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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Neoliberal Sophisms

by Agit8r (writer), Spokane, WA, August 29, 2012

Credit: John Dominic Fisher.
An ideology ever reliant on the iron fist.

While experiments in dictatorial neoliberalism from the 1970's onward have been examined elsewhere, it is my intent to examine its genesis amid apologetics for the world's most infamous regimes.

*Before I get started, a note on terminology; herein, the words "libertarian," "liberal" and "neoliberal" will be used interchangeably. The philosophy commonly referred to as liberalism here in the United States will be referred to as "democratic" with a lower case "d" in order to avoid as much confusion as possible*

The neoliberal movement relies on two defining sophisms to justify its belligerence against the institution of democracy. The first is that democracy will inevitably lead to tyranny. The second is that, given this first sophism, all violations of human rights are justifiable (if not desirable) in preventing said inevitable tyrannous state. The result of the execution of this doctrine--to the same extent that it has been able to prevail in each instance--has been a tyranny similar to the one which was only ever theoretical had the effort not been undertaken.

The first of these precedes its being labeled a "Road to Serfdom." It goes back to Bastiat's appraisal of social-democratic ideas; "All of these proposals are the high road to communism; legislation will then be — in fact, it already is — the battlefield for the fantasies and greed of everyone." Around the same time, De Tocqueville talks of democracy leading to "soft despotism." In 1908, the Republican Party platform dipped into this well to proclaim: "The trend of Democracy is toward socialism... In line with this tendency the Democratic party of to-day believes in Government ownership, while the Republican party believes in Government regulation. Ultimately Democracy would have the nation own the people, while Republicanism would have the people own the nation." Of course this "Republicanism" they speak of would be democracy by any objective measure (while--if I may digress--the "Democracy" they spoke of included states' rights, strict construction, and lowering tariffs). Modern propagandists throw these stale ingredients into a blender, puree until suitable for consumption by infants, and then serve it up for the eager rabble.

Such drivel may be categorized as a sophism for two reasons; 1. There are fuck all examples of a democratic government devolving into totalitarian socialism (compared to those where feudal hierarchy had previously reigned, or where neoliberal despotism had already rolled back democracy, each in which the worst forms of tyranny prevailed) 2. On the contrary, the spread of the Soviet menace in Europe was stopped by the institutionalization of democracy (and social-democracy at that) aided by the United States, following the war that neoliberalism wrought.

As to the second point; we look to the observations of Austrian economist Ludwig Von Mises, whose views were undoubtedly appropriated in judging Augusto Pinochet and others who employed an iron fist in keeping the first sophism from being put to the test. In Von Mises' treatise Liberalism (originally printed in German in 1929) he states:

"Many people approve of the methods of Fascism, even though its economic program is altogether antiliberal and its policy completely interventionist, because it is far from practicing the senseless and unrestrained destructionism that has stamped the Communists as the archenemies of civilization. Still others, in full knowledge of the evil that Fascist economic policy brings with it, view Fascism, in comparison with Bolshevism and Sovietism, as at least the lesser evil.... Now it cannot be denied that the only way one can offer effective resistance to violent assaults is by violence. Against the weapons of the Bolsheviks, weapons must be used in reprisal, and it would be a mistake to display weakness before murderers."

We will just have to give Von Mises the benefit of the doubt regarding how illiberal and interventionist the economy of Italy was due to his proximity and contemporary existence. For the historical record would have us believe that under finance minister Alberto De Stefani, Italy had undergone a rather radical privatization scheme. As Mussolini stated in 1922, "The State must have a police, a judiciary, an army, and a foreign policy. All other things, and I do not exclude secondary education, must go back to the private activity of individuals. If one wants to save the State, the Collectivist State must be abolished."[1] and De Stefani's successor was described in the July 16, 1928 issue of Time magazine "As Finance Minister, Volpi has been for three years past the one Italian statesman with whom U. S. big business has found it possible to deal—man to man, without undue formality, with absolute confidence."[2] Granted being business friendly isn't necessarily the same as being a libertarian ideal, then as now.

