Category Archives: Neoliberalism

Liberals attack populists – after creating them

There is a war going on against liberalism, asserts my newspaper today, reviewing a book (The Shipwrecked mind) by a US historian (Mark Lilla). The attackers are the “neo-reactionary” right-wing populists, including Putin and radical Islamists, who all “have a contempt for liberal values”.

There’s just one hitch: liberalism is in itself to a large extent responsible for propagating the right-wing populist movements.

Today’s liberalism is perplexed and ostensibly unable to understand what happens. Its pundits mostly confuse surface with content, thus wasting energy and media space on futile “analysis”. (But it would be somewhat premature to conclude that their pseudo analysis is purely unintentional.)

The Trump phenomenon sparked the latent interest in right wing populism and extremism in liberal media., whose prime tactics has been to condemn the leaders and supporters of these movements (which has had the anticipated effect of instead strengthening them).

Well-intentioned liberal writers and thinkers try to teach the uncultured the importance of accepting immigrants, gays, feminists, colored people and other deviant individuals. They also devote their didactic skills to avert online abuse in the form of hate comments, fake news and deceptive information from “enemies”.

All this will lead nowhere, and I presume intelligent liberals are aware of that, and the reasons are obvious. Right wing extremism doesn’t come from nowhere, it has real roots in the real world. Apart from the fact that humans have some innate tendencies to xenophobia and racism, it normally requires real grievances for people to abandon what they know is good behavior. Those grievances are today created by neoliberalism.

There is consequently a need for abolishing dysfunctional manifestations of the capitalist societies, and that is something liberals won’t do. Their very function in our societies is to defend and protect the established order and its masters. They are assigned to herding in the more mild-mannered citizens, while real conservatives take care of the more hard-core (and religious) part of the population.

The 1970s can in many ways be regarded as the peak of western capitalism. Economic growth had been record high since the war, and the growth was distributed quite equally between labor and capital. Ordinary workers in North America and (northern) Europe could live comfortable lives, their organizations were usually strong and there was a sense of parity in the social fabric.

Temporarily baffled by the popular and democratic break-through these years, the owners of the world eventually realized that they had the economic power, that overrides other forms of power, and launched a counterattack on all fronts: think tanks, media, politicians etc. Soon the right-wing tide drenched all resistance. Liberals (and even Social Democrats) betrayed their constituencies and removed obstacles to unfettered capitalism by means of deregulation, privatization, cutting of social spending and much more.

Neoliberalism put its gloomy hand over the lives of ordinary people, while those who didn’t need more money got perversely rich. That’s in one sentence the basic motivation behind right-wing populism. Liberals denied people the means to oppose this detrimental development by refusing to respond to the grievances in any other way than to enhance them. The only answers people got were from crackpots who told them to blame immigrants, minorities, gays, liberals, anti-Americans and all the rest.

Why the liberals chose this way is no mystery. They serve their masters by sheer instinct, and that decides their highest priority: oppose everything “left” that breeds from the moral insight that we should care for each other through solidarity, welfare and preservation of the common good at large.

We have been through this before, most notably in Weimar Germany in the 1930s. The liberals of that time helped the Nazis to power with the expectation that Hitler would take care of the communists. We know how it ended. Our liberals are again playing with fire, and for the moment we don’t know how it will end.

Ignorance supports one side in the class struggle – rationality the other

“Ignorance has become a virtue” is a theses argued by Tom Nichols in a timely book, reviewed in New York Times the other day. The author has of course plenty of recent illustrations with which to back up his supposition. But hasn’t this race into darkness been in the works long before Trump?

After the failed attempts of revolution in the 1960s, progressives had difficulties in dealing with their disappointment. Some of them (also “leftists” in their own mind) made an about-face and ended up in the arms of Saussure, Nietzsche, Heidegger and other solid reactionaries (and, occasionally, Nazis). They effectively declared the end of all factual knowledge, roughly claiming that reality existed only in language and nowhere else.

