I haven’t posted here in a while, I have been too busy working on my labour of love-The Colonist. I am still hoping it will be ready in the firs quarter of the year for those of you waiting for it. I’ve been doing lots of reading, fiction and non fiction. A recent read is Democracy in Chains: the deep history of the radical right’s stealth plan for America by Nancy Maclean. It was a thought provoking read. I’ll edit the following for a book review on Amazon. I think it is important we consider works like this, and the impacts libertarian thinking and how it might become part of our political and economic landscape.
I have developed a morbid fascination for the trainwreck that is the Trump administration. Over the last few months I have read a number of books and articles on the subject and have also been introduced to works that go some way to explaining why, to an outsider, Americans appear polarised at extreme edges of conservative and liberal schools of thought. I struggle to understand what might have driven huge numbers of people to vote for a man and a movement which appears hellbent on making them second class citizens in their own country, and remove the only option they have to make their collective voices heard; their ability vote.
In reality, we are no different in this country, we are mostly creatures of habit and it is a small part of the electorate which changes the government.
America appears to be experiencing a lurch towards an economy driven by pure free market theology and a desire for individual liberty, whatever this really entails. The key themes seem to have a genesis in the attitude of the original English settlers of America, and the framing of the constitution which enshrined the property rights of the rich, consciously or unconsciously designed to perpetuate the class structure from the old country. This makes it difficult for the poor to improve their state, and leads to their thorough exploitation, and in many ways, active repression. On one hand the people are expected to participate in the free market, but by design they are denied the tools, capital, and opportunities which would allow them to compete on a level playing field, by those who control these levers.
In the 21st century the Libertarian movement has been influencing politicians and lawmakers for decades in order to bring about changes which are aimed at enshrining these rights for the wealthy in the constitution and at state level. The movement recognises the electorate will not willingly vote away their rights and benefits, so they must be removed by sleight of hand, or by blatant trickery and obfuscation. The tactics of the extreme right include blatant lying and miss-representation, and encouraging shock and awe responses to protest and minor crime, (hence the militarisation of the police force and the increasing use of shoot first and ask questions later responses) inventing mechanisms to deny the vote to the poor, and deprive them of an opportunity to a decent free education.
Maintaining liberty would go hand in hand with reducing or eliminating spending on the provision and regulation of basic services to the greater population – housing, education, healthcare and basic wage protections in the workplace. Basic protections for the population, and standards for the services they consume, are viewed as being anti-business, un productive and socialistic, and the free men (and women) should not have to support, with their taxes, the less productive section of the population in a forced transfer of wealth. Looked at through a cynical lens, the leaders of this movement seem hell bent on creating an oligarchy aimed at protecting their wealth and power at any cost.
Of course, the premise the pure free market will reward effort and ensure people are prepared and plan for the ups and downs we all experience in life, and the government shouldn’t be required to provide a safety net, is complete and utter bollocks. In the real world we know that safety nets are necessary, protections are required to avoid wanton exploitation of the weak by the rich and powerful, to ensure fair terms and conditions for all those who for some reason can’t compete in and maintain a decent market return for their efforts.
What this Libertarian fantasy also completely ignores, is the impact of increasing automation and digitisation in the work place and the loss of real jobs and the ability of people to find jobs. At some point there will need to be a complete global rethink of how our economies work and how we will provide decent, sustainable livelihoods for populations which will never have employment in the sense people of my generation understand today, and still fairly reward entrepreneurship.
Its all very well for Libertarians to fantasise about their pure marketplace, but they don’t appear to have thought through what happens if nobody is around to purchase the goods and services they produce.
In a perverse way, Trump, disorganised and seeming to lack any coherent policy, might in years to come be viewed as a saviour simply because of the ineptitude of his regime to pass any major policy changes and blocking these groups from turning America into a modern version of the Empire through inertia. One where wealth and power are concentrated in the hands of a very small minority, at the expense of everyone else. The flip side of is he could be remembered as the great enabler of America’s great leap backwards into the dark ages.