Earth’s inhabitants stranded in a leaking neoliberal lifeboat

Early photograph of Hornsea Lifeboat. Photo: Bradford Timeline/Flickr
Photo: Bradford Timeline/Flickr

For the past 50 years, the world’s most renowned scientists — including more than a hundred Nobel Prize winners — have been imploring corporate and political leaders to curb climate change before it reaches catastrophic levels.

“Planet Earth is finite,” they warn. “Its ability to absorb wastes is finite. Its ability to provide food and energy is finite. And we are fast approaching many of Earth’s limits. Current economic practices cannot be continued without the risk that vital global ecosystems will be damaged beyond repair.”

These warnings, including the latest most urgent appeal by the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), have been ignored. Not surprisingly, since the dominant global economic system — capitalism — depends for its very survival on the maintenance of unlimited economic growth, despite the inescapable catastrophic consequences.

Most governments have not only tolerated this corporate onslaught on the environment, but have actively subsidized and supported it. They have in effect become business-oriented minions, dedicated to putting corporate interests ahead of the public interest. They offer corporations the planet’s resources to plunder as they wish, with little or no constraints.

Given the dependence of all of Earth’s inhabitants on the planet’s basic life-support capacity, you would think that even the most eminent CEOs and billionaires would by now have started to have doubts about the infallibility of their “free-market” doctrine.

A few of them are indeed having such qualms, but serious dissent from the prevailing business-knows-best ideology is financially risky and thus rare. So the scale of corporate pillaging continues unabated. MORE


The Neoliberal Road to Serfdom

The oldest refrain of the Right is that socialism leads to tyranny. Yet for the last four decades, it’s neoliberalism that’s been inching us closer to a police state.

People walk by a surveillance camera along a street in the Financial District on April 24, 2013 in New York City. Spencer Platt / Getty

The fear of socialism is mostly based on one idea: that the end of the road of bigger government is the totalitarian horror of the early twentieth century.

Sure, there are other objections, usually involving muttered words like “market” and “efficiency.” But for the fathers of neoliberalism like Friedrich Hayek, what it really came down to was the fear that every increase in the role of the state was just one more step toward the chimneys of Dachau: power concentrated among a know-it-all elite deaf to the problems facing its people; ever-present surveillance of the population, whether “suspect” or not; a vast, armed bureaucracy ready to stamp out dissent; countless bodies locked and tortured in prisons; and a state that asserts the power to treat its citizens as mere subjects while demanding secrecy and impunity for itself.

It wasn’t just Hayek, writing in the shadow of the Second World War, who obsessed over this fear. Right-wing, anti-government rhetoric in the Obama years was saturated with talk of Nazis, Hitler, and tyranny, until those same people embraced a wannabe authoritarian of their own in 2015. Speaking of whom, in the midst of one of his recent anti-socialist broadsides, Trump recently asserted that “socialism eventually must always give rise to tyranny.”

Halting this threat was supposedly the great promise of capitalism. You might have had the freedom to starve and die from preventable disease, but you at least had all the political freedoms denied by authoritarian states.

Reality has proven this to be nonsense. The gulag hasn’t come to Sweden or Norway just because their governments pay for people’s medical bills. Not to mention that the society envisioned by socialists devolves decision-making power, whether economic or political, to working people, rather than concentrating it in the state.

But put this to one side for the moment, because it’s now clear — more than seven decades after Hayek worried that “what was promised to us as the Road to Freedom was in fact the High Road to Servitude” — that it’s neoliberal capitalism that has put us on that high road. MORE


Capitalist Freedom Is a Farce

Milton Friedman was wrong. Capitalism doesn’t foster freedom — it produces autocratic workplaces and tyrannical billionaires.


SNC-Lavalin affair is just business as usual in Canada

Michael Wernick, Clerk of the Privy Council, and Nathalie Drouin, Deputy Minister of Justice, appear as witnesses before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on Mar. 6, 2019. Photo by Andrew Meade

With the SNC-Lavalin scandal, it’s easy to miss the forest for the trees. The interpersonal drama. The dates. The evolving timeline, based on who recorded what, and who forgot when.

It’s as good as political theatre gets in Canada.

The ‘he said-she said’ of the SNC-Lavalin affair is a distraction from the real issue, @nolore writes: corporations in Canada have far too much political power, and clearly, rare is the politician who is willing to stand up to that power.

Amid the din of the details, a critical fact has been buried: the SNC-Lavalin affair is business as usual in Canada. Pro-business policies have long been the norm. It just happens to be that this time, Canadians get to see behind the curtain.

In 1998, French philosopher Pierre Bourdieu wrote The Essence of Neoliberalism, in which he argues that in order for free market capitalism to reign, the collective structures within a national state that impede free market logic must be weakened or destroyed. Therefore, public policies that aid corporations to maximize profits are relied on more and more, and markets are, either slowly or quickly, deregulated.

