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The Cycle of Civilization and the Twilight of Neoliberalism

2016 November 29
by Ian Welsh
The Course of Empire by Thomas Cole

Many mainstream pundits now admit that the rise of the right wing populism is due to the neglect, over the last 40 years or so, of many people, leaving them to rot, as the rich got richer. Four decades of stagnant wages, soaring housing prices, shitty jobs, and so on have left people willing to vote against the status quo, no matter what they’re voting for.

This is all very nice. It is even a good thing.

But the warnings were given for decades. I remember very well warnings about rising inequality as early as the mid-eighties, and doubtless some were warning sooner and I missed it due to my youth. And the people making them often said, “This is bad because it will lead to the rise of very bad people, like in the 30s.”

Yeah.

Learning after reality hits you in the face with a shovel, repeatedly, is good, but it’s not as good as avoiding getting hit in the face with a shovel.

Of course, the problem is that elites, “pundits,” only got hit in the face with a shovel recently. The last 40 years may have been a terrible time to be a peon, but they were the best time to be rich, or a retainer of the rich, in modern history. Maybe in all of history. Yeah, Babylonian Kingdoms and Roman Emperors were richer, but what you could buy with it was limited (though sex, food, and the ability to push other people around are the basics, and have always been available).

So, the people with power saw no reason to stop, because the policies were making them filthy rich and impoverishing people they didn’t know or care about. Heck, impoverishing ordinary people was good, it made services (and servants) cheaper.

For quite some time, I pursued a two-prong (worthless) strategy.  I told the people being fucked that they needed to fight back and scare the shit out of the elities, or the elites would keep hurting them. And I told the elites that as much as the peons seemed to be willing to take it and take it, eventually they would rebel.

Neither strategy worked, and even though the peons are now in revolt, they are backing policies which may help them somewhat in the short run, but which will be bad for them in the middle term–at least so far. (I have some hope that the left will win some in Europe. Spain’s leftists and Corbyn are the most promising signs so far.)

This is, really, just the normal cycle of history. There are bad times, and people eventually learn from them, and create good times, and the people who grow up in good times are weak and don’t really believe the bad times can return, so the bad times return, and the bad times at least make people tough and sometimes get them to pull together, and then they create good times.

Sometimes that cycle breaks down–usually because the bad times make people meaner and more desperate and break them down rather than bring them together, and then you get dark ages. Other times, the good times last for a few generations, not completely destroying the virtue of the people and their leaders immediately, for reasons I’ve touched on in the past and will discuss more in the future (you can read Machiavelli in Discourses on Livy if you need a fix now).

While this is the normal cycle of history, and it may be usually yawn-inducing, if tragic to those caught in it, we are unfortunately also at a point where we’ve done so much damage to our ecosystem that we’re in the middle of a great die-off. We also have climate change which, I suspect, is now not just beyond stopping, but which has reached an exponential, self-reinforcing period of its growth.

On the bright side (sort of), the technology which let us dig this hole gives us a better chance of digging ourselves out, but only a chance.

This is where we are at, and the hysterical reaction of many to Trump and to Brexit is a bad sign, because it hasn’t even begun to get really bad yet. It is going to get so much worse than this that people will look back to the reign of Trump as good times.

This is what we sowed, it is what we are going to reap, and it is what we are going to have to eat. It’s just that simple.

None of this means there is no hope. Some stuff will work out startlingly well, as was the case with the US and FDR in the 30s. Some stuff will be far worse than any but the most realistic thinkers are willing to contemplate, and in the middle of this it will still be possible for many to be happy, to find love, and to live satisfying lives, just as it was during the Great Depression and World War II.

It’s a weird metaphysical question, “Could this have been stopped?” and I’ll leave it aside for now. If we believe in free will, and if we want to have some hope that the future won’t follow the same pattern until we drive ourselves extinct, let us hope that it could have been stopped, not for what it says about the past, but what it says about the future, and about humans.

