Category Archives: Cultism

Let’s Talk About: Economic Growth

Images like this mean nothing to Dan Hannan. who prefers to deal with fictional characters than real people and their complicated lives.

Economic growth or just ‘growth’ is the holy grail of career politicians, neoliberal economists and their hangers on in the media. We’re often told how important it is to have ‘growth’ in our economy and it is only then that everyone will see the benefit. The trouble with this notion is that those who continually spout this rubbish aren’t the ones who need to worry. They’re already comfortable. The ones for whom these pronouncements mean little, if nothing at all, are the poor and the low waged. They continue to see their income squeezed, while the cost of living continues to rise. But the media and the government will have none of it.

A few weeks ago, the BBC’s economic editor, Robert Peston, was crowing over low oil prices. He told the nation’s viewers that “everyone” would now feel “richer” because of the continued fall in petrol prices. This is not only misleading; it’s also dishonest. The only people who can feel “richer”, by definition, are the rich themselves. If you are poor, you cannot be “rich”, it’s an absurdity. Yet this does not stop the likes of Daniel Hannan repeating this meaningless tosh. In Thursday’s blog for CapX, he repeated Peston’s bogus claim that “The rich are getting richer and the poor are… getting richer”. This is a measure of how out-of-touch our media and politicians are in relation to the people they purport to serve. We can also draw the conclusion that the mainstream media, the Westminster politicians and economic cults like the Adam Smith Institute and the Institute for Economic Affairs are in a cosy conspiratorial relationship with one another. The relationship between these institutions and ordinary people themselves is one of power. They consider themselves to be the voices of authority and we must listen and obey… or so they think. So when they tell us that “things are getting better” we are expected to believe them. But I no more believe them than I believe in the existence of God, the tooth fairy or Father Christmas. I see no improvement and neither do millions of other people.

The problem with those who constantly talk about ‘growth’ is that they can only speak the language of statistics and mathematics, and can only view the world through the lens of their social status. They are incapable of relating their nutty ideas about economics to the average person because what they’re saying bears no relation to everyday life. Trickle down, for example, is one economic fallacy that is repeated ad infinitum by economic cultists and held up as a model for ‘growth’ and economic well-being. But not even right-wingers like George HW Bush believed it and derided trickle down as “voodoo economics”. Yet the Hannans and Osbornes of this world cleave so tightly to it like men at sea clinging to any bit of flotsam that comes their way.

A couple of months ago, the Labour leadership claimed that if the Tories were re-elected, they would take public spending back to the levels of the 1930s. This was enough to get all manner of right-wing economic cultists into a lather. Hannan was one of those. In this blog, he does his best to claim how the 1930s was a “time of growth”. It’s a risible misrepresentation of a decade that’s become synonymous with economic hardship.

Well, here’s a fact that may surprise you. The 1930s saw more economic growth than any other decade in British history. It’s true that there were patches of deprivation. As in all times of economic transition, some industries declined while others rose. The poverty of the Jarrow Marchers was genuine: theirs had been a ship-building town, devastated by the collapse of international orders.

Sophistry, damned sophistry. For the millions of working class people who struggled to survive the decade, this is an insult to their memory. My mum’s family was Liverpool working class and I can remember her telling me what life was like in the Thirties: if you were poor or low-waged, you had no access to affordable or decent healthcare, because there was no National Health Service (the Tories will abolish it if they are re-elected). There was very little work on Merseyside in the 1930s, so people lived a hand-to-mouth existence.

Hannan continues his fantasy tour of his romanticized past:

Yet these were golden years for new industries such as electrical appliances and aviation and cars, the years when Morris, Humber and Austin became household names. The 1930s also saw an unprecedented boom in construction, as the comfortable suburbs of Betjeman’s Metroland spread across England. The Battersea Power Station raised its minarets over the capital, a symbol of self-confidence in architecture.

