So many ‘Big’ words

Life – Terror. Ecstasy. Fight. Denial. Flight. Failure. PAIN. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Hope. Love. Peace – Death.

My two, recent previous posts provide additional context for this latest.

Ordoliberalism (Post-war German Economics) – Ordoliberalism Law and the Rule of Economics, Governing through Order or Disorder, Neoliberalism, Institutionalizing Neoliberalism, Neoliberalization, Market Sprawl, Social Policy, Globalisation – 21st-Century Capitalism

I am trying to get to grips with what appears to be a purposeful and wilful decline of our dear world. The time has come and Mother Earth is kicking back, the now, undeniable consequences of, irreversible climate change – regular, unmanageable, catastrophic, global weather events, we are in trouble?

The re-emergence of, long-ago, banished, illnesses and diseases, Pandemics, record levels of poverty, endless wars, plague-like proportions of ‘just accepted’ modern-day illnesses (metabolic syndrome) – self inflicted conditions due to the stresses of 21st Century living and the industrialisation, ‘processing’ of everything we eat and consume, in the pursuit of maximisation of profits.

The world, our precious habitat is deteriorating, and rapidly so, and we seem to be, almost comfortable, with ignoring it?  

Why?

Greed – the relentless pursuit of profit no matter what the cost?    

Purposeful – on purpose?

It is true that we have outgrown, thrown away the old shackles of imperialism but only to trade for the metaphoric chains of Capitalism. A much more powerful set of constraints as they allow us, most of us to dream, the illusion of a better life, whilst we are blind to what is happening around us. And many do have better lives ‘living the dream’, however, many more do not.  

Our new masters, our current rulers are no longer kings, queens and emperors, they no longer sit on thrones, they now sit at the head of powerful ‘boards of like-minded directors’, committees of weth seekers, profit seekers. They are industrialists, media moguls, tech-giants, so rich and powerful that they now control the old masters, the imperialists, they control the politicians, they are our new gods, they manipulate their subjects to create a world built (modelled) in their image, ‘greed’ and we worship them unconditionally.

They are so powerful they no longer even require an ‘image’ we worship what they provide us with, the promises, the suggestion that what they offer is ‘better’, we can better ourselves, we can be like them, more accurately, they remind us, intensely, that the alternative, ‘any’ alternative is worse ….much worse.

They rule by implying doom and gloom, the threat of something much worse than what we currently have – The profit Gods governing by Order & Disorder, with constantly expanding resources at their disposal, giving them ultimate control. The perpetuation of the myth that ‘their wealth’ is beneficial for everybody, and without it we would all be well and truly fucked.   

How is it possible, how did we get to this point?

None of what is currently taking place is coincidence. Globalisation, created the ‘perfect storm’ for widespread growth of capitalism via neoliberalist economic structures. ‘It’ didn’t just materialise, and it is not a ‘new’ thing. It is deliberate and its origins are easily found. Ignore the ‘big’ over-academic words, instead examine what they stand for?

Ordoliberalism

The origins of Ordoliberalism are post-war Germany, a country, decimated, on its knees and above all shamed. Ordoliberalism has garnered attention of late with developments surrounding the Eurozone crisis, most notably in terms of Germany’s response to it. Now perceived in some quarters as an influential doctrine in European politics, the ordo-liberal tradition began as a rather parochial German affair. First developed around and during the Second World War,

Ordoliberalism grew out of the work of economists and legal theorists associated with the Freiburg School, such as Walter Eucken and Franz Böhm. At its core, the ordo-liberal tradition converges around the idea of an economic constitution, a concrete ‘state’ a set of state initiated and controlled rules and constraints. ‘Order’.

Recognising the contingencies borne out of ‘a free market’ (Eurozone), ordoliberals are committed to robust state intervention in the form of a concrete set of rules directing socio-economic activity.

In this respect they are easily distinguishable from the neoliberals, with whom they share an embrace of the market economy. Amongst their policy prescriptions, ordoliberals give a central importance to price stability, an intelligible commitment in light of the deep social, economic and political trauma of the Weimar and Nazi era.

Widely seen as constitutive to the economic policy of post-war West Germany, Ordoliberalism carried a deep currency in the Adenauer administration, not least with the tenure of future Chancellor Ludwig Erhard, then Minister of Economics.

