If the neoliberal agenda were to be boiled down to two basic elements or principles, these two basic elements and principles would be:
- Exploit and rob the government and the society’s accounts and resources in the name of “contracting” and “privatization”
- Control and suppress the chemical processes and psychic energies of billions of people
These basic elements and principles of the neoliberal agenda were on display during Afghanistan, Iraq, and the global financial crisis and are now on display in a domestic setting and in an economic sense through the Federal Reserve’s interest rate hikes as well as in a political sense through the stonewalling of Bernie Sanders on one hand and the waging of election disputes on the other hand.
Neoliberalism also requires blind worship of both finance and technology. The centrality of finance and money and the preponderance of finance and money over neoliberal ideology and the neoliberal weltanschauung has largely been shaped by the pseudo-intellectual contributions and thoughts of figures such as Von Mises, Hayek, and Milton Friedman. And the irony and paradox of technology is that while technology is developed and fostered by finance, technology is then used by regular people to undermine and dismantle the neoliberal order which developed and fostered technology, which is a phenomenon that we are witnessing today.
In one of his books titled “The Theory of Money and Credit,” Von Mises argued that the importance and relevance of money in everyday life is derived from the very basic nature of commerce and trade, which in turn is defined by the exchange of goods and services. Thus, money takes the place of a ‘direct exchange’ of goods and services and as a result, money is an indirect form or means of exchange. But by euphemizing and simplifying the role of finance and money in the overall economy and society and by denying and ignoring the political identity of finance and money, Von Mises sought to absolve finance and money of any blame or fault for the recurring economic crises of the West. And in a collection of treatises titled “On the Manipulation of Money and Credit,” Von Mises placed the blame and fault over recurring Western economic crises squarely on the shoulders of Western governments and their fiscal policies, even though recent history shows that capital and finance are the direct causes of political chaos and dysfunction which in turn has a direct impact on the economy and society:
“The share of the people’s income which government exacts for its expenditures, even entirely apart from military spending, is continually rising. There is hardly a single country in Europe in which tremendous sums are not being wasted on largely misguided national and municipal undertakings. Everywhere, we see government continually taking over new tasks when it is hardly able to carry out satisfactorily its previous obligations. Everywhere, we see the bureaucracy swell in size. As a result, taxes are rising everywhere. At a time when the need to reduce production costs is being universally discussed, new taxes are being imposed on production. Thus the economic crisis is, at the same time, a crisis in public finance also. This crisis in public finance will not be resolved without a complete revision of government operations.”
One key assumption of neoliberal thought is that the “free market” can allocate and distribute money and resources throughout society in a more efficient and fruitful way than central planning. And if an economic crisis hits and the markets spin out of control, the assumption and belief of neoliberal thought is that capital and finance are not the causes for the markets spinning out of control. Rather, the causes for the markets spinning out of control are “uncertainty” and “human behavior” and the social paradigm known as “the survival of the fittest” as Niall Ferguson argued.
What Ferguson failed to mention, however, was the horrendous impact on government and society as a result of a set of manufactured wars which were financed by big bankers, along with the strategy of “state capture” on the part of capital and finance as well as a global financial crisis that was deliberately planned in the White House. Moreover, it follows from these instances and occurrences that capital and finance are dependent on the government and state, given that the government and the state are the key mechanisms through which capital and finance can extract and exploit the whole of society. Thus, while Von Mises sought to absolve capital and finance of the blunders and follies of civil society, government, and state, he omitted the fact that capital and finance parasitically latch onto the government and state for its substantial benefits and capital gains. And as Stefan Eich cryptically wrote: “We find ourselves firmly in the grip of capital, yet it turns out that finance requires the state at least as much as – and arguably more than – the state requires finance.”
Hence, civil society, government, and the state are essentially the middle area of a ‘Venn Diagram’ or even a battlefield of sorts where capital and ordinary people interact and determine the ‘balance of power’ between their respective sides. But ordinary people in the United States and in many other Western countries have been up against a system where capital and finance dominate the legislative process and in turn “wield significant influence on social institutions – including families and markets – and on broader patterns of social structure, such as inequality.” And as Brooke Harrington noted, capital and finance are also “at the forefront of conflict and change in these areas of social life, since their work straddles the boundaries of public and private spheres, linking dynastic formations to the worldwide political economy.” In turn, the psychosocial outcomes of the false appearances, illusions, and the lies which conceal and shroud the true identity of Western civilization and the Western system will be the subject of my next piece.