Peace and love – if only it was true

Despite my constant utterances about short or relatively short blogs, today will truly be a short blog although I am aware that that descriptor is at all times relative. Is a short blog a few lines (which then raised the question of what is a Tweet) or a few paragraphs or what? Anyway, here are some thoughts that came out while I have been reading today.

The great writer – Eric Arthur Blair – known better by his pen-name had a healthy suspicion of the way elites became totalitarian more quickly that we would think possible. He also was keenly aware of the way capitalist economies tended to social injustice and that is why he largely supported the idea of democratic socialism as a way of organising society and its productive machinery to advance the needs of all humans.

He died of tuberculosis before his time but still offered much to those who think about these things.

For Eric Blair, totalitarianism was at the time he was writing, the major threat against freedom and it used all manner of techniques to spread its heinous message including domination of the media and the use of experts to justify the program.

He is credited with the following quote:

… in a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act

At the time I came across that quote somewhere (some years ago) I was surprised. I have read most of Orwell’s works over the years and taking into account the power of the quotation I couldn’t recall reading it. Was my memory deceiving me? It turns out that Orwell probably didn’t contribute that gem to our lexicon of quotes – and if anyone can find the text that it appears in you will be doing us a service.

I was reminded of that quote while reading my latest non-fiction novel – Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong – by the Irish journalist David Walsh, who was one of the earlier disbelievers and has done some extraordinary forensic journalism over the years trying to uncover the hidden truth of professional cycling, amidst a phalanx of believers.

The believers in the media, in the scientific institutions, in the racing organisations, in the legal community, in the corporations, and elsewhere subjected those who couldn’t believe the race results they were seeing to untold harassment, legal processes, personal isolation. I recommend the book to those who like cycling (as I do) and those who don’t. Its general appeal is how elites close down dissent and maintain their hegemony via a range of techniques – and aim to maintain a web of deceit to subjugate our well-being while enhancing their fortunes.

I was reminded of the quotation because David Walsh also wrongly attributes it to George Orwell, a small lapse to be sure.

I see parallels to the way the cycling establishment closed down queries about doping in the sport and allowed cheats to reign supreme and the way the broader economic and financial debate is conducted.

Neo-liberalism, which is the dominant economic paradigm now, is a pernicious and totalitarian regime despite its claims to being the exemplar of market-driven freedom. Markets are not free. They are coervice mechanisms where the power is exercised by dollars (the more you have the more you have) and using the instruments of the state to perpetuate strategically powerful “market” positions.

Only the textbook markets are “free” and they avoid questions of distribution and power.

Despite the constant appeal to markets, the neo-liberal approach is to stack them so that the elites win. Governments are pressured to deregulate where it is necessary to achieve this aim and regulate where that suits. Governments handouts are evil if they give succor to the poor but necessary (and preferably non-transparent) where they guarantee profits and wealth for the few.

A Job Guarantee would undermine incentive and erode choice and waste money whereas guaranteeing the executive salaries of the crooked and incompetent banksters (but always under a different guise “financial stability reforms” or something) is greedily accepted, often denied and always given.

On a day like today, where all is meant to be peaceful and loving, I cannot help think of the way that deceit rules and truth misses out.

The national messages from our leaders today is about love and caring and being a great nation. But deep down and not so deep down we know that is pure cant. Here are some examples from a litany of abuse and national disgrace.

So with such riches, how come our governments, who promised in 1970 to provide at least 0.7 per cent of our real GDP in the form of foreign aid (a pitiful amount in the context of what we have and what others haven’t), is still only contributing around half that amount?

And in recent days, we have learned that in the interests of fiscal austerity they are diverting a portion of the foreign aid they do provide to running its prison camps for refugees?

The lie? They don’t have enough money. The Australian government is fully sovereign in its own currency. It is never revenue constrained because it is the monopoly issuer of the currency. But it has bought into neo-liberal economic lie and has built a national identity based on that lie.

