A fabulous explanation of what has gone wrong in Ireland today and with our friends across the pond.
I spoke with David Langwallner, a barrister from Great James Street Chambers in London, about what is wrong with Ireland today. We knew each other from a million years ago while in Trinity College Dublin and both were members of the Hist, or the College Historical Society. which is the world's oldest college society.
I share his views but more importantly have been allowed to share his words. This is a fabulous explanation of what has gone wrong in Ireland today and with our friends across the pond. He takes his lead from Franklin D Roosevelt and the New Deal.
A new umbrella organization to unite
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a figure of enormous privilege. He came from one of the most aristocratic families in America and his cousin Teddy had of course also been President. He was a bon viveur and a ladies man and far from faithful to his somewhat saintly wife Eleanor Roosevelt. Thus at least at first blush the person least likely to buck the entire system of US capitalism. The brief synoptic narrative should also include the enormous personal tragedy of his incapacitation due to polio. He could not walk and his disability may have contributed to his empathy for the suffering of others. So often I have found empathy is experiential. Unless you have been the victim of a personal tragedy then your capacity to understand the suffering of others is diminished.
Roosevelt was elected on the mandate of change to provide a new deal to the American people. The Wall street crash of 1929 and the consequent worldwide crash had led to the destitution of America grimly depicted in the prose of John Steinbeck “Grapes of Wrath” where the okies and dustbowl farmers faced rack and ruin. But although the rural heartlands were devastated so to were the urban centres. The phrase of the time was “buddy can you spare a dime”. Brokers were reduced to soup kitchens and erstwhile respectable folk if that term means anything to bums and hobos to use the vernacular of the time.
What had happened? Well if we look at from a capitalist logic and point of view the bull market of speculation had simply collapsed. The unregulated free market had built mountains in the moon of its own greed and fantasies. The philosophy of the time was what today we would call neo liberalism.
That is the view that government has no business interfering in the private market transactions and that wealth, growth and prosperity are best achieved by leaving it to the market. This of course is as untrue then as it is untrue now.
The modern 2007 collapse is not that different from the 1929 collapse and the social implications of that follow the latest collapse and collapses to come that are beginning to be increasingly evident where the prevailing neo liberal consensus is being uncritically endorsed by the world elite and the shock doctrine of crisis followed by crisis precipitating social and economic collapse.
What Roosevelt did conversely was adopt the views of the legendary economist John Maynard Keynes that to save capitalism it was necessary for the government to intervene in the market. Thus Roosevelt set up in effect national agencies and support structures of aid and assistance. It was a bailout but a bailout to protect the poor and disenfranchised not a bailout for the rich. That is the point. It was in the national interest. Not a fake shibboleth not a paper mask to protect a vested interest and cloak it in a principle.
The Supreme Court initially blocked the legislation on the logic of endorsing what the legendary Judge Oliver Wendell Holmes dismissively called in his dissenting opinion in Lochner Herbert Spencers social statics. In short that the court had no business intervening in liberty of contract.
Now the assumption of liberty of contract is this is that there is a freedom of choice or rather real as opposed to artificial choice in the marketplace. Choice based assumptions are premised on bargaining power, knowledge and the pretence that the market is a level playing field which it is not nor has ever been. What is the point of choice if I have no power, no influence and more to the point that I do not fully know the implications of my actions. Moreover, neo liberalism promotes short term thinking and short term fixes which in reality do not work.
Now Roosevelt rightly informed the supreme court if they did not uphold the legislation he would appoint new judges and they did.
It became known among the wags as:
“The switch in time that saved nine.”
Roosevelt as do I had an ambivalent attitude to democracy. He was the best of all leaders a benevolent dictator. A benevolent dictator in favour of the working man and a man acutely conscious of how democracy is being sabotaged by vested interests. Then and now transnational corporations and law firms and a multi hydra of corrupt interstices is dictating to government what to do.
