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The EU is neoliberal to its core and captured by corporate interests

The aptly named – Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) – “is a research and campaign group working to expose and challenge the privileged access and influence enjoyed by corporations and their lobby groups in EU policy making”. It is relentless in exposing the corporate scams that result in European Union laws being biased towards corporations at the expense of the well-being of the broader population. The research results they publish are diametrically opposed to the claims by the Europhile Left, especially those from Britain, that posit that the EU is the exemplar of global organisation, defending workers’ rights and all manner of good things, and with just a few reforms here and there is the hope for a progressive future. CEO’s most recent report (February 6, 2019) – Captured states: when EU governments are a channel for corporate interests – allow us to see how the EU machinery has turned the Member States into a “channel for corporate interests” – “middlemen for corporate interests”. My position is that CEO has it right and the Europhiles a dreaming.

The CEO takes no funding from the European Commission or other co-opted parties.

They are clear that:

Our strict funding policy rejects funding from the EU, governments, political parties and corporations in order to maintain the independence of our research.

This is a breath of fresh air in a world where stacks of so-called ‘independent’ think tanks which research European matters accept cash from the bodies they investigate.

In 2018, CEO with some of its NGO allies “submitted freedom of information requests to 19 permanent representations in Brussels to obtain information about the extent of their contacts with lobbyists”.

They found that:

Only two member states both stored and released full data on lobbying: Romania and the Netherlands. Ireland only released the data relating to meetings with their Permanent Representative and Deputy, not lower officials. No other permanent representation released the data requested.

Which should tell you a lot.

The ‘Permanent Representation’ represents the interests of the EU Member States to the European Commission in Brussels. Each nation, typically, has a huge number of workers across all their government departments, in the Permanent Representation.

They wine and dine representatives from other EU Member States, the Commission and members of the European Parliament.

The Permanent Representations feed into all the major EU institutions – the Council of the EU and its rotating Presidency, the European Council, the Committees of the EU.

Each Member State has a Permanent Representation and they formally work through the Permament Representatives Committee (COREPER).

The collated – Data for Permanent Representations’ lobbying – collected by the CEO researchers reveals how these “permanent representations are a major target for corporate lobbyists”.

The corporate lobbyists work like beavers in Brussels to ensure the lower level officials of each Member State are on the same page and acting in the interests of the corporations.

CEO’s research shows that “when corporate interests win, the public interest loses out”.

They document the lobbyists that are active – “Volkswagen and Telefónica … the finance industry … coal industry … chemicals …”

Importantly, the lobbying and their influences on “EU decision-making are shrouded in secrecy and not commonly studied.”

The ‘Captured States’ report provides rare insights into the perversion of EU decision making and should make the Europhile progressives wince with embarrassment, knowing that they hold the EU out as something worth supporting.

Whatever the origins of the European Union (and I analysed that in detail in my 2015 book – Eurozone Dystopia: Groupthink and Denial on a Grand Scale), the modern incarnation of the Union is neoliberal central.

Neoliberalism is built into the Treaties. It is a core aspect of the Union not something around the edges that can be dispensed with and then we move on to utopia.

The so-called “democratic deficit” in the European Union, often denied by Europhiles, arises not because of lobbying behaviour, but because only narrow interests are served by this behaviour.

The money involved in maintaining missions in Brussels or venturing to Brussels means that organisations that might represent the interests of the poor and the fragile, and who are typically cash-strapped, are absent.

The CEO Report call this a:

… a massive asymmetry of influence on member states’ EU decision- making as civil society groups cannot match the privileged access and far greater lobbying capacity and resources of the corporate sector.

They also point to the basic architecture of the European Union as creating an organisation structure that engenders this type of capture.

1. “Elite corporate lobbies target the European Council of member state leaders, with access that NGOs and trade unions cannot match. For example the regular meetings of the European Round Table of Industrialists bring together 50 bosses of major European multinational companies with the leaders of France, Germany, and the Commission President.”

2. “Rotating presidencies of the Council of the EU provide a key target for corporate lobbies … corporate sponsorship of rotating presidencies now appears to be standard”.

3. “The EU’s complex and opaque committee structure benefits corporate lobbies with the resources and capacity to influence the final outcomes.”

4. “Brussels-based lobby consultancy firms provide specific services to corporate lobbies aimed at influencing member states” – so-called ‘lobby forums’ abound.

5. Data shows, for example, that 73 per cent of the meetings held by the Dutch Permanent Representation’s officials were with corporate interests “and only 15 per cent with NGOs or trade unions”.

