Reading Simonton's account, it is hard not to think about how the fragmentation of our media platforms is a modern instantiation of dividing the public sphere, or how employees and workers are sometimes chilled from speaking out. ..."
"... Oligarchs would fund the creation of a new building or the beautification of a public space. The result: the people would appreciate elite spending on those projects and the upper class would get their names memorialized for all time. After all, who could be against oligarchs who show such generosity? ..."
"... To understand that, we can turn to an instant classic from a few years ago, Jeffrey Winters' Oligarchy. Winters argues that the key to oligarchy is that a set of elites have enough material resources to spend on securing their status and interests. He calls this "wealth defense," and divides it into two categories. "Property defense" involves protecting existing property – in the old days, this meant building castles and walls, today it involves the rule of law. "Income defense" is about protecting earnings; these days, that means advocating for low taxes. ..."
"... The challenge in seeing how oligarchy works, Winters says, is that we don't normally think about the realms of politics and economics as fused together. At its core, oligarchy involves concentrating economic power and using it for political purposes. Democracy is vulnerable to oligarchy because democrats focus so much on guaranteeing political equality that they overlook the indirect threat that emerges from economic inequality. ..."
"... Winters argues that there are four kinds of oligarchies, each of which pursues wealth defense through different institutions. These oligarchies are categorized based on whether the oligarchs rule is personal or collective, and whether the oligarchs use coercion. ..."
"... Simonton offers another solution. He argues that democracy defeated oligarchy in ancient Greece because of "oligarchic breakdown." Oligarchic institutions are subject to rot and collapse, as are any other kind of institution. As the oligarchs' solidarity and practices start to break down, there is an opportunity for democracy to bring government back to the people. ..."
"... Even with compulsory voting Australia still funnels votes to those we don't want to elect in the form of transferable 1st pass the post single member electorates. True democracy would grant proportional representation, and allow citizen initiated binding referenda. ..."
"... By these measures you could say America has been an oligarchy from its very conception. Look at the robber-barons of the 19th c. There are occasional "raisings of the veil" such as new deal or great society when the general public gets a fair go. The industrial boom of ww2 is what gave the working class a shot at living a decent life - and of course offshoring industry is precisely closing that door again. ..."
"... Tens of millions of Americans waited patiently for a Dem candidate to talk about our stacked decks, D.C. swamps, and broken systems -- instead, they gave us a Hillary coronation and expected us to embrace the pantsuit. ..."
"... After university econ training, and a long business career, I now consider education a terrible thing. Knowing what I know now about how our systems really work, when I observe our Congressional leaders looking into the camera with point-blank lies day in and day out, I feel they deserve execution; literally, I am feeling like heads should roll. ..."
"... In America, oligarchs win when Dems are center right (in practice, not rhetoric) and are sold out to the oligarchs. Case in point, HC. There is no counterbalance to those who are even further to the right. Oligarchs win without a legit 3rd party. ..."
"... Obama and the Dems lost 1,000 elected positions before Trump came along. It's because he sold out to the big banks. ..."
"... Small D Democrats. Not big D Democrats. The Clintons are clearly in the oligarch class, much like Trump. It is rather hilarious to hear Trump supporters talk about how he cares for the poor. ..."
"... Oligarchic institutions are subject to rot and collapse, as are any other kind of institution. As the oligarchs' solidarity and practices start to break down, there is an opportunity for democracy to bring government back to the people. In that moment, the people might unite for long enough that their protests lead to power. With all the upheaval in today's politics, it's hard not to think that this moment is one in which the future of the political system might be more up for grabs than it has been in generations. ..."
"... It never ceases to amaze me how Americans delude themselves into thinking that they live in a democracy. ..."
"... They don't come by it naturally. Their delusion is pushed along by very well oiled propaganda machines, probably mostly financed by the taxpayers themselves. ..."
"... Can't recommend Requiem For The American Dream highly enough, absolutely required viewing for anyone wishing to understand the mockery of democracy under which we live. ..."
Oct 15, 2017 | www.theguardian.com

A few years ago, as I was doing research for a book on how economic inequality threatens democracy, a colleague of mine asked if America was really at risk of becoming an oligarchy. Our political system, he said, is a democracy. If the people don't want to be run by wealthy elites, we can just vote them out.

The system, in other words, can't really be "rigged" to work for the rich and powerful unless the people are at least willing to accept a government of the rich and powerful. If the general public opposes rule-by-economic-elites, how is it, then, that the wealthy control so much of government?

The question was a good one, and while I had my own explanations, I didn't have a systematic answer. Luckily, two recent books do. Oligarchy works, in a word, because of institutions.

In his fascinating and insightful book Classical Greek Oligarchy, Matthew Simonton takes us back to the ancient world, where the term oligarchy was coined. One of the primary threats to oligarchy was that the oligarchs would become divided, and that one from their number would defect, take leadership of the people, and overthrow the oligarchy.

To prevent this occurrence, ancient Greek elites developed institutions and practices to keep themselves united. Among other things, they passed sumptuary laws, preventing extravagant displays of their wealth that might spark jealously, and they used the secret ballot and consensus building practices to ensure that decisions didn't lead to greater conflict within their cadre.

Appropriately for a scholar of the classics, Simonton focuses on these specific ancient practices in detail. But his key insight is that elites in power need solidarity if they are to stay in power. Unity might come from personal relationships, trust, voting practices, or – as is more likely in today's meritocratic era – homogeneity in culture and values from running in the same limited circles.

The ruling class must remain united for an oligarchy to remain in power

While the ruling class must remain united for an oligarchy to remain in power, the people must also be divided so they cannot overthrow their oppressors. Oligarchs in ancient Greece thus used a combination of coercion and co-optation to keep democracy at bay. They gave rewards to informants and found pliable citizens to take positions in the government.

These collaborators legitimized the regime and gave oligarchs beachheads into the people. In addition, oligarchs controlled public spaces and livelihoods to prevent the people from organizing. They would expel people from town squares: a diffuse population in the countryside would be unable to protest and overthrow government as effectively as a concentrated group in the city.

They also tried to keep ordinary people dependent on individual oligarchs for their economic survival, similar to how mob bosses in the movies have paternalistic relationships in their neighborhoods. Reading Simonton's account, it is hard not to think about how the fragmentation of our media platforms is a modern instantiation of dividing the public sphere, or how employees and workers are sometimes chilled from speaking out.

The most interesting discussion is how ancient oligarchs used information to preserve their regime. They combined secrecy in governance with selective messaging to targeted audiences, not unlike our modern spinmasters and communications consultants. They projected power through rituals and processions.

At the same time, they sought to destroy monuments that were symbols of democratic success. Instead of public works projects, dedicated in the name of the people, they relied on what we can think of as philanthropy to sustain their power. Oligarchs would fund the creation of a new building or the beautification of a public space. The result: the people would appreciate elite spending on those projects and the upper class would get their names memorialized for all time. After all, who could be against oligarchs who show such generosity?

An assistant professor of history at Arizona State University, Simonton draws heavily on insights from social science and applies them well to dissect ancient practices. But while he recognizes that ancient oligarchies were always drawn from the wealthy, a limitation of his work is that he focuses primarily on how oligarchs perpetuated their political power, not their economic power.

To understand that, we can turn to an instant classic from a few years ago, Jeffrey Winters' Oligarchy. Winters argues that the key to oligarchy is that a set of elites have enough material resources to spend on securing their status and interests. He calls this "wealth defense," and divides it into two categories. "Property defense" involves protecting existing property – in the old days, this meant building castles and walls, today it involves the rule of law. "Income defense" is about protecting earnings; these days, that means advocating for low taxes.

The challenge in seeing how oligarchy works, Winters says, is that we don't normally think about the realms of politics and economics as fused together. At its core, oligarchy involves concentrating economic power and using it for political purposes. Democracy is vulnerable to oligarchy because democrats focus so much on guaranteeing political equality that they overlook the indirect threat that emerges from economic inequality.

Winters argues that there are four kinds of oligarchies, each of which pursues wealth defense through different institutions. These oligarchies are categorized based on whether the oligarchs rule is personal or collective, and whether the oligarchs use coercion.

Warring oligarchies, like warlords, are personal and armed. Ruling oligarchies like the mafia are collective and armed. In the category of unarmed oligarchies, sultanistic oligarchies (like Suharto's Indonesia) are governed through personal connections. In civil oligarchies, governance is collective and enforced through laws, rather than by arms.

Democracy defeated oligarchy in ancient Greece because of 'oligarchic breakdown.'

With this typology behind him, Winters declares that America is already a civil oligarchy. To use the language of recent political campaigns, our oligarchs try to rig the system to defend their wealth. They focus on lowering taxes and on reducing regulations that protect workers and citizens from corporate wrongdoing.

They build a legal system that is skewed to work in their favor, so that their illegal behavior rarely gets punished. And they sustain all of this through a campaign finance and lobbying system that gives them undue influence over policy. In a civil oligarchy, these actions are sustained not at the barrel of the gun or by the word of one man, but through the rule of law.

If oligarchy works because its leaders institutionalize their power through law, media, and political rituals, what is to be done? How can democracy ever gain the upper hand? Winters notes that political power depends on economic power. This suggests that one solution is creating a more economically equal society.

The problem, of course, is that if the oligarchs are in charge, it isn't clear why they would pass policies that would reduce their wealth and make society more equal. As long as they can keep the people divided, they have little to fear from the occasional pitchfork or protest.

Indeed, some commentators have suggested that the economic equality of the late 20 th century was exceptional because two World Wars and a Great Depression largely wiped out the holdings of the extremely wealthy. On this story, there isn't much we can do without a major global catastrophe.

Simonton offers another solution. He argues that democracy defeated oligarchy in ancient Greece because of "oligarchic breakdown." Oligarchic institutions are subject to rot and collapse, as are any other kind of institution. As the oligarchs' solidarity and practices start to break down, there is an opportunity for democracy to bring government back to the people.

In that moment, the people might unite for long enough that their protests lead to power. With all the upheaval in today's politics, it's hard not to think that this moment is one in which the future of the political system might be more up for grabs than it has been in generations.

The question is whether democracy will emerge from oligarchic breakdown – or whether the oligarchs will just strengthen their grasp on the levers of government.

Ganesh Sitaraman is the author of The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution

curiouswes -> antdog , 16 Oct 2017 00:37

I think the USA is a republic and not a democracy. I also think the distinction isn't a subtle one. Many think we'd be better off as a democracy. I don't. In a democracy, the majority rules. That means when you are in the minority, you don't have a say. The electoral college prevents the larger states from squeezing out the smaller states. However some don't think that is necessarily a problem. Urban life is very different from rural life and we can't make all of the rules based on urban life.
hardmoney -> trundlesome1 , 16 Oct 2017 00:27
They're too busy being distracted with Bread and Circuses.
gregwani , 16 Oct 2017 00:24
Whilst the suggestion of "creating a more economically equal society" is obviously desirable, it's not exactly a practical recommendation against the context of the rest of the article.

Herein lies the key: "...they sustain all of this through a campaign finance and lobbying system that gives them undue influence over policy."

Possible solution? No vote; no donation.

Curtail corporate funding of political parties, Super PACs, Unions, etc. and have election campaigns financed from public funds ONLY. If you can't vote as an individual person/citizen, you can't contribute.

This would remove a big barrier to reform - lobbyists and political patronage - and ensure that elected leaders are unshackled, with the freedom to govern based on evidence-based policy and long-term planning rather than just rewarding the corporate elite who put them there.

BrunoForestier -> Hypatia415 , 16 Oct 2017 00:19
Even with compulsory voting Australia still funnels votes to those we don't want to elect in the form of transferable 1st pass the post single member electorates. True democracy would grant proportional representation, and allow citizen initiated binding referenda.
BrunoForestier -> FLanzy61 , 16 Oct 2017 00:12
White nationalism wasn't necessary when you were 90% of the population - it has only emerged with the mass immigration era, when socially engineered policies threaten to make you a minority in your own nation-state. (yes, I am aware that the indigenous population was here first and was disposessed - but America the nation state was clearly built predominantly on European settlement)

There used to be an effective form of identity politics - based on working class common interest - that brought a high standard of living to most people (even the oppressed Black minority). It is the splitting of that identity that has allowed the neoliberals to sideline class as a divider of common interest.

curiouswes -> nonsensefactory , 16 Oct 2017 00:07
regarding (1): not sure it is feasible and I don't think we should do it if it is. The market is a weird animal imho. Both the hedgers and the speculators can drive a market share price up or down and contrary to popular opinion, I don't believe the speculators are to blame when a company does well. A lot of people got financially devastated because they had holdings in Enron. I wouldn't want to punish those investors even further because they invested in a bad company.

regarding (2): I agree. The concept of globalism is a good concept. However the way it is being implemented isn't.

regarding (3): Again I agree. Most of the regular posters who agree with the media nonsense don't post on articles like this one because a paid troll sticks out like a sore thumb on articles like this.

BrunoForestier , 16 Oct 2017 00:00
By these measures you could say America has been an oligarchy from its very conception. Look at the robber-barons of the 19th c. There are occasional "raisings of the veil" such as new deal or great society when the general public gets a fair go. The industrial boom of ww2 is what gave the working class a shot at living a decent life - and of course offshoring industry is precisely closing that door again.
functor , 15 Oct 2017 23:56
I am not an expert on Greek history but wouldn't the example of Alcibiades suggest that when an oligarchy falls-- due to war and plague in the case of Athens -- dangerous demagogues who break away from the same oligarchy ride the "democratic" wave and cause even more misery like the idiotic invasion of Sicily? Weren't the democratic people-- the landless poor of Athens-- more inclined to war at that point than the oligarchs? In some sense aren't we seeing what happens when a member of the oligarchy breaks away in present day U.S-- Trump rode a populist wave that was very democratic and people powered-- and where has that got us? Sometimes true democracy can be a messy and frightening affair.

I offer no defense of oligarchies, but the older I get, the more I wonder whether democracy of the people, by the people, is really for ALL the people.

Take Brexit, Trump, or for a more remote example, the Fascist inspired Hindu right wingers in India. All of them are in many ways a truer representation of the voice of the people, but that voice is so ugly, so exclusionary, so narrow, that one might be forgiven to want the sedate stability of an oligarchy back.

Bewareofnazihippies -> ChesBay , 15 Oct 2017 23:55
I'm afraid I have to agree. When thinking on these issues, I have a recurring mental image, it's the crowd scene at Brian's window, in the greatest cinematic example of satire, Life of Brian.

Brian -"You are all individuals. You are all different! "

The crowd -"YES! WE ARE ALL INDIVIDUALS! WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT! "

Man -"I'm not"

The crowd -"Ssh! Ssh! "

antdog -> sejong , 15 Oct 2017 23:41
......ahhh, reclining in the facetious lounge; unfortunately, this amusement left us with a candidate ignoring the masses of the American population opening the door for Trump.

Tens of millions of Americans waited patiently for a Dem candidate to talk about our stacked decks, D.C. swamps, and broken systems -- instead, they gave us a Hillary coronation and expected us to embrace the pantsuit.

Meanwhile, tens of millions then voted for Trump, knowing point-blank he was lying; they happily voluntarily deceive themselves (current/active); how sad is this reality ?

mrkris -> TragicomedyBeholder , 15 Oct 2017 23:40
As someone already said, instead of treating poor people unequally well, why not treat rich people the same as everyone else- don't let them hide their money from the taxman, don't give the rich unfair breaks and handouts
curiouswes -> SoAmerican , 15 Oct 2017 23:40

Do you think that is going to inspire Americans to get out and vote?

When the choice for the most powerful office in the world comes down to a choice between Donald J Trump and Hillary R Clinton (who were friends before the election started), I tend to think that our problem is not due to voter apathy, but rather voter apathy is due to our problem.

Those who still participate, still think this is all about the left vs the right because they think they still have a choice. They do. they get to choose between neoliberalism and fascism.

Alex Cardosa -> koikoi , 15 Oct 2017 23:38
The way its always been done. At the end of a pike. The rest is just fantasy.
antdog -> boilingriver , 15 Oct 2017 23:31
After university econ training, and a long business career, I now consider education a terrible thing. Knowing what I know now about how our systems really work, when I observe our Congressional leaders looking into the camera with point-blank lies day in and day out, I feel they deserve execution; literally, I am feeling like heads should roll.

Our systems have been hijacked, and the interests of the masses of our populations are being completely ignored--what should be the penalty for selling out, via acute sophisticated engineering, the population of an entire nation ?

hardmoney -> boilingriver , 15 Oct 2017 23:30
"Start demanding some laws for them to follow that has some teeth when they lie to us."

Pretty difficult when the criminals are in charge of lawmaking.

hardmoney -> boilingriver , 15 Oct 2017 23:30
"Start demanding some laws for them to follow that has some teeth when they lie to us."

Pretty difficult when the criminals are in charge of lawmaking.

PGNEWC -> SoAmerican , 15 Oct 2017 23:30
I dont think its a belief in 2 parties but a belief in a type of fixed yin and yang that drives this

Opposites like Good v Evil , the Unknown Others (like Foreigners) v the known (your Family /Friends ) etc . We see things as Either/Or because it is the simplest way of making sense of our world. But the world is far more complex and nuanced than this and there are degrees of rightness and wrongness and we as you say take on board the whole rigid structure of one side or the other -- it plays right into the oligarchs hands

Bewareofnazihippies -> peter nelson , 15 Oct 2017 23:18
Your instant dismissal of zaarth's point of view is the essential problem of modern democracy - casual demeaning and disregarding attitude from the ruling elites towards an informed citizen expressing concerns of inequality and systemic concentration of political power to the oligarchs.

Typical.

There maybe no political will to address these issues, but there sure as hell is plenty of social will! As for your last sentence "- So redistributionist policies have no future. ", well, considering that we've had 40years of global wealth being redistributed to the 1%, it's about time it was spread around a bit more equitably, don't you think?

Be Gold , 15 Oct 2017 23:02
In America, oligarchs win when Dems are center right (in practice, not rhetoric) and are sold out to the oligarchs. Case in point, HC. There is no counterbalance to those who are even further to the right. Oligarchs win without a legit 3rd party.
koikoi , 15 Oct 2017 22:39
A article. A case in point - Iceland, where the elite owns the fishing fleet and controls the financial industry, whereas the majority of the population barely scrape by. People are furious but how do you overturn centuries of oligarch 'rule and law'?
vr13vr -> Dave514 , 15 Oct 2017 22:38
Disagree. "Why" is always a question. If you don't know and understand "why," the original intent of a law, you can't interpret and apply it properly. As a result, it gets perverted to the point that it does no longer make sense. We have plenty of examples in the US.

Without why you can't adapt to the changing environment either.

vr13vr -> Wolframite , 15 Oct 2017 22:35
But how successfully? And with how much resources, compared to various industrial and other deep pocket lobbies?
franklin100 -> kizbot , 15 Oct 2017 22:34
Yes, it's the same wherever people keep their mouth shut to keep their job. That's the corrosive effect of corruption.
hardmoney -> SoAmerican , 15 Oct 2017 22:31
Do you know how small the odds are to get a large group of people to rally (or vote) around a cause? This is why grassroots have a low success rate. The founding fathers certainly knew how small the odds are and gave the people a bone they naively believed to be useful and powerful; the right to vote. It is one of the biggest cons played on the people and has managed to keep the natives quiet and complacent, while the elite and powerful do their bidding.
franklin100 -> Nada89 , 15 Oct 2017 22:30
As the joke goes, I welcome our new oligarch overlord. Yes, most likely one fallen oligarch will be replaced by another.
kyoung21b -> helenus , 15 Oct 2017 22:09
The ones that rob you blind, wantonly if they're called republicans and apologetically if they're called democrats.
franklin100 -> Bewareofnazihippies , 15 Oct 2017 22:06
To get back to the argument about the oligarchs buying collaborators, everybody who keeps their mouth shut to keep their job falls into that category. So that's the majority in work.
boilingriver -> antdog , 15 Oct 2017 22:06
That's why i want to go after the politicians and bypass their evil, selfish, stupid pawns they are encouraging right now.

Start demanding some laws for them to follow that has some teeth when they lie to us.
They want to sanction Russia who was just repeating what republican/tea party had been saying.

antdog , 15 Oct 2017 21:58
"A loophole in American tax law permits companies with just 20 percent foreign ownership to reincorporate abroad, which means that if a big U.S. firm acquires a smaller company located in a tax haven, it can then "invert" – that is, become a subsidiary of its foreign-based affiliate – and kiss a huge share of its IRS obligations goodbye.........Over the next decade, corporate inversions could cost the U.S. Treasury nearly $20 billion" Rolling Stone

*******

They made this legal, folks, and it's just the tip of the iceburg. Meanwhile, not a peep (cricket, cricket, cricket.....)

sejong -> thenthelightningwill , 15 Oct 2017 21:56
As Putin said, when a spring is compressed all the way to its limit, it will snap back hard.

Trump caught that wave perfectly. Clinton was wading in the kiddie pool.

franklin100 -> MoonMoth , 15 Oct 2017 21:54
Corporate lobbyists have so much more wealth than the incomes of individual politicians, that is their political salary, that they are all bought not so much with brown envelopes but with jobs like Osborne's, a day's work a month for Blackrock for which he is paid £650k a year. It's so obviously not a payment for what will be done as for what has been done.
HistoryHacker , 15 Oct 2017 21:53
Thought provoking and excellent comments that should be read before opining. As for my opinion, it seems that communism was left out when it might just be the answer to a conundrum that seems unresolvable. Uniformity of wealth within reason (the rule of seven times) can be achieved and sustained. But that requires education which again, can be achieved and sustained. That is, if we don't blow ourselves to smithereens before we achieve such a heightened state which after all should be a...normal?!
thenthelightningwill -> sejong , 15 Oct 2017 21:51
Obama and the Dems lost 1,000 elected positions before Trump came along. It's because he sold out to the big banks. We don't need two Wall St. parties. Until the Dems learn to respect their voters and do things like support single payer, this is all we get.
sejong -> antdog , 15 Oct 2017 21:49
Debbie Wasserman's decide our candidates, thus, our elections.

You make a good point. DWS and HRC: it's all their fault that Trump is president.

antdog -> Will D , 15 Oct 2017 21:48
......whaaaa ? You mean to tell me coronation is not true democracy ?

I need to upchuck.

SoAmerican , 15 Oct 2017 21:47
The primary institution that drives oligarchy in the US is the "two party system". It is not enshrined in the Constitution. It is purely the working of the political class. The people need to quit believing that there can only be two parties.
antdog -> boilingriver , 15 Oct 2017 21:45
The spin and brainwash are now far, far more powerful than the 1960's.

How else do you explain tens of millions of formerly hardworking middle class, now on the outside looking in (with their adult children), continuing to wave the flag, with a large smile on their faces, all the way to the poorhouse day in and day out--and not even a peep?

SoAmerican -> zzoetrope , 15 Oct 2017 21:44
Honestly though, it becomes more undemocratic when people rag on it sy as you have done above. Do you think that is going to inspire Americans to get out and vote? What you don't understand, or maybe you do too well, is that the biggest threat to democracy in the US is apathy. When you present it as such a situation that there is no reprieve, then why should they vote?
Will D -> Andrew Stronto , 15 Oct 2017 21:35
As the article points out the oligarchs use selected messaging, which includes anti-left propaganda and misinformation. So the result is that any political movement that is left of centre (and the centre has shifted quite a lot to the right in the last few decades) is made to seem like hard-core socialism or even communism.