I’ll write more soon about our current period, best called The Twilight of Neoliberalism. For now, gird your loins. There will be ups and downs, but basically, it’s going to get worse. Find the happiness you can in the middle of it, and don’t let your happiness or well-being rest on geopolitical events you cannot control as an individual.


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27 Responses
  1. V. Arnold permalink
    November 29, 2016

    I have read that genuine change only comes with great and tragic events.
    In my relatively long life, I’ve witnessed the truth of that.
    In the last election there were two candidates capable, and likely, to bring that about; and one is now the elected president.
    No matter what happens in the next month and a half; I think courses have been set and I’m genuinely skeptical the sitting president (regardless of whom it is) will have much influence in the end.
    I no longer much care about what goes on in the U.S.. It’s beyond my ability to influence outcomes; always has been, IMO.
    As to neo-liberalism? We’ll see…

  2. Mallam permalink
    November 29, 2016

    I mean that’s fine and all, but you did spend parts of the primary praising Trump’s words on health care without looking at his actual proposals — same with many of your (ostensibly) left readers. This happened many times despite some of your readers (myself among them) telling you to wake the fuck up. Well hope you’re all ready for HHS Tom Price who has called for the privatization of Medicare. All those members of Congress called to “repeal and replace” Obamacare but never put up an alternative. Price did, and it takes aim at not just Obama’s legacy but LBJ’s as well.

  3. Mallam permalink
    November 29, 2016

    Also, I’d have voted Corbyn in the leadership elections because the other choices were such shit, but he is going to get smoked if he’s the one standing for election. Torres have a 16 point lead.

  4. David permalink
    November 29, 2016

    Another nice essay, thanks. I myself began to think that in the U.S., things were starting to fall apart in the early 90’s. I remember there was a book and a TV series that came out during that time called “America What Went Wrong” where the authors visited places like the Rust Belt that were already in bad economic shape and interviewing the ordinary people there about their lives. I had an English girlfriend then whose reaction was to say that story was already over ten years old where she grew up in Yorkshire.

    I was watching a NASA internet streamed astronomy conference a few months ago and the various speakers were extolling about all the exciting things that future space telescopes could tell us about the Cosmos. After they were though, a fairly well known scientist in the audience, stood up and said that this was all bullshit. She said that after the already funded WFIRST is launched in 2021, that there will be no more such projects in the lifetime of anyone in the room as the public will be much more concerned about surviving global warming and political upheaval than dreaming about the stars. There was complete silence in a the room of say a couple hundred people. There were no more questions or comments and then everyone filed out in silence. I wondered how many were thinking that the work that they spent years training for may not be possible in the middle term future for at least some of them.

  5. November 29, 2016

    However one of the problems is that people concerned about these types of real issues find it (for whatever reason) very difficult to form stable alliances with other political interest groups or to reliably sustain political careers in a system designed to force consensus and compromises even on matters of principle.

  6. Ian Welsh permalink*
    November 29, 2016

    Trump’s healthcare reform page.

    https://www.donaldjtrump.com/positions/healthcare-reform

    Trump on health care.

    http://www.ontheissues.org/2016/Donald_Trump_Health_Care.htm

    “TRUMP: Yes. Now, the new plan is good. It’s going to be inexpensive. It’s going to be much better for the people at the bottom, people that don’t have any money. We’re going to take care of them through maybe concepts of Medicare. Now, some people would say, “that’s not a very Republican thing to say.” That’s not single payer, by the way. That’s called heart. We gotta take care of people that can’t take care of themselves. ”

    “What does Donald Trump believe? Entitlements: Do not cut Social Security or Medicare benefits. Grow the economy to save those programs.

    The real estate tycoon told CPAC in 2013 that Republicans should not cut Social Security or Medicare because most Americans want to keep the benefits as they stand now. His solution is unclear, but he has indicated that general economic growth would play a role. Trump tweeted in May that he knows “where to get the money from” and “nobody else does.” “

    Universal health care, by the way, is not a synonym for “single payer”.

    It may well turn out Trump was lying, of course, and that he doesn’t fulfill his promises. If that surprises anyone, well, Trump also has some timeshare condos in Florida.