The point is that to clean excessive access and influence requires root-and-branch changes – meaning the EU has to be abandoned in its current form and reconstructed as an intergovernmental agreement should the nation states determine there is a need for that level of cooperation.

Progressive reforms mooted such as an European unemployment insurance scheme will do nothing at all to change this endemic cancer.

The fact that the progressives want to just tinker around the edges must seem like gold to the corporate interests who have captured the EU decision-making structures.

As long as the progressives ‘count the number of socks in their drawers’ they are not focusing on the main game.

And the fact that the Europhile progressives are so wedded to maintaining the EU architecture means they will never challenge the basic structure that nurtures the neoliberal capture.

So the corporations go about their merry way and the democratic deficit widens.

That is the EU reality in 2019 and has been so for some decades now.

No nation should desire to be part of that neoliberal miasma.

The CEO Report shows that the neoliberal ‘cancer’ has worked it way into basic EU narratives:

Member states and national corporate lobbies have developed a symbiotic relationship whereby the national corporate interest has – wholly wrongly – become synonymous with the national public interest as presented by the relevant government in EU fora. Extreme examples include the influence of the car industry on the German political establishment (and the negative impact of this on EU climate and emissions’ regulations); Spanish telecoms giant Telefónica, whose closeness to the Spanish Government ensured its demands were absorbed and promoted; the state-owned coal industry which leads the Polish Government to be such a climate pariah; and the City of London, which can count on the UK Government to back its demands for the lowest possible financial regulation.

In the case of Britain, the myths surrounding the ‘City’ abound and we regularly see Project Fear reports of this bank or that bank leaving London for some continental destination because of Brexit.

It would be hilarious if not for the fact that Brexit is fracturing British society and making it harder for the Labour Party to make progress.

Although I would say that when we read Tweets from John McDonnell like that below, you have to think that British Labour is well qualified to lay out its own plank and walk it at the same time!

The ‘City’ shuffles wealth and very little of that shuffling has anything to do with the material aspirations and outcomes of the vast majority of British people.

Even if it was true that Brexit forces mass evacuations to ‘Europe’ of the financial sector players in London (and it isn’t), no person on ‘main-street’ would blink much at all.

One of the ways that the elites perpetuate their dominance is to convince everyone that they are indispensable.

They are not and progressives should work that out sooner rather than later.

We see that sort of delusion in the ‘Tax the Rich to pay for Services’ narrative that many progressives (see Tweet above) mouth daily.

They rail about neoliberalism but have become mouths for it.

In the same way that the EU Member States have become agents for the corporations at the expense of the citizens.

The CEO Report states the obvious:

… member states have collectively absorbed some corporate agendas and adopted them as part of the EU-wide agenda, such as on economic governance (strict fiscal rules and austerity) and investors’ protection in trade treaties (allowing corporations to sue states for billions in compensation when governments act to protect their people and the planet).

A lot of Remain progressives in Britain like to shout at people something like – name one EU rule or law that constrains behaviour in Britain.

Of course, most people cannot name many if any – which is no surprise given the opacity of all these matters.

But what being part of the EU means is that the corporations are privileged by the so-called ‘investor-dispute mechanisms’ that are inbuilt into EU law.

What that means is that the British government can be tied up in litigation and overruled by foreign courts if it dares to introduce legislation that the corporate interests feel impinges on their profitability.

Brexit means that the British government will be able to escape that sort of neoliberal tyranny – should it have the will.

The CEO Report also find that:

1. “A number of commissioners from the Juncker Commission appear to have a bias towards corporate interests from their own member states”.

2. ” Complex EU decision-making procedures, a lack of transparency, exclusion of citizens in decision-making at national level on EU matters, and generally weak national parliamentary mechanisms, have combined to create an accountability and democratic deficit”.

The problem is that the ‘blame the Commission’ narrative misses the point that the structure of the EU provides for extensive involvement of the Member States – “governments set the EU’s strategic direction, are closely involved in both the drafting and implementation of EU rules, and have final sign-off on all EU legislation”.

The corporate lobbyists understand that better than anyone and have invested millions to target the Permanent Representations. They know that if they can co-opt the Representations, they will co-opt European law.

The CEO Report conclude that:

The risk of corporate capture of some member states, on some EU dossiers, is very high, undermining democracy and the public interest. And it is getting worse.

The CEO report recommends:

1. “Member state governments must adopt national rules and cultures which reduce the risk of corporate influence”.