When you look at the policies from Bernie Sanders in the USA and Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, and see how they've been attacked by the right-wing media, but when you put them into the perspective of the policies of the 60' and 70's they aren't even particularly left-wing. Most would have been described as centrist policies.

The oligarchs have succeeded in moving the goal posts to the right and made centrist policies seem dangerously left-wing.

Will D -> Tom Wessel , 15 Oct 2017 21:27
They don't overlook it because they have been bought by it. Today's 'democrats' are complicit, and rely on it for their post-political income.
nonsensefactory , 15 Oct 2017 21:26
Modern oligarchs owe their political and economic power to a variety of structures and systems, such as:
(1) The limited-liability, shareholder-controlled corporation, designed to maximize profits for the shareholders while protecting them from the consequences of their actions (why can't one sue the shareholders of ExxonMobil for the actions of the company that they control?)

(2) The global neoliberal 'free-trade' unlimited-capital-flow system, which allows oligarchs to pit nation-states and workers against one another in a race to the bottom for the lowest wages and pollution and safety standards - a system promoted by both Democratic and Republican parties in the United States, which has boosted profits for oligarchs and destroyed the middle class.

(3) The monopolistic tightly-controlled corporate media system, which promotes the interests of the oligarchs who own and control it, setting the narrative played out across television, radio, print media and much of the Internet to the overall population in a remarkably coordinated fashion - such that most 'media' serves to distract or deceive the public, rather than to inform.

There are no doubt others - such as tax codes that allow the rich to accumulate vast wealth, while stripping wealth from poor people and the middle class - but those are among the most important factors.

SoAmerican -> Tom Wessel , 15 Oct 2017 21:23
Small D Democrats. Not big D Democrats. The Clintons are clearly in the oligarch class, much like Trump. It is rather hilarious to hear Trump supporters talk about how he cares for the poor.
boilingriver , 15 Oct 2017 21:19
Oligarchic institutions are subject to rot and collapse, as are any other kind of institution. As the oligarchs' solidarity and practices start to break down, there is an opportunity for democracy to bring government back to the people.

In that moment, the people might unite for long enough that their protests lead to power. With all the upheaval in today's politics, it's hard not to think that this moment is one in which the future of the political system might be more up for grabs than it has been in generations.

It always takes a revolution/ protest from the people to throw out the political corruption and then the rich just start again.
Until we get some laws that they have to follow and serious jail time when they do not, we will not have decent people to choose from. The reason we have such crappy choices is this is the only job in the world where you can lie and cheat to your boss (us) and face no serious consequences.

robinaldlowrise , 15 Oct 2017 21:02
It's difficult to see how Ancient Greece fits into either of those narratives if Aristotle's conclusions from his contemporary, careful, empirical (yes, really) investigations of the whole range of political variants present in Ancient Greece entered into their analyses. For a start, even in political units as small as a city-state, he rates democracy as a degenerate form of government (albeit the best of all three degenerate forms) that naturally tends towards oligarchy (another degenerate form), though – give or take some refinement of concepts involved – a proper mix of both results in the best form of "rule by the many", namely "polity", in an over-all ranking of forms of government by good or "correctness" that is topped by monarchy and tailed by tyranny.

Getting in to all this while not falling victim to the modern trigger word syndrome requires significantly greater subtlety of thought than seems to be deployed by either of the authors under consideration, though how much of their analyses has slipped by the author of this piece is unknowable on the basis of the evidence here available. Have any of the trio even considered a Ancient Ryanair trip to Ancient Greece for a third millennium looksee?

Andrew Stronto -> Hypatia415 , 15 Oct 2017 20:55
The oligarchs best work is done through divide and conquer and should they ultimately be truly threatened then they will prevail through an order out of chaos of their own creation. Most issues you mention like the widening gap between the rich and poor, climate change.. yada yada are engineered to fracture society to make us all easier to control. Oh and they love to stamp their handy work so keep an "eye" out for them !
Tom Wessel , 15 Oct 2017 20:53
" Democracy is vulnerable to oligarchy because democrats focus so much on guaranteeing political equality that they overlook the indirect threat that emerges from economic inequality . "

Hog wash! They know where the money is and they want it transferred into their pockets. And if some of that money trickles down to the less fortunate, they surely will take credit for it. The Clintons didn't become multi-millionaires by concentrating on inequality.

Roderick Llewellyn -> boilingriver , 15 Oct 2017 20:51
I suspect the article's Author, when he said "democrats" (notice lower case) was not referring to the political party the Democrats (upper case). He meant any who advocate for an increase in democracy. This presumably overlaps with the Democratic Party, but by no means is congruent to it.
Tom Wessel -> helenus , 15 Oct 2017 20:46
They are the ones that always have a smile on their faces and constantly give to charities from the monies they exploited from the ignorant masses. Then in retaliation, the masses put them on pedestals. It's a very simply routine. Wash, rinse and repeat.
boilingriver , 15 Oct 2017 20:43
Democracy is vulnerable to oligarchy because democrats focus so much on guaranteeing political equality that they overlook the indirect threat that emerges from economic inequality.

The Dem voters do not overlook that. To be fair the Dem politicians do look at economic policy. Affordable health care using the rich taxes, environment, clean drinking water and making CO responsible. Just look at what trump tea/party are dismantling. Dems are also for increasing min wage. They should do better, but they are not as worthless as republicans. The republicans work for the rich not us.

I find it strange that you never called out the republicans actions, just the Dems. The republicans are the ones putting in the policies/laws that are cementing the riches power and making our lives worse.

Hypatia415 , 15 Oct 2017 20:42
A very deep and timely article given that oligarchies threaten the very survival of our world. Think the widening gap between the rich and poor, climate change, environmental degradation, war and the mass movements of people fleeing all of the above.
Even with democracy and compulsory ballots in Australia voters still believe their best interests lie with the representatives of the oligarchs, the banks, financial services and transnational corporations.
Mercurey -> TragicomedyBeholder , 15 Oct 2017 20:41
Demonstrably not the case when one looks at successful periods of progressive policies such Butkers Education act. The idea that the fruits of life are distributed according to talent & effort is a grim joke that can be dismissed out of hand.

Social privilege repeats itself & counteracting that is a moral duty. As is exposing the myths that justify it.

RobertLlDavies -> peter nelson , 15 Oct 2017 20:29
You haven't got a clue. have you. I've spent years recruiting people into unions in small unorganised workplaces, where employers do their best to victimise anyone who tries to form a union. Many people are either afraid of joining a union - or they have no idea what unions do, except for the rubbish printed about in the anti-union papers (viz. most of them). I'm happy to say that, in the end, we succeed in enabling workers to get together in many workplaces to defend and improve their lot at work. I live in a traditional working class area, near many unionised and non-unionised workplaces. Whate about you? How many ordinary workers have you ever discussed these matters with? How many trades unionists?
stanphillips , 15 Oct 2017 20:28
Read the "Iron Heel" by Jack London" for a description of an extreme oligarchy set in the USA of the early twentieth century. The book is a narrative by the wife and partner of the main male character Ernest Everhard (interesting name I know). Some of Everhard's descriptions of what London saw as consolidation of the American oligarchs are succinct and chilling. If you haven't read it then it really demonstrates in a fictional sense how long the concept of modern oligarchies have been around:
http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1164
hardmoney -> zzoetrope , 15 Oct 2017 20:19
"It never ceases to amaze me how Americans delude themselves into thinking that they live in a democracy."

They don't come by it naturally. Their delusion is pushed along by very well oiled propaganda machines, probably mostly financed by the taxpayers themselves.

zzoetrope , 15 Oct 2017 20:14

Our political system, he said, is a democracy. If the people don't want to be run by wealthy elites, we can just vote them out.

It never ceases to amaze me how Americans delude themselves into thinking that they live in a democracy. The US executive, arguable the most powerful collection of people in the world, is substantially un-elected. Only the President stands for election and he's not elected by the people but by an undemocratic electoral college; Hilary Clinton received the most votes and lost the election.

The rest of the Executive aren't elected, they're appointed and you can't "just vote them out".

Then there's Congress where electorates are so gerrymandered that in the vast majority of cases the results are foregone conclusions; national elections are decided in a few "swinging" seats. Congress is also corrupted by the dependence of the system on massive donations, by lobbyists, and vested interests.

Of the world's democracies, the Unites States must be one of the least democratic.

hardmoney , 15 Oct 2017 20:08
And the Oscar goes to America, land of the free and milk and honey; created, propagandized and brought to you by the Hollywood tv and film industry for the last 100 years.
skydolphinattakforce , 15 Oct 2017 20:05
in America the 2 partys pretty much control the election and they are both part of the oligarchy. so I don't think theres much hope for the U.S.
PennyCarter -> RBHoughton , 15 Oct 2017 20:02
I recently read an essay where the American political system is likened to a rodeo. The bull is the voting public being ridden by the oligarchs. If the oligarch falls off the bull the bull is distracted by the rodeo clown (the president) until he can get back on the bull.
Tom Wessel -> Manacatsaman , 15 Oct 2017 19:57
" I personally wonder,... just how much longer this level of stupidity will persist. "

Probably well into the disaster of global warming.

Tom Wessel -> peter nelson , 15 Oct 2017 19:53
" Who exactly are the oligarchs? Do you think that they know that they are oligarchs? "

I doubt a pervert or rapist looks at himself as such.

gerryinoz , 15 Oct 2017 19:52
Who are our oligarchs and who do they finance, lobby, influence and control in Canberra?
The law. The fucking law is mainly for the very wealthy or influential, not for grafters like me.
Still, all in all, in Oz we have a labor party that gave us decent wages, Medicare and super.I think our oligarchs are greedy bastards but not as severe as the American, Russian or Arab oligarchs. The French knew how to deal with theirs in the 18th century and a couple of ours could do with that treatment.
desertrat49 -> GimmeHendrix , 15 Oct 2017 19:51
As Socrates was forever doing...if we do not define our terms, we quickly end up in the weeds. Britain is King in Parliament (badly corrupted under Victoria!) and America is a Plutocratic Republic!...No Democracy intended...or delivered...but much mythologized none the less!
Tom Wessel -> aldebaranredstar , 15 Oct 2017 19:51
"kind of like taking a knee ...we shouldn't be pursuing niche interest anymore."

Police brutality is a "niche" Issue? I can see you haven't met a Brown Shirt you didn't like.

RBHoughton , 15 Oct 2017 19:51
The American people cannot vote out the oligarchs because they make the rules of the game and the electorate must comply. The author seems to suppose there is a democracy operating on this planet when the nearest we have approached that ideal is the supposedly representative democracies of numerous countries.

One of the features that reinforce the oligarchy in power in USA is the agenda of the nine Supreme Court judges who approved 'Citizens United' and assured the oligarchs that the man with the money would call the shots.

Another important point that does not surface in this article is the 600BC institution, jointly with democracy, of theatre. That allowed playwrights to present the naive electorate with plays enacting the hard choices that citizens would have to make now they were responsible for their own government. There is a group of greats scholars on the BBC's 2014 series "Guilty Pleasures" who discuss and approve this point.

JosephCamilleri -> Sailor25 , 15 Oct 2017 19:49
On balance over thousands of years some rich bastards made some good decisions? How scientific of you. Not so much a logical argument as a watery fart.
Bewareofnazihippies , 15 Oct 2017 19:48
Please Guardian, don't close this comments section too soon.
This topic truly goes to the heart of why so much of humanity's failings of governance and stewardship of the Earth is so malevolent.
The quality of the responses highlight that many readers recognize that this is THE issue that underlies so many of our existing problems.
Tom Wessel , 15 Oct 2017 19:48
" Ancient Greek elites developed institutions and practices to keep themselves united. "

Nothing couldn't be more relevant then the Guardian running Hillary Clinton articles. Saw at least 3 on the front page right now. Let's keep the elite neoliberals in power.

desertrat49 -> TallulahD , 15 Oct 2017 19:46
Like I said elsewhere, one has to first define citizenship and who has the franchise before one gets too carried away by talk of Democracy!
JosephCamilleri -> Amanzim , 15 Oct 2017 19:44
There are democracies and "democracies". India has a ruling class that rules for its class, so not really that democratic. India isn't USA, USA isn't Australia, Australian isn't Germany, Germany isn't the Netherlands. That's roughly the scale.
desertrat49 -> PennyCarter , 15 Oct 2017 19:44
One of the interesting conceits of American culture is the way that the mega rich envision themselves as simply middle class...one sees it all the time.
The short answer is that the politically aware Oligarchs know very well who they are....and the wannabes know who they are as well!
My favourite is still one of the Koch brothers saying that he had no problem with Oligarchy...so long as he got the government that he paid for! Beautiful!!
aldebaranredstar , 15 Oct 2017 19:40
More than oligarchs I see alliances built on niche interests, or interests that are particular to a group of people. these special interests are wedge issues for that group, kind of like taking a knee and how that affects the NFL and ripples through the whole culture. Too many niche interests are being pushed forward, and that's why there's no consensus or very little. That's why there is gridlock and stasis. we shouldn't be pursuing niche interest anymore. we need larger consensus agreements, things we can agree on in society as a whole, and we got to keep talking until we find that agreement. that's how I see it
sejong , 15 Oct 2017 19:33
A hundred years ago, as the West industrialized, oligarchs wielded power via the employment relationship. Beginning a generation ago with the transfer of manufacturing to China, the instrument of power shifted to media. Murdoch was one of the first to exploit this. And now we have Trump.
guest0987 -> Zaarth , 15 Oct 2017 19:28
Agree totally. Redistribution of wealth to keep a few from controlling everything is what we need. And this does have a future as moving to the left is the way for the US to go. The right has shown for at least the past 40 years to offer nothing.
Redredemptionist -> WhatTheTruth , 15 Oct 2017 19:22
Dear WT..., WT... do you mean by:

"the oligarchy of Socialism" ?
"giving people too many rights" ? and
"neutralises everything to a standstill" ?

Too many 'dog whistles' make a strong sound but no meaningful sense what so ever!

PennyCarter -> peter nelson , 15 Oct 2017 19:21
My guess is that oligarchs don't even think they are oligarchs. They probably think they are actually part of a meritocracy, having conflated the rigged political system with what they believe to be their superior abilities
Dave514 -> Dave514 , 15 Oct 2017 19:18
Sorry that was WSC.
JamesValencia -> Dave514 , 15 Oct 2017 19:17
The "?" was merely rhetorical, as is usually the case on t'interwebs :)
peter nelson -> MartinSilenus , 15 Oct 2017 19:14
The comments in this thread mostly seem to be by whinging old style Labour supporters, who can no longer hide the contempt that they have for ordinary people - your "apathetic proles".
Dave514 -> JamesValencia , 15 Oct 2017 19:14
"Parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus
mus." The original Latin quote used by WAX to accurately describe Attlee.
peter nelson -> 3melvinudall , 15 Oct 2017 19:12
Oh rubbish. People choose whether to join a union. It takes closed shop contracts to enforce union membership, and the fact that unions seldom form in right to work states prove that when given a choice most workers don't want to join a union.
peter nelson -> Timothy Everton , 15 Oct 2017 19:09
Nonsense. The American government was elected by the voters. Local and state government to draw the voting districts for US house races were elected by the voters. US Senate governor and presidential races cannot be gerrymandered. And Hillary Clinton WAY outspent Donald Trump.

Progressives need to stop whining and complaining about the Koch brothers and start putting together a slate of candidates and ideas that ordinary Americans want to vote for.

Sailor25 -> theseligsussex , 15 Oct 2017 19:06
Looted and raised off the back of slaves but in the process laying the foundation of western civilisation.

My point isn't that it's fair or right or good. My point is that the concentration of power and wealth in a small group of individuals often leads to incredible development that betters all of humanity down the line.

peter nelson -> Zaarth , 15 Oct 2017 19:06
Who cares what you support? There is no political will for such a thing and the general direction of democratically elected governments is toward the right not the left. So redistributionist policies have no future.
peter nelson -> Manacatsaman , 15 Oct 2017 19:04
Money IS speech. Surely if the founding fathers intended to protect any particular kind of speech, it must have been political speech. So if I want to use my money to promote a particular policy or political candidate then any attempt by the government to prevent that is obviously and clearly a violation of my right to political speech.
Bewareofnazihippies , 15 Oct 2017 19:01
One of the best articles I've read here. It's about time an article like this finally gets a hearing. I mostly read these kind of arguments and perspectives from the comments section. So well done.
JamesValencia -> rikmac78 , 15 Oct 2017 19:00
Well, given what I said above, one might expect me to agree, but I wouldn't: New Labour nevertheless did an enormous amound of good: A fairer britain, enormously improved public services, the business sector properly regulated. taxation improved.

The problem was Blair. The background was Labour, which kept on beavering away with Labour principles: "society first" in a word.

New Labour achieved a huge amount. A shame abour Blair. If John Smith hadn't dropped dead, it might be different. With emphasis on "might" - at least Smith, although also restructuring Labour towards the centre, wasn't so bent on reneging Labour core values.

Luckily the Labour party reneged little: Labour endures :)

nottrue , 15 Oct 2017 18:59
Very interesting. While it currently appears impossible to win back democracy there might be some hope. I sense that things might change soon. The debacle of the current electricity market in Australia and lack of action to mitigate climate change can be seen in the light of the Oligarchy's fear of losing their wealth base, which could end up in a rise of democracy.'
TallulahD , 15 Oct 2017 18:56
In Athens, enslavement for debt had been a fundamental law from the time of Draco in the 39th Olympiad in the 7th Century BC. However, in the sixth century BC, the lawgiver Solon ordained a radical new constitution: by cancelling all debts both public and private, he "liberated the people once and for all" thus paving the way for all citizens to be admitted into the Assembly: Aristotle, "The Athenian Constitution", Parts 6 and 43 (although the Athenian form of direct democracy was a limited concept by modern standards - to become a citizen one had to be an adult male, born of citizen parents).
Manacatsaman , 15 Oct 2017 18:38
Most people in the U.S. conflate democracy with capitalism; there's no comprehension of separateness of political and economic "systems". The prevailing idea is that "America is a nation of business" and in the 19th Century the Supreme Court declared corporations to be individual persons and most recently confirmed that "money is speech". So, the people who have the ability to vote out the oligarchy don't even know what one is, or why it's bad for them. Thus a lying, cheating, greedy "Billionaire" is seen by the middle and lower classes, or as I'm sure Trump refers to them behind closed doors, "my marks", as their savior. I personally wonder, as the Trump Administration works tirelessly to grind its base into the dirt, just how much longer this level of stupidity will persist.
SteveofCaley , 15 Oct 2017 18:38
The process of branding and advertising, a century old, places unmerited trust in non-human entities, corporations and institutions. Humans are slick and untrustworthy. We assume that Police Departments are always kind. If harm occurs, is it a rotten cop or rotten citizen? Pick one. Ask a disloyal NFL player. They hate the troops, peace, freedom and justice, right?
The modern oligarchy is to hide behind labels and brands. God so loved the world that he founded a privately-held nonprofit with tax advantages ...whatnow? Exxon owns your axxons, folks.
SocAlan , 15 Oct 2017 18:38

At the same time, they sought to destroy monuments that were symbols of democratic success.

Privatisation!

Sailor25 -> EquilibriaJones , 15 Oct 2017 18:35
People always die, the default position of humanity is grinding poverty.

What we should be looking at is why come civilisations escaped that. A modern Britain is less likely to die of poverty today than at any other time in history.

The concentration of wealth in small groups of individuals often provides the impetus for development. To much concentration of wealth means you end up with exploitation of the plebs the flip side leaves you with economic stagnation.

The key as in most things is getting the balance right.

SocAlan , 15 Oct 2017 18:32

They gave rewards to informants and found pliable citizens to take positions in the government.

Does this not remind one of the last Labour government?

Timothy Everton -> Dave514 , 15 Oct 2017 18:31
Do a bit of reading. I would suggest Nancy MacLean's "Democracy in Chains" for a start. It has a direct line to the big-money influence of the Koch family over the U.S. government. There are many others, of course.
Hector Hajnal -> DolyGarcia , 15 Oct 2017 18:30
ehmm well... thats something that must start within the family and the community, if family fails theres the community if community fails thats window open to attack. Even so I have been knew fellows and sisters that even in the must adverse circumstances manage to make themselves educated and with a good criteria vice versa with fellows from a good environment turn to be as... so is a matter of choose as well. The problem with that is that this are the times of internet instant gratification which create the perfect scenario to create a bunch of idiotics egocentric lunatics with not will nor performance at all just slaves to machines. So ehmmm we need some kind of a bomb which disables some of the technology, not all, just for a while and try to get some to nromal
Sailor25 -> imperium3 , 15 Oct 2017 18:29
I wouldn't like to live in an extreme oligarchy either but we must remember our present will be somebodies past.

Money we direct away from growth to support our current living standard makes the people of tommorow less wealthy.

As I posted earlier there needs to be balance but we shouldn't assume oligarchy is a bad thing in of itself.

Guangudo -> GimmeHendrix , 15 Oct 2017 18:28
I would say oligarchy or oligarchy, because "democracy" does not really exist, it never did. Nothing will change unless we do away with Darwinism.
Guangudo , 15 Oct 2017 18:15
"Democracy (Greek: δημοκρατία, dēmokratía literally "rule of the people"), in modern usage, is a system of government in which the citizens exercise power directly or elect representatives from among themselves to form a governing body, such as a parliament. Democracy is sometimes referred to as "rule of the majority".

Having this definition in mind I do find rather bizarre that everyone insists on calling such a system a "democracy" when it is a fact that women and slaves where not allowed to vote.

Nowadays is getting somehow worse, because manipulation and agnotology have upset everything. The systems control perfectly everything and this charade are done by a power in the shadow, and although most people ignore it, this Power is theocratic.

The fact that repeating a lie constantly does not make it an axiom ...

MartinSilenus -> sparx104 , 15 Oct 2017 18:12
1984 is my `favourite` book, the subtext is that there is in fact no hope from the proles, as Winston Smith comes to see. They are apathetic & any who might rouse them, are liquidated. They have the power to overthrow the party, but are mostly just ignored by it, & so just get on with their lives. The lesson is that power, without the will to use it, is meaningless: still true as it happens.
Dave514 -> 3melvinudall , 15 Oct 2017 18:07
My, my, you've got this all sorted out so we'll have a dictatorship that is able to abolish the Supreme Court and Congress. Wow!
rikmac78 -> JamesValencia , 15 Oct 2017 18:06
New Labour is simply a lighter shade of Tory power...
Pushk1n -> blogdubdrib , 15 Oct 2017 18:00
Francis Galton was a founder of the science of statistics and a bit of a snob.

Galton was a keen observer. In 1906, visiting a livestock fair, he stumbled upon an intriguing contest. An ox was on display, and the villagers were invited to guess the animal's weight after it was slaughtered and dressed. Nearly 800 participated, and Galton was able to study their individual entries after the event.

Galton stated that "the middlemost estimate expresses the vox populi, every other estimate being condemned as too low or too high by a majority of the voters",[45] and reported this value (the median, in terminology he himself had introduced, but chose not to use on this occasion) as 1,207 pounds. To his surprise, this was within 0.8% of the weight measured by the judges. Soon afterwards, in response to an enquiry, he reported[46] the mean of the guesses as 1,197 pounds, but did not comment on its improved accuracy. Recent archival research[47] has found some slips in transmitting Galton's calculations to the original article in Nature: the median was actually 1,208 pounds, and the dressed weight of the ox 1,197 pounds, so the mean estimate had zero error. James Surowiecki[48] uses this weight-judging competition as his opening example: had he known the true result, his conclusion on the wisdom of the crowd would no doubt have been more strongly expressed.

