Skip to main content

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

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


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

In his documentary The Trap, Adam Curtis explains:

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

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

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

Economist and game theorist, Thomas Schelling, says:

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

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

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

Their leader was called James Buchanan.

Buchanan says:

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

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

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

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

Comments

  1. Natural human behavior, protecting finite resources in hand, is in mankind DNA. However, this became not the case for humans since 1712's steam engine in Britain - the observation that has been also written on passionately by William Jevons, back in the 1980's.

    The suspension of that instinct has played havoc with Economics, as now humans are unable to fathom the role of fossil fuels Energy in our civilisation.

    Humans can NOT manufacture energy (a constraint depicted in a couple of diagrams below).

    Economics and Social-Contracts written since Malthus, Adam Smith and Marx should now be re-written again for the coming, post abundant fossil fuels age.

    Until then, "The Tragedy of the Commons" has now given its own law of thermodynamics!

    https://the-fifth-law.com/pages/press-release?failedrev=economicsundermined

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

It's definite: Elizabeth Warren is the female Obama, can't be trusted

globinfo freexchange

One year from the 2020 US presidential election, things start to become clearer day by day. In the US political scene, we can now recognize the authentic progressives from the fakes, and certainly, from the establishment neoliberal centrists. 
In the presidential-candidates level we can now identify only Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard as the ones who are willing to fight the establishment and try to implement progressive, anti-imperialist policies. After her latest position, concerning the military coup in Bolivia against the democratically elected Evo Morales, Elizabeth Warren could be considered a pseudo-progressive, equal to a female Barack Obama. Therefore, progressives definitely can't trust her.
Warren tweeted:
The Bolivian people deserve free and fair elections, as soon as possible. Bolivia's interim leadership must limit itself to preparing for an early, legitimate election. Bolivia's security forces must protect demonstrators, not commit …

It's now or never: the first step for a Sanders/Corbyn synchronization in power must be done on 12 December in UK

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the global working class
by system failure
Two years ago, we wondered whether a US government under Bernie Sanders, together with a UK government under Jeremy Corbyn, could mark a decisive victory against neoliberalism. Whether it could mark the beginning of the end of the Reagan/Thatcher awful legacy.

It seems that the time has come for the first step towards this prospect.

The oncoming UK general election on Thursday 12 December 2019, will be the most critical for decades, especially for the global working class. The outcome will determine to a significant degree, whether the capitalist West will change course away from the destructive neoliberalism, towards a form of Democratic Socialism. A new model that will resurrect the social state, while at the same time, will seriously deal with the great environmental challenges, defying big interests and rejecting the for-profit-wars model.



As we already pointed out, the whole Brexit issue is pri…

Latest WikiLeaks revelation and its treatment by the mainstream press explicitly demonstrate why the imperialists are determined to eliminate Julian Assange

globinfo freexchange
On November, 23, WikiLeaks published an e-mail, sent by a member of an OPCW fact-finding mission to Syria to his superiors, in which he expresses his gravest concern over intentional bias introduced to a redacted version of the report he co-authored.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons sent a team of experts to investigate allegations that a chemical attack took place in the Syrian city of Douma on the 7th of April 2018. The author of the e-mail was a member of that team and claims the redacted preliminary version of the report, misrepresents the facts he and his colleagues discovered on the ground. The e-mail is dated 22nd of June. It is addressed to Robert Fairweather, Chief of Cabinet, and forwarded to his deputy Aamir Shouket and members of the fact-finding mission to Douma.  


In short, the OPCW whistleblower actually claims that the report has been somehow altered. And it was done in a way to fit the scenario, according to which, the Assa…

Mainstream media pro-Johnson propaganda gets into full swing

by Craig Murray
We are now under election broadcasting rules.

Ian Austin left the Labour Party nine months ago. He was then appointed by the Tories as Prime Ministerial Trade Envoy to Israel. As of yesterday, he is neither a MP nor a candidate for election. He is a minor politician who achieved only the most junior ministerial rank, PUSS, and for only seven months. He is best known for heckling Jeremy Corbyn while Jeremy Corbyn was delivering the official Labour response to the Chilcot Report on the illegal invasion of Iraq, shouting “Sit down and shut up” and “You stupid disgrace” at Corbyn for criticising the war.
We are now under election broadcasting rules. How and why was Ian Austin invited onto the BBC Radio 4 Today programme today? He left the Labour Party six months ago, and has been a huge critic of Corbyn. It is hardly a surprise that the Tory’s Trade Envoy to Israel advises people to vote Tory. So who initiated Ian Austin’s appearance on the BBC Today programme, and why? It…

LIVE: Bolivians resist military coup in La Paz

Οργανισμός Αμερικανικών Κρατών: Στην υπηρεσία της Ουάσινγκτον

του Ανδρέα Κοσιάρη
Ο Οργανισμός Αμερικανικών Κρατών, που εξέδωσε την έκθεση για την εκλογική αναμέτρηση στη Βολιβία, η οποία «δικαιολόγησε» το πραξικόπημα εναντίον του Έβο Μοράλες, είναι στη θεωρία ένας ουδέτερος οργανισμός κρατών. Στην πραγματικότητα όμως έχει μακρά ιστορία υποστήριξης των επεμβάσεων των ΗΠΑ στη Λατινική Αμερική, και σήμερα χρηματοδοτείται κατά πλειοψηφία από τα ταμεία του αμερικανικού κράτους. 
Παρά την ίδρυσή του το 1948 με σκοπό την «προώθηση της ειρήνης και τη διευθέτηση διαφωνιών μεταξύ των κρατών-μελών», ήταν μάλλον από την αρχή όργανο της αντικομμουνιστικής εξωτερικής πολιτικής των ΗΠΑ.