2. “Member state parliamentary scrutiny and accountability on government decision-making at EU level must be strengthened.”

3. Reforms!

4. New models!

And Bill adds – scrap the whole thing and start again.

And Brexit …

There is some Twitter back and forth (I minimise my involvement) about Brexit – particularly, whether I still maintain that a no deal Brexit is a superior option.

The answer is Yes – but as regular readers will know – my position has always been conditional.

If you trace through my several blog posts on the topic dating back to June 2016 with these blog posts:

1. Britain should exit the European Union (June 22, 2016).

2. Why the Leave victory is a great outcome (June 27, 2016).

3. Brexit signals that a new policy paradigm is required including re-nationalisation (July 13, 2016).

and then several more, you will find no uncertainty or wavering in my view.

First, I have provided several examples of how the Project Fear predictions of immediate collapse were unfounded and just blatant lying.

That includes the predictions from the vast majority of professional economists working within the Academy and institutions such as HM Treasury and the Bank of England. They all got it wrong.

Second, my assessment that Brexit was the superior option has always been conditional.

In my immediate post-Referendum blog post – Why the Leave victory is a great outcome (June 27, 2016) – I wrote:

… the choice will not free Britain from neo-liberalism but it does bring the debate back into focus – voter face to face with the British politicians.

There are no guarantees that the decision to leave the European Union will lead to good outcomes, by which I mean help those who have been disenfranchised by the neo-liberal system.

There are scenarios that would lead to the conclusion that exactly the opposite might occur. Indeed, UKIP has every right to claim it ‘won’ and to further pursue its racist plans.

And the right-wing Tories who have always hated Europe might push for even greater ‘competition’ and cuts to government spending and services, which would further undermine the fortunes of the weak and precarious.

Bosses might push for further cuts to wages and conditions.

And I wrote:

When I tweeted it was a ‘great outcome’ I didn’t say that good would come out of it. I also didn’t suggest that it would be a short-term recovery of prosperity or that the workers would benefit.

I was referring to the fact that class struggle now has a clearer focus within the British political debate. There is now a dynamic for a truly progressive leadership to emerge and bring the disenfranchised along with them and wipe out the neo-liberal hydra once and for all.

That is why the Brexit vote is excellent. British politics is now in chaos. How it sorts itself out will determine what the outcome leads to.

But progressive leadership now has space to challenge the orthodoxy. That is a great outcome.

It might take time to emerge and crystallise. But class struggle does not yield instant rewards.

But I see the Brexit choice as one of those monumental outcomes similar to the OPEC oil crises in the early 1970s that change the course of history. I do not need to remind anyone that the Monetarists exploited the OPEC chaos to capture undeserved credibility and pursue the neo-liberal agenda.

So always conditional.

Since then I have consistently indicated that Brexit could turn out to be a disaster for Britain. But it won’t be because it leaves the European Union.

It will be because it maintains the neoliberalism of the EU and consolidates that within its newly freed legislative remit.

All the Project Fear claims about trucks being stranded, soccer teams not able to get players, cancer rates rising, shops running out of food and all the rest of it are pure lies.

I also don’t think it is in the interests of Britain to let the EU dominate the withdrawal agreement. The sort of outcomes that appear to be forthcoming from that process are inferior to a No Deal Brexit. I maintain that position.

Britain should tell the EU what it is going to do and leave it at that.

While the neoliberal bullies in the EU will make threats about closing borders to trade etc, the Bavarian motor vehicle manufacturers, for example, will ensure (through the corporate lobbying exposed by the CEO Report) that the German government and then its influence on the European Commission etc, will not fulfill those threats.

They know they have a lot to lose if Brussels was to play politics with a Britain intent on leaving without pernicious agreements.

And assessing that Brexit in the short-run might cause disruption does not mean it will be an inferior option in the longer term, once British politics reorients itself away form the EU capture.

And, I realise that as an Australian living away from Europe, I have no particular ‘skin’ in the game other than my overall global concern for humanity.

I am sympathetic to those caught up in the Brexit imbroglio.

But attacking me because of that misunderstands the role of an intellectual. As an academic, I have a responsibility to bring knowledge to public debates to ensure they are evidence-based.

I have spent years studying Europe and I would suspect I understand the situation there as well as most. I never write about topics I do not feel qualified to comment.

Which is one reason I haven’t written about Venezuela, for example. I am doing on-going research on that topic to bring myself up to speed on the history, culture, politics and economics of that situation.

