Thursday, 27 November 2014

Whatever is neo-liberalism?

Whatever is neo-liberalism?


Neo-liberalism, like capitalism, is not usually a consciously accepted ideology it is a descriptive term. In fact neo-liberalism is best understood as the particular form and stage of capitalism that we are suffering under at this present time. Thomas G Clarke of 'Another Angry Voice' (a fellow UK left-libertarian with an ever so slightly more popular blog than this one) says that neo-liberalism is characterised by policies such as privatisation, de-regulation, globalisation and tax cuts. Sounds quite libertarian no? Well it might sound that way but let me assure you it is about as libertarian as Josef Stalin. Let's have a bash at seeing why, eh?



Privatisation


Some times there is a language problem here, right wing libertarians talk of 'private property', left wing libertarians talk of 'personal possessions', although they are not quite the same thing there is significant cross over between the two, they have much more in common with each other than either do with the communist proposal that nothing can be owned or possessed by an individual at all. Private property to right-libertarians goes a little something like this: A thing is your legitimate private property if you mixed your labour with an un-owned natural resource or acquired it through some kind of voluntary transfer from someone else who was a legitimate owner. So privatisation seems like it might be something to do with the state returning stolen stuff. You couldn't be more wrong.

The state does not steal for itself directly, even though politicians and top civil servants are paid quite generously they're wealth is meagre compared to societies richest capitalists:

This list of smirking idiots starts with the Duke of Westminster with about £14 billion:
http://www.therichest.com/rich-list/nation/britains-10-richest-billionaires-in-2014/

Or check out this extract from an article in the Guardian about land ownership:
"The UK is 60m acres in extent, and two-thirds of it is owned by 0.36% of the population, or 158,000 families. A staggering 24m families live on the 3m acres of the nation's "urban plot" – and not surprisingly buy into the idea that Britain is a severely overcrowded country in which land is extremely scarce."
http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2011/aug/07/tim-adams-who-owns-Britain

David Cameron and his chums might be worth a few million or so each but they aren't exactly in the billionaires club. The state acts as the armed wing of the wealthiest 1% in society. In the USA this was proven in a study:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/10769041/The-US-is-an-oligarchy-study-concludes.html

(I don't need a study to know full well that it's true here too!). Instead of making money for itself the state rigs trade to ensure that wealth flows upwards and does not remain with workers.

Let's take an example that has been big news recently; the privatisation of the NHS. The NHS was paid for by money that was taken from the people (all taxes are taxes on the people, Capitalists simply pass on the charge to workers and consumers, they never take a hit personally). The understanding was that in return we would be provided with a health care system that was quite good and was free to use, no one would be getting rich off the taxes we all paid in, we'd simply be provided with services.

Now as much as I don't agree to people having money forcefully removed from them the original deal was one of the nicer things that the state could have done with the money it took. Of  course some people were always going to be getting rich, big pharmaceutical companies were vying for contracts to provide medicines, companies supplying medical equipment were making big money etc. but on the whole the actual provision of the health care service was just a taxpayer funded service. Now, the privatisation of this service doesn't mean that all the people who paid for it are going to get their money back, it means that now, all the stuff you and I paid for is getting sold on to people who have the intention to make a profit on it, to make a profit off the money that you have no choice but to pay or go to jail... hmmmm it's starting to sound a bit less than libertarian already!

De-regulation

Surely, surely de-regulation is libertarian?! Not a chance my friend! If it did exactly what it said on the tin and applied to everyone equally we could talk about the libertarian case for de-regulation but de-regulation in this sense simply means making life much easier for banks and corporations. But banks and corporations are private sector right? Part of the free market? Let me quote Mr Kevin Carson on the extent to which banks and corporations are part of any free market:

"...the state creates and maintains the fictitious legal infrastructure of corporate “personhood”, limited liability laws, government contracts, loans, guarantees, purchases of goods, price controls, regulatory privilege, grants of monopolies, protectionist tariffs and trade policies, bankruptcy laws, military intervention to gain access to international markets and protect foreign investments, regulating or prohibiting organized labor activity, eminent domain, discriminatory taxation, ignoring corporate crimes and countless other forms of state-imposed favors and privileges".

The relationship between the government and business is not limited to some small band of cronies, it is the point. Corporations and the government are so entangled in one another that it would be hard to tell them apart, in fact there is no point in trying to tell them apart. De-regulating corporations is about the same thing as de-regulating the police or the military, not very libertarian at all!

