How to create a divided society

I am travelling a lot today and using my spare time to catch up on things. I have two major end-of-February deadlines impending for publishers – my book with Thomas Fazi, which will be published by Pluto Press and launched in London in late September (more details soon); and our new Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) textbook (with Randy Wray and Martin Watts) which will be published by Macmillan later in 2017. Both manuscripts have to be delivered by the end of this month. So busy busy. Today’s blog is thus a little different and considerably shorter than usual. It loses nothing in its brevity. The main text is from a friend of mine (who wishes for professional reasons to remain anonymous) but succinctly captures the anger and angst that many progressive thinkers are feeling about how things are turning out. The culmination of several decades of neo-liberalism has been an eroding of material well-being for workers, a massive financial then economic crisis, which the world is still enduring, and, then Donald Trump as President of the United States. And the progressive political voices have been largely complicit in all of this. Sure enough, they sprout about child care, gay rights, inequality, and all the rest of it, but at the core, they have embraced the neo-liberal economic lies and gone along with or even initiated and overseen fiscal austerity, privatisation, welfare cuts, deregulation – it is just, we are told, they do all that in a more moderate and fairer manner. They don’t stop for a second to think that they also have become captive to capital. Something big has to happen to stop all this. History tells us that it will. And the longer the progressive political voices remain complicit, the probability that that ‘something’ will be violent, increases.

How to create a divided society

Privilege private education over public education.

Make sure there are fewer jobs than there are job seekers – blame the job seekers for being unemployed.

Saddle tertiary students with massive debts and limited employment opportunities.

De-regulate banking so that the people who can least afford it have access to easy credit – they haven’t got stable employment and need to get ahead somehow.

Privatise public assets like airlines, rail systems, electricity, hospitals – sell them to your political donors.

Dilute the power of independent entities that monitor conduct of individuals in high office – accountability stifles creativity.

Stack the public broadcaster with industry mates – go on cooking shows because you can get away with anything if voters have seen you making pasta.

Destroy job security for a large proportion of the working population – convince them they can succeed if they are more entrepreneurial.

Undermine working conditions and awards – direct productivity gains to capital and limit real wage growth.

Make sure unskilled labour is linked to jobs that destroy the environment – keep things sweet for industry status quo and ensure there is always an army of blue collar workers ready to fight against a transition to alternative industries.

Disrupt disrupt disrupt – convince a gullible public that the robots are coming and that there is very little that they or their elected representatives can do to develop alternative labour markets.

Be a serious investigative journalist or an engineer or a consultant or a public sector manager or a politician – but don’t challenge neoliberal economic rhetoric.

Talk about deficit reduction and ‘budget repair’ without understanding how vacuous this is.

Be surprised at the outcome.

Repeat.

The Anonymous Blogger – February 7, 2017

A little music to follow

After that, I turned to music, which is a good way to feel things out without being too intellectual about it.

This is Rage Against the Machine – letting us have it full frontal.

The song – Take the Power Back (American Schools are Failing) – is off the 1992 – Rage Against the Machine – album released by Epic.

This is a hard buzz-sort-of-guitar album and this is what we should do. It matches the theme of today’s blog.

So sing along and plot some stuff:

Bring that shit in
Ugh
Yeah, the movement’s in motion with mass militant poetry
Now check this out … ugh.

In the right light, study becomes insight
But the system that dissed us, teaches us to read and write
So-called facts are fraud
They want us to allege and pledge and bow down to their god
Lost the culture, the culture lost
Spun our minds and through time, ignorance has taken over
Yo, we gotta take the power back
Bam! Here’s the plan
Mother-Fuck Uncle Sam, step back I know who I am
Raise up your ear, I’ll drop the style and clear
It’s the beats and the lyrics they fear!
The rage is relentless
We need a movement with a quickness
You are the witness of change and to counteract…
We gotta take the power back

We gotta take the power back
C’mon C’mon
We gotta take the power back

The present curriculum, I put my fist in ’em
Eurocentric, every last one of ’em
See right through the red, white, and blue disguise
With lecture I puncture the structure of lies
Installed in our minds and attempting to hold us back
We’ve got to take it back
Cause holes in our spirit causing tears and fears
One-sided stories for years and years and years
I’m inferior
Who’s inferior
Yeah we need to check the interior
Of the system that cares about only one culture
And that, is why we gotta take the power back

We gotta take the power back
C’mon C’mon
We gotta take the power back

Ah yo check, we’re gonna have to break it, break it, break it down…
Awwww … Shit

And like this … aah
C’mon … Yeah … Bring it back the other way … Ugh

The teacher stands in front of the class
But the lesson plan he can’t recall
The student’s eyes don’t perceive the lies
Bouncing off every fucking wall
His composure is well kept
I guess he fears playing the fool
The complacent students sit
And listen to some of that bullshit that he learned in school
Europe ain’t my rope to swing on
Can’t learn a thing from it, yet we hang from it
Gotta get it, gotta get it together then
Like the motherfucking Weathermen
To expose and close the doors on those who try
To strangle and mangle the truth
Cause the circle of hatred continues unless we react

We gotta take the power back
We gotta take the power back
C’mon C’mon
We gotta take the power back

And after all that, and just so I don’t start smashing stuff up all around me, I thought we could finish with a classic song from that fabulous vocal quartet – The Paragons – from Kingston, Jamaica.

This song – Only a Smile – was on their 1967 studio album On the Beach, released on the Treasure Island label.

They are now defunct given that two core members Garth ‘Tyrone’ Evans and John Holt died in 2000 and 2014, respectively. Very sad.

Here is a story about them in the Jamaica Observer (November 10, 2014) – Time heals all (Paragons) wounds.

As it said: “The Paragons … are giants of the rocksteady era”.

They were backed in the studio by Tommy McCook and The Supersonics (one of the best studio bands in Jamaica).

The message of the song reflects the era (and is pretty rough) but the recurring brass riff (from Tommy and The Supersonics) is one of those magic things in music.

I am calm again.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2017 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

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    22 Responses to How to create a divided society

    1. Tom says:

      Dr. Mitchell,

      Your friend keeps it real. I think he is Dr. William Black. ^^

      Most fake progressives/leftist here in the US would pussyfoot around. They lose people even more by being deceitful and superficial in their assessment of our current situation such that only the gullible (I sincerely hope they wake up soon) would follow them. Then, I would say there are these real progressives who don’t buy the fake progressives, but these real progressives don’t really have an idea how to turn this country around and still peddle the idea that we need to live within our means by balancing the budget (of course, they really mean living under our means because we still have too many people unemployed right now). To be fair, they are also sincerely against corporate greed and certainly many of them have done more about taking money of politics than me. Still, we have neo-classical cultist economists ready to dislodge any attempt at making a better society. Of course, conservatives are complete con-artists that I don’t even consider them relevant, although their constituents’ concerns about the economy and jobs must be addressed.

      I think knowing MMT is a very important step to take down the neoliberal groupthink machine. 14 trillion is a very big number and big numbers are scary! We need MMT to tell people that debt is not high enough because we have to implement JG! The public debt is non-gov savings to the penny, so its fine! Many of us are still doing real work every day, but we still need to get more people working!
      As an American who has lived here for 12 years, I had been convinced that having any government regulation/involvement could kill businesses. However, we (at least I hadn’t, but I don’t think anybody else has done that enough) don’t ask the questions: what regulation? On what industry? How is it implemented? Why do we need the regulation? Has the regulation been done before in other nations? Why do you think one will be successful? A conservative/neoliberal politician can go up to the podium and say that the government has to be reduced in size under all circumstances, and nobody would question it. Quite often, I don’t find myself questioning it because it seems to be how it should be (or maybe I just expect them to be full of it). There is no alternative they keep signaling to us.