He thought the judges local yokels and was expecting to laugh instead he found that irrespective of perceived intelligence the mean of the wisdom of the crowd ( the 800 entering the competition for a prize) was surprisingly accurate.

There are more things in Heaven and Earth ....

Dave514 -> glenns , 15 Oct 2017 17:59
And you know this specifically how?
J4Zonian -> ashleyhk , 15 Oct 2017 17:58
US media hasn't been "leftist" ever. In the 1930s and a few other periods it's had significant minorities that were liberal or leftish, but otherwise, it's mostly right-of-center imperial support mechanism media; now and increasingly, it's extreme right wing (Fox, Murdoch (WSJ, National Geographic, etc.) Clear Channel and Sinclair dominating TV and radio with more than 1000 stations. Reporters are sometimes left-leaning but that has little or nothing to do with what's published. Hollywood tends to be liberal on social issues but rarely moves off the imperial support wagon except for occasional dips into history to communicate with platitudes. Any media that considers Obama and Clinton anything but right of center corporate duopolists is way over on the right wing; that includes everything 95% of people ever hear or see--all networks, cable, every daily newspaper... The Guardian a little bit, Pacifica radio's 5 stations, Mother Jones and sort of The Nation, Common Dreams and a few other sites, blogs etc.--that's the left in the US. Pitiful, especially considering that a large majority of people in the US favor very liberal positions on almost all issues except war, death penalty and imprisonment.
Dave514 -> JamesValencia , 15 Oct 2017 17:56
British Rail was even a greater disaster ushered in by Clement, the mountains laboured a d brought forth a mouse, Attlee
curiouswes -> RapidSloth , 15 Oct 2017 17:55
For me, things really took a decisive turn for the worst when Wilson was president. Before that, the defacto government wasn't codified. According to this wikipedia article the was a "growing concern" about the so called money trust.

The Pujo Committee was a United States congressional subcommittee in 1912–1913 that was formed to investigate the so-called "money trust", a community of Wall Street bankers and financiers that exerted powerful control over the nation's finances. After a resolution introduced by congressman Charles Lindbergh Sr. for a probe on Wall Street power, congressman Arsène Pujo of Louisiana was authorized to form a subcommittee of the House Committee on Banking and Currency.

from the article above:

In civil oligarchies, governance is collective and enforced through laws, rather than by arms.

Democracy defeated oligarchy in ancient Greece because of 'oligarchic breakdown.'
With this typology behind him, Winters declares that America is already a civil oligarchy.

I don't know much about economics, but from what I think I know, one can speed up or slow down the economy by increasing or decreasing the money supply respectively; and prior to Wilson's term, the government had that power. However after Wilson's term that power moved into the private sector because laws were passed. I see that as a huge problem and from what I can gather, so did Lindbergh:

The new law will create inflation whenever the trusts want inflation. From now on depressions will be scientifically created.

TWOBOBS , 15 Oct 2017 17:51
I think the citizenry is being screwed by the oligarchy on both the left and the right, which tend to merge into the same thing. Both are about power and control and have very little to do with democracy or individual liberties. Neither the capitalists nor the socialists care much about you. You are a means to an end. Both the right and the left seek to control speech and thought through the media and through institutions. Both the right and left want a disempowered, compliant population.
JamesValencia , 15 Oct 2017 17:48
There's lots to think about there. Thanks for a good article, more on democracy please ! It strikes me we're in a situation where we need to relearn what it is, exactly.

What struck me most was the oligarchy eroding symbols of democracy, and taking over the legal system of government, and I'd add, taking over the management of government through privatisation of government services: The civil service increasingly outsourced to the private sector, that is, the oligarchy.

This is what "the small state" political project, currently centre stage in the UK and the USA, is leading towards: governments run by the private sector.

And the response is always "it's cheaper and more efficient! And democracy is the representative - who cares if government departments are shut down and their services delivered by the private sector? It means less tax !"

And we end up with Network Rail, and the other scandals of privatised services in the UK, and to Labour's undying shame, much of this was ushered in by New Labour.

Pushk1n -> Light_and_Liberty , 15 Oct 2017 17:46
I think you need to read the article. Trump fits every definition of an Oligarch, his actions are exactly how Oligarchs survive, true he may not be the only one in the US.
Skullen -> deeaiden , 15 Oct 2017 17:42
You sound slightly like a psychopath yourself.
johnthebaptiste -> alloomis , 15 Oct 2017 17:38
or even dictatorshiip
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elective_dictatorship
MalicX -> Elgrecoandros , 15 Oct 2017 17:37
Jessthecrip seems to have been supporting punishment of some kind for people whose actions demonstrably cause actual, serious harm to real people. You seem to consider the actions which create such actual harm (including many deaths) to be a 'political opinion'. I think that's where the difference in attitude lies.
Shannon Renee Kayne-Amoureux , 15 Oct 2017 17:35
Bilderberg Group, et al.
Pushk1n -> GimmeHendrix , 15 Oct 2017 17:35
You Think, the people were well and truly lied to by rather rich and unscrupulous people who hope to benefit from the chaos as this article makes clear this is the way that Oligarchy works by manipulating and dividing the demos.
curiouswes -> hardmoney , 15 Oct 2017 17:31

The problem is and always has been, life is not black or white, but gray. One man's fact is another man's differing opinion.

True. However, a women has the right to abort a fetus. That is a fact. Now we can have an opinion that she has the right to kill her own fetus, but that wouldn't be a fact because technically we can't ascertain that the fetus is alive because it doesn't necessarily "stay" alive if we remove it from the mother (at least not in the first trimester). Therefore legalized abortion isn't legalized murder. However it is unconstitutional to take everybody's guns away. It really takes verbal gymnastics to try to make the constitution say anything different, so the proponents for gun control swear up and down that they aren't trying to take everybody's guns away. However when you ask what their objective is, they say they want to stop people from killing each other with guns. Without that measuring rod (the constitution), they don't take that tone. Instead they argue that people don't need guns. The same can be said for speech. Hate speech imho does more damage than the right to bear arms, but the 1st amendment gives those fools the right to behave the way the did in Charlottesville. Those who tried to silence them walked on the 1st amendment, again in the name of the greater good. As a black man, I'm not about to side with people who think we need to keep those statues up. I know exactly what those statues represent. However again the constitution is there protecting their right to voice an opinion to say what I vehemently oppose. I can disagree with them but I don't have the constitutional right to silence them. When people want to force others not to speak on college campuses, that isn't constitutional. It is authoritarian. Authoritarianism in the name of the greater good. some don't have a problem with that kind of authoritarianism, but when it comes from the orange one, that's authoritarianism that nobody needs because it's really hard to find his "greater good". His sense of greater good generally seems to benefit some, while marginalizing others. Personally I think his impeachment is now months overdue, but, as you say, that is just my opinion. I think firing Comey was an authoritarian move. I think when a head of state can neutralize his detractors, in theory we can't get rid of him for anything, because he can simply fire any perceived threat to his power. The fact that he is still in power is an outrage to me. But then again, I think it was an outrage that HRC was even running for president. They dumped Gary Hart, because he was having an extramarital affair, but for some reason, HRC was able to walk through "airport security" with all of her baggage. But, "no election rigging" from state side. It was all done by the Russian oligarchs according to our wonderful media. However this is a democracy because we had a choice between, "Lock her up" and "I cannot tell the truth"
Zaarth , 15 Oct 2017 17:22
This is why I support wealth redistribution through progressive taxation. It's not so much about achieving "income equality" as it is about preventing power being concentrated in the hands of a few. Extreme wealth is a public danger. Many would trample on our rights for their own profit, convenience, or pleasure, and most politicians are all too eager to let the super wealthy buy their place as public masters.
Gunsarecivilrights -> Spudnik2 , 15 Oct 2017 17:19
Voluntaryism is to be commended. Compelling people to be charitable with force is not.
Adkult -> Newmacfan , 15 Oct 2017 17:02
Yet you were complaining about regions wanting to separate before. The EU doesn't fund Spain's regional parties by the way, as much as you'd like them to.
Spudnik2 -> Gunsarecivilrights , 15 Oct 2017 17:01
I accept that so much of what I see demands action. The world needs more helping hands and kindness.

You can believe in what ever you like, but actions make all the difference. Donate something like canned food, or volunteer someplace and you can make a real difference in someones life ( more than any book or bible ever did ).

memo10 -> mjmizera , 15 Oct 2017 16:45

The industrial-military complex of the 50-70s didn't just disappear, but morphed into today's structures.

15 years in Iraq & Afghanistan says it never changed at all.

memo10 -> clshannon , 15 Oct 2017 16:42

Not true, the standards are high enough, it is the fact that kids from disfunctional families and poverty cannot reach them. So the teachers just pass them on to the next grade anyway. You end up with poorly educated adults who 'know' education is useless according to their experience raising children who continue the cycle.

The curriculum is demanding enough. They just don't demand anything relevant to people's lives. As long as everything stays irrelevant they can continue rewarding the people who play by the system's rules and punish those who find that stupid and frustrating.

Ponderbelle -> Gamba Puirida , 15 Oct 2017 16:40
Reich has a soul full of light and empathy. Once people are allowed to attain their basic needs, the rest is mostly fluff. Nature provides every resource needed to sustain a wholesome existence...not a cash register one to be found in the fields of plenty. Ancient greed has never been faced full-on by humanity. The required efforts to shelter, feed and clothe ourselves are too often run over roughshod due to the number one vice: Profits first and foremost, with the essentials for survival marked for the highest bid; callously termed 'what the market will bear'.

Democracy? Not in many decades. We are under the total rule of organized business; which applies to most developed nations. The virtues of sharing and goodwill would be one remedy to the basic economic inequalities.

However, in our current bailout experiment (and, not a few economists are status quo baloney feeders) the inertia is in a free wheeling philosophical advantage to the gods of the highest profit. You'll never see any sympathy cards slated for modern economists. A simple evident reality is that
our basic needs for survival are the same. Damned if we can manage to seriously address that fact first and create systems which have a clear vision for the betterment and uplift of all.

It will not be long before the loud financial bubble pop sounds off again - it will be called the inevitable market correction or due to aggressive over reach. Oligarchy will feign much needed financial aid required. We deserve much better. I predict eventually a r e v o l t from those who suffer the insanity of deprivation in a world of plenty. Certainly in the US our votes are mean less and less with the likes of Citizens United. Corporations may be legal entities but they are N O T citizens. All that exists, exists for all.

kyoung21b -> TragicomedyBeholder , 15 Oct 2017 16:39
Yes much more rational to treat everyone "equally" like providing huge subsidies to, e.g. big oil, big ag, and big pharma so they too can appear to be performing equally.
Obtrectator -> deeaiden , 15 Oct 2017 16:37
Unworldly middle-class theorists create revolutions but almost invariably cannot control them. They tear up the rule-sheets, failing to understand that that loosens or destroys the restraints on psychopaths of whatever background, who then proceed to hack their way to the top.
Thus Lenin facilitated Stalin; Sun Yat-sen ultimately resulted in Mao; Desmoulins and the Girondistes were devoured by the Jacobins and their Reign of Terror.
alloomis , 15 Oct 2017 16:31
"He argues that democracy defeated oligarchy in ancient Greece because of "oligarchic breakdown." Oligarchic institutions are subject to rot and collapse, as are any other kind of institution. " unfortunately, democracy did not defeat oligarchy in ancient greece, except briefly in athens and its dependencies. and the usa is no kind of democracy. voting for who will be your master is not democracy, it is elective aristocracy. and that is the political arm of the economic oligarchy called 'capitalism.'
Bochi -> threeoutside , 15 Oct 2017 16:28

Who, exactly, doesn't think of "the realms of politics and economics as fused together"?

It's been the basic assumption of UK politics from 1997 until 2015 (at least) that there is only one "common sense" economic model that works, and that is an extreme market-oriented form of neo-liberalism.

Most of the electorate in this country still buy into neo-liberalism's deceitful platitudes as if the argument was over 40 years ago and democracy consists of choosing a few people to manage it every five years.

3melvinudall , 15 Oct 2017 16:26
Oligarchs in the US have, for 40 years, taken the power from the people. They have accomplished it by destroying the labor unions and any hint of a labor movement. They have taken control of the media by buying it ( 80 or so owners of MSM to 5 or 6 owners now), they control the narrative. They control what we talk about. They control the politicians by "dark money". Outside money floods strategic states to influence elections down to school board levels. Money is donated to universities with conditions to control who is hired to run certain schools within the university ( the economics school at FSU, for example). Economic policies and tax codes have funneled growth income to the top 140 families in the US. Now we are witnessing the cumulative efforts of these oligarchs bear fruit. Unions are meaningless, growth income flows to the wealth class, we talk about God, guns and gays in every election cycle, efforts to do away with all social programs and rig the tax codes so the middle class pays more and the wealthy pay less. I would say the Oligarchs are in control and have won. They control the courts and all branches of government....what is left? Can democracy survive now that they control the ballot box and the elections? And they certainly can control enough minds to win an election...we witness that in 2016.
GimmeHendrix -> Arch Stanton , 15 Oct 2017 16:20
'And Trump being the worst type of oligarch may create 'oligarchic breakdown' and bring the whole corrupt shitheap called US democracy crashing down.'

Contradictions in terms. Its either a democracy or an oligarchy.

GimmeHendrix -> threeoutside , 15 Oct 2017 16:18
You suggest a determinism which is false. Brexit is a classic example where the political will of the masses acts contrary to the immediate interests of domestic capital.
GimmeHendrix , 15 Oct 2017 16:12
Well its just been confirmed. We live in an oligarchy. One where the notion of democracy acts as an ideological support.
curiouswes -> hardmoney , 15 Oct 2017 16:09
Likewise.

Similar to Dorothy and her ruby slippers in the Wizard of Oz; she had the power all along, but didn't know it.

Ahh, the Ruby slipper analogy! Well done! I missed it, obviously :-)

sparx104 , 15 Oct 2017 16:07
Someone else seems to have understood this some time ago. ..

"'If there is hope,' wrote Winston, 'it lies in the proles.' If there was hope, it MUST lie in the proles, because only there in those swarming disregarded masses, 85 per cent of the population of Oceania, could the force to destroy the Party ever be generated. The Party could not be overthrown from within'"

RapidSloth -> curiouswes , 15 Oct 2017 16:06

it does show when the government is exceeding it's authority

Except that when you look at how much power the constitution has given to the state in the past three decades the answer to the question of whenever or not US is an oligarchy is should be rather obvious....

hardmoney -> curiouswes , 15 Oct 2017 16:00
"...we need some way to separate fact from opinion."

The problem is and always has been, life is not black or white, but gray. One man's fact is another man's differing opinion.

fragglerokk , 15 Oct 2017 16:00
Can't recommend Requiem For The American Dream highly enough, absolutely required viewing for anyone wishing to understand the mockery of democracy under which we live.
fragglerokk -> Gamba Puirida , 15 Oct 2017 15:59
Requiem For The American Dream also ... any adult would be extremely enlightened by watching it.
curiouswes -> zippy200 , 15 Oct 2017 15:55

Trouble is liberals on the one hand bang on about proletariat solidarity, yet on the other, peddle identity politics and turn a blind eye at increasingly fragmented communities.

"The Jews, will not, replace us!" I'm so glad the "president" rebuked this blatant display of identity politics in Charlottesville.

Elgrecoandros -> CommanderMaxil , 15 Oct 2017 15:54
That is a semantic argument over whether or not his votes can be taken to represent his views. It is still calling for punishment of political opponents because they disagree with the political opinions of the poster.
GusDynamite -> Skip Breitmeyer , 15 Oct 2017 15:48
Look, I'm not fan of the left way of things but to claim they are entirely to blame is willfully ignorant of conservative and right wing failings. I can hardly expect either to see my point and accept that they're the problem, the best I can do is pause now and then I know that I am the problem as much as any and try to mind myself. If we all just took responsibility for ourselves left and right and anything in between would matter far less.
hardmoney -> curiouswes , 15 Oct 2017 15:40
Hi wes, hope you are doing well. Yes, the people DO have the power, but they either don't know how or choose not to use it. Similar to Dorothy and her ruby slippers in the Wizard of Oz; she had the power all along, but didn't know it.
curiouswes -> RapidSloth , 15 Oct 2017 15:31

There is also the tendency of treating laws like dogma and the constitution like the bible.

I wouldn't call the constitution a bible, but it does show when the government is exceeding it's authority. In times when some are actually concerned about whether or not the USA is a oligarchy, we need some way to separate fact from opinion.

ID7380890 , 15 Oct 2017 15:27
Spot on article. Lots of loopy comments. Personally I find the positions the Guardian takes to be those that further the interests of our ruling elite.
Where are the discussions about Trust Law which is nothing more than a huge tax avoiding scheme for the wealthy.

How about the control of the legal costs the high street solicitor can claim when he wins for the average person against the badly behaved housing associations and landlords, the insurers and employers. It has forced good solicitors out of these types of litigation. The result is occurrences like Grenfell Tower. The Guradian always goes on about Legal Aid. Solicitors don't need poverty rate legal aid. They need the corrupt, the greedy and incompetent to pay the same rates per hour for the small man's lawyers when they lose as they pay for their own lawyers. This funds all the work those small high street solicitors do in investigating cases that go nowhere, and enables them to provide free advice.
Or take the continuous false fears propaganda of those who wish to ignore the Leave vote. The majority voted for an end to cheap migrant labour driving down wages and living standards for the working population, for an end to an economy dominated by financial services and house price inflation.

AnonForNowThanks -> Light_and_Liberty , 15 Oct 2017 15:26
What "people?"

Racially polarized voting does not constitute a "people." It echoes a much earlier time, when there was a slave society on American land.

Roughly 1 in 4 active duty enlisted men and women in the US Army are black, compared with about 13.5% of the total population, hence 80%+ higher than their representation in the general population.

You don't see a problem here?

Dave514 -> AnonForNowThanks , 15 Oct 2017 15:25
Not o my the two major Vet Organization but a myriad of Vet support groups.
curiouswes -> hardmoney , 15 Oct 2017 15:24
Hi Money!

I think the people really do have the power. I think as long as we have the bill of rights, the power is still ours to retain or relinquish. Just because the scotus doesn't strike down unconstitutional laws like the patriot act, brady bill (gone at the moment but likely to come back), I don't think it means that we have no power. It is just that well informed people such as yourself have a difficult time informing those less informed because the media is engaged in a very effective endeavor to keep them misinformed. As you correctly pointed out in another post, people will believe anything. It is only those who really care enough to actually stop and think are what you are saying, only those will be informed despite the efforts of the media to keep them in the dark. If you can get enough people behind you, I think you could really change this. Me? I don't think the masses care enough. I think they are good people. It is just that they can't think ahead enough to see the crisis as it presents itself today. They don't feel the sense of urgency and as long as the media continues this game of deception, they will be more worried about the local football team they any existential threat until the media makes it out to be an existential threat.

thank you for all you do and have done!

Gamba Puirida , 15 Oct 2017 15:15
IMO, Robert Reich's movie - Inequality for all - should be played and discussed in every class around the age of 16 in western countries.
AnonForNowThanks -> Dave514 , 15 Oct 2017 15:14
Which brings to mind another question: who lobbies for the homeless veterans? The oligarchs depend on the armed forces for their vast wealth and position, then discard them.
SunwynRavenwood , 15 Oct 2017 15:13
Then, of course, there is the guillotine.
Arch Stanton -> newsfreak , 15 Oct 2017 15:13
As the News International scandal showed, the British justice system / rule of law is the finest legal system that money can buy.
Hornplayer -> vinny59er , 15 Oct 2017 15:09
Trump the Sequel you mean?
Dave514 -> Hornplayer , 15 Oct 2017 15:09
The major Vet organizations do so already in the US as for the homeless Churches and other charitable organizations.
deeaiden , 15 Oct 2017 15:06
Conveniently forgotten in all this is the fact that most of history's most horrendous dictators and political psychopaths came from the poor. Most, if not all, revolution political movements come from the upper middle class...people who have enough money to be comfortable and afford luxuries, but not enough that they are afraid of changing things to their financial and, possibly, social detriment. The only people who really want to defend and protect the status quo are the wealthy, for obvious reasons, and the poor, who do not want to change the system--which is all they know and perhaps all they understand--but only change their position in it. I meet a lot of people who are wealthy and well-educated--these
attributes are not necessarily reflective of each other--and a great many people who are poor. Trust me, you definitely do not want the latter group running things. "Street smarts" are great...on the street.
GagaInGreenacres -> unclestinky , 15 Oct 2017 15:01
And who would not tolerate unemployment. In Australia, Menzies almost lost the 1961 when unemployment nudged 3%!
newsfreak , 15 Oct 2017 14:59
Enlightening! The judiciary is the bastion of oligarchy and the media, for the most part, confuses and divides public opinion to ensure all remains under control -- of the oligarchs.
GagaInGreenacres -> imipak , 15 Oct 2017 14:52
The taxation curve is a very low order matter. The primary question is the difficulty of the first level, of getting a job where you feel you are making a valuable contribution, either because of the remuneration or because of the job satisfaction. We don't need the numbers in the masters accounts to achieve this, we can make our own numbers and give them to people who are willing to make a worthwhile contribution. Even if the masters slander them as "unworthy". Even if they are not really our sort of people.

The main use of taxation is to prevent masters from hiring their own private armies or worse still the national army.

threeoutside , 15 Oct 2017 14:52
Excuse me? Who, exactly, doesn't think of "the realms of politics and economics as fused together"? Anybody under the age of about 16, from what I can see. What a dumb statement. Interesting subject here, though.
Hornplayer -> gregwani , 15 Oct 2017 14:51
Aristotle went further. Those with money Pay to participate and the money is used to pay those that are too poor and otherwise would not participate. Now the question is how much needs to be paid? The Duke of Westminster and the like should probably cough up a good whack so that the homeless and families at the food bank can be paid to participate.
Arch Stanton , 15 Oct 2017 14:42
The United States of America is an oligarchy as shown in 2008 when the banks through their control of the Federal Reserve and numerous politicians stole billions from the public purse. Then, Obama's consistent failure to deal with the criminal acts of JP Morgan and other banks shows who is in running that country. C

Which of course is why the political mainstream has imploded and Trump was elected. If you know that the criminals in charge vote for the man they detest most even if he is an utterly preposterous showboating unprincipled liar.

And Trump being the worst type of oligarch may create 'oligarchic breakdown' and bring the whole corrupt shitheap called US democracy crashing down.

Brexit has split the oligarch's poodles in the U.K. Ie. Blairites & Osborne v Gove / Johnson / Tory head bangers and may consign the Conservative party to oblivion. This may lead to a genuinely left wing government that represents the many and not the few.

vr13vr -> Dave514 , 15 Oct 2017 14:40
One of the questions is why? The other is that even if it is in the constitution, does it mean it can never be changed? If the reality on the ground and social threats have changed over the last 200 years, so should the laws that protect us from those threats.
GagaInGreenacres -> whitman100 , 15 Oct 2017 14:39
Maybe, but remember that currently even a university education in economics leaves people thinking that taxes and borrowings "fund" government spending and that banks " lend on" deposits according to the "money multiplier".
Tim2006 -> Dave514 , 15 Oct 2017 14:38
Corruption is not. We are talking about legalized corruption ...
Ritula Fränkel -> Light_and_Liberty , 15 Oct 2017 14:37
What on Earth are you talking about?