The German Wirtschaftswunder, or economic miracle, was quickly associated with ordoliberal prescriptions. More recently, ordoliberalism has come to be linked with German attitudes to, and management of, the European sovereign-debt crisis.

The insistence on an obligation for strict budgetary commitments and fiscal responsibility have been traced to the ordoliberal spirit. It is in this context that a number of contributors, have explored ordoliberalism both in terms of its intellectual development and impact on today’s politics in the recent volume edited by Josef Hien and Christian Joerges: Ordoliberalism, Law and the Rule of Economics.

Associate Professor David Woodruff of the LSE’s Department of Government, has drawn parallels between the central theses of ordoliberalism and the work of Karl Polanyi, the Austro-Hungarian economic anthropologist. Both are concerned with the destructive consequences of a mismanaged laissez-faire economy, namely the rise of fascism, the current rise in right-wing fascist factions in Germany bares this opinion out?

(Laissez-faire is an economic philosophy of free-market capitalism that opposes government intervention. The theory of laissez-faire was developed by the French Physiocrats during the 18th century and believes that economic success is more likely the less governments are involved in business).

Modern interpretations demonstrate a complex image of ordoliberalism than is sometimes allowed. Rather than serving as the definite economic doctrine of the German dominated Eurozone, ordoliberalism appears instead as an important reference point, as a constituent part in the language of justification deployed in Eurozone politics. Julien Dumont explores ‘The Other Neoliberalism: German ordoliberalism after the Euro crisis’

Ordoliberalism to Neoliberalism

Neoliberalism is a political approach that favours free-market capitalism, deregulation, and reduction in government spending. Neoliberalism is contemporarily used to refer to market-oriented reform policies such as “eliminating price controls, deregulating capital markets, lowering trade barriers” and reducing, especially through privatisation and austerity, (as in the previous decades within the UK) state influence in the economy. A tried and tested system of government control, by fear and uncertainty .

Neoliberalism is regularly used in popular debate around the world to define the last 40 years. It’s used to refer to an economic system in which the “free” market is extended to every part of our public and personal worlds. The transformation of the state from a provider of public welfare to a promoter of markets and competition helps to enable this shift.

Neoliberalism is generally associated with policies like cutting trade tariffs and barriers. Its influence has liberalised the international movement of capital, and limited the power of trade unions. It’s broken up state-owned enterprises, sold off public assets and generally opened up our lives to dominance by market thinking.

As a term, neoliberalism is increasingly used across popular media, including The New York TimesThe Times (of London) and The Daily Mail. It’s also used within international institutions like the World Economic Forum, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the International Monetary Fund.

Neoliberalism is criticised for giving markets too much power over our lives. Yet in light of the rise of Donald Trump and other nativist, anti-trade populists, there is a growing chorus of people extolling the virtues of neoliberalism.

The term “neoliberalism” has a fascinating intellectual history. It appears as long ago as 1884 in an article by R.A. Armstrong for The Modern Review in which he defined liberals who promoted state intervention in the economy as “neo-liberal” — almost the exact opposite meaning from its popular and academic use today.

As the 20th century dawned and the world moved through one World War and onto the next, the term was appropriated by a range of liberal thinkers who felt side-lined by the ascendance of state planning and socialism.

It was around this time that neoliberalism increasingly took on negative overtones, especially after the violent overthrow of Salvador Allende’s government in Chile in 1973. As the 1980s dawned, along with the generally accepted birth of the modern neoliberal era, the term “neoliberalism” became indelibly linked to the Chicago School of Economics (as well as Law and Business).

Post-war UK set about installing the welfare state – comprehensive social security payments and a national health service in which most doctors became government employees – “nationalising” many troublesome, but important, industries. This new trend of nationalisation was copied in other countries including, to an extent, Australia, a country with obvious British influences but ever-increasing similarities and ideologies closer to America.

A new Boudica rose up, name of Maggie Thatcher, to set things right. Thatcher believed the problem was obvious: too much of the economy owned and run by the government and civil servants. Too many rules and regulations. The economy was inflexible and unresponsive. But most of all, that the unions had too much power and were abusing it, always on strike until they got their way. Thatcher despised the Unions and made it her, primary, life’s goal to decimate them.

