A succinct critique of neoliberalism/globalism
Part of the globalizers' propaganda war is to deny that the term "neoliberalism" has any historical, political, or economic content, to reduce it to a mere curse word used by lefties. In the past, the best rebuttal I had to that was the maddeningly jargon-filled writing of Philip Mirowski, an economics professor at Notre Dame. Today, I found a book review of a book that purports to be not only a history of neoliberalism, but a fairly clear and readable explanation of its goals.
The book is
Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism, by Quinn Slobodian
The review, The Market Police, which stands by itself, is by J.W. Mason, an author I have tagged as reliable and anti-neoliberal. Mr. Mason touches the same bases as Dr. Mirowski. He explains how devious, contradictory, and secretive the neoliberal program is. He explains how it can be traced directly back to the fears created in the ruling class by the rise of genuine participatory democracy in the wake of WW1 and the dissolution of empires.
Slobodian is right to identify a consistent position from the 1920s down to the present that a sovereign, democratic state cannot be relied on to defend the concentrated power and privilege of private property...the neoliberals offered a reinvigorated defense of property rights and a prioritization of law and procedure over consciously chosen outcomes....It is not wrong to say these arguments served the interests of the wealthy...But the project was also broader than that. One of Slobodian’s great insights is that the neoliberal program was not simply a move in the distributional fight, but rather about establishing a social order in which distribution was not a political question at all. For money and markets to be the central organizing principle of society, they have to appear natural—beyond the reach of politics.
What is new to me in this is the role ascribed to globalization, which is much deeper than simply looking for cheap labor and tax havens overseas
Globalism in this story is the creation of property rights that, precisely because they span multiple sovereignties, cannot be touched by one government without inviting conflict with another...The only force strong enough to restrain government, it seemed clear, was other governments. National politics must be enmeshed and tied down in a web of border-crossing economic relations.
Globalism in this story is not only, or even primarily, an extension of contacts between people, trade, production. Rather, it is the creation of a set of property rights that, precisely because they span multiple sovereignties, cannot be touched by one government without inviting conflict with another. In this sense it is positively desirable for property claims to cross national borders. Foreign investment, regardless of its value or otherwise for financing production, performs a political function that domestic investment cannot.
Mason restates the paradox of Mirowski:
Anonymity is key: once there is a decision-maker, their decisions are open to challenge and require some source of political legitimacy...One might even call this the neoliberal paradox. State power is needed to enforce market relations and property rights, but when it rests on democratic politics, it can easily turn into a vehicle for a broader program of economic planning. So the site of power must be anonymized, hidden from politics—as in the opaque jurisdictional mazes of Europe.
From this point of view, the essential thing about the single European currency is not whatever dubious practical advantages come from having prices across the continent measured in the same units. Rather, it is the creation of the European Central Bank as an ostensibly technical decision-maker, more insulated from democratic politics than any national authority could be.
So, I highly recommend the book review, and I will be looking for the book itself.
With the concept of "rights that span multiple soveriegnties" in hand, I now understand what drives me crazy about computer software, computer networks, and the Amazon monopoly: all of them completely bypass the existing democratic political arrangements. The sofware people invented the "click through" license and pushed for the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. From a user's POV, the software on one single PC is "enmeshed and tied down". That is because whenever something breaks, all the apps involved, on down to the OS, point fingers at each other; and there is no central authority to sort it out.
The computer network people simply do not care about borders or laws, except insofar as a political entity is capable of enforcing those laws on the net itself. Look at Uber and Airbnb completly flouting the laws of multiple jurisdictions. Of course, Amazon is the classic example of using the computer network to dodge sales tax and create an every-growing conglomerated monopoly, as ruthless as Standard Oil, that is already too big to be regulated. Mission accomplished, neoliberals. All Hail Emperor Jeff.
Another thought that struck me after reading the review is the congenital resistance to publicity of, as it labelled, "The Neoliberal Project". While they work feverishly to deny politicians the right to regulate money and banking, they pretend there is no ideology. This attitude of denial was on display in the Matt Stewart article, which I now see as yet another attempt to hide the 0.01% project to get democracy out of economic policy - in Stewart's case, by blaming all our troubles on professionals (doctors, etc) who just want to live in a nice suburb. Pay no attention to those neoliberals behind the curtain.
As other connections strike me, I may add further comments.