    None of this is more than tangentially relevant to the topic of this post.

  7. November 29, 2016

    “even though the peons are now in revolt, they are backing policies which may help them somewhat in the short run…”

    They are backing nothing, really, because they are electing a president who does not have the power to do what he promises to do, and are reelecting 95% of the legislators who run for reelection, and who are in reality the ones who are being bought off to screw them blind, and hating on the rich, who use the advantages they have purchased from legislators.

    But the rich have no contract with the voting public, and owe them nothing. It is legislators who have violated their contract with voters by promising to represent the interests of the voters and then accepting money from the rich to represent their interests instead. And so we hate on the rich and reelect the legislators who have broken faith with us, and we think that those who have created the problem and who benefit from it are going to change it.

    And we “vote for change” by electing a president, an office which is designed by the constitution to be as nearly powerless as possible.

  8. V. Arnold permalink
    November 29, 2016

    @ Ian

    You speak of free will; I question whether or not it exists in the western world.
    All the evidence I see would point to no!
    Free will means freedom from interference; which is not extant in today’s world in the west; all inclusive.
    There are not many who are free from governmental influence…

  9. realitychecker permalink
    November 29, 2016

    Any time we allow our belief system to diverge from the actual reality, there will be a price to be paid-think Wiley Coyote when he finds himself twenty feet over the cliff lol.

    Can anything exemplify Ron’s “accelerating eddy of crap” more than micro-insults, micro-assaults, micro-invalidations, etc., etc., etc.?

    I think not.

    Whether one’s natural sympathies lie with the left or the right, the bill for departing from actual reality eventually comes due with equal force for both sides. Right now, the country has decided that the bill has become way past due for the left, because they overplayed their hand so egregiously in the last few decades.

    Hopefully, both sides will have their turn in due course.

    It pays to think in larger terms, as Ian is trying to do, rather than just being reactive to whatever is currently on the TV crawl. Forest for the trees, and all that . . .

    Reality has no obligation to be a “safe space.” Once you leave your momma’s tit, you are at risk. That’s why it pays to learn some skillsets for yourself.

  10. nihil obstet permalink
    November 29, 2016

    And the party goes on — instead of working on better policies for the majority of Americans, their self-appointed defenders stay fixated on how awful Trump is. As Bill H. pointed out above, the president is not meant to be a ruler. And does not have the Constitutional authority to rule. Congress and the Supreme Court have abdicated their roles to the presidency. This is part of the twilight of neoliberalism, the pretense that none of it is political but all just technical efficiency. How can we be safe from terrorists if the president can’t run a secret government with the power to kill anyone anywhere as he sees fit? And the power to practice massive surveillance on us all?

    The response of the realists is to say that better policies aren’t possible, because Americans are too stupid and evil to vote the right way. And voting the right way in 2016 was to vote for a candidate who proclaimed that better policies aren’t possible. I’m not smart enough to figure out how that’s supposed to produce better policies.

    The elites wage full out indoctrination in the policies that benefit them. The defenders of the rest decline to articulate and lead towards policies that would benefit the entire society because such policies are unrealistic given the stupidity and evil of most Americans. The only thing you can do is be outraged about how evil the president is? I think we should do better.

  11. Shh permalink
    November 29, 2016

    Nice article Ian.

    I love Ron Showalter’s rant’s. Cracks me up. Every family needs a crazy uncle eh?

    I guess I was a bit precocious as a kid with the dual threads of a complacent electorate and a rapacious oligarchy.

    Times of plenty lead people to become soft in experience and hard in compassion, thus they pursue narcissistic ends, believing themselves to be independent of the welfare of their fellows. Trump is a wholly foreseen end result of this tendency.

    This time however, there really is, as you point out, another thread woven into the tapestry of human experience: the multi-faceted destabilization of a range of ecosystems. You’ve heard me say it at least a dozen times (assuming you bother to read my commentary!).