By the early 1980s the US economy wasn’t working all that well.

In a world of floating currencies, the USA were still trying to fix their exchange rate, battling speculators who always won. The ‘new’ trend of privatisation and deregulation, now adopted ‘across the pond’ by Thatcher, the milk snatcher – was also being pushed by Reagan in the US – and was copied in many other developed economies.

Thatcher’s answer was to “privatise” most of the nationalised industries and get the unions back in their box, “we need to unshackle the power of the market, with its much greater ability to respond to changing times, greater desire to satisfy customers’ needs and motivation to root out inefficiency”.

If you hadn’t noticed, this particular economic ideology hasn’t worked?

As, no less an authority than, The Economist magazine has judged, the “neoliberal consensus” has collapsed. The theory, Yes? In practice, No? The rich get richer, trickle down economics, we all prosper just don’t work.

For almost 40 years in the English-speaking economies, both sides of politics have accepted that businesses and individuals should be allowed to go about their affairs with as little restriction as possible, but now both sides are stepping back from that attitude, doing so under pressure from voters growing increasingly unhappy with their situations.

Decades of Austerity, cuts, wage freezes, in-real-terms decreases in pay, low wage growth, high energy costs, normalisation of business lawlessness and a lengthening list of government outsourcing dodgy deals (cronyism) – the ‘special treatment’ accorded to ‘preferred’ political funders.

The UK specifically – a collapsing of the National Health Service, 5,000,000 waiting lists for routine operations and treatment, rising unemployment, zero hour contracts, casualisation, affordable housing shortages…., an all too familiar and expanding (economic) shit-storm.

It begs the question – if it isn’t working why do we just carry on in that direction?

Neoliberalism is working for some. Literally a handful, not even a minority but an exclusive club of elite, super-rich econo-warlords who continue to amass unimaginable amounts of wealth. Controlled, by ‘governing’ through ‘Order’ or ‘Disorder’, the, uninhibited, accumulation of wealth for its own sake. Wealth which leads to political power, which perpetuates control, which accumulates more wealth, and the cycle continues….on and on.

‘Order’ or ‘Disorder’, – during the ‘Pandemic, where some industries have been reduced to their knees, where millions of ordinary people have died, not just from Covid but from things like poverty, a report by Swiss bank UBS found that billionaires increased their wealth by more than a quarter (27.5%) at the height of the crisis from April to July, just as millions of people around the world lost their jobs or were struggling to get by on government schemes.

The report found that billionaires had mostly benefited from betting on the recovery of global stock markets when they were at their nadir during the global lockdowns in March and April. UBS said billionaires’ wealth had hit “a new high, surpassing the previous peak of $8.9tn reached at the end of 2017”. The number of billionaires has also hit a new high of 2,189, up from 2,158 in 2017 – undisputable, direct, exploitation from ‘disorder’.

Luke Hilyard, executive director of the High Pay Centre, a think-tank that focuses on excessive pay, said the “extreme wealth concentration is an ugly phenomenon from a moral perspective, but it’s also economically and socially destructive”.

“Billionaire wealth equates to a fortune almost impossible to spend over multiple lifetimes of absolute luxury,” Hilyard said. “Anyone accumulating riches on this scale could easily afford to raise the pay of the employees who generate their wealth, or contribute a great deal more in taxes to support vital public services, while remaining very well rewarded for whatever successes they’ve achieved.

The fact that billionaire wealth had increased so much at a time when hundreds of millions of people around the world are struggling could lead to public and political anger. “Is there a risk they may be singled out by society? Yes,” he said. “Are they aware of it? Yes.” Bit, Do they give two fucks? No.

Billionaires’ fortunes have swelled by $4.2bn (or 70%) in the three years since Stadler warned about the threat of a global uprising against the super-rich. “We’re at an inflection point,” Stadler said. “Wealth concentration is as high as in 1905, this is something billionaires are concerned about. The problem is the power of interest on interest – that makes big money bigger and, the question is to what extent is that sustainable and at what point will society intervene and strike back?”

The world’s current super-rich hold the greatest concentration of wealth since the US Gilded Age at the turn of the 20th century, when families such as the Carnegies, Rockefellers and Vanderbilts controlled vast fortunes.