      Just a day or two ago, we had a debate between Ted Cruz (con-artist conservative that has no business in government) and Senator Sanders in the USA. I didn’t watch any of it, but I have read some headlines. Bernie was my hero but I think he has some questionable decisions like supporting the democratic neoliberal establishment. Hmm… I guess you can’t alienate everyone politically. (He did hire Dr. Kelton though, so I guess he deserves a cookie for that.) When your friend says “Stack the public broadcaster with industry mates.” I think about how the media lets politicians get away with BS answers or just not ask the important questions. Of course, I shouldn’t be surprised because they know how to scratch each other’s backs. Also, neoliberalism has completely dominated media discourse.

      Now that I have learned a little bit of MMT and history, I have thought to myself: what I wouldn’t give to ask Ted Cruz a question about the New Deal.
      I would have asked him was it right for the government to step in to employ people. I would have asked him if the New Deal a failure. I would have asked him on how the United States got out of the Great Depression. I would have asked him if he thought the free market was what made the USA wealthy in the nation’s early history. All the questions above DO have correct answers from what I have gathered, and some of them are not what I perceive many Americans have been believing. Anyway, I would have loved to see his answers to those questions and expose himself as a revisionist ideologue. Come to think of it, I think we need to ask the “left-wing” politicians here the same questions as well.

      As a bigger point: Why aren’t politicians given essay questions. How was the Vietnam War started? What was the reason United States entered the War? What was gained from the Vietnam War? What were the Vietnamese people’s opinion about their own future? Why did they want independence from France? Had the French government given the Vietnamese people a voice in their own future? What lesson should Americans learn from the Vietnam War? Why do you think MLK called US the greatest purveyor of violence?

      Sigh… though, at the end of the day, they are just questions to expose ignorance, but don’t really solve anything for people… it’d be fun to watch but entertainment doesn’t really solve anything…

    2. James Schipper says:

      Dear Bill

      Trump is in the White House, not Bernie Sanders. Both candidates appealed to Americans who are dissatisfied with the way in which things are going. Sanders attacked the rich minority, and Trump attacked mainly foreigners and minorities. There is reason to believe that parties that blame minorities and foreigners will be the main beneficiaries of the broad dissatisfaction that results from neoliberal polcies. The left in Western countries can stop the rise of the extreme right only if it ends its foolish, often enthusiastic support for mass immigration, which is never good for the masses. As long as the left remains committed to its essentially anti-national mindset and thinks that diversity is a holy grail, it will not replace neoliberalism.

      Regards. James

    3. David Kelley says:

      Who is the person that we all owe the trillions of dollars to?

    4. bill says:

      Dear Tom (at 2017/02/09 at 1:!6 pm)

      Please note my anonymous blogger friend is not Dr William Black.

      best wishes
      bill

    5. bill says:

      Dear David Kelley (at 2017/02/09 at 8:22 pm)

      You mean who are the people and institutions that have enjoyed the trillion dollars in increased net wealth?

      best wishes
      bill

    6. Nigel Hargreaves says:

      Very much looking forward to the London book launch. I hope there will be an open invitation to all MMTers.

    7. Simon Cohen says:

      ‘go on cooking shows because you can get away with anything if voters have seen you making pasta.’

      How true! here in the UK we have a bloke, Ed Balls, the ex Labour, neo-liberal, shadow chancellor who was thankfully voted out in 2015. Recently appeared on a program called ‘The Great british bake Off’ which has a mass following here in the usual celebrity TV manner. He exhibited the usual neo-liberal zeal to beat everyone else and be the best -shame he didn’t do that with his knowledge of economics!

    8. Willy says:

      Nice touch, 1992. Slick Willy, and the promise of the new dems, eh? And the machine pacified the rage, sigh. Thanks for the succinct post, and thanks for your writings!