It is also odd, that the ‘you don’t live here’ argument is made by so-called ‘internationalists’ who extol the desire to create cosmopolitan unities that span the borders of nation states.

Conclusion

The CEO Report is just another contribution that tells us how sick the EU has become.

While the authors think that some changes at the Member State level can retrieve the situation, I am less convinced.

The neoliberalism of the EU is core. The whole house has to be torn down, the block cleared, and new foundations laid.

Book launch – Macroeconomics textbook – London, March 1, 2019

We are launching our new textbook – Macroeconomics – in London on March 1. I will be attending the launch.

I have been told the event has ‘sold out’ – there were limited spaces given the venue.

I have, however, asked Macmillan if they can find a larger venue in Central London, given the number of people that have contacted me who want to attend but cannot.

I will keep you notified if there is any change in venue and arrangements.

There is also a – Resource Site – that will be growing as we add material.

I am also working on a series of videos to supplement the book.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2019 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

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    This Post Has 26 Comments
    1. My guess is most parties will try to mismanage Brexit to keep the adagio alive that the nation-state is powerless. Italy’s probably the most likely candidate to shift the debate towards more accountability. There is no force in Britain now ready to steer Brexit towards prosperity.

    2. The fact that I sat down and read this article straight through is testament to how important I considered the content – I’m a lazy reader at best!

      Excellent, very well thought through piece. Its one that stimulated a few memories.

      Memories about the banking system just prior to the banking crash. But without exposure to the atomic-scale toxic mortgage explosion the banks had, the EU is not imminently about to be brought down. Its only immediate threat to it is from the far right. This is an “enemy of my enemy is my friend” scenario where the anti-nationist EU meets the super-nationalist right in a battle of the bravest.

      Should the EU, as evil as it is lose that battle, could we accept the rise of the far right in Europe, hoping that through the smoke of that battle that a champion may emerge in time to save us from such a radical backlash or would the current controlling forces of the EU, the corporate lobbyists, simply emerge from their bunkers and create a world even worse than the one we have now?

      I dream of the EU’s fall, but have some trepidation about what may emerge in its place. Like you, my hopes for Brexit are quietly positive but ultimately conditional. There is no doubt we must escape that burning building, let’s hope the street we exit into is a little more hospitable.

    3. Hi Bill

      Looking forward to seeing you at the book launch.

      You again argue for a new foundation – an inter-governmental agreement when you say “the EU has to be abandoned in its current form and reconstructed as an intergovernmental agreement should the nation states determine there is a need for that level of cooperation.”

      As I have commented previously, there already is one Efta , which the UK was one of the original founders. I wont repeat my recent comments on this but I would greatly appreciate if you write a post on what is right and wrong about this existing foundation versus a new foundation.

      For sure the EEA is another part of this and I entirely agree in theory with your critique of the SM. I am looking at it pragmatically, as a basis to move on from Brexit and start exploring our brave new world, with all the worts of the EEA it would be far better than what we have now especially as we would be out of the de facto ISDS ECJ. Most importantly we would avoid the strangle hold of the backstop, since if we avoid the backstop via No Deal then the GFA will be used against us in any attempt at a fairer trade agreement with the EU in the future.

    4. I’m extremely interested in Bill’s take on Venezuela. I offered mine here a couple of posts ago, but just recently found out some new pieces of information on Prof. Hudson’s homepage. Not that I ever thought of the current interventionist motions as anything else than the classical orchestrated coup d’etat to replace a non-conformist regime whith one that will “play ball”, it’s just how far-reaching the whole mess is:

      “Desperate to spend its gold reserves to provide imports for its economy devastated by U.S. sanctions – a crisis that U.S. diplomats blame on “socialism,” not on U.S. political attempts to “make the economy scream” (as Nixon officials said of Chile under Salvador Allende) – in December 2018 Venezuela directed the Bank of England to transfer some of its $11 billion in gold held in its vaults. This was just like a bank depositor would expect a bank to pay a check that the depositor had written.

      England refused to honor the official request, following the direction of Bolton and U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo. As Bloomberg reported: “The U.S. officials are trying to steer Venezuela’s overseas assets to [Chicago Boy Juan] Guaido to help bolster his chances of effectively taking control of the government. The $1.2 billion of gold is a big chunk of the $8 billion in foreign reserves held by the Venezuelan central bank.”

      After reading of such nefarious events, are the efforts of Russia & China to emancipate themselves from the rule of Dollar condemnable?

