IAN BUCKLEY. Finding Solutions to Humankind’s Neoliberal/Mercantile Crises.

In resolving the crises brought on within current neoliberal economies, a widespread recognition of their historical derivation from the mercantile political economy that Adam Smith described and condemned (1776) is crucial for effective understanding of this system, its corrupt roots and its persistence; likewise for its urgently-needed transformation to a just economy that works harmoniously for all.

Many are concerned over the dismal state of today’s neoliberal economies across the world, especially those of the West, including their gross assaults on the natural environment on which all economies depend. However, governments (and oppositions) appear altogether complacent, as if hypnotized. For, despite corporate claims of its health and durability, channelling wealth to the top10-20% these economies have ended up hopelessly inefficient and unsustainable. And yet as revealed in Pearls and Irritations, many look for ways to escape this neoliberal fate through common-sense legislative changes that counter its catastrophic trajectory, thus making Australians (e.g.,) more democratic, economically stable and secure, as outlined herehttp://johnmenadue.com/allan-patience-now-is-the-time-for-all-good-men-and-women-to-come-to-the-aid-of-the-party/.

To this end, many, including Nicholas Gruen, Gavin Kennedy and other Adam Smith scholars have long agreed on the essentiality of establishing genuine free markets devoid of monopolies and other wealth-diverting scams. For, providing governments honour their democratic obligations, they can recognize how cooperative links to private business could provide ‘competitive neutrality’, the greatly-needed fair-trade exchanges to free citizens from monopolies and other socially-destructive devices.(AS_WN, IV.3.38)  Further, facilitated by e-mail, online banking, Google and other technologies available in today’s ‘commons’, such transformations of this dead-end system will hasten the arrival of the much needed mutually-satisfied world, – something Adam Smith could only dream of.(Gruen, N; Kennedy, G)  For example, the housing crisis could soon be solved by having our ‘peoples bank’, the Reserve Bank of Australia compete with commercial banks, thus reducing financial corruption and greatly aiding house-buyers (especially the young) while creating significant government revenue to meet infrastructure shortfalls. For like reasons, competitive neutrality is called for in Power-generation, Legal, Medical, Dental, Pharmaceutical, Childcare and other areas.(as above; and e.g., Nicholas Gruen, here, https://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/opinion/topic/2017/04/15/making-the-reserve-bank-peoples-bank/14921784004504 )

However, as Julian Cribb; Bob Douglas and legions of scientists including NASA’s James Hansen have documented the current world crises are fast leading all to that dead end. Hence, the extreme urgency of such transformations that require public recognition and support. The privileged minority must also be encouraged to understand that unless such transformations occur they too face the same dire prospect.

Accordingly, people will need to overcome their blind (or melancholic) acceptance of the current system as ‘normal’. Hence, it is vital we deeply probe the origins of this system and its disastrous outcomes, as successive generations of Western leaders stubbornly held to the same mindset re. their exclusive ‘rights’ to exploit others. While those attitudes go back before Rome’s empire, its fall revealed how Europe’s national leaders adopted such beliefs while carving-up its Imperial lands, the source of all wealth, power and future wars between them. In the early stages, people could farm ‘their Lord’s’ land subject to demands for crop harvests and military service; also subsistence via access to the commons. Yet, by the 12th century, with rising international trade, landowners began displacing people in favour of sheep for the Flemish wool industry. Hence, forced into cities and towns, large numbers were without work, homeless, hungry, and subject the harshest penalties, even for stealing food.

And by the 15th century, Europe’s maritime powers’ explorations involved territorial incursions, resource plunder and slavery to gather gold and silver, plus grow and harvest cash-crops: sugar, tobacco, cotton, rice, etc., for shipping back to Europe, – such lucrative ‘trade’ facilitating Europe’s greatly accelerated industrialization, (as did the ’surplus people’ crowded into cities and towns; more here) http://www.britishempire.co.uk/article/adamsmithtothepresentmess.pdf (p.10-17).

Hence, recognizing the feudal-derived mindset involved, no surprise that 18th-century moral philosopher Adam Smith’s insightful studies (enlightened by people like Edward Gibbon) drew attention to the causes of such extremely unjust treatment of the ‘common people’ at home and ‘savages’ abroad. Accordingly, Smith concluded that all such self-serving injustices stemmed from the ‘mercantile political-economic system’ instituted by Europe’s ‘exclusive’ leaders, – as explained in Theory of Moral Sentiments here: http://www.econlib.org/library/Smith/smMS.html and  Wealth of Nations, here: http://www.econlib.org/library/Smith/smWN.html  And relevant quotes hereunder, http://www.britishempire.co.uk/article/adamsmith.htm

So, just as today we recognize the role of foreign plunder and economic scams in diverting great wealth to the top 10-20%, we should recall the like activities of our Western past, c.f., Paul Kennedy’s The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict rfrom1500 to 2000”.(PK)  For they closely  match the mindset and kinds of behaviour we see currently in all their ugliness, injustice and evil effects on foreign and home populations, as well as Nature in all its interdependent complexities.