We all believe it will run out of money and then we will be punished by higher taxes or inflation (if it spends) or higher interest rates (if it borrows). All lies or half-truths designed to perpetuate the order.

The banks didn’t complain there wasn’t enough money when the government guaranted all their wholesale funding at the peak of the crisis. Corporations and others line up for hand-outs (disguised in all sorts of ways) all the time.

The financial sector didn’t say it was okay to stop issuing bonds in 2001 as the government bond market started to become thin because the federal government had been running increasing surpluses over the previous five years. They were leading the charge for cutting welfare and trimming the government girth – telling us about incentives and dole bludgers etc.

Then when their piece of corporate welfare started to be threatened – the regular issue of bonds which they could use to price the risk of their other asset offerings – they screamed blue murder. We need more debt. The government caved in. Only a few of us (about 2 people at the official enquiry – Warren Mosler and Bill Mitchell) pointed out the lie – that every one was being told that debt was to fund deficits. So with surpluses why issue debt.

Obvious – corporate welfare – for the top-end-of-town.

But still the government was pressured to cut welfare for the other end of town. And to help them achieve that aim – an elaborate media campaign was run by both sides of politics as they took over the government benches. We were told that the poor were lazy, unmotivated, etc. The unemployed could get jobs – they were everywhere – it is just they didn’t want to work because the dole was too high.

Unemployment to vacancy rate at the time = 11. This was dismissed – there are plenty of jobs the firms just don’t notify anyone about them because they know the unemployed won’t turn up.

Okay, so their order books must be overflowing and they are experiencing constant excess demand. Evidence for that proposition was not to be found.

And it that was the case, why wouldn’t competitors enter the market to take all that unsatisfied demand and gain a foothold in the market? No reply. Reality – it was a lie.

The unemployment cannot search for jobs that are not there.

This nasty charade plays out around the world. Society is trained (indoctrinated) to turn against its most disadvantaged.

But then we are so caring and loving! Mass deception.

Tell that this is a caring nation to the hundreds of thousand of unemployed who have been forced to live below the poverty line on their income support payments by a government who has deliberately created the unemployed via its fiscal austerity and who refuses to life the income support despite knowing there are not enough jobs.

That is obvious because their latest forecasts predict that unemployment will rise. But they tell us their priority is “jobs and growth” while they sign budgets that undermine both. But the corporate handouts continue.

The irony is managed by claims that running surpluses is economically responsible and we have live within our means. They have trained (indoctrinated) us to ignore the fact that our most valuable means are our people. Some people, it seems are expendable, because, obviously, they are lazy and unmotivated.

Anyone who challenges that orthodoxy is vilified and disadvantaged in a host of obvious and less obvious ways. The academy has been cowed by the way governments hand out funding and have rejigged management structures to ensure the universities dance to the government’s tune. Very few academics speak out these days.

In economics, it is worse. Those who speak out are called dinosaurs, loonies, eccentrics, iconoclasts and other more or less insulting terms. They are the problem not the disaster they are criticising.

The individual is always the problem these days not the system.

My view is that speaking out is our responsibility as academics and to be cowed is to give up on the basic trust that society (historically) has placed in academics to defend the right. In return I get well-paid and have much more freedom than most.

But the neo-liberal attack has been aimed at reducing those privileges and creating an environment of fear. It is a very bullying environment now. The reality remains though – academics have significant freedom under the law and cannot be easily dismissed. They are still protected and should speak out. Life might not be comfortable if they do but like David Walsh found in his pursuit of Lance Armstrong, there are intrinsic things about life – value and morality.

The sort of stuff our leaders extol at this time of the year despite leading regimes that seek to undermine those things.

On another, but related front, at this time of the year I cannot help thinking of the way the Roman Catholic church has for years destroyed the lives of innocent children and then run them through a litany of nasty legal processes, which represent a denial of natural justice in anyone’s language, to suppress their claims of abuse. Then the leader has the audacity to present messages to us at xmas preaching love, honesty and peace.

