(I originally wrote this piece in November 2014 and never published it. Having since witnessed Brexit and Trump, the 14th anniversary of the Invasion of Iraq and the deaths of over 1 million people then it seemed worthwhile revisiting this and publishing it now. Power is even more foolish now then it was when I first started questioning it in 1996)
Deconstructing Sociopathic formations of Crony Capitalism and Government
As I write, I am aware that globally, our political, financial and social systems are lurching from crisis to ever greater crisis. Problems cannot be fixed because criticism has not adopted the appropriate tools and perspectives to give any reasonable account of how we have come to be in the state that were are in.
I have a very simple explanation. All of the problems we now face are directly attributable to the global ethical and moral degeneration of governments, banks, markets, corporations and some businesses as to how they go about their day to day ‘business’.
This is not a political crisis as such, nor is it a financial and purely economic crisis. It is a moral and ethical crisis which has created all of these problems. If this moral and ethical crisis is not addressed then the problems can never be fixed.
By means of an introduction, we firstly need to acknowledge that it is very difficult to come up with a single term that exposes the unethical phenomenon we are dealing with. Some call it crony capitalism, others propose a critique of the ‘corporate’ or corporatocracy. Further still, we can extend our critique to that of a generally deformed and mutated ‘institutionalism’ in that it involves a network of private and public sector institutions working in tandem, largely at the service of their own self interests.
I believe they all hold some kind of merit as a starting point for understanding why we find ourselves in our current situation, but that we still need additional signifiers in order to more fully define them and track their systemic influences. In a sense, one cannot write one term, without extending implications or nodding to the other conceptions. In this respect then I do not think it wise to use the terms with any precision but leave them as floating concepts that may merge and mutate as we travel through the processes of their examination.
Can economics only be understood from the perspective of economics? That would be its insistence. But economics cannot control its critique from other perspectives although it can loudly declare them all to be invalid. That is a given.
It is possible to interrogate the assumptions and processes of economics from the perspective of other disciplines. In this critique I propose to interrogate sociopathic forms of capitalism, government and economics from perspectives drawn from psychology and philosophy. Can economists or politicians object to this?
Economics would take its task to be an analysis of a system of production. However one can also assert that whatever the various organizational structures co-ordinating systems of production and what they actually end up ‘producing’ is irrelevant and that it is most important to analyse systems of productive wastage – i.e. wasted or pointless waged labour and wasted or pointless production itself – as systems for arranging and mediating social relations and social exchange.
That is, that they should not simply be judged by what or how much they waste, but by how effectively they mediate and systemically govern social relations which is the dominant concern.
It has been suggested that the colour of something was a secondary characteristic. But then how could one remove a secondary characteristic from something and then propose to purely understand it in terms of what one took to be its primary characteristics? Economics functions in such a manner. It lays claims to be a science by ideologically removing what it takes to be secondary characteristics such as the sociology of markets and money, the psychologies of market participants, and ultimately social relations and politics in general from its supposedly objective considerations.
All exchanges have social, psychological, philosophical and metaphysical elements. Markets and the possibility of exchange itself, are based upon a very complicated system of values rooted in faith, trust and ethics. The ‘value’ of anything, is an entirely metaphysical construct.
Before the science of Economics was born there was the subject of political economy which was a branch of moral philosophy. In departing from this transition, economics divested itself of the political and moral dimensions of the discipline. In divesting itself of any duty to tie economics to morality, economists have put us on a dangerous path.
From a psychological perspective there have been phenomenal cultural changes in how the institutions of now sociopathic forms of capitalism such as ‘crony’ capitalism operate and ‘do business’.
These changes can be understood in relative terms as forms of psycho-pathologies, socio-pathologies and a new term I will introduce – econo-pathologies or econo-pathics. From a philosophical perspective these omni-pathic qualities are produced as part of a moral and ethical crisis arising from specific ideological reductions.
In theory it is possible to make everything reducible to a single governing concept. Freud did it with the will to sexuality, Nietzsche with the will to power and Marx with the will to labour/production.
In all of their models, in being forced into accounting for everything, each reductive concept becomes massively over-determining and leaves its adherents in a state of theoretically abject poverty. Taken to their extremes they directly lead to the sociopathologization of the human condition to the extent that whole societies may become sociopathic as in Nazi Germany and the national cultural acceptance of persecution and genocide for which they philosophically excused themselves. This was bad philosophy. Any philosophy that leads us down the road to the unethical and immoral is bad philosophy.
In terms of philosophy and history, the Nietzschean ‘Will to Power’ was an extremely damaging concept. The trouble with the notion of power is that taken to its inevitable conclusion – it is logically impossible to critique. It casts everyone in eternal conflicts with one and other as a fundamentally ‘naturalized’ and organic human state of affairs. One cannot impose a moral or ethical order upon the functioning of power’s struggles once it is taken as a natural and unavoidable given that is operating everywhere. As Baudrillard noted, that in political terms, the more one inevitably has to see power’s operations everywhere, the less one is able to speak or critique thereof. There are simply no moral or ethical grounds to objecting to it. Besides, those who intellectually engage in power’s struggles do not end up empowered in any way.
Critical power theory is a political and social dead end that ends up characterizing all human social relationships in both the public and private spheres in terms of acts of repression and resistance. Not simply governments and peoples or management and workers, but husband and wife, parents and children, teachers and students etc etc.
This is essentially nihilistic in that it leads to denying the validity of anything else other than constituting and understanding all human relationships as acts of repression and resistance. One cannot make a joke at work, this is in fact a political act, the joke and humour everywhere, is categorized or ideologically hijacked by power theory to reduce its meaning and value to that of being an act of ‘resistance’. It really isn’t funny.
A real sense of humour seems rather a lot to sacrifice in order to prop up a massively reductionist conception of the world. I don’t think that critical discourse analysts set out or wanted to treat humour in such a fashion. It is simply the case that the foundations and logic of their theory gave them no other logical choice.
Power’s damaged souls live in a Kafkaesque nightmare of power’s reason that leaves Universities having to create ‘safe’ spaces to try and protect its damaged students who become overwhelmed by power’s endless struggles. Effectively, this leads to a complete withdrawal from economic, political and social realities that its students can no longer intellectually or emotionally cope with.
The foundations of any philosophy are massively important in that they always structurally determine what that theory inevitably is compelled to say whether it wants to say it or not. In these respects, logic can be a very bleak and cruel mistress and we need to be very careful about what principles we initially commit ourselves to.
Once power is fully centralized as the only theoretical governing concern, then that creates a political and social event horizon or black hole which sucks all morality and ethics out of the system’s thoughts. It inevitably ends up subsuming the value of anything and everything for the bleak and depressing futility of an endless general struggle. This theoretically opens the door for sociopathologies as it not morally or ethically possible to question its naturalized and centralized functioning. Wither morality as power doesn’t needs ethics anyway.
Intoxicated with the notion of power, but at the same time, fully aware of their own powerlessness – is when the psychopathic control freak starts mal-functioning in total disregard of the rights or welfare of others in order to briefly assert the ‘possibility’ of their control and temporarily restore a sense of ‘power’ which only inevitably goes missing again. The clinical absence of any real power and control, is what induces them into having to endlessly recycle their psychotic behaviours. The sociopath is born under the same process and dynamics.
