Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Bury it at the crossroads with a stake through its heart

One might think, now that Great Helmsman George W. Bush has nationalized the insurance and mortgage industries, that we will not be hearing so much talk of the Glorious and Omnipotent Free Market in the next few months, at least. I am betting that one would be wrong.

Free Market fundamentalism is a lot like Christian fundamentalism. There are a lot of people out there who actually believe in it -- in the case of Free Market fundamentalism they are mostly hard working drones and mid-level managers in the finance and high tech industries who believed the indoctrination they got in Economics 101 and who enjoy being materially somewhat better off than most of their high school classmates. (For many of them, of course, that's about to change, and we'll see what happens to their faith.)

But in both cases, there are also the political leaders who spout the faith to win their votes. They are generally not so naive as to actually believe in the dogma, nor do they actually implement it as policy. They use it to justify particular policies, but only as it suits them. The reason market fundamentalism, in political terms, has been manifested largely as tax cuts for the wealthy and deregulation of securities markets, but has not led to, say, the elimination of subsidies for agribusiness or the tax breaks for big pickup trucks and SUVs is because wealthy and powerful interests wanted the former and didn't want the latter. It's no-cost for politicians to at least pay lip service to protecting the blastocyst and damning the sodomite, but when it comes to feeding the hungry and clothing the naked and consoling the prisoner, you can forget about it.

Recent events have made it absolutely, incontrovertibly, inescapably, ineluctably clear that there is no such thing as a free market, the very idea is nothing more than fantasy. Even less does anything resembling such a fantasy accomplish "efficiency," or appropriately "allocate resources," or "unleash the creative potential of the economy," or any of the other wonderful stuff it's supposed to accomplish. The function of Free Market ideology is to steal from the poor and give to the rich. That is its only function. It is a crock of shit. Just like creationism. No difference in truth value or social value. Lies intended only to exploit the weak and credulous.

I'm in CT for a couple of days, expect me when you see me.

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