JR'S Free Thought Pages
                                                                       No Gods  ~ No Masters    ~ No Bullshit



Liberalism’s Ambiguity, Hypocrisy, Transformative Past and Dubious Present

Random Thoughts on Liberalism which has been for a very long time mired in the death throes of an Authoritarian Anti-Intellectual Capitalist Cul-de-sac [1]

Any structure of power and authority needs to be challenged to justify itself. If, as is generally the case, it cannot be justified, it should be dismantled…The core of the anarchist tradition, as I understand it, is that power is always illegitimate, unless it proves itself to be legitimate. So the burden of proof is always on those who claim that some authoritarian hierarchic relation is legitimate – Noam Chomsky

By JR, June-December, 2023


As current counterfeit liberals such as Barrack Obama, Joe Biden and Justin Trudeau hypocritically defend the tradition from irrelevance and vacuity, the definition of liberalism in current practice has become so expansive as to encompass pretty much everything and anything – rendering the conception of traditional liberalism meaningless. The truth about 21st century liberalism is this: rather than promoting flourishing and freedom and the common good, it has become a debased form of paralytic capitalist conservatism in deference to ruling financial oligarchs, mafia banking parasites, bloviating billionaires, corporate capitalist elites and raw power. When was the last time a liberal politician publically challenged the neo-liberal corporate capitalist ideology of entrenched privilege and hierarchy? Neo-liberalism as a surrogate for classical liberalism is a political doctrine that is merely a program restricted to the freedom of rampant exploitive capitalism to plunder and profit; post-liberalism is a more accurate moniker since it’s been transmogrified into sclerotic dogma such as political conservatism and other tyrannies and authoritarianisms. Just listen to any of the talking head drones on business news networks such as Canada’s BNN (Bullshit News Network). With post-liberal gangster capitalism anything goes as long as the profit motive is fulfilled, including the long-standing scams of reverse mortgages, endlessly promoted fetishes of endless lotteries and more recently the sordid widespread legalization of gambling on pro sports that can be carried out 24-7 with a cell phone app. Anyone with even a high school course on probability theory ought to know that both lotteries and gambling casinos whether brick and mortar or online are massive swindles. Every sport on TV is now polluted with marketing this colossal scam that is not only a waste of money but more importantly a mind numbing waste of precious time, another bread and circus distraction for the dumb and dumber masses who are deemed not quite dumb enough for our ruling corporatist oligarchs and their lickspittle bought and paid for politicians. I vaguely recall an episode of South Park, whereby two sleazy real estate salesmen try to sell shoddy vacation condos in the glitzy ski town of Aspen Colorado to the credulous lower middle-class residents. Like the current endless bombardment of ads on TV for lotteries and online gambling on sports, the deceitful sleazy sales pitch was simple but appealing, “I’ve got a little hideaway in Aspen” as the suckers open their check books. This scene reminds me of the excellent 1990s David Mamet movie called Glengarry Glen Ross and a riveting scene of classic small time capitalist con artistry and hucksterism in a real estate office with Alex Baldwin as the asshole sales manager embellishing substandard real estate the creepy little company wanted to unload for outrageous fees and commissions. This small town outfit is merely a microcosm of big time mafia bank capitalism that works at the macro level of exploitation and big time grand larceny.


Some of the credulous among us continue to call this parasitic global dystopian post-liberal cesspool “democracy”, they even show up to vote at the dollar drenched predictable and superfluous elections. One might even say that the real reason the undemocratic world is in such a dreadful sorry state economically, politically and ecologically is the opposite of that given by post-liberals: there is too little freedom, not too much. There is too much authoritarianism, not enough liberalism or real democracy. In particular, the authoritarian structures known as corporations have overwhelming power- including over our compliant sycophantic governments - which they certainly do not use in the interests of humanity, community, the common good, social harmony or political freedom. Noam Chomsky was surely right over seventy years ago as he continues to be today in his 90s that classical liberalism - or libertarianism - in its bland banal dogmatic philosophical forms has not only NOT been fulfilled within capitalism, but is actually incompatible with it, inasmuch as capitalism tends to violate both negative and positive liberties (“freedom from” and “freedom to”) for ordinary people. A vast literature of the left, of journalism and of historical scholarship continues to expose the undemocratic – even tyrannical nature - of capitalist institutions. In 2017 the philosopher Elizabeth Anderson published a well-received book called Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives (And why we don’t talk about it). A corporation she writes: “is a government that assigns almost everyone a superior whom they must obey… There is no rule of law… Superiors are unaccountable to those they order around. And they are neither elected nor removable by their inferiors” - and much more.  [2]

On the political left, or what remains of it, many have concluded that liberalism is a spent force, exhausted and dying, unable to even admit to the deadly problems posed by entrenched cancerous capitalism, feudalistic exploitation, unparalleled economic inequalities, endless surveillance, homelessness, untrammeled neo-fascist corporate power, global heating, widespread species extinction, pollution of air, water and soils leading to ecosystem and biodiversity collapse. On the right wing, some people think that liberalism (often ludicrously conflated with socialism) is responsible for the collapse of traditional values, rampant criminality, disrespect for authority and widespread immorality and uncivil behavior.

Here I can only offer the standard rejoinder that those of us on the Left mostly want things like more democracy and universal public goods, whereas anti-liberals on the Right tend to want theocracy, legalized racial discrimination and minority rule. The Left is critical of mainstream liberalism because it has become associated with resistance to social justice, moral progress and its perpetuation of hierarchy, imperialism and war.  Consequently those on the left politically consider contemporary liberalism as representing an incomplete conception of human freedom and a just society. Many anti-liberals on the conservative right - particularly those born into wealth - want to take us back to a time before universal suffrage and consider hierarchy, power and privilege as both natural and desirable. Still, what’s most puzzling about self-described liberals in the Democratic Party in the US and Liberal Party in Canada is how broad and imprecise their conception is. However, the exact meaning of any political label is invariably going to be somewhat fluid and contestable and people who differ in their commitments might disagree on minor points. But to think of either Biden or Trudeau as genuine liberals vitally concerned with egalitarianism, justice and fairness require a large dose of credulity. What it means to hold a particular political identity can be highly context specific and prone to variation across space and time.

Consider Don Henley and Bruce Hornsby’s prophetic lyrics that could be considered a metaphor for the steep decline and impending death of the Enlightenment liberal project that began with philosophers such as Jean Jacques Rousseau, Wilhelm von Humboldt and J S Mill and perhaps the last genuine liberal John Rawls and his 1971 book A Theory of Justice. This great song by Henley and Bruce Hornsby was released while war mongering working class hating neo-conservative ghouls were strangling liberalism and social programs by the throat and scrotum.

End of the Innocence (1989) by Don Henley

Remember when the days were long
And rolled beneath a deep blue sky
Didn't have a care in the world
With mommy and daddy standing by
But "happily ever after" fails
And we've been poisoned by these fairy tales
The lawyers dwell on small details
Since daddy had to fly

But I know a place where we can go
That's still untouched by men
We'll sit and watch the clouds roll by
And the tall grass waves in the wind
You can lay your head back on the ground
And let your hair fall all around me
Offer up your best defence
But this is the end
This is the end of the innocence

O' beautiful, for spacious skies
But now those skies are threatening
They're beating plowshares into swords
For this tired old man that we elected king
Armchair warriors often fail
And we've been poisoned by these fairy tales
The lawyers clean up all details
Since daddy had to lie

But I know a place where we can go
And wash away this sin
We'll sit and watch the clouds roll by
And the tall grass waves in the wind
Just lay your head back on the ground
And let your hair spill all around me
Offer up your best defence
But this is the end
This is the end of the innocence

Who knows how long this will last
Now we've come so far, so fast
But, somewhere back there in the dust
That same small town in each of us
I need to remember this
So baby give me just one kiss
And let me take a long last look
Before we say goodbye

Just lay your head back on the ground
And let your hair fall all around me
Offer up your best defence
But this is the end
This is the end of the innocence

The End Of The Innocence DON HENLEY(1989) ORIGINAL MUSIC VIDEO - YouTube


Never let a good crisis go to waste – Winston Churchill

Germane to the dire depressing messages of End of the Innocence and more importantly, as I attempt to explain below, has been the betrayal and end of Enlightenment conceptions of liberalism. Classical liberalism has been replaced by a vile form of technocratic neo-fascist capitalism, militarism, imperialism, post-liberal techno-futility, Christian nationalism, calcified conservatism and widespread escalating economic inequality and authoritarianism. As Yanis Varoufakis has argued, one could even call it feudalistic – a technocratic death cult style mutation of both traditional liberalism, cancerous casino capitalism and anything goes faux democracy contaminated by untrammelled greed, corruption and deceit. This ersatz form of Enlightenment liberalism doesn’t even acknowledge justice for all, the common good or even fair play that most pre-school children understand. Call it alt-liberalism or post-liberalism, commonly referred to as neo-liberalism since the 1980s in which money moves at warp speed throughout the world searching like a vulture to make more money from what’s left of a devastated contaminated natural world. Enlightenment driven liberalism is the latest “god that failed”, reduced to the capitalist exploitation and the freedom to plunder and profit. The gods of the market and the priesthood and hucksters that promote and peddle its vile ideology and superfluous wares where everything is a commodity is a decaying corpse. Corporations, the abstract entities that serve as conduits for capitalist pillage and profit have even been elevated to the status of humans, but with far more rights. Democracy and its money driven manipulated elections, assuming that any even ersatz formulation of democracy has ever existed, have been reduced to farcical vacuities. And fascism is back! Mein Trump anyone?

By the way, the aforementioned Bruce Hornsby co-wrote and plays keyboards on Henley’s prophetic song cited above. The origins of our current global condition can be traced back to the late 1970s and 80s reactionary agendas so also listen to Hornsby’s The Way it Is which conveys a parallel message of a degenerate immoral acquisitive, bigoted, uncaring and selfish socio-economic system that deteriorates by the day. Liberalism originally conceived as an Enlightenment project of liberty, justice and fairness for all has been a rotting corpse for a long time. Liberalism is often construed as a loose set of uplifting principles such as rationality, freedom and the “rule of law, the latter being for the most part rules made for conservative and limousine “free” market liberal elites of power and privilege to serve their interests. The British publication The Economist *founded in the mid-19th century has provided a capitalist strand of thought into real existing liberalism in action complete with colonial, neo-colonial and imperial conquest and the typical concomitant undemocratic regimes defended in the name of upholding bogus “democracy” and “free trade.”

The Way It Is - YouTube**

*Lenin referred to The Economist as a publication that “speaks for British millionaires”.

**Another of my favourite songs from the1970s is Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street. One of the despondent escapist messages I get from this amazing composition is the sense of loss of optimism and hope for real community and democracy which became not only justified, but unavoidable. By the time the era of the excesses of 1980s’ was over and the implementation of neo-liberal kamikaze capitalism and financial plunder a deep sense despondency and desire for escape from a degenerate system that cannot be fixed became a distinct reality. Gerry Rafferty Baker Street 1080p Remastered in HD - YouTube

Former Christian conservative and Prime Minister of Britain Margaret Thatcher accelerated liberalism’s decline and demise when she shamefully declared “there is no such thing as society”. The world is populated only by self-serving sociopath Ayn Rand motivated automatons without any sense of community, caring, sharing, compassion or empathy. Many people believe this and are the rude, insensitive distracted narcissistic morons who as they walk down our neighbourhood sidewalk with their gargantuan Irish wolfhound in tow literally shouting into their cell phones about their recent gall bladder surgery. This sort of uncivil behaviour is typical of the cultural disintegration and moral depravity that we witness every day that is reflected in our “Me, Myself and I” asshole syndrome, narcissism, nihilism, corporate greed and corruption.

Moreover, germane to Henley’s insightful song of betrayal and deceit, not only have the corporate capitalist world and undemocratic governing bodies become more unjust, immoral, illiberal, uncivil, indecent and detached from any sense of the common good but these pervasive bad behaviours have unsurprisingly migrated to the general populace. It’s my perception that not only self-inflicted ignorance, selfishness, idiocy and antisocial - even psycopathy has clearly increased during the past four decades of neo-conservatism, neo-liberalism and yes, the stench of fascism which has been in the duration since World War II forever lurking on the fringes, is back with a vengeance. Added to the increase in assholes, the proverbial neighbour from hell (one of these jerks lives across the street from us), anti-intellectualism, self inflicted ignorance is the increase in misinformation, bullshit and outright idiocy. Bad behaviour, stupidity and cell phone and other addictions such and gluttony and obesity are at epidemic levels throughout the planet and these phenomena are displayed online and especially on television marketing with the latest fetishes such as tattoos, we now are inundated with total wastes of time and money such as online gambling on pro sports. Yeah, it’s been declared legal by the anything goes attitude of 21st century capitalists and the lap poodle governments they control. One ad for “Bet 365” is particularly odious featuring a creepy derelict looking man peddling this “betting” bullshit who looks like a smarmy heroin dealer. Can this dystopian FUBAR world be fixed? The short answer is NO.


All the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum. The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron – H L Mencken (1880-1956)

The quote by the caustic social critic H L Mencken can be applied to not only the United States but to Canada and all the other states throughout the world that are considered so-called “liberal democracies”. What is even more shocking is that there are people who vote for these authoritarian conservative ghouls and phony limousine liberals in the money driven equally spurious bullshit elections. My initial response to this well-known quote is plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose; just take some time to observe the ongoing systemic corrupt capitalist autocracy and cynical political spectacle. Mencken calculated that “Congress consists of one-third, more or less, scoundrels; two-thirds, more or less, idiots; and three-thirds, more or less, poltroons.” The authoritarian nature of the state has not changed since one of first men to call himself an anarchist ,Pierre-Joseph Proudhon who believed all property –specifically real estate - to be theft, wrote in The General Idea of Revolution in the Nineteenth Century, “To be governed is to be watched, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, regulated, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, checked, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right nor the wisdom nor the virtue to do so. To be governed is to be at every operation, at every transaction noted, registered, counted, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, prevented, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished. It is, under pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be placed under contribution, drilled, fleeced, exploited, monopolized, extorted from, squeezed, hoaxed, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, vilified, harassed, hunted down, abused, clubbed, disarmed, bound, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, derided, outraged, dishonored. That is government; that is its justice; that is its morality.” Who can disagree with this?

Later in the early 20th Century Rosa Luxemburg correctly commented on the purpose and functioning of the state when she wrote that the social values and political priorities of any government - all of which are now capitalist - are evident in their budgets and allocation of funding. Social spending has been a steadily declining percentage of government budgets, and war spending and handouts to the big banks and wealthiest in society have been steadily increasing. That’s essentially all you need to know about whose interests any government on the planet is governing. The disgraceful bailouts of multi-trillions of dollars of banks and other financial criminals throughout the world in 2008 ought to be sufficient for even the most obtuse among us to understand this simple principle. The ongoing economic mumbo jumbo and capitalist mythologies of money and taxes function to conceal the true character of the capitalist state. This deceit enables government owned and controlled by parasitic financial oligarchs and their pimps in government to rationalize austerity for the masses and handouts and bailouts for the wealthy as budgetary prudence. In a fiat money system the government will always have as much money as it requires in order disburse to those ownership ruling elites they serve. “Money talks and bullshit walks” and this is true of the how the money system works as it is of much else within the sordid greed ridden capitalist system. Every time a bank lends several million dollars to some con man “entrepreneur”, money is created from nothing; after all does the bank have that money in their vaults? No. As the brilliant John Maynard Keynes (who often stated that economics was for the most part pseudoscience and bullshit) stated in his Treatise on Money, wrote “If the banks can create credit, why should they refuse any reasonable request for it, and why should they charge a fee for what costs them little or nothing?”  

When I was young teen growing up in small town Northern BC it seemed everyone, including my best friend and I who were budding anti-capitalist egg head counter-culture freaks, were intellectually engaged and talking politics. My Swedish immigrant maternal grandfather was a socialist but I didn’t find out later that he’d been frequently harassed by the RCMP anti-communist thought police with frequent knocks on the door. My dear mother told me about this not uncommon intimidation before she died at the age of 94, simply confirming that the constitutional monarchy called Canada is not a free country. Despite the farcical and actually fraudulent hysterical nature of the post World War II Cold War for which the evil Soviets were never a threat, people actually believed, despite political oppression of people like my radical grandfather, they had some impact in what happened to them and their futures. But in the past three or four decades that idea and what little democracy and political freedom existed has diminished further.

