Your browser does not support the HTML5 canvas tag.

28 May, 2018

How a group of economists undermined public institutions, paving the way to neoliberalism

An assumption had become a truth. The self-interested model of human behaviour, that had been developed in the Cold War to make the mathematical equations work, had now been adopted by these economists as a fundamental truth about the reality of all human social interaction.


A group of economists in the early 70s arbitrarily adopted the self-interested model of human behaviour that had been developed in the Cold War, to explain the dysfunctionality of public institutions. This perception would become a powerful tool in the hands of the neoliberal ideology, carried by big banks and corporations, to demonize the state and dismantle any state control upon them at the expense of the societies.

In his documentary The Trap, Adam Curtis explains:

In the early 70s, the government bureaucracies in Britain began to collapse. Those around them blamed a growing economic crisis, but it was clear that something much more fundamental had gone wrong. What were supposed to be institutions to help people, had become destructive. Those around them seemed to turn against the very people they were supposed to serve.

A group of right-wing economists in America now put forward a theory that, they said, explained why this was happening. At the heart of their idea was Game Theory. They said that the fundamental reality of life and society was one of millions of people continually watching and strategising against each other, all seeking only their own advantage.

An assumption had become a truth. The self-interested model of human behaviour, that had been developed in the Cold War to make the mathematical equations work, had now been adopted by these economists as a fundamental truth about the reality of all human social interaction.

Economist and game theorist, Thomas Schelling, says:

           We were always trying to infer the intentions of the other. We were always trying to convey our intentions, either deceptively or truthfully. We were always trying to find ways to make believable promises, and sometimes to make believable threats. Threatening the Soviet Union, threatening a misbehaving animal, threatening a child, threatening a neighbour… I think what we were doing is what we call strategising. ‘What does he think that I think he thinks that I think he's going to do?’ It has to come to some kind of equilibrium. What is it that we can both recognise, is the obvious thing to do?

What this meant, the economists argued, was that the politicians and bureaucrats belief that they were working for what they called "the public good" was a complete fantasy - because to do that depended upon creating shared goals in society, based on self-sacrifice and altruism. But in a world that was really driven by millions of suspicious, self-seeking individuals, such concepts could not exist.

Out of this came a theory called "Public Choice", and a group of economists who were determined to destroy the politicians’ dream that they were working for the public interest.

Their leader was called James Buchanan.

Buchanan says:

           There's certainly no measurable concept that could meaningfully be called the public interest, because how do you weigh different interests of different groups and what they can get out of it? The public interest as a politician thinks, does not mean it exists, it's what he thinks is good for the country. And if he would come out and say that, that's one thing, but behind this hypocrisy of calling something "the public interest" as if it exists, that's what I was trying to tear down.

In 1975, Mrs Thatcher became leader of the Conservative Party. And Buchanan's ideas had a powerful influence on her, and the group of radicals gathered around her. A rightwing think-tank advising Mrs Thatcher brought James Buchanan to London for a series of seminars. And he explained starkly why the British state was failing. It was pure Game Theory: because there was no agreed version of "the public good", the bureaucrats and the politicians schemed and strategised in their own self interest, building up their power and their own empires. They claimed to be helping others. In fact it was the very opposite, and the result was economic chaos, and a breakdown of society.

As the British economy spiralled out of control, the political and bureaucratic elite who had dominated Britain since the war, found themselves under attack from both the Right and the Left. Where once they had been heroic figures who would create a new world, now they were accused of being agents of control, not freedom.

And these new theories began to spread into the public imagination. The writer who was part of the group advising Mrs Thatcher, began to write a sitcom [Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister] that explicitly put forward the theories of Public Choice. As well as being funny, it was ideological propaganda for a political movement.

Workers ready to shut down entire Vegas strip

by Mark Gruenberg

Las Vegas casino owners’ threats to subcontract or automate thousands of workers’ jobs – among other issues — forced the workers, employed by Unite Here Locals 226 and 165, to vote almost unanimously to authorize a strike if bargainers fail to agree on a new pact by June 1.

If 50,000 workers, who toil at 34 big hotels on the Las Vegas strip and downtown, must walk out, it would be the union’s largest strike in decades. The May 23 vote at the Thomas and Mack Center, a basketball arena, drew 25,000 members, who authorized the strike by a 99 percent-1 percent margin.

We don’t want to go on strike, but we will if we have to,” said union Communications Director Bethany Khan. “The companies are more profitable than ever, because of our hard work, and the workers want to share in that success for their families.

The two locals represent culinary and other hotel workers (Local 226) and bartenders (Local 165). The other workers – at resorts such as MGM Grand, Caesars Palace, Bally’s, Circus Circus and New York New York — include guest room attendants, cocktail servers, food servers, porters, bellmen, cooks, and kitchen workers. Members of the two locals, Unite Here’s and Nevada’s biggest, are women (55 percent), members of minorities (54 percent), or both.

A strike is a last resort. We want to come to an agreement, but the union and workers are preparing for a citywide strike if contracts are not settled by June 1,” said Geoconda Argüello-Kline, Local 226’s Secretary-Treasurer. Several hotels have pacts that run beyond June 1.

We support innovations that improve jobs, but we oppose automation when it only destroys jobs. Our industry must innovate without losing the human touch. That’s why employers should work with us to stay strong, fair, and competitive,” Argüello-Kline added.

If the casinos force the workers to walk, it would be the largest strike in Las Vegas in 34 years. The last long strike, settled 20 years ago, led to unionization of – and the sale of – the Frontier Casino. That drew massive labor-wide support. That walkout lasted seven years and nobody ever crossed Unite Here’s picket line.

