Spiked Online Friday 25 January 2013
’The struggle to moralise capitalism’
Every single one of us is an absolute prisoner of cultural conditioning.
Intellect can only be understood materially as the expression of cultural conditioning. Any attempt to depict it as something other rests on metaphysics. It is impossible for any intellect to step outside the cultural conditioning that created it. It would be easier to physically pick yourself up by your own shoelaces than to do it.
However, this has never prevented self styled German fakir intellectuals from claiming to be able to achieve this feat by means of one or another intellectual discipline.
At root, the fallacy of this belief has been obscured by the success Germanic science achieved with deterministic disciplines such as ‘classic’ Chemistry and Physics. Germanic science underpinned a military/political empire making it possible to argue that other Germanic ‘disciplines’ such as economics or history were equally as powerful, universal and ‘true’ as classical science. Of all the claims that Germanic ‘humanities’ make, the claim to ‘universality’ is the key to unravelling their meaning and purpose.
To justify this claim of universality, Germanic intellectuals attempt to sidestep discussion of specific cultural identity by dealing with historical events as ‘scientific’ abstractions- claiming theirs is the story of the entire world.
In order to be able to claim the prize of universality, Saxon intellectuals on ‘left’ and ‘right’ have made this deal with the devil and both are forever trapped by its consequences. But it is the left who has paid the heaviest price for their bargain.
Most damagingly of all in the recent past, the left has collaborated in presenting the emergence of neo-capitalist ideology in this ahistorical way. It is this as much as anything that has given the right advantage in the post Credit Crunch world. Why does the left do this? What could any ‘left-wing’ gain from this ‘grand bargain’ that would make it worth losing the argument over the free market?
The Great Persuasion: Reinventing Free Markets Since the Depression, by Angus Burgin is reviewed by Frank Furedi in an effort to explain the rehabilitation of free market ideology in the post WWII era.That the ‘market principle’ has actually been rehabilitated will come as something of a surprise to most of us, given that we are in the fourth year of the largest economic and financial crash that we have seen for a hundred years.
- We have seen a truly unprecedented level of direct state control of markets, monetary and trade policy.
- Incredible levels of inter-state co-operation in the management of interest levels. Mind boggling production of credits, literally trillions of dollars worth of credits to prop up the banking system.
- Leading American banks told the Federal Reserve to provide unlimited liquidity for the banks or there would have to be a declaration of Martial Law!
In three years of trawling the World Wide Web I have not found a single person anywhere who advocates further deregulation of financial markets as a response to the Credit Crunch.
The Credit Crunch itself makes a literal nonsense of the very idea of further deregulation- it is the result of deregulation. The only way to protect the market from the corruption and excesses of the people who run and own it is through increased interference by the state. Every solution proposed to remedy the Credit Crunch from maximum to minimum interference relies on the state to implement it. So in what sense can anyone in their sober and right mind suggest that ‘free markets’ have been rehabilitated??!!
Something must be seriously wrong; either in the standard Saxon definition of ‘rehabilitation’ or the definition of ‘free markets’.
In his review of ‘The Great Persuasion: Reinventing Free Markets Since the Depression’, Furedi suggests that
‘despite the unpopularity of so-called neoliberalism, alternatives to it are conspicuous by their absence. Which is why this era of global economic depression really does not feel anything like the 1930s’
‘have made significant headway on the economic front but have suffered a string of defeats on the cultural front’
‘What Friedman…characterised as a half-won battle can also be understood as part of a war with no clear victors’
So on closer inspection this rehabilitation of the free market seems a little less successful than first supposed; let us look closer:
The Not Very Formidable Thinkers
Burgin’s history of two influential liberal groupings around The Mont Pelerin society and the Colloque Lippman recounts the struggle to reconstitute the broad philosophical basis of capitalism and argues that:
‘…an idea that was consigned to the margins of society in the 1930s succeeded in making such a triumphant comeback in the 1970s …… as a result of the hard work and dedication of a handful of formidable thinkers’.
But from the start, Furedi makes it clear that these ‘formidable thinkers’ completely failed in their primary purpose; to form a ‘comprehensive moral worldview’. Indeed, they appear to have failed even in such a simple task as to even be able to figure out a name for themselves.
