Pinch, Punch, First of the Month


As the world, our attention and the click-bait news cycle rumbles on, here is a reminder of the ongoing fight in Chile.


For decades, Chile has been a poster child for the radical, neoliberal project – its sole success story in the face of the former Soviet Union, East Asia in 1997, the EU, Pacific, Caribbean, Africa and, of course, the rest of South America. Indeed, it is not unusual to hear commentators like Niall Ferguson declare the wonder of Chile as easily worth the horror of Pinochet.


So, as the fight continues and the vested interests of the Washington Consensus, grown weaker by the year, look on in anguish as their mother, like Saturn, devours yet another one of her children, I thought I’d revisit and share an elucidating commentary from one of our sharpest economic observers.


Branko, take it away:


Branko Milanovic, ‘Chile: The poster boy of neoliberalism who fell from grace’

America’s subversion of Haiti’s democracy continues

I was brushing up on my knowledge of modern Haiti recently (Yes, I just said that and, No, I don’t have many friends), when I came across this article which really does, along with its URL links, provide an encompassing overview of Haiti’s tragic modern story at the hands of its colonial overlords.




America’s subversion of Haiti’s democracy continues – Mark Weisbrot, 2012

hack /hæk/: a journalist


Journalists have been getting an awfully bad rap recently. The proliferation of “alternative facts” seems to have undermined their authority (indeed, their very purpose) and various world leaders, representing nations traditionally supportive of the Fourth Estate, have recently been appointed who deem them as nothing more than a biased, elitist mouthpiece who speak like defenders of democracy, but act as unelected legislators.


So, never one to fly in the face of public opinion, I thought I’d chip in to mankind’s apparent preference for authoritarianism. This particular thumb biting is in response to a flurry of articles by my favourite brown-noses, the Financial Times. In this recent spew, they have been temperately covering the, almost benign, little “shift” to the Right in the world’s fifth most populace country. [‘shift to the right’ – FT; ‘faith in Bolsonaro’s free-market conversion’ – FT; and many more…]

While The Telegraph is for middle-class morons too prudish for the Sun (when I taught English as a foreign language, The Telegraph was the go to newspaper as it contains the simplest english), FT occupies a terrible middle ground. Some of its writers are excellent (Sandbu), some of its brains intimidating (Tim Harford), much of its news valuable, but there can be little doubt that they do represent what populists accuse them of being and, with them, I find the fawning fetishisation of power and the status quo particularly unxious.

Like the girl with no friends, joining in the chauvanistic “banter” of arseholes, in the hope they’ll let her join the gang and not bully her as well, you can always trust FT to print whatever line of argument will appeal to that familiar, self-serving worldview that says, “They may be harsh but classical economics and laissez-faire markets are practical, sensible, and we are practical, sensible people. It may be tough but there’s an unsubstantiated MBA logic that’s long served us well. It’s common-sense.”


As I haven’t been posting nearly as much as I’d like and am keen to get this out, I thought I’d save myself some time by lifting the following elucidation of ‘common sense’ straight from Ania Loomba’s life-changing read, Colonialism/Postcolonialism:


“Gramsci makes a crucial distinction between ‘philosophy’ and ‘common sense’ — two floors or levels on which ideology operates. The former is a specialised elaboration of a specific position. ‘Common sense’, on the other hand, is the practical, everyday, popular consciousness of human beings. Most of us think about ‘common sense’ as that which is obviously true, common to everybody, or normative. Gramsci analyses how such ‘common sense’ is formed. It is actually a highly contradictory body of beliefs that combines ‘elements from the Stone Age and principles of a more advanced science, prejudices from all past phases of history at the local level and intuitions of a future philosophy which will be that of the human race united the world over’. Common sense is thus an amalgam of ideas ‘on which the practical consciousness of the masses of the people is actually formed’ (Hall 1996b: 431)…. Hegemony is achieved not only by direct manipulation or indoctrination, but by playing upon the common sense of people”


Before we get back to FT, I have another passing thought regarding the rationalizing, normalizing tendency known as ‘common-sense’. Orwell wrote, “There will be no revolution in England while there are aspidistras in the windows” and who could deny him?


Today, Britain stands “a little offshore island, poor and cold”. It’s people are the most powerless, wretched and denigrated in the Western World bar (by some margin) its offspring over the Atlantic. While the Swedes have their Independence, the Danes their Happiness, the Germans their Success and the French their Republic, the Brits have their hierarchy and an empty promise of Greatness. Be you proudly working class, proudly middle-class or proudly upper-class, you will be proudly British despite it all – likely, because of it all – and because class, “subjects”, “betters”, negative freedom, “ambition” are all part of British common-sense, the sick man of Europe will remain the sick man of Europe (before leaving Europe), and there will be no revolution in Britain.


Now, back to the flinching cowards..

Painting Jair Bolsonaro’s election as anything other than an utter disaster for everything we as a species have managed and hold dear, is not much of an exaggeration. He threatens an environment already on the brink of irreparable damage [12 years to apocalypse]; despises indigenous peoples, blacks, women, and gays; has zero understanding or appreciation of democracy; and has already proven himself a deft hand at misinformation and manipulation via social media. The terrifying thing is, with Brazil’s moral benchmarks, he could really make some headway on these fronts. Ethnic cleansing of Brazil’s black favelas is almost certainly on the cards as he sends stormtroopers in with a license to do whatever the fuck they want (if that sounds like an exaggeration and not calm and measured ‘common-sense’, I encourage you to read… anything about Brazil). Women can say goodbye to the recent promises of abortion access (though, I have to concede, most Brazilian women seem more than happy with this – I wonder how they’ll feel about narrowing the definition of rape?). The world as a whole can bid adieu to our diverse brothers and sisters in the Amazon – and perhaps the Amazon itself. Legal procedures and representation, voting eligibility and access, sedition and political opposition…. we’ll see.

But never mind all that! I’m simply being a naive dreamer; cliché of Generation Snowflake that I am. I’m just thinking about the wet, softy human rights issues. We’d all like to think about them but, first, we must consider the economy and – “Haven’t you heard!?” – #Bolsomito has employed a Chicago-trained investment banker as his Finance Minister; Phew!

Because countries the world over are known for growing into prosperous economies when they have financiers in the Treasury, right? Human capital is raised through well financed education and healthcare which taps into the potential of the entire population, infrastructure is improved, R&D and patient capital are invested in, healthy reserves are built up in the Treasury and pension funds. That happens, right? Right?…

After all, look at the standards of living and human attainment levels coming out of the world’s Social Darwinist, low tax, low welfare, oligarchies; like the US – the world’s worst people – or the many African nations the US remade in their image; paragons of Freedom the lot of them.

Of course, here again, I’ve let my snowflake concerns for the bottom 99% get in the way of the adult considerations of the common-sense FT. I should be thinking of the hard facts of stock markets and government budget balances, which always benefit from Chicago-trained financiers running the Treasury. Look at what a sterling jobs Greenspan and Paulson did in the US. After all, bar every other example in history, Chile proves that a psychopathic Fascist, leading a cabal of feudalistic oligarchs, sat atop of shockingly violent and repressive pigmentocracy, is always a win for long run, economic prosperity.

“Now”, says the FT journalist, “With this common sense well established and us all in agreement that the Far Right’s benefits far out-weight their negatives, let us proceed with cutting the taxes of the cool guys across the bridge from our offices and removing any supports which may create opportunity and challenges to their children’s privileged birth-rights.

See, cool guys? I’m sensible. I’m one of you. Please let me join the gang.”