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Cancelling cancel culture is cancelled.

But the problem with criticism of the “cancel culture” is it ignores that the ones doing most of the cancelling are conservatives.

Conservatives in this country have cancelled progressive taxation, have tried for 40 years to cancel public health and education, have cancelled any attempts to increase Newstart, been doing their best to cancel the NBN and have cancelled a price on carbon, any effective action on climate change, and tried in vain to cancel moves to allow gender equality.

Most recently we had conservatives in New South Wales trying with all their might to cancel legal abortion.

And of course the most egregious example of cancel culture in Australia was by the Australian newspaper, which used a short Facebook post by Yassmin Abdel-Magied as an excuse to hound her out of work and in the end the country.

On the other side, progressives get annoyed when Alan Jones uses the N word, Sky News and the ABC interview Nazis or far-right extremists, and political parties continue to mouth platitudes about climate change and then seek to foster growth in the coal industry.

Greg Jericho on cancelling.

I mean, look. I’m the first person who’d admit I have problems with cancel culture1 but, like. Jericho’s not wrong, so…

  1. Pretty much exclusively when it ignores existing power structures. “Cancelling” a teenage indie creator on Twitter because they drew an art you don’t like is… qui-ii-ii-ite a bit different to “cancelling” a millionaire media personality, or multi-billion dollar corporation, for supporting far-right extremism, for example. []
2019-12-18T09:52:59+11:0026th March, 2020|Tags: culture, politics|

Public investment.

But the reality is that if we had a bigger public sector today, we would be better prepared to weather the health and economic crises triggered by the coronavirus. Hopefully, by the time we come through this, we will have learnt that lesson once and for all. Because nobody thinks “the market” is best placed to tackle the coronavirus. Nobody thinks governments should step back and let the private sector step in. One of the first casualties of Covid-19 in Australia is the neoliberal rhetoric about government spending being a “cost” to the economy.

As China has shown, if you are interventionist enough, and crush economic activity hard enough, you can stop the spread of Covid-19. As Italy has shown, if you are laissez-faire, you will overwhelm your hospitals. There is no avoiding this choice. Delay and dissembling will deliver the worst health and worst economic outcomes.

But neoliberalism is all about delay and dissembling. For decades, we have been told that if we cut spending on health and welfare today, we can grow the pie and all be better off in the future. Of course, in reality, if we had spent a lot more on the health system, we would be better off today and in the future.

Richard Denniss on government.

2020-03-25T08:50:14+11:0025th March, 2020|Tags: coronavirus, COVID-19, economics, politics|

Extraction economics.

Here’s how it works in practice. On Wednesday March 18, the Australian government announced a $715 million rescue package for the nation’s stricken aviation sector. Qantas management, grateful for the assistance, immediately sacked 20,000 workers, cushioning the blow for their investors by casting two thirds of its employees into the street. Amazon—a trillion dollar company run by the world’s richest and least interesting man—is doing an online fundraiser to get other people to support its desperate workforce. The dynamic is familiar everywhere: a tax-avoiding queue of investors and oligarchs miraculously redeveloping a taste for the social safety net they’ve been hacking away at for four decades.

Since the mid-1970s, the ethic of public health, public welfare and mutual aid has been under sustained attack by the same people now desperate for a public bailout. The doctrine of neoliberalism views our whole society as a rich site of extraction: healthcare systems to be broken up and run for profit, public transport degraded in favour of private cars, welfare systems converted into poverty traps to ensure a pool of desperate low-wage labour. It goes well outside the boundaries of greed into the realm of the actively parasitic. Run down the public hospitals, set up private ones and then get taxpayers to subsidise them. Do the same thing with schools. It’s an ideology that allowed private interests to mine the childcare and aged care sectors for profit, blew a massive crater in the national broadband network, and even in the wake of the bushfires was seething with hatred for public broadcasters.

They’ve spent four decades trying to convert what should be universal essential services into a for-profit free-for-all, and now we’re staring at the consequences. It’s not just taking from the trailer and not putting anything back; it’s cleaning it out and then selling us back what they took.

Scott Ludlam on the pandemic bastards.

2020-03-28T08:47:48+11:0023rd March, 2020|Tags: coronavirus, COVID-19, economics, politics|

Panic! At the Costco.

Really, we should not be surprised. Panic buying isn’t an aberration – it’s the logical extension of a political system based entirely on selfishness and indifference, on the hoarding of wealth and property. It is what happens when government persuades the public that it is the problem.

[…]

The contraction of government services across decades has left people isolated and mistrusting. They have been told to depend on themselves, and that is what they are doing. A government that won’t promise healthcare or education can’t be expected to guarantee groceries.

On logical extensions.

… mostly I just love that one of the country’s few (only?) remaining longform broadsheet newspaper—one primarily aimed at bleeding-heart pinko latte-sipping Boomers—actually used “Panic! At the Costco” as a headline.

Don’t make me have to explain the reference to my parents, Saturday Paper, please…

2020-03-24T07:46:36+11:0020th March, 2020|Tags: coronavirus, COVID-19, politics|

The end of the end of history.

