Saturday, December 26, 2015
Neoliberal Austerity and the Capitalist State Rant
There are a number of stories that capitalism tells itself which assume the form of ideology. A current one is that we have entered a new (neo) era of liberal political-economy. This is supposedly a resurgence of market fundamentalism taking its theoretical cues from von Hayek and the Austrians and Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman etc, as a backlash or counter-force to the preceding era of strong labor and the welfare state. This makes a good story and there is a whole cultural apparatus built up to reinforce it, the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times and textbook- writing economics professors (Mankiw)and then lower orders of popular media(Fox News, NPR) and pundits and think tanks and politicians. All of which filters down to the average Jane/Joe as a few key catch phrases like "get government off my back" or "market driven innovation". The other thoroughly normalized meme is that we live in a time of "austerity". That due to the reckless accumulation of debt, both public and private, it is necessary for everyone to tighten their belts and be responsible and live within our means. In other words,relinquishing frills like public services and social provision, all the things the government has (mis)managed with its extravagance and waste and nanny-state coddling (true and false, war and Pell Grants). But then, if you look into something like subsidies for the fossil fuel energy industries, you see how totally absurd this narrative is. Take something specific like the coal industry and this whole push to find technologies to capture and sequester CO2 from power plant smokestacks. All the climate modelling being used to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius has an input of CO2 capture (CCS)built into them, a technology which doesn't exist but which our "oh-so-austere" governments are pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into. Yes, the evil public sector, the (capitalist) State, the government which Ronald Reagan told us never to trust( true and false), is miraculously finding billions for research into "clean coal". The money they never seem to find if you are looking for housing or tuition or healthcare or food for poor people. Or investing in renewable energy. Renewable energy, we are told, will become available "when the market" makes the price competitive. Right. My point is, this whole con is precisely where tragedy becomes farce. There is no "market fundamentalism" in reality, no austerity when you pull back the curtain. It is just a giant mafia, like Mexico and drug cartels. Only on a global scale. And with an awesome PR department. Ted Cruz and John Tester pass the exact same spending bills for Big Ag and clean coal and more fracking. They just have to use different lies to sell it to their constituents. Whew.