Tag Archives: Economics

Killer Clowns, by George Monbiot – a reblog

Killer Clowns – monbiot.com


Killer Clowns

Posted: 30 Jul 2019 08:18 AM PDT

Why are so many nations now led by extravagant buffoons? Because the nature of capitalism has changed.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 26th July 2019

Seven years ago the brilliant impressionist Rory Bremner complained that politicians had become so boring that few of them were worth mimicking: “They’re quite homogenous and dull these days … It’s as if character is seen as a liability.” Today, his profession has the opposite problem: however extreme satire becomes, it struggles to keep pace with reality. The political sphere, so dull and grey a few years ago, is now populated by preposterous exhibitionists.

This trend is not confined to the UK – everywhere the killer clowns are taking over. Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Donald Trump, Narendra Modi, Jair Bolsonaro, Scott Morrison, Rodrigo Duterte, Matteo Salvini, Recep Erdogan, Viktor Orban and a host of other ludicrous strongmen – or weakmen as they so often turn out to be – dominate nations that would once have laughed them off stage. The question is why? Why are the deathly technocrats who held sway almost everywhere a few years ago giving way to extravagant buffoons?

Social media, which is an incubator of absurdity, is certainly part of the story. But while there has been plenty of good work investigating the means, there has been surprisingly little thinking about the ends. Why are the ultra-rich, who until recently used their money and newspapers to promote charisma-free politicians, now funding this circus? Why would capital wish to be represented by middle managers one moment and jesters the next?

The reason, I believe, is that the nature of capitalism has changed. The dominant force of the 1990s and early 2000s – corporate power – demanded technocratic government. It wanted people who could simultaneously run a competent, secure state and protect profits from democratic change. In 2012, when Rory Bremner made his complaint, power was already shifting to a different place, but politics had not caught up.

The policies that were supposed to promote enterprise – slashing taxes for the rich, ripping down public protections, destroying trade unions – instead stimulated a powerful spiral of patrimonial wealth accumulation. The largest fortunes are now made not through entrepreneurial brilliance but through inheritance, monopoly and rent-seeking: securing exclusive control of crucial assets, such as land and buildings, privatised utilities and intellectual property, and assembling service monopolies such as trading hubs, software and social media platforms, then charging user fees far higher than the costs of production and delivery. In Russia, people who enrich themselves this way are called oligarchs. But this is not a Russian phenomenon, it is a global one. Corporate power still exists, but today it is overlain by – and is mutating into – oligarchic power.

What the oligarchs want is not the same as what the old corporations wanted. In the words of their favoured theorist Stephen Bannon, they seek the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” Chaos is the profit multiplier for the disaster capitalism on which the new billionaires thrive. Every rupture is used to seize more of the assets on which our lives depend. The chaos of an undeliverable Brexit, the repeated meltdowns and shutdowns of government under Trump: these are the kind of deconstructions Bannon foresaw. As institutions, rules and democratic oversight implode, the oligarchs extend their wealth and power at our expense.

The killer clowns offer the oligarchs something else too: distraction and deflection. While the kleptocrats fleece us, we are urged to look elsewhere. We are mesmerised by buffoons, who encourage us to channel the anger that should be reserved for billionaires towards immigrants, women, Jews, Muslims, people of colour and other imaginary enemies and customary scapegoats. Just as it was in the 1930s, the new demagoguery is a con, a revolt against the impacts of capital, financed by capitalists.

The oligarch’s interests always lie offshore: in tax havens and secrecy regimes. Paradoxically, these interests are best promoted by nationalists and nativists. The politicians who most loudly proclaim their patriotism and defence of sovereignty are always the first to sell their nations down the river. It is no coincidence that most of the newspapers promoting the nativist agenda, whipping up hatred against immigrants and thundering about sovereignty, are owned by billionaire tax exiles, living offshore.

As economic life has been offshored, so has political life. The political rules that are supposed to prevent foreign money from funding domestic politics have collapsed. The main beneficiaries are the self-proclaimed defenders of sovereignty, who rise to power with the help of social media ads bought by persons unknown, and thinktanks and lobbyists that refuse to reveal their funders. A recent essay by the academics Reijer Hendrikse and Rodrigo Fernandez argues that offshore finance involves “the rampant unbundling and commercialisation of state sovereignty” and the shifting of power into a secretive, extraterritorial legal space, beyond the control of any state. In this offshore world, they contend, “financialised and hypermobile global capital effectively is the state.”