And to finish today – with normal transmission resuming maybe tomorrow – I thought this was a beautifully pithy response to the call by the NRA to arm teachers and turn schools into military compounds.

(Source)

I haven’t considered many things including the way we treat indigenous Australians and the Eurozone crisis. I could go on all day but I said it would be short so that is enough for today.

It all adds up to how mean-spirited nations are and how deceit and lies create smokescreens that allow this behaviour to continue to the benefit of the elites.

We need more revolutionaries … quickly.

best wishes
bill

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    30 Responses to Peace and love – if only it was true

    1. Larry Kazdan says:

      Dear Bill Mitchell,

      You are indeed one inspirational, revolutionary and class act! Thank you so much for speaking out so forcefully, regularly and honestly on the issues of the day!

      Larry K.

    2. William Wilson says:

      While I no longer have my copy of 1984 and thus, have not confirmed, I did a quick search and noted the following:

      http://wiki.answers.com/Q/In_which_book_or_essay_does_George_Orwell_say_'In_a_time_of_universal_deceit_telling_the_truth_is_a_revolutionary_act

      Answers.com > Wiki Answers > Categories > Literature & Language > Books and Literature > In which book or essay does George Orwell say ‘In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act’?
      In which book or essay does George Orwell say ‘In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act’?
      Answer:
      1984
      Rate This Answer

    3. Frederico Carvalho says:

      Dear Bill,

      Your courageous words represent a beacon of crystalline truth.
      People like you are desperately needed in our world.

      Best wishes,

      Fred

    4. Andy says:

      Bill
      Thanks for your continuing blogs. They are like a breath of fresh air.
      I agree that it is essential for academics to speak out, like you do. Strength in numbers and all that.
      I also hope the new year brings all post-keynesians closer together. I still think if all you guys got together and struck a deal, something rather amazing might happen.
      Cheers
      Andy

    5. bill says:

      Dear William Wilson (at 2012/12/26 at 0:30)

      You can find the full text of 1984 here – http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks01/0100021.txt

      Which will tell you that the answer provided by wiki.answers.com is wrong. In general, wiki.answers.com does not seem to have a verifying function and allows pure speculation to parade as definitive knowledge.

      The Gutenberg Project, by the way, is an excellent source of text, which of-course can be grepped very quickly.

      Thanks for your effort though.

      best wishes
      bill

    6. Podargus says:

      Whether Orwell was responsible for the quote in question is not all that important.It is certainly something he could/would have said.He was one of the greatest writers in the English language in the 20th century and certainly no coddled dilletante or academic.He knew from personal experience what it was like to be on the dirty end of the economic stick and he put his life on the line to help stand in the way of the fascist march in Spain.
      But Orwell had the same problem then as responsible progressive thinkers do now – how to awaken sufficient numbers of the herd to make a real difference in changing the direction of the herd.
      In Australia the vast majority of the herd are dozing due to the effects of various mind altering drugs,legal and illegal.I would include the mindless consumerism so evident at this time of year as one of those drugs.
      Anyway,it is all counted as growth and the herd knows that growth is good,just like greed.The herd is in for a rude awakening.

    7. Ikonoclast says:

      “Markets are not free. They are coervice mechanisms….” – Bill Mitchell.

      We have the policy of “one person – one vote”. We have the various limitations and balances of democratic power. However, we have few mechanism to limit the broad power of individually owned capital beyond the general restrictions of the criminal law which applies to all in theory though still much less to the rich in practice.

      More specifically, I mean we have laws to limit the accrual of too much political power in one set of hands but we do not have laws limiting the accrual of too much capital (and the power it confers) in one set of hands. We need limits on personal income and wealth.

      A set of basic limits could be set out as follows. If $50,000 is the minimum adult wage then no income from personal effort or employment can be higher than 10 times this amount ($500,000). No personal individual net wealth (including all assets and dwelling) could be higher than 100 times the minimum adult wage ($5,000,000). One can see that this is actually a minimalist position of wealth control and very few would hit the ceiling or have to be divested of wealth in the transition. Taxation above the wealth ceiling would be 100%. Share ownership of businesses and worker cooperative ownership of businesses could still occur under this model.