One strategy of dealing with this phenomenon is to educate ourselves as to how and why we can never really be in ‘power’ as such and explain why ‘control’ will always be elusive and problematic to the young man who proposes to himself that now he will make her love him or the naivety of a government looking at its society and then powerfully rolling up its sleeves and saying that now it will perfect it.
Instead of explaining powerlessness and uncontrollability, therapies themselves become locked into the same vicious circle of trying to ‘empower’ the patient by other means. This just locks the patient into having to make up for an endless natural deficit. ‘Treatment’ takes place at the expense of simply educating ourselves that powerlessness and the absence of real control is just normal for everyone and there is nothing to get worked up about. No-one is the author of their being and existence. We still need good moral and ethical guidance from our parents and our education systems, but we accidently become what we become as neither we, our schools or our parents can ever fully ‘control’ the entirely phenomenal contexts of experiences that we will fortunately and unfortunately encounter.
A curious question, but would we really want to live in a world where we were truly powerful and could control everything? Such a world would be entirely predictable and boring as we robotically conducted everything.
Government would attempt to clone or industrially produce us as ‘productive’ robots according to its perceptions of general systemic requirements which are themselves governed by a voluntary commitment to the circular logics of a the system of production itself and its demands for production and consumption to increasingly take place at any costs under the teleology of productive and economic growth which it confuses with progress. I shall examine this phenomenon later in an ethical and moral interrogation of the system of production itself.
Putting that aside for the moment, we need to account for why we are not the clones that government would have us be. Government is inevitable disappointed that it is unable to construct us according to its model requirements, not because we politically resist its power, but because of our accidentally becoming ourselves in the phenomenal contexts beyond government or parental control. This makes for a far more interesting prospect and world, as it place no restrictions as to who and what we might become or end up thinking. Bad for power but good for diversity. The absence of real power and real control is fundamental to diversities and transformations everywhere and on every level. Because real power and control to do not exist, we have very personal identities in addition to our collectively shared systemic identities and values. What were the accidental chances of that happening?
One doesn’t need to object to power in each and every case of its misuse and abuse as one can object to its applications everywhere in principle by simply demonstrating the futility of its naively intended operations which always end up being self defeating as they are subject to the limitations of its own self deceptions and inevitable governing cluelessness.
One only has to look at US foreign policy to see the discrepancies between its intentions and the clueless and naive assumptions of its power to liberate or westernize Iraq or win a war on terrorism or bring Russia to its knees etc. – with the actual outcomes of powers utterly miss-guided interventions as a series of rolling international disasters and miss-adventures.
How is it that power never learns the futility of its operations when confronted with the historical litanies of its consistently spectacular failures to achieve what it sets out in its founding propositions? Power is foolish and it will carry on being foolish so long as it is blind to its own naivety and the futility of its operations. We can all understand powers having its plans, but it rather needs to be pointed out that given the naivety of its assumptions, that they are really not going to work.
The History of Econopathics – tracking irresponsibility via outsourced decision making and the distribution of risk
Having discussed problematics within the schematics of the Will to Power, I would now demonstrate how similar problematics occur once one takes a reductive governing schemata of capitalism as a purely economic functioning within a Will to Profit.
One can identify sociopathological forms of capitalism and government as acting solely within an identical ideologically reductionist schematas of a ‘Will to Profit’, ‘Will to Office’ or ‘Will to Growth’ that tries to ‘account’ for or justify everything and refuses to be judged or account for itself on anything other than its own ethically and morally limited terms.
Consequently, there is a socio-pathological and econo-pathological difference between the ideologies of a moral and ethically grounded liberal free market capitalism and that of an unethically and immorally grounded crony capitalism/corporatocracy and predatory versions of capitalism.
The essential difference is that sociopathic forms of capitalism, courtesy of the will to profit, has only one governing principle and that is the ruthless maximization of profit. It is the single concept by which it rationalizes its existence and behaviours. This single minded pursuit of profiteering as its only defining feature, inevitably leads to its own general corruptibility as a central feature of its socio and econo-pathic character and functioning.
This morally and ethically deficient single mindedness is commonly justified by stating that first and foremost, it is the duty of the company to maximize its profits for its own good and for that of its shareholders and that society in general will benefit from its wealth production.
Although it sounds mostly innocent in principle, this basic premise is acceptable until the econo-path reaches the utterly reductive conclusion that nothing else but the will to profit matters.
At this stage, a sociopathologically mal-adjusted form of capitalism, purges itself of all morality. This has led just as with power, to a kind of post-ethical event horizon, an ideological black hole, which sucks any morality and ethics, responsibility and accountability – out of the system and with it, any possible objections to the corrupted manners of its twisted socio and econo-pathic functioning.
Sociopathologized capitalism has no concerns other than its own self interests. It cares not for the welfare of its own staff, it cares not for the community or the environment, it cares not for the companies it squeezes and puts out of business. It is against equality, it is against free and open competition, it is against civil liberties and freedom of speech. It is against open government, transparency, responsibility and accountability. Ultimately, it is ambivalent about the financial solvency of the masses because there is more profit to be extracted from nations of debtors than stable nations composed of solvent middle and working classes bound together in strong communities.
Perhaps this can be best illustrated by reference to one of my and indeed the world’s favourite films. Frank Capra’s “Its a Wonderful Life” which most of us should be familiar with. The whole story of its a wonderful life pivots around a struggle between the acceptable and the unacceptable faces of capitalism. The mortgage and loan company is a bank with a strong sense of community and a strong sense that as an organization it should be socially responsible and accountable and has a self-imposed duty to invest in the community to the benefit of all its members. The Mortgage and Loan banking company is a community centric, morally and ethically balanced entity. It is a supportive, company that cares about its staff, its customers and the quality of life in the general community in Bedford Falls.
In contrast Henry Potter’s bank and property rental company is the complete antithesis of the community centric views of the Mortgage and Loan Company. Henry Potter has no concerns for the community, its inhabitants or their quality of life. His views are purely guided by the pursuit of maximum profit and is perfectly happy to rent slums to the inhabitants of Bedford Falls leaving them with little or no sense of the community or a stake in it. He is devoid of morals and ethics and will do anything he can to achieve his aims regardless of the damage he causes. He is fundamentally a sociopath.
In its most despicable forms, econo-pathics places no sanctity whatsoever on the value of human life. In extremis, it works with government and intelligence communities, to destabilize regions and generate conflicts around the globe in order to sell its arms and maximize its profits to the extent that it has now reached a stage of perpetual conflict to keep its profitable business models alive and growing. The invasion of Iraq, which was then rhetorically recast as a ‘liberation’ by a coalition of the willing to profit, was seen by the US corporatocracy as the business opportunity of that decade.
In all these respects, crony capitalism is inherently unprincipled as it has no other rules and ethics, other than the logically over-determining circularity of the return of returns. It is the ideologically bankrupt bottom line that trumps all morality and ethical behaviour. Crony capitalism would lay claims to be associated or affiliated to liberal free market capitalism, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Commonly, if one objects to the unprincipled mal-functioning of crony capitalism – one is ironically called a socialist. But it is crony capitalism itself that is inherently socialist and is all about the redistribution of taxpayer’s wealth in one form or another. It’s just that it inverts the flow of distribution. Crony capitalism is the reversed mirror image of socialism and government interventionism. That is essentially why it found such easy bed fellows in the labour party in the UK. The same players are enlisted – governments, central banks etc. in order to redistribute printed money, tax payer money, public debt and risk as future claims on the tax paying masses, all for the profit of a tiny elite. Crony capitalism, like socialism or communism, is the antithesis of liberal free market capitalism.
