Wednesday, January 19, 2022

This is not something to be proud of!

Overall, what we can now boast of is an economy that in its inequality compares to that of ancient Rome. It has been estimated that the top four hundred taxpayers in the United States exercise ten thousand times the material power of the average citizen in the bottom 90 percent. This differs little from the gap between Roman senators and the slaves and farm laborers who comprised most of the population.— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 43

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Really? How can you justify this?

Dwell for a moment on the take-home of American CEOs compared to that of rank-and-file employees. In 2018, the average chief executive of an S&P 500 company earned 287 times more than their median employee. Elon Musk made 40,668 times more money than the median Tesla employee. But we need not focus on the extreme of the extremes. Since so many employees are found in retail and food service, we might consider the pay ratios of executives to that of their median worker of Gap clothing (3,566 to l) or McDonald’s (2,124 to 1). Does a Gap executive, however brilliant or hardworking, really do 3,566 times the work of a median-level employee? What wonders must the McDonald’s CEO work to genuinely earn (i.e., deserve) 2,124 times his frontline cooks and cashiers? And has the CEOs’ reasonable value actually increased nearly tenfold since 1970, when the median ratio of executive compensation was 30 to 1.— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 42

<idle musing>
Let's call it what it is: Sinful greed. Let's put that into a bit more perspective: The CEO of McDonalds makes as much in an hour as the line worker makes in a year—provided they are given 40 hours/week, which may or may not be the case. And the CEO has a full benefits package of retirement, insurance, and all the other perks. The line worker? Right! Fat chance.

James, the brother of Jesus has a word for them:

"Pay attention, you wealthy people! Weep and moan over the miseries coming upon you. Your riches have rotted. Moths have destroyed your clothes. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you. It will eat your flesh like fire. Consider the treasure you have hoarded in the last days. Listen! Hear the cries of the wages of your field hands. These are the wages you stole from those who harvested your fields. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of heavenly forces. You have lived a self-satisfying life on this earth, a life of luxury. You have stuffed your hearts in preparation for the day of slaughter. (James 5:1–5 CEB)
</idle musing>

Monday, January 17, 2022

No longer social

On the Christian account, sinful self-interest is strong enough without being anointed and isolated as the only effective human motivator. Liberalism has shorn us of higher commitments as social animals. It has concentrated on the individual and left individuals to their own devices to determine what they are free for—to what end or project they should devote their lives. In Hauerwas’s pithy formulation, “We have made ‘freedom of the individual’ an end in itself and have ignored the fact that most of us do not have the slightest idea of what we should do with our freedom.” (Hauerwas, "The Church and Liberal Democracy," 79)— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 18

Friday, January 14, 2022

The wrong half

After [Adam] Smith, we have grabbed and retained only bits of his teaching, the invisible hand being the most famous. But Smith actually had a great deal to say about the importance of morality constraining and supplementing the market. Many historians argue that The Wealth of Nations should be interpreted in the light of Smith’s earlier book, Theory of Moral Sentiments, which “can be read as a text in psychology or theology or ethics, or all of these” (Cox, Market as God, 158).— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 17 n. 35

Thursday, January 13, 2022

The erosion of the common good

Through the magical ministrations of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand,” the market amalgamates the various individual self-interests into the mutual self—interest of all. The desire—even greed—of individuals singly, blended in the free market, results in the greatest good for all. If Christianity had formerly looked on limitless material acquisition with great suspicion, and always with a watchful eye to the welfare of the poor, liberalism said, “Let it be. Even if individuals enter the marketplace solely with their self-interest in mind, the market will combine and transform these interests so that as a whole, they will most effectively benefit all (or most).”— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 17

<idle musing>:
And if ever there was a pernicious lie, that is it. Unrestrained greed will lift up the most unscrupulous and they will exploit the poor and weak to get whatever they can. Only unwillingly and under pressure will they grudgingly offer a sop to the worker and the poor. There's a reason that scripture warns against the desire for riches and wealth—it is deadly to the soul. In the words of 1 John, "Children, flee from idolatry!" And the idol in the US is wealth and the attendant power that goes with it.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Not so innocent!

I rehearse the stories of enclosure, the game laws, and US slavery to indicate that liberalism and its concomitant capitalism did not arise naturally and benignly. Human intentionality and, more specifically, state oversight and (sometimes nakedly violent) force were crucial to capitalism’s inception and growth. I made that explicit in recounting enclosure and the game laws. It hardly needs to be added that government was essential to the institution of and policing on behalf of slavery: making it legal, implementing and enabling the slave market, brutally punishing runaway slaves and their allies, and declaring, from the highest court in the land, that African American slaves were only three-fifths human.— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 9

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

The source

The massive theft that was slavery is the tainted wellspring of American capitalism. In the United States, capital—accrued for the wealthiest over generations—was built on the lacerated backs of Black people. To appreciate the magnitude of this, we must remember that cotton was the material center of the maturing Industrial Revolution. What oil and computerization are to our current economy, cotton was to the nineteenth-century industrial economy." target="_blank"> Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 7