Donald Trump is the oligarchy. His disruption at the feeding trough comes from his greed: instead of understanding that oligarchs maintain stability by sharing, he remains primarily concerned with distributing privileges to his closest circle.

Trump is not a radical anti-oligarch. He's just a simpleton oligarch who doesn't understand the rules.

Scot Fourowls , 15 Oct 2017 14:37
In response to the well-researched truth of this politically significant article, the propaganda reversal machine is in full force by the comments of upended sanity-and- unreality reverence toward the existentially ridiculous, dangerous and deceptive kleptocratic regime of 45; see, e.g., the comment of whatever or whoever is called in print "Light_and_Liberty."

Maybe I'm just noting the comnent activity of bots. Anybody who is a real person and would want to know the truth about 45's vile regime needs only to read every political article of the Guardian UK US edition today.

Enough said.

Evangelist9 , 15 Oct 2017 14:30
Democracy was not the norm the city states of ancient Hellas, but just one among a number of political systems. Whilst Athens had democracy in that all male citizens could vote and take part in the governing of the city (from the introduction of the system by Cleisthenes in 507 BC, and lasting for around 200 years), Sparta, for example, never had any form of democracy but two hereditary kings supported by a council of elders and the ephors. This system served the Spartans well because they were constantly on a war footing and their kings led their armies (hence the need for two kings, in case one was killed in battle, as happened with Leonidas).
Some city states had τύραννοι , or "tyrants", though it did not have its modern connotations of oppression and cruelty. It merely meant an absolute ruler, good or bad.
In ancient Athens, a citizen who chose not to vote was called an ιδιώτης, which gives us our modern word "idiot".

The ancient Greeks were innovators in politics (also. of course, a Greek word) - as in almost every other sphere of life - and would not have attached the modern value terms to them that we do today. They were the greatest experimenters in history and the debt we owe to them in the modern world is incalculable.

tjt77 -> winemaster2 , 15 Oct 2017 14:29
"the word that is no where mentioned in the Constitution is one big hoax and the perpetuation of the same," 'One nation under God' was not mentioned either.. but nothing is static and things tend to evolve or devolve..
There has been lot of chit chat about a 'Democratic Republic' in the 30+ yrs Ive resided in the USA... Seems to me that a more accurate description would be "Empire" given the big enforcement stick in over 5,000+ locations across the Globe added to the huge production of military weaponry that is sold to various despots every year. An Empire which, like all those before it, cannot sustain indefinitely.
GagaInGreenacres -> maddiemot , 15 Oct 2017 14:28
You know the masters are happy reading this sort of divisive posting. So the jocks hate the nerds, get over it. The jocks are the one's suffering the main burden of unemployment.
Light_and_Liberty , 15 Oct 2017 14:16
You got it totally backwards: can oligarchy survive in the face of democracy unchained.

The election of Donald Trump was a middle finger to the establishment ruling class (aka oligarchy) and the results are self evident. We have a Federal Bureau of Investigation investigating a phony dossier and calling it Russian Collusion. We have a special counsel looking for anything to indict him with vis-a-vis that phony dossier so as to remove him from office. We have the Republican party -- the president's own party -- intentionally doing nothing to forward the agenda of the people. We have embedded federal employees who are undermining the president's agenda. We have the media and Hollywood in full propaganda mode. We have Democrats aiding and abetting rioters and protesters and call it 'The Resistance'.

So, yes, it is interesting to see what happens when Democracy takes on Oligarchy and Oligarchy cannot accept the people's effrontery in voting for their own interests.

Dave514 -> gregwani , 15 Oct 2017 14:16
Lobbying is protected by the Constitution
GagaInGreenacres -> BayardDC , 15 Oct 2017 14:14
The taxation shenanigans only work as long as long as the economy is a zero sum or worse game. That is when austerity and targeted spending on "job creation" in the private sector means that money creation only happens for the wealthy. The first step in not taxing the stagnant wealth pools, but rather getting the fresh water of government spending heading onto the dried plains of the working class.

Remember the masters feel far more threatened that we do, they have never experienced an honest, respectful human relationship in there lives and have no sense of self reliance what so ever. Threatening taxation as a first step to reform, is certain to get maximum response even from the "liberal" majority of the masters.

Antoni Jaume -> ashleyhk , 15 Oct 2017 14:12
If you believe that, then I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell, a very good bargain...
gregwani , 15 Oct 2017 14:10
Good article in the causes - thanks for your work - but whilst the suggestion of "creating a more economically equal society" is obviously desirable, it's not exactly a practical recommendation against the context of the rest of the article.

Herein lies the key: "...they sustain all of this through a campaign finance and lobbying system that gives them undue influence over policy."

So we need to specifically advocate for curtailing corporate funding of political parties, Super PACs, etc. and have election (& referendum) campaigns financed from public funds and heavily regulated private citizen donations. If you can't vote, you can't contribute. This would remove a massive barrier to widespread reform in the shape of lobbyists and political patronage whilst ensuring that elected leaders are unshackled, with the freedom to govern based on evidence-based policy and long-term planning rather than just rewarding the corporate elite who put them there.

Matt Simonton -> blogdubdrib , 15 Oct 2017 14:06
The book brackets a discussion of Sparta, which was an atypical oligarchy (although it regularly supported more conventional oligarchies militarily). The focus of the book is not on the Athenian oligarchies of the later fifth century, but on oligarchic rule as practiced in the wider Greek world (e.g. Corinth, the Boeotian koinon, Thasos, Chios, Ephesus). These regimes did not follow Sparta's austerity model, but neither did the Athenian oligarchies of 411 and 404. Kolkhis above is correct on Sparta that while there was a mirage of austerity around Sparta, over the course of the fifth and fourth centuries it gradually developed into a more conventional oligarchy of extreme wealth stratification. One need only turn to the reforms of Agis and Cleomenes in the third century to see how unequal it had become. Stephen Hodkinson has done excellent work on wealth inequality within Sparta.
SN1789 , 15 Oct 2017 14:04
"Unity might come from personal relationships, trust, voting practices, or – as is more likely in today's meritocratic era – homogeneity in culture and values from running in the same limited circles." All of these features of elite unity are under girded by shared economic interests vis-a-vis the masses.
clshannon -> pbalrick , 15 Oct 2017 14:04
Not true, the standards are high enough, it is the fact that kids from disfunctional families and poverty cannot reach them. So the teachers just pass them on to the next grade anyway. You end up with poorly educated adults who 'know' education is useless according to their experience raising children who continue the cycle.
aquagreen -> imperium3 , 15 Oct 2017 14:03

The spoils of the Roman and British Empires mostly went to enrich the oligarchs while the vast majority of the population laboured in poverty.

Oh please, don't spoil our nostalgic view with inconvenient facts.

Ritula Fränkel , 15 Oct 2017 14:03
Thank you - excellent article.

Since ownership conventionally involves the direct enactment of control and choice upon things (at least according to the ethicist Daniel Sperling), might it not be an idea to examine the conventions upon which property law is built in the West, since property law often is held as a model for all other types?

Sperling suggests that ownership is not absolute but instead is inferred out of a confluence of 'interests' that surround an object - I'd like to think that a cultural shift towards the recognition of the interests , rather than the ownerships , that guide policy-making could indeed challenge an oligarchy that views law-making essentially as the defence of property.

letsbeclearaboutthis -> vinny59er , 15 Oct 2017 14:00
People who have no effing idea of why they are there, nor what the intricacies of the process are.
Kolkhis -> blogdubdrib , 15 Oct 2017 13:58
Yet it did all go wrong in Sparta. This links to a splendid source on ancient Greece and Rome. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0009%3Achapter%3D6%3Asection%3D13

Even with a ban on money - or as you say a literally iron currency, still land accumulated into ever fewer hands. This particular link is short enough to quote in full.

Spartan women, like men, could own land privately. Ordinary coined money was deliberately banned to try to discourage the accumulation of material goods, but the ownership of land remained extremely important in Spartan society. More and more land came into the hands of women in later Spartan history because the male population declined through losses in war, especially during the Classical Age. Moreover, Spartan women with property enjoyed special status as a result of the Spartan law forbidding the division of the portion of land originally allotted to a family. This law meant that, in a family with more than one son, all the land went to the eldest son. Fathers with multiple sons therefore needed to seek out brides for their younger sons who had inherited land and property from their fathers because they had no brother surviving. Otherwise, younger sons, inheriting no land from their own family, might fall into dire poverty.

letsbeclearaboutthis -> MrMorningDew , 15 Oct 2017 13:57
What makes you think the idiosynchracies of democratic governance stop at the federal level?
letsbeclearaboutthis , 15 Oct 2017 13:55
You have neglected to point out how oligarchs manage to convince ordinary people that their best interests coincide. In the recent NZ election, the National party, representing farmers and businesspeople, used the prospect of a tax giveaway to convince people they would be better off under National. It worked because of the number of people who look no further than their own immediate interests when voting. Who's to blame for that?
Danexmachina , 15 Oct 2017 13:48
The rich get richer and the poor get poorer because we work for them and buy their stuff. Then someone remembers the other uses for pitchforks and torches....

The current delay is because nobody lives on the land except corporate farmers, so the masses no longer have territory to defend except in Faecesbook.

blogdubdrib , 15 Oct 2017 13:47
"while he recognizes that ancient oligarchies were always drawn from the wealthy, a limitation of his work is that he focuses primarily on how oligarchs perpetuated their political power, not their economic power."

I'm intrigued about how this might apply to Sparta which had legal limitations on wealth, an iron currency and a tightly knit ruling class which eschewed wealth in pursuit of solidarity and military discipline.

This article, which shows no interest in the historical specifics, fair enough seems to be thinking of the oligarchic counter-currents within Athenian democracy eg the coup of 411, Plato's Republic etc - both of which incidentally were influenced by admiration for Sparta's austere Lycurgan constitution which banned wealth. After all, if you have democracy you give stupid people a vote and this lead if you do not have checks and balances against cynical populists to terrible decisions like the Sicilian Expedition, the executions in the wake of Arginusae ... contributory factors in the unnecessary defeat of 404.

Likewise Brexit, Trump.

trp981 , 15 Oct 2017 13:46
"As of oligarchy so of tyranny, the end is wealth." -- Aristotle, Politics

"With this typology behind him, Winters declares that America is already a civil oligarchy. To use the language of recent political campaigns, our oligarchs try to rig the system to defend their wealth. They focus on lowering taxes and on reducing regulations that protect workers and citizens from corporate wrongdoing."

Although the neoliberal turn since the coming of the Reagan exacerbated the trend towards an oligarchic concentration of political/economic power, the seeds were planted from the very beginning. The Electoral College and the Three-Fifths Compromise in the US Constitution are both examples of democratic procedures designed to ensure the preservation of concentration of political power in the hands of economic oligarchs, and to act as barriers to the dispersal and democratization of political power. We have already seen the effect of this constitutional design twice in the new century in the disparity between the outcome of the Electoral College and the popular vote in 2000 and 2016.

"Simonton offers another solution. He argues that democracy defeated oligarchy in ancient Greece because of 'oligarchic breakdown.' Oligarchic institutions are subject to rot and collapse, as are any other kind of institution. As the oligarchs' solidarity and practices start to break down, there is an opportunity for democracy to bring government back to the people."

The dangers of the ever-increasing extreme inequality can also be viewed from the perspective of its impact on the stability of the social formation. A decrease in stability manifests itself through an increase in the brittleness of the socioeconomic system and a decrease in its ability to respond to unforeseen shocks in a versatile manner. Although fortunately the adverse impact of extreme inequality is at present only affecting the majority of the population in the US, the effects will also be felt by the oligarchs in the long run, unless they manage to build an earth orbiting Elysium before the arrival of the long run. The dangers of extreme inequality and the instability it can cause are explored by various scholars including Acemoglu and Turchin . The latter models social instability as a time-dependent variable, and tracks its evolution over time. In the language of mathematics, this is known as a dynamical system approach. The particular variable the evolution of which he tracks is what he calls the political stress indicator, which combines the effects of three other variables (mass mobilization, elite mobilization, and state fiscal distress) and their nonlinear interaction through time. The dynamical behavior of each of these factors measures the stability of the overall socioeconomic system, and acts as a warning signal when regions of criticality and instability are breached. The formation of oligarchic interests maps into a subset of the variable "elite mobilization" in Turchin's model. According to his analysis we are at present on the cusp of a critical socioeconomic instability. The increasing instability of the neoliberal order implies the shifting of the ground beneath it. The previous givenness of the passive citizenry is becoming less so, and critical junctures might approach fast and unforeseeably.

fritsd -> Fibonaccisequins , 15 Oct 2017 13:45
America: the best Democracy money can buy!
Gunsarecivilrights -> Spudnik2 , 15 Oct 2017 13:41
I accept that what I see is the abhorrent stupidity that is socialistic and collectivist thoughts perpetuated by the progressive sheep.
RobertsJimm , 15 Oct 2017 13:40
According to Bill Bonner, author of Bill Bonner's Daily Reckoning, the Deep State of unelected insiders, government cronies, generals and their industrial allies, assorted lobbyists and back scratchers are the force that runs the government. Elections are theater. And the current performance is a tragic-comedy
CinBrooklyn , 15 Oct 2017 13:38
The US is NOT a democracy. It is a Republic. Let's start from a correct premise. The opening of this article is political dross. Am I wasting my time if I read further? Come on, Guardian.
MrMorningDew , 15 Oct 2017 13:34
When your colleague says the US is a democracy, you should tell him that is not correct. Point out to him that the person who finishes second in the vote count of our citizens wins the presidency and that 12% of our population controls 50% of the votes in the Senate. Gerrymandering allows a minority of votes to control the House. There is nothing democratic about the Federal Government, you need to get down to the state level to find democracy.
hardmoney -> RapidSloth , 15 Oct 2017 13:33
"A stark example of it is how they boast about freedom of speech."

And as useless as protest. The people's power is a lie formulated and carried out in Oz.

MeRaffey , 15 Oct 2017 13:32
Time to get creative. We have become so predictable, the wealthy can keep way ahead of us.

Fanning the flames of our asinine CULTURE WARS on effing FACEBOOK, was all the Russians needed to do to drive our presidential in their direction. The little boys who run global-tech-empires were no match for the Russians. Even now, when Trump is running the planet via TWITTER, our little tech-boys can't figure out how they lost control of their own creations.

Asymmetric power might be the key. Right now, the wealthy own a piece of every country and everyone on earth. We have been reduced to the size of an ant and we need to start thinking, and acting like ants. Instead of feeding our money to the wealthy, we need to starve them out.

Create disruption. Stop doing anything you normally do.

For example, order take-out anywhere you please, but refuse to go inside restaurant chains of any kind - diners, fast-food joints or upscale joints anywhere. Enter locally owned businesses only.

Stop putting your money in banks, stocks, bonds and other capitalist owned systems. Remove cold, hard cash from the system by putting your money in a safe deposit box at your local bank. Force the wealthy out of the closet, to try and pass laws allowing them to open your safe deposit bank.

Stop giving your old clothes and stuff to Goodwill, the Salvation Army or thrift shops. Stop sorting your trash - plastic, glass, metal and put all of it in your trash. Create a mess so big, so fast and so pervasive it becomes a crisis - for the wealthy trash hauler kings and their politicians.

Stay off facebook for one month. The next month, back on facebook, and out of Twitter.

Sign up for an email account anywhere but google and then use it for all of your on-line shopping only.

Stop being so predictable by using the same corporate chain grocery store, gas station or clothes store. Take your business to new places, try new things, get out more, mix it up, mix and match, but stop being predictable.

Confuse and baffle. Sign on to new news sources. If you're a liberal, sign onto Brietbart. If you're a conservative, sign onto Center for Progress. Use your new email to sign up for alerts from a dozen different sources, including foreign ones.

Do not buy anything, but go on-line and shop for shit you hate. Shop until you see ads for everything you hate, from music, to books, clothes and household stuff popping up on your computer screen like crazy.

Lie like crazy. Go on comment boards and pretend you are an entirely different person. Pretend you are a Russian, Canadian, or German, a conservative, a liberal, a Trump hater, a Trump lover. Your task is to confuse by lying. If you are 65, post pictures of your new baby. If you are 20, post pictures of you in nursing home bed. Get creative. Have fun. Lie like crazy.

Confuse. Baffle. Lie. STOP being predictable.

[Oct 16, 2017] Governing is complicated as laws and policies affect a diverse spectrum of people and situations. The average person, in my experience, is not inclined to spend the time necessary to understand good laws/policy in a complex society. The one safety check on mob rule is that most people don't become politically active until their situation is relatively dire

Highly recommended!
Republic is the policies system where leaders are obliged to leave after their maximum allowed term in office or if they lose the election (as opposed to the monarchy). the question who really select the rulers remain open, and in most cases people are not gven the right to do so -- the elite preselect candidates for which common people can vote in general elections.
Democracy is more then that -- it is unrealistic, utopian dream of direct rule of people, without intermediation of the elite. As such it is mostly a propaganda trick. Still be can strive for more fair representation by the elite. The key question here are the mechanisms of the filtration and the rotation of the elite as well as providing a channel for people from lower strata to enter the elite. Right now universities are still serving as a path to upward mobility but this channel is more and more blocked.
For example the US Senate is an example of almost life appointment to political position. Putting the limit on the time one can a senator might improve the situation, but it created the problem of short-termism. But taking into account to what extent senators are controlled by MIC and various other powerful lobbies it might not matter much. "It has been studied, and the fact is that members of the American Senate spend about two-thirds of their time raising money."
The class who holds economic power always also hold political power.
Notable quotes:
"... Democracy is a compromise, but it is one that virtually no one argues against. At least leaders are obliged to leave periodically. Churchill had it right when called democracy the worst form of government except for all the others. ..."
"... So, no thanks, I prefer representative democracy where I leave governance to a representative who I can vote for or against. I don't want to ever be involved in politics and hence I don't want decision left to groups of "community activists" of which i suspect you'd be quite happy to be part of. ..."
"... Trump is no Caesar but a Cataline. Just a sad sideshow in the slow implosion of Pax Americana. ..."
"... I'm sorry, but this is just not possible, at least not without something close to a revolution. In every Western country we like to call a democracy, the truth is that they have only an elaborate stage set of democracy. I prefer the term "plutocrat" to "oligarch," but whatever word you choose to use, the facts of society are the same. ..."
"... Power, no matter how it is granted, is power. And money is power, serious power. We can see this in a thousand aspects of our societies from the long-term success of someone like Harvey Weinstein in business to the many powerful lobbies which determine the direction of national policy. ..."
"... In the United States, the last national election was between a multi-billionaire and the best financed candidate in history, a woman who burnt through somewhere between $1.2 billion and $1.8 billion to lose. ..."
"... It has been studied, and the fact is that members of the American Senate spend about two-thirds of their time raising money. The American House of Representatives actually has call rooms were Representatives spend time every week raising money. And when I say "raising money" I don't mean the contributions which come from the likes of you or me. I mean big money from big sources of money, the only ones who really count. ..."
"... Something is out of balance in Washington. Corporations now spend about $2.6 billion a year on reported lobbying expenditures -- more than the $2 billion we spend to fund the House ($1.18 billion) and Senate ($860 million). It's a gap that has been widening since corporate lobbying began to regularly exceed the combined House-Senate budget in the early 2000s. ..."
"... Today, the biggest companies have upwards of 100 lobbyists representing them, allowing them to be everywhere, all the time. For every dollar spent on lobbying by labor unions and public-interest groups together, large corporations and their associations now spend $34. Of the 100 organizations that spend the most on lobbying, 95 consistently represent business. ..."
"... Above analysis needs to be translated into common everyday analogies. Such as Governments are gangs selling crack and guns and form co-ops with other gangs to stop killing each other. Leaders are psychopaths who kill anyone who calls them a bitch. ..."
"... Revolutions usually occur because of economic difficulties. As long as life is relatively stable/acceptable, most people will not challenge the status quo. Their voting (if they vote at all) is reflexive/rote. ..."
"... People will only rise up if you take away the minimum level of life for too many people. Many people are happy with the minimum. The left are deluded in they think they can gather together a lot of political protests for a life above the minimum. Many people are happy if they are simply getting by. You only have a problem when too many people are not getting by. ..."
"... I don't like an oligarchy but I'm just not sure where this pushback will come from. Many people are destined to be the bottom of whatever system is in place. ..."
"... We're delivered the illusion of democracy but look how quickly trump has been owned and is now going OTT in doing the bidding of the elites. ..."
"... People that are poor and oppressed CAN'T complain. That is the whole point of living in a dictatorship. ..."
"... Last November, a decent sized percentage of the American electorate appears to have voted for a 'politician' who they perceived to be the outsider. Presumably, their view was that there was little to differentiate between traditional republicans and democrats. ..."
"... Thank you for a wonderful article. Does the assumption "Oligarchy bad- Democracy good" really stand up to scrutiny in all cases? Democracy has had its failures, and some benign dictators have done very well for their people. ..."
"... Words and Technologies lead to abuse by rouge states like USA NSA and UK GCHQ spying on all citizens, Bannon type nonsense like racism is populism, white supremacy is judeo-christan values and racist Corporations like Breitbart and Cambridge Analytica pushing racist platforms like Trump and Brexit. Same Hypocrites are outraged when Russia and Iran infiltrate them back. Drone tech preceded 911 and preceded Bush war in Iraq and Afghanistan, (but were used on the sly). Now illegal wars are conducted using drones illegally claiming there is no law for drone wars. Spy Agencies and Internet censors have Sundays off. ..."
"... Understanding the connection between wealth and power shouldn't be all that difficult. Really. More wealth = more political power, always has. Waiting for the oligarchy to rot from within isn't what i would call a viable plan. Not when there is a far better and far more sure way to get the job done. Start with capping wealth accumulation. No one has a right to unlimited wealth accumulation. Allowing it leads to oligarchies and the death of democracies, as this article points out. ..."
"... When George Bush Junior followed his father into the White House and became the President he demonstrated that political power remains in the hands of a few and the system is rigged. It doesn't require academics to write comparisons to Greek culture to tell us the dice is always loaded. ..."
"... The USA is clearly a warlord power in how it behaves around the world, and anyone that sees the power of the militarised police, from Kent state to Black Lives, should recognise aspects of the Mafia type power. ..."
"... The point is not that the laws are used by Oligarchs, but that the constitution and system of laws one has brings forth olicharchs. Europe has laws, but the countries there are largely social democracies rather than imperialist presidencies. ..."
"... One of the finest reviews written in decades about a topic of supreme importance. Police and military officials are the brute arms and legs of the oligarchic elites. The coming attack on North Korea and Iran is the elite capturing new markets for their banking industry and manufacturing. Goldman Sachs and the investment banks are chomping at the bit for entre into southwest and east Asia. ..."
"... The article assumes that oligarchy is inherently bad. Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome and Victorian England where all democratically sanctioned oligarchies. They where also the most successful cultures of their day. Perhaps a democratically sanctioned oligarchy is the most successful system of governance in large populations. ..."
"... Having been poor, I can't see the poor doing a better job of running the world. These articles never propose any workable solution to what we have now. Maybe the middle class could run things. Let's have a middle class revolution. That's more workable than 'power to the poor' which would end terribly. ..."
"... Their most effective power play is the perpetual game of economical musical chairs. The chairs are your living wage. Each round the masters take out their profit, removing one (or more) of the chairs from the next round. Now you have the choice of a death match with your neighbors for the remaining chairs or currying favour with the masters for the removed chair. ..."
"... Don't forget the role of the corporations and their associated 'think tanks'. In reality the USA is a corporatocracy as nicely pointed out by Bruce E. Levine in The Blog of the HUFFPOST in 2011. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/bruce-e-levine/the-myth-of-us-democracy-corporatocracy_b_836573.html ..."
"... "...in today's meritocratic era." This description is a myth put about by the oligarchs to justify their economic and political power. ..."
"... The UK had a brief glimpse of Democracy, sometime between the mid 1940's and the late 1970's. ..."
"... If you are thinking of the old Warsaw Pact countries, that was certainly an oligarchy based on party membership. ..."
"... Perhaps all political systems will tend towards oligarchy over time, as the people with the wherewithal learn how to make the system work for them and theirs. Anarchy cannot be the solution, but what is ...? ..."
"... So an oligarchy hiding behind a sham democracy is the best we can hope for? ..."
"... In a system where we economic power buys political power democracy will remain a myth or at best an illusion and as the author rightly points out a catastrophic event at the level of the depression or world war is needed to begin anew. I for one am not hoping for either ..."
"... So when the people take control and their populist leaders take charge and all their lots become better, don't they become the very oligarchs they despise? ..."
"... With this typology behind him, Winters declares that America is already a civil oligarchy. To use the language of recent political campaigns, our oligarchs try to rig the system to defend their wealth. They focus on lowering taxes and on reducing regulations that protect workers and citizens from corporate wrongdoing. ..."
"... Industrialization will prevent any meaningful revolution so without serious changes in who is winning elections for a sustained time oligarchy in the US is here to stay. Mechanized war means control of assets rather than numerical superiority is the key to conflict and despite the millions of rifles and assault weapons out there they wont do much against drone bombers and drone tanks. ..."
"... I was heartened by the idea that the oligarchy must necessarily rot from within as a result of its own cronyism. Much like the insider-dealing, back-stabbing, and incompetence of the present clique. ..."
"... 'The question is whether democracy will emerge from oligarchic breakdown – or whether the oligarchs will just strengthen their grasp on the levers of government.' - judging by evidence from time immemorial my money is definitely on the oligarchs. ..."
"... The combination of political and economic power is discussed in Plato's Republic. Either book 4 or 5. Whilst not a replacement for modern treatment, it is vital reading if you want to avoid the limitations of single perspectives. ..."
"... To understand the significance of psyops and infowar against the public, you should also look at Tacitus' book on Corrupt Eloquence. Again, not a replacement but a way of seeing the broader picture. ..."
"... The article starts with an assumption that is wrong. It seems to suggest that America can't become an oligarchy without the will of the people. That ignores the fact that America's electoral system attracts oligarchs or at least people who are happy to be puppets of oligarch to the top job. ..."
"... Surveillance, drones, a purchased media, a mercenary govt, an internet with too much democracy and thus too many hairsplitting doctrinal differences, and increasingly effective killing devices, means the international corporate oligarchs have been in control for some time and will be for awhile more ..."
Oct 16, 2017 | discussion.theguardian.com

FREDBUDTZ -> DocAdam , 15 Oct 2017 08:49

Yes, but the fundamental issue has always been, how do you chose the oligarch and how do you get rid of one who is clearly badly failing or abusing power?