Liberal free market capitalism with an appropriate morality and ethics, can exist without government and taxes, whereas crony capitalism absolutely relies on them for it to ineffectively malfunction.
It is perfectly rational to be a free market capitalist and also care about civil liberties and freedom of speech. It is perfectly rational to be a free market capitalist and care about the health and wealth of one’s workers and indeed the community in general. One can believe in equality of opportunity and free and open competition. One can be a free market capitalist and still think that effort should be fairly rewarded and that the health of societies from a holistic viewpoint, is dependent on the reasonable and advancing prosperity of all of its collective communities and members. If we desire such improvements in our own lives and communities, then we would also like to see them extended to the global community and want all the world to be a safer, healthier, wealthier and happier place.
There is no incompatibility between free market capitalism and strong ethics and morality. Indeed capitalism flourishes when these virtues are central to its concerns.
Any company need not try to wring every last drop of profit out of its customers and every last drop of blood and life out of its employees. Indeed such an approach turns out to be extremely detrimental to business and societies in general.
The most successful moral and ethical companies are those who supply as good a value, reliable product as possible, with the highest possible levels of service and with a cast iron guarantees. They value their customers and their staff. They train them well, and reward their staff accordingly.
The bottom lines of such investments are hard to quantify in the short term, but in the long run they build the trustworthy reputation of the company and its products and gain the long term faith of the customer. The company is loyal to its staff and its customers and they in turn reward the company by the return of their loyalties. It is a case study in which all parties benefit. The company makes decent profits, the staff are happy and enjoy their work knowing they are selling good value products and the customer enjoys the benefit of such good value and service, safe in the knowledge of the company’s reliable guarantees. This is capitalism as it should best morally and ethically function.
The moral and ethical workings of capitalism have been under erosion for some time now. It starts with sharp business practises and extreme miss-selling. In order to maximize sales and profits, the company is not content to let the customer come to them out of their own free volition. Instead it sends its representatives out door to door in the communities. This develops into a form of predatory capitalism where the salesman has no faith in the product and the customer has no need for it, nor can they necessarily afford it. In such scenarios it is a very short journey from being a willing customer, to becoming an economic victim. This is a sociopathic form of business that far from valuing its customers – reconstitutes them as a form of prey.
Such sellers usually target vulnerable groups such as the elderly. They have been trained to lie and deceive the victim. To mislead and bamboozle them. They will throw every trick in the book at the victim in order to make their sale. This is an entirely unethical and immoral way of doing business. It is a very unpleasant experience for the vulnerable victim who may end up spending a large amount of their retirement savings on some windows that really didn’t need replacing. The whole process is not so far removed from being a form of domestic mugging.
This is capitalism on the road to its own sociopathology. It only cares about the sale and profit and nothing else. When it happens on a large enough scale, as occurred with the Payment Protection Insurance miss-selling scandal in the UK, one could see that such sharp and sociopathic practises had been culturally adopted throughout the financial industry on an industrial scale. It is only rarely that such unethical and immoral practises are detected and published. Most miss-selling takes place in the home either directly by sales intruders, or indirectly via the telephone, post and email. Again, it is a very short moral distance to travel from the culture of miss-selling to a culture of fraud.
It is perfectly rational to be a free market capitalist and hold that at the very heart of all business and the successful functioning of societies in general are relationships of trust and faith. This underpins all of our transactions and exchanges be they economic or exchanges in the private sphere backed by promises such as I love you. Trust can only be secured by everyone proceeding with the very highest ethics, integrity and morality. We desperately need honesty and transparency in order to trust one and other. We need to think and act responsibly and be held accountable for our inevitable mistakes and failures, but must always try our best to live up to very high standards and expectations that we should set for ourselves.
I believe that in reading many free market capitalists on the web, such as Mike Shedlock, Charles Hugh Smith and Chris Martenson to name but a few, these virtues and values underpin all their thinking. Such values underpin any and all goodness in any society.
Indeed, one could say that it matters not which politics one pursued, whether it be capitalism, socialism or communism, if all these values were absolutely central to how all institutions went about their business and how we all collectively interacted, then they would all have had a much better chance of succeeding in their aims.
Communism allowed itself to fall into immoral and unethical practises as it took a scientific and systemic view of its populations. Humanity was identified or downgraded to being just another ‘resource’ to be scientifically moulded in what it took to be the optimum construct to suit the production system. By reducing its philosophy to only considering the system of production, its populations lost all their freedom and rights as they were a burden on the scientific system. In the West we used to have personnel departments. These too have been downgraded by the ideological construction of employees as human ‘resources’ to be systematically manipulated in order to maximize profits.
The stark realization on this point is that all political systems fail, not necessarily via flaws in their economic assumptions but by virtue of the fact that they do not fully embrace and centralize virtues which are essential for human relationships and exchanges to take place to the best of their potentials. All of which are paramount, in order to sustain the maximum levels of systemic faith and trust in order to provide stability in the interests of community and global peace.
Such virtues and values are the hallmarks of any societal gold standard that we should all aspire to. The glib counter argument of the sociopathic mind is that we all need to ‘get real’ and eat as many profitable dogs as possible.
The state of the world as we depressingly find it now, has come about because key institutions have abandoned such values. Sociopathic forms of capitalism, corporotocracy or institutionalism – have ideologically liberated themselves of any such moral and ethical requirements. In as much as they claim to be morally and ethically ‘grounded’, then this is done within a lip service economy.
The cost of doing political and economic business without ethics is stark. The financial crisis above all else, was the end game of the absolute break down of counter party trust within the financial system. This breakdown in trust, all happened for very good reasons which I will discuss shortly.
It is a rule in my thinking now, that any system that fails to take these essential core values seriously enough, will eventually fail and it makes very little difference what complexion it takes its politics to be. Be they red or blue faced participants, they are all suffering an ethical sickness.
If any phenomenon seems to represent the mood of our times it is a breaking down of trust. People do not trust government or its institutions, they do not trust markets, banks and corporations. One cannot even trust the accounts of a supermarket such as Tesco. The masses are slowly coming to the realization that ‘democracy’ is not working in their favour.
Trust is now also breaking down on an international scale. The cold war has been restarted (for profit?) and relationships between the West and East are rapidly deteriorating. The West does not trust Russia and Russia does not trust the West. There are good reasons for this break down in trust, not least a dark, irrational, incoherent and hypocritical US foreign policy. This leads to the somewhat absurd portrayal of US secret and covert services as operating at the level of not for profit global charities with everyone’s globally collected best interests at heart.
From economic outcomes, it is clear that the ‘resolution’ to the financial crisis was cynically hijacked by sociopathic financial industries and the corporotocracy for their own gains. The economic ‘recovery’ was based upon the unlikely argument that it was the duty of the masses to make economic sacrifices, whilst it was the task of state sponsored financial entities and corporations to make as much money as possible, under the alibi that all the ‘wealth’ produced from a vast gamut of tax payer and central bank funded ‘projects’, would trickle down to the masses and the whole of society would benefit.