Today’s billionaires are the real citizens of nowhere. They fantasise, like the plutocrats in Ayn Rand’s terrible novel Atlas Shrugged, about further escape. Look at the “seasteading” venture funded by Paypal’s founder Peter Thiel, that sought to build artificial islands in the middle of the ocean, whose citizens could enact a libertarian fantasy of escape from the state, its laws, regulations and taxes, and from organised labour. Scarcely a month goes by without a billionaire raising the prospect of leaving the Earth altogether, and colonising space pods or other planets.

Those whose identity is offshore seek only to travel further offshore. To them, the nation state is both facilitator and encumbrance, source of wealth and imposer of tax, pool of cheap labour and seething mass of ungrateful plebs, from whom they must flee, leaving the wretched earthlings to their well-deserved fate.

Defending ourselves from these disasters means taxing oligarchy to oblivion. It’s easy to get hooked up on discussions about what tax level maximises the generation of revenue. There are endless arguments about the Laffer curve, that purports to show where this level lies. But these discussions overlook something crucial: raising revenue is only one of the purposes of tax. Another is breaking the spiral of patrimonial wealth accumulation.

Breaking this spiral is a democratic necessity: otherwise the oligarchs, as we have seen, come to dominate national and international life. The spiral does not stop by itself: only government action can do it. This is one of the reasons why, during the 1940s, the top rate of income tax in the US rose to 94%, and in the UK to 98%. A fair society requires periodic corrections on this scale. But these days the steepest taxes would be better aimed at accumulated unearned wealth.

Of course, the offshore world the billionaires have created makes such bold policies extremely difficult: this, after all, is one of its purposes. But at least we know what the aim should be, and can begin to see the scale of the challenge. To fight something, first we need to understand it.

http://www.monbiot.com

The Challenge of Death

or
Happy Valentines Day

(thoughts from ‘The Other Side’ by ~burning woman~ )

I took a break from writing the novel tonight and watched a movie my friend left with me. It’s called “The Carer” and it is a good story.

Here are some quotes from that movie:

Quote: “Great Dramatists and great actors conspire to blow up complacency, corruption, pretension, all the vices of our rich, sordid, jaded world with humour, passion and a large dollop of sex.”

(And I would add, so do great writers.)

Quote: “How many of us here deny the human condition in one form or another? We get old, that’s the truth. And how can you tell true stories about the human condition if you deny it, choosing only the good bits: youth and beauty, passion and sex. There’s no truth in cosmetic enhancements, you know, no candour in collagen.”

(And here I would add: Nor in ostentatious adulation and riches.)

Quote: “Cowards die many times before their deaths, the valiant never taste of death but once.”

(And here I would add that those who work so hard at denying the coming reality of death and what it may entail of the unknowns it hides, are as cowardly as those who quail when facing it on the battle field or in opposing tyrants.)

Quote: “Of all the wonders that I yet have heard, it seems to me most strange that men should fear, seeing as death, a necessary end, will come when it will come.” {End of quotes}

Let’s engage the topic of “this or that” History Month. Let’s look at some big topics we could have official history months on and pretend, just for one moment, that a “History Month” means that we actually cared about what “month” is being recognized for or celebrating.

OK, big topics.

How about a “Love History Month”? I’m told that love is really, I mean, really important; that everybody wants love, needs love. Two days from “Valentine’s Day” and suddenly the subject of “love” is all the rage. Maybe they should have made February “Love History Month.” Ah but then I wonder what sort of “history” would emerge from such a topic. Who would mention that love is an absolute value; that there are no “degrees” of love? Imagine a whole month where, as celebration of love everybody does nothing else but love one-another.

I think not. Let’s just send each other little red hearts on cardboard or on digital screens and keep on pretending.

Do we have an official “Life History Month”? I don’t remember hearing about that either. Yet, is there a more important topic to discuss and engage? Shouldn’t we, once and for all, define life as an absolute value? How about celebrating a whole month without any killing, not in warfare, not in sports, not as a police activity, not as random street crime and not in the killing fields of meat packing. For one month, all life is sacred, at least to the very best of our ability to practice this.