      It also opened my eyes to the value and effect gold still has for/in modern economies. It appears to me to be very reasonable (as a country, not individuals) to have a full stock of gold, in case the money-master of the world’s reserve currency goes full-on imperial on me. Hell, even us Germans (second in “US-poodleness” only to the UK) actually requested some of our gold reserves deposited overseas back! Apparently, German industry is actually more interested in that new gasoduct (Nordstream II) than it is to be a good boy in the eyes of the oversea hegemon. I wonder if this could be the back-breaking event that distances the EU from the american financial imperialist institutions that are the IMF and the World Bank and thus, from the US as a whole.

      But now I’m rambling.

      Cheers

    5. Also, this part of the same post by M.Hudson made me kinda shudder:

      ” This became clear last autumn at the funeral for George H. W. Bush, when the EU’s diplomat found himself downgraded to the end of the list to be called to his seat. He was told that the U.S. no longer considers the EU an entity in good standing. In December, “Mike Pompeo gave a speech on Europe in Brussels — his first, and eagerly awaited — in which he extolled the virtues of nationalism, criticized multilateralism and the EU, and said that “international bodies” which constrain national sovereignty “must be reformed or eliminated.” ”

      Apparently, one of those most interested in the failure of Europe is the US. “Divide et impera” and all that. Normally, I would argue for the greater counterweigh to American meddling the EU potentially offers as opposed to single countries, but it is also clear that it is (unwittingly?) doing the devil’s work instead. I think that if Bolton and Pompeo were half as smart as the are belligerent, they would let the EU continue to do their work for them.

      In a certain way, the potential vulnerability of single European countries to the forces of the imperial alliance of the biggest military in the world and it’s corporations reminds of the fears the forist Adam K. expressed from an eastern European perspective last week. I sympathized with him then and I find myself sympathizing with him more now.

      When I look at Bill’s economic reasoning, the issue couldn’t be clearer. When I think of all the geopolitics, strategizing and politics behind, I don’t feel so comfortable anymore.

    6. At the end of January, Yanis Varoufakis and Irene Lozano, a junior Spanish minister, discussed Brexit on Newsnight. Varoufakis thinks that Brexit is a missed opportunity for both the UK and the EU in that both could have used the opportunity to readress their respective democratic deficits. Neither has done so, of course, and Bill has produced arguments on why this might be the case on the EU side. Unfortunately, Kirsy Wark did not allocate enough time for either to discuss this important issue sufficiently. So, a missed opportunity by BBC Newsnight.

    7. Hermann, Natalie Nougayrède has an article in today’s Guardian that argues that Trump and his aides are working to, using her words, “wipe out the EU”. John Bolton is one actor behind this. And he is a fruitcake, albeit a dangerous one. I, like you, feel more than a little discomfited by certain developments in the US, China, and Russia.

      Taking the US, Saturday Night Live gave rise to Trump calling for retribution for Fake News NBC due to Alec Baldwin’s satirical teatment of him. (It was amusing.) Nixon tried something similar with the NYT over the Pentagon Papers, though he had the cover of the fact that the papers were classified as Secret, well covered in the film, The Post. Trump doesn’t even have the vestiges of that for this media imbroglio, or even a real emergency to substantiate his so-called emergency declaration to build his wall. Trump, unsurprisingly, exhibits some Nixonian traits.

      So, going along with your discomfiture, one could ask whether the EU’s democratic deficits, important as they are, are small beer compared to what else pollitically is going on around it. Just taking Trump, while he often casts his attacks in economic terms, he has another agenda behind them, one of them being the packing of the federal courts with particular types of judges, whom he possibly thinks will allow him a good deal of freedom of movement absent any prosecution, not unlike his SC justice picks. This approach could be generalized to the global arena — destroy what you can of what is there and then take advantage, while others do the same.

      Hermann, would you think that this sort of scenario could lead someone like yourself to argue for a pausing of Brexit for the time being? You might well then ask, when would the time be right to unpause Brexit? One could answer, when there is a competent government that could deal with the EU and the ramifications of Brexit for the UK. At the moment, there is no UK government doing any governing. Or hardly any. And a number of the things that it is doing constitute violations of human rights, most significantly though not entirely, in their dealings with immigrants.

      Sorry, I didn’t mean to go on so long. I am raising questions rather than providing answers.

    8. To make Brexit even more complicated than it is, seven Labour MPs are quitting the Party today. They will sit an independents. Some of them are Blairites. But even so … .

