Tag Archives: globalization

Tea Torbenfeldt Bengtsson, Morten Frederiksen & Jørgen Elm Larsen (eds.), The Danish Welfare State. A Sociological Investigation (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015)

How is the welfare state transforming in an era of globalization, individualization and hence increased competition, and how are the changes seen on a macro and micro level? This is the main question raised in this book, containing 15 chapters, including a thorough introduction and a conclusion. More specifically, it explores how risk concepts and risk thinking transform the welfare state from responding to and from protecting its citizens from threats putting them at risk, to risks being seen as threats to the welfare state itself.

The book addresses a current discussion in Denmark concerning whether the welfare state, instituted to protect its citizens, is developing into a competition state, mobilizing citizens to take part in the struggle for the state to be competitive. In this picture, so-called non-productive citizens such as the unemployed, chronically ill, or newly arrived refugees, are increasingly seen as risk factors or even threats, and not primarily as humans worthy of protection. According to the editors of the book, Denmark as a modern welfare state endorsing both universal welfare and individual responsibility is an interesting case illustrating this development. Thus, they provide a frame for discussing whether it is worth ‘getting to Denmark’, as Fukuyama claimed in The Origins of Political Order (2011) as a metaphor for democracy.

The state increasingly seems to respond to macro-level threats from globalization and economic crisis with micro-level initiatives; hence the anthology focuses on risks both on a macro- and micro-level. In the opening chapter a thorough introduction is given to four sociological approaches to risk, namely risk society (Beck); risk culture/cultural theory (Douglas); risk control/governmentality (Foucault); and risk as uncertainty/managed uncertainty (Luhmann). These theorists, of whom particularly Beck and Foucault are cited in the book, claim in different ways that risks are socially founded. The explanation of this theoretical framework does not only serve a didactical purpose but also helps to underline how a social understanding of the risks of modernity can be used when analyzing welfare states like Denmark. Whereas the competition state is often associated with neoliberalism and deregulation, the social investment state is associated with reregulation, which several of the chapters analyzing policies on a micro level illustrate. Both the competition and the social investment paradigm however rely on a highly educated, healthy and productive workforce. Accordingly, policies of education, activation, and health become important. However, there may be unintended consequences of such risk management policies. As pointed out in several chapters, new risks may occur especially among the poor and poorly educated classes, who do not respond adequately to activation policies and often meet sanctions and cuts in benefits. Thus, the welfare state may end up reproducing rather than overcoming inequalities.

The book comprises three parts. The first part concerns risks at a macro level, mainly explored comparatively. Hence, in chapter 2, “Denmark from an International Perspective”, Peter Abrahamsen discusses the social investment paradigm drawing the traditional Social Democratic Denmark closer to liberal and continental models. In chapter 3, “Social Investment as Risk Management” Jon Kvist compares social investment strategies of Denmark, Germany and United Kingdom. In Chapter 4, “Employment Relations, Flexicurity, and Risk: Explaining the Risk Profile of the Danish Flexicurity Model”, Carsten Strøby Jensen explains how flexicurity presently is under pressure by cuts in unemployment benefits and decreasing support for labor unions. In chapter 5, “Precarity and Public Risk Management: Trends in Denmark across Four Decades”, Stefan Andrade shows that the Danish labor market has not yet become more precarious than in other European countries, though low- and unskilled workers have become more vulnerable to risks of poverty and unemployment. In chapter 6, “Towards a New Culture of Blame?” Morten Frederiksen shows from survey data, that Danes’ attitudes towards social assistance and unemployment surprisingly have changed very little.

The second part of the book is devoted to risk perspectives on the universal welfare state at a micro level. Thus, in chapter 7 “When Family Life Is Risky Business – Immigrant Divorce in the Women-Friendly Welfare State”, Mai Heide Ottosen and Anika Liversage discuss whether new and unintended risks of exclusion follow divorces in immigrant families. Education is the focus of chapter 8, “The Risky Business of Educational Choice in the Meritocratic Society”, where Kristian Karlson and Anders Holm demonstrate how citizens’ ability to risk management in educational decisions is related to inequality in education. Unintended inequality is also the topic in chapter 9 “Health in a Risk Perspective: The Case of Overweight”, where Nanna Mik-Meyer explores the increased focus on health problematizing an already vulnerable group. A similar tendency is seen in chapter 10, “Failing Ageing? Risk Management in the Active Ageing Society”, Tine Rostgaard explains how the Danish ‘active approach’ to elder care problematizes inactive groups unwilling or incapable of change.

The third and last part of the book stays on the micro level and explores the Danish welfare state’s approach to social problems and marginalized groups. In chapter 11, “Controlling Young People Through Treatment and Punishment”, Tea Torbenfeldt Bengtsson shows how the Danish system for juvenile crime is currently strengthening control influenced by ‘fears of “being soft on crime”’. In chapter 12, “Alcohol and Risk Management in a Welfare State”, Margaretha Järvinen argues that the healthcare authorities’ governmentality perspective on alcohol consumption does not reach certain alcohol consumers. In chapter 13, “The Tough and the Brittle: Calculating and Managing the Risk of Refugees” Katrine Syppli Kohl explores how Denmark’s selection of quota refugees has developed from choosing the weakest to picking those deemed most ‘capable of integration’, thus presenting the background for the Parliament’s 2016 suspension of the entire quota refugee program in Denmark. Lastly, in Chapter 14, “Cash Benefit Recipients – Vulnerable or Villains?”, Dorte Caswell, Jørgen Elm Larsen and Stella Mia Sieling-Monas examine the Danish unemployment policy including evermore severe sanctions as means of encouraging job seeking.

To sum up, the anthology offers a comprehensive overview of the Danish welfare state on a macro- and micro level, convincingly applying risk theories and discussing the social investment paradigm. In an era where publishing in journals is given priority over anthologies, this volume demonstrates that the anthology format is still justified. The volume is highly recommendable to students, scholars, and not least, decision makers.

The World of Wars: Risky Systems – A second-order observation of future wars

 

 

 

He’s a real Nowhere Man/Sitting in his Nowhere Land/Making all his nowhere plans for nobody/Doesn’t have a point of view/Knows not where he’s going to/Isn’t he a bit like you and me?/Nowhere Man, please listen/You don’t know what you’re missing/Nowhere Man, the world is at your command/He’s as blind as he can be/Just sees what he wants to see/Nowhere Man, can you see me at all?/

Nowhere Man, John Lennon 1965

 

Until 1989, the long-term future did not exist and had not existed since the end of the 1950s. After the end of the Cold War, a sudden rise in debates about the future state of Europe and the World took place. On the one extreme, Kantian prospects for a variety of integration policies flourished (Habermas 1992; Held 1995); and with the 200 years festivities of his Zum ewigen Frieden, a whole range of theoretical models of thought about future possibilities appeared in political theories (Kant 1795/1977; Höffe 1995; Rawls 1999). On the other side of the spectre, US military planning had a bath in extremely well-financed investments in a so-called Revolution in Military Affairs, thereby establishing neo-conservative dreams of a unipolar 21st century where the idea of a Pax Americana reigned without resistance, without friction and with even more almighty power than the power invested in the Cold War. To some observers, like Robert Kagan, these extremely opposed visions offered the possibility to revitalise an opposition between idealist liberalism and military realism. Long lists of publications gave intellectual and strategic punch to the almighty dreams and when the US High Court elected the younger Bush as president, the dreams of linear technologically advanced strategy gained supreme political authority (Kagan 2002; Vickers & Martinage 2004).

Today, when the disasters of the neo-conservative Middle East campaigns are well known, especially with the still, at the moment in 2014, un-constrained terrorist Caliphate Islamic State in a far riskier position than al Qaeda ever was, it is amazing to go some years back and check the risk analyses. Warnings dominated strategic discussions and had done so for long (Mack 1975; Lind et al 1989; Shapiro 1999; Echevarria 1996; Tibi 2001a; 2001b). “The strong will lose” according to the more comprehensive strategic thought (Record 2005). Irregular warfare, asymmetric strategies and so-called 4th Generation Warfare can overstretch a superpower (Lind 2004; 2005; Hammes 2006; Thornton 2007). In his well-known magisterial work, The Rise and Fall of Great Powers (1988), Paul Kennedy had already warned against such possibilities.

Future prospects come and go, and ideas of almost eternally stable future orders, optimism and pessimism appear and disappear with the same speed as fashions in Paris. The Grand Narratives are certainly not as dead as Jean-François Lyotard observed in La condition postmoderne in 1979; but there are many of them, and the narrative of the Globalisation is probably the strongest and steadiest. Gone are the days when we could easily operate with distinctions between domestic and foreign policy subjects to international politics and international relations. Rob Walker challenges the classic focus with a conception of “politics of the world” (Walker 2010). I am more concerned how such politics are inherent in the social world, i.e. the social systems with which we live. What does it mean to live with military organisation systems and be subject to existing systems of war?

War is about insecurity and risk. Hence, the analysis of future wars could, for some observers, be the strive for finding eternal wisdom, silver bullets or subscribing to myths of genius, perfect planning, technical systems (drones), and the right decision at the right moment. Colin Gray rightly warns against such fixed ideas (Gray 2009b). With Niklas Luhmann’s system theory, I do not subscribe to the sociological popular theory of risk that defines risk as an unpleasant future (Beck 1997; Vedby 2006). Beck’s notion of a worldwide risk society (“Weltrisikogesellschaft”) can, however, be useful as an overall concept of risky system observations. Yet, we should observe that our observations are from the present moment, which is the risk we run that cannot be escaped. But I will not enter a first-order analysis of what substantially could be unpleasant in an unknown future. War systems are too much about innovation, change and transformation to cling to substantial predictions. Hence, per definition, it is a risky business to observe the state of the world in terms of future wars. This invites to methodological reflections that still may use classical observations to observe the future.

In order to analyse the future, I will first analyse the problem of future risks as a problem. Then, in the next section, I point towards some forgotten heritage from the past that still lives for the future to come: the traumas from past wars. Theoretically too, we have a heritage from the past, namely the still vivid strategical lessons from Carl von Clausewitz and Sun Tzu as well as strategies of asymmetric war, which I analyse in the third section. In the fourth section, I apply Luhmann’s theory of differentiated risk systems. The military systems will continue to respond to asymmetric threats and the risk is this form of inadequacy. Hacker wars, drones and private military companies will develop, but increasing numbers of refugees, for whatever reason, will create disasters that cannot find adequate military solutions.

 

 

I. Two distinctions: epistemological and temporal

If the aim is to look into the future, we should consider two distinctions. One is about knowledge, another about temporality. First of all, we shall be aware of the distinction ontology/epistemology. We can make some substantial predictions about demography, climate change and even, probably, the rise of China; but a less risky haven is to take a look at future epistemologies: We should hesitate to state what we will observe in two generations from now; rather, we should observe how we will probably observe.

What will be our systems of observation? This question shall not be considered too big in all its dimensions. We cannot observe how all systems will observe, but only some forms of observations in some of the social systems (Luhmann 1986; 1991; 1993). What does that mean, and how can we do that? In this article, I shall only consider forms of war and warfare. How do we probably observe war in the future?

One of the best among the many books and articles on future warfare is probably Colin Gray’s Another Bloody Century (2005a). He establishes a well-founded overview of 12 grand narratives of future warfare: The rise and fall of total war; the obsolescence of major interstate war; ‘old wars’ and ‘new wars’ or Fourth Generation irregular wars; new security agendas; geopolitical transformations (China, India, Russia); revolutions in military affairs (RMA), technology as strategy; expanding spatial geography of war; terrorism; weapons of mass destruction; decline of war; and then finally the, according to Colin Gray, most interesting narrative: Our past as our future. Albeit Gray’s statement was forwarded a decade ago; I, still, held it worthwhile to test its validity as a prospect for the future to come.

I do agree that without historical analysis, our observations of future wars are lost in dreams. Kantian analyses of future networks of trans- and post-national institutions and norms might therefore carry on more realism than (often) poorly financed technological dreams about military revolutions. After all, Kant’s military prospects of a realist peace and Carl von Clausewitz’ Kantian methodology about the form of war are also strongly linked. While peace-semantic stays as an amazingly continuous affair, codes of war and warfare undergo transformations over and over in evolutions and revolutions (Janssen 1979a; 1979b; Harste 2004; 2011; Knox & Murray 2001).

Nevertheless, a number of continuous forms do exist too, for instance in the rather popular, but not always politically recognized, so-called “social cohesion” and corporate spirit among soldiers (Picq 1880/2005; Hansson 2007; King 2007; Harste 2014). Of course, the presence of crusading communication codes in politics, religion and war is another aspect (Roux 2007; Tibi 2001a; 2001b). In the future, we will probably still use Clausewitz, and even the far older Sun Tzu, to analyse war.

Before entering that part of the present analysis, I want to clarify the second distinction as a distinction between the present and the absent. Temporal analysis is an advanced well-known discipline since St. Augustine and, although not overly complex, it is often neglected in social theory. However, the Bielefeld connection between Reinhart Koselleck and Niklas Luhmann has done much to reappraise it (Koselleck 2000; Luhmann 1980; 1990a; 1997: 997 – 1016). Especially, in order to redescribe Clausewitz’ analysis in more recent terms, I have applied Luhmann’s analysis of systems to a historical and evolutionary theory of the functional system of war as distinct from military organisation systems and used it to establish a theory of risky systems (Harste 2003; 2004; 2009b; 2011, 2014).Today we can observe risk structures and temporal bindings inherent to codes and practices of different social systems as law, finance, war, research, politics, mass media etc. They do not operate with identical temporal structures, and we may risk that their temporal bindings are indeed very different (Luhmann 1991). However, for an initial reappraisal of Colin Gray’s point, we should begin the analysis by targeting another set of somewhat more concrete problems.

First, it is well-known that future wars are often planned with past wars in mind. The US army anno 2001 would no doubt be able to win a conventional war against Wehrmacht anno 1941, it might even have built its military organisation and visions in order to do so (Vandergriff 2001; Huntington 1957; Creveld 2007; 2008). Quite late during the Iraq War, US strategists, after a lot of criticism, began to learn from the Vietnam War (Metz 2007; Record 2004; Record & Terill 2004).

Second, history has always been rewritten and will continue to do so in the future to come (Prost & Winter 2004). In a future reaching beyond the present synchronisation of our history into a common story, our past will be transformed to such forms that the medium of history will no longer be the same simple recognisable fact. Gottfried Leibniz proposed that the present “is pregnant with the future and loaded with the past” (cited from Cassirer 1932/1998: 38). Our past will be our future. This wisdom is not abstract metaphysics, but loaded with concrete details that have overwhelmed us beyond our comprehension.

 

 

II. The future of the Hundred Years War

That the future will be different from the past has been a promise since the Romans restructured the past as the (re-)birth of Christ in blood and flesh as Jesus, an event that coincided with the heyday of a stabilised Roman celebration of the emperor. Christ also sacrificed his temporal body in order to offer mankind “a difference that gives a difference” (Luhmann 2008: 240).

The sacrificed past is not able to recognise itself, even not as a fact, i.e. as recognised statistics. The body counts of the Three Quarter Century War from 1914 to 1989 are simply beyond a scale that any Hollywood storytelling can represent. The continuation in the Hundred Year’s War, 1914 – 2014 has not established and constituted a penetrating rupture to the dramatic narratives of suffering. During the Three Quarter Century War, three world wars and a “Zwischenkrigszeit” each considered as “wars that could end all wars” including the last one, the Cold War, that had it been warm would probably have succeeded on the worst scale possible. This history is very different from the stories we were acquainted with in schools, in politics, mass media and in the historical records of the past, not only because it ended differently and faster than what we thought for a long time. And once more, in the future, it will be very different, just an example, the stories of body counts in the Second World War. Today, in Ukraine, we are witnesses to demonstrations with an amazing mixture of generations, many seem to have roots in the conflicts of their parents and grandparents. However, the conflicts in Ukraine may be part of a much larger heritage of traumatic conflicts we, in the West, should be extremely aware about. It could easily become a disaster if we ignore the heritage of conflicts embedded into experiences of Russia, Ukraine and Belorussia, the three countries which suffered more than any other during their “Thirty Years War” from 1914 – 1945. The problem with the heritage of war experiences is that people get traumatized; traumatized people, in Ukraine, in Russia, or in Palestine, Iraq and Syria may develop desires for revenge. Sometimes they do not have much to lose.

I take the narrative about the Second World War. Hitherto we all know about one story, somewhat comfortable and also somewhat disturbing, in fact shocking to the degree that is has been difficult to “write poems” (Adorno 1966). Fact finding is a macabre story. The Cold War probably began with false stories about Soviet losses. Officially, of internal as well as external reasons, The Soviet would offer a false idealisation of itself as a strong power able to sustain its gains in Eastern Europe and also deserve them. A power second to US power, who counted losses of 407.300 dead. From an official six and a half million, the number quickly rose to plus nine million. However, at the 20th Party Congress in 1956, Nikita Khrushchev could shock the world with an amazing 20 million body count (Ellenstein 1978). Then, in 1990, Gorbachev – in his speech on the occasion of the forty-fifth anniversary of victory – gave a figure of 26.6 million (Bellamy 2007: 9). Shortly after, in a book on the removal of secret classifications, it was disclosed that Soviet Armed Forces lost 8.668.400 servicemen (Sokolov 2009: 448; Second World War Almanac 2005). The rest were civilians.

Something is very flawed in those analyses, apart from the last number being unbelievably accurate. German generals counted their losses far more accurately than the Red Army, though they could not reckon survivors from the prison of war camps (POWs). The Wehrmacht counted at least 4 million dead, later estimates count 5.3 millions though the added estimates are unclear. Total losses, including Austria, number between 6.3 and 7.8 million. However, careful descriptions of battle dead often describe German/Soviet dead ratios at around 1/10 (Frankson & Zetterling 2003). And about 55-65 percent of (surviving) women born 1905–1915 were widows. In his magisterial description of the Soviet Russian “Great Patriotic War”, English historian Chris Bellamy exposed these flaws in a somewhat simple way. On the one hand, he accurately exposed the body counts officially recognised in 1993; on the other, he described demographic accounts. Demographers calculate the ‘global loss’ of population, including couples who never met and babies not born, to be 48 million, i.e., far above the 26-27 million figure. During the last couple of decades, research and archives have opened up. In autumn 2009, Russian historian Boris Sokolov published a study based on five different entries. First he points to the danger of over- and underestimation for political and normative reasons as well as according to double counts: A Pole, Soviet citizen, soldier, partisan, then soldier again, perhaps Jew, could be counted lost on several occasions. However, all his different entries arrive at the level of 24-27.5 million military servicemen; probably 26.3-26.9 million though a variance of up to 5 million is possible. More convincing is his use of very different calculation methods. I) The Red Army did not register its troops before December 1941 and did not use medallions before that time; however, many soldiers and officers did not use them since they were observed as signs of fatal destinies. II) A few months of fighting, in particular November, fairly well counted the number of dead but, as movements were sparse, additions of those numbers could be used. Thus casualties in those months can be multiplied to the whole war. III) The same applies to the relation officer dead/soldier dead as officers normally were counted much more accurately. The Soviet army lost 784.000 officers (161 officers for every 12 German officers). IV) A list of 19 million names are recorded at the Great Patriotic War Museum that often, however, receive complaints about lacking names, and among the 5.000 servicemen found in 1994-95 approximately 30 percent were not in the Ministry of Defence’s archives. V) Local descriptions of conscripted soldiers include far more soldiers than those officially recorded; often armies simply took those available, enlisted or not. The accounts of soldiers from the Baltic countries and the later Soviet part of Poland are rather unsatisfying. Finally, demographic accounts reckon human losses to 43.400.000 inside the later Soviet territory of which civilian losses were 16.4-16.9 million. The human losses outnumber the entire population in France or England in 1939. To these figures, we should, of course, add wounded, handicapped and mentally ill persons, not to say persons with post-traumatic stress (PTS). The flaws and lack of accuracy seem to be part of the contingencies of Operation Barbarossa. Yet of course, there are other recent analyses, most of them arrive to smaller numbers than Sokolov, but some, as the renowned US Russia expert David Glantz to even more dramatic accounts.

Even compared to more recent, rather bluntly described, overviews such as Colin Gray’s War, Peace and International Relations (2007), this altogether tells us quite another story of not only the war but also its aftermath, the Cold War and the history of Eastern Europe, as well as the reasons behind success and failure of East and West. The East sacrificed so many lives compared to Nazi Germany (part of the West) that the First World (including post-war Germany) was far more successful than the Second World. The biggest historical catastrophe since the Thirty Years War resulted in the most prosperous era of mankind.

Such paradoxes are still beyond reach for normal evaluation; nevertheless, our factual history of the past has to judge and “stay cool” as a Danish-German POW in Arkhangelsk once ironically reported to me about surviving the Siberian Winter. The extremely cruel and cynical Soviet sacrifices under Stalin, Beria and NKVD were part of a struggle to survive a past Soviet dream of future life and/or a future regime against a pure destructive Thousand Year Reich. The figures could indicate that Nazi-Germany could have succeeded, for instance if the winter 1941-42 had been a little milder (December the 6th General Guderian measured minus 63 degrees Celsius; Clark 1965: 181; about 10 degrees below normal records), or if the Soviet regime had been less despotic and totalitarian, though perhaps not against a completely modern and functionally differentiated Soviet Union disposing of immense Soviet resources in the most utopian, rational and well educated ways, but anyway out of reach.

Let the lonely Jesus, but the more than 40 million Soviet citizens were paradoxically sacrificed in an extremely uncivilised way in order to save civilization. By any account, the West would never have gone that far. The Eastern hemisphere including the Persian Gulf could have turned subject to the Nazi Regime and would then probably have suffered even more had it tried to rebel. This is not counterfactual history but factual history about the past by means of standards that is and were recognised in the West. This account furthermore suggests that, conventionally, the West is less capable of suffering human losses than other kind of regimes, perhaps even so when the West had a far more heroic self-esteem than at present and in the future. As Herfried Münkler states with Edward Luttwak, we live in a post-heroic age; and the sacrifices of earlier generations will be still less possible to understand along with the growing costs of PTSD among veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq (Münkler 2006: 310-354). Millions of disabled young, mainly, males will be unproductive for generations to come and be extremely costly to the US and the rest of the West, as Philip Stiglitz predicts in his The Three Trillion Dollars War (2008) about the Iraq War, to which costs for Afghanistan and to allies will follow (Swofford et al 2009; Korb 2009; Shinseki 2013). The unipolar power-structure of the world transformed incredibly fast into a predictable financial crisis. Wars are always extremely manifold more costly than optimist warfare planners hope for (Kindleberger 1984; Frieden 2006; Harrison 1998; Strachan 2004; Rockoff 2012).

The Second World War was beyond any comparison more expensive than any other war and would have led to a comparable financial crisis as most former wars, just more far-reaching. Apart from the overwhelming Soviet costs, the war was financed by transformation of classical gold standard to a dollar = gold standard. Dollars could be printed in unlimited numbers and could purchase, purchase and purchase. Gone were the hundreds of years when international trade depended on the production of silver and gold (Germain 1998). As long as the US did not enter into the repeatedly unfinanced practice of warfare, the credit system functioned. However, after the Korean War, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars destroyed the credibility of US finance. Dollars printed to finance wars without a substantial export but too much import and tax decreases did not increase credibility (Eichengreen 2007).

The structure moving financial strength from US to China is certainly strong. The dollar as monopolised reserve method of payment probably suffers although the Euro-zone also has some problems with a public debt. Commentators continue to claim that US military spending is nine times to the Chinese; but American salaries are ten times higher than the Chinese! Military transformations can take an incredible speed as is well-known from the American explosion in military investments and corresponding capabilities during the First and the Second World Wars. However, the more important question is whether future wars will take the structure of conventional warfare. Probably not. Thus, we have to take a long-term second order view on wars and observe our past as well as our future.

 

 

III. Forms of war: Sun Tzu, Clausewitz and Lawrence of Arabia

Strategic theories of war are an amazing field of studies for many reasons. One is that very old treaties are indeed still used as classics necessary to understand modern warfare as another branch of war studies, at the same time, concerns sometimes very celebrated military revolutions that “forever will change the form of warfare” according to their proponents (Owen 2001; 2002). Tactical warfare undergoes incessant transformation while the strategic form of war fights the same problems of ungovernable contingencies, friction, planning turned into surprise, moral despair, public impatience and, above all, exhaustion in protracted wars of attrition (Gray 2005b). Hence strategy is not about meeting the future chaos or panic, but about using reflection; i.e., historically speaking to replace future war with a functional equivalent to Fredrick the Great’s brain, and future peace with a reflection capacity similar to Immanuel Kant’s (Paret 1976/2007; Pellegrini 1997).

Already Sun Tzu, reflecting on the Chin wars 400 hundred years before B.C., described the unavoidable occupation with the economy of resources in a more detailed sense than how economy is normally understood. The scope of involved resources is the weak point in protracted wars. Thus all major wars concern a scope of material resources including moral and public resources of will and motivation as well as a scope of temporality. According to calculation theory of fire power, many resources used in a short period of time are much easier to handle than the complexities involved if they were to be handled for a longer period (Biddle 2004). However, the longer period also leads to processes of professionalization and the evolution of learning (Bailey 2001: 154). Modesty in recognizing own weaknesses, blind spots and flawed cognition is decisive in order not to overstretch the use of armies. Later we have seen how Louis XIV, Charles XII, Napoleon, Hitler, Johnson & Nixon, and Bush the Younger overstretched their armies with too many campaigns, too far, for too long a time with too sophisticated materials and, in the offensive, too little public backing.

The false view on linear input-based technologically planned military revolutions is that these conditions change with insurmountable speed and firepower (Beckerman 1999). The weakness is that they invest too much for too long a time, since complexities in unknown countries destroy planning. As Harry Yarger from the US Army War College forcefully underlined in his The Strategic Theory for the 21st Century, strategic planning is about how to plan when plans are broken (Yarger 2006; 2010). The military organisation system does not enter the functional system of war before that moment. Sun Tzu’s advice is that

 

those skilled in war avoid the enemy when his spirit is keen and attack him when it is sluggish and his soldiers homesick. This is the control of the moral factor. In good order, they await a disorderly enemy; in serenity, a clamorous one. This is control of the mental factor. Close to the field of battle, they await an enemy coming from afar; at rest, they await an exhausted enemy; with well-fed troops, they await hungry ones. This is control of the physical factor. They do not engage an enemy advancing with well-ordered banners nor one whose formations are in impressive array. This is control of the factor of changing circumstances (Sun Tzu 400 b C/1998: 35).

 

Troops are never prepared to receive an attack. In that sense, one of the main principles of asymmetric warfare has always been part of warfare. The speed and strength of one part may be met with withdrawal, dispersal and slow-down. A peculiar battle of intelligence takes place and one of the most well-known phrases of Sun Tzu is the following résumé:

 

Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles, you will never be defeated. When you are ignorant of the enemy but know yourself, your chances of winning or loosing are equal. If ignorant both your enemy and of yourself, you are sure to be defeated in every battle (Sun Tzu 400b C/1998: 26).

 

The problem is that the strong part relies on its strength which of course is important to induce moral self-reliance to soldiers and officers, especially if they have to go abroad in some kind of offensive. They trust their strengths instead of doubting their weaknesses, their false opinions, their flawed knowledge not to say empathy of their enemy situation, language, history, religion, norms, everyday life. An even worse problem is that wars are not about “winning” and “victory” in battles and in warfare, but about winning the peace in such a way that their “present enemy must be seen as a future associate” (Rawls 1999: 101). On this point, Sun Tzu’s thought is not on the level of Carl von Clausewitz’. Tactics might be about winning a battle, but if there are no battles such forms of victory make no sense and communicating about them only offers false viewpoints, and failed communication codes thus weaken the stronger part to the point of deception and even moral dissolution. To know about knowledge is to preserve a clear judgment and what Clausewitz calls prudence (“Weisheit”) referring to Fredrick the Great as the greater strategists compared to the tactician Napoleon, “to bring peace about was his goal” (Clausewitz 1832/1952: 246). From Napoleon over his historian and general chief of staff, Antoine-Henri Jomini, the generals of the First World War and to the US way of warfare, this lack of reflective long-term strategic prudence and their first order observation of warfare might be their weakest point (Record 2006). As the distinguished scholar Martin van Creveld has said remarkably precise, “For a decade the US armed forces had talked about the Revolution of Military Affairs until they were blue in the face” (Creveld 2007: 246).

This tradition of introvert observation has been inherent in nationalist warfare policies and is surely backed by the blind spots of the military-industrial complex and interests in its own continuous growth (Eisenhower 1961). But we have to distinguish between military organisation and the functional system of war. As many revolutions we might have in the first one and maybe even in warfare, from an inductive and abductive point of view, not a deductive point of view, it will still be possible to observe the form of war (Gray 2009b). Despite this we cannot be sure that Sun Tzu’s insights in every respect will not be challenged in the future to come. But we cannot only rely on our own transformations in order to understand future wars. Wars are always about double contingencies, i.e., how one part tries to disturb how the other part tries to disturb and how both parts absorb contingencies. The difficult tactics of warfare is to imagine the imagination of the other.

 

An army may be liked to water, for just as flowing water avoids the heights and hastens to the lowlands, so an army should avoid strength and strike weakness. And as water shapes its flow in accordance with the ground, so an army manages its victory in accordance with the situation of the enemy. And as water has no constant form, there are in warfare no constant conditions (…)The enemy must not know where I intend to give battle. For if he does not know where I intend to give battle, he must prepare in a great many places. And when he prepares in a great many places, those I have to fight will be few (Sun Tzu 400b C/1998: 31, 30).

 

Whereas Sun Tzu here used water as a metaphor in order to show the form of dissolved forms and contours, T.E. Lawrence used gas which of course was a provoking metaphor after the First World War. In his fiction- or faction-like description of the Arab insurgency against the Turks in 1916, he reflected upon his own ideas about a successful insurgency against a military stronger enemy, and he established a description of irregular warfare that has been one of the most successful lessons over the last hundred years, a lesson often judged to be one of two strategies for warfare in the 21st century. After few reflections regarding the use of Clausewitz, Jomini, Guibert and Moltke that was “making me [Lawrence] critical of all their light”, he reconstructed the spatial scene using Jominian – or one might even say Kantian – variables of contingencies in space and time, since space and time are not absolutes; rather, they are contingent on their observers. Military forces depend on space and time, which in turn are contingent on the observing system bringing them into use:

 

The Algebraic element looked to me a pure science, subject to mathematical law, inhuman. It dealt with known variables, fixed conditions, space and time, inorganic things like hills and climates and railways, with mankind in type-masses too great for individual variety, with all artificial aids and the extensions given our faculties by mechanical invention. It was essentially formulable.

Here was a pompous, professorial beginning. My wits, hostile to the abstract, took refuge in Arabia again. Translated into Arabic, the algebraic factor would first take practical account of the area we wished to deliver, and I began idly to calculate how many square miles: sixty: eighty: one hundred: perhaps one hundred and forty thousand square miles. And how would the Turks defend all that? No doubt by a trench line across the bottom, if we came like an army with banners but suppose we were (as we might be) an influence, an idea, a thing intangible, invulnerable, without front or back, drifting about like a gas? Armies were like plants, immobile, firm-rooted, nourished through long stems to the head. We might be a vapour, blowing were we listed. Our kingdoms lay in each man’s mind, and as we wanted nothing material to live on, so we might offer nothing material to the killing. It seemed a regular soldier might be helpless without a target, owning only what he sat on, and subjugating only what, by order, he could poke his rifle at.

Then I figured out how many men they would need to sit on all this ground, to save it from our attack-in-depth, sedition putting up her head in every unoccupied one of those hundred thousand square miles (…) If so, they would need six hundred thousand men to meet the ill-wills of all the Arab peoples, combined with the active hostility of a few zealots (Lawrence 1935/1997: 181-182).

 

Asymmetric warfare is as old as warfare based on military revolutions. They are almost all based on evolutionary reforms on one side of a conflict and the experience of something sudden and revolutionary by the inferior part (Murray & Knox 2001). In his important analysis, The Sling and the Stone, Colonel Thomas Hammes therefore does not define the form of asymmetric warfare as “revolutionary”: it was hardly possible to predict that the technologically superior Western forces would meet a superior form of warfare, which was not about winning tactic battles but about creating fear and a sense of hopelessness among military actors. Inferior forces quickly learn to cope with superior forces – otherwise they lose (Record 2005). Already the Spanish insurgency, the so-called guerrilla or “little war”, imposed a kind of military revolution on Napoleon’s army.

Clausewitz wrote about guerrilla warfare and about asymmetries in warfare, since warfare is always, to different degrees, asymmetric (Thornton 2007; Chaliand 2008). The myth of symmetry was probably morally perfected with warfare of knights, heroised and honoured beyond any real warfare experience and established as a form of communication important to diplomatic affairs. Conventional experiences as the West Front 1914–1918 did certainly also do much to establish the longevity of the myth.

I will neither repeat Clausewitz’ famous phrases on politics and war, the trinity of war nor his accurate analysis of asymmetries in attack, defence, and abstract and real war. The above discussion of Sun Tzu’s conception could very well have been about Clausewitz’ notion of centres of gravity (“Schwerpunkte”) (Echevarria 1995; 2003; 2007). To fight the opponent’s centre of gravity is not only, for a first order observation, to fix a certain target or threshold but to put into the move and disturb the opponent’s second order observation:

 

Alexander, Gustav Adolf, Karl XII, Friedrich der Gro?e hatten ihren Schwerpunkt in ihrem Heer, wäre dies zertrümmert worden, so würden sie ihre Rolle schlecht ausgespielt haben; bei Staaten, die durch innere Parteiungen zerrissen sind, liegt er meistens in der Hauptstadt; bei kleinen Staaten, die sich an mächtige stützen, liegt er im Heer dieser Bundesgenossen; bei Bündnissen liegt er in der Einheit des Interesses; bei Volksbewaffnung in der Person der Hauptführer und in der öffentlichen Meinung. Gegen diese Dinge muss der Stoß gerichtet sein. Hat der Gegner dadurch das Gleichgewicht verloren, so muss ihm keine Zeit gelassen werden, es wieder zu gewinnen; der Stoß muss immer in dieser Richtung fortgesetzt werden, da Ganze nicht gegen einen Teil des Gegners richten (Clausewitz 1832/1952: 874-875).

 

Clausewitz based his theoretical conception of such considerations on Kant’s analysis of forms, and his teacher in methodology was Kant’s assistant Johann Kiesewetter. The distinction form/matter concerns questions of what and where, of who, and of when and how long time, beginning and end. Ever since, form analysis has been used by sociologists as Georg Simmel (1908/1923), Pierre Bourdieu and most elaborated, Niklas Luhmann (2002: chap. II, 2; Baecker 2005). The social bond is also temporal.

In its first material dimension, form analysis is about reducing complexity as to what will matter as place, territory, materials, troop strength, losses, logistics etc. In its second social dimension, it concerns the observation of double contingencies about the conflict between the partners, how the conflict conception is if compromises, alliances and cooperation can be established, what is hatred and enemy perception etc. The third dimension concerns temporality: How will the conflict evolve, is the war one of attrition and exhaustion; what is the speed and the importance of speed, penetration, halt and rest; when does war begin and when does it end? Compared with contract theory, we may describe the material, social and temporal form of contracts. The difference between forms in law and in war is that in law contracts establish binding expectations, while in war they disrupt and destroy expectations. Surprises may follow, not only in the subject of conflict (from territory to water, air, credit of course and as usual, churches and graveyards as usual etc.), but also the dimension of alliances and opponents (networks, private military companies), and the speed and length of wars (minute short; generation long).

Now this triple conception is only the first order observation established by Clausewitz. In his philosophy of war, his abductive use of a reflective judgment (Kant) sends him searching towards a form of war that handles its own form: Wars may be wars about the form of the war, i.e. about the material, social and temporal form of the war. That is why he is occupied not only with tactics but with the strategy of will formation and re-formation of such will formations. At that point he is a real Kantian, searching for a form not of autonomous will formation, but of heteronomous will formation; this form analysis is also behind his conception of floating centres of gravity: The centre of gravity may change as the form of the conflict re-enters as medium and subject for the conflict itself. Hence, even the idea of the form and the form of the idea turns into a conflict dimension (Dobrot 2007; Echevarria 2008).

 

 

IV. The present risk system of temporal bindings

Clausewitz’ point is that the form of conflict about matter might turn into a conflict about temporal dimension and from there on again into logistics and supplies, but often public opinion and morality is as important. The point is that everything that seems safe might be false. Tactical linear warfare is embedded in myths about own power, about calculated use of resources used in an isolated act, implemented in a single or a short series of blows with a decisive victory, final results and clear costs (Watts 1996: chap. 2; Fleming 2004). The problem with these myths is that not only are they false and obsolete, mostly stemming from Napoleonic warfare and inherent in Jomini’s linear conception of warfare (Jomini 1838/1855/2001), but also that such myths of storytelling and imaginary realities go for real among soldiers, public media, movies and entire populations; even officers can be endowed with such myths if the very same officers are central to enormous investments in a military-industrial complex with thousands of jobs, family lives, careers, regional growth and political ambitions (Smith 2005; Record 2010). Those myths have a “second nature” (Hegel) to such a degree that military organisations even continue to develop a “new speak” about abbreviations as if they could professionalise a rationalisation of scientific warfare even in organisational, political and social systems where they were inadequately overexposed as if the military organisations knew exactly what they were talking about. The extreme manifold use and abuse of military acronyms is only the most visible sign of a communication form comparable to Admiral Nelson using a telescope as a technological tool to observe, but what is it worth if the observer observes with eyes that are unable to observe. Telescopes and satellites can be tactically useful. But for strategic purposes translators and interpreters are often more useful.

According to Luhmann’s theory, the first risk of any social communication system is that it observes its environment with its own codes of communication and not with those immanent in the environment. Those codes might be more or less adequate, but foremost, they are established in order to facilitate the system’s communication with itself. It might inform itself about the environment, and even send or receive messages, but it interprets according to its own codes and facilitates those codes reproducing the self-reference of the system communication historically well known since the semantic of “reason of state” established sovereign forms of communication in state building. In the case of ISAF and the US forces entering into Afghanistan penetrating analyses show that the coalition tactics of usual American way of warfare ruled for so long time that it was too late to coordinate another form of counterinsurgency (Irwin 2012; Grissom 2013).

More dramatically, the respected war historian Gabriel Kolko states that “at no time has the United States entered a war aware of the time, material, and tragic human costs it would have to pay or demand of others” (Kolko 2002: 53). I have mentioned the asymmetric losses of the US and Soviet forces in the Second World War. The three wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan suffers from the same casualty ratio (1/50–1/200), not to mention “clean” high tech aerial attacks (drone, missile etc.).

Hence, such coded communication systems suffer from lacking recognition of own weaknesses. Their blind spots were that they did not know themselves and their own lack of capacities. This is the second risk and corresponds to Sun Tzu’s warning against the failure to know oneself. In fact, the military organisation system is also quick to learn from its failure and new counterinsurgency strategies (COIN), and civil-military cooperation (CIMIC) has developed (Patreus 2007; Nagl 2007; Cerami & Boggs 2007; Jalali 2009).

The third risk is that war systems operate wars in a world with very conflicting temporal bindings. Most famously, the asymmetries of speed and slow-down display the conflict between short-term bindings and investments on the one hand and long-term protraction on the other. The “nowhere man” (John Lennon, 1965) is also the “now here” and the “no-where?” whether he is a soldier, partisan, strategist or political observer; inside or outside. The ontological insecurity (Giddens 1984) and existential dissolution in Lennon’s text very well resembles the despair in asymmetric war. Military systems try to control wars through warfare, but they are themselves subject to political control and financial, moral, educational, scientific and all kind of logistic supplies. Therefore Clausewitz can say that “war is nothing else than the continuation of political interaction mediated by other means” (Clausewitz 1832/19952: 888). However, each of those supplying functional and organisation systems operate with very different and often opposed temporal bindings. The temporal horizons for their future transformation into other temporal bindings might be very different. For some, the reality of the mass media, the temporal horizon can be a few days, as their “raison d’être” and code of communication is “news”, and their function is probably to synchronise the society with itself as a present Gesellschaft able to include itself here and now and exclude everything “irrelevant” to that perspective. Political systems have longer temporal bindings, e.g., four years. Financial systems of credit, interest and rent, say seven years. Organisation systems of careers and reforms, say 20 years. Paradigm shifts, a generation of university careers, from 10 to 40 years; education, socialisation some 10-20 years, but childcare and care for grandchildren’s old age, the long perspective of say 100 years. These temporal bindings operate for real; they dissent and cannot establish any consensual complementarities perceived in an objective or absolute harmonious spirit (Hegel). According not only to Luhmann, but also his sociological predecessors Marx, Simmel and Weber, they follow their own self-referential logics.

Even in remote futures, such temporal bindings will probably still oppose each other, their temporal codes might alter a bit, and quite a few organisation sociologists propose that post-bureaucratic network organisations may shorten their temporal bindings from Weberian bureaucratic long-term career planning to short-term “projects” (Boltanski & Chiapello 1999; Rosa 2005). Furthermore, in the future, we will probably still operate conflict perceptions using a complex set of functional, organisational and network interaction systems. Some systems could be more advanced, more developed with more codes and more self-referential internally closed codes (of their own codes); for instance a garbage collection system, which will structurally be still more coupled to for instance legal, economic, transport, aesthetic, political and war systems. In the future, we may observe both garbage and water wars (important to the Palestinian and Syrian/Israelian conflict) as we historically have experienced supply wars way back.

Since the Cold War, the US military organisation system and its followers, allied as well as the political and the mass media system perceived how the war system unipolarised power. However, its conception of power was flawed by misconceptions of power. I can only shortly state the problem here. As is well known from Weber’s conception of domination and force (“Herrschaft”, “Gewalt”), Talcott Parsons’ reconstruction of the concept of power, Bourdieu’s and Foucault’s theoretical and genealogical analyses of power, and Luhmann’s theory of self-referential power, political science has absorbed a simplistic uni-linear zero-sum game conception of one actor’s transformation of will caused by another actor’s behaviour. This reductionist conception originated from Weber and Clausewitz, but neither of them meant anything more than that the initial conception of a will determination ran opposite to a Kantian moral philosophy of will formation. That would never suffice to analyse complex societal power conceptions. “Power” has been a concept historically established in order to let communication systems organise and “empower” themselves and communicate about power (Quillet 1972; Thornhill 2008). The linguistic origins in the Latin verb potere can be expressed as for instance “Macht macht Macht”, “le pouvoir de pouvoir”, “Almighty might might …” etc.

The problem is that the reductionist misconception lead to the extreme false perception of what “power” was able to handle after the Cold War. The US military power never got hand on the metaphysical power of the cold conflict nor of the Soviet power. The power inherent in the risk of a nuclear disaster was an indeed “Almighty” power comparable to Medieval conceptions of God’s Almighty power. From say 1957–1989/1991, Almighty power was all over, in every act, every person’s opinion, on every spot on earth, and all communication was coded as left/right, pro/contra. But its metaphysical and even meta-biological and meta-social power was so penetrating that it even escaped our risk perceptions and reflexive apperception capacities. Afterwards, having escaped the Plato cave of possible disappearance before we could even perceive it, it took time to rediscover the blind spots of that Almighty power. In her book, The Mighty and the Almighty (2007), Madeleine Albright has correctly, with Clinton, observed the subsequent neo-conservative misconceptions. The metaphysical power inherent in the Cold War was indeed difficult to handle in a reflexive thinking that had a hard time to think about long-term possibilities. The World as we knew it could disappear from one moment to the other, and, as Raymond Aron recognised, we could not think about our last thoughts without theological conceptions of souls, almightiness, eternity etc. Now, we may think about that.

Thus, US power thought much too easily that it could penetrate everywhere and learn normal behaviour as even former unipolar proponents admit (Kagan 2007; Ikenberry et al 2009). To follow Gabriel Kolko in his concluding sentences in Another Century of War?: “It [US] cannot. It has failed in the past and it will fail in this century; and attempting to do so will inflict wars and turmoil on many nations as well as on its own people” (Kolko 2002: 150). The disappearance of the Soviet and the dissolution of the Cold War was, according to military observers, if anything, a consequence of the digital revolution and its so-called revolution in military affairs, but also because of its additional financial and military overstretch in Afghanistan. “It was a great victory” according to Bill Casey, the former director of the CIA (Kolko 2002: 50). As Kolko explains, Afghanistan is “the trap” to both Soviet and NATO power, as US financed and trained the Mujaheddin to fight asymmetric war against the Soviet intervention and since paid the multi-doubled bill. But the trap also appears on a second order level.

If we apply Luhmann’s general theory of a risky relation between system and environment (“Umwelt”), we will turn up with the scheme shown in Figure 1. I have identified six risks belonging to the particular military system described in Figure 1 (Harste 2003). The basic observation is the distinction between social systems and environment. The social system communicates above all with itself, and only with this epistemic background it can open its observations to get informed by events in its environment.


Figure 1. The six risks of systems – in general and in particular

General theory about system risks

The military system

1. The risk not to observe the environment

1. The military system cannot observe the environment as it is, in its complexity and own dynamics. The system primarily observes its own narratives and interpretations (whether military analyses or propaganda).

2. The blind spot of the system and its limits to self-correction: It cannot observe that it cannot observe what it cannot observe

 

2. Internal to the military system, there are conflicts between observers and those who make decisions. There are limits to self-corrections of this differentiation.

3. Conflicts between the different temporal horizons of functional systems

3. The military-industrial complex stays committed to inertia of armament and the economy in jobs and investments as well as their programmes and codes of observation

4. Dissent in communication between functional systems: Functional systems do not communicate with each other

4. The war system does not communicate with the political system that addresses itself only to the military organisational hierarchy. Structural couplings, as between electoral groups and lobbyists, do only reinforce miscommunications in other areas.

5. There is no recursively entrance to a system of total vision that morally transcends and visualises everything totally. The whole is less than the sum of its parts.

5. The prevailing military system still observes itself as almighty on the level of the total power that reign conflicts in the years around 1956-1991. The prevailing system did not observe that this metaphysical form of power has escaped its power. Still, for some time, this exaggerated power perception might stay in power and strategists conflict about this.

6. In modern society there are only those systems that operate and no other. All observations and possible reforms only establish meaning by and through the systems.

6. There is no other military superpower than that of the US and its organisation of the military system is structurally coupled to other functionally differentiated subsystems. But the US military system has overstretched its manpower resources and financial supplies.

 

During the Cold War, the long-term future was dissolved by the short-term suspense. Apart from a few lunatic utopians, the future did not exist in the present: not as planning, not as will, not as long-term forecasts, but mostly as myths of revolution. Economic macro models established the so-called “wisdoms” of the future since anyway no view beyond a few years could be taken seriously. Short-term strategic conceptions of war ruled among tacticians, for instance known from John Boyd’s – in military circles – rather famous Observation-, Orientation-, Decision-, Acting-cycle the OODA-cycle, prevailed and dominated the so-called strategies (Osinga 2006). But after the Cold War, the long-term future was reinvented. long-term strategic considerations were reinvented. Asymmetric wars are not about winning battle space, but about not losing in terms of long-term exhaustion and “the strong losses” (Record 2005). The US has no strategic interests in Afghanistan and cannot – in terms of military social cohesion nor financially – afford that war and will retire together with the coalition forces which will establish a major moral-political blow to NATO (Gray 2009a). As the veterans and winter soldiers will remain a burden in the risk structure of future welfare systems for a long time, and as their traumatic experiences will claim further expenditures, the long-term costs of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, though nothing compared to the exhausted populations of those countries, could sufficiently cover the costs of the Iraq “Three Trillion Dollars War” several times (Stiglitz & Bilmes 2008).

 

 

V. Conclusion and paradoxical perspectives

By now we can return to the long-term risk structure and take a look back on the future history of Soviet Russia in the Second World War. If Stiglitz’ conservative estimates of the long-term costs of the Iraq war is used to characterise the Soviet costs in the Second World War according to different criteria, we approach astronomic figures as 150-350 years of Soviet BNP. Payback time is long, long and long, and path dependencies are beyond imagination. If US forces should have fought the Wehrmacht alone, it would only have been able to do so after the invention of the atomic bomb. We also now know why Soviet could not by any means succeed in the complex construction of a modern society. Hannah Arendt is surely right that Stalinism anyway, beforehand, was disastrous to the Soviet people, and the Red Army could have done much better without the horrible cleansings of about 80 percent of the officers in 1937-38. The afterthoughts of the Second World War have not ended yet. On the contrary, future generations sufficiently emancipated will ask questions about their lack of emancipation and about the heavy path dependencies put on their shoulders. If we compare with the repercussions of, probably the best example, the Thirty Years War that by any measures was disastrous to especially the German Empire (Rystad 1994), we can observe a range of temporal bindings stretching well into the late reign of Fredrick the Great more than four generations later, when the reform fever of Enlightenment finally took over from despotically enforced armament policies, fear, asceticism, pessimism and depression.

Today, the temporal bindings in the Middle East endure generations. I have focused on the temporal bindings of functional systems. However, one of the longest and most enduring bindings can be found in the socialisation of generations which apparently remains a much too remote and marginalised part of sociology and political science. Traumatized populations may give birth to terrorists.

The consequence is that the military organisation systems do not respond adequately to the war system, when wars turn radically asymmetric. The tragedy of the so-called “peace dividend” after the Cold War is not only that it was difficult for military organisation systems to decrease their activity levels (also because Russian fascism could turn into a real threat). But that they for almost two decades succeeded to convince that RMA-investments were necessary to a take-off for the West and for an unchallenged monopolized uni-polarity; they were so convincing that when once the financial crisis came because of financial overstretch, it was not possible to make cut downs in those employments sectors. The “peace dividend” turned out to be a “wartime surplus”, and military budgets grew as never before since the Second World War. But the economic and moral disaster is that only few surplus innovations have followed from those last decades of military investments. Internet, mobile phones etc. was invented in the last decades of the Cold War. The World Wars offered extreme diffusion of usable innovations, not only in technology, but also in organisation, politics, morality, law, research etc. (Rogers 1961; Burns & Stalker 1962). Innovation followed because its back was to the wall. This was somewhat, although probably also somewhat falsely, believed to be the case during the Cold War. But the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT is here used as a professional/dilettante abbreviation) has not yet lead to any usable innovations. Anyway, of course technological innovations cannot in any way at all justify war or even increased armaments. Drones, very much used by US Air Force since a decade, were invented after the First World War and do, by the way, not represent a sustainable strategy since they are cheap and easy to copy for about everyone.

As the opposite, peace constructions can be observed as self-referential and self-organising systems. (Harste 2013). We cannot escape how communication systems have evolved and still will evolve. When military systems and the diabolic war system pave the way for peace and federalism, it is because war systems induce and oblige forms of convergent practices. Kant describes how a rather complex network of con-federal, federal and treaty organisations could evolve in the future, and this, still, is probably a quite adequate prospect of what is on the way and will happen in the future. If military competition, trade spirit (“Handelsgeist”) and overloaded credit systems, as Kant thought, will continue to lead world development, then functional differentiation of systems and separation of powers will follow as implied developments, and we will observe convergences between USA, Europe, China, Russia and even Brazil and India. The states do as the other states in about every functionally differentiated detail, hence we may question whatever could be meant by sovereignty in such a world; but anyway freedom, autonomy and will-formation is in any Kantian or post-Kantian conception impossible if not headed by obligations and rule-following.

To such a picture “new wars” (Münkler 2007), civil wars, terrorism and irregular warfare will not change as much as Jürgen Habermas suggested in his 1995 reappraisal of Kant’s theory of roads towards perpetual peace. His 2004-reconstruction of a Kantian road to convergence and cooperation is more probable. Future warfare is about compromising and ruling regular warfare and about how to avoid political utopian or rather strategically dystopian dreams about how to rule in nowhere lands. Even the US national strategies become normal (Korb & Bergman 2007; White House 2010). Yet, this, let us call it Chinese challenge of normal responses will maintain symmetric answers, also to be taken in use in asymmetric wars. The Middle East and Africa will develop still growing numbers of refugees, because of past and present disasters, repressive regimes, and especially scare ressources for populations that may double in a few decades. The West, probably will not be able to admit and to handle its responsibilities for present and past disasters in the Middle East. This entire region is still embedded in the First World War’s “peace to end all peace”, when the Ottoman Empire was dissolved with the Sevres and Lausanne Treatises in 1920 and 1923 (Irwin 2012; Kamolnick 2014; Fromkin 1989).

Another development might be more risky from the point of view of this political, legal, financial, public and moral accountability that is so important to Clausewitz’ dictum about war as a continuation of politics. Several authors point towards the commercialisation of war in the form of private military contractors or PMCs (Singer 2004a; 2004b; 2008; Leander 2004; Rosén 2008a; 2008b). The failure of the United States to intervene in Iraq and Afghanistan has resulted in a steep growth in privatisation and the practice of outsourcing warfare and logistics into private companies (Blackwater; Halliburton etc.). This could display another vision than a Kantian network of federal and confederal governance, NGOs and lex mercantoria (Verschraegen 2010; Teubner & Fischer-Laescano 2007). If the trends continue, a serious futurology enters a paradox. The future we face is as close to the military contractors or condottieri well-known from Machiavelli and the early renaissance (Rogers 1995; Machiavelli 1521/1991) as the internet is in its capacities to synchronise information to the capacities of the Holy Spirit in the high medieval era when it should synchronise interpretations. If the “next society” (Baecker 2008) is a network society, we should carefully study the medieval network, corpus spiritus, in order to find out what forms of communication, power and corporate spirit such a society could display (Quillet 1972; Spruyt 1994; Thornhill 2008; Harste 2009c).

 

 

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Winning the War of the World

Not even prophets like Chris Hedges decode it. Journalists are trained not to. Not even moral philosophers question the system worship masked as ‘the free market”. Freedom means no accountability to human and world life, while competition means competing to externalize all costs onto the lives of citizens and environments. The value driver behind it all is no more questioned than the Almighty. It can do no wrong. But one underlying lock-step of false equations propels this unnamed war on the world through its mutations and metastases:

Rationality = Self-Maximizing Choice

= Always More Money-Value for the Self is Good

= Self-Multiplying Sequences of Ever More Money to the Top as the Ruling Growth System

= All Else is Disposable Means to this Multiplying Pathogenic Growth

 

My 15-year study, The Cancer Stage of Capitalism: From Crisis to Cure diagnoses this ruling value mechanism as cancerous. It is, in short, a deregulated self-multiplication of transnational money sequences accountable to nothing but their own multiplication with no committed life functions. With the Hayek-Reagan-Thatcher crusade to reverse the history of the world into a moronic ‘free market’ and ‘conservative values’, the march was on. Marxists would not engage this Great Reversal on moral grounds because morality was believed to be only ruling class ideology. This left no value ground to stand on. From the transnational victory of corporate world rule from 1991 on, reversals of social states were portrayed as ‘market miracles’ whatever the results for people’s lives. ‘The magic of the market’ was the new world religion, ‘the end of history’. The mass media were  consolidated into one collective corporate organ across cities and borders. Death squads erased community opposition in the South. The academy was and is still defunded to serve the global corporate market and commodity development.

The nations of the world are all ‘restructured’  to be subordinate functions to the supreme moral goal of transforming humanity and the world into ever more private commodities and profits. Society itself s does not exist to this ruling value mechanism. Its logic of growth is totalitarian and malignant to the marrow. More precisely, deregulated global corporate money sequences abolish by treaties and wars all barriers whatever to their free multiplying growth through all that exists whatever the destruction of natural and social life support systems. My work has been to decode this globally life-invading value system. Predictably the diagnosis is taboo to mention in the press, however confirmed by the facts and predictions. No social disorder allows its ruling program to be publicly unmasked. Thus the malignant value code marches on. Alarm bells at the degenerate symptoms increase, but policies of solution only extend the system further and deeper. Life-value economics is as unspeakable as the fatal disorder itself.

 

The Essential First Step in Winning the War of the World is Comprehension of It

The essential first step in winning the war of the world is comprehension of it. Only system analysis can lay bare the underlying value program, but it is avoided. The sciences do not study values and specialize in domains of self-referential meaning. Journalists report facts, spectacles and impressions, but not the underlying values governing them. Philosophers seldom analyse the ruling value system of the societies within they live from social habit and fear. In the age of instant culture, value-system comprehension does not sell. Together these blocks of normalized avoidance make the value code selecting for all the degenerate trends invisible to us. As in immune system failure, the life host fails to recognise the disorder devouring it.

Lacking any unifying framework of comprehension, people are lost. Thus when millions rise in the Occupy Wall Street movement, there is no diagnosis or policy demand. Although Wall Street had indisputably defrauded masses and had failed to its knees broke, no policy shift arose – not even public control of the public money infusing the system cancer, $16 trillion dollars by Senate  count in the U.S. alone – thanks to the heroic Bernie Sanders. Nor was there movement for a needed public mortgage system – even after the private system had perpetrated the biggest fraud in history, indebted tens of millions into ruin and collapsed the economies of the West in irreversible debt. The lost alternative of public banking on which the U.S. revolution was founded, Lincoln won the war of Union, North Dakota has had 100 years of debt-free prosperity, the West itself managed the 1939-45 war and post-war years to unprecedented full employment, and first Japan and now China wins in productive investment – all is  amnesiac in the West.

Fast forward to today, and the underlying system cancer advances on. The financial giants causing the 2008 Crash are bigger and richer in criminal impunity. They speculate with publicly supplied trillions on food and water futures. They control even Rio + 20 as the life-ground catastrophe they finance explodes on one front after another. Transfused with endlessly with more public money to bleed and indebt the world dry, the money-printing system metastasizes further – now occupying the once prosperous social democracies of the European Union with public money bled out of peoples’ lives and life bases to private banks with no limit . Refusing any regulatory limits, converting pensions into more stockmarket feeding troughs, investing nothing as youth unemployment and debt spike ever higher – where does it all end? It ends when public money and human rights stop being fed to the failed system. It ends when commodity cycles of destructive waste are stopped. It ends at the base of the disorder when the 97%-counterfeiting of debt and credit by private financial institutions is publicly controlled.

 

Economic Doctrine Allows Money-Cancer System Free Reign

Neo-economic theory is a pseudo-science. Its defining postulates are unfalsifiable by facts. All organic, social and ecological life requirements are absurdly assumed away. Infinite demand on finite resources is presupposed as sustainable. Mechanical reversibility of everything is taken for granted. Whatever does not fit the doctrine is rejected. Endlessly self-maximizing atomic selves are believed to necessitate the best of all possible worlds by the market’s invisible hand.  

Is this not a fanatic religion? Supra-human laws dictate commands across peoples. No deadly consequences lower certitude in the miracles of the market God. Even when the ruling value mechanism visibly depredates the very life bases of the world, the only reforms are to globalize it further. Corporate-lawyer treaties coined in secret rule as the new laws of nations, while hostile zones are subjected to covert forces sponsoring civil wars, as promised in 2001 – Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Syria Iraq, and now the Ukraine as I write.  All is believed in and pursued as a world crusade, even if fascists lead it. One supreme goal governs underneath bizarre beliefs –  multiplying growth of transnational money-sequences at ever higher velocities and volumes with no life limits tolerated. This is the moral DNA of the ruling value mechanism. In theory, it is expressed well by University of Chicago professor and godfather of the U.S. National Security Council, Leo Strauss, who wrote in his canonical Natural Right and History (p. 60): “limitless capital accumulation” is “a moral duty and perhaps the highest moral duty”.  On the ground, Strauss’s patron, David Rockefeller, expressed the moral-political program more concretely at the turning point in 1991, “A supranational sovereignty of an intellectual elite and bankers is surely preferable to the national auto-determination practiced in past centuries”.  The promises are kept. There is no binding regulation to protect any life carrying capacity on earth from the loot-and-pollute bank money system in the years since.

Many blame capitalism, but unlike classical capitalism this mechanism is not driven by productive force development. It is driven by transnational money-sequence multiplication with no productive standard which despoils more means of life than it produces. It eliminates the working class itself. The ruling idea that the system is peerlessly productive is increasingly contradicted by far more life goods disappearing than are created. Something much more sinister is afoot.  The social and natural life bases by which the human species evolves are reversed and overrun. Yet not even the opposition defines what ultimately counts – humanity’s universal life necessities themselves. The meaning of ‘the economy’ itself – to produce and distribute life goods otherwise in short supply through generational time – is lost. While the very air humanity breathes is going more toxic and acidic, the contradiction to ‘productive growth’ is unseen. As the waters of the world are simultaneously destroyed, the dots are not joined. Even as there are mass extinctions of species, youth without futures, and irreversible debt servitude of the world, all is well if ‘more growth is returning to the system’ which causes all of them. That at the same time the earth’s very soil cover taking tens of millions of years to evolve is simultaneously mined, acidified, salinated, degraded and exhausted as forest and mineral covers are stripped from one continent to the other are not connected into common meaning. The ruling value mechanism devours the life substance of humanity and the earth, but remains assumed as ever ‘more productive’ even by angry unions. 

Well at least, someone might reply, climate warming has been recognized by a blue-ribbon economic panel, Britain’s Stern Review, as “the greatest and widest-ranging market failure ever seen”. This is a step towards rational observation. But even with a UN panel of over-1600 scientists on the case, there is no connection to the other basic life carrying capacities driven towards collapse by the same organizing value mechanism. No secret is more unspoken. So more rights to pollute and profit are instituted, and the climates and hydrological cycles spiral to more deadly extremes. “The world’s poor suffer first and most”, Lord Stern also rightly observes, but this fits the reigning value mechanism. Those without money do not exist.

 

Unmasking the Ruling Code of Value Driving the War on Life  

Let us summarize. Behind every step of the Great Reversal lie failures of knowledge and value understanding: (1) failure to diagnose the regulating value mechanism at work; (2) failure to connect across the domains of life despoliation as predictable from the system’s blind money-sequence multiplication; (3) failure to define or demand any public policies against its feeding on life support systems with public treasure; (4) failure to recognise any life-value principle or the life ground of the economy itself.

This knowledge black-out is understandable once one recognises that the vaunted “knowledge economy” has no criterion from the start. All it means is what can be controlled, sold or manipulated to grow the ruling value mechanism. Pause on that general fact. This is why true knowledge is now so often denied or attacked as “uncompetitive’.  Look for exceptions to this spread of the ruling money-value mechanism into the very capacities of human understanding.  Diagnosis of this disorder is the knowledge most needed, but unspeakable. Who even now recognises that ‘new efficiencies’, ‘reforms’ and ‘cost cutting’ are always attacks on people’s lives, means of life and life functions?  Who connects across the one-way falls of life standards and regulations, public science and testing, agrarian communities and lands, workers’ rights and unions, social infrastructures and protections, and social life security while money demand multiplies out of control at the top? Who names the innermost ruling code driving all – whatever protects or enable human and ecological life is eliminated as a barrier to private money-sequence multiplication. This is the source code of the cancer system. It explains why transnational corporate, equity and bank profits grow to ever new records as the world’s majorities are dispossessed. It explains why social and natural life-carrying capacities are despoiled across continents.  The war on life is built in.

The ideals of “freedom”, “democracy”, and “economic growth” are thus reversed in the name of them. The big lies become so automatic that few notice them– for example as I write, food-stamp slashes reducing 47 million hungry U.S. people below $1.40 a meal and $90 less a month for life necessities “protects the most vulnerable Americans” (President Obama, Jan. 29, 2014). There is a recourse against lies which is as old as the species. Humanity’s deciding evolutionary advantage is that knowledge wins in the end. Above all knowledge evolves through recognition of how life is enabled or disabled by material conditions and social rules. For example, the binding abolition of the most profitable commodity of world trade ever, human slaves, won. Knowledge won again from the 1929 Crash and subsequent World War when the collective life security of peoples evolved by known facts and social policies more in 30 years than in the prior twenty-five centuries.  

The missing link for this long life-and-death struggle is the life value code. We do not know it because we are without a reference body in a vast ocean of self-maximizing money-sequences for which the goods are only what sell for private profit. A life-ground and compass almost emerged after 1945 when peoples recognised how ruling delusions of self-maximizing fanaticism almost destroyed civilisation. Learning from the greatest war and depression in history, societies forged binding international covenants for collective life security and free human development. Universal education, health, and income security infrastructures were publicly formed across societies. But no unifying life-value code underlying them was found. In absence of any sound life base of understanding to re-ground in, the Great Reversal from 1980 on has gone from one extreme of life-blindness to the next with endless lies of better days to come – even as there is ever more joblessness, meaningless employment, deprivation of more majorities, commodity diseases across the globe, debt servitude chaining the futures of peoples, and deepening ecodidal trends advancing one way with the system’s growth. Locked into the ruling frame of thinking, people blame humanity for the catastrophe unfolding even as the demands of the ruling value mechanism have been imposed every step by a secretly negotiated and adjudicated transnational corporate system backed by global armed force, financial sabotage and embargo, and limitless lies. From secret codification by corporate lawyers of treaties overriding constitutions to free looting of human and natural life-carrying capacities across borders, ever more money-sequence ‘investor’ rights are prescribed and multiplied across nations. Those who resist are ‘against competition’ or ‘terrorists’. Reverse projection rules.

An absurd metaphysic is assumed throughout. The economy’s provision of goods through time mutates to ‘laws of supply and demand’ that are fatuous caricatures of both. Demand is never people’s needs or necessity. It is private money demand minted by private banks without the legal tender to back it to indebt people and gamble on their future means of life. ‘Supply’ is not the life means people require to survive and flourish. It is ever more priced commodities for profit promoting more human and ecological ill-being across continents. The supreme moral value of the system is then equated to its opposite as well. Freedom = freedom for private money demand only = in proportion to the amount controlled = ever less freedom for those with less of it = no right to life for those without it.  

When mass uprooting, joblessness and misery follow, more reverse meaning is proclaimed. “Uplifted out of poverty” headlines proliferate over a money-gain equal to the cost of a coffee for subsistence farmers who have been forced into city slums without any means of natural and communal life support left. Peoples are too distracted by competitions for vast prizes to notice. The global struggle for life is displaced by ever more contest spectacles as global mass-marketing sites – the meaning now of ‘sport’.  But behind the perpetually revolving mirrors, the meaning is taboo. People may see “greed of the rich”, but not that greed is the global system’s r driver at every level. “More productivity”   is liked across classes, but who sees that it only means less cost per unit of profitable commodities bringing more life waste and destruction. Workers and left thinkers may no more want to see this than the corporate press.

The meaning of ‘the free market’ itself is reversed. Over centuries it has meant the opposite of the global corporate system – public places of local life goods, all exchanged for legal tender, featuring real foods and crafts, no mass conditioning ads, no debt servitude, no dominance of transnational money-sequences, no throwaway packages and waste, no lobbies controlling government, no invisible head offices pulling puppet strings, and no bribery controlling supply and demand. Yet the free market like the real economy is overwhelmed. There are only more absentee money sequences with no required life functions or accountability to the communities and life conditions they competitively bleed. The enemy is undefined. The common life capital it attacks is unknown. But the life and death choice cannot be made without knowing both.  

 

The Life-Value Turn as the Next Stage of Civilisation

Reality hides in the language of the past. So ‘capitalism’ is blamed by critics when real capital is, in fact, destroyed every step. Journals report ‘global wealth has soared 68% in 10 years’. But life wealth is devoured as fast as the money-sequence system can grow.  Always the underlying life ground  is lost beneath the competitive self-multiplication of money demand invading all that exists. With no life value anchor and compass, the degenerate trends only deepen beneath reference body to recognise them. I have spent most of my life as a professional philosopher on the problem of life value and social value systems. Although the sane may agree life value is what ultimately matters, nothing has been less understood.  People called ‘pro-life’ usurp the woman’s body in the name of fundamentalist religions. Nations absurdly assume that ‘standard of living’ is measured by the private money spent. Animal rights theory has no criterion to tell the life value of a snail from a person. ‘Life sciences’ sacrifice billions of animal lives a year for private money-value gain. ‘New and better technology’ has no life-value standard to decide better from worse.  

Life value is the missing base. But there are as many proxies for life value as there are values. Specialist domains like physiotherapy and medicine recognise life-value in organic functions, but without principled meaning to apply to wider life systems. In general, life value ignorance defines the age. This is how the greatest of all fatal confusions has mutated: that money-sequence growth = life value growth. Just as the multiplying grotesque cells eating the life-host alive are not recognised on the micro level, so too on the social level. Thus tidal bank notes of bets, credit and debt without legal tender drive ‘financialization’ across the planet. They must loot life and life bases to keep growing without inflation as trillions of new dollars are printed without life function. Endless slashing of life goods in wages, benefits, social security, pensions and environmental protections result, as money-demand powers multiply at the top. This is why endless bonuses for financial failure, stripping of the middle classes and the poor, squandering of public wealth on rich corporations – the list can go on – are demanded as U.S.-led wars for resources, lands and corporate markets never stop and taxes on the rich are reversed. All is predictable once the cancer system is diagnosed.  

 

An ultimate question arises. What is the ground of response to this ruling value mechanism which cumulatively plunders human and other life to feed itself?  We know the ultimate ground is life value. But what is life value? To roll thirty years of research now in three UNESCO volumes – the objective standard and measure can be defined in three steps:   

 

(1)           all value whatever is life value,

(2)           good versus bad  equals the extent to which  life is more coherently enabled versus disabled,

(3)           by greater/lesser ranges or capacities of thought, felt being and action through time.

 

Visions of world peace, the classless flourishing of peoples, a planetary ecology in which humanity is its conscious understanding – all such ideals express this underlying life code of value.  But “who decides?” skeptics ask. No-one decides because gains and losses in life capacity are as objective as the laws of biology and medicine. Anything is better or worse by the greater or lesser range of life capacities it enables. This value code is built into evolution itself. It is no more a matter of opinion than people’s life necessities are: that without which life capacities are always reduced. The ruling value mechanism is the polar opposite. It attacks life and life conditions everywhere as ‘externalities’ to its self-multiplying growth. Because this growth is assumed to be life value, however, the greatest value reversal in history goes unseen.

 

The three-step life code of value provides the generic value compass and base which has been missing. It is objective because it is true independent of anyone’s perception of it. It has unlimited validity because there is no exception to it (which is testable by searching for one). It is presupposed in value judgements – as you can observe when these judgements are defended. Life value is also universalizable because all values derive their worth from it. Finally life value is sovereign because it trumps any other value in cases of conflict. All are testable generalizations.

 

But what of measure of more or less life value? Life value is measurable in degrees by greater/lesser capacities of thought, felt being and action shown through time – for example, how much life capacities gain or lose by nourishing versus junk foods. Today the macro trends are in one-way loss of life capacities. Knowledge is the exception. It forms the way stations of life understanding passed onto others and subsequent generations across epochs, the distinguishing life capacity of our species. But even knowledge is threatened by corporate rights against its dissemination at the same time as there is mass propagation of public lies. New electronic communication capacities without corporate control still win the war by the greatest civil community development in history. But the life-and-death fields of invasion by the ruling money-value mechanism are not decoded – the money tides of hit-and-run buying and selling of lands and currencies across the world, free and growing use of ecocidal extraction methods, life-starving hours, wages and no benefits in global dispossession of workers’ century-long gains, one way global growths of disease commodities and lethal arms trading, oil-guzzling and air-polluting noise vehicles of multiplying kinds, big oil and big pharma looting of public lands and health dollars growing business on ill effects, a world-wide pension raid for corporate-stock gains at the life cost of hundreds of millions of people, and most invisibly, full-spectrum assault on humanity’s thinking and feeling sides of living itself – the zombie effect.  

 

Where we might ask do the transnational money-sequences not destructively invade the evolved fields of life of humanity and fellow species? The movement is by exponentially multiplying money-sequences eating away at the margins of every private transaction, public funding, life exchange and substance within and across borders. Consider all the bites every moment across business and exchange sites – before and beyond the ‘carrying trade’ in exploiting lower interest in one country to flood another with the cheaper money advantage, beyond the trillions in derivatives betting every day, beyond the raids on sovereign currencies and bonds without tax or regulation. On the local level, hardly a shop, a buyer, a builder, a home-dweller, anybody who lives today is not invaded by the same financial mechanism with ever more rights to demand at every exchange site with no function while enforcement is paid by the public being stripped by it. The apparently free credit-card system, for example, imposes a 2% charge to the seller for sales at a hidden 33% annual debt-charge rate, before the debt predation of poorer consumers begins. There is no end to the invisible lines of life devouring demands now deeply into higher learning and public health themselves while destroying workforces and companies overnight by hostile takeovers, bid-up mergers, asset strippings, capital flights, and straight-on funding of civil wars and destabilizations from which fire prices and dominant positions are extracted. Ruining societies is the medium of metastases. How else would a cancer system behave? 

 

The world-choosing choice begins with what you buy. Clearly for example eating, selling or supplying junk foods is objectively bad to the measure that it disables human life and produces global epidemics of obesity, heart failure, cancer and diabetes. Yet even economic ‘science’ calls them all ‘goods’ whatever the rising disease effects. Simultaneously violence entertainments flood public airwaves and play-spaces before the same consumers – most avidly the young – with images of humanity being killed, tortured, injured and humiliated. As the sugar-salt-lard concoctions are ladled into bloodstreams and throwaways clog the earth`s circulatory channels at the same time, we begin to see the multiplying destructive occupation of the fields of life and life substance as built into these runaways growths and their ‘goods’. Life capacities at every level are attacked as ‘market freedom’. Only life-value ground and measure can penetrate the disease mechanism none define – to addictively disable human life capacities for more transnational money-sequences through ever more lives from infancy onwards.  Where is there exception to the pattern?  Life-activity-replacing motors and commercial games in multiplying life occupation, endless unneeded and non-recycled conveniences locking into habits of life, political-junkie election images and spectacles where the truth is what sells corporate lines and candidates, and commercial internet and television hooks everywhere in front of which children spend 11 waking hours. Which of any of these is not geared to addict consumers to compulsive consumption against life capacity development? Which does not input toxic wastes into the circulatory flows of ecosystems at the same time? But all is optimal for the ruling economic model for which life and society are reduced to atomic desiring machines propelling more money demand to money controllers as the nature of the growth the official world calls for..  

 

The moving line of the true war of liberation begins with what we are able to control, our own lives. Consider your own life, what you know best.  Every value you enjoy, lose or gain has a bottom line – its life capital, what enables life to reproduce and grow rather than degrade and stagnate through time. We defend it and our health by buying life goods and nothing else. The turning point is as old as physical and cultural evolution. Every human advance is by knowing what enables life from what does not. Collective life advance is transmitting this life-and-death knowledge across selves, space-time and generations. The life value code holds across cultures. But the universal life goods and necessities are not even known. Their meaning is obscured everywhere, but are exactly definable. Life goods are always that without which life capacities decline and die. All real needs are known by this criterion. Every human life suffers and degenerates towards disease and death without breathable and unpolluted air, clean water and waste cycles, nourishing food and drink, protective living space, supportive love, healthcare when needed, a life-coherent environment, symbolic interaction, and meaningful work to perform. All are measurable in sufficiency across cases. (author note: a systematic explanation is available by google of “Universal Human Life Necessities”). Yet all universal human life needs and capacities are attacked, polluted or perverted by the ruling value mechanism in product, process and lobby demand across the world. Yet where are the universal life needs named and  connected against the malignant growth system spreading through ever more nodes?

 

Not zero growth, but zero bad growth is the way. A real economy by definition regulates for these universal life necessities and against toxic junk, and individuals would not buy 99% of corporate commodities if they did. Victory or loss in the war of the world lies in how we live.. So why does anyone buy such commodities? System addiction is how it grows, and knowledge of life goods versus bads is the through-line of the good life and human evolution itself. What deeper motivation could there be? I like others have long lived without corporate-ad television, regular private auto or gas-vehicle use, any junk food or beverage, any throwaway  item, any new fashion or commodity not more life enabling than the old, or business with big private banks –  selecting solely for life goods at the local level. The organizing principle is the spirit of the Tao-te Ching and the free autonomy of the wise. It is as old as the good life. The life-code formula is clear: minimal market demand to enable life capacities to flourish. This value imperative defines transformation to true economy and liberates life wherever it moves.

 

Collective Life Capital as the Common Value Ground and Measure Across Divisions

We know the war of the world can be won. The plague addiction to corporate cigarettes has been conquered by 30-50% of the developed world’s population. This shows how the life code can select against habituated system harms of the most compulsive kind, and everyone live better the more it is done.  At the personal level, it begins with zero-base accounting with money demand only justified by life-enabling gain. Yet for collective life goods, we do not have a principled ground and measure. Collective life capital does not exist in public or expert meaning. Any common life interest or agency at all is excluded unless it promotes profits. The implications are fatal but unseen. Collective provision of the universal human life necessities that have evolved by long social organization and human evolution are blinkered out of the ruling value mechanism. It sees only mechanical ‘growth’ by commodity sales and profits. Everything that makes a society civilised or liveable is blinkered out – common water and sewage systems for all, free movement pathways and life spaces without cost to use, public libraries with unpriced books and films, non-profit healthcare and disease-prevention by public institution, public income security from disemployment, old age and disability, life-protective laws including sufficient minimum wages and environmental regulations, primary to higher education without multiplying debts, and family housing, food and means of life assistance for children without parental money. Yet all these are defunded or eliminated to pay debt-services to private banks and grow business, with the IMF to the Tea Party leading the charge as ‘new efficiencies’ and ‘savings’.

 

From this built-in erasure of common life ground, the hollowing out of collective life goods  proceeds without any feedback correction. Public wealth is privatized at every level to feed corporate money sequences. Thus fed with endless giant tax and subsidy hand-outs and deregulations to invade further, the demands of the ruling value mechanism multiply further. The collective life base to steer by and regulate does not exist. For example, when Amartya Sen titles his Nobel Laureate monograph “Social Choice”, even he can get no further than atomic aggregates of individual preferences. No collective life goods in themselves are conceivable within the market paradigm. When another progressive economist, Elinor Ostrom, wins the Nobel Prize for Economics years later for her book, Governing the Commons: The Evolution and Institution of Collective Action, she is trapped within the same paradigm. No principle of common life interest or agency beyond mutual self advantage can be conceived. “The commons” and “collective action” are posted on the cover, but no civil commons or agency is seen from universal health care to a public bicycle path. Common life bases can no more compute through the ruling prism than the collective actions required to provide them.  

In fact, the underlying problem is ancient. We have lacked a common life-ground since the genocides of first peoples began. It is a very ancient blind spot which has become increasingly fatal with all-powerful technologies of destruction and the deranged money-value code driving them. The eco-genocidal streak goes deep – from the old-testament tribal god command to exterminate all other peoples in Palestine to, millennia later, the first peoples in the New World saying to their modern invaders: “When all the trees have been cut down, when all the animals have been hunted, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money.” Even “life, liberty and freedom” in the US Constitution reduces to the commerce clause and corporate rights by Supreme Court interpretation. Abdication of life responsibility is built into the-system. The Global Market God rules, and the common life interest and its agency do not exist to it.  

How are we to ground beneath this life-blind paradigm whose global mutations threaten evolved life on earth? In the end, the organizing principle crosses the lines of death itself – the life code of value at the collective level. But this common life interest is usurped in its very name. That is why, for example, the young can be killed in masses and arms budgets bankrupt U.S. public sectors  to enrich Big Oil, or people’s homes can be expropriated for private developers as ‘the public interest’ and ‘eminent domain’.  This is the dark side of history, one oppressor rule after another. But the collective life interest is the true bottom line of legitimate governance. The proof is in the conditions of its definition. It must be consistent with the life carrying capacities of all through time. It must be open to life-enabling change. It must go deeper than family, gender, and culture differences. It must include past as well as future generations. It must supersede the ruinous man/nature, economy/environment splits and individual/society duality of interests. It must realize the Three R’s of ecological literacy to be life coherent. It must bridge the past to the present to the future as one process to steer development beyond the holocausts of history. It must embody the economic principles of efficiency, productivity and innovation in life-serving form. It must make all freedom responsible to its life conditions of possibility. It must embed the life bases of all as supreme so it cannot in principle go wrong. 

 

Such a moral code seems impossible. Every demand of the ruling value mechanism is structured against it. Opposing ideologies do not find its common life base. Postmodernism and relativism deny any universal principle of value except the actually ruling one. Political policies are confined to what serves the corporate market system. Issue politics rule fixated on sexual preferences. There is no common life ground recognized or life-value compass to steer by. Collective life capital re-grounds us. It is the life base of the common interest – that without which humanity’s life capacities degrade and die. It is the bridging concept across the ‘the economy-environment’ division as well as cross present and future generations. It is the true meaning of economic necessity and the sole substance of growth and development. In all, collective life capital transcends all divisions by impartial principles that cannot go wrong: (1) a unifying life value regulator enabling all, (2) a generic life-value measure to tell greater from lesser by margins of capacity loss or gain in any case, (3) production of more life value capacity through generational time, (4) cumulative life gain as the organizing goal of the process throughout, (5) the more coherently inclusive in enabling life the better. In this way, the common interest is provided an exact progressive meaning, and collective agency is built into its inner logic of life progression.       

 

Conversely, whatever person, group or system destroys common life capital is objectively evil to the extent of life capacity destruction through time – for example, corporate U.S. oil wars or leisure vehicles destroying natural life. Advancing collective life capital, in contrast, is what “make the world a better place” means. It could be by cures to diseases, more ecological methods, life infrastructure building, advancing knowledge, new ways of seeing, or life-protective laws. All more inclusively enable life without loss and cumulative gain. No real progress is ever made without satisfying this logic of value.  Feeling with across species and tribes, for example, may bind many of us in this room. So too even more so advancing life-coherent knowledge and visual comprehension, as Peter’s films do. The understanding and feeling sides of life keep extending despite death and moral numbing by the ruling value mechanism. Public knowledge via the Internet commons wins against corporate media silencing and propaganda. We see here the underlying struggle across the fields of life. The rising and falling of life capital base and compass can in fact be found in every social policy, decision or movement that goes right or goes wrong. There is no exception. The war of the world is everywhere, and so is our task of life commons awareness and building.

 

This is not hope without substance. The common life interest is already built into our lives over millennia without our knowing it – the ‘civil commons’ of language, collective water sources and sewage, common safety regimes, shared pathways everywhere, community health rules and healing sites, and everyday life-enabling knowledge institutions at every level – all collective life capital formations that keep advancing beneath notice despite and through diseases and wars. Unseen too is that all are more threatened now by the ruling value mechanism than ever before.   The defining general meaning is all social constructs which enable universal access to life goods. This too is no utopian ideal. It is the measure of true development across all cultures before and after our lives – from environmental economy to universal libraries and education to public water and waste cycles to life-serving laws before which all are equal. These are all forms of collective capital in continuous development without loss and cumulative gain but all are attacked bite by bite by the multiplying money-sequence system now out of control.

The collective life capital developments that are needed now are many, but can be crystallized into three system shifts in general:

(1) public banking for credit and investment in individual and collective life capital growth,

(2) ecological quotas for all consumption of non-renewable energies and materials,

(3) citizen income security guaranteed in return for life-enabling hours of public service.

 

Movements of masses to demand them completes knowledge in public action.

 

Under the ruling value mechanism today, in contrast, evolved life on earth is under totalizing attack. 95% of all gains go to 1% with no required life function, while 95% of the world’s life support capacities are pillaged by life-blind money-sequences.. Yet life-value steering is easier than not. Norway for example has led the world in holding onto and advancing its common life capital bases through the system sickness, and emergent Latin America is implicitly building collective life capital deciders from decades of death-squad and foreign money-sequence ruin. Before the Great Reversal, societies everywhere were becoming governed by public policy patterns of similar kinds  – national recovery of control over public owned resources, progressive taxation, public banking and investment, and policy-led elimination of structural depredation of the poor and the environment.  All are methods of collective life capital formation inclusively enabling the lives of individuals across time. “Inclusiveness” is a concept much invoked today, but not with the life capital bases and compass required in the real world.

 

Let us overview the condition we face. Once upon a time in the distant past, capitalist organization under public control mass-produced healthy food, clothing and utensil commodities despite brutally exploitative methods.  There was a long painful taming of it over 200 years, and then the Great Reversal from 1980 on usurped progressive social development at every level possible. Since then, the private transnational money-sequence system has been increasingly deregulated to competitively multiply and override all life carrying capacities as its supreme goal – propelling endless wars, public and public sector debt slavery, mass disemployment and majority dispossession for obscene riches. This is the global cancer system which occupied states subsidize, enforce and grow as fast as they can – stripping the soils and forests, poisoning the waters, disemploying peoples and producing disease-causing junks in ever greater volumes. Re-grounding in common life capital, however, exposes every disorder and directs solution to it – the long missing base and measure of ‘the moral science’. It re-sets evolutionary theory itself in which only selfish gene multiplication counts – the biological correlative of the self-multiplying money mechanism. Self-maximizing game theory dominates both and military doctrine, justice and moral analysis besides. Yet common life capital bases are excluded from all of them as the lost life-ground and reference body of our capsizing planetary condition.  

 

New ‘natural’ and ‘social capital’ categories may seem to assist us here. But they now only repeat the vicious circle. ‘Natural capital’ is what can be exploited for more money. ‘Human capital’ is more future private money-demand for its owner. ‘Social capital’ is lower transaction costs for profit. ‘Physical capital’ follows suit. Life capital remains without a name. Collective life capital does not exist. All must be steered back into conserving and producing life goods rather than destroying them, the ultimate policy imperative of the world. The public authority, policies, subsidies and right to issue sovereign money now lavished upon the life-destructive mutations of private money capital thus end without a shot fired. They are now so dependent on counterfeit money-sequences, treaty edicts, public hand-outs and resources that they cannot go a day without them. The public needs only to reclaim them, not to take a thing. .

 

“Let the Market decide!” all money interests cry. This ruling superstition is more barbaric than any before – essentially, ever more for those with more money to suck the lifeblood of humanity and the earth dry.  Its  ruling delusion is that the best of all possible worlds must follow by the invisible hand. In fact, a deregulated global chaos of private transnational money-sequences exponentially multiply while the world of life capital and goods is cumulatively destroyed. The life capital alternative is self-evident once seen. It grounds in common life capital – life wealth that produces more without loss and new gains for successive generations. Its moral logic is, in fact, the through-line of all human development since language and the cooperative provision of means of life. Unlike the global market of atomically self-maximizing corporations devouring the world for more private profit extraction without end in the delusion that an unseen hand directs all to the best of all possible worlds, collective life capital steers across divisions by an objective and universal life-value base and measure in exact progression which cannot  as life-coherent go wrong. Ecological capital and knowledge capital are its baselines of value compass and coordination across life capital domains, and the unifying principle of all is already implicit in the architecture of modern human thought.

 

All that is lacking is life value, ground and measure. They connect life, the ultimate onto-ethical concept, to capital, the ultimate concept of political economy: and so by transitivity, to law, human rights, sustainability and intergenerational equity. The meaning is clear. Valid law is a collective life capital formation providing the rules to live by that coherently protect and enable life.  Human rights are instituted claims of all to what enables their life capacities to be realised as human. Sustainability is of collective life capital, or it is a fraud. Intergenerational equity is access to collective life capital across generational time without loss, or it is a lie. Throughout we see a missing life base presupposed but not yet conscious or defined. Throughout we see that the ruling money-sequence value mechanism is incompetent to comprehend it. Building without loss and for better life across generations is what is ultimately worthwhile. No-one might deny it, but ignorant usurpation of its meaning is what rules. All universally life-enabling progressions of human evolution and history to now are the result of its implicit understanding. You cannot take a clean breath, meet a child safely, enjoy a drink of water, without their support from the past. The warped streak of epics and histories of power is opposite, but even state mass murderers and Wall Street bankers think that they are improving the world – the primary delusion which received theory rationalizes so that few understand.  

 

The lost life-ground is already implicit in healthy lives. Our organic fitness and powers, our depth and breadth of knowledge acquisition, our abilities to perform productive tasks of needed kinds, and most of all our sustained intent to create more life wealth without loss and cumulative gain are the generic parameters of a life code already built into us as human. More than ever we know the plague is ruling, and “the 1% and the 99%” expresses it. But a real economic law holds beneath opinions and times. Public investment in common life capital capacities is the only allocation that works over time.  We know this from America and Canada before their falls, Germany, Japan, Korea after 1950, and the post-1945 age of social life standards across the world. It has been proven again despite sabotages, coups and financial strangulations in Latin America after 1999. The unseen enemy is borderless money sequences with ever more rights. The missing map is diagnosis of the ruling value cancer. The missing link is the life-capital economy all breathe and move by. The war of the world today is won by knowledge action.   

 

It is the age of forgetting everything,

It is the age of remembering all.

It is the age of competing to death,

It is the age of our coming together.

It is the age of ignorance and falling apart,

It is the age of more knowing more than ever.

It is the age of losing all that lives,

It is the age of finding common life ground.

It is the age of ever more commodity diseases,

It is the age of choosing world life.

It is the age of sleepwalk

to catastrophe,

It is the age of awakening

to shared life meaning.

It is the age when capital destroys the world.

It is the age when life capital wins.

 

 

 

Michel Chossudovsky and Andrew Gavin Marshall (eds.), The Global Economic Crisis / The Great Depression of the XXI Century (Montreal: Global Research Publishers, 2010)

Its outstanding advance is in laying bare what analysis of all stripes has avoided for a long time – the unconstitutional control over credit and currency by private financial institutions whose global debt-control centre, Wall Street, is responsible for the 2008 economic meltdown and the ruin of countless people. The main victims are public sectors and workers’ pension plans across the U.S. and Europe, while the Goldman-Sachs empire on top of Wall Street and the U.S. Treasury has become far wealthier and more monopolist by the collapse. Presidents and Congress, “the best that money can buy”, have poured endless public-debt money into the greatest fraud in history. This book provides a wide-lensed explanation of the greatest-ever transfer of wealth to the rich from governments and citizen majorities and the systematic brutalization and impoverishment of the world on other planes at the same time. In this crisis alone, $12.3 trillions of public dollars to fill the black hole in the U.S. have already been committed with the U.S. Federal Reserve – in fact, a private bank system except for the Chairman – selling government bonds at a frantic pace to keep the ultimate looting system afloat and, along with speculators, inflating food prices at the same time. At the system level as a whole, the book  explains, Wall Street-US Treasury is connected to the U.S. military empire is connected to the IMF is connected to collapses of societies which are connected to the mindless equilibrium models of contemporary ‘economics’.

The DNA of this system is turning money into more money for those who have no need of it, which systematically impoverishes the world’s majority while wasting and destroying life capital at every level. This underlying meta pattern and the progressive alternative to it, however, are rather lost in the trees by the distinguished analysts who include Ellen Brown, Michel Chossudovsky,  John Bellamy Foster, Michael Hudson, Fred Magdoff, AG Marshall, James Petras, Peter Phillips, Peter Dale Scott, and Claudia von Werhof.  All provide expert analyses, but while the ruling system’s deranged effects are trenchantly exposed, the life-blind inner logic propelling them is not.  There is no life-value ground to understand the system’s anti-economy in principle, and no life-coherent alternative of capital and production emerges. Karl Marx himself began Capital with a definition of the commodity which explicitly ruled out life value as an issue, and economics left and right, orthodox and critical have stayed within this life-blind frame before and since. No known economics is based on what all economics is meant to be about – non-wasteful provision of life goods otherwise in short supply. Instead analyses are locked into priced commodities for profit with no principle of life-need – organic or ecological – ever involved.

This book’s analyses identify the disastrous social effects, but the exponential private money circuits which have hollowed out the world are still assumed as “capital” although they are the opposite. They produce no new wealth, but only more financial demand on existing wealth to appropriate and cumulatively depredate it. While these political-economic critiques lay bare the disastrous economic consequences which the sleepwalk of orthodoxy blinkers out, they do not penetrate the deranged meta program at its core. So-called “overproduction”, “over-accumulation” and “stagnation” are much discussed but with no life-grounded meaning to them. While such categories dominate contemporary critical economic theory, they are disconnected from the real economy of life-goods security and provision – exactly what the ruling money-sequence system is destroying through generational time. How can there be “over-production” when most people in the world are increasingly without the means they need to live? How can there be “over accumulation of capital” when the world is in ever more ruinous deficit of natural capital? How can system “stagnation” be a problem when the system’s growth is carcinogenic in nature? The cumulatively threatened ground of all production and distribution – ecological bases and the nature of universal human life needs – are essentially abstracted out.

Yet the book bursts with what standard academic texts and corporate media do not discuss: a massively destructive and collapsing world empire, hair-raising growth rates in inequality and poverty, global narcotics trade linked through the banks, systematic plans to integrate Canada and the U.S., the reason Eliot Spitzer was politically assassinated, the HAARP weather destabiliser, the EU Bolkenstein amendment, Ben Franklin on the repressed reason for the American Revolution, terminator-seed forced on all Iraq agriculture, and an ever more brutal war on the poor by an unaccountable global class dictatorship. Much is explained which has been kept under wraps. The pervasive dumb-down propaganda of the transnational money party destroying society’s life support systems at every level is given no comfort here.

Eight Noble Opinions and the Economic Crisis: Four Literary-philosophical Sketches à la Eduardo Galeano

I.

Until control of the issue of currency and credit is restored to government and recognised as its most conspicuous and sacred responsibility, all talk of the sovereignty of Parliament and of democracy is idle and futile… Once a nation parts with control of its credit, it matters not who makes the nation’s laws… Usury once in control will wreck any nation.

            William Lyon Mackenzie King

Since the real purpose of socialism is precisely to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development, economic science in its present state can throw little light on the socialist society of the future.

      Albert Einstein

Philosophers are often and rightly accused of dealing too much with the past, pondering endlessly upon origins, reasons and causes, and too little with the future, leaving hardly any room to proposals, solutions, or calls to arms. To prove myself capable of the latter kind of activity, and despite the unavoidably old noble opinions quoted above, I shall keep Minerva’s owl nailed to a perch. Though Pythonesque, this little cruelty should delay any backward-looking blathering of mine, which is to come eventually in the other sketches.

After all, we are facing a dramatic twofold crisis, ecological and economic, which even uninfluential public figures like the current UN Secretary and US President have acknowledged and denounced as deadly. As for the title under which I allow myself to do so, I shall be content with declaring myself a professor of philosophy who has studied value for some time, i.e. what is important and what is not. In this pursuit, which I regard as valuable, I have reached a fairly simple conclusion: that which keeps all of us and our descendants alive and well is very, very important indeed. Those who deny it or claim my claim to be unscientific can do so because they are tacitly doing all that is necessary in order to stay alive and well enough to be able to talk a lot of nonsense.

But let us dwell no further on this simple subject, about which I have written around fifteen complicated essays in the past ten years—I need another nail… Worthy of Epicurus, I can offer a tetrapharmakos to today’s world, confident to be received by no-one in useful time, for that seems to be the fate for all who dare criticise—as I am going to do—large-scale private banking, the profit motive as paramount,  the private ownership of strategic resources, deregulation, and the managerial mind. Some may even call me a “socialist”, as though it were a derogatory and disqualifying term, similar to “criminal”, “pervert” or “rascal”. Probably, given the notoriety of Italians and academics, “old pig” or “bore” would be more fitting insults. Politically, however, I would describe myself as “life-grounded”, not “socialist”. Still, I shall not mind and endure the epitaph with grace, even gratefulness. I shall keep company with Claude Henri de Rouvroy, Comte of Saint-Simon, Albert Einstein, and Bertrand Russell. An aristocrat, a physicist, and a logician…

(1)

First, fundamental medication, upon which all else depends: nations should establish, or in most cases re-establish, good public banks. Why? Well, here is something that should have become obvious to anyone who has eyes to see and a fat wallet. As stated by Russian President Vladimir Putin when speaking last year at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the economic crisis that we are witnessing today has destroyed, in about one year, approximately twenty-five years of pecuniary wealth, i.e. the sort of wealth that our intrepid yet “virtual” capitalists were aimed to produce in the first place. Private banks and financial institutions, left to their own devices by prolonged tidal waves of worldwide deregulation, brought themselves down and, with them, much of the world’s “real” economy. Do you remember the real economy? If it goes down, down go also the starving children of unemployed sub-Saharan family fathers. Down into the earth they go, whilst shareholders moan for lost profits and fire a few more people to ease their pain.

Clearly, many private banks cannot do their job unaided. As they were busy concocting mathematically byzantine derivatives and variously vehicled securisation packages in the deregulated shadow of global finance, they forgot about honest bookkeeping, sound reserves, mutual trust, and other basic old-fashioned principles of chronically anachronistic banking. They even forgot about that primitive slave invention, morality. Alas! Such is the genius of the invisible hand free from State direction or, as Icelandic philosopher Mikael Karlsson dubs it, “the invisible brain.” This is not meant to be an insult to anyone, unlike “socialist” or “pervert”. The so-called “Free Market” promoted by “deregulators” has no visible brain, insofar as State-centred social and public planning is regularly rejected as anathema. Still, who came to the rescue of self- (and other-) destructive private banks? The State.

Turned into the banks’ pork-barrel, the State has thrown trillions at the banks in order to keep them afloat—in the Land of the Free, in Great Britain, in Benelux. Was it necessary? No, for the State could have simply taken over the banks. Was it desirable? No, for public banks, still run in communist countries such as China and North Dakota, can spur development, employment, and take far fewer risks than private ones.

It must be emphasised that it is not enough for the State to own the banks; these must be run like public banks i.e. banks for the public good. Some morality is required in the process. Prudently restricted by various strings, these public banks can respond more easily to the needs and aims of actual populations, rather than to the whims and fancies of absentee owners or of their volatile servants, that is to say their bonus-benefitting managers.

What am I saying? Have public banks and run them as such. They must spur real development, not inflate bubbles that transfer wealth from the bottom to the top. Will it hurt the shareholders and wealthier customers of private banks? Certainly. They have already enjoyed the State’s helping hand; it may be time to repay the State with gratitude. Doesn’t anyone remember how to do it? Read history books, study the European Payments Union of the 1950s, ask retired Italian or French bank managers, use your imagination. A few rules of thumb may assist those who lack enough imagination:

(a)  Ban financial and currency speculation, at least within and via public banks: the casino belongs to “competitive” gamblers. Yes, people who used to claim that they would succeed or fail like Promethean heroes… Before they all asked for help to the Great Nanny, of course, lost as they were on their er-rand. And please, let the State never again salvage these hypocrites from their own myopic greed. They are now trying to wash their guilty conscience by returning one hundredth of what they have received from the public purse, whilst re-filling their pockets at the State’s expense, with fierce bearish appetite

(b)  Lubricate the real economy, if forward-looking, so as to launch much-needed public works, create long-term employment, and generate steady streams of income within the nation. Public banks can do so, at low interest rates: they must be profitable, but not at all costs

(c)  Monitor inbound and outbound capital flows, so as to direct investments to socially beneficial areas, and counter tax evasion as well as tax avoidance: far too much has been denied in the past to the very public purse that has then saved the incompetent affluent from themselves. And remember that a stable currency and genuine economic sovereignty can only be secured by abandoning the disastrous freedom of capital flows that has flooded the world with crisis upon crisis since the 1980s: tequila, vodka, whiskey or brennivín, ouzo, they all taste the same

(d)  Secure reserves by compelling the capitals of public bodies, pension and social security savings, and the revenues of public banks to be invested in the public banks themselves. The State must be as free as possible from the bondage and the blackmail of its current masters i.e. foreign direct investment and international bondholders

(e)  Pay bank managers State salaries comparable to those of other leading promoters of public wellbeing—surgeons, health-&-safety inspectors, judges—and avoid attracting the covetous, self-indulging, big-jet and big-penthouse penis-length-comparing “best and brightest” who plunged the world into a massive crisis. Communities need not such beastly best and brittle brightness. Forget them and their barbaric macho ethos—made of turrets of money, performance-enhancing bonuses (as though they alone were working), fee-demanding buddies-consultants, and PR companies using invariably words like “aggressively” and “targets”.

Finally, do not underestimate the fact that it is difficult to deal with cronyism by voting new governments into office. Yet it is much more difficult to do the same thing by waiting for anonymous and short-lived shareholders to reform their servants, who are so free from supervision as to jot down any number they like in the books without anyone finding out. As Adam Smith forewarned us some time ago, the corporation is amongst the least competitive and the most corruptible of human institutions, hence amongst the most damaging to the proper functioning of capitalism.

And inflation? Don’t worry. Nobody talks about it—a sudden silence. After all, common people are no longer able to buy anything, not even on credit. If anything, the real problem to come will be deflation. Besides, more than 90% of the money circulating around the globe is the result of financial leverage by private institutions. Still, old-fashioned, knee-jerk reactions may be reoccurring soon: pensions and salaries must not go up, for the poor must repay the money lost by the rich; States must rein in public expenditures, which they have been doing for thirty years, unless there was a war to be fought; public assets must be privatised, so as to further enrich the incompetent and further weaken their only saviour; cheap money must stop (now), lest we tax the wealthy to give some jobs to the restless youth, etc. By the way, how is it that bonuses for bank managers could always go up? It must be the same people who think that only private firms can be valid multipliers…

It is ironic that, after two decades during which we had been told that the State and, for that matter, its independent Central Banks could not issue money for schools, hospitals, public works and social projects, quite mysteriously they started printing so much money. Sure, they now tell us that we need private banks to keep credit flowing, for credit is the life-blood of the economy. Without it, there shall be no green-spanning across the meadows. And yet, enterprises and households worldwide are still struggling to get the credit that they need. In truth, the selectively generous Central Banks’ cheap money benefits financial speculation, which is where the trouble started in the first place. How could ever a heartless economy pump any actual life-blood?

Indeed, in California, the local government is at risk of being terminated by the refusal of private banks to subscribe local public bonds because “unsafe” i.e. the State of California could go bankrupt. “What a cheek!” my mother would say, and she has dealt with banks for most of her life. The banks refusing to purchase these sunny bonds today are the same banks that were saved by public money yesterday, when it was raining. But there is more.

Were even these banks to provide enterprises, households and public authorities with the credit they need, they would not do it for free, for the common good, or for a little interest; they would do it for profit, and for as much of it as they can get. Thus, things would be so arranged and, sadly enough, they are being so arranged, as to have public money given very prodigally to private banks, so that these banks may give it to the public far less prodigally.

What is more, in order to be worthy of the bailed-out banks’ money:

  • Enterprises have been reducing their workforce to be more “competitive”
  • Households have been returning their homes to banks that had sold highly reliable mortgages towards the purchase of… homes
  • The State has been thinning out its already skinny body in order to be attractive to the banks, which the State has just rescued from themselves

After decades of TINA-like reduction of all that is public, public money is being given to glaringly incompetent private banks so that their losses be made public and their profits, which were always private, recover and be still private. In the process, public money is not used to counter dwindling employment, secure houses, and, say, fund hospitals, schools, university research, care for the elderly and the mentally ill, public gardens, public football fields, archaeological preservation programmes, amelioration of penal institutions, better garbage collection, sanitation and, why not, aid to starving children. How many tramps will get trapped in the revolving doors of the wealthy’s tower?

That the State may have money for the bankrupt banks but not for its own social functions, it is something that defies imagination, morality, and even legal obligations. Many of them ratified the International Covenant on Economics, Social and Cultural Rights, didn’t they?

(2)

Second, life-saving medication: if you skip the middle man, operate good public banks, and have money to use for the common good, then launch a vast programme of green public works. More severe and threatening than the economic crisis itself is the ecological crisis. Ask the United Nations about that. The former crisis threatens fat wallets at the top and starving children at the bottom, yet at different degrees of dangerousness. The latter crisis threatens all equally with death. The grim reaper is the great leveller. Since so much private enterprise has caused the ecological crisis in the first place—the smoky days of the Industrial Revolution—and has continued it in the face of scientific alarm calls as old as Britney Spears, then it is advisable that the State be able and willing to step in and, both by regulation and by direct economic action, reverse the tide.

Forget speculative carbon emission quotas and reduce carbon emissions; ban outright or force rapid conversion of the most obvious forms of life-destructive economic activity; tax the remaining polluting activities and de-tax non- or less-polluting ones; have a major public company undertaking proper refitting of houses on a massive scale so as to make them less energy-consuming; create large public recycling facilities so as to counter illegal dumping of waste at large; found and fund new public research centres for the development of green technologies, free from the yoke of short-term corporate desiderata; ration carbon-based power and use it only for vital and life-enhancing activities…

There are so many tokens of environmentally constructive planning, yet so few that have not been resisted as “too costly”, “too rigid”, “too much for us, who have already done so much”, etc. Were only the people uttering such phrases to consider seriously the fact that they can be so garrulous because the environment is still, barely, able to support them, their bodies, their minds, and the natural and social infrastructures that have allowed them to grow, socialise and, limitedly, mature…

In addition to a life-enabling aim and a counter-cyclical alternative to depressing austerity, politics would also regain its dignity by having a green mission. Strangled by powerful yet incompetent lobbies, and fettered by incompetent yet powerful central banks, politics has been reduced for far too long a time to day-to-day management of production costs in the domestic market and salesmanship in the foreign ones.

(3)

Third, important medication: since some neighbours may not like your policies and your currency, then they might respect your resources. States should increase or secure public control of strategic assets: water, oil, gas, the knowledge of its own population—this knowledge having been fostered by public education, healthcare provision, and cultural activities.

Whether by safeguarding the revenues originating in natural resources that would otherwise enrich few and often foreign shareholders, or by reclaiming a knowledge-based industry that would otherwise be outsourced by corporate giants, the State must secure a steady source of income for itself and for the nation’s economy. This income alone should help democratic governments to respond to their constitutional sovereigns, not to rating agencies and “markets” whose lords regularly reside offshore.

As Norway’s long experience in State-run oil extraction and refining illustrates, it is the one and only “trickle-down” strategy that has produced tangible results for an entire nation. States’ assets are not a factor of market distortion, but a factor of production—and one that can help businesses to grow by providing cheap goods and services, as opposed to the endless and costly bloodsucking of postmodern privatised economies. Ideally, it would be good for States to regain control over money-creating central banks, but there are limits even to one’s dreams.

Incidentally, even the many wars paid by the American public purse to secure control over other nations’ oil, or at least force its trade in US dollars, indicate that the public control of strategic assets is not so foolish an idea. And yes, also that getting bombed may be a risk for the nations pursuing the path recommended hereby. Apart from the landowners, cunning agents and financial moguls who have charged prices well over any real cost of production, for all others there is no such thing as a free lunch—Miltons have always known the devil very well.

(4)

Fourth, integrative medication: since some powers-that-are may not be pleased with your plans, make sure you can deal with them. Create a just fiscal and regulatory framework, which empowers the population at large and weakens the usual lobbies: close tax loopholes and tax breaks for the usual lobbies; withdraw passports and freeze assets of tax fugitives; tax rents (land, inheritances, capital gains) and de-tax hard work, so as to reward merit and distinguish sharply between earned and unearned income; end subsidies, legal privileges (e.g. limited liability) and tax-breaks to private companies, lest they never compete in a truly free market; nationalise the companies that are too big to fail, as John Kenneth Galbraith advised us to do long ago; reclaim research and development grants and whichever other public credit given to private firms leaving the country; confiscate the assets of companies outsourcing to countries with lower labour and environmental standards; put regulatory agencies and grassroots associations on the boards of private and public companies to fight corruption; inspect constantly and reward those inspectors who discover illicit activities.

Taxes matter. Especially when there is an ever-richer tiny elite of super-rich whose fortune comes as a long free lunch over accumulated wealth, whether in property or capital. They hardly ever pay taxes. They pay fewer than most, since someone else paid taxes before them: those who actually earned that property or capital in the first place. In truth, they may quite simply avoid taxes by shoring their assets off to tiny islands or Alpine valleys. The members of this tiny elite are above and beyond the common citizen, whilst their trusted and highly paid managers rarely go to jail when guilty of fraud or cheating. Above-and-beyondness is a transferrable asset too. If and when hijacked by this elite, States are likely to commit suicide by taxing those who work instead. And if the people sweating and bleeding don’t have enough money, then State activities are to be reduced in the name of, say, the Big Society–of the hopeless and of their hopeless resilience.

In brief, internalise costs that have been externalised regularly and mercilessly at the expense of natural and societal well-being; and effectively re-regulate the disastrously de-regulated playground of the free enterprise–especially but not exclusively of the virtual type–whose only known freedom is that which cages every possible aspect of reality into the life-blind logic of profit-making.

Will anyone undergo this cure? History will tell. And history is full of surprises. Who would have ever thought, for example, that little furry animals could outlive giant dinosaurs and become the first species ever capable of destroying the ecological structures that allow them to live!

II.

Speculators may do no harm as bubbles on a steady stream of enterprise. But the position is serious when enterprise becomes the bubble on a whirlpool of speculation.

         John Maynard Keynes

There are two ways of conquering a foreign nation. One is to gain control of its people by force of arms. The other is to gain control of its economy by financial means.

       John Foster Dulles

In the year 2003 I published a review of Value Wars, written by Canada’s leading value theorist John McMurtry. In it I provided an account of the stunning whistle-blowing by World Bank Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz vis-à-vis “deregulation” and “globalisation”, two terms that had been dominating economic and political discourse for some time. Quite unexpectedly, and rather shockingly, a well-connected, mainstream, Nobel-prize-winning economist denounced the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund for implementing over a period of at least twenty years a merciless four-step process of re-colonisation of independent nations by international private capital. This was the sort of suspicion that radicals like pop singer Bono Vox and Polish actor Karol Woitila, better known as Pope John Paul II, had been voicing for a long time. As for John McMurtry, he took due notice, since Stiglitz’s revelation was consistent with his own description of world affairs as directed by the profit-motive of the few versus the vital interests of all others. Preferring truth to originality, I endeavoured to spread this description of world affairs around me. In fact, I had given lectures about it, also in Iceland, before 2003.

Nobody seemed to care, however, at least here in the north. Stiglitz’s views were not widely discussed and even less were they taught at the university level, except by a few—sometimes foreign—eccentrics. McMurtry’s views, hadn’t it been for the same eccentrics, would have been left to gather dust in local libraries. Meanwhile, the policies of deregulation and enthusiastic participation in globalisation were not halted. On the contrary, in the year 2003, the three largest public banks were privatised. Immediately, they started to sail the seas of international speculation, never seen before in Icelandic history. “Carry trades” and “financial leverage” became mantras recited on the first page of all newspapers, whilst the businessmen who were dubbed the “new Vikings” set out to raid foreign banks, enterprises, supermarkets, and football clubs, with money that they did not have. But such is late- (or post-) modern capitalism, or “the Icelandic way of doing business”, as I was told back then. Besides, it would appear that only professional economists are entitled to teach about why they, unlike a mere philosopher like McMurtry, got it so wrong. And there’s so much to learn!

What did Stiglitz’s whistle-blowing describe? And how does it apply to the Icelandic case?

First, the permeability of the nation’s borders to private foreign capital is increased by deregulating capital trade and privatising strategic national assets. Barriers, bottlenecks, and “obsolete” protections are removed, whether material or immaterial. Nobody quite remembers why they were there, and even fewer wonder why. Above all else, money must flow. That’s the consensus, at least in the district of Columbia, which is obviously populated by zealous reformers. Their principles are crystal-clear: “public is bad, private is good.” They believe in “The Free Market”, whatever that may be thought to be; and they believe in it so ardently and unflinchingly that Stiglitz and others refer to them as “market fundamentalists.” They even set complicated rules at roundtables to force dissenting markets to be free. Anyhow, this very first step, which may take some time, is achieved by lubricating slow-moving and slow-thinking local politicians, business leaders, present and future ideologues with adequate amounts of grease. Grease, yes, such as co-opting these people into the international jet- and yacht-set, promising or securing that they will have their own golden toilets, washing their brains at spectacular conferences and exclusive think-tank meetings, baptising their best and brightest first-borns in the sacred founts at the sacred shrines, stirring their simmering jingoistic sentiments, or bribing them straightforwardly—indeed Stiglitz talks of this process as “briberization”.

Secondly, money flows into the country. A bubble ensues; in fact, a cyst. Depending on the country’s economic conditions, the cyst can take different forms, but all of them eventually become painful. In the case of a reasonably well-off country, glittering streams of foreign capital inundate the land, turning modest entrepreneurial fields into a glorious harvest of unprecedented projects. Thus refreshed, the local currency and the local shares pupate into surprisingly light-winged and seemingly fertile young fairies, whose well is said to be full of diamonds. Moreover, the nation’s financial institutions become large fountains that can quench the thirst of anyone who is eager to drink from them, including those who do not need it, but have the misfortune to possess a belly. New buildings spring up like mushrooms in the vast new wetlands, luxury and consumer spending—mostly dependent upon credit—fly high like gleaming droplets out of a geyser’s mouth. So mesmerising is this sight, that more permeability is actively sought.

Then, the cyst bursts. As swiftly as it flew in, so does the money flow out. A rumour, a token of gossip, an unfortunate diplomatic incident, a well-paid expert report, or a speculator’s premeditated signal to his colleagues rapidly reverses the tide. The flood ends. A drought follows. Projects—and buildings—remain unfinished, half-mast, like flags at a funeral. The wombs of local currency and local shares reveal themselves sterile; it was all make-up, they now say, even the wings; you should never trust the books. The well in the garden is dry, and full of stones. Moreover, the fountains are dry too. Around them, stunned, jobless, emaciated peons, indebted up to their eyeballs, drown into whirling sand clutching their plasma TV sets. And their TV heroes have not come to save them, be they crusading party leaders or Viking raiders. Who will?

Nobody is without friends, especially after having become part of the international jet- and yacht-set, educating his own children in the best schools, or attending eye-opening conferences and meetings. Not to mention those friends who have already proven so generous in the past. In truth, after having advised on how to render the country prosperous, they now spare no saliva explaining what can be done in order to rescue it from its unfortunate plight. Thus, money is poured back into the nation. High interest rates are, however, de rigueur. One does not give much to drink too easily to a friend who has already drunk too much. What kind of a friend would he be?

The third step is therefore to make up for the mistakes of the past and repay one’s generous friends. Whatever wealth remains must be scrupulously collected so as to honour the debt—or so as to secure further loans. Debt gives salvation from debt, as gamblers understand so well. Certainly, the wealth of the wealthy is better left untouched: they are the producers, the life-givers, blessed fountainheads of the nation’s wellbeing, which needs them so badly under the burning sun of the new sad day. They must be treated kindly, lest they or their wealth be forced to flee by too rapacious and visible a hand—some have already fled, they whisper. The wealth of the poor—or of the poor-to-be—is a better starting point. After all, they may have little, but there are many of them. Besides, since they have little, they cannot flee as easily as the rich, nor can their wealth flee. And whereas the wealthy can go bankrupt and be resurrected cleansed of their debt, like the imperishable Phoenix, ordinary mortals honour their debts, willingly or not. They may protest, but law and order are the last two public sectors whose resources are cut off, unless successful ways are found to privatise them too.

Finally, as the nation struggles in debt and turmoil, groaning so loudly as to disturb its neighbours, the generous friends come back to help. They cannot remain untouched in the face of so much poverty and violence. They have new “plans”, “strategies” and “packages” to sort things out. Yet, to implement them, national borders must be removed completely and an iron framework of conditions for investment and development must be imposed in order for the nation to become a proud participant in fully liberalised, multinational free trade. For example, its tax environment must be suited to foreign investors—may God bless them—and its population as flexible as unthinking reeds in gushing new brooks, to which they contribute sweat and tears.

By the way, where does Iceland stand now? Probably it stands at the threshold of deciding whether to plunge headlong into step three, with signs of the fourth step already lurking behind the waterfalls harnessed for hydropower.

III.

In all normal civilisations the trader existed and must exist. But in all normal civilisations the trader was the exception; certainly he was never the rule; and most certainly he was never the ruler. The predominance which he has gained in the modern world is the cause of all the disasters of the modern world.

  Gilbert Keith Chesterton

The economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable, and we should face up to that.

  Lawrence “Larry” Summers

It has been long known that Europe catches a cold whenever the United States sneezes. Yet things get even worse when the immune system of rules and restrictions to international capital and currency trade has been removed altogether. Iceland and some young, yet already former, free-market miracles on the Baltic Sea did catch pneumonia this time. Ironic indeed, as they are just another group of market miracles turned into meltdowns—Asia had a few of them in the 1990s. Miracles seem short-lived these past few decades… Though if truth be told, even Lazarus died, after having been brought back to life.

Historians of the future, if there shall be any and if they will be honest, are going to wonder and ponder upon how such intelligent and highly educated “knowledge economies”, capable of the finest mathematical-financial wizardry via the fanciest computer technologies, could bestow upon themselves so much avoidable pain, destroying in the process not solely further scores of planetary life support systems, but also man-made social infrastructures that have generated, depending on the country, genuine welfare for up to three or four generations. These future historians will be at pains to conceive of powerful, well-off, democratically elected representatives who listened to foreign bankers, and not to their own citizens, rushing to implement, whenever they could, multilateral agreements on investment robbing their own cabinets of much of their power.

These future historians will probably fail to empathise with and understand such bizarre people, very much like Voltaire, who could not really explain why our forefathers were willing to slaughter one another over the correct interpretation of the Holy Trinity. After all, they had never seen it (or them?) and Jesus himself had never said anything clear, if anything, about it (or them?). Not to mention the centuries that humankind spent warring, raping, disembowelling, burning, maiming, chaining, flogging and excommunicating one another because of errors of interpretation. Obtuseness is incredibly resilient. And we are not so different today. Check the Athenian cradle of our civilisation if you don’t believe it.

Yes, embodied and expressed by the very same conventional people at the helm of the world’s public and private financial affairs, the wisdom arising from the ashes of the current crisis is astoundingly similar to the one that caused the crisis. Are you indebted? Take on another loan. The private banking sector has betrayed you? Restore it with public money and run it as before. The world’s economy is a gilded cage run on behest of under-taxed oligopolists, tax-evading rentiers and idle absentee owners that squeeze money out of the real economy through banking charges, debt repayments, service fees, monopoly and land rents? Keep it going and call it a “free market”. People are suffering, jobless, and with their tax money siphoned to the creditors that inflated the bubble? Show them tough love and deprive them of further healthcare, education, culture, wages, pensions, childcare, subsidised water and power. Austerity measures turn a crisis into a depression? Implement more of the same measures. The environment is running amok in the so-called free-market environment? The market will fix it; in the meantime, profit will keep being extracted from increased prices in oil, gas, polluting consumer goods, and cancer treatments due to the ecological collapse of the planet. Apparently, the only green rules acceptable are those that transfer further money from the public purse into private pockets. All others are resisted as “costly”, “distorting”, “rigidifying”, “liberticidal”, which may be true—and good. The one and only truly binding international environmental regulation that, so far, has saved us from extinction, preventing excessive UV-irradiation, was a top-down imposition from Montreal.

But life, not to mention a happy and healthy life, has never been the paramount goal of the pursuit of profit. War was and still is a major source of profit, towards which public subsidies to private firms are given generously… Well, they call them “research & development” grants or “national security” strategies… Disease-causing pollution has been mostly an externality that had nothing to do with profit, until pharmaceutical conglomerates found a way to exploit that too. Slaves and their children were most profitable for many, many centuries. Wage slaves… Oops! The flexible working poor and their children are very profitable today too.

And for what must all this wisdom be endured? To give money to people who have money. They have enough, one would believe. They should start communicating it to those who have nothing… little… less. Jesus and Aquinas regarded this as obvious. No, it is not obvious. Money is never enough, especially to those who need yet another fancy dress. But why are these people non-satiable? Why do they complain, lobby and shift electoral allegiance whenever taxation on capital gains is vented? Why do they transfer their fiscal residence to tax havens, whilst benefitting from handouts of the State they are deserting? Why do they outsource productive structures to countries squeezing labour out of turnips, if youngsters are not available? Why do they say that “they have already done enough” whenever life-saving regulation is discussed? Why do they care more about the interest rate they can get, than they care about how their money is invested? Why do they oppose healthcare, old-age pensions, education and culture for all, while they enjoy it for themselves?

It is competition, they answer. There isn’t enough around for all of us, only for the really tough ones, who can then live in much-deserved luxury. But why do people compete for having more for themselves, instead of, say, competing for beauty, generosity, selflessness, equal distribution, full employment? There can be so many different and more constructive competitive aims in life: just look around. Nuns, school teachers, barefoot physicians, rocket scientists, marine biologists, old fishermen, young artists… They may not all dislike some cash, but they do not live for it, or at least they try not to. Since Divine Will is out of fashion, and if you press them long enough, the luxury-deserving competitors are going to tell you, eventually, that we are cruel wolves. How naïve was I! I thought that they were cruel wolves… The world is a cruel place—those ferocious nuns… Nobody waits for those left behind—and they don’t. The market forces accept no barrier. As one of their fairest ideologues so frequently stated, there is no alternative; it is human nature. A hidden philosophical anthropology…

And yet, none less than their poorly understood hero Adam Smith taught us long ago something very different in the opening page of his greatest book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments:

How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it. Of this kind is pity or compassion, the emotion which we feel for the misery of others, when we either see it, or are made to conceive it in a very lively manner. That we often derive sorrow from the sorrow of others, is a matter of fact too obvious to require any instances to prove it; for this sentiment, like all the other original passions of human nature, is by no means confined to the virtuous and humane, though they perhaps may feel it with the most exquisite sensibility. The greatest ruffian, the most hardened violator of the laws of society, is not altogether without it.

This is certainly not the one and only betrayal of Smith by current capitalism. After all, his market was meant to be free from rentiers, who now run the show. Anyhow, why so much mercilessness, then? Have we become worse human beings? Have we lost our humanity? Have we found ways to outcruel the cruel, underfed, superstitious peasants, who, when not breaking skulls in the name of God or King or Country, killed and maimed animals on a farm? Well, as modern and proud of our science-technology as we can be… Well, yes… Overall, subtly, we have. The thinning of solidarity that embraces the whole humankind, which a German-sounding French warmonger studied in depth, is a weaker barrier to the undergoing evil drives.

Or, at least, we have done our best to train impressionable young minds to being ordinarily callous and participating in the most spectacularly life-destructive economic system ever seen on Earth—a system that, as denounced by the scientific community for the past thirty years, has turned the survival of our species into a big question mark. Much is done in this direction, routinely, thousands of times a day, so that our youth may become more beastly than ruffians and more abrasive than criminals. But how? Simple. We (mis-)educate them, and we have tools for (mis-)education that no emperor or church of old has ever owned or mastered. Only a couple of totalitarian dictators gave it a go or two in the blood-drenched century of Charlie Chaplin and Woody Allen… But how, where? Open your eyes. Watch.

Our TVs and media are replete with commercials. They are meant to accompany you from the cradle to the grave. Selectively and scientifically trained marketing strategists, creative psychologists and advertising gurus are paid to induce desires in the subtlest and most effective manners, starting with our children’s delicate souls. These desires will blossom into poisonous “new needs”, as these “experts” call them. These weed-like flowers being sheer wants perceived as genuine individual needs, the delayed satisfaction of which is to generate a sense of inadequacy, anguish, frustration, isolation, or envy towards those who do satisfy them. And these are the only flowers that must grow; hence they are everywhere. Children no longer need an imagination. Marketing strategists make sure that the only pictures that children can have in their mind are those that sell. They speak already like TVs: why shouldn’t they replicate TVs in their brain? Eventually, as grown-ups, these children will be branded, like slaves of old, or cattle still is today. Perhaps, like the slaves of old, they will enjoy freedom one day a year. Or maybe all the days will have been taken away by marketing strategists, who wish to celebrate the sales of Valentine’s Day, Mother’s day, Father’s Day, Marketing Strategist’s Day…

You don’t believe me? Go to any primary school and you will meet hordes of little creatures dressed according to the latest fashion code, or pestering their parents to be so dressed. Those who are not there, because they are busy sewing the actual fashion items, may well try to rob them from the horde one day. These little brats! They want and want and want scores of items that they do not need, the possession of which, moreover, does not grant happiness at all, despite the glittering promises. Were it so, no new purchase would be “needed”, and that would be bad for business. Certainly, one may learn to control such a powerful impetus, but it takes years of self-re-training. Not even hunger and utter destitution placate it. Not even the full awareness of not being able to afford those consumer goods. Nothing will ever erase the deep-rooted psychological mechanisms implanted into our souls when we were little. Is this enough? No, there is more to it.

Our TVs and media are replete with role models—and the medium is the message. Rich and wanna-be-rich people of all sorts shine even when performing the most ordinary activities, such as shaving or concealing their stench with perfume. From slutty heiresses to pimping rappers, from cosmetically mummified bad actors to ignorant footballers, from divorce-addict hair-died tycoons to soon-to-be-millionaires answering questions or showing their private parts in public—these are the saints and blessed inspirers of the modern secular creed. They may be confessing their own sins to a TV host, confident that their words will be forgotten. What remains, instead, is the scent of money that perspires through their placenta-creamed pores. A powerful aura.

The same aura surrounding the action hero, who fights, kills and kidnaps for the sake of justice, peace and freedom…  There he comes! Dressed in an Armani suit, he jumps out of a Mercedes, talking briefly on his Nokia. He checks his Rolex, then gets into a Ferrari and drives to Chez Maxim’s. There, he meets a beautiful young lady, whose Valentino dress will soon be ripped at the Hilton’s. And there he’ll kick the guts out of the villain, smashing his Patek Philippe and ruining forever his Dolce & Gabbana jacket… Justice is served. Peace is conquered. Freedom triumphs. That’s the message, isn’t it? And if not much of the beautiful young lady is shown, then children can watch too.

Poor people are less frequently shown. They don’t sell as well as our hero. Moreover, they don’t buy. There exist notable exceptions, though. Poor men and poor women are sometimes on display, like animals at the zoo, to be observed, mocked and, on Christmas day, to feel sorry for. Other times, they are actively humiliated on screen by policemen, judges and other masters of entertainment. Crime, ignorance, savagery: what a show! Once again, as long as it sells, keep it up. There, in the spotlight, for less than fifteen minutes and amidst commercial ads, the poor can shine like greasy piglets on spits, or like the tin their most unfortunate children collect in garbage dumps.

What is the result of this Blendungsroman? Go to any secondary school and you will meet cell-phone-talking walking replicas of the rich, parading themselves in the corridors. Give them an opportunity to put down a “loser”, and they will savour it like their own parents, whose SUVs and triple-mortgaged houses are punches into the Joneses’ stomachs. Even poverty is a risk worth taking to cast the rich’s aura.

The silent walking replicas of the poor are usually in other schools, unless they have dropped out of school already to find a job that will secure their poverty. Some are hiding in the toilets. They are poor and they know it. They look poor. It is not only their clothes that say it, but their bodies. They have bad teeth, small tits, big noses. Their parents have wrinkles. They can’t get fixed, like those people on TV, or their replicas and the replicas’ parents. To cope with this obvious inferiority, they breathe in. In Italy, they sniff cocaine to think that they too are rich. In Rumania, they sniff glue to think that they too are sniffing cocaine.

Either way, none of these kids must worry about being politically active. It is too dangerous. Yes, youngsters still remember how to bark: they haven’t been beaten up into silent submission, yet. Some will have to be locked up, so that trade be free. Don’t give them any wrong ideas. That’s socialism—or any bad “ism” of the day. Don’t give them hope. That’s socialism. Politics is best left to corporate employees, who siphon public money to their shareholders and, God be gracious, to their own bank accounts. That’s the free market. These employees alone are capable of understanding why unemployment is natural and inequality good. They’ve got talent. They’ve got the degrees that get you good jobs. Therefore, unless they are corporate employees, not even the kids’ parents have to worry about politics. Like these happy few, the kids’ parents can take happy pills too or, if pills are too expensive, drink themselves out blind.

Drunk, the poor parents can cope better with the trauma of seeing their children die. Each country has its own special way of sending new winged angels to God. In high-tech market-miracle India, they die of cholera in open-air sewers, where they were looking for edible scraps. In coup-idity-ruled Honduras they die poisoned by pesticides in a free-market plantation, so that the bananas people eat in Canada be not too pricy. In revolutionary France they die stabbed by an angry pusher in a dark alley, but they were not really French after all. In peace-loving America, they die fighting for human rights in another country, since their own country denied them a future. How was it possible? They had trained them at killing people since they were three, on a stolen X-box… Maybe they should have trained them at doing something else, but there is no videogame that teaches you how to free a political party from corporate diktats or join a trade union… Is this enough? No, there is more.

Our TVs and media are replete with experts telling us that greed is good. They are the most interviewed and consulted members of the intelligentsia of our community. Sometimes they even become our presidents, ministers, mayors and godfathers. Go to any university. Some of them feed on tenure and enjoy healthcare and pension benefits, whilst arguing that you shouldn’t have them. You will discover that there is an entire discipline built upon that notion.

If truth be told, a few of its adherents do remind their students, on leap years, that the profit-motive of the homunculus œconomicus is just one drive amongst many. This drive becomes one and insatiable for the sake of toying with mathematical formulae, not for the sake of describing reality, which never works quite like the models do. Facts can be so obstinate. Theory is much more flexible. Occasionally, on elective days, these beautiful souls mention even mysterious, metaphysical, unscientific words: “ethics”, “morality”, “duty”, “respect”, “goodness”, “virtue”, “governance”, “responsibility”… They don’t fully grasp them, though, for they slip out of books and balance sheets. Sometimes they even get their students to learn some history, thus half-stuttering what sort of devastation this homunculus and its leit-motive have caused. Still, these are exceptions, divagations, and the students, between the end of their studies and the beginning of their careers, know it very well.

Our MBAs and the many branches of science and engineering dependent upon private sponsors and future corporate employers are the convent-barracks where our crusading novices, more or less geeky and asocial, are told that only numbers really matter. The fate of a paterfamilias and of his family does not. They are told that persons are not persons: they are costs, opportunities, capital, markets… They are all sorts of things that can be converted into monetary units—numbers, in fact—though most definitively they are not persons. In fact, such things, be they free individuals or free communities, can turn into dependent variables. And if some of these things are laid off by a firm that rationalises an otherwise irrational workplace—what a madness it must have been!—then it may be time to invest money in that firm. If the right numbers go up, then things are just as they should be. If they don’t, they can be massaged. If they still don’t, they can be fixed. If they still refuse to go up, then a couple of hospitals plus half a university, as long as they are public, can be sacrificed to a return to growth.

In the streamlined world there can be recoveries without jobs, business opportunities in famines, increased flexibility via insecurity of employment and future bread, full employment at the natural unemployment rate, goods that do a lot of bad things, and market miracles that melt into destitution because of something bad but the pious market. What lesson is learnt? Everything in the world exists in order to maximise the money of investors and/or their managers. Even old, wrinkly countries must be attractive to such people or face their own demise. Make the rich richer. That is the one and paramount commandment. Such merciless homunculi are no fiction; they are science-fiction: they drive around in Dalek machines. Indeed, to those who do not simply rob and run, being merciless is a fiduciary duty. Apart from this, everything else goes.

Yes, everything else, unless you get caught and cannot pay the best lawyers—what a shame. Business words of the business world tell no lies: lack of scruples is “determination”, mercilessness is “having balls”, inhumanity is “being committed”, callousness is “professionalism”, locust-like behaviour is a “hedging”, stealing traditional knowledge is a “patent”, depriving people of knowledge is a “copyright”, poisoning the destitute is “mutually beneficial trade”, taking public-sector resources to guarantee private profits is “hard work”, threatening employees with unemployment is “personnel management”, gambling is “trading futures” and other cabalistic formulae “over the counter”, oligopolies are “economies of scale” and cartels are “free markets”, sending knowingly drivers to die because of a few faulty cars is a “cost-saving measure”, sending knowingly air passengers to die because of reduced safety controls is a “cost-saving measure”, corruption of inspectors is a “cost-saving measure”, corruption of politicians is “lobbying”, and rent-exacting parasites are “the productive class”. The list goes on and on. Read the news and enjoy the game: destroying peoples is “restructuring”, keeping them poor is “preventing inflation”, colonising a nation is “opening markets”, withdrawing rights is “reform”… By the end of it, you almost believe what they say.

Has any student still doubts or feels uneasy? Then he is told that all is well, for all ends well. Yes, those things that we unscientifically call “people” may seem to be suffering, poor things. And the others, crony criminals who have nothing to do with the free market, are the exception, though the rule just wants to be like them. After all, those exceptional exceptions were on the cover of glossy magazines like Capital, the Cosmopolitan of people who “have balls”… Don’t worry. Everything will be alright. Just wait—that’s what my old priest and the party commissar would say… The invisible hand of the self-regulating market is going to look after all of them. Free from State intervention and from trade unions—for only capitals may associate and go on strike if they don’t like a government—the invisible hand is to generate endless bounty for all—the invisible bounty? Most of the world’s trade is virtual, after all…

Such is orthodoxy today, for which even a Pope’s distribution chests are heresy, utter hilaireous bellocs… If you claim that small is beautiful, the giants get angry: go make your shoes elsewhere! Today, you no longer need to be red to be a danger. It is enough to be as white as a dove. The Market God likes hawks, whose endless preying is the source of all that is good. His transparent hand turns into water all the blood that these hawks spill. As to the tallest shrines, they are no longer erected for the glory of the Sun, Athena or Almighty God, but for the likes of Morgan Stanley. Behind all this, a hidden theology… Maybe Divine Will should be in fashion again.

IV.

The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.

   Franklin Delano Roosevelt

 To avoid glaring inequality or widespread misery I am ready to sacrifice some, or all, of my freedom… I should be guilt-stricken, and rightly so, if I were not.

Isaiah Berlin

 

The child empathises with the dying bird. The adult empathises with the starving child. The nurse attempts to ease the pain of the terminal patient. The teacher smiles patiently at the pupils playing in the courtyard. The schoolmaster hides his unease as the ancient oak is felled. The gardener watches wildlife documentaries on the TV. The mayor goes on holyday to his cottage on the lakeside. None of them likes to be ill. All of them fear death. All of them experienced curiosity or elation as they held a newborn creature in their arms. All of them have been compassionate at some point. All religions have praised divinity as the fountainhead of all that is. Whether physically, emotionally or mentally, all of the above have exemplified the ultimate source of all values.

Years of research about value have led me to conclude that nothing is more valuable than that which allows value itself to emerge: life. Without life—biological, emotional and mental—there can be no value, whether ethical, aesthetic, economic or political. Those that deem life’s value instrumental acknowledge its value nevertheless. Besides, none of them seems likely to prefer beauty or other values to eating every day and being in good health: take away their bread, and they will sell their dearest painting… Of all crazy philosophers ever alive, only a handful rejected life as a value and one alone behaved in a way that denounced actual indifference to life: Pyrrho the sceptic, whom his friends prevented from walking under carts and falling off cliffs. One. As for the few who told us that life is a valley of tears and an endless stream of horrors, none of them ever stopped eating, drinking, and philosophising, i.e. one of the activities that they clearly enjoyed the most. But what can the lives of crazy philosophers teach us about economic matters?

As usual, philosophy can reveal the heart of an issue. If life is so crucial, indeed the source of all values, then it can be inferred that a successful economic system provides universal access to vital goods across generations. Economic efficiency means that the lives of all benefit from it and nothing is spoiled to the point that those who come after us may not benefit too: resources are left for others the way in which we would like to have them left for us, if not better. Improvement is a possibility. An economic system that achieves its vital aims more effectively, thus opening the door to a richer fulfilment of planetary and human potential, is yet a better system. On the contrary, an economic system that does not fulfil its vital aims, either because access is limited to few or some, past or present, or because it delivers goods that are deadly, detrimental to life or irrelevant to life needs, whilst leaving some of these needs unanswered, is a failure.

The current economic system is a failure. As repeatedly denounced by the international scientific community at its highest and most representative levels, human civilisation has become for the first time in its history a threat to the planetary environment that allows for humanity’s own existence. There is no aspect of the Earth’s environment that has not been depleted in the three centuries that have seen the affirmation of capitalism worldwide: the biosphere-protecting Ozone-layer, breathable-air-producing and reproducing pluvial forests and oceanic life-systems, self-regenerating water aquifers, nourishing-food-producing arable spaces, and natural-equilibrium-maintaining and science- and technology-inspiring biodiversity. The continuation of life as we know and enjoy it is at risk.

Much has already been destroyed beyond repair, to the point that bioengineering is being discussed as a tool to cope with the most tragic consequences of “development” awaiting us. Emblematically, one nation of the world is planning already the purchase of land in India in order to transfer its entire population there upon the day when the ocean will have swallowed their ancestral islands. And yet, in the face of current profit losses, all this is treated as secondary. Just read the news and you shall see that the focus of collective action is upon a “return to growth”, as though the sad and deadly harvest of greed were not still vivid before our eyes.

What is more, the mantra of competition goes on unchallenged. But competition for what? To generate profits? And why? Why should rich people become richer? There’s more than enough to go around. Even more ludicrous is the idea that schools, healthcare, free time, old-age security, peace of mind and all those gains for life that people acquired in decades of blood and humanity should be dismantled so that competition be won. By whom? What sort of victory is the augmentation of the money heaps of people who already have it, whilst the quality of life and the living conditions of most are worsened?

F.D. Roosevelt told us seventy years ago that greed is not only bad morals, it is also bad business. When business’ sole purpose is to make as much money as possible as soon as possible, then the somewhat constructive role that business may play in society disappears altogether. It doesn’t matter if any private business actually makes a lot more money, gets bigger internationally or pervades even more diffusely the lives of millions: the standards of evaluation and appreciation for the constructive role of private business belong to the sphere of public wellbeing. And public wellbeing cares about long-term indicators: happy workers retiring in good health, healthy mothers making plans for their children’s education, educated youngsters looking forward to playing on the beach with their grandchildren. If this horizon disappears, then you’d better start to worry. Private business is known to have played far too often a destructive role, as everything, the long-term survival of private business included, can be sacrificed to man-eating Baal.

Short-termism, combined with the relentless pursuit of profit, characterised roaming Goths, wooden-legged pirates and cigar-loving gangsters. The entrepreneur, the glorious creation of modern capitalism, has always been expected to be something different. Restrained by family and personal pride, religious morals, annual dividends, trade unions and other 20th-century legal suasions, his horizon has been defined as a somewhat distant future, his playground the real world of flesh-and-bone persons like him, his reward the admiration of affluent or fully employed fellow citizens that participate in and benefit from his endeavours.

As long as alternative economic systems were either widely discussed or experimented with, the entrepreneur had to justify his existence by creating some tangible, albeit sometimes debatable, token of social worth, such as employment, community networks, or nice new gadgets. Only the speculator, hardly distinguishable from fraudsters, trotted relentlessly upon a different path. But speculators were said to be the exception, not the rule…

Yet the day came when Gordon Gekko and his friends got to control more than three quarters of what is still incautiously dubbed “world trade”. The decades of my life, infested by Maggies, yuppies and wall-less oligarchs, launched “The Financial Revolution”, a pivotal process in contemporary history that no historian has yet so baptised: let this label be my grand legacy to international scholarship.

An equally bombastic historian used this term in the 1960s to describe the emergence of public creditors in 18th-century England… It doesn’t quite compare, I’m sorry. We’ve just witnessed thirty long years of national barriers coming down—and how long it took for both nations and their barriers to come into existence!—so as to allow for a gigantic flood of miraculously leveraged liquidity springing out of… books and vast pools of capital formed by privatising public money in all of its shapes, squeezing profit from de-unionised workforces threatened by—what a coincidence!—unbarred international competition, and such ingenious tokens of financial engineering that only professional mathematicians could make sense of them. All this money travelling much faster than any good or service ever before: computers have replaced the pens and ink of old. The world of Gekko and other reptilian inhabitants of city hedges and wall streets is indeed a very bizarre world.

Originally, these creatures were meant to trade pieces of paper granting a share of the profits made by fairly large private companies. It is something that had begun in Genoa a long time ago and that their trading partners, the Dutch, had brought to the North Sea around the year 1600, sailing thence to the New World, another Genoese discovery… But a share of the profits may be less remunerative than profiting from shares. Gekko’s forefathers started betting on rises and falls in the price of those pieces of paper, sometimes causing them by moving massive amounts of money or dropping a few words into the nearest ear…

In the days of poor old Nixon, in the Big Apple, they traded about 20 million stocks every day. Today they trade 1600 million or so—and there’s more fruit in the basket than just a big apple. Also, as of Nixon’s time, they started playing games with the world’s currencies, namely the money with which common people buy their bread. Again, they started slowly, about 20 billion USD a day, but now, after “freeing” trade worldwide, they are up to 2 trillion. It is by far the largest chunk of trade in the world and it has one severe drawback: it makes the form of trade that normal people think of when they hear the world “trade”—buying and selling bananas, timber, cars, computers, etc.—much more complicated. Not to mention buying bread. But the reptiles don’t worry: they own the future. They buy and sell it.

Actually, they take bets—only a tiny fraction of trade in existing “futures” fulfils the official excuse that these are ways to hedge against risks on purchases of actual goods—on nearly anything that can be grown, mined or brought into existence, influencing the price of all sorts of goods, including the bread that common people wish to buy. Still, since even this casino was not big enough, the reptiles added onto the table the so-called “derivatives”, which are pieces of paper whose value is derived—hence the name—from something else, whether another piece of paper or a price arising from combining a few of them. Anything goes. Also because you can buy or sell these pieces of paper any way you like—over the counter, under the counter, beside the counter… You can actually buy and sell the option to buy or sell them, for short-termism can be so short that, to spare time, it allows certain persons to sell what they don’t have.

Is this too complicated? Too silly? Well, today, around the globe, there’s an ocean of derivatives, for a value of about 500 trillion USD. It is a lot of money… Strangely enough, however, the reptiles that invented them also felt the need to insure themselves against any risk that may ensue from trading in… derivative paper. So they started buying “credit default swaps” from insurance companies and let their friends and colleagues, the bankers, pile them up as assets, claiming that these “swaps” were as sound and good as gold itself. Probably they would have started taking major bets on them as well, had the entire mathematically engineered and economic-science-backed system failed from collapsing under its own virtual weight. Too much genius had been spent for the business world to bear. Under so much talent and foresight, the reptiles’ joints felt suddenly empty of market force. Amazingly, the invisible hand was nowhere to be seen. Fortunately, the State ran to their rescue and gave them a visible, reinvigorating bailout with other people’s money, lest the bank’s own mouthpiece uttered “BBB” or some other silly rating. And that’s where we stand today. The real suffering surrounding us, from the unemployed Spanish worker to the starving Senegalese farmer, is due to a virtual catastrophe. And if the starving Senegalese farmer tries to move to Spain, he shall meet a wall and possibly drown in the sea, while frustrated unemployed Spaniards, trained by modern corporate journalists, will hate guts those that didn’t. Strangely enough, these migrants are to be loathed, not the freely migrating virtual capital that cannibalised both Senegal and Spain.

Like all human endeavours, business can be either good or bad. To know what makes it good or bad, what is nobler than money, means to know how to measure real growth, real development, real utility, real goodness. Who, though, after Pareto’s Protagorean reinvention of economics, is allowed to know what real value is? Certainly not serious economists, who can only acknowledge preferences… The Pope may know, perhaps. He claims to be right like no-one else and that’s maybe why so many people cannot stand him: who likes an old moralising grandpa, in an age in which we are told by our media gurus to give into any juvenile urge of ours that can make them a buck?

Or maybe any living creature knows: they’re all God’s creatures, after all. Yes, even by watching slugs and bugs we can evince something important, which degree-honoured geeks may have neglected while sitting in front of an inanimate computer screen. They are not forgivable, though: no matter how much you masturbate, avatars are not human beings. Here comes the slap; Zen masters should love it: entomology can rescue economics from its value slumber. Vade ad formicam. What a twist! Or maybe not. It all started with Mandeville’s bees, to be honest…

Let me be brief and clear on this. What consistent pattern of behaviour can be observed amongst slugs and bugs? Watch them in your garden, if you have one. Or go and watch them in a public garden, if it hasn’t been sold to developers. As small and allegedly stupid as they are believed to be, all invertebrates try to do their best to survive at all times. And when they take risks, it is because they either look for food, shelter, safety, or attempt to ensure the survival of their species. As economically irrational as animals can be, these small beings can even sacrifice individual utility—one’s safety, food or head—for the sake of keeping, indeed at times just making, their young. Future generations matter, to them. Some seem even to care for their fellows in the anthill, hive or nest in which they live… Life, in truth, matters to living creatures, and yet life can be sacrificed, for more life may thus ensue. The only higher value that life acknowledges is, in fact, life.

And yet, in today’s world, money is still prioritised over life. Listen to our leaders, and with the exception of a pair of Caribbean politicians that corporate media describe regularly as lunatics, what matters most to most who matter most is to keep “growth” going. Capitalism or the “free market”, as they like labelling it despite its dictatorial logic, must keep generating profit, free from State intervention, which does not serve that one paramount end. All this is held, despite the well-known biocide implications of such a process. Yes, capitalism is responsible for the ecological degradation that we are living in with, and leaving to, our children. Has nobody really put together the Industrial Revolution and the collapse of the planet’s life support systems?

I shall help you: the causal link between the pursuit of profit and environmental degradation becomes visible every time environmental regulation is resisted as “too costly” or by-passed by illicit behaviour or by off-sourcing to countries that have actually little such regulation or none at all. Unless business is forced forcefully to comply with existing regulation, which is much more difficult in a barrier-free worldwide market, common praxes show that the primacy of profit persists over, say, not killing other people by dumping toxic waste onto them.

Indeed, in economics, it is methodologically impossible to address the environmental preconditions that make life possible and can secure its long-term flourishing. To the eyes of the economic observer, bread is as much and legitimately a “good” as nuclear waste, as long as a lawful market exists for both of them. It is only through direct State intervention that a bad “good” becomes officially what it is: a bad—and that is just the first step, for enforcement is yet to be secured from lobbying and bribes.

States alone can ban slavery, organ trafficking, child labour, exploitation, air pollution or aquifer poisoning as the bads they are. States alone can make the real economy and earned income primary, and the virtual economy and unearned income secondary. There is nothing intrinsic to market mechanisms leading to that and we have known it for nearly two hundreds of years. Read Charles Dickens’ subversive novels to get a clearly bleak picture. Also, ecosystems are “externalities”, as the language of economics reveals, at least as long as they are not turned into a cost by environmental legislation, into a loss of profit by reduction in reputation and actual sales, or into a market opportunity by persistent spoliation of it—see the oxygen cans sold in the subway in Tokyo.

Protecting life and the environment is something that runs against the logic of profit, even if some business leaders may themselves desire it ardently. Profit can only relate to the value of life instrumentally: as a means to further profit. Money is a fetish, and one that eats living creatures and their dwelling spaces if that generates revenue. Nothing leads profit-driven “rational” agents to doing that which is necessary for planetary survival and, for that matter, for a decent social life on a vast scale. Even public health, the most obvious case of socially beneficial public agency, is opposed as unprofitable hence bad. Not to mention all the money that is made by “growth” via sales of carcinogenic “goods”.

As the world’s money is controlled by gargantuan private institutions and managed to enrich their rich shareholders, even if it means strangling debt-ridden public authorities and diverting resources from public sewers to private coffers, there is little hope that the dominating logic may change. Some used to argue that money should be controlled by public authorities and managed for the public good, as written in certain constitutions… But we have already talked about such a peculiar notion. For the moment, let’s see whether the Philosopher-Kings of Greece will crumble because of the Goths, after being failed by Chelsea-resident haven-seekers and the advice of Goldmen-sackers.