History has now shown this ‘policy’ to have been a complete and utter failure. It has and will continue to effectively erode the general prosperity of societies on a global basis and the inequalities between wealth and income can only become further and further stretched until they reach breaking point. As suggested above, this has taken place based upon an economic argument that posits that a recovery will take place for the economic benefit of all, by the erosion of the wages, savings and purchasing power of the masses on a global basis. This is an assumption that economies can function effectively without the solvent demand of the masses. And therein lies the rub. In such a situation, demand can only be secured by increasing debt levels for increasingly insolvent governments and their masses. It seems completely irresponsible to carry out the biggest monetary experiment in history when it held such high risk for generating the conditions for extreme political, economic and social instability on a global scale.
Such a process happens in the slowest of slow motions and as such it remains largely invisible. We can all collectively witness consumption and people buying things, but what is not obvious or transparent are the credible terms on which they are buying things and whether they can really afford them or not. The same is true of government spending. Debt is the invisible circus driving a cancerous ‘growth’ and mirage of economic betterment and progress.
In a recent speech at the Boston Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen illustrated this outcome in the US. Sadly, the same outcome applies on a global level.
“The lower half of households by wealth held just 3 percent of wealth in 1989 and only 1 percent in 2013. To put that in perspective….average net worth of the lower half of the distribution, representing 62 million households, was $11,000 in 2013. About one-fourth of these families reported zero wealth or negative net worth, and a significant fraction of those said they were “underwater” on their home mortgages, owing more than the value of the home. This $11,000 average is 50 percent lower than the average wealth of the lower half of families in 1989 ($22,000), adjusted for inflation. Average real wealth rose gradually for these families for most of those years, then dropped sharply after 2007.”
Janet L. Yellen
At the Conference on Economic Opportunity and Inequality, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Boston, Massachusetts
To put that in sharper focus, 50% of the population or 62 million households, could lay claim to a mere 3% of national wealth in 1989 and by 2013 this had declined by 66% to a miniscule 1%. This is not as if their share declined because a massive amount of additional wealth was created. It is not merely a question of increasing wealth and income inequality, because alarmingly, the lower half of the population have seen what wealth they did have, being wiped out in the 6 years between 2007 and 2013. The $11,000 average in wealth in 2013 was a massive 50% decline from 1989 when the average must have been $22,000. Wealth and income inequality are always relative terms, but for 50% of a population to see their wealth halved is rather more significant to them, than the statistical fact that someone else has more. All in all, the lower half of US families have seen $682 billion dollars taken from them. I imagine that was a fair amount of systemic demand that has gone missing.
I reiterate: there is no logical discrepancy between being a free market capitalist and having a genuine social conscience and believing that societies will become more civilized by improving the wealth, health, educations, community and environments of all, as the holistic improvement of the quality of life of all of its participants. All of this can only be achieved if all participants act with honesty, transparency, decency, sympathy, compassion and integrity. Everyone needs to be brought up and educated with the very highest moral and ethical standards in order to try and make trust a universal given.
Traditionally, we would have identified that all democratic politics strived for such a state of affairs and that politically differences occurred, not in the implicitly agreed goal or teleological aims of the political project, but by the means in which parties proposed to deliver us collectively into that generally wished for state of being.
In a very alarming way, I would point out that no-one in their right minds, no matter which party they supported, would have voted for the wealth decimation indicated by Janet Yellen above. It is an entirely undemocratic state of affairs. When the wealth of 50% of US citizens is halved, then that is a political outcome which is tantamount to an economic war on the middle and working classes.
Unelected central bankers cannot claim to be objective or independent in their actions to bring about such a situation as the effects are entirely political. This is an economic, political and social disaster. I stress again, that the financial crisis was never simply a technical economic problem to be addressed and solved by academic economists. To view it purely in terms of economics is a massively reductive form of thinking. The financial crisis arose through the moral and ethical degeneration of market participants and this sociopathic degeneration needed to be ‘treated’ as such.
If no-one voted for this undemocratic state of affairs then it seems to be a matter of democratic urgency to understand how and why this has all come about? If we have an undemocratic outcome, then we must concede that democracy is no longer functioning in the interest not just of the majority that voted for a set of policies, but for the masses in general regardless of their expressed political choices as no party was offering this outcome to voters in their manifestos. If this was not what they promised then it is a matter of urgency to address how and why the unwanted outcome was delivered.
To return to Janet Yellen’s speech, then helpfully, she clearly gives us a timeframe as to where we should start looking. “Average real wealth rose gradually for these families for most of those (25) years, then dropped sharply after 2007”.
This means that an examination of the financial crisis and the history of how it has been ‘dealt’ with are central to understanding this sharp decline in wealth and amplification of wealth and income inequality. Firstly I would like to demonstrate some of the processes by which the financial industry allowed itself to jettison its ethics.
Free markets and de-regulation are always fine in principle, so long as all of its participants have good morals and ethics to properly keep the enterprise grounded for the benefit of all participants and also society as a whole.
The financial crisis, which became manifest in 2007, was brought about because key market participants had lost their moral and ethical centres and had culturally adopted the sociopathic psychology of the socio econo-path, whose only concern is to make maximum profits by any means. This is the only ‘rule’ that governs their activities under get real logics.
In the financial crisis, this trait was manifested by the fact that profits were pursued, in total disregard of the risk and the global damages that were to be transmitted to everyone else and for which the global masses are still even now being made to pay.
In order to understand the financial crisis it is important to see how the socio econo-pathic market participant, evaded responsibility (and hence also accountability) by outsourcing or distributing risk and responsibility to third parties.
Traditionally, a bank manager who lent money to a customer retained responsibility for that loan. He would make decisions based upon good local knowledge and experience of each customer on an individual basis as to the risk involved. The bank would subsequently own that loan for its duration and the bank and manager who took on the risk would always be responsible and accountable for it. Any manager who made a series of bad decisions would rightly lose his job and any bank with a large number of managers making bad decisions would obviously go bust.
In the above model the decision maker is firmly rooted in the community and had very good knowledge of their customers and the local business environment. If one goes back to the 1960s and 1970s, banks tended to have lifelong loyal customers and managers were intimately informed of their customers, their business, their character and their risk potential. They had the knowledge to recognize a bad risk which looked good on paper and also a good risk that looked bad on paper.
Systematic changes in decision making structures within banks and financial industries in general have marginalized the role of local knowledge within decision making processes.
In parallel with this, following financial deregulation and internal instrumental revisionism within the financial industries, it developed increasingly complicated, obscure and opaque financial products which could not properly be subjected to adequate risk assessment.
The most significant of these in terms of the financial crisis was the Collateralized Debt Obligation or CDO. Since the financial crisis this term has obviously fallen into disrepute and has been discarded by markets. However, the actual ‘products’ have remained in everything but name as Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS) and Asset Backed Securities (ABS). Basically a CDO was a big package of different loans of differing investment grades bundled together and sold to investors, mostly pension funds.
In principle CDOs, MBSs and ABSs make a lot of sense in that they distribute risk in credit and lending. That is fine, but only providing that all lending and risk assessment is being done in good faith and that it is underpinned by all the participants having good judgement, strong ethics and morality.
The financial crisis came about, not because of any inherent problem with the structure of the products themselves, but out of the unethical use of them by markets which had become morally and ethically degenerated at a cultural and institutional level. Fraud was intellectually acceptable to it, in so much that everyone else was doing it and it was extremely profitable. It was merely a case of all participants getting real as to the terms on which it was institutionally permissible to make money and maximize profits regardless of whether that was moral, legal or ethical.
Perversely, the ability to distribute risk had systemic side effects. The decision maker, in deciding whether to give someone a car loan or mortgage, now has the ability to distribute the risk of his decision making to other people who have no local knowledge of the quality and risk of the loans being made.
This occurred on an industrial scale or as a culturally accepted manufacturing process.
In so much as they could do this, they had also absolved themselves of any real responsibility and accountability for that debt as it would be then bundled in complicated and opaque packages and sold on to investors looking for yield in a risk transfer market.
The central question here, is wasn’t the fact that the money lender retained ownership and responsibility for the debt, rather central and fundamental to their having to make good decisions as to how risky the lone making was in the first place?
This outsourcing of responsibility, means that on a systemic level and in principle, via the risk distribution system itself, the lender need no longer make any good decisions at all and he can make loans with no knowledge at all.
The system designed, advanced and opened itself to potential abuse, to the extent that socio and econo-pathic lenders, whose ethics and morality are only bounded by the concept of maximum profit within the shortest time frame, could create toxic loans purely for short term profit, commission and bonuses – in the knowledge that they could evade any responsibility and accountability for their decisions as they could immediately offload and distribute their toxic debts, hidden within complex and opaque CDOs.
This is precisely what happened and this led to the financial crisis. Whilst one can distribute risk, one cannot eliminate it. The global financial crisis proved that CDOs were 100% effective in distributing risk as they globally transmitted it to the point that it infected everyone.
The crucial point here is that as a corrupted socio and econo-pathic corporation, Enron was by no means unique and the financial crisis was not caused by a small number of rogue lenders. They are legion because corruption and unethical practises have been culturally institutionalized.
It could only come about with the instruments and mechanisms created for the distribution of risk and the resulting industry wide culture of irresponsible lending governed by the imperative of making immediate and short term profit at any costs. This was also backed by the collusion of ratings agencies to inappropriately grade risk packages.
All of this took place without the participants caring in the slightest what effects the creation of this toxic debt mountain would have or the costs that would eventually have to be borne by those who were duped into investing in it and ultimately the costs which have been transferred and amplified to the masses who have been paying ever since. Not least the 62 million US families who have seen their wealth ripped in half in such a complacent fashion.
The financial industry still bears no guilt, no remorse, no sympathy and no compassion for the huge amount of suffering and wealth destruction it has caused and that it continues to cause. To date no-one has been held responsible or accountable. All of these are classic symptoms of a sociopathic personality or culture operating at institutional levels.
Not only has this system not been prosecuted for its actions, then via bail-outs and QE virtually ever since, it has been fabulously rewarded for them with trillions and trillions of dollars.
In terms of behavioural psychology and training, then this is a case of trying to supposedly rectify a sociopathic institutional culture, by massively rewarding and compensating it for its own bad behaviour.
In view of this ‘therapy’, does anyone suppose that since the crisis, this sociopathically deformed culture has somehow come back to its senses and proper moral and ethical values? Not if one looks at the mounting legal bills that banks continue to rack up for their day to day criminal activities for rigging Libor and foreign exchange rates as more and more illegal banking activities are revealed.
Not only have government and central bankers rewarded such irresponsible behaviours, they have fully endorsed them. Accepting that such institutions were too big to fail and also too big to prosecute – is commensurate with letting them know that they could now do anything they want. The reason that no-one has been prosecuted and held to account is because the crimes were committed at an institutional level and as such, vast swathes of the financial industry would needed to have been criminalized.
The cause of the financial crisis was attributable to a sociopathological defect in the personality/culture of financial institutions, once they had produced the necessary instruments and arguments to effectively absolve themselves from responsibility and accountability for their decision making and actions.
The history of the crisis from this point on, is consistently marked by the processes by which notional governing institutions have outsourced their ‘power’, responsibilities and general political accountability in dealing with it. Sociopathologies can only flourish under systemic conditions of irresponsibility and unaccountability.
Once we have a crisis then we have to ‘deal’ with it. One of the striking features of this particular crisis is that it has not been dealt with on any level at all. Other than throwing endless and mind bogglingly large amounts of money at it, all we have seen is a general abdication of power and responsibility as part of a general failure to take any real action. Inaction, is not without responsibility and still a political decision. As such, politicians should still be held accountable for their doing nothing at all other than add further complexity to financial regulations which clearly didn’t work in the first place.
The response of government to the crisis, after initially bailing out the banks with tax payer’s money and future claims on it, has been for supposedly democratic elected entities with ‘power’, to evade responsibility by outsourcing or distributing all decision making, along with the risks and responsibility of dealing with it – to central banks as an unelected and unaccountable third party. The crisis and the principles of democracy with it, were naively exported to supposedly independent and objective, ‘trustworthy’ economic technocrats.
One could counter this notion by entertaining the logical possibility that if the institutions and culture of the financial industry had become corrupted, then was there not a good chance that seeing that central banks were intimately associated with such institutions in its everyday ‘dealings’, and also populated by the same corrupted cross members – that such corruption had inevitably transmitted itself into their august bodies?
Given that responsibility for dealing with this crisis was outsourced to central banks then one would have assumed that they should have acted responsibly in how they proposed to fix the problem. Interestingly, in approaching this task, then just as the political class had outsourced their decision making and responsibility to central bankers, then central bankers in turn, immediately transferred and outsourced all decision making and responsibility to their preferred market participants who would unconditionally be the recipients of trillions of dollars with no question asked of them as to how they were going to invest this newly created money. How very convenient for crony capitalism.
Central bankers talk of their tool boxes as if they possessed surgical instruments for operating on the economic patient in its most scientific sense. I believe that it is possible that QE could have been practised in a very targeted fashion, if it set its sights on community improvements determined by direct participatory democracy as a basis for local economic regeneration as part of a nationally equitable distribution of QE to improve the opportunities and quality of life for all.
A big society needs to be based upon the most effective and cohesive of communities with excellent facilities to boost the health, wealth and provide all opportunities for all its members to be involved and make their participatory contributions in improving them.
Communities defining their own projects and sourcing local labour and materials would have directly benefited local economies and created local jobs and more prosperity everywhere and gone a long way to building community identity and cohesion. These would all be investment decisions for communities to address themselves in a properly participatory democratic process and not directives or blueprints handed down by central governments and central planners and imposed upon communities whether they wanted or needed them or not.
This was a chance to reinvent a democratic politics for the better, by letting people democratically decide the kind of communities that would most benefit them.
Printing money may be an act of economic desperation, but if done to the benefit of everyone, then everyone can observe that it has directly benefited their communities and lives and that at least the money was used in a positive investment to the equitable benefit of all. We could have all greatly profited from such an approach on so many levels.
In contrast to such an approach we should adjudicate how wise an investment the central banks made with trillions and trillions of dollars at their disposal. Disposal is the key here, instead of targeting their investments they simply disposed of them along with their ‘responsibility’ and accountability for any of the outcomes of their ‘policy’.
They specifically chose a policy of wealth ‘distribution’ that gave them no control whatsoever as to where and how that money would be invested and spent. They outsourced this ‘responsibility’ to selected market participants and with it the possibility that it could be in any way targeted or controlled. This is an act of gross irresponsibility and political and economic negligence.
The funds, decision making and investment choices were directly transferred to preferred market participants on a completely unconditional basis.
This ‘policy’ completely ignored the econo-pathological culture that had developed in markets. In order to be effective in the terms in which QE was carried out, would have required that markets had a strong social conscience and ethics and that they were not simply in the business of trying to maximise their returns in the shortest possible time regardless of the social and economic outcomes of their speculations.
The ‘policy’ of government and central banks was completely insane, in that it takes the morally and ethically degenerated participants that caused the crisis in the first place, disposes itself of its own ability to strategically target and address the problem, and instead, transfers all the funds and investment decision making responsibilities to the very same people who initially caused the problem, in order for them to supposedly resolve the problem, under the naïve assumption that in the interim they must have come back to their appropriate ethical, social and economic senses and that decidedly unfree and rigged markets will ‘efficiently’ allocate these new resources.
Of course, very predictably, no such thing has taken place. Instead of regenerating real world investment and real world economics in real world communities, the vast majority of the newly created wealth has been used in purely speculative activities in order to maximize profits in as short a time as possible. Sociopathic leopards do not voluntarily change their spots or elected affinities.
QE has not been remotely used as a ‘tool’. It has been applied according to a completely irresponsible and unaccountable model that leaves decision making to the entirely self interested governing whims of sociopathic market participants under the ludicrous assumption that this will benefit all.
Central banks put the execution of QE into precisely the format that it needed to be, in order to irresponsibly syphon trillions and trillions of dollars into the pockets of its preferred market participants without any kind of contractual moral, ethical or social obligation for them to invest or distribute the funds wisely or for any general good.
Unsurprisingly, those who hijacked the financial crisis have remained the sole beneficiaries of all attempts to supposedly mediate or address it – at the direct cost of everyone else as exemplified by the 62 million US families who have seen their wealth ripped in half without any kind of vote on the matter. $682 billion is a very large contribution to take from the poor without first consulting them.
This is fraud and an economic scandal on an unimaginable scale and those who have brought it about cannot appeal to the fact that they outsourced their responsibilities in dealing with the crisis to the same parties that caused it – as any kind of rational defence of their sociopathological actions.
They are directly responsible for the effects and side effects of QE, because they never bothered to produce a strategy to properly manage or take any control of its applications.
Central bankers will do everything they can to hide behind this irresponsibility of their own making. They manufactured their irresponsibility in order to try and evade any accountability for the effects of their actions. Central bankers will all lament the mass destruction of wealth that their policy has brought about, but at the same time, they will not acknowledge any blame for the irresponsible act of fraudulently outsourcing the funds, decision making and responsibility to completely unaccountable market actors.
This seems very strange behaviour from bankers. It is really so different from a banker offering a company a loan for $billions and not even asking to see a business plan? Why are bankers acting completely out of character in their implementation of this policy? This not merely irresponsibility, this is either utterly rash, reckless behaviour or a crime. It is the same sort of fraudulent recklessness that caused the financial crisis in the first place.
The failure of the ‘policy’ which is not a policy, was entirely predictable in that central bankers failed to exercise any management or control over their policy. Just as central bankers will absolve themselves from any direct responsibility for the effects of QE and zero bound interest rates, then as we move up the command chain we will find the politicians who initially transferred their decision making and responsibilities to the central banks will also claim to be unaccountable for what takes place. No one is responsible when all the processes of government are sociopathically rooted in a general irresponsibility of its own making, by their simply refusing to act or do their jobs efficiently or effectively. None of these parties will acknowledge any blame, they will show no remorse, they will pay lip service to imply they have some kind of sympathy with their public, but none will allow themselves to be held to account.
When the side effects of QE and ZIR eventually blow up and the next crisis is upon us, then neither the politicians or central bankers who enabled and financed it, will hold themselves accountable in any way. As I suggested above, this is essentially because they abdicated themselves from their own power or control over QE and with it any form of responsibility and accountability for how the crisis and proposed path to recovery has been ‘dealt’ with. Once again, all the blame will be apportioned or finger printed to banks and market participants acting rashly and recklessly in the pursuit of maximum profits. Such an outcome was an absolute given from the outset.
The financial crisis is characterized as resulting from irresponsible and reckless lending, but QE and ZIR in itself has been an even more reckless form of lending on a far larger scale. Central banks unconditionally loan market participants billions – without even asking to see a business plan as to how they propose to ‘invest’ the money. This makes the kind of reckless and fraudulent lending that caused the crisis seem fairly conservative and innocuous.
QE in the way it was applied, makes no rational sense whatsoever. In the financial crisis, we found ourselves in the midst of financial turmoil and instability. In response to this instability, the proposed policy of central banks was to drive investors out of stable and reliable investments and into riskier and riskier positions. How was this ever going to help stabilize anything? In the process, they entirely disconnected markets from economic fundamentals to the stage that they have become markets and traders in Wonderland. Bad news became good news as it implied more central bank liquidity and good news was greeted as bad news as it implied less liquidity. What was actually happening in the real economy was completely irrelevant. What kind of achievement is that?
The most dangerous aspect of this has been that it is not just that investors have been forced into risk, but that due to the unnatural flows of liquidity, the risks had been bid down to far too low and unrealistic prices. The result being that risk has been miss-priced everywhere. The problem with this is that the great majority of these entirely miss-priced risk investments are sitting as miss-priced collateral, acting as an alibi for underlying incredible institutional ‘insolvencies’. Accusations of fraud and insider trading between central banks and their preferred market participant aside, QE as a form of lending could not have been practised in a more reckless and irresponsible fashion as it has led to grossly proliferating risk in general.
The public must hold these people as fully accountable by their econo-pathic irresponsibility and recklessness itself.
The Death of Power and consequent Sociopathologization of Governments
Traditionally critical theory has always objected to power, but it has always objected to its functioning on political terms of its just and unjust usage. The concept of power in itself and in principle has never been critically interrogated or questioned. The reason for this is that every political theory or party, always want to discredit the wielders of power in the expectation that they would then be elected and rightfully inherit it. They want it to exist in all its fullness because they wish to exercise it for their own ends both in principle and in practise.
The first casualty of enlightenment was the death of God as the all mighty power concept. The last casualty of enlightenment will be the death of power itself.
What is clear is that faith in governments and faith in power is the same thing. Voting is a leap of faith in political power in the Kierkegaardian sense. Polling stations are the churches of politics and the voting booths are its confessionals. Politics is as a form of religion. Politics and religion have always been closely linked. where God is appealed to as a kind of backup power supply unit in the event of a governmental power outage or shortfall. God is still frequently called upon to lend his additional power to America in the form of a blessing – God bless America and its armies.
THE VOTERS PRAYER
Our Elected Fathers, whose art is Westminster,
Hallowed be thy Names.
Thy promised Kingdoms come.
Thy wills of power be done on earth,
As they would be in productive heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive you that trespass against us.
Lead us into consumer temptations,
But deliver us from social and economic evils.