It all started in France but spread like a flu to the “soft” departments of western academia, such as literary studies, social sciences and the like. Their scholars, who had lived in the shadow of natural sciences, now got a weapon against the intrusive scientists with their annoying claims to know anything about the reality (that the “soft” scholars had no clue about themselves). These delicate minds called their teaching by different names, often beginning with “post”, but may for simplicity all be named “postmodernists”.

Michel Foucault, a kingpin among them, asserted that every narrative was as true as anyone else, only too late realizing that such theses can be aimed at itself, making it arbitrarily true or false. This is the level of postmodern thinking, only becoming increasingly absurd when the proud new thinkers ventured into science (hilariously undressed by Sokal and Bricmont).

The emperor’s new clothes come certainly to mind here. Postmodernists don’t seem to realize how naked they are. Noam Chomsky has famously said about them (paraphrasing): of the lashings of postmodern verbiage there is, I only understand a small part, and that is either truisms or false.

When large parts of the academic world have grown accustomed to believing in nonsense, it could not be surprising to find the political apparatus going down the same path. Is there even a class analysis to make here?

Postmodernism and neoliberalism are roughly contemporaries. The forceful counterattack by Capital, starting late 1970s, swept through the western world and stunned the progressives. Those “leftists” who retreated into the postmodern nonsense world became in effect fifth columnist. They distracted popular opposition by combatting the most important instrument for people’s struggle: rationality.

If I were a multi-billionaire, strictly caring about my own money, I would certainly encourage and support every stupid prophet who deceives people into all kinds of gibberish that takes their eyes off me and my absurd wealth. Postmodernism has served that duty quite well, as far as it reaches.

Now the political world itself has been endowed with a master deceiver who certainly will do as much he has time for to lure and betray his electorate. Ignorance has not just become a virtue; it has been made a main principle by a ruling class that has everything to gain from public stupidity and everything to fear from rational class analysis.

Dedication to achieve an unsustainable world

Making Scott Pruitt head of the Environmental Protection Agency is equivalent to making Sam Harris an Archbishop.

This willful ignorance, bordering to devoted stupidity, is a threat to the whole world (giving me the right to opinions in these Swedish postcards). But is the difference between extreme right-wing populism and ordinary right-wing politics a difference in kind or just in grade?

There can be no doubt that the last 35 years of neoliberalism, aimed specifically at enriching a miniscule minority at the expense of the large majority of ordinary employees, have paved the way thoroughly for any kind of revolt. That this revolt in the US took the shape of right-wing populism is certainly not surprising. The same tendencies are apparent in Europe too.

The entire US establishment in politics and media (including the liberals) has done everything to obscure the real reasons behind people’s grievances, and overlook the neoliberal mechanisms. This establishment has not given the people any comprehensible explanations, thus opening the floodgates for the stupid answers from extreme right-wing outlets: “your problems stem from others taking your money: the government, the immigrants, the lazy, the liberals – let’s get rid of them”.

The complacency against this fascist-leaning propaganda is nothing but logical. If I were a multi-billionaire I would gladly give room for such ideas, rather than tolerating progressive thought, which really would be a threat to my wealth. In the US it seems as if the established liberals in politics and media feel equally threatened by the real progressives. (It took some conspiratorial actions by DNC to keep Bernie Sanders away from power.)

United States harbor the most cultured people with the sharpest brains, and in politics they usually are dissidents. As such they are effectively barred from communication with the bulk of the population. It’s nothing surprising about that either, as those with economic power owns and controls the “free” media. But the progressive movements behind the scene are lively and bright. As seen by the Sanders successful case the possibilities for enlightened and organized young people to break through the iron curtain erected by the handymen for the economic power are encouraging.

Maybe we first must endure La politique du pire, as the French say, meaning that we are forced to let horrendous politics destroy everything before something entirely new can emerge from the rubble. That optimism in the long run makes it perhaps easier to live through the day ahead without crumbling from all the absurdities.