Indeed, as Smith documented in 1776, West European nations’ ‘Mercantile Political Economies’ had exhibited such behaviour for over 270 years. Hence, Smith’s overview, his vivid picture of Europe’s corrupt system, he warning how its combative ‘trade’ misled Europe’s nations into bizarre forms of self-harm. Thus, “…Each nation has been made to look with an invidious eye upon the prosperity of all the nations with which it trades, and to consider their gain as its own loss. Commerce, which ought naturally to be, among nations, as among individuals, a bond of union and friendship, has become the most fertile source of discord and animosity. The capricious ambition of kings and ministers has not, during the present and the preceding century, been more fatal to the repose of Europe than the impertinent jealousy of merchants and manufacturers….”. (AS_WN, IV.3. 38) Thus, clearly wise advice still altogether relevant today re. our neoliberal aggressively-competitive economic system which continues to mislead humankind into depressions, poverty, mutually-destructive wars and Nature’s catastrophic decline. Hence the urgency of attaining an efficient, just and sustainable economic system along Smithian lines.

Ian Buckley, former medical scientist who has a long-term interest in the origins of wars that have plagued evolving humanity since the establishment of settled agriculture.http://www.anu.edu.au/emeritus/members/Ian_Buckley.html

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6 Responses to IAN BUCKLEY. Finding Solutions to Humankind’s Neoliberal/Mercantile Crises.

  1. michael lacey says:

    Good article! Also might benefit readers to look at some of the work by Professor Michael Hudson , Professor Richard wolf or Professor Mark Blythe who look very much at the historical contexts and very much attack the failings of the neoliberal system!

    • Ian Buckley says:

      Michael, Many thanks for your good suggestions. I’ll focus on the two who (despite all the gloom) treat political economics as an evolutionary process having transformational potential, – providing governments can be made to honour their commitments to the common will: i.e., democracy. That is, just as Smith and others have seen the solution to corruption (all the self-serving scams and wars through the centuries). I liked Richard Wolf’s stress on economic democracy to match the political, as essential to getting beyond the sham, e.g., ”
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ynbgMKclWWc
      And as always I greatly appreciated Michael Hudson’s deeply historical analyses and proposals re. radical reforms concerning the distribution of land and all other forms of capital derived from the commons, e.g., where he refers to “…..Progressive Era reformers advocating progressive taxation of land and other wealth, public infrastructure investment at subsidized prices, price regulation of monopolies, and public banking reforms to socialize the financial system.” as in https://www.prosper.org.au/2010/05/25/the-counter-enlightenment/
      (Audio link at foot of text)

  2. Susan Walmsley says:

    Thanks,
    and I agree, but I can’t think of any group or party that has the power or bravery to challenge this corrupt globalised omnipotent private central banking system of which Australia is a part. This was originated by the fraud and secrecy of very wealthy US bankers in 1913 and enables a very small group of well connected trillionaires to virtually run the financial world through what Yanis Varoufakis calls insiders. The City of London is also a part of this and extremely well protected by unimaginable wealth.
    I think they would get the highly funded and protected “intellegence” services to prevent this at all costs. It may set an example to Greece that banks now own more or less.
    So how would, and who in Australia could, make this happen? A referendum?
    How could we get our own people’s bank back with the power to print currency backed by something…anything and without the need to pay “interest” via taxation.

  3. paul frijters says:

    “a just economy that works harmoniously for all”

    this says it all really. The age-old myth rears its ugly head again.

    • Ian Buckley says:

      Susan, Thanks and I agree re. the challenge. We can but ‘put the case’ which deserves to be heeded before too late. As above noted, both Hudson and Wolf express guidelines on how economies can be reconstituted to provide justice for the world’s peoples while restoring and preserving the all-important integrity of Nature on which inter-generational sustainability hinges. Land the central issue, ever contended over its ‘ownership’ since it was wrenched from the commons. Hence the logic of classical economic reform “to tax away the land rent that had been privatized since medieval times, restoring it to the public domain as the basis for public investment.” To be replaced with “….a liberal tax system aimed at collecting the excess of market prices over intrinsic value.” ….. “to minimize monopoly rent, by keeping key infrastructure in the public domain … to make economies more competitive.” And, “to regulate prices for goods and services produced by natural monopolies in private hands.” Plus more besides as here, https://www.prosper.org.au/2010/05/25/the-counter-enlightenment/

    • Ian Buckley says:

      Paul,
      Too true, and thanks. Sorry for delay – got caught up

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