After the fall of Soviet communism in 1989, and China’s embrace of the market, crowned by the nation’s entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001, it seemed, for a brief flicker of human history, that the world was converging on a political economy of free markets in liberal democracies. As it turned out, markets spread, but without necessarily bringing more democracy or liberalism along with them.

Capitalism without democracy was assumed to be at most a passing phase. Eventually, so western liberal thinking went, China and other Asian nations adopting what [economist Branco] Milanovic calls “political capitalism” – free markets, but authoritarian politics – would have to adopt liberal political institutions, too. But, so far, the liberalization thesis remains unproven. China has successfully adopted a market system – and, even more importantly, a market culture – without liberal democratic institutions.

Richard V. Reeves on liberal folly.

This essay is a broader look into the global failure of liberalism in general, though this particular quote illustrates something that’s been coming up A Lot recently. That is, how did we get to a point where so many supposedly “liberal”, usually American, companies are getting themselves in such shit over their operations in countries like China and, to a lesser extent, Russia? How did, say, we get to a point where literally almost everything we rely on for a modern, functioning society (e.g. computer infrastructure, oil, etc.) is being manufactured by countries that are “frenemies” at best and outright hostile, politically, at worst?

Well, surprise; there’s actually an answer to that and the answer that it was a deliberate political program, mostly credited to Bill Clinton but supported by every regime since. And it’s all based on the conceit that economic capitalism and social liberalism (and thus democracy) were necessary conditions for one another, and that fostering one would, therefore, bring about the other. And thus it was in the interest of the global good for American companies to outsource and manufacture and find huge markets in countries like China. It wasn’t just making them zillions of dollars! It was Doing Good. A win-win.

China, of course, knew exactly what a crock of shit this paternalistic, neocolonial attitude really was, which is exactly why they did nothing to dissuade it. And…

Well. Here we are.

2019-12-02T09:59:06+11:0013th March, 2020|Tags: economics, politics|

Whose value?

The financial crisis of the late 2000s shook the foundations of the sprawling market economy and bared some of its uglier consequences: an enormous and widening gulf between the über-rich and the working poor, between the ample rewards of capital and the stagnating wages of labor, between the protected few and the vulnerable many. Compounding these inequities, moreover, was a sweep of disruptive business technologies that began to come of age in the wake of the crisis—from digitization to robotics to A.I.—and that made vulnerable workers feel ever more so.

The reaction against “the system” was both broad and shocking in scale—particularly among younger people. A 2016 Harvard study found that 51% of U.S. respondents between the ages of 18 and 29 did not support capitalism; one-third, meanwhile, favored a turn to socialism. A 2018 Gallup poll of the same cohort found a similar rejection—only 45% viewed capitalism positively, a 23 percentage point drop from 2010, when Americans were still in the murky shadow of the Great Re­cession.

Alan Murray on failing systems.

From a longer article looking at how billionaires are desperately, desperately trying to justify both themselves and the institutions that gave them their wealth…

2019-11-28T08:51:27+11:009th March, 2020|Tags: culture, economics, politics|

The name of the beast.

Neoliberalism is the ideology developed by people such as Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman. It is not just a set of free market ideas, but a focused discipline, deliberately applied around the world. It treats competition as humanity’s defining characteristic, sees citizens as consumers and “the market” as society’s organising principle. The market, it claims, sorts us into a natural hierarchy of winners and losers. Any attempt by politics to intervene disrupts the discovery of this natural order.

It was embraced by Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and most subsequent governments. They sought to implement the doctrine by cutting taxes, privatising and outsourcing public services, slashing public protections, crushing trade unions and creating markets where markets did not exist before. The doctrine was imposed by central banks, the IMF, the Maastricht Treaty and the World Trade Organisation. By shutting down political choice, governments and international bodies created a kind of totalitarian capitalism.

It has failed on its own terms, and in many other ways. Far from creating general prosperity, as it promised, growth has been significantly slower in the neoliberal era than it was in preceding decades, and most of its fruits have been gathered by the rich. Far from stimulating an enterprise economy, it has created a gilded age for rent-seekers. Far from eliminating bureaucracy, it has created a Kafkaesque system of mad diktats and stifling control. It has fomented ecological, social, political, economic and financial crises, culminating in the 2008 crash. Yet, perhaps because its opponents have failed to produce a new, compelling story of their own, it still dominates our lives.

George Monbiot on total control.

For what it’s worth, I somewhat disagree with the last line, if only in the sense that so much intentional energy has been expended to try and ensure no alternative could possibly arise. Or, probably more accurately, could get widespread popular and political support; the CIA didn’t spend all those decades assassinating and deposing democratic socialist governments for nothing, after all, and American pop culture still spends billions of dollars packaging up neoliberal ideologies in flashing lights and dramatic music and attractive bodies (ref. for e.g. the entire MCU, among others).

And yet…

And yet.

Interesting times, I guess.

2019-10-30T09:27:53+11:0028th February, 2020|Tags: politics|