    9. I need to add that some of the EU’s problems are its own fault. That said, related to what I mentioned above, how far is it justified to go?

    10. “Hermann, would you think that this sort of scenario could lead someone like yourself to argue for a pausing of Brexit for the time being?”

      Hello, larry!

      I guess my last sentence was rather vague. While I find it impossible to deny the democratic deficits of the EU and pre-Brexit Britain or, as Bill regularly lays out, the neoliberal construct of the Eurozone and the writing into law of capital interests , it’s everything about it that has nothing to do with economics that worries me.

      After Adam K’s posts the other day and reading that piece by M. Hudson I feel uneased. I could see post-Brexit Britain becoming a US-vassal state and being used as an agent of the demise of the rest of the EU. More so than a Labour-led country that engages in providing the much needed economic relief for it’s people.

      That being said, the second scenario is only hipothetical*, whereas the current situation with the Eurozone/EU is very real. I’ll have to be uncharacteristically bold here and say no, fear of what might be shouldn’t stop Britain from giving it the shot it has. Unfortunately, it is a rather long shot, in my opinion.

      *As a self-aware anxiety-ridden individual, I have learnt to distrust grim scenarios in my head.

      Cheers!

    11. Fair enough, Hermann. Some support for your view is in today’s Guardian by a lady who used to work in the emerging markets private equity field — Britain needs a day of reckoning. Brexit will provide it by Nesrine Malik. In her view, Brexit will initiate discussions that she thinks would likely hever have taken place otherwise. She could be right, but I am not so sure that even Brexit will be enough to prick that particular delusional bubble she is considering. Unfortunately, she paraphrases the execrable Bezos, even though the thought is apt. Anyhow, I will leave you to peruse this article at your leisure should you wish to.

    12. @larry

      I did not find my view represented in the article, really.

      Miss Malik lays the blame on the different categories of useless conservatives but fails to even fathom possible reasons for Brexit other than delusions of grandeur, exceptionalism or “victimhood”. At times, I’ve felt that elements of “the left” deny the reality of some Brexiteers out of pure political bias, similar to when German “leftist” explained how the Greeks had been living beyond their means and how it all was a necessary correction. With social democrats like that, who needs neoliberals!?

      A day of reckoning must necessarily include coming to terms with the deficiencies of the current status quo in Britain AND the EU, in my opinion. It reads more as if Miss Malik was resigned to her fate, than actually making a case for Brexit as I did. I do, however, understand that not everybody will reach the same conclusion and see how one can’t be entirely objective in such complex matters.

      Anyway, thanks for the food for thought and may whatever comes suprise us pleasantly.

    13. Dear Bill,

      I am afraid you’re trying to have your cake and eat it.

      You’ve been using the awfully nebulous term “Europhile Left” in classic rhetorical/ideological struggle fashion and have been applying it in a blatantly ad hoc manner. Fair enough, I suppose, since ideological war is “war by other means” and “all’s ‘fair’ in love and war”, as they say. But, NOT FOR AN academic, who also claims that his contributions regarding European (European Union and Eurozone) matters are the product of a person who “As an academic, [has] a responsibility to bring knowledge to public debates to ensure they are evidence-based.”

      There’s nothing “evidence-based” about your tarring and feathering whoever happens to self-identify as “Left” and also, crucially, disagrees with you regarding the optimality of the strategy of exiting the European Union and the Eurozone (which does not even apply to the U.K.) by current members thereof as a part of the so-called “Europhile Left”. Nor is there any scientificity or “scholarliness” in your facile dismissal of any sort of “internationalism” on the part of Left-identified European forces.