The Vile Mutation and Denigration of Liberalism

First they came for the communists, but I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the socialists and trade unionists, but I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, but I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for me, but by that time there was no one left to speak out - Martin Niemoeller (Niemoeller was a German pastor and theologian who wound up in the Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps who was finally liberated by the Allies in 1945).

There are some factors of neo-liberal capitalism that have a fairly broad scope and common consequences. One is the accelerating increase in inequality in much of the world as a consequence of the neoliberal policies emanating from the USA, UK, much of Europe and spreading to the rest of the globalized world in various toxic ways. And fascism is back.

The facts are patently obvious and well-researched and revealed in the US by a Rand Corporation study that has shown that an estimated $50 trillion in wealth has been transferred from workers and the middle class - the lower 90% of income - to the top 1% during the past four decades of neo-liberal doctrines and policies. Wall Street is essentially the government in the United States, Bay Street in Canada and their counterpart market tyranny elsewhere throughout the capitalist world. Elections have become a farce as money dictates which of two or more right wing gangster capitalist parties will prevail. More information about this corporate fascism in the work of Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez has been summarized cogently by political economist Robert Brenner. The current ideology of neo-liberal corporatization, techno-feudalism (the term used by Greek economist Yanis Varoufakis) and financial parasitism since the late 1970s are notorious factors in the breakdown of the social order that leaves millions of people throughout the globalized world frustrated, poverty stricken impoverished, outraged, disillusioned, frightened, homeless and contemptuous of capitalist institutions and their enablers in government that they care little or nothing for their interests. Millions of those disenfranchised citizens now live on the streets, most barely existing with lives so degraded that people’s pets (becoming almost as overpopulated as their owners) are better fed and cared for.

The irrefutable conclusion based on economic statistics is that through the postwar World War II boom we actually had decreasing inequality and very limited income streaming to the top income brackets. For the entire period from the late 1940s to the end of the 1970s, the top 1% of earners received 9-10% of total income. But in the brief period since 1980 the share of the top 1 has risen from 25% while the gains of the bottom 80% have been zero. For the vast majority of people in the world, the consequences have been dire and dismal. One example is the reduction of productive investment and shift to a renter based economy, in some ways a reversion from capitalist investment for production to feudal-style production of wealth, not capital - “fictitious capital,” as Marx called it. People have been atomized, reduced to automatons addicted to cell phones, social media such as face book and twitter (for dumb and dumber illiterate twits) and the latest depraved fetishes such as branding, tattoos and waste of time and money lotteries and online gambling on pro sports.

Another consequence is breakdown of the civility, decency and the social order as anything goes provided profit is the outcome. In their incisive work The Spirit LevelRichard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett show a close correlation between inequality and a range of social disorders and addictive behaviors. Two countries are off the charts – the USA and UK - with very high grotesque economic inequality but even greater social disorder than expected by the correlation. These are the two countries that led the way into the neo-liberal abyss with Ronald Reagan and Margaret “There is no society” Thatcher - formally defined as commitment to small government and the dictatorship of the so-called market gods and their infamous “invisible hands”. In practice  this vile immoral system is more accurately described as dedicated class war gangster capitalism that owns and controls our fraudulent liberal “democracies” as traditional liberalism has been now confined to freedom to exploitation and profit as pretty much anything goes as reverse mortgages, payday loan sharks, lotteries and online gambling are peddled endlessly on TV and the internet. In any governance with a pretense to civil society, they would be illegal. Wilkinson-Pickett’s revealing work has been carried forward since, recently in an important study by Steven Bezruchka. It seems well confirmed that inequality is a prime factor in breakdown of ethical restraints, civility and any semblance of democratic oversight.

Karl Polanyi, author of prophetic book The Great Transformation was written in 1944, the same year as the Bretton Woods conferences and subsequent consensus that outlined the global economic policies for the future. John Maynard Keynes, one of the two greatest intellectuals of the 20th century along with his good friend and fellow member of the Bloomsbury Group, Bertrand Russell, was instrumental in drafting the agreement. Both Keynes and Russell would have agreed with Polanyi’s contention that, “To allow the market mechanism to be sole director of the fate of human beings and their natural environment…would result in the demolition of society”. These three men would have concurred that there are at least two approaches guaranteed to destroy any pretence to a just, egalitarian democratic society; namely, (1) allowing the market to be primary organizing principle and sole guide for the fate of humanity and (2) allowing technology to saturate and invade every aspect of our lives. In the United States and most of the world today, both of these developments have merged, creating a huge rift between rich and poor and a dystopian anti-society/ anti-community that atomize people who are becoming detached, egocentric and even solipsistic, catapulting us over the edge into a kind of anti-society addicted to “smart” phones, delusional petty mind-numbing amusement activities and false hope activities such as lotteries and online gambling that are endlessly peddled on TV and the internet. In the 1960s U of T professor and media expert Marshall McLuhan argued that our brains take on the characteristics of our current technologies and more recently sociologist Zygmunt Bauman writes that we are currently experiencing a “deepening decomposition and crumbling of social bonds and communal cohesion”. This phenomenon goes far beyond the anti-intellectual and distracted dumb and dumber culture but an epidemic of disconnectedness and isolation that include uncaring un-civility, rudeness and the increasing narcissism, nihilism and prevalence of insufferable jerks and assholes. These vile characteristics are concomitant with neo-liberal capitalism and the depressing decline of traditional liberalism and bottom up social democratic institutions that were once Enlightenment projects.

Fast forward to the covid-19 virus pandemic which was unleashed on the world in early 2020 that pales in comparison to the year my son was born in 1968 when the Hong Kong Flu that may have killed as many as 4 million people worldwide , yet was barely worthy of mention in the corporate news. It was also a year of social unrest, widespread disturbances such as the takeover of the streets of Paris and the assassinations of MLK and RFK. Although this number pales in comparison to the virus that emerged out the trenches of World War I and ended up killing as many as 50 million. But the virus that is killing thousands every day is the deadly virus of kamikaze capitalism - also known as neo-liberalism, a vile ideology that allows unrestricted freedom to the market and the right to exploit and profit before all else, including every living entity on the planet. The primary objective in the actions of our corporatist governments was to provide golden parachutes for the stock markets that were heading south once the severity of the virus became evident and the DJIA declined about 40% in a matter of two or three months. The reactions to the lockdowns, mask mandates and the eventual vaccinations were generally accepted by the masses save for far right wing libertarians and red necks like the neo-fascist Canadian convoy truckers and neo-Nazis who believe freedom to mean the right to infringe on the freedom of others that includes Christian white supremacy and even violence - the license to do whatever they want without limit or common sense rules - the quintessence of the dissolute standpoint. These clowns were of course supported by neo-conservative capitalist political leaders such as Donald Trump, Pierre Poilievre and Jair Bolsanaro.

But a year before the corona virus pandemic spread throughout the world our global world order was experiencing multiple dystopian and catastrophic political, economic, societal and environmental conditions as the entire socio-economic and political edifice was already on the edge of collapse. This much seems  patently obvious: if we consider the environmental disasters that plagued the year 2019 alone: the gigantic fires of Australia, Siberia, California and Amazonia; the melting ice in Greenland and the broader Arctic; the foggy nightmare of Delhi; and the invasions of locusts in Africa are evidence that climate change is already deploying its deadly effects. As I write in the summer of 2023, we’ve experienced far worse ecosystem devastation - and the future for these horrific events will continue unabated since nothing has and will be done. In any event it’s too late. The months immediately preceding the spread of the virus were also marked by a social dysfunction and resistance such as the proliferation of massive demonstrations and riots from Hong Kong to Santiago, to Quito, Beirut, Paris, Barcelona and Tehran. The global economy was already mired in a lengthy stagnation, counting for its survival on the ceaseless injection of trillions of dollars at zero interest rates from central banks, the proverbial golden parachutes of private capital accumulation and financial parasitism, paid through the impoverishment of social life, public heath care, education, collapsing infrastructures and disgusting widespread homelessness. This, in addition to psychic collapse was clearly perceivable in social and political behaviors, such as the revengeful alignments with far right wing neo-fascist strongmen that have been the decisions of many electorates worldwide. The sense of an impending catastrophe and collapse was already evident.

The artistic landscape of 2019, particularly in film, was punctuated by flashes of apocalyptic consciousness. Just before the explosion of the virus, the sensitive transmitters of many artists were recognizing a sort of global dysfunction, psychosis and pathological vibration. Dystopian movies on social stratification and economic divisions that appeared pre covid-19 such as the graphic film from Spain called The Platform directed by Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia which was especially unsettling. Ken Loach’s movie Sorry We Missed You portrays humiliating working conditions for delivery people in which a psychic collapse becomes inescapable. Todd Phillips’s Joker recounts the spread of mental suffering in a society that is prone to forms of psychotic rebellion. Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite goes through the stages of a frantic struggle to survive, in a world where everybody fights everybody else, while every social stratum crushes and oppresses the strata below – until an epidemic of violence comes to destroy all kinds of privilege and hierarchy. Society before the pandemic was already a collapsing society: it was at that point when a bio-semiotic agent came to bring about a major disruption, paralysis and silence. But what society you might say? After all according to the super-bitch conservative Christian evangelical Margaret Thatcher, society is non-existent, not unlike the Christian sky tyrant she believed in since her indoctrinated childhood.

While the post World War II developments have been widely hailed as the dawn of a golden age, the likelihood is that they actually amount to a death knell, the beginning of the end of a world that is facing a multiplicity of existential calamities such as widespread pollution, species extinction, global heating, wildfires, floods and perhaps the most pressing threat, which is human overpopulation. Keynes was a left leaning liberal but I believe he was a closet socialist as the agreements drafted at Bretton Woods attempted to create a bottom up golden age model whereby the world’s worst off had a chance to thrive and flourish. But there were very powerful conservative and elitist wealthy reactionary global forces that challenged this program, It began with the repeal and dismantling of the post war Bretton Woods model; first by Richard Nixon who abandoned the gold standard which was replaced by floating exchange rates and the beginning of the disastrous growth of arcane financial instruments that led to the multiple global economic debacles such as the Dot Com bubble and total collapse of 2007-09 for which the financial crooks, banking mafia and other financial crooks were bailed out. [3] Incidentally, The financial crisis of 2007–08 was the worst global economic collapse since the 1929 debacle and subsequent Great Depression that didn’t really begin to recuperate until the mid 1950s.  The Great Depression severely damaged the international capitalist system, leading to further erosion of confidence in the United States and its Western allies. American credibility has already been badly undermined by its baseless conspiracy of lies regarding the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Unsurprisingly America’s position and status morally and materially with regard to its allies has been declining dramatically.

Following the 9/11 2001 terrorist attacks against America, democratic institutions within the country have been steadily deteriorating. American neo-liberal scholar Francis Fukuyama (author of the book with the pretentious title End of History in 1991) admitted in 2014 that the erosion of so-called “democracy” in the US has been more advanced than in other affluent Western country. Fukuyama highlighted the increasing corruption, cronyism and incompetence within Washington which was resulting in obscene growing levels of inequality and the accumulation of money in fewer hands as one-tenth of 1% of the country has more wealth than the bottom 90% By 2014 chief executives of the biggest American companies were paid 331 times more than the typical worker. The concentration of wealth among elites was also enabling them to manipulate the political structures to their advantage.

In 2022 there were more than 12,500 registered lobbyists in the US, groups who try to influence government policy, whereas in 1971 a modest 171 lobbyists were in existence. Economics expert and renegade Nouriel Roubini, who was one of the few economists to predict the 2007-09 global economic collapse, said in January 2015 that it would be next to impossible for the US to repair the damage done by gangster capitalism, legalized corruption and the financial parasitism that now prevails as the grotesque levels of inequality are now systemic. The system has descended far past the point by which it can be reformed (in any event that’s been tried). The system will eventually succumb to entropy and collapse as has every former empire in history. Roubini refused to use the world “democracy” with reference to the United States, fittingly calling it a “plutocracy”.

Warren Buffet, one of the few honest members of the billionaire club, admits that “there’s a class war that’s been going on for decades and my class, the rich class, has won.”A primary defense against class war is an educated, informed public but efforts to implement logic and critical thinking programs into the schools have been blocked by two powerful conservative institutions in society, the Christian churches and the Chambers of Commerce. The Christian hierarchy doesn’t want their flock challenging the faith and big business prefers dumb docile obedient workers ruled by amoral authoritarian asshole businessmen bosses.

In addition to imposing the mind destroying business corporatist model on public education, it has come under harsh attack during the neo-liberal years. The corporatization of the public schools was well underway by the early 1980s with promotion of banalities such as “entrepreneurship”, “self-esteem” and “leadership”; I know this from experience as a high school mathematics teacher. We were bombarded with years of de-funding, implementation of dumb down business models, leadership and entrepreneurial business management idiocy and self esteem bullshit that favors cheap and easily disposable labor. This has been extended to the universities as gig economy adjuncts and graduate students have replaced tenured faculty, teaching-to-test models that undermine critical thought, conceptual understanding, literacy, history, scientific inquiry and the conceptual and philosophical foundations of mathematics. Best to have a population that is passive, obedient and atomized, even if they are irritated and resentful, and thus easy prey for demagogues skilled in tapping ugly currents that run not too far below the conservative status quo surface in every society. We have heard on countless occasions from both political pundits and influential academics that any semblance of “democracy” that may have existed is in steep decline. In fact full out fascism is back. Let’s face facts; conservatives, as they did in Germany between the World Wars, have never hesitated to support fascists when they felt threats from the left and both liberals and fascists have invariably shared their undying devotion to the capitalist world order and the former will work with the latter if it means crushing real threats from the left. Read Domenico Losurdo’s book Liberalism: A Counter History and listen to his lecture here if you have any doubts regarding this claim. Also check out Gabriel Rockhill’s piece on Counterpunch here.

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) claimed in early 2022 that only 6.4% of the world’s population enjoys “full democracy” however defined but it is anything but clear how the sister company of the conservative weekly magazine The Economist understands the actual meaning and context of the term “real existing democracy.” My own traditional interpretation as democracy as “the will of the people” is that this formulation does not exist and never has. Perhaps with the exception of many indigenous societies, hierarchy, elitism and various forms of authoritarianism have been the standard socioeconomic models throughout history. Today democracy has become a farcical cruel joke. Be that as it may, I think we can all agree that at the very least there are several key indicators pointing to a dysfunction of even an ersatz democracy in the late 20th and 21st centuries. But isn’t it also the case that a perception of a crisis of democracy has existed almost as long as modern parliamentary democracy itself, again however construed? Moreover, isn’t it also the case that debates about a crisis of democracy applies exclusively to the concept of so-called “liberal” democracy, which is anything but authentic? As already mentioned class based liberalism has degenerated into the notion of an unsustainable boundless capitalist economic growth model on a finite planet for which freedom has been confined to the freedom to profit as all costs as collateral damage and externalities are offloaded onto the public. As the standard mantra informs: profits are privatized as loses are socialized. It’s undeniable that North American indigenous societies were far more free and democratic than our phony liberal capitalism. Over fifteen years ago and one year before the 2008 global economic collapse and nauseating bailouts of the corporate crooks responsible, Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, wrote an essay titled “Capitalism versus the Climate in which she chastised both the left and right for not recognizing capitalism’s notion of extreme individualism, greed, narcissism and endless growth and expansion as antithetical and catastrophic to a finite planet with finite resources. Klein wrote:

“The expansionist, extractive mindset, which has so long governed our relationship to nature, is what the climate crisis calls into question so fundamentally. The abundance of scientific research showing we have pushed nature beyond its limits does not just demand green products and market-based solutions; it demands a new civilization paradigm, one grounded not in dominance over nature but in respect for natural cycles of renewal - and acutely sensitive to natural limits….These are profoundly challenging revelations for all of us raised on Enlightenment ideals of progress.”