Trump is not a xenophobe, just a skilled demagogue

Let’s assume that Donald Trump’ s intelligence and knowledge are at least on an average level, or higher. Then one must conclude that he not for a minute can believe that illegal immigration is the root of 30 year’s stagnation or decline in living conditions for ordinary Americans. However, he is a master demagogue and knows what upset people the most. And he used that skill to manipulate the democratic system and win his first election.

We’ve been through this before in Europe and it ended no good. Trump’s tactics regarding foreign people are similar to those used by fascists then.

With some simplification one may say that neoliberalism has been the cradle in which today’s neo-fascism was nurtured. It goes like this: unfettered capitalism fails and creates crisis of all kinds. The result is stagnation for a majority and fabulous wealth for a few, while everything in the common sector crumbles.

It’s no mystery who gains and who suffers from this focus on privatizing everything and destroying the commons. Those who profit are calling all the shots, not least in the media, and will certainly not spend any energy informing the public about the real causalities. When people finally runs out of docility, up comes the right-wing populists with their popular but false answers.

Immigrants are the easy targets for populists. (We all have some innate xenophobe traits and it takes conscious thinking to repress them.) But people’s real grievances have of course only marginally to do with immigrants. That should be particularly obvious for US citizens with their rich country’s entire wealth created by immigrants. Still the Stranger Card pays off for populists – big!

Sweden is known for its open borders. With the surge in refugees arriving we had last year the largest percentage population growth since 1861. Is this from benevolence only? Hardly! This is where immigration is hurting ordinary people to some degree, namely in holding down worker’s wages, something the ruling property owners find most welcome (here they have a common interest with humanitarian liberals).

That’s not to say that immigrants and refugees are responsible for ordinary people’s problems. The main reason for these problems is instead a power-grab by the ruling elite, the capital owners, by which they have impounded most of the economic growth the last 30 years and funneled it to very few pockets (more pronounced so in USA than in EU, and even less so in Sweden).

But nor is it to say that immigration is problem-free for the society as a whole or above all for the newcomers. They are forced to live in quite meager circumstances, have difficulty learning a new language and finding jobs. The Social network in Sweden is not what it used to be and people are left to solve their own problems, not an easy task for individuals fleeing war zones and burdened by traumatic experiences. Desperation sometimes leads to riots with violence and counter violence between immigrants and right-wing groups, which adds to the aversion against immigrants and refugees.

Donald Trump knows quite well that the immigrants to US didn’t cause the depressing conditions for people during neoliberalism. He just uses them as a potent political weapon among his deceived constituency. He is probably also aware of the real reasons for people’s grievances. He just acts like the businessman he is: go full ahead and don’t bother about consequence beyond the next quarter, regardless of how dire they are.

On the other hand Trump has shown some insight into what created the current, giant refugee crisis, namely West’s unwarranted wars in the Middle East and North Africa. His expressed ambition to withdraw US from these wars is a hopeful sign (and a significant deviation from historic fascist practices). But on this issue he is at odds with strong forces in both parties and the outcome of that remains to be seen.

Fascism – an ideology a la mode

If there is no indisputable definition of fascism there are anyhow specific characterizations of the phenomenon. The basic one, at the same time the most despicable, is lack of empathy for other human beings (outside a closed circle). Among fascists, the reasons for living are instead Race, Honor, War, Blut und Boden and equivalent concepts. (Empathy is something that a fascist occasionally may feel for animals.)

In line with these characteristics it follows that fascists see as deadly enemies all democratic movements in favor of equality and solidarity, such as labor movements and other associations engaging ordinary human beings. Fascists embrace mainly people and things that are strictly theirs in some sense, such as their ego, their family, their clan, their nation.

Fascism started, and is responsible for, the Second World War. It’s equally true, but nowadays repressed, that the Soviet Union carried by far the heaviest burden to defeat the worst and strongest of the monstrous fascist war machines. Soviet was then considered by many to be a workers’ state, and workers’ unions thus gained a strong position in most of Europe the years after the war.