Democracy is a compromise, but it is one that virtually no one argues against. At least leaders are obliged to leave periodically. Churchill had it right when called democracy the worst form of government except for all the others.

Oligarchy clearly serves some developing countries well, always assuming the oligarchs are people dedicated to doing their best for the country as a whole. And they do do that sometimes.

Yet, we have supported nonsense like killing a Gadaffi, who gave his people good government and peace, and pitching Libya into chaos.

All in the dishonest name of democracy from our dishonest "democratic" politicians.

Look at Israel, always slapping itself on the back as the Mideast's "only democracy," while it consorts happily with kings and tyrants in its neighborhood and continues to hold millions of people in occupation against their will.

DirDigIns -> jessthecrip , 15 Oct 2017 08:46

What's your definition then?

Representative democracy. Not democracy by the crowd. Not eternal referenda. Not local "community" groups holding a lot of power. This is simply the tyranny of small groups of ideological left and ring wing extremists who will sit for 4 hours on a wet Tuesday evening in some hall somewhere to get their way, knowing that most normal people have better things to do with their lives.

It is the way of socialist workers and the like at University with their endless union meetings and motions, hoping to sneak through some crap the "represents" the student body of thousands on the basis of less than 100 votes. When challenged as to legitimacy the response is always "no one is prevented from getting involved".

That I suspect is your type of democracy, as it certainly is Corbyn's.

So, no thanks, I prefer representative democracy where I leave governance to a representative who I can vote for or against. I don't want to ever be involved in politics and hence I don't want decision left to groups of "community activists" of which i suspect you'd be quite happy to be part of.

zippy200 , 15 Oct 2017 08:44
Marxism 101. Trouble is liberals on the one hand bang on about proletariat solidarity, yet on the other, peddle identity politics and turn a blind eye at increasingly fragmented communities. And when the modern oligarchs come out and play they scratch their heads and blame "the stupid".
DirDigIns -> ID059068 , 15 Oct 2017 08:40
Your comment is the equivalent of the reply one normally gets from lefties btl if you say you don't want to be paying more tax i.e. "go to Somalia".

The nuance that there may be something between high tax and low tax is lost on them.

In your case, the idea that having what Beveridge proposed originally as a "safety net" of state provision rather than a lifestyle choice of full coverage of everything is lost on you, hence you suggest the choice is a binary everything or nothing.

Yours is the ignorance of the socialist and yes, a lack of personal freedom in your thinking that I'd reject every time.

W.a. Thomaston , 15 Oct 2017 08:37
The first rule of oligarchic fight club: You do not talk about oligarchic fight club! Or apparently Republics? From the little golden book of how to overthrow oligarchs by overthrown oligarchs (*Minion Free Edition)
Amanzim -> JosephCamilleri , 15 Oct 2017 08:37
India has democracy, but it is suppressing Kashmiris who want to be independent. In the last decade more than 30000 people have been killed by Indian army. Why? Because they want freedom.
Koen Van Vugt -> aeris2001x2 , 15 Oct 2017 08:36
Trump is no Caesar but a Cataline. Just a sad sideshow in the slow implosion of Pax Americana.
awilson5280 -> amwink , 15 Oct 2017 08:36
Sparta used slave labor for its agricultural needs, freeing its people to train and form the backbone of its militaristic society.

I agree that the best system for managing human affairs remains an open question. Locke and Hobbes are not done debating, and Churchill's attribution that democracy is the worst system of governance aside from everything else we've tried bears consideration as well. (If you want to discard democracy, it only seems fair that you present a viable, well thought-out replacement.)

FREDBUDTZ , 15 Oct 2017 08:36
"How the oligarchy wins..." "... two recent books can teach us about defending democracy from oligarchs'

I'm sorry, but this is just not possible, at least not without something close to a revolution. In every Western country we like to call a democracy, the truth is that they have only an elaborate stage set of democracy. I prefer the term "plutocrat" to "oligarch," but whatever word you choose to use, the facts of society are the same.

Power, no matter how it is granted, is power. And money is power, serious power. We can see this in a thousand aspects of our societies from the long-term success of someone like Harvey Weinstein in business to the many powerful lobbies which determine the direction of national policy.

In the United States, the last national election was between a multi-billionaire and the best financed candidate in history, a woman who burnt through somewhere between $1.2 billion and $1.8 billion to lose.

It has been studied, and the fact is that members of the American Senate spend about two-thirds of their time raising money. The American House of Representatives actually has call rooms were Representatives spend time every week raising money. And when I say "raising money" I don't mean the contributions which come from the likes of you or me. I mean big money from big sources of money, the only ones who really count.

Look at a phenomenon like Macron in France. He came from nowhere and seems to have very limited talents, yet the plutocratic interests who backed him managed to grab the French Presidency. Former French President Sarkozy, a man who proved mostly ineffective, took huge sums from General Gaddafi to the richest woman in France, a woman rumored to not have been even fully competent at the time.

Not only are the contributors of big money - both individuals and lobby groups - at the center of Western politics, but our very institutions are constructed to accommodate leadership which does not reflect the views of a majority. This is done in many structural ways from district gerrymandering to the nature of the "first past the post" ballots we use.

Look at Britain's most utterly incompetent modern politician, David Cameron, the man who single-handedly created the entire Brexit mess plus engaged in a terrible lot of dishonest and brutal behavior in the Middle East. He was never popular and ruled with something over 35% of the vote. Britain's institutions accommodated that.

In Canada, Stephen Harper, the man most Canadians likely regard as the shabbiest ever to rule the country, managed to do terrible things with about 39% of the vote.

And everywhere, people don't vote for war, interests do, rich interests.

timiengels , 15 Oct 2017 08:34
We desperately need a revolution.....and to hang these oligarchs from the nearest yardarm or lamppost. Where is our Robspierre?
Boghaunter -> Sailor25 , 15 Oct 2017 08:34
Economist Ha Joon Chang wrote about the meteoric economic rise of South Korea. He talked about how governmental policy chose areas to heavily subsidize (like educating engineers) to stimulate growth. They were successful but Chang also talks about the "losers" left behind.

If we only look at economics and if we assume economic growth is always a positive with no downside (slums, environmental degradation, authoritarian oppression, rulers passing laws to protect their privilege, etc.), than your premise looks sound.

choowy , 15 Oct 2017 08:33
'...displays of wealth that might spark *envy'. Interesting article otherwise
ClaudiaRain01 -> Boghaunter , 15 Oct 2017 08:33
I think being dire is an important key. Maybe it is dire in Britain for many people now. It isn't here, in Australia, just yet although people are going backwards.

The other issue is a lack of political literacy. You have to convince people they need a revolution. Many people are poor because understanding things like politics and society is not their strong point.

You may have a large group of people who are prime to vote for socialism but you'd have to explain to them why and convince them not just take it as a given they will. You may have an overwhelming amount of people who would benefit from socialism and you could win the revolution then they'd do something dumb like vote for Trump or Pauline Hanson. It is not a given that having victorious numbers of struggling people means socialism will be voted for.

Fibonaccisequins , 15 Oct 2017 08:32
Something is out of balance in Washington. Corporations now spend about $2.6 billion a year on reported lobbying expenditures -- more than the $2 billion we spend to fund the House ($1.18 billion) and Senate ($860 million). It's a gap that has been widening since corporate lobbying began to regularly exceed the combined House-Senate budget in the early 2000s.

Today, the biggest companies have upwards of 100 lobbyists representing them, allowing them to be everywhere, all the time. For every dollar spent on lobbying by labor unions and public-interest groups together, large corporations and their associations now spend $34. Of the 100 organizations that spend the most on lobbying, 95 consistently represent business.

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/04/how-corporate-lobbyists-conquered-american-democracy/390822/

TheResult , 15 Oct 2017 08:29
Above analysis needs to be translated into common everyday analogies. Such as Governments are gangs selling crack and guns and form co-ops with other gangs to stop killing each other. Leaders are psychopaths who kill anyone who calls them a bitch.
barciad -> TheWindsOfWinter93 , 15 Oct 2017 08:29
You say that, but wind the clock back 80 years and they were saying the same things about tanks and airplanes. Modern day, 'urbanised feudalism' with the petrol engine instead of horses. Otherwise known as Fascism. Didn't quite work out did it...
Elgrecoandros -> jessthecrip , 15 Oct 2017 08:29
I don't think Jeremy Corbyn should be punished for having different political opinions to me, nor do I want Jacob Rees-Mogg punished because his opinions differ from mine, whereas you were calling for the latter to be punished for his political views.

For most people the options for dealing with those of a different political opinion are not either 1) imprisonment or 2) confiscation of property/forced labour. Those are extremist positions.

Boghaunter -> ClaudiaRain01 , 15 Oct 2017 08:27
I find truth in your words. I used to understand the fear of "mob rule", which democracy seemed vulnerable to. Governing is complicated and, ideally, is broad-minded as laws and policies affect a diverse spectrum of people and situations. The average person, in my experience, is not inclined to spend the time necessary to understand good laws/policy in a complex society. The one safety check on mob rule is that most people don't become politically active until their situation is relatively dire.

Revolutions usually occur because of economic difficulties. As long as life is relatively stable/acceptable, most people will not challenge the status quo. Their voting (if they vote at all) is reflexive/rote.

Most of the time, democracies are fundamentally guided by people who have a deeper interest in governance. As long as the engaged populace takes reasonable account of society as a whole, there will be no upheavals. When the scales tip too far we get an "acting out" that is unrestrained and chaotic and understandable.

This is simplistic and not meant to be absolute. Just an observation.

ClaudiaRain01 -> imperium3 , 15 Oct 2017 08:25
People will only rise up if you take away the minimum level of life for too many people. Many people are happy with the minimum. The left are deluded in they think they can gather together a lot of political protests for a life above the minimum. Many people are happy if they are simply getting by. You only have a problem when too many people are not getting by.
ClaudiaRain01 -> JosephCamilleri , 15 Oct 2017 08:22
In Australia plenty of people choose to live off the minimum wage. Many choose not to work full time. The state picks up after them with health care and income top ups. They are highly unlikely to make an effort to overthrow the oligarchy or the plutocracy. Why bother when you can work 30 hours a week at an easy job and get along just fine in life.

I don't like an oligarchy but I'm just not sure where this pushback will come from. Many people are destined to be the bottom of whatever system is in place.

Fibonaccisequins , 15 Oct 2017 08:20
In the UK we have circa 1200 quangos controlling our lives, and look how the tories have recently abused select committee appointments. In the USA they have organisations such as the council on foreign relations which wields huge power across all areas of policy, combined with the intricacies of all the mechanisms it prevents democracy from taking shape. We're delivered the illusion of democracy but look how quickly trump has been owned and is now going OTT in doing the bidding of the elites.
amwink , 15 Oct 2017 08:19
By "Greece" I suspect this article means "Athens". Sparta had a different system and was not subjected to these issues. In fact, that system was superior in many ways, but apparently all has to be judged according to the rule that democracy would be the best.
MattSpanner , 15 Oct 2017 08:16
Classical Greece's economy ran on slave labour. Something Tories hanker after with austerity, zero-hours contracts and non-existent job security.
aeris2001x2 , 15 Oct 2017 08:16
Or one from the elite arises and takes power and skips democracy and devolves the US straight to tyranny, as also forewarned by the classics. Its a good job Trump never got in last year...oh fuck
JosephCamilleri -> TheWindsOfWinter93 , 15 Oct 2017 08:15
People that are poor and oppressed CAN'T complain. That is the whole point of living in a dictatorship. Should you be interested in the truth of what is happening in that empire, just navigate different news sites.

Authorities in Xinjiang Extend Uyghur Persecution to Region's Ethnic Kyrgyz (RFA)
Justice for Some, Notoriety for Others: Public Law Enforcement in China (DH)
Xinjiang Seethes Under Chinese Crackdown (NYT)
Clashes as Ethnic Evenk Herders Protest China's Grazing Ban in Inner Mongolia (RFA)
Chinese Dissident 'Utterly Destroyed' in Detention (FB)
China executed 2,400 people in 2013: report (AJ)
Chinese Dissident Calls on China to Stop Persecuting His Family (VOA)

SimonGKelly -> Churchman72 , 15 Oct 2017 08:12
China is indeed a good example.

What about the GOP and the Democratic parties as competing oligopolies? Last November, a decent sized percentage of the American electorate appears to have voted for a 'politician' who they perceived to be the outsider. Presumably, their view was that there was little to differentiate between traditional republicans and democrats.

Stateless1 , 15 Oct 2017 08:12
Gerrymandering helps get the result you want.
https://img.washingtonpost.com/pbox.php?url=http://img.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/files/2014/05/crimes-against-geography.png&w=1484&op=resize&opt=1&filter=antialias&t=20170517
shtove -> Slo27 , 15 Oct 2017 08:09
Once you use the concept of class you out yourself as the oligarch's willing executioner. There's no proof that democracy can't adapt and survive, yet a catastrophist will insist it's so.
imperium3 -> ClaudiaRain01 , 15 Oct 2017 08:08

They aspire to be like the top? No, they don't. No revolution is coming because plenty on the bottom are fine if they are just getting along in life. Aspiring to be like the top would involve too much hard work for many.

If you push the bottom too far you just end up with a correction at the next election, that's it.

And yet the Bourbons do not still rule France, neither the Romanovs nor the Bolsheviks rule Russia, and the once-mighty Habsburgs are a distant memory.

Of course, the reason our democracies are not supposed to go the same way is that the populace can change things themselves through elections rather than having to rise up and overthrow the whole system. But what happens when the electoral system fails? What happens if, no matter how the electorate votes, the political class thumbs its nose at them and carries on as usual?

To take the most obvious example of democratic failure - the US - where will the American electorate go after Trump? Can we seriously expect the same people who voted for him, and undoubtedly did not get what they wanted, to flock to support some business-as-usual Democrat or oily Republican?

ConBrio , 15 Oct 2017 08:07

Winters declares that America is already a civil oligarchy. To use the language of recent political campaigns, our oligarchs try to rig the system to defend their wealth. They focus on lowering taxes and on reducing regulations that protect workers and citizens from corporate wrongdoing.

If there's ever been a country not ruled by oligarchy I'd like to see it.

The United States vacillates between a sly oligarchy of the Left who use the dole as its virtue signaling to garner votes, and the Right whose use of government for self aggrandizement is more obvious.

Indeed, any notion that the genetic impulse to self aggrandizement will change is spurious.

As such, the only and imperfect defense, is to limit government power thus reducing the oligarchs' potential for self dealing and, more importantly, requiring frequent elections which although in the long run don't eliminate the problem, tend to engender compromise and periodic shifts in power from one faction to another.

James Madison's article No. 10 of The Federalist elucidates the principles. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/fed10.aspof

Churchman72 -> SimonGKelly , 15 Oct 2017 08:01
I think today's China is a good example of what a modern oligarchy looks like- a Party structure that provides privilege through membership, but no clearly definable ideology other than consolidating power and projecting it. It is ironic that a supposedly socialist country devotes so much energy into preventing labour from organising into unions and has such massive inequality.

Russia on the other hand is a sham democracy where the structure of democracy is in place, but thoroughly eviscerated so that it exists only to confer legitimacy on the oligarchy (with Putin and his inner circle at the core). If Putin was to die suddenly (or become incapacitated) there may be a real world example of oligarchical collapse as rival factions try to occupy the vacant centre of power. It could very well create a space in which genuine grassroots democracy could grow, but equally it could tear the country apart.

Neither country has a history of democracy, and the rule of law isn't anywhere near as strong as in liberal western democracies, and is easily subverted. Russia particularly has a culture of political coups, as the country relies on unequal power distribution to function, making separatist movements a very real threat.

JosephCamilleri -> TheWindsOfWinter93 , 15 Oct 2017 07:58
They are complaining, but you can't hear them, because they are oppressed and colonized and disenfranchised. In the country, in inner Mongolia, in Turkestan, and in Tibet, and when they want to claim their rights and their family gets persecuted for a few generations. And if anyone talks about it, the Communist party threatens to not trade with you.
imperium3 -> TheWindsOfWinter93 , 15 Oct 2017 07:58
Precisely. In a world where a handful of people could control a whole army, who's to stop that handful from assuming total control over the rest of us?

I'm not even sure there's much that can be done to stop it, since the nations that refuse to embrace new military technology tend to get defeated by other nations that have no such qualms.

EquilibriaJones -> Sailor25 , 15 Oct 2017 07:57
Successful until people start missing 3 meals. Then the pitchforks come out.
jessthecrip -> Elgrecoandros , 15 Oct 2017 07:57
I was responding to a poster who called for imprisonment for those concerned. Do you think imprisonment would be more democratic?
DocAdam , 15 Oct 2017 07:55
Thank you for a wonderful article. Does the assumption "Oligarchy bad- Democracy good" really stand up to scrutiny in all cases? Democracy has had its failures, and some benign dictators have done very well for their people.
ID059068 -> DirDigIns , 15 Oct 2017 07:54
I sincerely wish you to have the same freedom to 'live freely and succeed or fail due to their own personal talents' as my grandparents had in the 20s and 30s.

That is, the freedom to be unemployed without help for years (but with the freedom to grow what food they could in the back yard of a slum in an industrial city). The freedom to see some of their children die because there was no treatment if you were diabetic and poor. The freedom to send your 13 year old son to work with a broken foot (stamped on by one of the cart-horses he tended) because he was the only earner. The freedom to work hungry for two days until payday because bills had been paid (rent, coal) and there was no money... I could go on and on. I really hope you get to enjoy all this freedom. And please do emjoy it without a murmur of complaint because being helped by all your neighbours that make up 'the state' isn't freedom, is it?

JosephCamilleri -> ClaudiaRain01 , 15 Oct 2017 07:54
Who is 'we'? It depends where you were born.
JosephCamilleri -> Sailor25 , 15 Oct 2017 07:52
Both Greece and Rome went through quire a few multiple systems in multiple situations. It does not make sense to say they are singular political types at all.
Elgrecoandros -> jessthecrip , 15 Oct 2017 07:51
Considering that in another thread you called on forced labour and confiscation of private property for those you disagreed with politically, your version of 'proper democracy' would have been called 'τυραννία' by the Ancient Greeks.
ClaudiaRain01 -> Swoll Man , 15 Oct 2017 07:50
No, working with poor people convinced me socialism is no better. I'm not inclined to work hard and have to support people who choose to work part time and collect benefits part time as a lifestyle choice.
imperium3 -> Sailor25 , 15 Oct 2017 07:50
Successful for whom? All of those were extremely unequal societies. The spoils of the Roman and British Empires mostly went to enrich the oligarchs while the vast majority of the population laboured in poverty.

The majority was only able to prosper once the power of the oligarchs was broken, either from above (the early Roman emperors tore the old senatorial class to pieces) or from below (gradual democratic and labour reforms in Britain conceded for fear of a potential revolution).

TheWindsOfWinter93 -> GagaInGreenacres , 15 Oct 2017 07:45
That would work fine before the age of automation now where humans are taken out of the job scope entirely. Then it becomes a lot harder to justify on a philosophical, ethical and moral level the logic of giving money to people for doing nothing (because there's nothing left for them to do).

You're talking about a fundamental change in the mentality that we reap what we sow, that our efforts directly correspond to the rewards and resources we gain at the end of it. I don't think that's possible. Neither is it desirable.

unclestinky , 15 Oct 2017 07:44

two World Wars and a Great Depression largely wiped out the holdings of the extremely wealthy

There was also a couple of generations trained under arms and seasoned under fire. There was a mixing of classes unlike any other and enough people who would not put up with a return to the status quo.
TheWindsOfWinter93 -> twilightegal , 15 Oct 2017 07:43
A world war is entirely necessary. To assume that peace is inherently good for humanity as a whole in terms of population numbers, technological advancements, or political stability is ridiculous in my honest opinion. Peace represents stagnation. It relies too much on ever-convoluted webs of interdependence (like that Concert of Europe before WWI, once declared as peace for its time).

The American revolutionaries had it right when they said that the tree of liberty regularly requires the blood of tyrants and patriots to continue flourishing.

