IAN BUCKLEY. Finding Solutions to Humankind’s Neoliberal/Mercantile Crises.Mar 31, 2018
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 here: https://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