Monday, March 14, 2016

Chris Hedges. The Glaring Global Contagion of Neoliberalism.

According to Chris Hedges, the scourge of neoliberalism is transforming even the United States into a political/economic apparatus increasingly akin to Mexico. The symptoms, each in varying degrees, can be recognized in most developed and developing economies today. Take a read and see how many seem familiar.

The neoliberal ideology that is the engine of corporate capitalism spews its poison around the globe. Constitutions are rewritten by judicial fiat in a mockery of democracy. Laws and regulations that impede corporate exploitation are abolished. Corporations orchestrate legally sanctioned tax boycotts. Free-trade deals destroy small farmers and businesses along with labor unions and government agencies designed to protect the public from contaminated air, water and food and from usurious creditors and lenders. The press is transformed into an echo chamber for the corporate elites. Wages stagnate or decline. Unemployment and underemployment soar. Social services are curtailed or abolished in the name of austerity. The political system becomes a charade. Dissent is criminalized. The ecocide by the fossil fuel industry accelerates. State enterprises and utilities are sold to corporations. The educational system mutates into vocational training. Culture and the arts are replaced by sexual commodification, banal entertainment and graphic depictions of violence. Infrastructures crumble.

The working poor—sacrificed on the altar of corporate profit and suffering job losses, bankruptcies, foreclosures, harassment and arrest—watch helplessly as their dreams for themselves and their children evaporate. Some are forced into an underground economy dominated by drugs, crime and human trafficking. Some turn to opiates to blunt the despair. (Heroin use in the United States has doubled since 2007.) Suicides mount. (There are more than 40,000 a year in the U.S.) Hunger spreads. (Some 48.1 million Americans, including 15.3 million children, live in food-insecure households.) The state, to prevent unrest, militarizes the police agencies and empowers them to use lethal force against unarmed civilians. It fills the prisons.

The corporate looting is impervious to regulation or reform. It will continue until there is nothing left to exploit or is halted by popular revolt. It is creating frustrated and enraged populations that are being seduced in the United States, Europe and elsewhere by demagogues and protofascists. “Fascism, like socialism,” the economist Karl Polanyi wrote, “was rooted in a market society that refused to function.” Left unchecked, the present system will usher in a dystopia ruled by criminal power structures, including Wall Street, and inflict tremendous suffering and poverty on societies rent apart by global warming as well as internecine and nihilistic violence. Mexico is not an anomaly. Mexico is the future.
This Canadian likes to believe that we're immunized against this sort of thing by our constitution, our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and a courageous Supreme Court. That may be dangerously wishful thinking.


Hugh said...

The trouble with TPP summarized here:

Danneau said...

This is eerily similar to some thoughts I had as Gordon Campbell began the first wave of his assault on ordinary folk in this province back in 2001-02: generally, the big neolib machine had plundered the crap out of the rest of the world and needed to feed itself by eating its constituency, kinda like when some rural folks have burned all the trees and commence to burning the furniture. We are such suckers, I recall think right after I addressed a gathering of colleagues who just didn't want to hear it because, well, it can't be all that bad, can it? Besides, I'm watching Dancing With The Stars and it's a lot funner. Gack!

The Mound of Sound said...

Hi, Hugh. Thanks for the link.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Danneau Yes, sometimes it does feel like just that.

Unknown said...

How, Mound can the public fight against the source of what is destroying democracy and freedom when they don't even know its name, let alone its meaning, Neoliberalism?

The Mound of Sound said...

Pamela, Hedges has addressed your point in his remarks about America's current, pre-revolutionary state. He comes awfully close to the point of outright sedition.

Hedges argues, quite reasonably in my opinion, that neoliberalism as an economic model - free market fundamentalism - has become so deeply insinuated into the political structure that nothing short of revolt can expunge it. And there is the hidden danger.

The fuel for revolt is in the public discontent over their impoverishment, the loss of political and economic influence, and the loss of opportunity and hope. History shows that a people in this condition (a 'critical mass' at least) is all that's needed. The masses reach a certain point of unrest and they're easy pickings for the first charismatic who comes along with hollow promises of a better future.

Have you seen one of those lately? It's a pretty apt description of the Great Orange Man.

I don't think Trump will actually lead a revolution. That's too much work and lacking the instant gratification that drives him. However, in his wake, Trump will leave a nucleus or cadre of the discontent who could be harnessed to a more focused successor.

At the end of the day Trump isn't interested in overthrowing the government. He has too much to lose. Revolution, if it comes, is more likely - not to the point of certainty but likely - to follow the template set out by Crane Brinton in his seminal work, "The Anatomy of Revolution." I'll post that in my following comment.

The Mound of Sound said...

Phase One—Preliminary Stage Symptoms (The Old Order)
1. Economically weak – the government has deficits and must tax
2. Politically weak – the government is ineffective and cannot enforce policy; inept ruler
3. Intellectuals desert – reformers speak out against the government
4. Class Antagonism – there is a conflict between the old regime and new forces

Phase Two—First Stage Symptoms (Moderate Regime)
1. Financial breakdown
2. Symbolic actions/Dramatic events – rallying point against the old regime; government protests increase
3. Role of force – the government cannot repress the rebellion
4. Dual Sovereignty – there is a better organized and obeyed government
5. Moderates Attain Power – e.g., make a new constitution; fight a war

Phase Three—Crisis Stage Symptoms (Radical Regime)
1. Radicals Take Control (coup d’etat) – small number of devoted, disciplined radicals govern
2. War (civil and foreign)
3. Centralization of Power in a Revolutionary Council Dominated by a Strong Man
4. Terror and Virtue – forced conformity or punishment; gospel of revolution

Phase Four—Recovery Stage Symptoms (Thermidorian Reaction)
1. Slow, Uneven Return to Quieter Times – first convalescence from the fever of revolution
2. Rule by a Tyrant
3. Radicals Repressed; moderates gain amnesty
4. Aggressive Nationalism

Brinton was heavily influenced by both the French and Russian revolutions and derived his checklist (above) from his analysis of them.

Hedges' concerns lie in the post-revolutionary struggle between the moderates who supplant the old order and the radicals who then show up to force the moderates out and take over - the Menshevik/Bolshevik sort of thing. He wants radical reform - a new political and economic order - but he seeks it through constitutional means to deny the opportunity for a follow-on revolt of the sort experienced in France and Russia.