Globalisation

Ah yes, this is that whole 'no boders' thing libertarians are always going on about right? Wrong! Globalisation is about freeing up capital, not people. In a globalised world capital and goods are free to cross national borders but people are severely restricted. Globalisation is simply another word for neo-colonialism. It's not even that goods and capital are being freely traded around the world it's a wealth transfer from poor nations to rich nations, characterised by monopoly rents on intellectual property, land grabbing, military interventions and economic sanctions on countries that won't play ball etc.

What is known as 'austerity' in the UK is not some noble plan for the state to shrink back to a more responsible size it is one piece in a global jigsaw that very few have been able to comprehend. The same jigsaw contains third world debt, the introduction of water charges in Ireland, land grabs from natives in Papua New Guinea, oil wars in the middle east.  This globalist aspect of neo-liberalism has accelerated considerably since the end of the cold war through so called "free trade" pacts and organisations like the World Bank, the World Trade Organisation and the International Monetary Fund as well as the UN and the EU. Private tyrannies, completely untouchable controlling everything we consume, from food to information in a smaller and smaller collection hands is the new name of the game and it is happening everywhere. To the point that new regulations now being introduced look set to make it possible for big corporations to sue governments for loss of earnings, if you think that sounds vaguely libertarian then you are forgetting who funds the government!

Tax cuts

I'll believe that when I see it. Whilst it is always the people who pay for the state, never the capitalists, the burden of taxation can fall more heavily on some demographics than others depending on the system of taxation used. Tax cuts means cutting for some and winning it back from others, it's a game, no one is trying to make your life more free and easy here, everyone is wondering how they can squeeze and extra penny out of you and whether that is through profiteering or taxation doesn't really matter anyway.

Conclusion


This has been your left-libertarian guide to neo-liberalism. Remember, power is always hostile and don't believe the hype. Unfortunately equal numbers of leftists and rightists have bought into the ruling classes 'free market' propaganda. There is nothing remotely free about any of it.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Whatever is neo-colonialism?

Neo-colonialism, what is it? the no messin' answer.

Neo-colonialism is the successor to colonialism or empire building. In the 18th and 19th centuries European countries were fairly advanced and powerful on a global scale. During that time they colonised most of the rest of the world. Why? Very simply, the point of a regime colonising a new piece of land is to extract the natural resources therein and to exploit the labour of the people therein. In the first half of the 20th century old school colonialism was phased out and neo-colonialism was phased in, same thing, exact same point, new tactics.

Here are the big 5 tactics as identified by me, that define neo-colonialism:

1. Intellectual property piracy: Intellectual property rights are a state guaranteed monopoly on access to and use of information. In a free market system when a company finds a new clever way to make a product more efficiently it benefits for a little while by being ahead of the game. Because no one else knows about the new way of doing things yet prices remain the same but the cost of production for this particular company goes down, this means profits will increase for a little while. With intellectual property laws in place the company can patent their new way of doing things to prevent others from copying them, thus giving them a permanent, rather than temporary, advantage (hmmm...). Intellectual property laws have been vastly expanded under neo-colonialism though, especially since the end of the cold war as groups like the World Trade Organisation have accelerated the progression of capitalism towards it's horrific predictable end. It is now possible to patent not just methods of production but products themselves and charge extortionate rents for access to them. This is how "brand names" are able to use sweatshop labour and then mark up the price to the extent they do, this is why crucial medicines can't reach parts of Africa where they are needed, this is why farmers in India are having to pay to access seeds that they developed and that pirate corporations have stolen and patented, even our genes inside us have been patented. Parent holders are overwhelmingly corporations based in wealthy countries so the whole thing represents nothing but a massive transfer of wealth from the global poor to the global mega-rich. This is a major reason why it is an unrealistic comparison to compare first world nations when they were industrialising with third world nations today. Third world nations are stuck in this position in a way that western nations were not.
Time to stop looking on with pity and start getting angry

2. Colonial legacy governments: Colonial regimes did not set up governmental structures to act as representatives for the people in the way that European liberal democracies claim to do. They set them up to hoover wealth up towards the top of the social, metaphorical pyramid. This has left the top spot in many countries extremely desirable, access to political power gives unchecked access to resources that, however much we dislike cronyism in the west, is unparalleled here. This has led to corruption, coups, civil wars, genocides and the like. This alone would be awful but those who occupy the highest positions of power in third world nations are not supposed to do it to grab resources purely for themselves; pressure and intimidation from western powers and corporations and the constant threat of economic sanctions or even military action for not playing ball means that they continue to open the doors for the exploitation of their people and natural resources to big western corporations.