‘the failure… to name themselves generated a problem that would plague the movement in later years… in the absence of a shared reference, its members increasingly identified themselves with divergent labels and focused intensively on the differences their respective choices entailed’.
Explaining the intellectual ascendancy of the free market by the native genius of these liberal intellectuals is not an easy task.
Furedi himself points to this:
‘What is less clear is the role of groups and their ideas in the realisation of this development. What this fine book lacks is an assessment of important external developments – the postwar boom, the loss of the moral authority of the Soviet Union, the disintegration of the welfare state – which influenced the trajectory of economic thinking from the late 1960s to today.’
So if the domination of free market thinking did not come about:
‘as a result of the hard work and dedication of a handful of formidable thinkers’ –how did it happen?
The Dreaded ‘C’ Word
In fact from the onset of the Great Depression and the second Germanic War, political advocacy of the ‘free’ market (whatever that might actually be), was effectively dismantled- globally and internally within the Germanic empire. This was not voluntary- nor was it the result of reasoned debate. It was more like a moral collapse; a David Icke style ‘shift in consciousness’ (breakdown), in the Germanic world.
That chaos, death and misery flowed from Germanic domination was becoming obvious to the entire world in the early C20th. War, chaos and deprivation meant that tiny self styled cliques of intellectual liberals, conservatives and later Monetarists were literally too scared to openly call themselves as capitalists. Instead using weasel phrases like the ‘free market’ and the ‘the mixed economy’:
‘Though in the Fifties he presented himself as a radical, even Chicago School economist Milton Friedman had problems describing his outlook. Burgin suggests that, in this respect at least, Friedman ‘was at a loss for words’.
Furedi implies from this that as liberals and later Friedman were too scared to say who they were or what they wanted, that they were somehow linked or equivalent. This is more than just simple error.
There is no historical flow between the liberals of the 1930’s and the Monetarists. Friedman had nothing to do with the liberal intellectuals that went before, anymore than Tony Blair came from the trades unions that formed the Labour Party, or the devil in the Garden of Eden had anything to do with snakes.
And just as the devil did not assume the form of a snake to promote educational opportunities in the Garden of Eden or the interests of serpents in general, so Monetarism did not come into existence to defend liberalism.
To understand what Friedman and the Monetarists really are, we have to look at what they actually did.
The central political goal of Friedman and the Monetarists was to spread the idea that inflation was a social evil and from this point to argue that any other purpose of economic policy is overridden by the fight against inflation:
‘During the period between the late 1960s and the mid-1970 …the problems associated with the massive expansion of public expenditure and the inefficiencies of welfarism* had diminished the appeal of planning’
Since all the things ordinary people want cause inflation, (the inefficiencies of welfarism*), in the interests of ‘efficiency’, the public should not be allowed a say in public policy, and especially public monetary policy. Control of the money supply is the means of controlling and eradicating all but ‘core’ capitalist economic activity and much more importantly, all but core capitalist political activity.
Furedi does not ask the simple question: To whom was the appeal of planning diminished? Are we to believe that by the 1970’s the public did not want the NHS and Council Housing? That the public wanted a return to the economic conditions their parents and grandparents suffered in the 1930’s? With this in mind it becomes obvious that Friedman’s appeal was never really a popular one. Furedi’s assertion that:
‘Friedman was a uniquely effective public intellectual who possessed impressive communication skills’.
is simply nonsense.
Friedman was clearly personally repellent and a grotesque. His trademark leering grin reveals just how twisted his inner psychology was. In an Anglo Saxon world supposedly enthralled by his ideas, 99.9% of the public have no idea at all who Milton Friedman even is.
Friedman and the Monetarists needed the cover of liberalism for a new project and the milieu around Neo-Liberalism provided it. Friedman and the Monetarists needed a past and the Liberals needed a future- it is really no more complicated than that. Traditional liberalism had no future other than Monetarism; just like the Labour Party had no future other than the New Labour parasites that invaded it.