This period have been called a Golden Age in industrialized countries. Economies flourished with high growth; income distribution was fairly equal (very much so by today’s standards), welfare measures were carried through and ordinary working families could acquire a comfortable life. Fascists were practically non-existent during these optimistic years (we had a few hibernating Nazis in Sweden, but they were commonly regarded as complete dimwits).

The backlash came in the late 1970s, when the capitalist class finally managed to regain political and ideological hegemony by using its economic power. In the name of neoliberalism, they could enable a strong reaction against wage workers’ acquired rights. Pitched as globalism, the new march backwards became international. One instrument of this redistribution of production results to the very rich was deregulation of the financial markets, resulting in repeated financial crashes hitting poor people the hardest.

With this capitalist reaction the groundwork for resurrection of fascism was laid. We had been through it once before in near history and should have learned, but those in real power doesn’t want us to learn. They obviously prefer fascism before progressive development that really deals with people’s grievances. The right wing paves the way for right wing extremism. Their most important objective is to keep progressives away from power.

A more polite term for right-wing extremism is populism, and both have kinship with fascism. The connections are illustrated in a recent article in New York Times dealing with the ideological preferences in the head of Stephen K. Bannon, the chief strategist in the most powerful administration in the world. He is said to be influenced by, or at least open to, the world of Julius Evola, an extreme traditionalist that inspired Mussolini and now is openly hailed by Alt-right leaders.

Evola himself broke with the Italian Fascists “because he considered them overly tame and corrupted by compromise. Instead he preferred the Nazi SS officers, seeing in them something closer to a mythic ideal. They also shared his anti-Semitism.” (Evola is called an influential “thinker” which is an odd epithet for a man who conspicuously prefer feeling ahead of thinking.)

Evola was Anti everything enlightened, rational, modern, liberal, progressive and humanitarian one can think of. An American scholar has described his ideal order to be based on “hierarchy, caste, monarchy, race, myth, religion and ritual”. This points a straight way back to the heart of medieval darkness. A way that Stephen K. Bannon, on the face of it, at least not entirely abstain from recommending.

All while our media are outraged by silly scandals, alleged leaks, fake news (including their own) and above all: The Russians. There is something rotten in the state of affairs, but it’s more dire than the headlines in our newspapers suggest.

Perpetual violence – to be cured by more violence?

Baton Rouge again…

This time it’s said to be retaliation for the last time. In that case it’s how violence works, which is a truism familiar to everyone. Also well-known is that violence easily triggers chain reactions, multiplying the killings.

One reasonable explanation for why the US police use their weapons so readily is that they must expect anyone they confront to have a gun. This excuse was put forward in an American online paper, followed by critique of the generous gun laws. But apart from the abundance of deadly weapons in a society, crazy in itself, there are normally specific reasons to kill before anyone takes that often suicidal step. And the reasons are plenty and obvious.

On the international scene Europeans, and their descendants in America and elsewhere, have subdued large parts of the world with brutal, immeasurable violence for 500 years. If people on the wrong end of the club should do what we do, retaliate on the same scale, we haven’t seen nothing yet… And we have not ended our butchery! By setting the whole Middle East on fire we have implanted the violence, making people in the region kill each other brutally.

Domestically the neoliberal assault by the ruling class against ordinary people has created multiple causes for conflicts. Had we lived in the short period of fairly civilized western life, the one we experienced 1945-75, a strong labor movement would have fought back with peaceful means against the self-indulgent, arrogant and greedy little clique that has been allowed to grab most of our countries’ wealth and power.

But the labor movements have lost much of their territory in the ideological warfare launched by the “elites”. It turned out that the little clique controlled most of the media, which in turn made us believe that they were the truthful and objective media in the world (unlike our enemies’ propaganda outlets).

Our propaganda of all kinds – some of it called advertisment – has been pushed down people’s throats. No surprise that we have been made obedient, and passively led to fulfil our purpose in a society whose main goal is to enrich a miniscule group of unbelievably rich, at the same time probably destroying all prospects for human life in a sinister future, which comes even closer by the day.

