Sunday, 27 January 2013

One thing the 'free' market is brilliant at - generating bullshit

One of the cornerstones of 'free' market capitalism is 'confidence'. 'Confidence' is of course a code word. What is really means is that capitalists need to know the governments will ensure that everything is stitched up in their favour. Another way of putting this is - privatising the profits and nationalising the losses - that whatever happens, they can't lose. This is because capitalists, contrary to 'free' market mythology are not really risk-takers at all. That myth is a good example of 'free' market bullshit. What capitalists really want is no-risk-at-all guaranteed profits of the kind they can get from the privatisation of the public sector.

But its really another kind of confidence I want to focus on. This is the key confidence of 'entrepreneurship'. This is the bullshit that is really at the heart of neoliberal 'free' market capitalism, and comes straight out of the 'free' market fantasises of Ayn Rand. The mythology goes like this; all wealth is created by dynamic, risk-taking individuals we call entrepreneurs. Becuase of the dynamism and creativity of these special individuals the Earth continues to orbit the Sun, and we should all be eternally grateful to these people. And, because they are so magical they deserve special treatment - like not paying taxes - and must enjoy great wealth and, of course, power.

Poeple like Bill Gates and Richard Branson are cited as examples of these thrusting god-like individuals. The problem is that the idols have feet of clay. Gates's Microsoft empire was built on MS-DoS, a piece of software he bought off someone else, and grew through the ruthless destruction of rival companies by establishing a monopoly position for his key products; Windows and Microsoft Office. Branson has done extremely well out of government handouts as shown by his risk-free 'enterprise' Virgin Rail. No risk when you run a private monopoly, just guaranteed profits from the taxpayer. Much to Branson's chagrin this was ruthlessly exposed  by Aditya Chakrabortty in this Guardian article. But the myth of the entrepreneur continues to be crucial to the belief-system that is neoliberal 'free' market capitalism. That is not to say that there aren't dynamic and innovative individuals, it just that very few of those people are capitalists, or even want to be. For those few capitalists that are there is a fatal problem - the wealth that 'they generate' is actually created by workers, not by them.
Marie Antoinette said "Let them eat cake". But the entrepreneurs of Davos want us only to have the cake crumbs.

This week my 'free' market bullshit detector has been pointing in the direction of that heart of darkness known as the World Economic Forum in Davos. This is the home of the really confident ones, the capitalists with their luxury yachts who ride on the crest of the wave of 'free' market bullshit. These grossly overpaid, overrated and over-confident individuals, their sycophantic hangers on, and tame politicians who serve them, are beginning to look more and more like the Marie Antoinettes of the modern world. You can tell this by the fact that even Will Hutton, who likes capitalism, is getting very pissed off with the Davos crowd. and wants them sorted out. But, for the time being, while the entrepreneurs of Davos feast on the fruits of our labours we will have to be satisfied with the crumbs of cake that fall from their table.

1 comment:

Brian Smith said...

Thanks for taking the time to post; a succinct review cutting through the allure of personal wealth, at the expense of the masses.