“Real climate solutions,” she continues, “are ones that steer government interventions to systematically disperse and devolve power and control to the community level, through community-controlled renewable energy, local organic agriculture or transit systems genuinely accountable to their users.” Hence, she concludes, the powers that be have reason to be afraid, and to deny the data on global warming, because what is really required at this point is the end of the capitalist style free-market ideology; and, I would add, the end of what Mark Fisher called “capitalist realism” which is the primary cause of global heating, wildfires, floods and the certainty of even worse calamities in the future. It’s going to be an ongoing colossal fight despite the contention by some climate scientists that we’ve crossed the tipping points, the point of no return. Just be prepared for a dubious future; after all there is no planet B. Let the delusional Trump loving Elon Musk (or is it Leon Skum? – recall his former wife had claimed he was dyslexic) colonize Mars (one way ticket); for the rest of us it’s a very plausible oblivion. The ruling elites are not stupid; they know we are heading off a cliff and are preparing for it – and these sociopathic ghouls will surely hang on to their power and stolen wealth as they always have throughout history. What the promising Occupy Wall Street protesters ought to have told these rapacious bastards is that your decadent power hungry lives are a massive boondoggle and egregious error. This is what “a new civilization paradigm” ultimately means. It also has to be said that almost everyone in the United States, not just the upper layer of the 1%, buys into this latest salvation plan for humankind. As mentioned earlier, the great author of The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck pointed this out many years ago when he wrote that in the U.S.; the poor regard themselves as “temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” The poor delude themselves into believing they can become rich with penniless and perhaps not too bright parents who have succumbed to the endless indoctrination and propaganda , having uncritically accepted and internalized the capitalist conservative values of their ruling elite masters on their media outlets they own and control. The chances of even an intelligent motivated young person becoming well off financially growing up in grinding poverty is about as probable as winning the 6-49 lottery hallucination the odds of which are approximately1 in 14 million. For mathematicians and scientists that equates statistically to zilch, nil, nada, zero. The Occupy Wall Street movement, as far as I could understand it, wanted to restore the inane American Dream, when in fact the dream is an unsustainable fairy tale - nightmare and needs to be abolished once and for all. It’s about as futile as the pursuit of happiness; people who are engaged with the world, content and have interesting lives, rarely think about whether they are happy or not. Read this and this. As the late great George Carlin rightly described it, “It’s called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.”

If you research the backgrounds of the world’s wealthiest people, including billionaires (a million dollars is now chump change), they were all invariably born into wealth and privilege. As the world’s first person who described himself as an anarchist, Pierre Joseph Proudhon, rightly proclaimed what ought to be an obvious truism, “all property is theft”. And as for today’s farcical democracies and the rapacious ruling capitalist oligarchs and lords of finance who own pretty much everything – the pampered and privileged neoconservative and neo-liberal top one-tenth of 1% who own 90% of the world’s wealth - a share is something you own, not something you do.

Naomi Klein provides us with a list of six changes that must occur for a new paradigm to come into being, including Reining in Corporations, Ending the Cult of Shopping and Taxing the Rich. These changes are not going to happen, and what we need instead is a thoughtful discussion about they won’t happen. But note that part of the answer is already embedded in Klein’s thesis: vested interests, in both the economic and psychological sense, have every reason to maintain the status quo of putting profit before people and everything else on the morally and physically polluted planet. What would our anti-intellectual lives of distraction be without shopping, without the latest technological amusement and so called “smart” phone that is turning us into addictive unthinking twits (have you tried the designed for illiterates twitter yet?). Now you can use your cell phone to mindlessly gamble away what little money you have. And why is no one willing to talk about the problem of human overpopulation as humans are at least so far, the only species NOT in extinction mode. Even insects such as the humble bumble bee are in decline. But our time is coming and it’s not far off. But the corporatist new world order will if it cannot destroy, co-opt anything that stands in its path, including offering lame solutions to global heating and the contamination of the planet’s ecosystems and life forms which will merely be a platform for speculation, fraud, bribery and crony capitalism such as carbon trading and use of forests for fuel which are quickly burning up even in the arctic zones as carbon offsets. In postmodernist late capitalism conceptual clarity, truth and meaning can signify pretty much anything if it promotes profit and capitalist accumulation. Even Che Guevara, MLK, Gandhi, Bob Dylan, BLM and the protest songs of the 60s have been shamelessly hijacked, co-opted and invoked for marketing purposes to peddle superfluous products including the latest swindles such as lotteries and the latest scam, online gambling on pro sports.

Shadia Drury, professor emeritus of the University of Regina, invokes a cultural version of entropy or scientific Second Law of Thermodynamics when she writes, “Every political order, no matter how grand, is doomed to decay and degenerate.” As for the Humanist Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution which have never really been universally accepted, superstition and mindless religious belief continue to prevail. Eighty percent of people are mathematically and scientifically illiterate and believe in palpable nonsense, religion being the most common source. After all,  60% of Americans have never read a book and only 6% have read one in the past year, 70% believe in angels, 30% claim to have communicated with the dead and believe the sun revolves around the earth and 50% believe in alien abductions and the fairy tale Rapture (JC’s return from the dead). And understanding of even basic mathematics such as fractions, ratios and elementary algebra, geometry and especially probability theory is appalling. “Were we this dumb before television?” asks one of the characters in Don DeLillo’s novel White Noise. The many others including the late Neil Postman in his book Amusing Ourselves to Death  have pointed out that the content of 95% of TV programming assumes an audience of idiots and morons with the attention span of about ten seconds and the IQ of a barnacle. Researchers that have studied declining intellects, anti-intellectualism, postmodern philosophy and ideology [4], self-esteem bullshit and grade inflation that have been invading our schools and the universities blame these conditions on the imposition of business models and the corporatization of everything. Some have speculated that only about 3% of the American population is genuinely functionally literate. Drury continues with:

“Modernity’s inception and its decline are like those of any other set of political and cultural ideals. In its early inception, modernity contained something good and beguiling. It was a revolution against the authority of the Church, its taboos, repressions, inquisitions, and witch burning. It was a new dawn of the human spirit—celebrating life, knowledge, individuality, freedom, and human rights. It bequeathed to man a sunny disposition on the world, and on him….The new spirit fueled scientific discovery, inventiveness, trade, commerce, and an artistic explosion of great splendor. But as with every new spirit, modernity has gone foul; it has lost the freshness and innocence of its early promise because its goals became inflated, impossible, and even pernicious. Instead of being the symbol of freedom, independence, justice, and human rights, it has become the sign of conquest, colonialism, exploitation, and the destruction of the earth.”

The truth about the average American (and more or less applied to Canadians) is that they have about as much use for rationality, logic and the intellectual life as a pipe wrench. In today’s world of excess (including out of control addiction, distraction, dog ownership, obesity, rudeness, appalling behavior and narcissism combined with postmodern epistemic and moral relativism, most people don’t even understand the clear distinction between fact and opinion. But where are the role models and moral exemplars? They surely will not be found in our culture of capitalist greed, corruption or the political pimps who support and underwrite their ongoing crimes.

The Capitalist Crisis and Impending Calamities

What exactly is the crisis of our threadbare fake democracy?  It was, for example, the title of the first publication of the Trilateral Commission, liberal internationalist scholars from Europe, Japan, and the U.S. It stands alongside the Powell Memorandum* as one of the harbingers of the neo-liberal assault that was gathering steam in the Carter administration (mostly trilateral commission goon squads) and was launched and implemented by the Christian zealots and market fundamentalists such as dunce cap Ron “Iran Contra” Ray Gun and Maggie “Douche Bag” Thatcher who proclaimed with godlike dogmatism that “there is no alternative to capitalism”. The Powell memorandum, addressing the business world, was the tough side; the Trilateral Commission report was the soft liberal side.

*The Powell memorandum, authored by Justice Lewis Powell in the early 1970s, pulled no punches. It implored the business world to invoke its massive reactionary power to beat back what it perceived as a major assault on the business world which basically implied that instead of the corporate sector freely running roughshod over almost everything, there were some limited efforts to restrict its power. The outbursts of paranoia and wild exaggerations are not without interest, but the message of Justice Powell, a hard ass conservative creep, was clear. Big business, led by the Chambers of Commerce must launch an all-out offensive class war against unions and other working class protections and voices to put an end to what he called the “time of troubles” (read “too much democracy”) and a standard expression for the counter culture, anti-war, anti-racism, women’s rights and social justice movements for the mostly young people’s movements of the 1960s, which greatly contributed to any civility, decency and egalitarianism that followed.

Like Powell, the Trilateral Commission thugs were also concerned by the “time of troubles.” The crisis of democracy was that the counter culture of the 1960s was contributing to an outbreak of democracy; the power elites cannot tolerate this. All sorts of activist groups were calling for greater rights for the young, the aging populations, women, gays, working people rights groups, farmers, referred to by wealthy conservative and liberal elites as socialism, “special interests” or unwarranted privilege. A particular concern was the failure of the institutions responsible “for the indoctrination of the young:” schools, churches, youth groups such as boy scouts and yes, with the rare exception of some radical professors, the universities. That’s why we see young people carrying out their disruptive anti-war, social justice and other activities. These popular efforts imposed an impossible burden on the state, which could not respond to these special interests; hence the crisis of “democracy”.

The Increasingly Dumb and Dumber World

The downward spiral of Dumbness in America is about to hit a new low - Hunter S. Thompson

We now find ourselves existing, as opposed to real “living” with political freedom and a minimalist ersatz democracy, in an anti-democratic dystopian surveillance state techno-nightmare of grotesque economic inequality whereby people power has been completely severed from politics and what prevails globally are neo-fascist corporatist oligarchies. Anti-intellectualism, cell phone distraction, the stupefaction and dumb down culture inflicted on the of the masses (the infamous bewildered herd), online gambling addictions and other mindless distractions have now rendered most people into an anti-intellectual zombie world of declining IQs and widespread idiocy. Most ads on TV for example portray adults as bumbling unthinking overweight morons lacking is moderation and self-discipline, their children incorrigible brats and their multiple pet dogs languishing and slobbering on the $4000 leather couch licking their private parts. Liberal society, as envisioned by the humanist enlightenment may have arisen periodically but, like mainstream political conservatism which was always retrograde, authoritarian and backward thinking, is dead in the water. The slogan of “liberty, equality, and fraternity” faded and died a quick death soon after the French Revolution and descended into an abyss of the so-called “free market” whereby the only freedom (which is a vacuous concept without moral responsibility) is the license to exploit and profit. As a result we humans have become hustlers and con artists or their victims - mere pawns that are endlessly exploited, enslaved, propagandized, manipulated and duped. Most of us have become willfully ignorant semi-intelligent apes whose IQs seem to be in free fall as several studies have corroborated this trend. The median IQ had traditionally been 100 with two-thirds falling in the 85-115 range (“not too smart”, as the late great comedian and social critic George Carlin informed us in his typical brilliant rants here and here). If you have an IQ of 130, you are in the rarified air of the 98th percentile, meaning 98% of the semi-intelligent twits called humans are dumber than you. One study hypothesized that the median IQ now stands at a moronic 85. Just how stupid, illiterate and cranial impaired are we? See this. This trajectory has been in effect for several decades now as right wing think tanks (AKA neo-fascist corporatist propaganda machines) dumb down and contaminate the cultural and political landscape.

The so-called “American Dream” (to become rich by any means, usually hucksterism, con artistry, financial mafia tactics and outright theft) which was never a reasonable objective, is dead and as the aforementioned late comic and social critic George Carlin said, “You have to be asleep to believe it”. A documentary from about a decade ago called Heist: Who Stole the American Dream?,  is worth watching and can be seen in its entirety on you tube: HEIST Who Stole the American Dream FULL FILM - YouTube

There’s much to agree with but the real problem is not just cutting up the economic pie in a fair and just way. The reality is this: the capitalist pie is systemically corrupt, unjust, authoritarian, undemocratic and rotten to the core and needs to be destroyed and replaced with a genuine democratic model. Capitalism, an ideology of lunatics, parasites and sociopaths, is antithetical to any meaningful concept of democracy. Ray Stevens summed it up back in 1968 with his great song Mr. Businessman when conditions were awful yet still hopeful, but nothing like today’s dystopian capitalist nightmare. With the exception of brief minor outbreaks, which I submit does not exist and never has, our alleged liberal parliamentary democracies are a fraud and the elections farcical, driven by lobbying and money to but politicians like everything else that’s a commodity these days.  Moreover, there’s precious little freedom for the majority of people in the glowing epithet “free enterprise”, a euphemism for capitalist predation, plunder and profit before all else. So why do so many of the vast majority of struggling underpaid and overworked hoi polloi support such a loathsome unjust dissolute system? Perhaps the great American novelist and author of the disgrace and tragedy of the Great Depression in the US described so brilliantly in The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck was right when he said, “In the United States the poor regard themselves as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” In other words the credulous indoctrinated masses actually believe in the self made man mythology, that they too can be rich despite losing the genetic lottery. The only difference between them and those born into wealth and privilege is that they don’t have any money and their chances of getting any are slim and none. Many resort to delusional and desperate swindles and scams such as lotteries and casinos which, thanks to government legalization, now sanction online betting on pro sports, mere pits of depravity that waste not only their money but precious time. Some of the marginally more wise among us ponder on how, without too many moral compromises, to become financially independent, forced into complicity with the only game in town, namely the terminal cancer called capitalism. The American Dream needs to be abandoned since it was always a lie and the antithesis of civility and decency; what is required not only for democracy but the very survival of all life on the planet, is replacing capitalism with a genuine democracy of sharing, compassion, worker controlled enterprises, deep respect for the natural world and empathy for our fellow humans and other sentient life forms. The French President at the Versailles Treaty George Clemenceau was surely right when he commented about the USA, grounded in hucksterism, theft and con men, that ”America was the only nation that went from barbarism to decadence without the intervening phase of civilization.” How can a society of morons and ignoramuses expect to “take back their country” which very likely the majority don’t even know that it was created from racist genocide of indigenous peoples, land theft and slavery?


                                Future economist, administrator, business manager or politician                           

Moreover, the gross disproportionate influence that anti-intellectualism, personality and notions of charisma exert over politics today is one of many symptoms of a dysfunctional pathological body politic. Capitalism’s hyper-individualism, money worship, love of hierarchy, power, myths and bullshit about meritocracy and the self-made man produce toxic cults of personality around the rich, famous and demagogic neo-fascist strong man. A style of politics that focuses on such cults of personality and celebrity (both intrinsically inauthentic) will inevitably reinforce and exacerbate the problems it pretends to solve. It’s the hallmark of a politics whose deterioration is on living, breathing, preening display in the narcissistic sociopathic spectacle of a bonehead beast like Donald Trump. But with senile limousine liberals like the senile Joe Biden and nasty douche bags like Hilary Clinton the mere fact that only one-third of American voters show up to vote at elections is a clear indicator that they have woken up to the reality that the game is rigged. What if no one showed up? Are Canada and Europe any better? Not much.

In the immediate post World War II era even some conservatives displayed minor flashes of caring, compassion and concessions to ordinary working people by embracing high taxes for big business and the rich. Highest marginal tax rates on investment and income were as high as 92% in the 1950s and 60s whereas today they are roughly 30% But since the post war stealth plans to reformat both conservatism (into neo-conservatism) and liberalism (into neo-liberalism) these capitalist parties have decimated trade unions and decimated worker rights while embracing hard ass narcissistic and nihilistic corporate and financial totalitarianism. Although far more progressive than today, the traditional liberal doctrines espoused by John Stuart Mill in the mid 19th century and John Rawls in the mid 20th were still concerned about limiting and diverting the needs and demands of working class people as their real aims were to serve the elite money classes as a bulwark against real democracy. After all capitalists and ruling elites were the basis stealth lobbying (AKA bribery) and the major source of their election funding. To understand anything that happens within capitalist domains, follow the money.

John Dewey, the great American educator and philosopher recognized this conservative and liberal reticence back in the 30 and 40s. As history has shown, conservatives have never changed their anti-democratic elitist philosophy and will support fascists if any threats from below such as socialism arise. Dewey wrote that a liberal is “one who gives approval to the grievances of the proletariat but at the crucial moment invariably runs for cover on the side of the master of capitalism.” Dewey also added, “As long as politics is the shadow cast on society by big business, the attenuation of the shadow will not change the substance.21st Century capitalism, enabled and promoted by both mainstream conservatism and liberalism has been aptly called “Gangster Capitalism” by professor of philosophy of education Henry Giroux and “Neo-Fascist Techno-Feudalism” by Greek economist Yanis Varoufakis.

Both Liberalism and Democracy are Rotting Corpses

Traditional liberalism is not to be confused with libertarianism or the current debased corporate capitalist/neo-fascist formulation called neo-liberalism; more germane would be post-liberalism. This latter mutation vomited up by far right wing capitalist ideologues following World War II and implemented in the 1980s differs little fundamentally from traditional conservatism. In fact traditional so called “free” market liberalism since its inception in the early 19th century has been invariably conservative in its outlook. The traditional strain of conservatism which can be summed up succinctly as “maintaining the status quo”, is invariably supported by those who were born with the silver spoon, a distinct monetary and class advantage which is crucial to survival in a capitalist dystopia. Not unlike many self-described liberals these days, conservatives are prone to many cognitive afflictions such as confirmation bias and what I would call the status quo bias. Conservatives and many liberals tend to live by two simple authoritarian principles: “might is right” and “what’s in it for me?” In the present case what the cons (and the vast majority of lackey liberals) want to conserve is the current morally decadent system of financial plunder supported by a surveillance neo-fascist police state.