Hopefully that future is not inevitable. To turn events in a hopeful direction “just” requires global popular struggle, solidarity, a completely different economic system and rational oversight, among many other things. The key issue is to separate economic power from political might, tough enough.

The concept “property” has to be given a new implication. And a really lasting society in which the human species will survive has certainly to be something radically different than the braindead and consumer-slave herd driven for the main benefit of the super-rich.

Something we could really call Democracy.

Violence at the end of the road?

It seems as if the background and the motives for the driver of the truck in Nice two days ago are still unclear. He may perhaps have been a socially troubled castaway, abandoned by his wife and just bursting with senseless violence. But possible ties with known terrorist groups are obviously searched for by authorities. And today ISIS took credit for the bloodbath, with their contorted sense of PR.

Assuming that he is a madman acting on his own, it appears that my comments yesterday on the roots of terrorism are irrelevant in his case. But does that make our societies totally free from guilt? The notion that we have to accept an outcome like this in any community is in itself a proof of something dysfunctional. In a society where we all cared for each other no one would have been pushed to the limit like this disturbed driver in Nice. There would have been solutions for his and other people’s grievances of all kinds.

Violence as such has obviously decreased in the world over a long period of time. But individuals committing atrocities on such a large scale as we see nowadays was formerly unheard of. Apart from jihadist motives there are obvious reasons for grievances and unrest. The watershed in recent history was the takeover of the world economy by “the masters of mankind” under the banner of neo-liberalism, bending the class struggle sharply in favor of the wealthy, leaving the majority to struggle with deteriorating living conditions. The situation can be caught in one telling picture: the obscene fact that 70 individuals own and control more resources than half of the world’s population.

Terrorist groups have also expanded their activities, and the reasons are seemingly self-evident. They have clearly had enough of western violent encroachment into their lands, their resources, their everything. Neo-colonialism has come to the end of the road, a fact clear at least for everyone with their heads screwed on. Continued violence will be self-defeating in more ways than one.

The future belongs to countries that follow the present Chinese example: conquer the world peacefully by means of investments, aid and cooperation.

Americans prefer “Swedish” wealth distribution (would that it were!)

(Back to keyboard after necessary disturbances of different kinds during some months.)

Has the presidential election in the United States anything to do in a postcard from Sweden? Well, we will all be affected by the outcome, one way or the other, and it’s interesting and often telling to follow commentaries in our domestic MSM.

Most astonishing is the fact that income and wealth distribution, as well as justice and fairness, have come into focus, thanks mainly to Bernie Sanders. After decades of him tirelessly agitating from the back benches in the US Senate, to promote the interests of less affluent Americans, he surprisingly enters the center stage. (I happened to find him online some years ago, and have followed him with interest since. But until now I haven’t seen a single word about him in Swedish MSM – very typical).

From Noam Chomsky we’ve learned that a majority of Americans since at least some 30 plus years have preferred a policy similar to Sander’s, but that an effective propaganda apparatus has produced election results often diametrically opposed to people’s real wishes. But it seems as if the inequities finally have become too grotesque to conceal or brain wash away. And suddenly “everybody” talks about wealth distribution and the other progressive issues.

“Yes, the economy is rigged in favor of those at the top” says Hillary Clinton; “The deck is stacked against ordinary people” writes New York Times (N. Kristof) the other day. He goes on to present a study by two scholars (M. Norton and D. Ariely) showing i.a. that 92 percent of Americans prefer a wealth distribution of a “Swedish” type to the really existing one in the US. But this study has a serious flaw.

These are the three choices of wealth distribution laid before a group of nationally representative respondents (the labels “Sweden”, “Equal” and “USA” were not shown to the respondents).