For thine is the national kingdom,
The power, and the glory,
For ever and ever.
The voter’s prayer or article of political faith has become risible. The current electoral zeitgeist is that of a growing political atheism. Faith in ‘government’ is breaking down. If faith in governments is breaking down, then by extension, faith in power is also breaking down. In the UK, public perception of political choices has been to lump the three main parties together and then conclude that it doesn’t matter which one you end up voting for as they will all do the same thing. There is a similar view developing in the US. This is also the expression of a form of power atheism.
This is not some curious or innocent anomaly. It is directly related to the death of power. The death of power has come at the end of a secret, long and drawn out terminal illness.
This means that we need to deconstruct the concept of power in order to systematically track the effects of its disappearance or non-existence. Power cannot exist for and in itself. Power as a concept can only ever be rationalized if it can be empirically proven that it provides effective control. The teleology of power contractually obliges it to the expediency of its deliveries. A power with a little ‘p’ that provides no effective control in that it never delivers what it promises – is a meaningless and purely notional concept. To realize this is to realize that politicians can arrive in their various offices with all their trappings, but there is very little they can do once they arrive at the scene of politics – which more and more resembles the scene of a crime.
Instead of analysing systems in terms of a functioning power, we need to invert this model and examine them in terms of a mal-functional power or general political powerlessness amid a general and phenomenal economic and social uncontrollability. From this perspective they are effectively powerless to bring about the changes and improved states of affairs that they all proposed and promised in their manifestos. The UK conservative party promised a deficit reduction in its policy and they couldn’t even manage to deliver that.
The point of this exercise is if we temporarily assume that their power does not really exist and that politicians themselves have privately come to the same conclusions, then we can ask ourselves how this would be manifested in the behaviour, psychology , ethics and morality of politicians and ask how politics would end up ‘working’ or not. If power has died, but there has been no post mortem, death notices or burial, then what strategies would have to be employed by political and bureaucratic institutions in order to systemically cover up the death of their power?
Covering up the death of power would require all sorts of governmental deceptions. Governments would have to practise self deception as well as deceiving their publics. Of course the practises of deception when culturally adopted at an institutional level – are the first steps on the path to a full governmental sociopathologization.
If the subjects of governments are essentially beyond governability and politics cannot effectively bring about the changes that it promises in its manifestos, because to act is to publicly fail yet again and its all just too darned complicated, then instead of trying to govern effectively, power chooses to put all its efforts into managing the appearances and public perceptions of its competence.
Currently, in order to keep the fiction of an economic recovery alive in the UK and US, government has become a business of full time statistical manipulation and mass media campaign in order to manufacture the appearance of its being on the right track.
In all departments, statistics are manipulated in order to try and show government in its best possible light. The most significant and dangerous figures that they manipulate however are those relating to inflation, employment and GDP.
All of our current economic problems can be traced back to a phenomenon which arises from an ethical deficiency. A moral or ethical government does not manipulate and misrepresent key data such as inflation, employment and GDP and generally rig its ‘accountability’ as much as a private sector company such as Tesco or Enron should not.
It is completely unethical for a company to use fraudulent accounting practises to manufacture the illusion that it is making a profit, when in fact it is making a loss. We can accept that every system is open to abuse and expect that some companies will adopt such mal-practises, but it is completely unacceptable when such unethical mal-practise is adopted at the central institutional level of government.
Governments are tempted to understate inflation because it saves money on all its payments which are linked to inflation and it also allows them to manufacture the illusion that the economy is growing as they promised.
However, whist this seems expedient to them in those purely sociopathic terms, then in addition to damaging all those who depend upon inflation index linked payments, it has a very detrimental effect in the rest of the economy as reasonable wage bargaining is also linked to the official rate of inflation. If one understates inflation by 1% per year, then in a 10 year period one has effectively reduced the median wealth of the population by 10%. Over a 30 year period by 30% and so on.
This has been taking place since the early 1980s. The government and the mass media would like to imply that this explosion in debt has come about of its own volition as the outcome of an irresponsible consumer profligacy. To a certain extent that is probably true, but to the greater extent it is the case that households have had to take on additional debt because they had no other choice in order to survive. Besides, it seems morally and ethically questionable for a system to bombard its poor with advertisements in order to sell its products and the create lax lending practises in order to make their temptations on offer appear affordable and then morally chastise the debtor for their profligacy and falling for the lures the system so cynically targeted them with in the first place. Taken from this perspective it is the entire system of production which creates and induces the conditions for profligacy in all its unprincipality.
Manipulating key economic indicators is done as a sociopathological approach to image enhancement – without regard to the side effects of such actions and the extreme economic damage it has done to millions of people who have seen their relative wealth slowly eroded over the last 30 years as a result.
Of course such an approach is completely unethical and also completely irrational. They distort key economic indicators upon which their policy will be based, and are then surprised when the applications of their policies do not work. Their own incompetence and their inability to effectively govern or control the economy was systemically baked into their ‘government’ via their own deceptions arising from their irresistible urge to manipulate data and help themselves to a better public image.
Such statistical deceptions have become culturally acceptable in all governments. This is essentially a moral and ethical problem in how government feel they can treat data. It is ironic though, in that succumbing to such misleading temptations, government effectively deconstructs its own power in principle, in that it robs itself of the ability to make appropriate and effective decisions by self sacrificing the integrity of its own data.
The financial crisis was more than just a financial crisis, it was also a stark demonstration of the death of political power.
From 1997 – 2007, Gordon Brown, Mervyn King and much of the UK electorate laboured under a grand illusion that we had a prudent Chancellor of the Exchequer and Governor of the Bank of England who were successfully controlling the economy – amazingly, simply through a monthly meeting and the micro adjustment of a single interest rate. Their invincible power was so self assured, that it led the control freak Gordon Brown to make the ludicrous claim that they had abolished boom and bust economics. Was power ever so full of itself?
At the time, I did not buy into the idea. In order to be in control as such, one would need to be fully ‘aware’ of the economy and all the forces at work in and around it. Following increasing globalization and the increasing interconnectedness of financial and business institutions this was always problematic to say the least. Even if one understood how financial institutions had evolved and the nature of risks and rewards they were taking, then even then one couldn’t measure or control what was taking place in the shadow banking and derivatives markets or other black economies and dark pools which function beyond governmental knowledge and the possibility of control.
At that time Gordon Brown and Mervyn King – reminded me very much of a kind of collectivised King Canute. This involves a certain pretence around the notion that you are in control of massively complex and phenomenal ‘forces’ and economic waves and cycles that are always essentially beyond the possibility of anyone’s intellectual attempts to merely assimilate them, never mind actually control them.
From 1997, the government assumed that Gordon Brown and the Bank of England had abolished booms and busts and had prudently controlled the economy, but this could only be implied by them, by appeal to the fact that up until that point – it had not yet busted.
This was of course, merely the political staging of an illusion of power. Just as King Canute could appear to take credit or demonstrate his ‘power’ for repelling the waves when the tide was going out, then up until that point, there would be an empirical appearance to casual observation, that would suggest that he could in fact be in control of the waves. Canute is presumed to be in control all the time the tide is heading out, but we all know that at some point in the cycle that the tide will turn. When this occurs, we find that power tries to rationalize its failure by publicly suggesting that Canute somehow lost ‘control’ of the waves, precisely at the point when the tide turned.