The Monetarist mantra of anti-inflation was taken up and repeated first by Germanic fakir economists and then the fakir political class. The immorality revealed post WWII by revelations of death camps left them with no defence against the ‘moral’ argument put forward about inflation. ‘Moral’ monetary policy was the method by which the Monetarist snake gained a form with which to enter the Liberal Garden of Eden. Like the serpent, Friedman offered nothing less than a taste of the fruit of the tree of knowledge:
The only real intellectual achievement of Friedman and the Monetarists was that they understood in what respect Marx was right and conceded Marx’s analysis that the state will inevitably subsume every capitalist economy.
Friedman and his followers in the Chicago School called this process ‘Socialism’- MONETARISM is the political response they devised.
Monetarists understand ‘Socialism’ to be the collectivisation of every aspect of society that is brought under the ambit of the state.
Monetarists understood that the state will be forced to expand into every corner of the capitalist world. Monetarists accept this. Liberalism is by definition, powerless in the face of this development. Given there is no possibility of avoiding the state consuming the economy, the only possible answer for the elite is to take over the state and restructure it, to create an autonomous state-a state ‘free’ from influence of the people.
Upon completion of this formulation Friedman:
‘…concluded that ‘we have largely won the battle of ideas (though no such battle is ever won permanently); we have succeeded in stalling the progress of socialism, but we have not succeeded in reversing its course’
This was not liberalism or even conservatism; this was the antithesis of liberalism and conservatism. Friedman is explicitly acknowledging there can be no return to a liberal Garden of Eden now that the new right have this terrible knowledge of the future of the state. Instead there will be a permanent battle to prevent the public gaining access to the state. This will be the battleground of politics and economics from now on.
That is why on the sidelines of this battle, the remnants of the left constantly sees the state as withdrawing and the remnants of the right constantly sees the state as overweening. They are both right from their individual perspectives.
As I have explained elsewhere, the Democratisation of Money is the formal legal enactment of this process of removing the state from popular control.
The achievement of the Monetarists in establishing a ‘moral’ argument around inflation and using this as a political springboard to hijack the state was driven by necessity. The success of their political enterprise in the Anglo-Saxon world has come at a high price; not least the realisation in the rest of the world that there is such an historical phenomenon as Anglo Saxon economics. Think of the increasing division in European politics and economics between the Catholic capitalist nations and the Germanic nations and you will realise what a serious blow has already been dealt to the idea of ‘universal’ capitalism.
‘Unlike Hayek, Friedman did not face a world where economic planning enjoyed ideological hegemony. In such circumstances, his free-market liberalism was of the moment and his receipt of a Nobel Prize in 1976 merely confirmed this’.
Having implied that Friedman and the liberals were similar or equivalent, Furedi goes on to argue that a change in external conditions contributed to the success of Friedman where the liberals had previously failed. This is trying to pass off an observation as an explanation. The world where economic planning did not enjoy ideological hegemony was created by Friedman in the Anglo Saxon sphere; it did not appear deus ex machina!
Furedi then compounds the problem with the suggestion that a Nobel prize issued by a gang of German capitalists reflects this new, objective, global truth, in the same way I suppose that awarding a Nobel peace prize reflects the reality of Obama creating world peace!
Liberals did not rehabilitate capitalism. More importantly, the Monetarists who followed the Liberals did not seek to rehabilitate capitalism; their purpose was to adapt the philosophy of power to the emergent truth that Marx was right about the state. Given the primacy of the state, Monetarists created a political movement whose purpose was to hijack the state to prevent it ever falling into the hands of anyone but them. These actions were to protect what they saw as the core of capitalism. But why would the Saxon left go along with his project?
Examine the neo liberal search for a ‘heritage’ for capitalism and clues emerge. First of all there is the question of why Germanic intellectuals wanted to address cultural issues.
‘In 1972, neo-conservative ideologue Irving Kristol … was critical of the tendency of market advocates to promote materialism’
How apposite this change in his appreciation was! Monetarists now knew that Marx was right about the all consuming state, and that the politics and the economics of ‘free market’ capitalism were a busted flush. It was time to change tack and talk about the ‘culture’ of capitalism but:
‘the absence of an intellectually compelling moral foundation for capitalism meant that it was always exposed to a cultural critique of its values’
What is ‘an intellectually compelling moral foundation for capitalism’? To whom does this ‘moral foundation’ need to be compelling? Obviously to the people Saxon liberals and conservatives want to control and to whom they can offer nothing else other than propaganda. This substantial list has close to 5 billion names extant worldwide. Elites need to dominate intellectually precisely and exactly to the extent that they cannot offer material benefits to comply. Here they are addressing exactly this point:
‘In 1972, neo-conservative ideologue Irving Kristol warned that capitalism was living off the ‘accumulated moral capital’ of the philosophies that preceded it. He was critical of the.. failure to recognise the perils of cultural decline’.
