From Ian Welsh‘s fantastic site. Check it out if you never have. He’s just about Alternative Left himself I believe.
Ever get tired of reading media lies all the time? Well then, come on over to Beyond Highbrow, where our motto is “We will never lie to you.” And if you want a dose of honesty as anti-venom for the lies you are force-fed every day, just read the piece below. Everything you will in that piece is 100% true. There is not a single false sentence in there. Read it and digest it.
Bottom line is you can either have open borders, free trade and globalization or you can have democracy, but you can’t have both. In other words, open borders, free trade and globalization will always be voted down by any sane populace and any attempt to implement these projects will involve not only massive amounts of lying and propaganda and but also probably some sort of authoritarian, anti-democratic or even dictatorial rule.
Sort of like what Milton Friedman said about how the masses will never vote for his radical Libertarian neoliberal ultra-laissez faire project, hence the need to for a dictatorship to impose Friedmanism. This is why Friedman loved Pinochet so much. Friedman freely admitted that a dicatorship was necessary to implement his own project, as no self-aware population would ever vote for it. If you have ever wondered why the US is always overthrowing democratic governments and fomenting rightwing military and legislative coups to overthrow anti-neoliberal governments, there’s your answer. We’ve always loved rightwing dictatorships. Anyone knows rightwing dictatorships are great for business. None of that messy democracy stuff to fool around with.
I like this guy. He’s really got a way with words.
My problem with the EU’s Four Freedoms and the Euro project, as with NAFTA and its successor treaties, now being debated, is that they enshrine the democratic deficit at the core of the legal order of the nations party to the relevant agreements.
One may argue over the details of the legislative procedures by which all of the agreements were adopted, ratified, whatever – and the respective statuses of different agreements and mechanisms – but it seems intuitively obvious to me that, had proponents of these treaties openly discussed both what they entailed as a matter of law and what was likely to ensue, practically, upon their implementation, public disapproval would have been overwhelming.
Such agreements have always been sold to the public as reforms that will bring about a state of comity between nations, increase general prosperity, and basically result in every child having both a puppy and a pony. The realities of hot, speculative capital flows, regulatory arbitrage in some areas, convergence in others, mass immigration, the destruction of whole sectors of national economies, and the resultant marginalization of whole classes – even generations, in some societies – were not only not mentioned, even as possible consequences, but denied, either openly or implicitly.
To make matters still worse, when folks began to voice their objections to the new regime and its consequences for their lives, they were first dismissed as rubes and bigots (and sometimes, they were), and eventually informed that their objections were misplaced because the immiseration of one section of the population, by the destruction of its employment, had made possible X% gains in well-being for Y millions in countries A-G, thus returning through the back door the very “zero-sum”, some will have to sacrifice argument that was explicitly rejected by the initial apologetic for the reforms. So, in the end, it is Who? Whom? Just as the critics alleged in the early 90s, say.
In fine, the reason for the rancor and distrust is not merely that there is bigotry rife within the masses of mankind, but that whole swathes of the populace were betrayed, rooked, and then mocked and degraded for the amusement of those who did they betraying and rooking.
If one extends the benefit of the doubt to the constructors of the European project, and of NAFTA, etc., and assumes that they were all enlightened social democrats of the most impeccable convictions and intentions (which is, of course, far too generous by several orders of magnitude), it still remains that what they proposed was a multi-step process, with immense possibilities for slippage as one negotiated each transition.
There never was a guarantee that, when the reforms were implemented, and whole communities and economic sectors were obliterated, the political system would bestir itself to redress the dislocations in precisely the correct manner. There are always too many contingencies in politics for that, even granting the best of intentions.
However, the projects of globalization have always had a clear class valence: they are clearly in the interests of the elites and the professional classes who simultaneously serve elite interests and operations and aspire to ascend to the elite plane in the social hierarchy.
Once one accounts for objective class interests in the unfolding of political ‘reform’ movements, it becomes rather difficult to assume as possible, to say nothing of probable, that the classes benefiting from the reforms will, having increased their wealth and power precisely by disempowering and immiserating the working classes, will immediately turn round and say, “Well, boys, now we have free trade and freedom of capital movement, what do say we tax ourselves a lot more to provide for the sort of social democracy that will cushion the lives of the workers?” The entire logic of the projects is the gradual attenuation of social democracy.
And thus, the democratic deficit. It’s not that one could have expected the advocates of these policies to be honest with their electorates, admitting to them that most of them would suffer stagnant or declining living standards, all so that the professional classes could grab larger shares of a larger pie. No, it’s that the very proposal of such reforms, absent any binding mechanism to build social democracy concurrently with them, was a case of the elite hiving itself off from the rest of society, no longer professing to represent the people and their interests, at best implicitly claiming an identity of their class interests with the national/continental/international interest, and in practice governing strictly in their own interests.
As the US could not – and still cannot, really – claim the mantle of democracy while maintaining Jim Crow, so the neoliberal elite cannot claim that mantle while deliberately, knowingly marginalizing and rubbishing large swathes of the societies they (mis)rule. Unless, of course, democracy is nothing more than the bare formalism of the ritual plebiscite, one of the formal freedoms of bourgeois society.
In closing, since I have droned on a bit, I am dubious that integration can proceed beyond any horizon, wholly without limit – to take but one of the issues raised by the populist discontentments. The most tolerant and generous societies we’ve yet known, in Northern Europe, are now experiencing some of the same discontents that we witness in France, Germany, and the UK.
While the ideational structures and symbols that transcend discrete tribes can mediate a common culture to diverse groups, or mediate multiple cultures to each other, it is not obvious that this process can or will continue indefinitely, either temporally or in terms of effectuating the union of cultures and tribes. There are always potential sources of friction and resistance. In fact, I’m not certain that wholly open labor/migration flows could ever be managed save by a combination of undemocratic policy-making and illiberal tutelary policies. People can be more tolerant than they are, this is certain. I don’t believe that large groups will ever be as tolerant as neoliberalism requires that they be.