Saturday, September 27, 2014

Neoliberalism vs. freedom

Here is Mary Wakefield in this week's Spectator magazine, on the use of mainstream Hollywood entertainment to desensitise teenage war criminals:

"Joshua Milton Blahyi (General Butt-Naked to his foes) ... was once a warlord in the Liberian civil war. Back in the bad old days, Joshua specialised in turning boys into psychopaths...

"He began, he said, by promising boys status. ‘They followed me at first because I was powerful and strong, and they wanted to be important like me.’ It was crucial that this first step was freely taken; that it was their choice. After that, the monster-making began. They were shown violent movies. ‘So they can see,’ said Joshua, ‘that these people in the movies, they intentionally shoot people that die, that killing is just a Hollywood game.’ Hollywood movies, I asked, not African ones? ‘Yes, Hollywood films.’

"The next step was to let them play with guns, shooting blanks, showing off, pretending to kill, and then: ‘We give them a knife to stab dead bodies,’ said Joshua. ‘At first it is hard for them, they feel fear. Later they are stabbing the bodies on and on… On and on and on.’

"...You must escalate the violence all the time, he said, so as to keep the boys in line. Once they’re happy killing, you make them rape, torture, behead. There are things Joshua made his young recruits do that are too horrible and too sad to repeat..."
Overleaf in the print edition, we have James Delingpole's panegyric to violent computer gaming, headed:

"The greatest joy of playing Grand Theft Auto V? It lets you give the finger to the PC brigade. It’s condemned for its outrageous sexism, racism, misogyny and violence. But it’s damn good fun."

And one in the eye for his false opposite, "feminazis".

John Ward's piece last night also has a go at the brainless dichotomies offered by neoliberalism, starting with:

"Problem: On the whole, regulators of markets have no experience of commercial life….and thus they tend to both miss the villainy – and come up with daft regulations that just get in the way.

"Neoliberal solution: Deregulation. No more regulators at all."

We have seen what financial deregulation has done since the 1980s. And the latest twist is global regulation in favour of big money - TTIP and so on.

Neoliberalism - as far as the term has any sense to me - may be neo, but it is not what I understand by liberalism. It is not about promoting the freedom of individuals, but - as far as I can see - destroying their defences against oligarchic power and wealth. Now international law is co-opted, so for example if GATT stalls at Doha in 2008 because smaller countries worry about American export disruption to their domestic markets, the US crashes into the TPP to find another way round. The juggernaut rolls on.

From a review in the Sydney Morning Herald
of Ludwell Denny's book, "America Conquers Britain" (1930).

This week also, Charles Hugh Smith looked at the "clerisy", those who serve themselves by serving the world's would-be masters:

"The Status Quo around the world--from France to China to the U.S.--is optimized to protect its Elites and the sprawling Upper-Caste of academics, managers, think-tank toadies, technocrats, apparatchiks, functionaries, factotums, lackeys and apologists who serve the Elites, and are well-paid for enforcing the Status Quo on the disenfranchized castes below..."

What a shame it would be if, in his efforts to get noticed by Rupert Murdoch, Jame Delingpole should eventually find himself wearing the livery of the clerisy.

Can anything stop them? "What chance has the world?"


All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy. The blog author may have, or intend to change, a personal position in any stock or other kind of investment mentioned.


Sobers said...

"Neoliberalism - as far as the term has any sense to me - may be neo, but it is not what I understand by liberalism. It is not about promoting the freedom of individuals, but - as far as I can see - destroying their defences against oligarchic power and wealth. "

Nonsense. There is only one way a large corporate entity gets to be a large corporate entity and thats by giving the consumer what he or she wants. (There are one or two notable exceptions but they all involve the State - either providing the finance for a company to grow via State contracts, defence for example, or regulating a business sector so strongly that only the existing players can survive and are thus protected, such as banks).

However all the consumer facing large corporations only exist because the consumer, when freely offered their products or services prefer them to the existing ones. When Macdonalds opened in the UK, did the population shun them for their fish and chip shops and curry houses? When News International started Sky TV, did everyone say 'You know what we prefer the BBC'? When cheap tat from China started being imported in the late 90s did everyone go 'We'll stick with the superior quality and more expensive British products thank you very much?'?

No of course they didn't. And thats the point. People voted with their wallets for the new, and cheaper. If you prevent new people coming into market places, they stagnate, and the existing players get complacent, and (as all businesses will do in the absence of competition) gouge the customer. Why did supermarkets take over from the individual grocer, baker, butcher and greengrocer? Because they offered a better service at a lower price. The existing businesses were charging too much, and the customer, when offered an alternative, went elsewhere.

Complaints about 'neoliberalism' and 'corporate power' etc are just a thinly disguised middle class attack on the mass population for making the 'wrong' choices with their money. The middle classes would prefer the lower classes spent their money in Waitrose rather than Tesco,in a little independent coffee shop than Starbucks, and watched improving programs on the BBC than watch WWE Smackdown on Sky, because all of those former things are what the bien pensant middle classes think the lower classes SHOULD have, rather than what they actually want.

I don't like Tesco, Starbucks or WWE Smackdown either, but I don't demand that other people be prevented from having them if they so choose. I just use my ultimate power - I don't spend my money on them.

Sackerson said...

Good points, but the arguments still aren't all on the one side.

"my ultimate power - I don't spend my money on them" ... until you have nobody else to spend your money with, Sobers.

And the big boys will use unfair means - look at how Tesco bought land near its stores to prevent competition. Not everything can be left to the individual consumer, whose power is overrated and whose vote is more often than not irrelevant.

Also things are interconnected: destroy the little producer and he loses his livelihood and 20 years of accumulated effort and capital, and his adult children will live with him and stack shelves in the supermarket, where they'll shop because their low wages don't allow them to buy better. It's not always a case of us being better off because we maintained our earnings while prices fell.