In this summary, Walden Bello distills the key ideas and data contained in Thomas Piketty’s monumental work Capital and Ideology.
Category Archives: What interests us
In an effort to get away from the simply pejorative use of the term neoliberalism, which can be attached indiscriminately to various forms of anti-democratic or pro-corporate power, the more historicist approach to the concept highlights its fluidity and contingent development. However, this approach also risks lapsing into pure historical description, without critique or an account of how ideas translate into policies and strategies. Others apply a more sociological and critical method, which aims to examine which aspects of neoliberalism are at work amongst elites and governments today. This poses the question of precisely how much of neoliberalism has survived the global financial crisis, and through what means this survival has been achieved.
Definitions of neoliberalism across these literatures are various. But they tend to share four things:
- Victorian liberalism is viewed as an inspiration for neoliberalism, but not a model. Neoliberalism is an inventive, constructivist, modernizing force, which aims to produce a new social and political model, and not to recover an old one. Neoliberalism is not a conservative or nostalgic project.
- Following this, neoliberal policy targets institutions and activities which lie outside of the market, such as universities, households, public administrations and trade unions. This may be so as to bring them inside the market, through acts of privatization; or to reinvent them in a ‘market-like’ way; or simply to neutralize or disband them.
- To do this, the state must be an active force, and cannot simply rely on ‘market forces’. This is where the distinction from Victorian liberalism is greatest. Neoliberal states are required to produce and reproduce the rules of institutions and individual conduct, in ways that accord with a certain ethical and political vision.
- This ethical and political vision is dominated by an idea of competitive activity, that is, the production of inequality. Competition and inequality are valued positively under neoliberalism, as a non-socialist principle for society in general, through which value and scientific knowledge can best be pursued.
As the NHS turns 70, let’s make it our major export
‘As we celebrate the NHS here, we must not underestimate its symbolism beyond our borders. As the People’s Health Movement, the global network of health activists, made clear in evidence to my recent consultation, the health service does not just impact on the lives of people in the UK. It is a beacon of hope to millions of people around the world who are fighting for their own access to healthcare. Its very existence demonstrates that universal, publicly funded healthcare is possible.
This was always its intention. As Nye Bevan said on the day the NHS was brought into existence: “The eyes of the world are turning to Great Britain. We now have the moral leadership of the world.” Continue reading
Meet the Economist Behind the One Percent’s Stealth Takeover of America
By Lynn Parramore, Senior Research Analyst, Institute for New Economic Thinking. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website
Nobel laureate James Buchanan is the intellectual lynchpin of the Koch-funded attack on democratic institutions, argues Duke historian Nancy MacLean
Ask people to name the key minds that have shaped America’s burst of radical right-wing attacks on working conditions, consumer rights and public services, and they will typically mention figures like free market-champion Milton Friedman, libertarian guru Ayn Rand, and laissez-faire economists Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises.
James McGill Buchanan is a name you will rarely hear unless you’ve taken several classes in economics. And if the Tennessee-born Nobel laureate were alive today, it would suit him just fine that most well-informed journalists, liberal politicians, and even many economics students have little understanding of his work.
The reason? Duke historian Nancy MacLean contends that his philosophy is so stark that even young libertarian acolytes are only introduced to it after they have accepted the relatively sunny perspective of Ayn Rand. (Yes, you read that correctly). If Americans really knew what Buchanan thought and promoted, and how destructively his vision is manifesting under their noses, it would dawn on them how close the country is to a transformation most would not even want to imagine, much less accept.
That is a dangerous blind spot, MacLean argues in a meticulously researched book, Democracy in Chains, a finalist for the National Book Award in Nonfiction. While Americans grapple with Donald Trump’s chaotic presidency, we may be missing the key to changes that are taking place far beyond the level of mere politics. Once these changes are locked into place, there may be no going back.
Cannabis: Regulate it. Tax it. Support the NHS. Promote public health.
A new report by Health Poverty Action.
The so-called ‘war on drugs’ was always built on shaky foundations. Now countries and jurisdictions around the world are dismantling it piece by piece and building a new, 21st century approach to drugs that puts public health first.
