Saturday, July 22, 2017

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- George Monbiot examines the history of James McGill Buchanan, Charles Koch and others who have used massive amounts of time and money to ensure that wealth wins out over democracy in shaping U.S. policy - and how their influence will sounds familiar elsewhere as well:
The papers Nancy MacLean discovered show that Buchanan saw stealth as crucial. He told his collaborators that “conspiratorial secrecy is at all times essential”. Instead of revealing their ultimate destination, they would proceed by incremental steps. For example, in seeking to destroy the social security system, they would claim to be saving it, arguing that it would fail without a series of radical “reforms”. (The same argument is used by those attacking the NHS)...
Reading this book felt like a demisting of the window through which I see British politics. The bonfire of regulations highlighted by the Grenfell Tower disaster, the destruction of state architecture through austerity, the budgeting rules, the dismantling of public services, tuition fees and the control of schools: all these measures follow Buchanan’s programme to the letter. I wonder how many people are aware that David Cameron’s free schools project stands in a tradition designed to hamper racial desegregation in the American south.

In one respect, Buchanan was right: there is an inherent conflict between what he called “economic freedom” and political liberty. Complete freedom for billionaires means poverty, insecurity, pollution and collapsing public services for everyone else. Because we will not vote for this, it can be delivered only through deception and authoritarian control. The choice we face is between unfettered capitalism and democracy. You cannot have both.

Buchanan’s programme is a prescription for totalitarian capitalism. And his disciples have only begun to implement it. But at least, thanks to MacLean’s discoveries, we can now apprehend the agenda. One of the first rules of politics is, know your enemy. We’re getting there.
- Robert Reich writes about the erosion of social bonds by growing inequality. And Jonathan Kay discusses how the U.S. is suffering for refusing to raise tax revenue as the price of a civilized society.

- Thom Hartmann writes about the new forms of indentured servitude becoming increasingly common in the U.S.' labour market. Jake Johnson comments on the gap between CEOs who have seen gigantic pay increases over the past few decades, and workers who have seen nothing of the sort. And Frank Pasquale points out that significant collective action will be needed to prevent platform capitalism from further undermining workers' rights.

- On that front, Andrew Hartman theorizes that millennials' political activism figures to present a strong challenge to capitalist control. And James Elliott interviews Jon Lansman about the next steps for UK Labour - and particularly its progressive activists - following Jeremy Corbyn's first electoral success. 

- Finally, Geoff Leo reports on the GTH's latest violations of access to information laws - while finding that experts see the Wall government's combination of compulsive secrecy and gross incompetence as similar to Donald Trump's administration.

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