The following the following are excerpts are originally from:
2017 “Life Under Modern Neoliberal Capitalism”
By. Bradan Bill
The Journal of International Relations, Peace Studies, and Development
Volume 3, Issue 1, Article 11
All credit and rights belong to the author and original publishing journal, I just really loved some of these and had to share some. I will not include footnotes, endnotes, or a bibliography for the selected text, please feel free to go to the link above and read the whole article.
The primary point this article makes was best and first said by John Rawls
on page three in his 1979 A Theory of Justice:
Justice is the virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought. A theory
however elegant and economical must be rejected or revised if it is untrue; likewise
laws and institutions no matter how efficient and well-arranged must be reformed or abolished if they are unjust.
The choice between health, work-life balance, quality food, sleep, self-enrichment and fulfillment, and life expectancy are made by a vast majority of Americans on a daily basis. Dehumanization, exploitation, and inequity are types of slow violence where Americans have opted to capitulate in their own degradation and dehumanization without even realizing they had made a choice. The narratives in media, news, and popular culture about work, jobs, income, self-worth, and societal worth are based upon a Malthusian-Social Darwinist methodology.
Now imagine a similar scenario where you are applying for a job, but the job requires a college degree, but you can’t pay for a college degree without a job so you end up taking out massive loans. Then when you graduate, you still can’t get a job without experience. So you end up in a minimum wage job (or three), making ends meet and barely making your loan payments. You say something like, “the minimum wage needs to be raised, people can’t live like this,” only to receive a barrage of old,
crotchety white people yelling at you about how gosh-darn ENTITLED you are, and
how THEY got a college education working part time and how it’s your fault for
taking out the loans in the first place. Generations before us completely drove the bus into a lake and somehow it’s our fault everybody’s drowning.
They are the growing army of the underemployed forced to abandon their houses, credit cards and ability to consume – a liability that pushes them to the margins of a market society. These are the groups whose homes will not be covered by insurance, who have no place to live, no resources to fall back on, no way to imagine that the problems they will be facing are not just personal, but deeply structural, built into a system that views the social contract and the welfare state as a lethal disease.
In 1950 the median price for a new home was roughly 2.2 times the median annual earnings, but in 2015 it was up to 9.63 times (this statistic in 2015 was only relevant if you were making at least $16 per hour). Forbes, Fortune Magazine, The New York and Los Angeles Times have all decried the reduction in home ownership and added to the confusion of the current realities faced by most workers; by talking about ‘sharing economy’ or ‘burdens of ownership’ as though these changes were merely cultural shifts. Since ‘your day’ (*ahem* baby boomers, or their children) the value of the minimum wage has dropped by 24% [1968 to 2017], despite more than doubling productivity and an increased education level for all workers. 22 One traditional economic measure for how much workers are paid was tied to productivity, more productive workers should be paid more right?
Allow me to de-economics-class this for a moment. The 1% did not do anything new or different in the past (now) 40+ years except to charge more, to nickel and dime their employees, cheap-out on pensions, health plans, and benefits for employees, demand more internships, and pushing down the general rate of pay for everyone else while altering the sphere of public debate through ownership of news outlets, pro-corporate-interest lobbying and ‘non-profits’, altering school textbooks, union busting, and in short dehumanizing multiple generations on the altar of profit at all costs, damn the peoples’ well-being.