Here, Hannan waxes floridly about a world that only those with the economic means could take part. The appliances and cars that he talks about were beyond the means of my family and many others. No working class people owned cars, let alone possessed household appliances. My grandmother was still using a boiler and a mangle well into the 1970s. As for Metroland, the houses that were built there were for sale. Only those with nice, middle class incomes could afford a mortgage.

Here, Hannan slaps more gloss onto his fantasy.

 Britain responded to the 1929 crash by cutting spending drastically and, in consequence, soon saw a return to growth. The United States, by contrast, expanded government activity unprecedentedly under the New Deal, and so prolonged the recession by seven years. Yes, seven years. Here is the conclusion of a major study published in 2004 by two economists at the UCLA, Harold L Cole and Lee A Ohanian:

Cole and Ohanian are comprehensively defenestrated in this blog. Hannan isn’t interested in reality and like all right-wingers of his ilk, he exists in the hermetically-sealed space of privilege. The material of history is bent and twisted to shrink-fit a weak narrative. Like many of his fellow Tea Partiers, he makes the same feeble argument for cuts.

Contrasting the American and British experiences, we are left with an inescapable conclusion. Cuts work, and trying to spend your way out of recession doesn’t.

Let’s put it this way, if a company doesn’t borrow or spend money to invest when it is doing badly, it will go under. Cuts only work for the already wealthy. They are also a means by which the powerful punish the poor for being poor. Hannan makes clear his hatred of FDR and the New Deal. This is the same position held by the economic cultists at the Ludwig von Mises Institute as well as his fellow Randists.

This is perhaps the greatest fallacy of all:

Still, if only for the record, let me set down the real lesson of the 1930. The best way to recover from a crash, not least for low earners, is to bring spending back under control. Growth follows, jobs are created, and the people taking those jobs thereby gain the most secure route out of poverty.

It’s easy for those who have never personally experienced poverty to claim that “the most secure route out of  poverty” is work. Low-paid and zero hours contract jobs actually lock people into poverty. Hannan is not only a fool, he’s a dangerous fool. Leaving people to fend for themselves without a safety net will lead to greater social problems. Hannan is unmoved by such concerns. Yet he would be the first to complain that shanty towns are an “eyesore”. This is the man who calls himself a “Whig”.

Talking about economic growth when people are struggling to survive is deeply offensive. Talking about GDP is meaningless because not only is it a poor way of measuring economic performance, it means nothing to ordinary people. For all his claims of how cutting public spending will improve economic performance, Hannan has never had to suffer the privations of working in a low-paid job. Like all of his pals in Westminster and beyond, he is a bully, who talks a good talk but when his words are unpacked, they reveal the true horrors of the current political system.

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Filed under 20th century, Conservative Party, Cultism, economic illiteracy, Economics, Government & politics, Growth, History, History & Memory, laissez faire capitalism, Let's Talk About, Media, Neoliberalism, propaganda, Spiv capitalism, Tory press

Mediating freedom: the role of the libertarian think-tanks

Madsen Pirie: the architect  of Thatcher's privatization programme

Madsen Pirie: the architect of Thatcher’s privatization programme

How does one define the word “freedom”? There is a group of people who believe they know exactly what the word “freedom” means. “Freedom” and its cousin “liberty” are abstract nouns, there is no hard and fast definition for either of them and any attempt to give them some kind of single meaning or, indeed, a list of meanings is utterly futile and is most likely going to be dishonest. Moreover, it could take you a very long time to compile such a list.You can no more easily define “freedom” than you can words like “happiness” or “love”, because these words mean different things to different people at different times.

There are people who believe that they have knowledge of the true nature of freedom. They form themselves into ‘non-partisan’ think-tanks’ and discussion groups and refer to themselves collectively as “libertarians”. It’s as if as libertarians, they and only they have found the true meaning of freedom. It is as though they had heard the word of G*d Himself who spoke unto them and revealed the secret of liberty.  He said unto them, “It is not Communism”.