 

wealth distr

The authors reveal in a footnote that the pie chart named “Sweden” depicts the income distribution, which was chosen solely to get some middle alternative between Equal and USA. The Swedish wealth distribution is something completely different, and in fact quite similar to the US one, as seen in this diagram:

The y-axis shows the sum of net wealth in billions SEK (§1 = appr. 9 SEK), debts subtracted, in the percentiles 1 to 10. Adding 9th and 10th percentiles one gets around 85 percent of total wealth, which is almost identical to the US figures. 60 percent of the population has no net assets at all.

Since Sweden endured its neoliberal, right-wing government (2006-14) the economic divide between rich and poor has grown faster than in any other European country. That government was lead by an empathy exempt man who as a young man was living an Ayn Randian wet dream. But that’s a story worth a separate chapter.

Sources:
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/18/opinion/americas-stacked-deck.html?emc=eta1&_r=0
http://www.people.hbs.edu/mnorton/norton%20ariely%20in%20press.pdf
http://ekonomihandboken.se/rika-och-fattiga-i-sverige/hur-rik-ar-varje-svensk/

Capitalism kills – even the middle class

This year’s Nobel laureate in economics[1], Angus Deaton (and his wife Anne Case, not to forget) has published an interesting study on mortality among white Americans compared to other groups and nationalities. Their astonishing findings can be illustrated in one single picture:

white americans

Sources: Anne Case and Angus Deaton; PNAS

Immediate reasons behind the soaring death rate among white Americans are self destructive behavior patterns such as alcohol and drug abuse, or direct suicide. As an explanation on the next level Paul Krugman[2] suggests existential despair.

Krugman points to the similarities between this US experience and the plunging life expectancy in Russia after the capitalist revolution in the 1990s that claimed ten millions lives, mostly men in productive ages (a catastrophe we have mentioned repeatedly on these pages). Two American scholars, David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, have described the post-communist mortality in The Body Economics: Why Austerity Kills (Basic Books, 2013). The following picture shows life expectancy from birth for men in USA and Russia:

Life expectancy

Source: Stuckler & Basu (2013)

The Russian experience in the 1990s was really dire. Multi-millions of jobs disappeared. Many of the small and medium-sized “mono cities”, with usually just one dominant factory, simply closed down, leaving abandoned and crumbling buildings and remnants of retired citizens behind. Men in productive ages couldn’t bear it and accounted for most of the ten million who just disappeared for ever.

Astonishingly similar in Russia and US are the causes of death. In both countries alcohol and drug abuse play an important role, together with suicide. In Russia also other diagnoses soared, such as myocardial infarction among young men, otherwise rare. Stuckler & Sanjay mentions “social stress” as a syndrome underlying the deaths. Many men seem to have an innate pride, requiring that they are able to support themselves and their families. Bereaved every possibility to fulfill this task they appear to lose the purpose of life.

Deaton & Case conclude that the absolute level of despair isn’t the decisive factor behind the self destructive behavior. Instead they suggest that the middle-aged whites in America have “lost the narratives of their lives”. It seems to be more a question about the distance they have to fall when they exit from a higher altitude. Or in Krugman’s words: “we’re looking at people who were raised to believe in the American Dream, and are coping badly with its failure to come true”.

Krugman again: “If you believe the usual suspects on the right, it’s all the fault of liberals. Generous social programs, they insist, have created a culture of dependency and despair, while secular humanists have undermined traditional values.” It’s exotic for a Swede that there are influential conservatives in the United States who believe the unbelievable, reject the obvious and denounce reason; more so that they dominate the Congress and threaten to capture the presidency; and are doing so supported by billions of dollars from the corporate sector. In the most powerful nation that ever existed! The world must take a deep breath.

 

Notes:

[1] This is an honor to mention only when one thinks the Prize Committee has made a decent choice. Otherwise it’s an affront to Nobel that the Swedish National Bank instituted this prize in his name for something that perhaps Nobel, like many of us, wouldn’t even call a real science.

[2] In a recent New York Times’ column.

Left and Right – Good and Wrong?