Roosevelt saved America by the Keynsean logic that in order to save capitalism the government had to spend money. But that money was not to bail out corrupt banks but to nationalise them and invest money in helping people not inflicting the wanton cruelty of austerity on them which in event is counter productive. All the best evidence indicates that a supported economy that is private and public incentive driven but with social safety nets in order to assist the small businessman is the model that work not the cartelisation of wealth under the voodoo premise of trickle down.
Keynes was right then and now but over time he became unfashionable and derided.
In the late 70’s in Britain in particular the excesses of socialism became clear to everyone. The three day working week, litter on the streets, the stranglehold of unionism. The stifling of initiative so Thatcher and Regan championed free market ideology and the new clothing of an old idea of the unregulated free market and that is neo liberalism.
This idea stemming from the Austrian Hayek and peddled by the Chicago school with Milton Friedman as the champion if same will is that wealth will trickle down like manna from heaven from rich to poor if the market is just left to itself. Well no it does not.
Over time this has led to the gradual dismantling of the welfare state, the removal of social protections and safety nets but there are much more sinister developments that are of recent vintage with worse to come.
First, the world is being divided into ever smaller percentiles of people who control all of the assets or the vast preponderance of the wealth of the planet and everybody else increasingly impoverished.
In point of fact the distinction between working class and middle class has eroded completely. The new class system based on wealth is a reversion it is a form of economic feudalism or feudal capitalism. This is an important point to appreciate as the old idea of Gramsci that a cultural hegemony could be established between working and middle class has become more pressing than ever. The middle class and the working class need to realise that marxist class divisions do not make sense any longer. It is a return to corporate feudalism where working and middle classes are reverting to serfdom.
Now Hayek one of the architects of new liberalism called socialism the new feudalism or serfdom. It is thus ironic in the extreme that his ideas have led to precisely what he did not want a return to feudalism. Socialist brainwashing replaced by neo liberal brainwashing. Both unacceptable ideological positions.
More to the point the collossal collapse of capitalism led in many countries to the bailing out of the banks responsible for those collapses and the infliction of austerity on the weak of the earth who were not responsible for any of this. a false paradigm which Stieglitz, the nobel prize economist called:
“socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor”
Those countries who adopted a Roosveltean or Keynsean nationalisation approach such as Iceland have been vindicated and the nationalisation of the banks has led to stabilisation and recovery.
Ireland, a particular toxic mess, achieved in the view of Voltaire in Panglossian terms the worst of all possible worlds. It established a bad bank NAMA which further cuts deals with failed property speculators and lawyers and the congeries of the corrupt. As the IMF and Europe imposed austerity on the defenceless masses those responsible were bailed out and their debts cancelled.
Moreover the fradulent banks making their money on misrepresentations and providing negligent lending advice about the value of stocks, investments and credit ratings which caused over heated borrowing and remortgaging and which also led to the variation in violence of contract of interest rate repayments after causing all of the problems are foreclosing against the poor and defenceless. The perverse logic is the richer you are the more likely they are to cut a deal and given that many of those in authority have accumulated massive debts they have complied with the wishes of their creditors by enforcing and upholding the corrupt practices of the banks on others.
The neo liberal rewarping of human identity to homo economicus has also created a new form of Social Darwinism of the survival of the fittest or rather of the survival of the most carnivorous and ruthless in a dog eat dog universe. This has led to the tolerance of a slippage in standards where lying and deceit have become normal in human and professional interaction. in our post truth universe the lines between fact, semi fact, lies and deceptions have blurred to non existence. Even in the law courts fabricated cases have become a pandemic.
It has also led to ever more vicious tactics of human destruction not just by banks but by state institutions and entities on those who blow the whistle or seek to expose the levels of systemic and endemic corruption.
In the new inverted universe those that should be acclaimed as heroes of our time are now part of the rogues gallery of infamy and subversion. Human rights lawyers, activists, whistleblowers, public interested citizens, those who even have a shred of a social conscience.