And lo, it became the everlasting Truth… until the collapse of the Wall of Berlin, when the disciples of The Truth believed unto themselves that freedom had triumphed over the tyranny of Communism, which they declared to be “unfreedom”.

After some soul-searching and not an inconsiderable amount of hand-wringing, they decided among themselves that unfreedom was to be represented by so-called radical Islam. They had found their antithesis! Lazy thinkers are attracted to binaries because they can only define themselves against their opposite. They are not Communists/Socialists/Lefties/Islamists, therefore they love freedom!

Those who call themselves “libertarians” deny that they are of a right-wing disposition and will gather at the feet of some economic guru or high priest, where they receive The Word directly from the master’s mouth. They may also deny that they are ideological and claim that they are “non-partisan” or “neither right nor left” but this is dishonest for when you press them on certain matters, they will produce a reply that contains the usual messages of “responsibility” and a “small state”. They speak in maths. Society is merely an afterthought.

Classical liberalism, as a term, has become both a touchstone for nostalgists and means by which to reorder language. Even neologisms are subjected to this transformation. The term “neoliberalism” is resented by the Right because they did not coin it. In its stead came “classical liberalism”, a term made seemingly older by the prefix “classical”. It is still neoliberalism in form and in substance. We cannot return to the past, no matter how hard the Tories try to recreate the past in the present. Therefore they revive old terminologies and long for the days before they were born.

The economic theories embraced by the Adam Smith Institute (ASI), for example, are most definitely on political right and are therefore ideological. There’s no escaping it. In the 1980s, the ASI was very close to the Thatcher government. To whit, ASI’s president/high priest, Dr Madsen Pirie was  the architect of privatization. His freedom is that which steals food from the mouths of babes and condemns the poor to lives of never-ending serfdom.

Right libertarians believe themselves to be the arbiters of the freedom ideal. Their idea of freedom is a mediated one. That is to say, it comes from someone else or is produced by a body of people like ASI who make a deterministic argument of freedom, based more or less on the notion of economic liberty, which they assert is the fount of all freedoms. Such thinking is absurd when one considers the tyranny exerted on the poor and working poor by states that have operated this model.

For neoliberalism or classical liberalism to work, it must be imposed on the citizenry. These economic ideologies can only benefit the rich and any claim that they will “liberate” the poor is patently absurd and is not supported by the evidence. “Trickle-down” is a lie.

The ASI, like so many other libertarian think-tanks have convinced themselves that they know the True meaning of the words “liberty” and “freedom” but it doesn’t and to claim that it has a form of superior knowledge that leads them to a position where they can provide a definitive meaning for these words is arrogant, mendacious and self-delusional. Have a look at this pamphlet from the ASI, from which I shall quote a portion,

Liberty can be defined as not being interfered with, or not being
imposed on, by others (non-invasive liberty). Not being attacked
or robbed is part of liberty; attacking or robbing people is not part of liberty.

It follows that liberty means being able to do what you like with
your own body (the principle of self-ownership) and your own
property, as long as you are not thereby imposing on the body or
property of others. You are free to harm yourself, for example by
taking dangerous drugs, but if you harm someone else or damage
their property without their consent, you are violating their liberty.

This sense of liberty is what libertarians, or classical liberals,
mean when they advocate liberty. It is also the dominant idea of
liberty within Western history and it applies to any society that is
described as generally ‘liberal’.

This is a mainly Hobbesian formulation of liberty that has been infused with neoliberal discourse (Hobbes was a supporter of absolute monarchy). But to characterize liberty in purely Western terms is misleading and rather vague since it presumes that freedom does not exists outside Western ‘liberal’ discourse. It also suggests that “liberty” was conceived by Westerners, ergo they are the arbiters and owners of the “freedom” concept. Furthermore the essentialistic arguments on the nature of freedom put forward by the ASI is only one set of definitions and can never represent a totality of freedom, because there will always be limits or disagreements.