Ο ΟΑΚ υπήρξε σιωπηλός ή και στήριξε όλες ανεξαιρέτως τις αμερικανικές επεμβάσεις στη Λατινική Αμερική, είτε αυτές λάμβαναν τη μορφή εισβολής, όπως στην Κούβα το 1961, είτε τη μορφή στήριξης σε πραξικοπήματα και δικτατορικά καθεστώτα, όπως στη Χιλή το 1973 (και στην Αργεντινή, τη Βολιβία, τη Γουατεμάλα, τη Νικαράγουα, την Αϊτή, τον Παναμά, τη Βραζιλία, την Παραγουάη και τον Ισημ…

Fears for an assassination attempt against Evo Morales

BREAKING
Independent journalist, Ben Norton, tweeted that he has been informed about a possible assassination attempt against the Bolivian president Evo Morales. According to Norton:
          Sources are telling me they are afraid that Bolivia's elected President Evo Morales might be killed tonight in the right-wing coup.

Sources are telling me they are afraid that Bolivia's elected President Evo Morales might be killed tonight in the right-wing coup.

This is a full-fronted imperialist attack on democracy. It is a blatant attempt to recolonize Latin America and overthrow all efforts at progress. — Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) November 10, 2019
Updates

EU giving cover to the military coup that just took place in Bolivia. Neither the EU nor the US support democracy. The people of Bolivia already expressed their “democratic will” by re-electing Evo Morales. A right wing US-backed coup stole that from them, this is disgusting https://t.co/qamCSvYmz9— Rania Khalek (@RaniaKhalek)…

Nos oponemos al golpe

Declaración de Noam Chomsky y Vijay Prashad
En Bolivia se está gestando un golpe de Estado contra el gobierno electo liderado por Evo Morales. Sectores de la policía han dicho abiertamente que están dispuestos a permitir que grupos de milicias fascistas ataquen el palacio presidencial en La Paz. La situación es muy grave.

Evo Morales ha invitado a los cuatro principales partidos a sentarse y conversar sobre el camino a seguir para la democracia boliviana. Ha pedido el establecimiento de un diálogo para evitar el regreso de los días de las dictaduras militares y los gobiernos oligárquicos. Morales ha hecho un llamado a las Naciones Unidas, a la Organización de los Estados Americanos (OEA), al Vaticano y a otros más para que contribuyan a encontrar el camino para alejarse del golpe.

El golpe es promovido por la oligarquía boliviana que está enojada por la cuarta elección que sus partidos pierden frente el Movimiento al Socialismo. La oligarquía cuenta con el total apoyo del gobierno de los…

Here's why Bernie could end up being better than even FDR

globinfo freexchange

In his speeches, Bernie Sanders frequently refers to the 32nd president of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR), and his New Deal program that helped millions of Americans after the 1929 Wall Street crash. Sanders and other progressives are proposing a similar program adjusted to the modern environmental challenges. The Green New Deal has now become a popular vision, especially among young Americans. Around it, the progressives are aiming to build a whole new model beyond destructive neoliberalism and even obsolete capitalism.

Many would argue that this is quite an extremely optimistic view. That Sanders is just an old-school moderate Social-Democrat who will only manage to revive some typical social policies of the past, and that's it. He will never manage to seriously challenge the current power structure, which, indeed, has grown enormously, controlling nearly every aspect of the political and economic life.

Yet Sanders already managed to achieve …

Bolivian UN ambassador: “racist elite” engineered coup to restore neoliberalism in Bolivia

Democracy Now!
Thousands marched across Bolivia Monday to demand the resignation of Jeanine Áñez, the right-wing senator who declared herself president of Bolivia last week after longtime socialist President Evo Morales resigned under pressure from the military. 
The coup d’état has thrown Bolivia into crisis, with violence across the country leaving at least 23 dead. On Friday, the military gunned down nine pro-Morales protesters outside Cochabamba, where indigenous people took to the streets again on Monday. Thousands more marched to the presidential palace in La Paz. 
The wave of protests are condemning the spike in anti-indigenous violence under interim President Áñez and demanding the return of Evo Morales. Áñez has a history of using racist, anti-indigenous language, and last week she issued a decree protecting the military from prosecution for violent acts and said that Morales would face prosecution if he returned to Bolivia. 
Morales is Bolivia’s first indigenous president, a…