TheResult , 15 Oct 2017 07:41
Big Words usages up above

Words and Technologies lead to abuse by rouge states like USA NSA and UK GCHQ spying on all citizens, Bannon type nonsense like racism is populism, white supremacy is judeo-christan values and racist Corporations like Breitbart and Cambridge Analytica pushing racist platforms like Trump and Brexit. Same Hypocrites are outraged when Russia and Iran infiltrate them back. Drone tech preceded 911 and preceded Bush war in Iraq and Afghanistan, (but were used on the sly). Now illegal wars are conducted using drones illegally claiming there is no law for drone wars. Spy Agencies and Internet censors have Sundays off.

TheWindsOfWinter93 -> barciad , 15 Oct 2017 07:41
Interesting idea. So the core of a nation's military power decides what politics makes it up (dependent on who's got the most access to the power to kill). In that case the automation of war for drones and robots cannot be anything but bad news: they are the new cavalry, affordable only by the very rich and powerful and so awesome in destructive power at almost no human cost if they are destroyed that they would make the perfect enforcers for a strict feudal order.
apacheman , 15 Oct 2017 07:39
Understanding the connection between wealth and power shouldn't be all that difficult. Really. More wealth = more political power, always has. Waiting for the oligarchy to rot from within isn't what i would call a viable plan. Not when there is a far better and far more sure way to get the job done. Start with capping wealth accumulation. No one has a right to unlimited wealth accumulation. Allowing it leads to oligarchies and the death of democracies, as this article points out.

Set the cap at a reasonably high figure to reward hard work, innovation, etc. Somewhere around $5B should work. Why $5 billion? Because of the ~2K billionaires in the world, most, like 80-85% or so, have less than that amount, and it becomes a break point within the oligarchy, dividing their unity. Think of the egos involved: many of those with $1-5B would relish seeing the 200+ hyper rich brought within striking distance of equality on their level.

Second, agree with the politicians that taxpayers know best how to spend their money.

Change the budget process so that the politicians pass the budget, but the people decide whether or not to fund it. Establish dedicated tax payment centers so when tax time rolls around, the proposed budget is available for the citizenry to examine.

Then allow the taxpayer to fund those parts they agree are necessary and make sense, by establishing discrete step amounts scaled to the size of the tax bill, e.g., say your tax bill came to 1582 whatevers, dollars, pounds, etc. At that size your increment might be 25 or 50, let's say 50 for argument's sake.

That means our taxpayer could fund up to 31 different parts of the budget. To ensure that the money gets spread around, we can limit the number of allocations to any given part to 3 or 4, and close a choice when its budget request is met. Anything left over that doesn't meet the minimum step level would go into the general fund for the politicians to allocate, either topping off programs that didn't quite get their budget requests filled or funding something that didn't get sufficient funds from the public to be viable.

Now here's were you can get voluntary revenue enhancement: allow the taxpayer to top off the leftover amount for the privilege of allocating it themselves rather than surrendering it to politicians' control. That amount wouldn't be applied against future taxes, it is payment-for-privilege. In our example the taxpayer could add 18 to the leftover 32, a choice many would make.

Third, bring voting into the modern era: use those handy tax payment centers both to vote in local, state, and national elections (while changing the voting period from a day to a week) and to provide feedback to politicians. Whenever anything controversial comes up, like healthcare or bailouts or war, allow the citizenry to override their representative's choice of vote if a majority of voters choose to vote the other way on that particular matter.

Fourth, establish mental standards for running for political office. Test would-be candidates to determine whether or not they are sociopaths. I'd prefer to not allow such people to hold political offices or appointments, but would accept just identifying them so voters know what they will get.

Taken together, those steps would ensure that democracy is strong and safe from co-option by oligarchs, both directly and indirectly by providing a genuine incentive to pay attention to issues.

TheWindsOfWinter93 -> Slo27 , 15 Oct 2017 07:36
Indeed you're right. And to be fair, why should he? The world's spent long enough whining on about great powers like the US trying to foist their ideas of a better world by their own rules and standards on everyone else (democracy spreading anyone?), so if we are to truly put words to action then an isolationist US allowing for other powers to fill the vacuum and return the world to multipolarity cannot be seen as anything other than a good thing.
TheWindsOfWinter93 -> JosephCamilleri , 15 Oct 2017 07:34
That doesn't sound very much like China here which is used as an example of a dictatorship (more de-facto than de-jure since the Chinese president and premier only has the absolute writ of God for ten years).

Apart from those in Hong Kong, there really isn't much of anyone in China's domestic population complaining about being oppressed, unfree, colonised, or unable to become who they can be.

barciad -> N1LiberalElitist , 15 Oct 2017 07:31
It really some downs to how you define the term 'Liberal'. Socially Liberal? Economically Liberal? The latter being a modern euphemism for being about as reactionary as it gets.
philipl -> ValuedCustomer , 15 Oct 2017 07:28
But that is breaking down as middle class benefits (pensions etc.) begin to disappear. There is a growing awareness , I think, that inequality is becoming extreme between the very rich and everyone else. Good article, anyway.
JosephCamilleri -> TheWindsOfWinter93 , 15 Oct 2017 07:28
People in dictatorships are oppressed, unfree, colonised, and unable to become who they could be. Most people want to be more than just alive.
DirDigIns -> WhatTheTruth , 15 Oct 2017 07:27
I'd rather describe it as socialism giving everybody endless free stuff, hence we get more and more reliant on the state and those who wish to live freely and succeed or fail due to their own personal talents see the idea of personal responsibility denuded everywhere.

Socialists seem to think "freedom" is achieved by having the state always there in everything to back you up, to a lot of the rest of us that is most definitely not freedom at all.

mrpukpuk , 15 Oct 2017 07:26
We are all well divided. So the oligarchy is safe.
Russell Sanders , 15 Oct 2017 07:24
When George Bush Junior followed his father into the White House and became the President he demonstrated that political power remains in the hands of a few and the system is rigged. It doesn't require academics to write comparisons to Greek culture to tell us the dice is always loaded.
JosephCamilleri -> TheWindsOfWinter93 , 15 Oct 2017 07:23
That would depend on the quality and sophistication of the constitution. Social multi-party representative democracies with a house of review don't decay like executive presidencies do.
JosephCamilleri , 15 Oct 2017 07:19

"In civil oligarchies, governance is collective and enforced through laws, rather than by arms. Democracy defeated oligarchy in ancient Greece because of 'oligarchic breakdown.' With this typology behind him, Winters declares that America is already a civil oligarchy."

Two things.

1. The USA is clearly a warlord power in how it behaves around the world, and anyone that sees the power of the militarised police, from Kent state to Black Lives, should recognise aspects of the Mafia type power.

2. The point is not that the laws are used by Oligarchs, but that the constitution and system of laws one has brings forth olicharchs. Europe has laws, but the countries there are largely social democracies rather than imperialist presidencies.

Also, I don't think anyone interested in politics does not understand that material economical structure is the basis, and ideology is just the result or sales pitch.

Dan2017 -> Sailor25 , 15 Oct 2017 07:18
Unfortunately, your view is one that is becoming more prevalent, on the left and right. All about ensuring that the correct thinking people are not held back by the plebs. Ti that effect they accuse them of false consciousness by one half and being anti-business by the other.
FranklinDRoosevelt , 15 Oct 2017 07:17
One of the finest reviews written in decades about a topic of supreme importance. Police and military officials are the brute arms and legs of the oligarchic elites. The coming attack on North Korea and Iran is the elite capturing new markets for their banking industry and manufacturing. Goldman Sachs and the investment banks are chomping at the bit for entre into southwest and east Asia. Articles and reviews like this one is WHY I HAVE READ THE GUARDIAN FOR DECADES.
GagaInGreenacres -> TragicomedyBeholder , 15 Oct 2017 07:16
The government need not favour the down trodden, it need only offer a job at a living wage to anyone willing to contribute to their community. This would make us all equal enough.
Sailor25 , 15 Oct 2017 07:15
The article assumes that oligarchy is inherently bad. Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome and Victorian England where all democratically sanctioned oligarchies. They where also the most successful cultures of their day. Perhaps a democratically sanctioned oligarchy is the most successful system of governance in large populations.
ClaudiaRain01 -> TheWindsOfWinter93 , 15 Oct 2017 07:15
They aspire to be like the top? No, they don't. No revolution is coming because plenty on the bottom are fine if they are just getting along in life. Aspiring to be like the top would involve too much hard work for many.

If you push the bottom too far you just end up with a correction at the next election, that's it.

ClaudiaRain01 , 15 Oct 2017 07:13
Having been poor, I can't see the poor doing a better job of running the world. These articles never propose any workable solution to what we have now. Maybe the middle class could run things. Let's have a middle class revolution. That's more workable than 'power to the poor' which would end terribly.
qvideh -> YurekandTina Kulski , 15 Oct 2017 07:11
Plutocracy!
GagaInGreenacres , 15 Oct 2017 07:11
Their most effective power play is the perpetual game of economical musical chairs. The chairs are your living wage. Each round the masters take out their profit, removing one (or more) of the chairs from the next round. Now you have the choice of a death match with your neighbors for the remaining chairs or currying favour with the masters for the removed chair.

The masters need only cut out some unpopular group and tell some convenient story about how they brought it on themselves in order to get your support.

The only way for democracy to thrive is for the community to supply a new a chair for every one taken by the masters, as was done in the post war period up till the mid seventies. Since then it has been economic musical chairs with austerity, budget constraints and irreducible unemployment as far as they eye can see.

Slo27 -> Amanzim , 15 Oct 2017 07:09
Isolationist Trump still intends to rule the world, he just does not want to get involved in making it better.
Slo27 -> TheWindsOfWinter93 , 15 Oct 2017 07:07

don't they become the very oligarchs they despise?

In America, they actually chose an oligarch to battle the oligarch, and somehow that is not how it is panning out.
YurekandTina Kulski , 15 Oct 2017 07:06
Don't forget the role of the corporations and their associated 'think tanks'. In reality the USA is a corporatocracy as nicely pointed out by Bruce E. Levine in The Blog of the HUFFPOST in 2011. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/bruce-e-levine/the-myth-of-us-democracy-corporatocracy_b_836573.html
Redredemptionist , 15 Oct 2017 07:06
"...in today's meritocratic era." This description is a myth put about by the oligarchs to justify their economic and political power.
Slo27 , 15 Oct 2017 07:05
And yet, the American voters brought in Trump the oligarch, and tasked him with destroying the institutions that perpetuate oligarchy.

Democracy will be destroyed through utter stupidity of the lower classes. They can easily be egged to see an enemy in their fellow citizens and turn to oligarchs for protection. Specifically, in the US, the white majority wants Trump to prevent a transition into whites becoming the largest minority, instead of the majority. These are their expectations and they are prepared to tolerate any outrage as long as they think he is working towards that goal.

Gunsarecivilrights -> WhatTheTruth , 15 Oct 2017 07:05
Rights and socialism do not belong in the same sentence. Are you drunk?
barciad , 15 Oct 2017 07:03
The UK had a brief glimpse of Democracy, sometime between the mid 1940's and the late 1970's. I should also add that Aristotle included a third factor. The size and nature of ones armed forces:-
  1. If the core was cavalry, then it would be a feudal monarchy (Macedon, Persia)
  2. If it was elite heavy infantry, then it would be an oligarchy (Sparta, Rome)
  3. If it was through either mass light infantry or naval based, then it would be a Democracy (Athens)

Now consider the UK after 1945, you have a this huge 'citizen's army' that has been out in field (one way or another) for over half a decade. Add onto that the huge losses of wealth and (more importantly) the alliances that were forced upon us. There could be nothing but an effective mass popular Democracy in this country. And for the first time in its history.

But alas, the Oligarchs bided their time and when the first sign of crisis came along, the struck. The 1970's for fucks sake, which were nothing compared to the cataclysms between 1914-1914, that same said Oligarchs created. Yet you would not think it the way those people bang on about it. Thus now, we have the 2010's, a decade that we will be warning our children about.

With the subheading 'What happens when you forget the lessons of history'.

SimonGKelly -> WhatTheTruth , 15 Oct 2017 06:59
If you are thinking of the old Warsaw Pact countries, that was certainly an oligarchy based on party membership.

However, how far are we from that in a system which guarantees that only one of two parties will end up in power? A glance across the pond shows how that is simply another form of oligarchy generating a hereditary establishment. That was HC's biggest problem.

Perhaps all political systems will tend towards oligarchy over time, as the people with the wherewithal learn how to make the system work for them and theirs. Anarchy cannot be the solution, but what is ...?

Redredemptionist -> TragicomedyBeholder , 15 Oct 2017 06:54
So an oligarchy hiding behind a sham democracy is the best we can hope for?
TheWindsOfWinter93 -> Amanzim , 15 Oct 2017 06:53
Who cares about whether democracy or dictatorship is better. As long as the people get richer and safer and happier with their lot in life, that's all that matters. Humans don't nearly live long enough to care more than just staying alive and bettering our own lot in life.
twilightegal , 15 Oct 2017 06:51
In a system where we economic power buys political power democracy will remain a myth or at best an illusion and as the author rightly points out a catastrophic event at the level of the depression or world war is needed to begin anew. I for one am not hoping for either
NotSoLittleMouse , 15 Oct 2017 06:49
There is also an economic minimum the population needs to be at. Dividing the classes only goes so far.

There's an argument on the oligarch needing the masses to finance their wealth, especially through utilities and monopolies (privately run NHS by token choice of companies), but it almost like the oligarchs don't need the masses anymore and can defend their wealth via stock exchange and governmental debts.

I would say that the biggest reason for the success of the oligarchs is making security, defined and framed by them, more important for the mass than freedom.

TheWindsOfWinter93 , 15 Oct 2017 06:49
So when the people take control and their populist leaders take charge and all their lots become better, don't they become the very oligarchs they despise?

What seems to be missing is recognizing the fact that very often in human society those on the bottom aspire to be like the top, even if they disagree with their personalities they don't disagree with their idea of prosperity and power. So it's going to be endlessly cyclical. The people take power and become oligarchs in their own right. Then someone has to take over on the bottom and then it all starts again.

redleader , 15 Oct 2017 06:48

With this typology behind him, Winters declares that America is already a civil oligarchy. To use the language of recent political campaigns, our oligarchs try to rig the system to defend their wealth. They focus on lowering taxes and on reducing regulations that protect workers and citizens from corporate wrongdoing.

Aristotle would have argued that countries are oligarchies when they have oligarchical constitutions.

Amanzim , 15 Oct 2017 06:47
Democracy works much better when all have economic prosperity. It should also look after the minorities by giving them equal rights and opportunities. I see democracy in India and look up to how it has remained a free country. But there are more than 300 million people in India who are so poor that they cannot afford much in life, most of them live on roads. China on the other hand is a dictatorship, but has reduced poverty of more than 400 million people in the last few decades. Which path should others follow?

America under Trump is making the country isolationist. As Economist wrote so well: "The world does not want an isolationist United States or a dictatorship in China. Alas, it may get both."

Andy Roberts , 15 Oct 2017 06:43
Industrialization will prevent any meaningful revolution so without serious changes in who is winning elections for a sustained time oligarchy in the US is here to stay. Mechanized war means control of assets rather than numerical superiority is the key to conflict and despite the millions of rifles and assault weapons out there they wont do much against drone bombers and drone tanks.
kizbot , 15 Oct 2017 06:41
in Greece the oligarchs rule through corruption. Everyone is tainted so the system cannot be overthrown without going down with it.
mill1806 , 15 Oct 2017 06:40
I was heartened by the idea that the oligarchy must necessarily rot from within as a result of its own cronyism. Much like the insider-dealing, back-stabbing, and incompetence of the present clique.
Keith Fraser -> TragicomedyBeholder , 15 Oct 2017 06:37
Not all measures aimed at improving equality involve giving extra privileges to currently disadvantaged groups - one can remove privileges/other advantages from groups which are doing more than OK, like curtailing legal tax-dodges which are only of use/available to the very wealthy. One can also remove barriers which (deliberately or not) impact people unequally, such as voter-suppression tricks.

This set of images is a very simplistic but helpful way of explaining the difference between different ways to deal with inequality:

https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/1600/1*owl5RUCkVYPzZi9tuyC54Q.jpeg

N1LiberalElitist -> ValuedCustomer , 15 Oct 2017 06:37
If you think that's "contemporary bourgeois liberal strategy" then the oligarchs are winning. They've told you the woes of the world are all the fault of the liberal middle classes, and you've believed them.
abugaafar , 15 Oct 2017 06:35

The question is whether democracy will emerge from oligarchic breakdown

or demagoguery.

Nada89 , 15 Oct 2017 06:33
'The question is whether democracy will emerge from oligarchic breakdown – or whether the oligarchs will just strengthen their grasp on the levers of government.' - judging by evidence from time immemorial my money is definitely on the oligarchs.
jazzdrum , 15 Oct 2017 06:32
For me , this film says it all and clearly too. https://topdocumentaryfilms.com/everything-rich-man-trick /
imipak , 15 Oct 2017 06:30
The combination of political and economic power is discussed in Plato's Republic. Either book 4 or 5. Whilst not a replacement for modern treatment, it is vital reading if you want to avoid the limitations of single perspectives.

To understand the significance of psyops and infowar against the public, you should also look at Tacitus' book on Corrupt Eloquence. Again, not a replacement but a way of seeing the broader picture.

Remember, we wouldn't be in this mess if we had a clear picture, but we have a different perspective to these past writers. Philosophers and elephants. You've got to combine the visions and weight them correctly.

Hibernica , 15 Oct 2017 06:30
The article starts with an assumption that is wrong. It seems to suggest that America can't become an oligarchy without the will of the people. That ignores the fact that America's electoral system attracts oligarchs or at least people who are happy to be puppets of oligarch to the top job.

If Trump hadn't been elected Hillary Clinton would now be President. More intelligent certainly and less likely to destroy the country but still backed by countless very wealthy people who would have been expecting payback for their support.

So rather than ask how America can avoid becoming an oligarchy I'd be asking if there was ever a time when it wasn't an oligarchy.

ValuedCustomer -> ValuedCustomer , 15 Oct 2017 06:30
In fact the whole article is fantastic, I've been relying on instinct and Michels' (accurate but primitive) Iron Law of Oligarchy for this stuff.
WhatTheTruth , 15 Oct 2017 06:29
What about the oligarchy of Socialism where giving people too many rights neutralises everything to a standstill?
ValuedCustomer , 15 Oct 2017 06:25
While the ruling class must remain united for an oligarchy to remain in power, the people must also be divided so they cannot overthrow their oppressors. Oligarchs in ancient Greece thus used a combination of coercion and co-optation to keep democracy at bay. They gave rewards to informants and found pliable citizens to take positions in the government.

These collaborators legitimized the regime and gave oligarchs beachheads into the people. In addition, oligarchs controlled public spaces and livelihoods to prevent the people from organizing.

This is the clearest explanation of contemporary bourgeois liberal strategy I've ever seen.

Bravo!

SameTrip , 15 Oct 2017 06:23

The question is whether democracy will emerge from oligarchic breakdown – or whether the oligarchs will just strengthen their grasp on the levers of government.

Surveillance, drones, a purchased media, a mercenary govt, an internet with too much democracy and thus too many hairsplitting doctrinal differences, and increasingly effective killing devices, means the international corporate oligarchs have been in control for some time and will be for awhile more
Tenthred , 15 Oct 2017 06:23

democracy defeated oligarchy in ancient Greece because of "oligarchic breakdown."

Yes, but I'm not sure I see why that is to do with institutional decay - except if that means that the arrangements for bribing, threatening and manipulating the populace break down, in which case it just pushes the query back to why that should happen.

Which brings us to consent and to capacity. If the state has the capacity to ensure that citizens do OK then it will gain their consent. If not, not.

So far so simple for the ancient Greeks. Not so simple for us, now, because one of the institutional structures controlled by the oligarchy is the one that manufactures and maintains consent.

That's why, if we have arrived at oligarchy, we will not escape as simply as the city states of ancient Greece - and perhaps cannot escape it at all.

Bransby -> Commem , 15 Oct 2017 06:21
When I was an ancient Greek I was fantastic. Since the financial crisis and austerity cuts I've found it hard to be as great as before
jessthecrip -> jessthecrip , 15 Oct 2017 06:21
Ooops - 'sew disunity in the ruling class'
jessthecrip , 15 Oct 2017 06:20
So those of us who want proper democracy need to try and sew in the ruling class, just as they have long encouraged disunity amongst us plebs, is that it? Perhaps one advantage (of few that I can see) of brexit is it's exposing significant disunity in the Tory party.
Commem , 15 Oct 2017 06:19
Nothing new then. Who said " I don't care who makes the decisions as long as I write the Agenda and the Minutes. Information control is key. We live in a Alice in Wonderland world of spin.
ethelbrose , 15 Oct 2017 06:17
If only we could shut off roads in cities to traffic we could be so much more powerful as a mob...
TragicomedyBeholder , 15 Oct 2017 06:16
Very interesting and informative. However...

one solution is creating a more economically equal society

If one were to look at this equality problem rationally and logically, then any government policy aimed at making people equal would actually amount to government treating people very unequally.

Sort of like because people are unequal they should be treated unequally in order to make them equal. So in this sense the very idea of social justice is either irrational or else meaningless.

Differences in vocation, gifts, interests, locations and aspirations contribute to making people unequal. Socialism is a provenly unworkable myth.

[Oct 15, 2017] Two Cheers For Trump's Immigration Proposal Especially "Interior Enforcement" - The Unz Review

Notable quotes:
"... In the 1970s a programming shop was legacy American, with only a thin scattering of foreigners like myself. Twenty years later programming had been considerably foreignized , thanks to the H-1B visa program. Now, twenty years further on, I believe legacy-American programmers are an endangered species. ..."
"... So a well-paid and mentally rewarding corner of the middle-class job market has been handed over to foreigners -- for the sole reason, of course, that they are cheaper than Americans. The desire for cheap labor explains 95 percent of U.S. immigration policy. The other five percent is sentimentality. ..."
"... Now they are brazen in their crime: you have heard, I'm sure, those stories about American workers being laid off, with severance packages conditional on their helping train their cheaper foreign replacements. That's our legal ..."
"... A "merit-based" points system won't fix that. It will quickly and easily be gamed by employers to lay waste yet more middle-class occupational zones for Americans. If it was restricted to the higher levels of "merit," we would just be importing a professional overclass of foreigners, most East and South Asians, to direct the labors of less-meritorious legacy Americans. How would that ..."
"... Measured by the number of workers per year, the largest guestworker program in the entire immigration system is now student visas through the Optional Practical Training program (OPT). Last year over 154,000 aliens were approved to work on student visas. By comparison, 114,000 aliens entered the workforce on H-1B guestworker visas. ..."
"... A History of the 'Optional Practical Training' Guestworker Program , ..."
"... on all sorts of subjects ..."
"... for all kinds of outlets. (This ..."
"... no longer includes ..."
"... National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and ..."
"... and several other ..."
"... . He has had two books published by VDARE.com com: ..."
"... ( also available in Kindle ) and ..."
"... Has it ever occurred to anyone other than me that the cost associated with foreign workers using our schools and hospitals and pubic services for free, is more than off-set by the cheap price being paid for grocery store items like boneless chicken breast, grapes, apples, peaches, lettuce etc, which would otherwise be prohibitively expensive even for the wealthy? ..."
Oct 15, 2017 | www.unz.com

Headliner of the week for immigration patriots was President Trump's immigration reform proposal , which he sent to Congress for their perusal last Sunday. The proposal is a very detailed 70-point list under three main headings:

Border Security (27 items) Interior Enforcement (39 items) Merit-Based Immigration System (four items)

Item-wise, the biggest heading there is the second one, "Interior Enforcement." That's very welcome.