Those of the political right, including the wide spectrum from fascism, conservatism and currently many liberals all of who are devout capitalists, have invariably advocated various degrees of authoritarianism, hierarchy, anti-democracy and servitude for the working classes. No one can claim to be free who works in poor conditions for long hours at minimum wage, with no organization such as a union protecting their rights and interests. On the other hand freedom for capitalists whether fascist, conservative or liberal has always been the freedom to exploit the natural world and dominate the masses all for the purposes of profit and enrichment. The revolutionary left, on the other hand, has always been at the forefront of the enlightenment values of traditional liberalism (contra neo-liberalism) that embraced the struggle for freedoms that include equal rights, justice and egalitarianism promoted by Immanuel Kant. Wilhelm von Humboldt and even Adam Smith would have been appalled and shocked at the current depravity of global capitalism.. Humboldt claimed that a human being “is born to inquire and create, and when a man or a child chooses to inquire or create out of his own free choice then he becomes in his own terms an artist rather than a tool of production or a well-trained parrot.” For Kant, there is only one fundamental right, the freedom and autonomy from being constrained or coerced by another person, insofar as it can coexist with the freedom of every other in accordance with a universal law regarding ends and means.

In a time before the bureaucratic capitalist state and its endless support for the modern corporation for profit at any cost to the commons and the pervasive financial parasitism that exists today and before the vast complexity of industrial technocratic capitalist society, it was considered axiomatic to accept these principles with the conclusion that the state and the corporations it defends ought to confined in size and reduced in power. In any civilized society the Golden Rule ought to be a minimalist principle and real citizens should be compelled do more than is expected by law and less than allowed. But if these simple ethical adages were accepted by all, the immoral ideology of capitalism could not last another day. And surely as liberal John Rawls argued in A Theory of Justice, any government that does not prioritize caring for society’s most needy and worst off is not only immoral, unfair and unjust, it is not a legitimate democracy. It would seem that liberalism has become an opaque political category that defines anyone who is neither a fascist nor a communist. It’s difficult not to notice the modern liberal’s decent into hypocrisy, especially liberalism’s long time support for colonialism, slavery and modern imperialism. And whence the common good, sense of community and public service by politicians, many of whom, rather than public service, now consider politics merely a lucrative career?  Many other fatal flaws of liberalism could be cited which include serious contradiction of its theory and practice whereby it differs little from mainstream conservatism. These conceptual and other problems with liberalism have been brilliantly critiqued by Domenico Losurdo in his Liberalism: A Counter History.

Sadly, classical western liberalism has been in a steady state of decline for a very long time, a decline accelerating in the 1980’s to the condition of a rotting corpse today. Moreover, an increasing number of people with whom you speak who actually care about politics and history know that the system is rigged against them and has been for the past several thousand years of grinding authoritarianism and ongoing exploitation. Silver spoon crony capitalists such as Bill Gates who never invented anything, peddles the long standing myth of the self-made man and the bullshit of capitalism’s “ability to make self-interest serve the wider interest” and the prospects for financial returns from “entrepreneurship” “unleashes a broad set of talented people in pursuit of many different discoveries.” While “driven by self-interest,’ capitalism remains ‘responsible for the incredible innovations that have improved so many lives.” This broadly summarizes the Gates end justifies the means ruse of free market folklore, the fairy tale that altruistic outcomes can be achieved through greed and self-interest like the financial parasite character in Oliver Stone’s 1987 movie Wall Street. The conflation of ends and means violates the most fundamental moral principle expressed in Immanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative but that doesn’t seem to bother the green washing woke capitalism of the doltish Gates and his phony tax write-off charities.

Conservatism was encapsulated by the reactionary Edmund Burke in his vitriolic critique of the French Revolution which in the past four or five decades has undergone a mutation called neo-conservatism. [6] This version of conservatism merely aligns its authoritarianism more fully with corporate capitalism and the plethora of financial vampires that orchestrate capitalist exploitation and plunder from their computer terminals invoking arcane mathematical algorithms and dubious formulae. Traditional conservatism and liberalism as conceived in the Enlightenment are rotting corpses. But if their elite status is ever threatened, the historical adaptations and embodiments are the same ossified elitist liberal and conservative autocrats who aligned themselves with the long standing corrupt and decadent Romanoff monarchy against the Bolsheviks during the civil war of 1918-21 and subsequently Hitler, Mussolini and Francisco Franco. These alignments enabled them to assume complete power and control not only over the state but to squash any resistance from the global left that included any power for labour or socialist and communist parties. The left parties in Europe following World War II, particularly the communists, were popular with the masses since it was primarily these partisans who during the Second World War fought the Nazi occupations in countries such as France, Italy and Greece. These parties were crushed after the war by the monarchist and closet fascist Winston Churchill and the USA with its Marshall Plan and newly formed CIA which recruited many former Gestapo members (Operation Paper Clip). In Greece a civil war ensued that lasted until 1949 when the US and Britain who financed and supported militarily the reactionary insurgents, ultimately re-installing the Greek monarchy. These bastards will resort to any methods however nefarious to maintain their capitalist dominance and hegemony.

Both neo-liberals and neoconservatives now align themselves with two doctrinaire principles that are deemed axiomatic and absolute:

(1)  There is no alternative to capitalism (like one of the silly Ten Commandments which have little or nothing to do with ethics or civilized behaviour which was touted by hyper capitalist Christian conservative super bitch Margaret Thatcher) and the former third rate Hollywood actor, rabid anti-communist McCarthyism and cognitively challenged Ronald Reagan.

(2)   There is no such thing as society (also attributed to Market Theocrat Thatcher) with the corollaries that each individual is solely and ultimately responsible for their conditions of life, however dismal and impoverished those conditions might be, the idea that society is irreconcilably fractured and atomized into irreconcilable discrete entities lacking in cohesion, community or ethical sensibilities. Notions such as the commons, public, solidarity, sharing and abidance by moral axioms such as the Golden Rule are not even considered as possibilities. Alternatives are unthinkable in a “society of the spectacle”, as Guy Debord described capitalist societies in a 1967 book, an abysmal dystopian condition that he thought could never get worse. But it did, far worse. Debord brilliantly described an all-encompassing capitalist hegemony mediated through indoctrination via education, the mass media, television, cinema, advertising which now fills every vacant square millimetre, propaganda, the arts and now the internet – an “autocratic reign of the market economy”.

At the heart of the neoconservative movement that began in the post WW II era and revealed its ugly head in the mid 1970’s with their “trickle down” economics con artistry and proliferation of Machiavellian political morons and ghouls like Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Lyin’ Brian Mulroney and Stephen Harper. Any sliver of real democracy was all over for not only the working classes and trade unions, but also for the amorphous “middle class” that emerged from Depression era concessions, primarily out of fear from all-out bottom-up revolution. The moral norms of community, being a good neighbour and solidarity that grew in the 1945-75 era were demolished not only by the neo-cons (with emphasis on the “con”) but also denigration of classical liberalism called neo-liberalism that narrowed freedom to the liberty of gangster capitalists and financial hucksters to hijack what was once a cathartic movement for the common good and flourishing for all, what liberal philosopher Isaiah Berlin called “positive liberty”.[5] The deceit and lies that justified the horrific War in Vietnam and illegal and greed ridden invasion of Iraq in 2003 were the consequences of the neo-con and neo-lib end justifies the means Machiavellian doctrines. We are now dealing with a global socio-economic and political world order that is systemically corrupt and beyond redemption – it will not and cannot be fixed - only destroyed.

It’s difficult not to notice the gestalt change not only in the loss of what remained of any semblance of ethical oversight from capitalists and their careerist sycophants in politics since the neo-con and neo-lib revolutions that invaded the planet in the early 1980s concomitant with the vast increase in copycat assholes and jerks within the general dumb and dumber population. When Barrack “Change We Can Believe in” Obama was elected in 2008 that followed eight years of a village idiot president that mired the country in two imperialist wars based on deceit and lies (as with all wars throughout history), there was an expectation that liberalism would return to its traditional roots of liberty, equality and fraternity. But no; within weeks Obama had sold out to Wall Street, inviting the crooks, con artists and corporatist apparatchiks into his new cabinet, the same cockroaches who had orchestrated the debacle of the 2007-09 global financial meltdown. Renowned black intellectual and Harvard professor Cornel West rightly referred to Obama as a “black Wall Street mascot”. The man was a fraud as he bailed out the financial criminals, ramped up militarism, drone attacks and the murder of Osama bin Laden (a trial would reveal too much). It was during this disgraceful farce that Warren Buffet made his famous statement, “There’s a class war going on all right, but it’s my class, the rich class that’s making war and we’re winning”. George Carlin brilliantly summed it up in his own unique in your face manner, “It’s a Big Club and you aren’t in it; they own you; they’ve got you by the balls”.


Sadly Carlin has since died as conditions of autocracy and gross inequality have become even worse. But this ugly undemocratic state of affairs doesn’t stop corporations, mega banks and other institutions of capitalist greed and hegemony from wanting total control. Capitalism’s has become profit as an end in itself combined with anything goes means. Force will be invoked when necessary but infiltration by stealth is the preferred strategy, one of which is co-opting anti-capitalist movements. Police and hired private dicks will bust heads and even kill when warranted but if you look back to the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s and 70s, infiltration and agents provocateurs were popular and effective strategies by the cops, FBI and other surveillance mechanisms of control. Studies have been conducted which show that the communists party in the US and the Black Panthers were made up of about 20% cops, FBI agents and agents provocateurs, some of which became influential in the police state hierarchy. Of course torture and murder would be implemented when the situation demanded it like the murder in his bed of young Black Panther star Fred Hampton by the Chicago police and the FBI. It mattered little that it was a conservative or liberal administration that was in power.

The hypocrisy of relentless corporate bullshit, government propaganda and cultural hegemony is stunning but clearly wins over the oppressed working classes; after all if it was not effective, why would these creepy marketing bastards engage in it? And why are the working poor not out in the streets with pitchforks and pillories? The blatant hypocritical co-option tactics include even embracing leftist revolutionaries of the past such as Lenin, Trotsky, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and Martin Luther King and more recently radical social justice movements such as LGBTQ activists and Black Lives Matter. This deceit has been going on for a long time and has become stunningly obscene. Consider this example from Don Milligan’s recent book The Embrace of Capital: Hauling two bags of shopping up Market Street in Manchester, I sat down for a short rest and found myself facing a branch of Foot Locker. The screens in the shop window boldly told me that “Shoes Don’t Change the World – You do!” The next piece of novel information from the multinational Venator Group* was: “Change the world from what it is, to what it should be.” This was followed by the assertion that “Black Lives Matter,” accompanied by a sexy white girl waving a rainbow flag.

*The corporate conglomerate Venator Group, formerly the Woolworth Corporation, is the owner of Foot Locker, among many other stores. Yes, the tentacles of capitalism, especially with their insidious marketing, have their grimy claws into everything, contaminating anything worthwhile that might threaten their right to untrammelled greed and profit. If capitalist are unable to destroy dissent from the left, including social justice associations like Black Lives Matter, Extinction Rebellion and the many Environmentalist organizations, they will propagandize the credulous masses into believing they are supportive or hypocritically co-opt these anti-capitalist movements. Their noxious marketing strategies incorporate this ruse on TV advertising vomit ad infinitum. [7]

Leftist writer and gay activist Don Milligan is a resident of Manchester England who in the book provides an example of capitalist co-option of everything, including leftist movements that desire change, including the demolition of capitalism, which was still considered a viable option in the 1960s and early 70s, a potential reality that has become more remote than ever. The late Mark Fisher, author of the brilliant book Capitalist Realism wrote, “The end of the world is more probable than the end of capitalism”, prompting him to suicide before the age of fifty.

The tentacles of this global totalitarian capitalist Godzilla now reach deeply into our psyches and determine everything we do such as our relationship with others including on the internet and our families. It’s a repressive pseudo-environment in which anything goes provided a profit is made. First, lotteries were legalized and most recently gambling on pro sports online is the latest ghastly waste of precious time and money. Profit justifies everything and anything. On television and other media people are portrayed as immoderate morons who can’t control either their pets or children and who on endless TV marketing clips idiotically stuff their faces with the latest cholesterol laced fatty foods as a hamburger dripping in gooey sauce that is twice the size of the widest mouth that tries to devour it in one gulp. And lack of self control and discipline by being as fat as a hippopotamus is now just fine as there is now a pill (or shot) for obesity, some of whom are over 1000 lbs. Has anyone heard of the big secret “eat les and exercise more”? Any sort of moderation or sense of dignity seems taboo as people are peddled cleaning products to deal with the damaged $3000 leather sofa after their slobbering Irish Wolf Hound was permitted to lounge and lick their private parts and then the faces of the owner. In TV marketing of mattresses and beds many people are shown sleeping with these monstrous mutts. And of course everyone is locked into a “smart” phone that renders the owner dumb as a barnacle, transforming the populace into our ever increasing dumb and dumber zombie world of eternally distracted walking dead. [8]

But these phenomena are merely some of the countless examples of anti-intellectualism, normalization of stupidity, cult of self-help idiocy, positive thinking, self-esteem fetish and cults of happiness, hope and optimism that permeate the culture of powerless and docility. The neo-liberal ideology is also the root of most of the world’s problems, many of which are threats to our very survival: massive economic disparities, grinding poverty, rendering people homeless so they literally starve and are subject to disease, racism, bigotry, financial crimes, various forms of authoritarianism, global heating, environmental degradation, overpopulation, species extinction, creeping fascism, perpetual militarism and war and widespread futility - just to name a few. As Henry Giroux described it in a recent article, “Neoliberal capitalism is a death driven machinery that infantilizes, exploits, and devalues human life and the planet itself.” Giroux refers to neo-liberalism as “gangster capitalism” and the toxic political environments as “necropolitics”; read Giroux's follow up article on the continuing threats of Trump and fascism here:


The exploitation and impoverishment of the worker during the industrial era of capitalism that was mitigated by the capitalist welfare state following World War II has in the past few decades been supplanted by corporatism, finance capitalism, cyberspace and the information age of big data, endless surveillance and mind numbing marketing.  And with unions and the notion of a life long career destroyed, where are the decent paying livable jobs? Many involve the precarious unlivable service sector, work described by many as McJobs, smiling Buddha greeters, wage slavery, temporary, zero-hour contract, day labor, gig work, Uber slaver, worker poor, hyper exploitive Skip the Dishes/ Door Dash degradation and even for many with post graduate degrees in the banalities of middle management or gig work teaching at colleges are what the late David Graeber called temporary contract “bullshit jobs.

Liberalism has been traditionally defined as a political ideology focused on the individual considered as possessing rights against the government, including rights of due process under the law, separation of church and state, equality of respect, freedom of political and other expressions and action and freedom from religious and ideological constraint. Sadly, in the period of the past few decades liberalism has been reduced to the freedom of capitalists to exploit, pillage and profit before all else. This was a dedicated plan begun shortly after World War II to destroy the New Deal in the US and elsewhere, union movement, communist parties and other political formations on the left that challenged the dictatorship of capital. Concomitant with this was fear mongering by the so-called “Red Scares”, privatization of the commons such as utilities, transportation and education, indebtedness of working classes and college students* and other mechanisms of fear and control. Debord referred to the entire capitalist order as a “spectacle” that “subjugates the people to entrepreneurs of the self to the extent that the economy has totally subjugated them.” This was written in 1967; conditions are now far worse; everything is considered a commodity including children - than they were when the counterculture, anti-war and social justice movements were still alive and operative, soon to be crushed by the end of the 1970s of which the murder of anti-war and social justice students demonstrating students at Kent State University by the US military was just the beginning.

*As Noam Chomsky wrote, “Students who acquire large debts putting themselves through university are unlikely to think about changing society. When you trap people in a system of debt they can’t afford the time to think. Tuition fee and housing cost increases are a disciplinary technique and by the time they graduate, they are not only loaded down with debt, but have also internalized a disciplinarian culture of docility and obedience. This makes them more efficient members of the consumer economy.