      This would not limit entrepreneurship, creativeness or invention. The evidence is that most of this occurs in the start-up phases of small to medium-sized businesses. Large Corporations “mine” known technological and business space. They do not innovate they “market-vate”.

    8. Some Guy says:

      Ikonoclast – FDR proposed such a Maximum wage in 1942, roughly similar amounts, accounting for inflation.

    9. Sue Davies says:

      What a great Christmas present .. just the rallying ‘call to arms’ that I didn’t know I needed. Thanks Bill for all your hard work in producing this blog. You are more than just appreciated – you’re essential reading!

    10. larry says:

      Bill, so much that is so true. Here are my Xmas presents to you and your readers. The first is Ian Taplin’s present to us all. Taplin is a Lloyds whistleblower whose blog is Don’t Bank on Lloyd’s Ethics – http://www.dontbankonlloydsethics.com/about/. He worked for Lloyds for many years and then, after the downturn, when Lloyds began cheating their own customers and forcing their staff to carry out these cheating orders, he decided to blow the whistle. In his latest post, he provides a link to youtube where some chaps, one dressed as Santa, others as elves, hand out pieces of coal to various banks that have been ‘naughty’ the past year to the tune of ‘Santa Claus is comin’ to town’ – http://www.dontbankonlloydsethics.com/2012/12/santa-says-happy-xmas-and-move-your-money/.

      My other present is to suggest everyone watches Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story to see the Roosevelt clip at the end, where it shows Roosevelt being filmed and outlining a socialist program for the United States. It was radical for its time, January 1945. Roosevelt was dead the following April. The clip was never broadcast and was considered lost, even by the Roosevelt Library who said they didn’t know of such a film, until an unknown person called him or a member of his research team and told them that such a film existed. A comparison of that short film and the actual historical trajectory taken by the US after 1945 may depress you. I know it depressed me. A small piece of history could have been so different.

      Perhaps a less dark Xmas lies in the future due to the efforts of a small group of people doing their best to get across a more realistic view of the economy, of whom Bill is the most tireless and deepest of them all. I believe they are succeeding if only a little, though not in the corridors of power. In order to get members of the establishment to move from their established position, we do need more revolutionaries, but where they are to come from I do not know.

    11. Aidan says:

      Ikonoclast, have you forgotten Orwell’s main point? One form of totalitarianism doesn’t justify another.

    12. Yuu Kim says:

      here’s the video clip of Roosevelt referred to by “larry” above:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3EZ5bx9AyI4

      it’s an excerpt of his State of the Union Address of January 11, 1944. he died suddenly a year later in spring 1945.

      wonder what would have become of america (and the world) had he stayed alive…

    13. Ikonoclast says:

      Well, the interesting thing Aiden is that when I encountered capitalism as a young person, i.e. when I entered the workforce, I experienced capitalism itself as an insidious form of totalitarianism. Inititally, I had no political economy education so I did not think in categories like “capitalism”, owner and worker etc. I was naive in the political, social and econonomic senses. However, it rapidly became apparent to me, in the kinds of work I was being given and in the power my bosses (and their bosses) had over me that I was in an exploited, subservient position. The money system and the way it was wielded was soon clearly apparent to me as a system of control which benefitted some and controlled most of the others including me.

      I began to look around the society I found myself in as a young adult worker. This was the 1970s and early 1980s in Australia. I saw that the freedoms of life and action that people had or did not have (apart from some imperfectly guaranteed basic freedeoms) depended entirely on how much money they had. I noticed in turn that the amount of money they had existed in inverse proportion to how hot, hard and dirty the work was that they did. (I started my working life as a gravel pit and quarry labourer. My wages as a teenager and young adult were always the bare minimum the employer could pay by law.) Thus I noticed that as peoples’ work got easier (at least physically) and cleaner they were paid more.