His essay identifies that with globalization came incredible capital mobility. Corporations no longer needed to be loyal and tethered to a single location, and instead could move where market forces were more favourable to maximize profits. Anything that gets in the way of this: unions, taxes or government policy, becomes the enemy of the free market, and must therefore be eroded. MORE

Capitalism worst possible economic system for a planet ravaged by climate change

Photo: Rachel Docherty/Flickr
Photo: Rachel Docherty/Flickr

Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey, Where wealth accumulates, and men decay.  –Oliver Goldsmith

Twenty years ago, I wrote an op-ed in which I described free-market capitalism as “the most unjust and barbaric economic system ever devised, and one that now oppresses and abuses most of the world’s people.” I was scorned and vilified by neoliberal pundits, and even chided by some progressives who thought that calling the dominant economic system “barbaric” was going too far.

This is how I responded to my critics at that time:

Look up the word “barbaric” in your dictionary, and you’ll find several synonyms, including brutal, cruel, and savage. They all apply to the current capitalist system — and even more so to its leaders. These suave chief executives don’t look or act like Attila the Hun. They dress smartly, talk smoothly, and their table manners are impeccable. But strip away the glossy veneer, and you find the ruthless autocrats beneath the surface.

These modern barbarian chieftains don’t personally lead their hordes to invade other countries. They don’t physically destroy cultures, openly loot and pillage cities, or brutalize their citizens. But they engage in the equivalent of all these barbaric activities from the seclusion of their boardrooms, sometimes with just a phone call or a tap on a computer key. MORE

Noam Chomsky: ‘In a couple of generations, organized human society may not survive.’

Image result for Noam Chomsky: 'In a couple of generations, organized human society may not survive.'

Noam Chomsky: Take a standard story. There are reports on what’s happening. So, if you look at the New York Times today, for example, there’s a pretty good article on the new discoveries on the melting of the polar ice caps which happens to be, as usual, more drastic than the (earlier) estimates; that’s been typical for a long time. And it discusses the probable impact on sea level rise, albeit conservatively, given how dramatic it has obviously been. So, there are regular articles that appear — it’s not that global warming is ignored. On the other hand, if you look at a standard article on oil exploration, the New York Times can have a big front page article on how the U.S. is moving towards what they call energy independence, surpassing Saudi Arabia and Russia in fossil fuel production, opening up new areas, Wyoming, the Midwest, for fracking. They do a long article, maybe 1,000 words — I have one particular example in mind — it will mention environmental consequences, it may harm the local water resources for ranchers, but literally not a word on the effect on global warming. And that happens in article after article in every outlet — the Financial Times, the New York Times, all the major newspapers. So, it’s as if on the one hand, there’s a kind of a tunnel vision — the science reporters are occasionally saying look, ‘this is a catastrophe,’ but then the regular coverage simply disregards it, and says, ‘well, isn’t this wonderful, we won’t have to import oil, we’ll be more powerful,’ and so on.

Noam Chomsky: ‘In a couple of generations, organized human society may not survive. That has to be drilled into people’s heads constantly.’

So, they’re not making the connection?

It’s a kind of schizophrenia, and it runs right through society. Take the big banks, JP Morgan Chase, for example. They’re the biggest bank and CEO Jamie Diamond is an intelligent man. I’m sure he knows the basic facts about the dire threat of global warming, yet at the same time they’re pouring investments into fossil fuel extraction, because that’s the business model. They have to make a profit tomorrow. MORE

Principles Of The Sunrise Movement: Antidotes To Neoliberalism

The term “neoliberalism” isn’t new. It was coined in 1938 at a meeting in which social democracy was framed as analogous to a collectivism like Nazism and communism. But neoliberalism today is a conundrum: its slimy tendrils claw into everyday Western life, yet it is so anonymous that we seldom even recognize it as a pervasive ideology. Neoliberalism pushes deregulation on economies around the world, forces open national markets to trade and capital, and demands that governments shrink themselves via austerity or privatization.

neoliberalismNeoliberalism’s anonymity is its essential symptom and cause of its power, and the Sunrise movement is seeking to make the consequences of neoliberalism transparent in society. You know Sunrise, even if you can’t immediately grasp why. They’re the cohort of primarily college-aged activists who are promoting the Green New Deal. You saw pictures of their sit-in in front of Nancy Pelosi’s congressional office in the news and on 60 Minutes when Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) joined them in support of objectives to virtually eliminate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in a decade.

The earth is on track for 3-4 C degrees of warming, which would cause sea level rise of several feet and make extreme weather more frequent and dangerous, among other consequences. The next 4 to 12 years are critical if the world wants to limit that warming. Waiting to reduce greenhouse gases will make the challenge harder.

The Sunrise Movement is working to build a cohort of young people to make climate change an urgent priority across the US, end the corrupting influence of fossil fuel executives on politics, and elect leaders who stand up for the health and wellbeing of all people. MORE

Here’s What a Green New Deal Looks Like in Practice


With the climate change challenge growing more acute with every passing year, the need for the adoption of a new political economy that would tackle effectively both the environmental and the egalitarian concerns of progressive people worldwide grows exponentially. Yet, there is still a lot of disagreement on the left as to the nature of the corresponding political economy model. One segment of the left calls for the complete overthrow of capitalism as a means of dealing with climate change and the growing levels of economic inequality in the era of global neoliberalism, while another one argues against growth in general.

In the interview below, Robert Pollin, distinguished professor of economics and co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, explains some issues raised by each of these positions, and how to move toward solutions grounded in a fuller understanding of economic development. MORE