Neoliberalism, Adam Smith, Bill Gates
I was reading Cassiodorus most excellent post this morning on Neoliberalism, but I have to admit, talking / thinking about Neoliberalism so soon in the new year, I would equate to having a serious new years hang over, and not the kind of "happy new year" I was hoping for. It's not even Monday yet, Dammit!
However, the good news is, I did get my $600 stimulus check! Yeah, it will be gone in about 3 days, because I'm already so far behind. (Did y'all get yours yet?)
And Cassiodorus post is well worth the read.
The fact we are the only country in the world that is not providing the very economic support to it's citizens to financially cope with this global pandemic, speaks volumes about the deep level of Neoliberal thinking that is woven into the very fabric of the entire ruling elite's zeitgeist.
I came upon this part in Cassiodorus's post, and got me to thinking about Adam Smith and his magical thinking notion about an "invisible hand".
There's a longer and deeper meaning for the term "liberalism," and in that meaning it means what Adam Smith advocated, laissez-faire capitalism. The "neo" in "neoliberalism," to complete the definition, defines a form of liberalism in which it is viewed, by the neoliberals, as the duty of government to simulate laissez-faire capitalism by setting up markets and requiring people to participate in them. That's what neoliberalism is; that explains its NAME.
Which lead to , I want to know where the heck is this "invisible hand of the market" that Smith spoke of, that is supposed to step in ya know, and magically pick up the "slack" that capitalism it's self produces?
The concept—properly understood—is central to Smith’s insights, although he uses the phrase only once in The Theory of Moral Sentiments and once in An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. In Moral Sentiments, he suggests that “The rich … are led by an Invisible Hand to make nearly the same distribution of the necessaries of life, which would have been made, had the earth been divided into equal portions among all its inhabitants.” In other words, they “share the wealth” despite themselves.
But, uh, "the concept-properly understood", wait-a-minute, wtf does that mean?
Smith's insight was quite illogical to me.
First and foremost, one can not simply divide the earth by the number of inhabitants into equal parts because the number of inhabitants keeps changing all the time. The population does not stay constant, nor is it's growth or decline constant.
The portions would dwindle and grow smaller all the time, assuming of course births continue to out number deaths. Sure one can take a "snapshot" in time and perform the calculations, but, tomorrow one's numbers will be incorrect and not reflect the new number people born, and or died.
But this is quite, idk, magical thinking?
In other words, they “share the wealth” despite themselves.
It would seem to me, that wealth will only share wealth, if there is a financial incentive to do so, whether it's a for profit motive, or a self serving one.
For example, to buy influence in public policy that directly or in directly, translates into a tax break and or plus investment income derived from a charity's investments in commercial companies, that benefit from government policies the charity's themselves help influence. (Hell, that's how lobbying and campaign contributions work isn't it?)
Wouldn't NAFTA, globalization, and especially that non taxing Amazon and others, rather blow up Adam's argument on domestic trade?
In Wealth of Nations, Smith uses the term to refer to a merchant naturally preferring and supporting his domestic economy. “By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an Invisible Hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention.”
What "intention" would that be?
Well, when I think of rich people stepping in to "promote an end which was no part of his intention", ya know like People like Bill Gates, and their invisible hands meddling in the markets, and by invisible, meaning no regulatory oversight.
Consider, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is under investigation. John Iadarola and Tim Schwab break it down on The Damage Report
Martin Levine writes at NonProfitQuarterly, Is the Gates Foundation Out of Control?
For a clear view of how Bill Gates sees the world, or at least how he did a decade ago, one might turn to his speech to the World Economic Forum in 2008. Gates saw a capitalist system that left too many on the outside looking in. “The great advances in the world have often aggravated the inequities in the world. The least needy see the most improvement, and the most needy see the least.” He blamed “market incentives” for this disparity, and he prescribed turning to “creative capitalism” as a fix, “an approach where governments, businesses, and nonprofits work together to stretch the reach of market forces so that more people can make a profit, or gain recognition, doing work that eases the world’s inequities.”
From this perspective, the skill, experience, and wisdom of a philanthropist is as important as the wealth they bring. So too, as Bill Gates explains in a 2014 Gates Notes blog post, is the ability to operate outside existing government and philanthropic systems: “We fill the function that government cannot—making a lot of risky bets with the expectation that at least a few of them will show some success. At that point, governments can invest in innovations that have some track record, a much more comfortable role for them.”
In other words, when "governments can invest in innovations that have some track record", they make out like bandits. But more importantly, "is the ability to operate outside existing government and philanthropic systems". (i.e. to operate without over sight!)
And of course, Bill Gates is definitely a "Neoliberal"!
“an approach where governments, businesses, and nonprofits work together to stretch the reach of market forces so that more people can make a profit, or gain recognition, doing work that eases the world’s inequities.”
(bold = mine)
i.e public private "partnerships", where the private sector makes a profit, government abdicates it's responsibilities, and the public, well, services dwindle to where we have cities like Flint, MI.
Heck, the water crisis in Flint, MI. is a text book case study in how Neolberialism's affects on "government policy" severely, and negatively impact public health and increase poverty.
Stretch the market, as it were, Neoliberals like Bill Gates are helping to reduce the size government share of providing for the general welfare of “the people”, and making a killing doing it through "public private partnerships", while service quality drops, usually dramatically.
With a view to Adam Smith's "invisible hand", and the way Bill Gates Neoliberal ideology embodies it through his foundation, the "concept-properly understood" means, that rich people can make a profit off the inequities that Capitalism it's self produces! Thus precluding the vast majority of people sharing in all this new prosperity from "creative capitalism"!
There is a deep and more dark side to bill Gates, as James Corbett describes in his documentary "Meet Bill Gates", and spells out the ruling elite zeitgeist that has influenced this current day Neoliberal thinking, that's actually been around for quite some time.
This is from Bill Gates own mouth from the above video, if don't want to watch it. (17:28 approx in the video)
You're raising tuition's at the University of California as rapidly as they can and so the access that used to be available to the middle class or whatever is just rapidly going away. That's a trade-off society's making because of very, very high medical costs
And a lack of willingness to say, you know, "Is spending a million dollars on that last three months of life for that patient —would it be better not to lay off those 10 teachers and to make that trade off in medical cost?"
But that's called the "death panel" and you're not supposed to have that discussion.
Gee, I would like to ask Mr. Gates, if they're raising tuition as rapidly as they can, why would they need to fire 10 teachers in the first place? Especially considering when our country has a teacher shortage and for profit charter schools are not doing enough?!
From the National Education Association:
Schools across the nation have been struggling for years to fill thousands upon thousands of vacant teaching jobs — and it’s only gotten worse during the pandemic, as many educators opt not to return to classrooms they believe to be dangerous.
He blames having to fire those teachers is a result of higher medical costs!
"That's a trade-off society's making because of very, very high medical costs".
No, that is a public policy decision that's been heavily influenced, without over sight of Adam Smith's invisible hands meddling in the market.
Which reminds me of Cassiodorus post...
There shouldn't be any confusion, then, about Neoliberalism as a ruling-class ideology. It has a well-defined meaning and plenty of examples to back up the notion that Neoliberalism is a specific notion with specific beliefs, specific believers, specific policies, and a specific history.
I think "Ziggy" would agree, because the foundation of Neoliberaling thinking is actually quite simple. It doesn't take a grand conspiracy to have this simple understanding of how the world operates, according to their will.
I think Bill's next book should be, "How to be a Billionaire, Give Away Your Money, and Double Your Wealth in 10 Years, for Dummies."