When we conceptualize the power that maintains capitalism, violence and ideology readily come to mind. Despite the vast inequality, grotesque exploitation, contempt for life and the environment, chronic instability and the rebellions that repeatedly arise and sometimes take power, capitalism seems firmer in the saddle than ever, spreading its suffocating tentacles to virtually every location on Earth. It’s failures are massive in consideration of the militarism, imperialism, repeated sequences of boom-bubble-bust-bailout that have included catastrophic calamities  such as the Great Depression; capitalism ought to have ended right there [9]. Then the global financial meltdown in 2007-09 whereby trillions of dollars were looted from the public treasuries of capitalist states worldwide to bailout financial scammers, corporate criminals and the too big to fail mafia banks. The 2007-09 global economic debacle was the greatest market crash since 1929, leading to widespread economic pain and unemployment (something like 18% of the population, in real–as opposed to official–statistics), the loss of people’s homes and billions of dollars in retirement savings.  In fact, the crash wiped out $11.1 trillion in household wealth, and this is not counting the several trillion lost in stock market “investments”.  It had been many decades since the middle class found themselves in unemployment lines and soup kitchens, and yet there they were.  In the face of all this, however, very little seems to have changed.  Americans are still committed to the dream of unlimited abundance as a “reasonable” goal, when in reality it is and always has been the dream of a cocaine addict. President Barrack “change we can believe in” Obama created (the invisible hand again) close to a $20 trillion bailout and stimulus plan, streaming the trillions in greenbacks into the very banking establishment that created the massive debacle and stock market meltdown  in which the DJIA lost 70% when it bottomed in 2009. So Obama demonstrated who he really represented - the wealthy Wall Street vultures and bloodsuckers who caused the disaster rather than the people who lost their homes and savings and who really needed the money. And while he could have appointed economic advisers such as Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz (both Nobel laureates), who would have ostensibly attempted to put the nation on a different economic path, he chose instead two odious traditional neo-liberal hyper-capitalist ideologues who were certified members of the Wall Street/ Goldman Sachs financial Mafia: Timothy Geithner and Lawrence Summers, two yes men boot lickers who touted the very policies that led to the crash. 

It needs to be pointed out that the yes man sycophant Lawrence Summers became obscenely wealthy from his combined financial advice to Wall Street hucksters, bankers and their voracious corporate hierarchies. This includes during Obama’s term as president when he made boatloads of money in both the realms of corporate plunder and their government enablers, inflicting considerable damage along the way.  As Morris Berman put it, “Lawrence Summers who was a major proponent of financial deregulation, was also taking kickbacks; mostly lavish fees from the very banks he later helped to bail out.” He served the White House during the 1990s and then again President Obama as have several other Wall Street big shot con artists in both Bush presidencies.

Then, high in the realm of duplicitous White House shenanigans are the political and financial achievements of Wall Street, the champion of which has been the financial parasite extraordinaire Goldman Sachs. Goldman has packed the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve with its slime ball alumni, such that we now have Wall Street policing Wall Street and the government essentially the fox guarding the henhouse. Christian zealot Henry “Hank” Paulson (former Goldman CEO and Treasury Secretary, was succeeded by another Goldman hit man Lloyd “We’re doing God’s work” Blankfein who is praised by Obama as a “savvy businessman” for awarding himself a bonus of $9 million. Robert Rubin, another former Goldman CEO served as Treasury Secretary for Clinton and managed to get Obama to pick two of his slimy sycophantic protégés, Lawrence Summers and Timothy Geithner, as senior economic adviser and Treasury Secretary, respectively. Geithner then selected Mark Peterson, a former Goldman lobbyist as his chief of staff, and Gary Gensler, a former Goldman partner who was chosen by Obama to head the Commodities Future Trading Commission. Thus the stage was set to mock the 2008-09 “Crash of 29 revisited” and the long standing depression which followed. The housing and stock market debacle of 2008-09 wiped out upward of $14 trillion in household wealth; official statistics had it that 10 per cent of the population was unemployed which in reality it was probably closer to 20 per cent since all unemployment stats are bogus. At the same time that Wall Street continued to award themselves massive bonuses, the dying middle class was lining up at food banks and soup kitchens. This is called “democracy” so let’s hear another verse of The Star Spangled Banner, nauseatingly recited at every sporting event, complete with idiotic military presence.

But any time capitalism is threatened by the their own crimes such as 1929 and the repeat in 2008-09  or the socialist left as it was in Italy, Germany and Spain during the interwar era, the wealthy conservative elites, far right reactionaries and fascists come out of the woodwork aided and abetted by the capitalist West. In Sweden during the 1960s-80s it was the Meidner Plan to grant workers a voice in financial planning and investment strategies, so their left wing social democratic Prime Minister Olaf Palme was murdered in the street and then covered up by the police. In Chile in 1973, Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger with the goons and economic hit men in the CIA orchestrated a coup to oust the socialist President Allende who was eventually assassinated and replaced by a Kissinger/Nixon puppet fascist that prevailed for decades.

“How is it even possible that a social order so volatile and hostile to life can persist for centuries?” asks Søren Mau in the introduction to his book Mute Compulsion: A Marxist Theory of the Economic Power of Capital. Violence has been with capitalism since its beginnings - indeed, capitalism could not have taken root without massive coercion through violence, draconian laws, slavery and colonialism. The ideological constructs that keep so many in thrall become ever more sophisticated, with a vast apparatus of mass media, “think tanks” and other institutions perpetually reinforcing bourgeois mantras, supplemented by schools, militaries, workplaces and other applicators of social conditioning, indoctrination and propaganda.

Free markets have always existed even in hunter gatherer societies but capitalism in its modern form since Adam Smith has rarely been about any universal freedom, especially for the exploited workers. The critiques from the left that include Marxism and Anarchism (aka Libertarianism – not to be confused with Liberalism) have existed for over two centuries. Anarchists oppose all forms of coercive authority and exploitation including gods, feudal lords, monarchs, masters, bosses and capitalists. Most anarchists are libertarian socialists, anarcho-syndicalists, communists and other political affiliations on the left. Some endorse market socialism and are generally not averse to genuine free markets on a small scale. For individualist anarchists like Benjamin Tucker, contrary to popular mythology, a capitalist is someone who immorally extracts wealth from productive society “by abolishing the free market”. Anarchists are almost exclusively anti-capitalist which conflicts with their anti-authoritarianism and aversion to hierarchy in any form. They see precious little difference between the modern capitalist and the mercantilism or feudalism of the wealthy landholder or feudal lord whose economic power was derived from and inextricably linked to political power, quite literally from the weapons of knights. Compare this to colonialism and more recently state wars and imperialism which facilitate the capitalist pillage of the Third World.

Today’s corporate capitalism and financial vampirism are monopolistic and have precious little to do with “free markets”; moreover they are aided and abetted by the capitalist state. If the right people need money, the state erupts like a volcanic spigot with trillions of dollars created out of a vacuum. Capitalism is merely an heir to the mercantile system and before that feudalism, the latter which according to brilliant Greek economist Yanis Varoufakis, has returned in a vile neo-liberal guise which he calls “techno-feudalism”.

 Liberalism has been systematically and harshly criticized by Marxists – and rightly so. Moreover, anarchists and other political factions of the left have provided compelling critiques as the ideology of capitalist free markets offer no defence against exploitation of people, the natural environment or the rapacious accumulation of wealth and power in the hands of pampered wealthy elites, banks, corporations and the ruling politicians whose election they support and finance. It has also been criticized as lacking any analysis of the social and political nature of persons, and the forces of hegemonic ideology that invariably distort their choices. Moreover, liberalism is attacked by conservatives as insufficiently sensitive to the values of traditional authority or settled institutions and customs or to the need for moral and social structure and constraint in providing the matrix for individual freedoms.

Final Remarks Regarding the Corrupt Crony Capitalism and Defilement of Enlightenment Liberalism


John Locke [10], Montesquieu, Immanuel Kant, Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill with his popular volume On Liberty and John Rawls in the 20th century with his A Theory of Justice are just a few of the earlier Enlightenment precursors and contemporary proponents of liberalism. I could at length critique and comment on these and others in the Western canon within Western Europe and North America, particularly in the USA and Canada but this would take hundreds of pages. Liberalism and its primarily capitalist dominated social democratic cognates have favoured government control over such key sectors of society such as mass media, education, health care and social programs for the disadvantaged and marginalized. These institutions were deemed necessary by capitalist ruling elites as indoctrination mechanisms to stave off counterculture movements, social unrest and revolutionary movements. But the ruling classes always considered these reforms as temporary and over the past several decades these public run institutions have been increasingly eroded, under-funded, privatized or eliminated altogether. The decent began in earnest in the late 1970 and 1980s with the emergence of neo-fascist, neo-conservative and neo-liberal zealots such as Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Brian Mulroney Even prisons which I believe ought to not exist, have become privatized and managed for profit. As mentioned, the traditional state apparatus and its responsibilities have been under attack by libertarian capitalists and other forces on the political right over the past four or five decades underwritten by the corporatist ideology of what is now called neo-liberalism. This dogma has conceded massive powers to banks, financial institutions and corporations and a steady erosion of the notion of public good that had been the responsibility of the state, especially following the Great Depression and the three decade period following the Second World War. The 21st century mutation of liberalism and freedom has been confined to the rights of both the billionaire and the homeless to live under a viaduct. Any governing body that does not as a priority care for its worst off in society cannot claim any pretence to democracy. I submit that real democracy has NEVER existed and at this rock bottom 21st century scenario of moral depravity and inequality, very likely never will exist.

The current mutation of liberalism called neo-liberalism is not really liberalism as traditionally construed. Rather it has become since at least the mid 1970s a toxic form of corporatist ideology (AKA fascism or corporatism) a more severe form of capitalist authoritarianism, hierarchy and financial predation of the masses and the natural environment. This has occurred with the full cooperation, enablement and facilitation of our fraudulent surveillance police state enablers of plunder and profit that do not even remotely resemble democracy as traditionally construed.

One of the serious upshots of globalization is the ongoing intense conflict between the West (especially the USA, Germany and NATO which it controls) and Russia and China is a potentially deadly struggle for global domination. At the end of the Second World War with Europe and the Soviet Union (which lost as many as 27-30 million people) bankrupt and infrastructure in shambles, the USA remained as the dominant power. Its economic weight, military power and influence provided it with a blank check to manipulate and dominate not only manufacturing, world trade and military might but also political outcomes in the face of socialist and communist parties that were hugely popular with the masses as it was they who battled the Nazi occupiers in places like France, Italy, Greece and elsewhere. The USA also controlled financial markets as well as the creation of a system of global political and military alliances and bases which reinforced, in addition to the debt owed by a bankrupt Europe, their pretty much total control. Today however the country is plagued by massive debt ($34 trillion at the federal level alone) and its former Cold War imperial dominance is under threat. The US is trying to prevent the emergence of rivals for world hegemony and block the development of a multi-polar world. But the USA still maintains a residual power based on the role of the dollar as international currency of trade in addition to its massive military forces, hundreds of military bases throughout the world and political alliances. Nonetheless, the growing unease of the American state in the face an emerging surveillance police state at home and its declining international power explains its increasing militarism and aggressive imperialism, particularly notable against its two main rivals. It is using what remains of its strength to try to restore its global position. This aggressive drive is fueled by its long history of intrusions, regime changes and imperialist wars which helped not only to create its empire but to recast American society into one managed by corporations and the neo-fascist capitalist police state. What is paradoxical is that its imperial ideology happens to be not the fascism from the 20th century but rather an all-encompassing hegemony underpinned by intolerant vile mutation of liberalism redefined for rationalizing raw corporate power, obscene profits, military and political expansion and austerity for the general populace.

There is a direct continuity between previous great power struggles and the current one against neo-liberalism’s financial parasitism and endless imperialist wars. The past can also elucidate the current state of affairs which has been a dedicated neo-fascist anti-working class agenda since the end of World War II. In particular, one can learn from the global rivalries of the period between the two World Wars with European fascism arising in Germany, Italy, Spain and elsewhere. The Machiavellian maneuvers and alliances of those years can illuminate the present and especially the eerie parallel between the militaristic foreign policy of the USA now and Nazi Germany then. Then as now, the plan was to seize control of the oil resources of the Middle Eastern countries and more significantly to weaken and dismember Russia and pillage its vast resources. Finally, the Nazi ambition to undermine Russia was a means of uniting the rest of Europe behind Germany. Moreover, and more to the point, these policies are in both cases products of authoritarian corporate capitalist political systems (AKA fascism) whose foreign policies were predatory imperialism. At the beginning of the Second World War the world was divided into three camps: the fascist Axis led by Nazi Germany, the Anglo-American allies (champions of fake liberalism) and the faux socialist Soviet Union. I would argue that their tyrannical roles have since the mid 1970s been replaced by what the late political philosopher Sheldon Wolin has called inverted totalitarianism, the most powerful example being the USA.

Everyone by now ought to be familiar with the economic doctrines of neo-conservatism and neo-liberalism, the latter of which is n odious toxic mutation of classical liberalism which by the way has never been fully achieved or lived up to its promises because of racist and bigoted positions during five centuries of colonialism. It currently confines itself to freedom of profit and exploitation. Today the liberal state has been supplanted by a neo-liberal order based on the aforementioned inverted totalitarianism in which the state, instead of effacing itself, massively intrudes into the economy by enabling corporations, banks and financial predators to legalized piracy and plunder. Its goal is to use its powers to support globalized gangster capitalism. Unlike the laissez-faire liberalism of the past with state controls to protect citizens and mitigate excess, this new version of the state unashamedly intervenes to foster the interests of banking mafia and other financial parasites while regularly providing the shameful corporate welfare nanny state golden parachutes for its often glaring criminal failures as happened in 2008 and during other regular self-induced crises.

Liberals at one time promoted the common good, rationality, sense of nuance and abhorrence of dogmas and political extremes. Among the rights conceded to the individual were the right to assembly, freedom from arbitrary arrest, hunger, disease and homelessness. Now the only sanctified right is the right to make money in any however sordid manner possible such as endless lotteries and recently setting up corrupt online gambling casinos for betting on pro sports. Liberalism originally rejected political democracy for all, insisting that only men of property, power and education should have rights to participate in politics. But class struggle from below and the discovery that representative democracy could actually help to stabilize and civilize capitalism led to democratic enfranchisement in the first half of the 20th century. But as a result of the growth of corporate parasitism and power, union busting legislation such as Taft-Hartley, state authoritarianism and extreme economic inequality have reduced the democratic political processes to a farcical sham.

Militarism, print and electronic media and increasingly pervasive high tech surveillance have played a totalizing ideological role, not as in Nazi Germany to mobilize the population, but to render it psychologically inert, docile and submissive. The impact of this thick but not particularly nourishing mess of liberal symbols and codes is to render the mass of the population helpless in the face of overwhelming oligarchic power and the growth of an authoritarian state run by billionaires and other wealthy oligarchs. Ordinary citizens are tied to this power through submissiveness, technological addictions such as cell phones, mind numbing consumerism and sensationalism which include the sickening spectacle of politics. This system of inverted totalitarian control came into place during the brief period of prosperity for the masses from 1945 up until about the mid 1970s.  These concessions to the working class were never intended to be permanent but rather only an expedient to quell the restless masses and their ideas about revolution from below, real freedom and prosperity for all. The temporary welfare state proved remarkably successful in deluding the masses while clandestinely undermining personal freedom building up the authority of the police and military in the name of protecting the liberties of the individual.

The USA and the capitalist West today, with its debased liberalism and ultra-imperialism, plays a role not unlike that of Nazi Germany. It must be remembered that back in 1941 the Germans did not act alone since by 1940-41 Hitler was in control of the entirety of Europe except the Soviet Union. Crusading against communism was a common motif of fascist regimes ranging from Italy, Spain after the failed civil war to Vichy France to the typical dictatorships such as the Iron Guard in Romania. The Nazis in fact had the support of authoritarian and fascist governments across Europe and many fans in the American right wing. Germany by then had reached the decision to invade the Soviet Union with the aim of destroying Russia and plundering its oil, food, minerals and other natural resources. But these designs developed into a campaign to dominate Turkey and the Middle East to undermine Britain while securing the oil of that region for Germany. If we look at the situation today we can see it as strikingly analogous to the US/NATO induced proxy war in the Ukraine. The US seeks to dismember Russia and thereby find a backdoor by means of which it can undermine China.