Nowhere are the foundations of this new approach to drugs more obvious than in the global movement towards regulated, legalised cannabis markets. And despite the US being the ostensible leader of the ‘war on drugs’, it has been US states at the forefront of this move. The results from the US so far are generally positive: confounding critics whilst bringing in additional tax income to fund public services. And this is just the start: in the summer of 2018 Canada will become the first G7 country to legalise cannabis.
Regulating and legalising cannabis is an idea whose time has come.
It is time to accept that prohibition is not only ineffective and expensive, but that regulation could – if it is done well – protect vulnerable groups and support public health. It would also generate both taxes (at least £1 billion annually, but potentially more) and savings, which taken together would mean more resources for health, harm reduction and other public services.
It is time for the UK government to catch up with the global shift and take the responsible approach by bringing in a regulated, legal market for cannabis.
To do this the UK government should
- move primary responsibility for cannabis policy and all other domestic (legal and illegal) drug policy to the Departments of Health (DH) and International Development (DFID);
- bring together a panel of experts to develop the most effective model for a regulated market; and,
- establish a Cannabis Regulatory Authority to implement their recommendations.
It is time to act.
 Transform, (2015) ‘Cannabis regulation in Colorado: early evidence defies the critics’ Available online: www.tdpf.org.uk/blog/cannabis-regulation-colorado-early-evidence-defies-critics
 Health Poverty Action (2018) ‘Building a 21st Century Approach to Drugs’ Available online: https://www.healthpovertyaction.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Building-a-21st-century-approach-to-drugs_briefing2018.pdf
Making cannabis legal ‘could bring £3,500,000,000 to the UK’
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b4yzrm from 46:50
70% of the UK’s working population “chronically broke”
Economic insecurity has become the “new normal” in the UK with at least 70% of the UK’s working population “chronically broke”, according to a study by the thinktank the Royal Society of Arts.
Thriving, striving or just about surviving, the RSA/Populus survey of more than 2,000 workers, found that while about 30% of respondents said they lived comfortably, 40% said their finances were permanently precarious. The remaining 30% said they were not managing to get by. Continue reading
Percentage of welfare in cash paid to the lowest and highest quintile in 2011
Time to to re-empower cooperative enterprise
What lessons can we take from this sad story? One, obviously, is that it’s high time for Congress to take a hard look at the laws governing co-ops. It needs to be made clear that no corporation gets the legal privileges of a co-op unless it truly represents the little guy without any conflicts of interests. While there is nothing wrong per se with co-ops becoming vertically integrated, the law should ensure that the money co-ops make on all their operations goes back directly to their members.
Another lesson is that monopoly begets monopoly. Gary Hanman wasn’t wrong when he told farmers that the increasing concentration of ownership among agribusinesses meant that farmer co-ops had to grow bigger, too. But he didn’t tell them that as their traditional co-ops merged and consolidated into the Goliath that became DFA, they were creating a new oppressor. This dynamic is what Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis meant when he referred to “the curse of bigness.” Continue reading
Dr Strangelove warned the oil industry about global warming 60 years ago
Four others joined Dunlop at the podium that day, one of whom had made the journey from California – and Hungary before that. The nuclear weapons physicist Edward Teller had, by 1959, become ostracized by the scientific community for betraying his colleague J. Robert Oppenheimer, but he retained the embrace of industry and government. Teller’s task that November fourth was to address the crowd on “energy patterns of the future,” and his words carried an unexpected warning:
Ladies and gentlemen, I am to talk to you about energy in the future. I will start by telling you why I believe that the energy resources of the past must be supplemented. First of all, these energy resources will run short as we use more and more of the fossil fuels. But I would […] like to mention another reason why we probably have to look for additional fuel supplies. And this, strangely, is the question of contaminating the atmosphere. [….] Whenever you burn conventional fuel, you create carbon dioxide. [….] The carbon dioxide is invisible, it is transparent, you can’t smell it, it is not dangerous to health, so why should one worry about it?