A generation of corporate-financed public relations efforts has given these terms and ideas a near sacred aura. As a result, the claims they make rarely require a defense, and are invoked to rationalize anything from lowering taxes on the wealthy and scrapping environmental regulations to dismantling public education and social welfare programs. 29
Currently (as of January 2017) over 70% of income-earners have an annual income of less than $50,000. That statistic is not markets or invisible hands creating such a rift; it is the active and short-sighted decisions of an increasingly small group of powerful people and their acolytes. American “economic inequality is directly associated with decreased well-being and health.” 30 Such inequity, inequality, changes in norms, and laws have caused roughly 890,000 deaths in America 31 per year from lack of access to healthcare, leisure, social connection, and work-life balance. Which does not account for the suicides, reduced general US IQ, inefficiencies of such a system, 32 shortened lifespans, people who didn’t go to the doctor because they couldn’t afford to take a day off or the bill, or the medicine, and people turned away from hospitals, or insurance plans that did not cover a treatment or test which ended up (perhaps much later) killing them. 33
For a further dissection of the policy-end of this discussion, please see Benjamin I. Page, Larry Bartels, and Jason Seawright 2013 work titled Democracy and the Policy Preferences of Wealthy Americans. Their findings were, in short, that only the wealthy have any real influence on policy, legislation, and effectively over society at large. As alluded to earlier, these wealthy few are not wealthy due to hard work, being creative, or personally doing anything, but in fact, the “households in the top one percent of the USA largely rely on capital income,” 37 meaning the adage that the wealthy have earned it is false. Over 92% of these wealthy few were born into wealth and stay that way, regardless of their actions, abilities, or lack thereof. “Nowadays these numbers show that the American dream is a myth. There is less equality of opportunity in the United States today than there is in Europe – or, indeed, any advanced industrial country for which there is data.” 38 Despite what is commonly believed, or seems like common sense, those little social myths and constructions that are almost universally accepted uncritically and internalized as truth; the American people “have erroneous beliefs about the actual level of wealth inequality, they also hold overly optimistic beliefs about opportunities for social mobility in the United States, beliefs which in turn drive support for unequal distributions of wealth.” 39
Neoliberalism is the defining political economic paradigm of our time—it refers to the policies and processes whereby a relative handful of private interests are permitted to control as much as possible of social life in order to maximize their personal profit. 42
The American system has dehumanized the less wealthy and reified the wealthy
‘entrepreneurs’ and shareholders for their benevolence. The risk an entrepreneur holds in creating jobs is far smaller than that of those who work there, who toil in the name of that shareholder’s profit line. Shareholders can sell their shares, their businesses, and are thereby the most mobile of all the stakeholders. Executives can horizontally transfer, or go into government, regulatory agencies, and get a pension or bonus (if not both) when they do. The workers with specialized skills, who actually do the tasks which produce the profit, cannot do the same as the shareholders and executives. Iniquity of
employment maneuvering is a twofold issue, first mobility and transfer-ability of skills, funds, or pensions; and second the legal liability protection that the wealthy have access to which a mom-and-pop shop would not. So there is a complete lack of liability on the part of shareholders, to the environment, society, their employees, and the customers. Without liability for the consequences, these mobile stake-holders cut long-term goals to increase short-term gains in stock prices.
The common myth that there is a conflict between social equity and economic efficiency is patently false. Still, it continues to be heralded by the people of every class as a universal truth to maintain the status quo. Because the devil you know is less scary than something new, even if that something would be beneficial. (Here is that something)
The most disturbing part of these changes is that they required no evil masterminds or a consortium of international conspirators seeking to own or destroy everything good. Rather it was achieved through the reification of the idea bureaucrat personified as the neutrally objective professional; able to perform the compartmentalized tasks required by their job without ever even recognizing the societal, human, or environmental ramifications of their dull, routinized, and seemingly inconsequential tasks. The credit cards and banks that charge people of color higher interest rates, the accountant at the recycling company that dumps plastic in international waters, the Wall Street investor who only cared about making money by financializing quinoa, the 50-year-old man
who invested in private prisons to build his retirement fund. The short and narrow-minded vision of selfish generations created a world of dehumanization, financialization, social and economic inequity and the worst inequality in the modern age. (Preach it!)
Allow me to indulge in a thought-experiment, separate all work into three overly broad sectors:
1) Advancing (research, arts, advanced computing, writing – people who further human thought, science, and knowledge)
2) Producing (medical, housing, sanitation, producing food or clothes – making the stuff we need to continue living)
3) Leeching (the financial sector, real estate, insurance, paper pushers of all breeds, bureaucrats, politicians, advertisers – jobs which make and further nothing, yet continue to waste human potential)
What then, is the purpose of the 3rd category? I don’t mean why the individuals employed in those professions perform those tasks, but rather why as a society we waste human thought, talent, creativity, and time in allowing those professions to exist? Much like the burger-flipping-machine question but backward, the job is pointless in the span of human history, will contribute nothing to the progress or maintenance of human life and yet, those jobs exist. Obviously, it is to make someone money, but as we discussed earlier that money rarely goes into the hands of those who actually do the paper-pushing and deal making.
Rather than starting economic considerations from the ever-more-common adage of “I should be able to make as much money as I can, and it is wrong not to let me.” Perhaps a better base would be “at what point is human suffering, death, anxiety, and shortened lifespans not worth letting a small group of people accumulate unlimited sums of wealth, influence, and power?” What is the marginal utility in allowing an infinitesimal minority the ability to reap alone all the resources and benefits from the planet and toil of those upon it? How does this aid in the advancement and continuance of the human species, or society? Neoliberal capitalism, and by extension those who champion it has dehumanized the majority human kind. A common threat is that if workers ask for better shares of the social pie that they will be replaced by machines and automation. We have machines that can flip and serve burgers, take orders, and payments.