    Too little, too late folks. The honorable (and dishonorable) people facing down the corporate dogs of war at Standing Rock preserve only their dignity. Depending on where you stand, dignity is either meaningless, or the only meaningful thing. For me, Ron’s pearl clutching is merely a sign of a lost soul. One who’s mistaken value for price. As we all have, myself included. There was a time when I would have gone to Standing Rock to raise my voice to the implacable will of the Gods.

    Now I simply try to be nice to those who aren’t screeching at me. More than that is beyond my ability to offer. To the screeching ones though, I say fuck off. Again and again and again. Paul Krugman is to me the Rush Limbaugh of the Accela Corridor. Blah, blah, blah. Why is it that selfishness is seen as a virtue?

    The problem is a philosophical one, not a political one, ergo, intractable. Thus we will all feel evolutionary pressure in a most uncomfortable way.

  12. bob mcmanus permalink
    November 29, 2016

    In the near term, neoliberalism may live. I can imagine a scenario where Republicans leave the coasts and Nevada/Colorado alone, with the not-so-quiet deal that has been practiced for a decade, and concentrate on returning their Red States to 1840 conditions.

    The would leave neoliberalism in NYC and California, finance + identity politics, and the attractions of the metropole may provide compensation for the local servant classes.

  13. November 29, 2016

    I have some hope that the left will win some in Europe. Spain’s leftists and Corbyn are the most promising signs so far.

    I don’t know much about the situation in Spain but I do know about the situation here in the UK.
    Jeremy Corbyn is very popular with a section of the Labour party membership, that section is a majority (about 65%) of the membership. The problem is that his reach does not extend much beyond that section of the party. The Tories are in complete disarray over Brexit and while they have loosened the thumbscrews slightly, are still pursuing a policy of economic austerity. Their policies are running public services into the ground. The NHS is barely coping and the Prison service is in meltdown.
    The Tories are sitting on 44% in the latest Guardian/ICM poll, Labour is on 28%. This forces me to one of two conclusions either;
    1) Jeremy Corbyn isn’t getting his message across and hasn’t got a strategy for doing it;
    Or;
    2) Jeremy Corbyn is getting his message across and the electorate doesn’t think much of it..
    Neither conclusion leaves me with much hope for the left in the UK.
    As Hilary Clinton found winning the nomination and winning the election are not the same thing. Still at least she won the popular vote and was beaten by a rigged archaic system. Unfortunatly I don’t think that Corbyn couldn win even if the system stays as it is – slightly rigged in Labour’s favour.

  14. bob mcmanus permalink
    November 29, 2016

    Make no mistake, these fucks want slaves. Best bet is criminalizing being a minority. and then using prison labor. Won’t be on SF tv, and what, the coastals are going to kill and die for blacks in Red America? Give me a break. They allowed the ethnic cleansing of New Orleans. This isn’t the Civil War or WW II generation.

    Come to think about it, that’s just the old pattern. Although sharing the army and some justice system, the metropole and country (Paris, Edo/Tokyo) sometimes pretty much left each other alone, metropole providing finance, technology, and the larger expense of security, while the country slave areas send food and resources to the metropole, along with grateful underpaid refugees from slave states eagerly serving coffee and being sex workers for the enlightened and generous cosmopolitans.

    Sounds like a plan. We’ll call it neoliberalism, as homage to the previous liberal white supremacist era.

    IOW, we haven’t reached peak neoliberalism yet. Know it by slavery.

  15. Some Guy permalink
    November 29, 2016

    Yes, it is a cycle for sure, but I think it is worth noting some of the key things that may be different about this cycle.

    You’ve identified one big one, climate change. Thinking more generally, I’d put climate change in the category of civilization destroying technologies which are multiplying as technology advances – these could either be inadvertent (like climate change) or deliberate (nuclear war). Similarly we could inadvertently collapse things via breeding super resistant bacteria or do it deliberately, ‘Oryx and Crake’ style.