From a political point of view, neo-liberalism is different from classical liberalism in its disregard for individual liberties for the sake of state and corporate power. We might remind ourselves that even in its original form liberalism was not committed to democratic rights for all but was forced to concede them, but only temporarily if at all possible. Confronted by class struggle, fascism became its default position as in the case of France, Italy, Spain and Germany. Indeed, as Domenico Losurdo has pointed out, liberalism from the beginning not only excluded women and those without property but also indigenous people and the inhabitants of the Global South by justifying imperialism, neo-colonialism, racism, slavery and genocide.

And what can we observe regarding the status of our modern capitalist “liberal democracies”? Yes, minor advancements have been achieved but we are far from being either liberal or democratic; and does Canada or any other country with the claim to “democracy” even abide by the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights? The clear answer is NO. Canada’s violations can be traced back to its origins with the BNA Act and the exploitation, expropriation, cultural obliterations such as reserves (AKA concentration camps and the final solution that Hitler emulated), racism (the basis of the formation of the systemically corrupt RCMP), residential schools and centuries of genocidal pogroms against indigenous people. Canada’s human rights violations today, to cite just one of many examples is the first nations Wet’suwet’en territory and centuries of injustices against black, brown  and Indigenous people, migrants and refugees and inhabitants across the Global South at the hands of Canadian mining and fossil fuel companies are blatant demonstrations of the contradictions of our duplicitous “liberalism”. They are the latest entry in the ongoing sordid horror stories of racial capitalism and neo-liberalism. They are a testament to the ongoing realities of white male supremacy that is a necessary precondition of the Eurocentric global order.

The USA with about 4% of the global population is the largest prison state in the world, incarcerating 25% of the world’s prison population, yet claims to be a “liberal democracy”. This would be laughable if it weren’t so pathetic. Property rights have always been the primary consideration within in liberal ideology with human rights at best secondary; and they have certainly never been applicable to ordinary working and poor people at the bottom layers of the capitalist hierarchy. Liberal freedoms both negative and positive only apply to the ruling elites, predatory mafia banks and psychopathic corporations. When the West was more egalitarian and a middle class (whatever that may mean) was spoken about in the three decade window following World War II, human rights, egalitarianism, community, the common good and liberal freedoms were more broadly discussed and even adhered to but with the massive inequality of our current neoliberal neo-fascist surveillance states era, notions of liberal freedoms have retreated dramatically and in many cases become a cruel joke for millions of people in the West such as the USA, Canada and much of Europe. And the horrors of fascism are back – and growing.

And can liberal “values” and capitalism be freed from their genocidal racist and elitist origins? Can this demented capitalist system of depravity be reformed and transformed into a democratic moral order? We’ve been there; done that? It would seem the communists (revolutionary socialists) have been proven correct; capitalism is beyond reform and must be dismantled.  As critical geographer Ruth Wilson Gilmore once argued, capitalism requires inequality and we do have that as three billionaires in the USA have more wealth than over half the US population and one-tenth of one percent control more of the nation’s wealth than the bottom 90%. These two facts alone are shocking. Similar grotesque conditions of economic inequality, grinding poverty and homelessness pervade most of the rest of our globalized world. And bigotry and racism certainly enhance this sordid state of affairs. Without some unspoken, assumed marginalization and exploitation of inconvenient superfluous and disposable people (Orwell’s un-people) that includes people of color, women and non human animals and the dying natural world, the immoral doctrines of cancer capitalism would be indefensible and untenable.

Closing Remarks

As one digs deeper into the national character of the Americans, one sees that they have sought the value of everything in this world only in the answer to this single question: how much money will it bring in? – Alexis de Tocqueville 

I’m currently working my way through Naomi Klein’s most recent book* Doppelganger: A Trip into the Mirror World (2023) and this insightful lady never disappoints. She writes that “the real global conspiracy… is capitalism.” And she is correct when she claims that “one of the most battle-worn tactics used to bury and marginalize ideas that are inconvenient to those who wield economic and political power” is to dismiss such ideas as conspiracy theories. “Every serious left-wing analyst of power has faced this insult, from Karl Marx onward,” she adds. This is an important point, and it is interesting to note that Klein’s discomforting confrontation with her darker alter ego has pushed her writings much closer to the ideas associated with revolutionary socialism than usual.

It’s no secret that the immoral doctrines of capitalism are designed to make profits for a small minority sector of society “no matter the human costs” because, as Klein puts it, it is a system that is “structurally designed to protect the propertied classes against any and all challenges from below.” This is why elites through their various propaganda mechanisms such as the mass media employing the principle of divide and conquer to pit ordinary working people against one another rendering  “them less likely to unite based on common economic and class interests.” There can be no question about it, “most people are indeed getting screwed—but without a firm understanding of capitalism’s drive to find new profit sources to enclose and extract,” Klein says, “many will imagine there is a cabal of uniquely nefarious individuals pulling the strings.” This is why socialists believe that attaining such a “firm understanding” of how capitalism exploits us is best achieved by embracing the types of revolutionary ideas that were popularized by Marx and Engels. But it is important to highlight that in staking out this position, genuine socialists have always stood firmly opposed to the anti-democratic tyrannical legacy of Stalin and his murderous cohorts. Listen to the Democracy Now Interview with Klein who discusses her recent book and specifically how conspiracy fantasies and delusions mislead the masses and benefit ruling elites.

*One of Klein’s must read previous books The Shock Doctrine (2007), written one year before the shocking 2007-09 meltdown of the global economy and subsequent odious multi-trillion dollar bailouts of the capitalist criminals and financial parasites responsible for the multiple ongoing debacles that continue to this day. In her current book she cites the aforementioned Rosa Luxemburg as role model for a post capitalist society. In addition to citing the Jewish Labor Bund, she alludes to the ideal of “democratic socialism that Rosa Luxemburg imagined as the only alternative to capitalist and other barbarisms.” Amid the post World War I political and social chaos in Germany, Luxemburg was assassinated in 1919 by her primary political opponents on the ersatz German left precisely because of her commitment to revolutionary Marxism, with her murderers acting at the behest of the leadership of the German Social Democratic Party.

Klein, in discussing other alternatives to capitalism also says, “I think about Abram Leon, writing his book The Jewish Question as the Nazis closed in, carefully explaining how racist conspiracies change the subject from capitalism to cabals.” And this model is particularly important because Leon was a little-known Trotsky acolyte who had been organizing in Belgium amongst the working class, that is, before he was hunted down and liquidated by the Nazis in 1944. But the model that apparently most inspires Klein remains the example set by Red Vienna, a socialist model that saw the Austrian Social Democratic Workers’ Party hold “power in Vienna for over a decade” before eventually being physically exterminated by the Hitler supported Austro-fascists in 1933. She implores us to revisit some of the great anti-capitalist movements that failed, most violently crushed due to violent reactions from ruling conservative elites, one of which was the post-World War I revolutions in Germany led by the Spartacus Party and key leaders Rosa Luxemburg who was brutally assassinated along with her comrade Karl Liebknecht.

Conspiracies of course do exist as is the case with every war throughout recorded history and that includes others such the “stab in the back” fantasy spread by General Ludendorff as the prime reason for Germany’s defeat in World War I [11]. There have always been entrenched structural and systemic forces at work not only behind the scenes but right out front where anyone with sufficient curiosity can see. There is no need in our current distracted for what has been called the clandestine “deep state” since most people believe what their rulers and their media tell them and most are too distracted and discombobulated to care. Ruling elites who both created and benefit from neo-liberal doctrines also bankroll their chosen conservative and liberal political candidates during every phony election and are experts in pitting ordinary working people against one another – the old “divide and conquer” strategy. This ploy has worked in the past and continues to work in deterring solidarity among workers in uniting behind common economic and class interests. Ordinary folk cannot change what they do not understand a rigged predatory capitalist system that that is screwing them relentlessly. Money talks and bullshit walks.

Moreover, it’s not sufficient to only understand how and why conditions have deteriorated so badly; we also have to understand how awful they have always been. In the neo-liberal era that began in the mid 1970s and that continues unabated, every hardship and every struggle and disaster from market collapses, brutal recessions to student loan debt, reverse mortgages, homelessness to drug addiction, has been peddled as a pathology and personal failing. And every success is lauded as proof of the relative superiority of the endlessly promoted bullshit story and fairy tale myth of the self-made man. What is also ignored is the five centuries of colonialism, slavery, land theft, pillage and genocide of indigenous populations throughout the Americas and elsewhere. [12] But examining today’s global daunting nightmare of global heating, pollution, ethical and ecosystem collapse, out of control gangster capitalism with widespread financial, corporate and political corruption and extinction of all living things except up to now humans and their pets, conditions are about to get a whole lot worse. The hope and optimism of the 1960s counterculture has been dead for several decades and is now reserved for fools and the delusional. With steamroller capitalism crushing whatever “civilization” and “democracy” that remains and the dismal future we face, pessimism is the only reasonable philosophical position. As some very wise person remarked, “The optimist believes we live in the best of all possible worlds; the pessimist fears that it is true”. This notion can be traced back to Voltaire’s great 18th century satire of the mathematician and pious Christian philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Leibnitz and his rose tinted spectacles notion of human progress. [13]


[1] My respect for John Stuart Mill and John Rawls notwithstanding, this paper has been motivated by my growing scepticism and long-standing disappointment regarding mainstream liberalism, especially its wholesale hijacking by unhinged no holds barred capitalism. In actual practise political conservatism with rare exception has been an authoritarian abomination, the very antithesis of democracy and the values of the Enlightenment. But liberalism, despite its promise has also been an ongoing failure as a democratic, liberating and emancipating project. I recently began re-reading several of the books by Morris Berman in my library. Berman and I happen to be the same age so he grew up witnessing the same disappointments and deadly declines as I. His books are enlightening reads; they include The Re-enchantment of The World, Dark Ages America, The Twilight of American Culture and Why American Failed which were written more than a decade ago; but as the conditions he describes in the last three cited volumes have deteriorated dramatically, his critiques and the historical origins of America’s precipitous decline (and many other Western countries such as Canada and most of Europe) are compelling and prophetic arguments. Also two of his essay collections titled A Question of Values and Are We There Yet?, are worth reading as well as anything else you can track down by Berman who, motivated by his disgust with the USA, moved to Mexico permanently in 2006. His thoughts on the systemic corruption of a degenerate cancerous capitalist system, general increase in widespread corporate corruption, bad behaviour, ignorance, irrationality and idiocy combined with a decrease in civility, morals, knowledge, wisdom and widespread anti-intellectualism are spot on and worsening by the day. This is a degenerate failed system that cannot be fixed as pretty much anything is legal if a profit is realized. Efforts to put a human face on the gorgon Godzilla of capitalism, ethical oversight and other reforms have been tried multiple times; all have failed or been rescinded by the reactionary governments of the past four to five decades. The global system of gangster capitalism is beyond redemption; a moral abyss and cesspool of political, financial   and corporate corruption now prevail. Moreover, we are accelerating impending ecological and environmental collapse with a planet grossly overpopulated by uncaring homo saps and their endless pets. Just watch the spectacle television for five minutes and take note of the non-stop marketing of useless often harmful products to grossly overweight unthinking moronic people and their out of control kids gorging on toxic junk food from exploitive outfits like Door Dash and Skip the Dishes.

Listen to a lecture Berman delivered at UBC in 2012:

UBC Reads Sustainability - Morris Berman - Bing video

[2] One of many swindles of neo-liberalism (AKA post-liberalism) is its longing for an idealized authoritarian past, a yearning of most traditional conservatives and its offshoot fascism. Moreover, a major analytical flaw among many concerning post-liberalism is one of the weaknesses of all forms of political conservatism: its anti-socialistic idealism and even rejection of a caring and sharing society in any form. In all his quixotic talk of reverence for ancestral traditions, Edmund Burke falsely extrapolated from the actual daily activities of these traditions from their foundations in appalling violence and in constant violation of the dignity and freedom of the lower classes. These norms were grounded in the irrationality of a nation being subject to the will of some arbitrary lord or monarch whose authority was grounded in the fact that he is legitimized by some brutish deity and just happened to be born to a previous lord or monarch. A very different conservative of the 20th century was Milton Friedman who similarly abstracted from the ugly routines and realities of capitalism: the indignities of working for a boss, the suppression of the right to unionize, the violence in which the rule of capital is grounded and in his simplistic facile tributes to “freedom.” Friedman’s infamous book Capitalism and Freedom (1962) consisted of abstract idealizations like this one, seemingly chosen without much serious intellectual deliberation: “The kind of economic organization that promotes economic freedom directly, namely, competitive capitalism, also promotes political freedom because it separates economic power from political power and in this way enables the one to offset the other.” This, as if, in the real world, economic power doesn’t tend to confer political power! Fascism, a species mutation of mainstream conservatism was even worse: it idealized will, hierarchy, obedience, the authoritarian nation state, race, the demagogic leader and war, abstracting from the sordid realities of all these things.

Often, organized mainstream religions such as Christianity have, rather than promoting tolerant cooperative democratic societies, have functioned to undermine the well-being of communities and families. It’s no secret that conservative politicians have used and continue to use appeals to religion to convince people to vote against their economic interests. Most Christians I have known, many of whom remain friends, were political and invariably voted for the capitalist candidate. Churches today are essentially businesses, hierarchies not unlike corporation that have embraced what is referred to as the “prosperity gospel, the very antithesis of late 19th and early 20th century social gospel proponents of socialism such as Tommy Douglas in Canada and Norman Thomas (and his predecessor, the remarkable Eugene V Debs who ran for president three times) in the USA. All three of these remarkable men were not only highly intelligent and charismatic, but were eloquent public speakers. I deeply impressed by Tommy’s visionary speech he gave at the University of British Columbia in the 1960s not long after he had become leader of the federal NDP.

But the social gospel is now dead in the Christians dead sea of wealthy televangelists and other entrepreneurial con men corporatized Christians who live in mansions and fly about in their personal jets. Even scholarly left leaning liberals of the past such as John Maynard Keynes and John Kenneth Galbraith who promoted social justice and the common good have become extinct. Consider the memorable Christian anarchist and mystic Simone Weil (1909-1943) who wrote a book entitled The Need for Roots: Prelude to a Declaration of Duties towards Mankind in which she proclaimed that: “To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul… Money destroys human roots wherever it is able to penetrate, by turning desire for gain into the sole motive.”

[3] As I have mentioned, a lot of the thinking that led up to the Bretton Woods Agreement originated with the brilliant man who I believe the 20th century’s most respected and important economist, John Maynard Keynes. His General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money (1936), which was, in effect, a non-revolutionary alternative to Marxism, had an enormous impact on the postwar international economic order, wherein Western governments committed themselves to maintaining a high level of employment. Keynes’ worldview, in fact, was so unusual that it is amazing that he was listened to at all, let alone chosen to be Great Britain’s chief negotiator at the Bretton Woods conference. Unfortunately Keynes’ ideas, writings and economic strategies, many that were highly critical of capitalism, have been ignored for several decades now. However, with the onset of the Depression and the trauma of the Second World War, the phenomenon of a purely laissez-faire deregulated economy had lost much of its intrinsic appeal. Western governments were more open to notions of state intervention and planned (but not Stalinist Soviet-style) economies, and in that context Keynesian ideas began to find an audience. In this sense, the “era” of Bretton Woods was an unusual one, and both Barry Eichengreen in his book Globalizing Capital and Herman Schwartz with his States Versus Markets consider an abnormality. In the late phase of capitalist development, as Lenin over a century ago rightly argued, the unrelenting onslaught and pressure of markets leads to imperialism, or what we now euphemistically call globalization. This process is the norm in a laissez-faire economy, and in that sense Bretton Woods can be viewed as an odd interruption, a rare moment of sanity in which social protection and checks and balances prevailed over the rigid logic of the market. Keynes’ own position was clear: “to suppose,” he wrote, “that there exists some smoothly functioning automatic mechanism of adjustment which preserves equilibrium if we only trust to methods of laissez-faire is a doctrinaire delusion which disregards the lessons of historical experience without having behind it the support of sound theory.” First a note on Keynes who, if the reader is interested, I recommend Robert Skidelsky’s massive 1000 page biography.