The richest person on the planet is Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, with $189bn. Bezos’s wealth has increased by $74bn so far this year, according to the Bloomberg billionaires index, due to the surge in Amazon’s share price as more people turned to the company. One of the few women is the cosmetics entrepreneur, Kylie Jenner.

Elon Musk, the maverick founder of electric car company Tesla, has made the most money so far this year with his fortune increasing by $76bn to $103bn.

According to a study backed by the German government, ending ‘world’ hunger by 2030 would come with a price tag of $330bn (£253bn), Research groups compiled data from 23 countries and found international donors would need to add another $14bn a year to their spending on ‘food-security’ and nutrition over the next 10 years; (more than twice their current contribution). Low and middle-income countries would also have to give another $19bn a year, potentially through taxation, but that would solve world hunger for ever.

If Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, combined both their current assets, they could solve world hunger within a year? Or they could NOT.

Is Neoliberalism (a version of) Capitalism?

By pure definition no, however, there are commonalities and most ‘Capitalists’ adopt ‘Neoliberalist’ practices in their relentless application of their accumulation of wealth.

The ruling ethic of Capitalism is prudence which leads to wealth, whereas the dominant ethos of Neoliberalism is the accumulation of wealth for its own sake which leads to political power. Capitalists worship money, Neoliberalist worship power, Musk v Thatcher. Capitalism is socioeconomic way of life. Neoliberalism is an politico-economic means of social control.

Ordoliberalism and Neoliberalization: The ‘Governing’ through ‘Order’ or ‘Disorder’

Although both promote a free market and strong state, ordoliberalism is usefully contrasted with neoliberalisation. Ordoliberals aim to achieve this goal by creating a juridico-political institutionalfix’ a solution that provides a stable framework for wealth accumulation.

Promoters of neoliberal regime shifts pursue it through strategies of destabilisation that exploit resulting crises. Ordoliberalism governs through order, neoliberalisation through disorder. BREXIT is a perfect example, the manipulation and exploitation of a situation, for profit (no matter what the consequences)?

How many ‘hedge-funds’ super-investors gained and still are gaining unimaginable wealth due to the consequences of Brexit? Direct gains from a (purposeful) destabilisation, leading to widespread economic collapse, disorder? Buying up of diminished assets for a fraction of their value, exploitation of a situation (they created?) and the re-sale of those assets in smaller, valuable re-packages, no matter what the human cost, ‘governing’ thru disorder and destabilisation.    

Ordoliberalism corresponds more to an accumulation regime and mode of régulation-cum-governance based on a productivist concept of capital, reflecting the dominance of profit-producing capital in coordinated market economies. But it also has limited conditions of possibility and is relatively rare. In contrast, neoliberalisation (the world for the past 40 years) corresponds more to what Weber described as ‘politically oriented capitalism’, especially within a ‘finance-dominated’ accumulation regime, (the UK, dominated by a growing, service economy), which is aligned with interest-bearing capital (international investors with bottomless pits of money).

The whole point of Neoliberalism was to move the so called Centre Ground a long way to the right so they could spin socialism (the only viable, serious alternative) as some kind of fundamentalist ‘left’ ideology.

At its core is an ideological hatred of any type of alternative forms of Political Expression especially the one that threatens the juxtaposition of State and Corporate Power that this ideology has as its fundamental core belief. This mist be repelled at any cost.

Corbyn was the victim of the Ultra Right Wing Corporate controlled propaganda machine, those that had the most to lose, that is deliberately in place to traduce any other form of political expression that challenges the Orthodox narrative of their ‘profit at any cost’ system.

This is where we find ourselves ‘Politically’ for the past Forty years.

GREED. Greed. Insatiable greed.

Thanks for reading

Peace

Julien Dumont explores ‘The Other Neoliberalism: German ordoliberalism after the Euro crisis’.

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/oct/07/covid-19-crisis-boosts-the-fortunes-of-worlds-billionaires

Published by Riff

Husband to my inspirational, (long suffering) wife, father of two amazing (adult) children, teacher, former guitarist (now guitar owner), recent 'granda(r) to my beautiful grandson who I am yet to meet. I Love people. I love my family, my friends, I love(d) what I do (my Job), I love Music, Cars, Everton .... I love many things, most of all I fucking love 'life'.

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