What a bizarre Germanic idea: ‘accumulated moral capital’. Surely only the German mind could conceive of culture, history and morality as a bank balance! But this telling phrase finally begins to tease out the differences between Neo Con and Neo Liberal; the new Germanic right and the New Germanic left.
Germanic Neo-Conservatives get their culture from Germanic Protestantism together with some scavenged body parts from the mediterranean bronze age cult of Democracy. This is the ‘accumulated moral capital’ that Kristol refers to. On the other hand, Germanic Neo Liberals and the Left from the 1960’s onward increasingly overtly express German paganism in personal sexual and social matters, most tellingly environmentalism. This is the new division at the heart of Germanic society and between Germans and everyone else.
‘This so-called cultural contradiction of capitalism emerged with full force in the late 1960s, when many of capitalism’s values were explicitly challenged’
But the values of capitalism were not really challenged in the Anglo Saxon world. What this phrase actually refers to is German Protestantism challenged by Germanic Paganism.
The Cold War, in offering a common Slavic white enemy, allowed the two Germanic factions to avoid developing their differences:
‘supporters of the free market were able to avoid facing up to this question during the Cold War. Against the manifest failures of the planned economy and a corrupt Soviet society, the open-market principle of capitalism appeared to possess moral authority.’
This so called ‘freedom’ was an open-market in ideas allowing Germans and those they controlled to mix and match between Protestantism and Paganism. These cultural skirmishes formed the basis for the post sixties Germanic left and right. Hardening finally into
‘ …what would turn out to be an interminable Culture War.’
In this new landscape
“What distinguished the New Left, noted Kristol, is its representatives’ ‘refusal to think economically’”
In fact, the new right was also distinguished by it’s refusal to think economically. for which it blames the left by means of twisted logic: i.e. It was Karl Marx who spoilt the liberal Garden of Eden with his accurate prediction (forbidden fruit), of the future of the state.
If this new German left was not going to think about economics, what would it think about? From now on, in the name of Universalism it would be their quest to convert all the rest of humanity to German pagan beliefs. And in this it reveals ultimate and true allegiance to the Germanic cause. The Saxon/Germanic left will never betray its ‘heritage’ in favour of some vague non-specific global ‘class struggle’. The very idea is preposterous.
And now it is the turn of Kristol speaking for the new right to elide two distinct historical groupings; the ‘old right’ and the ‘new left’:
‘He presented their critique of capitalism not as progressive but as ‘utterly regressive’, observing that the New Left adopted the approach of the Old Right, which ‘never did accept the liberal-bourgeois revolutions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries’
In other words did not accept the rise of Germanic culture expressed in the capitalist revolutions of the 1800’s. The key here is the characterisation of opposition to the German takeover as regressive. After all, according to Germanic universal truth this entire story is the story of global human progress- the story of humanity. This universalism serves to hide the truth that in reality the new Germanic left is only opposed to Protestantism and very much in favour of German domination.
During the Cold War, to rehabilitate the tattered and filthy remnants of Germanic culture, Germanic left and right conspired to present to the world a choice between Soviet Communism and Germanic protestant or pagan freedom. When the Soviet ‘threat’ ended they again conspired together to offer the world a choice between Protestantism and paganism. This is the choice they now offer to the post Credit Crunch world in the marketplace of ideas.
The Germanic left not only let this happen, they promote it with absolute commitment to the interests of Germanic supremacy. It is of all consuming importance for Germans whether on left or right to make as much of the world as possible believe that their story is the story of humanity. Thus, Germanic wars are world wars- the Credit Crunch is a global economic meltdown. The day this strategy fails marks the final collapse of the Germanic global empire.
It is not the dedication and genius of Germanic liberals holding up the corpse of the free market, it is the Germanic left.
Or to give them their true name, German pagans.