    Another thing which is different, at least as compared to the last few hundred years, is energy. Previously, we have been moving from one energy source to a better one. This has allowed us to paper over a lot of issues. But it’s been over 40 years since the first oil crisis of 1973 (perhaps not coincidentally the same 4 decades of trouble you reference in your post) and we are still struggling to find a better replacement for oil. It is possible that it simply doesn’t exist. Sure we could run some sort of civilization without oil, but there is an enormous difference between adapting to get by with less and powering on into greater abundance – the West is so accustomed to the latter that most of the population can’t even comprehend an alternative and will therefore assume that someone is to blame if they are forced to cut back.

    Another big thing is communication media. The internet / social media is something new and brings a different world than TV did. In my view, the American reactionary right was able to maintain its strength as well as it did during the TV era by relying on talk radio, which doesn’t really exist in the same way anywhere outside the U.S. that I know of. This sustained strength allowed them to burst forth into social media / the internet and help boost Trump to victory over the opposition of the entire TV and print based media. Read any comment or twitter thread with more than 20 comments on any topic in any location in the world, and you can imagine what internet social/media world will look like once it gets going.

    Whatever one’s view on Trump, you have to admit the man is an unparalleled master of communications and media. Who else has built a global brand name simply on his own last name and personal style, gone on to successfully host a reality TV show for years and years and gone on from there to tweet their way to the Presidency. In hindsight, it seems almost inevitable that the first social media president was Trump.

    A final thing I will note is the complexity and efficiency of our current economy and society. Partly, this is social, cities made up of people from all over the world with a mix of views and loyalties, but mostly it is economic, global just in time supply chains where multi-billion dollar factories in faraway lands build wafers one atom thick that are combined with raw ingredients from 6 continents to provide consumer goods, where a flood in Thailand means higher prices for years and a million other examples.

    How easy would this system be to disrupt and how hard would it be to rebuild if it was disrupted. It reminds me of building block towers as a kid. We’ve built the biggest block tower the world has ever seen, but it still just takes one stupid kid to push it down.

  16. November 29, 2016

    “When will the alt-left Heather slumber-party end, huh?”

    Never. Because, unlike the alt-right and the right in general, the alt-left doesn’t actually do much of anything. Except talk. Endlessly.

    Trump is just another vanity project where they can show you how smart they are and cast pearls of wisdom down upon the masses who are ignoring them. Oh sure, they fell for and helped along the narrative that brought us Trump but if we had listened to them earlier and taken their advice then we wouldn’t be in this predicament now so it’s all your fault anyway. They are still pondering the forest but, like Sonny Bono, they have run face first into the tree. But hey, climate change is going to kill us all and some people did find happiness amid the Great Depression and WWII so “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”. I wonder what Bobby McFerrin is up to these days.

    Btw, if you want to give yourself a laugh, go read the comment sections of Ian’s old posts after the mostly minor dust-ups involving the WTO protests or OWS or various police actions where he made the commonsense observation (paraphrasing) that violence was a normal and predictable reaction to oppression. Talk about pearl clutching! I though he was going to run out of fainting couches. These people won’t support the notion that the people who actually tried to do something even be allowed to defend themselves so you can’t expect them to get off their chaise lounges now.

  17. Shh permalink
    November 29, 2016

    I keep hearing about “the people who actually tried to do something ” and “Not all of us are nihilistic wimps.” and I wonder…what exactly have you ever done?

    Certainly there is no real way to establish street cred here in Ian’s commentariat, but Ron, I have a question for you, oh master of wisdom: What exactly, do you propose we do?

  18. Troy permalink
    November 29, 2016

    When people like Ron Showalter and his ilk show up, I think, we should argue with them, but then I come to realize, people like Ron Showalter and his ilk, they’re the sorts who’ve profited out of making people miserable. Well, at least, I hope people like Ron Showalter and his ilk are profiting. It’d be rather ridiculous if he was here, screeching at the readership of Ian Welsh for free.

  19. David permalink
    November 29, 2016

    Ian,
    One question, I recall you mentioning your prediction for war. Can you say more ? Thanks

  20. Shh permalink
    November 30, 2016

    I mean no disrespect to Ron and his ilk. It’s very likely I’m among them. But Here is a handful of people with different experiences and expectations, bonded together by enjoyment of Ian’s blog.