I’m afraid we’re not touching that one with a ten foot pole.

Do we have a “Peace History Month”? OK, here goes, one whole month dedicated to doing peace. One whole month of total cease-fire, no warfare. One whole month no oppressing, no bullying, no extorting, no taking advantage, no competitive activity. Just peace.

Hm. Why can’t I see that happening either?

So,
can’t do love,
can’t do life,
can’t do peace.

Hey, I know. Let’s have a “Death History Month”! Focus on everything and everyone on this world that’s died, is dying, and will die, how and why. For an entire month all we do is study death, observe death, think and talk about our own guaranteed, certain death, then feel the feelings engendered by such a study.

Of course we would never do that; it would be considered morbid.

Yet does anyone realize that the more death is studied and focused upon, particularly one’s own death, the more one comes to understand the necessity of
loving unconditionally? Of
treating all of life as sacred? Of
personal and global peace as the only foundation for any civilization?

But we won’t have any of that because, well, we all know why, to the tune of about seven and a half billion reasons. We would never contemplate engaging love, life or peace in any meaningful context, it would upset the applecart and the applecart is what’s sacred!

I’m told that mankind is not brainwashed, is not manipulated, is not controlled. Therefore what I’m really being told is that mankind is autonomous, free to think, speak and act in every way.

If that is the case, then mankind, that is each and everyone of us, is fully responsible, and accountable, for all the misery, the horror, the killing, that takes place all over this world. There is no one else to blame! If you’re not the victim, then you are the perpetrator. Sure, there’s countless arguments against my black and white views of things, but they remain spurious.

As perpetrators of global injustice the reality we exist in is a reality we all want, desire, or feel the need for. As victims, the same reality is one we consider hell and would do practically anything, if we had the power, to get out from under. It’s just that the perpetrators, the consumers, the relatively content, the remaining “haves” won’t let their victims escape; they won’t even let them seek refuge from oppression and drone bombing in the box store, the fast-food drive-tru or multiplex theatre because that would spoil the game and the game must go on.

We of the west with our fake religions, fake economics, fake politics, have been masterful at vicariously spreading hell and death throughout the world through our Master we call the Military Industrial Complex. For several hundred years we’ve benefited from that exploitation and now, when it’s coming to a justly deserved end we’re not giving up in the face of certain collapse, we’re desperately attempting to shore up the crumbling edifice of militaristic imperial democracy and “Christian” values even if all we’re doing is pretending it isn’t collapsing.

The costs? More deaths of innocents, but as long as it’s not my death, or the death of “my” innocents, it’s normal and fair collateral damage. If a dozen Kurd children need slaughtering today so I can fill my SUV gas tank or buy a bigger screen smart TV, that’s the price the Third World or developing world has always had to pay to the Empire so why should that be a problem today, particularly?

Happy Valentines day…

The Legacy of Empire: thoughts from ~burning woman~ by Sha’Tara

               The Legacy of Empire

[thoughts from   ~burning woman~   by Sha’Tara]

For 2000 years “Western” empires have dominated the social, religious, political, commercial and military world scene.  If all the horrors perpetrated upon helpless peoples by these empires were listed somewhere, on some “wailing wall” or cenotaph or other monument to man’s inhumanity to man, that couldn’t help but bring even the most obdurate believers in the rightness of western capitalism, to their knees in shame.

It is generally believed that the German people, from the time of Hitler’s ascendancy to the German “throne” to the defeat of Germany, did not know of the existence and purpose of the death camps.  That is, of course, not true.  They knew, but they lived, much like Europeans, Americans and Canadians today, in some kind of Matrix illusion fostered by their leaders, their masters, their gods.  Whatever they suspected, they could not bring to the fore of their individual minds because their collective belief in the rightness of what was being done blocked the truth from surfacing.

Then the terrorist, vicious short-lived Third Reich empire collapsed; its armies were defeated; it’s cities ruthlessly bombed into fire storms and rubble.  Then groups of German people were forced to march through the death camps in their neighbourhoods and forced to accept what they had known all along but refused to reason out.  Then, and only then, were their eyes opened to the truth.  Then, and only then were they able to reason the utterly abhorrent evil that had been their Nazi rulers which they had so vociferously and materially supported, including reciting as sacred mantras the verbal mountains of lies against Jews and all undesirables as listed by their Nazi elites.

This, in terms of Earthian history, was but a short blip of historical significance; a quiz from which the current benefactors of Western imperialism were supposed to learn the greater truth regarding all of their religious, political and capitalistic enterprises.  They were supposed to take the lesson of Third Reich Germany and apply it to the whole Western concept of empire.  The were supposed to begin asking the really tough questions: is this lesson applicable to me, to my own country, to my beliefs regarding my government, my banks and corporations, my military forces as they proceed globally to control lands, and extract resources and cheap labour?  Yes, I use the possessive pronoun, “my” because most of the people I’m writing about actually believe they live in a democracy, and by that belief, they make themselves responsible for all of it.  If you claim that something is yours and you have the means to demonstrate it is yours; more particularly if you teach that to your children then you’d better be prepared to be a fully accountable part of it all.  Be prepared to demonstrate your freedom and bravery in America; be prepared to demonstrate what “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” means in France.  And in Canada, just be prepared to support your Stanley Cup winning team, eh?

Predictably very few did see the lesson.  They saw a stand-alone, readily identifiable “evil” and they saw it defeated.  Case closed, and now for the good life once again.  And so they did.  Until now.  Until their Empire (the US and its on-again, off-again European allies) faces defeat after defeat in tiny, impoverished countries they should be able to conquer and subdue in a walk-on.  Take Afghanistan: by normal reckoning, not much of a country to stand up to US military and para-military might.  But Afghanistan defeated the mighty Soviet army in the 80’s – a fact that had much to do with the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Now it is proving as much of a miasma to US military efforts as was Vietnam.  Imagine that!  But that’s not all: from these imperialistic wars have grown several deadly “terrorist” groups whose purpose is not only to free their nations from Western imperialism, but to sow terror and fear among their enemies, on those enemies own homelands.  It’s a reckoning long time in the festering stage and brought to a boil by the Bush wars.  And it is only beginning: the legacy of empire.  Status: unpaid.

Here’s where emotions take over and the issues become completely clouded in the attacked, once oh-so-secure western nations.  Until now the taking of lands, resources and slave labour by Western imperialist powers was a given, a God-given right for almost any western empire or nation, including the US with its mega-global corporations and widespread military bases.  The rest of the world simply had no say in the matter.  If you needed a democratically elected popular leader (or for that matter a totalitarian dictator who had been installed by the US) deposed or assassinated because he stood in the way of your cartel’s “needs” for cheap resources and labour, the US government and its military machine was right there ready to intervene on your behalf.  Bang: you have the invasion of Iraq, not once, but twice.  Didn’t subdue enough?  More military intervention and destabilization throughout the entire Middle East and beyond.  Everybody on the receiving end of the trillions spent on these wars is having a heyday.  That thousands of innocent civilians become “collateral damage” in these imperialistic forays is accepted as inevitable and quite OK.  Wedding parties and hospitals blown up?  Big deal.  We were sure they were terrorist hideouts.  Another case closed.  After all, it’s been going on for 2000 years and worked quite well: why mess with a winning combination of sanctioned murder in the name of capitalism and Christianity?  The legacy of empire.  Status: unpaid.

So, it’s been a great time for Western corporations, Western elites, Western religious organizations, Western middle classes and Western yuppies.  A really great time.  During this time, while profits grew exponentially, so did corruption in all the high places and while it can be said that Reagan’s trickle down theory regarding money did not materialize, quite the opposite happened in fact, it can certainly be said that religious, political and financial corruption certainly did.  That was inevitable for two reasons.  One, that is the pattern demonstrated in history.  Two, as Einstein said, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result.”  The pattern that must lead to final, crushing corruption was dutifully followed through by each and every empire ever to arise on planet earth.  It was dutifully followed by the Western-US empire and is still being followed.  The legacy of empire.  Status: unpaid.

Why is that?  Simple: it’s how the beast feeds.  Without corruption in high places you simply cannot have, let alone sustain, any sort of empire.  Empires are not only made from corruption, they are a corruption of all natural and human aspirations, and I would add, for those who believe in such things, they are demonic in nature.  The next thing to consider is, once you have an empire, you can no longer control or lessen, the degrees of corruption that feed it.  As the empire grows old, it grows fat, less mobile, more needy.  It needs more and more support in terms of resources.  It needs more slaves to take care of its growing needs.  The legacy of empire.  Status: unpaid.