The Freedom Association (TFA) is a right-wing pressure group, whose idea of freedom is narrow. Indeed, its name is Orwellian. I can think of no group that calls itself The Love Association or UK Happiness League.  No one can tell you what constitutes  love or happiness. If I were to ask you to sum up what the word “love”  in a few words, you would tell me one thing. If I were  to come back to you in a couple of months and asked the same question, you may have a different answer for me. No one can tell you or I what love is; it is dependent upon one’s individual perception of that word at a particular moment in time.  You could say that love is not hate. But then, what is hate?

The idea of freedom put forward by ASI or TFA is a spectacular one, precisely because it has been mediated. These groups have set themselves up not only as arbiters of liberty but have hijacked the discourse on the subject. It stands to reason that those who accept the ASI’s and TFA’s definition of freedom as Truth, do so because it emphasizes their relationship to capital. If you do not accept their kind of freedom, then you are a supporter of unfreedom; a totalitarian. It’s as simple as that.

When the government announced it was going to “measure” the nation’s “happiness”, I was suspicious and rightly so, you cannot measure, let alone define, happiness. It was a government attempt to manipulate people’s emotions. Nothing more. Nothing less.

In George Orwell’s satire, 1984, he created a dystopian world in which ignorance was a virtue and in which the state created ministries with names like the Ministries of Truth and Love. He was onto something.

There was some  Situationist graffiti that once said, “Don’t liberate me, I’ll take care of that”. That is my motto.

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Filed under Cultism, economic illiteracy, Economics, laissez faire capitalism, Late capitalism, neoliberalism, Philosophical musings, robber baron capitalism, Spiv capitalism, Taxpayers Alliance, Think Tanks

What is the Liberty League?

This is your freedom, you can't afford the other kind.

This is your freedom, you can’t afford the other kind.

If it’s one thing that the Right loves to do, it’s to lecture the Left and anyone who’ll listen on the nature of freedom. They’ll wrap their semi-feudal ideas in economic jargonese and present them as unassailable truths, telling anyone who dares to disagree with them and their muddle-headed views that they “hate” freedom. They would deny that they are superstitious but their unquestioning belief in The Invisible Hand of the Market is naive at best and dangerous at worst. It’s another way of saying “We’ll just let the Lord decide this one, shall we”?

I only came across the Liberty League fairly recently and as is always the case with groups that use the word “liberty” or “freedom” in their name, they work to deny others of their freedoms. As it turns out, the Liberty League is not the name of one particular organization but an umbrella name for a network of, some would say, the usual suspects but with one or two names added. At first glance it would appear that they have taken their name from the American Liberty League, an anti-New Deal group of businessmen who were involved in the alleged Business  Plot of the 1930s, but they haven’t.

Have a look at this list, you’ll see some familiar names and some not-so-familiar names. One such name is the Legatum Institute, whose parent company is Legatum.  I can tell you that Legatum is based in Dubai, that free-market paradise in which migrant workers from places like India and Pakistan are treated appallingly. Legatum is an international investment company that was founded in 2006 by New Zealander, Christopher Chandler, who was president of Sovereign Asset Management. It has also created The Legatum Center at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Techonology or MIT.

The Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship was founded on the belief that economic progress and good governance in low-income countries emerge from entrepreneurship and innovations that empower ordinary citizens.

The Center was founded at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2007 through a multi-million dollar gift from Legatum, a global investment firm.

The Legatum Institute has something that it calls its “Prosperity Index”, which it says

is a unique and robust assessment of global wealth and wellbeing, which benchmarks 142 countries around the world in eight distinct categories: Economy; Education; Entrepreneurship & Opportunity; Governance; Health; Personal Freedom; Safety & Security; and Social Capital.

I had a look at the first video and was led to this site, which gives details of how they measure “prosperity”. It also ranks countries in order of their relative “prosperity”. Some countries don’t figure because of “insufficient data”, these are countries like North Korea and Somalia. The colour green indicates “high prosperity”. Guess which countries are listed? You guessed it. The UK, USA and all the Northern European countries plus Australia, New Zealand, Japan the UAE and some others.

While this all sounds rather reasonable and indeed plausible, the fact that Legatum is part of this Liberty League says more than their charts or their methodologies could ever say. Rest assured that when it comes to prosperity, it is clear that they’ve ignored certain factors in order to advance a thesis of ‘liberty’ through laissez-faire capitalism. The UK, for example, is by all accounts, not as socially mobile as Legatum would have us believe. Social capital plays a large part in how power is exercised politically. Those who possess the social capital inherited from aristocratic, landed families and the rest of the old establishment is not considered in the analysis. Money in Britain stays with the same group of people. Prosperity exists for some and not for all.

Freedom, contrary to the claims of the Right, cannot be measured by a set of indicators or benchmarks. Freedom is much more personal and is arguably a more a state of mind than a word or a set of principles that have been decided upon by the high priests of this economic cult or that. No matter how many times they’d like to tell us, capitalism is not congruent with freedom.

The President and CEO of the Legatum Institute is Jeffrey Gedmin, a former president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the international charm arm of the US Congress (it was funded by the CIA until 1972) that once beamed music and messages of “liberty” to the so-called Iron Curtain countries has now turned its signal towards Iran, Central Asia and the Middle East. Gedmin was also a resident “scholar” with the American Enterprise Institute, a neoconservative think-tank that boasts the talents of Richard Perle, who was one of the principal architects of the Iraq Invasion. The use of the word “scholar” to describe these people is flattering to say the least.

Legatum also organizes Democracy Lab, which appears to be part of its magazine, Foreign Policy.  Here’s the Facebook page for Democracy Lab. It tells us,

Democracy Lab covers the political and economic challenges facing countries trying to make the transition from authoritarianism to democracy.

Why do I get the feeling this has nothing at all to do with democracy? Since the collapse of the Berlin Wall over 20 years ago, neoliberals have have rushed into the former Eastern Bloc countries in their droves. The economic vacuum that was created in the wake of the collapse of European Stalinism was the ideal opportunity for groups like CATO and others to reshape these nations into model free market economies. They have done this through a network of economic think-tanks and pressure groups that share the common goal of free market capitalism. The new leaders of these countries were the antithesis of their predecessors, and threw themselves lovingly into the arms of neoliberalism’s carpetbagger-priests.

The University of Bath Tobacco Control Research Group has a site called “Tobacco Tactics” that “aims to provide up-to-date information on the Tobacco Industry, its allies or those promoting a pro-tobacco agenda”. It lists the Liberty League as one of those groups that acts as front for the tobacco industry.

Back to the Liberty League. They have six staff, all of whom look at though they’ve just walked out of university. Interestingly, two of them have degrees in War Studies.

The site says that three of its staff, Will Hamilton, Anton Howes and James Lawson, are members of the Adam Smith Institute’s (ASI) “Next Generation Project”. But the link is dead. However I have discovered Pete Spence, Operations Manager for the League is one of the project’s “key people”.

Pete Spence is Programmes Officer at the Adam Smith Institute, responsible for overseeing the ASI’s events and student programmes. He holds a BSc in Economics from the University of York.

Pete’s policy interests include agricultural policy, opposition of corporate welfare and internet freedom.

Away from work, Pete enjoys weight training, live music and volunteering as Operations Manager for the Liberty League.

Ah, so he’s only a part-timer at the League? This straddling of two or more groups is quite common. We should remember that Dan the Han is involved with Young Britons’ Foundation (YBF) and TFA. The YBF is, for all intents and purposes, the continuity Federation of Conservative Students.

The Liberty League has invited the Institute of Ideas (IoI), who are part of the LM network to join. Liberty, the civil liberties pressure group, has also been invited. The IoI produces propaganda in the form of ‘scholarly’ research for global pharmaceutical companies and agri-business companies like Monsanto.  The IoI has shared a platform with the League at their “Freedom Forum” events, which were also attended by The Institute of Economic Affairs, Spiked, TFA, Big Brother Watch and Liberal Vision. The latter is formed of Orange Book Lib Demmers.

This is liberty, dear readers. It’s the liberty of corporations and feral capitalists to exploit others for profit. It’s the liberty that holds most of humanity in bondage to the markets.  In other words, it’s an Orwellian idea of liberty.

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Filed under Conservative Party, Cultism, Economics, Government & politics, laissez faire capitalism, Young Britons' Foundation

Ethics, morality and the right’s economic arguments

Gordon Gekko: patron saint of greedy bastards everywhere

“Greed is good” was the quote attributed to the character Gordon Gekko in the film Wall Street. But he never said those words, this is what he said,

Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures, the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge, has marked the upward surge of mankind and greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the U.S.A

As you can see, the sentiment that “greed is good” is contained within the speech. Perhaps the most revealing part of that speech is the phrase “evolutionary spirit”. In other words, the form of capitalism that is currently  being practised is a form of social Darwinism.

Greed is a highly-regarded character flaw among the neoliberals who currently dominate economic discourses. They will tell us that those who salt their vast sums of money away into off-shore accounts are “wealth-creators”, not tax-dodgers who pay their employees peanuts and who continue to rake in vast profits while paying no corporation tax.  As we know already, this newly-coined phrase “wealth-creator” is indicative of an ongoing effort on the part of a group of pathological liars to convince us that it is in our best interests to cut our throats for the benefit of these parasites and, indeed, the nation. These wealth-creators create wealth but only for themselves. You and I will see not a penny of it.

It says a great deal about the morality of the right when they tell us that greed is “natural” and that it should be encouraged. Hayek, whose word is holy writ among neoliberals and the mendacious, self-delusional ‘classical liberals’, rationalized greed as something inherent in our make-up, which therefore meant that the small state should do all it can to facilitate it. No planning. No regulations. Just pure unabashed greed would benefit us all, he alluded.

We don’t praise or celebrate murder nor do we sanction murder as a good thing unless it has been given license, as in the case of war for example, where murder is regarded as a good thing, because it is in the “national interest”. People get medals for murder.  The greedy are rewarded with bigger tax cuts and knighthoods for their ‘risk taking’. The aftermath of the Iraq invasion showed us how both murder and the clever justification for greed could be used as a means of social control and a means to cart loot out of the country under the effective guise of the “free market”. “It isn’t greed” they’d tell us. “This is freedom”!

But why should we praise anyone who is permitted to give full expression to their greed? We don’t praise murderers unless, of course, they wear medals. Should we also allow those who burgle their neighbours to carry on because they’re showing ‘entrepreneurial spirit’? That’s another slippery concept: entrepreneurialism.  What is it? Is Grant Shapps an entrepreneur? Some, his fellow Tories, would think so. I say that he’s a crook and a parasite.

The trickle down theory has been thoroughly discredited. Even George Bush Sr had his doubts when he called it “voodoo economics”. Yet this government and its Lib Dem human shield persist with this notion that only greed can save us from our economic woes. Instead of clamping down on the cheats, they are given ever greater license to rip us off.

I find it bizarre that some of these greedy people would describe themselves as Christians but doesn’t the Tenth Commandment advise against greed? I do believe it does.

What Hayek and his acolytes propose is nothing less than a form of economic natural selection. Those that have money will survive and carry on exploiting others, while those without will either die or will otherwise be enslaved by the greedy.

Greed is no more natural to us than spree-killing. We don’t tolerate spree-killers, why should we tolerate greedy capitalists?

