A few days ago, Jon Steward hosted Mrs. Nancy Pelosi, a United States Congresswoman from the Democratic Party, to discuss with her American politics under the Obama administration. Her admissions and comments were very interesting as well as revealing about the nature not only of American economy and politics but also of the international political and economic system.
So, what this American Democrat Congresswoman, Nancy Pelosi, indirectly admits and actually explains, is that money and corporations have overtaken politics and policy-making. In so many words she says, for example, that government policies or initiatives about environmental degradation and climate change as well as health care and so forth, are undermined, influenced, and constrained by corporate interests, by lobbyists and elected congressmen/women who make money by advocating these interests, and by the elected government itself that tries to satisfy the political and economic requests and interests of the ones who funded its election campaign.
The paradox in all this is that these features, which the Congresswoman finds problematic and in need of regulation, are inherent in the very political and economic system that the ideology of her own party supports, promotes and celebrates – i.e. Capitalism. (Make no mistake, Republicans are no different). Equally paradox is the fact that, in her mind, and in the minds of the rest of the political establishment, the “cure” for this “illness” lies in superficial welfare policies (e.g. Obamacare) and their gradual improvement. Not to mention that after admitting all these she maintains that there is no corruption in the government and the political system.
She is thus consumed in populist rhetoric to the end of diverting public attention from where the fundamental problems are; problems that, truth be told, no significant political power in the USA (or anywhere else in the West, for that matter) acknowledges or wants to address. You see, they are very sensitive. Dealing with these problems would mean better wealth distribution, real welfare system and less social problems. But it would also mean war with the corporate world while the politicians who would undertake such an ambitious initiative would have to undermine their own beneficial relationship with the private capitalist shareholders. Let alone that the leverage these shareholders possess, by essentially controlling most of the economy, could allow them to essentially blackmail the government with economic crisis, unemployment, inflation and, ultimately, default if their interests were threatened.
The controversy and paradoxes do not stop here. If it is not clear yet, we call all the above “Capitalism”. But referring to Capitalism is not adequate to understand what is happening. The other keyword is “Neo-liberalism”. The ideology and political philosophy behind today’s development of Capitalism – its roots go way back, but that is another story. In a nutshell, Neo-liberalism supports individuality, entrepreneurship and thus privatization, minimum role of the state, decentralization, deregulation of the economy, support of the markets, competition, free trade, and so on. (Obviously, its political philosophy is more complicated than that). But the above-mentioned problems, the existence of which the Congresswoman, Mrs. Pelosi, admits, are the very outcomes of Neo-liberal policies. Actually, we could safely argue that they are not problematic outcomes but rather the goals of Neo-liberalism as well as Capitalism. Here are just a few:
- Weakening of the central government
- Erosion of state sovereignty
- Privatization of as many economic sectors as possible
- Market self-regulation, minimum role for the state
- Generation of profit and capital accumulation
And therefore we have:
- Ιncreasing inability of the state and its government for independent policy-making
- Less and less control of the state, and therefore of the electorate, over fundamentally important sectors of the economy
- The actual privatization of politics and, therefore, the shift of the control of social issues to private hands and the forces of the economy
- The subjection of society and workers to a greedy, profit-maximization, competition between corporate giants. The collateral damage of course is the welfare system, fair wages, work relations, and social and personal life. Eventually, we have the expression and reflection of this competition in everyday relations merely – and tragically – because the law of the jungle is in force and the fittest alone is meant to survive. The rest are doomed.
And here is the greatest paradox. These policies, and these problematic outcomes, which American politicians promote and criticize at the same time, today constitute the political and economic foundation of the West. They are promoted by international, West-dominated, institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, and the European Union. They operate under such slogans as “peace through trade” and their political and economic model is indirectly imposed as the solution for the problems of the developing world. A developing world which has only seen misery under the hands of its self-proclaimed saviors, with policies that have not, in 50 years, brought about development. Not only that, but the implementation of these policies have hampered and crushed development in the West as well. They are ultimate tools for the sustainability of a hegemony; a hegemony that used to be national (American) but it is today private. It is the hegemony of few international corporate shareholders, the hegemony of the markets, the hegemony of money. It is that simple and yet so devastating.
First Published on The GW Post, February 5th, 2014.