What you have now, here, in the West, is a complete reliance on an empire that has become a geriatric basket case.  Of course the facts are covered up with louder and more boastful lies by the day.  Just listen to the diatribes and the rhetoric.  Everybody who’s anybody, from a Sunday morning TV preacher to an anchorperson to a president, has praise for the dying dragon and sure-fire ways to improve its health: send me money, vote for me, buy my sponsor’s products.  A reminder from the short historical lesson mentioned above, Hitler and his cronies spouted exactly the same assurances to the German people near the end of the empire.  But those are not healing words: they are lies and it matters not if those spouting the lies believe them or not.

So here we are, in the aftermath of several serious “terrorist” attacks in the lands of the great Western Empire.  9-11, Charlie Hebdo, and now ISIS attacks in Paris, France.  Most westerners, like 3rd Reich Germans, want to believe, need to believe, that these attacks are simply the acts of religiously motivated deranged individuals loosely organized in terrorist cells and organizations.  Take another *blue pill*, you’re going to need it.  Take it with a full glass of scotch, maybe two or three: you’ll need that as well.  Perhaps have a look in your pharmacopoeia shelves for some anti-anxiety or anti-depressants as well.  Load up, it’s not becoming any easier to lie to yourself, even after watching Fox News, CNN or Christian Television.  It may not be as profitable to be a stalwart Western United Empire Loyalist in the near future.

The greatest mass-hypnosis in the west regarding terrorists and their attacks has to do with not wanting to face the accumulated facts of history.  The West has a huge negative balance sheet as regards its gross human rights abuses of non-Western nations.  Not counting the Roman empire, 2000 years of taking, enslaving, raping and murdering, and nothing paid back except the pittance of pretend “charitable help” which is just another arm of brainwashing and aggression.  One abuse conveniently ignored: the capture and enslavement of Africans to the tune of from 11 millions to perhaps as high as 100 millions.  The legacy of empire.  Status: unpaid.

Now we’ve arrived at a critical junction.  Many things are conspiring to bring this planet down, and they’re happening much too close together to allow for much comfort for the clear minded.  Let’s see: 7 billion Earthians population expanding exponentially.  Endemic corruption in all aspects of power and leadership.  Environmental pollution totally out of control despite claims to the contrary by same corrupted sources.  Seas dying.  Greenhouse gasses on the rise contributing to, and exacerbating global climate change – and as yet no one has any idea how deep and how long this change is going to go and to last.  Predictably the powers that be will talk around the problem; will assure the cloudy-minded that all’s under control; that science will prevail; that jobs are more important than a living environment (say what?); that essentially the only practical way to combat pollution is to make more pollution.  What else have we got: oh yes, wars.  Endless wars that are looking more and more like resource wars.  I’d say this world is not shaping up so well.  The legacy of empire.  Status: unpaid.

The legacy of empire.  With cooperation and a willingness to accept the need for drastic change in thinking, working, playing, worshipping and war-making, perhaps some of the more serious problems could be solved in a short enough time to make a life-saving difference.  But we already know that changing its habits is not an Earthian trait.  The animal just can’t do it, it’s not smart enough to understand the necessity until the necessity is forced upon it, or it’s dead.

The biggest problem facing Earthians now is the spread of resource and land space wars.  While many emotionally charged euphemisms are used to describe the reasons for these wars they are resource wars: who gets to control, and to profit from, remaining global resources.  That it’s come to this is due to imperial thinking.  “We” cannot allow “them” to take over and rule the world.  “We” must remain in control or “they” will overrun us and take over, ruling over us in turn.  Indeed that is a scary thought considering the pain and suffering “we” have forced upon those which “our” empire ruled.  Indeed they will seek vengeance; they will want justice; they will force reparations and “we” will become their slaves in turn.

The legacy of empire, and the only thing that can prevent this from happening is a complete collapse of society world-wide.  Some choice.

“We would rather be ruined than changed
we would rather die in our dread
than climb the cross of the moment
and let our illusions die
(W H Auden, The Age of Anxiety)

*blue pill* refers to a Matrix movie concept.  The blue pill left you in the Matrix illusion; the red pill made you see reality as it really is.