    14. Excellent analytical post (again) by Bill, followed by perceptive comments which also probe, from various perspectives, into the EU/Brexit morass and the simultaneous shipwreck going on in the States. As I see it, we are living through a time when a house built on sand (first genocidal, now ecocidal greed) inevitably falls apart in the very storm it has generated. At this point, when everything is fast approaching the point of collapse (economic and environmental), it would seem to take some sort of miracle to rescue the human race from its accumulated avarice and folly. Thus, as off-subject as it may seem, perhaps we should listen more closely to some of the other teachings of the man who first came up with the-house-built-on-sand/rock story (whether he be deemed historical or mythical). He essentially taught that there were only two deities: God and mammon (money). He said that human nature being what it is, we would inevitably serve one or the other, could not serve both. He clarified this point by saying that no matter how much we tried not to love mammon (money), if we had too much of it (beyond the necessities to meet daily needs), our hearts would drawn to it, and we would come to love and serve it. For those understandably put off these days by God-talk (given how it’s been twisted to support quite different messages than, for example, the God/mammon dichotomy), Albert Schweitzer’s elemental, universal ethic of “reverence for life” is another language that gets us to much the same place. But, again, why bring this stuff up here on an economic blog? MMT may be purely descriptive, but the GOALS of many of its proponents, how they would like to see MMT used to benefit humanity, are prescriptive (as Bill has repeatedly pointed out). And one of the important goals, as I understand the JG, is to make it possible for every human being to obtain, with dignity, his or her daily bread. Indeed, “Reclaiming the State” goes even further, calling for an environmentally-sensitive, more egalitarian restructuring of the entire economy to benefit both nature and the average citizen. I firmly believe that if we are to win over minds to MMT, it will be because it provides the necessary tools to achieve so much more than merely an accurate description of the workings of the economy. The goals will bootstrap the acceptance of the tools, not vice versa. In the vast majority of cases where we humans are concerned, the way to the mind is through the heart.

    15. Did Orwell hit it on the nose or what? “Permanent Representation” (PR?) all sounds dandy fine until you dig below that thin veneer to try to find out who is actually being represented in the big scheme.
      The New World Order seems to have already achieved that marriage of government and the Corporate supermen that Mussolini described so long ago.

      Was the second world war an example of the “shock doctrine” on a grand scale?

      We hear about “vassal states” of the empire, of which the UK is no exception, but to think the US is any less “captured” than any other “nation state” probably, borrowing a word from G.W Bush, “misunderestimates” the entire situation.

      Scholars who have held positions giving them more than passing glimpses of the inner workings, no longer refer to the US when speaking about the seat of global power; instead making a clear enough distinction when they simply refer to “Washington” as the nexus for transnationals, and the machinery that paves the way for them, as the thing in itself.

      As Chomsky put things “Trump is a distraction”, like so many other distractions, as the demolition/renovation crew works in the background.

      It’s pretty clear that the “Star Trek Federation” theory that gained buy in to NWO from so many in governments/academia/ military around the globe was all a distraction as well. Were is that “Non Intervention Directive” etc…?

      We can only wait for the NWO to demand ownership of the sovereign power to issue money in the form of a global currency, until we replace mis representative democracy with the participatory type.

    16. Dear GreekStav (2019/02/19 at 2:44 am)

      I can’t see the point of having a cake and not being able to eat it subsequently!

      There is no duplicity or lack of scholarship involved in the use of the term ‘Europhile Left’. In fact, there is a long tradition within the progressive politics of such a category of thinking, which I just summarise with that terminology.

      Thomas Fazi and I give the term explicit operational meaning in our book Reclaiming the State. It refers to a group on the progressive side that believes the nation state is now powerless in the face of global financial flows and that meaningful and effective progressive struggle has to be organised at the supra-national level – such as the European Union.

      This group acknowledges the failings of the EU but thinks it can be reformed with changes such as a European unemployment insurance policy, and the like.

      It is not just the EMU that defines this group. They also defend the EU and Britain’s place in it.

      So it is a fairly defined group with a long history and presence in the learned literature. There is plenty of ‘evidence’ to support that categorisation – certainly the position of the Europhile progressives is well articulated and expanded on in the academic literature that I have been reading all my career.

      I think their academic arguments which are advanced to justify the political position are flawed and do not stand up to empirical scrutiny. And, as a result, I think their praxis is flawed and will not advance progressive struggles at a time when they are needed more than ever.

      best wishes
      bill

    17. A few points:-
      1. There’s no such thing as a democracy that doesn’t have a democratic deficit. Britain’s is no greater – and may be a good deal smaller – than some others. And compared with the EU’s it’s miniscule.
      2. As part of Britain’s democratic process, the House of Commons has instructed the Prime Minister to get the – completely undemocratic – EU to agree to modify the “backstop” (after having rejected the EU’s proposed “deal” by the largest majority ever (?)), in such a way as to remove those of its features which are unacceptable to Parliament.
      3. Subsequently the government defeated the opposition’s No Confidence motion. “At the moment, there is no UK government doing any governing” is accordingly simply untrue.
      4. The EU has the choice of either acceding to the House of Commons demand or not. If it doesn’t there will be a no-deal Brexit. The choice is theirs.

    18. Interesting discussions continuing some ideas explored on comments from previous blog posts, particularly from Hermann and Larry.

