The Market is the Master

There is a vague sense of a new order growing up around us. Sometimes there’s a brief glimpse of it. Sometimes late at night there’s a whisper of it on the wind.

I’m referring to neofeudalism–a confluence of neoliberalism and neoconservatism that is forging a new kind of political/economy that represents a fundamental break with previous American ideas about citizenship, self governance, and economic security.

We now live in world of savage inequality cemented into place by a bifurcated system of justice and governance. There are two sets of laws: one set for the elite and the corporations they control, and another set for us. Our government, though nominally a democratic republic, acts to enforce this perverse dynamic.

Neoliberalism + neoconsevatism = neofeudalism.

“The most recent analysis of U.S. wealth inequality finds the top 1 percent of U.S. wealth holders have 39.8 percent of the country’s individual wealth. The top 10 percent have 74.4 percent, which leaves 25.6 percent for the bottom 90 percent.”

A large part of neofeudalism is the reliance on the market as the master. Having overseers to watch the serfs was so Dark-Ages. Now, with the relentless drive to privatize every aspect of modern day life, Americans are oppressed by market strictures.

Don’t want to be part of the marketplace?

Too bad.

The Affordable Care Act is the most immediate example of the government coercing a market based outcome, but the privatization of education, pensions, prisons, roads, utilities and water, promises more of the same.

Lambert at Naked Capitalism, has long been on the neofeudalism beat. Here he is describing how the Obama’s Affordable Care Act is forcing Americans into a market for healthcare leading to neofeudalism.

“One of the things I hate most about ObamaCare is the vicious and relentless way that it creates first- and second-class citizens. ObamaCare does this by construction, of course: ObamaCare’s central concept of eligibility — the outright denial that health care is a human right, but is instead just another pigfest of rental extraction — necessarily implies that those who are “eligible” and those who are not eligible are granted different levels of access to care.

By design, ObamaCare doesn’t treat health care as a right, and does not give all citizens equal access to health insurance, let alone to health care. By design, ObamaCare preserves private health insurance as a rental extraction mechanism, along with its complex and bug-prone system of eligibility determination by past (and projected) income, age, existing insurance coverage, jurisdiction, family structure, and market segment.”

The idea of a market based culture is not new. Thomas Frank, in what was his best book, One Market Under God, makes this point forcefully. Since then the relentless subordination to the market has only accelerated.

It’s not just any market that I’m referring to. It’s the monopoly/oligopoly, state subsidized, neoliberal regime that we have now in the US. I think the poster child for this system would probably have to be Comcast. As in, really, really Comcastic! Economist Michael Hudson pithily describes this extractive phenomenon as–rent seeking as far as the eye can see.

So how did we get to this point where the rich have all the money and power, while everyone else is fighting over the scraps? Class warfare, as Mike Whitney says:

 “If you can’t keep your tycoons in check, you’d might as well throw in the towel and accept a life of indentured servitude now, because that’s where you’re headed anyway. A key element in explaining this whole dynamic is to be found in the falling ratio of wages and salaries as a percentage of national income in the United States. Stagnation in the 1970s led capital to launch an accelerated class war against workers to raise profits by pushing labor costs down. The result was decades of increasing inequality.” (Financial Implosion and Stagnation, John Bellamy Foster and Fred Magdoff, Monthly Review)”

As Les Leopold writes, there was a plan all along to make this all-American neofeudalism a reality.

“The Better Business Climate model had two key components: cutting taxes on corporations and the super-rich, and reducing regulations, especially on Wall Street. This potent combination was to encourage the rich to invest, which in turn would lead to more jobs and increasing incomes for all.”

Of course, it didn’t turn out that way but it was a nice cover story.

There are important reasons to keep tax rates on the wealthy high that have nothing to do with economics. The political rational for high taxes, is that it keeps the wealthy in check and makes it impossible for them to create our present system of neofeudalism. Cutting taxes of the wealthy allowed them to dominate our political process through campaign contributions, which led to further tax cuts for the rich. Alas, the government still requires taxes to fund operations, so the loss of tax revenue from the wealthy resulted in a rise in taxes for everyone else.

As Leopold explains, this tax increase on the 99% created a perverse dynamic that plays straight into the hands of our new overlords.

  • “As we feel like we are getting less and less for our tax dollars, anti-government sentiment increases.
  • As we experience declining services, the pressure mounts for more tax cuts, which further erodes government services.
  • As we see our wages stagnate and our benefits deteriorate, we turn against public sector workers who seem to have it better.
  • Corporations then swoop in with privatization plans for public services which often cost us more and give us fewer services.”

Wash, rinse, repeat.

We can create a shared society if we desire. It’s that simple. Just one teensy little problem. First, we have to depose our new master–the market–and, of course, the elite architects of this dystopian market-based neofeudal system.

Journalist Chris Hedges, one of the few voices to speak against the corporate-state, who has put himself on the line by making a legal challenge to the President’s authority to indefinitely detain American citizens, summarizes the situation at hand:

 “Our passivity has resulted… in much more than imperial adventurism and a permanent underclass. A slow-motion coup by a corporate state has cemented into place a neofeudalism in which there are only masters and serfs. And the process is one that cannot be reversed through the traditional mechanisms of electoral politic”

Lewis Carroll captured much of the present day power inequality in his classic work: Through the Looking-Glass.

“When I use a word, Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.

The question is, said Alice, whether you can make words mean so many different things.

The question is, said Humpty Dumpty, which is to be master — that’s all.”

 

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