Of course we need improved border security so that people don't enter our country without permission. That comes under the first heading. An equally pressing problem, though, is the millions of foreigners who are living and working here, and using our schools and hospitals and public services, who should not be here.

The President's proposals on interior enforcement cover all bases: Sanctuary cities , visa overstays , law-enforcement resources , compulsory E-Verify , more deportations , improved visa security.

This is a major, wonderful improvement in national policy, when you consider that less than a year ago the White House and Justice Department were run by committed open-borders fanatics. I thank the President and his staff for having put so much work into such a detailed proposal for restoring American sovereignty and the rights of American workers and taxpayers.

That said, here come the quibbles.

That third heading, "Merit-Based Immigration System," with just four items, needs work. Setting aside improvements on visa controls under the other headings, this is really the only part of the proposal that covers legal immigration. In my opinion, it does so imperfectly.

There's some good meat in there, mind. Three of the four items -- numbers one, three, and four -- got a fist-pump from me:

cutting down chain migration by limiting it to spouse and dependent children; eliminating the Diversity Visa Lottery ; and limiting the number of refugees admitted, assuming this means severely cutting back on the numbers, preferably all the way to zero.

Good stuff. Item two, however, is a problem. Quote:

Establish a new, points-based system for the awarding of Green Cards (lawful permanent residents) based on factors that allow individuals to successfully assimilate and support themselves financially.

sounds OK, bringing in talented, well-educated, well-socialized people, rather than what the late Lee Kuan Yew referred to as " fruit-pickers ." Forgive me if I have a rather jaundiced view of this merit-based approach.

For most of my adult life I made a living as a computer programmer. I spent four years doing this in the U.S.A. through the mid-1970s. Then I came back in the late 1980s and worked at the same trade here through the 1990s. (Pictured right–my actual H-1B visa ) That gave me two clear snapshots twenty years apart, of this particular corner of skilled middle-class employment in America.

In the 1970s a programming shop was legacy American, with only a thin scattering of foreigners like myself. Twenty years later programming had been considerably foreignized , thanks to the H-1B visa program. Now, twenty years further on, I believe legacy-American programmers are an endangered species.

So a well-paid and mentally rewarding corner of the middle-class job market has been handed over to foreigners -- for the sole reason, of course, that they are cheaper than Americans. The desire for cheap labor explains 95 percent of U.S. immigration policy. The other five percent is sentimentality.

On so-called "merit-based immigration," therefore, you can count me a cynic. I have no doubt that American firms could recruit all the computer programmers they need from among our legacy population. They used to do so, forty years ago. Then they discovered how to game the immigration system for cheaper labor.

Now they are brazen in their crime: you have heard, I'm sure, those stories about American workers being laid off, with severance packages conditional on their helping train their cheaper foreign replacements. That's our legal immigration system in a nutshell. It's a cheap-labor racket.

A "merit-based" points system won't fix that. It will quickly and easily be gamed by employers to lay waste yet more middle-class occupational zones for Americans. If it was restricted to the higher levels of "merit," we would just be importing a professional overclass of foreigners, most East and South Asians, to direct the labors of less-meritorious legacy Americans. How would that contribute to social harmony?

With coming up to a third of a billion people, the U.S.A. has all the talent, all the merit , it needs. You might make a case for a handful of certified geniuses like Einstein or worthy dissidents like Solzhenitsyn, but those cases aside, there is no reason at all to have guest-worker programs. They should all be shut down.

Some of these cheap-labor rackets don't even need congressional action to shut them down; it can be done by regulatory change via executive order. The scandalous OPT-visa scam, for example, which brings in cheap workers under the guise of student visas.

Here is John Miano writing about the OPT program last month, quote:

Measured by the number of workers per year, the largest guestworker program in the entire immigration system is now student visas through the Optional Practical Training program (OPT). Last year over 154,000 aliens were approved to work on student visas. By comparison, 114,000 aliens entered the workforce on H-1B guestworker visas.

Because there is no reporting on how long guestworkers stay in the country, we do not know the total number of workers in each category. Nonetheless, the number of approvals for work on student visas has grown by 62 percent over the past four years so their numbers will soon dwarf those on H-1B visas.

The troubling fact is that the OPT program was created entirely through regulation with no authorization from Congress whatsoever. [ A History of the 'Optional Practical Training' Guestworker Program , CIS, September 18, 2017]

End quote. (And a cheery wave of acknowledgement to John Miano here from one of the other seventeen people in the U.S.A. that knows the correct placement of the hyphen in "H-1B.")

Our legal immigration system is addled with these scams. Don't even get me started on the EB-5 investor's visa . It all needs sweeping away.

So for preference I would rewrite that third heading to include, yes, items one, three, and four -- cutting down chain migration, ending the Diversity Visa Lottery, and ending refugee settlement for anyone of less stature than Solzhenitsyn; but then, I'd replace item two with the following:

End all guest-worker programs, with exceptions only for the highest levels of talent and accomplishment, limit one hundred visas per annum .

So much for my amendments to the President's October 8th proposals. There is, though, one glaring omission from that 70-item list. The proposal has no mention at all of birthright citizenship.

have abandoned it . It leads to obstetric tourism : women well-advanced in pregnancy come to the U.S.A. to give birth, knowing that the child will be a U.S. citizen. It is deeply unpopular with Americans , once it's explained to them.

Yes, yes, I know: some constitutional authorities argue that birthright citizenship is implied in the Fourteenth Amendment , although it is certain that the framers of that Amendment did not have foreign tourists or illegal entrants in mind. Other scholars think Congress could legislate against it.

The only way to find out is to have Congress legislate. If the courts strike down the legislation as unconstitutional, let's then frame a constitutional amendment and put it to the people.

Getting rid of birthright citizenship might end up a long and difficult process. We might ultimately fail. The only way to find out is to get the process started . Failure to mention this in the President's proposal is a very glaring omission.

Setting aside that, and the aforementioned reservations about working visas, I give two cheers to the proposal. email him ] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him. ) He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books . He has had two books published by VDARE.com com: FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT ( also available in Kindle ) and FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT II: ESSAYS 2013 . (Republished from VDare.com by permission of author or representative)

SimpleHandle > > , October 14, 2017 at 2:56 am GMT

I agree with ending birthright citizenship. But Trump should wait until he can put at least one more strict constitutionalist in the supreme court. There will be a court challenge, and we need judges who can understand that if the 14th Amendment didn't give automatic citizenship to American Indians it doesn't give automatic citizenship to children of Mexican citizens who jumped our border.

Diversity Heretic > > , October 14, 2017 at 5:04 am GMT

@Carroll Price

Insofar as your personal situation is concerned, perhaps you would find yourself less "relatively poor" if you had a job with higher wages.

Diversity Heretic > > , October 14, 2017 at 5:16 am GMT

John's article, it seems to me, ignores the elephant in the room: the DACA colonists. Trump is offering this proposal, more or less, in return for some sort of semi-permanent regularization of their status. Bad trade, in my opinion. Ending DACA and sending those illegals back where they belong will have more real effect on illegal and legal immigration/colonization than all sorts of proposals to be implemented in the future, which can and will be changed by subsequent Administrations and Congresses.

Trump would also be able to drive a much harder bargain with Congress (like maybe a moratorium on any immigration) if he had kept his campaign promise, ended DACA the afternoon of January 20, 2017, and busloads of DACA colonists were being sent south of the Rio Grande.

The best hope for immigration patriots is that the Democrats are so wedded to Open Borders that the entire proposal dies and Trump, in disgust, reenacts Ike's Operation Wetback.

bartok > > , October 14, 2017 at 6:32 am GMT

@Carroll Price

Once all the undocumented workers who are doing all the dirty, nasty jobs Americans refuse to do are run out the country, then what?

White people couldn't possibly thrive without non-Whites! Why, without all of that ballast we'd ascend too near the sun.

Negrolphin Pool > > , October 14, 2017 at 7:53 am GMT

Well, in the real world, things just don't work that way. It's pay me now or pay me later. Once all the undocumented workers who are doing all the dirty, nasty jobs Americans refuse to do are run out the country, then what?

Right, prior to 1965, Americans didn't exist. They had all starved to death because, as everyone knows, no Americans will work to produce food and, even if they did, once Tyson chicken plants stop making 50 percent on capital they just shut down.

If there were no Somalis in Minnesota, even Warren Buffett couldn't afford grapes.

Joe Franklin > > , October 14, 2017 at 12:24 pm GMT

Illegal immigrants picking American produce is a false economy.

Illegal immigrants are subsidized by the taxpayer in terms of public health, education, housing, and welfare.

If businesses didn't have access to cheap and subsidized illegal alien labor, they would be compelled to resort to more farm automation to reduce cost.

Cheap illegal alien labor delays the inevitable use of newer farm automation technologies.

Many Americans would likely prefer a machine touch their food rather than a illegal alien with strange hygiene practices.

In addition, anti-American Democrats and neocons prefer certain kinds of illegal aliens because they bolster their diversity scheme.

Carroll Price > > , October 14, 2017 at 12:27 pm GMT

@Realist "Once all the undocumented workers who are doing all the dirty, nasty jobs Americans refuse to do are run out the country, then what?"

Eliminate welfare...then you'll have plenty of workers. Unfortunately, that train left the station long ago. With or without welfare, there's simply no way soft, spoiled, lazy, over-indulged Americans who have never hit a lick at anything their life, will ever perform manual labor for anyone, including themselves.

Jonathan Mason > > , October 14, 2017 at 2:57 pm GMT

@Randal Probably people other than you have worked out that once their wages are not being continually undercut by cheap and easy immigrant competition, the American working classes will actually be able to earn enough to pay the increased prices for grocery store items, especially as the Americans who, along with machines, will replace those immigrants doing the "jobs Americans won't do" will also be earning more and actually paying taxes on it.

The "jobs Americans/Brits/etc won't do" myth is a deliberate distortion of reality that ignores the laws of supply and demand. There are no jobs Americans etc won't do, only jobs for which the employers are not prepared to pay wages high enough to make them worthwhile for Americans etc to do.

Now of course it is more complicated than that. There are jobs that would not be economically viable if the required wages were to be paid, and there are marginal contributions to job creation by immigrant populations, but those aspects are in reality far less significant than the bosses seeking cheap labour want people to think they are.

As a broad summary, a situation in which labour is tight, jobs are easy to come by and staff hard to hold on to is infinitely better for the ordinary working people of any nation than one in which there is a huge pool of excess labour, and therefore wages are low and employees disposable.

You'd think anyone purporting to be on the "left", in the sense of supporting working class people would understand that basic reality, but far too many on the left have been indoctrinated in radical leftist anti-racist and internationalist dogmas that make them functional stooges for big business and its mass immigration program.

Probably people other than you have worked out that once their wages are not being continually undercut by cheap and easy immigrant competition, the American working classes will actually be able to earn enough to pay the increased prices for grocery store items, especially as the Americans who, along with machines, will replace those immigrants doing the "jobs Americans won't do" will also be earning more and actually paying taxes on it.

There might be some truth in this. When I was a student in England in the 60′s I spent every summer working on farms, picking hops, apples, pears, potatoes and made some money and had a lot of fun too and became an expert farm tractor operator.

No reason why US students and high school seniors should not pick up a lot of the slack. Young people like camping in the countryside and sleeping rough, plus lots of opportunity to meet others, have sex, smoke weed, drink beer, or whatever. If you get a free vacation plus a nice check at the end, that makes the relatively low wages worthwhile. It is not always a question of how much you are paid, but how much you can save.

George Weinbaum > > , October 14, 2017 at 3:35 pm GMT

We can fix the EB-5 visa scam. My suggestion: charge would-be "investors" $1 million to enter the US. This $1 is not refundable under any circumstance. It is paid when the "investor's" visa is approved. If the "investor" is convicted of a felony, he is deported. He may bring no one with him. No wife, no child, no aunt, no uncle. Unless he pays $1 million for that person.

We will get a few thousand Russian oligarchs and Saudi princes a year under this program

As to fixing the H-1B visa program, we charge employer users of the program say $25,000 per year per employee. We require the employers to inform all employees that if any is asked to train a replacement, he should inform the DOJ immediately. The DOJ investigates and if true, charges managerial employees who asked that a replacement be trained with fraud.

As to birthright citizenship: I say make it a five-year felony to have a child while in the US illegally. Make it a condition of getting a tourist visa that one not be pregnant. If the tourist visa lasts say 60 days and the woman has a child while in the US, she gets charged with fraud.

None of these suggestions requires a constitutional amendment.

Auntie Analogue > > , October 14, 2017 at 7:10 pm GMT

In the United States middle class prosperity reached its apogee in 1965 – before the disastrous (and eminently foreseeable) wage-lowering consequence of the Hart-Celler Open Immigration Act's massive admission of foreigners increased the supply of labor which began to lower middle class prosperity and to shrink and eradicate the middle class.

It was in 1965 that ordinary Americans, enjoying maximum employment because employers were forced to compete for Americans' talents and labor, wielded their peak purchasing power . Since 1970 wages have remained stagnant, and since 1965 the purchasing power of ordinary Americans has gone into steep decline.

It is long past time to halt Perpetual Mass Immigration into the United States, to end birthright citizenship, and to deport all illegal aliens – if, that is, our leaders genuinely care about and represent us ordinary Americans instead of continuing their legislative, policy, and judicial enrichment of the 1-percenter campaign donor/rentier class of transnational Globali$t Open Border$ E$tabli$hment $ellout$.

Jim Sweeney > > , October 14, 2017 at 8:26 pm GMT

Re the birthright citizenship argument, that is not settled law in that SCOTUS has never ruled on the question of whether a child born in the US is thereby a citizen if the parents are illegally present. Way back in 1897, SCOTUS did resolve the issue of whether a child born to alien parents who were legally present was thereby a citizen. That case is U.S. vs Wong Kim Ark 169 US 649. SCOTUS ruled in favor of citizenship. If that was a justiciable issue how much more so is it when the parents are illegally present?

My thinking is that the result would be the same but, at least, the question would be settled. I cannot see justices returning a toddler to Beijing or worse. They would never have invitations to cocktail parties again for the shame heaped upon them for such uncaring conduct. Today, the title of citizen is conferred simply by bureaucratic rule, not by judicial order.

JP Straley > > , October 14, 2017 at 9:42 pm GMT

Arguments Against Fourteenth Amendment Anchor Baby Interpretation
J. Paige Straley

Part One. Anchor Baby Argument, Mexican Case.
The ruling part of the US Constitution is Amendment Fourteen: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

Here is the ruling part of the Mexican Constitution, Section II, Article Thirty:
Article 30
Mexican nationality is acquired by birth or by naturalization:
A. Mexicans by birth are:
I. Those born in the territory of the Republic, regardless of the nationality of
their parents:
II. Those born in a foreign country of Mexican parents; of a Mexican father and
a foreign mother; or of a Mexican mother and an unknown father;
III. Those born on Mexican vessels or airships, either war or merchant vessels. "

A baby born to Mexican nationals within the United States is automatically a Mexican citizen. Under the anchor baby reasoning, this baby acquires US citizenship at the same time and so is a dual citizen. Mexican citizenship is primary because it stems from a primary source, the parents' citizenship and the law of Mexico. The Mexican Constitution states the child of Mexican parents is automatically a Mexican citizen at birth no matter where the birth occurs. Since the child would be a Mexican citizen in any country, and becomes an American citizen only if born in America, it is clear that Mexico has the primary claim of citizenry on the child. This alone should be enough to satisfy the Fourteenth Amendment jurisdiction thereof argument. Since Mexican citizenship is primary, it has primary jurisdiction; thus by the plain words of the Fourteenth such child is not an American citizen at birth.

[MORE]
There is a second argument for primary Mexican citizenship in the case of anchor babies. Citizenship, whether Mexican or American, establishes rights and duties. Citizenship is a reciprocal relationship, thus establishing jurisdiction. This case for primary Mexican citizenship is supported by the fact that Mexico allows and encourages Mexicans resident in the US, either illegal aliens or legal residents, to vote in Mexican elections. They are counted as Mexican citizens abroad, even if dual citizens, and their government provides widespread consular services as well as voting access to Mexicans residing in the US. As far as Mexico is concerned, these persons are not Mexican in name only, but have a civil relationship strong enough to allow a political voice; in essence, full citizenship. Clearly, all this is the expression of typical reciprocal civic relationships expressed in legal citizenship, further supporting the establishment of jurisdiction.

Part Two: Wong Kim Ark (1898) case. (Birthright Citizenship)

The Wong Kim Ark (WKA) case is often cited as the essential legal reasoning and precedent for application of the fourteenth amendment as applied to aliens. There has been plenty of commentary on WKA, but the truly narrow application of the case is emphasized reviewing a concise statement of the question the case was meant to decide, written by Hon. Horace Gray, Justice for the majority in this decision.

"[W]hether a child born in the United States, of parents of Chinese descent, who, at the time of his birth, are subjects of the Emperor of China, but have a permanent domicile and residence in the United States, and are there carrying on business, and are not employed in any diplomatic or official capacity under the Emperor of China, becomes at the time of his birth a citizen of the United States by virtue of the first clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution." (Italics added.)

For WKA to justify birthright citizenship, the parents must have " permanent domicile and residence " But how can an illegal alien have permanent residence when the threat of deportation is constantly present? There is no statute of limitation for illegal presence in the US and the passage of time does not eliminate the legal remedy of deportation. This alone would seem to invalidate WKA as a support and precedent for illegal alien birthright citizenship.

If illegal (or legal) alien parents are unemployed, unemployable, illegally employed, or if they get their living by illegal means, then they are not ". . .carrying on business. . .", and so the children of indigent or criminal aliens may not be eligible for birthright citizenship

If legal aliens meet the two tests provided in WKA, birthright citizenship applies. Clearly the WKA case addresses the specific situation of the children of legal aliens, and so is not an applicable precedent to justify birthright citizenship for the children of illegal aliens.

Part three. Birth Tourism

Occasionally foreign couples take a trip to the US during the last phase of the wife's pregnancy so she can give birth in the US, thus conferring birthright citizenship on the child. This practice is called "birth tourism." WKA provides two tests for birthright citizenship: permanent domicile and residence and doing business, and a temporary visit answers neither condition. WKA is therefore disqualified as justification for a "birth tourism" child to be granted birthright citizenship.

Realist > > , October 14, 2017 at 10:05 pm GMT

@Carroll Price Unfortunately, that train left the station long ago. With or without welfare, there's simply no way soft, spoiled, lazy, over-indulged Americans who have never hit a lick at anything their life, will ever perform manual labor for anyone, including themselves. Then let them starve to death. The Pilgrims nipped that dumb ass idea (welfare) in the bud

Alfa158 > > , October 15, 2017 at 2:10 am GMT

@Carroll Price

An equally pressing problem, though, is the millions of foreigners who are living and working here, and using our schools and hospitals and public services, who should not be here.
Has it ever occurred to anyone other than me that the cost associated with foreign workers using our schools and hospitals and pubic services for free, is more than off-set by the cheap price being paid for grocery store items like boneless chicken breast, grapes, apples, peaches, lettuce etc, which would otherwise be prohibitively expensive even for the wealthy?

Let alone relatively poor people (like myself) and those on fixed incomes? What un-thinking Americans want, is having their cake and eating it too. Well, in the real world, things just don't work that way. It's pay me now or pay me later. Once all the undocumented workers who are doing all the dirty, nasty jobs Americans refuse to do are run out the country, then what? Please look up;History; United States; pre mid-twentieth century. I'm pretty sure Americans were eating chicken, grapes, apples, peaches, lettuce, etc. prior to that period. I don't think their diet consisted of venison and tree bark.
But since I wasn't there, maybe I'm wrong and that is actually what they were eating.
I know some people born in the 1920′s; I'll check with them and let you know what they say.

[Oct 15, 2017] The global oil supply report from HSBC

Oct 15, 2017 | peakoilbarrel.com

FreddyW

says: 10/14/2017 at 10:01 am
A bit old so you may have seen it already. But if you haven´t then I highly recommend you to read the global oil supply report from HSBC:

YouTube clip:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KfVJBNX2U4

The report:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B9wSgViWVAfzUEgzMlBfR3UxNDg/view

It contains a lot of interesting information. For example on page 15 we can see that oil field discovery rate has dropped from around 20% to only 5% in 2015. Saying that it has fallen of a cliff is not an exaggeration.

[Oct 15, 2017] Timing of peak global oil production

Notable quotes:
"... I already picked the peak, 2015. So I was slightly off, but not by all that much as you can clearly see by the chart. I think we are on the peak plateau right now. ..."
Oct 15, 2017 | peakoilbarrel.com

Ron Patterson says: 10/14/2017 at 7:31 am

I already picked the peak, 2015. So I was slightly off, but not by all that much as you can clearly see by the chart. I think we are on the peak plateau right now.

The actual 12-month peak could be anywhere from 2017 to 2019 but no later than that. Well, in my humble opinion anyway.

Dennis Coyne says: 10/14/2017 at 11:39 am
Hi Ron,

The question was about US LTO, you have picked the World C+C peak, but as far as I remember you have not said anything recently about US LTO except that it will be before 2025.

So far the 12 month centered average for US LTO peaked in June 2015.

If US LTO output continues at the August output level (4750 kb/d) for 5 months, then a new 12 month centered average peak will be reached by Aug 2017 (average output from Feb 2017 to Jan 2018). US LTO output has risen about 600 kb/d over the past 12 months so an assumption of no further US LTO output increases over the next 5 months is a conservative estimate in my view.

[Oct 15, 2017] US Baker Hughes Rig Count

Oct 15, 2017 | peakoilbarrel.com

Energy News: 10/13/2017 at 1:13 pm

US Baker Hughes Rig Count (Oct 13)

http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=79687&p=irol-reportsother

[Oct 15, 2017] Oil production in Iraq has increased by more then one million barrels a day since July 2014 when oil prices last averaged 100 dollars. More than any other country

Notable quotes:
"... A bit old so you may have seen it already. But if you haven´t then I highly recommend you to read the global oil supply report from HSBC: YouTube clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KfVJBNX2U4 The report: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B9wSgViWVAfzUEgzMlBfR3UxNDg/view contains a lot of interesting information. For example on page 15 we can see that oil field discovery rate has dropped from around 20% to only 5% in 2015. Saying that it has fallen of a cliff is not an exaggeration. ..."
Oct 15, 2017 | peakoilbarrel.com

Energy News: 10/14/2017 at 1:02 pm

I was just having a quick look at countries that have come back from outages, sanctions, conflict, wildfires. Not sure if this list is complete?

Energy News says: 10/14/2017 at 1:55 pm
Iraq's oil production has increased by 1.4 million b/day since oil prices last averaged $100 in July 2014. More than any other country
Chart on Twitter: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DMHrqLZXkAAFiro.jpg
FreddyW says: 10/14/2017 at 10:01 am
A bit old so you may have seen it already. But if you haven´t then I highly recommend you to read the global oil supply report from HSBC:

YouTube clip:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KfVJBNX2U4

The report: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B9wSgViWVAfzUEgzMlBfR3UxNDg/view contains a lot of interesting information. For example on page 15 we can see that oil field discovery rate has dropped from around 20% to only 5% in 2015. Saying that it has fallen of a cliff is not an exaggeration.

