Wednesday, February 29, 2012

March 1: or maybe Feb. 29...

I'm not sure what day this is for. I'm starting it late on Feb. 29 because I've just read an important column in Presse Libre de Moncton Free Press. You should read it, too. It's an excellent article on what privatization of water has done (and not done) for Moncton. And, since you're reading this in English, just google Moncton Free Press.

For my part, I can't resist using water privatization and all the farcical public/private projects (the P3s) of this province to put all these schemes into the bigger picture. That picture goes back to 1929 when capitalism collapsed.

Well, it really wasn't capitalism that collapsed. It certainly wasn't the capitalism of its founders. Rather, it was a perversion of capitalism, a corrupt and corrupting perversion of it, that collapsed. As the world sank into the misery of the Great Depression, it was only the rise of fascism in Italy, Germany and Spain that saved what was left of what we called capitalism. (If  you check North American newspapers of the 1930s, you will be surprised to see how many of the economic leaders had a great admiration for Hitler. Henry Ford, for example, gave substantial financial support to Hitler. Nor was he alone.)

Not everbody suffered in the depression. In fact, the very rich often did quite well out of it. For the situation in Canada, for example, read a government report, Report of the Royal Commission on Price Spreads and Mass Buying. Most of the very rich actually got even richer while others starved. (Notice the similarity with today?)

The Second World War, by creating jobs, eased us out of depression. But there was a price. In order to prevent unbearable levels of inflation and debt, governments had to impose strict controls on business. The result was the development of a highly skilled and effective civil service.

As well, to maintain morale  and win elections, the Liberal governments had to introduce some social legislation. (The did it as slowly as possible.) The general result was that Canada came out of the war with an efficient civil service, and the beginnings of some attempt to make sure that every Canadian had access to basic needs. It was all an accidental outcome of the war. But Canadians liked it.

As well, and contrary to stories you may here, business was so impressed by the effectiveness of the civil service, that it often sent rising executives to Ottawa to see how the civil service did it.

But big business soon became disturbed at the rise of regulation, of government ownership, of social spending. So it launched a campaign across North America to destroy confidence in government, and to privatize everything in sight so that private business could get its fingers into spending for roads, education, utilities, anything.

The major device was the "think tank". Some were legitimate research groups. But most were and are propaganda houses for big business. (As non-proft organizations, think tanks like the Fraser Institute and Atlantic Institute for Market Studies don't have to tell where their money comes from.  But there can't be much doubt about where it comes from. In the case of AIMS, people like the Irvings have been closely associated with the think tank from the start.)

So the think tanks hire people to grind out criticism of government,  to praise private busines, and to demand more privatization.  There's no trouble getting their views out to the public because the same people who finance the think tanks also also own most of the news media.  And, of course, they tart up their hired propagandists with titles like Research Fellow, Senior Research Assistant.....

About 20 years ago, the more extreme business leaders began calling themselves neo-conservatives. (Like everything else about them, the term neo-conservatism was hokum. There was nothing conservative about them. In fact, in some countries, they are called neo-liberals - though they really aren't liberals, either.)

These are people who really don't have any political philosophy. They are not driven by any principles of any sort. They are driven solely by greed.

In the case of water, for example, the World Bank, when asked to lend money to poor countries so they could build water and sewage services, would do so only if the services were to be run for private profit. The result was water so expensive that it often exceeded the price of food; and many people in those countries had to drink ground water as foul as their sewage (which, often, they couldn't afford, either.)

The growing privatization of public schooling in the US has been a disaster with the US now having by far the lowest rated(by the UN)  public education system in the developed world.

Weak government,corruption, and greed have combined in recent years to bring our economic system to the edge of destruction. Rates of povery in the US are at depression levels. But, just as in the 1930s, the earnings of the very rich keep rising.

The outstanding example of where this is taking us is a country which has all the things "neo-conservatives" admire - low taxes, almost all social services privatized (and therefore largely out of reach), big business dominant in government....  This country is their model of how to build prosperity.

And it's producing. You might well get your jeans and other clothing from this country. You certainly get your favourite tropical fruit from it. It's a great success story - for corporations which produce the clothing and the fruit.

The name of the country is Haiti; and it's the poorest country in the western hemisphere.

What corporate leaders are working at is a return to the world of the middle ages, with themselves as the earls and dukes and barons.  Whether they force their way into health care or education or utilities, their motives are always the same - greed, profit, power no matter what the damage to us or our children, and so obsessed by greed that they cannot see they are destroying themselves.

Private corporations are more efficient than the civil service? Really? Was the collapse of American banking a sign of efficiency? And if private corporations are so efficient, why didn't the banks go to private corporations to bail them out?

The process of private corporations taking over both political and economic control is very advanced in New Brunswick. One example of it is the P3 phenomenon, allowing private corporations to get their fingers into the taxes we pay.

A more striking one occured over a year ago, when Irving was prominent in forming a group, largely of corporation buddies, who grandly announced to our democracy that they would take over planning for New Brunswick's future.Then Mr. Irving condescended to tell us he had formed a coalition with the government. Well, if you don't believe in democracy, there's no point in beating around the bush, I guess. In a democracy, you cannot become part of a coalition unless you are a)elected by the people and b) invited to join. So much for democracy in New Brunswick.

Then his (unelected) group appointed people they said would advise the government on economic matters. Again, in a democracy it is up to an elected person, the premier, to decide who advises his government. But I guess the premier isn't keen on democracy, either, since he gave the group official status.

We now have a corporate executive for finance minister who is advised by corporations on what to do. Oh, and both the Liberal and Conservative parties in this province rely on private corporations for funding.

The process has gone so far that New Brunswick cannot possibly be called a democracy. What the people want couldn't matter less.

What we have is not democracy. It is a system called corporatism, which means a system in which people have government power not by vote but by virtue of their status in society. It is a system characterized by "extreme right wing, authoritarian... practices", "a contempt for democracy"."insistence on obedience to a powerful leader.." (No, not Allward.)

You can find my quotations above in the Oxford English Dictionary. They appear under the word "Fascism".

Yes, it can happen here. It is happening here.

Now, it's late, and I'm tired. So this will just make it as a February 29 edition.

1 comment:

  1. I busy myself for a couple of days with tasks necessary to keep the wolf away from the door, and look, here you go and write half a thesis! Well done though!

    I think this post goes a ways in answering my previous question asking you to wax philosophically in regards to our current, and failed human condition.

    Wealth, power, and a narcissistic, false sense of importance begets increased greed, and corruption, and so on...

    I guess I see it... although I've always had difficulty understanding it could be so simple. I think I also feared believing so many people could be duped in this manner. I feared thinking there could be so many simple people...while the rest of us are held hostage to the few powerful ones and their obedient minions?

    I remember years ago reading some of George Orwell's thoughts on people's inhumanity to others. Obviously, he was inspired, or dismayed (actually) to the point, he felt compelled to write his famous masterpieces on the subject.

    No wonder there is so much reference to Orwell today. We are quickly entering an Orwellian world. A world dominated by corporate oligarchies that give a shit naught for the petty lives of lower classes. Winston Smith is alive and well, and is busily applying his damaging skills at newspapers everywhere. Maybe more so than usual at the M T & T.