3. Land grabbing: Following on from point two. Land grabs are a tremendous source of pain and suffering in the third world. Probably a billion people on this planet have no security in their land and accommodation. Third world governments use eminent domain powers to remove land from poor people and hand it over to corporations seeking to mine, cut down trees, farm etc. on it. Corporations also use manipulation and fraud to convince people to give up their land for much less than it is worth. Conservation charities have also been notoriously bad at this. Land grabbing is capitalism's original sin, it turns people into landless workers who are much easier to exploit, completely disenfranchising them, no about of generosity or 'compassionate capitalism' is going to make that better and capitalism itself simply wouldn't work without it (in Europe this process was known as privatisation of the commons and it made the industrial and agricultural revolution possible).

4. International borders: As described above, the global economy is set up in such a way that capital and goods flow freely out of poor countries and into rich ones,  people however do not. International borders, especially the fortified first world prevent poor people from escaping the hopeless poverty they face at home and going to the places where their wealth is enjoyed. Ordinary people in the west may not be the primary receivers of all this wealth but it is obvious from the way I used to be able to sit in an office pretending to scan bits of paper in my first job when I left school and do about 2 hours actual work a day and get paid far better than the vast majority of the third world that westerners do get thrown a good bit of the surplus of what is robbed from everyone else (I now work hard, but still).

5. Military action: At the end of the day, despite the fact that neo-colonialism has been an indirect form of empire building and empire maintenance it has not been shy about using the military as source of corporate welfare. Whether its big oil in the Middle East, the arms trade anywhere, mining companies in Africa etc. if the local puppet government can't handle a conflict which could threaten the continued pillaging by western corporations one military or another will be called in to restore, what has come to be known as 'peace', which you can read as 'the silence of the oppressed'.
Landlord Bear - find him on Facebook. 

The third world is not poor, it is being pillaged on a massive scale, this isn't the actions of a corrupt group of rouge corporations who could be named and shamed, this is the fundamental basis of the entire global economy.

If you can tell me how we can do something about this mess without a worldwide revolution I'll be all ears because the people who run this system have proved, time and time again that they will kill to protect it.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Means and ends, internal and external - thoughts

This article done got me thinking about the difference between means which are external to ends and ones which are internal.

http://c4ss.org/content/26616


I would like to suggest that all external means to ends are less efficient and usually less desirable than internal ones and people will go straight to internal ones if they have a free and open choice (obviously not always possible, as in the example in the article of learning a piece of music vs actually hitting the notes in order to play it, you won't get far unless you do both but lots of times there is choice).

My reasoning is simply through 'friction' you loose something by having to exchange what you've done for the actual point, if everything you do is part of the actual point then it is smoother and you don't suffer 'entropy' loss (if you will, and if I'm using that term correctly).

Three thoughts:

One: Explicitly intentionally violent revolution is by definition an external means to the desired anarchist end of a peaceful anarchistic society. Therefore it is less efficient and is therefore probably usually only pursued by people who (probably subconsciously) prefer violence for it's own sake. Starting now by building the new society in the shell of the old is a 'straight to the point' solution. With violence, like it or not, you are doing one thing with the aim of exchanging (broad definition of exchange) for something very different. Its not that I can't see the idea, I can.

Two: Working for a wage in order to be able to exchange that wage for things you actually want/ need (food, shelter etc.) would decrease in popularity in a free society and advances in technology would probably take us in the direction of getting things we want directly, in enjoyable ways. Example: Growing your own food takes longer and eats up more energy than just going to work for a few hours and buying it all from the supermarket. But, say you don't like work, but you love growing food, in that case growing your own is a free hobby and results in free food at the end, win win (free if you are saving seeds/ composting waste etc.) going to work costs you the hours and the effort that you spent doing something you didn't enjoy for it's own sake (even if it is relatively few hours), for the same end result.

Three: Lots of what Christianity says about ends not justifying means could just as easily be framed as; means which are external to ends are not only less efficient but are unacceptable in terms of ethics. Jesus' message that the kingdom of God had already come amongst us was a call to get straight to the point, no waiting around or trying to do bad things and hoping for good results.

This marks the end of my thinking for the morning.