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.
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.