Carbon dioxide has a strange property. It transmits visible light but it absorbs the infrared radiation which is emitted from the earth. Its presence in the atmosphere causes a greenhouse effect [….] It has been calculated that a temperature rise corresponding to a 10 per cent increase in carbon dioxide will be sufficient to melt the icecap and submerge New York. All the coastal cities would be covered, and since a considerable percentage of the human race lives in coastal regions, I think that this chemical contamination is more serious than most people tend to believe.
The World Inequality Report
by Max Lawson, Head of Inequality Policy, Oxfam International
This week saw the launch of the first ‘World Inequality Report’ written by the team at the Paris School of Economics and based on the data collected by over 100 researchers behind the World Incomes Database. The summary is very short and full of fantastic charts, well worth taking a look at. They have pioneered the use of tax data and other sources to recalculate the incomes of those at the top, which are hugely underestimated. They have now done this for enough large countries to make some conclusions about global trends, which is the basis of the report.
£280bn Global Arms Sales in 2016
Global sales of weapons and military services have risen for the first time in five years, helped in part by an increase in sales by British companies.
Weapons – many of which are fuelling deadly conflicts in the Middle East – are now being bought and sold at the highest level since 2010, with sales up more than a third (38 per cent) since 2002.
Military kit worth $374.8bn (£280bn) was sold in 2016 by the industry’s top 100 companies, an annual review by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) found.
The findings came as UK firm BAE Systems signed a $6.7bn deal with Qatar to buy 24 Typhoon fighter jets.
British arms sales rose 2 per cent last year and now amount to almost 10 per cent of global sales, researchers found.
Germany’s arms sales jumped 6.6 per cent while South Korean companies notched up 20 per cent more sales than a year earlier. …
Sales by Lockheed Martin – the world’s largest arms producer – rose by 10.7 per cent in 2016, the report found, linked to the sale of F-35 combat aircraft. Continue reading
Destruction Of Black Wealth During The Obama Presidency
Between 2007 and 2016, the average wealth of the bottom 99% decreased by $4,500. This decline was particularly
concentrated among the housing wealth of AfricanAmericans. Outside of home equity, black wealth recovered its 2007 level by 2016. But average black home equity was still $16,700 less. Meanwhile, over the same period, the average wealth of the top 1% increased by $4.9 million. Much of this decline in wealth, we argue, was the direct result of policies enacted by President Obama. His housing policies, particularly regarding foreclosures, were a disastrous failure that led to millions of families losing their homes, with black families suffering especially harsh losses. What’s more, Obama had power—money, legislative tools, and legal leverage—that could have very sharply ameliorated the foreclosure crisis, if not largely prevented it. He chose not to use them.
In the following essay, we shall examine the circumstances that led to the housing bubble, and its eventual collapse in Part I. In Part II, we shall take a close statistical look at the decline in black housing wealth. And in Part III, we shall outline an approach that would have halted the foreclosure crisis, had President Obama chosen to pursue it.
The largest transfer of wealth in living memory
Artists’ letter on Trump and Jerusalem
The Guardian reports (10th December) President Macron’s comment that recent US moves on the status of Jerusalem are a threat to peace. They are much more than that.
In recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Donald Trump seeks to achieve through a declaration what Israel has been trying to do for fifty years through force of arms: to erase Palestinians, as a political and cultural presence, from the life of their own city.
The Palestinian people of Jerusalem are already subject to municipal discrimination at every level, and a creeping process of ethnic cleansing. In addition to the continuing policy of house demolitions, in the last fifteen years, at least thirty-five Palestinian public institutions and NGOs in occupied East Jerusalem have been permanently or temporarily closed by the occupying forces. Cultural institutions have been a particular target.
At the same time Israeli authorities and entrepreneurs have spent millions in clearing Palestinian neighbourhoods to create ‘heritage’ projects that promote a myth of mono-ethnic urban identity, said to stretch back 3000 years.
We reject Trump’s collusion with such racist manipulation, and his disregard for international law. We deplore his readiness to crown the Israeli military conquest of East Jerusalem and his indifference to Palestinian rights.
As artists and as citizens, we challenge the ignorance and inhumanity of these policies, and celebrate the resilience of Palestinians living under occupation.