To what extent Von Mises' scribblings in German may have affected the economic and political thoughts of his day we can't be sure. But we do know that under Chancellor Hitler and finance minister Hjalmar Horace Greeley Schacht embarked on their own privatization scheme in order to pay for their military buildup. Banks, utilities, and public transportation, among others, were returned to the private sector. Charity fell upon churches and Nazi-affiliated civic organizations.[3] Sounding not unlike an AM Radio host in modern day America, Hitler espoused the virtues of ruthless competition to the Dusseldorf Industry Club in 1932:

"Let no one say that the picture produced as a first impression of human civilization is the impression of its achievement as a whole. This whole edifice of civilization is in its foundations and in all its stones nothing else than the result of the creative capacity, the achievement, the intelligence, the industry, of individuals: in its greatest triumphs it represents the great crowning achievement of individual God-favored geniuses, in its average accomplishment the achievement of men of average capacity, and in its sum doubtless the result of the use of human labor-force in order to turn to account the creations of genius and of talent. So it is only natural that when the capable intelligences of a nation, which are always in a minority, are regarded only as of the same value as all the rest, then genius, capacity, the value of personality are slowly subjected to the majority and this process is then falsely named the rule of the people. For this is not rule of the people, but in reality the rule of stupidity, of mediocrity, of half-heartedness, of cowardice, of weakness, and of inadequacy"

On April 1, 1939, he declared in a speech in Wilhelmshaven:

"Now we have found a new economic system, a system which is this: Capital is the power of labor and the coverage of money lies in our production. We have founded a system based on the most sincere foundation there is, namely: Form your life yourself! Work for your existence! Help yourself and God will help you!"

But it would be wrong to say that Adolph Hitler was a classical liberal. For he had the social conservatism to be the complete Tea Party candidate! For instance:

"The National Government will regard it as its first and foremost duty to revive in the nation the spirit of unity and co-operation. It will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built. It regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family as the basis of national life."[4]

...and:

"Secular schools can never be tolerated because such schools have no religious instruction, and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith."[5]

...and:

"By its decision to carry out the political and moral cleansing of our public life, the Government is creating and securing the conditions for a really deep and inner religious life... The national Government sees in both Christian denominations the most important factor for the maintenance of our society... their rights will not be touched... And it will be concerned for the sincere cooperation between Church and State."[6]

...and to put the cherry on top:

"Whereas previously the programs of the liberal, intellectualist women's movements contained many points, the program of our National Socialist Women's movement has in reality but one single point, and that point is the child, that tiny creature which must be born and grow strong and which alone gives meaning to the whole life-struggle."[7]

***

Given all this, I am inclined to say that abuses of human rights are not justifiable in order to promote the right-wing coalitions that libertarians find themselves thrust in amongst. Quite the contrary, such coalitions are quite capable of paving a road to hell all their own! As it is, the voice of the wealth pervades all airways and guides public opinion away from a disdain from material property. It is folly to further favor the rights of material property over that "larger and juster meaning" that James Madison tells us of, which "embraces every thing to which a man may attach a value and have a right; and which leaves to every one else the like advantage."[8] If we were to abandon the remaining democratic checks upon the power of wealth "It would engage the numerical & physical force in a constant struggle agst. the public authority; unless kept down by a standing army fatal to all parties"[9] as all the historical evidence tells us is inevitable.

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[1] http://cadmus.eui.eu/bitstream/handle/1814/12319/RSCAS_2009_46.pdf?sequence=2

[2] http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,787371,00.html

[3] http://www.ub.edu/graap/nazi.pdf

http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/3654437?uid=3739560&uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21101003316143

[4] from national proclamationfrom Berlin (February 1, 1933)

[5] at Nazi-Vatican Concordat (April 26, 1933)

[6] from speech to the Reichstag on (March 23, 1933)

[7] from speech to the Reichstag on (March 23, 1933)

[8] http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch16s23.html

[9] http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch16s26.html



About the Writer

Agit8r is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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