Keynes’ insights into economics and the market was that they were primarily psychological, emotional and plagued by biases and noise rather than grounded in rational calculation and analytics. He argued the fact that the future is for the most part uncertain and unpredictable, that the utility of money is essentially to provide a hedge against insecurity; a mechanism and strategy for calming the vagaries of contingency. He regarded market fluctuations as intrinsically irrational, the product “herd” behavior with waves of optimism and pessimism that were not grounded in empirical and scientific analysis or reality. In fact he referred to capitalism as “the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men for the nastiest of motives will somehow work together for the benefit of all” and declared that pursuit of money as an aim in life was a form of mental dysfunction; in other words a form of insanity. So shrewd was Keynes regarding the operation of the stock market that unlike most of today’s economists and stock market gurus with vested interests and axes to grind, he became wealthy from his own understandings and theories. Yet Keynes had little interest in economic growth for its own sake; it was for him only a means of creating a civilized way of life and hopefully a just world aimed at the common good; in other words money and the economy should serve humanity and not the reverse. Keynes was skeptical about economics as an intellectual discipline or anything resembling a science and especially the alleged “efficiency” of markets (the infamous EMH). He was apparently asked about the future performance of the stock market for the “long term”. His response was “in the long term we are all dead.”

It was only in the hothouse atmosphere of 1944, then, that such an outlook could have a chance of being taken seriously, let alone get incorporated into the agreement that was signed at the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference at the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, on July 22. The Bretton Woods Agreement created a system of more or less fixed exchange rates (the so-called adjustable peg) among world currencies, and placed controls on international capital mobility. It also established the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. The objective was to create a favorable environment for trade and investment while allowing countries to pursue full employment and social welfare policies. The articles were in part a reaction to the interwar period, which saw the collapse of the gold standard and the Depression. According to David Felix, professor emeritus at Washington University, the lessons of the interwar period were two:

1.     Floating exchange rates, such as existed in the 1930s, invited huge capital flows that destabilized commodity prices and foreign trade. Currencies left free to fluctuate led to speculation that played havoc with exchange rates.

2.     However, restoration of multilateral trade and investment required a system of convertible exchange rates that was flexible (unlike the gold standard).

The celebrated anti-capitalist, socio-economic theorist and geographer David Harvey explains that neo-liberal ideology serves the following principle:

“There shall be no serious challenge to the absolute power of money to rule absolutely. And that power is to be exercised with one objective: Those possessed of money shall not only be privileged to accumulate wealth endlessly at will, but they shall have the right to inherit the earth, taking either direct or indirect dominion, not only of the land and all the resources and productive capacities that reside therein, but also assume absolute command, directly or indirectly, over the labor and creative capacities of all those others it needs. The rest of humanity shall be deemed disposable.”

Neo-liberalism was incubated in the thinking of neo-liberal intellectuals like Friedrich von Hayek, Ludwig von Mises and Milton Friedman. They, along with 35 other individuals, formed the Mont Pelerin Society at a gathering in Switzerland in 1947 and began the slow process of gaining public acceptance of their ideas. Fulsomely funded by wealthy individuals and corporations, neo-liberalism was first implemented full force by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (1975-1990) and by Ronald Reagan (1981-1989). Untold numbers of opportunistic politicians, academics, celebrities, journalists, public intellectuals and even artists, served as enthusiastic midwives despite the fact that Reagan tripled the national debt during his two disastrous terms as US President

The disastrous economic effects of 40 years of neo-liberalism on American workers such as the demolition of unions and outsourcing have been repeatedly catalogued and are irrefutable. Perhaps less well known is that neo-liberalism has largely succeeded in destroying working class values like solidarity and collective aspirations and replaced them with dog-eat-dog rugged individualism. A deliberate goal of neo-liberalism is to eradicate the notion from people’s heads that collective action can improve their lives. One astute critic identifies the resulting pathological culture as the political economy of narcissism where a perverse “rational calculus of self-interest,” where everything is a commodity including human bodies which even includes morality. Caring, justice, compassion and empathy are deemed irrational, self-defeating, and existing beyond neutral, immutable Ayn Rand (author of The Virtue of Selfishness) and Gordon (Greed is Good) Gekko market logic. Predictably, there has been a measurable diminution of ethical behavior in the USA, Canada and Europe and throughout the rest of the degraded decadent and corrupt capitalist world. And the trend continues unabated as the world burns, species are in extinction mode and ecosystems are dying. Thanks capitalism.

[4] The phenomenon of postmodernism and deconstruction, an epistemic and moral relativist philosophical viewpoint that seems to have taken over much of the academy, and which has become part of the toxicity of the intellectual and ethical air we inhale every day. Postmodernism is the idea that nothing is absolute, that both truth and values are as good or “true” as any other, that there is no difference between knowledge and opinion and that any text or set of ideas is merely a mask for someone's power aspirations or political agenda. This lends itself well to the new world of microchip technology, inasmuch as it promotes a valueless narcissistic universe; it is also an effective way to hide from the real social and economic problems such as widespread ignorance, superstition, religious fanaticism, poverty and homelessness and their root causes. A philosophy of despair masquerading as radical intellectual chic, postmodernism is, in fact, the ideological counterpart to the collapse of civility, decency and intelligence that is permeating every aspect of capitalist culture. As cultural critic Fredric Jameson has written, the "cultural logic of late capitalism," in which the entire world is turned into a shopping mall and the end of the world is more probable than the end of our demented system of acquisitiveness, greed, avarice, narcissism, rudeness, kitsch, hype, bullshit, endless marketing, insincerity, mindless mumbo jumbo mindfulness combined with cell phone addiction, charlatans such as Chopra and Oprah and consumerism called capitalism. Larry, Moe and Curley Joe – and Beavis and Butthead - would love it. People on TV ads are not portrayed as bumbling idiots, chumps and slobs while their children as undisciplined chimps. Not only is our culture of capitalism making us dumber, dimwitted and uncaring, it is destroying the natural world on which all life depends. Then there’s the brutality of UFC (barbaric cage fighting reminiscent of the Roman Empire gladiator spectacles) and Bet 365 online gambling on pro sports (just download the app) t add to our dystopian degradation. By the way, have a nice day; your call is important to us.

[5] Notions of “positive” and “negative” liberty were introduced by Berlin in his 1958 paper “Two Concepts of Liberty”; but they were not unique in the history of liberal scholarship.  Negative liberty is the freedom from controls such as coercion and tyranny; that is, one’s freedom to act within the confines of responsibility, fairness and justice and; in other words, the freedom to be left alone within the confines of public safety and order. Positive liberty is the freedom to act responsibly according to your life’s ambitions, passions, intellectual pursuits and conceptions of the good life. But Berlin had a dark side in his rabid anti-communism during the Cold War and embrace of conservative values such as the British and American capitalist and imperialist status quo of hierarchy and class society. Berlin’s liberalism was critiqued by two Canadian intellectuals, C. B. Macpherson and Charles Taylor. MacPherson argued that Berlin ignored the social element, especially in negative freedom. For example if a person has no money and is malnourished and without shelter living on the streets (violations of the rights for all people within the United Nations Declaration) which have today become a global epidemic within so-called Western liberal capitalist countries, surely such a person is not free. These are structural impediments to both of Berlin’s negative and positive freedom.

With respect to the neo-liberal ism we suffer from today, attributed to Hayek and others, Macpherson writes, “Hayek’s attempt to humanise market individualism cannot hide the fact that his ‘true’ individualism, being tied to the free market economy, compels everyone to compete as atomized individuals.” Furthermore, it is not clear how Hayek’s version of individualism overcomes the very problems he perceives in the utilitarian hedonistic calculus of Jeremy Bentham. Bentham does not assent to the untrammelled freedom of the individual. In fact, not unlike Hayek he called for government intervention to guarantee the freedom of individuals, where the “art of legislature is limited to the prevention of everything which might prevent the development of their liberty and their intelligence.” Where Hayek sees rational individualism as a threat to the freedom of the individual and the market, John Maynard Keynes perceives the same rationality as a threat to the community. But neither Hayek nor Keynes reject utilitarianism entirely. Keynes adopts a modified utilitarian stance via an adapted version of the greatest happiness principle in order to challenge the extreme individualism of Bentham utilitarianism. For Keynes, the happiness of the greatest number is dominant but, unlike Bentham, he thinks this should be protected through economic planning and not a result of the aggregation of individual utility maximization.

Isaiah Berlin’s negative liberty in particular has been used to justify vile exploitive gangster capitalism; this is as evil as it was in the past and especially in the Cold War anti-communist hysteria of the 1950s when Berlin wrote the thesis. In other words, his two concepts of liberty are what Charles Taylor called mere apologetics for anything goes capitalist plunder that has led to unprecedented levels of economic inequality and other evil injustices. Berlin invariably came down on the side of both British and American imperialism, including his support for the abominable disgrace of the Vietnam War in which as many of 5 million Indo-Chinese were slaughtered and their countries turned into contaminated dioxin laced waste dumps with thousands of unexploded bombs.

[6] Conservatism and its reactionary philosophy of elitism can be traced to Plato (b 423 BCE) who in his most influential work The Republic responded to an early experiment in a compromised form of democracy that threatened the power of his exclusive ruling class. The arrogant Plato, like many conservatives today never believed that ordinary men and women were capable of governing themselves despite any cursory examination of history of the abysmal never ending chaos, violence, poverty and war that ensued when authoritarianism, hierarchy and autocracy in the forms such as monarchy and theocracy prevailed as it does today under corporate capitalism. This historical role in anti-democracy continues today and was especially severe in the writings of Burke who referred to the rabble proletarian of his day as the “swinish multitude” and this attitude prevails today in the neo-fascist corporatist dogmas of both conservatives and liberals. Conservatism since Reagan and Thatcher has been transmogrified into neo-conservatism and liberalism has thrown in the towel of classical liberalism which was not liberal in a universal sense of freedom and justice for all, but rather elitist in a more modest manner that it is in its neo-liberal stance today. Like the neo-conservatives neo-liberals embraces gangster capitalism, corporate totalitarianism and financial predation – all underwritten and enabled by the capitalist state.

[7] The socialist and prominent New Left Marxist Ralph Miliband (1924-94) in his The State and Capitalist Society (1976) pointed out the undemocratic nature of capitalism, what ought to have been patently obvious to anyone paying attention. Former authoritarian regimes such as theocracies, monarchies and other forms of tyranny governed directly. However, in our so-called “liberal democracies” it’s the elected representative of the state that serve the interests of the capitalist classes and other wealthy financial elites while at the same time claiming they serve the common good. But it’s business as usual which has now reached the dystopian nadir of bailing out these wealthy vampires when they fail. These failures are becoming more frequent over time with financial deregulation, arcane financial instruments and the knowledge that the risks and failures will be underwritten by the state. Sadly, most people believe this vile propaganda of caring for the “common good” by generally voting for one of the two capitalist parties, conservative or liberal and periodically far right wing populists and full blown fascist parties which are becoming more prevalent.

[8] As a person who lived through the 1960 counterculture, abominations and atrocities of the Vietnam War while attending university I still had an optimistic outlook and hope for a far better world.  The music was inspiring and conveyed this message but the unpleasant truth is that despite higher literacy rates, most people could spell correctly, write a coherent sentence and even a cogent term paper. I can recall in the latter part of the decade when I got married, had a child and met several US draft dodgers with whom we became friends. The reality however was that only a small fraction of the Canadian population really knew what the Vietnam War was bout and only a minute fraction of the American population was actually demonstrating against the slaughter of mostly innocent peasants  Vietnam who idolized Ho Chi Minh. As the excellent movie by Oliver Stone called Born on the Fourth of July clearly showed, when it came to Vietnam most young Americans held fast to the Christianity and ultra-conservative politics and unquestioning patriotism of their parents. They, and most Leave it to Beaver Americans, were much more upset by the protesters than they were at the naïve obedient flag waving soldiers who were busy murdering as many as 5 million Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laotian peasants who originally had no disagreement with the USA. This was folly repeated in Iraq (twice), Afghanistan and Libya. They listened to the deliberate prevarications of government propagandists such as Robert McNamara and LBJ, nodded and believed that we’ve got to kill the dirty communists even though most had never read The Communist Manifesto and no idea what a communism stood for. Most Americans probably still believe that about Vietnam despite the Mai Lai atrocity which was a daily occurrence and most dumb and dumber Americans probably think the US never lost the war – if they think of it at all. As a side note, 50 percent of Americans polled believe that our enemy in WW II was Russia.

By the time the 1980s came, it was all over, including the increased corporatization of the planet and the dumb and dumber world of free falling IQs. Ronal Reagan’s election was one of the greatest landslides in American electoral history and clearly demonstrated exactly what the American consciousness really was. Reagan, an intellectual dwarf, was certainly much more attuned to what Americans were about, namely narcissism, blind patriotism and buying useless toys and technological gadgets. Ray Gun typically ranks number one in polls on who is your favorite president?  The great American writer Philip Roth accurately labeled him a simpleton and a knuckleheaded bozo, which informs you about the intellect of the average American voter.

It didn’t take much for the froth of the 1960s to evaporate, because it never involved any solid political organizing against the dominant culture - like Occupy Wall Street decades later. And it was ephemeral because it didn’t have popular or grassroots support; Americans after all are interested in hustling, hucksterism and the miniscule probability of becoming rich. Reagan may have been dumber than a barnacle but knew his the mindset of the typical American. They were not interested in the revolutionary ideas of radicals such as Martin Luther King who accurately described America shortly before he was killed such as the quite obvious assertions that The United States of America was all about “socialism for the rich and dog eat dog capitalism for the working classes”. The probability of the typical wage slave American getting rich is about the same probability as that of a hamster running on a wheel or barnacle on a sunken boat. The enemy of America lies within its endless capitalist mythologies such as the self-made man, market efficiency of bubbles, booms, busts and bailouts, immorality, systemic corruption, sociopathic corporate leaders and ass kissing sycophantic politicians, inane fundamentalist Christianity and toxic atomized narcissistic culture. As the comic strip character Pogo said back in the 1970s, “We have met the enemy and the enemy is us.” This is a country with the most grotesque economic disparities on the planet whereby the top one-tenth of 1% have more wealth than the bottom 90%.

In addition to all these depressing facts, all of the data over the last several decades have shown that the majority of Americans are not very bright, and not even the alleged right ones are very bright and it’s not merely a question of free falling IQs. A Marist poll released way back on July 4, 2011 showed that 42 percent of American adults are unaware that the United States declared its independence in 1776, and this figure increases to 69 percent for the under-30 age group. Twenty-five percent of Americans don’t know from which country the United States seceded. A poll taken in the Oklahoma public school system turned up the fact that 77 percent of the students didn’t know who George Washington was, and the Texas Board of Education recently voted to include a unit on Estee Lauder in the history curriculum, when they don’t have one on the first president. Nearly 30 percent of the American population thinks the sun revolves around the earth or is unsure of which revolves around which, and so on endlessly. How can such a population grasp a structural analysis of American history or politics? They simply aren’t capable of it. Much has been written on the declining intellects globally; the reader might pick up the book Idiot America by Charles Pierce for an insight into the claims of widespread American ignorance and stupidity. And with the zombie world created by cell phone addiction and mind numbing social media misinformation, superstitious pap and self-inflicted brain cell destruction, it’s forcing IQs even lower.  Soon we humans will be indistinguishable from our closes ancestor, the chimp.

[9] American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a member of one of the wealthiest families in the USA, tried to save capitalism from itself by introducing the New Deal. It was created from the obvious observation that capitalism is incapable of self-regulation and with regularity self-destructs when corporations and banks are left to their own devices. The New Deal solution was to regulate these companies from unnecessary risk with other people’s money and not leave them to their own devices. For this Roosevelt was called everything from dictator to communist as there were serious efforts by wealthy elites and corporate leaders - both conservative and liberal - to assassinate and replace him with a Mussolini style strong man. In contrast, the fundamental premise of neo-liberalism that emerged from the post WW II era and implemented by far right libertarian vulture capitalists, is that capitalist enterprises are more just and efficient than government. This base capitalist ideology— common to both neoclassical economics and neo-liberalism, has it that most people are rational, intelligent calculating machines who respond prudently and deterministically to the constantly changing price fluctuation of goods and services. Surely with few human beings over the age of even a young teenager credulous enough to believe this claptrap, neo-liberalism is the insider language of the corporate class - lawyers, negotiators, economists, accountants, market analysts and other bull shitters who earn their livings duping workers and bilking their company’s customers.

[10] The pious John Locke (1632-1704) certainly has a dark side to his narrow interpretation of property rights liberalism, a precursor to the greed/profit driven savage capitalism that has existed now for centuries since his lofty pronouncements.  His book A Letter Concerning Toleration (1689) (originally written in Latin as Espitola de Tolerantia) is often celebrated as the original manifesto of the freedom of speech and consciousness, or the first manifesto of human rights. There are undoubtedly passages in the book that point to this interpretation; for instance: “The business of laws is not to provide for the truths of opinions but for the safety and security of commonwealth, and every particular man’s goods and person” (p.11).

