Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- George Monbiot contrasts the message of neoliberalism as freedom against the reality that it imposes severe corporate control on anybody short of the billionaire class:
(N)eoliberal theology, as well as seeking to roll back the state, insists that collective bargaining and other forms of worker power be eliminated (in the name of freedom, of course). So the marketisation and semi-privatisation of public services became not so much a means of pursuing efficiency as an instrument of control. Public-service workers are now subjected to a panoptical regime of monitoring and assessment, using the benchmarks von Mises rightly warned were inapplicable and absurd. The bureaucratic quantification of public administration goes far beyond an attempt at discerning efficacy. It has become an end in itself.

Its perversities afflict all public services. Schools teach to the test, depriving children of a rounded and useful education. Hospitals manipulate waiting times, shuffling patients from one list to another. Police forces ignore some crimes, reclassify others, and persuade suspects to admit to extra offences to improve their statistics. Universities urge their researchers to write quick and superficial papers, instead of deep monographs, to maximise their scores under the research excellence framework.
New extremes in the surveillance and control of workers are not, of course, confined to the public sector. Amazon has patented a wristband that can track workers’ movements and detect the slightest deviation from protocol. Technologies are used to monitor peoples’ keystrokes, language, moods and tone of voice. Some companies have begun to experiment with the micro-chipping of their staff. As the philosopher Byung-Chul Han points out, neoliberal work practices, epitomised by the gig economy, that reclassifies workers as independent contractors, internalise exploitation. “Everyone is a self-exploiting worker in their own enterprise.”

The freedom we were promised turns out to be freedom for capital, gained at the expense of human liberty. The system neoliberalism has created is a bureaucracy that tends towards absolutism, produced in the public services by managers mimicking corporate executives, imposing inappropriate and self-defeating efficiency measures, and in the private sector by subjection to faceless technologies that can brook no argument or complaint.
- Meanwhile, Kate Aronoff points out that a Green New Deal would enhance general well-being and foster genuine freedom while also protecting our planet.

- Damian Carrington points out that whatever choices we make, future generations will need to make do with far smaller carbon footprints than we've come to expect.  And Daphne Bramham highlights the influence millennial voters can have on this fall's federal election if they elect to participate.

- Nora Loreto calls out the Trudeau Libs for a federal budget whose treatment of refugees - including dismissing their claims in bulk, and playing up claims of nonexistent security risks. And Teresa Wright reports on the resulting outrage on the part of refugees and their advocates.

- Finally, Sally Bakewell and Lisa Lee report on the increasing level of risk being taken in the funding of corporate debt. And Richard Shillington studies how tax-free savings accounts have predictably favoured the wealthy over the lower-income people they were supposed to assist - with higher-income people taking advantage to a greater extent even as a percentage of income.

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