    And rather than bicker and snipe, I ask, in all good faith:

    What, gentlemen and ladies, exactly, do we propose to do? Because the only thing that can happen here is…talk.

    So let’s explore the options, being mindful of the legitimacy of perspective that is the underwriting principle upon which all freedom is based. It’s high time we live like honorable people.

    It seems to me important to expose first principles and codify assumptions; something along the lines of…

    “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”

  21. Solar Hero permalink
    November 30, 2016

    Yo johnm55:

    You missed one other option: the polls are wrong. Kind-of remarkable you aren’t considering that.

  22. Ian Welsh permalink*
    November 30, 2016

    Please do not grind your single axe in every single thread. Thanks.

    Two polls got it right, the IBW poll was also the most accurate for the last two elections. I would say most pollsters just did a very bad job.

  23. Tony Wikrent permalink
    November 30, 2016

    Regarding the polls: As someone who travels extensively in rural areas and to small towns, let me tell you what I think happened, and will continue to happen. The people who support Trump have come to detest almost anything that has to do with the national political system: the two Parties, the consultants, the media, and the pollsters. Trump supporters believe the media and the pollsters intend to sway votes by reporting that their favored candidate — Clinton — is winning in the polls. They do not trust the media and the pollsters. So if someone who supports Trump receives a call from a pollster, what do you think are the chances that they are simply going to lie to the pollster? I think the chances are pretty high.

    In other words, the pollsters are so hated and so distrusted, that it is no longer even possible to get an accurate poll result. In yet other words, this is a result of the collapse of trust in institutions.

  24. Tony Wikrent permalink
    November 30, 2016

    I was talking to Jon Larson about the election of Trump, and he offered what I think is a very interesting and plausible explanation for why people in small towns and rural areas disliked Clinton so intensely, and gave their vote to Trump. Now, you must understand that Larson is a true expert on Thorsten Veblen. He has presented papers at conferences on Veblen even though Larson is not in the academy. And, he served on the board that oversaw the restoration of the Veblen homestead near Nerstrand in rural Rice County, Minnesota, almost exactly 60 miles south of St. Paul.

    Second, you need to understand that Larson believes the most important book Veblen wrote is not The Theory of the Leisure Class, nor The Theory of Business Enterprise, but The Instinct of Workmanship and the State of the Industrial Art. As Larson summarized the book, “real craftsmen often make things better than they need to be for the sheer love of building well.”

    But there is more: from The Theory of the Leisure Class, we know that Veblen presented a class analysis that differed markedly from Marx’s in that members of both the Marxist proletariat, bourgeoisie, and capitalist class, could be producers, not Leisure Class predators. Especially for those engaged in industrial occupations – who by definition are producer class – the instinct of workmanship is very, very important. If you have ever noticed the difference between an auto repair shop that was filthy and disorderly, and one that was relatively clean and orderly (especially for racing teams, which are damn near like NASA white rooms), you have seen a reflection of the instinct of workmanship.

    So, with that preface, Larson believes that most people small towns and rural areas have to deal with very concrete and specific problems every day. If you don’t fix a tractor or car correctly, it simply does not run. Immediate, measurable, tangible results. People who are accustomed to this as a way of life naturally dislike politicians and the news media, because politicians and the news media can be terribly, horribly, disastrously wrong – and nothing happens to them. There are no consequences for their being wrong. And Clinton was the penultimate specimen of the political type. While Trump could reasonably pass himself off as someone who actually gets things done: he’s built casinos and hotels and what not. It doesn’t matter if they all were successful projects or not, it’s just that these type of voters could relate to Trump on a level or in a way that they never could with Clinton.

  25. Lisa permalink
    November 30, 2016

    One thing that has to remembered is that neo-liberal ‘economics’ is actually anti-capitalism and is in basic terms an attempt to a return to a pre Adam Smith feudalism/rentier past. If you think of the wealthy individuals and corporations as feudal lords with a peasantry ..and business .. constrained and their rentier hands taking their slice at every point.