This apparent universal right to freedom of speech, or even of thought (or in Locke’s conception, of “person”) was not to be extended to everyone: “Those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the being of God”, he wrote. Locke justified this particular intolerance on pragmatic grounds, namely that, “promises, covenants, and oaths, which are bonds of human society, can have no hold on an atheist” Rights, including freedom of speech and other so-called rights under the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR) such as the right to housing, sustenance and health care are farcical as homelessness and grotesque economic inequalities are probably worse than pre-Enlightenment eras under theocracies, monarchies and other oppressive tyrannical socio-economic arrangements. Even our sacred Western constitutions are a joke as certain people including indigenous, blacks and even women were denied rights to property, the vote and even the sanctity of their own bodies. In short, Locke and many other so-called Enlightenment “liberal” thinkers including the slave-owning authors of the US constitution were charlatans and frauds.

The late Canadian scholar Ellen Meiksins Wood once described John Locke as the quintessential philosopher of capitalism, an undemocratic system she defined as based on free wage labor rather than forced labor. The considerable damning evidence gathered together in the recent book by historian Gerald Horne The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism indicates that the 17thcentury was not exactly the Enlightenment’s great leap forward, an escalator version of history for which the ideal of liberalism and so-called “progress” for which the Humanist Enlightenment is predicated upon. In the past 40 or 50 years of neo-liberalism, freedom has been confined to the anything goes freedom to plunder, profit and exploit.

[11] Here is Naomi Klein from her recent book Doppelganger:

“Understanding how capitalism in its latest stage shapes and distorts our world can offer some stability. It does not, however, preclude the presence of real-world, provable conspiracies. If we define “conspiracy” as an agreement among members of a group to pull off some kind of nefarious plot in the shadows, then representatives of capital—in government and the corporate sector—engage in conspiracies as a matter of course. There most certainly was a CIA-backed conspiracy in the early 1970s to overthrow the democratically elected socialist president of Chile, Salvador Allende, after he nationalized the copper mines, as there was in 1953 to overthrow Iran’s Prime Minister, Mohammad Mosaddegh, after he moved to nationalize the oil company that would become British Petroleum.

In The Shock Doctrine I told a counter history of the rise of neo-liberalism through many such well-documented plots, and I have no doubt that there are other conspiracies that have managed to stay secret. We also know of many contemporary examples of powerful people conspiring against the public. The poisoned water system in Flint, Michigan, was covered up by state officials year after year. British Petroleum and Halliburton cut corners in the operation of the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig, and the result was the largest accidental oil spill in history in the Gulf of Mexico, with the companies scrambling to cover up the full extent of the damage. Volkswagen ran a conspiracy for years to cover up how much polluting carbon its diesel vehicles were emitting (the cars were programmed to fool the testers). Most consequentially, Exxon and several other oil majors ran a conspiracy to spread doubt and confusion about the reality of climate change for decades, taking a page from the tobacco giants. These are just the barest of examples.

There were rooms in which these decisions were made; some of them may have been dimly lit. But unlike the satanic imaginings of Q-Anon, the motives for these conspiracies were rather banal: a U.S. mining company determined to maintain its control over a major source of lucrative metal, an oil giant looking to protect its foothold in a petroleum-rich nation. Maximizing profit is just what capitalism does - even if it takes a conspiracy to do it, pointing to another casualty of pipikism: the term “deep state.” Originally, it was popularized by leftists in Turkey to describe the reality of covert activities carried out by a network of military and elite actors. But Steve Bannon and Trump co-opted it to describe any form of power—economic, judicial, journalistic, intelligence—that posed a barrier to their unfettered and often unconstitutional exercise of power, while simultaneously deploying it as an easy scapegoat for their failures. Nothing was ever their responsibility; it was always the fault of the “deep state.”

In The Wealth of Nations, published in 1776, Adam Smith wrote, “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.” The English writer and publisher Mark Fisher went further, remarking in 2013 that much of what is packaged as conspiracies today is “the ruling class showing class solidarity”—by which he meant that it’s mostly just ultra rich people, in business and government, having one another’s back.

These kinds of conspiracies are real—and there are other conspiracies that are also real and distinctly seedier than those hatched in antiseptic boardrooms in New York and London to rig prices or fool regulators or sabotage a newly elected socialist government in the Global South. That’s because the surface layers of markets that middle-class people in wealthy parts of the planet engage with directly—brightly lit grocery stores and gas stations, sleek websites and dull offices—are not the whole story of capitalism; they are its storefront. All of these operations require a level of extraction from their workers, shoppers, and users, but they also sit on top of more hidden parts of the supply chain, zones of hyper-exploitation, human containment, and ecosystem poisoning that are not glitches in the system but have always been integral parts of what makes our world run.

For the purposes of this map, we can call them the Shadow Lands. They are the mangled and dense under-story of our supposedly frictionless global economy. Decades of wringing out every possible efficiency means that each link in the chain—the mines and industrial farms where raw materials are extracted; the factories and slaughterhouses that turn those inputs into parts and finished products; the trains and ships that carry them across continents and oceans; the warehouses that sort and store them to be ready at the click of a cursor; the trucks and cars that deliver them when the click arrives; the mountains of waste and poisoned waterways where the detritus from each stage ends up; the glimmering playgrounds where the ultra rich enjoy their spoils—carries a distinct yet numbingly familiar story of depredation.

What is shocking is less the stories themselves than the fact that they no longer seem to provoke much shock at all. A quarter of a century after I published No Logo, we seem to take it for granted that a piece of fast fashion worn by a young woman in New York or London or Toronto means that other young women have to risk being incinerated in their garment factories in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Or that suicide nets to catch desperate electronics workers are a normal part of the architecture in a factory making our cell phones in Shenzhen, China. Or that cities like Dubai and Doha are built and maintained by armies of migrants living and working in conditions so abject that when they are killed on the job, their employers face no consequences. Or that warehouse workers in New Jersey have to fight one of the three richest men on the planet to get breaks long enough to make it to the toilet. Or that content moderators in Manila must stare at beheadings and child rapes all day to keep our social media feeds “clean.” Or that all of our frenetic consumption and energy use fuels wildfires in the swanky suburbs of Los Angeles and Sonoma that are battled by prison inmates who are paid just dollars a day for this perilous work, even as migrants from Central American nations battered by their own climate disasters pick avocados and strawberries in the toxic air—and if they fall ill or protest for fairer conditions are instantly sent home without pay, discarded like bruised fruit.

These, moreover, are the lucky denizens of the Shadow Lands, the relative winners. They have jobs that allow them to send money home to their families, or to pay for a few extras in prison. Countless others have been pushed into even more shadowy corners of our world—immigration detention facilities and holding zones, or boats that won’t make it through a mild storm, or tent cities that grow in our gleaming cities as real estate becomes the site of ever more profitable speculation. Frictionless is the great promise of our age. But friction doesn’t disappear just because we don’t see it—it is simply displaced onto these lives of pure friction, in the Shadow Lands.

This dimness, too, is linked to real conspiracies. Not only are basic working and living conditions painfully difficult, but because they are deliberately kept in the shadows, to preserve the illusions of modernity, they also routinely tip into extreme sadism—the Shadow Lands are places where physical and sexual abuses committed by supervisors and guards and soldiers are routine. These abuses are built in because the lives of the people most affected—poor, undocumented, legally precarious, overwhelmingly Black and Brown—have already been discounted. Abuse thrives in the Shadow Lands because it can. And this, in turn, requires conspiratorial cover-ups to protect the perpetrators and to protect consumers who conspire to keep ourselves ignorant and innocent as we stroll through the more brightly lit parts of the supply chain.

And there is another, related kind of capitalist conspiracy that needs to be surfaced, this one simply flowing from the fact that when a tiny stratum of the population is permitted to grow wealthier than Victorian-era monarchs, as these Shadow Lands have allowed them to, some of the people who breathe that rarified air are going to get the idea that they are above the law. Which is simply to say: I think a great many secrets about powerful men died when Jeffrey Epstein died in prison, and I’m not sure we will ever know their full extent. Do you?

Power and wealth conspire to protect themselves. It happens in public, and it happens in private. It happens under the spotlight, and it happens in the shadows. So, in attempting to understand the ludicrous theories swirling in the Mirror World, we should be very careful not to be so reactive that we end up saying that sadism and depravity do not happen, that only a loony conspiracy theorist would believe something so out-there. Because an economic order that contains inequalities as extreme as ours—in which the vanity rocket ships of billionaires sail over seas of human misery—is its own kind of depravity, and that level of injustice reproduces more depravity as a matter of course.

The problem is no longer that we do not know these weighty truths—it is that too many of us do not know how to know them. We all know that our world sits on top of the Shadow Lands. But what do we do with that knowledge? Where does it go? Where are the outrage and shame and sadness diverted?

After two and half decades of covering the crimes of our oligarchic elites, I go through periods when the impunity of it all gets the better of me. The sweatshops and oil spills, the Iraq invasion, the 2008 financial crisis, the coups that threw a generation of idealists out of helicopters in Latin America. Washington’s coordinated attack on Russia’s nascent post-Soviet democracy that created the oligarchs and paved the way for Vladimir Putin. I simply cannot bear what these people have been able to get away with. No one paid. Everyone gets a reputation re-branding. Henry Kissinger keeps advising presidents. Dick Cheney is hailed as a reasonable Republican. Robert Rubin, one of the men who personally helped inflate the derivatives bubble that melted down the global economy in 2008, now gives advice about how we can’t move too fast to prevent catastrophic climate change. My throat constricts. My breath becomes shallow. On bad days, I feel like I might explode. Impunity can drive a person mad. Maybe it can drive a whole society mad. “Abuse of power begets conspiracy allegations, and the men and women of conspiratorial capital at least partly have themselves to blame for the extreme and fictitious allegations made against them,” Marcus Gilroy-Ware, a digital journalism scholar, writes in After the Fact? The Truth About Fake News. Sarah Kendzior, in her 2022 book They Knew: How a Culture of Conspiracy Keeps America Complacent, also explores the way impunity for real conspiracies helps fuel the rise of fantastical beliefs.

The conspiracy theories swirling about the Great Reset may well be a case in point. When they started showing up at the early anti-lockdown protests, they were presented as if a great secret was being revealed. What was strange, though, was that the Great Reset wasn’t hidden—it was a branding campaign that the World Economic Forum had kicked off to repackage many of the ideas it has long advanced: biometric IDs, 3D printing, corporate green energy, the sharing economy. All were hastily positioned as a blueprint for reviving the global economy post-pandemic by “seeking a better form of capitalism.” Through a series of videos, the Great Reset brought together heads of transnational oil giants to opine about the urgent need to tackle climate change, as well as politicians pledging to “build back better” and bring about a “fairer, greener, healthier planet.” It was standard-issue Davos fare - arrogant, to be sure, and many parts were actively dangerous. But there was nothing new or hidden about it.

Yet over and over again, journalists and politicians on the right, and “independent researchers” on the left, acted as if they had uncovered a conspiracy that wily elites were trying to hide from them. If so it was the first conspiracy with its own marketing agency and explainer videos.”

[12] Naomi Klein again from Doppelganger:

“What is this strange drive to reveal the non-hidden? Maybe it’s that, in liberal democracies that still pay lip service to social equality (or at least “equity”), there is something profoundly unsatisfying about how open our global elites are about the power they believe they have a right to wield over the rest of us. The mechanics of oligarchy are not hidden; they are flaunted with a level of pride that actively humiliates their spectators. Billionaires, heads of state, A-list celebrities, journalists, and members of various royal families gather every year at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, just as they do in Aspen, Colorado, and just as they did in Manhattan at the Clinton Global Initiative—Google even runs an invitation-only annual “summer camp” in Sicily where you are as likely to bump into Mark Zuckerberg as Katy Perry. In every case, they take up the mantle of solving the world’s problems—climate breakdown, infectious diseases, hunger—with no mandate and no public involvement and, most notably, no shame about their own central roles in creating and sustaining these crises.

Knowing that this kind of unmasked plutocracy can take root in democratic societies without so much as an effort to hide it is like being forced to watch your spouse cheat on you when that is not your kink. Maybe we should see conspiracy culture—with its theater of uncovering things that are not hidden—as some sort of twisted lunge for self-respect.

It might even be part of what’s driving QAnon. At the heart of that conspiracy theory is a sensational fantasy of justice—the “great storm” or “great awakening” when the “white hats” suddenly arrest all the evildoing pedophiles and Satanists and thieves and send them to Guantanamo Bay. It’s touchingly naïve, since, as Mark Fisher put it, “Does anyone really think, for instance, that things would improve if we replaced the whole managerial and banking class with a whole new set of (‘better’) people?” But you know what? I get the appeal. It sure beats having to watch Michelle Obama sharing candy with George W. Bush—or hearing the knowing laughs of the audience when the former president slips up and denounces the “wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq. I mean … of Ukraine,” as he did in May 2022.

This raises an urgent question: Does anyone outside the Mirror World have a vision of justice and accountability? There is the persistent liberal dream that Donald Trump will finally be held legally accountable for one or more of his crimes while in or out of office. But beyond that, who is actively calling for our living war criminals to be brought before the International Criminal Court? What is the plan for seizing the assets of the companies fueling the climate crisis? It’s pipikism in the extreme to hear MAGA Republicans describe the various show trials underway in the House as a new “Church Committee”—a reference to the Senate select committee convened in 1975, and chaired by Democratic senator Frank Church, to investigate some of the intelligence world’s most notorious dirty tricks at home and abroad. But what did Democrats do, when they controlled the House, to investigate the ways that intelligence agencies have cooperated with tech giants to invade privacy and employ surveillance on us in countless ways? Or to pardon whistleblowers like Snowden? Have we given up on justice on this scale? If so, we can hardly be surprised to see the impulse resurface, in warped form, in the Mirror World. A vacuum has been created, and if my doppelganger has taught me anything, it is that vacuums tend to get filled.

There is something else that seems to be fueling conspiracy culture now. The extreme consolidation in the corporate world over the past three decades has produced a playing field so rigged against consumers that pursuing the basics of life can feel like navigating a never-ending series of scams. It’s as if everyone is trying to trick us in the fine print of pages and pages of terms of service agreements they know we will never read. The black box is not just the algorithms running our communication networks—almost everything is a black box, an opaque system hiding something else. The housing market isn’t about homes; it’s about hedge funds and speculators. Universities aren’t about education; they’re about turning young people into lifelong debtors. Long-term care facilities aren’t about care; they’re about draining our elders in the last years of life and real estate plays. Many news sites aren’t about news; they’re about tricking us into clicking on auto playing ads and advertorials that eat up the bottom half of nearly every site. Nothing is as it seems. This kind of predatory, extractive capitalism necessarily breeds mistrust and paranoia. In this context, it’s not surprising that QAnon, a conspiracy theory that tells of elites harvesting the young for their lifeblood (adrenochrome), has gone viral. Elites are sucking us dry—our money, our labor, our time, our data. So dry that large parts of our planet are beginning to spontaneously combust. The Davos elite aren’t eating our children, but they are eating our children’s futures, and that is plenty bad. QAnon believers imagine secret tunnels underneath pizza parlors and Central Park, the better to traffic children. This is fantasy, but there are tunnels—literal Shadow Lands—under some major cities, and they do house and hide the poor, the sick, the drug-dependent, the discarded. Under the flashing lights of Las Vegas, hundreds or even thousands of people really do live in a sprawling network of storm tunnels.

Like my doppelganger projecting all of our surveillance fears on a vaccine app, conspiracy theorists get the facts wrong but often get the feelings right—the feeling of living in a world with Shadow Lands, the feeling that every human misery is someone else’s profit, the feeling of being exhausted by predation and extraction, the feeling that important truths are being hidden. The word for the system driving those feelings starts with c, but if no one ever taught you how capitalism works, and instead told you it was all about freedom and sunshine and Big Macs and playing by the rules to get the life you deserve, then it’s easy to see how you might confuse it with another c-word: conspiracy.

As Gilroy-Ware puts it, “Conspiracy theories are a misfiring of a healthy and justifiable political instinct: suspicion.”

But suspicion directed at the wrong target is a very dangerous thing.”

[13] Truth and reality bite and can be harsh masters; but what are the alternatives? Check out these pieces - and much more - by yours truly from www.skeptic.ca trashing faith, hope, false optimism, bullshit and other delusions:









…and much more…



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