Chad Neanover, a prep cook at the Margaritaville, told the union he “voted yes to go on strike to ensure my job isn’t outsourced to a robot. We know technology is coming, but workers shouldn’t be pushed out or left behind. Casino companies should ensure technology is harnessed to improve the quality and safety in the workplace, not as a way to completely eliminate our jobs.

I don’t want to go on strike, but I will. The company is more profitable than ever because of the hard work we do, and I’m going to keep fighting to make sure we have a fair share of that success,” added MGM Resorts International guest room attendant Adela Montes de Oca.

Besides automation and subcontracting, other top issues include more job security for members, workplace safety, measures to curb and prevent sexual harassment and the casinos’ attitude towards protecting immigrants. Las Vegas has declared itself a “sanctuary city,” incurring the ire of the GOP Trump administration. GOP state lawmakers are trying to put a initiative on the November ballot to ban all sanctuary cities in the state.

In addition, the union’s economic proposal seeks to provide workers a fair share of the employers’ enormous anticipated cash flows and Trump tax windfalls,” its statement says.

At MGM Resorts International alone, the Trump tax cut for business and the rich gave the chain’s hotels $1.6 billion, the union pointed out in early bargaining. MGM bosses sent $580 million to shareholders, while pocketing the rest. Negotiations started in February.

Unite Here also asked other Nevada locals, elected officials, political candidates and tourists not to support the hotels and casinos in case the workers have to walk on or after June 1. “In event of a strike, please do not cross picket lines,” its announcement says.

If the strike gets called that day, another union, the National Hockey League Players Association, will face a dilemma. The Stanley Cup title playoffs – hockey’s championship series – will start in Las Vegas three days before, with the hometown Golden Knights as hosts.

A call to the NHLPA about what their members would do was not returned as of 5 pm on May 23. But Khan expects no problems. “We haven’t contacted them yet, but we will,” she said of the NHLPA. “We’re sure the players, who are union members themselves, will be in solidarity with us.

Source:



Read also:

The facts about Venezuela’s May 20th Presidential Election

Despite a high level of election transparency, one that Jimmy Carter called “the best in the world”, the US and its allies have accused Venezuela of election fraud. Caleb Maupin breaks down how Venezuela’s electoral system really works.

by Caleb T. Maupin

Part 2 - A high level of transparency – “The Best in the World”

The Venezuelan government goes out of its way to ensure electoral participation and transparency. Article 63 of the Bolivarian Constitution says: “Suffrage is a right. It is exercised through free, universal, direct and secret ballots. The law will guarantee the principle of individuality of suffrage and proportional representation.

In Venezuela, the vote is held on a weekend in order to ensure that people do not miss out on the opportunity to vote because they have to work.

Citizens register to vote with their thumbprints, so that no one can vote claiming to be someone else. Poll close at 6 p.m.; however, if even a single line of people remains, polls are required to remain open until every citizen has had an opportunity to cast his or her ballot.

Venezuelan law also stipulates that there must be one voting center for every 500 residents.

People who have been convicted of crimes are permitted to vote in Venezuela after being released from prison, and only those currently serving sentences are disenfranchised. The National Elections Center (CNE) arranges for voting machines to be set up in jails so that those being detained or awaiting trial can vote.

An electronic tally is taken by the voting machines, but each voter receives a printed receipt showing who they voted for. The printed receipts are collected, and 53 percent of the country’s voting centers undergo official audit to assure that the printed receipts match the numbers of the electronic tally after the polls close.

The audits are held publicly, and observers from political parties must sign the audits to confirm they were legitimate. Venezuela is the only country in the world to have a public audit of the vote on Election Night.

International bodies that have previously monitored Venezuelan elections have said their results are legitimate. In 2012, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, director of the Carter Center for Fair Elections, which oversaw the Venezuela polls, declared: “As a matter of fact, of the 92 elections that we’ve monitored, I would say the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world.”

A number of international observers were on hand during the May 20 election and declared the results to be legitimate.

Source, links:


[1]

For Ecuador, currying favor with Washington is as simple as sacrificing Julian Assange

Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno has made no secret of his annoyance with the man he refers to a “hacker,” calling Assange “a stone in his shoe” as Ecuador seeks to restructure itself as a trusted ally of the United States.

by Elliott Gabriel

Part 5 - Correa defends his moves

Rafael Correa currently lives with his wife in her home country, Belgium. The former president has been locked in a struggle with his one-time vice president and handpicked successor, Moreno, since shortly after leaving office.

Correa dismissed the accusations as a “sensationalistic” story about routine affairs that only seeks to whip up further animus against his erstwhile administration rather than make “a serious report to find out the truth.” Speaking to The Intercept, Correa said: “Of course we provided security to Assange in the embassy … It was our duty under the law to do so. We had the U.K. government threatening to break into the embassy. We spent what amounts to a small amount of money to provide security.

For Correa, Moreno’s sacrifice of Assange is a transparent attempt to prostrate the former “banana republic” at the feet of Washington, opening the door to imperialist “control, intervention, espionage” and the all-round submission of the country.

As Iliopoulos told Bloomberg: “Investors loved that Moreno broke with Correa the way he did, and that gave him a huge honeymoon at the start … The good will is there, but it’s not a blank check.

Citing the Assange case and realignment of Ecuador with the U.S., Correa has no doubt: “Moreno is betraying the Citizen’s Revolution in terms of our foreign policy.

***

Source, links:


[1] [2] [3] [4]


Related: