Tag Archives: value

John McMurtry, La fase cancerígena del capitalismo, de la crisis a la cura (Valencia: Tirant Humanidades, 2016)

Las reticencias y críticas contra la globalización neoliberal nacieron prácticamente con la emergencia del fenómeno mismo, sin embargo, en los últimos años de crisis se ha venido fortaleciendo una nueva tendencia, creciente y heterogénea, de posturas críticas y acciones contestatarias contra este modelo de producción y comunicación mundial. La desconfianza y rechazo hacia una  integración global de las comunidades humanas dentro de los márgenes del neoliberalismo se dejan ver en movimientos sociales, partidos políticos y propuestas teóricas que, desde orientaciones políticas y morales distintas, cuando no opuestas, exhiben sus deficiencias y consecuencias negativas , así como el extravío e inviabilidad de su presunto horizonte emancipador.

La obra del filósofo John McMurtry, La fase cancerígena del capitalismo, se integra dentro de esta tendencia crítica, con la destacable ventaja de que su primera edición fue lanzada en 1999. En aquellos años, en los que aún predominaba un aire de triunfalismo liberal sobre las experiencias históricas que pretendieron acabar con el capitalismo, McMurtry lanzó su diagnóstico sin complejos: el sistema capitalista es un trastorno cancerígeno que puede acabar con la vida humana y con la base natural que la soporta. Es posible que hace quince años, cuando diversas regiones del planeta vivían un auge económico, esta valoración haya podido generar ciertas dudas en algunos sectores, pero con la crisis económica, política, ecológica y cultural que se ha cristalizado desde el 2008  a nivel mundial, su pertinencia es innegable. Debido a esto, el autor lanzó una segunda edición aumentada en el 2013, en la cual añade y analiza los datos y acontecimientos más determinantes de los últimos años retomando el marco analítico de la primera publicación. La edición que a continuación referiremos es la primera traducción al castellano que acaba de publicar la editorial Tirant Humanidades (McMurtry, 2016).

La investigación que nos presenta McMurtry parte de la idea de que todas las sociedades tienen una estructura de reglas subyacente, un tipo de gramática nos dice, que rige las acciones, el discurso y el pensamiento de sus miembros. Estas metareglas son la codificación del sistema de valores prevalente. Es en el metanivel  de los sistemas sociales donde el autor cree que la filosofía debe excavar para poder evaluar “su verdad y su valor en la búsqueda de su forma más completa” (p.19). Por consiguiente, en esta obra se abordan los valores que regulan, en última instancia, el mecanismo del sistema capitalista, partiendo del supremo principio que lo define: la maximización del beneficio privado monetario en detrimento de las bases naturales y civilizatorias de la vida humana.

A lo largo del texto se despliega una ontología social que postula como primer  y necesaria instancia de la existencia humana y sus sociedades el ámbito natural-material y socio-cultural, los cuales integran el life capital[1]. Éste comprendería “(…)las riquezas naturales y las creadas por el hombre que más producen en el tiempo sin pérdidas”(p.420) y estaría constituido por el capital de la tierra, el capital del conocimiento, el capital social y el capital ecológico. En esta propuesta el concepto de Capital desdobla su significado y trasciende al de la economía política clásica y neoclásica, ya que es concebido como la riqueza total –material, cognitiva y simbólica- que sostiene y garantiza la vida y, por ende, deja de limitarse al de una magnitud de valor social  tendiente a la infinita valorización del valor monetario y a la totalidad de los bienes mercantiles de los sujetos individuales y colectivos. Es así que, el life capital constituye la corporeidad y las condiciones de posibilidad reales de los sistemas sociales.

Para abordar la condición actual del sistema global y del life capital que en última instancia lo sostiene, el autor trasladara desde la medicina el marco conceptual clínico del cáncer. Pero, antes, nos aclarará que esta traslación no busca la postulación de una metáfora sino la construcción de un “modelo explicativo” (p.p.64-5) que dé cuenta de un trastorno  que invade literalmente los cuerpos orgánicos y los cuerpos sociales por igual. El principal y determinante agente cancerígeno que opera en nuestras sociedades sería las Secuencias de Dinero Privado Transancional (SDPT), aquello que la prensa mundial llama, con sospechosa neutralidad, los mercados o los flujos de capital. Estas secuencias son reproducciones monetarias anómalas de las dinámicas de intercambio y producción social que tienden a la automultiplicación sin ninguna función vital, operando igual que las células cancerígenas que invaden los organismos biológicos: “(…)Ambas se multiplican fuera de control. Tampoco tienen ninguna función  en compromiso con la vida. Ambas invaden y se extienden  al depredar y despojar al anfitrión de sus recursos. Y la clave para sucumbir en cada nivel, es la insuficiencia del sistema inmunológico en reconocerles” (p.91).

Precisamente en el no reconocimiento del trastorno radica parte de su fuerza. Al respecto, McMurtry percibe una pasividad en los economistas y los filósofos por no cuestionar estructuralmente las bases axiomáticas del sistema cancerígeno: “(…) Ningún economista hace esto porque cada paso es bloqueado a priori  por la estructura profunda de la doctrina y su modelo cientificista. Ningún filósofo moral lo hace tampoco, en la medida en que está por fuera de los límites el reconocerlo dados los tabúes metodológicos y sociales” (p.31). El cáncer capitalista se ha convertido en un tabú social, toda vez que los medios de comunicación y las instancias del conocimiento presentan profundas lagunas respecto a su análisis.  Ante esta situación nos recuerda que en la era del oscurantismo medieval :

(…)La reflexión social registrada está mas o menos confinada  a la teología moral especulativa  decretada por Roma. Las cuestiones de fondo se hacen a un lado en el plano normativo. Las relaciones sociales preestablecidas, bien se mantienen por fuera de la discusión en su conjunto, como un tabú innombrable de los medios del momento, o se les concede una mera disculpa y justificación. A esto le llamamos <<Era del oscurantismo>> por una buena razón. Pero una Era de Oscurantismo puede volver a ocurrir.(…) ¿No nos enfrentamos a una nueva teología absolutista, de las leyes eternas del mercado, en lugar de las de Dios, como los mandamientos del mundo?. (McMurtry, 2016, p. 205)

El período cancerígeno que se analiza en la obra tendría sus orígenes en la derrota estadounidense en Vietnam, el golpe de estado chileno del 73, el cambio del patrón oro por el patrón dólar en 1974 que permite la reproducción de moneda fiduciaria sin arraigo directo en la materialidad y la llegada al poder de Donald Reagan y Margaret Thatcher y la consecuente liberalización de los mercados. En los años que van de 1973 a 1999 nuestro autor observa la consolidación de una nueva “soberanía supranacional” , un tipo de “poder colectivo de secuencias monetarias” (p. 32), que circula por todo el planeta destrozando por igual las soberanías de los estados nacionales, los ecosistemas, los ámbitos culturales locales y la salud misma de los organismos humanos. A partir del 9/11  se despliega una estrategia que busca consolidar el poder global de las Secuencias de Dinero Privado Transnacional después del reacomodo que supuso la caída de la URSS y de la emergencia de varios fenómenos contestatarios que empezaban a  tomar consciencia de los impactos dañinos del sistema. Esta estrategia estaría basada en la reconstrucción de un enemigo , habida cuenta de la caída del monstruo soviético, para justificar la ampliación de la metástasis capitalista.

Pero, a pesar de el sombrío diagnóstico que nos presenta, McMurtry también se encarga de proponer unos principios mínimos, una “ontoaxiología”, que en la práctica funcionaría como “la cura” contra el cáncer capitalista. Esta “cura” estaría basada en una de las facultades naturales de los cuerpos sociales: el “(…)sistema inmune social de capacidades y competencias sobre el que todo el funcionamiento de la sociedad y cada vez más personas y especies dependen para su supervivencia y prosperidad”(p.320) . Este sistema inmune social expulsa o elimina los agentes extraños y dañinos que amenazan con desequilibrar, atacar o destruir al organismo social que supone una comunidad y estaría constituido por un conjunto de prácticas, regulaciones, prescripciones, instituciones y procesos que están orientados a proteger la vida general. Los agentes encargados de desplegar y operar la potencialidad del sistema inmunológico de la sociedad  serían los “comunes civiles” : “(…)cualquiera y todas las construcciones sociales que permiten el acceso universal a los bienes vitales” (p.497). De esta forma, “(…) el movimiento progresista, la izquierda, la comunidad, los sindicatos y las cooperativas”(p.497), explícitamente avocados a la defensa y garantía de la vida, serían los elementos operativos del sistema inmunológico social.

Mcmurtry no se limita a sostener su propuesta curativa sobre una ideal moral, sino que también lo argumenta con algunos ejemplos socio-políticos actuales que  considera saludables. Estos ejemplos serían las actuales políticas en defensa y protección de los ámbitos públicos, los recursos naturales y la vida humana que han implementado países como Venezuela, Brasil, Ecuador, Argentina y Bolivia por medio de nacionalizaciones, renegociaciones de la deuda pública, recuperación y protección de zonas naturales estratégicas, así como la revitalización del cuerpo social por medio de programas sociales orientados al fortalecimiento de la salud, la educación y el conocimiento de la población. Por ello, nos dice que “En toda iniciativa política y legislativa en América Latina existe una lógica unificadora de recuperación: la reivindicación pública de la economía al servicio de las necesidades conocidas de su gente y sus condiciones de vida.” (p.80).

En lo referente al aspecto teórico-critico de esta obra, nos parece relevante destacar que su análisis no se integra en la línea del pensamiento marxista o posmarxista. El propio autor  marca distancia con algunos aspectos de esta corriente porque que considera  que el life capital no es captado en sus postulados. Y es que Marx, nos dice, centró su atención en las células básicas del capitalismo, la mercancía-dinero p. e., sin mirar las auténticas fuentes de la riqueza , las cuales no pueden ser reducidas a la fuerza de trabajo, ya que  ésta se encuentra también sustentada sobre las mismas, es decir, sobre el life capital. A pesar de ello,   McMurtry no duda en reconocer la importancia de la obra marxiana:

(…)Lo que abre el espacio de reflexión para el análisis crítico  de los presupuestos sociales de una vez por todas, es el profundo trabajo estructural sin precedentes de Karl Marx(…) su obra rompe de forma decisiva la larga aquiescencia de la teoría con el statu quo y los privilegios de clase dominante (…) Yendo mucho más allá de Sócrates o Rousseau, él expone a la crítica sistemática la estructura de poder material de todo lo hasta hoy hay de existente en la sociedad civil(…) Ningún filósofo de la historia antes de esto se había atrevido a ir tan lejos. Desde entonces, la obra de Marx ha sido un punto de referencia fundamental en el panorama filosófico: un punto de referencia para los pensadores cuya preocupación por las estructuras subyacentes se extiende a las formas sociales dominantes, y no meramente a los ordenamientos naturales y conceptuales. (McMurtry, 2016, p.212)

Para finalizar, diremos que, al margen de las diferencias onto-epistémicas que hay  entre McMurtry y Marx, las propuestas de ambos se emparentan en el hecho de que están enfocadas en el análisis de las condiciones materiales, sociales y culturales de la existencia humana. En consecuencia, ambos toman como primer principio de referencia los hechos históricos y la estructura constitutiva y causal de los sistemas sociales que los genera. Por ello, es de agradecer que en La fase cancerígena del capitalismo las críticas y argumentos se sustentan en diversos escenarios y acontecimientos históricos actuales, con lo cual, McMurtry, como Marx en su tiempo, rompe con la endogamia metafísica de algunas corrientes de la filosofía que han decidido hacerse a un lado ante la acuciante realidad de nuestros días. Creemos que esta obra nos recuerda que, en los tiempos vertiginosos que corren, es un imperativo ético para los filósofxs  exponer  el potencial crítico de la filosofía ante un sistema desconocedor de la vida que está dominado por “egoísmos atómicos automaximizadores”.

[1] No hay traducción posible en castellano que haga justicia al concepto de Life capital, ya que capital vital y capital de vida tienen una connotación distinta en castellano

Beyond the Cold-War Reprise of the Arctic Super-Powers. Decoding the Structural Meaning of the Ukrainian Crisis

 

 

In fact, one more US-directed violent overthrow of an elected government has carved off the biggest country of Europe from next-door Russia. Yet Russia gets all the blame for “brute force” in reclaiming Crimea – although 96% of a voluntary turnout of 82% voted to rejoin its traditional mother country. While denounced as “violation of international law”, the Crimea referendum choice expresses the “self-determination” of a society guaranteed under Article 2 of the United Nations Charter. Ukraine’s coup government, in contrast, has prohibited any referendum on its rule – especially the Eastern regions where popular uprisings with no mass deaths or beatings (as in the Kiev coup) call for self-determination against illegal rule from Kiev.  

 

The uprising cities of East Ukraine – beginning with Donetsk, then Kharkiv, Luhansk, Slavyansk (the Slav has been removed from the Westernized Sloviansk),  Kramatorsk and other centers and villages – all demand a democratic referendum for their future status as equal citizens in a Ukraine federation. Integration with Russia is not favoured by Russia, but the dominant popular feeling unreported in the media is peaceful and pragmatic. Ukraine’s government has been broken by the US-led coup and cannot provide what people need in jobs, healthcare, income security and pensions. Certainly “the Greek model” planned for Ukraine is not in its people’s common life interests. Under the coup government of prime minister Arseniuy Yatsenyuk, a banker who is already prescribing mass dispossession by austerity programs, what will happen to Ukraine is foretold by has happened in Greece.   

 

The EU’s financial rule by banker mechanisms has already been almost as great a failure as the oligarch-marketization of Russia after 1990. It is a complex system of one-way powers of life deprivation and social ruin which I define in The Cancer Stage of Capitalism: From Crisis to Cure (1999, 2013). Elected governments lose all control to the new absolute and overriding imperative of European rule – to grow and multiply private transnational money sequences. In accord with the ruling formulae, the Greek economy has been slashed by 25 per cent, unemployment is an official 28 per cent excluding the unpaid, the public health system is dismantled to pay foreign banks, wages are cut by a quarter, the public sector is sacked and privatized, and jobless youth rises to 60 per cent even with mass emigration. These outcomes now await Ukraine.

 

Those in Ukraine who are not under the spell of its father cult, oligarch riches, and post-1991 dispossession know better. Outside of Kiev they have had enough, and that is why the election and presidency of the Party of Regions and its allies whose popular support lies outside Kiev have been repeatedly overturned. It is also why their decentralized federal alternative has been removed from the table. The murderous insurrection in Kiev and violent coup of elected government reveals how far the Kiev oligarchy and plotters are prepared to go backed by the US. Yet this time Russia has drawn a red line. With near-unanimous support of the Crimean people and the uprising of the Eastern cities and villages as I write, Russia has stopped the US-led transnational corporate-machine and NATO from further expansion for the first time in 25 years.

 

It is true that Ukraine – the biggest country and bread basket of Europe – has now been pried wide open for transnational Western banks, agribusiness, Big Oil and NATO to feed on. And it is true that all talk of “land grab” has been projected onto Russia even as US Greystone  and Blackwater mercenaries – now called “Academi” in the Big Lie lexicon – move on the ground in Ukraine as the US and NATO propagate ever more threats of force and embargo against “Russia’s aggression”.  Reverse blame is always the US geostrategic game. “Russia’s designs to take the whole of Ukraine” is again US projection of its own objective, as in the old days when “world rule plot” was attributed to the former USSR. Yet a line has been drawn at Crimea, and drawn again in Eastern Ukraine, and it is backed by a country that cannot be arm-twisted, propaganda invaded, or air-bombed with impunity. That is why the one-way threats never stop. It is the first line yet drawn by an historical power outside of China against the exponentially multiplying US-led private transnational money sequences devouring the world.  

 

People now have a chance to reflect on who is the aggressor and who stands for democratic choice as events unfold. They can observe the patterns of Orwellian distortion day to day. Never is the other side presented. The US and NATO alone continuously denounce, lie and threaten. Financial contracts and assets are violated by one side alone. Hate campaigns without evidence go one way. Uprisings have been mass murderous from the US-coup side and without harm from the resisting side. Russia is behind its own borders, and the US deploys threats, covert operations and mercenaries from thousands of miles away. But this time US-NATO-led corporate globalization cannot destroy nations at will. Sometimes history can happen as it should.

 

 

The Mechanisms of Reverse Blame to Justify Destroying Societies

 

Reversal of blame is always the US method of pretext and justification. This is why Russia is pervasively vilified in the mass media, and another significant Arctic actor, Canada’s big-oil regime, joins in along with the UK.   As always, denunciation rules without reasoned understanding. As always, the US-led financial and military forces of private money-power expansion move behind the abomination of designated enemies. Any nation or leader not serving transnational corporate control of resources and markets across borders is always the villain. This is the ruling meta program.

 

Thus too in Ukraine. When Europe tried to broker a peace deal between the opposition and elected government of Ukraine, the US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland continued to  court the neo-Nazi coup leaders to overthrow the state, instructing  “Yats” (appointed PM Yatsenyuk) to consult with the main putsch leader Oleh Tyahnybok “at least four times a week”.  When she is reminded of the EU peace talks and agreement to stop the bloodshed, her response is telling, “Fuck the EU”. The coup peaked after three days of murder by the neo-Nazi faction. When former “Orange revolutionary” and gas oligarch leader of the Fatherland Party, Yulia Tymoshenko, then got out of jail for criminal embezzlement of state property, she expressed the logic of power shared with the US regarding Russia. She says without denial of the words: “take up arms and go and wipe out these damn katsaps” [Russian minority] – – – so that not even scorched earth would be left of Russia.” Yet in every Western media of record, it is Russia who remains “the aggressor”, “the growing threat”, “the source of the rising crisis”, and “the out-of-control power that must be stopped”. 

 

There are exact thought governors at work throughout. I have analysed these structures of delusion in learned journals as ‘the ruling group-mind’ (collectively regulating assumptions that are false but taken for granted) and, sustaining it, the ‘argumentum ad adversarium’ (the diversion of all issues to a common adversary). The “escalating crisis in Ukraine” expresses these fallacious operations in paradigm form. So does the false claim of “Syrian use of chemical weapons” which almost led to US bombing of Syria’s civilian infrastructures a few months earlier. The mind mechanics at work form the inner logic of the lies which never stop. The grossest operations go back to the Reagan regime naming Nicaragua as “a clear and present danger to the United States” to justify US war crimes against it which in turn fed the ever- growing corporate-military complex and murderous covert operations. Always the mind-stopping mendacity and criminal aggressions are justified through the ruling group-mind and enemy-hate switch which form the deep grammar of this thought system.

 

At the most general level, the “Russian threat to Ukraine” diverts public attention from the really fatal problems of the world and their global causal mechanism – transnational money sequencing – which is metastasising further in Ukraine. The air, soil and water cumulatively degrade from its transnational corporate looting and polluting. The climates and oceans destabilize from the same cause at the same time. Species too become extinct at a spasm rate, and the world’s forests, meadows and fisheries are cumulatively destroyed. The global food system produces more and more disabling junk as commodity diseases multiply. The vocational future of the next generations is eliminated for a growing majority of people. All these trends and more are one-way, degenerate, and undeniable. All are driven by US-led private and transnational money-sequence multiplication which now moves into and through Ukraine. Without Russia’s past financial and energy assistance worth tens of billions of dollars and completely destabilized by the US-led violent coup, Ukraine verges towards collapse. That is where the Greek model comes in – the stripping of Ukraine to pay for what it has lost from Russia by the US-led coup which further enables military advance to Russia’s borders.

 

 

As usual, such geostrategic intervention is life destructive at every level of its consequences, but the underlying causal mechanism is unspeakable in official culture. From Africa to Europe to the Middle East to Latin America, the unspoken master trend is systematic society destruction. Look, for example, forward and backward from the last manufactured crises geared to enable US-led destabilization to bombing – the “weapons of mass destruction of Iraq”, the “genocidal plans of the dictator Gadaffi”, “Assad’s chemical weapons used on his own people”, or, across the ocean, Venezuela’s “despotism” which prioritizes the elimination of public education, healthcare and poverty elimination. Always the victim society has more developed social programs than its neighbours.  The ultimate enemy is social life bases themselves. 

 

Observe the common pattern of social destruction. It begins with US covert forces sponsoring opposition forces in the society featuring fascist and jihadist terrorists, mounting global media campaigns against the targeted leader, murders committed by snipers pretending to be state agents, growing civil division and hate towards civil war, and absolutely one-sided reporting of the US point of view, and reverse-moral justifications for what ends as society destruction.  The US bombing stage has not yet been reached in Syria because Russia led the alternative of UN chemical-weapons destruction, even though Syria had never used the weapon. Not long after destroying Iraq and Libya on known false pretexts, the US proclaimed again and again the mass-murderous gas used in Syria was by “Assad the war criminal” although the evidence kept disconfirming the big lie mega-phoned by John Kerry. It went all the way to a White House plan to bomb civilian infrastructures as in Iraq and Libya. In revealing contrast, Russia “the world bully” has never bombed a city. Yet US reverse projection rules. As for Assad’s “war crime”, the truth found by multiple analysis was that “kitchen sarin” manufactured in Turkey and crude-missile lobbed by the al Nusra jihadists allied with the US and funded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar was the source of the gas massacre (as Seymour Hersh has finally made public). 

 

Much the same generic script of engineered civil conflict and war combined with false threat and crimes of the constructed foreign enemy has been used over and over again against Iran and its “nuclear threat” with no evidence, while Israel has an illegal stockpile of them threatening to use them to stop Iran’s “nuclear threat”. In all, the reverse-projection tactic has become the signature of everything the US and its allies allege of others to ruin them. 

 

 

Ukraine in Motion as Another Paradigm Example of US-led Society Destruction

 

Serial false allegations and pretexts thus unfold again against Russia in regard to Ukraine. The US-led mayhem and violence varies widely, but the dots have not yet been joined on what is always achieved beneath the political-ideological shows – the tearing apart and dispossession of one society after another by US-led financial and armed means.  Here it is Ukraine and the set-up of Russia at once. Not only is the society decapitated, as in Ukraine or Libya or Iraq or as demanded in Syria. That is the official script. Much more deeply the society’s civil bonds are rent asunder, its productive base is sabotaged, its social life supports are stripped, its environment and resources looted and its future despoiled. Always. There is no objective fulfilled except social life-system destruction. But the connections still go unmade. As General Rick Hillier, commander of Canada’s forces helping to bomb Libya said afterwards: “We did it because we could”. As CIA executive director Buzzy Krongard acknowledges about the permanent US war, but still without the consequence named: “It will be won by forces you do not know about, in actions you will not see, and in ways you may not want to know about”. 

 

The supremely evil truth becomes testable by its continuous repetition. Dismantling or destroying society’s very life bases is the innermost meaning of US-led “freedom” and “globalization”.  It includes even US society itself by ever more monstrous misallocation of public resources away from what serves life bases to what deprives them. If one reviews the post-1980 trajectory of ruin of nations, the objectively evil pattern becomes clear. No other actually working goal has been achieved since the Reagan-Thatcher turn. It is the DNA of the global cancer system. Try to think of exception. Since the war-criminal destruction of poverty-ridden Nicaragua’s new schools and clinics by the signature method of covertly US funded and armed forces within, the society-destruction method has only grown and multiplied by terrorist as well as financial means. When Obama says “every society must chart its own course”, he follows the reverse moral syntax at work. The deliberate mass-diseasing of 500,000 children in the first manufactured crisis of Iraq as the nearby Soviet Union collapsed revealed what we could expect from the US without another superpower to contain it. In all cases, there has been one underlying principle of outcome – US-led civil disintegration of societies across the world. That is how a cancer works at the transnational level of life organization.

 

Engineering civil war is the favored method with effective genocide the long consequence. This is true not only in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Lebanon, and Syria, but Somalia, Sudan and the Congo. Direct US invasion may lose the war from Vietnam to Afghanistan, but its defeat is, more deeply, another US-led success at destroying another society. The Wall Street metastasis to EU banker-run Europe has worked without invasion or even proxy uprising, but society destruction is still achieved by the small print of corporate treaties and bank powers people never see. Greece, Spain and Italy are effectively ruined, and behind the dismantling of these and all victim societies is the same transnational corporate system multiplying itself through societies. Big Banks, Oil, Military Contracting, Big Agri-Food and Pharma are themselves only vehicles of the one underlying economic disease of transnational money sequences self-multiplying across all borders without life limits or functions. They feed on ruined societies as their carrion.  

 

Ukraine follows this macro pattern. It comes into the fold of the EU through a US-led fascist coup posing as “freedom” and “revolution”, but in fact hollowing out the society’s lifeblood and bases as the US-led coup and EU financial straitjacket suck it dry. This is the unseen law of transnational money-demand multiplication to the top. In Ukraine the method features similar tools – increasingly armed and destructive oppositional forces on the ground, US bankrolling and direction of the opposition’s factions in orchestrated destruction ($5 billion under aid guises, $20 million for the street reported by Secretary Nuland in a speech to business), and pervasive transnational corporate propaganda about the constructed civil war as a “struggle for Ukraine’s  freedom” – decoded, transnational corporate and bank freedom to loot and pollute. As always, inside allies include  fascist and terrorist forces – the Svoboda and Pravy Sektor factions in Ukraine which now have key executive posts in the coup government and trace their history back to the Ukraine Insurgent Army (UPA) led by their hero Stephen Bandera who allied with the Nazi invasion of Ukraine in 1941 and helped to round up Jews.

 

The worst is yet to come. Never is there any US building of the victim society’s economy and life support systems, and so too Ukraine. Again we might compare Russia here to the US in Afghanistan over 14 years. The self-multiplying corporate money sequences which reap all gains have no committed life function or obligation including to the imperial state itself. They pay ever fewer taxes to it, and bleed ever more public money and resources from it. There is only one pattern of consequence and Ukraine too is now almost occupied by its ruling mechanism to impoverish the people further to feed the rich. As always, society’s common life capital bases will be further defunded, privatized for profit, and saddled by unpayable transnational bank debts. The real economy will be flooded with more junk foods, media products and social-dumping commodities, and bred to a violence culture already hatched by the coup. Collective life capital bases will be further laid waste for multiplying private money fortunes across borders.

 

 

The Life-Blind Thought System Behind Global Society Destruction 

 

Since using the spectacular 9-11 event as pretext for the new PNAC plan of “full-spectrum domination”, falling on the anniversary of the destruction of Chile’s society in 1973, the U.S. has been on a non-stop crusade of destroying societies across the world. The hollowing out of social bonds and bases includes the US itself. Its impoverishment grows as non-productive riches multiply at the top, middle classes fall to ever new levels of debt, the growing majority of youth is without a future, public squalor spreads across the land, and over 2000 million dollars a day is spent on armed force threat and operations with no real enemy to justify them.

 

It all goes back to first principles. “There is no such thing as society” declared the fanatic Friedrich von Hayek who was mouth-pieced by his disciple Margaret Thatcher. “We owe our very lives to capitalism”. But deeper than words, the principle of no-society is built into the ruling economic paradigm. Without notice, every life coordinate is erased from account. There are no life needs, no environment, no society, no children, no relations with others, and no history in this life model. All unpriced life goods from water and sewer infrastructures and services to universal public education, culture and healthcare to social security support in age, unemployment, and disability are blinkered out except as “cost burdens”. The very terrestrial biosphere on which everything depends is ruled out of this moronic frame of reference. Demand itself 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 the great majority and to gamble on their future means of life. ‘Supply’ is not the life means people require. It is ever more priced commodities for profit promoting more human and ecological ill-being as far as corporate globalization extends.  Ukraine can look forward to this US-led thought system ruling over it from within the financialized European Union which is now as banker-run as America.

 

The ruling value mechanism can be crystallized into natural language equations:  Freedom = freedom for private money demand = in proportion to the amount controlled = ever less freedom for those with less of it = no right to life for those without it.  Even more generally, the underlying master equations of the globalizing system now moving to rule Ukraine into Russia can be defined as follows: Rationality = Self-Maximizing Choice = Always More Money-Value for Self is Good = Self-Multiplying Sequences of Ever More Money to the Top = All Else is Disposable Means to this Pathogenic Growth. This is the innermost value logic of the US-led global system and it has no limit of dispossession and ruin if not stopped. It is perhaps emblematic irony that the favorite for Ukraine’s post-coup President is a billionaire sugar-commodity maker producing no food value, but more and more obesity and diabetes.

 

 

World Empire or Globalizing Disease?

 

Left critics coalesce around “US imperialism” as the common cause of the global meltdown on organic, social and ecological levels. Yet it is strange to call a system an “empire” whose imperial center is increasingly hollowed out on every plane; whose interventions and wars destroy productive forces at every level; and whose outcome is not more amenities for the poor, as apologists like Leo Strauss claim, but ever more societies as black holes with life support systems cumulatively devoured.  “Sometimes I think they feel like they’re in a lab and they’re running experiments on rats and not understanding the consequences of what they are doing,” Vladimir Putin wonders in partial sense of the derangement at work.

 

More clearly, the states which the US planned to destroy in 2001 (as reported by General Wesley Clark in his memoirs) – Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Iran and Syria – are now in fact destroyed societies.  All but Iran are left with civil war and majority destitution where once they had been relatively prosperous and life secure. For example, before Western bombing of Iraq under the usual blame-the-enemy diversion to its leader (a paid CIA agent implanted in office by the US), Iraq led the Middle East in free public healthcare and higher education, and Libya provided free downpayments for young couples’ housing as well prior to its bombing. U.S.-led interventions and aerial bombing have destroyed the social life-organization of both nations without even the electricity and water back on. Syria was also a middle-income quasi-socialist nation, but was independent, friendly with Russia, and capable of fighting an expanding Israel. So Syria too was marked for destabilization. Its internal protests received US-Israel covert support, and turned quickly into civil war with US special operation forces and orchestrated funding of rival camps including jihadists still incinerating the country. As usual the national leader is blamed for everything. All the while, Iran is periodically threatened with annihilation while Venezuela across the ocean is subjected to US-led destabilization too as in Ukraine, Syria, and Libya.

 

While gas bombs have been thrown freely in Venezuela and Ukraine with US support against democratically elected states, Venezuela’s government serves the poor while Ukraine’s has been  oligarchic on both sides. Putin thus understands Ukraine’s protestors as “tired of seeing one set of crooks replacing another”. In contrast, no common life interest at all exists for the US. When bribes of officials, street gangs and press slander are not enough, US-led destabilization by financial system levers, covert operatives and civil war follow behind reverse-projection cover stories.  One can imagine if Molotov cocktails were thrown during the Wall Street uprising as in US-financed protests in Ukraine and Venezuela. “Violence-threatening protestors” is all they can say about peaceful demonstrations at home however just the cause. Concern about people’s lives, in short, never arises except as a media mask. This is why the US-led coup in Ukraine murdered people and usurped democratic process and legal warrant without a pause. It is also why it demanded the sieg-heiling violent thug Oleh Tyanybok of the Svoboda Party to be a chief advisor to the coup government although he blamed a “Muscovite/Jew mafia” for Ukraine’s problems and “Germans, Kikes and other scum” who want to “take away our Ukrainian state”. He is a symptom of the deep-structural derangement of US rule. In all cases – from Honduras to Paraguay, Egypt to Mali – covert funding, forces of destabilization and chaos are the modus operandi with US special operations leading the repertoire of financial destabilization, demonization of resistance, and armed civil-war training. Unlike classic imperialism, the system spreads by greed and fear, never by productive force development and universalizing rights and laws.   

 

Invasive war in 2014 is not so acceptable to the world after the obliteration of the societies and life infrastructures of Iraq and Libya. So drones, suitcases of money, special operations, propaganda campaigns and whatever else can sabotage resistance are deployed to pry societies open for competitively self-multiplying transnational corporations to exploit foreign resources, labor and forced markets. This is known as “the free movement of private capital and commodities”. Until 1991, the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was still the biggest block and resource treasure of all to US-led global financialization. Thus military encirclement, pervasive international slander, ruinous armaments races and illegal embargoes followed for 50 years. It eventually worked to cause the intended collapse of the Soviet Union by spending it bankrupt on the armaments race, and forcing repression by perpetual war threats from richer societies. But US market magic and miracles for the world’s biggest country and its neighbours did not work at all. So the GDP’s of the Soviet republics fell by 60%, and polls today show that 56% of Ukrainians would prefer to be governed as before. Social priorities and universal life necessities matter more to them than majority dispossession and glitz for the rich. But no Western journalist dares say it. And so the spectacularly failed global capitalist experiment has passed without a word of notice from “the free world”.  It remains unspeakable to name.

 

Yet reality catches up. The US-led empire was itself unravelling in historical time without recognition. Its most gigantic failure has come back to haunt it – running the once relatively well-off societies of the USSR into productive and cultural ruin. “Well and good”, one is taught to think. “The Soviet Union repressed free speech”. But like Cuba today, a state which is continuously threatened with war, plague, assassination and hate by richer states reverts to tight control. But if one considers all the universal sciences, arts, pensions, education, and health-care provision of the Union of Socialist Republics which have been systematically destroyed, the meaning takes on a different complexion. It remains unspeakable but lies at the heart of the Ukraine-Russia crisis today. Nothing is better but only worse in collective life capital evolution.  

 

Many prefer the language of the imperial past. In this way reality is categorized as familiar, not mutant, backward and chaotic. The repetitions are not from “tragedy” to “farce”, as Karl Marx memorably observed in the case of Louis Bonaparte III of France. Today there is nothing but tragedy. It may all seem to be about oil and imperialism, what opponents focus on. Yet possessing others’ oil and territory are comparatively rational objectives compared to the actual performance of metastasising destruction. Far more is spent on unproductive technologies of killing and terror than has been won in new oil and territory. Both land and energy sources have been largely despoiled and wasted. The oil produced in Iraq, for example, is not close to pre-1990 levels and the oil in Libya is the site of unending civil war. The pattern is destroying not producing through generational time.  Corruption and insecurity are universalized, not life as human. Ukraine’s coup now binds it in the pathological direction – more civil strife towards war, more mountains of bank debt, more lack of affordable energy, more ethnic hatred, more mass homicidal weapons, and more rot of dysfunctional wealth inequality.

 

Can this be an advance of empire? Or is it the next sign of morbid overreach, corruption and fall? An empire has a unified center, a state in control of its subjects and private enterprises, a productive capacity that leads the societies within its imperial reach, an historical civilization of architecture, art, and culture, and most of all enduring public infrastructures and great works across its domains of command. The US global system has ever less of any of these. Its imperial center is divided into gridlock, its productive powers have been increasingly exported or surpassed elsewhere, its architecture, arts and culture are increasingly mindless and violence-ridden, its capacities of civilization and public infrastructures are defunded and collapse at every turn. The US now leads only in monopoly of world currency issue, capacities to destroy life and life conditions, and mass propaganda methods. Its transnational corporations are no longer subservient to any imperial center or purpose but multiply their private money sequences on the back of monopolies of force and money-issue paid for by increasingly impoverished citizens.  

 

The collapsing US civilization cannot comprehend its derangement. Its money-party leaders can only see more opportunity for transnational corporate profits – the moral DNA of the cancer system. This is why the destruction of Russia has been long planned by the geostrategist Zbigniew Brzezinski – first in Afghanistan where he rallied the original jihadists to fight the Soviet Union along with tens of billions in US cash and weapons which developed into 9-11 and the 9-11 wars. In Ukraine the US continues the strategy. In Afghanistan the route to the ex-Soviet oilfields, the US funding was the beginning of the Taliban and al Qaeda forces whose US-manipulated function was and remains destroying societies by armed civil war to complement financial bleeding. This same method bled Yugoslavia and then the USSR dry and has worked from Afghanistan through Iraq and Serbian-Kosovo wars to Syria to Somalia, Mali and Nigeria under many names, but almost always it turns out the terror is manipulated by US money, arms and connections. Today Brzezinski has former Harvard graduate students who strategically game for the Obama administration to smash Russia into ungovernable pieces – the long game.

 

This is not an exaggerated sense of danger, but a long track record. Wrecking the society in crisis is the testable generalization of all US interventions. More exactly, the unseen law of the ruling system across borders including those of the US is: Ever more public money is hemorrhaged into private money sequences with ever more ruined societies the result.

 

Consider Ukraine with this diagnostic principle in mind. We can predict from this system law that only more disintegration of society and mutual life support systems will occur in Ukraine with more US-EU bank and corporate feeding on the post-coup remains. US and EU countries themselves will come apart more in the process, and the US will bleed vastly more public resources to keep metastasising the unrecognized fatal disorder while 90% of its own people and the world grow poorer, more malnourished and life insecure.  

 

 

US Script of Democracy and Freedom versus Facts of Violence and Society Destruction

 

To put the matter in one sentence, the collapse and overthrow of Ukraine’s elected government has been financed and directed by the U.S, cored in violence by the Nazi roots of the uprising linked with the US-selected coup leaders now in power, and after the swift take-back of Crimea by Russia fanned into hysteria by the corporate media. Revealingly, the Bandera-loving Nazis on the street leading the chaotic terror of Feb 22-24 caused the overthrow of the legitimate government exactly when the civil battle had already been won.   The elected President Yanukovych made concessions on everything – his PM was fired, the new protest laws against helmets, metal shields, and masks were revoked (even although banned everywhere else), with legitimate democratic turnover of government plainly in sight and further brokered by the EU in presidential succession. But there was no assurance of electoral victory of the US-allied Kiev forces. They had already lost two elections to the federalist Party of Regions and its alliance governments. It was then the US-led violent overthrow happened in bloodshed return of the Nazi past proclaimed as “freedom” and “revolution”. The violent coup was instantly validated by the US state, but the EU paused for days before diverting blame to Russia too.  No media of record appeared to notice that the US had criminally led the coup, and selected and instructed the new coup-government leaders with no vote, no election, and no public discussion. All the while the democratic referendum so abused in Crimea was never imagined for Ukraine by “the free press” and “leaders of the democratic world” even when eastern Ukraine popular uprisings demanded it.

 

The coup was precisely rushed ahead to avoid any election. The US-backed forces had already lost two in a row. No reports mentioned this in the Free World.  The track-switch of attention was instead to Russia. How could the strategy fail? If Putin draws the line at Crimea, he forwards the plan of blaming Russia. If he does not, the long game to dismantle Russia moves faster. If Putin calls a sudden referendum in Crimea to show its citizens’ overwhelming support, he can be ridiculed for “the farce”, “the region under military occupation”, “the gun to the head”. If almost all the people of Crimea want in fact to join the historic mother country in a peaceful vote, just keep repeating “Russia’s annexation of Crimea”, “brute force”, “Russian aggression”. The violent putsch in Ukraine is thus erased from view. It disappears into reverse projection. The most basic reality test is always blocked – Does the society rise or fall in life means available and produced, social life infrastructures and services, employment levels, youth life purpose, and ecological integrity after US-induced “regime change”. It always falls. Is there any exception?  

 

Crimea joining historic Russia again after it was won from the Ottoman Empire centuries ago revealingly goes the opposite way.  Bridges, roads and tunnels are promised and planned in immediately in the wake of the Olympic building spree. Pensions, minimum wages and healthcare are invested in to “raise life standards”. Exposure of the world to Crimea’s historical treasure begins. In contrast, the opposing US-led forces silence the EU agreement for presidential succession in Ukraine, lead coup of the elected government with neo-Nazi snipers and violent chaos, direct IMF austerity and social dispossession for the people’s collapsing life support systems, set the main languages, cultures and identifications of citizens into irreparable division and civil war footing, and proclaim virulently against Russia taking an opposite path.  

 

Dividing society from within with no common or productive goal but only more tearing apart is the generic meaning – as in Yugoslavia before it, Libya and Syria in between, Honduras, Paraguay, where does it stop?  Direct the destabilizing in the street with billions for the purpose, play on real and invented problems, insert special forces to lead the mounting violence, bribe the people with dollars and bananas, divide classes and cultures to the death, proclaim freedom and prosperity, and run the country into the ground with no life construction undertaken nor any life base any longer secure for 90% of the people. The special forces at work here incredibly included Israelis trained in Gaza allying with the legacy of Ukraine Nazism. But the stakes are large and undiscussed. Ukraine is the biggest land mass of Europe, a leading global grain producer, and home to newly found gas-reserves of possibly trillions of cubic feet. The US-led lockdown on all of it is clear in the new coup state.  A neo-liberal banker is Prime Minister, a violence script-writer and chief aide to the Fatherland Party is President, and various neo-fascists are in cabinet positions with none elected. To complete the destruction of democratic legitimacy of Ukraine took only a few hours. But public panic and appointing banker presidents has already been managed in Italy and Greece, why not here too? With no mass media noticing the growing reversal of democracy and freedom in their name, Putin-bashing is the corporate-press game.  

 

 

Media Censorship and the Violation of International Law

 

Crimea joining Russia was the lightning rod for the defining US operation of reverse projection, always blaming the other side for what one is doing oneself as the reason for attacking it. Since the Reagan regime made this the signature operation of US propaganda which is always repeated by the media as fact , an Orwellian rule of big lies has been normalized. Reverse projection combines with the earlier defined ad adversarium fallacy and ruling group-mind to overwhelm all reasoned understanding with cartoon-like masks of good (US) and evil (Them) where fact never interferes. Media-conditioned publics are in this way stampeded through one US-led war and civil war after another with official oppositions rationalizing the same belligerent stupefaction. With only the point of view of the US or its allies reported, only the US story line and point of view can be seen or heard by the great majority.

 

So too in “the Ukraine crisis”. That Russia “invaded Crimea and annexed it against international law” has been the basic story for global denunciation of Russia.  In fact over 80% of Crimeans voted, over three times the electorate participation in the US, and almost all of them for integration with Russia not “annexation by it”.  The striking fact is that given the accuracy of these figures which is not denied, it is far more than could enable Quebec to legally secede from Canada even with universal language rights lacking in Ukraine. By mathematical deduction, the referendum also included the great majority of the nearly 40% identified as Ukrainians and Tatars. How is it that all you ever heard or saw in the mass media were selected opposing voices from Ukrainian and Tatar minorities? This is the ruling censorship by unseen means – selecting out of public view all facts that are not consistent with the ruling script. More exactly, the corporate media select for public showing only what sells the transnational money-sequence system. This is why we never hear of the US placing itself above all international laws as it enforces this ruling program. Its entire record here is blinkered out a-priori. So blame of others easily enters the ruling group-mind internalized by mass media audiences

 

This point is worth pausing on because the US is the very “rogue state”, “international outlaw”, “criminal violator of human rights” and, above all, perpetrator of “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity” which it is always projecting onto other states. It has refused to ratify the International Criminal Court to uphold the law against war crimes and crimes against humanity, and publicly repudiated the Court’s right to investigate US criminal violations including the “supreme crime” of a war of aggression. While it is always invoking international laws to falsely blame others of violating them (e.g., Syria’s use of chemical weapons), the US has systematically undermined virtually all international laws to protect human life – treaties and conventions against landmines, against biological weapons, against international ballistic missiles, against small arms, against torture, against racism, against arbitrary seizure and imprisonment, against military weather distortions, against biodiversity loss, and against climate destabilization. Even international agreements on the rights of children and of women have been sabotaged. Yet this unrelenting profile of lawless US right to terror and destruction is nowhere published. This is how censorship by selection works without people knowing it.

 

What then are we to say about “Russia’s brutal invasion and seizure of Crimea”?  In fact the number of Russian soldiers in Crimea were fewer than agreed by contract with Ukraine long prior to the referendum.  Crimea is and was also an historic Russian port and strategic peninsula even under Ukraine’s interregnum, and its place in Ukraine occurred only by a 1954 decree of the now-defunct Soviet Union. All of these facts are selected out by corporate media and states which only repeat “Russian brute force”, “illegal seizure of territory”, “war of invasion”, and even “what Hitler did back in the 1930’s” (Hilary Clinton). There is no limit to the absurd hypocrisy of accusation. Thus attention is diverted again and again onto the latest enemy as lawless and the US as law-abiding in contradiction to the facts.

 

In reality, no injury occurred in the peaceful and overwhelmingly popular integration of Crimea with Russia. Ukrainian troops yielded in peaceful transition and were extended offers to stay. There was no bloodshed with one exception – a soldier in Sebastopol murdered by two men at night in masks and a getaway car tied back to the Ukraine coup leaders. They called it “the entry into the stage of military conflict” and the corporate media reported it without evidence or question. But the sniper murders of 21 people in the Kiev uprising by US-led coup agent was already diplomatically registered by March 4. Predictably, every detail was gagged in ‘the free press’ and the official ‘Free World’. Even the EU’s Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton to whom the facts of the mass murder were communicated by a fellow Foreign Minister, Urmas Paet of Estonia, remained silent. He reported that in fact the medical and forensic evidence proved all 21 murders were by “the same type of bullets” and from “the same handwriting” which could only be from “the new coalition” [of the coup government]. “The new coalition”, concluded Foreign Minister Paet in English, “don’t want to investigate what exactly happened. So that there is now stronger and stronger understanding that behind the snipers, it was not Yanukovich, but it was somebody from the new coalition.”

 

Such mass murder is grounds for prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity under international law and prosecution by the International Court. But due process of law and criminal prosecution are repressed at the same time as the known diplomatic evidence is silenced in the public sphere. Group-mind, reverse projection and blame-the-enemy operations have become so automatic that the most important historical facts and heinous crimes do no register through their prism. Thus Russia goes on being accused of the “violations of law” and “international law” with John Kerry bawling loudest against the evidence. That the violent coup itself was propelled by mass murder of protestors perpetrated by the US-led insurrection to blame on the elected government has thus never made the news. The murderous logic was again evident in microcosm when troops of the coup state opened fire on unarmed citizens approaching their barracks to talk on the Easter eve of the Geneva agreement to repudiate armed violence. The day after the Geneva accord a worse attack exploded in Slavyansk with gunmen (named as Right Sector, the fascist armed group behind the coup whose activities the accord banned)  racing up in jeeps to a checkpoint killing at least three people including a bus-driver before disappearing. As always the US-orchestrated government in Kiev projected all attacks onto Russia with no evidence.

 

All the while heavy Ukraine armed forces moved into eastern Ukraine blocked by citizens while Kiev’s own central street still remains occupied by coup forces. “Putin’s threats” continue to be manufactured along with “Russia’s forcible annexation of Crimea” despite the inhabitants voting peacefully and overwhelmingly for re-unification with Russia in affirmation of a relationship over two centuries old. Altogether erased from reports are the facts that the Supreme Council of Crimea referred to the United Nations Charter and “the right of nations to self-determination” (Article 2, Chapter 1), the very right Ukraine invoked in seceding from the USSR in 1991, and the same right invoked for the separation of Kosovo from Serbia. Also erased is the UN International Court ruling in July 2010 that “general international law contains no prohibition on declarations of independence” Once again we find on closer inspection that what is proclaimed as fact and law by US leaders and allied states is yet another level of a big lie system.

 

 

Conclusion

 

The Ukraine crisis is another variation on the great crisis of the world – the undeclared global war of transnational corporate money sequences to multiply themselves through human societies and life on earth in the diagnosable form of an invasive cancer. Yet what is different in Ukraine is that eastern Ukrainian citizens and the world’s largest nation have stood against the new metastasis across traditional borders and cultural regions. Activists with weapons and massive local support across Donetsk region hoist their own flag and demand referendum for constitutional independence from the fascist-led coup state. The elected Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, the equivalent of the US Congress, has given unanimous approval for defense of eastern Ukraine protestors against armed assault from the coup government, already underway with NATO flexing armed power all around. Yet this time the resistance cannot be just overrun or bombed. And this time the system DNA begins to be recognized – US-led destruction of societies to ensure their servile dependency and open borders for hollowing out.

 

The very words “Russia” and “Putin” may provoke ruling group-mind reactions pro or con, so analysis here sticks to track records, trends and policy directions – the defining past, present and future lines of system decision on both sides. What is clear now are set-point differences and shifts towards recognition of the society-destroying forces. The most visible shift has been set into motion by the overthrow of Ukraine’s elected government, big-lie pretexts and serial murders in another US-made civil chaos. But Russia has moved decisively to stop it in the historical process still unfolding. The never-named enemy behind the coup and behind the collapse of evolved social and natural life systems across the planet has been blocked on the ground. Neither Putin nor Russia are a model, but like Venezuela and much of Latin America, they now stand against the invasive disorder overrunning life bases and needs in every region. The deepest issue is the US money-cancer system. In murderously destabilizing and overthrowing Ukraine’s elected government and advancing towards Russia’s borders in the latest metastasis, the pathogenic forces are now confronted by the world’s largest country, the longest-tested army and once socialist superpower. All the lies in the world cannot overwhelm this resistance. Everywhere the US-led collapse of world life security is being decoded outside corporate states and media. The Ukraine crisis, perhaps linked to Russia-China movement from the US oil-dollar, could be a new turning point against the Great Sickness of our world.

 

 

N.B. This contribution is based largely on an essay by John McMurtry published previously on GlobalResearch.ca.

A note on the papers from the winter symposium of the Nordic Summer University held in Akureyri, Iceland, March, 1st-3rd 2013

 

 

Among the themes tackled at the symposium there was one that gained special prominence, namely the sociological study of contemporary ethics, given that different papers presented and discussed current sociological theories and empirical sociological work about practical ethical issues. This theme revolved in particular around the foundations of ethical values in today’s societies and focused upon some developments in Scandinavia, such as the Protestant ethics of the environment and the ethical challenges arising from ongoing scientific research.

 

Another important issue debated at the symposium was the foundation of the ethics of capitalism, in particular in relation to the current crisis of the global capitalist system. In this context we discussed the relation between ethics and economics and the possibility of developing an ethics of the common good in the capitalist system.

 

Further, the symposium included different papers on democracy and ethics within the context of critical political philosophy. This also extended to the debate about the relation between ethics, law and democracy, conceived from the perspective of different influential social and political philosophers.

 

Concerning the Arctic theme, the discussion focussed upon select aspects of the many environmental, ethical, political and legal issues facing the Arctic region today. We had in particular a discussion of the new Icelandic constitution and the challenges that Iceland faces as a member of the Arctic community.

 

In this special issue we have collected some of the papers from this wonderful meeting, which benefitted from intense and thought-provoking discussions. We hope that the reader will be able to feel the same enthusiasm as the participants did during the two days of presentations and discussions.

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.

 

 

 

Outline of a taxonomy of approaches to aggregation

 

 

Gloomy gardens then went by, one by one: gloomy houses.

Mr Power pointed.

– That is where Childs was murdered, he said. The last house.

– So it is, Mr Dedalus said. A gruesome case. Seymour Bushe got him off. Murdered his brother. Or so they said.

– The crown had no evidence, Mr Power said.

– Only circumstantial, Martin Cunningham said. That’s the maxim of the law. Better for ninetynine guilty to escape than for one innocent person to be wrongfully condemned. (Joyce 1993 [1922], 96).

 

What limits, if any, to the moral standing of the individual are morally permissible, and under what circumstances? This depends on what sort of approach to aggregation is in question. At its simplest, aggregation in moral reasoning is the procedure by which different entities are added together and then “weighed” against other similarly attained aggregates in order to arrive at decisions on what it is morally right to do. I’ll discuss only interpersonal aggregation, i.e. aggregation of and between different persons, or of and between things that affect different persons. I’ll overlook intrapersonal aggregation (aggregation within the same life), and non-moral uses of aggregative reasoning.

 

The four approaches to aggregation can be thought of as lying on the same continuum. Non-aggregation denies the moral permissibility of interpersonal aggregation, and lies at the negative extreme of the continuum. Asymmetric aggregation is at the opposite extreme: according to this view, interpersonal aggregation is morally permissible in almost any situation. Symmetric aggregation comes close to the asymmetric end of the continuum: here aggregation is broadly applicable, but with some constraints which I’ll discuss later in this section. Weak aggregation comes somewhere between symmetric aggregation and non-aggregation on the continuum.

 

I’ll outline each of these, illustrating the distinctions by reference to Joyce’s maxim: Better for ninety-nine guilty to escape than for one innocent person to be wrongfully condemned. Detailed discussion of the approaches and a defence of weak aggregation, must be left to another time.

 

 

Non-aggregation 

It’s possible to argue that interpersonal aggregation is not morally permissible under any circumstances. This approach rules out the pursuit of any aggregate good that would restrict individual autonomy, or otherwise conflict with individual interests in any way. Such an extreme position does not have many philosophical defenders. John Taurek’s ‘Should The Numbers Count?’ remains the best-known espousal of it. If one is forced to choose between helping one person or many others, Taurek ‘cannot see how or why the mere addition of numbers should change anything’ (1977, 306). He concludes that the decision to help either the one or the many should be left to chance, by flipping a fair coin. A revamped and moderated version of Taurek’s non-aggregation has been proposed by Jens Timmermann (2004).

 

Applied to the Joyce example, non-aggregation would entail that it’s wrong to sacrifice one innocent person in order to convict ninety-nine guilty, and — at least in its most absolute form — it wouldn’t matter how serious the wrongdoings of the ninety-nine were. They could be ninety-nine Genghis Khans, but it would still be wrong to sacrifice one innocent person in order to bring the ninety-nine to justice, even if this were the only possible way of doing so. It also seems that from a non-aggregationist position, the leniency or severity of the sacrifice imposed on the one innocent person would have no bearing on the question of whether to use the one as a means to the end of convicting the ninety-nine: if the rule is an absolute one of “do not aggregate, no matter what”, then even wrongfully condemning the innocent person and sentencing him to a day’s imprisonment, if this would somehow help in securing the conviction of the ninety-nine guilty, would be morally wrong. On this view it thus makes no difference how serious the guilt of the ninety-nine is, nor how small is the sacrifice imposed on the one innocent person. Such an approach to aggregation such only seem plausible from an extreme libertarian standpoint, itself a wildly implausible position.

 

The examples just mentioned make it sufficiently clear that no serious moral theory can prohibit interpersonal aggregation altogether. But even subtler approaches than Taurek’s to the rejection of interpersonal aggregation fail to answer the simple but profound objection made by Derek Parfit in a response to Taurek: ‘Why do we save the larger number? Because we do give equal weight to saving each. Each counts for one. That is why more count for more’ (Parfit 1978, 301, his emphasis). Non-aggregationism is simply too restrictive, too rigidly libertarian, to ever be even minimally adequate in deciding what is morally right or wrong to do.

 

 

Asymmetric aggregation

At the opposite extreme lies asymmetric approach, which holds that interpersonal aggregation is morally permissible in any circumstance in which it would produce a benefit that would outweigh the aggregate harm involved. So it would be morally permissible to sacrifice (convict and punish through law) one innocent person if this were necessary for the conviction of ninety-nine others who have committed serious crimes, even if they were ninety-nine atrocious criminals. But the non-aggregationist position would also entail that an innocent person could be sacrificed if this would lead to the conviction of ninety-nine others who were guilty of lesser crimes, no matter how trivial: other things being equal, it would be morally permissible on this view to send one innocent person to prison as a means of convicting ninety-nine university students who violate copyright law by photocopying books without the written authorization of the publisher, or ninety-nine smokers who light up in a No Smoking area. Moreover, it follows from the non-aggregationist position that provided it’s necessary for the conviction of the ninety-nine, there is no limit to the severity of the legal punishment that could be inflicted on the one innocent person. He or she could be sentenced to life imprisonment, or, in legal systems that allow it, to death, if this were all that could secure the conviction of the ninety-nine, regardless of how serious or trivial their crimes were. Of course, when the level of asymmetry between the more serious and less serious considerations is very large, ninety-nine of the latter type would hardly be enough; the asymmetric aggregationist response is simply to adjust the number accordingly. Thus according to act-utilitarian Alistair Norcross (1997, 135), ‘there is some finite number of headaches, such that it is permissible to kill an innocent person to avoid them’. Norcross believes that the principle sanctioning such a choice is ‘not particularly unpalatable’, and that most people in practice accept at least some views that are close to it’ (ibid., 159).

 

What matters for the asymmetric aggregationist view is the relative “weight” of each opposing set of aggregated values, or sources of value. If one aggregate outweighs another, then that is the one that should be chosen, regardless of the relative significance of each individual value or source of moral value in each set. The aggregate good of convicting an even greater number, say one million unauthorized photocopiers, could on the asymmetric aggregationist view make it morally permissible to sentence one innocent person to death, if for some even stranger reason this were the only way of bringing the million to justice.

 

Peter Singer writes (1997, 277-8):

In a society in which the narrow pursuit of material self-interest is the norm, the shift to an ethical stance is more radical than many people realize. In comparison with the needs of people starving in Somalia, the desire to sample the wines of the leading French vineyards pales into insignificance. Judged against the sufferings of immobilized rabbits having shampoos dripped into their eyes, a better shampoo becomes an unworthy goal. The preservation of old-growth forests should override our desire to use disposable paper towels […] all these [luxuries] become disproportionate to people who can shift perspective long enough to take themselves, at least for a time, out of the spotlight.

 

Asymmetric aggregationists, like anybody else, could not reasonably dispute Singer’s assumption that the value of sampling fine wines is tiny alongside the value of preventing the suffering that starvation involves. As he noted many years earlier (1972, 231): ‘People can hold all sorts of eccentric positions, and perhaps from some of them it would not follow that death by starvation is in itself bad. It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to refute such positions, and so for brevity I will henceforth take this assumption as accepted’. But acceptance of the gross disparity in value here is consistent with holding that the value of sampling fine wines is not infinitely trivial; that could only mean that it had no value at all, and the principle of transitivity — if A is better than B, and B better than C, then A must be better than C also — would not apply to it.

 

It’s implicit in the passage just quoted than even Singer accepts that the enjoyment of fine wines does have some value. With asymmetric aggregation, this is all that’s needed: we have a situation with more than one source of value, from which it follows that the transitive relation “better than” necessarily applies. For brevity I’ll call the value of being able to live a life the quality of which is above subsistence level Life, and the value of being deprived of the fine wine Château Pétrus. Assuming for present purposes that the principle of transitivity is universally valid, it follows that although a single instance of Château Pétrus is vastly outweighed by Life, given a sufficiently large quantity of the former the opposite would be true. So if we assign Life the value of 1 and Château Pétrus the value of 0.000001, then 1,000,001 instances of Château Pétrus have an aggregate moral value that outweighs one instance of Life. To call such a conclusion repugnant, as Derek Parfit has labelled a similar conclusion (e.g. 1986, 148-64), is putting it mildly. This mechanical application of simple addition to moral reasoning is absurdly crude, but some, such as Norcross (1997), don’t see it that way. On the asymmetric aggregationist view, the only way to avoid this repugnant conclusion is to show that experiences such as drinking wine have no value at all. One can justifiably think that this can be shown without having to go as far as Roger Scruton, who seems to ascribe a moral value to wine: ‘the path to meditation, and the harbinger of peace’ (Scruton 2009, 5). The best hope of avoiding the repugnant conclusion is to argue that radically different kinds of value, such as those represented by Life and Château Pétrus, cannot be compared. But this line of argument could only succeed, it seems, in circumstances in which the “better than” relation is intransitive.[1]

 

 

Symmetric aggregation

This third approach permits interpersonal aggregation when the individual considerations being aggregated and weighed against each other are of equivalent moral importance, but involve different numbers of people. This equivalence or symmetry of the considerations being weighed against each other is what distinguishes symmetric from asymmetric aggregation. What the asymmetric and symmetric models share is that they are both maximizing approaches. The simplest example of symmetric aggregation in practice might be the familiar thought experiment of letting one person die (or even killing him) when this is the only available, or at least most likely to be successful, means of saving the lives of a greater number of others. (“Simple” is a misleading word here, of course, given the controversy over the question of what, if any, moral difference there is between killing and letting die, or more generally, between acts and omissions. But I’ll set that aside here). Symmetric aggregationism holds that it could be morally permissible to inflict some burden on one or more persons if only this could secure some benefit for a greater number of others. There would have to be some minimum standard, some lower limit on what counts as a sufficiently morally significant reason for imposing the burden in question on the smaller number of persons. It is in this respect that the symmetric aggregationist answer to what it is morally right, or at least permissible, to do in a given case differs most clearly from the asymmetric aggregationist answer: there are no limits on what can be aggregated in the asymmetric aggregationist model, whereas the symmetric model does involve some limits, of the following individualist sort.

 

In the asymmetric model, it is morally permissible to do whatever course of action will be most likely to secure the greatest aggregate benefit, irrespective of the level of moral significance of the individual benefits involved in the aggregation, and irrespective also of the level of moral significance or seriousness of the individual burdens involved in the aggregation. With symmetric aggregation, by contrast, the burdens imposed on each individual have to be equivalent in moral significance to the benefits accruing to each individual. This requirement of symmetry makes a significant difference between what’s morally permissible under the asymmetric model and what is so under the symmetric model.

 

Recall Joyce’s maxim: the symmetric aggregationist response would be that under certain conditions it’s possible to find a way of “rightfully condemning” the one innocent person if this is the most effective, or only, available means of convicting the ninety-nine. But it would be wrong on this view to impose a severe burden, say a jail sentence, on the one innocent person if the crimes of the ninety-nine, taken individually, were relatively minor, e.g. misdemeanours such as petty theft and being drunk and disorderly in a public place. The asymmetric aggregationist, unlike his symmetric counterpart, would see no obstacle to adding together the crimes of the ninety-nine to determine what size of aggregate burden would be needed to outweigh the benefit of convicting the ninety-nine guilty. If the aim were to bring ninety-nine misdemeanants to justice, the asymmetric aggregationist would have to show how it could be justified to imprison one innocent person in order to bring about this benefit to society. (I’m assuming throughout that for whatever reason, no other means of bringing about this aggregate benefit is available or would be as likely to work). The symmetric aggregationist doesn’t face the same requirement, since his line of reasoning doesn’t involve this procedure of “blind” aggregation of benefits and burdens that are then weighed against each other to yield an answer as to what course of action is morally permissible to take. Instead, for the symmetric aggregationist the first step comes prior to the aggregation procedures: the individual benefits and burdens must be compared to each other. This being done, it’s clear that in the example at hand, imprisoning the one would outweigh the benefit obtained, and so would be morally wrong.

 

The symmetric model, at its simplest, proceeds along these lines: if it would be morally impermissible to imprison one innocent person to secure the conviction of one misdemeanant, the requirement of symmetry at the individual level entails that the numbers would not count: it would still be morally impermissible to imprison one innocent person if this would lead to the conviction of more than one misdemeanant. There is nothing in this idea to suggest that there could be a cut-off point beyond which the individualist restriction (i.e. the requirement that the burden to each person cannot be larger than the benefit to each person) no longer holds. That is to say, the model offers no point at which one decide that although the conviction of one misdemeanant is of less moral significance than the imprisonment of one innocent person, the benefit to society of securing the conviction of, say, ninety-nine drunk and disorderly unauthorized photocopiers would be of such moral significance as to outweigh the harm to the one innocent person of imprisoning him.

 

In the previous two paragraphs I have discussed the lower limits on how aggregation can be carried out for it to be morally justified in terms of the symmetric model. What about upper limits – what restrictions, if any, are there within the symmetric model on what burdens it is morally permissible to impose in order to bring about some greater benefit? Here the greatest flaw of the symmetric aggregationist approach to moral reasoning is revealed. Recalling Joyce’s maxim again, if the imposition of burdens is morally permissible as long as these burdens are at least equivalent in moral significance to the benefits that imposition would be justified in bringing about, it follows from the symmetric aggregationist view that it would be permissible to impose an equivalent burden on the one innocent person, if this would secure the conviction of the ninety-nine. The problem, in short, is that according to the symmetric aggregationist model there is no upper threshold on what it is morally permissible to do. The severity of burdens is simply tied or indexed to whatever wrongs are to be offset or prevented by the course of action under consideration. So despite being a less expansive approach to aggregation than asymmetric aggregation, symmetric aggregation allows a smaller number, like Joyce’s one innocent man, to be subjected to potentially unlimited burdens if this were the only or most effective available means of bringing about a greater good; I consider this a serious flaw. The last approach in the taxonomy might be better.

 

 

Weak aggregation

Asymmetric and symmetric aggregation are both maximizing positions, but otherwise they don’t recognize any restrictions as absolute; in their different ways, they both allow potentially unlimited burdens to be imposed on an individual or small number if this would benefit a larger number of others. Weak aggregation differs from these two in that it involves two sorts of limitation that are absent from those other two approaches in the taxonomy that permit interpersonal aggregation. Unlike asymmetric aggregation, approaches to aggregation are “weak” when they involve placing limits on the types of considerations that can be aggregated and weighed against each other. So even if imprisoning one innocent person were the only possible way of bringing ninety-nine drunk and disorderly unauthorized photocopiers who smoke in a No Smoking area to justice, it would be morally impermissible. This is the first limit, which is shared with symmetric aggregation. The second limit, which is absent from both the asymmetric and symmetric approaches, is the upper threshold on the severity of the burdens that can be imposed on any individual person or persons in order to bring about a benefit for some greater number.

 

Specifying what form these two restrictions take and how they can be justified are difficult tasks outside my present scope. But one notable attempt to develop an approach to aggregation that includes both restrictions should be mentioned. The best-known, and also most promising exemplar of weak aggregation that I’m aware of is the individualistic approach to aggregation defended by Thomas Scanlon (1998). On this view, aggregation is morally permissible only to the extent to which the reasonable interests of each individual person whose interests are at stake in a given situation are taken into account in such a way that the person could not reasonably reject this outcome if her or she he had to bear the cost of bringing about some greater benefit (Scanlon 1998, 229-41). This principle of ‘reasonable rejectability’, which is central to Scanlon’s contractualist alternative to consequentialist moral theories, is what entails and justifies the two limitations I mentioned.[2]

 

 

Conclusions

Of the four types of approach outlined I consider weak aggregation to be the most defensible, although in saying this two qualifications apply. First, it has not been my aim in this paper to provide a detailed defence of weak aggregation; given the force of some of the objections that have been made against Scanlon’s form of it,[3] any such defence must be left until a later paper. All I’ve tried to do here is to sketch out rough characterizations of the various possible approaches to interpersonal aggregation. Second, to claim that the weak approach to aggregation is the most defensible one is not to claim that it is ideal. Interpersonal aggregation is essentially a form of compromise; and there can be better or worse, even rotten compromises (Margalit 2010), but no “ideal compromise”. This would be a contradiction in terms.

 

 

References

Hooker, Brad (2003) ‘Contractualism, Spare Wheel, Aggregation’, in Matravers (ed.) (2003), 53-76.

Joyce, James (1988) [1922] Ulysses (1922 Text), Ed., Intr., Annotated Jeri Johnson, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Margalit, Avishai (2010) On Compromise and Rotten Compromises, Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Matravers, Matt (ed.) (2003) Scanlon and Contractualism, 53-76. London: Frank Cass.

Norcross, Alistair (2002) ‘Contractualism and Aggregation’, Social Theory and Practice 28 (2), 303-14.

–––– (1997) ‘Comparing Harms: Headaches and Human Lives’, Philosophy and Public Affairs 26 (2) (Spring), 135-67.

Parfit, Derek (1986) ‘Overpopulation and the Quality of Life’, in Singer (ed.) 1986, 145-64.

–––– (1978) ‘Innumerate Ethics’, Philosophy and Public Affairs 7 (4) (Summer), 285-301.

Pogge, Thomas (2001) ‘What We Can Reasonably Reject’, Noûs 35 (1), 118-47.

Scruton, Roger (2009) I Drink, Therefore I Am: A Philosopher’s Guide to Wine, London: Continuum.

–––– (1997) [1993] How Are We To Live? Ethics in an Age of Self-Interest, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Singer, Peter (ed.) (1986) Applied Ethics, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

–––– (1972) ‘Famine, Affluence, and Morality’, Philosophy and Public Affairs 1 (1) (Spring), 229-43.

Temkin, Larry (1987) ‘Intransitivity and the Mere Addition Paradox’, Philosophy and Public Affairs 16 (2) (Spring), 138-87.

Timmermann, Jens (2004) ‘The Individualist Lottery: How People Count, But Not Their Numbers’, Analysis 64 (2):106-12.

 

 

Endnotes

[1] But for a defence of intransitivity see Temkin 1987.

[2] For Scanlon’s development of the idea of reasonable rejection see Scanlon 1998, especially Chapters one and five. Scanlon’s idea of ‘reasonable rejectability’ has received an enormous amount of critical attention; for a forceful objection to it see Pogge 2001.

[3] See for example Hooker 2003; Norcross 2002; Timmermann 2004, 107-8.

Ingerid S Straume and J F Humphrey (eds.), Depoliticization: The Political Imaginary of Global Capitalism (Malmö: NSU Press, 2011)

This split, so the thesis goes, aims to stifle any truly creative political critique of our institutions, thereby avoiding genuine structural changes that might hurt private capital’s interests. In this view, ‘depoliticization’ is the diminishing of any public capacity to imagine, create or deploy new forms, such that the depoliticizing political-economy split is an inherently anti-democratic defence of capitalism.

For example, discussion on who should bear the cost of the economic crisis is depoliticised. In business, transnational corporations wriggle out of any democratic scrutiny exercised in national interests. In law, institutions and rights become fixed in a way that can tend to immobilise political thought and action. In the symbolic field, undermining everything, the capacity to think or posit new institutional forms is deadened by fear and indifference.

In this way, runs the thesis, global capitalism feeds on depoliticization, so capitalists promulgate it until the freedom and autonomy of a political life is no longer possible. This authoritarian state is, the book suggests, the inevitable and imminent outcome. However, this is not so much a warning about fascism’s resurgence. Rather it is an intricate, provocative and mostly quite convincing theoretical elucidation of the subtle, sub-conscious architecture on which the current drift towards authoritarianism is constructed. The benefit of this work lies in the way it points out opportunities for a redesign: reconnecting politics with economy – politicising the debate, imagining and implementing new forms – becomes a key objective with a new and significant value.

Depoliticization assembles its tally of authors from five countries, representing over a dozen disciplines spanning economics, history and philosophy as well as political and social theory. There is a preponderance of Scandinavian contributors, but nevertheless the stated intention is to urge more transnational debate on our (perhaps Western) political fate and legacy.

In accordance with its central theme, the essays are organised in two parts: Economy and Politics. Opening with Straume’s more in-depth look at how the depoliticizing political-economy split leads to personal suffering (principally, it detaches us from reality and creativity), part one goes on to dissect capitalism’s ‘economic logic’. Arnason cites Baechler, Wallerstein, Boltanski and Chiapello to expose not only the irrational ‘spirit’ that underpins its multiple manifestations, but also and critically, the social-historical context that spawns it all. D T Cochrane’s ‘power theory’ harmonises Thorstein Veblen and Castoriadis in order to critique Marx’s Labour Theory of Value and pin down capitalism as ‘the valuation of control’. According to Lundkvist, this control commodity is used unaccountably by an oligarchy of transnational corporations to choke off market competition. Their strategically managed alliances and mergers give the lie to any notion of a ‘global free market’. Instead they spiral inexorably towards a ‘capitalist planned economy’. J F Humphrey rounds off part one by connecting the discussion to the current economic crisis. He draws out from Marx how money transforms from a means of exchange to become the ultimate commodity: production determines distribution, exchange and consumption, such that what is produced has no (social) value other than to satisfy the need for accumulation; or as Cochrane might say, control.

Blinkenberg builds on this in part two, working from Jacques Rancière’s argument that money as power requires the exclusion of ‘virtue’ (or perhaps ‘social value’). Rather, an ‘authoritative allocation of values’ ascribes virtue in order to legitimise acceptable political actors. Here depoliticization is a method of ‘value-neutral’ policing that safeguards the hierarchical distribution of power against democratic egalitarianism. Changing the hierarchy’s regimes for ‘truth-production’ by disclosing the function of truth, is what Foucault sees as the purpose of intellectual and political action, according to Jacobsen. Yet relativism, Foucault’s ‘tyranny of perspectives’, means that any claim to objective truth always proceeds from an infinite regression of fundamental hegemonic discourses, dissolving objectivity. Such impotence is perhaps made manifest in Europe’s Kafkaesque language shift from ‘pedagogy’ and ‘education’ to ‘learning’, as argued by Straume. Commodified and assessed by endlessly uncertain tribunals, ‘learning’ comes packed with a capitalist payload of quantitative, computable subtexts: competition, employment, product and again control are deemed virtuous for the ‘entrepreneurial citizen’. The lost ethos of autonomous critique, inspired by love in Castoriadis’ pedagogic scheme, is de-valued, de-personalised and effectively de-commissioned. Finally, Nilsen’s analysis of Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut illustrates the outcome of extreme wealth inequality and a switch from ‘productive capitalism’ (growth) to ‘finance capitalism’ (no growth). This is demonstrably a grand repetition of deteriorating trust, consciousness and intelligence that sets up the apparently imminent, unavoidable descent into despotism and dictatorship.

But democracy’s shallow grave may not be dug yet. If you’re prepared to bury your head in the text and not the ground, you can find some genuinely useful arguments here.  For example, Cochrane’s frankly excellent reading of capitalism as ‘the valuation of control’ provides a strong theoretical case for competing to command assets socially. Similarly Straume’s first essay shows that depoliticization rests on the inability to provide ‘sufficiently robust meaning’, such that teaching critical thinking to every citizen becomes a political as well as an educational mission.

‘Depoliticization’ is not directly addressed in every essay; for some it remains at the side. However, the papers overlap each other well enough to be stitched together with a good narrative, and so the eight authors cover the theme well. Collectively, they delve deep into capitalism’s depoliticizing traits, often working at the level of language and meaning. There are some quite fascinating technical constructions offered in explanation of unconscious or unobvious shifts, such as: controlled ‘free markets’; consumption determined by production; or money, power and control commodified for accumulation. There are also references to more popular economics (Stiglitz and Soros for example) and the odd graph (not listed in the contents) to explain relevant numeric data.

Given their intensity and density, some of the essays are wonderfully clear although in at least two, the author’s purpose or line of thought becomes obscured; whether by poor writing or poor translation is unclear. More of a practical problem was the lack of an index; while the use of footnotes rather than endnotes means locating a cited source requires endless flicking.

But the only real issue was in terms of a personal take on ideas. For me the capitalist paradigm of ‘growth’ appears to be accepted without question, despite its physical impossibility. Moreover, there was a tendency to dismiss ‘logic’ or ‘evidence’ too readily, while quantity always seemed subordinate to quality. I would have liked to have seen these points more clearly and fully discussed, not lost in the background as ‘value-neutral’ givens. But then, this is not so much a criticism of the work as a rejoinder to the discussion; which the authors would surely welcome.

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.