The old divide in politics between Left and Right can easily be condensed into the dichotomy: Left is altruism and Right is egoism. Translated into universal moral code it would be: Left is good, Right is bad.

There is on the other hand an old aphorism, which I suppose is international and goes like this:  If you are young and not a socialist you don’t have a heart; if you are old and not a conservative you don’t have a brain.

In my world this must have been concocted by an old reactionary, since it puts things on the head. If anything, conservative ideology is impregnated with emotion as opposed to cognition, whilst altruism requires ability to abstract thinking and conscious understanding, such as to identify oneself with other human beings with different backgrounds and traits.

As a slowly maturing child I had some vague political ideas of what we call here bourgeoisie character. In other words: as long as the naive boy was ignorant and immature he was politically a sloppy egoist (maybe evolution’s first choice). Then when he reached 20 in came the 1960s, and a whole new world opened to the post-teen as if he just had learned how to read. It was a revelation, never possible to rescind after that. Now as a rather old man his eyes are more open than ever.

People on the right-wing, if their thinking is not totally petrified, surely are aware of their ideology’s egoistic element. To comfort those people’s conscience there are a number of defense inventions made. On the economic front the most famous is the “Adam Smith gambit”. In short it says that prosperity for all will reach its optimum if everyone just strives for his own personal well-being, after which the famous “invisible hand” automatically will create a divine equilibrium, giving everyone his fair share.

To refute this gambit one just has to take a look at the world, and find – among many other deficiencies in the equilibrium – some three million small children dying each year from uncomplicated illnesses that would have cost us in the rich part of the world a pittance to cure. Empirically it’s thus obvious that the “perfect market hypothesis” has serious shortcomings. To Adam Smith’s honor it should be said that he is not at all so naïve in his main work Wealth of Nations as his right-wing interpreters want us to believe.

Smith was not just an economist but also a moral philosopher, and as such he had serious objections regarding capitalism, the way it functioned already in his days. He never used the term “invisible hand”, except one single time in the whole book, and then in a completely different context. He described how division of labor increased productivity, but at the same time denounced the kind of society it would create. He had not much sympathy for “the masters of mankind” as he called the capitalists of his time. To make Adam Smith a right-wing icon requires thus a very selective reading of his works.

That a socialized economy can function without central planning was not Adam Smith’s “discovery”, contrary to conservative idolizing. Mankind had presumably found that out on the shores of Africa a long time ago. It’s not much of a mystery either, rather a capability naturally produced by evolution. To take a really micro example: in my days we could be some twenty kids coming together on a grass field, one of us owning a football (“soccer” ball) – no parental supervision. In a moment we organized – democratically – two teams and started playing, each of us filling his specific role in the game. It required no planning whatsoever.

Since Left means good, and thus honest, we shall not overlook the benefits of market principles based on the “economic man” assumption (i.e. egoism). It’s obvious that we normally are more ingenious and work harder when we profit from the enterprise ourselves. But the profit mustn’t be in the form of money. The most decisive discoveries and inventions have been made by scientists and engineers who didn’t get a penny of the eventual billion dollar profits that could be the end result. They were happy with their professional achievement, which also is a benefit (but at the same time reveals the fraudulent money principles of capitalism, favoring the unworthy over the worthy).

Today’s China is held up as a triumph for market principles. Without diminishing the Chinese feat that example could require some analyzing. Indeed, a number of billionaires have emerged and a middle class of white color workers have prospered, but for the hundreds of millions on the impoverished countryside the outcome is more debatable. Before the capitalist era China was a much better place for the simple farmers than comparable countries such as India. Now the situation is more complicated.

The most abhorrent aspect of right-wing policy is the “winner takes it all” mentality, emphasized since the neoliberal seizure of dominance some 35 years ago. With just slightly less greed it would have been no big deal to eliminate the conspicuous manifestations of capitalism resulting in suffering for billions of people.

Worst of all is that our mentality has hit the rest of the world in the form of bombs and bullets, in short: with murder. But that’s another story.