    9. Simon Cohen says:

      Tom-if you think American Politicians are ignorant – a money reform group (not MMT based) carried out a survey of Members of Parliament knowledge of the monetary system and showed that 90 percent had no real knowledge of how it worked! With the ten percent that did, only vaguely and in conventional accounting terms.

    10. Andrew Anderson says:

      And the progressive political voices have been largely complicit in all of this.

      It was Progressives who gave us government insurance of private liabilities even privately created liabilities (“loans create deposits”) – an obvious source of unjust inequality since the rich are the most so-called worthy of what is then the PUBLIC’S CREDIT but for private gain.

      But being a Progressive apparently means never admitting they’ve been wrong since their solution is ALWAYS more power in Progressive hands – not repentance when their errors become evident.

    11. larry says:

      Simon, possibly Balls’ best TV turn was being on Strictly. While he was awful, the public took a rather long time getting rid of him. He didn’t seem to be so neoliberal on this occasion.

    12. Neil Wilson says:

      Take the points above, reverse them and you have a Modern Manifesto.

    13. Raj says:

      Hello Professor,

      Seems like the fiscal deficit virus has infected Indian politicians and policy makers/commentators as well! One can read familar phrases such as ‘fiscal prudence’, ‘housekeeping’ etc. – https://ajayshahblog.blogspot.in/2017/02/notes-on-union-budget-2017-18.html

    14. sean says:

      bill:
      The place where I get lost with this is, what concrete steps should I be taking to make the world a better place? And I ask this question seriously—I guess rendering people mystified in the face of all this is part of how the system works. Should I get involved in party politics (I’m an American), should I try to attach myself to better research agenda (I have a PhD), are nonprofits the right way?

    15. Tom says:

      “The left in Western countries can stop the rise of the extreme right only if it ends its foolish, often enthusiastic support for mass immigration, which is never good for the masses. As long as the left remains committed to its essentially anti-national mindset and thinks that diversity is a holy grail, it will not replace neoliberalism. ”

      I am in the US. I don’t know about the left really supporting mass immigration (or even enthusiastically). That is a bold claim. I think they just recognize that you can’t kick out people and break apart families. I don’t think they are consciously anti-national either. I will agree with you that many leftists do think somehow diversity trumps everything–so they alienate the right constituents whose concerns must be addressed. It’s almost like free marketeers believing free market will somehow magically lead to prosperity. The left does not address how immigration drives down wages either—because diversity = better everything no discussion needed. A major factor for democrat neoliberal politicians to do things is to give the veneer of civility. They won’t address people’s concerns about the economy.

      I think a big part of the problem is that the left and the right are not really talking to each other. When was the last time since we had actual people instead of talking heads on TV talking to each other about each other’s concerns about the future of the nation and discuss solutions put forth by experts or regular people. Despite all the advances in technology and availability of public air waves, all you get are presentations. Just sit there and listen! Oh right, and you are not supposed to discuss politics anywhere because no politics, so people don’t discuss things and don’t know what is going on. Then Trump comes and lob off your arm, you make a remark about that at the playground with another parent and that’s the extent of political discussions. Pathetic.

      Extreme rights keep getting elected because of many factors right? It certainly isn’t just economical. You don’t hear a lot of stories about massive state cruelty (like in Flint for example) towards the vulnerable on the left here, at least not as many as conservative states. Many people here are brainwashed by the right. The left is brainwashed by neo-liberalism and they shouldn’t criticize it because any attempt of doing that is heresy and guess what, hardly anyone is thinking outside the box. The right in the US is very repulsive so efforts are spent fighting them when they exist instead of thinking outside the box.
      For me, the solution is to help Mexico develop its own stuff so their citizens don’t leave their own nation to a new place because they can’t live in their own. Refugees from drug cartels in central/south America should be accepted period end of discussion. America can do a lot more to help these countries develop, but first they need to stop implementing free market or neoliberalism on them. They also need to end the drug war that only serves to strengthen cartels. I’m sure there are other things US could do.