Jeremy Corbyn’s Geneva speech in full
Speaking at the United Nation’s Geneva headquarters today, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Leader of the Labour Party, said:
Thank you Paul for that introduction. And let me give a special thanks to the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development. Your work gives an important platform to marginalised voices for social justice to challenge policy makers and campaign for change.
I welcome pressure both on my party the British Labour Party and on my leadership to put social justice front and centre stage in everything we do. So thank you for inviting me to speak here in this historic setting at the Palais des Nations in Geneva a city that has been a place of refuge and philosophy since the time of Rousseau. The headquarters before the Second World War of the ill-fated League of Nations, which now houses the United Nations.
It’s a particular privilege to be speaking here because the constitution of our party includes a commitment to support the United Nations. A promise “to secure peace, freedom, democracy, economic security and environmental protection for all”.
I’d also like to thank my fellow panellists, Arancha Gonzalez and Nikhil Seth, and Labour’s Shadow Attorney General, Shami Chakrabarti, who has accompanied me here. She has been a remarkable campaigner and a great asset to the international movement for human rights.
And lastly let me thank you all for being here today.
I would like to use this opportunity in the run- up to International Human Rights Day to focus on the greatest threats to our common humanity. And why states need to throw their weight behind genuine international co-operation and human rights both individual and collective, social and economic, as well as legal and constitutional at home and abroad if we are to meet and overcome those threats.
New report on securitisation of aid
- Syria case may be ‘tip of the iceberg’ for fund backing some of world’s worst security forces
- Secretive Conflict, Stability and Security Fund uses £500m of aid money
- Government accused of using loophole to fund discredited consultancy
The controversial cross-government fund behind the British aid project in Syria which has today been suspended amid claims that money was reaching jihadist groups should be shut down, according to campaign group Global Justice Now, which has released a new report on the fund.
The report lifts the lid on one of the British government’s most secretive funds, which is behind military and security projects in around 70 countries including Bahrain, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Iraq and Nigeria. The billion-pound pot, known as the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund, spends over £500 million of British aid and is overseen by the National Security Council, chaired by the Prime Minister. Neither the public nor MPs are able to properly scrutinise the fund due to a serious lack of transparency, the report finds.
Visualising world military spending
The Forbes 400 have more wealth than the GDP of the UK
In the United States, the 400 richest individuals now own more wealth than the bottom 64 percent of the population and the three richest own more wealth than the bottom 50 percent, while pervasive poverty means one in five households have zero or negative net worth.
Those are just several of the striking findings of Billionaire Bonanza 2017, a new report (pdf) published Wednesday by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) that explores in detail the speed with which the U.S. is becoming “a hereditary aristocracy of wealth and power.” …
“The wealthiest 25 individuals in the United States today own $1 trillion in combined assets,” the report notes. “These 25, a group equivalent to the active roster of a major league baseball team, hold more wealth than the bottom 56 percent of the U.S. population combined, 178 million people.”
Interactive Map: European weapons and Refugees
Valuable resource from Centre Delàs:
Interactive map « European weapons and refugees »
The purpose of this interactive map is to highlight the link between European arms export and flows of refugees and internally displaced persons, in order to determine whether there is any direct or indirect responsibility of EU Member States for situations of insecurity and violence that drive millions of people to flee their homes every year.
A second objective of this tool is to stress their (ir)responsibility in European arms export authorization or realization as well as their inadequate compliance of the existing legislation, established by the Common Position 2008/944/CFSP of December 8, 2008, which sets up 22 weapons categories including ammunition, light weapons, aircraft and warships, military transport vehicles and all types of military technology for military purposes. On the basis of the criteria set out in the Common Position, the relationship between the European legislation on arms export and situations of insecurity leading to movements of refugees and displaced persons can be established.
More than 100 F-35s in service can’t fight
The U.S. military has signaled that it might cancel essential upgrades for more than 100 early model F-35 stealth fighters flown by the Air Force, rendering the radar-evading jets incompatible with many of the latest weapons.
In that case, some 6 percent of the flying branch’s planned 1,700-strong F-35 fleet would be unfit for combat, sticking U.S. taxpayers with a $20 billion tab for fighters… that can’t fight. Continue reading