      I noticed that owners of businesses did least of all. They had labourers and machinery drivers in the pits. They had foremen in the demountable huts and they had office workers in the air-conditioned offices. Overweight owners tended to drive up in fancy (for the time) Holden Broughams, give a few orders and disappear again. So when I quit labouring and went to Uni on TEAS (a decent socialist idea from Whitlam I think) and read Das Kapital in my spare time (it was not on my course list), Marx made a lot more sense to me than anything else I had read.

    14. Robert says:

      Modern forms of ‘democracy’ have been carefully designed to allow only one form of tyranny – that of the elite. Alternatives to this model have been short-lived.

    15. Ikonoclast says:

      Robert, I certainly agree with you in terms of the US system. The US constitution is designed to prevent mass democratic rule (which the privileged in all their elitist arrogance term “mob rule”) and to entrench plutocratic / oligarchic rule. US “democracy” is a sham. In fact, the more honest of conservative and neoconservative commentators in the US overtly and proudly proclaim that the US is not a democracy but a “republic”. By “republic” they mean a system where hereditary monarchy is abolished and replaced by a small self-selected, self-protected plutocratic oligarchy using quasi-democratic elections as a “modesty skirt” for otherwise naked manipulation, exploitation and inequality. Naturally, plutocratic power is fully hereditary.

      The Australian constitution and system is somewhat better but eventually has become fully suborned and bought off by the plutocrats (particularly mining magnates).

      I just wonder what will happen when climate change, biosphere damage and resource depletion get so bad that the imminent catastrophic collapse is undeniable. The population is then going to be very hard to control (as in Syria as a current example). Once Australian families realise they can’t have a big automobile (or two or three) and fill them petrol regularly, they can’t have a big house and fill it with consumer goods and they can’t go to the supermarket and expect the shelves to be fully stocked and replenished on a daily basis… then the proverbial you know what is going to hit the fan.

      At that point, people will begin to realise en masse that the system sold to them was and is one big unsustainable lie. The course of events after that will be highly volatile and largely unpredictable… but they won’t be pretty.

    16. Aidan says:

      Ikonoclast, did Animal Farm not make much sense to you? Or did you just not read it?

      Capitalism certainly can be totalitarian, but it doesn’t have to be. And if (hypothetically) it did have to be, that would not justify replacing it with a totalitarian alternative.

    17. Tom says:

      @Aiden

      “Capitalism certainly can be totalitarian, but it doesn’t have to be. And if (hypothetically) it did have to be, that would not justify replacing it with a totalitarian alternative.”

      Democratic socialism have to be a totalitarian because?

    18. Ikonoclast says:

      Yes, I have read Animal Farm. Yes, I understood it. No, I don’t think George Orwell’s (Eric Arthur Blair’s) political economy analysis (including his anlysis of totalitarianism) is flawless. Perceptive yes, flawless no.

      Unmitigated capitalism is quintessentially totalitarian. People often conflate both democracy and scientific-technological progress into capitalism thinking that it is capitalism that is responsible for these kinds of progress. This is demonstrably false. The democratic and scientific revolutions both began before the advent of capitalism. Capitalism hijacked and co-opted one (scientific-technological progress) for its own purposes and was only partially and temporarily mitigated and humanised by the other (democracy).

      Unfettered or laissez faire capitalism is inimical to both democracy and science. We see the attacks on climate science today because capitalism is committed to a Victorian materialist, reductionist, mechanistic and instrumentalist view of science along with a committment to plunder the biosphere without regard for its long term viability.

      The current vision of corporate neoconservative capitalism is entirely totalitarian. That is why US corporations and the State Capitalist party of China (misnamed the Communist Party) cooperate so well in their totalitarian exploitation of Chinese workers.