It is a divisive them and us universe. Them the poor, the migrant, the displaced, the activist, the troublemaker, the public intellectual are all being marginalised and insidiously destroyed in increments or if you are the Maltese journalist recently by state sponsored murder.
State sponsored murder has become de rigeur and a new extra legal norm and not just from Mr Putin.
I am a graduate of Harvard. I doubt Mr. Trump would leave me into the country presently. I am no longer one of us but one of them. One of what Fritz Fannon called The Wretched of The Earth.
I should not have been so unconditionally praiseworthy of human rights activists. The human rights industry is also dangerous. First, the corporate sponsors get people to stick to safe issues. We are all in favour of gay marriage, gender equity et al. Yet what about more basic rights intrinsic to dignity such as health care, housing and social support.
If you argue for this see what happens. The courts are rapidly in certain countries evicting and rendering homeless surplus population and in India dumping them on the streets. Housing prices have become unaffordable as are rental prices and if people are put in shoeboxes or sub standard accommodation how can they function properly.
The privitisation of health care has ineluctably led to life or death being a matter not of right or entitlement but affordability.
There are other sinister consequences. Those teachers, academics or professionals in badly paid but socially worthwhile occupations have to toe the line and not expose corruption or they are fired.
Moreover, in order to survive they have to sing for their supper and that entails not exposing the awfulness or they will be on the streets.
The stigma of genteel poverty is no longer tolerated or educated poverty. The wise sensei no longer looked up to or the village elder but asked to go await and die quietly.
Intelligence and achievement have to be costed and channelled into wealth producing activities. You are not a man if you do not descend to the hunter gatherer.
Short termism both in contracts and thinking has led to reactive decisions in a shock doctrine situation where people have become inured and desensitised.
Now this is deliberate in my view. The tactics of social disruption peddled in Chile and Indonesia by the neo liberals in the late 70’s are now being replicated in Ireland and Greece among others. It is a social experiment to see how much people can suffer and endure to alter their behaviour towards compliance to authority and obedience to the will of the mega rich.
Cuts in funding and the funding of socially useful tasks are being gradually eliminated. So huge cuts to legal aid funding in criminal justice matters.
We need a new deal thus. But What is that now, what will it involve and in business peak terms how is it feasible.
1: Urgently in Ireland and other neo liberal countries the courts need to show leadership by recognising the right to housing including the prohibition against arbitrary eviction and the recognition of the right to health care including emergency health care. The courts need to show leadership now and protect people against the corporate predators of vulture funds and transnational interests.
2: Urgently Keysenan stabilisation needs to be introduced in developing support for small business, social safety nets and not soft touch but deep structure regulation of a wildcatting private sector.
3: The EU associational ties need to be streamlined to a form of looser associational ties which do not impose austerity or globalisation of capital but reinforce standards and regulatory protection of rights and resistance to the interventions of globalised capitalism. There is no point in Brexit if it is replaced by the interests of Steve Bannon and america capitalist ranchers.
4: The power of the state needs to be strictly controlled. we are living in an age when an over powerful state and police force is intruding unconstitutionally in the private life of others and state sponsored murder has become de rigour. Where subversion is emanating from the state and where criminalisation is opaque and multi faceted where the real problems of criminality emanate from the state.
5: We do not have a Roosevelt or A Churchill and there is a paucity of political leadership at national and international level. But the possibility exists that the various independent Non Governmental organisations lobbying for climate change awareness, miscarriages of justice and social and economic rights and the activists band together in an alternative transnational organisation fronted by the good and the wise. To oppose internationalisation we need an alternative internationalisation lobbying for not growth but sustainability, conservation and a reverse to small is beautiful and artisan like existences. To the lowering of consumerist expectations and to recalibrate human nature to questions of altruists, community and compassion for others. A new deal of collaborative and associative responsibilities.
Let us organise a petition then for an umbrella organisation A new deal for the world.