      Larry refers to the departure of seven Labour M.P’s to become some sort of ‘independents.’ Apparently, this does not force a by-election and these characters could potentially hang in until 2022 if a snap election isn’t called before.

      Maybe this is all a case of Lenin’s ‘The Worse the Better.’ We might have to face a dangerous tugging and pulling of different forces until something gives. The cognitive dissonance is getting louder to the point of needing earplugs.

      I’m sympathetic to Hermann’s fears -it could all turn out very badly, as Newton (above-not Isaac)put it:

      ‘At this point, when everything is fast approaching the point of collapse (economic and environmental), it would seem to take some sort of miracle to rescue the human race from its accumulated avarice and folly. ‘

      Given years of misinformation, dumbed-down to hell media and soporific/narcoleptic television and an atmosphere of high stress/poor mental health and the trashiest politicians in recent history who barely even try to hide their incompetence, grift and graft,as well as a bewildered and witless public manipulated by wealth siphoners there seems little potential for finding a sensible way through.

      Perhaps the whole system needs a nervous breakdown but that’s bad enough at the individual level, at the societal it’s very messy and, as Woody Allen said about death ‘I don’t want to be there when it happens.’

      The saddest thing is that our political class has few genuine intellectuals (maybe none) who can clarify and synthesise for the public the general forces at work and distill it into a workable narrative. People like Corbyn and McDonell do a bit. Corbyns speech to PES contained some trenchant critique of the EU but the neoliberal framing of the fiscal space lets them down and their Party is terribly divided with many poor quality M.P’s.

      Apparently, Vince (lackey of the Tories) Cable of the Lib Dems seems to have reached out to the 7 M.P’s leaving Labour saying ‘politics is broken’ which seems to mean ‘the neo-lib consensus is breaking, join me to put a sticking plaster over its wounds.’ Disgraceful and moronic.

      Sorry, I’m waffling, shouldn’t post late in the evening when I’m even more incoherent than usual!

    19. larry says:
      Monday, February 18, 2019 at 22:28
      “Hermann, would you think that this sort of scenario could lead someone like yourself to argue for a pausing of Brexit for the time being? You might well then ask, when would the time be right to unpause Brexit? One could answer, when there is a competent government that could deal with the EU and the ramifications of Brexit for the UK”.

      Why would anyone consider even for one moment “pausing Brexit” *indefinitely*? (Unless of course their ulterior motive were to make sure by hook or by crook that it never happens).

      Because that’s what your suggestion could conceivably mean. Who would decide when what Larry judges to be “a competent government” had been elected? (Larry himself, perhaps)? How long might it be before enough of the electorate fell into line with Larry’s way of thinking to elect it?

      Wouldn’t it be simpler to dispense with elections altogether and just *appoint* a “competent government” of technocrats, like the EU does? But wait, isn’t that why we want to leave the EU…?

    20. robertH, you are attributing more to me than I said. I didn’t mean indefinitely. I think we can recognize a non-shambles when we see one. If it walks like a duck … . This Tory government is the most shambolic group of incompetents I have ever seen gathered together in one place. History shows that competent politicians are not impossible. This group of Tories is just not that sort of group. Your final paragraph is, hence, a non sequitur.

    21. Simon, you weren’t incoherent at all. On the current crop of politicians, I thought you were spot on. And then there was this: as Woody Allen said about death ‘I don’t want to be there when it happens.’. Wittgenstein made one of his epigrams about this very subject: Death is not an event in life. Less amusing that Allen’s but poignant none the less, I think.

    22. Larry.- “I think we can recognize a non-shambles when we see one”.

      I agree. My own favourite (recent) candidate would be the 1945 Atlee government (while the 1950 one would be among my candidates for the opposite). However, in the interests of balance I think it must be conceded (even by diehard opponents) that the first two Thatcher administrations most decidedly qualify as non-shambles too.

      But I think that even you might admit to a smidgeon of subjectivity (dare I say, outright bias?) in regard to anything Tory. Extremism diminishes the persuasiveness of any argument – except in the eyes of fellow-extremists.

      Finally, you may not have *meant* “indefinitely” but – as pointed out – conceivably limitless prolongation was implicit in what you advocated because the test you specified be passed for the “pause” ending (ie that first your particular definition of “competence” be met) is ipso facto unattainable in anyone’s mind except your own. And I suggest that at least half the electorate can be presupposed to disagree with you on that score at any given time.

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