The free-market economic policy our leaders have chosen for us–neoliberalism–requires coercion to make people participate. Enforcing market obedience is something I’ve written about at CK before. It’s also one of the salient points made about early capitalism in Karl Polanyi’s masterpiece, The Great Transformation.
Political theorist Corey Robin also notices that neoliberal policies don’t just appear out of thin air. He examines Chile, where President Allende, a democratically elected leader, was overthrown by the military with savage free-market economic doctrines imposed at gunpoint.
“Whether we call it primitive accumulation or the great transformation, we know that the creation of markets often require or are accompanied by a high degree of coercion. This is especially true of markets in labor. Men and women are not born wage laborers ready to contract with capital. Nor do they simply evolve into these positions over time. Wage laborers are often made—and remade—through violence, coercion, and force. Like the labor wars of the Gilded Age or the enclosure riots, Pinochet’s Chile was about the forcible creation, at lightning speed, of new markets in land and labor.”
Neoliberalism could not succeed without a coercive state to enforce the market diktat. Libertarians, like Rand Paul and his papa, pretend that the market confers freedom but that’s true only if you have capital. Libertarians also pretend that democratic government is an evil oppressor of the wealthy. However, the US government is hardly a jack-booted thug when it comes to the wealthy. In fact, the US government works tirelessly in promoting policies favored by capital.
Even more, our wealthy elite are situated inside the US government to an enormous degree, moving back and forth between corporations, think-tanks and foundations that are likewise intertwined with the state. They represent finance, oil, and the military/intelligence/industrial complex. Perhaps you’ve heard of them? They’re the deep state, and their existence has evolved into something of an open secret. Hollywood loves them some deep state, with movie after movie portraying an intrepid hero battling an evil and mysterious cabal. Not to mention TV shows, look at what’s making a return–The X Files–a show that was all about the deep state.
Of course the X-Files never really tried to examine the evil cabal behind the Smoking-Man and what they wanted from their evil schemes. Perhaps this topic was not broached because in real life the US deep state ensures policies that benefit the 1%, especially when it comes to foreign policy. In case you haven’t noticed, the US pursues regime change in countries that fail to pursue economic and political policies that our wealthy elite demand. US foreign policies of regime change since WWII bears this out. Examining the history it’s clear that governments and leaders that attempted to pursue economic policies at odds with elite US opinion were demonized, sanctioned and ultimately overthrown and or assassinated.
An amazing article by Professor James Petras, examines the military coup in Argentina in the late 1970’s that was carried out with US approval. Petras makes quite clear the coup wasn’t carried out just so the military could seize power for itself. No, the most powerful members of Argentinian society deployed the military to overthrow a democratic government that had strayed from serving its true masters.
“According to the documentary evidence presented by the Argentine Central Bank, immediately after the military seized power, the leading manufacturers presented the military with a comprehensive list of all the trade union leaders, delegates and activists to be eliminated. In other words the capitalist class give the military their ‘marching orders’. They dictated who was to be arrested, tortured, killed and/or disappeared. The military executed the orders of the capitalist class – of the 30,000 Argentines who were murdered the vast majority were unarmed industrial workers involved in workplace industrial action.”
The history of the Argentinian elite using the military to murder their political opponents gives a whole new meaning into the term class-warfare. That the US was complicit should have all Americans outraged. This should also be a cautionary tale. With economic inequality at record highs who’s to say that that sort of thing couldn’t happen here?
Update: In light of this new information, I’m inclined to view presidential candidate Ronald Reagan’s newspaper column in 1978 in a whole new light.
“Reagan portrayed Videla’s junta as the real victims here, the good guys who were getting a bad rap for their reasonable efforts to protect the public from terrorism.”
I also think the US air traffic controllers union got off easy compared to the alternative.