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Filed under Cultism, economic illiteracy, Economics, laissez faire capitalism, neoliberalism, robber baron capitalism, Spiv capitalism

Economic cults are just as bad as any religious cult

Last Sunday I was watching The Big Questions on BBC, a programme that is best described as a Sunday morning shout-fest. The studio audience usually consists of a fair number of religious zealots and assorted weirdos together with sceptics and rationalists who seek to challenge their beliefs. Last week’s discussion was about religious cults and whether they are any different to mass religions. In truth, the mass religions are the same as cults, they just have better PR and more members. This got me thinking: what about those obscure economic cults like Objectivism? What about all those tiresome free-marketeers who slavishly follow the curious fiscal asceticism of Hayek or Friedman? Are they any different to Scientologists or Moonies? Well, no.

Cults are always organized around a charismatic leader. We see this with the Scientologists, the Moonies, the Children of God (now called Family International) and small Healy-ite cults like the Workers Revolutionary Party. The economic cults are no different; they are all obsessed with ideological purity. The leader’s word is supreme.

All cults, like mass religions, require fetish-objects (Islam and Judaism have no fetish-objects). These fetish objects can range from supposed relics like a nail or a splinter from the True Cross  ( in the case of Reaganites,  a vial of Ronald Reagan’s blood) to holy icons; an image of some saint or other. These economic cultists have money, which, as a fetish-object, serves much the same purpose as praying to an icon of the Virgin. “With this money, I am free! With this money I can enslave others and tell them that I am doing it to make them free”! Of course they would tell you that they don’t worship money but that wouldn’t be true because cultists are always in denial about something.

Blinded by their unswerving devotion, right-wing economic cultists will tell you how “flat taxes will benefit us all” and that ‘wealth’ will “trickle down” to those below, even though they produce no hard evidence to support such claims. They will produce the holy icon of the Laffer Curve and, without a trace of irony, proceed to tell you why this curve is so significant and why those at the bottom of the economic ladder must take pay cuts while those at the top award themselves even bigger bonuses. This is voodoo economics. It’s magic, maaan! You will find them reciting passages from The Road to Serfdom, one of the holy books of right-wing economic cultists and they will tell you, with a straight face, that fascism and socialism are the same thing and that only they hold the keys to your freedom. It isn’t and they don’t. But cultists won’t listen to anyone but their cult-leaders. Hayek’s word is holy writ.  He speaketh the Truth and we must listen. Just ask High Priest, Dan Hannan of The Freedom Assocation.

You won’t find the working class or the lower middle class subscribing to these notions  about ‘freedom’ and there is a very good reason for this: they can’t afford them. Only those who have a substantial amount of personal wealth can become cult  members and take part in the liturgy.

These cults also have their priestly caste that is formed from a hardcore of free-market economists who are gathered together in think-tanks like the Adam Smith Institute, the Taxpayers Alliance or the Institute of Economic Affairs. It is within these bodies that the doctrines are formulated and the high priests of late capitalism worship at the clay feet of their dead idols. The Adam Smith Institute, for example, practices a strain of laissez-faire economics that is based on a highly selective reading of The Wealth of Nations , for which they rely on people’s ignorance of Smith’s theories in order to promote “The Invisible Hand” of the free market; the rest of the text is discarded and ignored.

The right will make the counter-claim that the Left (to the Tories this is just anyone who just happens to be vaguely to the left of them) worship John Maynard Keynes and have formed a cult around his ideas. They can make that claim as much as they like, but I have seen little evidence to support this notion. They would also point to Marx and shout “Look! You worship Marxism”!  But that’s only true of a handful of left-wing cults and, at any rate, there is always an ongoing debate about Marxist economics. The same cannot be said for the Right, who are hopelessly devoted to their idols and accept their ‘wisdom’ without criticism. But this deference shouldn’t surprise us: the Right doesn’t like to criticize what they see as unassailable truths; the holy word of Hayek or whichever economic theorist they happen to be praise-singing at that moment in time. This is the truth and all those who deny it shall be cast into eternal darkness!

The problem with economic cults  is that we are forced to live with their mistakes. Privatizations are forced onto us and all social relations are marketized – all for our own good, you understand.  After all, this is the word of the Lord!  He hath spoken! Have faith and enjoy the Kool-Aid!

Postscript

Interesting article from Alternet about Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman.

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