Of course the simple truth is that Canute did not lose control of the waves at any point in the cycle – because he was never in control in the first place. Exactly the same was true for Gordon Brown and Mervyn King – at no point were they ever remotely in control of anything.
It was not simply that they were not in control, the financial crisis definitely proved at a global level, that they and other governments and central bankers around the world, hadn’t the slightest clue as to what was actually going on in sociopathologized financial markets. This publically rendered power’s foolish speeches and posturing to the abolishment of boom and bust as an utterly ludicrous self deception and the whole world could see that. Like any sociopath, they had got caught up in a complex false belief and outlandish fantasy about their own powers and abilities – only for history to publically reveal them to have been complete and utter self deceiving fools. Power could not have made a greater fool and public spectacle of itself.
What the financial crisis finally brought home to governments and central bankers was in effect a merciless power cut and political blackout. It was a stark illustration that they had not been in control and to all intents and purposes, from that point in history, government has retreated and abdicated from the exercise of its thoroughly discredited ‘powers’ in that it has ceased to put forward any viable political or economic propositions for control.
Power is dead or has retired sulking in its institutional bedroom and refuses to come out and play. All politicians can now emptily promise is a vacuous ‘change’ and slop out rhetoric for ‘rebalancing economies’ and ‘marches of makers’ – but without putting any concrete or viable proposals or policies in place as to what would be involved and how a government would exercise its ‘powers’ to bring those extraordinarily complex aims about. Power has simply given up on itself. All power can do now is briefly outline policy-free ‘policies’ alongside Print and Pause economics. Print and pause and print and pause and print and pause and print and pause…..
Power is clearly dead. Unfortunately government will not rest in peace. Power has lost every single war that it has started. It has lost the war in Iraq. It has lost the war on terrorism. It has lost the war on drugs. It has lost the war on poverty. It has lost the war on recession. It has lost the war on crime. It has lost the war on its own spending. Everything that power has attempted to touch, it has got wrong. Amazingly it has not been able to get anything right at all.
The public are spectators of government as the recurring demonstrations of complete and utter incompetencies on the most spectacular scale imaginable. Power’s track record is an utter disaster and all government from here on is another disaster waiting to happen. This is because all along, power has been completely fooling itself.
At the end of the day it is very simple. If power really existed, would not the easiest thing to be for government to just deliver on what it promises? That fact that government has failed to deliver any of its promises anywhere, seems irrefutable evidence that its power does not really exist as such.
Politics has previously been defined as the art of the possible. Following the logical death of power, we can now redefine politics as becoming a form of artfulness arising from the need to cope with its failures in the face of the phenomenal impossibility of successfully implementing its policies.
Surveillance does not offer government any comfort or security. All it gives them is information about the general disaffection with it and its competence in general, together with evidence of an anarchic unsuitability of its population in general. In many respects it is merely the government spending billions in researching the scale on which its population ignores it, despises it and holds it and its laws in contempt. What the NSA reveals to the government when it eavesdrops on the real world, is the discrepancies between how it and the mass media would like to paint society and their government – and the psychologically disturbing knowledge of finding out who the people really are and what people actually think.
This is completely unlike business or governments ‘researching’ their popularity or business decisions via contrived questionnaires, surveys and polls which allow them to frame their questions in such a way as only to allow either positive or at the very worst ambivalent feedback.
By the nature of surveillance itself, as a no questions asked form of intrusiveness, they have no ability whatsoever to use any filters or frameworks to mediate the public’s response and must intellectual deal with what the people actually think in the real world. As least they would if they chose to read and acknowledge the opinions and feedback that real world intelligence gathers for them. I would imagine there will come a time when they will stop reading intelligence’s findings as it is just too unbearable for them. Perhaps they have already, who is really disposed toward finding out that they are universally despised and hated?
Just as governments could not prosecute the financial crisis because corruption had been institutionalized and that it would have effectively had to criminalize the financial industry, then government cannot prosecute on the surveillance findings of the NSA, as that would similarly involve criminalizing virtually all of its populations.
As power’s goals of any real economic and social control are not achievable, then politics becomes an insularity operating purely for its own self interests which it finds it can serve rather effectively. Without power, government’s only remaining options are to corrupt itself and become involved in maintaining fictions about its operations whilst supporting a global corporate set of interests which it finds it can serve effectively.
During the financial crisis, governments were offered a simple choice as to whether they would come to the aid of its peoples or corrupted financial institutions. They chose to support the needs of the global financial industry over and above the needs of the people whom they actually decided should be punished as they have been made to make all the sacrifices in their billions, whilst financial institutions have been fabulously rewarded for their bad behaviour.
Any fool can lie, fiddle statistics, embezzle money, can cook the books, can accept bribes and serve its own corrupted interests – as in the absence of any genuine power and talent they become generally and inevitably corrupted. We should not confuse the practises of corruption with the exercise of ‘power’ – but moreover see them as a symptom of power’s disappearance from the scenes of government.
Ever since, governments, central banks, financial institutions and corporations have become jointly embroiled in fraudulent activities on a truly epic scale by using public and printed money in the biggest institutionally corrupted, speculative insider trading scandal in history as central banks leaked information to their preferred market participants as to how much money was coming and when. There is not a market that they have not been involved in rigging and distorting. All of this is justified by an official secrets act and the interests of ‘national’ financial security which in itself, is firmly not in the people’s interests.
The crimes committed have been so vast as to be impossible to see or recognize. The amounts of money involved are beyond any reasonable form of comprehension as one loses count of the zeros in trying to even write them let alone understand them.
Such a generalized and universalized corruptability, could only come about as a confirmation of the death of power and have arisen from its frustrated inability of ever being able to do the right thing.
Power could only become responsible again, if it meticulously researched its own essential limitations and fully interrogated the viability of its proposals in order to stop itself from acting so badly. Inevitably, it would find that in most cases, it would not be able to rationalize the point of its taking any action at all. No bad thing if they would be honest about it, especially in regard to disastrous and dysfunctional economic and foreign policies which are all causing massive damage.
In the mean time, it is up to populations everywhere to demand that ethics and morality be universally restored to capitalism and to government and for transparency and honesty to govern societies.
Whither Morality? Given such withered morality then who needs ethics?
We all do.
Addendum: How to spot a sociopath crib sheet
1) Conventional appearance and will seek out situations where their incompetent behaviour will be tolerated, condoned, or admired.
2) Prone to corruption; disguise, fraud. Will manufacture or tamper with evidence and distort figures and give a completely false view that they are either competent or actually in control.
3) Pathological Lying; Has no problem lying coolly and easily and it is almost impossible for them to be truthful on a consistent basis. Can create, and get caught up in, a complex false belief about their own powers and abilities.
4) Irresponsibility/Unreliability; Will not admit to have done anything wrong or made a bad decision. Evades responsibility and does not accept blame themselves, but transfers blame to others Not concerned about wrecking others ‘lives and dreams. Oblivious or indifferent to the devastation they cause.
5) Callousness/Lack of Empathy; Unable to empathize with the pain of their victims, having only contempt for others’ feelings of distress and readily taking advantage of them.
6) Does not perceive that anything is wrong with them; Authoritarian, Secretive, Paranoid.