    The Wealth of Nations was in many ways a cry to end the dead hand of rentiers and let creative capitalism out to be free.

    What we know of as the ‘Keynes’ model of the social democratic capitalistic model was a way of taking the raw energy of capitalism and channeling it into positive areas because, as was found, pure capitalism could be incredibly destructive.

    The neo-liberal model is an attempt to return to that past of the capital owners, not the capital creators, owning and controlling everything, eliminating competition and creativity. Hence the ultimate example of the TPP (and the EU equivalent).

    The logical result is concentration of capital ownership, and hence income, into a tiny number of hands… out new landed gentry who have vested interest in ending competition and hence creativity. Let’s face it the silicon valley bunch, started by the mini computer boys of DEC (etc) later the PC ones, would never had gotten anywhere these days, IBM would have bought them all out. But back then as powerful as it was IBM was constrained.

    Not now hence ..notice how little real innovation there has been in recent decades?

    Controlled and channeled capitalism within a social democratic framework actually works very well.

  26. Ché Pasa permalink
    November 30, 2016

    Out here in rural New Mexico, it’s not that hard to figure out why 60% of the voters in my county voted for Trump and another 11% voted for Johnson, leaving the remainder to Clinton and Stein.

    The Dems, for whom many rural New Mexicans once had great hopes, have done them wrong over and over and over again. It’s not because of racism or bigotry or any of those hot-button issues (though I’m sure that in some households it is, it’s just not a general thing) it is because Democrats as a political class have had a habit of making things more difficult than they need to be without providing any gain to the people they are affecting with their endless complexities.

    Overregulation and social engineering are part of the rejection of Democrats and their policies. Plain cussedness and cowboy – fierce independence is part of it, too.

    Mostly, people out here just want to be left alone. That’s not hard to understand at all, and it doesn’t need a deep sociological study to figure out. People out here by and large don’t have a lot of money, and they don’t have a lot of time to wrestle with the myriad social problems the Dems tend to focus on — with no economic/financial benefit to the people being subjected to all that focus. From their point of view, Dem “solutions” often make things worse.

    This is ranch and farm country, so the issues are a little different than one finds in deteriorated manufacturing areas, but I think the attitude is similar. Dems have done nothing but make life more difficult for those trying the best they can to get by under increasingly difficult circumstances.

    And that’s the neo liberal game plan. The Rs have the same game plan of course, and I think most of the folks out here know and understand that, but the mitigating factor is that they believe that the Rs will leave the locals alone, even say nice things about them from time to time, whereas the Dems will be constantly berating them, betraying them, and trying to change them into some ideal of “good citizens” instead of respecting who and what they are.

    Trump tapped in to that frustration whereas Clinton dismissed it — though she knew it was there. You can be sure that Trump will do nothing that doesn’t benefit him first and foremost. He’s a conman and has no intention to follow through on whatever promises he might have made to lure and hook his marks. With him, the Deal is negotiated after the sale is closed.

    But that aside, he knew and knows how to use people’s fears, desires and needs to get what he wants. For Clinton and the Dems, it’s a whole different ball game, worked from the premise of how they think the Little People should be, not how they are.

    

  27. November 30, 2016

    if we believe in free will

    I would say, “I believe – to some extent.” In The Heart of Man: Its Genius for Good and Evil, Erich Fromm points out that we have more freedom at a crossroads than when we are going full speed down one of the highways branching from there – we can decide freely at some points, at other points the momentum is much harder to overcome.

    It also seems to me that the will can be free to the extent that one’s knowledge is accurate – and one’s motivation is wholesome – and one’s will is NOT free to the extent that these are not so – Buddhism says much on this.

    Finally, there is the wisdom in the Harvard Law of Animal Behavior, humorously said to have been discovered by B.F. Skinner in his work on operant conditioning: “Under carefully controlled experimental conditions, the subject organism does what it damn well pleases.” Those who run the world implicitly depend on the assumption that everyone can be bribed or threatened – certainly those who they associate with on a daily basis behave that way – and so actual behavior in the field can surprise them.

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