13 August 2016

Thomas Frank: One Market Under God-- Extreme Capitalism

"There is a lack of critical assessment of the past. But you have to understand that the current ruling elite is actually the old ruling elite. So they are incapable of a self-critical approach to the past."

Ryszard Kapuscinski

But they maintain a firm grasp on information and power, for their own sake, and sidetrack and stifle any meaningful reform.

In October 2000 Thomas Frank published a prescient critical social analysis titled, One Market Under God: Extreme Capitalism, Market Populism, and the End of Economic Democracy.

In the video below from 2015, Thomas Frank looks back over the past 15 years to when he wrote this insightful book, and ends with this observation.
"I want to end with the idea that the market is capable of resolving all of our social conflict, fairly and justly.  That is the great idea of the 1990's.  And we all know now what a crock that is.  I think what we need in order to restore some kind of sense of fairness is not the final triumph of markets over the body and soul of humanity, but something that confronts markets,  and that refuses to think of itself as a brand."
The book was not received well at the time in the waning days of the Clinton revolution and the birth of the era of the neo-cons in foreign policy and neo-liberals in economics.

This religion of the markets had yet to suffer the serial failures and decimation of the real economy which it would see over the next sixteen years.

This is an ideology, a mindset, and as Frank calls it a religion, of taking market capitalism to such an extreme that it dispenses with the notion of restraints by human or policy consideration.   It comes to consider the market as a god, with its orthodoxy crafted in think tanks, its temples in the exchanges and the banks, and its oracles on their media and the academy.

This extreme form of market capitalism, also called neo-liberalism in economics and neo-conservatism in foreign policy,  has worked its way into the mindset of the ruling elites of many of the developed nations,  and has taken a place in the public consciousness through steady repetition.  I has become the modern orthodoxy of the fortunate few, who have been initiated into its rites, and served and been blessed by their god.

It is the taking of an idea, of a way of looking at things, that may be substantially practical when used as a tool to help to achieve certain outcomes, and placing it in such an extreme and inappropriate place as an end in itself, as the very definition and arbiter of what is good and what is not, that it becomes a kind of anti-human force that is itself considered beyond all good and evil, like a natural law.

It is born of and brings with it an extreme tendency that kills thought, and stifles the ability to make distinctions between things. If not unfettered capitalism then what, communism? The adherents become blind by their devotion to their gods.

This is not something new.  It is a madness that has appeared again and again throughout history in the form of Mammon, the golden idol of the markets.  It is a way of looking at people and the world that is as old as Babylon, and as evil as sin.