Sunday, June 10, 2018

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- J.W. Mason reviews Quinn Slobodian's Globalists with a reminder that the decades-long push to subjugate popular democracy to corporate interests is nothing new - and that we know well the consequences:
In the early twentieth century, there were many people who saw popular sovereignty as a problem to be solved. In a world where dynastic rule had been swept offstage, formal democracy might be unavoidable; and elections served an important role in channeling the demands that might otherwise be expressed through “the right to the street.” But the idea that the people, acting through their political representatives, were the highest authority and entitled to rewrite law, property rights, and contracts in the public interest—this was unacceptable. One way or another, government by the people had to be reined in.

Mises’ writings from a century ago often sound as if they belong in speeches by modern European conservatives such as German Bundestag President Wolfgang Schäuble. The welfare state is unaffordable, Mises says; workers’ excessive wage demands have rendered them unemployable, governments’ uncontrolled spending will be punished by financial markets, and “English and German workers may have to descend to the lowly standard of life of the Hindus and the coolies to compete with them.”

Quinn Slobodian argues that the similarities between Mises then and Schäuble today are not a coincidence. They are products of a coherent body of thought: neoliberalism, or the Geneva school. His book, Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism, is a history of the “genealogy of thought that linked the neoliberal world economic imaginary from the 1920s to the 1990s.”

The book puts to rest the idea that “neoliberal” lacks a clear referent. As Slobodian meticulously documents, the term has been used since the 1920s by a distinct group of thinkers and policymakers who are unified both by a shared political vision and a web of personal and professional links.
Property and its privileges are only safe in a world where the rule of money is accepted as objective, inevitable, and outside the scope of collective decision-making. The problem is that the concrete demands of statecraft often require governments to control economic outcomes, depriving them their aura of objective fact. When enemy forces are massed on the border or unemployed workers are rioting in the streets, no government that wants to remain in power can accept economic outcomes as facts beyond their control, like the weather.
But once the Pandora’s box of conscious management of the economy is opened, governments can use the power they now know they possess for all kinds of other ends. In a democratic state, a planning apparatus developed to mobilize in war or cope with economic crises may easily be redirected to serve a broader agenda.
- Doug Henwood writes that low wages and personal insecurity are a reality for U.S. workers even where more jobs than assumed are actually expected to last for a substantial period of time. And Brian Prowse-Gany and Joyzel Acevedo talk to Nick Hanauer about the false and manipulative claim that improved wages do anything to harm the availability of work.

- Charles Pierce highlights Scott Pruitt's selloff of public health in the U.S.

- Atif Shatique connects the recent critique of the "marshmallow test" with the destructive spread of conditional social benefits.

- Emma Teitel writes that our willingness to show concern about mental health in the weak of a celebrity suicide means little if we're not prepared to deal with both environmental causes and individual illnesses before tragedy strikes. And CBC reports on the latest report of the Provincial Auditor documenting the severe lack of mental health care in northern Saskatchewan.

- Finaly, Lana Payne discusses Doug Ford's election as the product of base emotion and an distorted electoral system.

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