    19. Aidan says:

      @Tom

      I never claimed democratic socialism had to be totalitarian. But I stand by my claim that Ikonoclast’s proposal to limit incomes and wealth is totalitarian. It would place unjustified limits on people’s freedom, and would also be a bureaucratic nightmare! The only people who would benefit are accountants, who would becomes very rich devising and implementing ways of dodging the rules.

    20. Aidan says:

      There you go again, Ikonoclast, waffling on about unfettered capitalism as if that were the only form of capitalism, and as if any alternative had to be authoritarian. It reminds me a bit of Romania before the fall of communism – most of the stuff on TV was state propaganda, but they also showed Dallas so that people could see how bad capitalism was. So they watched Dallas and decided it was preferable to what they had.

    21. Tom says:

      @Aidan

      Progressive taxation, company tax, land tax etc. can be argued as instruments of income and wealth limit, only difference being that these instruments do not have a physical limit on income or wealth.

      To take US as an example, it had a top marginal tax rate of 94% from 1945-1963 which then dropped to 91%, this does have quite a significant effect on limiting income.

    22. larry says:

      @Yuu Kim

      Many thanks for the youtube link.

    23. ParadigmShift says:

      “The individual is always the problem these days not the system.”

      And we have a ready supply of pharmaceuticals for those who fail to “adapt”…

    24. Aidan says:

      @Tom

      Whether they can be argued as instruments of wealth limit is irrelevant. What you claim is the only difference is a crucial difference as far as people’s rights are concerned. And I dispute your claim, as the policy objective of high marginal tax rates was to maximize government revenue (although it’s generally regarded as an unsuccessful tactic).

    25. Robert says:

      The vote is 99 to 1. Aiden’s objection is overruled. FDR’s proposal was for a 100% rate above a cutoff limit, but Republicans were successful in obtaining a compromise. Democracy at its finest.

    26. Tom says:

      Indeed the only reason why the government used such high tax rate “might” of been just wanted to raise revenue. But what you have argued as the crucial difference is not really that crucial if you come to think about it, if you have a top marginal tax rate so high, it is very difficult to earn X times more than the average income which only meant as a different form of income and wealth limiting measure. Whether if these measures are effective or not depending on which economic indicator and theory you trust and what goal was the government trying to achieve when these measures was in place.

      The reason why I point this out is that if you believe limiting income and wealth are indeed totalitarian than you would have to argue that the golden era of capitalism are managemented by a bunch of totalitarians including the USA.

    27. Yuu Kim says:

      @ larry
      it is I who should thank you. i’m an american and i was totally unaware of that speech. surprise, surprise!!

      FDR was a whole lot more radical than i had ever imagined. i’m thinking to do a little research on all the US presidents who died in office to see what their policies were. why? cuz it seems like, as the old saying goes, only the nice guys died young!

      cheers!

    28. Aidan says:

      @Robert

      You’re the worst counter I’ve ever seen – no vote has even occurred and you declare it to be 99 to 1 against me!
      Are there even a hundred people reading this?
      And you’ve misspelled my name.

      Anyway, I didnt come here to win a popularity contest. Regular readers here know that what the majority understand to be true is often based on a false assumption. But I can very confidently tell you that the majority of people don’t want the government to cap income or wealth.

    29. Aidan says:

      @Tom

      Yes it is that crucial. And it may sound small to you, but the difference between policies that have a byproduct of making something difficult and deliberately making it impossible is enormous.

    30. Robert says:

      @Aidan

      What you describe as \’totalitarian\’ was implemented in the United States by democratic means, and could be again. Most Americans of that era did not have a problem with this, and neither do I. No doubt those who were affected by an income cap were upset – but what could they do, they were a minority.
      Nowadays, the unemployed find themselves in a similar position. They are a minority, and do not have political representation, despite what Mitt Romney claimed. Unlike FDR, Obama is not facing any \’pressure from below\’. The union movement is dead, and alternatives to capitalism are dead and forgotten.

      A cap of of 500,000 dollars per year is totalitarian? Only on Wall Street.

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