[Oct 14, 2017] Ilargi The Curious Case of Missing the Market Boom naked capitalism

Notable quotes:
"... Had he bailed out Main Street, the bubble would be smaller, ..."
"... Minsky had it right; capitalism's instability is the power to turn doing good into speculative fervor. ..."
"... Chauncey Gardiner , October 14, 2017 at 4:29 pm ..."
"... Thanks to interest rate suppression below the rate of inflation through central bank QE over the past nine years, suppression of Market Volatility through 'risk parity' funds and futures, trillions of dollars of corporate stock buybacks funded with debt that have so enriched a generation of CEOs, direct purchases of equities by central banks or their agents, a constant barrage of corporate media spin and taunting of market nonparticipants such as Ilargi pointed out here, massive engineered short squeezes, HFT algorithms to prevent price discovery, and other devices, I am once again reminded of the "‪WUN'ERFUL, WUN'ERFUL!" ‬parody of the old Lawrence Welk Show by comedian Stan Freberg when he repeatedly called out, "Turn off the bubble machine!" ..."
"... Funny how the corporate media presents stock prices as being the product of Mom's and Pop's freely made decisions in a "free market" environment. Never a mention of centrally planned policies of financial repression and wealth concentration to benefit a small segment of the population both economically and politically. ..."
"... Appreciated former IMF chief economist Simon Johnson's 2009 article about the three different kinds of bubbles. Believe this one can best be characterized as a "Type 3" political bubble where rising asset prices generate wealth that are fed into the political process. (See: https://baselinescenario.com/2009/07/24/after-peak-finance-larry-summers-bubble/ ) ..."
Oct 14, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Look, emerging markets and developed economies have borrowed up the wazoo. Because they could. Often in US dollars. That may cause a -temporary- gain in stock markets, but it casts a dark spell over the reality of these markets. If it's that obvious that a substantial part of your happy news comes from debt, there's very little reason to celebrate.

Technology megacaps occupy all top six spots in the ranks of the world's largest companies by market capitalization for the first time ever. Up 39% this year, the $1 trillion those firms added in value equals the combined worth of the world's six-biggest companies at the bear market bottom in 2009. Apple, priced at $810 billion, is good for the total value of the 400 smallest companies in the S&P 500.

To cast those exact same words in a whole different light, no, Apple is not 'good for the total value of the 400 smallest companies in the S&P 500'. Yes, you can argue that Apple's 'value' has lifted other stocks too, but this has happened in a time of zero price discovery AND near zero interest rates. That means people have no way to figure out if a company is actually doing well, so it's safer to park their cash in Apple.

Ergo: Apple, and the FANGs in general, take valuable money out of the stock market. At the same time that they, companies with P/E earnings ratios to the moon and back, buy back their stocks at blinding speeds. So yeah, Apple may be 'good' for the total value of the 400 smallest companies in the S&P 500 , but at the same time it's not good for that value at all. It's killing companies by sucking up potential productive investment.

And Apple's just an example. Silicon Valley as a whole is a scourge upon America's economy, hoovering away even the cheapest and easiest money and redirecting it to questionable start-up projects with very questionable P/E ratios. But then, that's what you get without price discovery.

Bill Smith , October 14, 2017 at 7:28 am

Misquoting a Keynes misquote: markets can remain irrational for a long time.

So for those that rode the market up, extracted something real from the gains and then end up riding it down are still better off. Oh, yeah: avoid leverage.

esb , October 14, 2017 at 12:33 pm

Bill, who really knows what rational and irrational actually mean in the instant financial environment, an environment in which debt is being allowed to function, in many ways, as an asset rather than as a liability.

I only know two things with certainty first, that every investor I speak with and asset manager I respect is frightened beyond any measure I have experienced before in an rising equity market and second, that approximately half of my contacts fear that we will awaken one morning to the beginning of a war that will not easily be contained (many use the term, miscalculation).

So rather that being a moment or period of extreme euphoria this feels more like the 'mother' of all walls of worry.

Strategist , October 14, 2017 at 7:37 am

Shorter version: "the time to sell is when they start targeting the propaganda to buy at the shoeshine boy"
??

Wukchumni , October 14, 2017 at 10:43 am

Financial bubbles used to work in a fashion where there was oh so much confidence on the way up, and a leper-like quality to whatever was the object of desire once they start on their way down.

When the housing bubble got reignited here after collapse in 2008'ish, I was frankly shocked that it could happen, but I was thinking of the old ways, which used to make sense.

Seeing as there's a bubble in oh so many ways now (fancy a $100 million+ 20th century painting, do ya?) the bust is gonna be epic.

Steven Greenberg , October 14, 2017 at 11:16 am

I am hoping that owning the few remaining undervalued stocks will give me some sort of cover. I am also hoping that the long history of dividend payments from these companies will not drop as precipitously as their prices. I am also hoping that the amount of cash I am holding will take me through the worst of the crash.

Beyond that, I am not going to try to time the market.

Tomonthebeach , October 14, 2017 at 11:35 am

It is difficult not to conclude that globally, central bankers cannot seem to apply what they learned in Econ 101 (which is all most of us ever understood). Markets will always be best explained by Chaos theory , and thus it is best for central banks to head off bubbles rather than lend more inflation to them out of political concern. In 2008, Obama bailed out the wrong sector merely kicking the can down the road. Had he bailed out Main Street, the bubble would be smaller, and there would be more cash chasing after goods instead of the next spin of the stock market wheel of fortune.

Most of us put our coin in ETFs and mutual funds in the hope that we will still have some wealth in whichever sectors survive the impending crash that our governments have brought upon themselves. It's just a damned shame that unlike 1929, the windows of most high rise office buildings no longer open for easy egress. Well, there is always street fentanyl.

Synoia , October 14, 2017 at 4:40 pm

Markets will always be best only explained by Chaos theory

nonclassical , October 14, 2017 at 8:22 pm

not difficult to explain markets read history

Susan the other , October 14, 2017 at 12:12 pm

I've discovered Roger Penrose on YouTube. He just explained cosmological inflation as tubular rather than parabolic. Like one long perpetual piston back-pressured by dark matter barriers when enough entropy builds up – like snake grass sectioned off and growing into eternity and it all works because time=matter=frequency=time. And entropy fills the end stage of an aeon like raindrops in a pond. And then a new aeon begins. The universe just devalues an goes on forever. Mark Blythe might like this. We should just let it rain.

Milton , October 14, 2017 at 12:23 pm

They sure make it tough to get out or stay on the sidelines – case in point, Fidelity's Fixed Income earns exactly 0%. I moved assets from S&P fund in March and feel like a shmuck as I'm not only not earning anything, I get the pleasure of paying fees for my non-participation.

shinola , October 14, 2017 at 1:28 pm

A couple of old cliches: "Buy low & sell high" – Apparently, no longer operational. "There's a sucker born every minute" – seems the "global market analysts" still believe in this one (and probably with good reason)

Burritonomics , October 14, 2017 at 3:01 pm

Evaluating anything and ignoring all save the end product is jaw-dropping foolishness. In poker and gambling, it's called "playing the results". You're gonna up up broke, and will never see it coming. Minsky had it right; capitalism's instability is the power to turn doing good into speculative fervor.

Chauncey Gardiner , October 14, 2017 at 4:29 pm

Thanks to interest rate suppression below the rate of inflation through central bank QE over the past nine years, suppression of Market Volatility through 'risk parity' funds and futures, trillions of dollars of corporate stock buybacks funded with debt that have so enriched a generation of CEOs, direct purchases of equities by central banks or their agents, a constant barrage of corporate media spin and taunting of market nonparticipants such as Ilargi pointed out here, massive engineered short squeezes, HFT algorithms to prevent price discovery, and other devices, I am once again reminded of the "‪WUN'ERFUL, WUN'ERFUL!" ‬parody of the old Lawrence Welk Show by comedian Stan Freberg when he repeatedly called out, "Turn off the bubble machine!"

Funny how the corporate media presents stock prices as being the product of Mom's and Pop's freely made decisions in a "free market" environment. Never a mention of centrally planned policies of financial repression and wealth concentration to benefit a small segment of the population both economically and politically. Where's the SEC? or are we just to blame it all on economist Larry Summers' observation that artificially low interest rates over long time periods cause asset bubbles and high systemic debt leverage, but that repeated asset bubbles are not such a bad thing in an era of "secular stagnation"?

Appreciated former IMF chief economist Simon Johnson's 2009 article about the three different kinds of bubbles. Believe this one can best be characterized as a "Type 3" political bubble where rising asset prices generate wealth that are fed into the political process. (See: https://baselinescenario.com/2009/07/24/after-peak-finance-larry-summers-bubble/ )

[Oct 14, 2017] The unexplainable rise in production per well in the Bakken may not be as high as the data shows

Oct 14, 2017 | peakoilbarrel.com

SRSrocco says: 10/13/2017 at 7:17 am

Verwimp,

Great to see you posting an update. I can honestly tell you that the "WEIRD" rise in production per well in the Bakken may not be as high as the data shows. Unfortunately, I can't publicly state the reason I know this. If you contact me via my email address: SRSroccoReport@gmail.com , I can provide a few more clues.

However, the SHITE is going to hit the fan in the U.S. Shale Oil Industry once this news gets out which will likely be made public shortly.

[Oct 14, 2017] Over half a million barrels per day are now shut down at Gulf due to hugrage season. Lost oil production due to Nate was around 8 million barrels

Oct 14, 2017 | peakoilbarrel.com

Energy News says: 10/11/2017 at 4:22 pm

2017-10-11 BSEEgov: From operator reports, it is estimated that approximately 32.68 percent of the current oil production in the Gulf of Mexico remains shut-in, which equates to 571,854 barrels of oil per day. It is also estimated that approximately 20.51 percent of the natural gas production, or 660.55 million cubic feet per day in the Gulf of Mexico is shut-in.
https://www.bsee.gov/newsroom/latest-news/statements-and-releases/press-releases/bsee-tropical-storm-nate-activity-4
Estimate of "Lost" Gulf of Mexico crude production due to Hurricane Nate is 7.82 million barrels of oil.

Also, Genscape GoM production chart: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DL4r7v6UEAA75uK.jpg

[Oct 13, 2017] Sympathy for the Corporatocracy by C. J. Hopkins

Highly recommended!
Biting satire...
Notable quotes:
"... The Tonight Show ..."
"... Now, despite what the Russian propagandists will tell you, this recent outbreak of fascistic behavior has nothing whatsoever to do with these people's frustration with neoliberalism or the supranational Corporatocracy that has been expanding its global empire with total impunity for twenty-five years. And it definitely has nothing at all to do with supranational political unions, or the supersession of national sovereignty by corporate-concocted "free trade" agreements, or the relentless privatization of everything, or the fear that a lot of people have that their cultures are being gradually erased and replaced with a globalized, corporate-friendly, multicultural, market-based culture, which is merely a simulation of culture, and which contains no actual cultural values (because exchange value is its only operative value), but which sells the empty signifiers of their eviscerated cultural values back to them so they can wear their "identities" like designer brands as they hunch together in silence at Starbucks posting pictures of themselves on Facebook. ..."
"... No, this discontent with the political establishment, corporate elites, and the mainstream media has nothing to do with any of that. It's not like global Capitalism, following the collapse of the U.S.S.R. (its last external ideological adversary), has been restructuring the entire planet in accordance with its geopolitical interests, or doing away with national sovereignty, and other nationalistic concepts that no longer serve a useful purpose in a world where a single ideological system (one backed by the most fearsome military in history) reigns completely unopposed. If that were the case, well, it might behoove us to question whether this outbreak of Nazism, racism, and other forms of "hate," was somehow connected to that historical development and maybe even try to articulate some sort of leftist analysis of that. ..."
"... a world where a single ideology rules the planet unopposed from without ..."
"... Brexit is about Britons who want their country back, a movement indeed getting stronger and stronger in EU member states, but ignored by the ruling 'elites'. ..."
"... A lot of these so called "revolutions" are fomented by the elite only to be subverted and perverted by them in the end. They've had a lot of practice co-opting revolutions and independence movements. ..."
"... "Independence" is now so fashionable (as was Communism among the "elite" back in the '30s), that they are even teaching and fostering independence to kids in kindergarten here in the US. That strikes me as most amusing. Imagine "learning" independence in state run brainwashing factories. ..."
Oct 13, 2017 | www.unz.com

Well all right, let's review what happened, or at least the official version of what happened. Not Hillary Clinton's version of what happened, which Jeffrey St. Clair so incisively skewered , but the Corporatocracy's version of what happened, which overlaps with but is even more ridiculous than Clinton's ridiculous version. To do that, we need to harken back to the peaceful Summer of 2016, (a/k/a the "Summer of Fear" ), when the United States of America was still a shiny city upon a hill whose beacon light guided freedom-loving people, the Nazis were still just a bunch of ass clowns meeting in each other's mother's garages, and Russia was, well Russia was Russia.

Back then, as I'm sure you'll recall, Western democracy, was still primarily being menaced by the lone wolf terrorists, for absolutely no conceivable reason, apart from the terrorists' fanatical desire to brutally murder all non-believers. The global Russo-Nazi Axis had not yet reared its ugly head. President Obama, who, during his tenure, had single-handedly restored America to the peaceful, prosperous, progressive paradise it had been before George W. Bush screwed it up, was on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon slow jamming home the TPP . The Wall Street banks had risen from the ashes of the 2008 financial crisis, and were buying back all the foreclosed homes of the people they had fleeced with subprime mortgages. American workers were enjoying the freedom and flexibility of the new gig economy. Electioneering in the United States was underway, but it was early days. It was already clear that Donald Trump was literally the Second Coming of Hitler , but no one was terribly worried about him yet. The Republican Party was in a shambles. Neither Trump nor any of the other contenders had any chance of winning in November. Nor did Sanders, who had been defeated, fair and square, in the Democratic primaries, mostly because of his racist statements and crazy, quasi-Communist ideas. Basically, everything was hunky dory. Yes, it was going to be terribly sad to have to bid farewell to Obama, who had bailed out all those bankrupt Americans the Wall Street banks had taken to the cleaners, ended all of Bush and Cheney's wars, closed down Guantanamo, and just generally served as a multicultural messiah figure to affluent consumers throughout the free world, but Hope-and-Change was going to continue. The talking heads were all in agreement Hillary Clinton was going to be President, and there was nothing anyone could do about it.

Little did we know at the time that an epidemic of Russo-Nazism had been festering just beneath the surface of freedom-loving Western societies like some neo-fascist sebaceous cyst. Apparently, millions of theretofore more or less normal citizens throughout the West had been infected with a virulent strain of Russo-Nazi-engineered virus, because they simultaneously began exhibiting the hallmark symptoms of what we now know as White Supremacist Behavioral Disorder, or Fascist Oppositional Disorder (the folks who update the DSM are still arguing over the official name). It started with the Brexit referendum, spread to America with the election of Trump, and there have been a rash of outbreaks in Europe, like the one we're currently experiencing in Germany . These fascistic symptoms have mostly manifest as people refusing to vote as instructed, and expressing oppressive views on the Internet, but there have also been more serious crimes, including several assaults and murders perpetrated by white supremacists (which, of course, never happened when Obama was President, because the Nazis hadn't been "emboldened" yet).

Now, despite what the Russian propagandists will tell you, this recent outbreak of fascistic behavior has nothing whatsoever to do with these people's frustration with neoliberalism or the supranational Corporatocracy that has been expanding its global empire with total impunity for twenty-five years. And it definitely has nothing at all to do with supranational political unions, or the supersession of national sovereignty by corporate-concocted "free trade" agreements, or the relentless privatization of everything, or the fear that a lot of people have that their cultures are being gradually erased and replaced with a globalized, corporate-friendly, multicultural, market-based culture, which is merely a simulation of culture, and which contains no actual cultural values (because exchange value is its only operative value), but which sells the empty signifiers of their eviscerated cultural values back to them so they can wear their "identities" like designer brands as they hunch together in silence at Starbucks posting pictures of themselves on Facebook.

No, this discontent with the political establishment, corporate elites, and the mainstream media has nothing to do with any of that. It's not like global Capitalism, following the collapse of the U.S.S.R. (its last external ideological adversary), has been restructuring the entire planet in accordance with its geopolitical interests, or doing away with national sovereignty, and other nationalistic concepts that no longer serve a useful purpose in a world where a single ideological system (one backed by the most fearsome military in history) reigns completely unopposed. If that were the case, well, it might behoove us to question whether this outbreak of Nazism, racism, and other forms of "hate," was somehow connected to that historical development and maybe even try to articulate some sort of leftist analysis of that.

This hypothetical leftist analysis might want to focus on how Capitalism is fundamentally opposed to Despotism, and is essentially a value-decoding machine which renders everything and everyone it touches essentially valueless interchangeable commodities whose worth is determined by market forces, rather than by societies and cultures, or religions, or other despotic systems (wherein values are established and enforced arbitrarily, by the despot, the church, or the ruling party, or by a group of people who share an affinity and decide they want to live a certain way). This is where it would get sort of tricky, because it (i.e., this hypothetical analysis) would have to delve into the history of Capitalism, and how it evolved out of medieval Despotism, and how it has been decoding despotic values for something like five hundred years. This historical delving (which would probably be too long for people to read on their phones) would demonstrate how Capitalism has been an essentially progressive force in terms of getting us out of Despotism (which, for most folks, wasn't very much fun) by fomenting bourgeois revolutions and imposing some semblance of democracy on societies. It would follow Capitalism's inexorable advance all the way up to the Twentieth Century, in which its final external ideological adversary, fake Communism, suddenly imploded, delivering us to the world we now live in a world where a single ideology rules the planet unopposed from without , and where any opposition to that global ideology can only be internal, or insurgent, in nature (e.g, terrorism, extremism, and so on). Being a hypothetical leftist analysis, it would, at this point, need to stress that, despite the fact that Capitalism helped deliver us from Despotism, and improved the state of society generally (compared to most societies that preceded it), we nonetheless would like to transcend it, or evolve out of it toward some type of society where people, and everything else, including the biosphere we live in, are not interchangeable, valueless commodities exchanged by members of a global corporatocracy who have no essential values, or beliefs, or principles, other than the worship of money. After having covered all that, we might want to offer more a nuanced view of the current neo-nationalist reaction to the Corporatocracy's ongoing efforts to restructure and privatize the rest of the planet. Not that we would support this reaction, or in any way refrain from calling neo-nationalism what it is (i.e., reactionary, despotic, and doomed), but this nuanced view we'd hypothetically offer, by analyzing the larger sociopolitical and historical forces at play, might help us to see the way forward more clearly, and who knows, maybe eventually propose some kind of credible leftist alternative to the "global neoliberalism vs. neo-nationalism" double bind we appear to be hopelessly stuck in at the moment.

Luckily, we don't have to do that (i.e., articulate such a leftist analysis of any such larger historical forces). Because there is no corporatocracy not really. That's just a fake word the Russians made up and are spreading around on the Internet to distract us while the Nazis take over. No, the logical explanation for Trump, Brexit, and anything else that threatens the expansion of global Capitalism, and the freedom, democracy, and prosperity it offers, is that millions of people across the world, all at once, for no apparent reason, woke up one day full-blown fascists and started looking around for repulsive demagogues to swear fanatical allegiance to. Yes, that makes a lot more sense than all that complicated stuff about history and hegemonic ideological systems, which is probably just Russian propaganda anyway, in which case there is absolutely no reason to read any boring year-old pieces, like this one in The European Financial Review , or this report by Corporate Watch , from way back in the year 2000, about the rise of global corporate power.

So, apologies for wasting your time with all that pseudo-Marxian gobbledygook. Let's just pretend this never happened, and get back to more important matters, like statistically proving that Donald Trump got elected President because of racism, misogyny, transphobia, xenophobia, or some other type of behavioral disorder, and pulling down Confederate statues, or kneeling during the National Anthem, or whatever happens to be trending this week. Oh, yeah, and debating punching Nazis, or people wearing MAGA hats. We definitely need to sort all that out before we can move ahead with helping the Corporatocracy remove Trump from office, or at least ensure he remains surrounded by their loyal generals, CEOs, and Goldman Sachs guys until the next election. Whatever we do, let's not get distracted by that stuff I just distracted you with. I know, it's tempting, but, given what's at stake, we need to maintain our laser focus on issues related to identity politics, or else well, you know, the Nazis win.

C. J. Hopkins is an award-winning American playwright, novelist and satirist based in Berlin. His plays are published by Bloomsbury Publishing (UK) and Broadway Play Publishing (USA). His debut novel, ZONE 23 , is published by Snoggsworthy, Swaine & Cormorant. He can reached at cjhopkins.com or consentfactory.org .

jilles dykstra, October 13, 2017 at 3:15 pm GMT

Yesterday evening on RT a USA lady, as usual forgot the name, spoke about the USA. In a matter of fact tone she said things like 'they (Deep State) have got him (Trump) in the box'.

They, Deep State again, are now wondering if they will continue to try to control the world, or if they should stop the attempt, and retreat into the USA.
Also as matter of fact she said 'the CIA has always been the instrument of Deep State, from Kenndy to Nine Eleven'.

Another statement was 'no president ever was in control'.

How USA citizens continue to believe they live in a democracy, I cannot understand.

Yesterday the intentions of the new Dutch government were made public, alas most Dutch also dot not see that the Netherlands since 2005 no longer is a democracy, just a province of Brussels.

You can fool all people .

Che Guava, October 13, 2017 at 4:22 pm GMT

@jilles dykstra

Jilles,

I am thinking you take the article too literally.

jacques sheete, October 13, 2017 at 4:30 pm GMT

Brexit is about Britons who want their country back, a movement indeed getting stronger and stronger in EU member states, but ignored by the ruling 'elites'.

No doubt many do want their country back, but what concerns me is that all of a sudden we have the concept of "independence" plastered all over the place. Such concepts don't get promoted unless the ruling elites see ways to turn those sentiments to their favor.

A lot of these so called "revolutions" are fomented by the elite only to be subverted and perverted by them in the end. They've had a lot of practice co-opting revolutions and independence movements. (And everything else.)

"Independence" is now so fashionable (as was Communism among the "elite" back in the '30s), that they are even teaching and fostering independence to kids in kindergarten here in the US. That strikes me as most amusing. Imagine "learning" independence in state run brainwashing factories.

Does anyone else smell a rat or two?

Anon-og , October 13, 2017 at 5:16 pm GMT

"Now, despite what the Russian propagandists will tell you, this recent outbreak of fascistic behavior has nothing whatsoever to do with these people's frustration with neoliberalism or the supranational Corporatocracy that has been expanding its global empire with total impunity for twenty-five years. And it definitely has nothing at all to do with supranational political unions, or the supersession of national sovereignty by corporate-concocted "free trade" agreements, or the relentless privatization of everything, or the fear that a lot of people have that their cultures are being gradually erased and replaced with a globalized, corporate-friendly, multicultural, market-based culture, which is merely a simulation of culture, and which contains no actual cultural values (because exchange value is its only operative value), but which sells the empty signifiers of their eviscerated cultural values back to them so they can wear their "identities" like designer brands as they hunch together in silence at Starbucks posting pictures of themselves on Facebook."

Very impressed with this article, never really paid attention to CJ's articles but that is now changing!