    16. Tom says:

      Sean,

      Maybe the solution is to get elected yourself?

    17. Gordon Cope says:

      I am angry each and every day, it is either may exceptional rationality or my overwhelming fear that stops me from taking a revolutionary path. As a social worker with Social Security for 10 years I watched in dismay as the organisation that was set up as a social safety net marched inexorably to the right under governments of both stripes. I watched as my professional reasoned analysis was progressively replaced by reductionist check lists. I railed against the new breed of head kicker managers who behaved like automatons to rid the organisation of compassion while the policy of ensuring client entitlements remained as its public face.
      And then the creation of Centrelink, one step removed from being a public service department and based on a business model that encouraged all kinds of management bullying. I asked at the time ‘what other business gives away 80 billion dollars a year and why did clients suddenly become customers when in this model, the customer was never right”.
      Since my departure I do not need to say, things have got worse, a lot worse.
      Even my conservative friends are saying, what can we do, occupy the power stations? Is the government completely demented? Why do we torture refugees? And do on.
      And I say why do we continue to punish the most vulnerable? Do we really think that making their lives intolerable will magically turn them into innovative entrepreneurs?
      Anger will boil over. I don’t know when.
      As BM says … That’s enough for today.

    18. Peter Healy says:

      Ahh the soothing tones of RATM …. very appropriate Prof Bill …

      Thanks for this Blog it is invaluable and helps keep the very small amount of Sanity I have left intact ….

      For me MMT is the Economic Missing Link in the Left/Progressive/Alternate Political Argument against the Neo Liberal Virus …..

      I see the question being asked about what to do about the Neo Liberal Virus ….

      I don’t know if some of the things I do make any difference, but as I has said before, I keep Posting MMT info onto the Australian Labor Party Facebook Page and also onto MP’s Personal FB Pages (including The Greens) pointing to the fact that Playing the Liberals on their own Neo Liberal Terms always leaves Labor or the Greens on the Defensive ….. or words to that effect (If you are in the USA do this to the Democrats) ……

      I regularly use the statement that Budget Repair/Deficit Reduction etc is Wedge Politics masquerading as “Economic” Policy …..

      I send the Members links to MMT info I find, with this Blog as one reference …. and I regularly Post this MMT YouTube Gem I found by Prof Randy Wray (Prof Bill’s co Author), it is exert from a larger MMT Presentation from a few years ago……

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i35uBVeNp6c

      For a bit of a Laugh, very occasionally I go onto the Liberal Party FB Pages and question where they get their Economic Information from. and thanks to a bit of inspiration from the Emperor of Climate Empiricism, the one and only Malcolm Roberts, I now ask Scott Morrison to show me the Empirical Evidence that his Economic Policies are based on ….. once I posted some stuff questioning “the Government is like a Household” garbage, and got an interesting response back from a Liberal Member who thanked me for the Post as they were also very frustrated with the Party making willfully wrong statements like that Household analogy and the danger it posed to the Economy ….

      Be creative in what you do, and find as many ways as you can to Keep Repeating the MMT Message ….

      Keep Fighting the Good Fight

      Pete

    19. Sandra Bernhard says:

      You didn’t mention the biggest tenets of neoliberal globalization — open borders and the free flow of labor (migrants, refugees, TFW, illegals).
      For businesses to hire (and fire) who they want, when they want, for whatever price they want, from wherever they want. If you want to hire all Chinese for your Canadian mine and pay them below market rates, so be it.
      This is the mantra CEOs go to bed dreaming about, pleasuring themselves while moaning it outloud.

    20. Gogs says:

      How to mend a divided society

      Privilege private education over public education. ANSWER: I don’t know any ordinary citizen in the UK who supports that concept.

      Make sure there are fewer jobs than there are job seekers – blame the job seekers for being unemployed. ANSWER: BLAME? It’s a bit more complicated than that. Ordinary citizens acknowledge there will be periods of industrial/employment upheaval, some of which cannot be predicted or remedied easily.

      Saddle tertiary students with massive debts and limited employment opportunities. ANSWER: Educational requirements for the coming era are proving difficult to identify; let’s hear a bit more about that.

      De-regulate banking so that the people who can least afford it have access to easy credit – they haven’t got stable employment and need to get ahead somehow. ANSWER: This problem has less to do with banking than the headlong pursuit of society since WW2 to enjoy the latest version of pleasure and fulfillment, and have a fair share of GDP to acquire them. And who can blame them.

      Privatise public assets like airlines, rail systems, electricity, hospitals – sell them to your political donors. ANSWER: There is no reason to privatise public assets; except historically they have proven inefficient and reluctant to adapt if it costs jobs in a heavily unionised environment.

      Dilute the power of independent entities that monitor conduct of individuals in high office – accountability stifles creativity. ANSWER: Creativity for the sake of it, or for a progressive purpose? Who will differentiate between the two if scarce resources are involved?

      Stack the public broadcaster with industry mates – go on cooking shows because you can get away with anything if voters have seen you making pasta. ANSWER: Someone possessed of this dilemma watches too much TV and assumes that public opinion is naively formed by this process.

      Destroy job security for a large proportion of the working population – convince them they can succeed if they are more entrepreneurial. ANSWER: Job security has been destroyed by industrial changes and its geographical bias – individuality in the entrepreneurial sense is a reaction to this for those willing to take on competitive challenges. Come on let’s have more acknowledgement that we live in a highly competitive and motivated world.

      Undermine working conditions and awards – direct productivity gains to capital and limit real wage growth. ANSWER: Most citizens acknowledge that recent years have seen a bias towards Capitalism at the expense of workers – they are also convinced that this is only partially linked to nefarious political bias. And anyone who thinks that, generally speaking, working conditions have gone backward since WW2 ought to consider them in full context, and do some research.

      Make sure unskilled labour is linked to jobs that destroy the environment – keep things sweet for industry status quo and ensure there is always an army of blue collar workers ready to fight against a transition to alternative industries. ANSWER: Destroy the environment? Who supports that? If it was possible to immediately switch workers to environmentally sound jobs it would have been done to a large extent by now. The world knows about global damage and is nudging towards the answers, albeit too slowly.

      Disrupt disrupt disrupt – convince a gullible public that the robots are coming and that there is very little that they or their elected representatives can do to develop alternative labour markets. ANSWER:The robots are coming! Perhaps wholly beneficially. Stop bellyaching and find out where the benefits can be directed.

      Be a serious investigative journalist or an engineer or a consultant or a public sector manager or a politician – but don’t challenge neoliberal economic rhetoric. ANSWER: You evidently read the wrong newspapers and social media.

      Talk about deficit reduction and ‘budget repair’ without understanding how vacuous this is. ANSWER:Keep writing and arguing, because the MMT movement is growing in influence.

      Be surprised at the outcome. ANSWER: You will be.

      OMMENT:
      If you really wish make a difference tackle the globalization enigma. On the one hand it opens economies to international markets and an ever wider range of attractively priced produce and goods.
      At the other end of this spectrum is the dislocation of lost jobs and failing industries in economies that lose the competitive race.
      There has been talk of countering this threat by imposing tariffs on imported goods – protectionism reminiscent of the Depression of the 1930’s. In a barely conceivable outcome of this philosophic conversion America leads in its policy advocacy; embodied, what is more, in a President from the Capitalist elite.
      It remains to be seen whether the countervailing fiscal injection amounts to a large enough balancing impact. What has not been fully explained however, is whether and to what extent, international rivalry will weaken (relatively speaking) Western living standards as rivals develop their economies at a faster rate.
      Your insight would be appreciated.

    21. John G says:

      I can honestly say that I never thought I’d see a Rage clip on Billy Blog. Great stuff Professor Mitchell!

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